The bad mother

Perfection Pending

This post is part of a parenting Blog Hop over at Perfection Pending

I felt like the world’s worst mom on Friday, and I suspect that my youngest son may concur with this opinion of my mothering skills. I would ask him except he is fast asleep, snuggled up in bed with his favourite teddy bear, on a Monday morning in term time. Even teenagers taller than their mothers benefit from a favourite teddy bear when they are ill.

On good weather days my son will sometimes cycle to school. As he is one of those computer game playing, stay holed up in his room type teenagers, we actively encourage this rare exercise. On Friday he set off in the morning with a friend, the second time in the week that they had cycled in to school together.

Being early in the year my son has had a full winter to lose whatever semblance of fitness he managed to acquire last year. As we live on a hill he finds the final mile home tough. After a busy day at school he just wants to get back to his computer, and the prospect of traversing that steep hill is off putting.

The routine has been the same in previous years. When his fitness levels are low he will sometimes phone to ask me to rescue him; to drive down to the cycle path, load him and his bike into the car, and bring them back the easy way. As I am not easily persuadable, especially when I know that he will benefit from the exercise, he will claim that he feels ill.

This has worked on a fair few occasions. However, when he started to get ill from just cycling three miles along fairly flat terrain, and recovery took about fifteen minutes from entering the house, I grew wise to his cunning. When he called for assistance I refused to collect him, an act that caused a great deal of complaint but no lasting damage. As his fitness improved so the calls for help diminished along with his journey times.

I guess we all know Aesop’s fable, ‘The boy who cried wolf’. Last Friday he texted to say that he was ill and I told him to cycle home. He told me that he had a headache and couldn’t cycle so I told him to walk. In my mind I was being harsh but fair, tough love. Except this time he really was ill. He tried to get home and couldn’t do it, so he phoned a friend. Friend’s mother rescued him, a kind and generous act that I humbly thanked her for the next day. The guilt I felt cannot be expressed.

As soon as he got home son went straight to bed and slept through until the late morning, a straight seventeen hours of sleep; it was obvious that I had messed up. He has had a fitful weekend, barely eating, with long periods of rest. Every time I see his pale face and dark ringed eyes I inwardly berate myself for not taking notice when he called me. What sort of a mother am I that I will not believe my own son?

My other two children are more circumspect. They remind me that their brother is one of those people who cannot seem to cope with illness. Whereas they will generally be stoic, he fusses and complains over the slightest ache or pain. It has always been hard to know when he really does have anything wrong with him; there is the regular suspicion that he simply wants to avoid the training session or have the day off school. He certainly claims illness more than anyone else in the family, yet is clearly not an unhealthy child.

I feel guilty for not believing him and guilty that a lovely neighbour had to rescue my son. I know that neither of these things are major issues, but mother guilt is so hard to cope with. I messed up and my son suffered.

Have you ever made a decision about your kids that proved wrong? Finding the correct balance between offering support and teaching personal responsibility can be a challenge.

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A small postscript to this sorry tale. Lest any of you fear that my son may be spending his recovery time playing on line games, worry not. For no reason that we can fathom, the hard drive on his computer died on Saturday afternoon. It will take at least three weeks for a replacement machine to be delivered; he is not a happy boy.

So I said I wouldn’t talk about this

I’m on a diet. I wrote about this earlier in the week and promised that I wouldn’t go on about it too much. Day 5 and here I am going back on my word. Oh well.

The cutting back on food has actually been going fine. Not so the exercise. I have only managed to get to the gym on one day this week. A mixture of me trying to be an awesome mom and my kids conspiring to prove what a waste of time this is has resulted in much of my week being wasted. Plus I have been trying to succeed in one of my other determinations for this year, to keep my house in better order. I have had a little more success with this.

That one day at the gym though? The muscles in my arms have yet to forgive me for making them push, pull and lift those weights. Funny how I can feel so good after a workout and then suffer for days afterwards. Not funny at all really. When I mention it to the family they smirk and tell me it is because I am old. Thanks guys.

