Tag Archives: parenting

midlife crisis

Northumbrian sunrise

I’m probably overstating things with the title of this post, but I’m approaching a big birthday and it’s bringing with it some big thoughts. Forty *gulp* – it feels significant, and sensible. Irresolutely grownup.

And I’m just not sure I’m ready for that.

I remember my dad turning forty when I was a child. In celebration, I bought him a plastic walking stick filled with smarties. I thought it was hilarious: “Haha, Daddy, you’re so old!” Looking back, I’m not sure what he thought of it and I’m also not sure how I’d feel if one of my sons gave me the same present now. Well, I’d eat the smarties, obviously but does forty count as old? Surely not, but neither does it count as young enough for that joke to be entirely devoid of bite (except where the smarties are concerned hehe – stop eye-rolling, I’m allowed to make terrible jokes at my age).

I’ve noticed recently how forty is spoken of as if it’s crossing some sort of frontier – like a cut off point for desirability and dynamism in our youth-obsessed culture. Of course that’s not actually the case: older people can be every bit as attractive and even if our energy levels are lower than they were in the full flush of youth, our wisdom more than makes up for that. Nevertheless, forty is a point when you quite possibly have more of your life behind you than in front of you and I’m definitely finding it’s making me pause and reflect.

Have I achieved enough? Am I good enough at what I do? Have I followed enough of my dreams? And if the answer to any of those is no, is there enough time left to change that?

I’ve spoken to quite a few people about this recently. Most understand. Some say, ‘Oh forty was nothing, wait till you get to fifty!” with others’ it’s, “thirty was so much worse!” Personally, I barely noticed turning thirty: my eldest son was five months old and I spent my birthday weekend in a ‘luxury eco lodge’ (oh yes) in Yorkshire with some of my best friends. It was all healthy outdoor walks, home cooked meals and woodburning stoves, and between us we had a baby, a toddler and a pregnancy. It may be my least raucous birthday ever. We were all fully settled down and engaged with the homemaking and family-building stage of life.

And that stage of life defined my thirties, really. I had my first child at twenty-nine and my third (and last) at thirty-five. My youngest started school a couple of months ago meaning my thirties almost perfectly encapsulated the pre-school years of parenting. Perhaps that’s why this birthday feels particularly significant. I’m bidding farewell to my thirties, a decade of babies and toddlers, of constant change and challenge, of passionate new maternal love and friendships forged amidst the fires of sleep deprivation and vomit and birth stories and ‘oh-my-god-I-haven’t-a-clue-what-I’m-doing-oh-phew-neither-do-you-let’s-just-figure-this-out-together-ness’.

Of course, I had other focuses during the last decade too, but children were at the heart of it. When they’re little it feels natural for that to be the case – they need you so entirely. And now… now things are starting to feel different. My kids will always be my focus but now they’re all at school there’s more room for other things to enter the frame. And that’s great but it’s also making me feel so nostalgic for all those moments of passion and purpose and awe. For the wonder of creating new life and the craziness of living through those early years of it. Could another decade of my life ever be that intense? Would I want it to be?

And now it’s hello forties decade of…what? Career building? House renovation? (it’s all sounding a bit too grown up) dream following? Of knuckling down and get on with achieving everything I ever wanted to because time is slipping through my fingers and I’m not getting it back?

All of those? Or none of those? Or perhaps it’s just time for some consolidation – for realising what I’ve got and what I’ve created and nurtured and spending time working on the bits that need attention and enjoying the good stuff that comes my way.

I’m lucky, I know that. Lucky to have what I have and even more, who I have in my life. I think it’s enough. More than enough.

Forty isn’t time for a midlife crisis at all is it? It’s time for a midlife celebration!

And as anyone who’s spent any time with me recently will know, I’m having plenty of those! :)

mumturnedmom

I haven’t joined in any linkies for ages but this is the last ever week of ‘The Prompt’ which is one of my favourite linkies of all – I used to join in with it loads back when I blogged more regularly. Sara’s weekly prompts have been a huge inspiration to me (in fact, the first picture book text I ever wrote came from one of them) so it felt right to join in this last one. The prompt this week was ‘ENOUGH’. Thanks Sara!

