Growing up I would like to think that my brother and I were close, we would make dens, make carts and generally make a nuisance of ourselves. We formed a solid bond through the fact that the two of us could do nothing right. I remember being sent to the shop to get my mum some cheese and onion crisps, I must have been twelve. The shop had sold out so I returned home empty handed. “You thick bastard, why didn’t you get me something else” my mum spat. A few days later I was sent to the shop for some type of milk, I have forgot what. They didn’t have what she asked for so I substituted it with a different type of milk. “This isn’t what I asked for” she shouted as she threw the milk at me, “you’re f*****g useless” she seethed.
My brother suffered a similar fate and this invariably brought us closer together. Age 13 my mum had sent me to live with my dad, she “couldn’t be arsed with me”. Each weekend she would come down to where we lived and spend the weekend, it was a farm with acres and acres of land. Stephen and I would spend our days in the fields, the stream and trying to stay out of our sisters way. She could no wrong, I recall a time we were in my bedroom and she asked me for something. I said no. She walked out of my room, downstairs and began crying as she walked into the living room saying that I’d just hit her. Naturally a needless beating was headed my way imminently. I don’t blame my sister, we get on well now. She was just a kid manipulating a situation. I blamed my mother.
Fast forward until I was about 19 and Charlie was a baby. My mum would look after him whilst I worked, one day something sparked her off and she threw a pot at me whilst I was holding Charlie. She marched down her garden path and punched me in my face. It didn’t hurt, but at that moment I realised that she had bullied me for years and that I didn’t have to suffer at her hands anymore. All the times she had told me I was ugly, told me she wished she’d aborted me, physically beat me – It ended at that point.
Move onto the present day and the family has split. My dad has died, my brother moved away and I haven’t spoken to my mum in years, my grandma even longer. In fact of my grandma and being a kid, all I really remember is being told not to touch something in her front room as she tried to light a cigarette. I do still keep in occasional contact with two of my sisters but haven’t heard much from the others in a long time.
In short, I grew up in a household that never had that family ethic, that family ethos or that closeness that exists between a parent and children.
I work hard, very hard at teaching my kids that the single most important thing in life is family. That we live for each-other, that we are there for each-other and that we are equal. Difficulties invariably arise when Abi says Jack has punched her and he swears blind he hasn’t. I let them argue, but never mock, I encourage them to debate, to laugh together, and to laugh at themselves. Gemma has said that I teach my kids to be arrogant, but I disagree, I teach them to be confident and happy with who they are, to believe in themselves and to assert their place in society. Jacks Grandma is a lovely woman, a fantastic human being, and in a conversation we had recently she explained how she believed that it is important to teach kids to care what other people think, but then in contradiction one of my supervisors at University told me that the one thing in life she believes is the most important is stopping caring what people think. I agree with her. Absolutely I teach self respect, but if someone is looking at you, if someone doesn’t like what you are wearing, so what. I live by the fact that we are who we are, and we should pursue our own path in life, not follow in the footsteps of someone else.
My kids are happy, they are surrounded by amazing people who love them deeply. And as the journey enters the half way point I just wanted to remember those that we have left behind. In no particular order (I tossed a coin), but by starting with the most important to us all we think about Toby and how much of an amazingly loving child he really is. He loves to throw his arms your neck and then plant multiple kisses on your face. At just two years old he is loved by everyone who comes into contact with him. Recently in the States it was thundering and we were all quiet. Toby pops up like a Meer cat and asks curiously “what was dat noise”. Its a look I cant forget and the kids act it out all the time. Even today in fact! The light of all our lives we cant wait to see him again – Miss you Tbop.
“I can’t stand Megan” says Jack repeatedly in the UK and if I believed every story he told me I could understand why. But, add a bit of reasoning, common sense and see past the un-obviousness of the situation and Jacks ‘I did nothing smile’ and events unravel further. The issue I believe Jack and Megan have is that he is a wind up merchant, and Megan too immature to not bite at every opportunity. They have a complete clash of styles, Jack doesn’t care about anything, Megan doesn’t care about anything as much as herself. But occasionally you can cut through the solid persona she feels is mature to impersonate and find beneath it a loving little girl with a heartbreaking smile. The person Megan is, is far more attractive than the person she feels she should be, and that is why Jack and her enjoy an often unsavoury relationship. But….. Jack misses her too and has this heartwarming message for her “I do love you Megan, and I do sort of miss you, but only if you miss me too”. Sibling love is so sweet.
