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.

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.

Growing up in Gosport

Today I thought I would add some more to my story. I decided to write some more about my early life in Gosport. Now this will not necessarily be accurate as I left Gosport 37 years ago on Saturday. Saying that it is my version of events so is true to me. I found it quite entertaining to write. I also found it quite revealing about where I put myself in the scheme of things. Enjoy.

Grove Road

I was 6 when i started St Johns (Grove Road) Primary School, so I had only been at school for a year when I got there.

It was a primary school so had children from 5 yrs to 11 as opposed to Brockhurst Infants who only had children until they were 7.

It was a much older building than Brockhurst Primary. the 2 last teachers I had at St Johns were both men and both ex Royal Marines therefore hard as nails. I can’t imagine ex Marine commandos being primary school teachers nowadays. There wasn’t much messing about in their classes. Saying that I don’t remember them being really scary in fact other than one of them being scottish and in 42 commando and the other one being in the Royal Marine band I have very little memory of them.

For the first year I remember we still got free milk in the morning. Up until the late 70s all school children got free milk at school. This was a throwback from post war Britain when most children were not getting enough calcium in their diet. By the mid to late 70s most people could afford and get hold of dairy products. Also the economy was in a bit of a mess therefore Margaret Thatcher when she was a minister stopped free milk in schools. Another reason why my generation hated her so much (Margaret Thatcher the Milk Snatcher). When we did get free milk, it came in small individual glass milk bottles. In the winter it was fine as the milk came to you cold, when the weather was warmer the milk was a little sour. The milk monitor (the well behaved boy or girl who was chosen to hand the milk out) would give you the small bottle with a straw. The bottle had a foil cap which most of us pierced with the straw. thinking about it now, parents would have a fit if this happened now. Giving children warm sour milk, encouraging them to pierce a dirty foil cap with a straw to drink this slightly off milk, can you imagine the outrage. I wonder how many of us poor hapless milk drinkers died of dehydration due to severe food poisoning.

When you were in the older years (the junior side of the school, rather than the infants) you were allowed to buy sweets and crisps in the tuck shop, such delights as blue bird toffees, mojos, and small packets of snacks (normally beef or tomato flavour) along with tip top sugary drinks, could be purchased during break time. my favourite was blue bird toffees. Little did I know,that I would eventually live in the city where they were made.

The class I was in had a pet guinea pig, that we could look after at weekends and half term holidays. I duly put my name down to care for this pet. We looked after it once, my mum had misgivings which in hindsight were correct. We only had it for a weekend, but never again. They are smelly, noisey and shit a lot. We kept it inside, that is why we noticed the smell. No one told us you could put it outside! I only found that out as an adult when Lisa insisted we have 2 as pets. To be fair they are no bother when they are not in your bedroom!

Just after the guinea pig debacle, I embarked on another ill conceived activity. I took up the violin, much to the joy of my big brother. It lasted about 2 months. Saying I was shit is a bit harsh, I was only 9, and I can tell you playing the violin is fucking hard, our teacher said so (well not using those words obviously). You have to memorise where to put you fingers to create the correct notes! So you really have to want to do it and have an understanding non-aggressive big brother to stand any chance at succeeding. Luckily the school had an instrument loan system so mum and dad didn’t have to fork out for a violin.

Playing Out With Mates

The estate where we lived was very child friendly, with the vast majority of the space being car free. There was also at least 5 play areas, and then just across the road was the rec, which went right up to the hard.

At weekends and during the holidays us kids had the run of the estate.

We would ride up and down the paths on our bikes. The popular TV programme of the time was CHiPs. A drama about the exploits of 2 motorcycle policemen from the California Highway Patrol. To recreate the motorcycle noise, we would attach football cards to the spokes of our rear wheels, thus generating a buzzing noise, that to an 7-8 year old sounded just like motorbike (of course it sounded like a piece of card had got caught in the wheel, and nothing like the engine of a motorcycle). All the kids on the estate either had Grifters (the coolest bike in the world ever) or choppers (more old school, and fucking dangerous). Now I had asked for a Grifter for Christmas, I understood they were expensive, but I thought Santa could stretch to it. Santa clearly was having a difficult time in the late 70s, and for some reason had got me mixed up with a middle aged woman. This is the only explanation I could come up with. I imagined there was a middle aged woman somewhere in southern England looking puzzled at a green Rayleigh Grifter and wondering how she was going to carry the shopping back from the High Street on it. Meanwhile I was stood in our dining rooming staring at a Rayleigh Mayfair. A fucking Rayleigh Mayfair, the bike of choice for district nurses and women that like to keep active by going to the shops on a bike, not, I repeat not for 7 year old boys to re-imagine the exploits of the California Highway Patrol. “It’s a girl’s bike!” “It’s unisex, anyway that is all that Santa had”. Fortunately I did not have any impressive swear words in my vocabulary, otherwise I think I may have been eating soap for quite some time. Gutted would have been an understatement. So started a childhood of humiliation. “oi Smithy why have you got a girls bike?” “Are you a girl?” “No its unisex!” This was always met with fits of laughter. The word sex is and always has been hilarious to boys under 10 (any age really).

