Tuesday, 19 February 2013

A Sticker for Single Mommies

Just home from the doctors. Preschool Booster attempt two. Well, maybe attempt 2.5. Still, we get to back again next month to repeat the ordeal, and they can administer the second injection that got nowhere near my kid before he started hyperventilating. Not even long enough to receive an 'I was Brave Today!' sticker as he ran out of the room sobbing. 

I hate these injections that punctuate our kiddo's early lives. I understand the need for them, which is why I have put my kid through this each time - but since his very first injections I have not been able to go with him. It's not a needle phobia (my collection of piercings and tattoos will testament to  that) but a profound hatred of seeing my kid upset. And I'm not talking bratty petulant footstamping, I'm talking screaming, shuddering, hyperventilating, terror. 

I don't know what caused this, he's never had a bad experience with a jab or a doctor or anything. My kid has never cried for more than a minute or two his entire life, before I have attended to his needs*. I think he remembers the trauma of previous injections, the pain, the fake jolly nurse and the sticker bribery. The nurse has other ideas, as my kid is screaming for his daddy - 'maybe he'd be better off  coming back next week with dad?' Yeah, not gonna happen lady. I have that thought - the one that comes to me every now and then - oh yeah, I'm doing this all alone. 

All alone. And most days, the regular park-and-play-and-shops-and-cook-dinner kinds of days I don't mind. I don't notice. As a stay at home parent I always did most of the legwork, after the break-up it was just a few more late nights early mornings. But those nights when my kid is sick, or those days when I am struggling - that's when I remember. I am alone in this. Those times I have to take my kid to meetings or when I had to go for my smear and I had noone to babysit and I can't stop giggling as my kid is yelling "mommy, what's she doing to your bits?!" from behind the curtain (don't worry, I'm already saving up for all the therapy he'll need in later life). Those are the times I could really do with a co-parent. A shoulder to cry on. A hand to hold. Another lap for him to sit on as a nurse tries her best to convince my kid to let her stick needles in him. I call the ex after our appointment - partly because I wanted to vent partly because I planned to insist on him taking Vin to his next appointment (for the other round of jabs he was too upset to receive today). I figured he might be concerned as to how it went, silly me. Another reminder, there is just you Charlotte. I am parenting alongside myself. Doing both roles and twice as much work. 

...and I don't even get a sticker at the end of it all. 

*Please, no judgements on my parenting skills here, this is how I chose to raise my kid, not a comment on your or yours. 

Saturday, 16 February 2013

A Holding Pattern

If you walk into my house you might notice that nothing is quite finished. The pictures are washi taped to the walls, there are shelves and cupboards stacked against the walls. There are no curtains in my bedroom and if you try to hang up your jacket you might notice that the coat hanger is balanced on one screw. I don't know the names of any of my neighbours here. I am not registered to vote. My kid's name is not down on any school waiting lists. I don't have a dentist here. There is a reason for all of this. That reason is February 24th 2013.

That date I wrote in my diary, in tears on 24th August 2012. The morning I left London. I sat broken, with my broken heart in my broken home. My life flatpacked around me. And I wrote 24th February 2013 - I will be coming home.

My anxiety had peaked. I sat in my best friends house in tears, the day before we moved. I realised why I was so sick at the thought of Birmingham - because I didn't want to leave London. I loved my house there. I loved my life there. I had friends, amazing friends. I had fallen in love with a boy in London. I had this picture of Birmingham, and it was everything I hated about the life I used to live. I don't know how else to describe it, but the first days I moved to London, I realised I was home. I have moved around my whole life, my life pre-Vinnie was always travelling and searching and longing. I came to Crystal Palace and I came home. 

