Arghhh It’s Birthday Party planning time!

 

 

There is nothing I look forward to more than celebrating the birth of my amazing son.  Showcasing to everyone his remarkable journey from birth up until this present day. Not a day goes past where I don’t think I am the luckiest mummy ever! So why is planning his birthday party so stressful?!

Firstly, my son’s birthday lies smack bang in the middle of all of the hype of Christmas. My son’s birthday is 10 days before the second biggest day of the year! But I wouldn’t have it any other way as Rory shares his birthday with another love of my life, my darling Godson Benjamin. I love the fact that my best friend and I had babies on the same day, all be it 10 years apart!

So planning a birthday party in the festive period is difficult. Venues are booked up in advance for Christmas parties. People are on their work Christmas do’s or away visiting family for their own pre-Christmas celebrations. And lets not forget the unpredictable winter weather that can almost prevent a party from taking place! Rory’s first year of life was traumatic and unsettling but I was determined to have a party to celebrate his first birthday. That was the year it snowed. It snowed a lot! Yes it was magical and all that, but it was a very big inconvenience!

I was also very determined to make my son’s first ever birthday cake. That was a complete disaster and every year since, the supermarket bought birthday cakes have never let me down! My attempt in delivering a beautifully decorated pastel blue number 1 cake, resulted in a pale grey, inedible, slab of steel decorated with chocolate buttons. Never again!

Birthday parties are expensive. I was hoping this year to get away with having his friends over to the house in stages, 3 at a time over a couple of weeks to play a few games and have a party tea. But 1, my house is tiny and 2, Rory wants a party. He deserves to have a party. And a party he shall have.

Last year, Rory started full time school. Friendships were still being made and although there are 30 children in his class I thought it was important to invite them all. By booking a venue in advance I was able to get an incredible offer to accommodate his class. As a parent, I found it difficult last year to see children coming out of Rory’s class with invitations in their hand only for Rory not to have one. I felt hurt for my child not to be included but angry with myself in case my social anxieties since cancer treatment have impacted our social interaction both in and out of school.

Once I get my ‘reality’ hat back on I understand that to be invited, or not invited to a birthday party is a harsh lesson in life for a small child. People have different budgets. Different friends. Some people just prefer a smaller celebration. People can do as they choose.

So over 3 months in advance, I have booked my son’s birthday party. An offer was just about to expire at a venue Rory loves to go to and he is so excited to know that he is having a party. It does make me feel uneasy that Rory can only invite less than half of his class from school but the bottom line comes down to individual financial circumstances. As a single mum, I am proud that I can offer my son a birthday celebration that he wants within my budget. It might be a smaller affair people wise, but the celebration of his birth will be ginormous. And I cannot wait!

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Summer Holiday Camp Finale!

The summer holidays were swiftly coming to an end. My baby would soon be starting Year 1! There was enough time for one last camping trip, just the two of us together.

I wanted somewhere fun and adventurous and after my friend posted pictures of her holiday at an adventure park in Devon, I knew that was where I wanted to take Rory. 3 nights of camping and it just so happened  that on these particular dates, the adventure park admission was free! Brilliant! Thank goodness for this small saving as 2 days before our trip my car broke down and needed costly repairs arghhhh! So after packing and repacking the now safe car, we were more than ready for our holiday.

Driving over the Seven Bridge I had one of those moments where everything was just perfect. My boy and I playing games in the car. So much laughter between us. And the sun was shinning! I couldn’t ask for anything more.

By now, Rory knows that mummy needs to work fast and concentrate on putting the tent up before we do anything else. Its exhausting but very rewarding to see the home that you have built single handedly in its entirety! Its during this period of erecting and stabilising our tent that my son knows he can eat his entire bag of treats in one go! Distracted by my need to provide us with shelter, his bombardment of questions during crucial securing tent moments means my answers inevitably sound like “yes have whatever you like my darling”! So now we have a lovely homely tent but a very hot, sweaty and tired mummy with a wannabe ninja high on skittles! Time to go to the adventure park!

