The Toilet is my Sanctuary

Picture the scene. It’s dinner time and the kids are fighting. They fight over who has more food, who has more water, who has the nicer cup/plate, who finishes first, who is the better eater, you get my drift. They then start to complain about the contents of their dinner. Everything is “de-gusting” according to Ludoo and Flump has a nervous breakdown if she spots an onion or tomato on her plate. They also start demanding “extras” such as bread, milk, cheese, biscuits, chocolate…anything other than what I have placed on their plates. They are determined to prevent me from sitting down or having a cup of tea. I am simply there to serve them. So I do what any self-respecting mum would do. I retreat to the only safe place that I know. The toilet. It is the one place where I can legitimately get away with shutting the little people out for a few minutes. It’s a temporary oasis of peace and calm. A few minutes of pure unadulterated bliss, until they start banging their fists on the door and demanding that I come out.

My bathroom hideout!
My bathroom hideout!

Sometimes I just like to sit there, close my eyes and take a few deep breaths. It’s almost a form of meditation. At other times I like to catch up on my phone messages and emails. We all do it (although I draw the line at answering phone calls in the loo)! Given the opportunity I’d spend much longer in there, as it’s a way to escape the domestic madness that so often engulfs my home. I always used to think it strange when I went to other people’s homes and they had books in their bathrooms. Now I get it. What luxury to be able to sit in the loo for half an hour and read a book! Pure joy! Instead, the longest I can stretch it out for is five minutes (very occasionally ten minutes if the kids are distracted) before the squealing and fighting gets out of hand.

My sanctuary
My sanctuary

We all need a hiding place. Somewhere to take a break and compose ourselves. The bedroom or any other room in the house rarely works as the kids have access to these spaces. We need a bit of privacy now and then, even from our kids. At around 5pm the whinging can reach epic proportions in my home and that’s when I normally make my toilet getaway. It’s wonderfully therapeutic. Similarly, if you work in an office the bathroom can be the perfect place to take some time out, assuming there are no unpleasant odours.

Modern parenthood is incredibly busy and, at times, chaotic. Finding a place of refuge in your home is, in my view, critical for one’s sanity. In an ideal world I would meditate in a candle lit bathroom, whilst taking a soak in the tub. Back in the real world I have to make do with five minutes of quiet thinking time in the loo. Nonetheless it’s five minutes well spent. We all have moments when we feel like we are on the edge of a meltdown and retreating to the toilet could just bring us back to a calm, happy place.

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A Guilt-Free Day Out with the Girls

It’s not unusual for mums to have their girls’ nights out, to go out on the razzle and to have a bit of fun. The kids have been fed and watered, it’s the end of the day and they are normally ready for bed (we hope). But it’s far less common for mums to spend the entire day away from their children. The notorious guilt fairy tends to rear her annoying head and plague us with a whole host of doubts. We feel a natural sense of duty and desire to spend time with our children during their waking hours and worry about how they will cope without us. It’s completely different when we are away from them for work purposes as we aren’t off on a jolly. But to choose to be away from them on a day out, one that they too would potentially enjoy, inevitably makes us feel conflicted.

My day out without the kids..
My day out without the kids..

Last weekend I went out to a friend’s baby shower in London. It was a delightful afternoon tea where copious amounts of cake were consumed and we all felt terribly civilised. I didn’t feel guilty about attending as it was a special occasion and only lasted a few hours. But thereafter a group of my friends (mainly single, hip, girl about town types) decided to move on from there to a food festival. It took me half an hour to finally decide to join them, as instinctively it didn’t feel right. My inner guilt fairy told me the party was well and truly over and to get back home to my kids. After messaging the Old Git, who was completely disinterested in my plans and appeared to be having a ball with our offspring in my absence, I decided to join in with my hipster friends. All I can say is that I had an absolute blast, discussing men/life/relationships, being spontaneous, traipsing across London in the rain, jumping into Ubers, watching my friends get hit on, and basically laughing hysterically all day long. Once I had banished the guilt fairy I was out for the whole flipping day and told the Old Git not to bother waiting up. There was no tearing me away from the girls! It was a nostalgic reminder of days gone by when I too could be spontaneous and hang out at trendy places.

Enjoying some Indian street food guilt-free!
Enjoying some Indian street food guilt-free!

