Mistakes I made

 often worried about mistakes I made when my children were young. The other day, my youngest daughter wrote a searingly honest post on her blog, prompted by the story currently in the news about a young girl who has run away with her teacher.

I’m sure that if my children sat down with me individually, they could all remind me of things I did that hurt them, or that upset them. I don’t think that will happen, but if it did, I would admit my faults, and apologise unreservedly for all the times I failed.

It occurs to me though, that we are all affected in some way by things that have happened to us during our lives. These things are part of what made us into the people we are today. Past hurts can make us determined to be better parents to our own children.

I was blessed with wonderful parents who loved me and brought me up to the absolute best of their ability. I never doubted their love, and as a young child I always believed that they knew best.

In fact as I grew and started to form my own opinions about things that I knew were not in line with theirs, I did so quietly. I’d learned that my parents had very fixed views about some things, and that it was probably easier just to keep quiet about my own differing views.

It was as a result of my upbringing that when my children reached the age of about sixteen, I started to trust them with deciding when they were going to come home. The question was always “What time will you be home?”, and never an order to be home at a certain time. It worked for us. They often came home earlier than expected, because they knew it was their decision.

It was as a result of the trust I placed in my youngest daughter at the age of sixteen that she got into the difficulties she talked about in her blog. This has affected her all her life, has contributed to the bouts of depression she has suffered from, and has ultimately shaped her into the person she is today.

Whilst I cannot say that I’m glad it happened to her, I can say that I think that it made her a more thoughtful parent to her own teen. She will always have in the back of her mind the problems that might arise if he’s allowed to be in the company of some other adults too much. She will be watching for problems. She won’t automatically trust other parents with her child, as I did when she was sixteen…. and she might not expect her teen to be able to cope with making his own decisions when he is that age.

Perhaps as a result of her experiences, my daughter will be more like my parents were …she’ll have learned from my “mistakes” just as I learned how to parent from what I perceived to be their mistakes. Who knows? Maybe that’s why there’s such a bond between Grandparents and Grandchildren!


Memories of Nana

My two year old grandson got me thinking this morning. he apparently pointed at the little photo of me on Facebook, and said “Nana in there!”

That brought back some memories for me; just odd little things that I remember from when I was a child. Probably the earliest memory is of sitting in my pram with the hood up. The trim was the wrong side of the Greek key pattern. My mother told me she put away the pram a couple of months before my brother was born, so I wouldn’t think he was in my place, so I couldn’t have been more than 15 months old.

I had a dummy as a baby, and my next, very clear memory is of my Nana picking up my dummy and saying “Jennifer” When I held out my hand for it, she threw the dummy in the fire. I don’t remember any great distress over that, I just accepted it was gone, and as I didn’t know you could buy them in the shop, I don’t think I made a fuss. Later though, when my brother was newly born, I remember stealing his dummy, and sitting in Nana’s leather armchair with my head under a cushion so nobody would know what I was doing.

Just a few months before my Mum died, she mentioned that at about that time, I would talk about wanting to see the “pignig.” They couldn’t let me see it, because they didn’t know what I was talking about. Fifty years later  I was able to enlighten her. It was the teddy bear’s picnic. I think I mixed up an actual memory of my Dad pushing me in a pushchair and lifting me up to show me children playing on swings and slides, with a dream, where the children were bears, dressed in clothes. I know my Dad used to sing “The Teddy Bears Picnic” to me, so that might explain it!

My Grandad died when we were in Germany. My Dad was in the Army. I have three clear memories of Grandad. The first is of standing between his legs for a cuddle. He had thrombosis, so couldn’t sit me on his knee. The second is of eating his dinner, sharing with him. Mum had told me he was very fastidious about food, so it didn’t really add up, until she told me that at about eighteen months I stopped eating. They discovered that if I thought my Grandad was giving me his dinner, I would eat, so Nana started putting both meals on a huge serving platter, one at each end.

The third memory is of Elsie Shufflebottom. Elsie lived at the bottom of the yard. She always got the best, a share of Grandad’s sweets, a bit of his icecream. Worse than that, she was beautiful. She had long curly hair, so long she could sit on it. She apparently only appeared when I wasn’t there, and Grandad described her clothes to me …”Do you know, she had the bonniest pinny I’ve ever seen!” He would tease me with “Well I’d like to give you some of this, but I promised Elsie Shufflebottom she could have it. Then he’d relent, saying as she wasn’t there just then, I could have it instead. I was very jealous of Elsie!

