I had the most adorable mother and daughter photoshoot with Gab Femmy in London last weekend, and at the ripe old age of six it was Millie’s first ever studio experience. The pictures are just precious, they capture the magic of our relationship perfectly and I can’t help but smile when I see them. Cameras are a priceless tool to keep special memories alive forever and I cherish the pictures we have from the shoot. At first Millie was a little overwhelmed by the space and equipment involved, awkwardly folding her arms and not knowing whether to smile or how to stand, but she soon loosened up as we laughed together and had the loveliest cuddles! I think this shot captures the joy of a mother/daughter relationship perfectly, my funny pretty little grape with her crazy raisin Mummy.
With Gabriele’s second birthday approaching this week, he had his appointment at the Children’s Centre for his two year check where every childs development, growth and abilities are reviewed and tested to make sure they’re in good health and progressing as they should. After being taken into a children’s playroom to play with puzzles, complete tasks such as threading beads onto string, stacking blocks, pointing and talking, Gabriele was finally measured and weighed and his results recorded.
Being a parent is far from easy, and being a single parent is near on back-breaking at the best of times but the love that you receive from the little people is incredible. Everything I expected in life and planned seemed to end up back to front and upside down somehow; I was a teenage parent, my six year engagement failed last year and I’m now raising my two children alone. If the world isn’t judging you for having children so young, then it’s certainly raising its eyebrows thinking it knows better than every decision you painstakingly make. No matter what age you are, how much financial security you have or where you live, you will never be prepared enough for having children. There isn’t a course you can take or a qualification you can earn in good parenting, it is a vocation that can only come with time, experience and mistakes. Since becoming a parent at nineteen I have spent everyday growing, learning and improving our life as a family. I have raised my children with love, respect and understanding and given them my time, patience and love to nurture and support them in everything and anything that they choose to do. The amount of effort, blood, sweat and tears that go into parenting are immeasurable, there is no recognition, it is all consuming yet invisible at the same time which influences your entire life. To some it may seem entirely insignificant, but to others it is everything. Being judged as a parent through the behaviour and ability of your children is the most exposing and petrifying thing, because if there’s any negativity or injustice involved then it’s immediately your fault; you are scrutinised, classified and convicted solely on the way that your children turn out. So perching at the little play table and chair as the health professional with a clipboard sat opposite me, my heart was literally in my mouth in expectation of what she was about to say as she scribbled notes and filled out forms. I felt like a child about to be told off in the headmasters office at school.
With a smile on her face I was elated to be told that Gabriele is well advanced for his age in his communication and ability which are at the top end of the scale. He’s also taller than average for his age, as I spent my entire pregnancy eating cautiously, taking vitamins and doing everything OCD that I could to ensure my Gabriele would be a healthy little boy. Two years on, past the separation of our family, the long sleepless nights, coughs, colds and teething, my beautiful toddler is growing perfectly just like his big sister. And as she congratulated me for being such a successful and strong lone parent I burst into tears like a complete and utter fool, with such a sense of relief, achievement and heartbreak all at the same time. I sniffled as I dried my eyes on a paper towel from the hand basin, perching back down on my little plastic chair like an elephant balancing on a circus ball. This past year has been such an uphill struggle for us all, from hospitals to celebrations, adjusting to our new life and learning as we go, I have been hurt so badly that I worried it may have affected the children negatively in some way, but thankfully it hasn’t at all. I don’t need a report to show me that I’m a good parent or to show me how much my children mean to me, because regardless of whatever the outcome was, I couldn’t possibly love them more than I do. I’m am so incredibly thankful for having two healthy, happy children, and today has been just the reassurance that I needed, even though it did mess up my mascara.
On Wednesday it was Gabriele’s second birthday and despite the weather being cold, gloomy, wet and cloudy all week, from the minute he woke up a birthday boy the sun was shining, it was gorgeously hot t-shirt weather and we had the most fantastic day. As it was a weekday Millie was at school so we agreed we would wait for her to come home in the afternoon before doing presents and singing happy birthday. After our morning walk to school we kissed an excited Millie goodbye and headed off into town to buy some birthday treats for the afternoon. Gabriele is absolutely obsessed with Peppa Pig at the moment, so I got him a drinking bottle, t-shirt, mirror, teddy, comb and ball all covered in pigs. We walked through the shops buying nibbles for later, bubbles for the garden, water pistols, cup and ball games, a bird house and seeds. He giggled, garbled and touched his way around every toy shop and supermarket, narrating our journey and kicking his legs with excitement to sit in the trolley. A few hours later, and armed with our toys and snacks, we headed back home to prepare a special dinner just in time before we had to pick up Millie from school.
