Do only children make good parents?

A child’s ability to surprise never ceases to amaze me. As a Mum of two young girls, I guess I’m stating the obvious. But I don’t think you have to be a parent – merely a human being – to acknowledge how babies, children and young people, have perfected the knack of astounding and horrifying us ‘grown ups’. They delight and they entertain, they fill us with a love we never thought possible, a joy so vast, and pride immense. Yet in the flick of a switch they can raise frustration so great we might burst, deliver guilt deeper than the darkest ravine, fear, impatience, and at times, utter desperation. And on top of that, they force us to repeatedly reflect on our own behaviours and emotions resulting in, yes, yet more surprise and bewilderment.

I consider myself lucky to be raising my girls in a generation where we are encouraged to talk about the difficulties of parenting, to share the tough days as well as the momentous and jubilant times beyond our partners and the family home. We form our allies during or pre-pregnancy and huddle in our NCT groups around steaming coffees and snoozing babies, sharing the highs and lows of childbirth and breastfeeding, a first tooth, the success – or lack of it – when weaning. Later, we sit on dusty community hall floors, grabbing a moment of conversation between verses of ‘this little duck went swimming one day’, sharing a disturbed night, a difficult phase, another uneaten meal, celebrating a first wee on the potty, first steps, first words. I cherish my memories of those early days with our girls and my support network of fantastic friends; some at the same stage of the parenting journey, and those outside it who provided a welcome distraction at times too.

Our girls are older now, yet a day doesn’t pass when I am overjoyed and challenged, sometimes overwhelmed, by the surprises they throw at us. And whilst I know that this is what parenting is all about, I still find myself utterly unprepared for the occasional curveball that they deliver.

Through no fault of their own, my children have forced a little uncomfortable contemplation about the fact that I’m an only child recently. You probably know about the stigma attached to only children. Apparently we’re selfish, spoiled brats. We’re lacking in social and emotional intelligence because we were overprotected during our upbringing. We’re basically disadvantaged from the word go, and having the label of ‘Only Child Syndrome’ stuck to us to explain any undesired behaviours does little to dispel the negative press.

Yes, it might have been nice to have a brother or sister to hang out with during school holidays and to confide in during the troublesome times of my Mum’s illness. Watching our girls grow together, sharing their achievements, roaring with laughter at their private jokes, wailing and quarrelling before cuddling and doing it all again is unquestionably beautiful, but it doesn’t prompt a deep rooted longing in me for a sibling or for my missed childhood experiences. If the truth be told, it isn’t something I’ve spent a great of time ruminating over the years. But during the long hot days of these summer holidays when the girls have been thrown together for weeks on end, when they’ve been forced to share their space, their toys, and the highs or lows of their moods, it has dawned on me that it’s something I never experienced and it has made me wonder: What am I not doing that I should be doing because I am parenting siblings and I wasn’t one? Am I too swift to intervene when a conflict arises? Am I too overprotective? Or do I give them too much space? Do they both feel loved equally? Does being an only child compromise my ability to be a good parent?

Watching them play together – best friends, greatest foes, and best friends again – it suddenly occurs to me. Yes, of course, they’re sisters, they’re siblings, they’re not only children. But like an only child, they are both individual. They have individual characters and individual needs. They each respond to different parenting strategies and require different levels of intervention and attention, and yesterday will be different to today, and today may be different to tomorrow, as they grow and tread their own paths and thrive in their own, individual ways.

I may be an only child. There may be a lot of bad press about only children. But try as I might, I can’t seem to find much to support the fact that ‘only children make bad parents’.

So I’m going to stop fretting about it and get back to mothering my girls: with their own individual and changing needs constantly in my mind and many a surprise up their sleeves. After all, they don’t care that I’m an only child. They only care that I’m their Mum.

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Thank you very much for reading!

Polly x

If you enjoyed this, why not head over to Amazon and check out my children’s book:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1906954801

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#Littleloves: Funny Creatures, Fortitude and Fitbit!

Happy Friday lovely people!

It’s been a few weeks since I joined in with Morgana at Butwhymummywhy and shared my #littleloves for the week. The days are whizzing by and it’s nearly the summer holidays. We’re getting very excited about the end of term!

