For my sons 

Dear O and F,

Lately I’ve realised that I didn’t bring you into the world that I thought I had. I had so much hope when you were both born, but then things seemed to change. Or maybe the changes were already happening and I hadn’t noticed. Either way, I want you to know that I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that there is so much hatred and division in the world. I’m sorry that most of the stories you see glimpses of on the news are stories of war and misery. I’m sorry that the sea levels are rising and the ice caps are melting. Most of all, I’m sorry that the burden of fixing our broken society – and planet – is going to fall upon the shoulders of your generation.

But there is still a little glimmer of hope alive inside me, and that is because of you. Because I am going to do the very best I can to raise you to be tolerant and inclusive and brave. You are both surrounded by people of different colours and faiths and that is a wonderful thing. You are already learning that those people have exactly the same value as you do in the world, without even being taught. And why should you need to be taught? The only thing you need to know is this: That under our clothes and beneath our skin, no matter which god we answer to – or don’t – we are all the same inside.

Gandhi said that we must be the change we wish to see in the world, but as your mother I have a unique opportunity to go beyond that. I have the opportunity to raise you to also be that change. To teach you to challenge inequality and discrimination. To show you how to make better choices for our planet. To help you to find your voices and use them to speak up for those who have no voice of their own.

I look at you, I see your innocence and your joy and I feel afraid for you. And more than that, I feel guilt. Because there will come a day when I can no longer protect you from the storm happening around you, when I will have to let you see the extent of the damage. I don’t know what the world will look like when you are grown up, but as it stands there is a man in the White House who doesn’t believe in climate change and our own country is on the brink of leaving the European Union. Neither of these facts makes me feel encouraged about the shape of things to come.

But when I look at you, I also see how strong you are. I see how fiercely you love your family and your friends – and, perhaps most importantly, each other -, and I know that you have so much to give to the world. Being with you is exhausting, but it is also healing and rejuvenating. And I know that’s not just because you are children and you are predisposed to be wonderful; it is because of who you are. It’s because you’re funny and smart and kind, and you make me feel hopeful about the future.

So I’m sorry that the world you will inherit is a bit of a mess, but I know that it will be safe in your hands and I’m not going to stop trying to tidy it up in the meantime.

You already are and are going to be amazing.

I love you,

Mum

I hate soft play 

When your kids start school, they suddenly get invited to a lot of parties. O has a much better social life than I do. Next month he’s going to two parties on the same day. I’m totally dreading that day and I genuinely don’t know how I’m going to survive. But yeah, you get the idea; LOTS OF PARTIES. And these parties often take place in one particularly hateful environment: THE SOFT PLAY CENTRE.

Here’s a list of the things I hate about soft play centres. It is not a long list:

EVERYTHING.

Absolutely everything. I hate the noise. I hate the shitty coffee. I hate seeing one of the workers carrying a roll of blue paper towel, a plastic bag and a bottle of disinfectant into the playframe, because it is an obvious sign that someone’s kid has just puked somewhere in there and I pray to god that my own wasn’t anywhere nearby.

Yeah. I fucking hate the places. I’m sorry. I know that probably makes me a total party pooper, but there it is.

However, I quite often have to set aside my hatred of them – and my rampant anxiety surrounding their germ-spreading potential – and take O to a soft play party. And usually I sit there with the other parents and we talk about the kids and drink the horrible coffee and I try not to swear.

Actually, to be honest, sometimes that part of the soft play party is kinda reassuring for me, because I see the eye rolls exchanged between exasperated mums as they comfort their tired, cranky children while they whinge about some other kid being mean. And we all sort of circle around the fact that we are completely knackered until someone says, “God, I’m so tired today. The kids were up at five. FIVE. Why do they do this?!”, which suddenly makes it okay for us all to join in and admit that we are winging it, not winning it.

All of that is fine. Once I’m over my social awkwardness, I’m generally okay in the soft play setting. Until O emerges and drags me in the direction of the playframe while I desperately try to remove my shoes. I hate that part because I always end up smacking my head on something or getting a really bad case of indigestion from trying to squeeze through those fucking awful roller things. Or I end up being the parent who has to convince a bunch of other people’s kids that they will not, in fact, die if they go down the Death Slide. Which usually requires a physical demonstration. And I can’t dick about up there because all of these kids are watching me and counting on me to prove that it is safe and I am not a wuss. But I actually am a bit of a wuss and I don’t really like that slide much at all.

Why am I always that parent?

It’s great for O, of course, because then all of the other kids think his mum is really cool, rather than just a bit of an idiot.

But I learnt something today after my Death Slide stunt, which is that we all wish we were a little bit more of some things and a little bit less of others sometimes.

I wish I was a little – or a lot – more organised. I wish I felt a little better equipped to guide my children into adulthood. I wish that I didn’t always feel a little bit startled every time one of my kids shouts “MUMMY!!!!” And I wish, more than anything, that I could be a little less ridiculous.

But there are other mums who wish they were a little bit more ridiculous and a little bit less afraid of the big slide at the soft play centre.

It’s funny what you can learn on a Sunday morning at a soft play party, isn’t it?

But… I still fucking hate the places.

There he goes

Yesterday was a huge day for me. A day I’ve been dreading and worrying about for months.

Yesterday F started playgroup.
From now on, every Friday morning I will drop him off there after I’ve taken O to school and I will pick him back up after lunch.

And for the four hours in between I will do… what? Clean, I guess. Do the laundry. Run errands.

Miss him.

I didn’t think it would be this hard. But I should have known, because the thing about F is that he and I are together all the time. I go to work two days out of the week, and the other five days we are together.

And it’s not just that.

