Great…Ish Expectations

Hello,

I feel like I always start these conversations, if that is what you can call them, with the same things. Either a long time has elapsed since the last chat, or not enough time. Or it will begin with something I saw or read somewhere, and then I forget where I saw it. Or song lyrics, or something relating to what Jake has said or done. The list is always endless.

Like always, this post has been in my mind for a while. It is always the same, like a wave building up to crash on to the shore. Or, as I just explained to my friend, like a coke bottle that’s been shaken about to blow. Disgustingly descriptive isn’t it?

Anyway, the way it starts is that something happens, or I see something, or I don’t know… something kicks my brain. And then it forms, but very patchy. So I have probably written a paragraph here and there in my head, but that is further down in the story. Does that make any sense? I guess I should begin…

I cannot remember how long ago I saw it, and I have a sneaky suspicion it was only a few weeks ago, but I saw this post/article about how we are the ones to teach our children to have expectations. I remember how much that struck me, which is why it is so ridiculous that I cannot remember where or how I saw it. But I got it. And thus a conversation in my head began. It got me thinking to how expectations work, how expectations shape our children, how they shape us, how they even begin.

We all have expectations. Expectations on everything and everyone. It goes from something tiny and irrelevant, such as – If I stick water in a pan over a flame, I expect it to eventually boil. To bigger things such as – If I work my ass off, I eventually expect to be able to retire… at some point. Or I expect not. Depends on a few things but you catch my drift.

I can hear you wondering how on earth this might relate to children, but it does. Think about it. We teach our children to have expectations, we teach them to shape their lives and expectations by the way that we do things. They are constantly shaping their worlds by the things that they do with us. This is not a note to make you stand up and re-think how you do things by the way, and neither is it a preachy post.

This is the other thing to keep in mind. We all have totally different experiences in life. This means, we have totally different expectations to things that happen or might happen or life in general. It is so confusing, and so wonderfully messy. Everyone has such strong opinions, and then it all changes when the outcome they were expecting, doesn’t happen or changes slightly.

No one ever expects the biological parent to leave, but it happens and people will forever remain shocked. Or angry. My god people get angry about this…

No one expects the person that is not the parent or not biologically related to stick around and raise the child, but they do and people remain shocked. This always leads to much bigger expectations by the way…

People who drive the fancy car, we expect must have money behind them to afford it, yet we are always surprised to learn this might not be the case.

People with grand job titles are expected to be ball busters, strong, confident leaders, and people are surprised when they aren’t like that. Or are extremely like this and worse. Never quite a happy middle.

Children expect the person that raised them to always be there, yet we are always surprised when we have to have that conversation that touches on death. To the point that we try to put it off.

We never expect the person we have known for years and loved for ever to change, yet they do and we remain open mouthed with shock.

We never expect the people to stand by the person that broke them, but they do and again, we shout with shock.

More recently, we have all had to learn to deal with the sadness, shock and surprise when the famous person we might have idolised and expected to be a good person, is not.

And there are good expectations too.

We expect the person that was always overlooked and down trodden by their partners to bounce back and do better, and they do and we love that.

We expect the person that has forever worked their arse off to succeed, and when they do, it’s amazing.

We expect the people forever waiting to be parents to finally get their wish, and they do, and again, it is priceless.

We bend over backwards to build a world of expectations for our children and for ourselves, we tell stories, take action, work hard, incorporate so many things to build expectations of the lives we have. To the point that we sometimes manage to fool everyone, including ourselves.

Yet I feel like expectations are destroying us. High expectations of people and things and events lead to bitter disappointment. Disappointment is hard to stomach. Too many people focus on what they see and ignore everything else. This seems to be giving everyone false expectations of what everyone and everything is like. It adds a masked layer to reality. And this is why that comment about us teaching children to have expectations struck me so hard.

Some expectations are good ones. You teach children to be nice to everyone. Of course they will expect everyone to be nice back and get the odd shock when they realise not everyone is, but 9/10 people are. You teach them to expect that everyone has a story, everyone has a background, everyone has a past. You teach them all the things where expectation surprised you. You teach them to expect the unexpected. Or you teach them not to have expectations at all.

