Facing your Fears

What is fear? Trusty Google says it’s the emotional response caused by the threat of danger, pain or harm.

What’s the difference between fear and phobia, are they one and the same? The general answer, according to experts, is no although there is a subtle difference between what fear is and what can be termed as a phobia. The main difference lies in the intensity and severity of the emotions experienced. A phobia is such that when the anxiety experienced by the fear is at such a level that it interferes with quality of life and the ability to function.

As a mum, I can say I have first had experience in the difference between a fear and a phobia. Bear Cub 1 developed a phobia of balloons when she was little (apparently its call Globophobia).

Balloons - Globophobia

After doing this little bit of research into Fear v Phobia I feel I can confidently say that she had a phobia. The fear that she experienced in the presence of balloons did result in her ability to function. It wasn’t until her 2nd birthday party that it became a problem. She would not leave myside, if she could have climbed inside me, I think she would have. I know that this is a common thing, kids can get overwhelmed by a party in their honour and it can get frustrating when they don’t want to join in. We didn’t understand at this point that the numerous bear shaped balloons all around the room were the true reason of the out of character behaviour. It was the following week when we attended a friend’s party that it clicked for me. We got to the door and she froze at the sight of the balloons all over the floor. I literally couldn’t move her – there were no tears or tantrums just a pale face and stood stock still, we went home!

1st Birthday - No Fear

For the next 3 years, we had similar experiences. I tried all the bribery techniques I could manage, extra presents if she just went inside the room, not having to join in, threats of no party bags or cakes didn’t even change her mind. For her 4th birthday it had got to the point that she didn’t even want a party herself in case someone brought a balloon with them. People were always very understanding and would happily remove balloons from parties, or I would sometimes ask in advance so we could have the prep talk or just not go. We tried letting her play with the balloons before they were blown up, letting her feel them and showing her how to blow them up, letting them go so they’d fly around the room (making the silly fluffing noise). Seeing if popping them herself would help but nothing worked. Instead of just accepting it, we really pushed for her to ‘get over it’, and looking back now l feel a little bit guilty that we didn’t realise that she wasn’t able to rationalise the fear and it truly was a phobia.

As the years have gone on, at 8 years old, she able to understand how to control her emotions better. It doesn’t affect her going to parties anymore and when she is in control of the balloons she will happily have them at the house and play with them, but recently we were at a party and the balloons kept popping – I could see her little face, eyes wide open and she looked straight at me for reassurance – I’d say that phobia has turned to a fear but one that she can cope with.

Apparently the top 10 fears are:  

  1. Arachnophobia – The fear of spiders
  2. Ophidiophobia – The fear of snakes
  3. Acrophobia – The fear of heights
  4. Agoraphobia – The fear of open or crowded spaces
  5. Cynophobia – The fear of dogs
  6. Astraphobia – The fear of thunder and lightning
  7. Claustrophobia – The fear of small spaces
  8. Mysophobia – The fear of germs
  9. Aerophobia – The fear of flying
  10. Trypophobia – The fear of holes

Every family has a list of fears, for us Nannie is scared of snakes, trees and small spaces, Gaga doesn’t like spiders, and it’s a running joke that my sister has a fear of apples!!! What are your fears / phobia’s, are they run of the mill or does anyone have anything a little more off the wall that sends the shivers down your back?

Personally I have 2 fears – blood (Hemophobia) and large birds, as in geese, swans, peacocks etc. (Ornithophobia) Both of these are irrational fears that have grown and grown as I have never dealt with them.

Geese - Ornithophobia

Large birds give me the hebejebes. Their big flapping wings, the horrible sounds they make, those beady eyes staring – yep, I’m not a fan. We are fortunate to live in a very lovely area where there are some beautiful places to visit, however this often entails geese or swans. I try to not let it bother me, and still visit nice places, trying my best not to let the kids see my fear, but when Bear Cub 1 was little I pulled up at Roath Park, started getting the buggy out the car and the geese were pecking at the car door handle – I got back in the car and drove off. Safe to say I only go to these places now when we are en masse, and I can hide in the middle of the group!