So when my relationship ended, my metaphorical rug was pulled out from under me. I couldn't afford to live in London on one wage, not in the job I was doing at that time. My ex pushed and pushed me, insistent that life would be better for me and Vin if we were in Birmingham, where I wouldn't struggle for money, where I would be around my family, where we could rebuild our lives. My family insisted I would be better off here, where they didn't have to feel so helpless as I struggled so far away. Let me tell you, if you build your life around one relationship for 6 years of your life, when it ends it'll take a lot longer than 6 weeks for you to get over it. Don't make any big life changes in that time. 

But I did. I made that choice, I decided to move to Birmingham. And I did. Less than three months after we split up I was sat in a van with the half of our furniture that my ex didn't take, navigating the streets of South London. Birmingham bound. In tears. But not before I wrote that date. Exactly six months after I left London, I intended to be going home. Birmingham was a holding place for me. To sort things out, so I could work in London, and afford to live there. To heal myself, my fucked up head and my broken heart. To prove to myself that I could be happy, I would be ok, that I could raise my kid and support this family and build this home all on my own. I came to Birmingham to do that. And then I would be coming home. On February 24th 2013. 

Of course, that date is next week. And I still tense up every time I have to see my ex, mostly I just want to throw up. I make the mistake of checking his Instagram feed, to prove to myself how much better I was doing. I haven't saved any money, I am still paying off our old debts, bills we were paying together, the credit I took to pay for our first London flat, three years ago. I can't work here, so I have no proof I can work in London either. Everyday I look at my kid and wonder how he isn't more fucked up by the terrible job I am doing. 

It would appear that when your life is as messy as ours was, it takes longer than six months to sort it all out. So I'm not moving back to London next week. I have crossed that date out of my diary. I have to stay here, at least a little while longer. And while I'm here, I still have to keep going. I am sort of making friends here, I have the beginnings of a life here. I start my work placement in two weeks, I have signed up for a degree course starting in September. I am looking into nursery schools for Vinnie. Still in the back of my mind I am wondering if it's all worth it. When I speak to the people I love every day and I miss them so much. When friends on Facebook still invite me to events in Crystal Palace. Whenever Vin sees Big Ben or the London Eye on the news he yells 'look mommy, there's our London'. 

It was always my intention to go back. I don't know what my life will look like if we stayed in Birmingham. But then I don't know what my life would look like if we went back either. It seems we're stuck in this holding pattern a little while longer. 

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

It was never meant to be like this...

Sucks right? It gets worse. V is due to come home around midday. His dad rings my doorbell. Little man does not want to get out of the car. He says he doesn't want to see me.  He wants to go home with his daddy. I point out that most mornings I have to bribe this kid to get out of bed. Last week when I suggested we go to softplay he cried. Everytime we get on the train to his dad's house he insists on sitting in my lap, never wants to see his dad, refuses to get off the train. He is three. Every other week his routine is changed. He has two homelifes that are very different. He misses his dad. He misses his mum. He misses his old family. I know that feeling. I feel your pain son. I get this daily, I know how to deal with it. The ex doesn't and instead suggests that they go to the arcade near my house for a while. Give a three year old the option to 'go home with mummy or go shooting with daddy'. Sure. Ex gives me a triumphant smile. I don't know that it is warranted. I bite my lip. I close the front door. The doorbell rings. Now ex and new girlfriend are both standing on my doorstep. Insisting I come to the arcade with them. No. Straight up. Insisting. Seriously, guys, this is weird. I have met this woman a grand total of once. My kid was sleeping over at her house before I even knew she existed. My kid who at that point had never spent a night away from my bed. As much as things were bad between the ex and I, she was still the catalyst that broke up my family. I get in the car. Stupidly. This unhappy foursome drive to the arcade. They have in-jokes. I bite my lip to stop our old in-jokes spilling out. We play air hockey. Me and the ex. I don't want to remind him of all the times we played this in Dutch sports bars at 3am. I don't want to remind him that I know to let him win. That time he once broke my finger when our competitiveness got the better of us playing pool. They cram into a shoot em up booth. My kid, his father and the new girlfriend. They insist I get in. Why am I making things awkward? She squeals at the zombies, drops her gun, hides her face in the lapels of his coat. I was with him when he bought that coat. I save her life. Twice. The ex decides he needs to leave. Vin does not want to. If they weren't here I would have picked him up, explained that we were leaving, headed home. Ex doesn't understand this. He suggests V and I stay while him and her slip out. I can't get home. She gives me money for a cab. I want to throw up. She opens up her designer purse, with a photobooth pic of the two of them. She gives me a handful of change for a cab. Could I feel any lower. They leave. I am standing in the middle of the Amusement Arcade with my hyped up kid. I look down to realise he is not wearing a coat. I held it in till we got home. Then I collapsed in a heap in the middle of the kitchen floor. Dry-heaving with sadness. Frustration. Humiliation. I wonder how it happened, that this one person who I used to love so passionately deeply excessively can leave me wracked with grief. Every single time. Fuck fuck fuck. Panting in between sobs. This was never meant to happen. My kid should never have to see me cry. 

