The talk…

As parents, we know that this moment is coming. 

In fact, I remember joking about it in the delivery room, staring into the adoring eyes of my eldest as I held her in one hand. Now, nine and a half years later, that moment has arrived.

She’s noticed her body changing and the bodies of her friends. Her mother has also attempted to impose a preparedness kit on me, that consists of chocolates and cuddles. Niceties aside, I recognised that a growing young woman would need facts.

Puberty can be terrifying if you don’t know it’s coming. There’s a world of changes that will take place over the space of a decade, without warning; I wasn’t going to leave her unprepared.

At her age, change is not impossible; the process of puberty has been reported in children as young as eight, with girls being notoriously early developers. As a woman, I had asked her mum to discuss menstruation with her but was left disappointed by her efforts.

I’m neither inarticulate, nor shy, but I needed help on this one.

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Shopping

I hit the keyboard, or in this case the phone browser in search if child friendly reference material.

As luck would have it, a friend of mine had recommended a really good book, but I decided to do a quick check of what was out there. Amazon didn’t disappoint.

The trick here is not to be sucked in by well illustrated covers, but to read the reviews from verified purchases. Not to put too much emphasis on this but this is one conversation that as a parent, you can’t afford to mess up.

Not surprisingly, there is quite a range of advisory material for puberty. Some aimed at parents to guide conversations and some written specifically for children. The book that my friend had recommended appeared to fall into the latter category and ticked all the boxes according to the reviews. Changing bodies, menstruation, attraction, moods and even sex. I clicked one copy into my basket.

Catalyst

Approaching my weekend,  I picked the cubs up from after-school club on Thursday. As is the norm, the floodgates of information and questions opens. This evening, she is full of questions.

‘Dad, I’ve been doing a lot of learning about bodies and how they change. What’s sex? and do you have to have it?’

Before I could answer, she continues.

‘Mummy was talking to me about periods and all of it and some of the girls at school have been talking about sex’

Ok; well what have they been saying?

Let me just get this out there; I think that there are very few conversations that you shouldn’t have with your children; done in the correct way, most information can be handled sensitively but informatively, without inducing fear nor wonder. Kids are sponges; they’re nourished by information and in this digital epoch, there are a lot of places that they can get it.

What I heard next both scared and angered me.

‘Well my friends haven’t said anything really but when mummy was talking about periods I asked her about sex’

Ok; so what did mummy say?

‘Well she was busy so she just walked away, so I waited until night time, when I couldn’t sleep and I looked up sex on my tablet [PC]’

I almost crashed. I had asked my ex to set up an age appropriate account on all of her devices, following a similar incident last year. I also asked her to restrict browser settings to ‘Safe Search’, which would limit access to inappropriate material. I doubted that either had been done and what I was told next confirmed this.

‘Loads of scary things came up that I didn’t understand and it really scared me! I turned it off! do you have to have sex daddy??’

I suppressed my rising ire and took a few seconds to think. The irresponsibilities of my ex would have to wait for now; this was the time for damage control.

Sweetheart, sex is nothing to worry about and more importantly you don’t have to think about it for a long time yet. You really must be careful when you use the internet and the things that you saw were not meant for you; try not to think about them.

‘Can we remove Chrome from my tablet?’

I don’t think that’s necessary, but when you come back to mine from mummy’s bring it with you and daddy will make sure that you can’t see things that you’re not supposed to. Now, when we get home, I have a present for you that will help to answer all your questions and then we can have a talk.

Fortuitously, the book had arrived the day before. Some of the reviews had stated that the depiction of sex within it may have been better left to older children. With this in mind, I had wondered if I should sit on it until her tenth birthday. Now, I feel that decision had been taken out of my hands.

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At home, she tore at the protective wrapper eagerly.

What’s Happening to Me? (Girls Edition) (Facts of Life) by Susan Meredith sat in her hands.

‘Thanks Dad! two of my friends at school have this book!’

Double confirmation that now was the right time for this. Having skimmed through it and rewrapped it for her, I gave her the options of reading it herself or us going through it together.

