Who would I be?

What might I be if I’d been allowed, or allowed myself, free reign to follow childhood passions?

A pianist, a singer? A meteorologist? A camp counsellor? A writer, an explorer? A witch?

Would I be writing fabulous hit musicals, or composing more serious music?

I think back to those old days of writing songs in my head, putting the notes on paper, then playing them on the piano. Of old notebooks full of scenes – practicing my storytelling, yes, but also practicing being a heterosexual.

I think of hours alone in a canoe, knowing every twist and turn of the water, the paddle just an extension of my body. Swimming for days, in lakes and channels and the ocean and my swimming pool.

I remember believing I could control the weather with my magic ring (and who knows? Perhaps I could!), hours spent with playing cards that turned into a tarot deck soon enough, the instinctive hunting for amber on the trees in our front yard.

Many of these childhood things are still with me now. Either they’ve been there all along, or they are freshly flexing and burgeoning now, or still some place buried…but just beneath the skin. I can see the bulge, the urge to grow, to luxuriate in serious play.

Who would I be if I allowed myself that courage now?

Stay tuned. We may both find out, and hopefully soon.

(But until then, I read. Back to how I spent a huge portion of my childhood, happy and quiet and alone in my head.)

Help! How should we talk about fat?

My kids know everyone’s body is different. Different skin colours, different hair texture, some big, some small, some tall, some short, some needing wheelchairs, some not. We’re okay; we’ve got that.

What we don’t have is a Me who knows how to deal with what is often termed ‘the honesty of small children.’

A few weeks ago as we were walking through the woods, a large man went past us. One of the kids said, loudly, ‘Wow, that man is really fat.’

I will leave out the discussion we had (another somewhat inane everyone is different thing, with some added awkwardness about how to talk about differentness).

The thing is, many people are sensitive about their weight. And someone pointing out their size in a slightly awed voice may sting.

But the other thing is that I’m trying to raise kids who celebrate difference. My kids don’t mock people for being fat/disabled/black/a ‘masculine’ woman, but they do sometimes notice it. And I think that’s okay.

I was raised with a ‘colourblind’ society being hailed as the utopia. But I don’t agree with it. I’m different; I’m a queer woman. My difference isn’t one I want silenced – surely we can all be different, can learn from differentness? It doesn’t naturally lead to exclusion or derision. In my utopia it leads to celebration.

That means I have a lot of conversations with my kids. Sometimes they don’t notice what makes people different, and that’s okay – they are too busy noticing what we have in common with others. And that’s great. But when they do – they ask about why some people wear head scarves or niqab, they ask why a black friend has curlier hair than we do, they ask how prosthetic legs work. And then they get on with their day, a little more clued up and a lot more likely to accept these differences in an easier way. Because I try to be open.

Did I initially have an easy time explaining women covering their heads or faces, when my kids have no concept of religion? No. But I muddled through, because we may be different but we are learning about respect, beliefs, choice, and how to talk about these things.

But fat? I don’t know.

It happened again at the pool yesterday. Another, ‘Hey, that man is really, really fat.’ We had a quick conversation about not pointing out how people are different, how it may make others uncomfortable.

But really, I was the only uncomfortable one. Hushing up fat talk, but not hushing up talk about that kid in the wheelchair with the awesome Spider-Man wheels….what message am I sending? That being overweight equals something shameful, abhorrent, embarrassing?

My kids tested it on me. ‘Mama, why are you fat?’ Then, rushing and somehow sly, ‘Oh, sorry, I called you fat.’

Somehow I had turned fat from an ordinary adjective into something darker. And I don’t like that.

So what do I say? How do I say it?

I’m sending mixed messages by talking about my stretch marks with pride, about how all our bodies are just right for each of us. And then cringing with horror when my kids dare to innocently point out a body that is outside of what many would consider a normal weight range. Wasn’t that my opportunity to say, ‘Yes, we’re all different! Isn’t that great?’

Instead I feel like an awkward, socially inept person who knows this conversation is ongoing…and has a long way to go…but I don’t know how to talk anymore. It’s uncomfortable for me. This may be our first experience of really going against the grain when, actually, we may be rubbing people the wrong way no matter what we say.

Maybe I need to carry on explaining that difference can be a really good thing, a chance to learn more about other people and the world around us. But that we need to think about how we point it out – and here’s where I draw a blank. Anyone have ideas? Please do leave a comment below!

Thunderstorm at the end of summer.

