But I do pay car tax

I man drove his car at us when we were on the cargo bike this morning.

By us, I mean myself, my 5 year old and my 3 year old. He drove his car straight at us.

He wasn’t driving particularly fast, to be fair. But still, he saw us. He pulled out to pass parked cars on his side of the road. This meant he crossed the middle line  and was on our side of the road.

Now, to me, in that situation, I had right of way.

I strongly believe in riding assertively, especially with a bike as big and slow as a cargo bike. So I stood my ground and forced him to stop.

So, we had a chat.

I pointed out to him that I had right of way as he was pulling out to my side of the road to pass an obstruction.

He pointed out that I have no right of way because I am on a bike.

According to him, I do not pay road tax for my bike, therefore I have no rights whatsoever on the road.

I did point out to him that nobody pays road tax and that I do indeed pay car tax…for my car.

He countered that this payment only entitled me to use the roads in my car, not on a bike. Apparently, if I had any intelligence whatsoever, I would know that.

What do you say to this?

My car tax only costs £20 per year. I pay it because that is one of the costs of driving a private car. I do not believe that £20 entitles me to drive at those I do not agree with. To risk killing or injuring or terrifying them.

Personally, I have never understood why any pedestrian would cross a busy road without using a crossing when there is one right by them. But I would never feel justified to drive at them for their choice.

I like to think that I would never deliberately drive my car at anyone.

I would love to believe that this man’s attitude was a one-off. Sadly, I don’t believe it was. I believe that there are quite a few drivers out there who would agree with him. I believe this because of the sheer number of times drivers look me in the eye and aim their cars at me and my children.

This is why I am so loath to let my 5 year old ride his bike on the road.

How did we get to this point? A point where motorists’ sense of entitlement leads them to believe that they have more rights than anyone else? A point where drivers will risk injury or death to children because they pay a nominal fee each year. Because to give way would be to add 10 seconds to their journey. 10 seconds. It took him longer to tell me how lacking in basic intelligence I was.

More importantly, how do we turn this around?

I do not expect priority on the roads when I cycle. I expect to give way when it is not my right of way. I expect others to give way when it is not their right of way. I expect to follow the rules of the road. I expect to wait at red lights. I expect to share the roads.

As a stay at home mum to two small children, I deal with issues around sharing very very regularly. Annoyingly regularly. Tediously regularly.

But I do not know how to persuade some drivers that they really do need to share the roads.

Car tax entitles you to drive your car. Nothing entitles you to use your car as a weapon.

My Child My Self

Babies don’t see any separation between themselves and their primary caregiver. They view mummy (or whoever their primary caregiver is) as a part of themselves. Research suggests that this phase ends at around seven months. More details here.

Sometimes I wonder how this separation and independence works from a mother’s point of view.

I think I sometimes find it hard to accept that my children are people in their own right. That they are not a part of me. That I do not have a right to their innermost thoughts and feelings unless they choose to share.

Don’t get me wrong. I want my children to be independent. I want them to be themselves. I don’t want them to depend on me for their happiness.

But I want to know what is going on in their heads.

Right now my son is worried about starting school in August. He is not great with change and this is a huge change for him.

Right now I am worried about my son being worried.

I want him to talk to me about how he is feeling so I can understand him better. So I can help him better.

But he doesn’t really want to talk about it.

Not to me or to anyone else.

And that is his right.

He is his own person.

So how do I help him?

I have come to the conclusion that all I can offer him is my love and my acceptance. And all I can do is wait. If he knows that I am here for him and that I want to help then he will ask for my help if he wants it.

It sounds so simple but it is so hard.

Waiting means watching him worry. Waiting means seeing him unhappy. And no parent wants to see their child unhappy.

It would be so much easier if my son really was a part of me. If we weren’t separate. Because then I could handle it all for him and he wouldn’t have to feel unhappy.

But if our parents protected us from every negative emotion in life, would we really be full ourselves?

 

Strengths and Weaknesses

I have always been a ‘strong person’.

I have always seen this as a positive quality.

Recently I find myself questioning what this actually means. Am I really that strong? Is it really such a positive trait?