I believe the ‘fear’ of blood came from an incident when I was 7 years old. I was stood in the school canteen when the wind blew the door closed and I caught my finger. It was cut off and the dinner lady stopped the blood flow with cotton wool. This was obviously not the right thing to do and when we got to the hospital is was quite a traumatic experience to clean the wound. Long story short, I think from that moment I have never been comfortable around blood, the sight of it make me feel physically sick and even writing this now has left me feeling queasy.

When Bear Cub 1 cut her chin open the amount of blood was unbelievable, she was so calm showing me how much there was on the tea towel, laughing at it dripping on her lap, asking the Doctor if he had a mirror so she could watch what he was doing. I on the other hand had gone very pale, sweaty and woozy – the Doctor asked me if I was going to faint if I could leave the room as then I’d be someone else’s problem (he was joking – I hope!) but I did have to sit down and just give reassuring words from the other side of the room.

Bear Cub 2 - Cut Chin

When I was having the epidural when in labour with Bear Cub 2, the giant needle going into my back didn’t faze me at all, but when the nurse put in the cannula in my hand and blood started pouring out (probably one drip, I am a little dramatic) I was in a right state. As the nurse was saying “wow look at all that blood, you’re a very good bleeder, it’s all over the floor,” I remember looking at my husband trying to telepathically tell him to shut her up! It’s not as though the blood is going to do anything to me, it can’t get up and bite me or wrap itself around me, hence why it is so irrational, but I guess like a lot of people’s fears you can’t always kerb the emotions that you experience.

A few weeks ago the blood bank was local and I thought I’d man up and take the plunge to give blood. I am fully supportive of the NHS and all that our medical services do for us, so if this small act by me one Friday afternoon, giving up an hour of my time and a pint of my blood, could go some way to save the life of someone then I was more than prepared to do it.

Give Blood - Save a Life

As a mum I try to lead by example (the kids say they don’t like peas but I make them eat them, so it wouldn’t go down very well for them to see a pile of onions left on my plate where I have picked them out as I can’t stand onions, I just grin and bear it and gulp them down). The children are well aware of how I feel regarding blood so I felt that it was important for them to come along and see that by facing your fears you can accomplish anything, hoping that seeing mum being brave would help them face situations head on that they may not feel 100% confident with in the future.

 

Just given blood
I still look terrified, even after the event

Leaving that day I felt so proud, not just of myself but how understanding the children were; holding my hand, reassuring and distracting me, asking the nurses to look after me and taking it all in. They both want to give blood when they are old enough now, “to help out the poorly people”

I read an interesting article recently, by Tiny Buddha, on how to face your fears and not let them over shadow your life. This is certainly something that I will act upon and take forward with my own fears and any that my crop up for the kids. 

  1. Get comfortable with fear.
  2. Make your dominant thoughts positive.
  3. Don’t give time, attention, or energy to fear
  4. Never dwell on scarcity
  5. Revisit your victories
  6. Live vicariously through the victories of others
  7. Ask your family and friends for encouragement
  8. Create a support group of friends or colleagues
  9. Plan to be great

The recent terrorist attacks in London and Manchester have made me realise now more than ever, that you should wake up every day and do something different – be it as simple as change your cereal or a little more daring such as facing a fear of heights and go sky diving. We shouldn’t live in fear, be brave, whether it’s something we can manage ourselves or something that is truly out of our control, Life is for living and that’s what we should do. Embrace change, embrace what you have and roll with it, you never know what it may lead to – Because that’s what mums do!

A healthy dose of competition

Tomorrow is the children’s school sports day and when I asked them what races they were in and if they were going to win. They both said no!!! This caught me in my tracks slightly and it got me thinking, how and when should you, as a parent encourage competition?

When Bear Cub 1 ran her first sports day, she floated down the track like a butterfly, smiling at all the crowd. You know the scene in Friends when Rachel and Phoebe go running. I asked her if she wanted to win and she looked at me as if I was talking a foreign language.

