Being a Parent

Being a parent is a privilege, on the whole it is wonderfully rewarding experience, watching your child grow, and develop.

However it is also exhausting, stressful, and sometimes terrifying. We are after all hard wired to protect and nurture our children, we can’t help it we just do it.

When our children are young we develop eyes in the back of our heads, and survive on a few hours sleep (mums especially). This behaviour can be confused as neurosis. We all remember that look on the GP’s face when they see you in the surgery for the tenth time in a month with baby David’s rash, cough, funny eye, etc, etc…

Then before you know it they are starting school and you turn into a blubbering wreck. This doesn’t last and soon you start to relish school, some of you live the time to get back to work others relish the support network that develops at the school gate. You start to connect with you fellow neurotics. It is they say good to share your pain.

This network can be a double edged sword, with stress and anxiety creep in when you realise that Tabitha and Sebastian are on a higher reading book than Dave, and Sebastian is tipped to be the next David Beckham playing for the local under 7s. You start taking David to football, horse riding (good for balance), chess club ( intellect), and Guitar lessons (he could be the next Ed Sheeran). Your exhausted, Dave is exhausted and to be fair he is shit at all of them.

Within a blink of an eye your child is leaving Primary School and heading of to High School. And you thought starting Primary School was stressful!

The first 2 years at High School are fairly benign. Then puberty hits! This coincides with GCSES. You might call it a perfect storm. Hell on earth is more like it. If you have boys (I have boys so it might be the same with girls, I don’t know) the first thing you notice is the smell. They start to sweat a lot! Then they stop talking at length and barricade themselves in their room, making the smell worse. Every now and again they will come down, so you ask them how school is going, how is revision going, what subjects might they want to study in 6th Form. You know show an interest in their lives. Big mistake you get accused of interfering in their lives and interrogating them. So you answer back and before you know it you are in the midst of a full blown row, started by asking how they were!

Then they go and do something that stops you in your tracks, that might be something kind and thoughtful, or pass their exams, or produce something amazing. Your heart swells and you remember how proud you are and how much you love them.

As they get older you spend less time in contact with them, but the same amount of time worrying about them. There comes a time when you realise that they are not children anymore, and your role as parent is going to change, and pretty soon it will be more of a distant role. I am at the start of this stage and let me tell you emotionally it is draining. I am having to come to terms with a change in the way I support them, and it is hard.

Each of us is going to experience parenthood differently, and parenting one child is different from parenting the next. So everyday as a parent is a pioneering day. We are always on virgin territory, we are never going to be experts in parenting. Just when you think you can apply what you have learned from experience, you child bowls you a googly.

So give yourself a break, stop comparing yourself to your friends and family. Every family is unique. Also remember your child is new at this too.

If your are stressed and tired, but feel so proud that you could burst then you are on the right lines.

Enjoy your journey, you only travel this way once.

Music on my commute to and from work

It’s been a while since I shared a playlist.

I am not sure if anyone listens to them, but I really enjoy putting them together.

With it being Mental Health Awareness week it is important to remind ourselves to give some attention to our mental health. One suggestion is to do something everyday that you enjoy, if you can it is best to spend an hour doing something that makes you happy. Now putting together this playlist took slightly less than an hour. So I have another 45 minutes left to fill today. Now that is fairly easy on a sunny Saturday. However during the week that can be a little more challenging. Trying to fit a an hour in our busy days can feel a little indulgent. Trust me, it isn’t, it is vital, vital for your health and well-being.

So if it is we have to be a little more imaginative about how we fit that time in. Firstly though we all need to examine our days, and think about those activities we do in a day where we derive enjoyment, that could be spending time with our children, taking the dog for a walk or cooking. Create an inventory of enjoyable activities, once you start you will realise how happy you can be simply by appreciating the things you already do. When you add them up you may be halfway there. Now cherish those activities, and if you need to move them up your importance order.