Yesterday was not a good day. Yesterday I woke up feeling ill, really ill. Sweats, shakes, nausea and dizzy ill. And all I could think was, is this because I have been eating too little and trying to do too much? I’m trying to improve my health here, not get ill.

So I gave myself an easy day to rest up and allowed myself to eat a normal dinner. I also eschewed the wine, almost unheard of for a Friday night. I still feel a bit ropey this morning and have no idea if my change of diet was anything to do with how I felt. And my arms still ache.

With a bit more free time than expected yesterday I inevitably went on line and, thanks to a friend, came across this http://100happydays.com/. Wavering between ‘Is this really cheesey?’ and ‘What a fun idea’ I decided to sign up. Assuming that I manage to stick with it my twitter feed is going to contain some random photos over the next few months as I find something that makes me happy each day. Today I am happy because I have time to write.

Living with three teenagers my weekend mornings do tend to be quiet. Given the chance my not so little darlings sleep until close to midday. Even when they wake earlier they stay sequestered in their rooms. It is the perfect opportunity for me to retire to my writing space. I tell myself that I am doing them a favour by choosing such a quiet pastime. I suspect that my motives are less altruistic.

I should also make some time for reading. When I was away last weekend I started a book that my daughter bought me for Christmas, ‘Infinite Jest’ by David Foster Wallace. So far I am enjoying it but it takes a lot of concentration. It is not a book that I can just pick up and set down quickly, or read large chunks of at a time. I am hopeful that, if I can persevere, it will be worth the effort. It is taking some effort to read though.

I like having a mix of books, some easy and some more challenging. I want to stretch my mind and explore new styles. Sometimes, however, I just want to curl up and escape. Perhaps I should try reading two books at a time so that I can pick up whichever I feel able to cope with. I wonder if I would be able to make this work.

I had hoped to watch a film with my little family yesterday evening but my elder son was out at the gym. He is much more disciplined about working out regularly than I seem to manage these days, he tells me off for not managing my time better which I find quite ironic given how he is with other aspects of his life. He and I often have great discussions about the films we watch so I did not want him to miss out. Perhaps tonight we will all manage to keep the evening free.

Meanwhile it has finally stopped raining here in soggy England. As news of the polar vortex has drifted across the pond I have felt rather guilty about mentioning our weather. There are always others having a harder time.

Today looks like being a good day. The sun is out, I am feeling much improved and husband is in the kitchen preparing what will be our dinner later. I will have to allow myself to eat that. Well, it would be ungrateful not to.

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Good intentions

This week I am taking part in a new Blog Hop hosted by Perfection Pending

Perfection Pending

I am going to talk about my legs. Yes, I know, this link up is supposed to be about parenting challenges. On a Monday morning though? I am generally thinking about my legs.

My three kids are teenagers so getting them to school on any day of the week means little more than ensuring that they wake up on time. They sort themselves out. If I try to help then they become truculent. Don’t you just love that word? When I discovered it I decided that it fits with teenagers so well that I needed to use it more often. I may overuse it a bit. Sorry about that.

Anyway, my legs. They are big. Some women put on weight in the tummy region or a bit higher up or a bit lower down. I do all that as well; actually, maybe not so much the higher up bit, but I digress. When I eat that extra bit of hot, buttered toast (I do so love hot, buttered toast) it immediately expands and settles on my legs. They are huge. So is my consumption of hot, buttered toast.

A couple of years ago I saw some photographs of myself that stopped me in my tracks. Then they started me again, really fast, on the treadmill, the bike and the rowing machine at my local gym. The blob I had become had to go. I cut out carbs and visited that gym every day of the week. I walked, cycled and swam for miles and miles and miles. I lost 20kg in nine months.

Woo hoo! I loved the look of the new me, and I felt gooood. I was fit, I felt fine and I could wear the clothes I wanted.

In fact, I felt so good that I once again allowed myself a few little treats. So maybe the weight loss stopped a little earlier than I had hoped, but that had to happen sometime, yes? Perpetual diets are Boring! I was loving my new look and living it up.

You can guess what happened next can’t you? Gradual increase in weight, gradual return to those comfort breakfasts of hot buttered toast. And each slice expanded and settled on my legs. Which are, once again, huge.