First stop: Driving School! Similar to the one we queued for over an hour in LEGOLAND only to be turned away at the gate (someone didn’t read the age restriction oops). As it was late in the day Rory managed to have 3 consecutive goes and I was so impressed with his driving skills. He definitely takes after me! Then on to the pirate ship, swings, african safari and the water slide. Rory was so excited for this water ride as he got to go on a boat down a steep slide by himself and have his photo taken. I waited nervously for him at the bottom and he came speeding down like a pro. We immediately went to the photo kiosk to buy his memory photo to be told that his was not taken. My poor boy was in floods of tears bless him.

5.30pm and the park rides were closing. Time for dinner and then onto the evening entertainment. This is where I got totally confused and should have done my homework. I didn’t realise the actual park closed at 5.30pm and reopened at 6.30pm. We were both hungry! We went up to the food court and amusement arcade but even they were going to be closed for an hour. Just as we were going to walk back to the campsite we had a totally unexpected torrential downpour of rain. We stayed put in the arcade hoping it would subside. We came out in flip-flops and t-shirts! The rain was not going to stop though. Staff were looking at as strangely as we were the only members of the public left in the ‘closed’ park and we weren’t going anywhere! When you are clock watching, 60 minutes is a vey long time and to top it all, the entertainment area for the evening including the huge soft play and food court, began flooding. Water began pouring in everywhere and all of the electrics were turned off. A mop up operation began and I was just hoping the security team wouldn’t question us for being there etc.!

Finally, a little later than planned, the entertainment area was reopen, Rory could go off to play and I could order us some much needed food. Wherever we go, Rory always makes friends and joins in and I love nothing more than watching this beautiful little soul integrate himself into a variety of environments. But after a few games with the entertainment staff it was time to go back to the tent to make sure it hadn’t been washed away! What an interesting but fun filled day!

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By the early hours of the morning, my tummy pains started to intensify. I had that complete panic knowing I needed the toilet very quickly but didn’t have the time to get Rory from the bedroom and run to the toilet block. I was desperate and had no choice but to relieve the contents of my rectum into a bucket. Yes that’s right, I shat in a bucket in my tent.”Mummy what’s that smell? Is it poo? Oh my goodness I need an oxygen mask”! I replied “I’m so so sorry, mummy’s bottom is like an erupting volcano with gallons of lava pouring out of it”! This is the reality of single parenting.

Poorly in a tent on holiday with a 5 year old is not a good situation to be in so the show has to go on. Fluids replaced. Tent disinfected. Both of us showered. Rectum behaving.

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First stop of a new day: the aqua blasters. Bumper boats that spin around constantly whilst squirting everyone (perfect for those feeling nauseous!).  We got drenched. Rory loved it! Next, the grand prix driving experience. Rory loved it. Followed by the log flume. Rory loved it. I loved it because Rory loved it but I was constantly fighting the urge not to vomit. Luckily there was a brilliant outside show that caught Rory’s attention and we got to sit and catch our breath for a while.

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By mid afternoon, I could no longer do anymore and had to return a disappointed little boy back to the tent. I made a shaded area and set him up with his favourite horrid henry dvd (only for extreme emergencies!) and a few treats so that I could rest. Later that evening I was able to take him to the 2 little playgrounds on the campsite and as I sat on the grass watching him play, I reflected on our life together and how far we have come. Shitty bottom aside, I wouldn’t have missed this little holiday away together for the world! Even when it was bedtime and I apologised to Rory for not doing much that afternoon, he told me that I didn’t need to say sorry because he had the best day watching what he wanted and eating what he wanted! That’s what holidays are all about!

Day 3 and I woke up feeling much better. I managed to cook us the most amazing scrambled eggs and crumpets which set us up for our last day at the adventure park. Rollercoasters, pirate ship (again!), jeep safari, reptile show and much more kept us busy until we got tired and decided to call it a day. We headed back to the campsite and hired a buggy-go-cart thingy for an hour to explore and saw how the other half lived in lodges and medieval tents! After 3 days, my boy was tired. As I cooked dinner outside, he fought to stay awake whist relaxing on our beds. After a quick bite to eat he was out for the count! What a great time we have had.