She chose the former, telling me that she would read it before bed tonight. In fact, she went from cover to cover in about 45 minutes. She ran up to me and gave me a big hug.

Do you have any questions?

‘Yes; lots; but can we read it together over the next few nights?’

Absolutely.

Damage Control

His bedtime is 7pm; hers is 8pm, but the rule is that she fills that hour creatively. She usually reads, but is not averse to origami or sewing. After tucking her brother in and going through our usual, goodnight; sleep tight sing-song, she calls me in.

I read and begin a guided Q&A session. Taking it slowly, we discuss the basic body changes around weight, height, pubic hair and breasts. I use the correct names for body parts, shying away from nicknames and the like. I don’t see the point in learning something twice.

As expected, she takes it all in her stride. We have appropriate levels of laughter but mainly, this is about reassurance; I’m aware that I’m sewing seeds of body confidence that could stay with her for life.

We will spend the next few nights working through the book, including sex and sexuality.

Conclusion

I’ll end on a couple of points. We need to give young minds both the credit and respect they deserve. Handled appropriately, they can handle almost anything as their brains have the elasticity to do so.

My second point is really a warning; please do not allow young minds to wander the internet alone. Their appetite for knowledge can lead them to places they do not know how to get back from and the damage can be everlasting.

They deserve knowledge and protection in equal measure.

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BSD

‘Mum has a boyfriend…’

This one is a mixed bag! strap in, keep up and enjoy!

The days between me last seeing the cubs and my weekend had dragged. The Thursday pick-up couldn’t come soon enough.

The after-school club collection was the usual long hugs and excited storytelling. The immediacy of filling in the last seven days crammed the next few minutes. Youngest however maintained his usual reserved stance.

How was school?

‘Good’

What was your most favourite part?

‘Some of it’

What was your least favourite part?

‘None of it’

Ok. Good to catch up.

‘So what’s the plan this weekend dad?’ eldest chipped in; recognising that her brother would yield no more for now.

On Saturday, we’re going to a Kung Fu lesson, then on Sunday we’re going to do a ParkRun. Youngest quickly found his tongue.

‘I already know Kung Fu dad!’ he replied cheerfully. I expected an explanation in line with his recent, I can drive now dad as I’ve seen you do it loads of times; you just press that button and turn the wheel a bit and hey-presto, but his conclusion hit even a well seasoned, left-field receiver like me.

‘When someone turns around, you punch them in the back; then when they turn again, you kick them in the stomach!’

Good. Grief.

His sister was reduced to hysterical laughter whilst I shook my head in disbelief. That’s not quite right darling; I think we’d better wait until class to learn the correct way. Until then, no punching or kicking anyone please. He tilted his head, before nodding ok.

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Saturday

As it’s the weekend, and training doesn’t begin until 13:00, morning routine is changed. Lie ins all round, apart from youngest, who found his into my bed bright and early. It was still dark outside so we decided to share an audiobook via headphones.

Everybody gets porridge. It’s going to be a high energy day so we all need slow release. They’re then headed into the shower, while I pull out some suitable fightwear.

Things seem to be taking a long time and despite beginning early, I feel the advantage slipping away. My ire rises and I start snapping. He’s ready; I’m in full uniform but she is in her underwear. I then notice a squeezed tube of toothpaste on her floor. I become extremely irritated. We’d had new carpet fitted a couple of months ago and I’d already chastised her for wandering around and brushing her teeth, dropping toothpaste on the carpet.

She’s scolded, and told to hurry up. Whilst she grabs her bag of bits, I pull the rest of our packed lunch together. Neither for love nor for money, will youngest put his coat on. Then he can’t find his shoes; I suggest that looking may help. Then she has no trainers, as they’ve all been left at mummy’s. I ensure that she has good socks on then give her some casual slip ons to wear. We head to the car.