Anyway, before I drift off into a daydream, here are my littleloves:

Read:

StumbleUpon! I love this site / app. It’s such a great way to tailor what you read and look at (websites, articles, photos, videos, images) across the net based on your own interests. No more wading through all the rubbish, you can get straight to what you want to see. I’ve saved this for some rainy summer holiday activities:

http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2XtH44/:IwOQ3LzV:mUT8!3YF/homesthetics.net/top-31-amazing-diy-paintings-for-your-blank-walls

You can save interesting pieces into your account and you can also upload things too – here’s one of my uploads!

http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1JNUas/polly-walker/parenting-models_b_6620164.html

Watched: 

We’ve recently ploughed through the first series of Fortitude. I’m really torn about whether I enjoyed or endured this one! The story is based around a tight knit community living in the town of Fortitude in the Arctic, which is shaken to the core following a violent and mysterious crime. Whilst the snowy landscape is beautiful, there were times when I felt shivery just watching the bleak, cold environment, and there are many brutal and bloody scenes that had me cowering behind a cushion. It’s not one to watch whilst eating your dinner that’s for sure! Echoes of ‘The X Files’ are what kept me going alongside the strange relationships and dynamics between members of the cast.  Hubby enjoyed it but when the next series is released I think I could take it or leave it. I’d love to know what you thought of it?

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Since my weird ‘illness / injury’ – you can read about what happened to me here – I obviously have been taking life very slowly which means that I haven’t done any major exercise in months. So in a bid to keep me moving, albeit gently, I’ve invested in a Fitbit. A few months ago I may have dismissed this as being a bit ‘gimmicky’, but I now realise it’s value for those of us who want to keep moving but can’t go and pound the trails for an hour or jump about energetically in the gym – for the time being at least! It’s great to give you a nudge in the right direction to stay motivated and active, to walk the school run instead of jumping in the car etc.

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Made: 

We’re a wee bit addicted to Silk Clay in the Walker house! It’s like plasticine but feels and smells like Silly Putty. Anyway, it’s air drying, so once you’ve made your lovely creation, leave it for a couple of days to dry and voila! you have a permanent model. I bought some goggly eyes too which worked brilliantly for some of our little creatures! You can buy Silk Clay from good arts and crafts shops and also on Amazon. You can also get Foam Clay which is the bobbly stuff in the pictures.

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Cakes!

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Paige’s slug. Bless her.

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E & I made creatures!

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Some more wriggly creatures.

Heard: 

Last Saturday hubby was out for the evening and the biggest ironing pile in the whole world ever was beckoning. So I poured myself a glass of wine, got the ironing board out and stuck some random tunes on to get me through my very wild and crazy evening. Well, one tune led to another and before I knew it I’d worked my way through a fabulous medley of De La Soul, Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill and En Vogue… taking me right back through several decades of my life. Before I knew it the ironing was done and I was still bopping around singing to myself and pretending that I can rap : )

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And finally…. 

We’re excited to be spending the weekend with good friends by the seaside. Can’t wait! Happy weekend everyone! xxx

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Thank you for reading!

If you enjoyed this, why not head over to Amazon and check out my children’s book:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1906954801

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You can also check out my book news and latest artworks at:

www.facebook.com/pollymwalker

and

Twitter: @pollymwalker

 

The Power of the Worksheet!

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Picture this: a sunny family walk through the woods, the girls are cheerful and utterly enthralled by the nature around them… occasionally they pause to identify an animal track whilst clutching a collection of interesting sticks, leaves and maybe even a fossil: treasures retained to add to a collection for further investigation. And Mum and Dad? We’re positively beaming with pride at how eager our little loves are to learn about their world.