Once you have created your inventory, then look at those redundant parts of the day, such as your commute to work. My commute is about an hour a day, 30 minutes there and 30 minutes back. To fill that time I know put my music library on my phone on shuffle and sit back and listen. Now I have a couple of playlists that automatically update with new music that is downloaded onto my phone, so when engage the shuffle option I can listen to a song for the first time. Therefore that anticipation of not knowing whether I am going to listen next, it could be an old favourite or a new classic is so exciting.

My boring 30 minute commute is transformed and flies by. So why not in the car, on the bus or train put your music on shuffle sit back and see what happens. For me I have nailed in hour of happiness.

Because I like to share here is a playlist made of a shuffle I did this morning, not on a commute but sat on my sofa. Have a listen if you like, if you don’t that’s ok too, I have had my fun.

My commute shuffle

A walk up Snowdon

Last weekend , I met up with a few of my old school friends, and we went for a walk up Snowdon, as you do!

Now normally we meet up in a pub in Chester, have a meal, reminisce and get hammered. Not all of us manage to get to these sessions and even when most of us are there we don’t always get the chance to speak to everyone before we all go our separate ways.

Well back in December most of the lads, not me however, met up in Chester, and the idea of spending the weekend together, and hiking up a mountain was formed. All the best ideas are born in a drunken stupor, don’t you think!

Luckily the idea did not fade with the hangover, but actually grew and by late January early February had become a thing, a thing we had all become committed to, both financially and philosophically. Many of us in the group (when I say many, I actually mean myself and possibly Lee) had no idea what the reality of walking up Snowdon was. Thousands of people young and old walk, run and even cycle up Snowdon every year. Colin even did it over Christmas when it was -15 (I will get back to Colin later). So how hard could it be.

So the day came to travel to Chester to meet up with my friends and travel on to the farmhouse we had hired for the weekend (their was 8 of us and it was quite reasonably priced before you think of us as flash gits). I was so excited, it was like Christmas Eve when I was 5.

We stopped off on the way to collect supplies in Colwyn Bay. My advice would be if visiting Colwyn Bay, do your shopping before you get there. This shopping experience however did not dampen my excitement.

When we arrived Colin and Rich Turner (there are 2 Rich’s) decided to test out a route before the main ascent the next day. Like 2 demented fools myself and Lee gleefully volunteered to join them. My glee soon soured as we clambered up a hillside through muddy fields and over styles. I thought my legs were going to fall off and my lungs explode. Rich informed us that this was a trial to see if we could cut across to the trail we would use tomorrow to prevent us from walking along the road for half a mile. When we reached the said trail, I thought to myself how the fuck am I going to walk all the way to the top tomorrow. What had I committed myself too. I had seriously over estimated my level of fitness and ability to walk on slopes. It was like waking up on Christmas morning and discovering that Christmas was in fact just a really long Maths exam. I didn’t want to show myself up too much, however the few of us that had taken on this mini adventure had witnessed my distinct lack of ability on slopes.

Fuck it! I thought, give it a go, and see what happens, I said to myself.

Ian had stayed behind during our recce to cook tea, and what a fantastic tea it was, veggie chilli, and tequila! The rest of the party except Rich J arrived later that evening, and much merriment and laughter ensued.

Throughout the evening and into the night, I grappled with my self 1 telling me to bow out, fake an injury or illness, anything just don’t do it, because at best you will look fat and useless and at worst you might die, self 2 saying, just do it, think of the views, the sense of achievement.

I went with self 2 clearly but resolved that I would go at my own pace, just to keep self 1 happy.

Rich J arrived just after breakfast and we set off. We walked along the road to the Ranger trail, we had decided that was a sensible option.

