The Teaching Mum

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

1 Comment

Jack’s Story – Part Six

Despite setting up a new page for my fictional musings, I thought I would post on here also as I have a larger following.  However, if my other page starts to grow then I will use this site for my parenting and teaching posts.  Thanks for your support and comments as always.

This is part six of Jack’s Story.  I have changed the title to ‘A Test of Wills’.  This is just a working title – I still haven’t decided quite where I am going with it yet!

If you’re interested in the earlier installments, then just click these: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five

Part Five

If a bell rang to signal the end of the lesson, Jack didn’t hear it.  His eyes were still fixated on the boy who was standing in the field opposite his classroom.  Michael hit him on the head with his bag on the way out of the room.

“Come on!” Michael urged.  “Geography next.”

Jack nodded, grabbed his belongings and paced out of the room behind his best friend.  Walking along the crowded corridors suddenly became over bearing for Jack and he found himself struggling to breathe.  Michael was marching off ahead so didn’t notice when Jack stopped and stood back against a wall in order to prevent other pupils from bumping into him.  He took a few deep breaths and realised that he wasn’t going to Geography.  He was going outside.

Minutes passed and as the crowd of pupils dispersed, Jack walked towards the doors that led to the PE changing rooms.  Through those doors was the field that the mysterious boy had been waving from.  From staring out the newcomer, Jack had felt no fear or malice emit from the stranger and so didn’t hesitate when he sneaked into the boys’ empty changing room and outside into onto the school fields.

The crisp spring air was a welcome relief as Jack let go of the breath he didn’t know he had been holding.  Clinging to him like a warm hug, the sun’s rays wrapped themselves around his body and he embraced the feeling they left behind.  Mentally, he could feel knots unwrapping inside his head as thoughts from the previous evening were slowly burnt away by the heat of the morning sun.  Breathing the scent of freshly cut grass, Jack made his way towards the playing fields.

He didn’t know what to find when he reached his destination and in his heart of hearts, Jack didn’t expect to find anything or anyone.  Only he did.  The boy was still standing in the same place as he had been earlier, only now his face was turned towards Jack and he looked to be still smiling.

“Shouldn’t you be in a lesson?” Jack shouted as he walked over to the boy.

The boy didn’t answer.

“Are you new?  Which year are you in?”

Still, there was no reply.

Jack paused then for a moment and checked the phone in his side pocket to check the time.  He didn’t want to be late for his next lesson and yet he couldn’t leave this boy on his own.  What Jack failed to notice was that there was no signal on his phone.  He was out of range.  Should he fall into any trouble now, no one would be able to reach him.

They were standing face to face now and still the boy had not spoken.  An uneasy feeling wormed itself into the pit of Jack’s stomach and slowly and slightly pulled at his insides.  Something wasn’t right.

But, then he looked up and stared into the boy’s eyes.

They were amiable eyes, yes, amiable, definitely.  There was a sparkle to them as if they were greeting a long lost friend or relative.  Flecked with bright blue, the eyes smiled at Jack.  The boy raised an eyebrow while at the same time raising a hand towards him.

“Hello,” he said in a surprisingly confident manner.  My name is William…erm Will, actually.  You must be Jack.”

What came next felt like a blow to the stomach as Jack staggered backwards slightly in shock.  It was his turn to remain silent.

“I’ve been waiting here for you all morning,” Will explained as if it was the most ordinary thing in the world to be stood alone on an empty school playing field.  “You need to come with me now. We have much to do.”

Jack found the voice he had lost.

“You know my name,” it wasn’t a question.  “I didn’t tell you my name.”

Panic set in.

“Is this a joke?  Has Michael set you up to this?”

Will shook his head and gestured with him arm.

“You need to come with me now,” the boy urged.  “It’s a matter of life and death.”

Afterwards, Jack would claim that it was the word ‘death’ that made him make the rash decision he did.  He was too afraid to find out whose death it might mean.

Will didn’t wait for a response.  He simply turned and walked up towards some high fencing that led to a nearby wood.  Jack followed, obediently.

Upon reaching the metal fence, Jack noticed that a part of it had been ripped away from the earth and that, when pulled up, it would be large enough for a young person to climb through.  Without question and without thought, Jack followed Will through the hole in the fence and together they walked onwards towards the wood.  The deeper they ventured, the darker it became and still Jack felt no panic, no fear and no sense of regret that he was missing Geography.  He was searching for valid excuses to use with his teacher tomorrow, when the two boys stumbled upon a huge oak tree.  With hanging branches, it embraced them and welcomed them into its midst for this was precisely the destination they were heading.  Will gestured for Jack to come closer towards the tree’s darkened bark and when he did, he noticed another hole.  Once again, this was large enough to crawl through.  Will crouched down and crawled towards the hole.  Instinctively, Jack followed.  He bent down and placed his hands on the ground underneath him; it felt warm and dry as the soil coiled itself through his fingers.  He felt the mud seep into the knees of his school trousers as he passed under and inside the hole.  He was crawling into the tree itself.  Darkness engulfed him as he realised he was wholly inside the tree’s bark.  How was it possible?  It wasn’t.  And still he crawled through blackness following Will’s laboured breathing.  Time passed.  Was it a minute?  Was it two?  Suddenly, Jack’s eyes adjusted to the dark and he could make out faint outlines on the wall of the bark next to him.  Strange markings had been etched inside the bark.  It was impossible to make out what the marks were, but it dawned on Jack that the reason he could see them was because light was seeping in somewhere.  They were crawling towards the light.  The longer and longer he crawled, the more the light grew.  He could now see his hands in front of him pressing on the dirt beneath.  He could see the outline of Will’s shoes as they rhythmically moved forwards.  Slowly, the light grew and grew and Jack noticed that it was a hazy light – not bright like the sun – but luminescent and cold like the moon.  Up ahead, Jack noticed that Will had vanished and just before panic could consume him, he realised that there was nothing over head anymore – just open space.  Jack stood.  Uncoiled and at full height, Jack looked above him and gasped in astonishment.  A blanket of stars covered the night sky and the beacon that looked to be leading those stars was the most breathtaking sight Jack had ever seen: the moon.  The monumental sphere hung low in the glittering sky.  Jack almost reached up to touch it when all of a sudden, for the first time since entering the bark of the tree, Will spoke.

