My lovely Mum is slowly slipping away.

My lovely Mum is slowly slipping away. Life is a precious thing and placing emphasis on quality and quantity of life is so hard. What if quality is a little smile? A small joke? A moment of gentleness? kindness? I do not think I know. I cannot clearly say. If I asked her if she wanted to go, I think her external self would be shocked but would her internal self her subconscious be relieved?

I want it all to end but then I do not what it to be final. Then that will be it. At the moment I pretend and recreate conversations from long ago. Tell her tales of the external world. Tales of fabric, patterns, of beauty and of bright sunny days. I tell her tales of people of who says what who does what and I pretend this is of consequence to her still.

The little glimmer of meaning in what she says I suspect is said with word memory and of little consequence yet I press on it, clutch at it, wanting meaning. Yet I know from her own reality of before she has now fallen. This is why it is so exhausting. I carry heavily all reality creating emotional connections and making conversations for the two of us. I am drowning whilst trying to keep us both afloat. I am so weary.

I pray for friends and family who have passed over recently and from past to come and collect her. Come beckon to her, guide her the way. Reassure her please and let her know gently it is okay to go. You can guide her she will not be afraid of you.

I love with my very being, so very much I do not want her to go. But the harsh reality of now makes me push it away. I watch TV subtitles and get distracted by makeovers of people and places and escape in other folk’s adventures. All to avoid the muttered conversations of nonsense I try to hear but no longer can ever understand. She talks of walking into rooms and of being in courtyards. I place desperate meaning on this being her moving on. She mutters nonsense.

Sleep can restful, restorative. She is now so tired she keeps her eyes closed. It is as if there is no longer anything worth seeing. I buy flowers and bring them to the room to create, no to mark and note there is outside beauty. The flowers sit there as a big colourful explosion of love. When I am not there if she opens her eyes, she can see she is loved and not alone. The flowers speak of love, kindness and thoughtfulness.

Away from her I need, I long to return from her side but am broken with exhaustion and am grateful of rest. It is important though to plan to return. To know when I will be back gently stroking her hair and sitting beside her. She hates I know to be alone.

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Optimistic Parenting

It has been so long since I have written about bringing up boys. Whether it is because they have moved on in more ways than one or other events like being a dutiful daughter have over taken me, I am not sure why. Today I have time to try and update. Or else it will feel like the story comes to a dramatic end!

So, to rewind to last summer and dramatic endings! So not so smallish boy despite his bravado and at times elusive behavior has always been over attached to me, his Mum. He could walk into a lounge of empty seats but still feel the need to drape his long legs over me on the sofa, even if these days cuddles for Mum are few and far between.

Not so small boy’s serious first love, a broken heart, a need to push his Mum away and to become a grownup result in not smallish boy barely being home. College has ended and with no structure he runs loose hanging out with folk with not his best intentions at their hearts.

I become that Mum constantly worrying, texting too much and desperately trying to get him to stay at home. My bright sunny boy with a twinkle in his eye becomes surly, mostly hungover or I suspect stoned. It feels as a Mum that suddenly all those hard years of investment of attempting to keep a quirky boy in the right direction have failed.  The thing about not so small boy is that when vulnerable and out of his depth he plays for laughs and can be very easily led in any direction. He is on the verge of rolling over the cliff because someone suggests it would be funny to watch. I desperately hope that the core values he has been given and his own moral compass will keep him safe. But I am not so sure.

We reach July a weekend of driving around trying to find not so small boy and a weekend of worry. I make a decision to send him to his fathers for the summer. Not so small boy readily agrees. An inspired moment and when fate plays a good hand. Boy’s father is newly married with lovely caring partner. Not so small boy at an age when he is wanting the opportunity to connect with his father and push his Mum away. A dramatic decision by me becomes a positive solution.

So off he flies to Scotland. I cannot help wondering how much he will connect with his Scottish heritage and culture and feel at home there? I am right, he does. The opportunity to reinvent himself and remove himself from the cliff edge is too good not to lose so he has stayed in Scotland.  Meanwhile in all the drama of the year he gets the required number 4 Maths and respectfully passes Electronics.

