The Teaching Mum

A light-hearted look at parenting through the eyes of a very busy English Teacher.


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A Not-So-Epic Love Story, But A Love Story All The Same.


Throughout her life, she had always longed for her own epic love story.

She searched high and low; far and wide; up and down; inside and out, but alas, the love story was never to be found.  She tore her heart open, served it on a plate and pieced it back together using tears and tape.  She spoke truthfully and was rejected; she lied and was frowned upon; she kept quiet and was berated; she shouted from the rooftops and was told to get down and be quiet.  She never found her love though  – the love she so desperately wanted.  Oh, she loved, but always questioned whether it was true.

Throughout her life, she had always longed for her own epic love story.

So, she sat down and wrote one.

And she found love.

The days were longer now and the sun hung low in the sky.  Despite the sunlight, there was little warmth in her life.  She felt old and rejected.  She wasn’t old, but somehow life had passed her by.  She had seen her body change over time.  Child birth had taken it’s toll on her physically and she looked at the silver ladders that climbed the top of her legs.  Sleepless nights had left her skin greying and her once bright eyes were dull and watery.  Every morning, she would climb from her bed and reach for her makeup bag and fill in the lines that traced themselves across her face.  The makeup was her armour; it protected her from the world and it made her look lovely.  She was lovely – she had just lost her way.

It wasn’t that he didn’t love her nor was it the fact that she didn’t love him.  Once, a long time ago, they would smile and laugh with each other.  The laughs now were distant memories – relics that stood on dusty forgotten shelves.  Now, when he looked at her, all she saw was distain and scorn.  She could see it in his eyes.  Every time she spoke a word, his eyes would mock her and his mouth would sneer.  Or so she thought.  It wasn’t always like this, she would tell herself.  She didn’t always sleep alone listening to the deep rumbling of his breath in the spare room.  She didn’t always stretch her legs to the bottom of the bed and feel the cold grasp at her ankles.  No, in the years gone by, she would entwine her legs within his and steal his warmth.  She would wake him and tell him to turn over if his snores invaded her nightly dreams; they didn’t always go straight back to sleep then either.

She didn’t always wake up alone.

One day, as she was running a daily errand, she saw someone she used to know.  Deep within her soul she felt a kick and she found herself gasping for breath.  He wasn’t a lost love.  He wasn’t her first love.  In fact, he was never a love.  But, he could have been.  Their brief moment of friendship had been a series of moments, a multitude of fleeting eyes meeting across crowded pubs and clubs. Hands had brushed.  Palms had sweated, but a kiss had never been shared.  As quickly has it had started, it finished.  He was swept up into another relationship, fell in love and wrote his own epic love story.  She wondered lost for a few months and stumbled upon the man she vowed to spend her life with.

And so her life as she knew it began.  They had laughed together.  She cried when she lost a loved one.  They bought their first house.  They had three beautiful children.  They were blessed.  So why, was she so unhappy?  Why did she feel the need to live in an imaginary world and create her own love story?  Is it because it is what we all want deep down? An epic story.

Years passed and her children grew.  She became further away from the girl she once knew.  But, that morning, that very morning as she was running her errand, she saw the young, vivacious, flirtatious and beautiful girl she once was.  Her heart skipped a beat.  Butterflies, that she thought had long since died, came alive in her stomach and danced.  Oh, how they danced.   She saw the boy she had once desired from afar.  Only now, he was a man.  He was climbing out of his car and walking towards her.  He had not noticed her.  For a moment, she thought of the fleeting glances they had shared once in a night club many years ago.  She thought of the time he had asked her to meet him, but she ran scared because she couldn’t stand another broken heart.  She thought about all of the things she wanted to say to him right there and then and in that very moment his gaze lifted and she saw the glow of recognition.

