Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Run, baby, run!


The wall behind our upstairs toilet is surprisingly special.  It is the place the boys choose to display any stickers they've accumulated during the course of the day, in order to show Daddy in the morning.  I tend to remove them every few days, but if I'm honest, they don't trouble me as much as they probably should, aesthetically speaking.  I like that the boys are proud of their various wins (be they from teachers, dinner ladies, dentists or shoe shop assistants) and that they want to share their delight with Mr W.

Yesterday was Sports Day, so the space above the cistern was cleared and ready for a new assortment of stickers.  Everyone who participates gets one, you see.  Not just the podium finishes.  That said, there are different stickers for 1st-3rd place, followed by a general "Well done" for everyone else.  I like that.  It seems quite old fashioned these days to want to win.  But that can't be right.  Wanting to win is surely as old as the hills.  Surely no-one pops out of the womb thinking "Nah, don't worry about me, I'm just here to participate, dude" ?  I suspect that our attitude towards winning is shaped by our experiences - how we are treated when we go after attention, toys, food etc most likely affects how much we relish competition in later years.  But ultimately, I think we must all have an innate desire to do well, to thrive, to shine.

Anyway, last night FIVE stickers adorned the cistern wall.  Two per boy and a very special extra one...  

Yesterday afternoon, as melted ice lolly dripped down his chin in a sticky scarlet trail, my youngest son turned to me and asked: "Are you going to run in the Mummy race?"  I smiled.  My Mum, who'd come along in the hope of seeing someone ANYONE in the family finally follow in her footsteps and be a Sports Day winner, gave an indelicate snort.

"We'll see, munchkin"  I told him gently.

I was never much at all on the sports field.  I enjoyed netball, rounders and basketball, and occasionally made the B team, but it was very much Not My Thing.  If you wanted quick quips or soulful agonising over unsuitable boys, I was your girl.  If you wanted someone who could haul ass over a hockey pitch quickly...um...no.

<Pauses to consider whether it's a hockey pitch or a hockey field.  You see what we're dealing with here.>

Anyway, as mused upon in my Jan post on Labels (which I would totally link to here if I knew how - grrr...) these things tend to stick, and so it was that I continued through life determined that I couldn't "do sport".  As the years and my weight progressed, "doing sport" became even less likely / desirable, until one day when I looked at my boys and realised that I was in danger of not only setting them a really crappy example, but also missing out on a lot of fun myself.  I wanted to be a Mum who could run alongside them as they learned to ride their bikes, who could take them swimming without feeling like Shamu, and who could line up on Sports Day for the Mums race without feeling like a laughing stock.  It was that revelation which inspired me to lose nearly three stone, and have the pleasure of fulfilling 2 out of 3 of those wishes.

Yesterday was my first shot at the Mums race.  But was I ready to take it?

When the headteacher came along the line, asking for parents to head to the starting line, I hesitated.  It's hard to put down baggage you've carried for so long.  Then I kicked off my havaianas, gave my little boy a kiss, and walked (tummy-fluttering) up to the starting line.  My Mum was visibly shocked.  My son was clearly delighted.  I joined the other nervous, giggling Mums and we all good naturedly teased each other as we got into position.  I quietly noted an alarming amount of lycra and trainers.  Then the headteacher shouted "Go!" and it was ON.

Dear friends, I ran.  Dignity, pride, self-consciousness left for dust.  Grass beneath my in-urgent-need-of-a-pedicure feet; wind streaming through my desperately-need-the-greys-colouring hair; maxi dress flowing unhelpfully round my still-too-wobbly-for-my-liking tummy.  I threw myself so far forward that I thought I might fall.  Apparently, some Mums did.  There was no sisterly looking back.  10 Mums, running for pride, fun and who knows what other personal reasons.

I had a little look round at one point, heart already sinking in anticipation of last place, but was overjoyed to see I was firmly in the middle.  As we crossed the line, I made sure I was back to being friendly, smiley Mrs W.  The self-deprecating one who giggles "ooh, that was fun!" and makes light of her efforts.  As we puffed slowly back to our families, the sisterhood reunited.  We chuckled about how next year we'd train / wear a sports bra / lay off the Pinot Grigio & peanuts in preparation.

I came 5th or 6th out of those 10 women.  Arguably I still don't "do sport" very well.  But you know what?  I bloody loved it.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

I am a feminist

Lots of women standing on chairs.


Crap.  It's been six months since I last wrote.  Crappity crap.  Let's gloss over this failure on my part, and glide gracefully towards a far more important development.

Last night, I stood on a chair and shouted "I AM A FEMINIST!" at Caitlin Moran.  Not all by myself, because that would have been weird.

I was lucky enough to see La Moran at Battersea Arts Centre, as part of her "How to build a girl" tour.  I was prepared to be inspired, to laugh a lot, and to have to fight the urge to cover my younger sister's ears at some of the content (she's 28 and just got married, so really I need to let that go, but you know how it is...)

I was unprepared, however, to be asked to stand on my chair and holler the aforementioned feminist vow.  I felt more than a little uncomfortable, to be honest.  First, due to my ever-present fear of being huge and breaking things (for probable cause, see my Pampered Bliss post, Sep 2012), I was concerned for the chair.  Second, given that I really really needed a wee, I had a somewhat (hoho) pressing concern that after 2 children, my bladder appears to be fresh out of patience. But the main reason was this (I feel like we should whisper it.  Can we whisper please?):

I wasn't sure I could claim to be a feminist.

I think of myself as a strong woman.  I adore my female friends.  I was brought up believing that I could be absolutely anything I wanted - I don't think it ever crossed my mind that perhaps I couldn't do something because I was a girl.  I grew up thinking I'd probably get married and have children, but equally, if I didn't, I'd just crack on with being the CEO of something, wear some amazing suits and drive a porsche.  And that would be cool too.

The trouble is, since leaving work and becoming a stay at home Mum nearly six years ago, I've felt a little unsure about what that does to my feminist credentials.  Could I still claim to be one, when I'm at home all day, nurturing my small people and trying vaguely to get the house back to square one each night?  Would my working female friends scoff at any assertion that I was a feminist, when I earn nothing and contribute nothing financially to the household?  Not to mention that hideous box that I must now tick on surveys for profession: Housewife / Homemaker.  Ugh.  The word Housewife makes me grimace.  I didn't marry my house.  I married Mr W, poor chap.  Housewife makes me feel shackled and bound to the sink. It makes me feel like a frumpy frazzled woman with a housecoat and feather duster.  I loathe that word.  *Makes note to self: Must find new word for what I do all day that isn't a) freakin' horrible, and b) unnecessarily American.*

Anyhoo.  I am nothing if not a joiner-iner (totally a word) so I got on that chair and shouted those words with as much giddy abandon as my lady parts would permit.  And in the hours that followed, I nodded, cackled and belly laughed as Caitlin breathed new life into feminism for me.  The notion that someone can only be a feminist if they're a ball busting career gal?  Gone.  The concern that being a Mum and H-word rules you out of Team Feminism?  Wrong.  Instead of feeling apologetic for opting to stay home to raise my boys, I feel as though I can now look the world in the eye and say "Yup.  That's a thing I've chosen to do."  And actually, the more I relish that, the more I hope to set a shining example to the boys and bring them up with the understanding that women can do anything, be anything, achieve anything.  I'm helping to raise the next generation of male feminists.  Go me!

So thank you, Caitlin, for the wake up call.  For giving me a new perspective and a huge smile on my face.  Oh, and for reminding me to write or DIE (unpublished).  Wise words indeed.