Physically, I am definitely strong. I ride a cargo bike, often loaded with two not-so-small children and all the stuff which seems to be required when leaving the house with two children. Not to mention that the three year old is currently refusing to go anywhere on the bike unless she is carrying several stones from the driveway.

But physical strength is not really what I mean by a strong person.

I have a strong character. I have a good idea of what I am and what I am not. On the whole, I am happy with who I am. The things I do, I do for myself and my family. I don’t do things ‘for show’. My husband has a similar outlook which made for a wonderful wedding day. We kept all the bits of a wedding which we liked and skipped all the bits that we didn’t. It was very much ‘our day’ and we both loved it.

But strength of character isn’t entirely it either.

I am a strong person because I am balanced and stable and not easily overwhelmed by emotions and that means I can be emotionally strong for others.

I think that is a big part of what people mean when they describe me as ‘strong’.

But it’s not true.

But it’s not real.

But I am not even sure it is possible.

The same as everyone, I am balanced and stable sometimes and unbalanced and chaotic others. I do get overwhelmed by emotions. I get overwhelmed by my emotions. I get overwhelmed by the emotions of others that I love, especially my children.

But I don’t often show it.

I have mentioned my parents’ divorce before.  It was a time of huge emotions. Huge emotions for me. Huge emotions for the people I loved the most. The kind of huge emotions which can leave you struggling to see anything positive in life.

It was the time when I learned to be emotionally strong for others.

It was the time when I learnt to detach myself from my own emotions in order to deal with other peoples’.

More than twenty years later, I am realising that this is not a positive quality.

More than twenty years later, I am realising that I still have not re-connected with my own emotions.

I realise that I have not just detached myself from the emotions I felt more than twenty years ago. I have perfected the art of squashing any emotions which threaten to overwhelm me.

I think about this now because I think about my children.

I think about their emotional life.

Young childrens’ emotions are so out in the open. They haven’t yet learnt to worry about how their displays of emotion impact on others. They feel extremes of emotions over the most seemingly trivial issues. They display every emotion they have.

As a stay at home mum I deal with my childrens’ emotions all the time. As frustrating as that can be, I love that they wear their hearts on their sleeves. It means that I can know every part of them. It means that I can really connect with them.

But can they really connect with me?

Should I show my emotions to them like they show their emotions to me?

My immediate answer is no. I know how it feels to see your mum crying and trust me, it feels horrible.

But does that mean I should never cry in front of my children? If so then I have failed.

Like any mother, I do not want to see my children in distress. But we cannot protect our children from everything and they will inevitably feel distress in their lives. So I want them to learn how to cope through distress.

I want my children to know that it is ok to feel whatever they are feeling. I want them to know that they do not have to control their emotions, they just have to control how they act on those feelings. I want them to know that I will do what I can to help them when they do not like how they are feeling.

I tell them this now. Usually along the lines of “It is ok to feel angry, it is not ok to hit your sister/brother”. I show them by accepting their anger and giving them a cuddle (on the days when I get it right).

So maybe it is ok to cry in front of our children. To cry and to tell them “I feel sad”. To show them that the world doesn’t end when we feel sad. To show them what a difference they can make to somebody who feels sad with the healing power of a cuddle.

Do you want to build a snowman?

It was a standing joke in my family when I was younger. How my Dad sulked the year it snowed and none of us would come out and build a snowman with him. I can’t remember how old my siblings and I were but we considered ourselves too old for such pastimes. My Dad must have considered himself to old for such pastimes too – unless he had his children with him to give him the excuse.

Two events in my life have made me think about this recently.

Firstly, My son turned five. My daughter is about to turn three.

I am loving the age my children are at now. They are that bit more independent so I get at least one cup of coffee a day that I don’t have to reheat. They are not at school yet and as a stay at home mum I get plenty of time with them. The youngest is out of nappies. Most nights, when we go to bed, we sleep until at least 6am without interruption.

I loved my children as babies but I don’t miss the days of night-feeds and explosive nappies and tiny people who can’t tell you just what it is they want.

Still, sometimes I think I am still just coming to terms with being a parent while they are growing so fast. There are some things that are over and I will never have them again. No more cots, no more baby sensory, no more spoon feeding, no more jumperoo taking up half the living room.

