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The University List – a parent’s guide to what to pack for Uni

When my son told me he wanted to go to University at the beginning of this year, it threw us all into a bit of a panic as he had always said he didn’t want to go! We were miles behind in planning, hadn’t done any of the Uni open days and as neither Timm or I went to university, we didn’t have a clue!

We buckled down, got some visits done and he filled in all the applications. We went through so many uni websites trying to decided which would suit him best and eventually decided on three options.

sam cleasby parent blogger leaving for university

He did well at college and got into his first option and so we started to plan for the big move. He decided he didn’t want to go into halls. His friend was starting his second year and they decided to get a house together. After much searching, and house visits, they decided on one and finalised plans to live there. Student financing was sorted and he was well on his way!

And then I started to think about all the stuff he was going to need and felt totally overwhelmed. I am very grateful for my manager Debbie who sent me her blog post of a parent’s check list for uni, check it out here. Through her list and a few bits of my own, here is my Uni Packing list for parents.

Bedroom

  • Bedding – Mattress protector, duvet, pillows, bedding
  • Lamp and bulb
  • Clothes, shoes, coats, underwear
  • Coathangers
  • Things to make it their own – pictures, teddies etc
  • Dirty washing bag
  • TV, Games console
  • Chargers and extension cables

Kitchen

  • Plates, cups, bowls
  • Cutlery
  • Utensils
  • Chopping board
  • Scissors
  • Pots and pans
  • Toaster
  • Kettle
  • Microwave
  • Sandwich toaster
  • Tea towels

Bathroom

  • Towels
  • Toiletries – shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, soap
  • Razors and shaving foam?
  • Toilet brush
  • Toilet roll

Cleaning

  • Washing powder/pods
  • Toilet cleaner
  • Washing up liquid and sponges
  • Kitchen rolls
  • Bin bags
  • Shopping bags

Food

  • Tinned fruit/veg
  • Sauces
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Tomato ketchup/salad cream/mayo
  • Tinned beans and tomotoes
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Cereals
  • Noodles

Etc

  • Paracetamols/Ibuprofen
  • Stationery, paper, laptop
  • Cookbook or recipes from you
  • Noticeboard
  • Diary/calendar
  • Alarm clock

To do

  • Register to vote
  • Register with a doctor
  • Register with a dentist
  • Have bank accounts
  • Sort budgeting
  • Sort bills etc
  • Are they up to date with all vaccinations?
  • Tell them you love them and give them a big hug
  • Make sure their flatmate/roommate has your number in case of emergency

I’m sure this isn’t a full and complete list but it is everything I can think of right now. If you can think of anything else, then do let me know!

Good luck!
Sam xx

Roots and Wings – when your child goes off to University

Someone said to me this year “All we can do as parents is give our children roots and wings”. It really struck me and this week as my eldest child left home for University it felt very apt.

I talk about parenting quite a bit here, and it has been interesting to read back how I have felt at different times of our lives. You can read my post about not having a clue how to be a parent here. And my letter to all the imperfect mothers here.

Traveling the world

I have three teenage children aged 14, 16 and 18. It is such a shift as a mother to move into the teen years. The things that they need you for change as does your whole relationship. Over the summer, my 18 year old went to New York for 3 weeks on holiday and my 16 year old spent two months in Australia with my sister and so it has been a very odd year!

When the kids starting talking about going to travel, I was all for it. I truly believe that travel broadens the mind, the spirit and is a positive thing. When the time actually came round, I felt a lot more nervous about seeing my bambinos go off into the world. I was scared, worried and tearful. This is when I was told about roots and wings.

Dalai Lama quote roots and wings

The Dalai Lama said “Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back to and reasons to stay”

I’m proud that my kids have the confidence to fly the nest and explore the world. I know they will always have my roots to head back to if they need me and they know that I love them and I am always their biggest fan.

I have really had to remember this quote this week as my eldest has left home and moved to Leeds to start university! He has moved into a house with his friend, he has a new job and will start his degree course in a couple of weeks.

when your child is leaving for university

The move to university

I have been collecting things for the move for months. Pots and pans, tins and packets, bedding etc. I have made him a little notebook filled with his favourite recipes from home and hints and tips for living alone.

We drove him over to his new home and helped him unpack. My heart was in my chest but the last thing I wanted was to make this exciting day about me. So I held in the tears and smiled as we unpacked with him and got him settled.

Then the time came to drive home. I hugged him tight, told him I loved him and we are always here for him and drove away.

I cried pretty much the whole way home!!!