Which brings me, if you have stuck with this post, to my Manic Monday. The start of each new week sees me wake up with fresh determination to return to my low carb, high exercise regime in an attempt to sort out this self inflicted problem. I skip breakfast, visit the gym and work my butt off in an attempt to shrink those pesky legs. Except then I get hungry. I don’t like being hungry.

I eat a lot of salad. I like salad, but it doesn’t fill me up. I eat a lot of eggs. I like eggs, but they taste so much better when accompanied by hot, buttered toast.

I did it before and I can do it again. Probably not this week though. Monday has been and gone and I didn’t quite do all that stuff I was totally determined to get done.

Still, next week is a whole new week. I WILL do better, honest. Now, let’s just have a slice of toast to celebrate…

Toast, toasted

To read the other posts in this Blog Hop click on the link below 

Self help

Between aches and minor injuries I have been feeling rather battered since I returned home from our camping trip last week. This could be a hangover from sleeping on an air bed and sitting on uncomfortable chairs for five days, although I have not suffered in this way after previous trips. Perhaps the aches have been my body fighting some minor illness; perhaps it is just a sign of old age.

I rarely consult a doctor when I feel unwell. The human body is such an amazing thing and most infirmities will self heal given time. Doctor’s seem to think that, if they are consulted, then they have to offer some sort of medicine to relieve symptoms during the time it takes for the body to sort itself out. Given the cost of a prescription, I prefer to cope as best I can without.

To clarify, I am not talking about serious illness or injury here, but rather the minor ailments that can cause misery and inconvenience only for as long as it takes the body to mend itself. Science has shown time and again that the placebo effect is as powerful as drugs for these sort of complaints. I believe that I will recover without medication so it is as likely as not that I will.

None of this helps me to feel less bothered by my aching shoulder muscles, tired legs and damaged foot. Having spent too much of this week resting up and comforting myself with food, I now feel bloated and cross with myself for the unnecessary indulgence. I may not be capable of tackling an invigorating walk in the countryside but I do not need to remain quite so sedentary.

I rather like this quote: ‘You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.’ It reminds me that we have a responsibility to look after the vessel in which we exist. When people complain about how they look (and yes, I have been known to do this too) I am reminded that, whatever we have been given, it is all we have and we should be looking after it and appreciating the wonder of the way it operates. There is an implicit ingratitude when we obsess over how others view our vessel’s external appearance.

I have lost count of the number of days I have woken up determined to do better; this is another of those days. The sun is out and I am once again determined to show my body a little more respect. I do struggle with self control as regards food. I mean, I derive so much pleasure from just eating. If I am to regain my feel good self then I need to show a little more sense in this area.

It is tempting to consider all the people I know who suffer from illnesses and issues that cannot be cured by lifestyle changes and positive thinking, and to try to pull myself up on the fuel of guilt. I have never found this to be very effective. Sure I can be grateful for what I have, but guilt is a destructive emotion. I have found that persuading myself to change because it is right for me will lead to longer lasting and more effective results. I guess this shows me up to be a selfish creature.

Perhaps for the same reason I do not read self help books, which tend to focus on how amazing someone else has been at orchestrating change in their life. You know what? That is their life, not mine. I need to work this one out for myself.

Just as advice for mothers is too often veiled criticism of how they are behaving, so lifestyle advice can too often come across as blame. Knowing that I put on weight because I eat too much is not going to help me to lose weight; I already know this is my fault. What I need is a strategy that will work for me, that will allow me to live my life while eating less.

I have no idea if I will manage it this time. Whatever the outcome, I will not beat myself up over failures, I already feel battered enough. From past experience I know that my general health and well being improves when I am fitter and leaner; that is my focus. If I am to recover from these aches and pains then I need to show my body more respect, but I need to do this in a way that suits me.

Onwards and upwards then; wish me luck!

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Staying healthy

I have a friend who believes that those who can afford to have a duty to buy the best quality meat and organic vegetables that they can find to encourage production of these types of food stuffs. This same friend takes the most varied cocktail of drugs of anyone I know in an attempt to keep herself as healthy as possible. She has many health issues and spends a great amount of her time dealing with these. She and I do not see eye to eye on many of her theories around consumption and it’s effects on the human body.