“Do you want an adventure, Jack?”

Glancing up again at the moon, Jack felt the weight of his worries slip way.  He looked at Will then directly and with intent.  He nodded, grinning.





An Open Letter to My Year 11 Form Group

My final maternity leave was over and I was returning to work.

Before announcing my pregnancy, I had been told that I was going to be a Year 7 form tutor – something I had never been despite being a teacher for almost ten years.

I then fell pregnant and subsequently had my form taken away from me before they had even started school.  It was understandable though.

I expected to be given a new Year 7 form when I returned to work the following year but I didn’t.  I got you.

You were given to me as you were entering Year 10 because your form tutor was switching to part-time.

I didn’t want you, not at first.

No, I wanted a Year 7 form.  I wanted the cute eleven year olds who spend their first few weeks in a new school looking like rabbits in the headlights of a fast moving car.  You know the type I mean – the sweet, innocent ones – you were them one once.

Did I want a form filled with hormonal fourteen year olds about to embark on their GCSE years – the first year who would be sitting their English and Maths 1 – 9 exams? No, I didn’t, not really.

Then I met you!  All doubts I had about your acceptance of me, your potential teenage behaviour, your possible negative attitudes were vanquished almost instantly. Please believe me when I tell that I don’t want you to leave in two weeks.

You’re funny, you’re intelligent, you have a strong work ethic, you’re beautiful, you’re stubborn, you’re kind, you’re sarcastic, you’re polite and you always have my back.    Sometimes you’re over whelmed and over worked.  Sometimes you’re upset or even heartbroken.  More often than not, you finish your homework in my classroom.  Sometimes you’re lazy and you just want to give up.  I have lost some of you along the way due to your behaviour and attitude (not towards me – never towards me).  If only you had talked to those members of staff as you had talked to me and you might still be sitting in my classroom.  I have spoken to your parents and carers and learnt about what you love, hate and fear about school and your upcoming exams.  I have learnt about your health issues and have been in a room with your parents as they have broken down in tears because they just don’t know what to do with you.  I have shouted at you for not getting enough hours sleep, I have scolded you for driving around on a ‘ped’ because I don’t think you’re old enough. I have snatched Coca-Cola off you because you can’t drink it as you’re diabetic.  I have listened and empathised as you, rightfully, have had a little moan about your lack of sleep due to a new baby in the house.  I have monitored and checked your safety because I thought you were going out with someone who was too old for you.  I have bugged you to apply for Head Boy and Head Girl and I have been disappointed in you when you didn’t apply for Prefect when you so thoroughly deserved it.  I have tried to talk to you about Star Wars because I know you love it so much.  I have been immensely proud of you when you have won certificates and prizes in assembly even though you hate getting up and accepting them.

And what have you given me in return?

Every morning, as I dash in from the school run, you greet me with an ‘ey up Miss’ as I rush in, tell you I am tired, complain about either the traffic, my children, my partner and my complete inability to be a functioning working adult.  You take the chairs down from all my tables and open the windows to let some fresh air in.  You offer me sweets, drinks and chocolates.  You lend me pens when I can’t find one.  You reluctantly go pick up my photocopying because I have forgotten to collect it again.  You tell your Head of Year that your planner is all signed and up to date when I may have forgotten to sign it every now and again.  And every morning, every single morning as you leave my room, you tell me to have a nice day.

You are a diverse bunch and I know you’re not all friends with one another but I know you’re not not friends either.  You laugh at one another and I hear quips being passed through the room but I have never seen any sign of malice in anyone of you.  Last year, a boy, who spoke no English whatsoever, joined our form.  He had travelled from Africa.  He was alone and without his family and you made him feel so welcome.  I imagine he was apprehensive and scared and yet within days he appeared so happy and I have never seen him without a smile on his face.  I could not have been more proud of the boy who became his ‘buddy’ for those first few months as he was settling into his new school, his new surroundings and his new country.

Enough adulation from me for the moment.

Let’s get down to the business end of things.  Excuse me while I put on my English Teacher hat.

You are the first year to take the new English and Mathematics 1 – 9 GCSEs and I feel for you, I really do.  I was angry at the new changes.  I was angry that a corrupt, rich, privately educated man in the current government decided to scrap the way we used to test English Language and Literature.  I still can’t get my head around that you’re not going to achieve As, Bs and Cs at the end of it all. The fact that there is no longer any coursework makes me so desperately sad.  Not necessarily for the high achievers among you but for the ones who struggle with exams and writing quickly and accurately under timed conditions.  Coursework would have meant that, no matter what, you would have achieved a grade.  Unfortunately, without coursework it means that some of you won’t.  Yes, I will admit it, I think you have been dealt a tough hand and with English and Mathematics teachers learning the new exam specifications literally as they teach, it has been a steep learning curve for all of us.  I have had to learn how to teach new texts, new poems and new ways of critically analysing texts (Yes, I mean you EDEXEL ‘evaluate’ question) and sometimes it may have shown in my lessons despite my preparation and planning.

However, (if we are still speaking in card game metaphors) you have been dealt an amazing hand when it comes to the school you are in.  Never in my teaching years have I ever seen any year group be given as much support as you have (perhaps that’s because I have seen it as a form tutor for the first time.)  As an English Department, we have pushed you and pulled you in every way possible.  We have given you mock after mock after mock.  You have attended weekly boosters for two years.  You receive weekly homework tasks and personalised booklets to complete.  You have a designated room to study in until 5pm every evening and my classroom is always open to you.  I know some of you hate this amount of work and pressure and yet I also know some of you relish in it and need it.  I fear that when it gets to 6pm on an evening and you’re writing another descriptive piece of writing about a beach, you despise everyone of us with a passion but please know this, it’s because we care.  It may appear clichéd but with all our hearts we want you to pass these exams.  As teachers teaching a brand new exam, we don’t know grade boundaries yet; we have no previous data to rely on.  The only thing we can do is give you enough ammunition to walk into that sports’ hall and kick the ass out of these exams.

Also, as a teacher of a core subject, it is easy to become wrapped up in just English.  During form time, I yap at you about the language and structure question and I complain to you about the fact that you have to get your timings right in your exam (a mark a minute – come on, how is that even possible?) and what do I forget?  I forget that you’re probably getting this from at least eight other subjects too!