I said to Bear Cub 2 “Now when you’re running you have to run so fast you are the first over the line,”

“Well mum, maybe.”

“Why only maybe sweetheart? Just run super hero fast and be the first over the line”

“It’s ok, I don’t have to, we all get a medal and then they spray us with the hose”

I do love the school’s all inclusive policy and I can appreciate how, particularly at 5 years old how the taunting in the classroom could get a little out of hand with who did / didn’t win, but when is it good time to introduce that desire to win? You want them to stay sweet and innocent but also strive to achieve more.

Hubby is highly competitive, he has spent a lot of his life on the rugby pitch and has 5 siblings. His friends often comment “I bet your brother could do it” if they want him to do something (usually foolish). I on the other hand prefer everyone to play by the rules and have fun. So I guess if the kids fall somewhere in the middle they’ve got a fighting chance.

Competition between the Bear Cubs has definitely taken root, but is yet to really surface in the wider world for them. We often use the old faithful “Bet you can’t go and get ……. by the time I count to 10,” or “Last one up the stairs smells like cabbage.” If we are doing an activity with one, the other always likes to makes sure we know they can do it as well, a handstand, a sum, reading. But when I ask Bear Cub 2 if he scored a goal in football he often says something like, “no the other team were running faster so I let them score.”

When I googled competition the following definition came up – “The activity or condition of striving to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others”

This seems somewhat strong worded for little kids, but it is a principle that is true in everyday life and one that should be instilled at some point. I think it is healthy to have some level of competition whether it be in the football team, a dance recital or a job interview.

Life is full of ups and downs and learning how to deal with them is a key skill in a child’s development – at this level it may just be winning the handwriting competition at the Eisteddfod, but one day this may mean a big promotion. Knowing that hard work and challenging yourself to get better will pay off .

There will come a point where that sense of competition will click for them, but for now I’ll let them live in their happy little bubble of everyone is a winner, it seems a nice place to be – because that’s what mums do!

Cinderella shall go to the ball

Is it just me or is going out-out a big deal once you’re a mum? You don’t get the opportunity very often, and when you do you start to over analyse everything? What to wear, hair, nails, even down to what to drink (so that you really can let your hair down but not suffer too much in the morning)

Last year the in-laws attended the local rugby club’s annual ball and asked us if we wanted to go with them. We had just had Bear Cub number 3 and there was no way that I was feeling up to a night out, a couple of drinks down the local pub possibly, but the thought of getting fully dressed up for a whole night in heels was definitely not on my list of priorities.

It did get me thinking though that we hadn’t been out for a fancy occasion in a long time and that most weddings or special events that we’d been to over the last few years I was either pregnant, breast feeding or in charge of little people. When my husbands school announced that they were organising a series of fun raising events for a past pupil*, one of which being a ball, you didn’t have to ask me twice and here we are just a week away from the event.

Being excited is an understatement. Growing up I wouldn’t have described myself as a girly girl, but it’s certainly something I’ve grown into. I think having a girl has amplified this, all those pretty dresses and matching hair bows. We were very careful when the kids were growing up to be gender neutral. Never buying the pink building blocks, embracing bear cubs 2 asking for a doll one Christmas. We live in such a judgemental society that we encourage the children to be who they want to be, play with what they want to play with, dress how they feel comfortable. We give them direction, sure, but I would never stop them from being themselves, in the hope that as they go through life they will be accepting of others.

Cinderella Dresses

The stereotype in me does however hope that Bear Cub 1 will get the opportunity to dress up for a formal, and feel like a princess for the night – going shopping for the perfect dress and shoes, watching her and her friends in the run up getting excited and planning their special night, We had a ball when we left high school, but i’m lead to believe that some primary schools have them as well – what’s your thoughts on this? Verdicts out for me. Back to the ball, what do people wear to balls these days? Don’t get me wrong, it would be amazing if it was full on ball gowns and you got to dress up like a princess for the night. Maybe I could wear my wedding dress….. Wedding Dress

Too much? Yeah probably. I imagine, as with most fashion at the moment, anything goes? Long dress, bandeaux, trouser suit, but possibly not my usual evening wear.

