Tag Archives: boys

the end of an era

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post about any aspect of parenthood but, well, it’s that time of year isn’t it? Today was the last day of term and marked a turning point – my youngest had his last morning at nursery before he starts proper school in September. And yes, I’m feeling all emotional about it.walking down a path
On Tuesday he had his ‘nursery graduation’ (these events seem to be the thing now) which involved the kids wearing caps and gowns and doing a little singing performance before being presented with a certificate. It was very cute and lovely but somehow didn’t really tug on my heart strings. I think it’s because I find that the most emotional moments are often the simplest. They sneak up without the bells and whistles of celebrations and ceremonies. Their power is not in the fanfare but in the stillness in its wake.

And so, this lunchtime, leaving the classroom where my youngest had been spending his mornings for the last year, I found myself dragging my heels. Most people had left – the hubbub of voices receded, the crush of parents chatting about holidays and of jostling youngsters waving paintings faded away. But I couldn’t quite leave. Dawdling, I took one more look around the empty walls usually festooned with colourful artwork, at the rows of little pegs without their clutter of coats and wellies, and the big tables swept clean of plasticine, paint and glue. And my eyes swam.

Because I wasn’t really seeing it at all – that emptiness, I mean. I was seeing my youngest bouncing into the class every morning and rushing up to greet his little friends, I was seeing my middle son grinning by the window as he waved me off, already clutching the lego he made a beeline for every morning. And I was looking back seven years to when my eldest began nursery, remembering how it felt to cross that threshold for the first time. I couldn’t believe I was about to leave for the last.

So I stalled, I hugged his (wonderful) teacher again, I fought back the tears and made plans to immediately head to the nearest soft play with a group of friends for a chat and a laugh and a little nostalgic wallow.

I’ll miss these afternoons together once my son starts school – not only my time with him but also the (mostly) weekly meet-ups with the group of mums of my son’s best friends. I didn’t even expect to make new friends third time around (having lost the super-keen ‘Ooh, who will be my friend?!’ edge I’d had when my eldest started school and even the more casual ‘Shall we be mates, then?’ vibe of round two) but my youngest, it turns out, is a sociable little thing with impeccable taste and his friends’ mums are lovely. We’ve had some good times this past year.

This isn’t an ending though, not really. The nursery class are all moving up to reception in September and it’s a mere one classroom away! I know my son will be happy and I’m not at all worried… so what am I getting all emotional about? Well, apart from the simple answer (that’s just how I’m wired, sentimental sap that I am), I think it’s because it’s really and truly the end of an era. All three of my boys have been through this particular rite of passage but third time around it has particular significance for me because this is also the last time. It’s not just the end of my four-year-old’s preschool years it’s the end of the preschool years for our family entirely. That’s it.

Of course this change is great in many ways. It means more freedom and space and time for me and a movement towards all three of our kids being more independent. Honestly, I think it will be fab.

But right now, I’m allowing myself a little wobble. My baby is growing up – ALL my babies are growing up – and sometimes that hurts. So tonight I’ll indulge myself. I’m going crack open the wine and the chocolate and reflect on the last ten years.

A decade of parenthood and three little school boys.

It’s all going to be fine.

looking back, looking forward

autumn-walkSo, half term approaches!

I’m not sure how I feel about that really, it’s been a funny old six weeks since the kids went back to school. It’s been busy, really busy – one of those times when all the different aspects of my life need attention – and I’ve been floundering a bit trying to keep on top of everything. A feeling of mild bafflement and a low level sense of ‘WTAF is going on?’ have been my stalwart companions.

I was saying to a friend on the school run this morning that I’m only just starting to feel like I’ve got a handle on what our new daily routine is and knowing which books need signing, which homework requires parental comments and who and what needs to be where, when and why. Of course, only seconds after making this announcement I realised my son had left his P.E kit at home… then, when I went back to fetch it, I realised he must in fact have left it at school last week (all damp and muddy and festering… ) because it isn’t anywhere here. So I guess we haven’t *quite* reached a stage where we’re sailing perfectly along. I’m still prone to getting caught off guard by a gust of wind and having the boom crack me round the back of the head.

But progress has definitely been made. I mean, I made it to the school harvest festival on time (despite a dash home for a forgotten swimming kit, and a disgusting dog poo emergency), I’ve finally met my son’s teacher (middle school is so much more ‘hands off’ than first school!), I’ve written copious comments in various reading journals and even spent a very happy couple of hours yesterday helping my eldest create some 3D art for some ‘enrichment homework’ that we thought was optional but turned out not to be quite as optional as we thought!

On this basis I’m sure that after half term we’ll have all our rigging in order* and just sail seraphically along until Christmas. Because I’ve got this school thing nailed now. Oh yes. No more capsizing for me.

So I now have three more days (mornings) to try and do all the things that I can’t do while the boys are around. Then it’s a week off from the school run (yay!) during which we’re off to Harry Potter Studios! But shhhhh don’t tell the boys – it’s a surprise!

My plan is to tidy the entire house (clearing out all the junk that’s been building up for years), complete another module of my illustration course, research agents and send my picture books off to another batch, submit some work (that I haven’t written yet) to a competition that’s caught my eye, return to my novel and write another ten thousand words, write some more limericks and… oh, ok, probably none of that.

