Project Awesome

Making my life more awesome

Plastered again

Finally my house is quiet.  It’s 9.30 pm and just getting dusky outside.  It’s finally just pleasantly warm and I’ve just made an approximation of a mojito, without rum and with lemonade rather than soda water, and all the ice in the freezer.  I feel a mixture of relief, sadness and regret.  Ex-Husband and I have spent the afternoon together at the fracture clinic, and it’s just been strange.  It was civil, almost friendly.  In some ways it felt as if we just happened to both be parents to these two beautiful children. It felt almost normal, like travelling back 8 months. I could see Big Girl trying to understand why Mummy and Daddy were both there, and I grieve for her, for not being able to give her the family she so desperately wants. And setting aside who has done what, I feel a resigned sadness for what could have been, for the relationship and future we could have had.

Little Girl is now sporting a bright red plaster, from her toes to just below the knee. If it slips she’ll have to have it extended to above the knee but I’m resisting this if at all possible as I think she’ll hate it.  The doctor we saw today looked at the original x-rays and said it was broken. I wish now that I’d pushed for them to re-x-ray it, given the conflicting diagnoses, to make sure she’s not being unnecessarily plastered.  Nothing more was said about safeguarding, so hopefully that’s over. I wanted Little Girl to come home plaster-free (I’d really like to give her a bath…) but I’m just relieved that this episode is over – now I just have to get used to dealing with a truculent toddler and a wobbly, plastered, adventurous baby.

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Frustrations

Today I have felt so frustrated I could cry. I wanted someone to take my life away and replace it with a different one. And then I remembered that they nearly did.

I spent most of Saturday afternoon sitting in a children’s ward waiting for someone to come and tell me I could go home with my baby, trying to look like a good mother, trying to look like the sort of parent who would never hurt their baby. It’s quite hard to look like a good mother while under observation. Good mothers do not ignore their babies while looking at Facebook on their phone or reading the paper. Good mothers never ever let their babies stand up in the new temporary cast that they’ve been told not to let the baby stand in. Good mothers can keep a tired, sore and bored baby entertained and amused at all times.

After a while a nurse came to inform me that they were waiting for a phone call from social services to let them know whether I was allowed to go home with Small Girl or not. At this point I cried. I explained that I hadn’t hurt my baby. No-one thought I had, she said. Clearly there was reason to believe I possibly could have, or we wouldn’t all have been sitting there. I said I had a toddler who I needed to get home to or make arrangements for. It’s a Saturday, she said, so it’s harder to get a response. Clearly the moral of the story is to never let your baby develop an unexplained fracture on a Friday evening. I wish I hadn’t.

Except it turned out that she probably hadn’t fractured her leg. The registrar who did my safeguarding interview looked at the xray and said he didn’t think it was a break but he wasn’t an expert. So he referred it a senior radiographer, who also thought it wasn’t broken. Suddenly, despite my baby still having an inexplicable injury, I stopped being a potential risk to her and we were allowed to go home. But as no-one from the orthopaedic team was available to make a decision about her cast, she’s been lugging the plaster around for the past few days.

We’re due in the fracture clinic tomorrow afternoon, where they will take the plaster off, look at her leg and presumably re-xray it. They need to see if she can put weight on it and presumably try to work out what it was on the xray that looked like a break. Ex-Husband is coming too, so he can see the xrays and ask the sort of questions about fractures that I never think of. We need to learn to co-parent without being together, so it will be interesting to see how this works.

I had known, theoretically, that you’re only ever one incident away from social services involvement. I just hadn’t expected it to happen to me. As parents go, I’m fairly risk-averse but I’ve tried to fight it in order to give my children freedom to learn and explore. Now I’m not just worried about my children hurting themselves, I’m worried about my parenting being called into question, about having to explain how and why my child has hurt themselves.

I plan to complain about the hospital’s procedures, once it’s been established that I don’t abuse my children. If a baby presents with an unexplained fracture, and that injury is considered to be fairly unusual, and there is no reason to suspect the parent of abuse, why not get a second opinion before starting the safeguarding procedure? Safeguarding is about protecting children: I am not a better parent for the experience. Big Girl had to sleep at a friend’s house because I couldn’t be sure I’d get home to her. And Little Girl has been wearing an unnecessary cast for three days.

It’s not really what I hoped for from my Saturday.

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Small Girl got given this scary-looking bear at the hospital. I’m not really sure what to say.

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Safeguarding

Little Girl and I are in hospital again. We arrived at A&E around 9am and we’re still here.