As I strap her brother in, her tablet needs charging so her second action, after belting herself in is to seek out the USB socket in the centre console. To do this, she has to lift the soft armrest. I get in the car and hit my elbow on the now exposed edge. I snap..

YOU TWO ARE REALLY ANNOYING ME TODAY!


It’s fifteen miles before anyone speaks. They both had their heads buried in electronic devices but the tension was palpable.

‘Dad; I’m sorry that you find us annoying. We don’t mean to be’

Eldest’s words cut like a knife.

No darling; I’m sorry. It’s not that I find you annoying at all, it’s just that sometimes your actions can frustrate me; usually I can deal with it but today I had an outburst and that wasn’t right.

To complete the emotional triangle, youngest chips in;

‘Do you still like us?’

That hurt; a lot. And so it should. I’d fallen so far below my standards of parenting. It was a rapid reminder of the power of words on young minds. I had to repair this; fast.

Listen; I love you two more than anything and that never ever changes; I do get frustrated at times and very, very rarely, I say something like that that I immediately regret. It’s a reaction, rather than a response. A response means that I’ve thought before I’ve spoken; a reaction means I’ve spoken before I’ve thought, but never, ever forget this; there’s not a day that goes by that I’m not thankful for having you too wonderful people in my life and I will never stop loving you.

I learnt a lesson today and I have a theory. My words and actions will probably work to erase my harsh outburst but I fear that it takes a number of congruent actions over a length of time to build back that trust to 100%

Be mindful of how you interact with little minds.

School 1


On the way home

Kung Fu transpired to be a mixed affair. He had an abundance of energy and a shortage of concentration; exactly what you’d expect in a 5 year old. She was better placed having taken Karate lessons a few years back. We kept it at falling correctly, kicking and punching.

I decided to call time after the umpteenth time of being asked for snacks, a break, water, a pop to Aunty’s and anything else to get away from my instruction. It wasn’t bad for a first attempt.

A quick visit to relatives and we headed home.

All of us are chatty, discussing the lesson, the chocolate we ate at Aunty’s and what we were going to do tomorrow. Without trainers for her, the ParkRun was postponed. Not the whole thing obviously.

‘Mum has a new boyfriend! he’s taller than you and has a nickname!’

Good for mum. With the exception of wanting to know who is around my cubs, I have little interest.

‘The last one she had didn’t stick around too long though! she wants to get married but I’ve told her that I don’t want a stepbrother or sister! one is annoying enough!’

I chuckle. She continues.

‘I’m not sure about her plan is but she can’t just keep rummaging around in men like that; it can’t be doing her any good’

Admittedly, at this point I nearly crash the car for laughing. We’re driving on the motorway, through the narrow lanes of roadworks too.

The whole car is full of laughter, and nothing makes me happier.

Laughter is such a great sign and for us, as a family it seems to be our greatest medicine.

As for their mum, I wish her every success in her quest…

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BSD

Couch to OK…

Let me begin with a disclaimer.

I’m not what you would call a slouch. I like exercise. I’ve grown up around it and I’m vocal about the benefits of maintaining health and wellbeing through exercise. Recently, I have been a bit of a slouch.

In a way, I forgot the golden rule that exercise serves to callous an individual against most of life’s stresses and strains. Instead, I gave in to those stresses and strains. Both exercise and diet suffered.

One of the [many] positive outcomes of finding out I’m not yet on my final path, was that my cholesterol level was quite high. Not wanting to bring on what I had feared was ailing me, I decided to buck my ideas up and get back on track.

Running

I’m on week two of the ‘Couch to 5K’ training program. I began while I was still under the perceived heart scare as in my head, 5k wasn’t a massive distance as I’d happily run 12 miles before; admittedly, it was a few years ago. I figured that it could only do me good and if I did have a heart condition, that distance wouldn’t tax me too much.

The program is an app that you download to your phone. It’s backed by the BBC Sport as part of their ‘Get Inspired’ initiative, aimed at getting Brits to take regular exercise. You get a choice of coaches, who happen to be personalities from the broadcasting world. They tell you when to run, how to run and how often. The only thing not provided is will power.

