Walking with the moon

A creative living in the real world…

Clompety shoes. July 5, 2013

Filed under: Elvie,Parenting — hannahoakland @ 7:48 pm

“They grow up so fast.”

I’ve come to the conclusion that this is nonsense. They grow up at a perfectly normal rate. One day at a time. Except when they’re potty training. Then it’s unbearably slow. A more accurate saying would be “they grow up so gradually that you don’t really notice, and then one day it hits you in the face.” Not quite so snappy, I’ll admit. But much more truthful. A lot of the time it passes you by, and occasionally, very occasionally, you have a day when it seems to pause and you can soak in all that growing. Today was one of those.

It’s easy to see Joel growing. He’s just turned 10 months old, and so every day brings a shiny new skill. In the last few weeks he’s learnt to climb the stairs, stand by himself, taken a couple of steps and even said his first word…”Elva”…guess who’s been teaching him to talk! Suddenly he’s clapping and waving and eating slices of quiche and getting so incredibly strong that changing a nappy feels like a wrestling match.

It’s harder to see with Elvie. She’s nearly 3. She’s got the basics down, so it’s all in the fine-tuning. You have to pay attention to spot it, and I’ve not done that lately. But I noticed this morning, when she chose her own clothes and got herself dressed. When she put her own coat on ready for our trip to the market. Admittedly she had it on upside down, and it was 25 degrees outside but still, she’s never managed that tricky second sleeve before.

We walked to the market this morning – both of us. With Joel in the buggy. It must have taken us about an hour – stopping on the way to feed the ducks. But she walked, the whole way. Didn’t moan once. In her little shoes that she had done up by herself. Wearing the pink backpack that the Children’s Centre have loaned her, and which is currently her pride and joy. She walked round the market, and then round town, and chose herself a seat on the bus home. Not even the seat next to me – she was quite content to sit by a random old man and look round at me every few minutes.

The last few months have been tough for Elvie and I. We’ve fought a lot. She needs more stimulation than I can give her, especially with a baby in the mix. She gets frustrated, so do I, and there are meltdowns. Not all hers. My image of her has been skewed by her constant tantrums and my constant exhaustion. We’re holding on for September and nursery, to give us both a break. But today was beautiful. A little breather in the midst of all our madness.

Today I got to see my little girl for who she really is. The little girl that everyone else sees. The little girl who picks endless flowers from along the path, so that she can present them to the cashier at the corner shop – “these are for you.” The little girl who asks for a ‘sweet treat’ at the market, and is wildly excited when she gets a strawberry. Who sees scratches on my arm and says “Don’t worry Mummy, I can fix them.”

Elvie is interested in everyone she meets. She asked every single shop assistant we saw today what their name was. Told them what we were buying, and who we all were. She even asked one girl if she was wearing “clompety shoes.” This is Elvie’s highest accolade. Clompety shoes are any shoes with a heel – hence the clompety, from the noise they make. Her greatest wish is to wear clompety shoes every day. And a backpack. For the moment – indeed since she was born! – she makes do with borrowing mine.

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This morning’s adventures left me in awe of my little girl. And the sweet, funny force of nature that she undoubtedly is. Parenthood is tough and relentless and brutal. But then there are days like this, squeezed in the middle, that make it all worthwhile. Little steps that we take together, and little moments to stop. And breathe. And look. She’s growing up at a perfectly normal rate, and I’m determined to notice the little changes as she grows. Because, before we know it she’ll be off exploring the world by herself. Learning new skills. Making friends. Making people smile. And all in clompety shoes.

 

Growing. July 3, 2013

Filed under: Community,Depression,Parenting — hannahoakland @ 9:14 pm

Three unusual things happened to me this morning:

1. I made a quiche.

2. I had my photograph taken for the local paper.

3. I realised that I am much prouder than I thought.

More on that later…

Six months ago, we moved house. We’re loving it. It’s the first house we’ve ever owned and it’s wonderful. Both children have their own room, the kitchen is pocket sized but beautiful, and there’s a garden big enough for Wes to build a workshop in. We finally have space to breathe. All told, we’re very happy. Depression aside, obviously.

The icing on the cake for me is the local facilities. A school, nursery and childrens centre in the next road. A thriving community centre. Allotments. Local toddler groups, every day of the week. Several parks. Wide roads. Lots of trees. Health visitors, speech therapists, educational psychologists, playworkers – everyone you could possibly need. On tap. Projects everywhere for the children to get involved in. All of which are invaluable when Wes goes away.

As my wise mother pointed out, when all those services are clustered together so closely, there’s usually a reason. And there is. When we were moving, our only concern was the area. It’s not had the best reputation. Our house is ex-council, and there are tower blocks, dispersal orders and a few intimidating dogs. More than one person raised their eyebrows when we told them our choice. On moving day, I asked Wes whether we had just condemned our children to a life of drugs and crime. Thankfully we have friends in the know – and a policeman assured us that most of the reputation was old news.

I don’t mind the idea of a dodgy neighbourhood. Admittedly, I mind it more now that there are children to think of. But I like to think they’ll become more rounded, less judgmental individuals if they grow up with all sorts.