When we got to the trail, I struggled from the off, and had to stop regularly to release the tension in my back or get my breath. My fitter, and thinner friends were all very understanding and regularly waited for me or walked with me. Colin being super fit, went off ahead (he had already run 7 Miles before we set off). At times the others were grateful to take to wait for me and have a breather. I was determined to finish, to reach the top. To do that I had to go at my slow pace. This walk up Snowdon had turned into a personal battle. My self 1, the cautious me, wanted to stop and go back, my self 2, the spontaneous me, the achieving me wanted to carry on. Throughout my life when it came to physical achievement, and pushing myself, self 1 would nearly always win. This time self 2 was going to win. I used Colin as a focus, to me Colin always appears to let his self 2 take the lead, so during that walk up Snowdon I was allowing Colin to inspire and motivate me. He didn’t know he was doing it, he was doing something he enjoyed. I needed something or someone to focus on and Colin fit the bill. I imagined him waiting for me at the top and that thought pulled me up. Every time I wanted to stop, Colin said to me give it another 5 minutes then see how you are. (Colin never said that Colin was too far ahead to notice me) That got me to the top.

When the summit came into view I cried, in fact I wanted to break down and sob. I didn’t, I managed to hold myself together. I had done it, I had managed to prevent my self 1 from getting me to give up, my self 2 had one. This personally was a landmark moment in my life. That is why I wanted to breakdown and cry, I was so relieved.

Anyway enough sloppiness. When we arrived at the top, it was packed, there was a queue to the summit! Worse still the cafe didn’t open for another week, and it was snowing!

After some food when started our descent, via another trail, this trail was partly along a ridge that Rich T said was nice and safe. He might have thought that! I was terrified! Looking at some of the pictures the views from the ridge were incredible, I couldn’t see them, I had lost my peripheral vision by this point.

This was harder than the ascent, most of the time we were scrambling down rocks, trying not to slip. Again my athletic prowess meant that I brought up the rear. I was cold, wet and mentally and physically exhausted when I arrived in the pub nearly 6 hours after we set off.

That first pint was the nicest pint I ever had. After another we all went back to the farmhouse for showers and food this time cooked by Rob. We had a selection of curries, That frankly were wonderful.

That evening was a little more subdued, than the evening before and a little less alcohol was drunk, but still a wonderful evening was had nonetheless.

After a fitful sleep and a hearty breakfast we said our goodbyes, with a promise of doing something else in the autumn, perhaps a little less challenging than Snowdon.

After coming back I have felt strange a little subdued, and a little unsure of myself. Whilst writing this I have realised why. That weekend I did something I rarely do, I pushed myself beyond the limits I set myself. I realised that I am really unfit, and I need to do something about that. More importantly I have learned that I can go beyond what I think is my limit, all I have to do is listen to self 2 more. It is easy said in coaching sessions, but doing it is different, now I understand how I can turn my self 1 down. I know I can achieve far more than I think I can.

Being able to use this experience in my coaching will be invaluable. Giving the client the space to explore what their self 1 and self 2 are saying to them, will help them determine who has the stronger voice and who needs to have the stronger voice.

Memories of my School Days

In a couple weeks I am meeting up with some friends from school.

We try to meet up at least once a year. It’s wonderful to have that connection with the past, and also our or present and future.

We normally meet up in a pub in Chester, have a meal, then sit round getting drunk and generally have a fabulous time. The night always goes too quick and before we know it we are going out separate ways for another year.

This year we decided to do something different, something that lasted longer. So we are walking up Snowdon and spending the weekend in cottage.

I cannot wait, it will be great to see everyone and to have more time to catch up.

In my excitement I started thinking about our time in 6th Form 30 years ago. You know what I found it quite difficult to remember much. What I did remember was the music I was listening to, and that triggered memories of parties, gigs and nights out.

So being predictable and a lover I put together a playlist. It was great fun to put together. My initial playlist was 5 hours long though. I have managed to get it down to just over an hour and half.

It is a bit of a mix of rock, indie and pop, each song though triggered a memory and transported me back to the late 80s, happy times.

Give it a listen if you wish.

Memories of My School Days

Have a Hug on Me

Everybody needs a hug, some of us more often than others.

The restorative powers of a good heartfelt hug are amazing. If you are feeling out of sorts or mentally and physically drained, a proper hug will leave with a spring in your step and a song in your heart.

A hug reminds you that you are appreciated and people do care. A hug lets you know that someone thinks you are great and they are interested in how you feel.

