Stepping out of the comfort zone

I still love you, I just don’t like your behavior very much right now.

The other week you said you didn’t like me. You said it as you stomped off behind the kitchen island and slouched down, arms folded across your chest. I don’t think at the time I liked you very much either. I probably shouldn’t say that, what I need is one of grandmas favourite lines, “I still love you I just don’t like your behavior very much right now”.

For as long as I remember I’ve hated confrontation. I don’t like arguments, as a teacher I hate telling pupils off and I avoid complaining at pretty much any cost. I would rather keep the peace and bite my tongue than create an uncomfortable situation and most of the time would never ask for anything because I don’t want to hassle anyone. A number of times in the past I’ve tried to reflect on why this might be. I know your dad gets quite frustrated by the fact I’d rather send him into the fray to moan on my behalf rather than doing it myself but quite the opposite of me, he seems to quite relish these opportunities so I don’t feel too bad. In the end, I think it comes down to a few reasons, firstly, I really dislike uncomfortable situations, secondly, I hate thinking I’ve upset or put anyone out and lastly I want people to like me.

I’m not sure why I feel like this or when exactly I began to find these situations so debilitating but I do remember countless situations as a child wanting the ground to open up and swallow me whole as grandma made a complaint or coerced me into a shop to ask for a part time job (she’ll love that I’ve just written that). I also know that over the years my reluctance to upset others has meant on a few occasions rather than just being honest I’ve ended up feeling quite frustrated or unhappy myself. One such occasion when I was about fifteen had me sobbing my eyes out before I’d even picked up the phone to an old boyfriend, when, after putting off finishing a relationship for a number of weeks grandma said she would ring him herself and tell him if I didn’t.

I’m also not sure why I’m so concerned with what other people think of me, especially those who I don’t even know me but I have always been acutely aware of what other people’s feelings towards me are, or, at least what I think they are. At five years old, I didn’t even need a sixth sense when a boy in my class told me I wasn’t pretty enough to play kiss cuddle and torture and so should go and sit this one out next to ‘smelly Dawn’. Fortunately, l also lost my tooth in that same playground so ended up passing a lot of time looking for that amongst the gravel. The whole ordeal did however leave a rather long lasting impression and growing up any criticism of myself or something that am responsible for has probably upset me more than it should.

Over the last few months of lockdown the conflict levels at home have definitely increased, we’ve had a few stand offs, there’s been a lot of tears and not all have been yours. Being a threenager and living with one isn’t always the easiest and I imagine on more than one or two occasions in the future we’ll clash again.

New Years Eve 2014

That night we worked hard at the new house taking down the chimney breast where the new cooker was going to go. I say we, I continued to make cups of tea and provide encouragement, your dad did all the work. We were supposed to be getting ready to go out to a NYE silent disco at the Parkinson’s but were running characteristically late. It was the first time in a long time that we’d been ‘out, out’ and once we were ready to go I stared back at the face in the mirror. I didn’t look like a cancer patient, the makeup made me look ‘normal’ but it also made me feel strange, like I was looking at my former self but I wasn’t her anymore. As we got ready to leave I hoped that I wouldn’t have to talk about it all night, at this point I was all talked out, after a Christmas back up North catching up with family and friends. I was done with the look of pity in people eyes and the awkward small talk that isn’t really small talk because cancer is never something you can just mention in passing. On the other hand I struggled with trivial chitchat with people who had no idea what was going on. To be fair no one could win as I tried to navigate my way through this unfamiliar course my life had taken. Thinking back 2013 had started well; a wonderful trip to Paris with grandma and Soph, two beautiful weddings, an amazing summer trip to the east coast of America and a new house on the horizon. Then the Autumn arrived and it all came crashing down. As midnight came and went we prayed that we were over the worst and that in 2014 the only way was up.

I went back to work the following week. I was desperate to regain some control and get back to normality. However, the problem with teaching is your either there or your not, there’s no easing your way back in or halfway house. Clearly, I had no control over the fact I’d taken half a term off for cancer treatment but still I felt incredibly guilty about missing all that time and was so greatful for how understanding the ‘school’ had been. In hindsight I’m not quite sure this was entirely the case and despite my insistence that I was fine the support that I needed was not always there. A few weeks into term I attended a parents evening of one of the lower year groups. It was going well and I felt like I was getting back into the swing of things when a parent caught me completely off guard by complaining about the length of time I’d been away and how the cover in place had not been adequate. After apologizing for having time off and for how the for the cover situation had been handled I explained why I’d been away. An embarrassing silence followed. I was so annoyed I’d been put in that position but I settled back into old habits and my inability to actually kick up a fuss meant the incident went unnoticed. That term I also spent numerous hours doing extra sessions after school to make up for the fact one class had got so far behind while I was away without the extra time wouldn’t finish the course. It wasn’t at all the easing back in that I needed and only added to the stress I already felt but rather than raise it as an issue I just got on with it and then went home and gave your poor dad an earful instead.

Mostly, I was annoyed at myself, over the last few months I had become better at asserting myself in situations I’d normally shy away from . Not hassling others and worrying about whether other people might be upset if I said the wrong thing had been the least of my worries. I’d made phone calls I didn’t want to make and asked questions I knew would make others uncomfortable but I needed to for my own sanities sake. Within the next few weeks we would be back at the hospital, this time to talk about IVF, a process neither of us knew anything about and hadn’t really had anytime to do any research. Suddenly this was it, our one shot and I realized pretty quickly I was going to have to get over uncomfortable conversations and what people might think of me if I was too pushy because when I had to push for something this important it just had to happen.

July 2020

One of the things I love most about being your mum is how we grow together. Ever since you arrived I’ve wanted to make you proud and be the best version of myself for you. I know that to do that I’m going to have to do and say things that in another life I might have avoided. There’s so much going on in the world at the moment, it’s not always easy to find the correct words or certainly make everyone happy but I think I’m slowly starting to realize to do the right thing might mean ruffling a few feathers every so often. I guess if those people are worth it they’ll deal with those ruffled feathers and if they don’t then they’re not. I’ll still use your dad every so often if I can get away with it but I’m getting much better at doing it myself. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone hasn’t always given me the results I’ve wanted but I’ve felt more comfortable with myself, that I’ve done all I can and there are less ‘what if’s’ than before.

Prior to you saying you didn’t like me I’d told you ‘no’. I think on this occasion you wanted your second ice cream before midday and to say yes would have definitely been the easiest move in the short term. No confrontation, a lot less tears and certainly no stomping. But, for all sorts of reasons just as boundaries have to be set in the classroom me and your dad are going to have to set a few at home, for all our sakes. You’re not always going to like them and you’re certainly not always going to like us, but I know now, thats ok. That same night you did a complete one eighty, you told me you loved me ‘a million times, on top of three cows’. I think I love you more.

Forever & always,


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