When Mummy Gets Sick

This isn’t one of those happy clappy standard New Year posts. Forget it. It’s all well and good sharing your hopeful New Year resolutions about losing weight, spending more time with the family, saving money blah, blah, blah. The reality is you will start off well and then lose interest by the end of February. It’s true. This post is all about how badly things suck when mummy gets sick.

Let me tell you about how my New Year went down. Before I could even make any meaningless resolutions I got ill. That’s right.  2017 started fantastically well with me being laid up in bed for a WHOLE WEEK. I mean, who gets sick for a whole week these days? I can’t even remember the last time I was completely out of action for a full seven days. And the consequences were far-reaching.

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This is where I spent the last 7 days..IN BED!

Firstly the Old Git wasn’t impressed. He started off well and tried to be sympathetic but by day three he was just hacked off that he had to look after the kids singlehandedly and take time off from work to do the school run. By day five he was trying to persuade me that despite my throbbing head, aching body, sore throat and inability to get out of bed in the mornings, I was much better and that normal service could resume. Really? Would you like a punch in the face now or later? Even the in-laws had to be drafted in to look after the kids when the Old Git claimed he had to go back to work.   Even the cleaner got roped into looking after the kids for four hours when she came over for her weekly visit.  She was told to put away the Domestos and focus solely on entertaining Ludoo and Flump whilst I slept and sweated it out upstairs.

Despite the house going into panic mode, it seems the kids had a blast whilst I was ill.  I’d go as far as to say they loved every second of my illness as it was a change in routine for them and enabled them to have unfettered use of the iPad and TV.  They took full advantage of the Old Git, grandparents and our lovely cleaner by demanding pancakes every day, marathon dvd sessions, continuous snacks and by generally bossing them around. I tell you, it was party time for them. And on the rare occasion I did make an appearance downstairs they would tell me to go straight back to bed. Charming.

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Unrestricted use of all devices. Mummy should get sick more often!

Although the kids may have enjoyed my absence from the household for a week, it certainly proved to be an inconvenience for others. Friends and family were wonderful in their willingness to help out but the reality is they had to go out of their way to help look after my children. It made me realise just how central mums are to the running of the home. When we get sick everyone is impacted and the whole household is thrown into chaos. We are the glue that holds everything together.  We make sure the day runs like clockwork from the school run, nursery drop offs, packed lunches, after school clubs, pickups, meal times, homework, school uniforms, baths,  books, bedtime, the list is endless . We make it happen and should always remember our worth.

As inconvenient and annoying as it is, sometimes we just need to submit to being ill. Most of the time we soldier on and fight off these pesky little bugs, but sometimes one really packs a punch and knocks us out. We then have to allow others to help us. Having a good support network is priceless and being able to forget about the unravelling state of the house is mandatory. Who knows, after a week of being ill, your other half might even realise what a superstar you are? Every cloud has a silver lining and mine was losing three pounds without even trying (hoorah!) and hearing the Old Git finally admit that it’s flipping hard work looking after the kids. Result.

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Happy Holidays?

‘Tis the season to be jolly and all that jazz, but how many of us really are? The holidays are upon us and it’s a full on assault of food, family and Christmas telly. Non-stop overeating, awkward relatives and alleged “quality time” at home can make for a very stressful period. Happy holidays? Not always.

It’s all very well having so much time off over the festive period but sometimes things get tricky. Who should you spend Christmas with? His family or yours? Who should you invite if you want to host a party? Do you really need to invite his entire extended family and annoying/weird friend? And as if sorting out logistics and the guest list isn’t complicated enough, something will always go wrong over the holiday period.

Ludoo cautiously meets Santa..
Ludoo cautiously meets Santa..

Firstly the chances of you having a major bust up with your partner are super high. You will be all set to enjoy the holidays together and then something will flare up. It could be the most ridiculous thing but something will get triggered and you will end up shouting at each other and being thoroughly hacked off for at least 48 hours. Even worse, you could end up giving each other the silent treatment for the whole week thereby ruining a good portion of your Christmas/New Year period. Passive aggression is like the kiss of death for all things merry.