PJ's

As this is a charity ball, I’ll donate the money I’d have spent on a new outfit to the Chris Babu Trust Fund. It’s not often you get the chance to really dress up so I’ll probably wear something long I’ve worn to a wedding in the past but glam it up differently – I have a fab orange dress that I love but is it just me or as you get a bit older does your confidence flounder and I’m not sure I want to stand out that much???

Down to the most important business – SHOES! Anyone else have an unhealthy obsession with shoes? Like every true Cinderella, the shoes are a big deal. I adore shoes – particularly high ones, the higher the better. These are a few of my favourites that I have;

Not sure I have the stamina for shoes this fun anymore, like most mums I spend the majority of my time in converse or boots, but don’t you just love looking down at pretty shoes, it distracts me from the rest of the body!!! Most exciting part of the weekend is an overnight babysitter. it sounds really bad, looking forward to time away from the kids, particularly as I spend all week missing them and being sad that working full time means not getting to spend every minute watching them grow, But having some downtime is also important for the mind and soul, and remembering that underneath all that nagging, the whiny tired mummy, there is also a fun loving, excited girl. It’s a balancing act – because that’s what mums do

 

*Chris Babu was involved in a life-changing accident in July 2015 after completing his GCSE exams. He was a pupil at St Peter’s Primary School and Corpus Christi High School. The money raised will help enable Chris to leave hospital and to go home. This will make life better for Chris and his family.

Sunday Singing

Last Sunday afternoon I was lucky enough to spend a fabulous hour with my baby bear. I know this sounds ridiculous, getting excited about one single hour but for all you mum’s out there with more than one person wanting your attention it’s so nice to be able to steal some one to one time. (Luckily it was before he’d had his jabs as this week he is not a happy bunny!)

I tried to take all my bear cubs to local groups whilst on maternity leave, these groups were where I made lots of new friends and what kept me sane. I was lucky enough to stumble across a lovely music group, Little Fizz and Party Fizz* when I was off with Bear Cub 1. Full of singing, instruments, bubbles and fun we would both look forward to every week. I returned with Bear Cub 2 and Baby Bear, and each time I went back to work, my mum continued to take the kids along to the classes (she’s a star that one)

Little Fizz

I fully believe that every child should have music in their lives, Recent studies have shown that music affects the physical, emotional, and intellectual development of babies and children and strengthens cognitive and sensory development (Importance of Music, Tiny Love).

Being back in work full time means that I don’t get to do as much of the fun stuff as I used to. I’m sure it’s the same with many of you, weekends are mainly spent in the supermarket or shuttling around between various activities.

When Liz (Little Fizz) mentioned she was doing an extra class on Sunday I jumped at the chance to go. Sat in the car park of the scout hall while baby bear has a little nap before the class, I suddenly remembered that the class was being filmed for a promotional video so I frantically routed in the baby bag and found a lip gloss and ran my hands through my hair (which had been in a mum bun since last night).

We went in and it was nice to have a little catch up with Lizz and some of the other mums. The bubbles were going, the music was playing and it was lovely to watch Griff toddle off and get stuck in. Once everyone had arrived the class started and we sang all the familiar songs including Incy Wincy Spider, Grand Old Duke, Sun Has Got His Hat On and Twinkle Twinkle. The last time I went to a class Baby Bear was only 8 months old so it was a different experience for me seeing how he interacted now he’s up on his feet and engaged in a different way.

 

Safe to say he wasn’t a fan of Old McDonald, walking to the door and waving goodbye when the song started. All the other songs were a hit though and the little ones made plenty of noise when the instruments were brought out. I couldn’t help smiling as I watched all their little faces beaming, little hands popping bubbles and bottoms bopping along to the music.

It’s little moments like this that you play back over and over in your mind, when you’re at work and your heart is aching because you miss them or you’re pacing the floor at 1:30 in the morning praying they’ll go back to sleep – because that’s what mums do!