There will come a point when there will be no more cargo bike. The children are getting so big and heavy and Danny can pedal his own bike now. The plan is to move on to a tandem type bike. I am really excited about a tandem, but I think I will cry the day we sell the cargo bike.

The second event that made me think, was a family week in the sunshine. A brilliant week and the kids had a ball. We spent the mornings at the beach and the afternoons at the pool.

This was the first holiday when hubby and I got a fair bit of time relaxing. At the pool, the kids played happily in the shallow pool with armbands on while we sat and watched them. We did play with them some of the time, but they didn’t always want us to. They were quite happy.

I’m not complaining about any of this. Like I said, I am loving the age my children are at now.

But it makes me think.

Did I make the most of it?

Will I one day look back with regret?

Sometimes I worry that I will look back and wonder if I spent my children’s early years trying to ‘get stuff done’. If I was impatient and grumpy. If I should have left the laundry in the basket and gone to blow bubbles in the garden. If I should have ignored the mess and gone to build lego. If I should have skipped the cycle ride and gone swimming as a family.

I don’t subscribe to the ‘cherish every moment’ approach to parenting. It would be hard for anyone to cherish the moment on our recent holiday when both children lay on the floor screaming blue murder because they both wanted to go out of the lift first.

But still. Did I make the most of it?

What will my children remember when they look back on their childhoods?

What will they think of me?

Sometimes motherhood feels like one guilt trip after another.

I really don’t think I will look back with regret.

I do blow bubbles in the garden. I love nothing better than watching them leap around trying to catch them all. Sometimes I think our house must be identifiable for miles around by the veritable cloud of bubbles drifting above it.

I do build lego. I had forgotten just how much fun lego can be. The three of us have collaborated on some amazing fantastical creations and I couldn’t say who had the most fun.

I do take them swimming sometimes. True, not very often and hubby takes them most weekends while I cycle. Hubby lets them splash him and pretend to dunk him under the water. Hubby does tricks and lets them ride on his back while he swims. Hubby is great fun to go swimming with. Hubby is brilliant with them and they love their time with him… without me there. And I am a better Mummy after my cycle.

I am sometimes impatient and grumpy. I do sometimes fob them off because I have jobs that need to be done. I am human and life is busy.

I do my best and that is the best I can do.

I wonder if my Dad thinks the same.

I wonder how he felt that day we all refused to build a snowman with him.

 

Where the grass is greenest after all

I was on a first aid course today. This meant hubby taking the day off to look after the children. It meant me being child free from 9am-5pm. Similar to what a lot of working parents do several days of the week. I was also lucky enough that the course was being run a 5 minute walk from my house, so no extra time away travelling.

I had been quite looking forward to doing something grown up for the day.

I did enjoy the day. I did get to be a grown up all day. I put my coffee down at the edge of the table. I ate my lunch without getting up once. I went to the toilet on my own without anyone insisting on opening the door at inopportune moments. I learnt some new things and got to practise old skills.

I realised how much I enjoy being at home with my children.

I remembered just how lucky I am to be able to stay off work for now.

Being a stay at home mum can be a frustrating experience. Here are some of my regular frustrations:

  • There are tears and arguments over the most seemingly ridiculous things. Did I mention the day I had to stop the cargo bike on the way to nursery because the children were getting hysterical over whose turn it was to throw the imaginary ball to the imaginary dog?
  • There is very little peace. Between bottom wiping, potty emptying, crumb sweeping, lego building, sticker sticking, story reading, milk pouring, snack providing, clothes changing, etc, etc – somebody always seems to want something from me.
  • The endless household chores. There seems to be far more laundry than could possibly be produced by just 4 people and far more meals to be made than we can possibly be eating.
  • I am never alone. Never.
  • I am never alone when I am on the toilet. Never. Somebody always wants something when I go to the toilet. Quite often, that is the very moment when one of them decides they want to bash their sibling with a toy doll.
  • The tedious arguments. Seriously, just put your shoes on. Please, just put your shoes on. Just once, put your shoes on the first time I ask and don’t make me ask a hundred times.

All these petty frustrations can add up and start to drag you down.

