Monday, 18 March 2019

Carry on regardless...

I've written about that Sunday 'back to school' feeling before. The dullness that strikes around 6pm when you realise that Monday is not far away and the working / school week will begin again. Last night Brown Bear was lying next to me as I was resting after another tiring weekend and he said, "Mum you look exhausted." I smiled and laughed, "Yes. Yes I am." It was spot on and the fact that my 8 year old pointed it out to me was telling. We took the boys to my Mum's house early on Sunday morning to drop them off while me and Hubbie took part in a half marathon. It was tiring and much more difficult than I had expected. I trained for the last one I did in October. I haven't been able to train as much for this one for so many reasons. It was touch and go whether I would do this one - even as late as Friday I wasn't sure. Last weekend I took part in an event that involved walking in the Peak District. I signed up to do it without fully appreciating how much it would take out of me so close to a half marathon. 

Every time I finish a challenge I say, "that's it for now. I'm not doing any more." Then something else comes up and I take that on too. This time I have to be a bit stronger about saying no. I am practising that the most this year. Taking care not to overcommit. Stopping myself from doing more than I can manage. I went to work today despite feeling peaky. I get in early and I wasn't entirely convinced it wasn't just the early hour that was making me feel a bit grim. By ten o'clock it was clear to me I had to come home. The drive wasn't fun with a pain behind my eyes that has been persistent for over a week now. I put it down to stress. 

This is in my hands now. I can choose not to do things that stress me out. I can choose not to have conversations, to see people or to take part in things that I think will have a negative effect on me. It's been a long road to learn to do this, but like most things it just takes repetition in order to become a habit. Equally doing more of what makes me happy requires commitment and the ability to prioritise what matters most. 

That bit of time that I spend with my boys one to one just asking how they are and listening to the answers. 

Making time for a hug. With my sons, with Hubbie, with a friend, with the cat. Hugs are magic. It's the easiest way to share love with someone and costs absolutely nothing. 

I popped my head round the door of their bedroom this morning and they were both on the top bunk of the bed laughing and playing a game. I never expected we'd get to this even a few months ago when they were still arguing about every little thing. 

Going outside even just for a few minutes to look up at the sky and to close my eyes and breathe in the day. Even if it's raining or cold it's worth doing this. Feeling nature in all its forms. 

Listening to music I love - often the same song over and over again. It's like a form of meditation and sometimes even therapy. 

So, now I'm going to give myself the gift of sleep. It may be broken and I'll probably wake up a few times, but I have to try. 

Night night. 

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

M.A.D. world

It’s only recently that I’ve been able to talk openly about how difficult I find listening to my own brain. When I talk to my older son about behaviour that he has been in trouble for at school he will say, “my brain told me to do it.” To him it’s like he’s not fully in charge of the decisions he makes and when they go wrong it comes as a shock to him. I kind of understand where he is coming from. At times it feels like I have two conflicting brain voices. The ‘good brain’ which is trying hard to keep things on an even keel and to present the image that all is ‘normal.’ Good brain is the one that sees me smile at people, dogs and children. It motivates me to do kind things and to be loving. It is the one that is rational and thinking. It's not always the one at the wheel though. Sometimes I'm being steered by M.A.D. brain. I know not everyone likes this word when talking about mental health, but hear me out on this please. I call it My Anxious Depressed brain. The one that tells me it’s not ok. That everyone hates me. That I’m worthless and stupid and everything horrible that has ever happened is my fault. I know, a nice friend to have right ? I mean if someone said that to your face you could at least walk away. When it’s inside your head – all the time – you can’t get away from it. 