At 3am the heavy rain and wind started. I lay there thinking would the tent survive the night but it did. Best £50 tent ever!!! Worst job ever is packing away a saturated, muddy tent and driving home soaking wet! The tent is now getting wetter but hopefully cleaner out in our garden, and the car still needs to be emptied but all of that can wait!

What a wonderful way to end the summer holidays. When Rory is older, I hope he can look back on all of these documented adventures and understand I did as much as I could with him. Went to places that I knew he would enjoy. Gave him life experiences. But most of all, we did all of these together. We may have had some unfortunate hiccups along the way, but they wouldn’t be our memorable adventures without them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Turn that frown upside down” Anxiously Anxious ……

I’ve lost my spark. The light hasn’t gone out but it has very much dimmed.

This is quite new territory for me as i’m very much the optimist. I love life. I have my gorgeous son and a wonderful family. I have things to look forward to. I love the adventures I always go on about! But still, I find myself feeling low and somewhat blue at the moment.

Ive talked openly about mental health issues following my cancer diagnosis especially adjusting to life post treatment. Im also pro active in promoting my mental health through exercise, healthy eating and not isolating myself. The support groups I am involved with offer a network of understanding, guidance and encouragement. So what is going on with me?!

Well there is no doubt that I have been through a lot of shit these past few years, but who hasn’t??  I try to focus on moving forward instead of living in the past. There are times when it has felt like three steps forward and five back but I am a strong advocate of “Its OK not to be OK”. Nobody can be happy clappy all of the time. Life is full of ups and downs and uncertainty.

Based on my symptoms of low mood, lethargy, tiredness and shortness of breath, the medical professional inside of me was convinced that a simple blood test would show that I was deficient in many essential vitamins and minerals. Problem solved. However, my results came back normal.

A weekend back in my hometown with my parents, celebrating my best friends 40th birthday celebration would be just the trick to get me out of this gloominess. As I drove up to the venue for an afternoon of birthday activities I burst into tears. I parked the car and had an anxiety attack. My heart was racing so fast. I just wanted to go home. I stayed in the car for half an hour convincing myself that I would be fine once I was inside. I have always been a confident people-person and love a party but I was literally trembling and unable to catch my breath at the thought of getting out of my car. Luckily I did get out of the car and was met inside by lovely friends and had a nice afternoon. But it has made me question why this happened?

It has crossed my mind several times whether I should try antidepressants. But am I depressed or just experiencing low mood? I asked Mr Google!

“A general low mood can include:

  • sadness
  • feeling anxious or panicky
  • worry
  • tiredness
  • low self-esteem
  • frustration
  • anger

A low mood will tend to lift after a few days or weeks. Making some changes in your life, such as resolving a difficult situation, talking about your problems or getting more sleep, can usually improve your mood” (www.nhs.uk)

I worked my way down the list. Am I sad? I have been incredibly sad in the past for obvious cancer related reasons. But the saddness was overcome by being well and healthy and finally being able to plan for the future. I don’t feel sad today. A cleverly timed email regarding Child Contact was received on the morning of the party. This parental contact always causes conflict which is my well known trigger for a demise in my mental health. I do panic and worry what his next move will be. It is always on my mind. I should have known better that there would be some kind of attempt to sabotage our holiday. More fool me for opening, reading and corresponding with the email.

I am always tired! Single parenting is tiring! However I have been more tired than usual. I know this is down to worry on all levels, being the school holidays and the energy required for a summer camping trip! Folding a tent back into its bag is frustrating to say the least! As far as low self-esteem goes, its a battle. At 41, I never thought I would be an unemployed single parent. I finally had a plan to return to Nursing in September. I was excited. Who would have thought that the biggest teaching hospital in Wales where they are crying out for Nurses, would scrap their September intake for the Return to Practice course. I never made a plan b. Am i frustrated and angry? Absolutely! Bad things happen to good people, to the people I love the most. So all things considered and by using this check list, its safe to say that my mood is low! Now, what to do about it?

The NHS says I should make changes in my life to resolve difficult situations. This I totally agree with. Protecting myself from unecessary conflict. Empowering myself. Removing the toxicity. Ive gone on vitamin overload and after 2 tablets I feel much better! I may not talk about my problems but writting them down is a form of therapy, hence why I blog.  And that leaves me with sleep! Must try harder to sleep!