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.

costume chaos and illustration news

frosty-fieldOk, so it’s really late and I’m really tired and I have about thirty seconds to write a post for ‘What I’m Writing’ tomorrow. Not that I have to write a post for my linky I suppose, but tomorrow it’s the one hundredth week of ‘What I’m Writing’ so I don’t want to miss linking up when it’s such a nice, round figure!

So… It’s late because I’ve been really busy this week. I’ve been writing stuff for work, I’ve been doing an illustration commission and, given it’s December and I’ve got three kids, I’ve been running around in a kind of Christmas frenzy trying not to drop the ball on nativity costumes, social events, presents, parties and end of term thingymabobs. This morning I was frantically trying to assemble a snowflake costume for my three-year-old for the dress-rehearsal of his school play. He ended up in a thermal vest and a cellular blanket. “It will do, it will have to do!” I chimed until I got to the classroom and realised the other kids were all adorned in flashing lights, glitter, home-made wings, amazing headwear, baubles, tinsel and perfectly carved ice sculptures. Ok, I made that last one up but blimey, it took all my powers of ‘cool, parent-of-a-third-child zen’ not to rush home and construct an elaborate walk-in ice cave for him to wear for the performance tomorrow (shhh but I’m still thinking there might be time in the morning… )

So, did you notice that bit just up there at the top of the previous paragraph? The bit where I said I was working on an illustration commission? I have been and it’s my first ever! Well, strictly speaking it’s the second I’ve been asked to do, but I’m not due to start the first one till the new year so the one I’ve been working on this week is the first I’ve actually done, if that makes sense? Probably not. It’s even later at night now. Anyway, I’ve just finished the commission and sent it off to the writer this evening. It’s illustrations for her middle grade book which is coming out next year… more info to follow… I’m dead excited, truth be told!

Right, it’s really, REALLY late now so I’m definitely posting this and going to bed!

Writing Bubble

 

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!

 

my week in rhyme – #WhatImWriting

storysphere-2

A Story sphere I drew to represent all the different thoughts bouncing around in my head!

It’s Monday night – the time has flown, my weekly post is due,
I’ve not got much to write about…

No, wait, that’s not quite true.

I’ll tell you how I’m feeling now the new school term has started
– in truth I’ve been a mixture of elated and downhearted,
as my eldest son has taken to his new school like a pro
though my middle son has told me that he misses his big bro,
while my youngest took his first four days completely in his stride
but on the fifth day, he said “What? again?!” and clutched my leg and cried.*

What else?

Oh yes, my writing… well, last weekend was a blast,
so awesomely inspiring – my ‘to do list’ now is vast!
I’m determined to take action and submit, submit, submit
I know I’ll get rejections, but the key is not to quit.

Apart from that…

My art – I’ve nearly finished my assignment!
two pieces are completed while the third just needs refinement
(that’s really not exciting as I’m rather far behind
though thankfully my understanding tutor doesn’t mind.)

So onwards!

With my mega-plan (I’ve made an epic list)
to knuckle down and focus now on all the things I’ve missed
And that means lots of time for friends and chats and cups of tea
for drawing and for writing, because f**king FINALLY
after nine whole years of parenthood I have some time for me!

Writing Bubble
Prose for Thought

*I sat with him and built some blocks. He recovered (probably faster than I did).

a new chapter

boys at the lakeside

My three boys in the lake district this summer – already feels like a lifetime ago!

Today was the first day of the new school term – the day my eldest son started middle school, my youngest started school nursery and my middle son went back to cheekily sauntering his way through the education system. It was the day for jumping out of ‘summer mode’ and back into routine. It was always going to be a big day for a nostalgic sap like me and, as expected, I felt all the feels:

Amazed pleasure – when my eldest two boys got up and were halfway through breakfast by the time I staggered downstairs (bleary-eyed after a fitful night dreaming about a daddy-long-legs attack… don’t ask), and then went and got themselves ready for school without any prompting at all. :)

Pride – when my eldest walked off with his best mate towards his new school with nothing more than a grin of excitement, a fond wave and ‘see you later’! in my direction. No nerves whatsoever!