It’s okay to feel overwhelmed by it all but its not okay to feel stressed, panicked and fearing that if you don’t pass these GCSEs then your future is in tatters.  It isn’t.  Yes, these exams are important but they don’t define you and won’t influence the adult you are to become.  Achieving a 9 or an A* in one or more of your GCSEs won’t necessarily get you to where you want to be in life.  Sure, your exam results will help (my GCSEs still appear on my CV) but kindness, compassion, acceptance, patience, love, friendship, support, humility and empathy are the skills that are essential for reaching your end goal.  And you, Year 11, already have those skills.

I don’t claim to know much (unless it’s about ‘Game of Thrones’ or Green Day) but what I do know is that there is a big wide world out there that’s yours for the taking, if you want it.  Don’t bury your head in the sand and pretend that these exams aren’t happening – they are.  At the same time, don’t feel like you can’t ask for support from anyone, you can.  You’re our future.  You can change the whole landscape of the world if you want to (or you can just grow up to be decent human beings – that’s fine too) and we need you happy, healthy, inspired and prepared to take on whatever life has to throw at you.

If you keep being who you are, then I am certain that the world is in good hands. 

Stay safe and I will miss you.

Clearly not a member of my form but a child I like to think I teach and influence nonetheless.

1 Comment

Motherhood: Destination Unknown

In my early years of teaching, I was very lucky to find myself working with a lovely young lady by the name of Stef.  Stef and I both eventually gained new jobs at different schools.  In the last five years, she has excelled in her profession, whereas I got knocked up – twice.  However, in June Stef is expecting her first baby.  We don’t see each other very often anymore because as you well know, life gets in the way.  But what I do know about Stef is that she is well known for her random acts of kindness.  Earlier this week, we had a little Whats App conversation about her impending motherhood and, as everyone does, she has a few worries about birth, feeding and what it’s like to be the mother of a new born. Therefore, this, my dear, is my random act of kindness to you.

No one else but yourself can prepare you for the birth of your child.  People can guide you and coach you, but no one knows your body, your physical and emotional state as well as you do.

Don’t think you’re not prepared.  Believe me, your body is prepared – don’t underestimate it.

Your birth will be unique to you and you simply have to listen to what your body is telling you.  This is what mine told me on the morning of the 29th October 2011 when I was 37 weeks and a day pregnant with my daughter:

My body, at 7am, told me I needed a wee.

“I think I have had ‘the show’,” I told Teaching Dad as I climbed back into bed for more sleep.

“What’s that?” he said.

“Erm, it’s a bit minging, but it’s also a sign to say that the baby might come soon,”

That’s when I felt it.  Something was about to explode and I needed a wee again.  I waddled to the loo and my waters broke just as I made it to the toilet.

“I think my waters have broken,” I called from the bathroom.

“Are you sure you haven’t just p*ssed yourself?” was the response.

I didn’t answer because I was really giddy.  I wasn’t frightened – I was excited.  I had packed my hospital bag a few days before and was good to go.  I thought I was prepared, but then again I had in my bag a pack of Bodyform sanitary towels.  So yes, my body was ready, but my common sense wasn’t!

Off to the hospital we went and once we arrived we were asked to wait.  My waters kept breaking over and over again, but I wasn’t in any pain and I decided to display this fact by standing and swinging my legs backwards and forwards one after the other. By the time the midwife arrived, my trousers were soaked through to my skin and I was slightly out of breath from trying to prove to my partner that being in labour was a piece of cake.

The midwife had clearly been moved by my performance as she sent us home.

She made a mistake.

She shouldn’t have sent me home and perhaps I should have been more assertive.  As soon as we stepped through the door, I started to feel a bit of pain and within half an hour, I was bent double.

We hotfooted it back to the hospital and was placed back on a bed where I was told not to push because I was still fully clothed.  I pushed anyway because when your body needs to push, you obey.

Forty-five minutes later, my daughter was born.

My Baby Girl

Hours passed and we remained in the birthing room as a new little family; it was lovely.  However, the time soon came for Teaching Dad to return home alone as my daughter and I were required to stay overnight.  Being left on your own in a hospital bed with your new born child can be quite daunting.  I was in a ward with three other women, all of whom had their curtains drawn tightly around their beds.  I felt incredibly alone and yet incredibly happy and in this oxymoronic state, I didn’t quite know what to do with myself.  I tried to sleep, but when it didn’t come, I simply waited for my girl to wake.  She didn’t feed after she was born, so she would be hungry.

Finally, she began to cry and the midwives came and tried to help me breastfeed, but I just couldn’t do it.  It wasn’t a complete failure; she managed to latch on for a few minutes on one side.  The anti-natal classes had lied to me.  This didn’t feel natural.  It felt uncomfortable and overwhelming, especially as I had two midwives grabbing me and contorting my boobs into ridiculous shapes in order for them to fit into the tiny mouth of a newborn.  Throughout this comedy of errors, I remained mostly silent when really I should have spoken up and told them that right there, in that moment, it wasn’t working for us and was there anything else we could try?  However, I just nodded and agreed with everything that I was told to do because I didn’t know any better.

Don’t be afraid to admit that you feel over-whelmed.  It doesn’t matter that you don’t know what to do right away.  You’ll get it.  We did, eventually.

I found breast-feeding my daughter very difficult in the first few weeks; it was also very lonely at times.  Pumping ‘liquid gold’ at 3am in the morning on an electric breast pump with nothing but the whirring sound of the machine can do that to you.  This situation I found myself in was my own doing.  I had told the midwives I wanted to breastfeed and they took this to mean that I wasn’t willing to try anything else.  Not true.  I would have tried anything, but how were they to know this if I didn’t speak up?  On my daughter’s first night on earth, she barely ate and the second night was pretty much the same as she slept for six hours without waking.  Piece of cake this mummying lark, I thought as I grabbed a few hours of sleep myself .  However, by the morning, I was soon told that this was because she was weak.  Throughout the night, I had heard other women struggling to feed and heard them being offered formula, but I was never asked.  I was too damn polite because I knew midwives were always so busy.

