Sandy toes & Salty kisses – no such thing as perfect

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This year the summer has come around oh so quickly.  In the blink of an eye my girl finished nursery for the very last time, and my boy said goodbye to his Year One days with glee (I note here that his keenness for school is beginning to evaporate).

This time last year I recall making a promise with myself to take as much of the summer off with the children as possible, so as not to miss a single minute of them growing up.  And much though I would love to have done the same this year – it just is not as realistic as it seems.  The beginning of the holidays saw a summer sports camp for three days while I had to sit at work wondering how each child was doing.  I knew they would be enjoying themselves, running around a cricket field all day in the fresh air and making new friends, but nevertheless my girl seemed to be the smallest one there.  I am glad that I trusted my instincts because they did have a lovely time and it helped me to loosen the apron strings just a little too.

Two weeks sped past, and soon we were on count down to our little seaside holiday. I think it is fair to say that the children whipped themselves up into a frenzy before we went.  Counting down the number of ‘sleeps’ and asking all of the details of the planned trip. It was so sweet to see them both so excited as they tried to remember all of the things that we had done in previous years.  I think this is perhaps my most favourite thing about having children, the excitement that is injected into everything you do that almost seems infectious at times (and makes you excited aswell).

For the first time I was organised, and I mean the ‘mum’ kind of organised that I always expect myself to be but never quite reach.  I spent an entire day packing, ironing and thinking ahead to the things we may need. For once I was ahead of the game, and the usual morning chaos that ensues upon leaving did not happen this year.

As always we found ourselves at the mercy of the Great British weather yet it didn’t dampen our enthusiasm.  We spent a day on the beach with friends, strolled down the sea front with family at the nearby town, and ate fish n chips and too many icecreams.

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We hilariously tried to fly a kite as is our little tradition, and we failed miserably due to the wind being too strong.

We had tantrums and tears about broken cricket bats and dropped icecreams, and the sand got into places it really shouldn’t have.

It was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, in fact it is fair to say that at times we all fell out in one way or another (the children about who got into the car first, the grown ups about who forgot the all important suncream).

Overall though, I realised that I was truly happy.

Trying to sit on a picnic blanket that was being blown away for five minutes before being called to get up by one of the children.

Laughing at my little girl squealing as the waves chased her back to the beach & making everyone go on the odd walk to take in the sea air.  I slowly began to understand that ‘perfect’ is not always how you picture it, and that the high standards I seem to have in my head don’t always apply.  I started to relax and let things go, all the things that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things…

In the evenings we let the children stay up later and we went to watch the shows put on at the holiday resort (this was their most favourite part, but not necessarily an easy thing for grown ups).  We had wine and gave in to the pleas for sweeties.  There was a pantomime and a circus show, and a fair few discos.  There were noisy arcade games that no one ever wins at.

Up every morning at the crack of dawn I realised that we would never get that coveted ‘lie in’ no matter how late we let the children stay up for.  And I suppose the day that we actually do get that lie in will be the day that they are beginning to grow up, as the teenage years come closer.

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More than anything I was thankful for the energy.

Last year we had the very same holiday, at the very same place and I have to admit I found it hard.  I could not get through a day, and the days at the beach took another full day to recover from.  The children were younger I suppose, and I was in a very different place too.

This year though, there were sandy toes and salty kisses.

This year I got to explain what the different plants and birds were along our walks.  This year I had to reassure my son that the shape out in the sea was not, in fact, a shark.  This year I taught the children how to catch the dandelion fairies dancing around our caravan and to make a wish when you set them free.

My perfect it seems, isn’t perfect at all.  My perfect is actually being in the picture (on my hands & knees making the all important sand castle) and being there with a giant warm towel after jumping those waves.

 

Poem by Erin Hanson

What is it like to be a mummy?

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Both of my children delight in asking me very random and spontaneous questions.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am pleased that they come to ask, it is just that these questions often begin at around 6.30am.  Upon opening my eyes I more often than not come face-to-face with that little face waiting for an all important answer.

I always try my best to answer, although of late I am much slower to.  It takes me while to come round in a morning nowadays, and ‘quick fire rounds’ of multiplication or addition take much longer than they should to answer – and sometimes I am ashamed to say that I cannot find the answer at all.  This of course, is unacceptable to the child who loves his numbers.

And the curious questions about the world continue all day long.

Why is the lady in front of us in the queue wearing those clothes (a sari)?

Why does the man walking with a dog have a white stick?

Can men marry men, and women marry women?

Why do some people not have mummies or daddies?

Why are people different colours?

Why shouldn’t we eat too many biscuits?

When are we going on holiday? Followed by, how many sleeps will it be?

When will daddy be home? (x100)

More recently though my girl has taken to asking me repeatedly how old I am.

The thing is, she knows how old I am, and yet she insists on asking all the same.  ‘Mummy, how old are you?’  ‘Isla, you know how old I am.’  ‘Are you thirty three or thirty four?’  ‘I am thirty four now, I had my birthday remember?’  This is followed swiftly by, ‘Will you be going up to Heaven?’ I more often than not answer with the same thing.  ‘No, not yet darling.’  Sometimes it ends there as she drifts off to sleep, sometimes she checks how old daddy is too.  And I am happy to answer, of course I am – non of us will live forever that is a certainty, and yet it breaks my heart a little more every time she asks because I know her, and I know why she is asking me.

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For all that I thought my children coped with my year of illness well, it seems that the fall out of our family’s change has in fact left its mark on them, whether I like it or not.  My baby doesn’t want me to leave her, and the feeling is mutual. So I sit for that little bit longer where all the books would tell you to leave – I let her hold my hand or cuddle in, if she needs.  Next I wander into her brother, who always stirs as I kiss his forehead and always asks me to stay a little while, and the answer is always, and will always be the same.  For some reason, no matter how steadily I answer the Heaven question it never seems to get any easier, because in truth I do not know when or how long I have left with them and it would not be fair for me to say otherwise.  To any of us.

I have noticed that as the day draws to a close all of the sporadic thoughts or worries often tumble out at bath time or, as a last ditch attempt to keep you talking instead of lying down in bed.

This evening was no different, after a busy day and a chosen story book, the question came out of the blue as I tucked my girl in.  She looked me square in the eye and said, what is it like to be a mummy?  And I was taken aback for a moment, searching her eyes to see if she had asked in jest or the words had somehow been jumbled up in a way only a four year old can.  I wondered if I could in turn explain myself, the way I wanted to in that moment?  So I replied.

To be a mummy is one of the proudest, most wonderful things that you could ever feel.  It is like being in love more and more everyday and you both make me very happy.  I stop and check her eyes to see if my hurried answer has met with her approval, and she flashes me a smile as I kiss her forehead.

I think I did it justice, I hope I did it justice.  Had I been given more warning, more time, and perhaps had she been a little older, I could have articulated the feelings a little better.  I could have explained that it is the hardest job in the world in one way, to feel so responsible for the things that you love the most in the world.  The never-ending feelings of letting them down when I am cross or grumpy or shouty.  Followed oh so closely by the surges of pride and emotion that accompany either of them doing or saying something for the very first time.

So for now I will look forward to my next question tomorrow morning, jumping straight into the day ahead.  I will continue to be thankful that I have another day to answer as many questions thrown at me as I possibly can (no matter how big or small), and hope that I answer them correctly.

What is it like to be a mummy?  It is exhaustingly, most wonderfully, most frustratingly the best job in the world. (even though I am not particularly good at it, most days) More than anything I hope that I will one day get to see my girl become a mummy, because I know she will be the very best that she can be.

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