I get told I worry too much. No, I don’t. I have absolutely no control over the anxious brain. It can go into 6th gear over nothing at all. I’m in a frantic entirely irrational state before I know what started that line of thought. I am already in a state of panic or anger or fear before I am fully conversant of all the facts. It isn't me being a bitch - honestly. So for example I arrange to meet a friend at a certain time. I get there early - because I don't want to be late - and then they call to say they are on their way, but in traffic. I start to get anxious. I check my watch a few times. Then I pace a bit. I go to where we are supposed to meet. Then I worry that we will miss each other if I move from there. I look for them and can feel myself getting into a panic. It is not in my control. When they arrive I do my best to be as calm as I can, but I am already in a state. This can happen whether I'm waiting 45 minutes or 5 minutes. It can take up to an hour to calm down from that. I will be talking too fast, tapping my foot and avoid eye contact. All the while M.A.D. brain is in control and good brain can't get a look in. 

Some days it’s just too difficult to shut out that noise and I have to find a way to distract from it. Running helps. Music helps – although most songs also have an association for M.A.D. brain so it will start to tell me things that create an emotional reaction. “Remember when you heard this song in the car and you were crying ?” it will say. “Isn’t this the one that reminds you of that boyfriend ?” Shuttup brain. “Oh the words of this song are so true aren’t they ? You really are the one that is to blame ?” At times it makes it impossible for me to listen to music at all. Thank heaven for podcasts.
The other day we were driving back from a weekend of visiting friends and family and Brown Bear was being a bit gobby in the car. By the time we got home Hubbie was proper cross with him I sent Brown upstairs to get his school bag ready and quietly spoke to Hubs. “He has been on his best behaviour all weekend. He’s had to hold in any impulse to do things that will get him told off and he just needs to release it all somewhere.” The boys are like that after school every day. The sheer effort of being who they have to be at school is so much that by the time I see them at hometime they have nothing left. We do the practical things (put away coats and bags and take off socks, etc.) and I get a snack for them. When it seems to be ok I then go in for a cuddle. A physical recognition that they are now in a safe place and can let go of everything from the day. I do that for my kids. It’s taken me a while to work out what is happening and this is what they need from me. A smile and a kind word, something to eat and a cuddle.  

So when Hubbie gets home he will come over to give me a hug. He’s usually sweaty from cycling (eugh !), but to be honest if I’ve had the kind of day that seems to be a regular occurrence at the moment I don’t mind. I feel the pressure drop away and the pain that is always in my head lessens. I start to apologise for not having made any plans for dinner or something similar and he says, “it doesn’t matter.” He’s right of course. Then we fall into the usual routine of bedtime for Blue and whatever else we have going on that night. By the time I go to bed I have kept M.A.D. brain occupied for a few hours.
Good brain Go to sleep you will feel better for it

Body I ache – let me sleep 

M.A.D. brain I’ve got to check my email and see if anyone is on whatsapp - oh and facebook as well. I think I left that headband on the wash basket, I’d better pick it up or I’ll forget

Body I’m too tired

Good brain It will all be there in the morning

M.A.D. brain Do it now then it’s done with
2-3 hours later:
Good brain zzzzzzz
Body zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
M.A.D. brain just one more youtube clip and then I’ll go to sleep.
Good brain zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Body zzzzzzzzzzzzzz
M.A.D. brain It’s too early to get up. Check the phone in case something has happened in the night.
Good brain: Go to sleep.
M.A.D. brain zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

final alarm goes off
M.A.D. brain zzzzzzzzzzzzz
Body I cannot move 
Good brain ok a few minutes longer. Not too late though. 
Good brain right you now have ten minutes to shower and get ready for work.

M.A.D. brain I can't 

Body Leave me alone 

Good brain Come on guys we can do this 

Are you exhausted reading that ? Well that is just one third of my day - the hours I'm supposed to rest and recharge. The other two thirds of the day is not dissimilar. It's no wonder that Good brain has to work so hard to maintain the act of being 'a normal.' It's tired, it's overworked, it's at the mercy of spoiled and selfish M.A.D. brain. The one that figuratively lies on the ground having a screaming fit if it doesn't get its own way. 

Good brain can't catch a break right now. The least I can do is take her out for a run or to the theatre for a fun night out. There's always chocolate and wine for the really bad days.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

You know you make me want to shout...