Eventually, formula was ‘forced’ upon us and I took it with open arms. Lo and behold, my daughter started drinking and once she found a bit of strength, she could latch on – but only to one boob.

In the weeks that followed, I had visits from some ladies who went by the name of ‘Little Angels’.  ‘Little Pains in the Ass’ would have been my name for them, but they were only trying to do their job, which was asking me to strip in my living room where they could grip my boobs and wrestle them into my daughter’s mouth.  I know they were meaning well, but I found it all achingly uncomfortable and by the end of the third week, I found myself ignoring their calls.

It all worked out, but for about four weeks it felt like torture – both physically and emotionally.  Teaching Dad didn’t really offer much support.  He had seen me shoot a baby out in less than an hour and he didn’t understand how breast-feeding could hurt more – but it did.  After a few fraught late night arguments about him thinking I was being over dramatic about the pain and me waking him to make formula (only for me to not use it and use my one raw breast because the guilt I felt at the thought of using formula was crippling), we found that we were balancing our relationship on a fine line and it was about to break.  Before this could happen though, we agreed to combination feed with both breast and formula and for six months that’s what we did and it worked.  It just took a turbulent few weeks for us to get there.

You want your baby to be happy and healthy and your baby needs you to be happy and healthy.  Fed is best – whether it be from a boob or bottle.

Things were a little different with my son.  I was a little older, a little wiser perhaps?

We had chosen the local mid-wife led unit for my birth and on the morning of the birth (one day before his due date) I had downed two cups of raspberry leaf tea and eaten a full pineapple because no way was this little blighter go over due, not when my last baby was only 6lb 10oz.  I wasn’t mentally prepared for anything much bigger emerging from down there.

I had started with a small back ache so decided to go for a walk.  And by walk, I mean drive in the car.  I called in at my local Natwest Bank and as I was standing in the queue wearing my ‘bang on trend’ black maternity leggings, I could feel water slowly creeping down my leg.  My waters were breaking right there in the bank.  Honestly, my first thoughts were not those of panic.  I was, once again, excited as, if everything went according to plan, by the end of the day our family would be complete.  Without any fuss, I paid in my money and left a trail of water behind me as I returned to the car, called Teaching Dad and drove home.

When we arrived at the mid-wife led unit, contractions were pulsing through me every few minutes.

“We might send you home for an hour,” my midwife said.

“You won’t,” I said. “Not again.  I’ll wait.  Can I get a cup of tea, please?”

There was no time for tea.  There was almost no time for her to get her surgical gloves on.

“Hang on a minute,” she cried as I began to push.

Twenty minutes later, my boy was born.

My Little Dude!

I was a bit more assertive that time around.  I never got my cuppa though, but I got a son, so I guess that will suffice.

With regards to feeding, this time I had come prepared.  I had bought a new born starter pack that came with tiny bottles of formula.  If my baby wouldn’t feed, then one of those bottles was going straight in his mouth.  I told the midwife this and she understood.

There must be something about boys and boobs though because no sooner was he placed on my chest on the evening of the 7th January 2015, he latched on and didn’t stop feeding until March 2016!  That was not in the plan!

I spent many a stressful night thinking about that.  Would people think I was weird for feeding him for so long?  How on earth would I ever get him to stop?  Would my boobs ever look like they did back in 2011?  But, there has to come a time when you stop stressing over small worries such as this and that time usually comes at 2.53am when you have woken for the millionth time to feed your baby.  By this time, you feel emotionally and physically drained and the only thing to do is to put the baby in your bed, lay down and snuggle alongside them.  Nuzzle in next to their head and take a deep breath inwards because their warm scent is addictive.

I suppose what I am trying to tell you is to trust your own body and listen to its needs and the rest will work out for itself.  Everyone around you on the day and in the weeks and months that follow will always have your best interests at heart, but no one knows what your heart wants more than you and that little life inside of you that has been listening to it beat with excitement for the last eight months.

You’re going to be a great Momma Bear! x



Modern Life is Rubbish.

Born in January 1981, I was the epitome of the ‘eighties child’: white knee socks, a floral dress and a bowl cut or dirty knees, scraped hands and messy hair – there was no in-between.  My childhood was an extremely happy one, even more so when I met my best friends, Jenny and Linsey. United by the fact that we were, all three of us, only children and lived on a busy road away from the other children in our class, meant that we were each other’s siblings and became inseparable for those indispensable primary school years. My memories are filled with long summer evenings having water balloon fights, chasing each other ‘around the block’ on our bikes (Linsey always won because she had a mountain bike, which destroyed my racer bike and Jenny, well Jenny, she’d already climbed off her BMX half way around the circuit), or we would be zooming up and down my steep driveway on our skateboards, or selling broken bric-a-brac crap at the end of Jenny’s drive and genuinely being down right annoying to the loved up teenage couple who would meet on a wooden bench opposite my house and kiss like their lives depended on it.  Well, that’s how we remember it anyway.  We would play outside for hours and hours long into the twilight, venturing inside only for bathroom breaks and ice-pops.

Together we devised a brilliant – albeit lethal – game of ‘The Crystal Maze’ in my parent’s garage with my dad’s plumbing tools. The ‘crystal’ was often a large nail placed precariously on top of some ladders or in and amongst his levellers, screw-drivers and wrenches. Two of us would ‘create’ a task to complete (it often required one of us jumping in and out of ladder rungs or climbing on a decorating table) and if we didn’t acquire the ‘crystal’ in time then we would be ‘locked’ in the garage for twenty minutes whilst the other two buggered off to get another ice pop.

There were no ‘selfies’, no filters that made everything brighter and more pleasant to gaze at, no social media to boast on, no hash tags and certainly no #squadgoals.

Yep. I had a perm at nine.

It was a great time to be a child.

Netball in the early 90s. Linsey is the GD at the back. She was and still is notoriously camera shy. Me? Well, just look for the big fringe!

What made it so great was the contribution my parents made to, not only my happiness, but to my friends’ happiness, and also to the collective safety of us all.  They kept us at ‘arm’s length’ as it were.  However, I don’t mean this in the negative sense of the phrase.   We thought we were being let loose and running wild, but they could always see us either in a back garden, on a drive way or across the road over on the grass.  I was given strict curfews and I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere alone.  I can recall feeling embarrassed in my ‘tween’ years when I was given permission to go and ‘hang’ out in my local park, but only if I was home for 7pm – hours before it grew dark.  However, curfews and rules were respected and as I grew older and developed a penchant for rock music, I was given a little more freedom – freedom with invisible boundary lines, that is.

