Last week a crowd of emotional parents gathered at the market cross in Shepton Mallet. We exchanged tearful half smiles and nods, as we nervously awaited the wobbly stream of yellow, and pink fluffy bonnets to appear at the bottom of Town Street.
A myriad of tiny high vis jackets , bunny ears, paper eggs on bent straw hats and anxious toddlers , totter up the street towards us. Some little ones smile , giggle and wave as they spot their proud parents in the crowd. Others glance shyly at the ground and chew their cuffs. This is my Harry’s last Easter bonnet parade, as he’ll be moving up to St.Paul’s in September. It’s the same for all the Year 2’s and us mums are all aching inside, as we realise just how fast kids really do grow up! As I strain on tip toes to see him enthusiastically ‘sign’ the lyrics to crowd favourite ‘Spring Chicken’; my mind flashes back to the day of his birth. His shiny eyes, tiny upturned nose, new born hair smell, and weirdly hairy shoulders!
That overwhelming sense of unconditional love I felt, and still feel every night when I creep in to watch him sleep - wrapped up in his pokemon duvet. That feeling , which only slightly subsides when he’s pushing his luck for more time on his Kindle Fire, or is strenuously denying painting the cat blue- despite hands covered in ink! I cannot actually believe this gets harder not easier, as other parents claim. Yet, during ‘Plant A little Seed’ my mind flashes forwards this time. I imagine my boys as teenagers, dressed in skinny jeans - maybe on hover boards? ( Hey I watch too much sci fi !) being upset over girlfriends, wanting to go out in the evenings, navigating the world of social media, maybe being offered drugs -oh my God. I have to stop. I’ll have a panic attack if I keep going. I’m going to ruin these last glorious moments of Harry’s last Easter parade, If I don’t get a grip. I squeeze Wayne’s hand. Laugh at the fact he’s helping my 73 year old mother balance on top of a pillar so she can see. And take a few deep breaths. Yes time does fly, and ofcourse my boys will grow up. But as parents, I feel we do our best. Ofcourse we aren’t perfect all the time. When I need time to write this column, I sometimes throw them a bag of crisps and tell them to watch another episode of ‘Teen Titans Are Go’ for example! But, they are loved, they are protected ,yet still encouraged to take some risks. They are listened to and encouraged to talk and express their feelings. Wayne has quit smoking and I have quit drinking- so we can lead by example. Wayne chose to become self employed so he can work hours which allow him to share school runs, and watch school plays. We have less money, but more time. And it’s so worth it.
Had a bit of a mad day, and just decided to dip dye my hair pink . Then I really missed having my pose pierced, which I always has - throughout my teens and twenties. Is it a midlife crisis? Who knows, who cares! I couldn't have it pierced when I was a TV extra, nor when I was working as a lecturer, or student attendance mentor. But what's stopping me now I'm a cool, sober yummy mummy blogger? nothing..hurrah! Also I realised I am terrified of being seen as dull and boring, just cos I don't go out drinking anymore. I'm not, honestly! I mean, I haven't wanted to go out clubbing, since I decided to stat trying for a baby. Life after kids is a thrilling rollercoaster ride in itself- no drugs needed. I've always doe crazy wild things, and always had my own unique style - nothing has changed. It's just with two young kids, and a damaged liver- sometimes a night at home with a cup of tea and a tub of chocolate hobnobs is the most fun I need. Deal with it.
I put so much pressure on myself to please others, and to try and 'be' a certain way - that I gave myself a mini breakdown on St.Patrick's day.I ended up in a ball on my bed, mascara tears staining my unicorn duvet cover. I felt like I could drink, I maybe wanted to drink, the whole of the rest of the world was probably drinking- we had guests and I possibly am more fun and entertaining when I'm pissed, I'm a better hosted when blotto? Or am I? Am I turning into a boring old maid? Do people still think I'm fun crazy and cool?
After shouting, arguements, tears, cuddles, facebook messages, tea and chocolate- I finally calmed down. I realised my guests were fine. Most people were proud of me for going sober, and even a bit inspired. They mainly still saw me as fun and cool ( thats coming from other mum's over 30 so...how accurate that is , I cant say!) My husband loves me, my kids love me- my friends old and new love me. And at the end of the day - It's a waste of energy and good mascara to worry what other people think !
What I got bombarded with on Facebook - whilst struggling with my sobriety... yeh really helpful !
Last weekend I did parkrun on Saturday morning, followed by an intense but fantastic 3 hour “Yoga for weight loss” workshop by Wendy Sugg at Bruton Yoga ( If you missed it, there will be a full day workshop on Sunday 15th April, check out www.brutonyoga.com for info) needless to say I was very glad to have a lie in, and be pampered by my boys on Mothering Sunday. They’d bought me a selection of goodies from The Fairy Godmother Shop, we had a lovely afternoon tea with my mum, and Wayne cooked me Sunday dinner. I soaked my aches and pains in a bubble bath, then snuggled in bed with our 8 year old alaskan husky, ex sled dog, Ulf.