Hubbie sent me a message reminding me of all the things I'd done that made him laugh this week. Then yesterday we co-presented a radio show - live. We chatted, laughed and generally enjoyed each other's company. It reminded me that despite all the dramas and tension that comes with being married and parenting and the general hustle and bustle of life, we are friends. Proper make you laugh until you wet yourself (just me ?) friends. 

Last night we went to a gig. An incredible gig. The front man of the band is shouty, anarchic and hilarious. It was in a tiny venue in Hubbie's hometown and we had a few hours of childfree proper let-yourself-go fun together. At one point we were all crouched on the floor of the venue with the lead singer (well not me, you know not with these knees !) and he was regaling us all with a story. He had us all in the palm of his hand as he was playing up the fact that he was from a local town and his brother was in the crowd. I can honestly say it was a brilliant night. 

Sometimes I wonder what people who are friends with someone like that think of them. I mean he can enthralling a room full of fans, but what's he like as a mate ? Is he that one who can sometimes be a bit much if you see him often ? You know that friend who always talks a good game and is charming and fun and the life of the party ? The one who makes you laugh until your face hurts and your sides ache and it feels like the moment should never end ? The same person reminds you of all the times you’ve been ridiculous and you have shared jokes and embarrassments from your years of friendship. The one you would drop everything to see ? 

Do you find (as I do) that they are also the one who will cancel at short notice with little or no explanation. So often that now you don’t even expect them to turn up so you always pencil things in as there is a more than 50% chance they just won’t turn up. In fact it’s so unlikely they will be there that you are tempted to be sarcastic and say, “Oh you’re looking forward to it are you ? Like I was when we made that arrangement last time that you cancelled at the last minute ?” They're the one who is the first to say, "I’ll do it – count me in - sounds fun." When you asked if they wanted to take part in an event and you kept putting off signing up just in case - well you know what they're like. But you don't want to be unfair. Then the friend gets on your case, “I’ve signed up for it – have you ?” and you do only to find out that they can’t make it after all and you're left to do it alone. Not for the first time.

Or the time you were supposed to go to a gig or a show and you didn't hear back from them for ages and when you finally got a reply it was, "Oh yeah I can't make it now. I've got something on," All casual like they didn't just make other plans and leave you in the lurch. Well at least you got a response that time, Not like when they just didn't respond and you were left waiting outside the venue calling to see if they were still coming. Eventually realising that it wasn't going to happen and being so worried and upset that you just went home.
The friendship looks so very different from the two sides. The friend is all about outcomes, “We saw each other in the end didn’t we ? That was fun.” And you’re more about the process which was more painful than it needed to be. You have to do certain things in order to meet, arrange childcare, sort out transport / travel and decide how is safest to get home if it’s going to be late. The friend is non-committal right to the last. You say, “let me know what you want to do,” and they don’t respond - being a free spirit and all that. Then you get a text message the night before - or the morning you’re supposed to meet - saying, “so you still on for tomorrow / today ?” You want to yell, “of course I am !! We agreed this. It’s you I’m waiting on. I am already committed.” You don’t say any of that. You politely agree that you will be there. Then panic that this might be like that time when they just didn’t turn up. Or the time they did, but stormed off because you had become so anxious in the build up to meeting that you said something to them. Or maybe they will just cancel at the last minute again and make it your fault for being surly. You want to say, “Why is it ok for you to be selfish and thoughtless, but unfair of me to call you on it ? How am I the bad guy here ?” Of course you don’t.

Friends are the family we choose. The ones who we love even though we don’t have to. Just like family though there will come a time when we notice how uneven it is. How the effort expended outweighs the reward. How the much mooted get-together becomes soured by the messing about, the inability to value your time or feelings. The realisation that to this friend you are not really worthy of respect. This fuels anxiety. It makes being a friend so difficult. You wouldn’t do this to someone you care about. They are not you though.
Ok so when they are suffering you go to them and are 'present,' because that is your way of supporting. When you want a hug or need the same support they take themselves away and give you space. It's not how you would do it and it's not what you want, but you are not them. That doesn't make them wrong, any more than it makes you wrong. It's where the definitions of friendship differ for you both. When you are sad you might want closeness, but they think it's best to leave you be.
So do you accept that is just how they are ? Do you continue to martyr yourself for some non-existent recognition ? Maybe choose to protect yourself by responding in kind ? No that won't work as that would only add guilt to the mix. Maybe just stop feeling bad about the friend and try to preserve the friendship ? It might be that they are tolerating you too. It may not be a priority for them to see you. It is possible they think they are doing you a favour by cancelling or not turning up if they think you're not going to want to see them. 