That’s how it looks in my mind but the reality of a family stroll in the countryside tends to play out a little differently! IMG_2848Until this day, trips to the woods always feel a bit (a lot) forced on my part. Whilst I’m pointing out a heart-shaped unfurling fern in the hope of catching their attention the girls are more concerned with whether they can watch the telly when they get home. Hubby reluctantly scoops little one up as she pleads to be carried, her grubby boots smear his jeans and coat with mud – it is mud isn’t it?! – Whilst big sis brushes against a stinger and stumbles, scraping her hand on a fallen branch. Her cries seem to echo through the trees for miles, and they go on and on and on. Then the rain starts to pour, someone’s hungry, someone else needs a poo, patience is wearing thin, why didn’t anyone think to bring a plaster?!…. Once again our outing is abandoned and we hurry back to the safety of the visitor centre where we all breathe a sigh of relief because the ice cream van is here.

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I hate to think I’m forcing our daughter’s pastimes or interests (pushy mum alert!) BUT when we live on the edge of miles of beautiful Chiltern countryside I refuse to ignore the opportunities our natural environment presents: For educational purposes, yes of course, but overall for good old-fashioned fun! Messy adventures, explorations, discoveries, so many possibilities for them to become immersed in. Believe me, there’s no doubt in my mind that whatever the weather, we should be stumbling over tree roots and splashing in muddy puddles rather than breathing the stuffy, sweaty air of a soft play area whilst the girls hurl themselves at a grubby foam filled object. I’m sure they’d agree, wouldn’t they?! Hey, I’ve got Mother Nature fighting my corner here. We just haven’t found our groove yet. Or so I thought, until the emergence of our secret weapon. THE WORKSHEET.

Rewind a few years (well, ok, rewind 15+ years) to my teaching degree and throughout my early days in the classroom. It didn’t take me long to learn that the worksheet was an absolute ‘no no’ – kinesthetic learning was the way forward, and whilst it always required a great deal more planning and preparation, it reaped greater rewards. The worksheet was a lazy resource for educating children and should only be relied upon in emergencies or as a desperate fall back option. So when Elodee returned from school a few weeks back with a ‘leaf identification’ worksheet my inner primary school teacher shook her head in dismay. But I was outwardly delighted! Woohoo! The perfect opportunity for some purposeful time in the great outdoors, and what’s that if it’s not kinesthetic learning? The easy option would have been to head to the garden but the woods beckoned: The sun was shining, the cuckoos calling, the bluebells carpeting the woodland floor in all their splendour… So off we went with makeshift clipboard in hand ready to spot leaves, me holding my breath, ready to patiently tackle the first round of complaining. But it never came!

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The power of that little leaf identification worksheet has really transformed our outings and carrying a worksheet or a scavenger hunt is now something of the norm for us when we head out. Now the girls clutch their little cardboard clipboards as we pile out of the car into the trees, they seem to suddenly have such purpose and a newfound fascination in their surroundings. The spring in their step is obvious as they hunt under logs and leaves for the next item on their list and we all feel that the ice cream and the bit of ‘telly time’ has been well and truly earned. That primary teacher inside me is now cowering with shame – how on earth had we overlooked these activities until now I will never know. The dreaded worksheet has helped the girls to really open their eyes to what’s around them, and it has reminded me to open my own eyes to each and every opportunity that might help my job as a parent, especially those that I’d previously rejected or shunned.

So I guess I’d better give the soft play another chance. Maybe I need a worksheet to get me through it….IMG_20150603_0001

You can find some fab worksheets at: http://www.naturedetectives.org.uk/ under downloads, but none relate to soft play! And of course there are loads on Pinterest.

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Thank you again for reading!

Polly x

If you enjoyed this, why not head over to Amazon and check out my children’s book:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1906954801

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You can also check out my book news and latest artworks at:

www.facebook.com/pollymwalker

and

Twitter: @pollymwalker

 

 

 

 

#Littleloves: Cuckoos, cards and perfume.

I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks, I’ve been so busy with half term, working and life! Can’t quite believe that we’re into June already. Eek! So, without further ado, I’m linking up with Butwhymummywhy again this week to share my #littleloves.

Read: 

I’ve just finished reading ‘I Let You Go’ which is the choice for our book club this month. I usually approach crime / detective / psychological thrillers with great caution as I often feel disappointed on some level – often they’re not believable enough or end up being a bit naff (obviously I’m reading the wrong ones!) But I love, love, loved this one. I don’t want to say too much for fear of saying TOO much, other than that I wholeheartedly recommend this book – it will keep you gripped and awake into the early hours (just one more chapter…) At the very end it was interesting to read about the author’s background and motivation for writing it.