Sudden desire to slap myself in the head – when I realised I’d failed to mention any sort of plan for picking him up. “I realised you didn’t tell me where to meet you after school!” he said later (totally unfazed) “But I saw Alex’s mum and asked her and she said you were coming to meet me at the phone box.” Good old Alex’s mum.

Frustration – at having ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’ by ABBA on repeat in my head for most of the day. “Sometimes I wish that I could freeze the picture… ” Seriously, those lyrics, I know they’re about a daughter rather than a son but apart from that. Ouch.

Excitement – at starting my #WhatImWriting linky up again after a summer break and seeing people’s posts pop into my inbox and feeling that sense of anticipation about writing and blogging and, best of all, having my writing gang back together again!

Jitters – all morning I had this weird nervous energy. Couldn’t settle. Kept making cups of tea and not drinking them, or boiling the kettle and not pouring the water, or pouring the water into the mug without boiling the kettle first. I needed to go back to tea-making 101 clearly.

Nostalgia – at being back in the school nursery for the third (and final) time. It’s been six years since I first walked through those doors with my first son. It feels exactly the same and totally different.

Actually thinking I might cry – in the reception of the first school where I saw my eldest’s smiling photo on a noticeboard for the school council. The noticeboard is out of date of course – he’s left the school but seeing him there wearing his old school uniform… and then realising he wasn’t at the school any more and would never wear that uniform again… *sob*

Happiness – at seeing my fellow-school-parent-friends and then getting messages from other friends asking me how I was feeling and sending me photos of their kids in new uniform and all of us sharing all the, “this is it! A new stage!” excited emotion.

High-as-a-kite thrilledness – when we were all suddenly planning coffees and nights out and catch ups after the summer. I’ve missed everyone and I love, love LOVE knowing people are going to be around more and that we’re actually going to be able to meet during the day sometimes without kids!

Bliss – on a sunny afternoon walk through the forest with my youngest after his nursery session. He’s always been a brilliant little companion. We strolled along slowly examining bark and twigs and sunlight through the trees and when we got back he said “That was a lovely walk together, Mummy” and my heart melted.

Relief – because all the boys had a good first day. We had ice lollies in the garden and they told me all about it. My eldest was so happy and has already made new friends.

Happy excitement with a hint of disbelief – at realising this is the start of a new chapter where I have more time to myself to write and draw (and clean the house which shouldn’t excite me as much as it does) and to catch up with friends and just be myself by myself more than I’ve had a chance to in nearly a decade!

And now with a glass of wine and three boys upstairs asleep and some of my favourite blogs to read, I think I might have hit… contentment.

Writing Bubble

moving on

I woke up this morning itching to write about yesterday. I can’t let it go by unmarked, I thought. I have to put the feelings somewhere.
clouds and sunshine

You see, yesterday was my nine-year-old son’s last ever day of first school. Yes, my eldest little thinker and feeler (and blimey is he both!) has left behind the place he’s spent a huge chunk of the last six years. The place where, despite its ups and downs (he managed to start the school just as it went through possibly the most tumultuous period in its history!) he has felt nurtured and appreciated and above all, happy.

And this makes me feel… I’m not sure… in many ways happy, because he’s definitely ready to move on, but also kind of sad, because it’s the end of an era, and mostly just plain old nostalgic. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that my baby is not a baby anymore. And yes, I know, I KNOW he hasn’t been a baby for flippin’ years, I mean, he’s all whippet-slim and clear-eyed and angular and asking me questions about politics and what I think he should do about classroom dynamics and relationships between his peers. What baby is like that? Yep, he’s a big boy and I want him to be a big boy but, shit, sometimes it feels like yesterday that he lay newly born and softly warm and wriggly on my chest and I said ‘it’s a baby!’ in amazement and looked at my husband and we cried and laughed and… you know… felt that huge surge of wonder and love that changes everything forever.

But it’s been nine years. And he’s growing up.