Today gave me some perspective about the positives of staying at home with the kids, as compared to going out to work:

  • I am the mistress of my own time. Ok, there are constraints – we have to get to nursery and playgroup on time and I have to collect them both on time. But my children are still young enough that the eldest is only away for three hours,and the youngest only for 2 hours a couple of days a week. The rest of the day is our own and we get to choose what to do with it. We can play in the garden, go for a walk, go swimming, build fantastic lego constructions, bake, go to the library, whatever we like. When you go to work, you have to be at work, until work finishes – even if you decide you’ve had enough of work now.
  • I get to do all the things that were great fun as a child. It turns out that lots of these things are still great fun as an adult, I just forgot. Building lego is fantastic once you throw away the instructions. I love the challenge of using every piece of train track in building a mega track. As for chasing bubbles in the garden – brilliant.
  • I get to move. Today, I mostly sat in a chair. By the end of the day I felt twitchy and irritable. When I’m at home with the kids, I often wish I could just sit down. Turns out that’s not what I want after all.
  • I don’t miss anything about my childrens’ lives – good or bad. I am a part of it all. Sometimes it seems endless, especially when I’m standing in a play park which I would really like to leave now. Today, I walked past an empty play park and I felt like crying. I felt like crying because it made me realise that there will come a day when my children don’t want to go to the play park. And on that day, I will really really miss standing in that play park trying not to feel bored.

I’m not saying that staying at home is the best way. I don’t believe that there is a one-size-fits-all best way. I don’t want to spark a working parent versus stay at home parent debate. I think that every family has to make a difficult choice about what is right for them, and then try and find a way to make it work for them.

All I am saying is that today I counted my blessings.

Today I truly appreciated that for me, at this moment, the grass is definitely greener at home, with my beautiful, hilarious, fascinating, frustrating children.

“That woman with the bike”

Pretty soon after I started using the cargo bike on a daily basis, I realised that I was no longer just ‘a cyclist’ to the people I came across. I became “that woman with the bike”.

I know this because I have a friend who is lovely and who looks the part of a playground mum. She is ‘in with the playground mum chat’. What I do not know is the tone that people use when they say “that woman on the bike”. I like to think that it’s not snarled through gritted teeth but sometimes I suspect otherwise.

I also find it incredible how many other cyclists tell me where else in the city they have seen me on my distinctive bike.

And I find it incredible how many people say “oh, you’re the woman with the bike” when I am off the bike but talk about it.

It is a strange feeling not being anonymous.

It makes me realise how often we are anonymous in daily life. We don’t really recognise people that we don’t know, even when we see them every day walking or driving or cycling around our streets.

Trust me, you do get recognised when you ride the only bakfiets in the village.

It also makes me realise that there is more than one way to ride a bike.

I consider myself a safe cyclist.

I consider myself an assertive cyclist.

Others perhaps consider me an aggressive cyclist.

Others definitely consider me an annoying cyclist.

Here’s the thing. I take the issue of safe passing distance very seriously.

There are plenty of articles available online detailing close pass statistics. A quick Google of ‘close pass cyclist’ will provide plenty of links. I’m not going to bother repeating them here.

I am going to speak from daily experience.

Close passes are scary.

Close passes can be terrifying.

Close passes are completely unnecessary.

In my more generous moments, I think people pass me so close I could reach out and touch their car / van / taxi / bus because they just do not realise how vulnerable cyclists are. They do not realise how close they are. They do not see the potholes that might mean I need to move further from the curb.

In my less generous moments, I think people people pass that close because they really do think that their journey is more important than my life and my childrens’ lives.

West Midlands Police recently ran a campaign to educate drivers about the dangers of close passes. Other police forces also showed interest in this and Cycling UK are running a kickstarter campaign to provide close pass cycle mats  to every police force in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

I think this is a fantastic initiative.

I think it can make cycling safer.

Even more important, I think it can make cycling more attractive to people who currently don’t cycle.

I think it could encourage more families to take to their bikes.

I hope it could encourage more families to take to their bikes on the school run.

Back to why I know I am an annoying cyclist.

I do not cycle right next to the curb. I cycle around half a metre from the curb. Maybe more, maybe less, depending on the state of the road. I have always done this. Long before I realised that this is exactly what the police would advise. I have always seen this as providing me with somewhere to go if a driver does pass me too close for comfort.

