Love is…the absence of judgement

On two separate occasions in the last week, Eli has been rescued by a general member of the public. The first time, one of the big kids opened our front door and he darted out and down our pedestrianised road with Dan in hot pursuit. Unfortunately he didn’t stop when he got to the actual road and ran into it before being caught and brought to safety by a passing gentleman. The second time, we were at Decoy Country Park walking around the lake. He jumped off the path into a puddle/ditch but misjudged the distance and landed on his bottom, covered in muddy water. Luckily, he was in no danger and wasn’t particularly upset (just as well because I was laughing at him)! I was perhaps 100 yards away when it happened and a lady walking her dog hoisted him out as I came to his aid.

Both times, Dan and I were obviously very grateful to the people who had helped. Both times, we were met with stony silence and quite obvious judgement that we had let the situations occur. Before I rant, I’d like to clarify that the majority of people that I’ve encountered during my parenting journey have been kind, supportive and understanding of the nature of children. But, unfortunately, from time to time I have received nothing short of disdainful judgement at the behaviour of my children, silly situations they’ve got themselves into or parenting choices that I’ve made. And it drives me crazy!

Regardless of whether these people are parents or not, surely everyone realises that these tiny human beings are unpredictable, prone to immature behaviour and not always the most compliant to the demands from those looking after them. So I absolutely cannot fathom why people think the best way to react is with pointed looks, snarky comments or tutting. Parenting is HARD. A lot of the time, when these things happen, parents are doing their best to manage the situation, keep their children safe and get to where they’re going. Be it a child screaming in the supermarket because you won’t let them carry the biscuits, a toddler who has escaped his watchful but exhausted Mum or energetic children not looking where they’re going and knocking into someone….these parents do not need to be chastised. They need sympathy, understanding and to be cut a bit of slack. Parents often don’t have the kind of support from extended family that previous generations did and it can be a lonely experience at the best of times without being told you’re doing it badly from a complete stranger. I’m reminded of the old saying, if you don’t have anything nice to say…then don’t say anything at all!

Whilst looking for a title for this week’s column I stumbled across several quotes about judgement and ended up choosing this one from the Dalai Lama as it seemed particularly apt. Love is the absence of judgement. Nothing good comes from judging other people. So next time you see a child behaving in a way that is less than ideal, why not decide to act in a loving way and offer the parent a hand, an encouraging word or simply smile at them. They’re doing the best they can and having that support from a stranger might make all the difference to that moment for them.

Advertisements

Behind Closed Doors

Ever since Sophia entered the world, my children have been splashed all over the internet. Pictures on facebook, funny ancedotes on my blog, I’ve not been shy of sharing their lives to all and sundry on the world wide web. I’ve come across parents with a much more conservative approach to posting pictures of their children online and although have respected their opinion, have never had any issues with doing so myself.

However, having watched the Snowden documentary recently, a request from Dan and with the introduction of the Snoopers Charter, I’m starting to rethink  personal privacy policy for my children when it comes to sharing their lives online. What I learnt about the sophistication of facial recognition technology and the lengths that security agencies can go to to keep an eye on you scared me. Although me and my family have nothing to hide, surely we have a right to privacy and living how we like without being watched. Call me paranoid but I’m starting to trust governments less and less in light of recent political events.

Even if you put aside potential secret surveillance, I started to think about how I would have felt if, when I reached my teenage years, I had discovered that my early years were broadcast publicly for anyone to see. I think I probably wouldn’t have been best pleased. Sharing an embarrassing story with family members when you see them is one thing but your future employer knowing about the time you ate a rabbit poo thinking it was a chocolate raisin (one of my children but I won’t say which one!) or how long it took you to stop wetting the bed is a whole ‘nother level of privacy invasion.

I’ve read about bloggers who stop writing explicitly about their children when they turn five or others who ask older children to vet what they’ve written. For me, I’ve spoken to the kids and they’re quite happy for me to keep writing about them for now. But we have decided to reduce or stop posting photos of the kids online where you can obviously see their faces and I’ll keep checking in with them in regards to writing about them. Call us paranoid but I’m always trying to embrace a step back from technology and it’s pervasive creeping into our lives and think this is a good way to make moves in that direction. Now if I could just work on my compulsive facebook checking…

Gratitude Starts Here

Mid-January. A time of year characterised by the bleak weather and for a lot of us, equally bleak state of affairs when it comes to finances. The festive cheer has most definitely worn off and the combination of last month’s holiday overspend and the five week month is sinking in. At this point it’s easy to let a dark cloud of gloom descend as you constantly count pennies for the next few weeks and curse the you from last month that spent so frivolously on yummy treats and extra bits for the holidays. This was me before the weekend. With three children’s birthdays and Christmas within a 10 week period, we are not particularly flush at this time of year!