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She’s broken her fibula. It could have happened at nursery. Or when she had a bit of a fall yesterday. Or possibly Big Girl has sat on her a bit too hard. I really don’t know how it happened.

So I’ve spent a while having a safeguarding interview with a registrar, who also examined Little Girl. There’s something surreal about watching someone prod your baby to check you haven’t hurt them.

Remember Baby P? Of course you do. They’re making sure it doesn’t happen again. I appreciate that but it’s frightening – that sense that my motives and my care for my children are being questioned. And the registrar at one point wrote that, as she didn’t seem to be in too much pain last night, I “didn’t take it seriously”. I had to argue for a while to get him to change it to “waited to see how she was this morning”, which is what I said. Who really suggests to a parent in a safeguarding interview that they didn’t take their child’s injury seriously?

There appears to be a question about whether small girl should stay in tonight. I’m not sure what the medical justification for this would be, but I have a toddler to look after and I co-sleep with Small Girl do I don’t intend to stay in without very good reason.

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Awesome? Or a twat? You decide.

I bought this t-shirt recently in H&M.

I like it but I wonder if it makes people think that I’m a twat?

I don’t care.  I need reminding of my own awesomeness regularly.

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Competitive parenting

On Saturday I told Big Girl we were going to the park.  “Bike!” she said. “Take bike to park!”. I reminded her that she doesn’t actually have a bike, but she was insistent and eventually tearful and then tantrumming.  She has a bike and she wanted to take it to the park.  So.  I assume she has a bike at Daddy’s house.  Not only that, at Daddy’s house there are two cars and three other children, all of whom she talks about frequently. I am fully aware that Daddy is more exciting than Mummy.  I know, of course, that she loves me, that if she lived at Daddy’s house most of the time I would probably be more exciting.  But it does hurt when she is so keen to leave me and go and stay with Daddy, and when she cries when she comes home and Daddy leaves her here.

I am so trying not to engage in competitive parenting. It’s true that when she wanted her slippers on and she didn’t have any, I did think ‘Oh, you have slippers at Daddy’s house, do you? Right…’ and we bought some slippers (I know, what sort of neglectful parent doesn’t buy slippers for their children? I just don’t like wearing them myself, so we didn’t have any). But there’s always this fear that one day, when they are big enough to choose, my children will choose to live with Daddy.  That they will leave me because I’m not fun enough, not exciting enough, don’t have as many awesome toys, spend all my time doing housework (badly).  It’s hard enough feeling like you are a good enough parent when they live with you all the time and don’t know any different.  Once there’s something to compare you to, something else to prefer and choose, it can feel very frightening.

You can, of course, tell me that children always love their mum, that they will appreciate the security they have with me, that this is their home. But I’m probably not going to believe you.

Single parents, how do you live with this?

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Quaking

I really wanted to write something about my weekend.  It was pretty good.  Lunch with my lovely friend Jo from Uni, and a trip round Manchester Art Gallery. We saw a fabulous exhibition about posters from the British Empire Company and a dress made of needles.  I am quite scathing about art because I don’t really get it and it makes me feel stupid.  I need to remember that this is not the fault of art or the artist. Jo did a degree in something to do with art, which probably helped. Then I had dinner with another friend and we went to see ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ with some more friends. I spent half the time wondering when Ewan MacGregor got old, and the other half thinking how nice Emily Blunt looked in everything she wore. Later I realised that this was because, as I only have time to watch one hour of TV a week (‘The Good Wife’ – I love it), I’m really only used to seeing normal people. Emily Blunt is just thinner than your average person so of course she looks good.  If you want to improve your body image, stop watching TV. That is my advice to you all.

On Sunday I tried a Quaker meeting. I’ve always been to church. Always.  I started by being christened in a Methodist Church, spent my teenage years being a very enthusiastic Baptist and getting baptised by immersion (full dunking), spent most of my uni years in a Church of England church (where I also got confirmed and married – I’m collecting the sacraments) and then, when we moved, went to a few different charismatic evangelical churches. Finally I ended up in my current church, which is a bit liberal and a bit post-modern. We do lots of discussion, watch bits of films, talk about books, talk about politics, do arty things.  I really like it. But about seven years ago I stopped believing in God. I liked believing in God and I haven’t wanted to give up on it.  So now I’ve decided to try a few different things and see if anything resonates with me.

The Quakers seem a natural place to start.  I like a lot of what they seem to value: equality, social justice, protest, diversity. I do imagine them being a bit beard-and-sandals. But I thought I’d give it a go.

