Sunday 19 September 2010

Shaking things up.

So here's the thing. You know how you say: 'I'd love to live by the sea'. Or perhaps you don't. Perhaps you say: 'I'd love to open my own coffe shop or fashion boutique'. Or perhaps you'd rather keep pigs and knit your own lentils instead of sitting on a tube to a job in the City. Or perhaps you're entirely happy with your lot. If so, good for you and you might want to move to another blog.

But I am one of those people who has always wanted to live by the sea. Or actually, by water. A river would be very good. Possibly it's because I grew up right alongside a river and have been searching for home ever since.

Whatever the Freudian reason, it all came to a head over the August bank holiday weekend. We were visiting friends in the Isle of Wight, and we just said: 'What are we waiting for?? We don't love where we live. We don't hate it. It's nice. But it doesn't make our souls sing does it?'  We agreed that it didn't and that living next to a river/sea would give us the outdoorsy, sailingy lifestyle I(and apparently husband) hankers for.

And so, in true male fashion, my husband wasted no time, called estate agents and put our house on the market.

Insert screeching car noise here.

You see, we're perfectly happy here. I have finally made friends, the school is fab, we have the countryside on our doorstep. It's fine.

But it's not the sea.

So having signed a contract with an estate agent to say that 'yes please, we would love to sell our 300 year old thatched character cottage in the biggest recession of all time so that we can be homeless', we spent this weekend looking for a new home.

We went to Devon. In fact we went to Sidmouth, as we had been told by many people that it was lovely. And it is. So utterly beautiful that you want to rip the clothes off your body and run down the beach praising whoever is in charge of beaches. Except (and you can insert that screeching noise again here) that Sidmouth is populated with old people.

I am not ageist. But I do feel slightly intimidated by the fumes coming off the purples rinses. They are lovely. And slow. But lovely. But slow. And old. Did I mention old? Seriously, the stores (described as regency period) stock goods that are genuinely not far off that era. The restaurants serve food last seen in the late 60s and the service is so slow I expect most of their customers die before they eat.

Despite this, we fell in love with Sidmouth. We believe more property will come on the market if you wait long enough. Someone will die soon.

But then after seeing THE PROPERTY TO TOP ALL PROPERTIES EVER we were told that it has shared gardens and the owner was a complete knob who hated children and really we would hate living there (got to love honest estate agents). So we bid farewell to the views but thanked the agent for her tip to go see a village called... Situation X.... because I don't want to reveal it on blogland.

And we went there. And I found my spiritual home. It is so lovely. And everyone was just like us with kids like ours and it's commutable and involves sailing and has good schools and well just everything.

So now, having panicked about putting our house on the market in haste not knowing where we might move too, I now just want to sell and start our new lives next to a river, a spit from the sea living the dream life I've always wanted.

I feel all jumbly inside. This is all so sudden, yet not. Stay tuned .. I might have bought a luxury liner before the next blog post and have moved to Bali.

Monday 13 September 2010

One year on

Date: 13 September 2009
Place: Hull, UK
What: The start of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race

Exactly one year ago today I set sail from Hull en route to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil via La Rochelle, France. Anyone who followed my More to Life than Laundry blog will know the huge amount of effort involved in getting to this point. A mum to then 3 and 5 year old sons, a business to run, a normal busy life to take care of. But I wanted to get off the hamster wheel of life for a little while and do something for me.

And so after months and months of very hard work organising, fund raising and training, I was finally ready to set sail. What followed was a six week experience that had been billed as life-changing. A year on, my question is, was it?

On paper, my life is exactly the same. I have two (slightly older) boys, my business, a busy life and house to run. I have the same frustrations that were always there (the laundry pile never gets any smaller). But something has changed. And it's very hard to define. 

What's changed is me. It's a very subtle thing that probably isn't visible to the outside world. But I'll try to explain...

I feel empowered. Not in that in your face women's lib kinda way. But in a quiet, understated, gently simmering warm feeling of knowing that I can do whatever I set my mind to.

I feel free. The constraints of motherhood, adulthood and responsibility can feel suffocating, stifling with the question of 'Is this it?' loitering in the dark corners of your mind. I'm free of that now. Because I know that there's a horizon out there that is blue and golden and it's perfectly possible to go explore it.

I live life. I used to berate myself for not having a global business empire or greater business achievements. I've made peace with that now and set myself a new objective. To have fun, to enjoy life, to cut myself some slack. And I've spent most of this year doing exactly that.

I feel peaceful. Obviously not all the time as my last post highlights, but when times get tough, I go to my mental sanctuary. A place I discovered in the middle of the Atlantic. It tastes of salt. It smells of clean sea and fresh air. It sounds like rushing water. It feels like a warm breeze tangling hair tendrils that whip against a sun-cleansed face. It looks like a never-ending blue canvas that arches around me in all directions. It is bliss.

So yes, it has been life-changing. Not in the 'I'm changing career and taking up adventure sports' way, but in the ways that count. Best of all, I did it, and nothing can ever take that away.

Wednesday 8 September 2010

When you don't like your child

I love my children, dearly. When I watch them sleeping in their beds, hair mussed up, chests rising and falling, they look like little angels and I can't believe how lucky I am.

Yet most days, particularly most mornings, I don't like one of my children. That's a terrible thing to say. But it's the truth.