As the autumn comes I realise that the always present low-level buzz of worry for not so smallish boy has subsided. In the seventeen years of parenting him I have had constant anxiety awaiting the next drama, some of which I have written on here, some too personal to make public. The only respite I ever had was when he went on holiday to his dads. Do I miss him? Yes, Do I wish he came back? Honestly No. I realise that I am worn out with the challenge of parenting quirky boy and have run out of ideas. Quote from me to his Father:

“I have attempted many different ways of parenting quirky boy for many years. I am worn out. If you have a different approach, a different way please try it.”

Change is as a good as a rest, or not so small boy relishes in the change and I have the rest! Autumn and he calls me. This is now a rare event unless he is in need of something, he is after all seventeen years old! Mum, Mum I need to join the army! It has to be done this week in a mad hurry. A new not so small boy obsession or a good life choice? Who knows I take a deep breath and try to explain the need for time, thinking things through? Proudly I keep my personal perspective to myself and try to remain open minded and objective. But I will not sign the pre-eighteen papers. I emphasise the need for time, growing up and making sure this is not the new obsession like a pair of trainers! Goodness me never have I been such an evil Mother. Every inch of me has to hold strong and say No. I reiterate every bit of me wants to say yes to be his friend and nice Mum. Grown up Mother goes for the long run and says No.

I survive. He survives and we still speak. He joins a Uniformed Forces course. I hope for wise grownups who are not Mum or Dad who will offer wise words of wisdom.  Many Mums I talk to have faced the terrible seventeens with their children and had to ride the storm. We raise children through these years fingers and toes crossed. So much is luck in how you fall out the other side.

Not so small boy just really wants to fly the nest. How grateful am I that as a single Mother the option of his Father to step up was finally there when he needed it?  I am surprised at how emphatic and decisive I have been in terms of making sure he moves for good. I drove to the borders with all his stuff. No blurred boundaries, no yo yoing between homes. I might weep and feel broken hearted but short-term pain for long term gain.

Not so small boy pops down for an autumn break. He hops out to visits good friends and accompanies down to Devon to visit his elderly Gran and attend a funeral with me. You know what? An elderly aunt calls me after to tell me what a polite and kind young man he was!  I enjoyed his company away from the internet!

Are you happy boy? Who knows but happier than he was here I think and I know he is safe. I am ever hopeful and meanwhile he is getting fit and focusing on a goal so all good.

So, in the midst of this big boy phones home and returns to talking to his Mum. Suddenly I am wise Mum. I have advice to share and life options to be discussed with. My big boy now has grateful to add to his feelings towards me. It is like he has woken up all grown up and gets the plan! Sometimes I over step the mark with a slightly too naggy text, but generally I am now seen as the good Mum the one to seek advice from. The other really nice thing about Big now grown up boy is he asks about my life now.   It is lovely to chat with someone who can share a joke from the past and indeed have a smile at his brother. My big boy has grown into a clever capable young man. But even better than that he has compassion, empathy and kindness.

So, from now on no longer big or small boys at home. No children at home. Next steps are happening for the next chapter in my life. My boys will always be there but this plan has more focus on how to take care of and nurture me for a little while. In between the visits to elderly Mother, dealing with crisis help me Mum phone calls and the like!   However, it is time to let my boys fly. They have left the nest so time to step back.

A good friend said to me once that most influential parenting happens pre-eleven years old. Once they hit puberty you have lost them. You can only hope the building blocks of life and living, of values how to treat others and self will hold in place and they come out the other end. I am ever the optimist with my parenting as ever focused on hope for the future. So as I finish off I realise I now have a name for my style of parenting :

Optimistic Parenting!

 

Secret club of being bullied Part Two…moving on

It is a long time since I have had time alone and head space. I have between work driving around and home life thinking about writing some more about bullying and the impact it has had on me, my life and the direction I am taking me in. It still feels like something that I am reluctant to talk about and not sure if others wish to listen. Shame I still am coming to terms with how I allowed this experience to happen. Shame means I am still struggling to process the huge emotional damage bullying has done to me. I think in many ways to suit others and myself I have tried to bounce back to the old me and business as usual.

