Embrace the Pace

So it’s the third week of the summer break from school and I’d describe myself as ‘surviving’.

Week one, I was clearly buoyed by a false sense of security. The kids were pretty chilled out and ready for a rest. ‘This is easy’ I thought. Beach time, a little TV, some lazy mornings.

Week two was hell on earth. It rained. The kids were little monsters. Both were poorly. The dog had fleas. I had my period. We cried. All of us. A lot.

Week three – Its a bit of a mixed bag. It’s only Monday, so a lot could happen.

Here are my findings thus far into the hols:

  1. There’s no point fighting it – just surrender. Surrender to the mess.
  2. Go outside. And stay there. Every day. I have two sons, and they need to be run like puppies. The beach is my friend.
  3. Don’t bother with clothes – kids in swimsuits. And then pyjamas. And then swimsuits again. They don’t really need washing do they……?
  4. Never, ever, go to the shops with the kids in tow. Ever. It will only end in tears.
  5. Expect to gain a few pounds in weight. Chips and ice cream anyone?
  6. Slow down. Embrace the pace. Don’t make plans. And definitely don’t make appointments. The stress of trying to get everyone there on time is the stuff of nightmares.

There’s still a few weeks to go.

Breathe deep. We can do this….

Keeping the kids alive

I kneeled on the floor of the supermarket this morning. Despite the wet, muddy surface. And despite the glances of the disapproving OAPs. And despite the hurried impatient office types trying to rush me through the checkout.

I kneeled on the floor of the supermarket, to stuff my groceries under the pram – beneath the weight of my sleeping toddler.

Y’see, I’m in the important business of keeping the kids alive.

Thats what I wanted to shout at the folks behind me.

Yes, I’m slow, and yes I’m getting dirty, down here on the wet floor. But they need this shit – the milk, and ham, and cheese and crisps, and cucumber, and garlic stuffed roasted peppers (…well…they were for me actually). But anyway, they need this stuff. And I’m getting it for them.

Its often a very undignified process – this ‘keeping the kids alive’ business. I’m usually hungry, very tired, slightly dirty, carrying at least one child, de-escalating a potential tantrum from the other, dressed in ill-fitting very unflattering out-dated clothes, and most likely scrabbling around on my hands and knees somewhere trying to retrieve something.

But I AM keeping the kids alive.

I put such a lot of pressure on myself (we all do don’t we?) to provide my children with enough attention, and activity, and love, and the right kind of stimulation (not too much TV, plenty of stories, some outdoor time, maybe a little painting, or cooking, or crafting blah blah blah……).

But sometimes, after a busy night of teething, I’m so tired, all I can do is make sure they’re safe and happy. Feed them, wash them, dress them, cuddle them. Anything else might be a little ambitious.

Today is one of those days.

So hey, all those people that saw me looking like a tramp – Unkempt, tired, fumbling in my purse, struggling with the pram, soaked from the rain, please don’t judge me. I’m keeping the kids alive. And sometimes it looks like this.

Letting the kids talk to strangers

I took my boys to the beach yesterday with our big gangly dog. Nothing strange there. We do this every day.

Anyway, I digress. I took my boys to the beach yesterday, and whilst we were there a man arrived with a bucket, wearing waders and proceeded to wander out into the shallows.

It was a very low tide. Lower than I’ve seen it for a long time, and there were small pools exposed, and rocks covered in green slime, and shells and the spaghetti-like cases left by sand worms. And the man stopped by one of these pools, kneeled on the wet sand and began dipping his hands into the water and under the rocks.

It, obviously, caught our attention, and I found myself thinking that here was another great opportunity to let my eldest son ( for the youngest can’t speak yet…) practice talking with a stranger.

Talking with a stranger!!!!! Yes, you read that correctly.

See, the thing is, I know we’re all supposed to be frightened of talking to strangers. And we’re supposed to teach our kids that stranger = danger. But I just get can’t to grips with that.

We live in the north east of England. Up here the people are (for the best part) notoriously friendly.  We chat on the bus, in the street, on the doorstep. We don’t think anything of striking up conversation with folks we might stand next to in the supermarket aisle, or people smiling at us at the bus stop. And smiling…..that’s great shit isn’t it? Costs nothing and makes your day.

I’ve taught my eldest to smile at folks. I’ve also taught him to say hello if someone sits next to him. To say ‘excuse me’ to the shop assistant if he wants something. He’s only 4 (nearly 5) but I’ve encouraged him to approach the lady behind the counter, to speak to the bus driver, to say ‘good morning’ to fellow dog walkers.