Thursday, 7 February 2013

The Ultimate Gift Guide for Single Moms

Friends, it was my birthday last week. I mostly spent the passing of my twentyfifth year sleeping, drinking cocktails and sulking a fair bit as the ex had managed to time his trip to Disneyland with the kiddo to land on my actual birthday - a feat I would have considered malicious, till I realised he'd never once remembered my birthday in all the six years we'd been together.

Anyway, let's face it, birthdays suck as you get older and the only important thing about grown-up birthdays is the presents. Which is mostly where I realised just how old people thought I was as I unwrapped two pairs of cosy pyjamas (because if I didn't already realise that the only person who will be sharing my bed in the near future is my three year old, then a nightshirt emblazoned with a sausage dog wearing reindeer antlers is a pretty decent reminder). For Christmas I am anticipating  unwrapping a Snuggie Wrap Blanket (look, they come in Leopard Print too!) BTW old people still like Jack Daniels y'know. I wondered if perhaps people had taken my love of warm socks as some sort of predictor of premature ageing and adjusted their gift buying accordingly? Sorry to sound ungrateful but kitchen appliances just remind me of a lifetime of domestic drudgery while a subscription to Netflix pre-loaded with all of Ryan Gosling's back catalogue is pretty much the closest thing I could get to a legal high, given my kid's propensity to wake several times a night. As it is most of my friends made good and I also received gin and Chanel and smutty things and a Ryan Gosling Colouring Book (yep, you're welcome world).

So I planned to put together a little gift guide for the single mom in your life. Things I might have actually looked upon favourably (or at least seen their uses). Like this Bright Pink Toolset (for all my DIY woes - this way at least I can not put up shelves in style), a Bumper pack of batteries (cos, well... y'know), Roses made out of Chocolate (yep, covered all your bases there), coffee that tastes like sweets (or a date with a hot barista, my preferred method) or the now iconic 'I'm not with stupid anymore' t-shirt. If there was such a thing as legal sleeping pills for three year olds you can bet they would have been included here.

But I don't just want to be given over to frivolities like Pina Colada Flavoured Lubricant when there are actual products out there designed to empower and embolden the single women in your life. 

Products like The Husband Pillow. I'll be honest, it looks creepy as fuck, but I secretly kind of love this idea. Whenever my man friend stays over I always pretend like I'm only snuggling because he wants to because otherwise it would ruin my spiky fierce rep. I'm pretty sure I could make one of these, if it's not too creepy stealing your lover's shirt to make a disembodied version of him to snuggle up to when he;s not around? Wait, you think that is creepy? Well, at least I've found a use for all those plaid nightshirts I got from my grandma. 