Sometimes we just need to bite the bullet and allow ourselves to remember who we were pre-marriage and kids. It’s easy to lose ourselves in our families and our work, and neglect the importance of social identity. Having positive, durable relationships (away from being caregiver or breadwinner) is important for our mental and emotional health. It can help us to feel balanced and supported. As much as we like to think of ourselves as indispensable, the kids and the other halves won’t starve or be emotionally damaged by the occasional day away from the family (or even a weekend away – why not?). If anything it should make us appreciate our families more and perhaps even vice versa?

Yes, I missed my bunnies whilst I was out but they were not remotely bothered by my absence (sob!) and business as usual resumed the next day. The difference was I felt invigorated and refreshed which always makes for a happier home (less drama, more zen). The guilt fairy is a powerful force but we need to recognise that she taps into pretty irrational fears most of the time. Giving ourselves the time and space to be someone other than mummy/wife/job title is incredibly important as it allows us to simply be ourselves undefined. It’s a glorious, carefree feeling that is good for the soul and the home.

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Desi Weddings

Wedding season is upon us and for anyone from the Indian subcontinent this means a full on bling and colour fest. Dazzling jewels and vibrant colours are the hallmark of most desi weddings (desi is a term which loosely refers to anyone/thing of South Asian origin). You will rarely find an understated desi wedding. It’s a full on assault of the senses and one to be marvelled at. However, there are also some more subtle issues that commonly arise.

All blinged up for a recent wedding
All blinged up for a recent wedding

Firstly nobody ever worries about upstaging the bride. Short of draping a dupatta over one’s head (which is the customary veil for Asian brides) pretty much anything goes by way of guest dress code. The bigger the hair, the more sparkle and the brighter the lipstick the better. The bride will always make a regal entrance and be inspected on her attire. Heaven forbid should she decide to go for a more “natural” look. That would, in general, be deemed a fail by beady eyed onlookers who expect glamour and a bit of razzle dazzle. Guests will often scrutinise the bride in every possible way. In fact at my own wedding, whilst I was sitting on the stage as a bride, I kid you not, I was asked by an inquisitive “aunty” how much my wedding jewellery cost. Admittedly, I was somewhat surprised by the timing of the query.

A rather spectacular wedding cake at a recent wedding I attended
A rather spectacular wedding cake at a recent wedding I attended

Secondly, it’s all about the food. It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on decor and style, if the food isn’t up to scratch the wedding will be deemed a disappointment. That’s all people will remember about the big day. Indeed some people only attend weddings for the food (many a husband has been dragged out to a wedding by his wife, lured by the promise of a delicious biryani). The older generation are particularly opinionated about their culinary expectations. Should you decide to experiment with the food options be prepared for the backlash.

Desi weddings have traditionally been a family affair
Desi weddings have traditionally been a family affair

And then of course there is the highly contentious issue of the guest list. There used to be a time when a wedding guest could bring his/her entire extended family to a wedding but those days are well and truly gone. Desi weddings are big business now and with rocketing prices it’s all about the price per head. That means being more selective about the guest list which inevitably leads to more than a handful of people getting the hump. It’s a political minefield. And even if you do only offer a “Mr and Mrs” invitation, you will still somehow end up with dozens of kids running around the wedding hall screeching at critical parts of the ceremony. Some guests clearly don’t read the memo or choose to ignore it. But in all fairness, overexcited, hysterical kids are part of the fabric of desi weddings and I have yet to attend one without any kids whatsoever (despite the best efforts of some hosts to limit them).

Furthermore, we cannot overlook the fact that a desi wedding is considered a major community event, when people will savour the opportunity to catch up on local news and inspect any potential suitors for their various friends and family members. The gossip mill goes into full overdrive with news of who has fallen out with who, who is checking out who and what various scandals are unfolding in the local network. No desi wedding is complete without some big news story breaking either immediately before /during or after the event.

And finally, it is a rite of passage for every wedding guest, at some point in their wedding guest career, to have a video man creep up on them and start filming them, at close range, when they have a mouthful of kebab or chicken tikka. It happens to everyone. You will be caught off guard, mid bite, and no doubt footage of you scoffing will make the final edit. Allow it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Desi weddings tend to be big, bold and extravagant affairs, but it’s often what goes on behind the scenes that is most interesting of all. There is never a dull moment at a desi wedding…you can expect excitement, glamour and always a touch of drama.