Secondly, it’s almost guaranteed that something will break down. The central heating will stop working, the oven will die on you or, as in my case, the car will pack up.  According to the Old Git, it’s just one of those things, but all I can say is that the car was working perfectly fine until HE decided to get up early one morning and fiddle around with the tyres. The next thing I know…the car is no longer in use. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to work out he broke the car and is solely responsible for me not having access to wheels over the entire festive period. Annoying? Just a bit. You can draw your own conclusions as to how I handled that situation.

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No car ( insert angry face)

Then of course there is the pressure to get a bargain in the sales. Some online sales start on Christmas Eve so the race is on to bag yourself a good deal. The whole process is stress-inducing as you may find something you like but decide to think about it overnight, only to rudely discover that it is no longer available 24 hours later. You what??? How can it disappear from the website in just one day? I was so naive and had to learn the hard way. Worse still, is if you decide to take a trip into town to look around the shops. It’s not pleasant (unless you are a complete shopaholic) and consists of a lot of aggressive shoppers rummaging around messy, manhandled clothes racks, giving evils to each other and pouncing on items they deem desirable. Don’t even get me started about the queues.

And let’s not forget about keeping our beautiful, angelic little cherubs occupied for two and a half weeks. If the incessant quizzing about what’s for dinner, when are they going out, what presents they are getting and what snacks are available doesn’t drive you nuts, the continuous whinging and fighting over the iPad will.

But it’s not all bad. In and amongst all of the dilemmas, discussions and disorder there will also be some golden moments. Like sitting at home with Flump, Ludoo and the Old Git watching Star Wars whilst eating Maltesers. Or going out on Christmas Eve to eat big fat American burgers. Or watching Flump and Ludoo have a ball with their cousins. The holiday season is rarely without its issues but that’s just family life for you. Despite the aggro, I’m thankful for the festive period and have appreciated the time spent with loved ones and the break in routine…….Apart from the Old Git ruining my car. Now that’s just unforgivable.

Xmas Eve burgers..
Xmas Eve burgers. Yum!
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Girls’ Night Out

Who doesn’t enjoy a girls’ night out? We all love them, right? But when you have children the excitement and hysteria surrounding a girls’ night out is palpable and the preparation required is meticulous. For mums, the prospect of a girls’ night out, when you can glam up, wear stilettos, sparkly tops and squeal with laughter all night long (without having any little people hang off you), is like a flipping dream come true.

It all begins with the exchange of a hundred messages on WhatsApp to build up the excitement. Discussions take place about what to wear, transport arrangements, where to park, what the menu looks like, who’s babysitting, how the kids and/or hubby have been annoying you all week etc.  Each participant has probably spent all week reminding their equivalent of the Old Git that they will be babysitting that night and that they MUST NOT FORGET. Then on the day of the said girls’ night out, from about 3pm onwards, each mum will start bombarding their other halves with increasingly frantic and threatening text messages, asking them where they are, what time they are leaving work and when they will be home.

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Preparing for my girls’ night out.

There is then the small matter of getting ready whilst looking after the kids. This is no easy task and the only failsafe solution is to give them unrestricted use of the iPad, and/or TV. It’s perfectly acceptable, on such important occasions, to let your children use all electronic devices in the house whilst you go off and get ready. Showering, hair straightening/curling, experimenting with different shades of lipstick, attempting to create a smokey eye effect all take a good amount of time and it’s important that you are not disturbed whilst such preparations are underway.

Eventually when the equivalent of the Old Git gets home, there will then be discussions about who will be putting the kids to bed. He will try to persuade you to “quickly” do it before you head out but you know that this would be a fatal mistake. Once you get embroiled into the bedtime process, you will inevitably end up being ridiculously late. So it’s better you just run out of the front door and not look back.  Hell, I even put my phone on silent these days.

Once out, you experience a feeling of intense joy and freedom. You pump up the volume on the car radio whilst doing multiple pickups of other excited mums out on the razzle. You have so much to talk about you can barely contain yourself. You arrive at your chosen destination (probably a restaurant with music as a club would just be too much to handle and would knock you out for a whole week thereafter) and then it’s party time!  Everybody is so elated to be out that they find everything hilarious and fantastic. Ordinarily prim and proper, responsible, sensible women turn into giggling, over excited, naughty, noisy schoolgirls who are having the time of their lives.  Good food, cocktails, unfiltered conversation, dancing and selfies make for a brilliant night out.

