Tag Archives: childhood

Parenting for the unprepared! – Part One

I have been blessed with children all my life.

Babies, toddlers and teens have surrounded me: from cousins to siblings, to yet more siblings (once I was old enough to love ‘playing mum’ rather than wanting to throttle them in the throes of infant sibling rivalry). Then, as I got older, wards of my days as a nanny and babysitter, school children (innocents and adolescents), children of my now older and wiser childhood friends, and friends from Uni, the children from my beloved husband’s first marriage, and the newest edition to my world, my god-daughter, baby Hope….fast becoming less of a baby and more of a beautiful, and clever, if insanely small person.

I love Hope, she reminds me how precious life is, and how much I love children….especially my own.

Hannah and Holly brought new meaning to my life. Not in the once expected package of wrinkly bundles of tiny limbs, nappies, spittle, and squeals….I was spared that part! Never-the-less, at the tentative pre-teen stage of their lives I suddenly appeared, and my life changed for ever, and much for the better.

I love being a mum (if only in the role of the rather unflatteringly termed ‘step-mum’). I appreciate this is easier to say from my perspective….there are lots of things that people enjoy on a part-time basis that they wouldn’t necessarily entertain full-time! That said, I would have had the girls full-time in a heartbeat, if circumstances might have made it possible. It would have been a challenge, I’ll admit (probably more for the girls than me!). The girls are, and always have been, impeccably behaved and, unlike my brother and I at a similar age, they don’t seem to want to throttle each other on a regular basis. No, the greatest challenge for me would certainly have been the gradual thrashing of years of super-tidy (ever-so-slightly neurotic) obsessive compulsive behaviours out of me. I still had to address these, but I had the mild luxury of reconditioning my brain in slow time!

Loving the girls was easy from the very start….they are beautiful, intelligent, talented, funny, warm-hearted, generous, kind, and loving. Strikingly individual with completely different characters and personalities, the girls enrich my life with every adventure, every phone call, with all their moments of excitement, and with every moment we spend together.

But don’t be fooled that it has been in any way easy…
Parenting from a distance has had some distinct advantages but, ultimately, because I love the girls as my own, not being there can be heartbreaking. As with any child there are highs and lows…with school, with friends, with siblings, with parents, and with life in general. When the girls are angry, frustrated , hurt or upset, I do the very best I physically can. With complete focus, with my full attention, and all the patience, kindness, love, and understanding I can muster. At these times, my resources seem suddenly limitless, like I could keep going, keep hanging in there, offering a lifeline of support that will carry the weight of their worries and woes. And when the storm has passed I feel incredibly lucky to have had their trust, and an opportunity to help…and perhaps even to heal.

At times like these, I feel I’ve earned the ‘mum’ in ‘step-mum’, I’ve done the very best I can, the very least they deserve from a parent, confidant or friend. I may not have had a nine-month breaking-in period to adjust to parenthood, but when the need has arisen , with every maternal instinct screaming in my body, I have tried to step up to the occasion, rise to the challenge, and I have hoped to god that I have been of some use, and been grateful I have something worth fighting for.

Hannah and Holly have grown so fast….I’ve seen them sleep and wake, laugh and cry, when they have been jubilant and joyful, irate and irrational. I’ve seen all the colours of the emotional rainbow and, though I stop and think daily how much I love them (…wondering what they’re up to…if they’ve had a good day…and when will I see them next!), there is one thing that I particularly like to ponder from time to time…

Today, with god-daughter Hope in my house and my heart I was reminded….how lucky I am…

Children are a gift.
To love a child (of any age) unconditionally, and to guide that much-loved child through the trials of life, isn’t always easy (even for a part-timer!). But when I see Hope, and the beautiful happy toddler she has become, I’m reminded that the children in my life are special.

Unconditional love for a child, for some, turns out to be brutally unrewarding. For me, unconditional love comes easily. I don’t need gratitude, thanks, ‘A’ grades at school, or a pat on the back to tell me if I’m doing a good job. I do the best I can…..and the love I have for my children, my younger siblings, and for Hope, is in itself a precious gift….wanting to make their lives better, richer, happier, makes me want to be a better person….the best person I can possibly be. What better motivation is there to lead a good life, and make the very most of it.

The doll with no soul

A beautiful young toddler had an extraordinary doll. The toddler was a happy little girl and the apple of her father’s eye. Without any siblings to while away her early childhood, she spent her days playing endlessly with her enchanting toy, playing games of make believe with the imaginary person within.

The doll was exquisitely dressed and looked very proud and proper. It had hauntingly dark eyes which stared out at nothing, and only the wryest of smiles. Never-the-less the little girl idolised her doll because it was her one and only doll. There was a tiny little clockwork key in the dolls back, and as the little girl grew she was able not only to cuddle the doll, but to turn the key.