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Date Night

Recently I was having dinner with some girlfriends and we started talking about how often we get to go out on a date night with our other halves. When I casually mentioned that the Old Git and I only tend to go out on special occasions (birthdays, Valentine’s Day and anniversaries) due to babysitting issues, some of them looked completely aghast. They told me they go out on a date night at least once a month, one friend even told me she goes out every Friday with her husband, which I found astonishing. What the heck? The Old Git and I probably go out on a date night about five times a year..MAX. How on earth do they find the time, the babysitters or the energy? The level of logistical planning that is required for regular date nights to take place, when you have small children, can be excessive, making it a complete hassle most of the time. However, it appears for some couples, date night is high on the list of priorities.

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A rare date night on our anniversary. Steady on!

Of course in an ideal world I’d love to have regular date nights with the Old Git. I understand the importance of investing in one’s relationship and keeping the spark alive. It all makes perfect sense to me. For our ten year anniversary the Old Git and I left the kids for a long weekend for the FIRST time ever and it did feel rather glorious. We went for long walks hand in hand, enjoyed leisurely lunches, had romantic dinners…I didn’t find him annoying at all! It would seem being outside of the domestic environment and away from the kids made us get on splendidly (no bickering, no whinging and no passive aggression).  I think that’s the whole point of having date nights. You leave all of life’s responsibilities and dramas at home for a few hours and enjoy being a couple.

However, reality is such that the process of organising a date night can be an arduous one. Having grandparents who are willing and available to babysit certainly helps, but I don’t like to overuse this privilege as I know my kids aren’t exactly the compliant type and give the grandparents the run around. Plus it always feels completely chaotic to organise the logistics. At the same time we don’t use babysitters either. So we really aren’t making things easy for ourselves and have fallen into a bit of a rut.

I’m pretty sure the Old Git and I aren’t the only ones that are in this rut. After having kids lots of couples tend to focus primarily on their children’s’ needs and leave their relationships to just tick along. The danger is if you leave it too long you end up being a middle aged couple with nothing else to talk about besides the kids, schooling and utility bills. Shudder.

So, I’ve had an epiphany and have come to the conclusion that despite the inconvenience and logistical stress of it all, it’s worth setting aside some time for regular date nights, albeit once a month or once every two months (once a week? You’re having a laugh). By putting it in the diary it’s something we can plan for as there’s obviously no such thing as a spontaneous date night when you have kids.  I have some friends who take it in turns to look after each other’s children so that they each get the chance to go out. Others use reliable babysitters and many use family. Whatever the preferred method, it’s definitely worth prioritising. So I’m going to get off my lazy ass, stop making excuses and start devising a rota. Grandma, you’re up first.

 

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When your Partner Works from Home

I have some friends who tell me they love it when their partners work from home. They have lunch together, go for coffee together, their husbands help out with the school run…apparently everything is rosy. I, on the other hand, grit my teeth and groan with dismay whenever the Old Git tells me he’ll be working from home. I hate it. It’s like he is deliberately setting out to ruin my day.

There are two scenarios. The first is when the kids are at school/nursery.  The Old Git totally unsettles my domestic tranquillity and disturbs every aspect of my routine. He stomps around noisily, belching and burping, makes a mess and annoys me in a multitude of ways. Firstly, he interrupts me when I’m writing or sending emails, despite tutting every time I walk into his study to ask him a non-work related question. Secondly, he’s always watching what I do and judging me. “Going out for lunch are we?” or “Aren’t you lucky to be meeting friends today?” he’ll say, insinuating that I spend all day prancing around socialising. And thirdly, and most annoyingly of all, he insists that I pretend he is not at home and carry on as normal, which is code for him telling me not to even think about getting him embroiled in domestic chores. And yet, come midday he will emerge from his room asking me what’s for lunch. Excuse me? I thought you told me to pretend you’re not at home? Grrrr.

