Love is…

love

Well it is Valentines, and whilst I wait for my lorry full of cards from secret admirers to appear on my door step, I can’t help reflecting on love itself. Since becoming a parent I have experienced a love like no other, but the thing that surprises me the most about love is that it’s not only its many forms, but its many stages depending on where you are in your life and age.

As a teenager love was often painful, embarrassing, unrequited and full of self-doubt; ‘would Craig Smith look at me on the bus to school today?’, ‘oh my goodness Sam Bell just asked me for the time, that means he loves me, right?’. As a teenager the concept of love was completely confusing. It was so all consuming and intense. I might love someone so completely one day, yet a month later the object of my affection may be someone entirely different, and still feel like the real thing. Sadly, many of these experiences were imagined (it turns out I was never destined to marry Macaulay Culkin) or at least a little embellished by my imagination. My first date was such an event, I had built it up and imagined a scene not unlike one of my favourite romantic films. Unfortunately, it was more comedy than anything else.

My date invited me to MacDonald’s, then proceeded to buy two ice creams. I, of course, imagined one was for me, but I was wrong. He went from one to the other, alternating eating his 2 ice creams! He didn’t even ask if I wanted some. We then went to play football at the local park with his friends. Not what I was expecting when I had carefully chosen my first date outfit and new shoes! It certainly changed my views of dating for a while.

As an adult, my experiences of love have grown and changed, as have I. I have been surprised by this. I assumed love was static but it isn’t. Each new connection is a new way of loving someone. In my 20s love was giddy, fun, up and down and frivolous. By my 30s in was committed partnership, long term, more respectful and calm.

The way I love other members of my family has also changed, since becoming a parent I have deeper respect and understanding for my mum. Before I loved her, but as a child, the women who could make everything better and knew all the answers. Now I see her as a woman who sacrificed and worked so hard to be that to me, strengthening the love I feel for her.

Most surprising to me has been the unconditional and complete love that I feel for my children. From the day they arrived I loved them. I never imagined you could love someone so completely who you have never even met before, but I did. I don’t only love them when they are kind or say the right thing. I don’t love them because of what they give me or how they make me feel. I love them for everything they are. No questions, no expectations, no conditions. The purest love I have ever felt.

So whilst my lorry of cards from admirers may not appear, I have learnt a lot about love in its many forms and hope that it will continue to grow and change throughout my life. So far, I have found it to be like a fine wine, it gets better and I appreciate it more with age.

  • I wrote this piece for my etc column, Horsham and Mid Sussex Edition. Feb 2017.
  • What are your thought on love? Has it changed for you? I would love to hear from you over on my Facebook page 🙂
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Honesty is the best policy

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Imagine for a moment seeing a good friend in the street and literally screaming and jumping up and down with excitement. Or disliking the meal that your host has just served you; so much so, that you just spit it out. Not even into a napkin, just onto your clothes.  Sound odd? Well, not if you are a young child, this is standard behaviour and completely natural. They are honest and express however it is they feel at any given time; something, as adults we have certainly forgotten how to do, or more likely have learnt not to.

When my husband comes home from work my son screams at the top of his voice in excitement to see him, every single day! My daughter is at an age where she can express herself and say exactly what she thinks; she is beautifully honest. I can only imagine that speaking as freely as she does must be so liberating. She has no concept of social etiquette or hurting someone’s feelings and she, like others her age, just say it like it is. To them it is not rude or inappropriate. It is just purely what they think.

Of course this can lead to some embarrassment on my part, like when she says “can we go home now mummy, I don’t like it here” when we have just arrived at a friend’s, who has put a lot of effort in to hosting us. Or when she declares that she doesn’t like this piece of food, or item of clothing that she has just received as a gift.

It makes me wonder when did we stop being so honest? Of course we need some self-censorship and to be emotionally intelligent enough to know that what we say may impact on someone else’s feelings. However, do we self-sensor too much? Is it to our detriment that we don’t let ourselves say or express what we really think for fear of acting outside of the social norm?

I would love to feel so happy I literally jumped up and down in the street. To shout if I was cross; or spontaneously burst in to tears when my favourite food runs out (Ok, I may have actually done that). Wouldn’t it be great to be so free that we can behave and say whatever we want, whenever we feel it? Would we suffer with less stress and tension? Isn’t it heathy to express how you feel when you feel it, so that we can let go of negativity.

As adults we often try and teach our children how to behave, how to fit in and become the adults we want them to be. Yet, children don’t hold on to emotions, they are honest and express themselves really well. They let themselves feel and say what it is they need to and as a result the emotion is over in minutes. They don’t hold on to the feeling; it is felt and gone as quickly as it came. How freeing that must be? So, perhaps there is a more middle ground? Adults could let their ‘hair down’ a little more, and relax their self-censorship slightly. Whilst we teach our children that its ok to feel and think honestly but sometimes they need to do that in a sensitive way. Perhaps we should all join our little ones and jump up and down in excitement when we see someone we love, but maybe we ought to draw the line at spitting out the food we don’t like.

  • I first wrote this piece for my monthly magazine column for etc – Horsham and Mid Sussex. November’s issue.
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Phew, I do still like you!

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This weekend my husband and I got to spend some much-needed quality time just the 2 of us, as a couple. Having children can sometimes be so all consuming that it is easy to lose sight of one another. More importantly it can be hard to remember that you do actually like each other.

Usually when the children are asleep we spend our evenings ignoring one another, glued to our phones, staring at nothing. I couldn’t even tell you half the stuff I read online or on Facebook, because I’m not taking any of it in. I am escaping a day of answering questions, having little fingers pulling my clothes, snot on my trousers, holding the baby, giving cuddles, setting boundaries, cleaning the floor. My husband goes to work, then comes home and joins me in all the chaos with the children. When the evening comes, we are exhausted and often, having had to be so patient all day, are snappy and have completely run out of energy to have a meaningful conversation.

Life takes over and we are all hugged out, we don’t even sit on the same sofa or cuddle up and watch TV because we are craving our bodies to ourselves for a few minutes. Often we bicker about silly things because we have failed to listen to each other properly.

We were at the height of this stage and my husband said, “don’t forget, it started with 2.” And it just struck me, it’s so true!! He is absolutely right (don’t tell him I said that, I wouldn’t want him to think I had changed too much. He wouldn’t know what to do if I said he was right) but that’s exactly it. It started with 2! The 2 of us have created our lovely (and at times trying) family. One day when our babies are grown that’s what it will be again; us two.

Now, I’m not going to lie, but as lovely a statement that that was, it was also a scary one. I can’t imagine a world with just us 2 again. In all honesty, I find him annoying and a fair amount of the time I’m not sure I even like him. So, we decided a night away was what we needed. We set off after the rush of sorting the children, the 8-course meal that is breakfast “I want Cheerio’s, no, not these Cheerio’s, Weetabix, not with milk with no milk”…and on it goes. But we escaped and we went to the coast. We walked hand in hand on the beach and just chatted. Not about anything in particular, we just chatted like I would to a friend. We laughed, we listened to each other and you know what, we had a wonderful time. I remembered why I had married this lovely, funny, kind man. I remembered that I can be fun to be with and not barking orders or dealing with the mundane, or so busy washing porridge out of my son’s hair I can barely say good bye to my husband when he leaves for work.

We know that we might lose sight of each other but it’s good to know that we do actually like each other! Phew! That was a relief. So, we must remember to find that time more often, time when we are not so tired that stringing a sentence together is hard work. Time to enjoy together and remember the people we are, and that it did start with 2.

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