Honestly, I’m not sad. It’s weird as I am insanely proud of him and I am so excited. For a lad who really disliked school I am shocked that he chose to go to Uni. But I am really looking forward to seeing him grow, mature and have a whole lot of fun.

Time to fly

I suppose the tears are because of change. This is it, the time where he is no longer my baby. Of course he will always be my child. But even if he chooses to come and live back at home in three years, it will never again be the same mother/child relationship. He will be 19 in a week! Our relationship has now shifted and it is scary. I hope I have given him enough love, wisdom, guidance and care and he will fly now.

We tend to relate events back to ourself and I left home at 14, sleeping on peoples couches. I was basically homeless till I was 19. Though I did move back home once or twice, it was years of living with family members or on friends couches. So my experience of leaving home is tied up in fear, pain and loneliness. I have to remember that it’s not my kids experience. Charlie is going off into the world with all our love and support and he cannot wait!

Sam cleasby parent blogger child leaving for university

So roots and wings, I keep reminding myself that leaving home is a part of growing up. I have done this part of my job as a mum. I will always be mum. It’s just a change in what he needs from me now.

You never know the last time

I was told years ago “you never know the last time”. The last time they will sleep in your bed, the last time they will hold your hand as they cross the road, the last time they will need you to chase away the monsters under the bed. Treasure it. The past 19 years have gone in the blink of an eye.

Empty nest, child leaving for university so upset crying

For more information about your kid heading off to university, you might like the Complete University Guide here.

Peace and love,

Sam xx

As if I have an 18 year old child!

This week, my eldest bambino turned 18 and I’m still a bit confused by it all, as if I have a child who is an actual adult?!

I had Charlie when I was 19, it was a pregnancy that many family and friends thought a mistake. I’d been with Timm for two years and if I’m completely honest, we were kind of stupid. We worked to go out, went partying a lot, spent our money on stupid things and were silly people in love.

But as soon as I found out I was pregnant, we both got our shit in order, we rented a tiny flat together and made a commitment to do this right, to support eachother and to be the best parents we could possibly be.

It brought out a different side in both of us, in me a deeply maternal animalistic desire to grow this little human and protect him with my life, a nesting instinct to make a home for the three of us. In Timm it was a desire to nurture and protect me, to commit to his career and to ensure we would be ok.

During 20 hours of labour, a labour where the judgement of others hung heavily over us, the midwives seeing this teenager in her boyfriends clothes as we couldn’t afford maternity wear (and also because maternity clothes in 2000 was flipping ugly!!!) and her boyfriend who had skater jeans and no clue.  The comments that I should just have an epidural because I wouldn’t be able to handle the pain. It was a scary and overwhelming time where we both felt like control had been taken from us.

And then he was here. We made a human. And he was amazing. The moment I looked at him, I realised that I was made for this moment, that being a mum was the most important thing I would ever be entrusted with. I fell in love.

Teen mum holding new baby

We went home from the hospital and both just sat looking at him in his basket asleep, we looked at eachother and asked ‘what now?’ We couldn’t believe we had complete responsibility for a baby. We knew we weren’t a typical family but we also knew we loved him more than life itself and so thought ‘fuck it! We’ll do this our way!’ My sister in law told me that we needed to feed him, clean him, keep him warm and just love him more than anything. And so that was our mantra and it didn’t do us bad!

Raising my boy over the past 18 years has been a rollercoaster, I always knew he wouldn’t be a person to fit in a box and go with the crowds. My boy is a rule breaker, a pioneer, a wonderfully weird person who will make his own road through life.

We are so alike in lots of ways, stubborn and headstrong and so sometimes we butt heads, neither of us backing down. But we can be screaming at eachother one minute and cuddling the next. I love him in a way that comes from somewhere deep inside, it’s primal and pure. And though of course I adore all three of my kids in the same way, there is a special bond between Charlie and I.

He was my first, we learnt how to do things between us, he made me a momma! For the first 2 years of his life, he was known as my shadow, we were always together and we’re eachothers comfort blanket. Timm was touring with work and would be away for weeks on end and so me and Charlie were a team.

In the past few years his kindness and patience has floored me, my illness has been hard on us as a family yet Charlie has always been there, laying in bed chatting with me when I can’t get up, visiting me in hospital and making me laugh, loving me and putting my needs ahead of his own, which is no mean feat for a teenage boy!

Mum and adult son in park with a chihuahua

And now here we are, my baby boy is all grown up. 18 years old, ready to take on the world, make his own decisions and move into the next section of his life.

But however old he is, wherever he is in the world, he will always be my bambino and I will always love him, tell him I love him, be there for him and always, always be his momma.

✌🏽& ❤️

Sam

When your child is gay…

Last year my child told us they were pan-sexual.