I think that our bodies are amazing. To survive we must eat and breath yet, in our modern world, both our food and our air are polluted. Thankfully we have inbuilt systems for detoxification and we seem to be able to cope with the small quantities of poison that we consume or inhale. We can assist this process by exercising regularly and by keeping our bodies well hydrated. Beyond this, a bit of common sense in what we consume seems to be enough to keep most people in a state of reasonable health.

I am not a good cook. I don’t enjoy preparing food and the meals that I produce tend to be fairly bland. This is partly down to my lack of confidence and skill in this area, and partly down to the varied tastes of my family which limits what we can eat. One of my sons likes meat and strong flavours, dislikes a wide range of vegetables, and gets bored being fed the same thing too often; my other son dislikes strong flavours and likes to know what he is eating so is often unwilling to try anything new; my daughter dislikes fish, meat, certain vegetables and salad. Trying to please everyone is a challenge as I am not willing to produce different meals at one sitting.

I use a lot of fresh ingredients and cook mainly from scratch. I do use some jars of sauce for flavour and a few of my daughters vegetarian alternatives come from a frozen packet, but most of what we eat contains only basic, recognisable foodstuffs that I have chosen and added. I do not concern myself with brands unless there is a notable difference in taste. As much of the food is mixed up together in the cooking anyway, I buy what is on offer.

The recent horse meat scandal did not disturb me too much as horse meat is probably better for us than much of the offal that goes into food from other animals. It is always a concern to hear that creatures reared for consumption are fed a variety of chemicals to promote easy health and fast weight gain, but the chemical fertilizers and sprays that promote growth in vegetables are already in the human food chain through animal feedstuffs. We are told that organic vegetables are no better for our health than the ordinary, mass produced variety and that vegetarian alternatives to meat are as full of flavourings and additives as a cheap burger or sausage. I do not dispute that these things are bad for us, only that we have to eat something and the alternatives may not actually be that much better.

What we can do if we wish to stay healthy is to exercise more. Physical exercise will make our vital organs function more efficiently, speed up digestion and help our bodies to flush the harmful chemicals out. My children may not appreciate that I send them to school on the bus rather than  driving them, which would be much cheaper, but the required walk to the bus stop and then on to school and back will help to keep them healthy (complaints about sore backs due to heavy bags of books notwithstanding).

I am fascinated by the scientific studies that have found links between what we think about our health and how healthy we are. In certain situations, participants in studies have been given placebos but told it is a curing drug and have subsequently been cured. It is obvious that not all illness can be cured in this way, but I believe it shows that attitude is vital for good health. There are times when we are ill and our bodies tell us that we need to rest; allowing a time of rest and recovery is sensible and important. However, I also believe that we can think ourselves more ill than we are. There seem to be a lot of people who, for no apparent reason, seem to come down with every bug and virus going. There are others who manage to avoid most minor illnesses or who can just keep going through the sniffles and aches. I cannot put myself inside anyone else’s head to know how they feel, but I do wonder if some are more prone to illness than others or if they just believe that they are less healthy.

I have never been one to use the mass of antiseptic sprays and wipes that are promoted for hygiene in the home apart from in the bathrooms. I think this worries my friend. She disinfects surfaces with fervour, replaces scratched items which may harbour bacteria and does all in her power to keep dirt from her home. I have a much more relaxed attitude to these things. A bit of hot water and soap plus a sensible attitude to hand washing does me. If we ingest a bit of dirt our immune systems will be strengthened. Bacteria can fight infection as well as cause it. I would rather not cover the surfaces of my kitchen with yet more chemicals.

I realise that it is easy for me to have a fairly laissez faire attitude to food and hygiene when I have the good fortune to have a robust and healthy family. Good health should never be taken for granted. Time spent working to maintain it may not always be fun, but is a worthwhile investment. I should probably also invest a bit more time in improving my cooking skills.

The Healthy Eating Pyramid, from the Harvard S...