It seems to be working and more importantly, I’m enjoying being out on my feet. They do a ‘Couch to 10k’ too, for those without perceived heart conditions..

Follow me

Leading by example is important to me so I’m also sourcing Park Runs for me and the cubs. School has notified us with mild concern about their body mass index (BMI) and whilst I’ve never held much truck for the system I have noticed that both of my darlings are a little on the big side.

Rather than beginning to stigmatise and label them at such a young age I intend to just make them more active when we are together. This weekend they are coming to a Kung Fu session with me. I can’t wait.

Killing me softly

This Christmas just past a friend, work colleague and neighbour of mine invited me to his house for dinner with his family on the 27th. He has three children of comparable age to mine and we occasionally have play dates.

For the meal, we were accompanied by his partner’s family; her sister, her mother and her father. Her father was doing the majority of the cooking so we sat in the kitchen keeping him company. He looked in his late 70’s and had noticeable poor posture. He revealed the reason in a conversation.

’40 years of sitting at a desk has rendered my abdominal muscles useless’

That scared me. My job used to be more practical, but promotions have meant that I’ve been more managerial for the last decade or so. Work does give us the option of using ‘standing desks’ but I’d always declined, favouring getting up and moving around every hour or so. The only problem with this approach is that I tended to get stuck into a task and by the time I lifted my head, two hours had passed.

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I set my watch alarm to the hourly alert. The annoying function that I had disabled many moons ago. Now, every time the double beep sounds, I get up from my seat, perform 30 star jumps followed by 30 squats. In time, I hope this will become a Pavlovian response that will pay dividends in later life.

If anything good has come of my near miss, it was highlighting the fact that I had been taking my health and welfare for granted.

I owe myself and the cubs so much more than that.

BSD

…And breathe…

I never fail to marvel at the complexities of the human body; especially my own.

Over the past two or three months, I have been suffering. A nagging tightness in the chest that began to radiate. This eventually caused headaches and dizziness, but it was not too long before pain and discomfort spread to my left arm.

I have rudimentary medical training. It comes with what I do. I suspected cardiovascular issues, but in a ridiculous act of fear induced denial, I did no more than wait, for far too long. Eventually just before Christmas I finally sought medical help.

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The NHS wasted no time. I was plugged in, X-rayed, stethoscoped and generally very closely inspected by anyone who had served time at medical school. My GP even went to the extent of phoning me twice, in the evening.

I quickly received a letter from the Rapid Access Acute Chest Pain Clinic in my local hospital. They wanted to see me on the 21st. The letter stressed the importance of attending the clinic, but also attempted to reassure that an appointment was in no way indicative of a heart condition.

I could not ignore the pain; it was now a constant.

Sitting in the waiting room I held the company of many. Noticeably all much my senior and in varying degrees of failing health, I could not feel anything other than incongruous.

A nurse called my name.

It was ECG time again. I was asked to strip to the waist and lie down. For the ease of parking I’d travelled on the bike so my attire was a little of a hindrance as the nurse needed access to my feet for the sensors. It took longer to hook me up than it did to get a reading. Rather than getting dressed fully, I put my teeshirt back on.

Returned to the waiting room, I looked even more out of place.

I was eventually summoned by a more mature lady in scrubs, with a stethoscope around her neck. I duly followed.

She sat me down and asked me to remove my teeshirt again, so she could listen to my chest and back. I breathed in and out as requested as she moved her pre-warmed device to various locations on my torso.

She then prodded and poked.

“Does this hurt here?”

Yes

“Here?”

Yes

“Here?”

Not so much

“Here?”

Very much.

My chest spasmed and contracted away from her touch.

The Clinical Practitioner sat down. “Tell me when it hurts; for example, how do you feel on exertion?”

The pain usually subsides or is non-existent.

“Ok” she said, as she took off her glasses.

“It is my opinion that you have nothing wrong with your heart. Your ECG is fine; your blood pressure is fantastic and your bloods, although you show slightly elevated levels of cholesterol show nothing else”

I tilted my head in curiosity.