Gotta love a bowl cut.

My parents ‘parented’ me. They offered me compromises which gave me the independence to be my own person. They allowed me to go to rock concerts at the Town and Country Club in Leeds if they could drop me off and pick me up. They didn’t allow me go to night clubs in Wakefield.  They let me go shopping in Leeds on the bus with friends if I got myself a part-time job.  My mum even agreed to me ‘getting inked’ when I turned seventeen (those who know me, know I both love and hate my Green Day tattoo in equal measures) if I promised not to get it on my arm, ever get another one or dye my hair blue.  So I didn’t.

Yes, they ‘parented’ me. They didn’t over parent me.

Despite working full-time in a job that ensures I also spend at least one day of the weekend marking and planning lessons, I fear I over parent my children.  And by over-parenting, I do not mean that I spend too much time with them.  I don’t.  During the week, I don’t spend enough time with them at all and when I am reunited with them after work, I worry I am never truly in the moment as there are always breakfast dishes to wash, dirty clothes to wash, clean clothes to hang out and just general tidying up to be done after my two little whirlwinds have stormed the house. I very much doubt I am alone in feeling this way and it’s these worries – among others – why I think I am ‘over parenting’.  I don’t want the modern world to tarnish them and yet I want them have the same experiences I did when I was growing up; I want them to believe that they can achieve anything they want in life, but my desire to keep them safe and close can be quite overwhelming to them, myself and others.

Four years ago, we took the bigger mortgage on the nicer house on the private road and crippled ourselves financially in order that our children would live on a very quiet street because we want to keep them safe from speeding vehicles and passing strangers. We soon found that most of the people living on our street bought their houses off plan back in 1967, meaning that my son and daughter have no one to throw water balloons at and no one to race around the block with.

Nowadays, I have found that play dates are arranged with parents days in advance. In 1987, if I wanted to go play with Jenny, I would bound out of the house and run up the street to her house (with my mum patiently waiting for me at the bottom of our drive), I wouldn’t even knock on her door, I would just go right in and ask if she was ‘playing out’. These days, my house doors are always locked and if a youngster happened to knock on my door to ask if my daughter was ‘playing out’. I would ask them if their parents knew if they were out at this time alone, whether this little rendezvous had been pre-arranged and had I missed a note in her school bag?  I would probably also try to find the parents on Facebook just to, you know, check.

Erm, was this pre-arranged?

Prearranged playdates lead me nicely onto soft-play.  A place where I over parent that much, I take the joy out of going.  I visited one at Christmas and panic mode set in at least four times when I couldn’t see my two year old.  Other parents were sitting and enjoying a cup of coffee and a piece of cake while I was hanging from monkey bars and scaling cargo nets only to find that my son was seated happily in a ball pool eating someone else’s sock.  Only last week Jenny had to turn my chair away from the soft play area just to keep me from running in after my son, who could manoeuvre himself around the place like a professional after two minutes. But, there is always that niggling feeling of what if he fell off and landed funny on his neck or back?  What if another adult sneaked in and realised that they wanted a snotty nosed little boy for their own?  What if my son saw an open door and just made a run for it?

The thought of it all makes my stomach turn.

Sleeping has always been a bone of contention in our house.  From the moment we had our daughter over five years ago, it was decided for me that we wouldn’t allow her to ‘cry it out’.  So we co-slept.  We found that in order to save our own relationship (because 3am arguments over allowing your child to cry or not are heart-wrenching) and for our own sanity, our daughter would sleep in-between us.  Then our son came along three years later.

My son and I have co-slept for two years.  It has been a labour of love, but it has been a strain on the relationship I have with my partner.  The screaming arguments didn’t occur this time around as the silent pact was made that he would not ‘cry it out’.  However, now we’re like ships that pass in the night.  This, I feel, is over parenting at its best or at its worse, if you like. My children can’t put themselves to bed; it’s ridiculous and I am ashamed of myself.  My parents didn’t lay with me at five years old until I fell asleep and if I tried to sneak in between them in the night, I was swiftly deposited back into my own room.  However, there is something so wonderful and pleasing in knowing that I can pacify and soothe my children with only a kiss and a cuddle and watching your two year old slip peacefully back into the Land of Nod is something else, it really is.

My over parenting will mean that my children quickly learn that they are loved and cherished and that their parents will do everything in their powers to keep them protected.

But, what about their independence and their spirit?  They won’t find them laying next to their old mum lulling them back to sleep.

Daily, I tell my daughter that she can be whoever and whatever she wants to be, but what if I hold her back?  What if I just can’t bear to let her go?  We discuss the world and she knows that there are children out there, both near and a far, who would give anything to live in a nice, stable family like her own.

Right now, her world is perfect and yet she knows THE world is far from perfect.

I am going to have to try to learn to keep my children at an ‘arm’s length’ and ensure that those invisible boundaries are safely in place.  Because, there is nothing like experiencing childhood looking down from the tops of trees with dirty knees.

Life is better experienced when it’s in full colour and unfiltered, don’t you agree?

Hashtag No Filter…

Leave a comment

Next Time, Say NO to the Bike Ride.

Sunday began at 6am as I was woken simultaneously to church bells ringing and my two year old son sticking his fingers in my eyes whilst singing ‘Head Shoulders Knees and Toes’. ‘And so it begins’ I thought to myself as I was silently cursing the fact that I had told Teaching Dad that, yes, he was allowed to go out on his bike with his mates at 7.30am.

Ah, 7.30am. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that he goes out early, so he is home early to spend the rest of the day with his family. Well, you’d be wrong because as I write this now, at 6.05pm, the bugger still isn’t home.

But, at 6.30am Teaching Dad awoke and took the kids downstairs so I could go back to sleep for an hour. A whole hour! Thank you very much. I am wondering, did your halo slip a little while on your 11 hour bike ride?