The ZipHer solves one of those existential problems (namely, to LBD or not to LBD?) that all you smug-married types didn't even realise existed. Heaven forbid the day comes when you are dressing yourself, perhaps another singles night at another seedy bar, or perhaps trying to look kickass the first time you meet your now exes new fling - you are suddenly faced with just how pathetic and useless you are without a man in your life that you cannot even dress yourself. Oh look, this one has pearls on it. I feel just like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffanys... and I can do it one handed? Splendid.

Along the same lines, only a whole lot worse is The Bracelet Buddy.

If you wanted any more proof of how feeble your weak single ass arms are (I assume cos you're out of practice at carrying other people's bullshit) I came across this Jar and Bottle Opener in several (somewhat more serious than this one) gift guides for single women. I have never, not never struggled so hard to open a jar that I needed a gadget for it. Do I embody some sort of singlemom super power? Have I done away with the need for men altogether? Anyone wanna take me up on the newly revised equal marriage laws?

The Ex Boyfriend Voodoo Doll - obviously I don't need to explain this one. Of course, it only works as a good gift if say, your ex left you and your kid for a pert blonde dance instructor and her pet chihuahua, for example. If you're more interested in getting him back than getting your own back, I might suggest this Make Your Own Dildo Kit.

p.s. some of these are affiliate links, which means if you buy something on my recommendation then I'll get a few pennies for my crack habit pocket money. I will not profit if you go buy one of those ridiculous ZipHers though, do so only at the depths of your own self-loathing. 

Sunday, 3 February 2013

What's Valentines got to do with it?

If January marks the month of failed resolutions, (apparently) no updates from me, and celebrating my birthday, then February is known entirely as the month that single people dread, restaurants double their prices and cynics like me bust their load on jaded Twitter updates. 

I don't actually have a problem with Valentines Day. I love love and romance and nice things like flowers and chocolates and days devoted to those kind of things should come around more often. What I don't like is how Valentines excludes all those people who don't have a 'proper' Valentine. The single people, the ones in casual relationships, we've only been seeing each other for two months and we're not even calling each other boyfriend/girlfriend in public yet relationships, poly-amorous, same sex relationships, fuck buddies, flirtationships, internet soulmates, Craigslist encounters, begrudgingly in the friendzone 21st century kind of relationships.

It's not just Valentines I've encountered this problem with. As a kid I would often lament the lack of Father's Day cards appropriate to my familial situation ("To my sperm donor", "I feel obliged to get you a card cos you're married to my mom", "To my ex-step-dad", "look, we'll all feel weird if I call you dad so happy third Sunday of June"). This year, for example, I'm wondering if there is an appropriate card for our current family situation ("Happy Father's Day to a wonderful Child Support Payment"?)

Instead I am offering my services to you Mr Hallmark, I have a degree in Creative Writing, an in-depth knowledge of how fucked up love can be in the 21st century and I'm actually kind of funny when I have been drinking put my mind to it. 

p.s. in case you're wondering, yes, the first photo is actually a photo from my diary. Yes I am going for a smear test on Valentines Day. Insert joke about the only way I could guarantee any action here.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013


I used to have this theory about New Years - that how you spend it would reflect on the rest of the year to come. Let me rewind a couple of years for you, to prove my point. 

2006-7 - the night of the epic drugs binge. We may have also attempted Halo on various substances that night. I slept on a beanbag chair, most uncomfortable nights sleep ever. I spend the next year experimenting with every substance I can find in order to cure my insomnia. 2007-8 - Disneyworld Florida. We watch the fireworks behind Cinderella's castle. I make a note, no NYE plan will ever top this. We return home, leave for Berlin before my birthday, don't come home, search for an elusive moment. 2008-9 - The night I actually insisted on making a plan, am wearing a fake fur stole, sort tickets for a trendy gig at a disused factory in the hip part of town. Ex and I fight around 11:30pm, he leaves, I rang in the year crying.