We had a picnic on the playing fields after school yesterday – a get-together of parents and kids from my son’s year and all their siblings too. It was baking hot so we adults sat in the shade of the trees as the kids dashed around madly, occasionally rushing up to where we were sprawled to stuff their faces with crisps before bounding off again. They signed each other’s T-shirts, did each other’s hair and spoke in their funny language of year-four-isms that I normally find maddening but which yesterday sounded almost, ALMOST endearing.

I chatted with some of my friends and fellow parents (always lovely) and, though I did wonder afterwards if I should have made more of an effort to talk to everyone, really I was just content to observe. I enjoyed looking out from under the shade of the trees that line the yard where my son and I first stepped six years ago, at the people who I’ve walked alongside these past years. Some I’ve come to know really well, others I barely know at all and yet these are the faces that have lined every school play, every assembly, every fete, every classroom activity, every, well, everything school-related for more than half a decade. Side-by-side we’ve watched our chubby-faced three-year-olds evolve into lean-limbed feisty, eloquent nine-year olds.

Look how far we’ve come, I thought as I gazed at the buzz of life before me. Look what we’ve createdLook how much happiness can be found right here. 

Sometimes words aren’t necessary.

Sometimes just being is enough.

where I stop procrastinating and make some decisions

in a fieldI’ve been delaying writing this post for weeks – delaying writing it because in order to do so, I needed to make some decisions about my blog and, despite endless pondering, I couldn’t quite bring myself to do that.

How do I find more time to write? Where do I find more time to do my illustration course? How much of the energy that I pour into blogging could be better used elsewhere? What do I want from blogging anyway? How do I handle social media? How can I be a more present parent? Is this pondering really getting me anywhere at all? Where did I hide my stash of popcorn? All these questions and more have been whirring round in my head for weeks and I need to come to some conclusions!

As I type these words I STILL haven’t finalised my decisions but one thing I have decided is that enough is enough – the longer I delay, the longer the limbo continues. So I’m going to write some thoughts down here and now, and as I do, they will become decisions that I have to honour. I’m going to back myself into a corner, here. Let’s hope it works.

So *clears throat, cracks knuckles, does a few warm up squats*

*decides a walk around the neighbourhood would be a really good idea right about now*

*realises, NO that’s just another procrastination tactic*

*makes a cup of tea, honestly, honestly it helps me think. Honestly*

Right, I’m ready.

Decision one – I want to make the next three months with my youngest son, count.

My three-year-old starts nursery five mornings a week from September and from that point everything changes. I mean, FIVE MORNINGS A WEEK WITH NO KIDS! Imagine that! Ok, some of them will be taken up with work but still… it’s a biggie. And I was all, ‘Oh, I’ll have more time in September, maybe I should just keep truckin’ (and not make any changes) till then’, but then I got a text from a friend this morning (the very lovely Alice from The Filling Glass) and something she wrote reminded me that, sod the changes coming in September, this time is precious. This time right now. So why truck right on through it like some… truck? So I’ve put the brakes on. I need to make decisions that leave me the time, space and energy for him (not to mention the other two!) and that means less blogging and social media. It means:

Decision two – I’m only blogging once a week from now on. 

Well, one blog post plus my What I’m writing linky post (which is largely just copy and paste with a few links to last week’s posts). I’ve been doing this for the last few weeks actually, but having not ‘properly decided’ to do it I’ve kept feeling like I should be blogging more. That’s the thing with blogging actually – I always feel like I should be doing more. There are always more blog posts to write – my head is perpetually thronging with ideas them. Enough of that. One post a week with no obligation or expectation to do more, is fine. Mind you, it’s not just writing blog posts that’s time-consuming, it’s sharing and commenting and linking up. Which leads me to:

Decision three – I’m only going to link up to #WhatImWriting. 

Yes, just one linky – my own. But, but, I love linkies! My fingers are already trembling with alarm! What about The Prompt, my source of inspiration? Or Prose for Thought, where I share creative work? Or From the Mouths of Babes, Or The Truth About, Or Read With Me? Argh! I’ll miss them all! My readership will plummet! it will all end in doom, I tell you. DOOOOOM!