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Working/annoying me from home

And then there’s the second scenario which is when the kids are at home whilst the Old Git is working. Now this can get dramatic. He hides away in his study refusing entry to any of us but on occasion will pop in for two minutes to say ‘hi’ to the children. He will then promptly exit, leaving a trail of emotional destruction behind him as the kids start screaming for their daddy’s attention and affection. I’m left to deal with two hysterical children having a meltdown whilst simultaneously trying to cook dinner and complete homework. In a matter of minutes the Old Git has caused chaos for us, trashing all hopes of a peaceful evening. And then, the thing that riles me the most is when he blames me for the kids interrupting him. Occasionally I might need to go to the toilet and the kids might storm his study. Despite my best attempts I can’t always monitor their every move. Sometimes the little pests get through. But rather than tell them off and set boundaries, he’ll huff and puff at ME for letting them disturb him. Inevitably this will lead to a barmy and all domestic bliss will be well and truly shattered for the day.

Rightly or wrongly, I’ve always considered the house to be primarily my space during the weekday. I’ve always worked from home as a journalist and used it as my base. It’s also where I look after the kids and have routines and systems in place to keep things going. Whenever the Old Git hangs around everything is disturbed, including my sense of zen. Of course, I’m not one to complain (as you know), and I do appreciate it when the Old Git helps out with the school pick ups and drop offs, but to be frank, that’s about the only silver lining.

I’ve come to the conclusion our space is simply not big enough for the both of us to be at home working/ looking after the kids. In fact, I can quite confidently say if the Old Git worked from home consistently it would be a marital disaster for us. We both like our own space, enjoy having separate aspects to our lives and actually appreciate each other more this way. We would probably kill each other if we were at home together all of the time. I’m not quite sure this bodes well for our retirement together, but we will have to cross that bridge as and when we get to it (trying not to panic quite just yet)! In the meantime, the office beckons.

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The Crappy Tooth Fairy

From the moment they are born our obsession with our kids’ teeth begins. All unexplained, irritable and erratic behaviour in babies is attributed to teething. When their first tooth appears we mourn the loss of their gorgeous gummy smiles and celebrate the arrival of an important developmental milestone. Equally when they lose their first milk teeth we make a huge song and dance about it by creating this dramatic, mythical creature known as the Tooth Fairy. And what a pain in the ass she is.

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Toothless

Initially it seems like a good idea to propagate the Tooth Fairy myth. After all, it is a cause for celebration when your child finally gets rid of the wobbly, protruding tooth that has been hanging by a thread at an awkward/ugly angle for weeks. So you consult your friends, work out what the going rate is for a tooth and tell your child that the Tooth Fairy will leave something special for them. Great. Job done. Not quite.

There are many problems that can arise. Firstly there is the pressure to continue forking out money for every single milk tooth that falls out. After the first six teeth, the novelty soon wears off but your child will still expect to be paid.  Having an emergency stash of coins at home is absolutely critical as your kid won’t take it well if you don’t cough up. Trust me, it can get dramatic. Don’t get caught out.

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What’s the going rate for a tooth?

Secondly your kid will try and pull a fast one. They will tell you that inflation has kicked in and that Melanie T, Sarah B and Keira A at school all get £10 per tooth. You won’t believe them, but will feel the need to check with their parents who will promptly tell you they too only dish out £1 or £2 per tooth. Never believe your child when they start talking in monetary terms. They lie.

Then there’s the guilt of being a crap Tooth Fairy. By the time you have sorted out the kids’ school bags/uniforms, washed and tidied up, finished watching late night TV, checked Facebook and eaten dinner, the Tooth Fairy is nowhere to be seen. You collapse into bed forgetting all fairy-related duties only to be rudely awoken at 6am the next morning when your kid runs in sobbing that the Tooth Fairy didn’t turn up. Crap! It happens to the best of us. We all forget to make our magical deposits now and then and have to come up with some lame excuse about the Tooth Fairy getting stuck in traffic or having a busy night and reassure them that she will definitely turn up that night. Big sigh. Who would have thought that a no-show by the Tooth Fairy could cause so much angst for a little person?

Even worse is when you have no choice but to raid your child’s Tooth Fairy stash for parking money. You’re in a rush, you need some coins and the only quick way to get some is to dip into their money box. It’s terrible, it’s unethical, it would send your child into meltdown if they knew, but sometimes it’s the only way. Just remember to put the money back promptly and they will be none the wiser.