I moved in with high hopes for the positive influence I would be able to have on the area. The great witness I would be. The people I would befriend and the lives I would change. And then I got depressed. And I discovered that actually, the community I barely knew would befriend me and change me. The elderly neighbour would remind me when it was bin day, and look after my tomato plants when we went on holiday. New friends would lend us camping equipment, and drop round unannounced with bags of clothes for Joel. Mums would invite me round for play dates, talk to me about meaningful things, and compare blogs. I thought that I was moving in to save the area when really, the area is saving me.

I’m so grateful. But it’s a huge knock to my pride. I’m very British – I don’t like asking for help. And I certainly don’t like people assuming that I need it. Which brings me back to this morning, and the quiche and the photographer.

We’re part of a Food4Families project at the childrens centre. Learning to grow fruit and vegetables at the allotment, and now learning what to cook with them. Hence the carrot and courgette quiche. I was fully on board with the allotment part – I have a huge desire to grow things, and no idea how to do it. I’m learning a lot. And the children love it.

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(Yes, he’s eating dirt. That’s how we roll.)

The only problem was that I felt guilty all the time. Guilty for using their funding when I wasn’t somebody that needed help. It took me several weeks to notice that I was exactly their target market. Unemployed, no idea about gardening and no money. That was a knock. I’ve been part of these funding programmes so many times – but I’ve always been on the other side. Delivering the project. Changing people’s lives. It’s interesting to see it from the other end. At least, I reasoned, I was learning something new on the allotment.

The cooking aspect I was less convinced by. I’m not a bad cook. I certainly watch enough cooking television to be an expert. Part of me went into this morning’s session thinking I would end up helping the tutor. That I was turning up to make sure they met their quota. Doing them a favour. After all, nobody need ever know. And then the photographer turned up.

My heart sank a little bit. Everyone who saw the paper would know. Know that I was ‘one of those people’. The kind who need help, rather than give it. The one on the end of the funding. I’m prouder than I thought.

The last six months have taught me a lot. People are a lot less different than you think. No matter where you live, everyone is trying to look after their families. Most people are nicer than you expect them to be. Everyone wants someone to talk to. Most people are kind. Everyone needs help sometimes. Even me. I’m growing. And I think I’m even smiling in the photograph.

 

The Truth / Something Beautiful June 23, 2013

Filed under: Depression,Parenting — hannahoakland @ 9:11 pm

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Last night we went to see Paloma Faith at Westonbirt Arboretum. Outside. In the rain. Don’t be fooled into jealousy over our very glamorous lives – it is years since we went to a gig. But last night we put on our wellies and our best we-don’t-mind-the-weather faces and we went. As a Fathers Day present for Wes and, let’s be honest, a chance to get out of the house and leave the babies with their grandparents.

Throughout the day I had been humming the only one of her songs that I really know. And realised how nicely it would link to a blog post about the current state of my brain. I was onto something. It was going to be effortless – as though I’d had a music-based epiphany whilst freezing my toes off in a field near Tetbury. I’m pretty sure that’s the kind of blogging that wins awards.

She didn’t play the song. It would seem that even Paloma Faith is trying to keep me honest. (It is also possible that her choice of set list had nothing to do with me, and was based around the fact that she has more recent material and a new album to test out. I doubt it.)

So bear with me while I shoe-horn in the line from the song that was never played. (I’m ok with it. Honestly.) It goes a little something like this…

Do you want the truth or something beautiful?

That line has rung true for me since the day I heard it. Those have felt like my options for the longest time. Truth or beauty. Being honest or keeping people happy. Letting people see me as I am or maintaining the illusion of control. The truth, with all its mess and ugliness and terrifying vulnerability has never felt like the viable option.

Motherhood changed all that for me. Not initially – the temptation to project the image of a perfect, coping mother was just too strong. I’m not sure it worked. But I was damned if anyone was going to see how badly I was failing. I worked my way through a year of depression and all my friends thought I was fine. They didn’t see the times I sat and cried. The times I couldn’t bring myself to cook, or tidy, or leave the house. I didn’t tell anyone how desperately I wanted to run and start over somewhere far away. Or that I knew my baby would be better off if she was raised by someone else. Anyone else. That’s an ugly, awkward kind of truth.

The problem is that I want my children to be sure of themselves. To know that they are enough, just as they are. That, no matter how ugly or inconvenient their truths, they are worth listening to and worth loving. And I know, even as depression settles in to a second innings, that the only way that will work is if I am sure of myself. If I know that I am enough, just as I am. If I can accept my truths and share them. If I know that I am listened to and loved. Which is hard.

You can’t teach someone something that you don’t understand. So I am studying honesty and openness and vulnerability, in the hope of passing those gifts onto these two little people that have been put in my care. I’m reading books, and subscribing to blogs and listening to wise, generous friends. And I’m trying it out for myself. Here, and at church, and with my family and my friends. Tiny little steps towards understanding the fact that my truth is beautiful. There is no either/or.