It’s after bath time, and he creeps into my room, silent and steady. He notices a flash outside the window, so we both sit up. He leans in, excited body and quickened breath. ‘This is awesome!’ he stage whispers, the sky filling with bright flashes of light.

He sister and mummy come in, stay awhile, then leave. He looks at me.

‘It’s just me and my Mama,’ he says. ‘This is awesome.’

Not sure if he means me or the lightening, which he says he’s never seen before, I ask, ‘Do you want to come outside with me and watch it from there?’ His eye widen. He nods.

We slink down the stairs; I wrap him in a big orange sarong, I fling a green one around my waist. We sit on the front step. Rain drips down the magnolia tree, the sky steadily performs, and then we hear the first rumble of thunder. I put my arm around him, I catch glimpses of his joyful face in the inky darkness, we look for streaks of lightening.

I tell him about how you can tell how close the storm is. Wait for the lightning, then count until you hear thunder. We whisper about the fighter jet we saw that goes faster than the speed of light, and I think about how his childhood is doing the same thing. But not tonight.

Tonight our bodies are dry, but our feet get wet if we stretch them out. We say hello to the thunder, the lightning; we sit out here so silently among the gradual increase of rumbles and rolling sound.

I didn’t have to say yes tonight, because it was my idea. He thought it was amazing to watch lightning through a window. I showed him what it was like to watch lightning under the sky.

This was our night.

And it was awesome.

The way things change.

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Today was magic. Mayhem at pottery class, all day at the park (including a three hour grass fight with friends old and new!), Tang Soo Do in the evening. The sort of day where you have a million moments of laughter and are too happy to actually notice how much you are enjoying yourself. But you can tell.

It’s in the skin dyed green by endless grass rolling. The way we all look a bit disheveled, and in fact that one of us was nude when we arrived at marital arts, and had to quickly don the uniform in the car park. The endless bags I’m lugging back into the house – freshly painted and fired pottery pieces, carrier bags full of cheese toasty plates and banana peels.

Today S went up to another girl we’ve seen around a bit. She got it in her head that this girl ought to join the grass fight. She went up again and again, introducing herself and her friends. Extending an offer to play. She wasn’t too upset when the girl didn’t respond….and she was overjoyed when she eventually ran over, handing S handful after handful of fresh, soggy grass. S also noticed another girl hanging around the edge, hope in her eyes and grass in her hands.

How things change. This is the child that has said on multiple occasions that she doesn’t need any more friends. She has enough! The girl too unsure to reach out. Today she did. She pulled two kids into a large game, and everyone was happy and running and laughing. And I saw my glowing child, and I noticed her noticing what it was like to help make other people feel included.

Yesterday we had swimming lessons. S swam unassisted for the first time, not quite believing she was doing it. M said on the car ride there, ‘I can swim with my face in the water. Today I will try to do it with my whole body under water.’ And he did.

How things change. This is the boy who three weeks ago could not swim. Now he’s diving underwater and swimming lengths and willingly practicing, joy streaming off his body like the water droplets he leaves in his wake. This is the child that effortlessly charms people, and it’s a good thing he does, because he doesn’t like instructions, constrictions, repetitive things. He likes to soar. And there in the water, he’s found a place he can fly, he can be free, he can accomplish exactly how much he wants to accomplish. I see his joy at doing this powerful thing on his own, how his confidence grows even wider and deeper, and how he will willingly do this thing over and over, because he’s the boss of this very wet success.

Last week both kids had their first grading at martial arts. S passed her purple belt easily, as we thought she would. She loves Tang Soo Do and takes it seriously, her face shining the whole time we are there. M also earned his purple belt; how proud they are of these tiny little badges to sew on their uniform. And the focus badge they earned, despite M yelling out in the middle of the grading at watching friends, ‘We gonna get a badge! A focus badge!’

How things don’t change. M’s friendly exuberance. S’s perfectionist leanings.

But how things do. They grow up, out, sideways, upside down. They are trying new things, spending whole days splashing in water, throwing grass and making beautiful large clay bowls shaped like leaves.

How my life has changed, changed from what it could have been.

And all I feel is happy. And lucky, so lucky. We have this much freedom, this much joy, all these people to laugh with. We have grass to throw, and miles to swim, and stuff to kick.

This, my friends, this is the life.

Mega minecraft maze…ostensibly built for the children…

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Just made the kids something fun to find tomorrow! Not sure I will keep the rules section as is, but for now I’m pleased. Lots of little nooks and crannies to discover – a house, several gardens, mini art gallery, swimming pool, cheddar cheese area, snowman corridor, lookout platform, survival station, chicken farm, etc.