Sometimes, this means that a vehicle cannot get past me as soon as they might like to.

But it does mean we are safe.

Anyone who has had any experience of the school run will know the kind of parking which goes on. This narrows some of the roads I have to use to one lane. If I squeeze into the kerb and drivers pass me as close as they can, then there is still room for them to pass me immediately.

But that means we are not safe.

So, I won’t allow it.

If a road is narrow and there is not room for a car to pass me with at least a metre to spare, I will cycle much more than 0.5m from the kerb, to make drivers wait until the road is wider before they pass me.

And that means that we are safe.

There are a couple of roads where I do this every day.

I can appreciate that this must be frustrating for some drivers.

I am not trying to make any kind of point. I am not trying to upset anyone. I am just keeping us safe.

The roads where I do this every day are not very long.

The delay to drivers cannot be more than two minutes.

The minority of drivers who react to this by shouting abuse are not going to make any difference to me.

I will still cycle.

I will still cycle defensively.

I will still wonder, does two minutes really make that much difference to a person’s day?

Winning the Weight Loss Challenge

I’ve posted a couple of times this year about weight loss and me. About losing weight after pregnancy and about the culinary challenges I now find myself facing.

Time for an update and the update is positive.

Since New Year, I have lost just over a stone. Even better, I find myself fitting into clothes a size smaller. This is the first time I have been a size 12 in many, many years.

Yay for me. I feel great and I feel positive about maintaining my new weight.

The remarkable thing is that I’ve not really found it that tough to lose the weight this time. I’ve not been hungry and I’ve not gone without my red wine and chocolate at the weekend.

So I thought I’d share what I’ve been doing.

I discovered the myfitnesspal app when I first started losing the ‘baby weight’. I think it’s a fantastic tool. But, like any tool, how well it works depends on how well you use it. I have used it well and I have used it badly. More about that in a future post.

Here is why I think I might just of got it right this time:

  • Accurately measuring calories out:

I got a new Garmin (I am a bit of a Garmin gadget addict). My lovely husband bought me a Garmin Vivoactive HR for my birthday. I have tried all sorts of heart rate monitors over the years. All of these used chest straps to measure heart rate. All of them have ended up flung across rooms in disgust. I came to the conclusion that I am simply not the right build for chest straps.

My new Garmin is a watch which measures heart rate at the wrist. I have found it to be reliable and accurate. It uses the heart rate measurements to calculate calories burned, so the calorie count is pretty accurate. The Garmin Connect app talks to the myfitnesspal app so the calories I burn are added onto my daily allowance. It also counts steps so I don’t have to tell myfitnesspal how active I am (since this varies every day anyway).

  • Thinking about the quality of everything I eat

I have had my daily calorie ‘allowance’ set at around 1500. This is fairly low, but because I am on the bike pretty much every day for transport or fun, I generally have another 500 calories added to this to make up for calories burned. I have found that this level is perfectly achievable without feeling hungry as long as I think about the quality of everything I eat. For me this has meant lots of fruit and veg, and lots of malt loaf. I look for what I can eat which will make me feel the most full, for the least calories.

Sadly, if I consume 685 calories with a slice of tiffin and a medium latte from Costa (I love tiffin and latte from Costa) that is a huge dent in my allowance and it doesn’t really keep hunger at bay for long. That said, a small skinny latte from Costa comes in at 70 calories and, because milk is largely protein, this is actually not a bad high quality, low calorie snack.

  • Eating enough and eating often

Eating enough and timing when I eat has been a tricky one for me. I now never go out without snacks (for me, as well as the children). I would no more leave the house without bananas and malt loaf bars, than I would leave without a packet of wipes (Once you have had children, it is almost impossible to contemplate not having wipes on hand at all times, even once the children are out of nappies). I have realised that, if I actually let myself feel more than slightly hungry, I overeat.

Mid-morning and evening are the important times for me. We have breakfast pretty early, then the nursery and playgroup run is on the cargo bike. By the time I have done that, I always eat something. I often don’t feel hungry, but if I don’t eat something around 100 calories, I will find myself eating closer to 500 calories later.