Words stuck in her throat as their eyes met.  She was grateful of the armour she had put on that day.  She was grateful that she had chosen to wear heels so that she would look taller and slimmer.  She was grateful that she was alone.  He raised his arm and waved; she weakly returned the gesture.  Moving swiftly, he crossed the carpark and walked over to her.  He looked as handsome as ever.  Wearing a blue t-shirt, she could see the muscles in his arms tense as he quickened his pace.  She glanced briefly at his square jaw and his blue eyes that, unlike hers, had not lost their sparkle.  Absent mindedly, she pulled at her hair and wrapped a strand around her fingers.

“Hello, stranger.” he said as he stood in front of her.

He was tall.  She had forgotten how tall.  Words stuck in her throat as he tried to speak.  All she could muster up was a weak hello and a smile.

That was all it took.  As her teeth flashed, she felt the muscles in her face relax and she felt her eyes light up.

For five minutes, she was nineteen years old again and they spoke of the past.  He spoke of his job, their mutual friends who had long since fallen away with the sands of time.  He spoke fondly of his beautiful daughter, who was currently sitting exams at college and he spoke of his wife.  She had left him five years ago.  That was all he said and she didn’t push him on the topic.

“You?” he asked.

This was her chance.  This was what she had always wanted.  To correct past mistakes and regrets.  This was her epic love story right there, unfolding in front of her in the middle of a car park on a Monday afternoon.  How many hearts would have to be broken for hers to finally be fixed?  She thought of her empty bed.  She thought of the times she had to pick her husband’s dirty clothes and towels from the floor.  She thought of the arguments.  She thought of the silence that engulfed them every night as they sat on opposite sides of the living room.  Were these thoughts a selfish act? However, then she thought of her children and the loving life both her and her husband had provided for them.  She recalled her wedding day and the gentle look he had given her has she walked alone down the aisle to him.  She remembered the praise he had rained on her the day she stood and spoke at her mother’s funeral.  She was married.  She had her husband.  He was her love story.

“I’m married,” she said.  “Sixteen years next May.”

He smiled down at her.  Together, they exchanged more niceties before saying their goodbyes and parted.  As he walked away to his car, her phone buzzed.  It was a message from her husband reminding her to buy milk.  A flicker of a smile crossed her face and she continued with her errands.

That evening, when her husband returned home from work, she told him that she had forgotten the milk.  His cold eyes looked at her for a moment and she waited to be scolded for her small error.  However, his gaze lingered and he didn’t raise his voice.  He was stopped in his tracks, you see.  For the first time in a long time, she was smiling at him.  For the briefest of moments, he beheld in his sight, the woman who he married.  He saw a spark in her eyes, one he had feared had long since been lost.  He had missed this woman.  He missed her at night when she told him to take the spare bed.  He had almost forgotten what her smile looked like, but now he saw her again.  She had come back to him.

“How are you?” She asked.  “How was your day?”

“I’m tired,” he said.

“I’ll make you a coffee,” she suggested. “I just hope you like it black.”

He laughed, nodded and walked over to her.  He grabbed her and wrapped his arms around her tight.  She melted into his embrace and took in the scent of him.

He was her husband.  And she loved him.

It wasn’t about picking up a pen and writing her own passionate love story.

It was about leaving a line, starting a new paragraph and picking up where she left off.

You might lose the passion.  The excitement might fade sometimes.  But, don’t ever lose yourselves.  Be who you always were – dig deep and find yourself again.

That’s your story to tell.


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Love Breeds Love

I am not usually one for writing about current news stories because my blog was never supposed to be serious.  I found that in the stressful world of being a busy working mum, writing comical stories about my misgivings as a parent gave me (and perhaps one or two others) some light relief to what was usually an end to a busy day teaching and parenting.  However, every so often the real world sneaks up on me, smacks me right between the eyes and I feel compelled to write about it.

That’s how I have felt about this past week.

I shy away from controversy and tend to keep my opinions to myself on social media.  This is for two reasons:

Firstly, I don’t want to say something that others don’t agree with and end up reading cutting remarks about and me and my writing (because I am a total wimp and cry easily).  For me, social media isn’t about my airing of political views and spewing about what is wrong or what is right about the world today.  No, for me, social media is about sharing the fact that one of my amazing Year 8 boys asked me yesterday if ‘Utopia’ was a country.  ‘No,’ was my reply. ‘That’s Ethiopia.’  It’s about that time when I told a pupil that Rudyard Kipling was not, in fact, Mr Kipling’s brother (if only he had been though…)  It’s also my documenting of proud parenting moments such as when we lovingly bought our girl two goldfish and she screamed and shouted all night for a dog.  My Facebook isn’t about being ‘in’ or ‘out’, I just want to make people smile.

