Dix ans

Hey Brodie,

This is a post I am writing because you turned 10 (2 months ago but don’t hold that against me).

Ten years ago it was just me and you. Long days of feeding, changing, rocking, singing and desperately trying to work out what might make you happier.

It turns out not much worked. But that’s ok.

You taught me how to parent.

Your vulnerability and dependence and the fact that you preferred me over everyone else around ( I tried everyone else I could find) made me believe that no matter what it might look like from the outside we were building a bond. Even though you cried a lot, you cried at me, with me, on me. You also smiled and giggled and we had a million reciprocal conversations made up of gurgles and coos. Even though I felt completely unqualified and definitely not the right person for the job most days, you insisted I was.

Those hours I spent with you and you with me, that investment has made me very wealthy. I now get to hang out with you and have conversations using actual words. And boy do you know a lot of words. We challenge each other often with opposing arguments and different points of view. And even though you don’t double your weight in a few months anymore, still you keep changing and shifting and developing and delighting me at every turn.

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Under the Sea

For his tenth birthday Brodie met a long held ambition to swim with sharks.

He’s been utterly fascinated with sea creatures since the Octonauts days. I know a lot about horseshoe crabs and angler fish thanks to him. And whilst other interests have come and gone the shark thing remains.

So we booked the experience and we all looked forward to it. Greig went with him for his safety lesson and to get ready to go into the water and I stayed with Grier and Bax so we could be his supporters from the observation tunnel. I could see he was nervous and excited in equal measure.

And then he appeared on the platform in his yellow dry suit. He’s second from the right - you’ll have to take my word for it as the four kids who did it together all looked the same. I knew he could see us and he did the ‘ok’ sign to Greig and I could feel how thrilled he was to actually be under the sea (almost).

He looked tiny. And then the member of staff let us know that the tunnel we were in has a demagnifying effect which means he looked 30% smaller than he really is, which also meant the sharks casually swimming past the viewing platform Brodie was on are 30% larger in reality.

The twenty minutes he was under the water for flew by and soon he disappeared from view and we made our way up to collect him. He was giddy, and freezing and bright eyed. He said straight away that he had been nervous and frightened but he loved it and was glad he did it. And I’m so proud that he did the hard thing because he had an inkling it would feel great to do so. Because courage is not the absence of fear but the will to do the hard thing regardless.

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So whilst my underwater photography could be better I have these photos so Brodie can see what he did. He was excited to experience something new. He did it and now he moves on with that feeling in his pocket. He shared it all with us, without putting on a brave face. He owned his feelings. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could do that too. Feel the feelings without being overwhelmed by them.

Four

Baxter turning four or now’ being the number four’ as he says has kept us out of the doldrums this January. It’s not possible to be feeling down when your newly minted four year old slips into the bed and asks if you think there might be any presents for him. When he opens each gift exclaiming ‘wow’ each time and opening each card, delighted that each has a number four on it. Despite desiring a mobile phone and a tablet computer he really was happy with a zombie, a monster that spins round laughing manically and some Thomas the Tank minis. The electronics will come Baxter!

Friends and family turned up for him to celebrate with him which never fails to inspire gratitude in a very real way and not in a #blessed way.

The boy who thinks pizza is the best food ever was chuffed with his pizza cake and Grier was most helpful in the decoration department.

Baxter at four is funny and cheerful and boisterous and always seeks out opportunity to laugh and make others laugh. He is kind and sometimes shy. He is making friendships and taking steps confidently yet quietly towards independence every day. He likes to sing and dance and stick and glue. He loves to play monsters, dinosaurs, police officers and sleeping bunnies. He likes cosy, soft clothes and loves cuddly toys. He likes Supertato books and watching Team Umizoomi and Animal Mechanicals.

His day becomes instantly better when Brodie and Grier get home from school and the team is reunited. He wants to do what they do so much. He tells jokes which make absolutely no sense which are impossible not to laugh at. He is wonderful company and I’d always choose him as a dinner party guest - though he might tell me the food looks like hairy fried bat ears.

I hope you always keep your sense of fun Baxter. I hope you love this fiercely always.

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Past

 

I hear people say a lot that older generations can’t understand what it’s like to parent these days. As though the demands on modern parents are more arduous than they once were. I’m likely to murmur a nothing response, not confirming or denying anything. Because I don’t like rocking any boats (I’m working on that) and because I genuinely don’t know where I stand on this one.

Parents from generations past had lives which don’t reflect ours at all. Their time was spent differently, their jobs were different, families were different, expectations were different, social norms were different.

But does that mean they had it easier? (and as a sidenote, what does it matter?)

I have a dishwasher and washing machine. I have our weekly shop delivered to my front door. I have a car I can use whenever I need. Our house is warm and well furnished and there is plenty of room for us all. My kids have toys and books and stuff we struggle to contain. They have plenty of clothes and we have the means to replace them whenever it’s needed. They also have a plethora of specialist kit for the various activities they do - and go to after school activities regularly.

Whenever I pick up a magazine or scroll Instagram or watch TV I’m met with commentary on parenting ‘styles’. There are trendy toys and clothes which are sold as ‘must haves’ for the modern family. There is endless advice on what foods you should offer your kids and what you shouldn’t. What you should do if your child is a ‘picky eater’ ( what is a picky eater?). Perhaps your child has an intolerance or should you be raising vegetarians or vegans?

There are hints and tips about how to help your child be more confident and resilient and articles suggesting that their mental health well into adulthood will be solely based on how you interact with them right now. Various illnesses you should be vigilant about and on the lookout for at all times. Alarm bells should ring if your child exhibits a long list of behaviours. There is so much chatter about providing ‘experiences’ where your children will be enriched, educated not to mention enthralled.

There are screentime ‘guidelines’ which range from absolutely none to as much as you like. There are those who tout the ‘no electronics’ route and those who think you need to keep your children well versed in the latest technology. Should your child only play with wooden toys, second hand toys, brand new toys, gender specific toys (pink for girls, blue for boys), gender neutral toys, open ended toys?

In generations past children were often raised by the ‘village’. Family members, neighbours, friends all taking collective responsibility for keeping an eye on the kids. Everyone’s kids. This structure just doesn’t exist any more. The village is geographically spread out, people are working, it’s just not the done thing anymore.

Do your kids play outside with their friends unsupervised? I know I did, and I know my Dad did and I’m sure my grandparents kid. My kids do not.

Life is so different now than it was 20, 30, 40 years ago. Parents today have a lot of things to think about, even if it’s just to decide that the latest fad or trend isn’t for them. Advice or guidance from professionals in a multitude of areas will always carry weight for lots of us. And the thoughts and words of those closest to us will affect our choices and actions.

My thoughts on this started last week whilst we were walking in the country park. The kids were alternating between walking along holding my hand and running off to discover sticks and mud and other people’s dogs. And I thought that this part of parenting hasn’t changed. It links me with human beings stretching right back to the dawn of man. Holding your child’s hand for comfort, safety, familiarity, to communicate affection and caring. Watching them get dirty and explore. Listening to their chatter. Thinking ahead to when they’ll get too cold and too hungry to keep enjoying this moment.

Meeting and speaking to people older than me, talking about family and children almost always happens. It’s the common link we all share, they just get it. And I feel uplifted by that understanding.

What are your thoughts? Do you have it easier or more difficult than your parents did? Do we make life difficult for our selves? What advice are you likely to pass on to your kids if they have kids?

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