Mostly,  PND aside, I have loved the ‘baby years’ of my children’s childhood.  There is nothing quite like the soft solidity of a baby asleep on your chest, the pride and the joy of the many firsts, the getting-to-know-you of a whole small new person that feels like slowly unwrapping a precious gift over the course of the first few months.  Those past few years have been glorious, they have been magical, they have been exhausting and I have felt so alive, and so wonderstruck, navigating the chaos in which we, their parents, had willingly created. But oh, we are suddenly just on the cusp of everything that made me want to embrace having a large family.  We are suddenly just at that point where the boys can join in and do, and the girls try their best, and it makes them all so fun. At the weekend we visited Chislehurst’s Big Draw. The vibrancy of our little town is one of our favourite things about living here; it is such a family-friendly place and there is almost always something to do with our little tribe.  We visited the Big Draw for the first time last year and even though the boys were still very small and our daughters even smaller, we had an excellent time, so we knew that this year it would be exceptional. It did not disappoint. There was the obligatory tantrum over cake.  We all have those, Lysander more so than others.  Until recently, the boys were quite… View Post

Let’s pause time. Close your eyes. Take a breath. Summer still lingers in the air, sunlight falling in dapples through the orange leaves, landing as warmth on your skin. But the trees are turning and the ground is damp, and when you breathe in, there is that faint scent of autumn, of decomposition and wet soil. The children wear jumpers. They are excited; laughing, chattering with each other and with you like little magpies, the way that small children do, when it matters little whether you respond or not. They babble like water flowing downstream, they touch each other often, and you. You feel connected. The iPhone is on silent and stashed away in the pram. You are walking through the woods with your children, and they are holding your hands.  There are trees to climb, and you know the way. There is something about retracing old steps under new circumstances.  These are the woods in which your maternity photos were taken, your first family Christmas card when your sons were impossibly small and perfectly new, your daughters’ first birthday photos.  You walk through this path – this beautifully familiar place – and your heart feels light. And how did you ever get to be so lucky as to find yourself standing here with your hands full and your heart fit to burst?  Sometimes you feel like an impostor in your own life; sometimes you feel as though any minute now the children will turn to clowns or dust and crumble away. … View Post

Before I had children, I called this one my ‘practice baby’. She’s never really been a baby though, not least for as long as I have known her; I rescued her as a middle-aged thing, a pair of solemn dark eyes staring out of matted hair and dreadlocks down to her toes. And now that five years have passed, I am almost ready to use the ‘o’ word. Almost, but not quite. She still has so much life in her. She is still such a part of our family. I have always been a little in awe of how this lady acclimatised to life in a home, after spending her years previous as a stray on the streets and a long-term inmate at a Greek dog shelter. She has embraced everything from cats (they ate rats at the shelter, but cats are our friends) to the Underground, to standing on the right on the escalators. Not to mention, four children. She gave me her whole heart when I brought her home, and I feel the weight of that heart keenly. I am never sure what to call myself in relation to Josephine. ‘Owner’ makes her sound like a possession, ‘parent’ too infantilising, ‘guardian’ suits, but is a little too formal. I settle for ‘friend’. I don’t know if she remembers how things used to be. When we were a three, me and Kirsty and Josephine and she came everywhere with us, trotting calmly by my side or sat on my… View Post

I’m never sure what to say about my mother. I think that she will forgive me if I confess that for a long time, our relationship could best to described as a disaster. I barely remember the happy memories; they were there, but few and far between, blighted by the screaming and shouting, physical violence – mine as much as, probably more than, hers – swearing and threats and ghastly power struggles that left both of us frustrated and sobbing, she on the sofa downstairs and me in my bedroom, nails dug into my face, coveting blood. The laughter was sandwiched between hysteria, confidences regretted the moment that they were breathed out into the air between us. It was hard for my mother and it was hard for me. There are family photographs proving that, long ago, I was a mummy’s girl. If I focus my mind, I can remember it: staring up at her as she sung us to sleep, thinking that she was the most beautiful, that she had the best voice, that the scent of her skin was the sweetest in the world. I envied her charisma, her sense of style and her hair, the way that charmed at parties, her laughter, the way that people looked at her. And I wanted to be her, to read her books and to watch her shows and to grow up to own a house just like ours, to raise two daughters like her, to drive my car how she… View Post

Twelve years ago. Or fourteen. Or ten. It doesn’t matter really; the story is the same. Some days I only got out of bed to pee, burrowed like an animal in my duvet, throat tight with the anxiety that tomorrow was a brand new day and at some point I would have to face the teachers irritated that I had not shown my face. Other days, I went in and reported to the headteacher before assembly that yes, I’m here, still alive, and at the end of the day I would do the same, to confirm that I was leaving the premises and my death, if it occurred, would occur on somebody else’s time and premises. If it sounds a little dramatic, that is because it was. I’m afraid that I always rather enjoyed a little melodrama; it distracted me from the utter bleakness that I felt when my body wasn’t punctuated all over by little wounds, or the will-they-won’t-they of discovery. The tricky thing is that I am a mother now. It took a little while, and the adjustment to motherhood was not the easiest for me, but I’m ok. And yet my body has these scars. Some of them I don’t mind so much; they are almost beautiful, like silvery fish darting across my skin. Others are ugly; frankly, I would prefer my breasts unscarred and my thighs look positively misogynistic (no more walking around in short skirts once my sons are old enough to read, I suppose).… View Post