Whenever my son is grumpy with me, I say “turn that frown upside down“. He instantly smiles. I apologised to him one morning when I was particularly grumpy and he said the same to me! It worked!

Anxiety is a dreadful thing to experience. It totally crept up on me and scared me. Im convinced a combination of factors resulted in this upsetting episode. It will no doubt happen again but I am now equiped with a bit more knowledge as to why it occured.

My low mood started a fortnight ago. Today my mind is a lot clearer. My fight is back. No one gets to scare or intimidate me. I had enough energy to move the living room around and sort out my son’s toys! And a lovely family holiday awaits us next week. As for the future, I am so lucky to have one and will never take it for granted. My plans are not going to be what I thought they would be for this year, but in a way that is exciting. I have an open book with pages to fill!

 

 

 

My Mental Health Rollercoaster

At 7 months pregnant, I completed my degree and qualified as a Nurse. I had just moved in with my son’s father and we were excited about our unplanned but incredibly wanted baby. Being a full time student for the previous three years, I had no money and became financially dependent on the man I was living with. The relationship ended by the time Rory was 10 weeks old. I had no where to go and a tiny baby to care for.

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Applying for state benefits was a massive blow to me. I had always worked, paid my way. But at this point I couldn’t even provide a home for my own child. I was frantic beyond words. Every day I would phone agencies trying to explain my situation but was always met with “sorry, we don’t accept housing benefit” or “No DSS“. I felt a total outcast and a complete failure. The unhealthy situation where we were living had escalated and we needed to move out very quickly.

I eventually found an unfurnished house, got the keys, packed a bag and the baby’s travel cot and left in the middle of the night. I curled up on my coat that was my make shift bed on the carpet, watched my baby sleep and cried. I was scared.

As always my wonderful parents came to our rescue, got our belongings and furnished our new house. This was a new start for my baby and I.

It soon became apparent why I was able to rent this particular house so quickly. After a few weeks the newly decorated wall papered walls began to peel away. The whole house was a damp, mouldy mess. But to top it off, in the middle of the night, part of the ceiling collapsed onto my little baby’s play mats. Thank goodness it was the middle of the night. From that moment on, my days revolved around conflict with the letting agency and corresponding with a Solicitor. I was a breast feeding single mum and I just wanted a peaceful life to bond and enjoy being with my baby. The stress was enormous.

We had to move house again. And once again I was a desperate mess. This time, someone must have been watching over me as a very compassionate private landlady agreed to me renting her house in a lovely quiet, residential area of the city. The relief was immense. We moved in and settled just in time to celebrate my son’s first birthday. What a 1st year it had been!

I will never forget those feelings of helplessness and despair. I vowed that I would never be in a position where I couldn’t provide a home for my son again and the only way I could do that was if I worked. Who was going to look after my baby? How could I possibly work 12 hour shifts, night shifts etc. and do the work/training required of me as a newly qualified nurse. The thought of leaving my baby terrified me. Not being there for him when he needed me. I was worrying myself sick.

The stigma around single parents is horrendous. I have felt so ashamed that I haven’t been able to care for my son independently of the State’s financial assistance. Many people call single parents “benefit scroungers”. Living on the poverty line is far from scrounging. The struggle is real. Not just financially but also emotionally. I am fortunate that my parents have helped me financially and I would not have been able to manage without them.  I used to find money hidden in my car because they knew I would just not accept it from them in person!

I will never ever forget what my oldest childhood friend sent me whilst I was financially dependent on my son’s father. A parcel arrived at the house with an assortment of shopping vouchers. There was one for a coffee shop so that I could treat myself to coffee and cake with a friend. There was one for a clothes shop to treat myself to something new. There was one so that I could buy toiletries! And magazines! Magazines were such a luxury! She was telling me that I was important! That kindness and generosity will never be forgotten.

As soon as my son turned 1 years old I had the humiliation of having to attend a “work focused interview” through the job centre. I was made to feel so inadequate for not leaving my baby to go to work. I stressed and worried about it constantly. Stress after stress after more stress. So I made the decision that I would be the mum I wanted to be until he was two, a mum who was watching her son grow, spending quality time together. A stay at home mum no matter what anyone else said.

