I have had a week off work this week to spend the second week of the school holidays with my boys.
For the first time in a long time, and much to the boys delight, I have totally avoided work. No phone calls or checking of emails. In fact, as we went away to Phillip Island for four days, we had very little screen time (other than movie nights) and lots of time for making memories. Mini golf and mazes, magic shows, chocolate factories, animals – Phillip Island has so many great family activities. At the end of the four days after much fun, laughter and time for connecting with each other it felt wonderful to hear the boys say how they would miss the holiday and how much fun they had.
Today, being the first day back home, I was doing housework and getting myself organised when I noticed my youngest just sitting in the driveway looking around. I called out to see if he was ok and he ran over and said “come look at the clouds Mummy”. This turned into nearly an hour of sitting on the driveway with him and his brother talking about what pictures we saw in the clouds, looking for planes and endless games of eye spy.
Sometimes making memories can be from grand gestures, holidays and amazing activities. Often though, it is from the simple things that fill us with happiness and laughter. It is so easy to forget how important giving time to our children is – and how simple it can be to make a memory.
Sometimes a sure fire way to feel your age is to talk to children.
The other day my youngest was repeating the same whinge over and over. I responded with “you are like a broken record” to which he gave me a look and kept going about his day.
About half an hour later he started up again. And I once again responded with “see like I said you are like a broken record”. This time he stared at me and then yelled with exasperation “I don’t understand what you mean”.
After talking to him for a few minutes I learnt that his young mind, that has never used or probably even seen a record, had totally misunderstood what this saying means. To him a broken record is when someone runs faster/jumps higher/does more than everyone else. So he couldn’t understand why me saying he was like a broken record was a bad thing.
Once I explained to him how a record works and what the saying means I could see the lightbulb moment when he said “oh that makes sense now”
It did make me sit back and think. How many other sayings are now redundant and would get the same strange look from my children?
Today I had breakfast with a friend who I used to work with. We haven’t worked together for many years and lost touch for a little while but are back in touch now. We understand each other, get along really well and catch up every couple of months for breakfast. Seeing her today made me realise this has been a year of reconnection for me.
Technically I have back in touch with this friend for more than a year but it is the last year or so where we have regularly caught up. We are very similar and have similar views and opinions so our breakfast is full of constant chatter, laughter and understanding.
I have also written previously about reconnecting with someone from high school who I hadn’t seen for 18 years. While we have only managed one face to face catch up so far there have been many texts and a few phone chats that feel like when we talked all those years ago. Hopefully he agrees as he follows my blog!
And then a couple of weeks ago I had a fantastic night out with four ladies I worked with when I first started working at my current company 18 years ago. Two of these ladies I hadn’t seen for over ten years. As we caught up over drinks and dinner, followed by more drinks and dancing it was just like old times and not one part of the night was awkward.
All of these reconnections have been amazing and it makes me reflect on how much I have missed having these people in my life. So what makes them amazing? It is that our friendship is easy, and that I can 100% be myself with all of these people. No games, no pretending and no judgement. Whether it has been one month, one year or 18 years we are still there for each other in a friendship that goes both ways.
As an adult and a parent life gets so busy and it becomes so easy to drift apart, but when you find a true friend and support it is worth the time and effort. Even if sometimes it is just a quick check in to say “hey, how are you?”
When did the definition of strong alter to meaning you don’t need help?
I am proud to be a strong person. I have had many ups and downs in life like the rest of us, and for the last few years it feels the downs are certainly outweighing the ups. However, I pride myself that I do not give up. I have a bad day and then I pick myself up and do what needs to be done. I have two young boys that count on me and I am not afraid of hard work. I also hope that I am a good example for my sons and my nieces in showing that you can make things happen for yourself. They may not appreciate it now but I think (hope?) they will when they are older.
Last week I had lunch with a friend at work who I only catch up with about every six months. She made a comment that I have heard many times in the last couple of years about how strong I am and how “I’ve got this”. Then she made a further comment “you have always been strong but you let the men in your life make you weak”. It is certainly something I had thought about before. And I am determined that any future relationships will be different. My strength and character should not change because it might upset the men in my life.
It seems though that being strong equates to others as I can do it alone, no help required. And some days that isn’t so. Not having a support system in place gets tough. Days like today finding me sitting in the car after dropping the boys at before school care and yelling/tearing up at my frustration at doing it all alone. At the fact that young children can change well laid plans in a heartbeat – fights over what to wear, phone calls from the school over sick children, arguments over eating dinner.