My memory of my Nana is more hazy, but just as precious. It’s of a feeling, rather than of a particular event. It’s a feeling of great love and security. Feeling safe, and just knowing that she really, really loved me. There are lots of things I do remember. Helping her with the mangle in the back yard, going with her to the town, visiting the indoor market, and having a drink in Woolworths, sitting up on a swivel stool. Her sitting in her chair by the back window in the “kitchen”, which was what we’d call the living room now. But the main memory is the one I’d really like my Grandchildren to have of me.. a memory of a Nana who really really loved them.

Very special times

Today is the 13th birthday of one of my Grandsons. his mum is my youngest daughter, and today her blog is about the day of his birth.

Whenever one of my children or Grandchildren have a birthday, I think about the beginning, the first time I saw them. Each birth is different, each baby is unique, and each introduction is special.

My eldest Granddaughter was born a few months after the break up of my marriage. My emotions were all over the place. Grandchildren were supposed to be the next generation of “our ” family. I went to the hospital, on the one hand thrilled at the birth of this beautiful little girl, yet not knowing whether my husband would also be there, hoping he wouldn’t, and hoping he would. I was nervous about how I would react to seeing the baby’s other Grandparents there… a very happily married couple. Bless them, I think they understood, and swept me up into the euphoria in that room, including me and not giving me time to think about what might have been. By the time I left the hospital room I felt stronger, so that when I met my husband on his way in, I was able to turn around and take him in to see the baby.

When the next baby was born, I took my friend, who was visiting me for the day. The baby was a little unsettled, and my friend took him, laid him on her lap, and massaged his head (Cranio – Sacral therapy) It was amazing to see how every muscle in his body relaxed. That friend helped make that first introduction special. She was someone to share the experience with, someone to agree that he was definitely the most beautiful baby in the ward!

My eldest daughter’s first baby was special because we hadn’t expected her to have children. He shot into the world on bonfire night. My memory of that first meeting is of her sitting up in bed, knees raised, with the baby resting on them. She was  just gazing at her beautiful new son. Is it just in my memory they seem to be bathed in sunlight?

Two years later we welcomed baby number two. He came into the world looking a lot like his mother. I remember how thrilled she was to have another beautiful little boy. My memory of him then is blurred. I think I met him the next day when they were home from hospital, but my main memory is a bitter sweet one, of taking him into intensive care and laying him on my Mother’s pillow. We put her hand on him, and told her it was her new Great Grandson. She wasn’t conscious, but her heartbeat speeded up on the monitor. It meant a lot to my daughter and me that Mum, at the end of her life, seemed aware that he was there.

My youngest son’s children next. My Granddaughter was born in Liverpool, and my youngest daughter and I travelled up to see her when she was two days old. Her mother was tired and a bit stressed after a traumatic birth experience in hospital, and having had her family visit the day before, so we didn’t want to over tire her again. The baby was awake, and I remember after a while I took her into their bedroom and laid on the bed for about half an hour, just gazing at her. She was gorgeous. She looked a lot like her Mum, and was one of those babies that looked wise, an old soul. I knew I wouldn’t be able to see her often, and I wanted to memorise every bit of her lovely little face.

Their next baby was born after they’d moved to Devon. By this time I was very happy in my personal life, having remarried, and my husband and I travelled to see him when he was two days old. I think I expected things to be a bit fraught, but we walked into this wonderful calm atmosphere, this beautiful little boy having been born at home. One of my favourite memories is of watching my husband as he cradled a new born baby for the first time. This was how I’d always imagined being Grandparents should be, though , of course he isn’t biologically linked to these children.