However, as I headed out for a run on Saturday, I got to thinking and realised that despite my not so friendly bank account, I still have a heck of a lot to be grateful for. Not only do we have a roof over our heads, food in our cupboards and religious and political freedom but we are also blessed to have (mostly) good health, some amazing friends and to be living in a beautiful part of the world, guaranteed to lift the spirits whenever you head out the door. It might sound ridiculous but just thinking about all that has changed my mindset and I now feel much calmer and more positive about things.

Interestingly, a friend sent a link to an article today that laid out 4 rituals a neuroscience researcher claims will result in increased happiness. One of the things it mentions is asking yourself what you are grateful for. Apparently, ‘the benefits of gratitude start with the dopamine system, because feeling grateful activates the brain stem region that produces dopamine….it can also boost serotonin. Trying to think of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. This simple act increases serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex’. The complexity and cleverness of our brains and the way they works never ceases to amaze me.

Although we might mostly use the concept of being grateful to chastise our children when we think they’re being spoilt (don’t you know there are children starving elsewhere in the world?!), it turns out that there is a lot more substance to it than that. Gratitude has the potential to be a deliberate art, one worth devoting some time to, in order to gain some perspective on your life and to improve your mental health! Even if it’s only something seemingly small like enjoying your favourite meal or the kids fighting less, I think it’s worth making a mental note of the things you are grateful for daily. Although I’ve already covered New Years resolutions (I’m not a massive fan usually), I do quite like adopting the challenge of practising gratitude this year. It starts here.

 

Training Hard

Just before Christmas I wrote about my first foray into fell running ahead of a trail marathon I’ve optimistically decided to undertake this year. It was a hard, somewhat humbling, lesson in just how different (and how much harder) running on uneven terrain is in comparison to running on tarmac. My Dad, a seasoned fell runner, assures me that I’ll grow to love running off road and although I’m sure that’s true, right now I’m feeling more than a little bit nervous about the challenge ahead.

If it was a road marathon I don’t think I’d be feeling quite this level of nerves although obviously, 26.2 miles on any terrain is still an epic distance to run. But I think it’s the fact that my speed will be so much slower than makes me worried. For long distance on road, my pace is probably about 9.5 minutes/mile meaning that for a marathon I’d be running for around 4 and a half hours. On trail however, I think my pace is more likely to be 12 minute miles meaning that potentially I could be running for around 6 hours (or more). It just seems like a ridiculously long stretch of time to be moving without stopping. I have absolutely no idea how the ultra marathon runners do it.

Upon expressing said concerns to Dad (who I’ll be running with), he reassured me that as long as I do enough training then I’ll be fine. In my heart of hearts, I know he’s right. But there’s so much more to training that just the running itself. As with a lot of things, a holistic, wider approach is needed. I need to eat right, sleep right (did you hear that boys?!) and have a positive mental attitude as well as making sure I get some longer runs and hill training in. So unfortunately for those around me, it might mean that I’ll be living, breathing and sleeping this marathon for the next six months. Apologies to my friends and families if I start to become a bit boring! On the whole I think it’s a good thing though.

Through the training I’ll be able to foster a healthy body and mind and surely that can only have a positive impact in everything else I do. It took me a while though to remember that it is rare to face a challenge and succeed if you adopt a one dimensional approach. This challenge has been a real learning curve but it’s seeping into other areas of my life as I remember to tackle any issues I face (be them big or small) from many angles rather than just head on. As someone who tends to jump in with both feet first and think later, this is definitely a helpful lesson. So I promise to not write about it every week but hope that you’ll forgive me if I do come back to it here in my column a little over the coming months. Have you set yourself any big challenges for 2017? I’d love to hear all about them!