I have three mornings. I’m going to have coffee with some friends. I’m going to do some hoovering. I’m going to draw some pictures. It’s enough, I think.

I’ll leave you with a drawing I did last week as part of my course, the next module of which is on illustrating poems. One thing I really struggle with is speed – I’m an over-thinking slow coach – so I decided to have a go at illustrating a poem without any planning at all, just to dive in. This is one of my favourite poems. It’s by Elizabeth Jennings. I (re)read it then drew a picture. This is what appeared on the paper:a-child-in-the-night-poem-illustration

Writing Bubble

 

*I don’t know why I’m sticking with the sailing metaphor… I don’t even know why I’m using it at all, I know NOTHING about boats!

 

the ups and downs of the week that was

It’s been a busy week this week – I’ve barely blogged at all. It’s been one of those periods where I’ve done lots and gained plenty of inspiration for posts, but for one reason or another the posts don’t get written. But as it’s a Sunday night and I still have (just) enough energy to wave my fingers in the direction of computer keys in a way that may result in words, I thought I’d do a quick roundup of the most memorable parts of the week:

My boys - a moment of brotherly love on a walk.

My boys – a moment of brotherly love on a walk.

  • Along with lots of other parents and carers, I went in to school to do some cooking with my six-year-old and his class. We made a variety of different things, the kids loved having us there and it’s such a positive thing to get parents/carers engaged with school and learning I think. I do wonder how often the school will be able to hold sessions like this in the future though, given the government’s focus on children being able to give the proper description to grammatical utterances and deduce complicated mathematics from lengthy stories. There’s a ranty blog post about ridiculous educational standards and the potential impact on children’s self-esteem building up in me…
  • I was witness to a horrible bullying incident and ended up – along with another parent – comforting a young boy and talking to all his friends about how the bully had been treating him. So I saw both a horrible display of lack of empathy (from the bully) and a touching display of empathetic concern from a group of boys. It’s stayed with me (the poor kid was so upset) and I’ll be taking further action to try and ensure it doesn’t happen again.
  • I went to my Grandma’s eighty-seventh birthday party. She’s increasingly frail these days so we were all thrilled that she was able to come to what was quite a large family meal in a lovely hotel. There was much talking and laughing over delicious food and wine but the moment that affected me most during the whole evening was a little look I caught between my Grandma and my ninety-two-year-old Grandpa. It was just after my Grandma had said a little ‘thank you’ speech about how happy she was to see us all there, and the look… it was a look of such love. Of long lasting ‘I’ve loved you through the decades and look what we’ve created together’ love. I was quite bowled over. They’ve been married for sixty-six years. Being with the same person for years and years isn’t always easy – I think we all go through our highs and lows – but that look said it all. That’s love, that.
  • I got to spend some time with my brothers. I love my brothers. There is definitely a post I need to write about how having brothers helps me be a mum to boys.

Lots more happened but I’ll leave it at that as I want to watch some telly (from one screen to another, yes I know, it’ll rot my brain!)

Hope you’ve had good weeks!

a letter to my youngest son on his third birthday

My gorgeous boy,

You are my third child, my youngest son and most definitely my last baby.

You have two big brothers and, when I was pregnant with you, many people speculated about your gender. Some couldn’t seem to help but make assumptions about what we’d want and about what would be ‘ideal’. There seems to be a notion out there that it is best for families to have children of both genders, you see, so this time round a girl would be perfect, right?

Wrong. Oh, so wrong. You see, YOU, my lovely boy, have always been the perfect third child for this family. Before you were born I used to hope for a ‘laid back’ baby – one of those ones that sits around smiling and isn’t bothered by anything much. I didn’t seriously think I’d get a baby like that though… not really, I mean, how could I be that lucky?!

joanne mcneil photography maddy bennett 2013-6338

The five of us on a rainy walk. Photo by Joanne McNeil Photography

But from the moment you made you entrance into the world (after nine days of stop/start labour – see, you’d already decided to take things slow!) you were so chilled-out I could hardly believe it. The moment of your birth was by far the calmest of the three I’ve experienced (let’s just say I don’t give birth easily!) You didn’t even cry. You were immediately placed in my arms and just gazed up at me with a rather serious, inscrutable expression. I cried. You pooed copiously. We laughed. All was well.

When you came home, your brothers fell in love with you immediately, and as soon as you were capable of anything other than gazing inscrutably, it was clear you loved them too. To this day your big brother claims “you gave me your first smile” and I think he might be right. You fitted in to our family like a jigsaw piece – once missing, now found. Absolutely that calm, happy baby I’d hoped for. Ok, sleep was an issue (for two and a half years… ) but during daylight hours you were Mr Laid-back, takes-it-in-his-stride, ‘I’ll just lie here and watch everyone, and bestow smiles and gurgles’.

brotherly love change

Your big brother wrote this for you when you were a baby. Translation “X’s cute, best of all he always smiles, he’s the best baby brother in the world. Specially he loves all of us.”