I was stunned when I heard there was to be a third baby in this family, especially as the birth was only two months away when we found out. But what a wonderful surprise! As usual, when we got the call to say that the baby was here, safe and well, and born at home while the other two slept, I was thrilled and excited, and

Perceptions of time

My husband and I have very happy memories of an evening we spent right at the beginning of our relationship. We had dinner, and then sat in the garden watching my small Grandson play. I think we both remember very small details of that evening…what the weather was like, the mound of earth and tree stump Tom was playing on with his cars, the drama when it was time to leave, and one of the cars was missing. “Mike will find it and keep it for you” just wouldn’t work, so a search with a torch was necessary. Luckily, we found it , and Tom climbed back into his car seat, with his precious bag of toys clutched in his hand, happy that he had everything with him.

That was a relatively short time ago, nearly eight years ago. Tom, of course, has no memory of that evening, or of the preceding weekend, which he and I had spent with his Uncle and Aunt in Devon. Yet to me, that time is very fresh in my memory.

We all know, of course, that children do not remember very much before the age of about five or six, but I recently started thinking of it in terms of the proportions of your life span. Tom doesn’t remember because it was just over half his lifetime ago.

Remember when you were a child, and Christmas took ages to get here? Now we wonder where the time has gone, when all of a sudden it’s December again and we haven’t done what we promised ourselves we’d do and spread the cost over the year. The week before Christmas flies by. I’m certain that it always felt like a month instead of a week when I was a child.

So, my perception of time passing has changed over the years, and I’m interested to know what my Grandchildren remember of that time that was so important to Mike and me. Some have been born since then, so Mike has always been there as far as they are concerned. But are the “middle children” aware of that time before Mike and I met? I doubt it. Beth is nineteen, so she will remember, but I’m sure, because of the proportion of her lifetime that Mike has been around, that she will think of it as all happening a really long time ago.

When I was a child, we lived in Germany as part of the occupying forces after the war. I remember a lot of conversations started with “During the war…”, and it seemed to me that all that had happened  a long time ago. After all it was ten years ago! Now, thinking of the Falklands war puts it into perspective. Thirty years ago we watched our service men and women sail out to war. It seemed, and was, a huge thing. It certainly doesn’t seem like 30 years ago. It seems a relatively short time ago, but to my eldest son, who was eleven at the time, it seems like a very long time ago; though being a boy who was interested in all that was going on, he does have fairly clear memories of it.

What I do know is that the older I get, the faster time flies by. Just when I’m settled, and happy, and wanting this time to last so that I can enjoy it, it whizzes past. Soon it will be Christmas, and I’ll be kicking myself for not starting the shopping in January, as I promised I would.

Chains of connection

For some time now I’ve been reading and enjoying my younger daughter’s blog. I’ve been constantly surprised by the new insights I’ve gained into the life she lives, and sometimes by the way she thinks, but mainly I’ve been delighted to follow the way her children are growing and developing. It keeps them close to me despite the fact that they live about 200 miles away.

When my husband said he could help me set up my own blog, I thought at first it would be difficult to know what to write, but as I tend to be a bit opinionated , I think perhaps I won’t find it too difficult.

For today, I want to talk about how it felt when I was first told that I was going to be a Grandparent, nearly twenty years ago now. It came at a very sad time in my life, the news being given in the phone call I had made to my eldest son to tell him that his father and I were splitting up. So on the one hand I was terribly upset, and then I was being given this utterly joyous news.

Up until then I had given little thought to Grandchildren and to their relationships with their Grandparents, beyond the very happy memories I had of my own Grandparents. Suddenly all those jokes came back to me,about Grandparents and their obsessions with their Grandchildren, their boasting and their photographs. 

I started to think about something my Father had said to me about something entirely different. He had been talking to me about The Book of Common Prayer. He said he liked to go to services where they used these old  prayers, because they gave him a connection to his ancestors, who would have said the same prayers, used the same words, followed the same services.

I realised then that one of the things that was so amazing about this new Grandchild, was that she was connected through the generations to all those people. That however she turned out it was due in some way to each of these people, diluted the further back you go, of course, but that is what makes it so interesting. Who knows whether her eyes are like those of her great grandmother? We know her curls are from her mother…and perhaps also from my Dad.

Since the birth of that first beautiful child, I’ve been blessed with nine more Grandchildren, and I’ve searched the faces of each newborn baby to see what I could recognize in them. Some of them have looked a lot like my own babies, some looked more like the other parent. All of them had something of me, whether I could see it or not. All of them are special individuals, and I like to think that something of my parents and my grandparents lives on in each one of them. It may be my Father’s intelligence, my Mother’s beauty, my Grandmother’s work ethic, my Grandfather’s stubborn ways, who knows? All I know is that I have never got over the feeling of wonder at the birth of another child into the chain that is our family.

