I’ve been inspired by the #nurture1314 thingummy on Twitter, so here are the things that make me happy from 2013, and (some of!) my hopes for 2014. As always, I haven’t been able to restrain myself as far as a word count goes (I hope you get to the end before wandering off, bored!) or keep to a subject of all things educational. But anyway. Here they are:
- The absolutely best thing that has happened this year is that my husband has got a new job. OK, I know this is supposed to be about me, but this new job is such a good thing that it really needs first mention. This is not to say that he didn’t have a good job before; on the contrary, in terms of pay (reasonable), security (extremely), terms and conditions (very good) he had a good job before last September, and good things came out of it – he started a charity (http://www.severnfreewheelers.org.uk/) and waterproofed the cellar, but it was heartbreaking to see how it slowly but surely sucked the creativity, joy, and even the hope out of him. He took the old job because it gave us the security we all needed as a family, but the price he paid has been high indeed. This September, though, it all changed.
His new job is a lo-o-ong way from home, but, on top of the car they bought him, his new employers are happy for him to work two days a week from home. Sometime in the foreseeable future we are going to have to move house (very nervous about that), especially as his enthusiasm for it grows. One of the things that strikes me, as a teacher, is that he says, ‘No-one is in it to build a career. Everyone is building a space rocket.’ (I’m really not joking with this one – he really has got a job as a rocket scientist, how cool is that?!) The best job I ever had was in a school where, as a team, we gelled; I still miss them, years later.
- Sam has settled at school. Alright, alright, I know that this is another one focussed outside of my own experience, but, the thing is, the happiness, settled-ness or anything other-ness of my loved ones has a knock on effect on my well being as I worry or stress or rejoice for them. So. Sam. Second year in special school, and whatever magic wand they have been waving over him is working. After a tentative start, we now have a confident, calm, happy not-so-little boy who feels as if he belongs in his new school. He has found his feet and we, as a family, are reaping the rewards.
- So here’s one for me. This blog. I can’t quite express how much this means to me. There have been times in my life when I have felt as if I was going to pop if I didn’t find a creative outlet. I love the opportunity it gives me to set down some of the thoughts that have been rattling round in my brain for so long; the process of writing them down helps me to set them in order. The thought that someone else might read them helps me to moderate some of my opinions. Part of me wouldn’t mind if no-one read it (honest, guv), but the fact that they have, even in the three short months I have been writing it, tickles me pink. And retweets give me the unaccustomed feeling that other people might actually agree with some of what I have to say (even if they don’t); I don’t feel so alone, so silenced.
- The summer of 2013. It occurred to me, while I was reassuring my children that they didn’t actually need to wrestle themselves into wetsuits in order to enjoy a play in the sea, that they probably wouldn’t remember the last long-ish stretch of hot weather. Sam was in reception, so he would only have been 5, A would have been 3 and L a baby. We sat outside, chatting to friends, drinking wine in the glow of candlelight, no less. How Mediterranean! We went about our business without taking coats, jumpers and umbrellas. How un-British! They enjoyed themselves playing with water in the garden, and I enjoyed watching them.
- Linked to the summer weather has to be my garden. This year was the year that I finally took control. The wilderness has been reduced (still not entirely gone) and in its place we now have four vegetable patches that actually produced things we ate (rather than the sort of variety we scratched our heads over and wondered why they hadn’t grown) and a plan for the rest of it. My back didn’t particularly enjoy the digging, it has to be said, but my Mrs Doyle walk for the three or so weeks it took for it to recover gave my family and colleagues much amusement. Always pleased to entertain.
- My job. This has to be pretty high on the list. While not everything at work has gone my way, I am privileged to work with such an energetic and passionate group of teachers who make such a difference to the life of the children we teach. I also have a great boss who has allowed me to change my hours of work because I cannot think of another way to get Sam to school other than be available to do it myself. Sometimes, the challenges presented by learning difficulties in the family flummox me and I am grateful for this solution.
- My job again. You know, I really love the job of classroom teacher in a primary school. It is demanding, challenging, interesting, absorbing, and for me, doesn’t really work part time. I’m not quite sure why I can’t manage when plenty of other people make huge successes out of it. Maybe it’s a control thing. Whatever it is, I have somehow managed to find myself working part time in a school where I not only don’t have classroom responsibility but I am also teaching to my strengths. I’m not quite sure how this has happened, but I am eternally grateful that it has.
- My job again! One of the things that is difficult about my job is developing a relationship with the children I teach. When you are a class teacher it happens so quickly and so naturally. You are working together all of the time (pretty much) every day of the week. You go to assemblies and run clubs. For me, when I only see most of the children I teach for an hour once a week, it has taken a lot longer. I’m pleased that I am now at the stage where more than the children in my groups know who I am. Makes playground duty easier too.
- One of the things that did go right in my advance-my-career-somehow-plan was my appointment as a writing moderator for the county council. Several things I enjoy rolled into one. Visiting different schools – check. Talking to colleagues about teaching – check. Talking to colleagues about children’s writing – check. Wearing a badge with my name on – check. Discovering new parts of the county I am lucky enough to live in – check. It was a pity that one of my children was poorly on the day of the last meeting, but, hey, you can’t have it all, can you?