*Little Fizz is an Award Winning, exciting and engaging combination of music, movement and learning through play within a fun, relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. Classes are held in Cardiff, Caerphilly and Penarth every weekday with Family Friendly Flexible Attendance. You are able to book Party Fizz for special celebrations and during summer holidays and half terms Little Fizz hosts themed parties

The perfect image

When writing Birthday Parties – Is it worth it? I started looking through my hard-drive at all the photos of the kid’s birthdays which I could include in the post. It became evident that a lot of the photos I have from the early days with Bear Cubs 1 and 2 are not great and decided not to post a picture of every party as there wasn’t a ‘best’ shot – the kids are either not looking at the camera, someone in the background is picking their nose or the lighting isn’t right…… and later realised this is a really sad way to go through life, only wanting the perfect image published to show how perfect life is.

When I was younger we had cameras with film reals in them, either 24 photographs or 36. You would really have to think whether you wanted to take the picture or not and make sure everyone was looking and hope for the best. You’d then wait for them to be developed and laugh at the pictures, but it really captured the moment as it was. Now, the image is instant, you take it and look straight at the screen to proof the photograph, quickly running around to clear the mess in the background, you know that part that is real life; the unopened mail, the upside down toy box, the dishes by the sink. They are the real picture, capturing the real memories, but we do it anyway.

The photograph I sent a friend this morning proving I was tired so was working from home in my pyjamas was not one of my unwashed face or my unbrushed hair, but one of my strategically placed laptop, paper work and pyjama clad legs. When a friend knocked the door and I answered, immediately apologising for my appearance – you can be sure that she will be getting a selfie tonight when I have my makeup and glad rags on. It’s much like going back through this blog entry with a grammar and smell check to make sure it is perfect and not letting everyone know quite how bad my writing skills are! We are always seeking that appearance that will impress or least offend.

Is this the way that we are pre-programmed?

Is it the way that the media has moulded us?

To celebrate the good shots and poke fun at the bad ones?

For every beautiful wedding photograph there are 100 not so beautiful photographs that the bride dismissed, for every selfie of you with a loved one, be it friend, family or pet, there are 1000’s more that were taken and deleted. To know that for every ‘candid’ photograph of the children, your phone memory is being used up by the million not so perfect pictures – and that the voice behind the lens is of a mother shouting “stop it, be nice, please smile, just one more, smile, smile, smile…..’ For me I think the reason I keep snapping away to get that one smiling photo is to try and capture the smile that is in my heart when I am watching any one of my bear cubs, and it’s not to prove that my life is perfect, just to capture the happiness that is in that moment – because that’s what mums do!

 

 

Birthday Parties – Is it worth it?

“Is this worth it” a question my brother in law asked me on the night before baby bear’s 1st birthday. We are stood in my kitchen as I’m frantically running around doing final preparations for the weekend’s celebrations.

Birthday planning for us this year (and every year) involves making and icing cake, plenty of cake, hanging decorations, blowing up balloons, filling party bags to fill, checking you’ve packed up the colouring sheets and party crafts, wrapping the presents and making sure you’ve charged the camera, to name just a few things. Even the husband is giving me a funny look as I’m sat there painting wooden letters of the birthday boys name, not really understanding why I’m doing this. All became clear in the morning when each letter had a matching coloured balloon attached. To me it’s the little details that have the biggest impact

 

It doesn’t feel like a lot to do or that I’m panicking and not in control of the situation but to a London lawyer with no children, I imagine it looked like utter chaos. To me this is life. If it’s not a birthday party to organise, there’s a dancing show or a magazine to put together or world book day costumes to make (yes I’m a homemade person not a shop bought kind of girl)

This year I wasn’t sure whether to arrange a party for baby bear or not. Would he know what was going on? But I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do for him what I did for the other bear cubs, and between them we have had some magical parties: 

Bear Cub 1:

Age 1 – Fairies

Age 2 – Teddy Bears Picnic

Age 3 – Disney

Age 4 – Ballerina Tea Party

Age 5 – Mermaids and Pirates

Age 6 – Palace Pets

Age 7 – Disco Disco Disco

Age 8 – Build A Bear (you’re never too old for a stuffed toy)

Bear Cub 2:

Age 1 – Diggers

Age 2 – Farmyard

Age 3 – Pirates

Age 4 – Farmyard

Age 5 – Football

Age 6 – Although it’s not his birthday yet, he already has told me that he want to have a Little Soldiers Bootcamp party following the one we went to on the weekend!