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Watched: 

We’ve also just finished watching the second series of ‘Broadchurch’. I’d heard mixed reviews about this drama and entered into it with a very open mind. The very first episode made quite uncomfortable viewing but I’m glad we stuck with it. However – watching ‘Broadchurch’ and reading ‘I Let you Go’ in tandem is not advisable, there were a few parallels, in particular the setting of the stunning British coast and it was hard not to imagine one when reading / watching the other.

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Wore: 

I’m loving this perfume at the moment! It’s very floral and spring-like and I’m sticking with it until summer officially arrives!

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Heard: 

The cuckoo! Ok this was last week but every year since I was a child I listen out for it and the sound of the cuckoo always makes me smile.

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Sticking with the perfume theme, Elodee is well and truly in the ‘perfume making stage’. She loves collecting up flowers and petals to mix together to find out what scent they make – unfortunately the dominant smell tends to be Cow Parsley, but she’s enjoying the process and also finding out about the different flowers that we see when we’re out and about.

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We’ve also stumbled upon a fun new activity – personalised children’s birthday cards! This originally came about because I’d completely forgotten to buy a card and we hastily made one from the bits and bobs in my craft box, but E took such great pride in making something for a friend that it has now become a bit of a pre-party tradition!

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And finally….

We’re off to Peppa Pig World this weekend! Wish us luck : )

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Thank you for reading xx

littleloves

If you enjoyed this, why not head over to Amazon and check out my children’s book:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1906954801

You can also check out my book news and latest artworks at:

www.facebook.com/pollymwalker

and

Twitter: @pollymwalker

 

 

 

My #littleloves: Hands Free, Shortbread and Meditation.

Hello! Happy happy Friday to you. I’ve been trying to put a blog together for days now and have been really struggling… is that Blogger’s Block?! I’ve lurched from writing about Miley Cyrus and daughters, to the earthquake in Nepal, to my health ‘issues’, but I just can’t seem to pull it all together. It’s so much easier and nicer to write about my #littleloves for this week….

Read:

I love this site: http://www.handsfreemama.com There are so many beautiful and inspiring quotes and snippets of advice for parents. My favourite is the list of ideas of how to salvage a bad morning. We’ve all been there – the stressy dash out of the house, following by the lingering guilt for being such a nag. There are some lovely, yet simple, ideas of how to save the day! My favourite is:

If someone is grumpy, let her do something you usually do like pour the milk from a small pitcher, add the brown sugar to the oatmeal, or decorate a sticky note to put in a family member’s lunchbox or briefcase.

Heard:

Every evening I hear the tranquil sounds of Elodee’s meditation for kids CD drifting from her bedroom as she drifts off to sleep. She loves listening to this soothing relaxation journey at bedtime, and each evening she is asleep before the disc ends. Sometimes I lie with her and listen to it and find myself dozing off whilst visualising myself calmly floating through the night sky….

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Watched:

I watched the girls spend over an hour sitting on the driveway in the sunshine cleaning a huge box of Granny’s old toys. They scrubbed with cloths and old toothbrushes and soap suds and thoroughly enjoyed the task at hand! They seem to really embrace getting involved in tasks like this.

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Wore:

This beautiful feather necklace that I received on Mother’s Day. I’ve only just started wearing it though as I was ill in bed for so many weeks! I’ve also worn a great big smile after getting the best recovery plan from my neurologist: lots of lying down and caffeine for a couple more weeks! Can you believe it?! I am feeling so relieved, and incredibly grateful.

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Made:

Paigey and I made shortbread.

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It’s SO easy and absolutely delicious. A perfect cooking activity to do with a little one! This is the recipe:

4 oz soft butter

2 oz caster sugar

1 tablespoon of milk

6 oz plain flour

Sieve the flour into a bowl. Stir in the sugar, then rub the butter, flour and sugar with your fingers. Add the milk. Form a ball of dough with your fingers. Make shapes! Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until they are a pale golden colour at 350˚F / 180˚C.