Now this is working in some ways. By replicating the old me I am not being a victim and I am not broken. It has enabled me to get back to work, to earn money and to remain a competent professional. Slowly by “going through the motions” I am rebuilding my confidence at work. More importantly I relearning how to trust colleagues again and seek support when I need it. This has been key on my road to recovery. I am fortunate to have found a job in a healthy work place with supportive colleagues. I am able to share and reflect on my bullying experiences and how this may impact on me.

I am also avoiding work conflict and not seeking to over complicate stuff. In some ways I have always been open about who I am and my ability at work and this has made me a victim of being over worked, over thinking and indeed being bullied. I am reaching a reality that just because I could do it a certain way on a certain day it does not need to be done. I am letting go and working hard at “good enough”. This is enabling me to return to the next task in hand the following day.

I have had some real flight or fright moments at work and in life. Generally folk do not see this about me. I am a performer, a faker of the confident. In order to step forward in life I step over my nerves and refuse to accept my anxieties. These anxieties and nerves have increased post bullying but I am seeking alternative strategies. I am currently trying to acknowledge these feelings, own them and then develop healthy strategies to manage. Journaling, dabbling in yoga and meditation are starting the beginning of a new quiet internal adventure for me. Certainly, the physicality of writing emotions out with pen and paper is supporting me finding a new truthfulness about me. It feels like I fell so hard and low last year that I can never trip and run through life like a did before.

I used to stand at the front and speak up loud and proud. I still speak up when I have to but with hesitation.  I had a strong sense of justice and fairness and that this would always be upheld. You know the truth will out in the end. This would lead me to stay and fight my corner my version of truth. I would want justice to be done. These days I work on circles of influence of what I have can control. I am slowly learning to accept that some stuff is not right but beyond my control.

I meant to write that I have given up hope but this sounds so bleak. I have reached the realisation that whether right or wrong along with a series of really horrid events I was horrendously bullied and this nearly broke me. So, I no longer hold hope that justice will be done. I am focusing on the hope that I have the strength and strategies to heal me and to find a different way to walk forward in the world. Being bullied leaves a huge scar that will never be erased so it is finding a way to heal, ease the pain and then learn to love the scar and incorporate it into my new sense of being.

I am remembering this time last year.  I can watch me as if I was in a film. It is like I am drowning in a huge lake water. I am reaching up trying to climb out but just sinking being pulled down. My bully is pushing me away from those that can help me and I cannot help myself. I am about to reach a whirlpool and I know I am going to drown. At this point I went on annual leave to dance camp. Exhausted and broken. So where am I year on? Well I am not being bullied but am still very vulnerable. The shame is still there but I can take the cloak of shame off now. I am tired but healthily tired from working hard and need a break. I am and will allow myself to recharge with my holidays and not disguise my fears and anxieties in chasing others wants and needs. You know what I might even say “No thanks” and nurture me!

Another thing I am noting is that I have taken a lot of time this past year to personally reflect. I am stopping considering actions activity and impact it is having on me.  Life continues to challenge the path I walk in life is never going to be an easy one. However, I can control how I approach stuff and the impact it has on me. Vulnerability from bullying has given me the gift that I am no longer able to chase being superwoman. I have reached a positive resignation of acceptance of life’s challenges but to focus on the good bits in between and also to just care less about other stuff and not feel shame about it.

I shall just keep trying to walk forwards.

 

Wake up and smell the jasmine as boys become men

Father of boys who lives a very long way away is getting married. Boys are being kitted out and this involves a call on an early sunny evening from a lovely young man, the boys’ cousin. We have not spoken since he was little and came on summer holidays with his Dad. Having sorted smallish boy’s shoes and chest size we get into chat about life. We realise that we know more about each other as we both use social media and then he confesses that his Mum and him have always read my blog. How funny. I write my blog on and off whenever I feel I need to document something about my life I am never really sure who reads. However, it feels nice that two people that were part of my boys and my lives when they were small have had that connection to us somehow. It feels affectionate and makes me smile.

So, I am feeling at a bit of a loose end. So, it made me think time for a little rambling update. I am sat here very relaxed in our summerhouse. Our water feature is on and the birds are singing. It is the first day when the world starts to give you a glimpse of summer and hopeful of hot sunny days to come.