A parenting ‘misgiving’. She was showing me her plaster!

Secondly, I don’t write about current events because I am not clued up on everything that’s going on in the world at the moment.  My television channel barely moves from 614 and 615 when the kids are awake (CBeebies and Nick Jr for those of you who are wondering…) and by night, my sordid love affair with Sky Atlantic takes precedence over watching the news.  I am not knowledgeable enough to weigh in and discuss serious stories and my come back of ‘I know you are, I said you are, but what am I?’ is just not a strong enough argument to defend myself against some of the trolls hiding in the dark spaces in-between the comments section on social media.

Despite my knowing more about ‘Andy’s Prehistoric Adventures’ rather than some of the ‘prehistoric’ views of our country’s MPs (Oh no, she didn’t…), we do now live in a world where the news is instantaneous and where, if we want to, we can delve into all of the nooks and crannies of a story.

This week, I did just that.  After putting my children to bed each night, I strained my eyes and read page after page of news on my phone screen and some of the facts I read brought me to tears.

Last week, I watched British Football Fans fighting in France.  I read about a young pop star being killed in Orlando and then my heart broke for Orlando again when innocent people were killed and injured in a night club in a horrific shooting.  Tuesday came around and I found myself reading about Orlando again and how a two year old had been dragged into a lagoon by an alligator.  Then on Thursday, just as my colleagues and I were about to watch the England and Wales football match, I read about a local MP called Jo Cox.  She had been shot, stabbed and rushed into hospital.  My colleagues and I briefly discussed it and condemned the attack instantly.  We settled down to watch the match knowing that Ms Cox was alive and in safe hands at Leeds General Infirmary.

After the game, I rushed home and collected my children from Grandma and Grandad’s.  The Other Half was home and making dinner.  We briefly discussed the football game and spoke about the hideous attack on Jo Cox.

Once seated at the table, the conversation came up again.

“I hope she is okay,” I said.

“She’s died,” the Other Half said.  “It’s barbaric.”

“She hasn’t,” I insisted.  “She is in hospital.”

The Other Half reached for his phone and instantly updated me.

I had to take a minute.

Like I have said, I am not political and I did not know the MP, but this news story absolutely devastated me.

Later that night, as I lay next to my children, I read more and more about the very wonderful Jo Cox.  As a successful working mother, she would have left her children that morning and expected to see them again that evening.  No one should ever go to work and never return home.  I was heartbroken.  I searched desperately to find the good in the world again.

That is what this post is about.  Finding the good.  Because it is there.  It is all around us.  It always has been and it always will be.  It’s about knowing where to look.

This week, I found goodness in my Year 9 class.  They are a wonderful eclectic mix of pupils of middle to low ability. Sometimes they challenge me; sometimes they stare at me in silence with blank expressions on their faces, but more often than not, they make me smile.

Sometimes they amaze me.

On Thursday morning, they did just that. But, they didn’t realise it. Nor did I until they had raced out of my class in a bid to be the first in the lunch queue.

The topic for the day was the analysis of language.  We read an article about an openly gay rugby player.

After a weekend that saw the news filled with stories of hate that linked with both sport and sexuality, I saw this article as a great tool to spark some serious debate, some riveting conversations and some strong opinions.  I thought I might even have to challenge some ideas.

I was wrong.

I have mentioned in a previous post that rugby is the beating heart of our school; it is a topic that draws a lot of our pupils into conversation.

We read the article and before picking out key words and phrases, I wanted to find out what they thought of it.

“Why do you think the rugby player kept his sexuality to himself for so many years?”

“He was scared of what others would think, Miss.”

“Yes, so if your fellow team mate told you, after years of playing rugby together, that he was gay. How would you react?”