All this hassle for the arrival of wonky teeth. All this drama and expense for crooked, oversized, gappy adult teeth?! I miss my girl’s perfectly formed baby teeth and feel like telling the Tooth Fairy to “Do one” when I see what they have been replaced with. In due course the new teeth will straighten out (I hope!) but for now I’m in no mood to entertain the wretched Tooth Fairy.  Unfortunately for me, my kid would be too traumatised if the Tooth Fairy was to suddenly stop coming. So I’m on the slippery slope and will just have to keep going until we run out of teeth or my kid outgrows her. Damn you Tooth Fairy. If only I’d known.

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Ramadan with Young Kids –the Unofficial Guide

It’s Ramadan, and like many other Muslims around the world, I’m trying my best not to totally flip out whilst fasting for nineteen hours a day and tending to my angelic/monster kids. It’s meant to be a month of spiritual and physical cleansing, a time when you strive to be a better person. But having young kids means I’m normally on course to having some kind of meltdown by 5pm. Trust me, being sleep deprived, hungry, thirsty and all round exhausted is not going to win me mother of the year any time soon, and any mum that tells me she is the epitome of patience and spiritual virtue during Ramadan can do one.

Being “hangry” (hungry and angry) during Ramadan is not ideal. It obviously defeats the purpose of Ramadan if I spend half my day being snappy with my kids (and the Old Git – although he often deserves it, to be fair) and verging on the cusp of hysteria. Whereas I’d normally give the kids multiple chances to comply with my requests/instructions, these days I’m flipping out after request number one. Big sigh. So, in an effort to save my soul and my sanity, I’ve been trying different things to stop me from descending into total crazy mum mode.

Firstly, I stay as far away as possible for as long as possible from my kids. It really helps. I disappear into the bedroom, utility room or toilet and spend as much of my time as possible in there contemplating life, making lists, doing what I normally do.  Of course I emerge at intervals to feed the kids, wash them, help them with their homework etc, but overall I find that staying out of their way reduces the chances of an epic meltdown.

Secondly, I let the kids use electronic devices. During Ramadan anything goes. All my rules about limited screen time go out of the window and my kids turn into screen zombies. TV, iPad, phone, computer – all are fair game during this holy month. In order for me to attain peace of mind, the kids must attain the iPad. End of.

Thirdly, I have to nap. I’m like a baby and have to sleep between the hours of 12-2pm in order to feel refreshed and recharged for the day. Even if I have the kids at home with me I still manage to do it albeit with a lot of background noise. The kids basically run riot in the house and I’m ok with that, as long as I get my two hours kip.

Fourthly, I stock up in the freezer. Not only is it full of samosas, kebabs, pasties and spring rolls, it’s also full of fish fingers, nuggets, pizzas and chips. Admittedly it’s not made with my own fair hands, but keeping things low maintenance during Ramadan makes things so much easier for me, plus the kids love it. You won’t find me slaving over a hot stove during Ramadan unless absolutely necessary. I also have my prized secret stash of chocolate which gives me focus and something to look forward to during the long days of fasting. Nobody is allowed to touch that…ever.

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My chocolate stash

And finally, bribery works. I’ve bought this brilliant chocolate Ramadan calendar which the kids salivate over. In the event of bad behaviour, the threat of forfeiting their chocolate treat immediately rectifies the said bad behaviour and there is peace, calm and harmony in the house again.

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Ramadan calendar

Of course this advice is not from any great spiritual authority. It’s not the path to religious enlightenment. No. But if, like me, you struggle with feelings of “hanger” during Ramadan these tips could help save you from yourself. There’s no shame in admitting it’s hard to fast when you have young kids. It’s totally different to fasting pre-kids when you have the space to reflect, read and contemplate.  At least if we are honest and non-judgemental about the challenges we face, we can find solace in sharing our experiences and find ways of helping purge these ghastly, guilt-inducing feelings of “hanger.”

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What do we tell our Kids about Terrorism?