My eldest child has been difficult from the day he was born. A baby who didn't stop crying and wouldn't sleep. A toddler who had tantrums worthy of oscars. A pre-schooler who wouldn't join in and would cling incessantly. A school starter who would cry everyday at school drop off, run out of school and throw monstrous tantrums. He's never managed to control his emotions - happy or upset. All of these stages I have found incredibly hard work and sometimes downright bewildering, but I have learned and accepted that he is a sensitive child who takes a while to adapt to things. I've tried to provide the right balance of firmness with understanding and love.

But now he's six and a half. And we're in a whole new world. I take heart talking to other parents that their children are similarly behaved, but what I find most upsetting is how I feel about him.

His moods are relentless. He screams, yells, throws things about, is aggressive, rude, hits, kicks, spits, breaks things and is bone bloody idol. He will do nothing to help himself - unless there is something in it for him. He takes responsibility for nothing. He won't share. Yet he demands that things are shared with him. He never seems to learn from any discipline or punishment or consequence or reward. He refuses to listen if you try to have a reasonable conversation with him, simply covering his ears saying: Blah blah blah. We go through the exact same things over and over and over. He believes the world is out to get him. Mostly he seems unhappy and very, very angry.

I know that as a parent it is my job to help him work through this. To teach him social niceties and how to behave. To help him find out how he fits into the world and how to make the most of his abilities. To help him be happy. But parents are human. And even though I love him, I am finding it particularly hard to like him. And this makes it so much harder to remain the calm, loving, firm parent I want to be.

There are moments when his lovely nature shines through and when it does, I want to grab onto it and hold a mirror up to him and say: 'See, this is what you can be. It's gorgeous and lovely and wonderful!' But it's like holding water in your hands and it slips away all to fast.

I desperately want him to be happy. I want him to know I love him. But mostly I want to like him more often. I fear that the more he behaves in this way, the harder it will be for me to separate him from his actions. That I will start to resent him and in turn he will resent me, and our relationship remains one of me-against-him and him-against-me for a lifetime.

I am fairly certain that my own parents felt the same way about me, as by all accounts I was a particularly vile child. So perhaps it's simply karma that I should have the same experience. Retribution so to speak. But perhaps it's because I know how I felt as a child that I want to help my own son so much. I wished with all my heart that I didn't behave like I did as a child. I remember sulking and fighting with my siblings and wishing that I wasn't, but some how being unable to stop myself. I am almost certain that my son feels the same way. But how do you help a child out of that cycle? Particularly when his behaviour is so maddening that you're hard pressed to remain civil much less find a solution.

Perhaps I am wrong to even write this post. A grossly inappropriate thing to admit. But I just so badly want to like my son. I can't believe I am the only parent who feels like this. And perhaps by just writing it, it's the cathartic release I need to be able to put my feelings behind me and move forward to help my son.  Here's hoping so anyway.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Wot I mostly did on my summer holidays

And so the summer holidays end. And with it, the start of glorious weather. How ironic. It has been an exhausting, but lovely 5 weeks. If I were feeling less shattered, I'd attempt to write something clever or moving or poetic. But as it is, I can barely keep my eyes open. So instead, here's my first-day-of-school-summer-holiday-recap. Sit quietly in the front row, put your hand up and you'll get your turn to tell us about yours next:

  • Fantastic break up day party involving parents getting far too drunk but it certainly set the tone for the rest of the holiday
  • Three days of actual work, while the children had a ball with their childminder.
  • Two weeks in Greece. I could write a lot about this. But suffice to say that week 1 saw our children in kids clubs from 9am to 5pm daily (despite us offering to take them out repeatedly - they declined as they were having too much fun) and then video club from 7pm - 11pm. So really utter bliss during which I suntanned, swam and sailed (and drank unhealthy amounts of Greek wine and Mythos beer). The highlight had to be sailing in dinghy races daily, something I haven't done since I was a teenager, and I won! In fact I kicked butt. It felt marvellous. I was absolutely hyped when I came off the water and just wanted to head straight back out for more.
See exhibit A of sailing action:

  • Week 2 involved us going on a flotilla around Greek islands in the Ionian Sea. It was fantastic but very stressful at times, like when you're trying to moor up next to a £2million yacht and not knowing what you're doing and trying not to bash it and trying not to shout at your husband to hurry up with the fenders all while saying to the children: "No, we can't play Uno right now". But besides the mooring/anchoring up, it was marvellous. Lots of swimming off the back of the boat in the sea, eating and drinking too much and general swanning about. Bliss. See below

  • Back home for a day of recovery before 3 days of work and then a fab day out with fellow mummy bloggers Pantswithnames and Nappyvalleygirl.  It was lovely to meet people that I've got to know virtually and with 6 little boys between us, there was plenty of charging about for the kids.
  • Then a day of doing a Treasure Trail in Hungerford with old friends, followed by a day at home and a fab pizza evening out with friends and kids playing in country fields.
  • Then off to the Peak District for three days of camping in torrential rain. Oh what fun it was. I can't bring myself to write more about this other than it involved mud and lots of it.
  • Back for one day of work, before heading over to the Isle of Wight for a final summer soiree for four days, drinking too much, laughing a lot and exploring the Island with the view to possibly moving there.
  • We've since had two days at home, during which I've attempted to catch up on work and failed, played with friends and gone for long walks in the countryside.
And now on the eve of back to school day, I feel in dire need of a holiday to recover from it all. Actually, what I need is to get back to work before my brain turns to mush. And I should really start to night, but I won't. I shall savour the silence of the evening knowing that tomorrow morning will see my littlest boy head off to big school for the first time, while I sob into my breakfast tea.

This is why I have been absent from the blogosphere. This is why I have been absent on the work front. This is what summer is meant to be all about. Hope yours was just as lovely.