Earlier on today I was on step Nana duty as I helped prepare and serve food for my lovely man’s grand children’s party. It was a pool party. I felt very nostalgic about all the party’s I held for Big boy over the years:

  • Super Heroes – party games in a very small house inside and me with a very very small boy, and when I spent ours lovingly baking a batman cake for the children to follow the lead of one small Spiderman who declared it yucky!
  • The obstacle course –amazed myself using every bamboo and small tent thing going and kept over competitive boys on the go until they decided climbing on the shed was a good post food sugar rush activity
  • The Treasure Hunt – wonderful time had by all running through the woods for clues and building dens, veggie dogs in flasks ably supported as a single Mum by lovely friends
  • Mythical creatures and super heroes- Close friends working together to offer a story of witches, goblins and finding treasure for our children and the whole class! – to this day I can remember the children’s faces when they found a chest of treasure hidden in the Fairy Queen’s garden

We had pool parties and wacky warehouses too but nothing brings back such a smile of the effort involved in undertaking the party at home! Preparing party food to be eaten by grownups later, thinking up of activities only to discover that great game you thought would use twenty minutes over and done with in five! The making up of party bags to come in at under a £1 but looked amazing, and of course dealing with the crying, left out, quirky and sometimes damn rude child!

A friend once said to me you create experiences for children to give them happy and joyful memories in later life. Funny at the time hosting children’s’ parties seemed such a challenging ordeal and now I look back with rose tinted glasses ha-ha! I also need to remember the hoo haa smallish boy used to create about his birthday parties. Yes, as Mum I tried so hard to give him the same experience of parties and then realised he was the absent guest hiding under the table at every one! For him a happy birthday was cake and new Lego! Even now he really is not keen, a few cards and presents and a cake and he is happy.

I hope though for both boy’s birthdays memories mark a happy childhood. Certainly, now no longer having to host another party it has given me lovely memories of bringing up boys!

Large boy is a year on from university next month and is working and living his life in Devon. No long holidays for him to come home now and use up all our WIFI data. He has well and truly flown the nest. I am not sure if I am relieved, chuffed and or proud that he finally has himself a girlfriend. He is not a player is our big boy and being in love with a girl I think will be good for him. Of course, I am terribly embarrassing by telling the world but I am really excited for him. He has gone to her home this weekend and today I realised that I will no longer be the number one person in his life. My boy has well and truly flown the nest.

Smallish boy is seventeen this month and he has turned. I have now lost him into feral teen land. He is now out and about and I no longer have any control over who what or where he is or is with. I am not a cool Mum. When I give lifts, I have stop down the road or pull over in a shady place in case he may be seen with me. We are rarely in public together but when we are I am destined to walk alone whilst he follows behind me. Now I could complain but I can remember doing the same thing to my lovely Mum when I was that age!

Not so smallish boy has always been into mirrors. This last year he now postures and parades in front of mirror, to consider his fine physique, new hair cut or the success on his war on spots. But recently this has stepped up a notch and we are into clothes, needing to look “mighty fine”. The obsession with the gym has gone. Not so mall boy has a new occupation; Girls! He is now out and about across the town and indeed county in pursuit of girls! He referenced this activity as “making out”, I muttered the safe stuff and realized my little boy has now gone. To be frank not so small boy has gone feral and returned as smallish and enthusiastic wanna be Man! Now I would say we should raise a glass to this rite of passage as I sit here I suspect he is probably raising several cans in pursuit of finding manliness!

As a Mum I fret about doing the right thing. If I let him go feral I am bad mother? I cannot lock him in. What can I do? I text at regular hours of the day and ensure he has money. If I get a chance to give him a lift I take it. This ensures he is locked in small space with me for twenty minutes and I offer sage advice. This absolves my guilt, thought secretly he will do whatever he sees fit. Smallish boy has always controlled his own destiny, he will continue to do so as smallish determined young man.

So, two days have passed since I wrote the above. Not so smallish boy has just returned. He popped home, showered changed clothes and I dropped him off on his next adventure yesterday. I am sat in my summer house and he invades my quiet contentment with his teen bravado, brandishing cheap smelly chips (I am enjoying the aroma of my new jasmine plant), and talks to me like I am one of his mates! Unconditional love does not stretch this far, I have sent him off for a shower!