I now try to keep meals under 500 calories, but I kind of count snacks as a meal – especially evening snacks. I eat with my children at around 5pm and I go to bed around 10pm. That leaves a huge stretch of time without eating if I don’t have enough calories to eat in the evening. So, I make sure I have enough calories to eat something in the evening. This is usually the calories I have burned through cycling, especially if I have been on the bike in the evening.

Some days, I find it hard to get my head around eating enough in the evening. It is hard to see that you have 800 calories left because it has been an active day and not to think that that is an achievement, especially if I’m not actually feeling all that hungry. I have done this in the past and have found that the next day, or even the day after, I go on a bit of an eating rampage. Bring on the Costa tiffin and unlimited home baking! So now, if I have 800 calories left at the end of the day, I use those calories before I go to bed.

  • Minor changes in family meals

I recently watched the ‘Hairy Dieters’ programmes and thought they had lots of good ideas for cutting calories without sacrificing enjoyment. I bought the cook book too and have found it really helpful. It has some good, simple, tasty recipes which have been acceptable to everyone in my family (Husband: larger portions, 4 year old: happy to eat most things, 2 year old: put bread with it).

I have taken the hairy biker idea of little swaps and used that with other meals too. So, if I make pasta and pasta sauce, for me I swap the pasta for baked sweet potato (5 minutes in the microwave so not a separate meal to my mind) – just as filling, half the calories. My family loves chilli and quesadillas – I make the chilli with quorn mince, use the food processor to add in loads of peppers in disguise, and I have baked potato instead of quesadillas. Lunches have been the same minor changes – one slice of toast with extra baked beans or scrambled egg is more filling for less calories.

  • Chilling out about going over my daily ‘allowance’

I no longer panic when I go over my daily allowance. I regularly do go over it and I am still losing weight. My reasoning it that I have my allowance set fairly low and that leaves a nice ‘margin of error’. According to the NHS, a woman should consume around 2000 calories a day to maintain her weight. So, even if I go over by 500 calories every day for a week, it’s really no disaster. I probably won’t lose any weight that week, but I probably won’t gain any either, and that is fine.

I am not en elite athlete and I never will be. It is not vital that I keep my weight low, it never will be. I just want it a little bit lower. I always go over my allowance on Fridays and Saturdays. Wine and chocolate. It is worth appreciating just how easy it is to consume a couple of thousand calories through wine and chocolate. This allows me to be moderate in my indulgences and to be aware of them, without giving them up entirely. If I have kept more or less within the limits I have set throughout the week, although I go over at the weekends, my average daily calorie consumption for the week is still under 2000 calories so I should still lose weight.

So, these little revelations have meant that for now I have found a ‘diet’ that I can keep to and not feel deprived. I also feel that I am not demonstrating an obsession with dieting to my children. I am perhaps demonstrating an obsession with healthy eating and moderation to my children. To me that is ok. I want to bring my children up to be active and to eat healthily, not to diet. I find that if I stay active and eat healthily (not Costa tiffin, or at least not too often), then I don’t need to diet.

 

Good Enough?

This weekend has not been great. In fact it’s been awful. My 4 year old pushed me to breaking point and beyond.

I go through occasional phases of reading parenting books. I take them with a pinch of salt but there is usually something useful in them.

My reading this time took me into the realms of emotional intelligence. I totally agree with the principles. We should talk to our children about emotions. We should acknowledge their feelings and help them to accept them and to act appropriately on them.

So I bought some books to read with the children. ‘The Big Bag of Worries’ and ‘How are you Feeling Today’. Both great books.

The books arrived on Friday and we read them through the day and at bedtime. 4 year old and 2 year old both enjoyed them and kept asking for them.

Go me. Great parenting.

Then we reached bedtime.

4 year old announced that he was scared of his bedroom. He did not know what was scaring him and he did not know what we could do do help him with this. Over the next two hours, he whined, shouted, cried, clung and made no sense whatsoever. I really didn’t think he was scared. He didn’t look scared. He didn’t sound scared. But still he said he was scared.

At the same time, 2 year old sang at the top of her voice while running around her bedroom throwing toys and repeatedly taking her nappy off.