So anyway I ended up loving my girls bike and everyone got used to it in the end. Look here comes Smithy on his girls bike.

One of our other favourite games we played as did most children in the 70s was War. All boys (and girls too for that matter) played war in various different forms. We all had toy soldiers (the airfix ones were the most popular) so we all recreated battles in our bedrooms. When we played out we would organise ourselves into the allies and the germans, and having running battles through the estate. We all had toy guns, but we often preferred to fashion guns out of windfall branches (once you found one the right shape you would keep it for weeks). I was fatter and slower than the rest of my friends and they would shout at me to catch up on a regular basis. This time we were running from the Germans when we got to a wall on the edge of a playing area. The other boys had climbed the wall and jumped over the other side when I had got there. I hated climbing, they were shouting for me to climb over and join them. They implored me not to be such a girl. The wall my side was chest height so about 3 foot. I managed to clamber up and sat on the wall. Without looking I swung my legs round and pushed myself off the top, fully expecting the same drop on the other side. This however was not the case, I plummeted 6 feet through shrubbery and nettles coming to rest on my ample backside in a bed of nettles. Upon hearing my screams and cries for help my friends promptly ran away in fits of laughter exclaiming that i would have to be a POW for the rest of the game and that the mission was more important than the individual.

The Stag Beetle Incident

As mentioned previously I nearly always the good guy. Most kids liked me because I was just nice. There was once whilst living at Pipet Close where I was unintentionally mean to a girl. I have felt bad about it ever since, so I am satisfied that I have paid penance for this heinous act. I will in my defence say that it was not all me and the said girl was a gobby cow, and probably had it coming, just not that.

We we playing in the alleyway at the back of my house where there was the shell of pigeon coop (i think that was what it was. It was a raised up structure running alongside the alley that had 3 walls and no roof). There were 3 of us boys and this girl, who frankly was being a pain in the arse. As we were playing this huge beetle flew in and landed on the ground next me. The girl gave out a shriek. Someone shouted, that is a stag beetle, put it in her hair. So without thinking I picked it up and did what I was told (I am not sure but I think it may have been me who gave the instruction). She started screaming really loudly, informing me it was hurting her and pulling her hair and asking me to remove it. So I pulled at the beetle, the more I pulled it the tighter it gripped onto the girls hair. This was not going well. The beetle attempted to fly away, no doubt scared witless. No matter what we did (which to be honest was limited to pulling the beetle away from her hair) the beetle did not move. The girl ran off screaming something abusive. I legged it along with my friends. We never spoke of that moment again.

The Confidence Factor

I am back on track with my goal, of running the Hull 10k in June.

Being on the cuddly side of large, having confidence is a considerable factor when it comes to running.

The confidence is 2 fold. There is the confidence of being out in public in sports wear, looking like you are about to collapse in a pool of sweat gasping for air. Then there is the confidence in my fitness and ability to run any kind of distance.

Now back in November I was running 5km 3 times a week. So I can do it, I can have the confidence to run a good distance in public in shorts. After all not 18 months ago myself and Lisa stumbled round the Great North Run in front of thousands of people. The problem with confidence is though that it can leave you. When you stop doing something, or when something happens, that changes your mood.

Because I had a break from running for December and now most of January my fitness level dropped, and my mood dropped. Then I felt guilty that I wasn’t keeping fit and running like I said I would. Then I tried to start back up, without much planning and thought. So when I did go for a run a few weeks ago it was hard work and that took me by surprise as it was harder than I thought it would be. That knocked my confidence and dropped my mood further.

So what is different this time? Well I have planned for the run to hurt and for me to feel like s fat blob running in treacle. You know both the run on Sunday and today were hard but not as bad as I expected. I did feel self conscious but not as bad as I thought, I also made sure I ran when there was less people. I have also set myself a slow conservative regime slowly building the distance I run, but with the permission to run further sooner if I feel confident enough. So yes it hurt yes I feel a twit in my running gear, but in my mind I have the image of me in June running 10k and feeling so proud of my achievement. In fact I am feeling all emotional writing it.

I know I will falter again, each time I will re-examine my goal and my plan and keep doing that until I achieve my goal.

How are you doing with your goals?

Blurring of roles and blind coaching

Multi-Cultural Office Staff Sitting Having Meeting Together

As you will remember from Being The New Boy Again blog that I am now doing two jobs in the hospital. Now some days it can be difficult to distinguish between the two. Monday was one of those days. It was a day designated to my role as Nurse Educator, but not exclusively for my home department (Children and Young People).