And I encouraged him to approach the man in the waders, and ask him what he was doing. I knew what he was doing. But I saw this as another chance for my son to practice politely approaching someone. And of course, to learn something new.

The man responded with kindness. Maybe it’s because we live in the north. But he took the time to answer my son. They both smiled. My son came skipping back to me, buoyant with the new information he had. Excited that he had learnt something new. And confident that he could approach someone he didn’t know.

I had watched from a distance. I knew he was ‘safe’. And I was glowing with pride to overhear his beautiful little voice start “excuse me….”.

How can we teach our kids independence, if we are to control who they speak to? And how they speak to them?

There are so many skills I am trying to teach my kids. Surely, one of the most important is how we integrate into our society, how we make friends, how we talk to others.

I’m not prepared to teach my children to be afraid of strangers.

Why I’m letting my kids develop ‘bad habits’

If parenting is about keeping your kids at a distance. And teaching them to cope on their own. And refusing to give them things. And restricting, and routine, and ‘letting them know who’s boss’….. then i am happy to admit, i am really really rubbish at it.

My eldest son and i took a huge sack of stuff to the charity shop (thrift store) the other day. We have an agreement – if he helps me, he can choose a ‘new’ (used) toy from the same place that we  deliver our bag.

When i was speaking with the shop assistant, i happened to mention that agreement. Her response really threw me. “You’ll create a bad habit there if you’re not careful”. I can only assume that by ‘bad habit’ she meant that my son will expect something for helping me.

Some people might call me ‘soft’, but when did being a parent become ‘them against us’? I mean, its ok to give my child a gift right? And its ok to ‘reward’ him for his help? We’re on the same ‘team’. And i love them. And this is not a military operation. I’m not raising a little army.

I’m regularly offered advice (aka opinions) on how to raise my kids. My neighbour will openly tell me that my ‘downfall’ (as she so kindly put it) is that i carry and cuddle my kids too much……that i pick them up when they want me. And that thats wrong.

There’s an army of folks ready to tell me how i should put my kids in their bedroom and let them cry to sleep. How thats the only way i’ll ever get them to sleep alone. The only way i’ll ever stop them waking in the night. I’d really rather not. I like my kids. Even if they do ‘play me like a fiddle’ (to quote another warning i received). Even if i don’t get nearly enough sleep. Even if i often wake with a tiny foot in my face, or a finger in my ear.

I’m not a perfect parent. I probably get it wrong at some point every day. But i love my kids, and i also like them. And here’s the ‘bad habits’ i am happily letting them develop:

1. When they cry, i cuddle them. And i love it.

2. If they need me in the night, they can have me. Anytime. For as long as they want.

3. I carry them. Albeit for less time than i could when they were tiny. But they like to be carried. So i carry them.

4. If they don’t want to eat it, they don’t have to eat it.

5. I buy them treats. When i feel like it. As often as i can afford.

6. If they help me, i reward them. Sometimes its a biscuit. Sometimes its a trip to the park. But i reward them.

7. They can make a mess. This is their house as well as mine. They can leave their toys on the floor, they can leave comics lying around, they can pull out the contents of the bookcase. We’ll tidy it before bed.

If cherishing and treating and keeping my kids close is creating ‘bad habits’, so be it. My kids won’t always be ‘kids’. For now, I’m just throwing myself into it. They’re kids – lets throw caution to the wind and just enjoy it.

Giving up the ‘business’

I’m a problem solver. That’s what I do. Sort things out. It’s one of the things I do best.

Show me a ‘can’t’ and I’ll show you ‘can’. Show me an ‘I dont know’ and I swear I’ll show you an ‘I’ll find out’. Show me an ‘I’m frightened’ and I’ll show you a ‘hell, do it anyway!’

I started making natural skincare products to try and solve the ‘problem’ of my first son’s dry skin. I LOVE learning, so I studied and practised, and I made some lovely stuff for him.

And now, with baby number 2, both my kids benefit daily from their own little bespoke skincare range.

But the thing is, it was never meant to be a business. I guess that has been a byproduct really.

Its great that other people are using and enjoying the stuff. And hey, maybe someone will feel inspired by my journey, and be encouraged to do something to solve their own problem(s).

But I don’t enjoy business. No. Not at all. I enjoy creativity, and beauty, and peace and kindness. I enjoy people and new places, and new challenges, and learning. I enjoy overcoming difficulties, and finding the answer. I enjoy exploring natures gifts – the beautiful oils and herbs that are our natural healers.

But I don’t enjoy business. Not at all.

