Welcome to 2014, a new year and a new start for us all. This past week has been so hectic I just don’t know where the time has gone. Christmas has been a fuzzy food-coma, champagne-bubble haze as we’ve floated from one day to the next, from party to party and laughed and sang our hearts out. I’ve never drank so much in my entire life, no longer through sadness but through sheer excitement and cheer, I’ve eaten everything in sight and pushed indulgence to it’s limit, and I’m smiling like a cheshire cat for how beautiful life has become for the children and I. What a wonderful end to such as traumatic year. We are steadily settling back into a normal routine, weaning ourselves off of all of the rich and filling Christmas foods, tidying away the new toys and presents and getting back into a normal bed time routine in preparation for the return to school.
Millie has really come into her own recently, and I finally feel like my little girl has adjusted to our new life. At the ripe old age of six I’m fully aware that she picks up on everything; she’s seen me through the highs and lows of this past year and I know it wasn’t easy for her. Throughout my months of surgery and healing, being in and out of hospital and all over the country, Millie had stayed with family, had her routine turned on its head and had to watch me go from being her provider to being completely helpless and weak. She saw me at my lowest point through my breakup, she was there to give me cuddles and ask me if I’m ok, and she restored the love within my heart by making me pretty cards and wrapping up her teddies as gifts for me to open in paper that she’d decorated on days when all I could do was cry. She sadly saw me being the frail and weak, emotionless ghost that I became, and I have no doubt that it would have affected her and I’d give anything to take that away and undo it all. But thankfully we have come out the other side of it now and 2013 is a year that we as a family can pack into a box and put out for the recycling truck, never to hurt us again as I continue my life as a single parent.
The other day Millie’s fringe was getting in her eyes and she wanted me to give it a trim for her, which I did with great enthusiasm. I’ve been banned from touching the kids hair since Millie was two when I gave my first ever haircut and made her look like a little tomboy wearing a lego helmet, as my idea of a neat bob was more of a wonky bowl in reality. I only meant to take a little length off of her fringe to tide her over until she had it cut, but as I snipped and snipped I just couldn’t stop myself and before I knew it there was more hair on the floor than on her head, bless her. Her beautiful curly locks down to the small of her back fluttered to the ground transforming my curly maiden into a sleek and grown up little lady in a matter of minutes and she looks so pretty! I literally have to do a double take when I look at her. Millie loves her new hair, fortunately, and she skipped to the mirror, twirling and swirling in disbelief with the biggest smile on her face. I have to confess it was completely addictive cutting off her hair, I may have found a new vocation in life! Does anybody need a sheep shearer?
When Gabriele was off visiting family at the weekend Millie and I went shopping in Milton Keynes to spend her Christmas money in the sales and have a little quality mother and daughter time. She had asked about having her ears pierced for the first time at Christmas and we’d chewed over the idea for a few days. I was a teenager when I had mine pierced and my parents had made me wait years to ensure that it was something I really wanted and that I’d be capable of looking after them. I wrote hundreds of letters to my parents begging to have my ears pierced for my birthday and how it would be my every wish come true; but when they finally let me have it done I went white as a ghost and almost fainted as it hurt like hell. I found it difficult to sleep at night for not wanting to roll over and squash my ears, and they were tender, red raw and throbbed for days. So knowing what I know now, I had to be sure that this would be the right time for Millie. The plus side is that she’s still off of school for the Christmas holidays for another week so that I can maintain and clean them, and if she finds it difficult to sleep then it wouldn’t affect her school work. But at six years old, would I be a responsible parent to let her have a piercing?
I asked Millie why she wanted to have her ears pierced and she said because they look very pretty and she likes my earrings, which I guess is a good enough straight-forward reason. I questioned which of her friends have theirs pierced and she said just one girl in her class, which made me think that she’s not asking for peer pressure, and surely if another girl has hers pierced at the age of six then it’s socially acceptable for Millie to have hers now. As a parent it’s difficult to know when to let a child grow up, because you don’t want to rush away their childhood by letting them have and do everything so early, but equally at this age it’s the most magical time when they have such enthusiasm and excitement for everything. As a teenager I felt nervous and sick the day that I had mine done, but as a little girl Millie was jumping for joy at the thought.
After speaking with her father, we agreed that Millie was ready to have her ears pierced providing she understood what it involved. So I sat her down and we had a a little talk. Millie grinned at me the whole time, with her hands folded in her lap, sitting up so straight and eager that she’d make a lamppost look wonky. She took it all in, accepted, agreed and encouraged me that she understood it would hurt, that it takes months to heal and that it’d be difficult to sleep or play games, but she was ready. I wanted her to understand that although it may look nice and seem fun, that it’s a serious and grown up thing to do which she must take care of and be prepared for the pain. Much like when we talk about going to the dentist or having an injection, I try to take away her fear by explaining that it’s for the greater good and although it may hurt initially the pain will soon pass and she’ll be far better off after. And I couldn’t fault or doubt her understanding, she was both logical and level-headed, so off we went to Milton Keynes to get them done.