Now to explain to you what I was doing I will give you a little bit of background. Back in October the Hospital I work for recruited over a 100 nurses in one go, and the vast majority of them had just graduated from University. As a result all of us Nurse Educators came together to provide an extensive month long induction programme devised by the surgical nurse educator team and their inspirational manager. They came up with the programme as the team had done a similar smaller scale induction the previous year. This year required a mass mobilisation of nurse educators and specialists. It was a daunting and often frustrating undertaking but we achieved it. To be fair it was more they achieved it, as I was more on the periphery, having to plan a parallel bespoke programme for the children’s nurses. I did however contribute to the adult nurse programme by holding teaching sessions on error management and human factors.¬† So that was back in October, and at the time we committed to providing follow days to track the new nurses progress, provide clinical supervision and receive feedback about the induction and the subsequent preceptorship on the wards. And that was what I was doing on Monday.

The first part of the morning was spent with the nurses undertaking a personal SWOT analysis and then small group SWOT analysis. The idea was to generate personal and collective actions. This is where the 2 roles for me start to blur, as the facilitator of the feedback session for the group SWOT and for the individual SWOT coaching came to the fore. This is not unusual as a nurse educator is a coach and mentor and teacher at any point during the day. However as the feedback from the group analysis was being discussed, I was starting to see opportunities for the coaching network to address some of the issues that were being discussed. How a wider network of coaches and leaders taking a coaching approach would enable new nurses to better manage their transition from student to registered nurse, and how experienced teams integrate large numbers of new nurses in to their teams. This is all the more important at the moment where the NHS as a whole is finding it challenging to reduce the current turnover of nurses. The answer has to be to enable the nurses and other healthcare workers to manage positively how they approach working in a challenging environment. But that is the subject of another blog so I will not dwell on that.

I took a mental note of all these potential opportunities, with a personal goal of discussing them when back in my coaching role. Then I rushed headlong into another coaching role. To help the nurses think about the results of their personal SWOT analysis as a real tangible thing, rather than just an academic exercise, I held a blind coaching exercise. I asked them to identify what they wanted to achieve and then write it down in a sentence. Next I asked them to think when they wanted to achieve that by and asked them to write down the exact date, not just 6 months but what date is 6 months from today. I then asked a series of questions that explored how they would achieve, what they could use, who could help, what might stop the progress, how will they know they achieved it and many more. This blind coaching approach helps a group of people clearly identify their role, tests how committed they are to achieving it, and creates a personal accountability. Now not everyone in the room will be committed to changing something about themselves, but it exposes them to coaching and for those that commit to it will see the value of coaching when they achieve their goal.

My two roles will always bleed into each other , but they more often than not compliment each other as the aim of both roles is to increase knowledge and self-awareness for all the staff working in the hospital. On top of that both roles provide so much job satisfaction. I have felt a little overwhelmed at times doing both jobs, but at the same time I am having so much fun and their are more exciting times to come.

Delving into my childhood whilst writing my story

As you will remember I have been writing my story, to help me make sense of myself as I get older and leave a legacy for my children.

Regular readers will also remember that over recent weeks I have been struggling with January blues. In fact according to the media this week is the week where people feel their lowest, and Monday was labelled Blue Monday. As you will remember exercise has helped chase away those blues, but this week those blues have been harder to chase away, so I decided to jump back into my story.

I have been delving into my memory banks, bank to when I was a toddler, like my memories of making Christmas decorations, going cockle picking with dad and my uncle George and auntie Sheila. That made me smile, in fact it gave me warm feeling. A feeling of love and happiness. Now my childhood was by no means perfect but there was a lot of love. That love has helped me chase those blues a little further away.

Restorative powers of exercise

Since completing the 50km challenge in Movember I have done very little exercise.

I have noticed that this has had a detrimental effect on my mental health. My resilience had been much reduced. Foggy has become a regular companion on my commute to work and he has hung about filling my heads with negative thoughts.

Now couple that with the self imposed need to appear positive and happy to everyone. This had been exacerbated during December with starting a new role and it being Christmas. To me that meant that I must be positive at all costs and not show any frailty. Trying to be unerringly optimistic when you actually think you are a useless piece of shit is quite exhausting. I had a couple brief runs but never really sustained it.

Trying to break the viscous cycle is not always easy, and it is all too easy to find reasons why you can’t break that cycle of self pity and feeling so low. The thing is when you find the right excuse, you start to feel guilty which confirms your self-loathing.

This weekend I decided to give it a go again. I went for a short 1 mile run on Saturday. The feeling it produced was quite profound. As I started to plan how I was going to return to running up to 5km again. I could now see that the feelings I was experiencing are transient. I went for another 1 mile run today with a plan to run a further 5 miles over the next week, then slowly increase the distance I run in one go. I started giving myself the opportunity to succeed rather than fail. I feel so much more positive.

Now during the runs I felt like my lungs were going to explode, and Christmas really had taken its toll. But very soon after the runs I felt incredible. The feelings exercise evoke are quite amazing. I feel so much more positive, the anxiety in the pit of my stomach is going and so is the tension in my jaw. I feel happy again.

If you are feeling blue, or useless, or cannot see anything positive in your life, then consider exercise, it is remarkable. I know that all I have to do to pick up my mood is go for a run. It makes me feel safe again.