This time 10 years ago I was reading The English Patient in the ante-natal ward of Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, with a Paracetomol to ease the contractions every ten – then five – minutes … I managed to finish the book shortly before being carted off to the delivery suite (giving everyone in earshot an audible description of how ineffective Paracetomol is as pain relief in advanced labour), and my daughter got the middle name Hana after the English nurse in the book.
Fast forward ten years, and I’ve just finished wrapping presents and icing the cake. Tomorrow is just a normal school day, but we’ll be honouring certain family traditions developed over the last decade – like reeling out the birthday bunting and putting candles in the Weetabix.
So I’ve managed to be a Mum for a full decade (give or take 7 hours). I’m quietly surprised (and a little bit proud) that I’ve managed to get this far without causing her serious harm through my cooking, driving or general lack of organisation. Whatver else she may be, 9YO soon to be 10YO – is the biggest achievement of my life. This morning while I was faffing about making us late for school and work (as usual), she assembled my packed lunch for me, taking the initiative to put in a teaspoon so I could eat my kiwi fruit, and then located my Birkenstocks and put them on my feet while I was brushing her little sister’s hair. She’s incredible, even when she’s being less helpful than this, which is most of the time!
Lists seem to be very popular on social media at the moment, so here’s mine: 10 things I’ve learned in the last 10 years.
- To bake. I used to struggle with tinned spaghetti , but now, thanks to a decent electric oven and mixer, I can knock up a few Mary Berry recipes. Tomorrow’s offering is here:
– a bit rough and ready but it’s got plenty of sugar! Baking with children means accepting that the process is more important than whether the results are edible.
- To drive. Everywhere. I passed my test not long before becoming a Mum, but I hated driving and avoided it at all costs. Now we’re a two-car household and I drive far too much. I still hate it though. Which brings me onto:
- My children are going to learn to drive when they turn 17. Leaving it as late as I did just turns it into a huge, stressful challenge. So in seven years time I’ll (God willing) be paying for driving lessons. Yikes.
- That ‘Slipping Through my Fingers” by Abba reduces me to a sobbing wreck. Every time.
- That having children is like a job where every six months or so, your employers re-write your job description, involving different duties and skill sets. The new job description becomes effective overnight, and you ARE NOT GIVEN A COPY OF IT. You just have to guess what it says.
- Mums and Toddlers groups can be the loneliest places on earth. Everyone seems to have been best mates for life while you’re barely on nodding acquaintances with anyone. People who actually go out of their way to make newcomers welcome at these gatherings deserve a big shout-out!
- That round-the-clock kids TV is both a curse and a blessing. When I was a kid I watched Bagpuss and the Flumps at lunchtime, then the test card came back on until Play School. Now, childrens TV is literally available 24 hours a day, and sometimes it feels like we can’t do without it. I worry about the consequences of too much TV, but really struggle to impose limits on it.
- That it is possible to have a career and be a Mum. When 9YO was two, I studied for the Chartered Institute of Marketing Professional Diploma. It took me two years, but was the most interesting and rewarding course I’ve ever studied, and helped me to get a job in the area of fundraising I really wanted to work in.
- You need friends who have children, but also friends who don’t. It’s great to have friends who can relate to toddler tantrums, loose teeth and just how annoying Rainbow Magic is, but you do also need friends who are interested in YOU, not your children, but your opinions, the books you’re reading and the music you listen to.
- That you don’t have to be brilliant all the time, you just need to spend time. If either Husband or I need to go away, the kids really miss us – a sign that, no matter how average we are, they really do appreciate us. And sometimes, you’ll get a teaspoon in your packed lunch to show you how much they care.