I have now gardened and my garden looks lovely. Another rite of passage methinks, this time for me. I used to be like not so smallish boy out and about seeking the next party but now I am happy with my garden, my lovely man and glass or two of wine. Now this is so not true! Let me get this right. We have danced and drummed and partied our way through the last couple of months. This coupled with visits to my lovely Mum means we have rarely a weekend at home. So, contentment this weekend is a recharge of the batteries, and a touch base with each other over shared garden, pottering and hanging out together. We have a summer of planned weekends of all sorts of exciting things, so for now time to top up the wine glass and chill. Well at least until not so smallish boy comes out of shower at least!  Yes I can still smell my new jasmine plant, in a while I shall plant it in the new shiny red pot I have have for it and place it in just the right spot.I think I am doodling with plants!

Secret club of being bullied

I am moving on with my life and there are lots of good things happening – some of which I will blog about but I wanted to record how this past year have been and my extraordinary experience of being bullied as a grown up.  I am not allowed to talk about the bullying I have experienced or indeed the events that preceded and came after being bullied.  This is not uncommon. We are not allowed to talk about bullying. We don’t talk about it at home or at work. We talk about whistle blowing and values and standards of practice but we do not have an open conversation about bullying. Close friends have listened, but a lot of folk cannot look you in the eye. So many people have quietly told me about their bullying experience. It is like a secret club and in order to survive to work, sustain family and personal relationships we stay quiet.  Actually experiencing bullying leaves you in a very lonely place.

I am going to talk about how it has made me feel.

I am strong. I am described by others as strong and capable. This could never happen to me. I feel shame.

I was bullied at school and vowed I would never be bullied again. I have been. I feel shame.

Shame that I was taken in, I let my guard down and allowed someone to bully me.

Shame that I have lost my confident capable self.

Shame that I have cried everyday for months.

Shame at feeling hopeless.

I thought I would feel proud and brave at speaking up. I thought that calling out bullying would make me feel better. It didn’t. I just feel shame.

But no one likes a snitch, do they? And we do not tell tales? I feel shame.

By publicly admitting to bullying just made me feel weak, like I had caused all the distress and I just felt more shame.

I feel weak as it caused me so much distress. I have cried every day. I feel shame at not being able to cope and to move on.

I feel weak as I am no longer confident at making decisions. I feel shame.

I feel weak as I did not make it stop. I feel shame.

I feel weak as I did not walk away and I feel shame that I did not walks away earlier

Others were not bullied so there must be something wrong with me. I feel shame.

Calling out a bully, following all the right protocols should or could have made me feel empowered supported back in control.

I feel dis-empowered

The process did things to me that made me feel hurt, and not in control

I walk away with shame

I am not allowed to talk about it so I keep quiet. I know it carries on. I feel shame.

I grieve, I cry , I will pick myself up, build myself back up and will carry on. Just give me time.

 

 

 

Through and with tears, laughter, sadness and joy I shall dance.

I am still dancing. All my blogs start with how challenging life is this year.  This year is sad and challenging and it is not stopping any time soon.  What I am learning is that in order to be a whole person  and cope with life’s challenges and events we all need an activity in our life that makes you feel good. Something that connects your heart your brain and your body, an activity for body and soul.  So I am dancing. I am dancing a lot.

Sitting at home from work waiting is not best way to heal yourself.  My way of resolving concerns is usually by taking control and sorting stuff out.  But I have found myself in a position that I am waiting for other folk to sort stuff out and it is most frustrating. However it has given me some time to breathe and to reflect, and indeed dance. I am dancing to be still!

So in order to sit still I have danced!  When I booked onto Gypsy Caravan Tribal Bellydance® Collective Souls Two and Three I was anticipating that my life would have moved on and improved. But this year continues to have been a challenge and I never realised how dancing would save my soul and keep me on track.

So starting a new year in January  it was time to get to grips with learning a whole new dance vocabulary. When I took Collective Soul One I had done some tribal but really had neither technique nor real understanding of what Gypsy Caravan Tribal Bellydance® was all about. Discovering that it was about sisterhood and being part of a tribe that celebrated the feminine really connected with me. I have danced all my life and the connection it has always given me to women has always been part of my life. Some of my best friends have been belly dancers!