Sitting in the special chair at Claire’s Accessories Millie suddenly became nervous, she reached for my hand and pulled an uneasy face, shuffling on the spot as the reality of it hit home. I assured her that she didn’t have to do it if she’d changed her mind, that we could wait until another time or when she’s older, but she swallowed it up, centred herself and smiled up at me calmly. I asked if she could have both ears pierced at the same time by two members of staff incase she panicked after the first one went in and refused to have the second; fortunately there was another member of staff free, and they chatted away to Millie as they sterilised the piercing guns and wiped her ears. Marking the dots for position, Millie sat perfectly still and held my hand, calm and poised before the countdown from three to one began.
I held my breath in anticipation as she looked up at me like a little lamb, never breaking eye contact as I willed it to be quick and as pain free as possible. Fully prepared her to scream and cry, as the countdown reached one and the ping of the guns went off Millie sat with a blank expression for what felt like minutes, her face frozen with confusion, before smiling and saying “Is that is?” She’d chosen little pink diamond daisy studs suitable for school and they look absolutely beautiful, which she’s accessories with her favourite pink clothes and the worlds biggest and most heart melting smile. She never made a fuss once bless her, and as the ladies gave her ears a wipe again and checked them over she didn’t even say a word, she just smiled as she sat in her chair looking over the moon. She got to choose a lollypop as we collected her bag of cleaning lotion and aftercare information, and with a spring in her step off she skipped to spend her Christmas money.
I couldn’t stop laughing when Millie said that she feels so lucky to have had such a transformation, like the TV show Snog Marry Avoid where people are given a makeover. My lovely little princess, she’s blossoming before my eyes. And we’ve both had a bit of a makeover this year as I’ve had my body rebuilt, changed my hair colour and renewed my wardrobe. How different we are from six months ago, and now we stand tall, as two proud and confident ladies, eating our cookies and giggling together over shopping bags. All of my dreams have come true. My daughter is my angel and my best friend and I wish I could capture this magical bond forever and share it with you all.
We stopped for a Millie’s Cookie which Millie proudly told the staff that she had been named after their sweet shop because I’d had such a sweet tooth when I was pregnant with her and it melted my heart. We popped in and out of shops as Millie spent the rest of her Christmas money on bracelets, hair clips for her new hair and a pretty cardigan; opening her shiny pink purse and counting out her pennies as she stood on tiptoe at the counter to make her purchase and proudly collect her shopping bag and receipt. It was such a priceless afternoon that we’ll remember forever as it was so rare to be able to have had this time together just us girls. She’s fast becoming a little lady, chit chatting away to me as we walked hand in hand, stopping for a spot of lunch and talking about fashion and pop music. Bliss. And in just over ten years time when she’s a little older I’m looking forward to recapturing today with her for a champagne lunch, an afternoon of shopping in the city and a trip to the theatre; from cookies to cristal.
Being New Years Eve, today is a time to begin over, to take down the Christmas decorations, give the house a deep clean, clear out the cupboards, polish the banister rails and fluff up the pillows. A new year is eagerly upon us and a fresh start to the rest of our lives. With the best will in the world I’ve made my new year’s resolution to eat more healthily by reducing my bread consumption, to drink less alcohol and to take better care of myself with lots of pampering. I’m going to make it my priority to keep in touch with friends and family more often and endeavour to take the children to explore more of the history of Great Britain as I’ve recently realised how very little of our landmarks that we’ve visited. So this year I’m looking forward to lots of museums, galleries, castles and countryside with the children. I also think that now is a good age for the children to learn about charity and helping others, so across 2014 I’ll be looking for things that we can do altogether to help others locally.
I don’t question my ability to fulfil my new years resolutions, as it’s more a matter of time and growth than ability. I’m incredibly fortunate to have my two beautiful children, my health and the chance to wipe the slate clean and start my life over as a single parent. It has been such a strained and emotional year for me that could have very easily broken me, and I count my blessings that I was able to find the strength and courage from within to pick myself up and carry on for the children, as I realise that I could’ve handled it in a very different and damaging way. This year has taught me that there’s nothing that I cannot do, as a mother, a woman and a female. I will continue to push myself, test my limits and strive to achieve new highs. Life is incredible, the opportunities and possibilities are endless and I am so excited to teach my little seedlings all about the wonder of our world.
This is a time for us all to accept the good and bad that happens in our lives, the highs and the lows, the celebrations and the heartache. Each year we face obstacles, traumas, defeat and heartache and you can be sure that it will always come up at a time when you could do without it. We juggle the burden of bills and the guilt of childcare, striving to do our best but perhaps feeling that we’ve fallen short, that we’re not good enough or expecting to have been further forward more quickly than we are. We lose loved ones, relatives and friends, through arguments, relocation and death. But from it all we learn. With every day that passes we learn more about ourselves and others, life doesn’t necessarily get any easier or make sense, but with age comes experience. There is no rule book, there is no right or wrong way to spend these precious years that we’ve been given, we just have to ensure that we make the most if it while we’re here; for those we have loved and lost, those who suffer and are worse off than ourselves, we must live our life to the full and make a difference to this big wide world.