Just as one day you realise that a relationship isn't working any more and you would be better not being in it, sometimes we grow out of friendships. It takes a lot for me to let anyone new into my friendship group. I have friends I have known for a long, long time and they've been through a lot with me. I have also been through stuff with them. I trust and love my friends. I am fiercely loyal. To be frank I don't need any more of them. 

As we grow older and life does it's thing I am being more selective about who I make time for. The friend who works abroad and when she is around for a few days checks in with me to see if we can meet up. Who picks up gifts for my kids from all her travels - and actually likes to see them. Then there is the friend who tells me it's perfectly fine if I just want to rant or not say anything at all. I will send a random text message with no explanation at all and she responds perfectly. She just gets me. A friend who has come to meet me at short notice so he could give me a hug because I was having the crappiest day - now that is a great friend. 

Not everyone makes the cut. 

To be honest I bet the lead singer of the band is a pretty awesome friend. Even if he's not at least he's an excellent entertainer. 

Ready Art Brut ? 

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

From inertia to inspiration. Kind of.

 You know when you read those inspirational posts on facebook or Instagram that say things that are supposed to be profound, but some days they are just annoying and others they induce tears ? Well I’m not doing that – obvs. I am, however, thinking about something that I’ve seen a lot. ‘What would you try if you knew you wouldn’t fail ?’ It sounds complicated at first, but simply put it’s a kind of go for it, what have you got to lose ? Well for most of us the fear of what could go wrong is paralysing and leaves us in a state of inertia.

I’m thinking about this now because I saw the film about Ruth Bader Ginsberg the other evening and it confirmed for me that she is an amazing woman. Not that I doubted it for a moment, but it struck me that she was fearless and brave in her life and it was with the support and love of her family that she was able to achieve. Often we hear of people who have left relationships behind or driven their loved ones away in the thrall of ambition so to see her children and husband as integral to the success she has achieved was inspiring.

Years ago I joked that I should move to the US and market myself as a self-help guru. I reasoned that if Deepak Chopra could do it why couldn’t I ? It wasn’t entirely in jest and I now see that had I done that I’d probably have pre-empted the yoga boom we have seen and the resultant throw down of all the ‘spiritual leaders’ being accused of sexual assault and inappropriate behaviour with their clients / students. It’s like a ‘me too’ movement with a hint of hemp. I’m not belittling this in any way. What I am doing is pointing to the all-encompassing nature of this culture of casual sexual misconduct that has pervaded even the ‘wellness’ sector. How even the act of finding inner peace is fraught with the potential for inappropriate touch or full on assault due to an imbalance of power and privilege.

And this is the crux of what I’ve been mulling over. For all that I am driven and passionate about equality and fairness and justice what have I achieved in my life ? Is there anything I have done to inspire ? I’m nowhere close to the giddy heights of Ginsberg and her impact, but have I done anything I can be proud of ?

Then at the weekend I shared a post that joked about a Mum’s fantasy being spending time alone in a hotel and just sleeping (all true by the way). My lovely friend Yasmin said she would be doing just that. Going away without her kids and having a break and some valuable ‘me time.’ I commented that I was jealous and she responded, “ I was inspired by you.” Wow that’s kind, I thought. Then I remembered other times people have kindly said they were inspired to do something because of me. Soraya went away on her own to Berlin for a mini break and she told me it was as a direct result of me taking time for myself. It was so much fun “I’m going to make it a regular thing,” she said. Sadly, months later she died, but she had done this thing for herself and I was so proud of her. I have a wonderful friend Paul who is a radio producer and recently he has been presenting a radio show of his own with amazing guests and I praised him on the great success he was having. “I was inspired by you,” he told me. Mind blown. This guy who actually works in radio and is in the business was inspired by little old me to present. What an honour.