And finally:

Have a wonderful early May Bank Holiday. I hope the sun shines for you!

Thank you for reading.

Polly x

littleloves

 

 

 

 

If you enjoyed this, why not head over to Amazon and check out my children’s book:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1906954801

You can also check out my book news and latest artworks at:

www.facebook.com/pollymwalker

and

Twitter: @pollymwalker

Puzzles, Radios and the Wild: My Geeky #littleloves

Hello!

My horrid illness (or whatever it is!) is rumbling into its 6th week so I’ve been busy focusing on the lovely little things that are keeping me sane during this trying time! So, this week I’m linking up with butwhymummywhy to share my #littleloves….

Read:

‘Press Here’ by Herve Tullet. We LOVE this book! Bought as a gift by a dear friend, it never fails to induce squeals of delight and excitement in the girls. Think along the lines of an interactive ‘This Book Just Ate My Dog’ kind of experience in which the reader is required to tap, stroke, shake and blow the coloured dots on each page in order to trigger the next phase of the journey. A clever and original concept and one which doesn’t rely on wi-fi or a touchscreen to access!

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I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently. My favourite by far is ‘Wild’. This is an honest memoir by Cheryl Strayed who, following the death of her mother and the collapse of her marriage, embarks on a solo long distance trek across the Pacific Crest Trail. Whilst our experiences are obviously very different, it brought back memories of losing my own mother in my twenties and the peace I found when heading to the hills to hike most weekends. This is not a depressing read – whilst sad and deeply moving in places, it is inspiring, motivational and uplifting. I loved it!

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Heard:

*Geek Alert!*

My Dad came to visit last week, bringing with him his latest gadget: an ‘airband scanner’! This is a one way, hand-held radio which you can use to listen in to the communications between airline pilots and air traffic control. We live close to both Heathrow and Luton airports so there’s a great deal of chat going on in the skies above our heads. I’m a bit of a geek at heart (love maps, wish I owned a metal detector…) but even I was quite surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed eavesdropping on the passing Easyjet aircraft! The girls are utterly bemused by it…. but your children might not be if they love aeroplanes!

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Watched:

‘The Island’ with Bear Grylls. I’m not a lover of reality TV but I do love a survival programme and the unlikely candidates for this wild adventure have me hooked already!

We see 14 men and 14 women abandoned on separate remote and uninhabited desert islands in the pacific, where they film themselves and have nothing other than the clothes they arrived in and some basic tools (oh, and a satellite phone but we’ll overlook that one).

Stripped of all luxuries, the programme is pitched as being a social experiment to see if the groups can recapture their primeval instincts. With initial priorities being to find fresh water and food, to build shelter, and to start and maintain a fire in endless tropical storms and damp conditions, there has been a phenomenal amount of bumbling around. Participants are dropping out, tensions are rising, scorpions are stinging… I can’t help but second guess which individuals will make the distance and I can’t wait to see how  their characters evolve under the stresses and strains of island life as the series progresses!

Wore:

I haven’t been the most glamorous patient and have pretty much lived in my ‘comfort clothes’ for weeks now… pyjamas, trakkies, t-shirts. So, here’s something that little Elodee has been wearing now the weather in warming up. We’ve all fallen in love with it! It’s a blue jumpsuit from Monsoon:

imageMade:

Now that Easter has been and gone, I am back on the tea! Hurrah! After our time apart, I can only conclude that tea is good for my soul and I need it in my life. So, I’ve been making A LOT. The simple things hey!?

I NEVER usually have time for gaming, apps etc but being laid up for so long has given me the opportunity to have a bit of a dabble. This week I’ve made my way through ‘Monument Valley’, an architectural puzzle game for iPhone and iPad. Whilst it’s quite short, the puzzles are challenging enough and the graphics are beautiful, eerie, and very MC Escher. The objective is to guide a princess called Ida through the 10 wonderfully crafted levels by manipulating the architecture around her. Optical illusions offer many surprises and had me hooked for the couple of hours it took me to complete. I was sad when it was over!

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Finally….