Four days later I conceived Vinnie. And there ends the nights of wild partying, festivals, travelling and all the drugs. 2009-10 I fell asleep, alone before midnight. Ex had gone out with his friends. I sit breastfeeding our three month old son somewhere around midnight. 2010-11 - I manage to stay awake until midnight by listening to the entire Velvet Underground back catalogue. Ex is out with his friends. The fireworks wake Vinnie up and we sit up alone listening to the celebrations. 

2011-12 - Ex and I have not spoken for a week. Not since he asked for a paternity test during Christmas Dinner. He plans to go out for NYE, I plan to rekindle my love affair with Lou Reed. Vin wakes up just before midnight, ex comes home early. We watch the fireworks together silently, before I head to bed in tears. I guess this last one is the one that confirms my theory. It may have taken another six months for the cracks to finally break us, but they were there right from the beginning. 

When I look back at this year, I say to myself 'it mostly has been a crappy one, but in some ways probably one of the best ones too'. I found a hell of a lot of strength this year, I met my best friend, the universe tested me, I started to find myself in those broken tatters of a person I'd become in a destructive relationship. I moved house, all on my own. I parent my kid, all on my own. I'm think I may be kicking ass at a lot of this. I value my friends more, I appreciate my family. I take pleasure in the little things that I wouldn't have even noticed before. The bond between me and my kid is unbreakable. I like to spend time alone. 

So this new years - I meet up with the guy, coffeeshop guy. It may or may not have been a random hookup. I'm not sure how that one is playing out - I might just delete all my internet dating profiles and start referring to him as my boyfriend in public to see if I can freak him out. He leaves, he has a party to go to. I have Loaded on vinyl. I pick my kid up, hang out with my family a while. My mum is drunk and dancing round the living room - she toasts to '2013 - the year of no more c***s' I have to agree. Vin and I come home, I put him to bed, climb in next to him with my glass of Prosecco. I call all my friends that evening, we have soppy nostalgic, alcohol fuelled heart to hearts. I have one of those long conversations where you're almost sure you're actually connecting, with a guy I used to have a thing for. Midnight chimes. I watch the fireworks from my window. Kiss my sleeping boy on the head. Whisper 'today is a new year, little one'.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Dating Advice from the most Unreliable Source Possible...

"Seriously, did you just ask me for dating advice?" There I was, little old me, sputtering and incredulous in the midst of a pirate themed birthday party for my friend's three year old twins. I get raised eyebrows from the overtly camp neighbour roped in for his facepainting skills - "girl, you're smoking, you must have something to offer her". Her being another friend, the only other single mom in our group of friends. The friend I first confided in when I became a single mom. Who was became single herself, in similar circumstances to my own, almost exactly a year before me. Who was entirely annoyed when, after three months of heartaching, I met someone new (the um, Brazilian, we called him, mostly because he had a silly name and, yeah, was from Brazil). She wasn't subtle about it then - as I recall her first reaction was 'um excuse me, didn't I already tell you not to meet anyone before me?!' -  nor was she subtle when I arrived at the party with eyepatch and birthday presents, sans Brazilian. That kind of fake sincerity that made me wonder when did we become such frenemies, what happened to that sisterhood we shared? That made me instantly brush off her comments with 'but I am kind of seeing someone else'. But the kind of friendship that took me by surprise when in all sincerity she asked me 'how do you do it?' It being giving up bitterly resenting your ex. It being finding some balls in amongst all the crises of confidence the aforementioned ex left you with. It being meeting a guy (or three) somewhere between playgroup and doctor's visits, finding the time to date as well as all that parenting stuff I'm trying to kick-ass at and not losing your cool while all that is going on. 