Now I love giving out hugs, because I think most people deserve a hug and that most people are pretty amazing. The thing is I understand that there are a lot of people who feel uncomfortable being in close contact with people they hardly know. I think that is strange but I respect their choice, the last thing I want is to make people feel uncomfortable. The whole point of my hugs are to make people feel empowered.

So with that in mind and the fact that I can’t hug you all, I thought I would offer you all a virtual hug. A hug for your ears and your soul. A musical hug. In fact a heartfelt musical hug.

This morning I lovingly put together a playlist of songs that make feel warm and fuzzy, hoping that at least some of you with feel the same.

Why not share this hug with your loved ones or make your own musical hug. Just imagine what our world would be like if we shared our hugs rather than our hate.

So hear accept it with my love.

Gizza Cuddle

Being a Coachee, Supervisee, and Coach

Last Monday I had my own coaching session. It has been a while since I was last coached. I have a new coach who is quite brilliant, just like my previous coach. Obviously I choose well.

Monday was our contracting meeting. I set out my expectations of what I wanted from my coaching and set out an overarching goal for myself. We identified my inhibiting and enabling behaviours and values, and even managed to set a couple of short term actions. It was an excellent coaching session, and then direction it took really surprised me. I discovered the route of some of my inhibitors and managing to work out some strategies I will try to counter them. My coach gave me the space to explore these ideas providing the correct amount of challenge. I must admit at times I found it a little uncomfortable but necessary for me to articulate my goal and what the risks to not achieving it are. As with all great coaching sessions the coaching continues beyond the session. Some questions the coach poses do not find their target until after the session creating more ideas and questions long after the coach has left. When you are coached by someone that is invested in you, it is truly powerful. Thank you coach.

Nearly 2 weeks ago now I had my first supervision session in quite a while. Supervision is when a group of us coaches meet up with a supervisor of coaches and discuss parts of our coaching practice, that we may need help, support or clarification with. I discussed a coaching relationship I found it incredibly helpful in raising my own awareness of the role I was playing, and like the coaching session the supervision continued beyond the session, with me thinking about the impact my questions and responses to the client have on the client. I also found talking about relationships with clients quite exposing, for me. Being challenged about your responses is very exposing as it can reveal a lot about how work as a coach and what motivates you.

On Wednesday I met a client for our follow up coaching session following our contracting meeting. Having been coached and supervised I was conscious of the impact I may have on the client. The key is to be led by the client, but to ensure the session moves forward and does not stick in the storytelling stage. Once the client had a clear goal I encouraged them to look at possibilities by asking a series of questions. This then kept the agenda theirs but kept the momentum in the session, generating possibilities that can be turned into actions.

I find that a productive coaching session for the client energises and motivated me as much as the client.

Coaching is such a powerful experience for both the coach and coachee. I implore you all to get yourselves a coach whether formally or informally.

An Easter Gift from Me to You

At the moment I seem to fluctuating between a positive week and a challenging week. This week has been a challenging one. Some of the projects I have running at work have been stumbling and faltering. Nothing unusual just the normal obstacles encountered when undertaking projects. Everything seems to be happening at once I suppose and by Thursday I was feeling overwhelmed with all of it. I needed to take stock, as I could feel the negative commentary in my head was beginning to take over. I needed some mindfulness and then a plan of action. Well I created a plan of action and then sat back today and cleared my head. On Friday I organised a coach for myself, and today I have been for a run (first one for over a month) and then put together a playlist. Both these activities clear my head. They are engaging activities I can immerse myself in the activity without bringing in unwanted interference. I can do them purely for the sake of it.

This mindfulness is reflected in the playlist I have put together today, it is an eclectic mix of whatever took my fancy this morning. None of it has any connection to Easter other than I created it the weekend before Easter. It does have some of my favourite songs, such as:

I love you Honeybear by Father John Misty

Seasons (waiting on you) by Future Islands.

The other thing I love to do is to share, so please accept this Easter Mix Tape with my love

Mattycoach Eater Mix Tape