The upside of being poorly for so long continues to be the entertainment and the extra snuggles from my little rays of sunshine! And of course the ever patient and positive Mr W!

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Thank you for reading. See you next week!

Polly x

littleloves

If you enjoyed this, why not head over to Amazon and check out my children’s book:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1906954801

You can also check out my book news and latest artworks at:

www.facebook.com/pollymwalker

and

Twitter: @pollymwalker

 

The silver lining of two weeks in bed.

Geez! Us parents! We’re always wanting something… some peace and quiet, some freedom, some time to ourselves, a drama free mealtime, some SLEEP (just a couple more hours… is it really too much to ask for!?) In the early years of parenthood we irrationally fear these luxuries have been snatched from us for good. Don’t we?

I’ve been guilty of all the above. And having just spent over a fortnight in bed I’m wondering if I should’ve been more careful in what I wished for. Peace and quiet? Tick; Sleep? Masses; Time to myself? Check. But unfortunately this wasn’t the stuff of dreams, no extended luxury Mummy break, but a darn evil virus that came for me on my birthday (timing eh?!) and clearly enjoyed my company so much that it hung around for Mother’s Day and beyond. It’s still flipping lingering.

So yes, I’ve slept. I’ve also sobbed. I’ve downed drugs. I’ve become acquainted with Judge Rinder and well educated in the UFO files and the World’s Wildest Weather via endless Discovery Docs. I’ve whimpered infinite declarations of love and gratitude to my non-complaining hubby as he offered me yet another gallon of Lucozade whilst maintaining two businesses and the lives of our two little darlings (whoever said men can’t multi task?!) I’ve even recharged my Kindle twice in the space of 7 days – something I haven’t done since, well, ever. Humour aside, I’ve actually been a bit scared too. Never in my life have I been in so much pain – never have I been so incapacitated.

Illness is up there at the top of parental fears: Illness in our children or illness that strips us of our ability to parent them, or worse. Thankfully I’m on the up. And thankfully this period of convalescence has offered me a great dose of relief from yet another parental worry – are we doing a good enough job the rest of the time?

The Internet is rife with articles, blogs, posts and opinions on how we know if we’re doing a good job at raising our young. You’d think that purely watching our offspring in their daily pursuits, heeding the words of their teachers and observing their social interactions would provide some relief from this constant anxiety. But in the busy whirlwind of life it can be difficult to take the adequate step back required to form a well rounded and objective opinion of our children’s social, emotional, physical, academic and spiritual development combined. And that’s before considering the pull of our own emotions, our own needs and wants and fears that sway our opinions. So we muddle on, we do the best we can and hope, we pray, that our kids are going to be ok and that we’re equipping them with the skills they’ll need for life – to be happy and healthy, to be successful and all round good human beings.

So being stuck in bed for over two weeks, unable to lift my head from the pillow at times, I was forced to take a lengthy step back. And what I’ve witnessed, I’ve liked. I’ve heard two little girls playing downstairs as they should – sharing, quarrelling, whinging, objecting, laughing, reading to one another. I’ve heard two little girls come bounding up the stairs to see their sick Mummy, wishing me better, stroking my hair, thrusting plastic medical syringes containing ‘magic potions’ into my mouth in a bid to make me well (‘I am the doctor, I’m going to make you better Mummy!’) I’ve received offerings – handmade get better soon cards, freshly picked daffodils, pictures of stars, a white feather, a sparkly piece of sellotape, a vinegar drenched chip.

But more than anything, my illness – whatever it has been – has had a silver lining. It has forced my temporary detachment from our crazy, busy lives: the next demand, the ensuing altercation to be mediated, the mess, the spelling practice, the uneaten dinner, the tantrum, the wee accident, the early morning wakings. And in doing so, it has laid bare the happy souls my bedside visitors are and the wonderful caring individuals they’re growing into.

Being ill has been a pain in the arse. But it has also given me one less thing to worry about.

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Thank you for reading.

Polly x

If you enjoyed this, why not head over to Amazon and check out my children’s book:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1906954801

You can also see what I’m up to at:

www.facebook.com/wormslugmaggotleech

Twitter: @pollymwalker