How do I tell my children that there are terrorists on our streets? How can I shatter the beauty and innocence of their youth? Across the world millions of children are faced with war, disaster and tragedy every day, and now here in the UK, after three terrorist attacks in as many months, we are faced with the sad reality of terrorism on our doorstep. I’m not suggesting our lives are in any way comparable to the terrible suffering endured by others elsewhere in the world, but the political climate of the UK is changing. There are increased risks and consequently increased tensions. As much as we’d all like to shield our children from these frightening developments, at what point should we discuss these matters with them and in what way?

Some children are, in my view, too young to have such discussions. Ludoo is only four and would not understand any of it. But my daughter is seven years old and has the capacity to understand and the possibility of exposure to information about it.  I am torn between raising it with her and risk causing anxiety and fear, and leaving her to enjoy her childish vision of the world. As of yet, she is blissfully unaware of the terrorist attacks and I feel almost cruel to burden her mind with it.  But she has older cousins and school friends who are more worldly than her. The chances are she will, at some point, hear about the terrorist attacks, and I know it’s better coming from me than from anybody else.

#LondonAttacks2017
#LondonAttacks2017

Whatever we tell our children about these attacks it has to be age appropriate. With an older child approaching their teens it may well be possible to discuss issues surrounding the attacks such as  politics,  religion and extremism but with younger school children this would be confusing and overwhelming. The key, I think, is to explain in very basic terms that there are some bad people who sometimes want to hurt others, but that this is very unusual and that most people are good. For me, the priority has to be to reassure my child that she is safe whilst acknowledging that it is very sad that these things happen. Providing too much detail about the attacks would be frightening but it’s important to give just enough information to equip our kids should it come up in conversation. The objective is to inform and reassure, not to create fear and anxiety.

One way to reassure young children might be to focus on how effective the emergency services are at dealing with the “baddies” and to highlight examples of bravery. Kids love talking about the police and heroes. It makes them feel safe and protected. Another way might be to share positive news stories to illustrate there is more good than bad.

It’s also really important to allow our kids to ask questions and answer them calmly and positively. We can set the tone and framework for the conversation so that it is not scary or hysterical. We can make them feel safe and emphasise how rare these incidents really are.

For me, there is the added complexity that we are from a Muslim background and I worry my child may hear comments about the identity of the terrorists which cause her to feel confused about her own faith background. At some point, I will probably have to take the conversation about these attacks one step further and explain in very basic terms that these terrorists are bad people with crazy ideas and that no religion says it is okay to hurt other people. I don’t think my seven year old is ready to discuss Isis or radicalisation, but I hope by highlighting the importance of kindness and peace in religion, she will understand that these terrorists are of a completely different ilk.

None of this is an easy conversation to have with your child and I’m still assessing when to do it myself. But I know deep down, knowledge is necessary and empowering for our kids as it helps relieve anxiety. Kids can have very vivid imaginations so it’s better to take control of the conversation than leave it to playground whispers.

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The Running Circuit

I started running about two months ago, after my GP told me to sort my lazy ass out at my NHS forty year check up. Running is cheap, instant and effective. WelI, I say it’s running but others would probably describe it as jogging. But that’s just semantics. In any event, its sounds far more impressive to tell people you run rather than jog so we shall stick with that. For somebody who is not naturally sporty, I’ve come a long way since I first started (yes, I’m not shy about congratulating myself). Even the Old Git is shocked by my progress, bearing in mind I could barely run for two minutes when I first started. Running is now part of my routine and I feel much fitter. Being out on the running circuit has opened up a whole new world to me, some good and some bad. Here are my observations about the early morning run:

1) Firstly, people don’t clear up their dog poop. I’ve noticed abnormally high levels of dog poop on the pavement and it’s totally gross. Luckily I’ve not stepped in any yet but dog owners definitely need to up their game.

2) Secondly, runners don’t know how to react to other runners. There’s always that awkward moment as you approach another runner when you waver between acknowledging them  in running solidarity (and risk being snubbed) or avoiding all eye contact. It’s a tough call to make and in my limited experience most people just want to “jog on.”

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Running in my hood..

3) When there is a pedestrian walking ahead, you suddenly feel the need to start sprinting past them full pelt in case their walking pace is faster than your running pace. To be ‘outrun’ by a pedestrian would be too much of a humiliation, so you can only resume your normal running pace once you are out of sight.