I always expected this blog to be the platform I needed to tell people that the expectations they might have of a girl getting pregnant when not married, with very little education behind them, with the biological dad having run off, with family telling them they would never manage, was wrong. The thing is, it depends really on what you deem a failure to be. I wanted this blog to be the beginning of something, I had dreams and expectations of touring schools and telling girls that having a child didn’t mean the end. That people telling them they expected them to fail was wrong. Funny how life turns out, but then I now cannot imagine my life any other way.

This blog has become more of a place where I literally type what comes into my head. The filters disappear. And it always becomes so messy. I started by saying that this post had been forming in my head for a while, yet I lost the thread a few paragraphs ago. I dip in and out of my chosen subject. I expect most people will have switched off, because really, what is the point of this post? What is the point of any of the posts? I have visions of one day showing Jake these posts, and I expect him to feel embarrassed, maybe ashamed that his mum felt the need to sometimes lay bare so many naked thoughts. I also expect he will scratch his head and wonder what on earth I was every trying to say. A blog for life after university? Not so much. The mad ramblings of a crazy woman? Bang on.

So, why a post on expectations? How on earth does this relate to being a single mum? How on earth does it impact life? I took it as a lesson. I don’t want Jake to have low expectations, or expect bad outcomes from actions. I want him to understand that life is never ever black and white. I want him to understand that it is okay for people to react differently to anything that he might think, say or do, because he will at some point react to something that someone else does. I want him to understand that life is a surprise. It is such a beautiful surprise. Not to sound too corny but it is a gift. I want him to let go of the strict ways he might look at things, and allow himself to be open to the idea that there may well be more than one right answer, and that this is okay. Expect the unexpected.

Anyway, I feel like I have finally finished rambling. The lid blew and I got it out. I plan to now work out how to manage Jake’s expectations for the weekend when I tell him there is no football for the month…

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On the cusp.

Hello,

As always, I am slightly late on this. I have been meaning to sit down and scribble but the moment has never felt right. And it has to right?

The moment feels right because of a few factors. New year, minus the ‘New me’ BS. I turned 30. Jake is about to turn 9. New job starting soon. So it felt like today was the time.

I was also thinking back to why I started this blog, and how last year it changed slightly when talking about relationships etc, and it had nothing really significant about Jake in there. This is crucial today, so prepare for Jake spam. Mind you, if you were to glance at my instagram Jake is pretty much all you see. He’s like the cat I’d have if I didn’t have him, keeping this single, crazy lady occupied.

Anyway, about Jake.

He’s turning 9 on Sunday. Now, granted 9 isn’t really significant, not in the way turning 1 or 10 is when looking at kids. But to me it is. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing Jake, you will know that he is quite a chatty, opinionated and articulate child. Biased I realise, however, I actually put this down to the fact that I sent him to nursery as soon as I returned to uni and he has been surrounded by adults for 80% of his life. He’s like me, comfortable around adults and happy to hold a conversation, but equally at home playing with his friends.

His ability to be so comfortable is what got me through 2018. I have to say, bar a few moments, 2018 was a shitty, mentally exhausting, crappy year. So much stress and drama, a lot of it down to me, my actions, my weaknesses, my stupidity, my inability to say no and my fragile mental health. There was a crucial moment though, two very clear weeks where I remember that if it hadn’t been for Jake, I wouldn’t have gotten out of bed.

His little hands in mine, his cuddles, kisses, his funny moments, his thoughts and opinions… I really survived because a day without Jake is horrid. All this has of course, achieved the inevitable ‘Mothers guilt’. I mean, I feel like a lot of the time he’s older than he needs to be. He wants to be older than he is, desperate to be considered an adult and I’m left wondering is it my fault?

And here’s the really critical, crucial thing about why him turning 9 is so significant. I can see it. I mean I can literally see the last few bits of him being little, of still being my little boy and of the child like innocence (it really does exist) leave him.

His opinions are becoming stronger. His hopes and dreams are evolving at a staggering rate. His demands have changed and his need of me has changed. Things are becoming more black and white for him, which is something I hate. I had to really fight with him that Father Christmas isn’t fake, because I can’t deal with it yet. Everything is changing.