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Having a blast!

Then it’s time to go home. You hobble back to the car, put on your granny driving shoes and immediately start dissecting the evening with whoever else is in the car. The WhatsApp messages start pinging again with everyone saying how brilliant a time they have had and sharing embarrassing photos of the night. You get home and look/listen for signs of life..praying that the kids are asleep and not sitting downstairs watching late night telly. You get into bed on a complete high, whilst trying not to disturb the snoring lump of a man you have next to you.  You go to bed feeling all peachy and happy…….until 7AM the next morning when the kids run in screaming and demanding toast and Weetabix. You then feel incredibly ROUGH. But it’s a small price to pay for such an amazing and liberating night out. No pain, no gain.  Indeed, preparations are already underway for the next spectacular girls’ night out.

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Obligatory end of night shoe selfie..
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Turning 40

This year I celebrated my big 4-0. In my head I’m just a 23 year old, but my birth certificate tells me otherwise. It crept up on me without me even realising and then planted a great big slap on the face upon arrival. Turning 40 is, without a doubt, a big deal.

Firstly, this milestone birthday  puts you in a completely different age bracket.  You even get invited by the GP for a free health check, which is fine until you realise it’s available to all those aged between 40 -74!!  Yes, that’s right, you now fall within the same age range as a 74 year old. What the hell? That was a flipping shock to the system.

You also start to realise that there are physical changes that allude to your age. The grey hair starts to pop out, the fine lines start to appear and you start investing in every single hair care and anti-aging product you hear about. Then there’s your body [long groan]. Earlier this year when I was on holiday, I found myself looking over at this young woman on the beach. Not in a pervy/stalkerish  way, but in a nostalgic way. She had a perfectly toned body, no cellulite, no signs of wear and tear. She was young and fit and I couldn’t help but reflect on how I used to look like that once upon a time.  Surprisingly, it didn’t make me feel sad or depressed, but it did make me feel more aware of my age. Gone are the days of just starving myself for a day or two to lose a few pounds. Gravity now has other ideas.

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Turning 40 and owning it.

That being said, turning 40 has brought with it a renewed sense of confidence. I find myself being bolder in my appearance and in the things that I say and do. I don’t really care what anybody else thinks and have greater self-belief in my own views and judgements. Heck, I’ve got 40 years of life experience behind me and I’ll be damned if anyone’s going to tell me what to do – just ask the Old Git.

Of course it’s inevitable that you will start reassessing things in your life; what you have achieved so far and what you would still like to do. Now this could go one of two ways. You could lock yourself away in a dark room, with a box of chocolates and a hanky, and work yourself into a depression. OR you could take a break from the self-loathing and appreciate everything that you do have in your life, be it family, friends, work, your house, partner, kids or your health. Very few people have achieved everything they want in life by the age of 40. There’s still so much to look forward to and turning 40 allows you to refocus on what it is you’d really like to do. It’s a wonderful window of opportunity.

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The Old Git’s attempt at making me a Louis Vuitton handbag cake for my 40th. It’s the thought that counts, I suppose..

Whatever happens, don’t be a cliché and have a midlife crisis. If you find yourself wanting to pack in your job and travel the world, leave your partner because the grass seems greener, or buy a sports car, think very carefully indeed. Many a person has made a bad decision based on a temporary state of mind.

My parting pearls of wisdom are these; turning 40 really hasn’t been that bad (apart from the letter from the GP), make sure you celebrate in some way (don’t just let it slip on by unnoticed as that will depress you), be excited by the endless possibilities that lie ahead, get fit and most importantly of all, invest in some really good, expensive moisturiser.

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Shouty Mama

It always starts off so well. When the kids are in the throes of a meltdown or being extremely defiant, I try to follow the advice espoused by various child rearing experts. Talk to your children calmly, don’t get angry, give them a warning, walk away….we all know the drill. But when your monsters repeatedly ignore your instructions [cough cough, I mean requests] it’s hard not to turn into a raving lunatic that froths at the mouth.