At the time, though it was a surprise, I felt no different, I was pleased they knew they could talk to me and I was happy to know they felt comfortable enough to be themselves in a difficult and sometimes prejudiced world, but honestly? My thought process didn’t go much further than that.

Over a year on I thought I’d share my feelings about having a gay child and how my feelings have changed.

Well, one thing has been them telling me they were non-binary. I’ll be totally honest here, I really wasnt too sure what that meant. But after some googling and talking to my child about it, I have a much better understanding.

Theyre now 15 (how has this happened so quickly?! I’m sure I was changing nappies and freaking them out by watching Death Becomes Her only yesterday!!!) They prefer the pronouns they and them and sometimes I struggle with this. Not so much with the they/them but more when I’m describing them as my child.

Daughter or son flows off my tongue so much easier than child, I sometimes feel child or kid sounds less emotional, if that makes sense? I feel a bit like a Victorian mother saying “my child has done….”

Our relationship has never been closer, and the same goes with my husband. They share lots of things about their life (as much as any 15 year old does!) and we talk about anything and everything. (Including an in depth discussion about how a threesome with two men and one woman actually works!)

The biggest change for me has been how protective I feel.  Of course I am momma bear with all my kids, but it’s opened my eyes to the amount of bigotry that is all around me and I want to stand in front of them and protect them from ever hearing or seeing these things. I want to wrap a big blanket around us both and bat away any horrid or stupid or ignorant comments.

I know I can’t do this. And it hurts me to my soul.

I know they will face ignorant and hateful people throughout their life. I know people who don’t understand or don’t want to understand will push them away. I know that they will hurt sometimes.

I also know that those bigots will miss out on knowing one of the most amazing human beings on earth. My child is so kind, loving, funny, deep, silly, loyal, sensitive and fucking awesome.

Seriously, they’re my hero and make me want to be a better person every day.

I see things I didn’t see before. I see more of the comments on social media, not so much that they’re openly homophobic or hateful, more the snide comments that suggest anyone who isn’t cis gender is something of an attention seeker. Or that they’re something to be joked about and mocked. The comments or images where gender is questioned or laughed at.

Ive also opened myself up to a whole new world (for me) of language and understanding of gender and sexuality, I’m learning new terms and gaining a better understanding. This can be a bit scary, I feel afraid as a heterosexual cis gender woman to ask questions sometimes.

I’m afraid to say the wrong thing and upset someone, I don’t want to look like a tourist! But I think it’s important for me to educate myself so I can understand my child.

I even worry about posting this. I don’t want to put my voice above my child’s but I have always talked about being a mum on this blog and it seems worse to not talk about this than to be open. As with all my posts about my kids, they get to read and veto anything they’d rather I didn’t say publicly though.

Though my instinct is to stand in front of my child to fend off any negativity, I think the thing I’ve learnt is that I can’t do that. But I can stand right beside them, with my hand on their shoulder and my love in their heart so they know whatever they face in life, momma bear will always be right with them.

 

Love Sam xx

 

Breastfeeding a two year old – is it controversial?

Ahhhhh other people telling women what they should and shouldn’t do with their bodies again. And heaven help us if a mother does what feels right for her and her child. 

Tamara Ecclestone has been defending herself after images of her breastfeeding her two year old child were shared.


Via Tamara Ecclestone Instagram 

The breastfeeding debate is ridiculous, it shouldn’t be a debate at all! Breast milk is the perfect food for babies and infants, it adapts to your child’s needs and it is awesome. 

Some people can’t or don’t want to breastfeed. They give their children formula milk which is the very next best thing. 

Some women feed for a few days, weeks or months, other for years. It’s really no one else’s business. Parents are just doing their best for their kids. 

This photo is beautiful and reminds me of religious art through the ages, the comments are disgusting and ignorant. 

The worst people for this are other women and I truly believe their defensiveness comes from fear. The scariest thing for a parent is to feel others are judging you and think you’re a bad mum. Mums face constant judgement on every aspect of parenting and it’s easy to feel you have to defend your way by attacking others. 

When I couldn’t breastfeed my daughter, seeing adverts telling me breast is best made me feel like they thought I didn’t want the best for my child. I felt the mums breastfeeding were eyeing my bottle of formula and thinking how shit a person I was. It made me so defensive. 

The reality was that those mums didn’t give a shit how I fed my daughter, they just were thinking of their own kids! 

When I breastfed my son for 10 months I felt judged for feeding him publicly, it was ok when he was a newborn but when he was a strapping kid turning his head, laughing and babbling to me, people liked it less. I was asked to feed him in the toilet, sent to bedrooms at parties, tutted at, laughed at and told that once they had teeth you should stop. 

