The things we want to do

Someone recounted a time to me yesterday that I dispensed some particularly good advice, but she couldn’t remember the wording. Neither, sadly, could I. So I thought that writing about the motivation behind my forgotten words might trigger something.

My friend is going through a time of fear relating to a specific environment. She remembered that I once explained why I take my daughter on so many different types of days out. On the low key end, we visit castles, theatre, museums, galleries and all the usual malarkey (not often to the cinema as for the most part, she really isn’t a fan! Argh!!). But on the higher key end, we walk around aquarium tanks, go on fast rides and zip wire through the trees. I am not sharing this saying ‘woo hoo, what a good parent I am’, but to explain the beginning of the rationale behind it.

I became a single parent when my daughter was three. I didn’t have any particular aspiration to jump back into a relationship, and I read a lot of the possible effects of not having a male role model predominantly in a child’s life. The first area I read about was to do with vocabulary. Apparently, children get most of their new words from their dad’s. I can see how historically this could be true. Men were out in the wider world, with industry specific language, which would then filter into the home. However, I don’t know how applicable this would be today. And this is not something that I would be concerned about as an issue in my home. I have a sizable vocabulary, my daughter reads widely and we see lots of people. New words are always abundant! The second area that I read about concerned me more. It was to do with risk.

I was a child who wouldn’t go on piers, didn’t like heights and generally wigged out about a lot of things. I wasn’t entirely without risk, I rode horses and loved fairgrounds, but I sensed that this would not be enough. I did take my daughter to horse riding lessons when she was around six. This came to an abrupt halt when one fateful day my brother’s girlfriend was asking her about her lessons, and saying that she used to ride too. She also said that it sometimes hurt her bottom. My child agreed, adding that it also hurt her bits too (Cue a room of adults looking at each other slightly awkwardly and somewhat amused). After a brief chat with her, it transpired that she no longer wanted to do horse riding! But then I was left in a situation where there was very little risk in her life. We got a scooter, and she also developed a propensity for climbing trees. The climbing has continued.

The climbing has continued. On one camping holiday, she easily made it thirty foot up a tree. I will confess to no small amount of panic. But I knew that this was my issue to get over, not her issue to absorb. So I braved it. There was tree top challenge adventure locally to us, so will a trepidatious heart, I booked us in.

Sweet Moses. This thing was skyscraper high! I clung to every tree for dear life, all muscles tensed and the sweat dripped. In reality, its highest point was around twelve meters. When I had finished this first foray, I was exhausted, I ached, but there was also a slight exhilaration. I had done something which I had not previously deemed myself capable. And that had a knock on effect.

Most primarily the effect was lots more tree tops challenges. I learnt to trust the wires that held me, and that gave me the confidence to jump, swing and climb even higher. So much fun! The strangest thing was that from my second experience of it, it no longer exhausted me. It was then that I realised how crippling fear can be, and how much energy it uses. We now go on much higher zip wires, and although I sometimes have a bit of a wobble with the height, I know that I have trust, and the moment passes. And this is what I want to impart to my daughter. Some things are a little bit scary, but trusting the equipment and people around you (and also yourself) can make the difference between finding the grit and determination to do something compared to sitting on the side, feeling a sense of disappointment. I guess this is not a battle that I win all of the time, finding that perseverance to keep going when things get hard takes a lot of energy. And some days I just don’t have it. But I am learning to find more.

I hope that my daughter can see the strength that she inspires in me, and hopefully me in her as well.

Map Point. Where in my life do I want to take more risk?




My iPad purgatory

In the last three days of my life, I have thrown bits of useless instructional paper, have screamed, sobbed, but as yet have not uttered any profanity. Of this I am proud. Essentially my daughter’s school iPad is about to be released into her exclusive care, so I need to back it up. Simple.

I discovered upon opening iTunes, resetting my password, then the security questions, I have not backed up my iPhone since October 2014. Clearly, I have faith! I have an iPhone4 that I bought around seven years ago. I have not upgraded for multiple reasons. One, mobile phones do not easily recycle. After watching a particularly harrowing video clip on a ‘Red Nose Day’ film I feel especially passionate about this. Two, I have haggled down to such a good tariff that I am reluctant to change anything and three, curiosity. Just how long will this phone last?

My phone has been submerged in bath water, on at least three occasions. The bag of rice with additional sachets of silica enclosed now has a permanent residence in my cupboard, just in case. But on one of these underwater escapades, the speakers packed up. So my involvement with iTunes transcended to a very distant relationship.

Then four years ago the iPad arrived in our lives. It arrived on a scheme that I paid into at young one’s school. Now they want to take off all the apps that they put on there, but they may wipe it in the process. So I need to back it up. I am reasonably techy, can sort out most things that require my attention, can fix the machines of others on occasion, but this is now making me angry. If I were a violent person, around four hours ago the iPad would have experienced flight.