Baby Bear:

Age 1 – The Hungry Caterpillar

Hungry Caterpillar, Age 1

My friends are always telling me that I should start a party planning business. This is something I often think about, but I’m not sure you can put a price on the hours you spend lovingly making papier-mâché fish or sewing individual sequins onto a homemade tutu. Although as my garage is like Aladdin’s cave with all the props and equipment from previous parties, I suppose a lot of it is already done?

I’m not a shy person either which I feel helps a lot when you organise a party. For Bear Cub 1’s 1st birthday we hired someone to come and do a singing session. She was amazing and my little lady was used to her as we attended her weekly classes (In fact we still do with baby bear). However when it came to Bear Cub 2’s 1st birthday I was a little bit more confident that I could sit there and run through a few nursery rhymes myself, with the help of a few props and my mum sat next to me. At the pirate parties I adapted the age old Simon Says game to the pirate theme. I had the kids scrubbing the deck, climbing the riggings, and running around shouting “Aye Aye Captain”. I know that this isn’t something that every mum would be comfortable doing, but for me and from the upbringing I have had, it is the normal way our family do things.

I don’t have the best memory and there is a lot of my childhood that I can’t remember but what I do remember is there was always fun, and I can certainly remember the many, many birthday parties that I had. When I was 7 I had a Circus party. We made invitations from paper plates, mum made a clown cake with a lolly pop as the nose and my dad and uncle put on a magic show for us. It was in the local church hall and everyone dressed up. Just thinking about it now makes me smile and I hope that my children can look back on their parties and feel the same sense of joy. 

 

Clowning Around
Biffo and Boffo

 

We all know that every child is different and to that fact every parent is different. What works for one family isn’t the same for another family. So for every church hall party there might be a soft play party or a big play centre party or a piece of cake at the house – only you know what is right for your child and your situation.

 

Returning to the brother in law and his opinion on the pre-birthday preparations, as they leave the house that night he says to me “I’m going to make sure that everyone knows how much effort you put in.” But I don’t do this for the praise or recognition from anyone, me knowing that I have put all my heart into something I know the children will enjoy is enough – because that’s what mums do!

Because that’s what mums do

It’s 2:30 in the morning, I’m sat here in the armchair in the bedroom with bear cub 3 wrestling in my arms, staring at my husband wondering if I put my earphones in every night like him whether

1) Baby bear would just have to cry it out

2) Bear cub 1 or 2 would fall down the toilet in their slumberly nightly toilet dash

3) The house would get burgled

4) We’d wake up in Oz (considering the noise of the wind outside it is a possibility, but yes it is 2:30 in the morning and my mind is going strange places)

Then my mind races me back to what bear cub 1 said to me this morning as I’m taking in a pair of new trousers for her before 8am (as she just has to wear them) “mum, not only are you an Engineer, but you can bake, and sew, and you make our sandwiches.” My response “because that’s what mums do sweetheart”

And it got me thinking, this is what mums do (and dads, and grandparents, and all care givers) and when my husband and I decided to have children, this is what I signed up to.

I read an article this week where a lady reminds the reader that “These are the days” which is so very true (How a Stranger’s Comment Changed the Way I Parent). There is a new day tomorrow which may bring the same challenges as yesterday, a whole new set of memories, nothing spectacular may happen but it is now, it is happening and it is real and we must embrace and enjoy every single minute of it. There may be people out there that (seem to) have it all, the life you think you might want to have, but there are also people out there that see what you have and strive to have something similar – we are all different and are travelling along different paths, but the key is we are travelling, those wheels never stop turning and we must enjoy the ride – because that’s what mums do!