Does the tiger ever sleep?

Does the tiger ever sleep?

Does the tiger ever sleep? I’m talking about the tiger that moves into your belly with the foetus, takes up residence and never seems to move out, just directs business from somewhere inside. Sleeping a lot, but waking up from time to time to protect her young.

It starts from the moment you realise you’re pregnant… that need to protect from harm, no matter what. For me, with all four of my babies, that meant I had to protect the baby from their father driving too fast.

“But I’m only doing 30mph!”
“It doesn’t matter, slow down, it feels too fast for me”

For some reason, I had to also protect them from alcohol. Not that I’d ever drunk a lot of alcohol, but suddenly even the thought of it made me feel sick. And coffee! How could people bear the smell?

Of course, protecting the baby also means feeding it what it needs; Mine needed various different things at various different stages… Bounty Bars, grapefruit ice lollies, fish and chips, and Bakewell tart. The tiger forced the baby’s father to drive miles sometimes to get these things, and often, once I’d got them, I’d gone off the idea. Luckily by the time the need for Bakewell tart arrived, I was in hospital on bed rest, and my lovely Mother in Law provided me and the rest of the ward with tins of the stuff… and very delicious it was too!

The tiger slept for a while after the births, but was always sleeping with one eye open, just in case somebody should do harm to the baby. She’d watch like a hawk in case somebody contaminated a teat with an unsterilized finger, or even worse tried to pacify a crying baby by letting him or her suck a finger!

Unfortunately, she slept through the two hours I left my first baby outside the shop across the road. Luckily, when he might have been in danger, the ladies in the shop watched him instead…

School was a very difficult time for the tiger. Handing over control to someone else was difficult at times; after all how could they know how to care for a child they didn’t know? How would they know that my child was different? Was more sensitive than the others? Needed more understanding? Might be being bullied?

And when there was a genuine threat to my child,, as when  two of my children were involved in road accidents, the tiger morphed into a wolf, who howled with the horror of what she might have lost, had the cars been going more quickly, or had the drivers had slower reactions. For weeks afterwards, I dwelt on what had happened, thanking God that my precious children were not seriously injured.

Over the years, the tiger/wolf emerged from time to time, mostly as a reaction to bullying. As the children grew into adulthood, I thought perhaps the tiger would move out at last, that I’d be able to relax, but no. At the slightest hint of criticism of any one of my children, I’d feel the familiar stirrings, even though now the criticism was most likely to come from one or other of my children, rather than from an outsider.

The births of my grandchildren were difficult times. my need to protect now also extended to my sons’ partners. I worried about them, wishing I could go through the births for them, spare them the pain. After the births, I worried about post natal depression, watched for it, and agonised because I understood what it felt like, and wanted to take it away, kiss it better like I had done with bumped heads when they were children.

And now, when my Grandchildren have to face something difficult, like a new school, or a criticism from a teacher (unfounded, of course!) I feel those familiar stirrings inside, and realise that the tiger never leaves… and she never really sleeps.

Keep me safe, Daddy

Keep me safe, Daddy, Keep me safe.

Cuddle me when strange noises disturb my sleep

Or pain invades my body without warning.

Save me from monsters that lurk in the dark.

Keep me safe Daddy, keep me safe.

Keep me safe, Daddy, keep me safe.

Speak sternly when you need to,

But keep me safe when the world is a dangerous place

that I don’t yet understand.

Hold my hand, Daddy, Hold my hand

Keep me safe from dangers. Keep me safe

when strangers are a threat, or when water is deep

or cars move too fast.

Keep me safe Daddy, say no when you need to,

suffer my tears and shouts of rage

But use your own memories to keep me safe.

Keep me safe, Daddy, Keep me safe.

In loving memory of the Daddy who always held my hand and kept me safe, until the time when the roles were reversed, and I sat with him and held his hand, keeping him safe until he was taken home, to be with my Mother again.

George Denis Fouracres. 1st April 1925 – 3rd April 2003Dad

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