It’s a time to recognise good fortune, wether in wealth, health or happiness, we are all rich in one way or another. I find good fortune in the hearts of my children and I know that regardless of what we have in life or where we are, I will always be blessed to have my babies, and for them I will never stop trying. We must open our eyes and recognise when others are in need and give our time and ability to help; for those who have nobody, nowhere to go, suffer from illness, age or emotion, it costs us nothing to lend a helping hand, a kind ear and the offer of support. It is all too easy to become consumed in your own problems, your own fears and chores and to forget that the person who you are most close to in life may be suffering in silence so as not to be a burden. Please take this time to think of others, to ask how they feel, to give them a hug and show them that you care, because you never know when the last time they heard that was.
And sadly we have many around us, in friends, family, neighbours and life who are suffering badly; some on the surface which is clear to see, but others who hide it and bury it deep down. I have seen so many people this year spiral into a dark depression, held together by medication and living life by a fragile thread, unable to carry on or see a future. And to those who fight this horrendous battle I urge you to talk, to confide in your loved ones or to write to me even, because I will always be here and a problem shared is a problem halved. No matter how bad life may seem, there is always the promise of tomorrow, now more than ever. I am living proof right here that your heart can break and hit rock bottom but you come back up, stronger and more capable than ever, you have to go through the pain and suffering to come out the other side. With every day that passes we adapt and evolve, we have fresh chances, opportunities and we meet new people. If you have nothing left to lose and are at the lowest point of your life then please realise that the only way for you now is up; things can only get better, you have the chance to rebuild yourself, meet the partner of your dreams and have a beautiful family and bright future. It is never too late, it is never impossible, you just have to realise that in time you will find balance. We would never be able to appreciate the good times if we hadn’t felt the bad, you can’t know that you’re truly happy unless you know what it is to feel sadness. Everything in life has it’s balance, the seasons from hot to cold, the days from dark to light, we may bounce from one extreme to another and learn along the way, but eventually we will break even and all of the trials and tribulations will have been well earned and lead up to appreciate what we have. So please stay strong, think of others and lead your life in a positive and kind manner.
Finally I would like to take a moment to think of elderly relatives, because I for one do not get to visit my grandparents enough as they live a distance away from us. It can be easy to forget about those you don’t see on a daily or weekly basis, to miss special occasions or forget about things that are dear and important to others. Cherish the family that you have, talk about the memories you have made and pass these beautiful traditions and quirks down throughout the generations and your the loved ones who have passed on will continue to live in spirit of you and your children. Take the time to talk about life, to acknowledge the steps others have taken and proudest achievements, because it’s something you will never get back when the time comes to finally say goodbye. My grandparents have led such amazing lives, seen the world change enormously and been through incredible times and it’s simply priceless to hear my Grandfather talk about fighting in the war and my Grandmother singing an Irish song from her childhood. I am fortune to have my grandparents still with us and I will make it my priority to spend more time with them.
Equally we should also think of those who are left widowed and alone, both at this special time and throughout the year as well. Some people go for days, weeks, or even months without seeing anyone or speaking to family or friends, just existing and floating around in the background of life, a stranger to all and living life alone. We are all capable of ringing the neighbours doorbell and inviting them over for a cup of tea, seeing somebody struggle with shopping bags and helping them to the car, holding open a door, giving somebody our seat or stopping the traffic to allow pedestrians to cross the road safely. Please think of others and do these little things to make such a big difference to a persons day. Smile, be kind, be polite and aware of others. We all have battles to fight in life, some more so than others, and you’ll never know how close people are to breaking point. Something as simple as a smile from a stranger, or wishing somebody a nice day can be their saviour.
I wish you all across the world, friends, family and those I have never met, a very happy New Year and the best wishes for a fruitful and positive 2014. We all have the chance to rebuild our lives, to make our dreams come true and to make 2014 a year to remember. I urge you to start this new year with love, kindness, thought for others and positivity. We are all incredibly blessed to be here so let’s give it our best shot!
In just three months time my baby Gabriele will be turning two, Millie will complete her second year of big school come the summer, and towards the end of the year my twenty-seventh birthday awaits. It is a feast of numbers that tantalise my OCD and only serve to encourage me to achieve more and make 2014 a year to remember for all of the right reasons. As I steadily approach the age of thirty, who knows what this year will bring, but whatever it is I’m ready for it, with love in my heart, a smile on my face and the most amazing people around me. This is exactly what life is about and I welcome this year with open arms, as I hope that you will too.