Finally – and the one I am most proud of - is the one that I see my son doing. He can’t pass a homeless person without giving them something. It was early in his life that he started to say, “Mummy why is that man sleeping there ?” and I explained that he probably didn’t have a place to sleep or a home. My boy will ask if he can give money or food and always goes up and offers it himself. He has a kind heart and a deep seated desire to help others. I have often wondered where this came from. 

The other night me and Hubbie went out for a pizza (I know we are so rock and roll !) and as we were walking home a woman asked for some money. I shook my head and apologised that I didn’t have any. Then I asked if she wanted some hot food as I could buy it for her. I had electronic money, but not real coinage or notes you see. We walked together to Burger King I paid for her food and asked the man behind the counter to ensure the lady got her meal. I patted her on the arm, smiled at her and wished her well. As we continued walking Hubbie was quiet. Then he said (a bit choked up if I’m honest), “I love it when you do things like that.” “What ?” “You know.” “Well, we are so fortunate and we just had a nice meal, she deserves to eat too.” 

I think I might know where Brown Bear gets it from after all. 

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

For the love of cat...

Life has been kind to me. I have a home, a family, my health and I love and am loved. I also have a cat - he is old and sleeps a lot, but he is affectionate and adorable.

It wasn't always like this. At one point I was pretty sure I would be alone and childless and loveless. A bit dramatic ? Well maybe, but it was pretty much how I felt at the time. I had left a marriage with someone who was controlling and manipulative. My confidence was at it's lowest point. I was in debt, back living with my parents and so very sad. In a desperate attempt to get myself out of this funk I started internet dating. I moved in with my lovely friend and put myself 'out there' as they say. I had never dated in my teens or at uni so it was all new to me.

There are so many life lessons I could share from this period of my life, but I'm pretty sure that for everyone else the experience of going on dates (or just 'going out' as we call it here - dating seems to be a peculiarly American phenomenon) is just a normal part of growing up. In my family we didn't do that kind of thing. My parents didn't approve of having girlfriends or boyfriends and the idea that we might go out with someone with no intention of marrying them was anathema. I pretty much married the first guy I dated. It didn't work out so that tells you all you need to know doesn't it ?

When I was going on dates I realised that there was a whole other language of relationships that I was unaware of and that I just was not versed in. It was a world away from the friendships I had and the honesty of being with people who you trust. I have always had male friends and it was perfectly normal for me to talk to them and spend time socialising with them. It didn't prepare me for the idiocy of dating though. I couldn't stand the really brash guys who would try to impress by showing off, they were just too much. I was a bit Shania Twain about it all really.

Then there were the men who had been married or living with someone, had broken up and were now looking for a replacement. To be honest so was I so it's not exactly a criticism. I think I was being a bit fairer than they were though. I was prepared to see how it went and to give them the benefit of the doubt. Oh so you own CDs by the Dixie Chicks ? It's ok I'm sure you're ok otherwise. Nope I was wrong. I found myself trying so hard to convince them that I was worth their while that I wasn't even considering if they were worth mine. In a lot of cases we just weren't well matched at all. A lot of these guys in their mid to late 30s were looking to settle down and in most cases did not long after. I think straight men have a 'use by date' and if they don't get married by it then they remain resolutely single. Of course Warren Beatty is they exception to this rule. And pretty much all rules I guess.

I went out on dates with men who I would never under any circumstances have come into contact with otherwise. The chap who lived upstairs from the Conservative Club and whose parents were lifelong Tories. Sorry Chris I could have called that one before we met if I'd known. The one who looked like a young Elton John (no disrespect to you Reg, but you're just not my type and I know I'm not yours !) and who told me about how he had a row with his neighbour and practised Tai Chi on public transport. It wasn't destined to be a great love affair.

