Tag Archives: children

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.



Godparenting for newbies! – Part One

“Wow!….Me!….Really?!!!”, was the exclamatory thought rattling through my head. When asked, by one of my dearest friends, to be Godmother to her beautiful little bundle of joy I felt like I’d won the lottery. I literally hadn’t been that excited since my wedding day (a great day!).

Worryingly, I’ll admit that I may be ever so slightly addicted to babies….luckily this seems to be limited to other people’s children (my figure, and husband, couldn’t hack it!). I don’t know why but I just want to nibble them and cuddle them and watch their eyes sparkle as they try to take in the enormity of the world around them.

I’m already a Godparent to one of my super-talented sisters (of which I have three…..all super, and all talented). I’m particularly proud that they all have incredibly useful talents….none of those boring touch-typing, speed-reading, balancing plates on sticks kind of gifts.

One of my sisters is mind-bogglingly good at drawing, and anything at all arty….I think she popped out of the womb with a pencil in her hand! I always thought she’d become an artist or an illustrator, but she keeps her pens and paints aside for when she’s not busy taking the Big Smoke by storm in her new swanky job!

Another of my sisters seems obliviously multi-talented but hasn’t quite worked out how she wants to make her mark on the world. She has a real flair for photography that seems to be slowly blossoming into a passion, and so she should….she’s super talented!

The third sister I must mention sometimes seems a carbon copy of me (without the obvious streak of heritable insanity that I got lumbered with!). She, like the others, has a heart of gold, and though her talents are not limited to all things edible, her masterful gift for making perfect meringues (amongst other things) never goes amiss!

I have the great privilege to be the eldest of all my siblings (including my awesome brother, who I have deliberately left out so that I don’t embarrass him…..this time!). I know there has been much scientific debate over recent decades about whether people’s personalities, gifts, successfulness, and pitfalls are due to Nature or Nurture…
I think that, as I’m the eldest, I should bear the burden of taking all the credit…..I was here first, so they must have got it all from me!

So there I was, about to become a Godmother for the second time….bursting with excitement and pride (thanks for picking me by the way!). I set about trying to find the perfect christening gift:

Something original
Something timeless
Something no one else would buy
Something a baby could enjoy
Something that could be treasured

Something a teenager wouldn’t try to flog at a car boot sale!

I trawled the jewellers in the high street and online, toyshops and speciality shops, perused M&S and John Lewis in search of their finest wares, and eventually, one week before the christening itself, I found it!…

Vera Wang, I love you!

I found a beautiful silver heart that fitted in the palm of my hand, and had a little key that you turn to wind the clockwork inside….a beautiful little music box, just perfect for a beautiful little girl.

Relieved and overjoyed at surviving phase one of being a good Godparent, I put it in a safe place until my husband came home from working away.

The day before the christening my hubby was home (and with him my two beautiful, loving and equally talented stepdaughters). I had the outfits pressed (well, he did!), the itinerary planned, the map to the church in my bag and the gift on the kitchen work top, ready to reveal my awesome shopping prowess…..the wonderful, perfectly sourced musical heart.

The lid came off, the tissue paper rustled, the silver musical heart gleamed like the North Star. There were raised eyelids and nods of approval. I carefully lifted the heart from where it sat, nestled in the tissue paper, placed a finger and thumb either side of the discreet little key, and began quietly winding the clockwork, milking the moment before all would be mesmerised by its dainty music….

…..and NOTHING! I mean, literally NOTHING!!!…

Not a click, not a tinkle, not a tune…
Diddlee Squat!

So, after a round of stunned faces (including my rather flushed cheeks), a rustling of coats in the hallway, and a jangling of car keys, we left the house like rapid fire to catch the last fifteen minutes of business before the shop closed, in search of a transplant…

Needed, one musical heart….urgently!