“You’ve torn a pectoral muscle working out”

So, basically, I thought I was dying, but I’ve just…ripped a tit?

She smiled. “Yes”

I laughed. Very, very loudly and slightly hysterically. She began to laugh too. This continued for some time, to the point where her colleagues came in to see what was happening.

I apologised to her [and the entire NHS] for wasting her time.

“Better to be safe than sorry” she reassured.

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Sitting astride my bike I reflected on how my mindset had changed at the impact of such a serious illness. I’d rescued my diet, taking Omega3 oils and eating a clove of garlic a day, as well as ensuring that I got my 5 a day.

I’d also considered creating video diaries for the cubs, should the eventual prognosis be, not so good.

I’m lucky. I already have a healthy regard for life and I try to remain grateful for everything I have, not less my gorgeous cubs. More importantly, it was the reality of my mortality while they are so young that weighed heavily upon me. Selfishly, I didn’t want to be without them. Watch this space…

For now, I’ve dodged a bullet but it served as a good reminder to maintain a healthy lifestyle; sleeping, eating and exercising well.

I might give the kettlebell swings a miss for now though.

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BSD

 

 

When hope isn’t enough.

Something’s going on and I’m not sure what.

About two months ago (maybe more) my body started to feel differently. When I say my body, I mean my chest. When I say my chest, I mean, the area where my heart is. I really couldn’t think of a better way to write that..

In the tail end of the last year, things started to really ramp up in both my personal and professional life. I changed roles in my workplace and was given a baptism of fire. It was more full-on than I had experienced in a very long time. My energy was being pulled in every direction; I had to relinquish some activities and my beloved BSD blog suffered neglect. I had to prioritise.

Two other elements of my life became neglected; my fitness and my diet. Skipping workouts became the norm as did convenience foods. Processed crap was back on the menu as contactless payments at a fast food outlet are a lot quicker than putting basic ingredients together into a decent meal.

I had my annual fitness test at work, which I scraped through. I put it down to age but decided that I would schedule some moderate workouts.

The intention to train three times a week was there, but the intent fell away to other pressures quite quickly. They were only short workouts too, but intense; I value HITT.

Dadding

Coparenting was failing. Apart from missing the cubs due to an inequality in access, things had taken a more sinister turn on the maternal side. Details aren’t for this entry, but I will disclose in time. It spurred me to take action.

More time; more energy needed; more stress.

The creeping realisation that my energy reserves were actually a finite resource was always a difficult premise; historically I’ve solved most things by going at them harder but this was getting more difficult as a game plan.

Something had to give.

Honesty

I’d been lying to myself about the pains I had been experiencing. Infrequent at first, then more regularly. A pressing feeling in my chest, towards the left and in the upper quarter. Easy to dismiss as anything too serious, but hard to ignore due to its persistence.

A gym session will shake it. Or a run. Or perhaps a bit of fresh air.

It didn’t.

At Christmas; it became almost impossible to ignore, worse still, I was now getting irregular, but strange sensations in my left arm. Then, one day, into my jaw. Even without any medical training, this should be a red flag to anyone. I went to see the Doctor.

Well actually, I registered with a new surgery and undertook a general assessment, as is the norm. I told the nurse of my pain; she immediately strapped me in to an electrocardiogram (ECG). It took longer to connect the leads than it did to take a reading.

The nurse ripped off the ticker tape, took one look at it and left the room. I didn’t take it as a good sign. She returned quickly, apologised and informed me that she had taken it to the Doctor for a quick look. we did the rest of the assessment, which turned out to be questions before she left the room again.

On her return, she said that the Dr wanted to see me in a couple of days. This reassured me slightly, as an appointment in a couple of days would be futile if I was in immediate trouble.

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The National Health Service (NHS)

Later that evening, my phone rang. It was my new Doctor. That worried me. He told me not to worry, but he was making sure that I was going to attend the appointment with him in two day’s time. Absolutely I was.