img_20170105_164158

Closing Thoughts

The presents have been put away, the mince pies are almost gone and as we quickly approach the last day of the year, it seemed only fitting (or perhaps a bit of a cliché?!) to pull together some thoughts about the tumultuous year that has been 2016. To be fair, on an incredibly selfish and personal level, it’s not been half bad. It’s not been particularly eventful either but if I cast my mind over the last 12 months I mostly have positive memories and they definitely override the few bad ones (walking out on Mothers Day wasn’t my finest moment but we can talk about that another time). On a global scale though, it’s been a bit of a stinker hasn’t it?! Brexit (regardless of which side you were on, I think we can all agree it was a bit of a drama), Donald Trump, the escalating war in Syria, a plethora of well loved celebrities leaving us, an increase in terror attacks across Europe….I could go on. It’d be hard to argue that this year was an average year when you think of all this.

But (and I’m so glad there is a but!), I came across an article the other day which listed 99 positive things that occurred this year with little or no fanfare in the mainstream media. The list included such wonderful news such as the facts that this year more than 20 countries pledged more than $5.3 billion for ocean conservation, that for the first time ever, the amount of money it would take to end poverty dropped below the amount of money spent on foreign aid, that world hunger reached its lowest point in 25 years, that a new survey showed the ozone hole has shrunk by more than 3.9 million square km since 2006 and the news that humpback whales, green sea turtles and white-tailed deer were taken off endangered species list. And that’s only to mention a handful!

So I guess that whilst I completely understand the thoughts of those wishing that 2016 would hurry up and end, I also think that if you look for it, there are a lot of good things happening that you can get behind and celebrate. It’s easy to fixate on the negative news that dominates the headlines and our newsfeeds but I reckon that next year, we should all try and make a little more effort to search out the things that will lift us up and start sharing all the amazing things that mankind is achieving instead. If I can say this without sounding cheesy (and I probably can’t!) let’s build each other up and get inspired for all the good that we can do in the world around us, both on a local and wider scale. Let’s make 2017 a year that is remembered in history, not as a year full of political turmoil and deaths (sorry 2016!) but as a year where we all worked together to help each other, protect the environment and generally were bloody brilliant.

Pride before a fall

(This is a column that was in the paper from before Christmas but thought some of you might enjoy it so posted it despite it being rather late!)

On Saturday I took part in my first ever trail run. I have done plenty of road running in my time and this year have started participating in races, taking part in a 10k and half marathon. I’ve even enjoyed them! Consequently, in the run up (pun intended I’m afraid!) to the Cockington Christmas Capers run, I was a little relaxed, verging on cocky (intentional again). It was 8 miles. I run 8 miles regularly as part of my training for next year’s marathon (more on that later). I didn’t need to make any special effort, I was just going to turn up and run it. Job’s a good ‘un as they say.

Well. Two things. Firstly, trail running is a whole different kettle of fish to road running. (Why didn’t anyone tell me!?) And secondly, it was, without exaggeration, the hardest sporting endeavour that I have ever taken part in. I think the word used to describe courses such as Cockington is the innocent sounding ‘undulating’. I estimate perhaps 10-20% of the course was flat, the rest was up huge muddy hills in the forest or down steep steps covered in wet leaves. I was running with an incredibly fit friend of mine who kindly stayed at my slow, often staggering pace and without him, I don’t think I’d have finished.

I was less than two miles in when I first thought the fatal thought…I can’t do this. The hills were too steep, the ground too slippy, I had had too little sleep (thanks kids!), I obviously just wasn’t made for trails. But by the water point halfway round I’d remembered a conversation between two ladies that I’d overheard during the Great West Run. They had devised thirteen different conversation topics for each mile of the run in order to keep their minds distracted from the running. I had a bit of a moment and realised that I was perfectly capable of running it, but only if my head was in the right place. So I switched back to annoyingly chirpy, put on my big girl pants and got on with it.

And you know what, I finished the race. I think I’d say that I’m glad that I did it and I’d probably even do it again. Speaking of which…that marathon I mentioned? Turns out that I signed up for something without fully looking into it. Not only is it a marathon but it’s on trails, not road and is described as ‘brutal’ and in the top ten of toughest marathons in the UK. I’m feeling slightly apprehensive but I’ve got six months to train and I haven’t fallen over yet. Watch this space!

DSC_0010.JPG