They all want the gossip on why it didn't work with Brazil. The answer is probably entirely boring - that he never really let me know he liked me, that he wanted to be a part of my life and my kid's, till I broke it off with him - and while I'm doing all this self-discovery I said 'hey, I'm kinda worth more than that'. And of course they all want to know about new guy, which leads to me the dilemma - am I really the right person to ask? Am I actually in a place to be dishing out relationship advice? I got over the ex so quick because I actually hadn't loved him for a long time before we made our break-up official, but I was pushing and pushing for it to work anyway. I met Brazil because it was four days before I left London and I set out with the intention of having an adventure or at the very least a fling with someone hot. And then I met new guy because umm he makes coffee for a living and I'm a sucker for a guy who can make me laugh? We're calling him 'new guy' since new guy and I aren't quite at that place to have had that conversation about what we are really, and I don't want to be that girl who is going to bring it up either. And I tell my friends I might not be entirely sure about new guy because he is so young - 'You're dating a younger man? !How young are we talking?' my friends, all in their late thirties, are picturing 25yo me with a teenager. 'Well umm, he's actually a week older than me... but that is young for me' (having only ever been with guys at least 10 years my senior and being a fully commited premature old person myself). 

But there are some things that have led me to this point - things I could share, sure. I believe in manifestation, in using positive thought to attract the things you want and need. Like a couple of months ago I wrote out in my notebook exactly what I thought I wanted in a guy - a poetical sort of Heathcliff figure with passion and art and music in his veins - and the very next day (I kid you not) I meet the Brazilian. And after I realised that awesome guitar skills don't float my boat quite as much as they used to I said 'hey universe, I want to meet someone who accepts me, who makes me laugh and feel comfortable. And thinks I am awesome, natch, and tells me. And can handle the fact I've got a kid and isn't freaked out by it all.' I dunno, maybe the universe responded. There are so many books written on this subject, I don't need to add my voice to all the enigmatic cheering and promotion. But I would suggest you try it, you don't need to create your ideal man just yet, start on something small. I convinced myself by manifesting white feathers, I still find them on days I find myself and my faith testing. 

And self-love. I have touched on it here before. How I realised that no matter what happens in my romantic life, I am pretty much living this life just me and my kid. And between 7pm and 7am (a gross exagerration, but it makes my point) my kid is asleep, and two nights a week he is off at his dad's house - in those brief moments it was just me and I can't keep avoiding eye contact and my own reflection all that much then. I believe that your mind is a tool, and one that we can control. So when I liked myself least I worked on loving myself most (though I'm mostly only at liking myself most days) - I wrote lists about all the awesomeness that I encompass. I talk to myself in the mirror while practising EFT, if you see me walking down the street you'll mostly likely notice I am muttering to myself - usually affirmations from this book, I visit this page daily and in a less than ideal situation you can find me thinking 'What would Gala Darling do?'

There's another thing I do, that I would advise my friend and anyone else to do. That is put yourself out there. Whatever that means to you. I'm not suggesting singles bars or internet dating if that kinda stuff makes you cringe. I mean mentally putting yourself out there in the world - not in an 'oh god, I'm going to die alone if I don't meet someone right now' but accepting that you are all kinds of gorgeous awesomeness and realising that at some point you gotta let go of some of those issues you've been packing in amongst all your baggage (I talked about my journey with this here and here). 

I've already said, I'm no expert on dating, I mostly sleep with people on the first date, weird people out with my honesty, lose all semblance of cool when I like someone and second guess every other decision I make. But I am an expert on being myself, creating a life I love and tactfully ignoring other people's advice. Except when that advice comes at a kiddie's birthday party, when an overtly camp neighbour tells me to flaunt my fabulousness, give 25 year olds a chance to be the good guy and always always always believe in my own inner power. 

Saturday, 22 December 2012

What I learned during the Mayan Apocalypse (and how my world already ended once this year)

So, we're still here friends. No zombies. No crazy self-aware computer systems. No flaming skies and thunder. Just the end of Twinkies, the NHL and a stream of hilarious End of the World Confessions

While the whole world was making Terminator references, I was texting my loved ones 'Just in case the world ends...' because, well, how bad would you feel if the world actually did end, and the last time you called your mom was over a month ago? Life's too short, y'know.