Little Ludoo mid meltdown
Little Ludoo mid meltdown

Take Flump. She basically acts like I’m either invisible or that she has a serious hearing impediment. Today I asked her, as I always do, to brush her teeth and wash her face before bedtime. She ignored me. I asked her again. She ignored me. By the 6th time I was starting to get vexed, especially as Ludoo was whinging about wanting to eat more cheerios. She still ignored me. I gave her a stern warning and the countdown to three. She still ignored me. And then I exploded into a mad, raving loony. It wasn’t pretty, nor was it helpful as it all ended in tears and hysteria. Then I got pissed off that the day had been ruined and felt horrendously guilty about losing my temper. I then had my moment of introspection and asked myself, since when did I become a shouty mama?

A bit of self reflection
A bit of self reflection can only be done with a jumbo sized mug of tea

The reality is we all have bad days and, whilst shouting at our kids is not ideal, it’s not abnormal and doesn’t make us evil. And just because we lose our cool now and then, okay, quite often, that doesn’t make us crap mums. Tell me which mother of multiple small children is in a permanent state of domestic bliss and happiness? Tell me??? I’m not saying my preferred style of parenting is to scream and shout but sometimes, just sometimes, it’s inevitable. The key thing is it doesn’t define my relationship with my children. Yes, I might become scary on occasion, but I also have many magnificent moments with them.

As women we are plagued by maternal guilt and are our own worst critics. But how about we focus on some of the wonderful things that we do for our children instead? We provide the foundation for our families and sometimes the weight of this can take its toll. We may have our shaky moments but we quickly realign ourselves and stay strong. We all have low points in parenting but I believe as long as we make it abundantly clear to our children that we love and cherish them, and that we are sorry for any ill temper, they will be forgiving of our flaws. It never ceases to amaze me how in a few short seconds a child can, with their forgiveness, turn a shouty moment into a magical moment.

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PARENTS’ EVENING

It’s that time of year when a lot of us are invited into school for parents’ evening. In theory this should be a straightforward matter. You go in, listen to what the teacher has to say about your beloved, ask questions and ideally leave feeling peachy. In reality, it rarely works this way.

Don't stress!
Don’t stress!

Firstly it’s a mass scramble to get the appointment that you want. Everything is done online now so you have to sit at the computer, fingers poised, waiting for the booking system to open. If you forget you’re basically screwed and will end up with the worst appointment slot ever, namely when the kids are normally having their meltdowns or when it’s impossible for you to sort out babysitting. Whatever the case, you’re screwed and you only have yourself to blame.

Like me, you might even consider taking an early appointment, straight after school, so that you don’t have to go home, rush around, get a babysitter and then come out again. In theory this should work well. Think again. Unless you are lucky enough to be blessed with angelic children who will sit quietly in the corner reading books whilst you have your appointment (seriously, there are some kids that do this) then just DON’T DO IT. My two monsters spent the entire time running around the school hall shrieking with laughter playing tag. I barely heard a word of what the teacher said, got eyeballed by irritated parents and basically felt humiliated.

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So true…..(The Simpsons)

So this time I tried the opposite approach and opted for the late appointment at 7pm, leaving the kids at home. To be honest, it felt like a night out. I loved leaving the house on my own, enjoyed catching up with friends in the school hall and had countless cups of tea without interruption. It was flipping brilliant. The only negative was that by this stage of the evening, the appointments were all running late (there’s always one overly keen parent who monopolises the teachers and asks a million questions), the teachers were knackered and there was no time for discussion. Oh well…who cares? At least I got a night out midweek. Woo hoo!

The worst scenario for me would have been for the teachers to tell me that Flump was badly behaved. Asian family rule number 1: Never bring shame upon the family.  Or that she wasn’t reaching her academic targets. Asian family rule number 2: You must always get good grades so that you can become a doctor, lawyer or engineer, even if you are only seven years of age.  It doesn’t matter how anglicised or alternative you think you are, if you have a drop of Asian blood in you, these rules apply.

Parents’ evening is like a rite of passage for parents. It’s all a bit nerve-racking the first few times, as we have no idea what to expect, but after a while it becomes easier. Then of course it gets worse again as the kids get older and have exams to pass. But until that horror kicks in, I’m going to make the most of my midweek night out…I might even organise dinner and drinks next time around! Who would have thought parents’ evening could be so much fun?

 

 

 

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Female Friendships

I’ve always believed that having a good set of girlfriends is a really positive and enriching experience. With age and responsibility our lives become increasingly busy with work, relationships and/or kids, but in my view we should always make time for our female friends. And yes, I even mean make time for that one crazy, overly emotional, slightly neurotic friend who we all love and despair over.