It was a bit scary – I didn’t know anyone, didn’t know how it would work or what would happen.  And there’s the silence thing. Actually, it turns out that sitting in silence for an hour is a luxury. The children were in for the first fifteen minutes, so that was the sort of silence you get when children are doing their best to be quiet.  Then there was another fifteen minutes of silence, during which I tried to ignore my tickly cough. I wondered if anyone would say anything. I wondered what I should be feeling, whether I could expect any sort of revelation.  After about 40 minutes there was a universal fidget. Clearly, even hardcore Quakers have their limits as to how long they can sit still for.  Someone stood up, read a sonnet, and talked about friendship. Someone else talked about the Kinder Trespass and the Quaker tradition of protesting and trying to bring change. Someone else talked about their MS and linked the Kinder Trespass, a protest to access, to her experience of access and disability.  We were quiet for a bit longer. Two people shook hands to signal the end of the quiet bit. As in all churches, there were notices. I love church notices – you get a feel for the community. New people were invited to introduce themselves.  I did.  A few people talked to me.  There was coffee.

I liked it. I’m still not sure about the silence. For me, it felt like something to experience, maybe learn to appreciate, but I am so used to talking in order to think about things. It felt like an emptiness rather than a fullness, that all the other bits of Quaker life would be where things really happened, and I’m sure that’s not what it means to most Quakers. I think I need to go for a bit longer to see how it works and how I like it, but I think it could be a good place for me to be for now.

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Supper is the starting point for reimagining my life

This ‘working single parent thing’ (or ‘single working parent’? I’m not sure it makes much difference) is hard. It’s been a difficult few weeks.

I really like being back at work. I like seeing other adults and having meaningful conversations. I discovered the man I sit next shares my birthday. This week I did some things really well. I am more assertive and better at expressing myself – I think a direct result of what I’ve gone through in the past six months.  But getting back into work after a year’s maternity leave is hard enough. I need to think differently.  It’s been a struggle to remember how to get work done – not my job, the policies and procedures, but actual work – when I sit down at my computer and find 20 emails requesting action from me, how do I translate them into completed work? Make a list? Just work through them one at a time? It’s very different to emptying potties, providing meals, organising naps and trips out.

And then I’m trying to remember how to do that whilst also going through what is still a difficult and painful relationship break-up, while trying to learn how to parent with someone who no longer loves me and rarely agrees with me.

And I’m also trying to look after two small children, run a home, manage a life.

And I’m trying to make that life awesome.

I’m finding there’s just very little leeway. I currently have more work to do than I have time to do it in. This will get easier as I get faster. But there’s no-one at home with the children who can give them tea so I can work late. I am always watching the clock, racing to get done all the work I have to get done. I pick the children up from nursery, or Ex-Husband drops them off, and I have to be on time for that.  But it’s usually later than I would like. By the time we’re home and fed it’s later than I’d like. I don’t see the best of them.  I get them up in a hurry and I put them to bed in a hurry.  And then I rush around to get everything ready for the next day.  And then I sleep. Little Girl wakes up – I think she likes having an opportunity to spend time with me.  She rolls around the bed, sits up, crawls, shouts.  This is at 2am. There is no-one to take her for the two hours she has decided to be awake for so that I can get some sleep. Home and work are both fighting for my attention and I feel neither are currently getting what I would like to give to them.

And because I’m in work three days a week and then my children also spend time with Ex-Husband, I feel that I don’t see them enough.  When I do see them I am doing housework, taking them out to places. We are all tired. Life is relentless. I am struggling to keep up – to find time to have shopping delivered, to do the laundry.  I never read to my children. It’s not true that I never get a break – this weekend I am having a break. My children are with Ex-Husband and I am meeting a friend for lunch, having a bath with The Guardian (a sign that actually my life is getting more manageable, for all my whinging, is that I feel it’s worth having the Saturday Guardian delivered), going to the cinema with friends and trying out a Quaker service, as well as doing some essential housework.  But apart from when I have a break, it never seems to stop.  There’s just me.

So… when I started thinking about making my life more awesome, I was thinking about what I wanted to do: climbing, sewing, writing.  Now I’m reassessing and thinking about how I want to be. What do I want my life to look like? How do I want it to feel? What do I want to do with the time and money I have to feel that I have a life I like?

So: I’m thinking about what sort of things I want to do with my children, what I’d like us to eat, how much housework I want to do. How can I make my life run well? How can I get the sleep I need and still get to work on time?

So, my first thought is this: when I get the children home from nursery, they need to eat. But they’ve had proper food at nursery.  They need some sort of supper, preferably that can be pretty much prepared the night before, and ideally that won’t inspire Big Girl to spend two hours eating it.  Apart from toast, what do you suggest?

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