- My little girl’s teacher. She started Year 3 this year and at long last has a teacher she really likes. She hasn’t actively disliked any of her teachers so far, but she thinks the world of this young woman, and consequently wants to please her, and, amazingly, be noticed by her. This attitude makes a bit of a change in our household – although, thinking about it, Sam’s teacher is no doubt the reason for his happiness at school too! Let’s hope they cope OK when they move on.
- Family friends. I have some great friends, most of whom I don’t see half enough, and I love them all dearly, but these ones deserve special mention. These ones are people who know me, really know me. Some of them have known me since long before I had children and I became smothered under motherhood. They are interesting, articulate people with whom I enjoy conversations that range over fashion, politics, religion, feminism and parenting, and who, more than that, accept my quirky, introverted, special family without question and with open hearts.
- This year is the year I moved churches. I put it off for a long time, out of a sense of loyalty and perseverance, I suppose, but I finally did it in around February last year. I’m not the most regular of pew-attenders (a 9:15 service makes sure of that!), but I feel immeasurably blessed by the sense of peace I have gained, both over the decision and in the new place of worship itself.
- Health. Back and knee aside, this year has been another one where we are all getting better. Sam has certainly done a sterling job, throughout his life, of putting us through the health wringer and I am pleased to report that this year there has been (in no particular order) no broken bones, no pneumonia, no nits (for Sam anyway), no vomiting (apart from car journeys), and no worms. There haven’t even been many temperatures (although chapped lips have featured reasonably heavily) or bumped heads. Husband hasn’t had to increase either his Statins or his Insulin (or not to my knowledge, anyway), and my stress-induced headaches are making reduced appearances. Slowly but surely.
Onto next year. I’m not sure that I’ve got 14 hopes and dreams, but I’ll give it my best shot.
- Priorities. This is always a challenge for me. I’m a bit of an all-or-nothing kind of person (maybe this is why I feel such dissatisfaction in part-time work? Who knows?), so I do often feel that I haven’t quite got them right. This summer, my middle son, A, gave me a lesson that has kept me thinking as summer turned to autumn and then winter. One day, back in the summer holiday, it happened that I had him all to myself. L was playing with a friend, Sam was at summer school, so A and I had that rarest and most precious thing that middle children get so little of – a whole day in each other’s company. We didn’t do anything particularly spectacular; we went to a local PYO, picked some strawberries (dodging the wasps) and made some jam when we got home. I didn’t think he’d particularly enjoy it, fruit not being up his street at all, but he (as he does) chattered his way through the day, licked semi-set jam off cold saucers and relished, with me, the delights of sharing each other’s company without the demands of anyone else muscling in. I need to make individual time with my children a priority – for them and for me.
- I’m so looking forward to finishing paying off a loan. We figured out, earlier this year, that if we double what we pay, it will be all paid off by the spring. I can’t wait! I want a cleaner again! I struggle under the weight of domestic drudgery and you would not believe how having someone else to do the vast majority of cleaning in my dusty, untidy house lifts it from my shoulders. Until the laundry piles up and I am crushed by the ironing, that is.
- Related to the paying-off-of-loan – I want to give my children some of the experiences that we haven’t been able to afford. Like flying in an aeroplane. That might have to wait a couple of years.
- I need to get back into a Zumba routine. I badly hurt my knee in March, and, since then, I haven’t been able to find one that works (a routine, that is, not a knee). Apart from the benefit to my waistline, Zumba was a lifeline to me during a period of overdose of stress-and-anxiety and is the funnest fitness class I have ever attended, with the funnest group of women who have become my friends through our shared love of leaping about to loud music. My knee feels better. The Zumba diary needs looking at.
- We have a sailing dinghy. I have not been in it for over a year (bad back, bad knee, busy garden). I am going in it next summer. I am going to sail in it with the spinnaker up. I am. I will not chicken out. What’s the worst that can happen?
- I’d like there to be less stress at meal times. My husband is diabetic, so there is always going to be a certain amount of anxiety, especially when we eat out, but I would like this anxiety to be a little less reflected by my younger children. The problem we have with Sam these days is getting him to stop eating; I’d like the other two to be more adventurous and eat more. We’re getting there, but it’s a slow old journey and oh, so easy to slip back into bad habits.
- Clubs. Inspired by three hugely successful holiday clubs for big brother, my little two have joined the local youth theatre. They are never going to push themselves forward to join clubs at school, they are just not that sort of children, so how lovely to see their confidence rising in a different group. Sam would like to go too, so I hope that they can get some more people in to help. Hopefully I won’t have to jump up and down too much or fill in too many forms to help it to happen.
- I’d like to continue to ‘develop my career’ in ways that don’t impact too much on my nearest and dearest. Yes, there needs to be room for me, but we have a complex set of special needs at play in our family, and keeping the balance means that I don’t become unbalanced. I’ll keep on knocking on doors and seeing which ones open. In the meantime, maybe this blog is the way forward.
- I’d like to find a way, in between working, blogging and Zumba-ing to find a place in the new church.
- I need music in there somewhere.
- Friends. Thank you for being so forgiving. Next year I will make more effort.
- I have finished off the trifle today. Next year I am going to be thinner.
- I will be calmer with the children. I will, I will!
- I am going to invent and extra time device. That should sort it.
Thank you for reading, and have a great, and healthy, 2014.