Oh, FFS. I can always reassess things come September if I want and right now, linkies take up too much time. I often lose three or four evenings a week to commenting. And let’s not talk about the time my youngest spends playing on his own while I’m jumping around from post to post. I mean, he’s an awesome little dude with imagination that makes such a situation possible but I take advantage of that far too much. I also take advantage of his love of Curious George and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Enough of that too. Just one linky. Hopefully I can keep commenting down to just one or two evenings and have more time for reading actual books. Ooh, that makes me think of something else:

Decision four – I’m setting myself a book reading target. One book a fortnight for the rest of the year.

A few years ago I would have said, ‘One a book a fortnight? Ha! Easy!’ Even last year I managed more than that, and comfortably, but this year apart from Runaway Girl, The Pursuit of Happiness and The Forgotten and the Fantastical 2, I’ve barely read a thing. I’ve fallen off the reading horse and it makes me sad. Writers should read – it stirs the imagination. I need to make reading a priority. And that’s not the only creative endeavour I need to prioritise:

Decision five – I’m going to draw every day.

I don’t care what it is – I need to just draw. Even if it’s a five minute crap scribble it’s better than nothing. I drew every day for months at the start of the year and it helped my confidence and artistic abilities no end. I need to do that again.

Decision six – regarding social media… *pauses with fingers hovering above the keys*… half an hour a day in the evening. Max. Mostly for blogging and Facebook groups (i.e not just faffing about)

I deleted the FB and Twitter apps from my phone weeks ago. Life is better because of it. You know what though? Having previously not paid it much attention,  I now check Instagram all the flippin’ time because it is the only social media app left! So I think I might put that in a folder somewhere so I can’t reflexively check it in an addicted way.

With all these decisions though, I’m still not sure I’m going to free up enough time to write and draw so, here’s a radical idea:

Decision seven – I do not expect or intend to do any creative writing at all for the rest of June.

What? Am I mad? Don’t I want to write? Yes, of course! but I’ve been feeling so snowed under recently that I haven’t found time and then I’ve stressed about that. Let this be the month to focus on drawing. It’s just a month and experience suggests to me that if I focus on one creative outlet the other might well follow. I’m not saying I’m not allowed to write – if the words flow, they flow – I’m just saying I don’t expect to write a single thing and that’s fine.

Right, so where does that leave me? Oh yes, there’s one big decision I made before writing this post and it’s about time I shared it:

Decision eight – I’m not going to go to BritMums live

This is sad because I was looking forward to it! I’ve got my (free) ‘editor delegate’ pass and everything and I have been looking at hotels and planning meet ups with friends. *sob*

But it’s the right decision. Being a big-time blogger just isn’t the direction I really want to go in. I’ve sensed that for a while. I reached a point a few months back when things were going well with my blog and I kept being approached by PR’s and I started seriously considering monetising it. Then the viral post happened and the #THISislearning campaign and spreading myself all over social media… and then the week off it all and I realised something. Blogging is not where my heart is. Not really.

It has some of my heart for sure – it’s how I’ve found (and created) my writing community. It’s where I continue to find (and, I hope, spread) support and friendship. It’s the place I’ve discovered motivation to write, and the confidence to share my work. Those are the parts of being a blogger I want to keep, But those parts don’t need me to spread myself so thinly. And those parts don’t need me to go three hundred miles to spend time in a room full of (albeit lovely) people I’ve never met before, learning all about how to grow my audience. Even the thought of having to tackle Pinterest and Instagram in a full on blogger way makes me want to scream and cover my ears. That’s not going to get me where I want to go (though I continue to be impressed by those of you who do).

Get me – I made some decisions! Eight whole ones! There are still a few other things I’m considering but I think these will do for now.

Let’s see what the next few months bring. :)

Writing Bubble

What I learned from the Kids Strike

#THISislearning collage2So, May third has passed – the day of #THISislearning and the Kids Strike has been and gone. It was an epic day all about education and beliefs and passion and fun and learning. My boys learned masses. Here’s what the experience taught me:

Standing up for your beliefs feels fantastic.