Silence.

“What would you say to your friend?”

Eventually, someone spoke.

“I wouldn’t say anything, Miss. He’s my friend.”

I smiled.

“What if your friend wanted a reaction, your opinion or some advice?  What would you say?”

“I’d tell him to stay focused on the match because we had a game to win.”

I feared that they didn’t understand what I was asking of them.  However, we unanimously agreed that the appalling things that happened last weekend have no place in this world.  They recognised discrimination and they condemned it.

When asked to speak about sexuality in context, they couldn’t.  Not because they didn’t understand, but because it just isn’t an issue for them.  I am lucky enough to work with young people who tolerate, accept and love people’s differences – whether it be their sexuality, their beliefs or just how they have their hair styled. When the world is at its most cruel, I look to them because they are our future and they are good.

They will sometimes be naughty and will test my patience, but they will grow up good.

People yearn for the Britain of old when people were perhaps more patriotic.  But, weren’t people also more racist back then and less tolerant of people who dared to be true to themselves and stand out from the crowd?

I am lucky enough to live in a country that celebrates freedom and I am privileged to teach pupils who don’t just tolerate people’s differences, but they accept them because it’s all they have ever known.

As teachers, we will strive to educate your children and turn them into good citizens, but education starts and finishes in the home and love will always breed love.

Thank you Year 9 for allowing me to see some good in the world this week.

Love breeds love and happiness is infectious


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Barmy Beach Buddies

Girls’ Weekend!  Girls’ Weekend with seven kids under six.  Yes, we did it again, yes there was an extra baby on the trip this year, and yes, this time I was prepared for the extreme weather conditions as rammed into my car (before any of the essentials like clothes and food) was a heater, a double duvet, two water bottles, my bed socks and my friend’s ‘Where’s Wally’ onesie.

After returning home from Primrose Valley last year, I vowed never to stay in another caravan again.  Looking back in hindsight, I wasn’t fully prepared for the experience and I suppose sleeping in Marks and Spencer silk Pyjamas and regurgitated breast milk was not the best way to get a decent night’s sleep in the ‘Coldest Place on Earth’.

But then, one day the message from my friend arrived:

I’ve found a deal; I can get us two basic caravans for £20 each.

I replied with a firm ‘no’.

Another message:

We can get an upgrade for another £20 each.

‘Hmmm…’ My mind began to ponder, but then I recalled last year and how I saw my breath coil out in a smoky whirl every time I spoke.

It’s not Primrose Valley.

‘I’m in!’

And so, the weekend arrived and this is my post about Barmston Beach and how you know you’re on a girls’ holiday…with seven kids.

Buddies!

  1. Unfortunately, your fridge will be packed to the brim with milk as opposed to alcohol.  There will be blue top because you’re toddler is still not on the correct centile for his weight despite being able to literally inhale a Tesco Shortbread Chocolate biscuit in one fail swoop – i.e he shoves it all in at once.  Then there will be your friend’s green top milk, your red top milk because you’re on a diet even though you went to Marks and Spencer and bought a huge bag of crisps, two tubs of mini-chocolate rolls and at least two bags of Haribos.  On top of this, I had four cartons of Aptamil, my friend had a tub of Cow and Gate and outside, tied to our railing, were two beautiful bovines named Rosie and Jim…  It was safe to say that our two bottles of unopened Bud looked a little lost among the litres of calcium.  I almost reached for the Bud at 7am on the first morning after my girl demanded Coco Pops without milk.

What do you mean ‘there are no Buds?’

2.  Your caravan, after an hour, will look like  Nick Junior has spewed up over it.  Being the mothers of the two youngest children, my friend and I chose to share the ‘sensible caravan’ with the ‘party caravan’ being the one that the elder children were to stay in.  However, we had barely unpacked before  we had the dulcet tones of Peppa screaming out at us from a ‘fun’ phonics game, Chase, Marshall and Trevor (I may have made that name up) were ‘guarding’ the settees while Blaze and his Monster Machines lit up our TV.  Dens were being be made in our bedrooms and five children, three of whom were not ours, were screaming and charging up and down the living area.  Amongst the chaos, we happended a glance over to the ‘party caravan’ to be greeted by a serene image of our friend lifting a glass of Rose delicately to her lips and turning the page in a book.