We all need to be a lot kinder to each other, mums have gone through so much. 40 weeks of pregnancy where your body is changed beyond all recognition, birth (i.e. The act of removing a baby human from your body!!!) and then being responsible for another human being, often feeling that you lose your identity along the way. It’s hard work, man!!! 

So it’s easy to see how we get defensive when we feel attacked. We have created the worlds best child (yeah, we all think ours are the best!!!), we are exhausted, stressed, in love, overwhelmed and the most happy and tired we’ve ever been. So when we feel others think we’re doing it wrong, it hurts. And the easiest thing to do is to attack the opposite opinion. 

But it just becomes a vicious circle. From breastfeeding to weaning, stay at home mum to working mum, helicopter to free range… were pitting ourselves against the wrong people here! Mums need to join forces, whatever our parenting style, however we feed, play or work. We’re a vastly untapped powerhouse of humans! 

Being a mum is hard work and we need to look after each other more. We need to celebrate mothers more. We need to stop being arseholes to mums just trying to do their best. 

Sam xx 

As a parent, can I just say, I have no clue what I’m doing…

I have three kids aged 15, 13 and 11.  From the outside, I appear to have it all in hand.  My kids are polite, friendly and fun to be with.  I have managed to get to this point without losing them (apart from that one time on Blackpool Pier), killing them in a stupidity accident or them hating me.  I also write about life as a parent, apparently giving the public the illusion that I know what the fuck I am doing.

Therefore I get comments and messages from people who seem to think I am the Baby Whisperer crossed with Mary Poppins.  That I have some magical gift or that I know the mythical answer to parenting.  This post is to let you in on a secret.  I have no clue what I am doing!

None of us do! Every day is a learning experience, I am just figuring it out day by day.  This means sometimes I fluke it out and things go well, but other times, it all goes horribly wrong and I am left sat in a war zone wondering how much flights to the Maldives cost.

 

children parenting blog sam cleasby sheffield

 

Parenting is bloody hard work.  From the sleepless nights of newborns, through teething and weaning, onto the stage when they can move themselves about and suddenly every nice thing in your home goes up onto a higher level.  Toddler tantrums as they discover their own voice through to starting school and suddenly having a different authority figure in their lives.  Tween dramas give way to teen dramas and suddenly the issues become more expensive and more dangerous… It is scary stuff being responsible for another human being and all any of are trying to do is not fuck them up too badly.

The only way to get through is to have other honest parents to talk to, and honest is the key word here.  Don’t read social media posts of the perfect mums who have made an organic breakfast, are beautifully dressed and made up, whose children are little angels who say ‘thank you mummy’ as she passes them their mung bean and papaya oatmeal and then trot out to school so mum can start her day as a high flying business woman who has it all…

Seriously, ignore that shit.

Honest parents are the best.  They will tell you about the time they saw the bin van coming as they had just finished breastfeeding and went to run to put the bins out and stood in a shitty nappy, skidding across the floor and then meeting the bin man with shit up their leg and one breast hanging out of their top.

They will tell you about the times when they lost their temper and shouted at their kids and then truly regretted it and cried outside on the doorstep until said child came and said ‘don’t cry mummy’.

They will tell you that sometimes they think their kids are dickheads and they occasionally daydream of running away from home.

They will tell you that random freezer dinners of one fishfinger, 2 mini sausage rolls, a pizza finger and some beans is totally acceptable if you stick a piece of cucumber on the side.

They will tell you that their heart aches when they try and deal with teenagers who are so angst filled and bubbling with hormones that you feel like different species.  That when their kids make idiotic choices and take dangerous paths that they just wish they were toddlers again so that the parents could cuddle them and watch Finding Nemo in bed and keep them safe.

They will tell you that parenting is all practicing, that they don’t have the answers and that it is hard work.

(All of these have happened to me…)

 

sam cleasby sheffield parenting blogger

 

Honest parents are vital.  Because when they’ve been honest about all the challenging parts of being a parent, you want to celebrate with them all the amazing parts.  Because though I sound down on being a parent here, I’m really not.  I love being a mum, it is literally the best thing I have ever done.

From the moment my first son was put in my arms, I felt purpose.  I knew that my life had changed forever and that I would spend the rest of it protecting and loving this bundle of joy.  I remember crying about the miracle of babies, how a little part of me and a little part of my partner had made an actual human being! Though that might have been the drugs…

Seeing your child grow and change is just magical, from the baby days where they are physically changing before your eyes every single day through to teens where you can see them maturing into wonderful young adults, the process is just beautiful.