Thinking I would be prising the automatic doors open with my bare hands and bribing the store manager to let us in, I was surprised to arrive at the shop with minutes to spare…okay, maybe three whole minutes. I dashed in like an exasperated Anneka Rice (minus the dodgy blue jumpsuit!) and headed straight to the silver giftware section. There, four pairs of hands set about ransacking the display, furiously unwrapping and winding the little shiny ornaments. With the sudden sweet sound of nursery music ringing out, we grabbed the working masterpiece and headed for the till. It was a bit of a blur, and the whole whirlwind visit over in a matter of minutes, but the mission was a success. Though I never did work out how we ended up with one musical heart and two boxes!


All was well and good, and utterly charming on the day itself. A chilly day in late Spring but the rain held out. The family and their friends filled the pretty little church. We arrived, on time (when you know me you’ll know this is worth mentioning for its rarity!). With beautifully wrapped present in hand, smiles on our faces, and the promise of a well-stocked casual buffet in the church hall afterwards, we were in good spirits.

I sang the hymns, stood by the font and did all the godparently stuff (as per the instructions in the diligently prepared order of service). Without hiccough, delay, or screaming baby, the ceremony was soon over and I had been officially commissioned Godmother (for the second time).

It would be wrong to say that I had the buffet on my mind the entire time, but standing up at the font and looking believably sensible and grown up is seriously exhausting. Just think of the weight on my shoulders: stood there in the church, in front of strangers predominantly, a pillar of respectability, responsible and trustworthy….an ideal candidate for such an important role. I do get a little over excited about food, and buffets in particular….there’s nothing quite like a meal that doesn’t involve portion sizing chosen by a money-mindful caterer! This, most excellent buffet, was the culmination of a ‘bring your own contribution’ effort and, by the look of it, some people must have thought they’d been ask to bring a whole buffet. There weren’t enough trestle tables to adequately prop up the vast array of plates, dishes and platters, all heavily stocked with meats, salads, pastries and cakes.

I positioned myself at one end of the buffet tables. I volunteered to stand there so the large, three-tiered cake stand would be safe from accidental knocks and bumps inflicted by the plethora of children milling about the place. Honestly, put them together and they can be like pack animals! (Did I mention that I love kids……until they can walk). In reality, my strategic positioning by the cake stand allowed me to maintain a safe distance from the salads, whilst staying within easy reach of everything in the pudding section. I did the cakes a favour really. I witnessed at least half a dozen children snatch a cupcake each with their already sticky little fingers, run across the room, take an unattractively large bite (smearing the icing all over their chubby little faces), and set their cake down on some unsuspecting adult’s temporarily vacant chair, before running off never to return. Such a waste……I must have put at least seven cupcakes out if their misery that day.

Meanwhile, my darling daughters were avoiding mingling with the strangers by forming a tight huddle by the piano in the corner. They’ve got the situation covered, and enough cake to see then through to their eventual rescue, by a delightful and charming aunt of my dear friend. I don’t remember her name but, from my vantage point by the buffet, there was definitely some giggling and bashful conversation taking place.

My husband, on the other hand, had been missing for some time. I hadn’t noticed for the first half hour (keeping a hawk eye on the cake stand at all times). When he never emerged I reluctantly left my station at the buffet and went in search of him. Rather appropriately, I found him in the kitchen! An ex-chef he may well be but, between the challenges of the ill-equipped kitchen, a cold vegetable curry that wouldn’t fit in a pan, being dressed in suited finery, and being also surrounded by well-meaning women, even he looked a little flustered. It’s not the first time he’s fallen into the role of emergency cook at a friend or family gathering, and it won’t be the last. He loves it……even if he does boil the end of his tie off in the curry!

So I’m standing there, by the well-stocked buffet, dear friend’s home made curry concoction in one hand, large slice of the freshly cut christening cake in the other (you can’t the kids to leave you some), and I’m thinking to myself…

“Well, that’s the easy bit done……now what will I get her for Christmas?!”