I wish I was a more patient person. I wish I could say that I hung in there and talked 4 year old through his feelings. I wish I could say that I calmly explained to 2 year old that it was bedtime and she must go back to bed until she accepted it.

I did not.

I hung in there and stayed calm for as long as I could. This was nowhere near long enough. It was not really very long at all.

I yelled, I swore. In the end I curled up in a ball on the landing and sobbed for an hour.

Not so great parenting.

It didn’t end there. 4 year old then repeated the “I’m scared” performance every 20 minutes from midnight to 4am. 2 year old got up at 6:30am as usual.

This was followed by a day full of the kind of behaviour you would expect from an exhausted 4 year old with two exhausted parents.

This was followed by the exact same bedtime performance.

Not a good weekend.

I wanted to be there for my children. I wanted to support them through their difficulties. I wanted to understand how they were feeling and how I could help them.

I really wanted to know if this was real or if he was just taking the mickey.

I really really wanted to just get on my bike and ride off into the sunset.

I didn’t achieve any of those things.

It was one of those weekends which reminded me just how hard it is to be a parent and to be human and to be yourself.

I think everyone wishes they were a better person to some degree. Is that insecurity or just being human?

I realise that I am able to accept my limits in most areas of my life.

When I am at work, I am a good teacher. I am not a great teacher because I am not that exceptional. But I will do the best I can for the children in my class because I care about them.

When I time trialled, I was a good time triallist. I won a few races. I was not a great time triallist – I could look at a start list and name the women who would definitely beat me. I will never ride at the olympics. But I enjoyed doing the best that I could; beating my times and occasionally getting placed.

Now I am a parent, I am a good parent. I do my best for my children. But I so often feel that my best isn’t good enough, that I am failing. I say the wrong things. I shout. I am impatient. I worry that I am scarring my children for life. It is just not good enough that I am not a great parent. It is not good enough to be good enough.

In all other aspects of my life, I can accept that I am not perfect but I am doing my very best and that is good enough.

Parenting is hard.

 

Culinary Challenges

I’m watching ‘How to Lose Weight Well’ while I type.

I have no experience using any of the ‘fad diet’ approaches to losing weight. I don’t think I ever will, for a simple reason:

For an active person I am really quite lazy. Lots of these diets seem like a lot of work. I am just too lazy to work out proportions of protein to carbohydrate or any such nonsense.

Years ago (actually on honeymoon – how romantic) I read Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald. His approach makes a lot of sense and is really very simple. This is the essence of it, as I interpreted it (rightly or wrongly):

  • Calories – if you eat more than you use, you will gain weight; if you eat less than you use, you will lose weight.
  • Quality – high quality foods tend to be lower in calories and tend to make you feel fuller. Think fruit and vegetables, lean proteins, little or no processing.

I have always aimed for a healthy diet, which to me means plenty of just such high quality foods.

Sadly, some of the things I really love aren’t really all that high quality. I love red wine. I love chocolate. I love cheese. I love lattes and cake. All entirely acceptable in moderation.

I’m not great at moderation. ‘If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth going completely overboard with’ might as well be my motto. This is possibly one reason why  could really do with losing a bit of weight.

As a mum and cook to a family of four it is not as simple as just deciding to change my diet. I face a number of culinary challenges:

  • I enjoy cooking. But I don’t enjoy it enough to cook more than one evening meal a day – everyone eats the same in my house.
  • I don’t really want to cook an evening meal every day. I like big meals which can be re-heated for a second night.
  • I don’t have a huge amount of spare time so cooking time needs to be planned for.
  • Cooking cannot be too involved. If I can’t pause midway through cooking something to change a nappy / sort out an argument / wipe a bottom / locate an essential toy without the meal being spoiled then it isn’t going to work.
  • I want my children to eat a balanced diet. I also want them to to develop a healthy attitude to food.
  • It really winds me up when I spend time cooking meals which nobody then wants to eat.
  • I love to bake, and love to eat what I bake.

There are also the individual requirements of the various members of my family:

Me

Likes: Most things, fish, chilli, anything in pastry, Christmas cake, chocolate

Dislikes: lamb, raw tomatoes

Special requirements: wants to lose some weight, doesn’t like to eat too much meat

Husband

Likes: stir fry, chilli sauce, curries, chicken, Nandos, biscuits

Dislikes: fish,

Special requirements: meals which can be reheated without spoiling when he gets in from work.