The pride as you see them learn is wonderful, teaching them about the world around them and filling their minds with information and seeing them achieve is awesome.  I feel a great privilege to be mum to my bambinos, and they are growing up so quickly, I feel like I am grasping onto the last moments of childhood, especially with my eldest.  This week he came and laid on the sofa with me, head rested on my shoulder and watched TV.  I wanted to hug him and squeeze him but instead, I nonchalantly stayed put, slowly creeping my arm over to rest on his shoulder and quietly enjoyed the moment like he was a butterfly who would flit off at any moment.

I adore being a mum, my kids mean everything to me and I wouldn’t give this life up for the world.  I am so proud of them all, the three of them are all completely different with different personalities, goals and desires, but they are all just the best.  I can love them but still freely admit that I don’t have a clue what I am doing.

People ask me for parenting advice often, I don’t feel I can give it as all kids and families are so different.  But if I am pushed, I say this:

  • No child ever went bad from being loved too much.  Tell them you love them. Often. Seriously every day.  Yep, especially when you are arguing.
  • If you fuck up, admit it and say sorry.  You are teaching them that even their Mighty Grand High Parent sometimes gets it wrong and thats ok.
  • Fill your home and your life with interesting things, people and experiences.  Kids are little sponges of curiosity, teach them everything, give them culture, show them the world around them.
  • Don’t go it alone, speak to other (HONEST) parents.  This shit is hard work, it is not failing to ask for help.
  • Boost their self-esteem.  Be genuine and when they are awesome, tell them.
  • Give them the gift of art.  Encourage their creativity and celebrate art and music.  Whether it is cartoons or the Mona Lisa, finger painting or building cardboard dens.  Art is vital for kids, I honestly believe this and I think it helps them with pretty much every part of their lives.
  • Be interested in their lives, there will come a day when they won’t want to share everything with you and you will miss it.
  • Be honest with them.  Be open and true and tell the truth about life, even if it is difficult.
  • Enjoy them.  They grow up so quickly.  Someone once told me “you never know when it will be your last”, the last time they kiss you in front of their pals, the last time they’ll sit on your knee, the last time they will sleep in your bed… Cherish every moment.
  • Take them outdoors.  Mud pies, woodland walks, playing with sticks, building dens, laying in the sun, making daisy chains, playing games.  These things really matter.  Trust me.
  • Be grateful.  You have children when there are so many people in this world can’t.  Don’t take them for granted, love them, revel in them and celebrate them.

 

Sam xx

 

#ToyLikeMe

There are 150 million disabled children in the world, yet so few toys that represent them.

One campaigner thought this was wrong and decided to make a stand against the biggest global toy manufacturers and won.

toy like me

#ToyLikeMe is the brainchild of Rebecca Atkinson, a journalist from London who started the campaign towards ending ‘cultural marginalisation’ and urged Lego and other toy manufacturers to better represent diverse backgrounds.

In April 2015, Rebecca, who is partially deaf and partially sighted, noticed the lack of representation in the toy industry.

She called on some fellow mothers and together they launched #ToyLikeMe to call on the global toy industry to start representing disabled children around the world.

They started a change.org petition calling on Lego to include disabled mini- figures and received over 20k signatures.

A similar one aimed at Playmobil received over 50k supporters and they responded by becoming the first global brand to back #ToyLikeMe and are working to produce a line of characters that positively represent disability for release in 2016/17.

The crowd funding page raised over £16,000 in a month and will be used to create a website that will be a resource for parents and carers to give them a one stop shop where they can find everything from cottage industries making bespoke plush teddies with hearing aids to listings of global toy brands with representative products.

#toylikeme

After 9 months of lobbying, toy giants Lego unveiled their first wheelchair using mini-figure at Nurumberg Toy Fair last month.

The figure of a young man using a wheelchair and accompanied by an assistance dog is part of a new Fun in the Park set from Lego.

Rebecca says the move by Lego “will speak volumes to children, disabled or otherwise, the world over”.

“As someone who had grown up wearing hearing aids, I remembered firsthand how it felt to be a child who never saw themselves represented by the mainstream and what that can do to a child with a disability’s self esteem. I wanted to change this for generations to come and start to get global brands like Lego, Mattel and Playmobil to include representations of disability in their products.”

“If they present a little boy in a wheelchair in a fun park setting – like they have done with this new product – they are speaking a much bigger message than just a little figure.”

“It is a hugely powerful thing for children to see. I hope Lego have realised the wonderful thing they have done. I congratulate them and I hope this is a start of a lot of incidental representation of their product because the response online has been phenomenal.”