First and foremost, we can’t beat the ‘old is gold’ friendships. Those friends that have known us since childhood and travelled through life with us. From ugly duckling to spotty adolescent, these friends have seen us at our worst. We can share our private thoughts with them safe in the knowledge that they will not judge us and will always want the best for us. These are the most precious friendships.

Thirty five years of friendship
Thirty five years of friendship..not a word about my hair

Then we also have those friendships from our late teens/early 20’s, when we have shared milestone moments like moving away from home, university, our first job or first serious relationship.  These are wonderful friendships that we have experienced in our most formative years, as we have developed and matured into adulthood. These friends knew us before the realities and responsibilities of life kicked in, when we were full of hope and dreams.

And let’s not forget our crazy, party girl friends who still frequent the most happening places in town and always guarantee a good night out. We know they will make us behave disgracefully, dance around our handbags and shriek with laughter all night long, but that we will pay for it the next morning when we can’t get out of bed and spend all week feeling and looking like death warmed up.

Then there are our work or school mum friends who we see every day but perhaps don’t know very well, on a personal level. Some of these relationships will remain courteous and superficial but, over time, there will be one or two people who we really connect with. These friendships are engaging and exciting because we have a shared experience.

And finally there’s the crazy, psycho friend who drains the life out of us with all of her drama and emotional anguish but who has a heart of gold. We know that, in between all of her sobbing and self-loathing, she will happily offer a shoulder to cry on should we need it.

In my experience, the best female friendships are the ones that are uncomplicated. The ones that don’t simmer with complex layers of resentment, competitiveness or envy.  Moreover they need to be reciprocal. It’s no good if I’m always the one offering tea, biscuits and pastries but never get an invitation back. No, thank you very much – I’d like a chocolate hobnob please. It’s not so much about expectation but more about making a person feel valued and appreciated. Once you identify who your closest female allies are, life becomes so much simpler and healthier.  So we should rejoice in our female friendships; put the nappies /laptop/dyson vacuum cleaner to one side and enjoy a bit of girly fun as there’s no heartier laughter than that experienced with our girlfriends.

From ugly ducklings to party girls. Childhood friends
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Ten Years On

It’s been ten LONG years since the Old Git and I got married. Eleven since we first met and I changed his life for the better. After months of relentless pursuit, I finally gave in and said ‘yes’ (just to stop him from hounding me, to be honest). He hasn’t looked back since, obviously, and thanks me everyday for being such a great wife. Okay, he doesn’t really do this last bit but I know he thinks it on the inside. 

The day we said "I Do"
The day we said “I Do”

Naturally things change over the course of ten years. The Old Git isn’t quite as attentive or adoring as he used to be and I just find him annoying most of the time. We don’t gaze into each other’s eyes like we used to or spend hours discussing our feelings. Nope. Instead we spend a lot of time eyeballing each other angrily or discussing our monthly budget (yawn). Yes, this is married life ten years down the line. Throw in a couple of hyperactive kids and it’s a life completely different to the one I started with.

That being said, it’s one I wouldn’t want to change (apart from the bit about the Old Git going on about monthly budgets…yawn). It’s quite nice having the odd cuddle and even better having someone I can whinge to on demand. The Old Git is a bit like a warm old blankie..he makes me feel all toastie and snug. We’ve had highs and lows, moments of extreme joy and sadness. Such is life. But we’ve managed to endure them together and move forward.  With time comes understanding and patience. Key ingredients for any marriage. I’m no expert but what I do know is that, ten years on, the Old Git and I know when to choose our battles, understand when the other is feeling vulnerable and support each other’s dreams and aspirations. Furthermore, he gives me full charge of the TV remote control which would otherwise be a deal breaker.

It also helps if you still fancy your other half. Imagine if the Old Git was annoying AND unattractive? That would just be too much for me to bear.

On our ten year wedding anniversary
On our ten year wedding anniversary

Some people like to project this rosy image of constant marital bliss but this is deceptive. Behind closed doors every relationship faces challenges and is tested. We are all imperfect and so are our relationships. But that doesn’t mean that they are not good, healthy or fulfilling. They can be all of these things even in their state of imperfection. My Old Git may annoy me but I’m not going to ask for a refund quite just yet. He isn’t a bad catch and is aging quite nicely. Who knows what the next ten years will bring?

