A budding career in puberty

spring-budsMy daughter has buds…not the obvious, ‘buds’, mates at school type buds, though, thankfully, she does have those. But more, spring like ‘bud’s, the type that are just about to blossom and bloom, into, well, yes: breasts.

I have to admit – I am not ready for buds, nor bras or B.O. and don’t even mention boys. But despite my desire to file her in the freezer immediately and keep this ‘on-hold’ for a few years whilst I get my bonce round it… puberty appears to be one road we are racing headlong towards without my authority or consent.

BUT, it appears I must wholeheartedly embrace this new found chapter of motherhood, not deny the existence of boobs and periods like some of our fore-mothers of the 1970’s.  Many of whom were happily indifferent to those one or two poor big-breasted girls who were left to swing and hopefully, presumably, work it out for themselves?

Into, obviously, the lingerie department at M&S we go. I mean, where else? BHS has long gone, Woolies a distant memory – and H&M or Primarni’s is surely not the place to take your beloved baby to begin her lingerie buying and puberty embarking career?

I try and appear, outwardly, nonchalant, while inwardly I am nervous and my heart is slowing shattering into a myriad of failed mother fragments. As we stroll around the bra section in M&S, it dawns on me that this is, without doubt, a milestone and I think that perhaps I am also a little bit excited about embarking on this together.

A large, soviet looking matron bustles up and ushers us into the official M&S: ‘bra fitting cubicle’. “I am professional bra measurer, Sveetie” she barks at us in a 1950’s Hungarian accent. “Remove your top sveetie”. My daughter looks to me for reassurance and I nod nervously.

32 Double A – the classic beginners statistic – Grade One, if you will. I am relieved – Miss Hungary circa 1956 brings us in a number of overly pinked and princessed starter bras from their ‘Angel’ range…my heart sinks. Simplicity, classical innocence, why the need to trash, brash and over-design everybloodything?

“You look beautivul Sveeetieee”, Olga drawls, did I mention she was Olga?

All, the bras in the Angel Range are made from a thick padded material that Olga had reassured us: “protects the growing nippvles”. However, the 32AA still seems vast on the buds and a great cavernous valley opens up between my daughter’s actual chest and the bra cup. I am secretly relieved, maybe we still have, what – another year at best – to enjoy the last sighs of childish innocence.

We thank Olga profusely, because despite her overtly Bolshevik manner and mighty, square, breast shelf – she was incredibly kind and gentle. As we leave, we hear her booming in the next cubicle: “I am Olga. I am professional bra measurer, Sveetie.”

Giggling we dash past the cubicles, ditch the unicorn covered pink starter bra and find a simple white one, which my daughter clutches over-enthusiastically. Her unimpeached joy at growing up and becoming: a Woman, as overtly abundant as my unfathomable fear of losing my innocent daughter to the devil clutches of puberty, pimples and parties.

But, I muse, I think I handled it well – puberty is safely stowed in the back drawer until the next unleashing of her wild humanity. I was calm, practical: a hands-on mother who smoothly ushered in and managed: The. Next. Stage.

This is what motherhood is about surely – utter panic, sleepless worry-filled nights, followed by facing: THE TRUTH and then, naturally, dealing with it in a modern, finger-on-the-pulse woman, kinda way…bring on the pimples and periods – but not the boys, not yet.

The Guilt of Motherhood

5b9b65e0-f880-4a85-9ff1-483130dc5446Some days, I find myself shouting: screaming and swearing like a fish-wife and, as I do so, in front of me stands a crying child. Quite obviously terrified, quaking, in case I actually reach out and hit someone. This is all due to: being late for school, again –  or someone hasn’t put their socks on, brushed their teeth, or is still: playing lego/drawing/reading/singing on the piano… while the minutes, just literally dissolve into a black hole and we are late, again.

I shout in vain for them to: ‘get a bloody move on’, jumpers unfound, toothpaste strewn down shirts, hair in a tangle and all, for, what?

Conformity.