After he turned two, I knew i had done the best job i could to prepare him for nursery life and ultimately our periods of separation, so I started the plan to return to Nursing. Our life was back on track.

Then boom! I didn’t think anything worse could ever happen to us but in April 2014, when Rory was just 2 years and 4 months old I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Needless to say, our world was shot to pieces.

After the initial shock wore off, a whirlwind of planning occurred and my feet didn’t touch the ground. I had appointments here, there and everywhere and Rory came with me. Initially, I was only going to need one surgery due to the confinement of the cancer cells. I had never had surgery before and was petrified. I made Rory video clips telling him how much I loved him in case I didn’t make it. We hadn’t been separated for a night before so he came with me on the evening of my hospital admittance so he would be able to visualise where I was. He was in his element chatting away to the nurses and playing with the hospital bed remote control! Fear was the only emotion I had.

Unfortunately two weeks later, when I was hoping for the all clear from my surgeon, she told me that the cancer cells had become invasive and that I would need another surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, 18 months of  3 weekly target therapy injections plus ongoing hormone treatment. My head was shouting out “for fuck’s sake, I don’t have time for this”.

Now I was frantic. Panic set in. Who was going to look after my son. The thought of not being able to care for my own little boy was excruciatingly painful. He would have his beloved Grandparents come to stay but my toddler needed respite from the traumatic cancer world we were trawling through. We were in the wrong geographic area for the 2 year old nursery funding. We were in the wrong area for any charitable home help! After weeks of searching and begging for childcare respite, I was informed that the only way I could get a nursery place for my son would be through Social Services. I would have to volunteer my little boy as a “Child In Need”. I was absolutely heartbroken. What the fuck had happened to my life? Why me??? Why my beautiful little Rory???

The decision made, I found the most outstanding private nursery funded by Social Services. My son thrived from day one and we never looked back. It would be the highlight of my bed ridden days (following chemo) hearing him bundle up the stairs, climbing into bed with me to tell me all about his nursery adventures!

My little boy is truly amazing. I haven’t hidden anything from him. We have got though everything side by side. The day my hair starting falling out in big clumps and I had to shave it, he told me I was beautiful! Needless to say, I cried buckets! He would come with me to the mobile chemo unit to have my injections and was as good as gold. He charmed everyone!

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My son’s father and I had tried to maintain an amicable relationship since we split but after my second chemotherapy the relationship took a horrible turn and there were enormous child contact issues. Constant conflict, confrontation, and Solicitor interventions made my recovery time after each treatment longer. I was fraught with worry, stress and anxiety whilst trying to stay alive! My son didn’t deserve any of this. Getting through the days was a struggle. I was so low. I had hit rock bottom. I wasn’t able to put all of my efforts into fighting my cancer and getting well for my son, to ensure he had a mummy to grow up with. I was fighting the very people that should have been supporting us during our extreme time of need.

What should have been an exciting time at the end of my Radiotherapy and the rebuilding of our lives, was met with a court summons through my door! I was fatigued from 6 gruelling months of treatment and surgeries. I was at my physically weakest and emotionally vulnerable. I had no hair, eyelashes or eyebrows, my nose watered constantly and that following week I had to go and sit in a courtroom in front of a judge to go through child arrangements that had already been addressed via solicitors. I cannot believe that a “loving” father would put his “beloved son” and his mother through that. Of course it had an impact on this little boy! But as many single parents will know, to have that legal document that states your son lives with you is worth every bit of delayed recovery.

To think that after court, that would be the end of any conflict. Unfortunately not.  I was fortunate that a single parent friend of mine asked it I would like to go on a ‘Self Management’ course that she was facilitating through Gingerbread, Creating Connections and The Mental Health Foundation. At that point, I didn’t know which way to turn. I was experiencing so much fear, panic, stress, worry, guilt, anxiety, even loss of my identity. The constant parental battles had taken its toll and I knew I needed support. I felt a burden to my parents because I had just put them through 6 months of hell.