For more information, check out ToyLikeMe’s Facebook page and crowd-funding site. 

To the father who left,

When you and mum split up, I was just a baby and don’t actually remember you ever living at home with us yet your presence, or lack of it, has still managed to affect my life greatly and I want you to understand how your actions have ripples throughout the family you walked away from.

For a girl to grow up without a father who cares, or even a father figure, it is tough.  No matter how strong I think I am, there is always a part of me who is a frightened and sad little girl who just wishes her dad loved her.

There is a photograph of me as a small child, I am sat in the bay window of my childhood home with the sun shining through, dressed in a cute 80’s outfit and sporting a dodgy fringe (thanks mum!), it is a lovely image yet one that is tainted with bad memories.  For when I look at that photo, the memories of sitting and waiting for you to turn up to visit come flooding back.  With my bag packed and hair brushed, I would sit and wait for you to arrive, looking up and down our quiet street, listening out for the knock on the door, but so many times that knock didn’t come.  You let me down so many times that I lost faith in you.

Then there were all the times that I was brought to your home by my eldest sister, taking on, as she has all her life, the responsibilities that did not belong to her.  She would take me to visit your new home, your new wife, your new daughters.  Everything in your life was shiny and new, not like the tainted old daughters you left behind.  Your second wife was very kind, she had to be to care for me during those visits, the times that I was supposed to be spending time with you was usually spent with her.  And years later as I stood by her coffin alongside the half sisters I hadn’t seen since childhood, I would tell her a silent thank you for the care she gave to me.  As yet again, the women in my life picked up after your failures.

When I was a kid, this mean girl in my class told me that I must have been so ugly and bad as a baby to make my daddy run away.

Doesn’t that sound like a throwaway nasty comment? A spiteful child’s bullying words.

Yet on those dark days when the demon voice inside starts to tell me I am not enough, it is those words I still hear.  As a little girl I believed it must be my fault, perhaps if I were better, quieter, whiter, more like your new daughters, maybe then you would love me?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not the sort of person to allow my past to ruin my future.  I am a strong and confident woman who is happy in life, but these things from childhood do run deep and I still find myself wanting to please those around me in the hope they will love me truly and not leave.

I am a strong woman now despite you, not because of you.  You don’t get to take credit for me.  And I see you doing that.  Telling your Facebook friends, your born-again church about my accomplishments and it angers me because you don’t get to warm in my glow.  You lost that right a long time ago.

You soon left another family, leaving more children in your wake and went onto wife number three.  She didn’t want us around and so you disappeared.  The sporadic contact became nonexistent and I was left bewildered and frightened, wondering what I had done, believing I must be a terrible person for my father to simply go away.

affects on girls without dads

I understand that life is difficult.  Relationships change, people face addiction, communication can be tough.  But you made choices based on those things that meant I was the one to suffer.  I have never known how it feels for a father, or father figure, to love me.  Never had the opportunity to be a daddy’s little girl, to have a dad to guide me, worry about me, care about me.  I find it hard to trust that men aren’t going to treat me badly, I wonder whether my husband will one day have had enough and leave me.  I have a wonderful husband who loves me and our children, who supports and cares for me, yet that demon crops up from time to time to whisper in my ear that if my own father couldn’t love me, how on earth will my husband?

A few years ago, you reappeared.  Facebook has a lot to answer for and you got in touch, wanting to reignite a relationship whose embers had faded 20 odd years previously.  I decided to give it a go.  Not for you, but for me.  Because tragically, despite everything, I desperately want to be loved.  I want to join in with my friends who talk about their dads who are their heroes, their dads who they go shopping with, who come for dinner, who they holiday with.  I wish I had tales of my dad coming to my rescue, of feeling protected and safe when in the arms of dad, of being someone’s special child, a daddy’s little girl.

I tried.  I swear I did.  I told you about all the pain you had caused me, of how your decisions had broken my heart, I opened myself up and poured out the years of rage, hurt and disappointment.  I allowed you into my life so I could show you the emotional battering I had taken because of you.  I told how sorry I felt for you, that you had gone through your life abandoning children at the wayside and now in your senior years you were alone.  I told you about my beautiful, amazing, intelligent and wonderful children who you had missed out on and that the title of grandfather was one that was earned not given.

You told me “Jesus forgave so that you can forgive”

That was the moment that I realised that you hadn’t changed.  You weren’t taking responsibility for your failings, you had just found a way to absolve yourself of your sins and expected us all to rejoice.

I am not giving you that.  I don’t forgive you.