It is easy to be cynical about internet dating, but I know people who have gone on to have very successful relationships with someone they met online. It cuts out some of the stuff that you just don't get if your eyes meet across a crowded room. It can take ages to realise that this person will always be late to meet you, or that they have smelly feet, or they chew really loudly, or talk through movies, etc. (all punishable offences by the way). What you have with meeting in real life though is the taking time to get to know someone. I have had a crush on someone then when I got to know them realised they weren't for me, but it could be a great friendship.

Plenty of people meet in every day situations, maybe working together and seeing each other every day which eventually leads to a relationship - possibly due to proximity. I worked with a woman who was dating the director of the charity and it was blindingly obvious to everyone despite their protestations to the contrary. It is frowned upon in some firms, but to be honest if you work long hours or in a stressful profession it's hardly surprising.

Of course I haven't even mentioned the whole concept of love at first sight. Oh yes fireworks and stars in the eyes . I mean proper wobbly legs and flustered speech. The whole nine yards. Thankfully it was mutual - it's rotten when you have all the feelings and they aren't returned. What it does mean - however - is that all common sense goes straight out of the window. You are entirely blindsided by the hormone response and forget to think. Well I did anyway.

So what have I learned since the heady days of singledom ? Well, being alone means not having to make food if you don't want to. It means only having to clean up after yourself. It also means going some weekends without talking to anyone - which I now consider to be blissful. I wouldn't give up cuddles with my cat though. Or going in to check on my boys when they are asleep. Coming home and knowing that I can have a hug (with or without white fur dressing) doesn't suck.

On balance I think I've done ok.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Do we win a speedboat Derek ?

If me and Hubbie went on Mr & Mrs I'm not convinced we'd do all that well. I mean for a start Derek Batey doesn't present it any more so that's a downer already. If you are unfamiliar with this stalwart of my childhood it was a TV quiz show where married couples would take turns to answer questions about each other to show how much the knew about their spouse. They competed with other couples for prizes and Derek encouraged them in his non threatening '70s TV host way.

My recollection of this show is pretty much confined to one half of the couple sitting in a booth wearing noise cancelling headphones while their other half answered questions. My favourite was when a man was asked what colour tights his wife wore. One of the options was American tan - I had never heard of this before and to be honest I haven't heard of it since. What struck me most about this question was why would a husband know what colour tights his wife wore ? Especially in an era when men and women weren't quite as open with each other as all that.

It sometimes occurs to me that there are things we just wouldn't be able to answer about each other. I often still ask Hubbie if he eats olives, "Yes I do, it was the other guy who didn't." Mind you he also forgets if it's me or a previous who doesn't eat mushrooms so I guess we're even.

On the other hand there was the time he made me gnocchi at this flat because when we went out to eat they didn't have it and he wanted to make me happy. When I get a dine in offer I choose profiteroles as the dessert because I know he likes them.

When people say how lucky I am I often want to tell them they don't even know the half of it. When we  found out it was unlikely we would have children it was devastating. He made light of it by referring to Friends. It was anything but lighthearted, but we had to find a way through it.

We have shared references - quotes from films or TV shows and silly things that make us laugh. Anything from Gavin and Stacey, Alan Partridge, The Thick of It or Curb Your Enthusiasm is guaranteed to diffuse a tense situation. To be honest we need to have a laugh with the day to day business of raising our boys.

So how would we fare on a modern Mr & Mrs ? Well if one of the questions was what is his favourite George Michael song I'd laugh and say Careless Whisper. His tone deaf rendition is a wonder to behold. Much like his impressions of the characters in Coming to America. Sometimes it's not what you know about a person, but the history you share that matters. I will always cry with laughter when he stamps his foot and says, "Sexual Chocolate !" Well it's only polite isn't it ?

Saturday, 9 February 2019

What is love ?