I don’t want to change my strength or determination, I will continue to be a role model for my kids and I won’t pretend to be weak again……but sometimes it would be nice to share the load. Or at least have someone to convince my kids to eat what I cooked.
As part of my eldest sons treatment plan he is currently going through serial casting. This is to try and correct the positioning of his drop foot and loosen up some of the muscles that are not working as they should. So basically it is to treat a symptom of the NF2 not the cause.
For serial casting he goes into the Royal Children’s Hospital once a week to have one cast removed and another put on. The idea behind this process is to slowly stretch and reposition his foot.
The process started last Thursday when he had the first cast put on and will continue for at least four weeks. As there are no broken bones or injuries he can walk on the cast but with the current positioning that is not possible and therefore he is on crutches.
One week into the process what have I learnt?
- The crutches that I always thought were super cool and wanted when I was at primary school are not (for parent or child) when they are your reality.
- Everything takes longer and your patience is tested when your child can’t do things as quickly as you want.
- You don’t notice how many little things a child of almost nine can do for themselves until you have to help them.
- You discover that the bath is a lot deeper than you think it is when someone has to sit down while standing on one leg and hanging the other over the edge of the bed.
- And finally as a parent you never get it right when helping a frustrated, grumpy child – you don’t let them try and do things/you don’t help them enough or you need to get something to keep their bare toes warm/why would they want a sock over the cast.
So at this stage of the process I feel very sorry for him and want to avoid him all at the same time. One week down and three to four to go……hopefully it works and the grumpiness, from both of us, is worth it.
Earlier this week it was my birthday. Not a milestone one, that was last year, and so like most years I kept it pretty low key. I don’t like a big fuss made at work and now that I am single, and my boys still young, even at home the celebrations are pretty short lived. I’m thinking back to Mother’s Day this year when the boys spoilt me until about 10am before it turned back in to “Mum I need…”
So my plan had been quiet day at work try and sneak off for one train earlier and pick up the boys and fish and chips so I didn’t have to cook. I knew the boys knew about my birthday and, even though their dad had told them it was one day earlier than it actually was, that they had gone present shopping with him. The presents were hidden in the pants drawer – a poorly kept secret given I had been told not to go there.
On the morning of my birthday I woke up early got ready for work and woke the boys. They got ready to leave and it was evident that they had forgotten. Given it was 6am and they have limited time to get ready I wasn’t going to drop hints. Then on the train my friend had also forgotten. My low key birthday was turning into a non existent one.
Then three beautiful friends turned my whole day around and made me smile, as well as wipe away a couple of sneaky tears.
My friend at work contacted me and took me out to lunch, as well as giving me a very thoughtful present. And another friend and her husband booked dinner at the local pub for our two families because they believed it was wrong for me to sit at home alone on my birthday, especially after a crappy start. This is probably where I should mention it was the friend who forgot earlier on the train!
It was a great dinner full of laughter and stories, good food and a glass of wine.
By the way my children had remembered by the time I picked them up from after school care. They had made apology cards and made a big fuss.
And my moral for the day…you don’t need a big fancy celebration for your birthday but it is important to make the day feel special. And sometimes all that takes is three beautiful friends who think you are worth the effort.
Last week was full of big and small incidents that left me drained and emotional. By Friday afternoon one small incident was enough to tip my emotional bucket and leave me in tears. And while the weekend (and my mood) improved I knew that with the boys heading to their dads for a week I was up for another tough week.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the quiet and having some time to myself after a couple of hours it is to quiet and too much time.
However knowing a week away from the boys is tough, and that I was already in a low spot I decided I needed to try and position myself for a good week as much as possible.
Step one: Sunday (last day with the boy) had to be about forgetting the terrible weather and messy house and more about having fun and building memories. Ten pin bowling followed by arcade games and lunch fit the bill perfectly.
Step two: get back to taking food to work so that I save money and eat healthier.
Step three: go shopping for healthy snacks and dinner ingredients. Then add a packet of Tim Tams – just because thy are my favourite and without kids I could eat all of them without hiding.
Step four: cook a huge batch of chickpea and vegetable curry to cover dinners for the next few days as having the motivation to cook healthy dinners for one can be difficult when I get home from work. Was very happy with how it turned out. There is something about slow cooking, curry and winter that all just goes together.
Next steps: fingers crossed for better weather so I can get out for walks. Weatherman is not filing me with confidence – after all it is Melbourne and winter.
And the rest is unknown at this stage.