Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Next Step

Almost exactly a year ago, I was clearing out my desk at work. I was huge and I waddled. I had hopes and dreams and thoughts that kept me awake at night and I had no idea what this next step on my journey was really going to be like. I started this blog to keep me sane through the difficult times and to document my ups and downs and trials of parenthood. The blog has really become more than that for me, but that's a story for another day.

Today I walked the 1.5 miles into my nearest town with Little Monster. It's something I've done several times a week for the last 10 months. It's become a routine that symbolises this first year with him; he babbles and chatters or snoozes his way through the ride and I take my time, do a little soul searching, listen to an audiobook, plan my day. Along the way, I'll probably pull faces at him to make him giggle, stop several times to adjust his socks, his hat, pick up a discarded toy. When we get to town, we normally find our way to the post office where the two wonderfully fabulous men behind the counter have a quick chat with Little Monster which involves street style chest thumping and hand signals which perhaps mean more to Little Monster than they do to me. We might have a coffee and Little Monster will snack on dried apricots and mini rice cakes while he's charming the pants off the other residents of the cafe and I steal a sneaky 5 minutes of down time. We'll wander home again, Little Monster a new person from getting out of the house and me feeling virtuous from my 3 mile walk.

It's a routine I've come to love and yet I never thought I would. For the first 6 weeks, even making it out of the house was some kind of Herculean task. Making it out of the house to be somewhere on time was nigh on impossible. And, like all things, now that I'm faced with the thought of giving it up, I know it's something I'm going to miss terribly.

A year seemed an absolute lifetime at the start. Sometimes I wondered how I'd even survive it. But now, as it's coming to an end, I feel sad. Little Monster and I have come such a long way this year. It has been both the best and worst year of my life rolled into one. He and I have grown and learned and changed and got to know each other. Sometimes I think I've grown and changed almost as much as he has. We've got through learning to sleep, learning to eat solid food, trips to hospital for him and for me, trying to walk, figuring out that construction is (nearly) as much fun as destruction, first paddles in the sea, first tastes of cake and so many other firsts that I can't count them.

I know that returning  to work is the right thing for me and I hope that nursery will be the right thing for Little Monster. We've survived the first step. I can't wait for the next one.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Skin and Bones

A couple of conversations with different people lately have left me thinking about family, what it means to be family, how to make and keep those strong, lifelong relationships of love and trust and honesty.

I think my whirlpool of thoughts stem from Little Monster, as they often do. I got to thinking about my blood relationships. What's great about them? What do I want to change? How do I nurture my relationship with Little Monster so that we can love and trust and be honest with each other into adulthood?

That last one is a really hard question. I'm lucky with my blood family. I have strong and loving relationships with them. That's not to say everything about our relationships is always perfect but there are many people out there who constantly struggle to have positive relationships with parents, siblings, extended family. I think there are a lot of reasons for it. Oftentimes, people are just different. They grate against each other and, with all the will in the world, they struggle to find common ground. Other times I think there's such a weight of expectation of what your family should be that it stops people from appreciating what they are.

For most of my adult life, for a number of reasons, I've been a big believer that families can be made, not just born and constructed from the same DNA. There is an urban term 'skin and bones' which refers to when your friends become your family. Some of the people I've met along the way fall in to that category. Some of them have been around most of my life. Some of them I've just met in the last few years. Some of them I've only ever met virtually. All of them are family to me because of what they are and what they mean. They are family because they don't judge me for what I tell them and they're family because I know they'll be there, physically or otherwise, no matter what happens. One of those family recently told me that a friend she met online is going to live with her. The circumstances that led to that inspire me on many levels and just make me believe more firmly in building family. Isn't the greatest accolade to choose someone to be family?

To build that kind of relationship with Little Monster, I know that I'm probably going to have to work harder at it than a lot of people. I'm not naturally open. I tend to keep things internalised, at least until I've resolved them. And there's a reasonable chance that Little Monster will inherit that from me, so I'll have to work doubly hard. But I know that I want to offer him that kind of relationship with me. If families are chosen and not born, I want him to choose me one day.