I have perused the A4 sheets of white paper that came home from the school, looked through some wiki sites, gone through several web places that have promised a solution. They all lied. I can follow instructions, am really good at just taking things a step at a time, I can mould IKEA flat pack furniture to my will, but this is beyond all that is holy! This is becoming something somewhat beyond the pale. I have followed, guessed, clicked at random, downloaded and gazed off into the mid-distance in the hope of divine inspiration. It has not arrived.

I would like to say this is a post about patience or asking for help. In reality, it is currently neither. I have spent multiple hours in the pursuit of a complete sync and have essentially achieved nothing. Other than feeling a sense that I am doing everything I should, but clearly there is a teensy hindrance, a button not clicked or a menu not found. Tomorrow I will begin again with this somewhat arduous task. I may not have won today, but under no circumstances am I giving up.

On a positive, a couple of months back, the speakers on my phone perked up. This was definitely a win.

Map Point. What have I given up because it felt too hard?


Vaster than empires

My daughter recently had a swimming gala. I was on poolside as I was helping to find swimmers for the races (‘I need to find Lauren, could you try really hard to be her?’). On her first race, she made a technical fault and was disqualified. She was utterly distraught. After around ten minutes of reassuring her that this was perfectly okay and that even top athletes experience this, she was still sobbing. I then took a step back, spoke to one of the other most amazing teachers, and she calmed her down within a few minutes. She went on to take three golds, it was a good evening. But for me, asking for help, and knowing when my presence was not making things any better felt really good. It was empowering to recognise that I cannot do everything.

It has taken me a very long to realise that. When we are children, much stuff is done for us, and as we grow we learn to become more self-sufficient. Some skills come easy to us, and others not so much. As a child I could easily create a camp out of furniture, sometimes camps that would cover my whole room. But being able to put my hair in a ponytail? Not until I was a teenager. Some things we are impassioned to know, to understand. Other things just seem like a chore.

I think it is also down to what other people will do for us. As a parent, it feels like such a delicate balance. Helping your child to develop with your assistance, and knowing when to step back and let them find their own way of doing things, their own flight. A few years ago I was choosing all of my daughter’s clothes each morning, and now she finds her own. Some of her choices are a bit mad, and this is awesome. It is also incredibly important as she ascends into adulthood.

One of the best gifts we can give our children is encouraging and enabling them to be confident and independent people. I read recently that children who share in the home chores are more likely to be successful adults. I don’t know whether this is true, but it feels that it could be. Understanding that some things take effort is an important skill to learn. We need to be able to achieve.

But understanding that we cannot do everything is just as important. No one can learn all the skills, all the crafts, all the everythings. But for some people, for me, I felt as if I had to. My mindset was I could not be totally successful unless I could do everything for myself because relying on others? That was a weakness. That was a failing I had that I felt compelled to improve. And if I couldn’t learn something? That made me feel low.

Learning to ask others for help, not just when I am desperate, has been something that I have really struggled to learn. But I am learning. People utilise my skills, I utilise the skills of others, and collectively, we all grow together. And realising that has been a new beginning.

Map Point. What skills do I share with others?



Choices and Success

In some areas of my life, I know exactly what I want, what I truly desire and this makes things really simple. It doesn’t mean that any or all of these things are easy, but it does present a straightforward path to achieving them. However, where I struggle most is when I have a lot of ideas because choosing the right one to pursue can be somewhat overwhelming.

If I offered you a certain bar of chocolate, your choices are clear, either yes you do or no you don’t. If I took you to a wall of a hundred different bars of chocolate and said that you could choose only one, the decision making progress becomes infinitely bigger than a simple yes or no. And that how I feel about a good deal of my life, what to pursue, what not to, and this indecision can be crippling for me.

For me, it’s almost akin to hoarding. I have a plethora of options, currently with my career and discounting anyone of them can sometimes feel like a massive loss, the avenue not pursued might have been the perfect choice. But this I know is also a trade, by fully embracing any particular option, I am allowing myself the opportunity to succeed. But maybe success can be scary too.

I have been pondering how schools reward children. In my secondary school, if you were good at sports or music, you were showered with praise frequently (as is the case in most schools), but in reality, only the select few will truly shine in either of these areas, and what about everyone else, who gets to watch something that they don’t feel as if they will ever be a part of?

Now on one side of this, hard work should definitely be rewarded, if someone has achieved then this is a good thing to celebrate. But on the flip side, no matter how hard some children work, they simply won’t attain this, thus, the situation for them could be seen as demoralising. Ways to counter this perspective is perhaps based on giving children the tools to build their own self-esteem, irrespective of what they achieve.

This brings me to the idea of risk taking. If we are confident is who we are, then the idea of success or failure is almost irrelevant, it is simply another lesson to absorb and move on from. But if we are too scared of the idea of failure, then success is that much harder.

I have a lot of qualifications, and a whole host of skills, a proverbial jack of all trades. This has served those around me, my adaption to succeed in a whole host of small ways. Recently, I have begun to contemplate what it is that I actually want to fully succeed in. The path is clearing.

Map Point. Where in my life can I shine?