I didn’t bond with F when he was a baby. At all. Because he was so unsettled all the time, and because I couldn’t cope, maybe I thought he wasn’t for keeps. I didn’t feel like I was good enough for the job of being his mother. I thought that somebody else could do it better. And then everything started to spiral out of control and it was only on the night when I thought there was real chance that he might actually be taken away from me that I started to realise how much I didn’t want that to happen.

Maybe I’ve overcompensated for those first few months. Maybe I’ve babied him more than I should have done. Maybe I’ve allowed him to be a little more dependent on me than he otherwise would have been.

The simple fact is that I adore him. Which is not to say that I don’t feel exactly the same way about his brother, but the thing about O is that he has always treated me as more of a satellite in his life. He wants to know that I’m there if he needs me, and he has no doubt that I love him, but he also wants to be independent.

O and F are different children. Very different. O sees me all the time, but he rarely gets to spend time with his daddy since he started school. So if he’s given the choice between being with me and being with daddy, he will choose to be with daddy.

That’s fair and it seems perfectly logical.

F also sees me all the time, but he also sees a lot more his daddy than O does. And the fact that I’m around a lot means that F always gravitates towards me because I guess he finds me reassuring.

He needs me so much more than his big brother does.

Or so I thought.

But yesterday surprised me. Because I was terrified about how hard it was going to be to walk away and leave him. I was afraid that he would cry and refuse to settle. I was worried that I would get a call asking me to go back and pick him up.

I needn’t have fretted.

F kissed me goodbye and, aside from calling out to me once as I left, he went seamlessly from constantly orbiting me to stepping out on his own without me.

And yes, I cried in my car after I left him. I couldn’t believe that I had walked away from him.

I felt like I’d abandoned him.

But he had a wonderful morning. He didn’t cry, he didn’t once look for or ask for me. He involved himself in new things with new children and he did fine. Better than fine. The play workers showed us photos they’d taken of him playing and he has a big, beaming smile in every single one of them.


When I picked him up, he was happy to see me. But I could also tell that he’d been just fine without me, that his happiness wasn’t dependent on my physical presence. Once again, he amazed me with how strong and brave he really is.

He also proved to me what I have always been unsure of; that he knows I love him and that he is secure in that fact. I’ve always wondered if he knew, or if the fact that I was a terrible mother at the start would somehow ruin his chances of ever
feeling safe and loved.

It’s a relief to know that I haven’t fundamentally damaged him. That everything I’ve done since those dark days has been enough for him to know.

My baby is growing up, and while that wrenches at something inside of me that I can’t quite put a name to, I am so endlessly proud of him.

I am so privileged to be his mother.

Gift planning with Uncommongoods.com

Every year at this time I find myself surprised by the passage of time. That we can reach the end of another 365 day cycle and feel like we somehow didn’t notice the days going by. I don’t know if it’s just me, but time seems to be moving so much more quickly since I had children. I measure the passing of the years by their progress, by how they change and grow and I don’t even see it while it’s happening right in front of me.

So, in the interest of life passing quickly, I’m attempting to quash my Christmas blues with a little bit of gift planning. I love buying gifts for people, and I put a lot of thought into finding something that is right for the person I’m buying for. And, most of all, I like to try and find something a little unusual, which generally sees me trawling Etsy and crying at the shipping costs.

However, I’ve been looking at gifts at Uncommongoods.com and I think I might have struck gift-buying gold.

I think I’ve already touched on the fact that I’m a bit of an eco-warrior. Or, at least, you’ve probably read between the lines and figured it out for yourselves. So the fact that sustainability and the environment are important to this company is a huge factor for me. They’re also completely animal friendly – no leather, fur or feathers – and the paper used to make their catalogues is from FSC certified forests.

Amazing.

You can read more about the company behind the products here.

Our anniversary is coming up in June – I know, I know; I’ve got ages yet – and the last thing I want is to be scrambling at the last minute to find a special gift for N. So I had a look around the anniversary collection and found some gorgeous things. Including this:

journal

12 Ways To Say “I Love You” Journal

When N and I celebrated our first anniversary as a couple, I had spent the months leading up to it putting together a scrap book of photographs, ticket stubs and anecdotes. The idea was that I would add to it every year, but I never got round to it. So this would be great for me, because it gives me all the prompting I need to create something really special.

You can find more inspiration for anniversary gifts here:
http://www.uncommongoods.com/gifts/anniversary-gifts/anniversary-gifts

My mom’s birthday is also coming up in March, so I thought I’d have a look at gift ideas for her too. I love this wishing ball, which encourages you to make one wish every week for a year and place the wishes inside the glass ball. You can’t get them back out, but you’ve got a keepsake forever filled with a year full of your wishes and dreams. I also adore the idea of this book, a great gift for any parent or grandparent to record the story of their own life and pass down to their children and grandchildren. Like me, my mom loves to write and I can see her losing herself in writing her life story.

Check out more birthday gift ideas here:
http://www.uncommongoods.com/gifts/birthday-gifts

I also couldn’t resist having a look around to see what I could find for sprucing up our home and garden, and I stumbled across this gorgeous solar powered mason jar. For our last anniversary, my mom bought us a bench for the garden and it would be lovely to sit outside in the evening with one of these lanterns on the table between us. Also, clean, green energy is always a win.

mason-jar

Solar powered mason jar

If you’re looking for something for your home or garden, you’ll find the full collection here:
http://www.uncommongoods.com/home-garden/home-decor

There are gifts to suit every budget and for every kind of person you can think of, and I could spend hours looking through everything. If you’re passionate about the environment and you want to find something quirky and special for someone you love, I can’t recommend Uncommongoods.com highly enough.

Happy gift hunting!

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More of my favourites

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Uncommongoods.com. All images used in this post are the property of Uncommongoods.com. The views and opinions expressed in this post are my own.