Later that week, sat in front of the General Practitioner, he went through a series of questions.

  1. Do I smoke?
  2. Do I exercise?
  3. Does the pain increase or decrease with exercise?
  4. Do I suffer from anxiety or depression?
  5. Do I suffer from pain in my calves?
  6. Do I have dizzy or vacant spells?
  7. Had I ever used drugs?
  8. Had I ever taken steroids?

Strangely, I took the last question as a compliment. I guess I hadn’t slacked off that much. Men’s minds.

He then asked me about what I did for a living, and my working hours. When I told him the hours I worked, he put his pen down and stared at me.

“Mr (enter real name); imagine you have a brand new car and over the space of two years, you put 150,000 miles on that car; what sort of state do you think that car will be in at the end of those two years?”

Is it a Toyota Hilux or Landcruiser?

He stared through my attempts to deflect from the truth.

“I would seriously consider reducing the hours you work”

Easier said than done. He then booked me in for bloods and a chest X-Ray.

Fear

Having answered ‘yes’ to a lot of the wrong questions I was asked, I went home to stew. What if the pain in my calves that I had experienced during training sessions wasn’t muscle soreness but thrombosis?

Had I been neglecting something obvious or had six month of prolonged stress (probably longer) finally started to take its toll?

Whatever the outcome I admitted to myself that I’d left it far too long before seeking help. So many ailments can be treated successfully with early intervention. I knew that, but had neglected to act in my own best interests early on.

Bloods done I was slightly annoyed that the nurse stuck me in the arm that I hadn’t mentally prepared. I hate needles. But, I’m pretty fond of being alive so I sucked it up. I had the day off so I immediately presented myself to hospital for an X-Ray. After driving round looking for a parking spot, I went home and transferred to two wheels. I was in and out extremely quickly.

The next day the Doctor rang me. Again. I think I might store him as a regular contact. My bloods were back and my Cholesterol was high. Very high. I reflected on a Christmas of biscuits and rich cakes. I was relieved.  High Cholesterol was a precursor to more serious heart conditions, but it was also treatable with lifestyle changes.

My Doctor, who was clearly not taking any chances and was an extremely thorough man had also referred me to the Rapid Access Chest Pain clinic at my local hospital. I was worried again.

I realise, and am reminded time and time again of how good the health service is in the United Kingdom.

Message

I don’t usually end a piece with a direct message and in fact, this is not the end as I have my appointment at the clinic tomorrow but, I want to ask anyone who reads my words to  make sure that you act early on any health concerns that you have. Don’t leave it, don’t try to walk it off and don’t wait. Modern medicine can do amazing things if given an early opportunity and dedicated health professionals will bend over backwards to ensure your wellbeing.

You only have to do two things:

  1. Be honest with yourself
  2. Don’t give in to fear.

 

To be continued…

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BSD

 

Eye’ve seen it all now.

In the sprint up to Christmas, it’s a time of many birthday parties and events; the cubs and I are busy.

My weekend will be punctuated by one, 6th birthday party tomorrow but first, my two are due an eye test.

This was a fall out event from daddy having a new prescription a few weeks back. The optometrist and I got chatting and I realised that the cubs had never had an eye test. I booked one in.

Our last visit was a mirthful event as they were both on top form. At one point, the optometrist had to put the tools of her trade down as she was laughing so much. Apparently, say cheese! was not the correct response when looking for retinal scarring.

As we head toward the opticians, I ask them both to run through the rules of engagement (we’ve adopted these to keep innocent people safe from our shenanigans).

  1. Always say please and thank you;
  2. Look where we are walking;
  3. We’re not as funny as we think we are; keep it down.

More can be added dependant on circumstance and occasion. For this occasion, we also included ‘swivel chair rotations will be limited to 180 degrees; no exceptions’.

‘Ok dad; we’ll keep operations obtuse’ chimes in the eldest, impressing me. Youngest nods agreement, but I’m unconvinced he’s on message.