At 8.30am I attempted to wash up the breakfast cutlery, but was unfortunately accosted by a five year old asking for ‘chicken crispies’. “It’s 8.30 in the morning”, I told her, but to no avail. Two bowls of ‘crispies’ later (because heaven forbid one child has something the other doesn’t) and it was time for me to wash my hair – the once weekly wash that tames my mane.

I began to run the bath around the same time that I started putting last night’s ironing away. I then decided to sort out the washing in the dryer and pair the socks.

We are clearly harbouring a sock munching monster in our house because what felt like an hour later, I was still pairing them and the bath, still running, had been long since forgotten. By the time I lowered myself into the water, it may have well have been the inner circle of hell because my skin pinked and steam filled the room. Adding to the painful bath was the fact that my two own little devils were standing over me watching and pointing out my numerous flaws as I washed and shampooed my hair. There is something so very disconcerting about your children standing over your bath even when Mr Matey bumbles are strategically placed over body parts and that Green Day tattoo on your stomach you stupidly got aged 17.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love my ridiculous tattoo, I just don’t want my daughter to get one in twelve years time.

At 10am the clouds parted and the heavens must have heard my whines as Granddad knocked on the door and took his beloved grandchildren for two hours whilst leaving me to clean the house and mark my Y9 assessments.

The house was silent. I breathed in and out, in and out. It was time to crack on with some work…

I put the TV on.

And made myself a cuppa.

And ate two chocolate biscuits.

Only then did the guilt kick in and I just couldn’t concentrate on the dodgy horror I had downloaded.

The niggling feeling wouldn’t leave me alone.  How dare I want some time to myself!  Therefore, the bathroom got cleaned, a few books were marked and bread was taken out of the freezer in preparation for lunch.  Despite being alone for over two hours, my one true companion – the TV – was only watched for twenty minutes.

Mum guilt + Teacher guilt = it’s a b*tch!

By 12.45, my children were returned to me and it was lunch time.

“I want a carrot sandwich!” my daughter demanded.
“Carrot?” I asked as I eyed up last night’s open bottle of Prosecco in the fridge. Would it be frowned upon to have a tipple at 1pm on a Sunday? I reached in for the bottle. “I don’t think people tend to eat carrot sandwiches. Is ham okay?”

She told me that it was. The sandwich was made along with tomatoes, crisps and, of course, carrots on the side. She ate absolutely everything but the sandwich. My son? Oh, he guzzled his sandwich like there was no tomorrow. In fact, he ran around the living room aiming chewed up pieces of ham and Warburton’s Toastie at the wall, at Chase and Ryder on the TV, at his sister and in my hand.

Damn it. I could have eaten that. I stupidly opted for scrambled egg because I had noticed we had two full egg cartons that expired in two days and as you can see by the way I parent my children, we don’t like to waste food. Once cooked however, the scrambled egg looked like it was floating in its own pool of urine, so I didn’t eat it.

Mmmm, lunch looks nice…

The food, almost in its entirety, was returned to the kitchen. Plates were set down next to the bottle of Prosecco that was warming nicely by the fish tank. I dared to give it a second glance before my daughter shouted to tell me that her brother had spilt Fanta all over the Sky box.  Oh dear God, not the Sky box. Without that, I am nothing.

The Fanta was wiped up, the Sky box was safe.  What next?  Entertain my ankle biters?  Unfortunately, no.  The laptop was opened, placed on the table in the room and I began creating some poetry resources for the department.

“Chocolate egg?”


*type, type, type*


“Nope.” *type, ignore tantrum, type, type*

“Come up?”

Goddamnit! Why is he so gosh darn cute? I lifted my boy up for a cuddle and he licked my cheek. He then stuck out his tongue and stuck it in my mouth that was wide open in sheer disgust at the fact that he had licked my cheek.

Gagging, I stood up and ran to the kitchen.

The 1pm bottle of Prosecco was still blocking the fish’s view of the microwave and Mr Potatohead’s missing arm, so I placed it back in the fridge making a mental note to treat myself to a glass after finishing my work.

I dashed back into the living room with a packet of chocolate eggs.

“Here! Take them all!” I said raining mini Kinder eggs onto my boy.”

*Type, type, type.*

Anything for a quiet life whilst I work. Admit that you love the Ugg slippers!

Suddenly, a crash sounded over by the TV and there was my daughter on the floor crying and holding her mouth. As if the sky was falling, she sprinted to me, jumped over her brother, who was knee deep in chocolate, landed on my knee and shoved her gums in my face.

“Is it geeebing?” she asked pulling down on her lip.

“Yes, there’s a little blood, but it’s fine.”

“Will it heel? Will it heel?” she asked through floods of tears.

“Yes, of course it will,” I assured her.

She jumped off me then, waded her way through Kinder chocolate and a river of five year old’s tears before clambering up on the sofa to look in the mirror.

“It’s heeled!” she rejoiced.


She fell off the sofa.

“I’m okay!” she proclaimed.

Thank the Lord.

*Type, type, type.*

Finally, at 4.50pm I finished my work and my phone, that had been blasting out ‘Dave and Ava’ tunes to nobody in particular for the last hour, dinged and it was Teaching Dad telling me that he’d be home in an hour.


I would have to make dinner.

Out came the bottle of chilled Prosecco again and I felt much better about drinking it at 5pm as opposed to 1pm. Nine chicken nuggets, McCain oven chips and a Thai Green Curry (a microwave one from Tesco) later and I was just about to pour the Prosecco when…

“Daddy’s home!!” they shouted in unison.

Jumping up from their seats (well, the boy jumped up from his booster seat, clambered onto the table, jumped onto me and used me like a fire pole) and running towards the window, my children were chanting ‘Daddy!, Daddy!, Daddy!’  I opened the outside door and dazzling sunlight came spilling inside; it was glorious. It was also the only time I had stepped outside all day. A regular habit of mine, unfortunately, on a Sunday. No wonder I am on prescribed vitamin D tablets. All work and no play makes Teaching Mum a pale, washed out, knackered and useless individual.

Who is Mummy again?

Daddy had left the house over ten hours ago. In that time I had cooked, cleaned, worked, had my face licked, changed nappies, wiped bums, washed up, stared longingly at Prosecco and the children were circling around Daddy like he was some God sent down from heaven on a muddy mountain bike.