Brown Bear phoned me on Tuesday evening.
"Mummy I missed you and wanted to talk to you."
I was going home after a work function in London and talking to him made me smile on the late night drive home. He told me he was having a wedding the next day and could he have a ring to give Ava. I suggested he might want to take her to get a ring so she could choose herself. That was what me and daddy did when we got married. I also asked why we hadn't been invited and he said,
"Oh you can come if you like."
"Well. I'm at work. If you had told me earlier I could have taken the time off to come. I would like to come to your wedding."
"When I get married when I'm 18 or 19 or 20 I will invite you and Daddy. That will be my real wedding."
"Ok that sounds good. Thanks."
"I'll wait for you to come home so I can hug you."
"It might be quite late. You go to bed and I promise I will come and kiss you when I am home."
"Ok Mummy. I love you."
"I love you too baby."

Love is in the air as the song goes. At the moment you can't get away from it on the TV, in magazines, it's everywhere. The red roses, dine in offers, chocolates and cards. I have bought cards to give my boys and if they want to give a card to someone special I have the covered too. I say "I love you" to my boys all the time. They hear it a lot, but I also want them to know how special it is to feel loved. That reassurance you have that you are cared about and matter.

It isn't always plain sailing with Brown Bear. We argue a lot. I apologise to him a lot. I often reassure him that I love him more than I am annoyed with him. That my upset is borne of fear. When he was a toddler if he wandered off I would panic he was lost and my heart would stop. Until he was back in my arms and I would be upset and angry, but also overcome with love for him. That is how I feel now when we have a falling out. All that love and frustration melds into one big noisy mass. I try to explain to Brown Bear that love isn't always kissing and holding hands. If only it was.

In the evening I sit with Brown Bear and he reads his book next to me while I rest. Neo lies by my feet and we spend time together. It's become clear to me that for Brown Bear love means being close and present. It doesn't matter what we are doing, just that he is with me. Sometimes he will sit with his Match Attax book sorting out the cards. I check messages or fold washing and we just chat to each other while Hubbie reads a bedtime story to Blue Bear. One evening last week we were talking about when he was a baby. I told him that one of the happiest days in my life was when we found out we were  having him. I didn't know he was going to be a boy or what we would call him. I just knew that I loved him so very much. He said, "and when Blue Bear came to us." "Well you were there when we found out he was coming to live with us." We talked about how precious they both are to me and Daddy.

"Who do you love the most Mummy ?"
"Hmm. Probably Neo."
"No seriously Mummy."
"I'm being serious. He was my first baby."
"What about Daddy ?"
"Well of course Daddy. Without Daddy I wouldn't have you, or Blue, or Neo."
"What was your happiest day ?"
"Probably when you were born safe and well."
"And when you and Daddy got married."
"Yes it was."
"And when Blue came to live with us."
"Yes that was very special."

I talk to my son about love, because I love with all my heart and I suspect he will too. He will be open to have his heart broken and to get taken for granted. I want to wrap him up and protect him from feeling the pain, but I know I can't do that. Instead I can share the beauty of love and what it means to me.

Being present - either in person or in thought. I think about the people I love all the time. I hear a song, I see a familiar image, I pass a place and it reminds me of someone I love.

When my parents took me to Uni and dropped me off on my first day. As they drove away and I walked over to the students union I was terrified. Mum told me years later that dad drove only a little way along the road, stopped the car and burst into tears.

Hubbie made such an impression on my late grandmother when we went to India that she declared, "well of course he's Indian." She didn't speak English and his Punjabi is minimal yet they spent an afternoon watching cricket together and formed an incredibly close bond. When she died it meant everything to me that she loved him too.

After years of infertility I finally gave my mum the news that I was pregnant. She had tears in her eyes as she told me, "I prayed for this." I took her hands and said, "Thank you, it worked."

On a Sunday morning when Hubbie goes for a bike ride Brown Bear watches match of the day downstairs and Blue Bear lies in my bed watching cartoons. I point out the green birds in the garden and he declares, "it's the parrotinis" - makes my heart melt every time.

Not forgetting the old man of the family. Neo looks out for me when I am not home. He lies with the boys until they go to sleep and quietly slips away when they are. He puts his head against me and purrs softly. It tells me that I am loved.