Here are some other thoughts I had while waiting for Armageddon...

1. My world already ended once this year. Nearly seven months ago when my relationship ended. And again four months ago when I left London. And it's only after re-building my life that I realise things weren't actually over. My world hadn't exactly ended - I just got the wind knocked out of me. And as one of my favourite poets Sarah Kay put it "getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air". Likewise, that old adage that you know who your true friends are - yeah, those people stepped up this year (they got 'Just in case the world ends...' messages).

2. 'There is no need to delay your good' - I write these words in the front of every notebook I start. To remind myself that nobody promised you tomorrow. Lately I have been telling myself that in the new year I will be better. At pretty much everything. Since I learnt the definition of Bad Bitch I am making that my goal in 2013. But with another week till 2013, what if I died today? Likewise, all those projects you've been putting off? Those dreams you had? There are a hundred inspirational quotes you can pin - my favourite being that all journeys start with that first step - now is the time, get off the internet, go live that future you imagined (here's some inspiration).

3. Don't let anyone else's dreams overtake your own. I spent the last six years supporting someone else in their goals and dreams and career - while I lost all semblance of myself, my goals, my dreams. If the world had ended yesterday, what would I have achieved? I have an amazing kid, but who am I other than his mama? Now that I know tomorrow is fairly certain, I am making big plans for this year to answer that question.

4. Appreciate your loved ones. Those beautiful people. The little joys. Because life would suck without them, and you don't realise that until it's sucking pretty bad. Appreciate them, then tell them that you're appreciating them. Don't be that guy saying 'if only I had one last chance to tell them...'

5. Scary things happen. Bad things happen. To you and me and people all round the world. Dust off Your Shoulders and keep moving, friend. Don't let those things overtake your life, don't let them define you. Let how you rise and re-build after that bad stuff define you. Be that girl. 

So pretty much what I'm saying here (again) is that life really is too short. Too short for broken hearts and fear and shame and body issues. Your future is not a guarantee, your dreams should not be rainchecked. There are cocktails you need to learn how to make. Novels you need to write. Butterflies waiting to flit round your stomach when you see your crush. Red lipstick to be perfected. Songs that will make you wanna get up and dance no matter how low or how embarrassed you may feel. Bubble baths to be taken. Me, I already said 2013 is gonna be our year. The year I will actually put my dreams first. The year I will embrace every happy thought and feeling and person who brings that happiness into my life. And when the next Apocalypse is predicted... I won't be texting all my friends because they will already know how much I love them, I will accept my zombie fate knowing I gave it my all and all my end of the world confessions will be of scandalous things I did in the pursuit of joy. 

Thursday, 20 December 2012

No Parent is an Island

I'm going to say something fairly controversial here, but stick with me friends - I believe that there is a reason it takes two people to make a baby. That reason is because children need two parents. Controversial, I know, when millions of parents around the world, either through choice or misfortune or situation are parenting single-handedly. Hell, I'm one of them. I didn't choose to fly solo, my co-pilot jumped ship with the blonde sitting in 36D and he took my parachute with him. 

There are parents in blended families, and multi-generational families and adopted families and two mommy/two daddy families, or mommy and daddy and their poly-amorous lover families all doing amazing jobs in whatever situation they raise their children in. But at the heart of it, it took two parties to make those children - even if one of those parties was a doctor in a lab coat, a turkey baster and a cooler bag full of swimmers, or a seemingly loving husband looking for the emergency exit. 

Before you go casting me off as a pro-marriage/ 50's throwback/ traitor to my kind/ RWNJ remember, I come from a family so blended we're practically a collage of disfunctionality (I am the eldest of six kids, yet officially I am an only child). I had a child out of wedlock and now I'm doing this whole single-parenting thing. I never said a child needs their biological father and mother, in a wedded situation, or that children raised in anything other than a nuclear family are lacking anything. What I mean to say is no parent is an island. Mom cannot live of parenting alone. It takes a village...