To say the course saved me is an understatement. Over 6 weeks we shared our stories with each other. Built trusted friendships with people who just new! Used tools to develop achievable life goals. Felt valued as a person by organising a community event which later developed into the creation of a single parent choir! Since then I have tried everything to maintain a positive mental health: clinical counselling, mindfulness, living with cancer retreat, moving forward and leadership courses, volunteering for a mental health charity, joining the single parent rambles, exercise, peer support but most importantly, being kind to myself. Acknowledging and accepting the bad days, knowing that my track record of getting through them is pretty good! Conflict of any sort is one of my biggest triggers for a rapid decline in my mental health. Knowing this and removing myself from it very quickly has positive results.

There is no doubt in my mind that I have some level of post traumatic stress. I had a life changing illness. I thought I was going to die but I had to deal with something much bigger at the time. 3 years ago this month was when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Sometimes I think to myself was it real? I keep reminders around the house so that it doesn’t come and smack me completely in the face when I least expect it. One of those reminders is a picture of me in my underwear so when people come to visit they might find it a bit odd! After my second mastectomy (without reconstruction) I entered a mastectomy lingerie competition. I didn’t have the money for expensive underwear but desperately wanted some. I got through to the final five contestants and was invited to London for a photo shoot. I didn’t anticipate my lingerie clad body being broadcasted over social media, and was very apologetic to my parents in case I offended them! I had no breasts. I was wearing my wig and I was saying a big “fuck you” to the world. I won the competition!

So in preparation for ‘The Mental Health Awareness Week’ in May I have been assisting a Mental Health charity with their appeal. By no means should we be ashamed to talk about our mental health. Writing is my therapy, as is camping! My mental health has been affected greatly by life events. Bad things can happen to anyone. Mental health can affect anyone. Only by sharing can we break the stigma associated with mental health.

As for my goals, a return to Nursing is on the horizon. Unfortunately another court battle is imminent, but this time I am much more physically prepared and emotionally able to fight for what is right for my son. I cant get much more broken than I have been before. The fear remains but there is nothing I wouldn’t do for my little boy. And we will get through everything as always, together.

But before that, we have a summer of camping adventures to plan!

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Single Mother’s Day

I am always mindful as Mother’s Day approaches, of all of the people that for whatever reason, don’t have a mum in their lives. Some by choice, some by tragedy. My heart goes out to everyone who longs to be a mum but is sadly not.

I don’t agree with the concept of ‘Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparent’s Day’ etc. I am a mother every day. I don’t want to appreciate my own mother just on one day. But like most people, I get well and truly sucked into these purely commercial events.

When I became a single mum to a very young baby, the thought of Mother’s Day used to upset me. Other Mother’s were enjoying cards, flowers, homemade gifts, relaxing baths, lie ins and breakfast in bed. I wouldn’t be getting anything. But as much as reality hits home and I know I don’t need a card or gifts, I secretly long for them. Not from a materialistic  perspective but from a “being a single parent is overwhelming, someone tell me I am doing a good enough job raising my son” perspective.

As I write this, I am aware of how ludicrous it sounds! I am a mother. I love my son. He loves me. I do the best I can for him. We don’t need anything more. But when something like Mother’s Day is thrust in your face my logical reasoning somewhat disappears!

The stress of getting a gift for my mother is enormous. There is nothing  I can buy that will demonstrate how thankful I am for her love and devotion to me and her Grandson. How grateful I am to her for nursing me through cancer and most importantly nurturing my son when I couldn’t. “Don’t buy me flowers” always falls on deaf ears! So I turn up on Mother’s Day with a bunch of crap, disappointed in myself for not planning something very ‘special’ for one of the most deserving women I know.

When logical reasoning resumes, my head and my heart tell me that I am the luckiest mummy in the world. I am a mummy every single day. I don’t need breakfast in bed, my son and I are just fine eating cheerio’s on the sofa! I don’t need a spa day because I love nothing more than swimming with my son. I don’t need a relaxing, peaceful bath because I would miss my boy sitting on the toilet chatting away to me, showing me all of his toys and singing songs! I don’t need shop brought flowers because the love I see in my sons eyes when he picks me a daisy from the garden is phenomenal. There should be a day for “Luckiest person in the whole world, all day, everyday” . And a “Well done for getting through another day” day. Or even “You are doing the best you can” day!