Gypsy Caravan Tribal Bellydance® felt like coming home for me this year.  In studying Egyptian belly dance I wanted something that I could connect and create with and that felt true to me.  When I no longer felt the passion I once had I needed to seek something new. I still love Egyptian dance but I could not connect with it as a woman who dances. It somehow did not fit my body my life or describe my  world anymore I needed something else.

Firstly when I discovered with Gypsy Caravan Tribal Bellydance®  I found myself getting to grips with new technique  and getting really excited about a new  dance language to learn. Copying DVDs and attending workshops where I could I started to get to grips with new ways of dancing. I had to re train my body to relearn  moves properly and I would unpick steps and then slowly drill the step back together again. What I have learnt this year is that as a mostly self-taught belly dancer I have good skills in self-critique and a careful eye for detail!

A long the way I have started to make connections with other dancers who are on this journey. With  this  dance you start  dancing  in a circle  and start connecting with each other. Some of these lovely women let me dress up and dance with them too! I watched other dancers , and shared lovely dance memories this past year. I have had dance fun, joy and laughter.

Dressing up in a new way is important for me too. I am still that little girl who turns circles in a big skirt. I really like enjoying a new aesthetic and finding beauty as a more mature woman in different fabrics, different shapes and styles. It is a new adventure into bangles and beads and celebration of feeling beautiful.

Collective Soul. Says it in the title. You can’t connect through copying DVDs . Four days in Wales to really focus on this new dance I had discovered. What a gift. I really like being pushed and challenged. Deirdre Macdonald as our instructor, teacher , and collective soul leader  offered and gave me all that I sought. She patiently corrected, described explained and demonstrated the dance. She also created an atmosphere that was safe to develop as dancers, and indeed develop as women.  I want my body and brain to come together and to aspire to be the best dancer I can be. I am also really aware that as I have no ongoing teacher I have to grab every dance moment I can. I am so thankful that Deirdre gave me the information the tools and the setting to start to make this happen for me.  This was it. The dance moment. It all came together for me. That being present. Dancing in the moment. The coming together with other dance sisters and being able with this improvised dance style to create in the moment in time. I got it. I got the rhythms, the grooves, the steps ,  I got this tribal spirit.

As a dancer and a teacher of dance I have always wanted to dance to empower and make all women feel good. As a performer I have always wanted to connect with my audience telling a story, and making an emotional connection.  I was also  trying with my dance knowledge across belly dance styles to discover something that western women could connect to.  I have always attempted to create dance spaces that felt like all women were welcome, with no place for the diva and where all women could shine brightly. To continue as a teacher with honesty and integrity I knew I had to sign up for Paulette Rees Denis’  Gypsy Caravan Tribal Bellydance® teacher training.  I am flicking through my book of notes from this course. Details of moves broken down, to  personal critiques from Paulette to deep detailed notes about why I dance , why I teach.  I have added to my big bag of dance teaching skills and knowledge with new gems , new crystals to share and help folk shine.

So here I am one year on. I now have Collective Soul One, Two and Three certificates to demonstrate my commitment and competency to this dance. I also have my Teacher Training Level 1 Gypsy Caravan Tribal Bellydance® which again demonstrates my capability and competency to not only dance but to teach safely and with the right attitude and spirit. As I write this I am smiling. In a year of adversity I have found some shiny glimmers of hope in my dance .

Gypsy Caravan Tribal Bellydance®  makes me present, make me dance in the moment in time . It gives not only respite from such a harsh world but also makes me find perhaps an easier way forward.   The more I delve deeper I realise the honourable and respectful connections to dance from ancient women, from female history and from across the world.   Moves ,shapes steps, feelings and patterns that connect women. It feels good and feels very exciting.

Through and with tears, laughter , sadness and joy I shall dance.

 

 

 

I am hanging on in there…

It has been months since I wrote a blog post. This is in part being busy but also because life has been too deeply personally challenging to be able to put any public words to paper to share. At the moment these challenges and personal hills to climb continue and I am feeling to be honest battered and bruised from it all.