4) For some reason every person that sits in the passenger seat of a passing car feels the need to stare at you as they drive by. It’s not ideal as you are sweating profusely, huffing and puffing like an amateur and generally not looking your best. The key to not being overly self-conscious is to avoid eye contact and just focus on how good you will look once you complete your run and your thighs and ass wobble that little bit less.

5) Builders always stop what they are doing and stare at you.  Some make encouraging/patronising remarks like “Keep going!” or “Don’t stop now!” and you have to smile and acknowledge. It would be rude not to. You do wonder what they say about you when you are out of earshot though. Best not to dwell on it.

6) Running is the perfect pastime if you are a bit nosy. I now notice every single new driveway, house extension and property for sale in my area.  I even notice things like nice curtains, front doors and flowerbeds. It’s a great source of inspiration for home improvement ideas and is basically an extension of Neighbourhood Watch.

7) Running uphill sucks. Always.

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Remembering to stretch..

8) When the end is in sight and you finish your run you feel like a flipping champion. As you run for a bit longer or faster each time and meet certain running goals, you feel a huge sense of achievement. Each week you see improvements and that is incredibly satisfying.

9) After a run, you feel ready to eat a horse. In fact, once you start running in general, your appetite increases and you just want to stuff your face all day. I am constantly hungry and whilst I understand my body needs more energy now, I’m not sure chocolate muffins and apple danishes are part of a good running plan. Something for me to work on.

As a newbie on the running circuit I’m still navigating my way through all the various issues above. But what I love most of all is the ability to just step out of my front door and start running instantly. It clears the mind and helps you get fit fast. There’s definitely less wobble on the thighs these days which is never a bad thing.

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The Emotional Health of our Children

Recently a fifteen year old boy went missing in my area and there was a big local campaign to find him. Unfortunately a few days later his body was found close to where I live and naturally there has been a huge outpouring of grief. Sadly, it seems this young school boy took his own life. I don’t know the circumstances of the case but I have seen his school friends, teachers and loved ones leaving flowers at the site where he was found, and it is heartbreaking to see the anguish on their faces and to think of the utter despair this young boy must have felt in his final days. It has made me question to what extent do we really know how our children feel and think? How can we ever be sure that they are not experiencing the darkest feelings of pain and despair?

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Remembering a loved one..

We try so hard to protect our kids from stranger danger and other external dangers, but how can we protect their emotional health? At every stage of childhood, from the toddler years right through to the teen years, children experience volatile and often extreme emotions. But when they are little they show how they feel through their tantrums and meltdowns. As they get older these emotions can often become masked or suppressed. Issues such as exams, friendships, bullying and relationships all come into play and can create further stress.  What might seem trivial to us can become hugely magnified to a child and impact their emotional wellbeing.

Although my kids are young, I try to nurture an open relationship of trust where they can talk to me. But even then it doesn’t always work. The other day Flump told me she had seen something disturbing on TV that she didn’t want to discuss. She was visibly upset but categorically refused to tell me what it was, despite my best efforts to prise it out of her. I felt like a bit of a failure to be honest as my kid was unwilling to open up to me. It eventually transpired that she had seen a close up shot of a pig’s head on MasterChef which had clearly traumatised her! She was expecting to see mouthwatering cake and linguine..instead she got an unwelcome shock! As trivial as it may sound, I have to say it was a bit of a red flag for me as it highlighted  there may be times when my child will not want to share things with me, and that is a bit of a worry.

So how can we protect our kids and help them process their complex and often extreme emotions? It goes without saying that we have to actively ensure our children feel loved, respected and valued. We have to look out for any signs of depression, such as feeling consistently low, unhappy, teary, disinterested or socially isolated, and not just put it down to teenage moodiness. As parents we can try our best to communicate with and support our kids but we shouldn’t hesitate to seek help from the medical profession, who can refer children for counselling and other therapies.

Mental health is, quite rightly, a huge political issue these days and we need to remember that children too can suffer from depression. None of us ever want our kids to feel so utterly hopeless that they feel there is no way out. Their formative years can be turbulent ones and we have to be mindful of their emotional anxieties. We always talk about how resilient children are, and whilst that might be true of younger children, I believe that as they approach the teenage years that resilience turns into vulnerability. The only way our children can thrive and stay safe is if we treat their emotional health as equally important to their physical health.

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Musings of a Harassed Mum