I’ve always shied away from controversy – in life in general and especially on my blog. Except with close friends, I generally keep quiet about my beliefs (especially on ‘hot topics’ like politics and religion) so when I published a passionate post about education six weeks ago it was a huge leap into the unknown. The fantastic, supportive, heartfelt response I had was impossible to ignore though, and I had to follow-through, both with taking part in the Kids Strike and co-running my own parallel #THISislearning campaign. And it felt good – to draw that line in the sand and say ‘something needs to change and I’m going to try my best to make that happen.’ I rediscovered my inner activist, missing since my teenage years. Yes – standing up for your beliefs feels good.

…it also feels scary

Ok, the brave, bold types amongst you might think this is odd, but as an introvert I don’t like drawing attention to myself and as a big-time softy it makes me nervous to place myself in a position where I could get hurt. I’m also a natural law-abider – a bit of a goody two shoes to be honest. But standing up for my beliefs recently has involved deliberately trying to draw attention to myself (running a campaign requires you to say “Hey, look over here! Please join in with this!”), breaking the law (in order to join in the strike) and also putting myself in a position where I could get hurt. The trolls were out in force on the day of the strike. Luckily, I wasn’t targeted but knowing that some of my friends were, and that there were nasty comments being made, put me on high alert. Basically, on all counts I felt out of my comfort zone. It has not been a relaxing six weeks!

The mere act of the kids strike was a fantastic learning opportunity

Ok, with kids, everything is a useful learning opportunity but this point feels important to me because one of the criticisms levelled at strikers was a notion of it being wrong to include kids. I very much disagree – it was an awesome opportunity to teach them about politics, values, beliefs and the ways society works. On the morning of the strike, I took my boys to a nearby school where one of the parents had organised a friendly picket line. I say ‘friendly’ because the head teacher knew all about it and was fine about it, and the purpose was to ask parents for signatures to a letter that was being sent to our MP about the whole thing.

My eight-year-old in particular was so interested in the whole experience of being there and asked loads of questions about strikes and political action. We ended up taking about the junior doctor strikes too. I’ve never known him so interested in politics before. As a parent it felt so important to talk to him about what we value (as his parents) at a time when he was totally engaged.

Doing educational things with kids can be a huge source of joy and excitement.

I suppose this wasn’t really a surprise but the extent of the joy perhaps was. I got together with a friend and with our five kids (two eight-year-olds, two six-year-olds and a three-year-old) we did masses of activities. We looked at a real, disused mill, rambled through the forest following the pipeline to see where it had been dammed, researched hydroelectricity, designed and made our own water wheels (and tried them out in a river), made paper chromatography flowers, read the wonderful Rosie Revere and Iggy Peck books by Andrea Beaty and discussed them, wrote stories and did explosive science experiments. The older two kids took notes throughout. My eight-year-old was really enthused by everything and all the kids were so happy.

There was one point where they were all experimenting with oil, baking soda, vinegar and various other things and as I watched them work together, cooperating, trying out more and more ideas and squealing with joy and excitement, I felt so happy I thought my heart might burst. Ok, they did get a little out of control with food colouring, baking soda, leaves, ramps and bicycles (!?!) but we were outside and it was after 3’o clock so I figured, ‘whatever, let them get on with it’. At the end of the day my boys fell into bed with huge grins on their faces saying it was the best day ever. My six year old said “I give it 100%!”

I did, however, gain:

A whole new level of respect for teachers

We had five kids to keep engaged and focussed. How they cope with classes of thirty kids, impresses the socks off me. Hats off to them.

And a whole new level of respect for homeschoolers

You do this everyday?! I mean, it must be amazing in some ways but surely exhausting in others! Such a big responsibility to have to think up all the activities and keep the kids on point and also to get the balance between being totally child-led and making sure you get enough done… well done, seriously.

All sorts of random stuff that I wouldn’t otherwise have done

When you spend time with kids engaging in their learning, you learn so much too! They ask questions and together you find the answers, you create things you otherwise wouldn’t have created and think in ways you otherwise wouldn’t have thought. It’s really inspirational.