It was quite a special moment for us both. Of Course he’s Wayne’s dog mostly, having been his lead dog in Sweden, when Wayne was racing up to 40km a day in minus temperatures. He even saved Wayne’s life once when a blizzard blew snow drifts over a frozen river trail, and the team got lost. Ulf is sled dog royalty, with his bloodline going back to the famous Alaskan ‘Redington’ lineage- yet he has lived a hard, working dogs life. Living first in Germany, with a tough world class musher Steffan Falter, then racing and pulling heavy tourist sleds in Swedish Lapland when he came to our ‘Musherman Adventure’ kennels. He has always lived outside, and although he’s fathered at least 50 litters of pups, been wary of other dogs and people. After the traumatic four day journey by car from Sweden to the UK in 2014, it has taken him a while to adjust. And it is just heartwarming to finally see him pottering around the house, sometimes hopping up on the sofa for a cuddle, and finally getting in bed for an afternoon nap. Dog lovers will understand!
EASTER ACTIVITIES IN THE AREA -
Now for the parenting bit; I can’t quite believe it’s the easter holidays next week.
As always though, there is plenty to do in this area. Shepton Mallet Collett Park’s Easter Eggstravaganza is on from 11-3pm on Saturday 31st March. There will be a free easter egg hunt, BBQ, and bouncy castle. Kilver Court garden’s will be open, and there are free Easter biscuits for visitors who check out the website before they visit. Cheddar Gorge Caves will hold a ‘Glow In the dark egg hunt” from 24th March - 8th April- entry is included with every explorer ticket ( priced £16.95 adults / £12.70 over 5’s - online) and Wookey Hole will transform into a magical Easter fairy kingdom from 25th March till 10th April ( £16.50 adults / £12.75 over 3’s online) .It’s worth exchanging your Tesco clubcard points for days out vouchers too, as they may be worth more than their cash value. If your child has a disability, don’t forget to contact Somerset County Council - Children with disability service, and apply for a free ‘Max’ card. This will give the child discounted entry to attractions nationwide.
Last Sunday, I was lucky enough to be an audience member on BBC 1 live debate show “The Big Questions” presented by Nicky Campbell. It was filmed at Bath Spa University, and we had to arrive bright and early at 08.30 in preparation for going live at 10am. The topics under discussion; “Is Social Media beyond control? And should we presume consent for organ donation in England?” ( Watch it on BBC iplayer, episode 8, series 11 ) PAs a former Media lecturer, with a degree in Media & Communications, and as a keen user of social media, I had strong opinions on the first question.
I believe social media should ofcourse have privacy and security settings, in order to protect those who are more vulnerable- but it should not be censored or banned. I strongly believe we should be teaching media studies, including social media and internet safety to children from primary school age. It should be part of the national curriculum.
Children are given computer tablets to play on, from as young as 2 or 3 years old- they are watching TV and movies, listening to music and seeing advertising around them from the minute they can focus their eyes, yet we don’t formally encourage debate or discussion around how these images and this information is processed, until secondary school. It is so important that children are encouraged to develop critical thinking, so they do not take things they see on main stream media or on social media platforms at face value.
They must learn about media ownership and control, the history and development of media and social media internet companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter. They should consider the relationship between self esteem, self image and photo shopped selfies on instagram. Question the authenticity of search engine rankings, debate the use of bots, discuss the devastating effect of internet trolling and cyber bullying , and ofcourse understand the importance of e-safety.
The online world is developing at a rate we can hardly comprehend. Last year we first became aware of the term fake news, now there is AI facial recognition software which can make it look as though anyone is saying anything. Voice recognition programmes like ‘Lyrebird’ which can do the same things for a person’s voice. In essence it would be possible for a semi skilled IT whizz to make a realistic video of Trump saying he’d just fired a nuke at Russia - and before we know it - WW3. It’s scary stuff, but not if we remain vigilanty self aware and inquisitive. Don’t believe everything to read, see or hear!
I showed my kids “The Matrix” in order to spark a debate on Artificial Intelligence, the holographic universe theory and deep mind. In hindsight , it was beyond them aged 6 & 8. Harry was sad that so many watermellons got splatted needlessly in the street shooting scene, and Rowan said it inspired him to make a movie about nits living on someone’s head. I’ll try again when theyre older!
I'm a 43 year old, mum of two little boys- currently living in Shepton Mallet in Somerset. I'm the Founder and Creative Director of Radio Shepton, a Stand up and comedian and spoken word performer, and write a regular column for The Wells and Shepton Mallet Journal. Which is the basis for my blog usually. I lived in Swedish Lapland for 7 years until 2014 where my boys were born. My partner and I ran a husky dog sledding business. Before that I was a poet, radio presenter, media lecturer, writer, TV producer, actress and burlesque performer ! I never want my life to be boring :)