Hmmm, you’re not my child!

3. The entertainment will be provided by Timmy Mallet’s Grandsons.  Barmston Beach is not on quite a grand a scale as Primrose Valley, which suited us just fine.  As the evening drew in, a gust of ice cold wind blew us into the entertainment centre and we bought our lagers and seated ourselves front stage and centre.  Together, my friends and I sat poised, savouring the drinks in front of us had not been pulled from a cow’s udders and watched children dashed, jumped and skidded along the empty dance floor.  Just as we were about to enjoy our first taste of alcohol, two young bespectacled lads, one dressed all in yellow, one all in red, both sporting bandanas raced onto the stage and performed the most awesome dance that I have ever seen to a small bunch of four year olds who now resembled deer in the headlights.

My little Dude was loving it!

4.  The only drinking game you’re going to play will involve you competing for and winning a mug.  Timmy Mallet’s grandsons had an array of games planned for our cherubs and in turn, each child was invited on stage to take part in a competition of some sort.  As my girl was leaving the stage, she was asked to point out her Mum and so she picked me out.  Now, because I had had a lager, I whooped and insanely cool ‘whoop’.  Myself and an equally lucky Dad had been chosen and we were handed a beach towel each and told we had to cross from one side of the dance floor to the other side by scooching along on our bums.  I saw this as the perfect opportunity for a little bit of bum busting cardio and suddenly became very competitive.  With my head down, I shuffled across the dance floor using my bum and I totally won.  My impressive arse skidding won me a mug, however, much to my disappointment, the dad was presented with one two as Timmy Mallet’s grandsons deemed it a draw.  It wasn’t a draw and two people wearing glasses should have been able to see that clearly.  I am not bitter…

‘Where’s your Mum?’ ‘Over there hiding behind that chair.’

Cardio!

5. The only ride you’re going to enjoy is a kids’ one.  Yes, on the Sunday, we departed our complex and headed for the bright lights of Bridlington.  After following numerous diversions, we arrived in convoy at the Bridlington sea front.  Much to my absolute delight, we went to sit on a cold and blustery beach and watched our children battle against the elements and build and destroy sandcastles.  The majority of my time on the beach was spent berating myself for having dressed my girl in tights and dungarees, chasing after the Dude and stopping him from running into the sea and making sure my hood was pulled tightly over my head all while yelling: “Oooh it’s sooooo cold!” in the hope that my friends would get the gist and suggest we leave.

‘It’s not cold, it’s not cold, it’s not cold…’

‘It’s still not cold, it’s still not cold…’

After half and hour and after JC admitted that the sand had now worked it’s way through her ripped jeans and into her underwear, we admitted defeat and went to eat fish and chips.

Someone was relegated to the children’s table.’

We destroyed a nearby fish shop (as we insisted on having an adults’ table and a children’s table) and when we left to head back to the beach to enjoy the rides, I swear I heard cheers from the other customers as the door slammed shut behind us.  We sold our souls and bought at least a million tokens for the rides.  Unfortunately, some of the children didn’t like the rides so us mums thought we would benefit from the tokens.  I’ll leave you with the video below.


6.  The important thing you will all remember is that a weekend away with your closest friends and your kids is something very special indeed.  Being busy working mums, we rarely get to spend a lot of time together and sometimes you just need to chew the fat with some old friends because it keeps you sane.  Sometimes you just need to laugh until you cry whether it be at your friend’s child telling you that her poos look like snails (I can confirm that they do) or that time when you looked away for a moment at the adventure playground and when you turned back you were greeted with the sight of your friend’s son dangling upside down from a climbing frame swinging back and forth and gathering wood chippings in his hair.

These guys though…

And do you know what really made this trip at success for me?  At night, I was warm.  Toasty in fact.

Where’s Wally’s matching bed socks?

 

I totally won!