A scare …

A recent health scare with one of my children demonstrated perfectly that, as parents, we really are always learning.

If you ever experienced any kind of cancer in your family, then like me and hubby, I expect that finding a lump on your child, which isn’t from a knock or a bump or a spot, or in any other way explainable, might raise a few alarm bells.

So when our son found a pea-shaped lump on his neck last week, which seemed to have come out of nowhere and was steadily getting larger and harder, we were understandably concerned. I had enough knowledge to know what I was seeing was likely to be a lymph node. But to me, lymph nodes had only ever come into discussion talking about cancer; my mum had breast cancer and I knew that it spread through her lymph nodes.

I made a doctor’s appointment straight away; and I’m happy to say our local GP practice are very good and can see you almost immediately, but even waiting 72 hours is huge when you’re a worried parent. And in the days leading up to the appointment, I broke down in tears several times, spoke to God more than usual and also begged my mum to be my son’s guardian angel and not let this awful disease steal another loved one from me. At work, unless distracted, I wasn’t at my most productive. And on the day of the appointment, when some trivial issue cropped up I had a mini-meltdown, to the point where my boss suggested I get a cup of tea and perhaps go home a bit earlier.


When the appointment came, our son, followed by hubby and I, walked into the doctor’s office and, between us, explained what our concern was. The lump was so big by now that it protruded quite visibly from my son’s neck.

The GP asked how our son was in himself, was he tired, lethargic, off his food, low on energy etc. No, no, no and no.He asked about recent illness, coughs, colds, stomach aches, earaches. Yes, there had been an earache about ten days ago, but nothing else. He felt all round my son’s head and neck and got him to lie down on the examination table to feel his tummy and lower abdomen. He was very thorough, kind and patient, and he put my son at ease which in turn put us at ease.

When his examinations were finished he explained to us that the swollen lymph node was likely as a result of a mild infection, probably the same thing that had caused the earache, and probably nothing to worry about. But if it didn’t go down within 3 weeks, or if our son started to experience any of the symptoms he had talked about earlier (tired, lethargic, off his food, low on energy) then we should take him straight back.

Our relief was so strong it was almost tangible. And I whispered my thanks skywards several times over the next few days. I hadn’t told many people about the lumps as I was so afraid it was was something awful, but afterward I shared it with a few friends and was surprised at how many of them, particularly guys, said they had the same. Apparently swollen lymph nodes in the neck are quite common for boys and men. Who knew … not me.

When I think about it, it’s easy to feel a bit silly for my overreaction, given that this is quite common. But I really didn’t have a clue. I had no brothers or dad to ask and hubby had never experienced it. It’s another parent lesson learned.

And I’m also very aware that for many people a GP diagnosis like ours is something they pray for but don’t always get. Hundreds of people every day could be finding lumps and changes on their body and when they go to the GP their prayers may not be answered like mine were. And there’s always the sensible school of thought that says if you’re ever unsure about your health it’s always best to get things checked.



The perfect family weekend


There’s nothing quite as marvelous as a proper family weekend.

You might wonder what I’m talking about, as surely every weekend can be like that, but sadly no … not in our house. With a husband who works Saturdays and a son who plays youth league football, it’s rare to get a weekend where we’re all home together with nothing to do but enjoy it.

And, more by luck than judgement we’ve just had a free weekend; and although it didn’t start out as intended, it turned into the perfect weekend.

My husband was very much looking forward to seeing our son play football, as work means he normally misses this, but the weather had other ideas and swamped the pitch so it was cancelled. Then his favourite football team lost quite badly in the Premier League and his mood was less than happy. Some cheering up was definitely required.

But with a glorious lie-in until 10am, followed by a late and lazy brunch it wasn’t too hard to lift his spirits. We then decided on a mooch around the local shopping centre. Not the best plan as hubby can turn from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde in a busy carpark, and I’m no fan of crowds. But good humour stayed with us. We looked in a few shops that piqued our interest. Our daughter grabbed some bargains in the sales and in HMV almost everyone found some treasure in their relocation sale.

We ended our little excursion with a stop by a marvelous cake stall, with huge and delicious cakes; and all chose our favourite. A quick stop at the market for some fresh strawberries and lovely Pink Lady apples and finally a bite to eat in everyone’s favourite fast food restaurant. And with all that food, an added bonus for me that no cooking was required that evening.