We all gathered around the dining table for a delicious homemade roast with all the trimmings before giving Gabriele his birthday present, a shiny red scooter and helmet! He jumped straight on and we all took turns pulling him along on a strap as we made our way to the park to burn off our Yorkshire puddings. Gabriele is a little stuntman and loves climbing, jumping, crawling and rolling across whatever he can find, on his first birthday he got a train and stood ontop of it much to our amusement, and now at the age of two he tried riding his scooter with no hands! He loved the little bell on the handlebars and slotted his Peppa Pig drinking bottle straight into the holder with a little chubby handed clap to celebrate.
And when we got to the park there was no stopping him, he was up and down the slide, racing across the grass, over the bridge, under the stairs and bouncing on the springy zebra. I have no idea where he gets his energy from, as by 6pm, without a nap all day, we headed home to light his cake and sing happy birthday quickly as bed time was fast approaching. Whilst the children played in the garden with some water pistols and windmills I slid his Peppa Pig cake onto a plate, lit the candles and we all started singing. Gabriele’s whole face lit up when he saw his flaming sponge pig and after we finished singing and clapping he took a great bit breath and puffed out both of the candles. He lined up the plates together with Millie and helped himself to whole slices of cake, umm’ing and ahh’ing as he nibbled his way through them. What a precious day it was, the cheeky little nugget didn’t stop all day, and this morning when it was time to get up for school he was still snuggled up in bed, nuzzled in the covers showing no signs of moving, he clearly needed the extra hours sleep now that he’s two years old.
The children absolutely melt my heart and fill me with pride, they have such a wonderful and cheerful outlook on life that motivate and inspire me in everything that I do. They are extremely willing to help, always ready with open arms for a cuddle, and they try their absolute hardest in everything that they do. To see the smiles on their faces and hear their beautiful giggles as they play is the sweetest thing in the world, and it fills me with so much love I think my heart might actually explode. This was our final hurdle as a family of three, the last ‘first’ birthday with just us. When Millie and I had our birthdays back in October, three months after the separation, it was still such a raw and uncertain time as we were in the process of adjusting to life alone. We’d never celebrated a birthdays with one of us missing before, and it felt so strange and empty, but by Christmas it began to get a little more normal. By April Gabriele was the last of us to have his birthday and thankfully it was the most perfect day ever.
Almost a year has passed since we became a family of three and I’ve reached that peak now where I’m at the top of the mountain and the struggle is over. When I look back it hurts me to see what we went through, I feel angry and mistreated and if I’d have had a darts board or voodoo doll back then I’d no doubt have thrown things at photographs and set fire to personal belongings. But now I think enough time has passed that it doesn’t concern me like it once did. Just as when you fall over and cut your knee, it’s sore to start with and it hurts when you walk, but soon a hard scab protects the wound from the outside world as it heals from within, and when the scab comes off the new skin is finally revealed. I look back and think what a horrible thing to have happened, but at the same time I realise how happy the three of us are now and how much we have progressed in life and I wouldn’t change it for the world. We don’t need anything more than each other to have a beautiful life.
Speaking of not needing anything else, I visited the dentist this week to have mouldings of my teeth taken as I’m going to be having fixed braces fitted at the end of May. I’m happy with the whiteness of my teeth but have wanted them straightened for years, I’ve just never been brave enough to actually go through with it. So why now? Well, why not! I’m in limbo in life right now, that odd space of time where I don’t have to worry about pleasing or embarrassing anybody else with how I look and I can concentrate on what I want and need. I can finally fill my mouth with tonnes of metal and look like a monster for the rest of the year, silently fixing myself up and doing something to make me feel better about a little hangup of mine. It’s not for any real purpose or special occasion really, I’m just in a position to do it now and looking forward to the results. Life is too short to live with something that you’re not entirely happy with; if I had a chipped fingernail I would cut it off, or a threadbare jumper I’d throw it out, and I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to put a mouldy bruised apple in the food recycling. I’m not trying to make myself perfect or be a plastic doll, far from it, but it would make my teeth easier to clean and floss if they were all straight and in place facing forward rather than crossing over and tilting inwards. I have never so much as had a filling or bad tooth and I plan on keeping it that way, I guess you could call it a little cosmetic spring cleaning… with a few blades, metal and glue!
This week a series I filmed for with the BBC last summer went to air, looking at the parking industry and the underhand tactics used by private parking companies and the Council to generate revenue from illegally fining the public. Poor signage and inadequate road markings cause innocent drivers to commit driving offences which the Council are quick to fine people for, still leaving the hazard in place rather than correcting it and avoiding future confusion. I had a wonderful time filming with the NoToMob in London, who fought against the Council and won to have a fine refunded to me, I am honoured to have been asked to take part in such an eyeopening documentary. We are all capable of doing something selfless to help so many others, as I believe in karma, one good turn certainly deserves another.