FOMO

In Exeter at the moment, there is a veritable plethora of opportunities for home educated children. Choir, yoga, athletics, veterinary classes, theatre trips, craft sessions, nature groups, science workshops, Forest School, trampolining…the list goes on and on. Although I am obviously thrilled by the opportunities on offer for the kids, at the same time I’ve been finding myself getting a bit panicked every time a new post goes up advertising another group or activity. After talking to a friend, she suggested I may be suffering from FOMO, a Fear Of Missing Out. Not an acronym I was familiar with but when she said it, I immediately identified with the ‘syndrome’!

Without a time machine and an unlimited supply of funds, it is simply impossible to do everything. But although in my heart of hearts I know this, every time I turn down an opportunity I find myself worrying that I’m doing the kids a disservice. What if there is a future Olympic gymnast in one them and they never realise that potential because I didn’t take them to the relevant classes? What if one of them has an unrecognised passion for singing but they never actualise it? I do know that I’m being a bit ridiculous and that these are extreme examples. But still, that fear (of missing out) remains!

And it doesn’t just stop with their education. I have a tendency to try and make sure that we can accept every party invitation, that every time the sun shines we maximise the opportunity to do something exciting outside, that we fit in as much as possible as a family. However, having pondered the matter somewhat, I had a bit of an epiphany. Namely that actually, the kids (and Dan) aren’t bothered about doing everything. They are all perfectly happy having a day at home, playing board games, hanging out with the guinea pig, building lego spaceships, watching a bit of TV and generally chilling out. In fact, if it follows a busy few days, it is their activity of choice when asked what they fancy doing on a rare free day.

I realised that I’ve been focused on making happy memories for our family that I’ve been getting caught up in doing big, amazing things whereas it doesn’t really matter what the content of the memory is, what we’ll remember is how we felt whilst doing that. So dragging them all onto Dartmoor when they’re tired and just want to chill won’t be a day to treasure, it’s more likely to be something we have to endure before heading home to relax. Likewise, if I want to ensure they have a full, rounded education, that doesn’t necessarily mean dipping superficially into everything physically and financially possible but following their needs and interests to develop their knowledge and skillset to a deeper (and therefore, more useful) level. No need to fear missing out, what we’ve got is pretty good already!

What’s my name again?!

As I write this at 7 in the morning, I have a 2 year old monkey climbing on my back, attempting to strangle or cuddle me (I’m not sure which) in between taking breaks to eat his cereal. We’ve been up since 5am and he is impossibly full of beans. My bean counter is looking noticeably less full. A situation that many parents are finding themselves in this morning and for those of you will older or grown up kids, an occurrence that I’m sure you don’t miss! But with this phase of 5am waking looking more and more like a longer term arrangement on my youngest son’s part, I’ve decided to try and embrace them and get on with work and tasks. I often struggle to fit everything in and realised I could utilise these early hours to create more time. At least that was the plan last night. This morning I sat, comatose, on the sofa whilst the electronic babysitter did it’s thing before finally rousing myself at 6.30 to make a cup of tea and find my laptop. It would probably help if I went to bed a little earlier but there’s always tomorrow right?! Sleep deprivation is a funny thing, I’ve written about it before so apologies for any repetition but given that it’s still an ongoing issue, I think there’s probably more to be said.

The biggest affect it has on me is forgetfulness and irritability. Ironically, for someone who loves to talk and write, my forgetfulness manifests in a complete inability to remember the names of the children I’m talking to, to be able to finish sentences and to formulate any sort of coherent thoughts without the aid of caffeine. The irritability needs no explanation but I do feel bad that it often ends up directed at the two children who are actually sleeping. Not only are they sleeping without regularly appearing in my bed but they actually like a good lie in, often not appearing until gone 8 and then often only with some prodding on my part. But I digress.

As the New Year dawned on us earlier this year, I read an article about how ‘clean sleep’ was set to be the trend of 2017. The concept being that there should be more awareness on the importance of a good amount of decent quality sleep. I wonder if the idea was planted by health authorities as a campaign and taken on my health and fitness websites. Or whether people simply love trends and ‘clean eating’ has somewhat run it’s course. Then just a few days ago I saw a video about how lack of sleep impacts your cognitive performance and your wider bodily functions.