As we drive silently in the car – my anger slowly draining from my body – the children: quiet, tense, the day just unfolding.  I resolve, silently to myself, to apologise and hug them as tightly as I possibly can before they go into school.

I do.

The rest of the day is spent in a grey fug as I feel drenched in dark mother-guilt about my: outrageous behaviour.

And I wonder: did my mother, ever, do this to me?

Yet sometimes, and I have to make this point to you, this is not a regular occurrence, but just, very occasionally, (honestly),  I am so lost in anger. I. just. Cannot. Stop. Even when: right in front of me, I can see the destruction I am manifesting in my children.

Motherhood has revealed the darkest side of me: the anger and venom that gently froths, darthvaderlike, just beneath my conscious…Waiting for some unknown trigger to set free the raging torrent  across the still-ish waters of family-life and establish literal tsunamis of pain, tears, anxiety and, quite probably: therapy-inducing permanent fuck-up fuelled futures…with an over-priced psychotherapist proferring instant coffee…

And, as the days from that jarred, hurtful, venom-filled moment pass – I carry the wake of churning guilt and bitter after-taste disgust within me. I cannot believe I can behave this way to those I love more than any other beings on the planet…

What is that?

I apologise, again, many days later and desperately seek forgiveness – it is waved off.

But that anger is really, truly, not fine, sometimes it is truly scary and I’m in it and I cannot find a way out.

 

Keep It Simple Stupid (K.I.S.S)

Hannah and Toots kissing up a tree: K.I. double S  I.N.G…

Just one kiss, this is where it begins. A single kiss has the potential to lead to a myriad of outcomes, one is parenthood…did you plan it like that?  I didn’t have the time or the notion to think about how I would: ‘parent’ – I was terrified…That one kiss led to twins.

I have no ambition to preach, or bore. Yet one thing is essential for us, our children, our friendships and our loves: simplicity.

Allowing our children to unwind and grow in a technology-free environment. Where nature and boredom can sit hand in hand, allowing a child to discover in their own time and in their own way, how to play.

Children in todays world are bombarded by an unprecedented amount of media and technology, the way they play freely has changed dramatically, the countries schooling system is under pressure and a competitive nature in parenting leaves many children finding it hard to cope.

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How can we help them to function in this high speed, stressful environment?

We have to simplify things, we need to de-clutter emotionally, physically. Give children, and yourself, the freedom to do nothing, to have nothing to do, to get dirty, to get outside, in the park, in the garden, kick a ball about, read a book or hang out with a mate.

Remove the technology and the thinking, the information and your anxiety to ‘succeed’ and allow them to just be. Allow them to get bored and to faff about with a pen and a paper, or a hammer and a nail, a hole and some mud.

Enjoy the chaos, the mess and the madness – this is life.

This scaling down, moving technology, pressure and allowing us all too just live gently and more organically – will provide your child with a safe space to be themselves – and it will teach them to find contentedness in simplicity.

Why Should We Play?

Research in the UK has shown that rates of depression and anxiety in teenagers has increased by 70% in the past 25 years, not only that but, one in ten children aged 5-16 years have a diagnosable mental health disorder, one in twelve children and one in fifteen young people deliberately self-harm and about 35,000 children in England are prescribed anti-depressants.

Over the last ten to twenty years childhood has changed significantly with various factors leading to a reduction in a child’s access and ability to play.

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These factors include children living in a world which has a much faster-paced, life-style, society is far more risk-averse, there is an increased focus on academic success and play has been undervalued rather than seen as an essential tool to help a child develop social skills, creativity and on-going learning.

National Children’s Day UK (NCDUK) was created to establish how important play is for learning, creativity and a host of other skills needed to survive in this 21st century world we inhabit. NCDUK wants to raise awareness about young peoples rights and wellbeing.

We should be allowed to play, whether young or old, because creativity, freedom and access to your inner imagination – are integral factors to maintaining mental health and wellbeing.