Do we really need a Mother’s Day? Family types are changing. Families headed by single Dad’s and same sex parents are on the increase. Most of these ‘Days’ exclude members of society. All in the name of money making. But as hypocritical as ever, I have shop bought cards so that my son can write his name in and give to me on Mother’s Day. I even coaxed him into making me a Mother’s Day plate at a pottery workshop which I will open on Mother’s Day and squeal with delight at his masterpiece!

My deepest sympathy goes out to those who will grieve for their mothers on Mother’s Day. Those who are gone, missed but never forgotten. As I attend a funeral of a young mother on Friday I will be mindful that Mother’s Day will not be a ‘Happy Mother’s Day‘ for her children on Sunday. Not a day goes by that I don’t remind myself how lucky I am to be Rory’s mummy. And that without my own mum’s love, patience and kindness we wouldn’t be where we are today.

So whatever family you have, whether you celebrate Mother’s Day or not, parenting can be very hard. For the single parents out there, I’ve lived to tell the tale through extreme circumstances. Take small steps and reward yourselves for getting through another day. If nobody is around to tell you how important and amazing you are, I am telling you!

My Child Won’t Eat

“He will eat when he is hungry”. If anyone dared to say that to me again I’m sure I would have screamed the place down.

I always envisioned cooking wholesome one pot wonders for my son and I to eat together. As a Nanny in a previous life, I was used to cooking up nutritional masterpieces that were devoured by the little people in my care. How did it go so wrong for my now 5 year old son and I?

Baby led weaning was a fairly new concept when my son was ready for weaning. It was alien to me.  I was so worried about my son choking so we continued with pureed food for longer than the recommended age. He had such a great diet though and was thriving.

The Health Visitor called around one day to do an age assessment on Rory and I asked for her advice about introducing ‘normal’ food. Something I now wish I hadn’t of done. From then on my expectations of my child eating exceeded what he actually wanted, needed and desired and the nightmare began. My son became an ‘average’ child. On average he should be eating three meals and two lots of snacks. That is what I thought I had to achieve.

I am ashamed of my behaviour towards my son’s eating. And my justification was that he wouldn’t survive on the very little he was eating.  I decided that things were going to change. I took on board the advice that if my son was hungry, he would eat. This was a very low point for me because I expected Rory to eat unfamiliar foods. “A child needs to try a food 15 times” stuck in my head. It very quickly became apparent that my son would prefer to go hungry than eat. How can any responsible parent let that happen.

The final straw  was over a ‘ham sandwich’ incident. Rory ate bread and he liked ham. I made him a ham sandwich picnic and asked him to just try it. Hours and hours passed. I broke down in tears. My child was crying. What the hell was I doing??? He never wants to eat a ham sandwich again.

I have never apologised so much to my little boy. I had turned into a food martyr. Demanding my son ate because I was so scared of his lack of appetite. But why on earth would he want to eat when he has such a crazy mummy. Once again, things had to change and quickly.

All I needed to do was talk to my son. We made a list of all of the foods he liked, not many but it was a starting point. Thank goodness peanut butter was on there!

Friends recommended various ways to handle my “fussy” eater. The use of a reward chart system came out on top. However, I was not willing to “reward” my son for eating. Eating is essential for life.

I remember my son eating a couple of bites of food before telling me he didn’t want anymore or that he was full. “How old are you? 4? lets eat 4 more pieces then”. My son did not want to eat anymore. He was telling me this very clearly. Why was I not listening or believing him? I had done this previously when Rory had had one Weetabix for breakfast. I didn’t think one was too much to eat until I sat down with him and couldn’t finish off my one Weetabix.

“Make pizza faces”. “Make potato boats”. No amount of food art made my son want to eat the finished product. No amount of making ‘menus’ or cooking together helped.

It was during this time I found support in a local Gentle Parenting group. I learned to respect my son. To respect his choices. To give him control over his choices. I had to respect his choice of what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat.

I was always too scared to take Rory out to eat but in actual fact that is what I needed to do. For him to see eating as fun and social. I even overturned my ban of ever letting my child eat at MacDonald’s!