However I have sat down today as I feel compelled to record the latest regarding bringing up boys. For them the last six months has been one of celebration but also with amusing hiccups along the way. The large boy graduated this year. His student years since sixth form have involved changing universities, subject, course and final qualification but he got there. As a single Mum I was shocked at how emotional I felt about his achievement. Now he is older large boy he has shared with me a few reflections on growing up. Firstly he has remarked that he now realises at stages in his life how poor we were in comparism to fellow students. He has noted that other students have had privileged lives of private education and large financial support from parents. He notes however they have few or little life skills such as budgeting or cooking. He comments how different his upbringing was.  Large boy has no resentment about this and as he grows up he is appreciative of the time and opportunity I have given and supported him with his education. He realises the contribution his grandma has made to this too. You know whatever the success of the degree in engineering he now holds I have brought my boy up with good values and a kind heart.

He is however not overly organised at times and somewhat scatty for an engineer. My partner thinks this is because he spends too much time on computers and little time in real world! Returning home from university I keenly asked large boy when his graduation was going to be. A little over enthusiastic Mum I was keen to dig out my posh frock and go celebrate. Large boy was vague referring to some kind of drinks reception. Roll forward a couple of weeks later and he discloses said graduation should have been booked months ago and it looked like we would miss it! The sad thing is that I have had such a dreadful year of hopelessness I accepted this, of course I would not be able to celebrate my son’s achievement. What made me really sad was that I knew that the big boy really wanted to go and he may miss this once in a lifetime moment.

In large boys usual last minute way it managed to be sorted with stress and hoo haa and off small boy and I went to whoop and cheer large boy on. I am even getting emotional writing about it. Smallish boy was very keen to wear his suit and insisted on new shoes. Big boy realised that all the months of sitting behind a desk had taken their toll! The night before he realised his suit trousers were a tad tight he had to breath in all day!  I was sad that my lovely Mum could not be there as she is now too frail to travel. The big boy was so keen to share photographs and stories of the day with his Gran.

From reading at bedtime to arguments about homework, providing quiet study space, school shoes, and all the practical stuff I know my investment as a Mum has been worth it. All I have really hoped for and continue to wish for my children that they have passion and enthusiasm for life and have aspirations to be the best versions of themselves. First interview in and the large boy gets a job and moves away from home. He is financially (well almost hopefully at the end of the month!) and socially independent.

No longer is Smallish boy now several inches taller than me and his brother! He has become very blokey! Somehow he has managed to finish school. This last year as he informed me not one exclusion or after school detention. Somehow he got with the plan. Smallish boy went to a kind school. A school that kept pushing him academically but was kind. School accepted who he was which enabled smallish boy to participate in learning on his terms. So he got with the plan and started studying. I held my breath when he attended revision sessions. I held my breath when he told me his controlled art piece was going badly. I held my breath in May when his first exam started. I held my breath and counted to ten as he went in and sat one exam after another. At work I worried if he would bother to turn up for his history exam. The head reminded me the other day that no longer small boy asked repeatedly for two years if he could give up history!

On the day not so smallish boy completed his last exam we danced a little dance. Both him and I knew that together we had somehow got him through school. The boy who hid under desks, ran away from after school clubs, ran off from school, stood on walls and threatened to jump, took fake drugs to school, got drunk at school, threatened to jump off mezzanine floors and a whole lot more has completed school! Not only that but he has kept his lovely quirky strong self-determined spirit.

The no longer small boy has completed school as he always insisted he would without compromise and on his terms. This means that he is now growing into the self-determined young man I knew he would become. This in itself is worth celebrating but no longer small boy and I were over the moon when he passed every exam with grades to be proud of.

So school has gone from my life and from no longer small boys. His latest obsession is kick boxing and mixed martial arts. I am wondering if I am the only middle aged Mum in my street who can deliver a passable cross cross jab? MMA suits not so small boy. His self-determined, slightly obsessive uncompromising personality is suddenly an asset.

So I have written about good stuff this year. I cannot write some of the horrid stuff that has happened to me and impacted on my family this last year. It is way too personal to write about but caused immense distress.  Work has not gone well, home life has been at its most challenging, I have lost friends and my rock of a lovely Mum has suddenly become very old and frail.  This has impacted on my boys yet somehow they have managed to stay focused and get on with what they had to do this summer and last year. As a Mum I realise I have despite being and feeling broken managed to protect from the harm and distress that has come my way this last year.

I am sat here coming to terms with dealing with the latest challenge determined to celebrate the good stuff. My boys are okay. My lovely man is okay. I am hanging on in there.