Have you noticed how alive and good you fill – simply by walking down a county road, or touching the bark of a tree’s trunk – nature is bountiful and quite simply it makes you feel good. Being playful, breathing outside, being creative, immersing yourself in an imaginative, playful and natural environment is a simple and perfect tonic and one we must allow children and adults alike to access and enjoy so they understand how to find that inner peace and goodness as children, and adults, grow.

NCDUK, which is now in its second year, was started by the Save Childhood Movement – a collaborative network of people who are committed to protecting the rights and freedoms of childhood and who support, inform and, where necessary, challenge leaders and policymakers in order to build more caring and value-led societies.

Wendy Ellyatt, CEO of Save Childhood Movement, said: “Childhood is changing fast. From the impact of screen technology to the restrictions of an increasingly risk-averse culture and the downward pressures of the schooling system, children’s rights and freedoms are being eroded and their opportunities for free play have been drastically reduced. In the lead-up to National Children’s Day UK 2015 we want to remind everyone just how essential play and playfulness is to human creativity and wellbeing.”

In 2010 IBM carried out a study of 5,000 chief executives across 60 countries and 33 industries and found that creativity was selected as: ‘the most crucial factor for future success’.

Creativity, imagination and playfulness are fundamental to every aspect of us as human beings, in our social skills, in our health and well-being and even in our business success – playful and innovative thinking is essential for a 21st century.

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There are so many ways to be creative, painting a plant pot, planting and nurturing a seed, baking a cake, writing a letter, lying in the grass and watching feeling the wind on your cheeks – nurture yourself and those around you in the simplicities of freedom, nature and play and grow inside.

NCDUK – was held around the UK yesterday 17th May 2015.

Why should we save Childhood?

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Boo inside an ENORMOUS Oak Tree Trunk #FreeNature

Childhood – an enormous word encompassing so much. There is such emphasis put on ‘childhood’ today and as parents it can feel very confusing knowing what you should give your child in order that they: ‘get the best’ childhood.

Of course, for every parent that means something different, perhaps a safe home, a garden, violin classes after school, private school, Steiner school, home-school, playdates, being vegetarian and on and on. There is a myriad of things we worry we should do more of, or cannot compete with, or simply cannot afford to give.

Yet research has found, over and over again, just giving a child the chance to connect and be free with nature, dirt and the earth around them is, quite simply, one of the most vital and important experiences they can have.

Encouraging children to play by themselves is essential. Get them outside and away from screens. Let them roll in the grass, chase butterflies, make ‘perfume’, plant seeds, blow a fluffy seed clock, run barefoot in the grass, listen to the birds, poke holes with sticks, taste fresh berries off a tree, build a fairy house with leaves, moss, stones, talk to animals, trees, flowers, clouds, the moon. Just let them really feel. 

This natural play is the building blocks of intelligence. To discover how to feel connected with the earth and yourself, to know you can return, any time you need, and re-tune throughout your life. It is so simple and all we need to provide is a green space.

One uncluttered with screens, tests, exams, the pressures of what to look like, be like, speak like, act like – leave it all behind – un-necessary weight.

The value of creative and experimental play in childhood, and adulthood, is often undermined and we need to ensure that we, as guardians of the next generation, are strong enough to stand true to the simple values of letting the children of our future be free.

Be truly free to experiment, get dirty, to imagine, to really feel and to play with their beautiful and wild imagination.

Britain has plenty of parks and open spaces and it is up to us to try and get everyone out for a walk and to deeply breathe in fresh air.

This year the Save Childhood Movement is partnering with National Children’s Day UK (NCDUK) on 17th May to celebrate: The Science and Magic of Play. Here in Bath that celebration will be in partnership with The Forest of Imagination ( a four-day contemporary arts event in Queen Square). This will include of a number of free talks given by the likes of, Wendy Ellyatt, Chief Executive, Save Childhood Movement, Steve Chown, Director, Play England and James Findlay of The Play Foundation. To hear these inspiring speakers and to find out more go here.

A Peaceful Pony

Where do you find your ultimate peace and calm?

Pottering in the garden, walking through a field, running in the early morning mist, sipping your first coffee of the day, swimming in the ocean or perhaps a hot steamy shower?