Jake is ready. And don’t get me wrong, I love change. Change scares me but it’s much more fun than playing it safe. But to turn round and suddenly see this… young boy rather than my little boy, is a change I can’t handle. Which is ridiculous after wondering if its my fault that he’s so comfortable with adults. How can I feel guilty for that but be proud of it, yet not be ready to see and deal with him actually getting older.

I know, mad rambles of a crazy mother. And just so you’re aware, I tell Jake daily he has to stop growing, and he rolls his eyes. I get a lot of sassy comments back. I have started getting slammed doors, comments on my inability of being a good mum. He’s wished he was dead (can’t think where he gets this dramatic character from) and he’s also stated on more occasions than I care to remember that he cannot wait to move out and leave.

I mean of course, that’s what you want your kids to be like. I never wanted a clingy child who couldn’t do a thing without me. He’s my twin in that sense. I like independence and I try hard not to smother Jake. I’ve been accused of still mothering him and treating him like a baby, which is not true. But I’m not ready now to treat him older than he is.

A lot of the lessons I’ve found myself teaching Jake involve consequences. He’s relatively free to make his own choices and decisions, but he now is learning that they all come with consequences. Trying to keep his world grey.

The other thing I’ve been trying to teach Jake is that my choices and decisions are equally as valuable as his. And believe me, when you’re raising a head strong boy who is literally you in character and mannerisms, this is not an easy task.

I’ve just told him off for screaming at FIFA and his response? It feels like real life mum. I hate football.

Anyway, as I said, I am starting a new job soon. When I told Jake, the opinions, demands and requests coming out of his mouth made it feel like I was discussing it with a much older person, rather than my 8 year old sidekick. But I need him. His opinion matters to me. I want him to be proud because if it wasn’t for him, who would I do this for? I mean obviously me, but once you have a kid, you do become slightly less important.

2018 was a year in which I was incredibly selfish. I mean I really pushed boundaries and did things that if I could take back, I would. There are so many things I would do differently, I’d say no more. And I’d have stopped to really look at Jake and essentially grow with him. Go through his changes with him. Then maybe him turning 9 wouldn’t be such a shock.

Like I said, I do not believe in the whole, new year new me thing. I believe you change when you’re ready to, not because of any other factor. But I am going to pay more attention to Jake. Be more aware and a better teacher, hopefully. You never get it right with kids, especially your 1st.

We will both be facing new challenges and new moments, and it’s better to do it together rather than apart fighting our own minds and souls.

Oh I sound preachy don’t I… disgusting.

He’s happy, healthy, tall and as obsessed with football as he’s always been. Can’t really ask for more than that can I?

Maybe the football thing…

Xxxxx

A hiccup

Hello,

Again, been a while. Always the way, and there was me thinking that life would become less busy once Jake started school.

I’d always planned to ensure that once Jake started school in September, I would really push my business and start getting more work. I thought this would take a little while, and Mike and I agreed that if it wasn’t going well, I would put it to one side and get a proper part-time job. Fast forward to the end of September and I have work coming out of my ears, which is great! This isn’t the hiccup, the hiccup is Jake.

I have to admit, that I was almost sickeningly smug of the fact that Jake had started Primary school and didn’t show any signs that he didn’t want to go in, wasn’t having nightmares or crying at the gates. There was me thinking ‘He’s been going to nursery and school since he was eight months old, he’ll be fine.’ Of course I didn’t act smug in front of others, but mentally I was thinking thank goodness I don’t have to worry.