4 Year Old

Likes: a remarkable range of foods for his age

Dislikes: ‘crunchy bits’ (real or imaginary)

Special requirements: No different foods to be mixed together (pasta, broccoli and chicken = good; broccoli and chicken pasta bake = bad) or touching on the plate.

2 Year Old

Likes: milk, pasta, milk, boiled eggs (all traces of yolk removed), milk, cheese on toast, milk, pizza, milk, sausages, milk, ketchup (ideally with nothing else on the plate), milk, milk, milk

Dislikes: everything else. Absolutely everything else

Special requirements: vary from day to day.

Suffice to say that much of my waking time revolves around food. Thinking about food, planning food, shopping for food, making food, sweeping up food.

However, this is a challenge I am determined to rise to. Not least because husband and I are channeling our competitive selves in the hope of losing weight. We have a chart on the wall and weekly weigh-ins planned. And neither of us likes to lose.

 

Lycra in the Playground

When my son started at the school nursery, I became ‘a playground mum’. Playground mums are those mums who are lucky enough to be able to drop off and collect their lovely offspring from school or nursery each day. When I stopped work and became a ‘stay at home mum’, I gave this aspect of my new role no thought whatsoever, absolutely none. I did, however, give a great deal of thought to how I was going to get to school with my 2 children in tow. We live about a mile and a half from the school. We have a car but this seems a ridiculous distance to drive and also, I just don’t seem to have the appropriate attitude for driving and parking around a school at peak times. I can’t seem to help myself.  I just can’t shake my deeply held belief that other people also have a right to life, and to parking in their own driveways, and being able to travel safely along a public road. Also, try as I might, I can’t seem to stop believing that people go to the trouble of painting double yellow lines and zig zag lines for a reason other than to provide a colourful place to park.

Back to my school run quandary. So, just the thought of driving to the school filled me with fear. Anyone who has ever attempted walking a mile and a half with a 3 year old and a 1 year old on a regular basis will know why this was an unthinkable option (think lateness and arguing day in, day out). Enter….the cargo bike…..

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Oh, how I love my cargo bike! More on this in another post but, suffice to say, I get to ride a bike (albeit very very slowly), every single day, whilst looking after my children. I know exactly how long the journey will take, I don’t have to worry about finding a parking space, the children actually love it, and the only downside seems to be the fair number of drivers around the school who do not share my deeply held belief about right to life, etc, etc.

So, mode of transport sorted. Now, what to wear. When Danny first started nursery, he had an afternoon place and Ellen still needed a nap after lunch. She would happily nap on the bike, and what a mileage winner this was. After I dropped Danny off, I had an hour long route on cycle paths (ok, so an hour was only about 8 miles, who cares, I was cycling!) which would be about as long a nap as Ellen needed. That gave me a little while to play back at home before hopping back on the bike to collect Danny from nursery. I had not been able to cycle this much since Danny was born and it was brilliant. It reminded me how much cycling was a part of my identity and something I needed to do to feel like me. It also reminded me why cycle clothing involves padding and lycra after a few weeks of an hour and a half a day cycling, wearing jeans. Oh my goodness, my poor arse! So, cycle clothing it was then. Cycle clothing, for the school run. It was then that I started to notice the playground mums.

I do not know how they do it. Every day the playground is filled with mums, dropping off their children, and looking amazing. Their hair is straightened, their makeup is perfect, they are stylishly dressed. Not just one or 2 of the mums, it seems like almost all of them. Nobody warned me that this was part of having children. That I would suddenly feel like I really should make more of an effort about my appearance. And not a single one of those playground mums was wearing well used and very very comfortable lycra. I obviously cannot say for certain, but I am pretty sure that I am in a very small minority in having a padded insert in my trousers on the school run. Nobody warned me that the playground is as intimidating for the mums as it is for the children. And I felt like the weird one in the class who is only just realising that the way they are dressed is wholly inappropriate for the situation. My arse felt so much better though. And I was on a bike.  So I got over it (mostly…I still feel a bit like the weird kid in the class).