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For me the answer is rude, unwomanly, and downright dishonourable – it is, quite simply, the lav – yes, la toilette – say it in a French accent and it sounds possibly more acceptable?

Non?

But nothing is more joyful and utterly beguiling than finding five minutes to sit in quiet contemplation, with not a soul around and simply delight in the incredible design and mechanics of your beautiful, functioning, bowel system.

Is it wrong to freely admit this?

A year and a half ago I lost my father to bowel Cancer – on his journey from health, to ill-health, to chronic disease and finally death – one of the first faculties he lost was his ability to pee and poo for himself.

He had two bags (stomas – I do believe) fitted onto his stomach – incredible though that is, that medicine can today extend life simply by re-plumbing your system, his embarrassment and consciousness, the constant emptying, changing and fear of explosions never left him and since the day he had those two bags fitted, I have realised the true beauty of my buttocks and appreciated my functioning, healthy, bowel system ever since.

As a mother of three children, having a drop of personal space, where not a soul can locate or bother you – is, also, more than extraordinarily appealing.

Oh, and by the way, please ensure you enjoy your pony in private, leaving the door open is seriously a NON NON! Save your marriage and keep your personal ablutions to yourself, just ensure you have a decent newspaper, magazine, comic or book in there. The Saturday Guardian – my personal preference..

Do try and attempt to keep the magic in your relationship for a little while longer for crying out loud.

So where do you find your ultimate peace?

NB: Pony & Trap – Cockney rhyming slang for: Crap

Reaching for the Moon

“I cannot wait to start my periods mummy!” Declared my nine year old last month on our way home from her first visit to the Red Tent.

Can you imagine feeling like this as a young girl standing on the brink of puberty? Actually being excited and in awe of the future periods that will be yours? It seems preposterous – but is entirely possible.

It is within our reach to completely change the perception of our daughters, nieces and god-daughters bodies and their monthly cycles by simply preparing them. By introducing a positive and exciting spin on the incredible gifts we are given as women: our bodies, our monthly cycle and our divine legacy to create and give life!

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My daughter, who is nine, took part in a Girls Celebration Day, hosted and run by Lou Press of the Woolley Valley Red Tent.

The morning began with the five girls, aged 9-11, creating a mandala of seeds and rice, whilst Lou told them gentle stories about coming of age. The girls then calculated how many periods they would have over the course of their lifetimes!

Following this simple calculation:

Estimated age I stop my periods: 55, minus, estimated age I will begin my periods: 13 = 42.

Minus:    Estimated number of children I hope to have: 3 (this is what my daughter said!) x1.5yrs (for each child no period for 9 months pregnancy & 9 months breastfeeding) = 4.5yrs.

42 – 4.5 = 32.5 x by 12 and a quarter (average number of periods a year) = 459 periods in my lifetime.

Extraordinary! Don’t you think – did you ever realise how many you would have, are having? And how few that actually seems!

The afternoon was spent with the mothers and daughters, the girls were sewing small felt lockets as the mothers revealed stories about their first periods. We giggled and were in awe of everyone’s different experiences. We shared pictures of us at their age, with our silly hairstyles, dreams and 80’s sweatshirts. As the girls stuffed their lockets each mum wrote a special message on a note for the girls to hide inside the felt lockets and then they sewed ribbons to create a necklace. We each chose a few words to describe each other, from mother to daughter and from daughter to mother, we listened to each other and, finally, we presented our daughters with their hand-sewn locket.

The girls left joyously excited about their unfolding young womanhood.

The mothers left changed women. Having opened our hearts to our daughters and to ourselves and having begun to glimpse the changes ahead, of our daughters as they begin to walk their own paths and become wise, understanding females.

Our Future:

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If you are not fortunate enough to have a local Red Tent but you would like to give this gift of confidence, understanding and openness on the journey of beginning menstrual cycles then I heartily recommend Lucy H Pearce’s beautiful, gentle and informative book for girls: Reaching For The Moon.