One of the best dynamics (admittedly one of the only ones that worked) of the relationship with my son's father, was how different we both were. What we both bought to the genepool and the family tree. Perhaps it was that other platitude of 'opposites attract', perhaps it was our mutually receptive pheromones hooking up to (pro)create our evolution-proof offspring. We completed each other (for a while anyway). So when it came to parenting, our kid got our differing years of experience, strengths and interests. There is a reason my 3yo can write his own name and there is a reason he can perform a three quarter turn headspin - that is what his father and I brought to the parenting table. While I love to read to my kid, explore the world with him, think up elaborate play situations to foster a love of the written word and expand his vocabulary, his father rough-houses, teaches him to throw punches and cartwheel, and creates wild imaginative scenarios as they play. In many ways we couldn't be more different - but together, as a parenting unit our son gets the best (and sometimes, unfortunately, the worst) bits of both of us. 

Likewise, parenting as part of a team means that in those desperate moments, where your arms have not been free all day, the tantrums seem to have no end and there is sick-up in your hair, there is someone there to hand the baby to while you grasp a moment of sanity. Or to vent to, to offer support or words of guidance or to back you up. Parenting is not meant to be a one-woman expedition into the wild unknown. Previous generations parented with their mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters around to share and support, often daddy wasn't in the picture at all. We are the first generation to live in an age where parenting is a skill, where your success and failure is measured in your kids behaviour or their school reports or the lifestyles they choose to live as young adults. This is the first time we're expected to parent in isolation, with only childless 'gurus', sleep experts and the media to co-parent with us. 

I am very fortunate that while my ex is less able to be a part of our son's life (through distance, work schedules and the constraints of visitation) there are other people helping me man this flight. Thank goodness for all those aunts and uncles and grandparents and extended family. There are my little brothers, who play with Vin is ways I couldn't have dreamed up. There are my parents who step in, in those moments I think I'm going to break. My best friend who is like my own personal cheering squad and a constant source of inspiration as a parent. My grandparents, married nearly 50 years and examples of unconditional love. Yes, there is a village raising this child. There is a village raising this mama too.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012


I wrote in my diary this time last year 'Twentytwelve is gonna be the year of the Taylor-Pages'. We had big plans, that little family of mine. Fate, it seems, has a sick sense of humour. Twentytwelve appears to have been a wasted year, where I spent the first half of it sick with pneumonia, then just before the middle hit, just as I was making plans for the kick-ass Summer of picnics and beachtrips and happy childhood memories, we get ditched. I say we, I mean me. I got ditched. My best friend broke my heart. London broke my heart. But us Taylor-Pages, that dwindling family of mine, we bounce back quick, and less than three months after all those horrible days where I didn't eat or sleep or speak much we were here, in our new home, ready to start a new life. And I'll be honest, I didn't love Birmingham right away, and I fell into a worse depression, and the kind of a depression where you're not even sure if there is a light at the end of that metaphorical tunnel, let alone able to visualise it. But I'm there, friends. At the break of twentytwelve, my feet are just starting to touch the ground and my head is just bobbing above that sink or swim line and things are starting to look somewhat rose-tinted.

And as we make plans for twentythirteen, and decide that this time we really will kick-ass, have adventures, live our dreams and as I write in another notebook 'Twentythirteen is gonna be the year of the Taylor-Pages' I'm struck by the realisation that that is exactly what this year was about. See, it is only Vin and I in the entire world that go by this name, Taylor-Page. My ex never took on my maiden name, when I took on his. The Taylor-Pages was only ever me, me and Vinnie. So yes, this year was our year. The year we defined what it is to be a Taylor-Page. The year we re-defined what family means to us. The year we took it all, and we took some more too. We fell out of love and into love and we made some amazing friends and appreciated our amazing family. And while none of my dreams for this year were really accomplished, we owned this year, this little family of mine.