So this is where we are now:

  • I have accepted that my son eats very little compared to other children but for him, it is the right amount and he is thriving.
  • My son can help himself to food in the fridge and cupboards at any time.
  • Some days all he wants is a peanut butter sandwich and some milk and that is ok.
  • There will NEVER be any punishment or reward for eating or not eating.
  • He likes to keep his food separate on a plate.
  • He likes plain food.
  • I am grateful  he likes salmon and chicken and peas!
  • He regulates his own treat intake.
  • I respect my son.
  • He asks for rice and noodles from the Chinese takeaway!
  • He recently ate a whole Yorkshire pudding!
  • He seems to enjoy a variety of foods.
  • I am grateful that he eats and that he wants to eat.

Seeing my child, the little person who I love more than anything in the world, survive off a few grains of rice some days has been the hardest and most distressing part of parenthood for me. This distress caused me to handle the situation appallingly. Single parenting is tough. When you need support and reassurance from the other parent but have to cope alone. All I can say is that I have more than learned from my mistakes and strive to be a much better parent. I’m so sorry Rory.

 

 

 

A £10 day out in the City ……

As with most people, January is a financially depressing month. My son’s birthday is just before Christmas and most of my family members have their birthday’s in January! Our entertainment budget reduces dramatically so I am always on the lookout for cheap days out.

With £10 in my purse, my 5 year old and I set out for a day of adventures in Cardiff town. Now I must apologise in advance but I told the bus driver a little white lie. Well not a lie as such but when he assumed my son was under 5 and didn’t qualify for a fare, I didn’t correct him. My bad! So, £3.60 spent for a day return into the big city. I drive most of the time so a bus journey is a treat for my son.

The day we chose to venture into town, Cardiff was hosting one of the biggest sporting events: Wales v England in the Rugby. Being a welsh rugby fan myself I loved taking in the atmosphere. The town was buzzing with dancing dragons and daffodil’s! A chorus of rugby anthems and musical talents echoed from street to street. I just had to have a dragon face painted onto my cheek and a bargain at £1. My son Rory declined but soon changed his mind when he saw how cool his mummy looked! £4.40 left in the pot.

Our first port of call was the Cardiff Story Museum conveniently located in the centre. Neither of us had been before but we will definitely go back! On the first level there were interactive stations explaining all about the history of Cardiff. Rory was chatting away on the hand held listening device! He enjoys anything that allows him to push buttons and there were lots of buttons to press.  I finally persuaded him to follow me down to the children’s section on the next level. What a fab place! There is so much to do. Rory loved the toy kitchen and train in the most in the wonderfully named ‘Dewi’s Den’. For me, I thoroughly  enjoyed reading the displays showing the changes to this marvellous city throughout the years. We ended our visit by creating our ‘Peace Mugs’ on paper. Discussing what ‘peace’ meant was a lovely way to end our visit, however after 2 hours, Rory did not want to leave and it was only because it was lunch time that I got him out! The Cardiff Story Museum is free to enter and explore.

Our original plan was to go to Macdonald’s for our lunch. I am not a fan of Macdonald’s and we rarely go. But the Happy Meals had just changed from Angry Birds to Batman Lego and I have a big Lego fan. However, that all changed when toilet needs called and we popped into Pillars restaurant. 2 children’s meals ordered, including drinks for £6. Sitting in the restaurant chatting away to my little boy was well worth going over budget for!

As more and more rugby fans descended on the city we took ourselves across to the much quieter Civic Centre and climbed the steps to the National Museum. Not before Rory had an impromptu dance with some buskers! We have been to the National Museum many times and for a little boy like mine who likes to roam free, this environment is ideal. And once again, free. He takes me around the building as if he is the tour guide! You could easily spend a good couple of hours in this Museum. If pennies permit there is a coffee shop/café on the lower ground which has a little play area. Very useful if you need a coffee and a sit down to recharge your batteries whilst your little one still has bundles of energy!

By this time, I have more than reached my daily target of steps and ready to go home! £11.60 spent on an exhausting but fun and educational day out. Rory fell asleep on the bus home!

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