Fear, love, and the everyday stuff

Monday, 16 November 2015

My parents sometimes like to tell the story about how I used to hate medicine.

Calpol, antibiotics, anything: the taste of medicine made me feel so sick that they used to have to deploy all sorts of tactics to get me to take it. They'd get me to take one sip, and then have nearly a whole glass of water to wash away the taste. Or they'd get me to take little tiny amounts at a time. 'One ... two ... three ... sip!' Sometimes this would take so long, my Dad says, that by the time I finished it, it was almost time for the next lot. He may be exaggerating slightly. But he might not be

Also, more than once, I was immediately sick after having medicine, thereby undoing all their hard work. 

My sisters remember this and sometimes like to talk about it if the subject of Calpol ever comes up. 'Oh yeah, I remember ... one ... two ... three ... sip!'

And we all laugh about how annoying and frustrating I was.

That's the thing though: you just expect your parents to do stuff like that for you, because that was their job. I know that I was poorly a lot when I was little. I used to get high temperatures all the time. I used to be sick a lot. But hey, I'm their kid! 

My parents have told me about a time when I was little and I was rushed to hospital (with suspected meningitis, possibly? I'll have to ask them). I had a raging temperature and, apparently, nurses had to pin me down to get a drip into my arm. I can imagine it now, when they tell me: Mum and Dad pacing up and down an empty hospital corridor, in tears, listening to me screaming as the nurses tried to get an IV into me. Sitting by my bed, all the windows open and blasting in icy winter air, staring at me, hoping and praying that my fever would go down.

It doesn't feel real when they tell me. (Partly because the only memory I have of this incident is of a little musical toy that they had in the hospital that I loved.) But it must have been terrifying. Exhausting. Draining. 

There is no fear like the fear you feel when your kid is ill and you can't help them. I know this now. It is a piercing, terrible, helpless fear.

I don't know why I'm thinking about this today. I suppose because I've been thinking about my own childhood memories and matching them up to what Mum and Dad must have experienced. I had a happy childhood, which meant I was protected from the stress of adult life and kept innocent and unafraid of the world. Even when awful things happened to my parents, they protected me.

The thing is, you don't ever switch off from being a parent, even when they're asleep. Because there's always something to do, or think about. When you're a child - or a young adult - you don't necessarily appreciate everything your parents do. There's all this everyday stuff that you have to do that your child doesn't even know about. Like ... food shopping and meal planning. Budgeting in a way that allows you not to panic at Christmas. All the RELENTLESS baskets of washing. Clearing out the slimy lettuce and furry carrots from the back of the fridge. Scooping poo out of the bath. Having chewed, and then suddenly unwanted, food spat out into your hand by your toddler. The running list of things to do. Need to get her on the list for preschool. Need to cut her toenails tonight. The way you have to leave the house with a luggage bag full of things that you probably won't use, with the knowledge that if you leave one thing behind, that will be the one thing that you actually need.

And sometimes, you do all this with the theme tune to Paw Patrol in your head on loop.

You do it all though without complaint. (Okay, sometimes with a bit of complaint. I don't think anyone in the history of the universe has ever scooped poo out of a bath and felt happy about it). Because, you know, that's what you do. That's your job. And you love them. And that's just the normal stuff: that doesn't include the late-night trips to an out-of-hours-GP, or chasing your potty-afraid toddler around whilst wielding a tube in an attempt to catch their wee in it to be tested, or walking to the shops after having no sleep in order to buy ice lollies for your feverish child.

I suppose what I am trying to say is this: I really, REALLY appreciate my parents now. Even now, they are there: buying us the odd thing that we might need, coming over to help me clean down the backs of our radiators, the reminders that they are there for us, no matter what time of the day or night. And not only for me, but for Chris, whom they have embraced like he is their own son, and for Jellybean, whom they love so fiercely that sometimes they call pretty much just to tell me that.

I know how hard it is sometimes. How scary and frustrating and stressful it can be.

It all gets cancelled out, though. By the wonder of it. By the awe of seeing your child grow up. By the love. A whole day of exhaustion and emotion can be turned around just by the way your kid goes all smiley and gooey when she looks at you sometimes. The fear of raising a child in a world that isn't safe (particularly at the moment) is conquered by the utter joy of loving someone that much.

It's worth it. No matter how tired it might make you feel or how frustrating it can be or how long the days feel sometimes. It's always worth the hard work.

