Friday, 26 October 2012

Making Memories

Just under an hour before half term holiday begins!

We're ready for a break. It was all change in September - with Pippa moving to middle school, Susannah into Reception. Pippa has settled well, Susannah seems to be getting the hang of it. At least she isn't crying when she's being left in the classroom any more. Well, not every time.

I hope their memories of their new environments are positive ones. I for one love Russell Street School, and Pippa missed it to begin with. But now she is so grown up with all the new activities and expectations - Middle School is suiting her.

This phase of childhood will be so full of memories, and in the holidays we parents can influence these more than ever.

In the summer I missed blogging about our holiday in Wales, but there I was excited to share my childhood memories of Pembrokeshire with the girls. We camped a short distance along the coast from where my grandparents used to live and I was all full of 'my earliest memory is of this beach... this is where we used to play tennis... we walked round here when we were children... we sometimes went horse riding here....'

Thirty or so years on I was building sandcastles on the same stretch of sand, loving the same views, thinking about the fun we had as kids. Nostalgia. And now the girls have their own take on Welsh holiday memories, also including ponies, sand and sea. The sun even shined some of the time.

Of course it was not all plain sailing. What was my favourite beach became Pippa's worst ever on the sighting of a couple of jelly fish. The best thing about our trip round Skomer Island for me was the puffin spotting and the exhilaration of the sea, for green-at-the-gills Pippa it was getting off the boat at the end. But it was a happy holiday and one that I imagine will be referred to over the years ahead.

This half term holiday we hand over responsibility for the memories to the grandparents as we leave the girls in Lewes for a few days while we continue to work. Hopefully it will be remembered for much more than 'the year we weren't at home for Halloween and missed Trick-or-treating'. This is the first holiday in Mum and Dad's new home and they have put a lot of effort into making it a welcoming place for the kids.

I was lucky to have had a happy childhood and I guess that's all any of us want for our own children. So then, good luck everyone in making special memories for your families this half term.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Something I struggle with: clinginess

Blogging has taken second place to everything else in the past few months. School holidays, return to school, fundraising for Macmillan.

There have been various themes that I’ve been considering for a blog post. In the end I am writing about one of the things I find hard as a parent.


Dearie me, it is hard work at the moment. Susannah doesn’t like to be left alone in any area of the house, except on the rare – and we’re talking blue moon rare – occasion that it suits her or she is distracted enough to forget. She trails up and down the stairs after me and drives me to distraction when she won’t even stay eating her breakfast in the kitchen for the whole 9 seconds it takes to go to the hall and back to retrieve a school book bag, lunch box or whatever else you are chasing your tail sorting out that morning.

Clinginess is so draining. They want to be near you and cuddle you all the time. In some ways that sounds sweet, but it can be suffocating. Sometimes we need a bit of space. I’d like to have a shower on my own. I have personal needs I would rather tend to alone.

It can become a cycle. You know your children need reassurance, but you still push them away to get that bit of space you need. When you try to create space, they cling more. Pushing them away without it being a rejection can become a challenge.

Susannah is four and you expect her to be more independent. She was doing her own buttons at the age of two, and capable of entertaining herself for sustained periods.

On the other hand, she is only four. A lot has happened in her short life, and she has had joining Reception year at school to contend with. I know really it is only a phase. Come teenage years I’ll be mourning the loss of cuddles.

What’s more, I am well aware that if a bit of clinginess is all you have to worry about, then you have a lot going for you. I was at the Macmillan Cancer Voices conference at the weekend. There you learn what hardships some parents bear and you know there are some truly terrible awful things that some families have to go through. Being told your child has a cancer they are unlikely to recover from for example. It is hard to imagine worse.

On a note of hope though, one mother I met who had gone through this experience was there with her daughter who had been so poorly (who doctors did not expect to live). That same daughter is now in her thirties and campaigning for support for survivors of childhood cancer. She may have long term health issues as a result of what she went through as a child, but she is very much alive and kicking, and her mother also here to tell the tale.

So, newly humbled I’ll try again to accept that my physical presence is needed. I’ll do my best not to push away. I’ll try and make the most of every cuddle. I can’t promise not to find clinginess suffocating from time to time, but I’ll try to do my best, which I guess is all that any parent can do when it comes down to it.