I enjoy the opportunities that it exposes me to. But I can’t stand the ‘selling’. The ‘transaction’. The value judgement that is made as a result.

I love my products. I love that I have preserved my childrens skin despite eczema, and chicken pox, and this rash, and that allergy. I’m proud of the work I have put into it. But I’m not a natural business woman.

And I’m wondering if and when it might be time to just stop…. After all, I solved the problem didn’t i?

Music

We have a music box at home for the kids. They love it. I’m not sure what the neighbours think though……

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Shortly after my first son was born, I noticed that ‘instruments’ (usually the plastic cheap kind) are popular toys. I LOVE music, so I took this as an opportunity to start collecting beautiful, traditional instruments…….after all, why buy the cheap baby versions?

We have a mix of percussion instruments, whistles, flutes, xylophones (I can’t believe I managed to spell that!), as well as some home made bits and pieces (pots filled with rice for example). The kids love it. I love it.

I’m not sure how I’ll justify playing with it all once they’re no longer interested……..

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10 Downing Street

I’m just a little business. A mum. Working from home.

I had an idea and I ran with it.

I look after my children’s skin. Naturally. With products I designed, created, invented, myself.

And then this happened:

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And i I found myself being ‘celebrated’ as one of 100 small businesses in the UK. 100 folks that had decided to ‘have a go’ and create something from scratch. “Come to Downing Street” they said. “We want to meet you” they said. Ha, I am so out of my depth! I was so uncomfortable in that long grey coat. And so cold! I’m a practical girl. I like ‘wet weather gear’ and ‘insulation’ and ‘walking boots’. Not dresses and stockings and shiny shoes.

I met this guy:

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And some other MPs. Say what you will – I’m not a fan of politics. I wasn’t terribly impressed. But I WAS quite chuffed with myself. ‘Well done Cath’…..’These guys like your story’….. I guess I should be quite proud.

Time

I’m sitting still. Actually sitting. Not doing anything that I ‘should’.

Obviously, I am writing this blog post. But I don’t have a plan for it – where it’s going – I don’t even know what the purpose of it is. The most important thing is, I’m sitting. And even more importantly, I’m cuddling my baby whilst he sleeps.

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Have you ever seen anything more beautiful than a baby sleeping? All the trials and tribulations of family life – and yet when baby sleeps, all is well with the world. I could watch him forever. When did he get so big? What was I doing when he napped yesterday? Or the day before? Why wasn’t I doing this?

‘Time’ has a lot to answer for. ‘Time’ means I might prioritise work, or the shopping, or walking the dog. What a shame. The ‘in arms’ phase is so short (I have to steal kisses and cuddles from my 4 year old now – he’s too busy!). Surely when I’m prioritising my time I should be ensuring that the baby nap cuddles take precedence over everything else.

I used to, but then the ‘chores’ crept in. The chores can wait today. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.

Moving

We’re packing to move house.

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And its it’s a big move for us. Not only because the last time we moved we had no children, and now we have two……and a lot of toys…..But also because we have an emotional tie to this, our first home.

My first son was born here in the living room. It was an experience I will never forget and I can remember that night like it was yesterday. We were so nervous, and excited. My husband made a big saucepan of soup for the midwives and of course none of us ate. But it was home – the smell of the soup cooking, the dim light from our candles, the bed, and the bath, and our HOME. I had the most profound experience of my life in that place.

And soon we’ll have a new home.

I suspect it won’t feel quite the same……

The serious business of ‘business’

I keep thinking I’m missing something…..because business is so very very serious right? Wrong. Or at least, wrong in my case.

I’m sure it doesn’t need to be. I actually really enjoy it. And mess it up. And make it right again. And fumble around trying to understand it.

I don’t ‘power dress’. Or pay for PR. Or wear sky scraper heels (is that what business women do…..? I don’t know). I feel very intimidated by those types of ladies. And by men in suits for that matter.

And I don’t lie awake thinking about it. Or worrying about how to make more money (ha!) or find more customers, or beat the competition, or ‘put myself out there’.

I don’t have a marketing plan. Or a business plan for that matter. I’m not sure I know what SEO stands for (……joking….I do really….kinda).

I just like it. And have a bit of fun. And enjoy making stuff. And meeting people. A friend and I were chatting (…..’a meeting’…..) yesterday and we decided that marketing is just about ‘relationships’. Meeting folk, showing them your stuff, being nice.

Just relax everyone will you?

I don’t need a master class on recognising my USPs, or ‘finding a niche’, or ‘dressing for success’, or some other crap. I just make stuff. You might like it. Take a look :)