I'm sure my parents would say that. Even though all three of us were pains in the bum sometimes.

Thanks Mum and Dad!

Hope conquers fear.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

I don't normally write blog posts about terror attacks or natural disasters or other heartbreaking tragedies. It's not me being insensitive. I just don't know how to put words to it. In the face of utter terror, devastation, and extreme violence, my words seem pathetic and small.

So I don't write them. Usually.

But I don't think I can post anything else without mentioning the terror attacks over the weekend. Obviously in Paris, which has seen my Facebook feed turn blue, white and red (understandably), but also the attack in Beirut on Thursday, which was just as bloody, just as despicable, and just as awful as the one that we have been mourning closer to home.

There is a lot of darkness in the world. Sometimes all I have to do is glance at the headlines and I can feel it pressing in on me from all sides. It's a scary world in which to raise a child.

It's also a beautiful one. Still.

So, while my prayers have been as much 'Why is this happening, God?' as well as 'please be with those poor people, Lord' (and I'll happily admit that. I struggle sometimes with injustice and cruelty and where my faith fits around that), I still believe, obviously, in Jesus, but also in hope, and in courage, and bravery, and in the ability of people to keep going, to carry on, to not allow fear to overcome them.

This is my little tribute. To the people of Paris who have gone out the next day, who have walked blood-spilled, glass-shattered streets to see their loved ones or help those in need or to just, you know, go to work. And to the people of Beirut, whose complex situations we may not see as much in our media, but whose lives matter just as much.

Book review: A Better Man by Leah McLaren

Monday, 9 November 2015

I'm doing another book review today! I was sent a free copy via Britmum's Book Club, to read and review. So, here is my honest opinion ...


I didn't like it that much.

I'll explain the premise: Nick is a very wealthy, successful man, with a beautiful wife, twins, a huge house, and a (long-suffering) nanny. All fine, on the surface. However, he is desperately unhappy in his marriage, and decides that he wants a divorce. He approaches his friend Gray, a divorce lawyer, for advice. Gray basically tells him that, if Nick decides to divorce now, his wife Maya would be entitled to almost everything (as she is a stay-at-home mother to the twins). However, he could get a better deal if he could prove to the courts that he had been a good husband all along, as they might be a little more sympathetic toward him.

So, Nick sets about being the 'perfect' husband. He goes from barely seeing his children, flirting incessantly with other women and ignoring his wife, to being more attentive. He starts to leave the office slightly earlier than normal. And so the ice that has built between Nick and Maya starts to thaw. And, lo and behold! (This is the part that had me rolling my eyes slightly) Nick realises how much of an idiot he has been, and that he loved his wife all along, and he should have treated her better in the first place.

But then, of course, Maya finds out that Nick had been planning to divorce her, and the whole attempt at saving their marriage was a sham.

I found this book immensely frustrating. I really enjoyed the writing and thought some of the prose was quite lovely. Like this little section:

'Gray may be the only person who understands the evolution of Nick. The change and where it came from. She realises it is this - not the new job or the whisky - that's causing the humming in her veins, that accelerated feeling that she has had for the past few days of hovering slightly above earth, moving just above the legal human speed limit.'

That was what kept me reading - the descriptive passages.

The characters, however? I didn't warm to them.

I just felt that all the adults in this book (except maybe the nanny) were immensely selfish. I hated the way that Nick treated his wife and children. I hated the way that Maya was so ... ALL or nothing. It was either look after the twins and shut out her husband, or ignore the twins completely. There was no realism to it, no balance. I disliked the fact that Maya dropped all her principles at once - she was very much a stereotypical 'earth mother' to begin with. It just felt a bit false. I disliked Gray entirely.

And I felt for the twins (even though the descriptions of them and their behaviour made me smile a bit. In fact, they were probably the most sympathetic and realistic characters in the whole book! Along with the nanny.)

I just felt it lacked redemption. The ending didn't make up for it, really. The characters 'grew', I suppose, but they went about it in the most selfish way possible, whilst barely communicating with each other.

However, reading the other reviews suggests to me that I am in the minority on this one, and that people seemed to like the observations it makes on modern marriage. Usually, I can suspend my disbelief when reading a book, but on the whole this felt a little false to me. However, the writing itself was very good. Which almost made it more frustrating to read ;)

A Better Man by Leah McLaren is published by Corvus Books and you can buy it here.

Thank you Britmums for the free copy!
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