The opportunity to tell you all the ways you had fucked up gave me a release, I thought perhaps I could find a way to have some relationship with you, perhaps not as father and daughter but maybe as friends.  But I soon realised that you don’t have the credentials to be my friend.  You aren’t worthy of me. My friends, the people I have in my life are awesome, they are full of love, respect and loyalty.  They are interesting, funny, caring, special and they bring joy and laughter to my life.

You hide behind people and things who allow you to not take responsibility for yourself.  Children, women, alcohol, a higher being.  But at some point you need to accept that you have wasted your life and the opportunity to have me as a daughter.

Because I am fucking awesome.

sam cleasby parenting blogger fathers self esteem

In the end, I walked away not through hate, not through pain, not through fear.  I walked away because I couldn’t find the passion in me to hate you or love you.  I had no feelings, a numbness, a malaise, a disinterest.  There was nothing about you that was intriguing or interesting, I didn’t want you as a father or as a friend.

This is me drawing a line in the sand, I do so without the shame or embarrassment that I usually feel if I think I am letting someone down.  I am always trying to make people happy, yet teaming that desire with a hard shell.  This interesting mix of wanting to please yet feeling I have to be defensive and ready for disappointment.

I am giving myself permission to move on, to not look back and to be happy as a fatherless woman.

 

Sam x

 

Happy Mother's Day to all the sick mums

When you have a child, you make this silent vow, a promise to yourself that you will protect, love and adore this baby and always be there for them.  And so when something makes that difficult, when an unplanned illness or injury makes you falter at the most important job you have ever had, it is tough.

My kids have grown up with me having Ulcerative Colitis, Charlie was 3 and Ellie was 11 months when I was diagnosed.  Thom was born a year later, my body having fought against his during the pregnancy where I had awful flare ups that made me anaemic, made me pass out, made me lose weight and eventually be hospitalised on bed rest and blood transfusions.

 

sam cleasby mum parent blogger

They have grown up with a mum who runs away from shopping trolleys in supermarkets to go to the loo, who always has wipes in her bag way past a time when they could be deemed necessary for children.  They have seen me so ill in bed that I didn’t have the energy to help them get ready for school, they have had to visit me in hospital more times than is ever right for a child, they have stroked my hair as I lay in bed with them and brought me heat pads and pain killers when I couldn’t manage myself.

They have learnt to make their own breakfasts, lunches and dinners.  They come running asking “mum, are you ok” when they hear my fast footsteps to the bathroom and the slam of the door.  They cried when they saw me in pain, wiped my tears away before their own and cuddled me, all piling into my bed to watch a film because they know that is the best I can give at that moment.

When they shied away from me after surgery, because they were afraid of hurting me and thought my stoma was weird, it was the toughest time.  And now knowing that my bambinos have had a harder childhood because of my illness, it breaks my heart.

child carers parents with disability or illness

Having a chronic illness or a disability that sometimes stops you doing all the things you want to do can feel like having one hand tied behind your back, it can feel like you are at a huge disadvantage and believe me, I know the feelings of anger, frustration, hurt and pain when as a mum, you can’t give your kids everything they need.

But I have to believe that my illness has also given my children positives, that the lessons they have had to learn will do them good in their lives.  I see it already in my loving, attentive and caring children.  I see it in the fact that despite the fact that I talk about poo for a living, they aren’t embarrassed!  They are so compassionate and empathetic and they have an insight into invisible disabilities as well as visible disabilities than many adults don’t.  They know that the richest you can be is when you are happy and surrounded by those you love, that your health is vital as this is the only body you get, they know that life sometimes gives you things you don’t want, need or ever even dreamed of but that you have to deal with it all through talking openly, sharing your feelings, occasionally weeping in a snotty mess, then pulling on your big girl (or boy!) pants and making the best out of the situation.

And so to the mums who today are celebrating mother’s day who have had to, on occasion, put their health before their child’s immediate needs, who have a heavy heart filled with guilt when they think about the things their children have seen and dealt with, to those who are cared for in part by their children, to those who have a disability or illness that affects the whole family…

kids visiting sick mums in hospital

To you mums, I salute you.   I raise a glass in solidarity to all who are just doing their best to get through each day.  I feel your pain but remind you gently, that it isn’t physical perfection that makes for a great momma, it is love, kindness and the ability to hug, kiss and raise amazing young people.

Our babies may not have the upbringing that we dreamt of, but they have us now.

Today hold them a little closer and pat yourself on the back for being enough.

 

Love Sam x

Chronic Illness and Parenting – am I a shit mum because of my shit disease?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how my illness has affected my children and the relationship between us. I have three kids and every day they amaze me with their intelligence, kindness, character and awesomeness.