When the little girl’s father was working long days and weeks away from home, the doll gave her comfort. When the key was turned the doll would simply, and calmly say, “There’s nothing like a sunny day”. As a toddler, and then a young child, the girl’s hopes and dreams were simple, uncomplicated. She loved the doll, no matter what it said.

As the little girl grew, and eventually became a young teen, the doll got relegated to a shelf in her bedroom. That said, she was still very sentimental about the doll she’d had all her life. If she ever got angry or upset, or had a bad day at school, she would pace about her room feeling frustrated and, when the doll caught her attention, out of the corner of her eye, she would snatch it off the shelf as though making a desperate attempt to finally have someone to air her grievances to. She would talk to the doll as if talking to herself out loud, as if to keep herself from bursting. Then, when drained by her emotions, and tears, she would look at the doll, slowly turn it over in her hand, wind the little key, and the familiar voice would say, “There’s nothing like a sunny day”. The phrase was utterly pointless and out of context, but the familiarity gave some comfort, although she knew that she had outgrown the doll.

As she flew through her teens and through the inevitable ups and downs of school and adolescence: parents, siblings, falling in and out with friends, and facing exams, she was fully embroiled in life and all its challenges. Faced with an intolerable day, friendship breakup, feud, or just thoroughly fed up, she would head for the sanctuary of her room, now almost unrecognisable with all the expected paraphernalia of teenage life. She would play her moodiest music to drown out her thoughts, or jump on her bed, slink under the duvet, and lose herself in a book. Occasionally she would feel so lost that she would sit back on her bed and gaze across the room as if in a trance, just lost in her thoughts. If her eyes fell upon the doll she would get up, take the doll slowly off the shelf and, collapsing back down on the bed she would sit with the doll in her lap. She’d stare at it and wonder why she still clung onto it, this toy she’d grown out of. By force of habit she’d turn the little key and, as faithfully as the first day she held her, the doll would softly say, “There’s nothing like a sunny day”. As ridiculous as the doll now seemed to her, it held many memories for the blossoming teenager, so slowly, as if reluctantly, she would place it back on the shelf.

Three years passed and the girl barely remembered her once treasured toy. It sat on the shelf, now partly obscured by trinkets, lipsticks, and snapshots of friends. The girl, now a beautiful young woman, was clattering about her room packing boxes and folding clothes. Three days of packing and folding and sitting on her suitcase and, finally, the job of mustering all her worldly possessions was complete. She paced back and forth in her stark looking room, keeping her eye on the window, knowing she’d soon be off.

The sound of an engine and a loud knock at the front door, and she knew her dad had arrived. She greeted him with hugs and smiles, filled with excitement (and a hint of mild terror) know she’d be moving into University in just a few short hours. They heaved the heavy boxes of books, bags of clothes, and crates of crockery and cooking utensils up and down the stairs to the car, until only one box remained. “It’s okay dad, I’ll get it”, the girl shouted across the pavement to her father as he loaded the car. she dashed upstairs, now exasperated by her excitement, and her emotions running high. She tripped as she rounded the landing into her room and smacked her elbow on the doorframe, skinning it immediately and leaving her wincing as the stinging sensation crept in. She stood there chastising herself for rushing, and walked slowly over to the box on her bed.

She sat on the bed, looked glumly at her elbow, then had a last minute rummage through the box. She didn’t expect to want anything from the box that she’d already filled with old trinkets and teddies for the charity shop. An old alarm clock with Winnie the Pooh on it, a poster of some, now completely cringe-worthy boy band! She lifted out a snoopy money box and saw the doll lying at the bottom. Glancing around the room, feeling nostalgic, and feeling the blood starting to trickle from her elbow, she turned the key one last time.

The voice was a little crackly but still recognisable: “There’s nothing like a sunny day.”

She sat in her jeans and trendy top, looking to a fly on the wall so beautiful, confident and ready to take on the world. She stared blankly at the doll and began to feel sad. How completely pointless! Why does it even say that?!….

As a child the doll had been a comfort, as a teen it had been familiar but distant and, as an adult, the doll held many memories but seemed now faded and old. She realised that the sentimentality had slipped away over the years as she’d needed her companion less and less. Faced with new challenges and a new life to look forward to, she placed the doll in the box, strode out of the room, and on to follow her dreams. She would always remember the doll, but she didn’t need it any more.

————–

Everyone has things they cling to in life, things that hold importance, things that they don’t want to let go.

Some of these stay with you, some will let you down, and some just fade away.

What matters is you and your journey……everything else is just trinkets and memories.