The plan is to add new stuff to our Adventure World map until we have a whole world of awesome – can’t wait to see what the kids build!

Have I mentioned I LOVE minecraft?

Second official Not Back to School week!

Last week the kids would have been starting their second year of school. Instead:

Monday

Their grandparents took them to swimming lessons. M apparently did his first swimming with face in the water, trying to time breathing and strokes. They have a private two-to-one lessons with the most amazing teacher. She’s fast becoming the official swim teacher of Bristol’s home ed community!

Both kids had Tang Soo Do in the afternoon. This is a mix of schooled and home ed kids (well, us and our friends make up the home ed component, but we’ve got our eyes on converting a lovely mum who isn’t too keen on school. Ha!)

Tuesday

Every other week we have a home ed pottery class. It is THE only activity we’ve done where neither kid has ever wanted to take a break from it. It’s us and three other lovely families we see quite often anyway, so it can get quite loud and crazy – which is not to everyone’s liking! It’s proper pottery, going from sculpting clay to firing to glazing to firing. S currently making fish ponds and tea sets, M still slaving away at his ever growing collection of spaceships.

After pottery we all stay to play and drink tea in the garden. There’s a trampoline and swing set, so we often stay about an hour before heading to the park along with people from the home ed class after ours. This week featured the (surprisingly large) Not Back To School Picnic, which was handily in our usual pottery park. There was swimming, ice cream eating, monster chasing, and whatever they got up to when they were out of ear shot!

Wednesday

Gymnastics! I could write several blog posts on gym and the various conundrums we have, but I will say both coaches are fantastic. My kids are now among the oldest in the sessions, as it is not geared for home ed kids so has younger ones in. We often meet home ed friends in the class, and S is coming around to the idea of moving up to the big kid classes with a friend. friend, are you reading?! No pressure but you’d better do this!

After gym this week we drove round to a large park and playground by some other friends’ house. Spent a nice few hours trying to stick to the shade, whilst marvelling at the very odd misty fog shrouding the land…whenever the sun wasn’t blazing down and making us all melty. Stayed pretty much all afternoon.

Thursday

Met friends at the Scrap Shop……another place completely deserving of its own post, and I will do one soon. But home ed people can go on the list to get into the warehouse bit. Imagine a huge warehouse full of every sort of junk/treasure you can imagine. You get loads for less at four pounds! Except this week. We bought a tyre. Wtf.

After the scrap shop we went to a city farm/playground. Spent a huge chunk of time there, much of it was me debating about a scheduled tour of a shiny new police station. Due to my mix up with tickets, we weren’t going to the same session as friends. M didn’t want to go, S did. We went out to dinner, when suddenly everyone decided that no, we did want to go. We had plenty of time so I plugged the postcode into the sat nav and away we went. Then my sat nav betrayed me, we accidentally got a driving tour through an ugly industrial area, followed by two villages in the country, followed by my wife’s instructions betraying me, followed by me wanting to cry.

We gave up. Then out of nowhere (not sure where I had the energy from) we went to the shops to get a few things we needed, which morphed into S buying her first pair of slippers she’s actually worn once we got them home. Bunny slippers, of course. Suzy met us there and it was like a bizarre twilight family trip.

Friday

My brithday! Stayed in today, as it was quite a full on week. Can’t remember what all we did, but I remember us talking about the wheel of the year and making a cool seasons wheel picture. Lots of lego, lots of garden time, lots of reading.

This day, like all other days when we are at home, was full of snuggles and random projects, S writing in her diary, minecraft (all three of us are working hard on building a family world which IS pretty awesome. Cake mountain, a cabin house, villager island, a shark rollercoaster, pirate ships, cave houses), YouTube, angry birds figures, the superheroes and their houses revival, etc.

Kids and Suzy then took me out for a lovely surprise dinner out!

Phew!

A fulfilling and very busy week!

You know you’re an adult when…oh, wait.

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This woman had a wee cry by the side of a road somewhere because she couldn’t find a police station, thereby causing her family to miss the highly anticipated tour of it.

Adulthood. I’m (probably not) doing it right.

I have since regrouped. Going to spend some time tomorrow organising awesome trips to spectacular places we’ve been meaning to go to for ages. Until tomorrow, though, I will snuggle in my retail therapy fleece bunny sweatshirt (that I thought was a very evening appropriate Eeyore, until I saw the blatantly bunnyesque face and ears on the hood), have a small glass of wine, and watch dubious shows on Netflix. Adulthood!