Family time is really important to us, so come Saturday night everyone surrendered their technology and we all sat down to enjoy a funny action movie while devouring our cakes–which were so big that some of us had leftovers for Sunday. And with a husband not drained by work, later that night when the children were in bed hubby and I had a trip down memory lane and curled up together to watch Carrie (1976) … Romantic, huh?

Sunday was just as enjoyable, and with obligatory grocery shopping out of the way we enjoyed another lazy day, pleasing ourselves. Hubby watched some of the new DVD he bought the day before, the children went to play with friends and I busied myself cooking everyone a lovely roast dinner. In case you’ve missed it we’re a family who does enjoy food.

But the best bit about this weekend was being all together, without distraction, from Friday through to Sunday. It felt like we’d had a proper rest, we’d had fun together, done things we enjoyed and were therefore armed and ready for whatever Monday and the rest of the week was preparing to throw at us.

Good times.


The teenage relationship minefield

As soon as my daughter started secondary school we were braced for the inevitable onslaught of flouncy teenage hormones and the dramatic first love. It’s what every parent dreads, and as parents who grew up in the 80s, we could only hope it wouldn’t be quite as brutal as that Kevin and Perry moment, when Kevin turns 13. But luckily for us, our daughter is quite mature and we soon discovered that most hormonal outbursts which, I’d like to note for the record, my husband leaves for me to deal with, seem easily resolved by providing large quantities of chocolate. We’re yet to hear such immortal phrases as “I never asked to be born” or “I hate my life”. And we’re also yet to experience a full-on door slamming moment.

And, when it came to that first relationship, my daughter moved up to secondary school taking her “first love” with her. But unfortunately for that romance, which had thus far lasted 11 months, my daughter found secondary school a liberating experience and quickly realised she had outgrown the middle school boyfriend, both in stature and emotion. She was having too much fun making new friends and learning new things to be bothered with the trappings of a tweenage relationship. Particularly with a boy who sulked if she didn’t spend all her break and lunchtime with him and told her she’d put on weight when she bought a cookie for lunch … I kid you not!

Her suggestion that they remain friends was not received very well and the now ex-boyfriend has never really forgiven her. Still if nothing else he did us a favour in providing an excellent demonstration that, at their age, boys and girls are in such different emotional places that any such relationships are unlikely to work. I mean, seriously? At my daughter’s age I still had a Mickey Mouse poster on the wall.

But secondary school is an environment unlike any other. And it seems most young people can’t wait to become adults and they believe a proper grown-up thing to do is to ask someone out who they’ve never so much as spoken to and expect to be swapping spit within the hour … Yuk!

Thankfully my daughter finds this just as distasteful as we do. And the fact she’s at least a foot taller than most of the boys around her only reaffirms the belief that there’s no point in looking for any meaningful romances just yet. But unfortunately, some of the girls she knows are a bit more eager; and some things I hear via my daughter make my skin crawl. I’m desperate to show her that good things come to those who wait, particularly when it comes to boys and relationships. But how …

Finding the answer in the pages of a book

The answmy-lifeer came to me quite by accident. While trawling the bookshelves in a local charity shop I came across a young adult novel with an enchanting cover: My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpartick. The blurb was quite interesting and I decided to have a read; 400+ pages in two days; I couldn’t put it down.

The story is your basic teenage romance, although older teenagers (17+). They fall in love slowly, building a trust through conversation and experiencing each other’s lives so their feelings develop naturally over time. The boy treats the girl so well, and she has a constant inner voice that provides a sense check to all her actions.

Despite some harsh language from one of the characters and respectfully written sex scenes, I believe the book is ideal to share with my daughter. Just as I read and fell for lifestyles and ideals shared in the teenage novels I read in the 80s, it’s my hope that this fictional account of a trusting relationship will help my daughter set some expectations of her own futures relationships. So that when the time is right for her to want to date it’s because she wants to and not just because everyone else around her is doing it.

The Learning Mum’s note: if you like the idea of what I’m talking about and believe you want to try something similar I would strongly suggest you read the book first. We all have different standards and expectations for our children; and they are all individual people. My daughter and I have a great relationship and can talk about anything. I know she is mature enough to understand that when I recommend this book to her I am not suggesting she copy the characters actions, but rather looks at the dynamics of their relationships. And I’m definitely not suggesting a sexual relationship at 17, even though this is above the legal age of consent in my country.   