Gemma is one of the most stubborn people I have ever known. A couple of years back she flat refused to let Jack come to India with Charlie, Abi and I. I begged and begged and she was having none of it. It hit Jack hard that his mother would keep him in the UK whilst he could’ve been touring India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Dubai and various other places. Within a week she had text me saying she had made a mistake and that she should’ve let him go. Of course I knew it, but it remains the only time that she has ever conceded in being wrong in the 9 years or so that I have known her. She told me she would never stop Jack going again and true to her word she hasn’t. She is currently in Texas living the life of American food, drinks and the occasional park thrown in for good measure. The reason… In the not too distant future she leaves for India until Christmas where she will help create and deliver a science curriculum in a secondary school in a rural village. Great for us as we get Toby, great for India as they get a committed individual who is making exceptional self sacrifices in the pursuit of just doing some good in the world.
“Hi mum, how are you and Toby, I miss and love you both lots. Oh, I don’t love Megan but I kind of miss her too. Sort of. Hope you’re all ok, love from Jack”. From me “Look after my boy, because next time he is coming too :)”
I have mentioned the altruism of Bekkie many times on his blog and how grateful I am for the support she has given me, Charlie and Abi since that first time years ago I suggested taking the kids around the world. She has continued to let them travel and has taken it up herself. Roll back six months and she was overweight, un fit and lacking enthusiasm. Today I received a message telling me she had just finished her ascent of a volcano in Indonesia. She is travelling alone, and has so far this summer completed the trek to Everest Basecamp and is now hitting up fiery hot pots in the Southern Hemisphere. Particularly recently we fail to see eye to eye, but each time summer rolls around we share the same belief of the positivity travel has on our childrens lives. It may be the only thing we actually agree on, but it has helped mould Charlie and Abi into amazing, well rounded individuals. “Congratulations on what you have achieved so far, we both love you lots and cant wait to see you in Florida”. (from Indonesia Bekkie will fly via the Philippines (on Philippines air… ha ha ha) to Florida where I will meet her with the kids)).
I have mentioned Sammy and Dez on the blog before, they are Bekkie’s parents and both love Charlie and Abi deeply. In regards to being grandparents it is hard to fault them for the love they show them. Dez is easily the most laid back person I know, or have known and I wish that I could emulate that myself. Sammy is one of the most fiery people I have ever known and despite the fact we don’t see eye to eye – She loves both my kids to the moon and back. And I can’t fault her for that “Love you grandma, grandad did you fix my puncture yet (from Abi). See you soon, Grandad have you bought an Xbox One yet (hint hint) love you both”.
June, Ralph and John are Jacks Grandparents and behold the family ethic I wish I had grown up in. June is your typical mumsy mother whereby she would throw a family event at the opening of a door, but each get together is drenched with a heartfelt welcome and tinged with a belief that families exist for one another. June is about 95% perfect, and someone I have a lot of time for. It took her 32 years to finally get to know her daughter, and I watched the pain fill her eyes when she realised it. An amazing woman. “Miss you billions grandma and grumpy, can’t wait to see you both and Molly xxxxxxx”
Ralph is known as grumpy within the circle of grandchildren and I can’t say I understand why. He is your typical mans man and my benchmark as to whether or not it is too early for a cold one 🙂
John is atypical of someone from his generation, he takes Jack walking everywhere and I am forever hearing stories of “my grandad took me walking and I saw…” He probably doesn’t realise just how much what he does effects Jack, but I hope he continues to be the perfect grandfather that he is. Even Toby tells me about his turtle ‘speedy’ and both their faces light up when they hear they are going to Grandads. “Love you grandad, cant wait to see you, I’ve missed you so so much”
For a couple of months each year people claim my kids are the luckiest kids they know. That they are living a dream and travelling the world and seeing amazing things; and they are. But for the remainder of the year they are home in England and surrounded by loving family, by people who breath for them, who exist for them and who are the source of my children’s happiness. To all those we left behind I thank you, the kids love you, and we will see you all soon x