So of course karma caught up. Forget total breakdowns at the gates, waking up having nightmares, or demanding to stay at home rather than go to school. Instead he decided that what he ought to do is punch someone in the face and throw a water bottle across the playground, smashing it to bits. Thus total panic ensued. You know Jake, wouldn’t hurt a fly and knows what it’s like to be picked on. He was also known for doing the right thing, so if he was hurt, he would go to the teacher rather than take matters into his own hands. I was horrified and so upset. Mike on the other hand, whilst he was concerned, also felt that ‘boys will be boys’ and ‘he’s not going out of his way to attack people’. But of course, you are going to worry. On top of this, I am my mother’s daughter, which means I have inherited the ‘Hayward Guilt’ gene, so essentially I am always guilty. I started thinking, okay, what are we doing wrong that he suddenly feels like he has to hit out? Do we need to stop reading Horrid Henry books, do we need to change what he is being allowed to watch on TV, has it come from him seeing us argue, is it because he’s an only child, etc. Think of a reason and I will have covered it by blaming myself. It’s actually frightening. This idea that something is happening to our son that isn’t in our control, something is affecting him so much that he feels he needs to lash out. How can you help? On top of that, he is only four, so his understanding of what he is doing and what you are telling him are quite limited. Of course he isn’t going round randomly attacking other children, there appears to be a group of boys all just being slightly boisterous with each other. But it is slightly disconcerting. What’s more, if I can barely cope with this, what am I going to do when he becomes a teenager?!

Anyway, there you are, that’s the current hiccup.

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Surviving

Hello,

So… We made it. Mike and I managed to get Jake to Primary school. Can you believe it?! This really is it, it’s the start of the rest of his life, and though to start with I was incredibly worried/sad/unwilling to let our baby grow up, now I am so very excited! He is thriving of course, loves having his uniform and seeing all his friends. In turn, we are excited about seeing which subjects he will enjoy, whether he will be sporty, or into arts, or something new entirely. He already seems like a new person, which is hard to accept sometimes. 

All we can do is wait and see! I am wondering how long we will have to wait for the inevitable excuses that will come for avoiding having to go…

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And so we grow up

Hello,

I do appear to be becoming a bit crap at remembering to write things up. A lot has happened since the christening… I think? I don’t know… Oh I’m rambling. We have all been busy that’s for sure; Mike with work, me with work and Jake with just general things going on. But I shall talk about the biggest thing.

So, on Wednesday 23rd July 2014, exactly three years and eight months after Jake began his life within the world of child care, it came to an end. I mean like preschool and nurseries obviously. Which to some won’t seem like a lot. But, this is it. This is the start of his life. This is where he will start fine tuning his brain, becoming good at some things and bad at others. Where he will try to test out things he thinks he wants to do and will refuse to try the things he should do. He will make friends that he will fall out with a week later, and friends that he will have until the day he dies. He will be naughty, push the boundaries, worry us, test our patience, do a lot of stupid things. He will do everything and anything that will eventually shape him into the human he was born to be. If he is anything like me, which at the moment he seems to be, he will surprise all of us. And without a doubt, make us proud.

What all this means for me though, is that it is finally time that I live up to reality. Which you may find weird but honestly, last week I was still in denial and convincing myself that my son was no more than a slightly taller than average two year old. Because as I face reality, I also have to admit to myself that I missed a lot. I have quite literally blinked and he has gone from the tiny, bouncy eight month old baby I brought back to Bangor with me, to suddenly being this four year old with constant questions about the world. Who, when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, was to just be bigger. He is like me. Always looking forward, wanting the future before the present has finished, and because I am like that, I missed out. I can’t give clear details about the first three months of his life. I can’t give clear details of him getting his first tooth, or how our days were spent when it was just us two. I can’t remember the world clearly enough because I was looking forward. So now my son is four, not two, ready to take on the world and everybody else in it. And I am not. I am not ready for him to become embarrassed to be seen with his mum, for him to hold my hand less and less, for him to  ONLY be interested in bloody sport, for him to really become independent, which let’s face it, he has been for a while because I made him that way.

He is currently lying next to me fast asleep, and if I put my finger in his hand, he still squeezes it like he did when he was a tiny new born. He is my baby but he isn’t. Preschool teach your children everything they need to move on to primary school. But there are no classes for parents, no words of comfort for when it is time to realise that your child is growing up.

So… I need to stop blinking. I need to take in every day of the next six weeks, so that I can remember this when I’m grey and old. So that I can tell him what he was like before he became who he will be. I will however, strive to embarrass him in every way possible until the day I die. Because that’s an important factor of being a mum.

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