Till 2010 my husband’s job took him away from home for up to nine months of the year. So my kids (born 2000, 2003 and 2005) and I were this super close gang. The four of us were together all the time and though, of course Timm was a huge part of all our lives, it often felt like I was a single parent.

Even when my Ulcerative Colitis was bad, we would still be this team as we had no other choice! We had help from my mum, sister and friends but we got through it together. The kids didn’t really understand, which I’m glad of. They just knew that sometimes I was poorly and we would have film nights where we all slept in one bed and hung out. It meant I could rest and know they were are safe with me.

Timm stopped working away in 2010 and it changed our family massively and for the better. The kids loved him being at home and we started our photography business together. It made all our lives better.

When I was at my sickest in August 2013, I thanked my lucky stars that his job meant he was home to care for the children and give them the support they needed. I had a few weeks in hospital and then came home without a colon but with an added ileostomy bag. They had been so worried whilst I was in hospital and their concerns upset me. I hated that my illness was making them so sad.

Then when I got home, my bag and scars, the staples holding my body together, my tiredness and weakness scared them. They became afraid to hug me. Fearful they would hurt me. And to this day, though totally understandable, it is the toughest thing I’ve gone through. My babies being too afraid to hug me.

Fastforward eighteen months and they’ve learnt so much. My second surgery took away my bag and replaced it with my Jpouch. Though they knew more, and were less freaked out this time, they suddenly had to learn to live with a mum, who once again would run out of the room to dash to the toilet. Who couldn’t eat certain foods, who takes medication that cause drowsiness.

sam cleasby mother parenting

This journey I have been on has been tough on me, but my kids have been through it too. They’ve had to see their mum disappear onto hospital wards for weeks at a time. They all freak out when I have even a scheduled clinic visit now, terrified I won’t come home for weeks. They have had to learn so much and I truly believe that though it’s tough, and I wish they didn’t have to go through it, that they’ve come away as more empathetic, kinder, more open humans.

The problem with chronic illness is that it isn’t about a few weeks and then life going back to ‘normal’, the illness IS life and it’s learning to reassess how you live this odd life that you never planned for.

Currently I have awful fatigue, sleep problems, anxiety, pain, toilet and diet issues. I take high dose codiene every day that make me drowsy. I struggle to wake before 9am. I know I am tetchy, self absorbed, distant and sometimes just absent.

The kids have had to lean on Timm both emotionally and physically. This isn’t a bad thing, he’s their dad!! But for me, it’s a struggle to see him take over all my roles. This is such a selfish thing to say. The kids are fine and so is Timm, so much so that I occasionally doubt whether I’m necessary at all!!

sam cleasby mum parenting blog

This is selfish and all a bit me, me, me, but I’m just going to blurt it out anyway…

It hurts that they go to their dad instead of me. It hurts that they want him to do bedtimes, it hurts to know they ask him for advice instead of me. It hurts to feel left out. It hurts to feel my illness is a barrier between us.

I’m scared they’ll think I don’t care. I’m scared they think I’m lazy. I’m scared that when my head is so full of my own pain, anxiety and distress that they will think I wouldn’t drop it all in a second for their needs. I’m scared they won’t need me anymore.

See, told you it was selfish!!!

Because when I put my brain into gear and tell my heart to shut up, I am so proud of my family! I’m so happy to see Timm having this amazing bond with the kids that he missed out on when they were small. I’m proud to see them growing into confident, self assured, wonderful young people.

When I see that Timm has learnt to plait hair because I can’t function in the mornings and Ellie needs help, my heart swells. When Thom tells his teacher that it’s daddy who helps him with all his homework, I thank the day he stopped touring. When Charlie has an awe inspiring role model of a dad in his life, I am thankful and blessed.

Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t angels, and my illness makes me blame myself whenever one of them does something wrong. I can’t help but think that if only I was more present and full in their lives at the moment, that they wouldn’t have made that mistake.

sam cleasby mum parenting blog

When I tell them off and perhaps shout a little louder than necessary because I’m in pain. Or I’m too short with them because I’m desperate to go to the loo. Or when I’m distant and perhaps seem cold because I haven’t slept a full night for two years and I’m so exhausted I could drop. All those things swirl through my head for days, just worrying me that their childhoods are being scarred by my illness.

I just hope that they understand that my illness has played a big part of all our lives, but that I have always loved them, that they are always the first thing I think of in the morning and the last thing before I sleep, that they are the best things I ever did and always will be.

I hope one day I can explain to them that I wish it could be different, that being ill is tough but feeling like I fail them is tougher.  I hope they will know how much they mean to me.

And that I’m sorry that there were times that my illness may have hidden these truths from them.

Sam xx