That my friends are awesome

Again, I knew this already but man… from my best mate who was a fab cheerleader the whole time, drew loads of #THISislearning pictures and provided lots of inspiration for a post about activities for kids, to the friend who I spent the day with (which made striking a million times easier as I would have been on my own otherwise), to the friend who read my No, Mr Cameron, No. post and told me how proud she was of me with such enthusiasm that my face ached from smiling by the end of her email, to the blogging friends who joined in on the day and sent amazing messages of support, and the friends who’ve chatted with me and put the world (and my head) to rights over the last couple of days. Not to forget Sophie who, despite juggling a million different things, was a fantastic, eloquent, supportive co-campaigner for #THISislearning. Oh, and my husband who always has my back (I’ll start coming to bed before midnight now, promise!) I felt surrounded by a huge raft of emotional support, I really did. You guys rock.

That people are awesome

At the end of the day on May 3rd and on the following morning I looked though my social media feeds at the #THISislearning hashtag. Wow. The different activities that people had been doing with their kids, the happy faces, the brilliant blog posts, the enthusiasm and dedication to showing Nicky Morgan what real learning looks like… well it was just amazing. Again, my heart kind of exploded (remember how I said I was a softy – I wasn’t lying!) It was just wonderful to see.

And I think I’m going to end this post on that note. An enormous thank you goes to you all.

xxx

mumturnedmom

Linking to The Prompt which, this week, is ‘choice’. This whole experience came from the choice to hit ‘publish on that blog post.

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standing up for what you believe in

So, tomorrow’s the big day! #KidsStrike3rdMay, and mine and Sophie’s parallel campaign, #THISislearning (which you don’t have to be striking to join in with!).

How am I feeling? Excited, nervous and frazzled. I have all of the feels at the moment. Sometimes I think my heart might burst out of my chest. I’m like some hopeless romantic or desperate optimist or frightened radical or, I don’t know… it’s exhausting. clouds

The last few weeks have been manic. Actually, ever since I published my ‘No Mr Cameron, No.’ blog post back in March (which ten thousand people read in a week – a number so hugely vast, in terms of this blog, that I still haven’t got my head round it!) things have been feeling slightly out of control. There’s nothing quite like writing a passionate, heartfelt post and having people respond to it in an equally passionate, heartfelt way. To be a bit navel-gazy and pretentious for a moment, I feel like I’ve been on a bit of a journey. I’ve been inspired and enthused, I’ve learned masses and I’ve ended up way out of my comfort zone launching a whole campaign of my own. When people responded the way they did, I couldn’t ignore it. I had to act.

So a month ago I decided to keep my boys off school for the Kids Strike. I wrote a personal letter to their school explaining how happy they have been at their school and that the action isn’t against the school or teachers (who are fab) but against educational policy which NEEDS to change for the sake of all our kids. Some headteachers across the country are marking absences for the strike as ‘educational’ in recognition of that – how wonderful, eh? Totally in the spirit of parents and teachers working together! Still, it’s officially against the law so little goody-two-shoes, rule-abiding me is having to take a deep breath over it all…

… A deep breath while also shouting “Upon St Cripsin’s day!” a la Kenneth Branagh in Henry V (quietly to myself, I’m not THAT weird) and marching onwards.#THISislearning badge final

As for #THISislearning – our parallel campaign to spread positive images, messages and stories about real learning across social media on May 3rd – well, there’s been so much good stuff come from that already. People sharing stories, doing fabulous drawings and really wanting to make it clear to our government that current educational policy is wrong, not just by striking (although hooray for that!) but also by sharing examples of what real learning looks like. That’s what tomorrow is all about for me –  real learning and positive action. Together, a friend and I have all sorts of activities planned, albeit with enough flexibility to follow our kids’ lead. We want the day to be fun, we want them to learn and we want them to see that when it’s important, you have to stand up for what you believe in.

I would love lots of people to join in with #THISislearning. I hope they do. It means so much to me.

Ooh and by the way, another reason April was full-on:

campnano 16 winner banner

Yep. I wrote enough words last month to win CampNanoWriMo.

Phew.

Today nerves, tomorrow the world, after that a nice long nap.

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And then the fun began...
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