Your middle brother started school when you were six months old so you and I have spent a lot of quality time together these past three years. You’ve been such a good companion – happy to just be with me at home, ‘helping’ (?!) with the housework and always perfectly content to come along when I meet friends for coffee. In fact, once you got old enough, you even started requesting “We go for coffee?” as soon as we’d dropped your brothers off at school! “You wouldn’t even know he’s there!” is a comment I’ve heard about you in many a cafe as you sat calmly chewing some toast or playing with your toys.

Of course once you hit the terrible twos you got… an opinion on things. I don’t want to pretend you’ve been perfectly reasonable at all times. But then you’re a little person with big emotions, so stroppiness is bound to appear at some points. You’ve always impressed me with your ability to get over tantrums quickly and your insistence that “I’m not naughty, I’m happy!” has been enough to win me over in your difficult moments numerous times.

You’re such an imaginative boy and are able to entertain yourself for ages. Listening to you playing with your toys always brings a smile to my face. Toy cars for you aren’t just vehicles they’re little people with personalities who talk to each other. Last week I overheard a taxi and a london bus having a chat about “going to the shoppings” (one of your favourite pastimes) to buy “bread, crisps and chocolate mousse” – your cars clearly have good taste!

boys doing shape challenge

Your other favourite activities (aside from casting magic spells by yelling “I got a zebra!”) are doing jigsaws and drawing. It’s lovely to watch you and your brothers sitting side by side, concentrating on your art work. You mostly just scribble but have now begun to proudly put your pictures on the fridge yourself. You even managed to draw a picture of me the other day where I had a recognisable form. When I say ‘recognisable form’ I do of course mean I looked like a hammer with a moustache… but you’re getting there!

You are so loving, so sweet and so funny that your Dad and I can’t help ourselves but say “He’s so cute!” far too often. I know it’s ‘far too often’ because this morning you put some teddy-bear slippers on, admired your feet and said, beaming “Oh, I’m so cute!”. I should probably stop calling you that so obviously but, well, you just are!

Now you are three and I’m certain that three boys was exactly right for me and for all of us. I wouldn’t change a thing. I couldn’t be luckier than to have my three little guys and I’m so very glad you’re you.

Lots of love from your doting (and very sentimental but it is your birthday) mummy.

xxx

Little Hearts, Big LoveProse for Thought

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parent of boys? Get ready for…

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about about my ‘previous life’ as an owner of a small business and about writing a blog for that business. The business (sadly) closed years ago and we archived the blog but I thought it would be fun to find it and resurrect a few old posts. It took a bit of searching but my husband finally located the blog inside a folder in a zip file in a dusty corner of an old computer and I’ve been reading a few posts. I thought I would share this one with you today. It’s from four and a half years ago when I was the mother of (only) two boys.

When we found out we were expecting our second boy, I did a bit of web-surfing on the subject of what it’s like to have two sons, and on male sibling relationships in general. Something that repeatedly cropped up (in fact I’m not sure I read anything on the topic that didn’t mention this) was “the wrestling”. This was almost invariably referred to enthusiastically with numerous exclamation marks. In fact, even “naked wrestling!!!!” had a fair few mentions! Parents wrote about this being an integral part of their sons’ relationship, how it was what they seemed to spend a goodly proportion of their time doing, and what pleasure it brought them as parents to watch.

wrestling2

I grew up with two brothers, so the notion of boys wrestling did not surprise me: when I was growing up, ‘fights’ in our house were a daily occurrence, with my dad and brothers often engaged in tussles on the hall carpet. In fact, I seem to recall getting involved in a few myself!

What I didn’t realise was how young the wrestling would start. Son no.2 was barely four months old when he and Son no.1 began their joyful scraps! To be fair, I had to keep a very watchful eye (2 year-olds are all raw energy and very little control!) but what amazed me was how instinctive it seemed to be. Son 2 couldn’t sit or roll (or really move much at all unaided), yet having his big brother grapple with him didn’t faze him at all. And Son 1, for his part, was surprisingly gentle; I found it was rarely necessary to intervene.

These days, at 1½ and 3½, wrestling has become a daily activity for my boys. Watching them, I’m often reminded of puppies – it’s that sense of manic activity, yet utter contentment. And – like those other parents of sons whose words I read 2 years ago – I would also say it is not only one of the defining parts of their relationship, but also one of the most pleasurable things to watch as their mum.

As for the naked wrestling… I’m still waiting…

So that was then… roll on a few years and I’m now the proud mother of three young boys of 8, (nearly) 6 and 2.

These days my oldest two don’t wrestle that much – my 8yo is usually far too embroiled in a Harry Potter book to get involved in such things –  but for my younger two, rolling around together, kneeing each other joyfully in various body parts and shrieking with laughter is an hourly a daily activity.

And I do enjoy getting involved too, in fact when I was pregnant with my youngest, one of the things I missed most was being able to hurl myself to the ground and have my boys wrestle with me. The physicality of little boys may be exhausting at times but it has its rewards – really, there’s little better in life than having three happy small people clambering over you and hunkering down for a huge ‘little boy cuddle’.

Oh, and naked wrestling? There was this hot summers day a few years ago…