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Sibling Love

I’m not sure what’s up with my kids these days but they are acting like the spawn of Satan.  Every evening, as soon as we step into the house the hysteria begins. It takes a whole five minutes before one of them starts howling (normally Ludoo) and the other starts shouting angrily (normally Flump).

They used to get on so well (okay, maybe I’m exaggerating but at least they could be in the same room together without wanting to smack each other) but lately the sibling tension has reached new heights. If it’s not Ludoo destroying his sister’s carefully constructed Lego creation, it’s Flump snatching her brother’s precious toy cars and throwing them behind the radiator, never to be retrieved again. The daily ritual of Flump screaming at her brother to “get outttttt!” whilst he beats down her door hysterically normally culminates with me threatening to send them both to bed immediately. Big sigh. It’s exhausting and infuriating. Why the heck can’t they just get along?

Of course my siblings and I were model children. NOT. Admittedly at school we were perfectly well behaved as we knew Asian parents would not tolerate any kind of public embarrassment, and to be summoned into the headmistress’s office for bad behaviour would have been the ultimate humiliation. We knew better than to risk that.

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The Khan siblings

But at home it was a different matter. My younger brother and I wanted to kill each other for a good portion of our childhood. We used to grunt at each other angrily and were always separated in the car by our older sister who would sit in the middle in case we tried to savage each other. I once dislodged my brother’s front tooth by kicking him in the face and he once stabbed my sister in the arm with a biro. We were such lovely, charming children.

My brother and I used to fight like cat and dog

I suppose I don’t really have a leg to stand on when I complain about my own children not getting along as my poor parents had to endure much worse. That being said, my siblings and I are perfectly well adjusted, happy individuals who have positive and healthy relationships with each other now…thirty years on! Crap! I really hope it doesn’t take that long for Ludoo and Flump to start getting along again.

Of course it’s completely normal for siblings to quarrel and as long as they aren’t having a punch up my philosophy is to not intervene and give them the opportunity to resolve things themselves.  But very young children (like my own) often need help resolving conflict and managing their emotions. Finding a way to encourage them to work as a team (someone suggested a ‘Teamwork Jar’ where you can add and deduct coins for good/bad teamwork), as well as not taking sides are both excellent starting points.  I’m hopeful my two monkeys will revert to being friends again soon but in the meantime I’m going to invest in a really good pair of headphones to drown out the screaming and work on my scary, threatening voice. Of course we all want to equip our kids with the right life skills and develop their emotional intelligence, but sometimes (okay, quite often) we just have to ignore, threaten and repeat.  Eventually they should just wear themselves out.

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A Note to my Firstborn on her 7th Birthday

I never knew my capacity to love until I met you.  I never realised how completely consumed I could become by another person. As soon as you were born my heart missed a beat and you became an intrinsic part of me. You are in my every breath and in my every heartbeat. How joyful my life is with you in it, and for that I thank you.

I didn’t always find motherhood easy. When you were born, my life dramatically changed and it took some time to mentally adjust. I struggled with the loss of freedom, spontaneity and sleep. I worried about your every move and became anxious. But with time my confidence grew and I learned to trust my own instincts. I stopped trying to achieve perfection and embraced all the highs and lows of new motherhood, safe in the knowledge that you’d love me unconditionally, that the hard times wouldn’t last forever and that I’d always do my best to make you feel loved and safe.

I soon realised there was no “one way” to parent, and that my way was valid and good. I felt empowered and fulfilled. Having you in my life has tested me in so many different ways and forced me to become a better, kinder, more patient and giving person. I am not infallible and do make mistakes. For that I am sorry and I hope you will forgive me. But know one thing, my love for you is all encompassing and resolute. My passion for you is all consuming. My prayers for you are enduring.

The day Flump was born
The day Flump was born

There is no greater love than a mother’s love and no more exquisite an experience than holding your first born in your arms. You are no longer my only child but you will always be my first. You are the first that stole my heart, the first that made me cry and the first that made me beam with pride and joy. Happy birthday my darling girl.

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Musings of a Harassed Mum