“Go run the bath!” he shouted as his children smothered his face with kisses and a few random licks from the boy.

Did he just give me a job to do?

I told him no.  No way on earth was I doing anything else.  However, then he agreed to put both children to bed (but only if I bathed them) and I wasn’t going to turn that offer down. After all, I had a dodgy horror film to finish.

Before running the bath, I grabbed my full glass of luke warm Prosecco and headed upstairs.

Ten minutes later and I was happily enjoying the little tipple whilst watching the kids playing in the bath.

“You’re drinking wine while the kids are in the bath? That doesn’t set a good example, does it.”

Oh, on your bike, son. Get on your bleedin’ bike!”

We all went a bit mad without Daddy. Well, I just went mad at him…

Leave a comment

Guest Post: The Wash Basket

This post was not written by me.  I wish I had written it because I think it’s great.  I am not going to give too much away about it because I really want you to read it and appreciate it as I did when I read it at 6am this morning.  I was feeling a little sorry for myself as I was, as usual, still tired from multiple get ups in the night.  This post puts life into perspective, perfectly.

Written by a wonderful woman I feel privileged to have met upon a netball court a few years ago, this lady is a young, beautiful Mummy who loves her daughter fiercely. Currently pregnant with her second child, my friend is thinking about dipping her toe into writing and, in my opinion, I think she should just dive right in because she’s bloody brilliant. Funny, witty, heart-breaking and with a life-affirming lesson, here is: The Wash Basket.

I groaned this morning as I looked over and saw my wash basket overflowing;

Knowing full well it would have to stay put and just continue growing.

Daddy will be home from London today, a relief after three days of stress.

He’d double the already buckling load and I’d probably berate him for the mess.

That is where my poetry skills end. I was always a bit sh*t at waxing lyrical. God help me if I were to ever encounter being thrown into a ‘rap battle’ – I’m more Green Mile than 8 Mile.

Today, I woke up and I didn’t count my blessings. Forgive me. I woke to the 1st Lady peering over my face in a psychotic pox-covered pose to inform me she had ‘tiddled the bed’ but could I sort it out quickly as she ‘definitely needed more sleep’. First time in about five years, so i put it down to the medicine making her drowsy. No dramas sweet child, let me sort that for you.

As we were all settled back down for a few more Zzzs, the second child decided it was time for Body Pump Xtreme addition. No point me trying to sleep. Literally I may as well lay on a bed of nettles and have a three piece Mexican Mariachi Trio (complete with tasseled sombreros) stand by my bed every time my eyes closed for longer than a blink.

I got up and realised we had barely any food in because my useless hubby hadn’t gotten round to the food shop on the Sunday before he left for London with work on Monday. Inconsiderate a*sehole – he obviously didn’t care I’d have to charter that magical flying unicorn I use for transport after Steve (the bastard) failed me on my test (still bitter) and I still haven’t found my balls to re-take it. *Note to self* – dig out my girl testicles and dust them the f*ck off.

Some other annoying sh*t happened as I trudged through the morning: I was sick, hungry, my bedroom drawer snapped as I attempted to stuff just one more teeny weeny top inside. I spilled Calamine lotion on my bedroom carpet, my beloved big girl had developed more rashy spots, which immediately got my back up.  How dare this nasty announce itself to my Lady and potentially cause a lot of aggro for her and my second little bun? The work I was doing on the laptop was proving tougher than I was told (last minute hubby…a job he again didn’t get round to doing before he left.) I laughed my tits off when the power cable came out and it hadn’t saved.  Finally, I hauled my arse out for a two hour driving lesson and survived three people cutting me up (promise – genuinely not my fault.)

I was irritated. Stressed. Resentful that I was always the one dealing with the sh*tty end of the stick. I was annoyed at myself for my shitty time management and lack of being a household goddess this day/week. I was feeling terrible ‘mum guilt’ for things I physically cannot control. I was feeling like, without hubby, my wheels had fallen off.  I was tired, ballooning, emotional, hormonal – I needed my man back home. Even if he is sometimes useless and his attitude of “I’m gonna do it tomorrow”.  The truth is: my wheels don’t turn quite so good when he isn’t around. (Suffragettes recoil in horror!)

Then I saw the news.

And my fear, thank God, was extinguished before it had even ignited – our Daddy had left the Capital at lunchtime…and I’d spoken to him only minutes beforehand giving me a time he would be home. There’s no way he was caught up in the awful, heinous acts of terror that were unfolding as I watched glued to the ‘Breaking News’ bulletin. He was coming home.

But, for that wife and child who today lost their husband and daddy; the family who lost their daughter; the purely innocent tourist who won’t board the flight back home… they’re not and never will they again be “coming home”.

I struggle with catastrophe at the best of times.  I’m irrational and worry about worrying. My heart physically aches because out there now is a wife who will be glad she didn’t put a wash-load on this morning. A wife that rushes to her overflowing wash basket and finds the soft and worn shirt of her husband that’s still smelling of the love she has had so cruelly ripped from her life. She might be sat wearing it now. God knows I would be. A man went to work and kissed his wife goodbye and never made it back home.

I suddenly don’t give any f*cks that my drawers are broken, the cupboards aren’t full, the work didn’t get done, the pissy bedding is still in the washer, that my carpet is stained with a white chalky liquid or that I’ve had literally no rest whatsoever whilst our Daddy has been away.

I have my family back home. My reasons to live and love. Every minute of every hour.

Because life is terrifyingly short.

Count your blessings and never go a day without appreciating all the little things

My wash basket has doubled in size tonight… and I couldn’t be more f*cking grateful.

(Not a poet. Nor a writer. Just a mum and a missus.candles-1645551__340)

Leave a comment

Hunting for The Gruffalo, fresh coffee and a 4G Signal at Sherwood Pines.

I think it was around 10pm last Saturday night when my mum bought me a fancy gin cocktail at a party we were attending in Leeds.  It was a rare child-free evening for me and the highlight of my whole night was getting to spend the night away from home at my mum’s in a double bed to myself.  You may not know me, but I am a reluctant co-sleeper, so a child-free bed a was a dream – an absolute dream.  However, this post isn’t about that.