Homework … ugh

Remember when you were a child, how much you hated homework because there were a million other things you’d rather be doing? And how you couldn’t wait to be a grown up, because grown-ups never got homework.

Well, let me tell you, if you decide to have children, that’s a load of crap!

I have a child in middle school (elementary school) and a child in secondary school (high school). Both get homework, every week, in my older child’s case it’s often every day. In fact recently, between Monday and Wednesday she received twelve pieces of homework; the most she has ever received in such a short space of time.

Trying to be responsible parents, my husband and I encourage our children with their homework. But even for us, it’s no less frustrating.

For example, my youngest gets set homework twice a week; spellings and maths; and he has one week to complete it in. We make time for him to do this, usually on a Sunday afternoon, putting other family activities on hold, if we have to. But although he’s very bright and confident, we still have to make sure it’s completed properly and check it with him, so he can review any mistakes. And that’s just the maths! Spellings, are a much more painful affair. Every week he gets 12 words to learn; and he has to write a sentence for each one. Try asking a 9/10 yr old to put words like ‘borough’, ‘dictatorship’ or ‘superfluous’ into a sentence. They’re not exactly words that crop up in everyday conversation.

We encourage use of the dictionary for unusual words and we talk the meanings through. But even as an adult it can be difficult to come up with a sentence in the right syntax. Spellings can take as long as 45 minutes to complete because there’s just no interest, so during this time, it’s impossible for us to get anything else done, because if we don’t don’t sit by him ready to assist, he goes to find something more interesting to do.

The homework my eldest gets comes thick and fast; and her school suggests she spends around 30 minutes on each assignment, unless it’s project work. She has 5 classes a day and each one can issue homework. While it’s more varied and interesting than her brother’s, that’s not always how she sees it. And as she’s still learning to manage her time, so some days she tells just 5 minutes before bedtime that there’s an assignment due the following day which needs printing, or is otherwise not quite finished.

Assignments can include simple but time-consuming things like designing a poster, internet research or really involved pieces that take time and focus, like explaining how Earth’s magnetic field works. And although she’s great at keeping on top of things, as a parent you need to be available to support. And you can’t always go out at the drop of a hat if your child has homework, because that has to come first.

This, of course, is before I mention all the essentials that both children require us to have at home, such as a printer (with paper and ink), for online homework we need a computer and internet connection available. Then their’s glue, cellotape and staples for projects that need a little something extra. Nope … homework is not something you get to say goodbye forever to if you have children.


Not another blog …

The time has come to start a blog … again.

I’ve dabbled with blogs in the past, but I always found them a burden to maintain; and post after distant post would becomes nothing more than apologies to my smattering of followers and readers as to why I hadn’t posted sooner. The truth was I had very little to say because I was writing about things that didn’t hold my interest.

So this time the blog is about something I’m utterly passionate: that’s motherhood and family life.

Why ‘The Learning Mum’?

The title may lead you to believe that I’m new to parenthood, but I’m not. I’ve been at it for over 13 years. However, we are all in a constant state of learning. Every day brings new situations, new challenges, new achievements. Every day, big or small, directly or indirectly, we will always encounter something new.

And as parents, how we deal with these things not only affects us, but our families too. So this is basically a journal for me. A way to record everyday things; how I feel about them and how they affect me … and my family. Everything you read, unless otherwise stated, is in my own words.

About me

With social media it’s very easy to say goodbye to your privacy; especially when writing an online journal. But I’m not about to give you the ins and outs of a duck’s backside when it comes to my family; all posts will be carefully written to protect our privacy at all times.

What I am happy to share is that we’re a family of four: mum, dad, daughter, son. I adore my children; my husband is my rock. I’m fiercely in love with my family and I’m at my very best when we’re all together.

I’m also happy to share that I have a job, which makes me a working mum. And I’m studying for a further qualification on my chosen career path so I can progress to the next level.

Wellbeing wise, I hate the gym, as well as most forms of structured exercise. However I do believe in a healthy lifestyle and remain active with plenty of walking, using stairs instead of elevators and impromptu races down the street with my children (it amuses the neighbours). I actively follow a healthy balanced diet and try to positively influence my family to the same (not always successfully).

Although I strive for perfection in many things, including pastry and the ability to fold a fitted sheet, I’m by no means a perfect person. However through good times and bad all my experiences have contributed to the person I am now, for better or for worse; and I strongly believe in looking forward because that’s the way we’re moving.