I understand that there probably are a lot of folk that need reminding to get a decent amount of sleep (8 hours being the holy grail) but for parents who would LOVE to get that sleep but can’t, it kind of smarts! Still, I guess in the wee hours we can always comfort ourselves with the knowledge that as teenagers we’ll never be able to get them out of bed and if we really want to exact some revenge and a little fun, we can take to waking them at regular intervals to share inane thoughts or declarations of hunger…

Spring has Sprung

Last year’s daffodils have just flowered in our rather forlorn front garden this week, adding a welcome splash of colour among the dull greys and browns. They may been flattened almost immediately by the recent storms but nonetheless, I’m counting their appearance, along with an increase in birdsong outside our bedroom window in the early hours, as a confirmation of the arrival of spring.  After what has felt like a particularly long winter, I’m looking forward to spending much more time outside and to escaping the four walls we’ve been stuck in before cabin fever well and truly sets in.

I am also looking forward to making a proper go out of growing our own fruit and veg this year. Although we have done so successfully many times in the past in other houses, our last two growing seasons here have been a bit of a failure. Pregnancy, a baby, territorial cats and a garden flooded with sewage were just some of the reasons that contributed to this.  However, I’m feeling confident that this year is our year! So today we unpacked our herb garden kit from the RHS to explore what we’d been given and put up their bright cheery posters, got some tomato seeds planted and generally made some plans about what we want to do and grow this year.

I was almost persuaded by Isaac to buy a lemon and orange tree from Aldi but managed to resist, rationalising that I should make proper plans before starting to buy things spontaneously. Dan had the genius idea of getting a little greenhouse, nothing fancy, to protect our plants from children, cats and birds alike. I’ve spotted one I like and have started planning what the shelves will be full of. Tomatoes, strawberries, potatoes, salad, herbs, peas, sweet potato, squash, onions, garlic, broccoli and raspberries have made the (ambitious) cut so far but no doubt I’ll be persuaded to try one or two other things as well. No doubt also my more sensible other half will gently point out that I can’t fit all of that into the greenhouse and I’ll have to prioritise. But still, it’s good to dream big eh?

Apart from the satisfaction of not having to buy it from the shops and the fact that it tastes so much better, my favourite thing about growing our own is how much it engages the kids. They already love being outside so need little persuasion to get involved when I head out to garden. Sophia and Isaac are both very capable at basic gardening tasks and eager to help and I imagine that Elijah will be much the same this year. (The worried home-edder in me also loves that I can tick off science and maths in the process!) So why not pop to your garden centre with your small folk this weekend and get them to help you pick some seeds and do some growing of your own this spring?

Enjoying The Ride

As a general rule, I don’t really subscribe to the notion of the terrible twos, the tiresome threes or the fearsome fours. I think that at any given age, a child will present certain challenges but also provide a whole heap of joy as well. That said, there is definitely a point where your baby-turned-toddler gains a certain degree of awareness and you know, as their parent, that their actions aren’t always so innocent anymore. Elijah has been heading this way for a while but this week, when he strolled into the living room with a cheeky grin on his face, purposefully concealing a foraged knife and screwdriver behind his back, I knew we were there. (Third time round and we still suck at baby proofing!)

I swear toddlers were designed to drive you to the brink of insanity with their mischievous and testing antics before drawing you back with a heart melting smile or a gigantic cuddle, little arms wrapped in a death grip tight around your neck. I think all parents of small children often have moments where they’d give anything for a brief respite. A break from re-directing small curious hands, a break from clearing up food from the floor and walls, a break from tidying up what feels like thousands of small toys that have been spread around the house over the course of a morning.

But after having several conversations with parents of teenagers this week, I’m starting to see it from the other side, to realise the benefits of toddlers and small children that I know I’ll miss when they are over (mostly). To know where they are at all times doesn’t feel like a blessing right now but I know that when they are teenagers, out with their friends and staying out past their given home time, I’ll remember these days with fondness! I don’t have to worry about who they’re with, what they’re doing and what time they’ll be home. That aspect of their safety at least is a given. And at this age, as their parents, we are still their one true love. It might be overwhelming to be loved with so much force but before long, they will no longer want to be near us 24 hours a day (or at all!), they’ll argue with us, they’ll think they know better.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know there will also be amazing aspects to having teenagers. I’m looking forward to proper conversations with them, to eating out and knowing it’ll be an easy enjoyable evening, to seeing who they are as they blossom into adults. But I suppose that’s my point. Every stage of parenting is a mixed bag, there will always be challenges and there will always be joy. So as Eli is currently evolving into an exceptionally cheeky pickle of a small person, I will not wish it away too much. As one of my favourite fellow parents says, all is a state of impermanence, so I will take the good with the bad and just try and enjoy the ride!