It’s about this:

I think it was around 6.45am last Sunday morning when I woke up blurry eyed with the remnants of the previous night’s makeup still clinging to my eyes.  Stretching out and enjoying the space of a whole bed to myself, the sudden pang of guilt hit me as I realised that I was missing my children (and Teaching Dad, of course.)  The lie-in I had promised myself, therefore, ended abruptly as today I had made plans with a friend to take our children Gruffalo hunting at Sherwood Pines.  This was, I thought, not only the perfect way to get re-balance the scales after my abandoning them for the night (Teaching Dad made the guilt hit even harder when he told me that our son was screaming for me in the night), but it would also be the perfect opportunity to try out my very amateur photography skills using my new camera, which in my opinion, is the best compact camera Panasonic make.

And so a text was sent to Teaching Dad asking for the children to be dressed and ready for the off by the time I arrived home.  I also asked him to get some bread out of the freezer in order for me to prepare some packed lunches.  ‘We haven’t got any bread’ came the reply. Hmmm.  Well, at least they would be dressed.

They weren’t dressed.

Running at me their pajamas when I arrived home, I was greeted with joyous cries of “Mummy! Mummy!”, which was lovely.  The only problem: it was 9.40am and we had to be out of the house by 10.30am.  I needed to get the kids dressed and get myself ready for the off also.  It would be okay, however, as I would have Teaching Dad helping me.

“I’m off to do ‘The Big Shop!'” was all I heard from downstairs as a door slammed shut and a car engine roared into life.


However, by 10.25am the car was loaded with the essential Gruffalo finding kit: an Amazon Kindle Fire, a Sat Nav, a spare pair of boots, a towel and a pack of Tropical Skittles.

Do a weird side smile if you’re excited!

After meeting my friend and a 50 minute car journey later, we arrived at Sherwood Pines. The thing we noticed first was the fact that there were lots of bikes and scooters and not many pushchairs.

We had brought pushchairs.

Now all we had to do was find the start of the trail.  You would have thought that the huge Gruffalo signalling the start of the trail would be easy to spot, but it wasn’t and therefore we took a few wrong turns before seeing large numbers of excited children and parents gravitating towards and area that we were actually walking away from.  Finally, from behind the cafe, we saw The Gruffalo himself beckoning us towards him and the start of the trail.

Found him!

“Well, he was easy to find,” I quipped.  “Shall we go and find a Starbucks?”

Alas no.  On we trekked to the trail opting for the ‘Spotting’ option as opposed to the ‘Orienteering’ option, which, we feared, might mean using ordnance survey maps, a compass and, perhaps, some caving.  Yes – caving!

Some genius inventor person has created an interactive app for The Gruffalo Trail, which requires you to hunt for the footprints of all the characters in the much beloved story.  The first set of tracks we found belonged to Mouse.  Excited, my friend and I grabbed our phones while our children were nearby screaming the word ‘snake’ at a tree trunk.  Immediately, her app burst into life and an animated image of Mouse popped up on the phone; it was great.  My phone, however, just remained it’s usual cracked and crappy self.  Already being on its last legs, the thought of finding imaginary animals in a forest was just too much for my iPhone to handle, so it responded by switching itself off.  I think we managed to find Fox, but Owl, Snake and, of course, The Gruffalo alluded us.  To be honest, my daughter didn’t seem to mind so much because recently she has developed an innate fear of her brother running off.  Despite him having reins on, she could be seen chasing after her younger brother and tackling him to the ground any time he went further than 30 centimetres from us.  This, I know, is very loving and kind and it’s a beautiful thing when a sister cares so much for her younger sibling.  However, it’s also a royal pain in the arse.  Therefore, to the parents who had to experience me shouting: “Get off him!  Get off him or we’re going home!” over and over and over again whilst you were trying to get a decent picture of Snake slithering out of his log pile house, then I apologise.

How clever is this? Image is not from my phone as it had packed in by this point.

The deeper and deeper we got into the trail, the more difficult it became to  manoeuvre the pushchairs around the now deadly terrain.  With mud splashing up onto the pushchair’s foot muff, we were worried that we had accidentally stumbled upon the orienteering trail. But, lo and behold after finding The Gruffalo, (well, I actually didn’t, but let’s not dwell on that…) we caught a glimpse of the cafe at the start of the trail.  Yes!  Coffee and sandwiches were on the horizon.  Alas, so was the biggest queue I had ever seen.  Looking like Snake from the log pile house, the queue outside the cafe was snaking its way around the play area.  We found a seat at a near by table and admired the beauty around us. Sunday was an almost perfect spring day.  The sun was shining; the temperature (for the first time this year) was bearable.

My photography skills.

In fact, it was a fine day for a picnic.  Thankfully, my friend, who had also been out the previous evening, proved to be the more organised parent because despite having a drink or two the night before, she had made arrangements to ensure that her children would be sufficiently nourished.  She brought a feast consisting of: sausage rolls, Dairylea, yoghurts and – best of all – birthday cake. Where as all I managed to muster up was a Disney Princess bag that contained four Fruit Shoots and three bananas, which only made the bag because after packing the car up, I returned to the house to grab my iPhone charger (for all the bloody good it did me out there trekking in the deep dark wood.)

Between eating cake and changing nappies on a wooden picnic table (yep we were like Bear Grylls with Pampers), the children all managed a run around the small play ground area. Well, I say run, but every time my boy made a mad dash for one of the little mushroom houses, he was tackled to the ground by his sister, who was afraid he would go running off back into Fox’s underground house.

In his reins saying ‘cheeeese’ whilst literally eating cheese. What a hoot…

A rare picture of my daughter NOT tackling her brother to the ground.

Finally, after a couple of hours, it was time to return to our respective cars.  Tiredness was beginning to creep in (on me, not the kids – they were wired on birthday cake and Fruit Shoots) and it was time to begin the car journey home.  We left in the promise that we would return soon with Teaching Dad in tow, a bike, a map and a compass and that we would tackle the orienteering trail.

Well, the kids would anyway.

My plan was to tackle that cafe queue and try to get a hot coffee while hoping for a 4G signal so that my damned Gruffalo app would work.  After all, there’s a mouse, a snake, an owl and a Gruffalo still waiting to be found.



Disclaimer: This post was written in collaboration with Panasonic.  All views and opinions and hysterical (!) musings are my own.