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Steady nerve

Having watched me get tested, their reluctance to sit in the chair and cooperate is non-existent. Youngest goes first, on a machine that checks the condition of the retina, an autorefractor. His sister positions herself expectantly near the viewing screen.

The assistant adjusts his chair to bring him in line with the machine. ‘Try not to move and I’ll adjust the machine to you‘. He nods. And moves.

Ok; this time, try not to move…

He nods. then moves.

This happens three more times and I can tell that attrition is having an affect on the assistant. Before I can address the issue, eldest positions herself behind youngest and administers an effective headlock. That does the trick.

Picture taken and a ‘that all appears fine‘ from the assistant is cue for a quick scuffle. It seems that youngest wasn’t going to let the headlock go unanswered.

 

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Her turn next. As she sits herself down, her brother eagerly gets behind her to begin a revenge headlock. I assure him that it’s not necessary, and plop him on my lap.

She’s the model of a model patient and the optician is impressed. A second ‘All good‘ is exactly what daddy wants to hear.

I begin to walk out but the I’m stopped. Apparently that was just the pretest. I thought that was too easy.

We’re moved to the room with the wall charts.

In turn, the cubs have various devices strapped to them and are asked to read, decide and look for numbers in colours. The tonometer makes them both jump and giggle, but the fun quickly wore off when eldest asked the optician why she bought a machine to blow air into people’s eyes.

Result(s)

“That’s all done sir! both your children need glasses!”

They both cheer, and race out into the main shop, bumping into an innocent bystander. I guess they do need glasses. I apologise, and reflect on the damage this will do to my budget.

They split like a display team to the male and female displays of frames. The adult displays. I shepherd them back to the children’s sections. Thankfully, the store has placed the more expensive ranges higher up. Their eyes are naturally drawn upwards.

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He goes straight for a pair of specs with a Batman logo. They’re free, thanks to our amazing National Health Service. Great result (two pairs of glasses have cost me just over £300…). She goes for a lovely, purple rimmed pair; they match her coat and the fetching, cat eared headband that she has on.

The assistant places them on each of them in turn, then begins to take various measurements. She hands me her cat ears in order to get a proper fit. I put them on my head in order to keep my hands free to restrain her brother, who has clearly hit the limits of his concentration.

Business concludes without much drama. Both cubs hearts visibly shrink when the assistant tells us that the glasses will be ready for collection in a week. They wanted their reward now. I explained about the process of creating the lenses to their specific prescriptions, which seemed to bore them into submission. They both looked at me, looked at each other and giggled.

It wasn’t until we had walked the full length of the shopping centre to get back to the carpark that I realised I was still wearing the cat ear hair band.

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BSD

Tired

I exhausted myself; it’s why I’ve been quiet.

Here in the UK, we have a turn of phrase for being busy; we call it spinning plates. It harks back to the circus act of erecting a number of head height poles into the ground, then balancing spinning plates on them.

The trick of it was to wobble the stick in a circular motion, causing said balanced plate to spin and remain in situ unaided. The skill arrived in getting all your plates spinning, by running to each stick in succession as they slowed, friction getting the better of them, and impart more energy to keep them going.

To be successful, the artist needed to be a blur of movement between each.

The act never lasted long.

Back to reality

My plates were projects, desires, goals and work. It was fun for a while, imagining the utopia of each whilst imparting that energy, but it was extremely tiring. Something had to give and BSD was the [temporary] casualty.

I even considered ending this alter ego but in the nick of time, I realised that it was a pity party move.

Push

The way I write isn’t particularly stressful. I interact with the cubs, they do what they do and I script my reactions. It basically writes itself.

They are the fuel for my eternal smile and our antics, whilst we navigate single parenthood, seem to make folk smile too.

But, dashing between projects, doing more and more, I eventually found that I was letting more plates slow down as my energy waned. It really was exhausting. My plates were in danger of dropping.

The reality was that I needed to do less of what I didn’t like, and more of what I did like.

It took a while to realise that.

Let’s see what happens next.

BSD