Looking Back, Looking Forward

You know how it is...you have a whirr of would-be blogs in your head all the time, fighting and jostling for space in your consciousness, you wait until one jumps out and demands to be written.

Bossom buddies x
Well, I've had a few of those such posts pop up in recent weeks, but, if you're a parent you will have noticed that it is the school summer holidays at the moment. Other business takes priority, like being a Mum, entertainer, guide, crafter, artist, gardener, domestic goddess, educator, swim instructor, nurse, speech therapist, physio and mediator.
I thus apologise for the lack of meaty blogging content of late, but I don't regret it... :)

Now with less than 2 weeks of precious summer break left, I'm going to sit right down and throw some thoughts onto this blog. Right here, right now.

The school year ended in mid July, and this gave me cause to reflect proudly on the achievements and hurdles that my girls had overcome. Natty, a confident little poppet with Down's Syndrome, entered mainstream school for the first time, making lots of new friends, holding her head high in the reading and numeracy stakes,  out of nappies, joining in with school lunches, PE, wake-up shake-up and (despite Mummy's neurotic fears) never once trying to escape.

Mia soared this year, happy, healthy and eager, confident on school camp, chosen for Olympic and musical events. After a worrying year last year, when the stresses of living in a temporary accommodation while we did building work on our home took its toll on her physically and emotionally.

As the term ended Her Melness Speaks got me thinking about summer holidays as markers of time with her wonderful blog post Remember?. A wonderful read, I determined at once to seize the day and make the very most of our summer together to make sure it was our best yet. And that is has definitely been.

Natty is 5 now, and for the first time I am not constantly crippled with worry about her health, either keeping her in quarantine pre or post heart op, or scared to meet up with other children for fear of the infections we would contract. Don't get me wrong, I still shun the viral soup that is those ball pit play places, but on so many levels, this summer feels as if we are back on track somehow.  There has been some hayfever, a temperature and some painful constipation, but nothing worrying (touch wood).

And so, boosted by Mel's positive take on life, and thinking about how much easier life is now that we don't have to take pushchairs and slings and breast pads and baby food and nappies and 3 types of nipple/bottom/skin cream and several changes of clothing and huge kit bags and toys and syringes for tube feeding and medication, we threw ourselves into.... SUMMER!

Family volleyball at sunset
Our secret?  Well, I made a conscious decision to let everything go except having fun and feeding the kids well. The house is a mess and I look as if I have come through several hedges backwards. The blog has been given the bare minimum of attention. I have a pile of ironing that is scraping the ceiling. There's playdoh in the bathroom mat. I found lego in my knicker drawer. The inside of my car looks like a Damien Hirst installation, BUT I have admitted that help is not an admission of failure, so once or twice a week I have invested in Jodie, our babysitter, so that I can get the food shopping done, catch up on essential admin, or even hit the sack after a run of bad nights. Bob has been working in the US, so this isn't really too much of an indulgence. (As it happens we are eligible for direct payments to cover the cost of such respite, but I haven't found time to investigate that route yet.)

We've had a whale of a time, some real hoots and quality moments. Everyone has done something they wanted to do and there haven't been too many arguments. Honestly, I've only shouted once or twice and am actually quite sad that the holidays are coming to a close.  Natty is reliably dry during the day and is now conversing happily and able to play imaginary games with Mia. Suddenly the two are playmates, bossom buddies, able to make their own games in the garden. I'm always on red alert, but I have been able to do it from a distance for the first time.

Mia has been old and wise enough to attend some fab drama and horseriding summer schools for the first time. She has come home beaming with pride at her newfound skills and independence, her beauty shining from within that place of self-worth.  Natty and I have spent hours doing puzzles, art, reading, swimming, gardening, visiting zoos, learning to pedal her tricycle, making chocolate cakes, but most of all having fun, giggling, tickling and talking, talking a lot. Her language is improving exponentially, not just sentences now, but questions, made up songs, counting, and jokes (well, if you count talking about farts at inappropriate moments a joke).

The house has been filled with extended family, cousins, grandparents, uncles, aunts, coming and going, staying from far afield, even a distant great uncle from Italy, all stamping their mark on our perfect summer.

But I am tinged with deeper sadness. Why on earth? Our friend Alicia from the US reminded me why when she said 'Hayley, freeze your kids in time at this moment. This is the best moment.'

Of course in a year or two Mia will be wanting to spend more time away with friends, her social diary ever fuller  than ours, then learning to drive and finding her feet in the world.  Boyfriends, parties, jobs, study.
I damn well hope and work towards the day that Natty will follow suit in her own way.

Natty hoses down the dry log pile!

And of course this is what we want, we are building beautiful bows right now from which to spring the arrows that are our children forward into independence, into the big wide, often ugly world, with integrity and self-belief, confidence and ambition.

But Natty has Down's Syndrome. 
Won't the rest of her summers be like this one, spent happily under my wing, a forever-child?


The bow we are creating is more complex and is taking some specialist craftspeople to work on it with us, but we aim to launch that arrow in the same way as its sister one day. We'll monitor its flight path closely, put I feel sure she will fly very nicely thank you.  Maybe not as far, but all by herself.


  1. Brilliant post as always Hayley. The closing paragraph is very inspiring, I shall take that with me on Rosie's journey. Big love from the North to your whole clan :) x

    1. Thank you for travelling with us. Much love to you all x

  2. Sounds like you've had some amazing times ;) and some lovely pictures too xx

    1. My husband reminded me that we had also watched Mary Poppins about 15 times... so not all inspiring stuff!

  3. A lovely read, Hayley. It can sometimes be tedious reading about OPC (other people's children) because they are not sufficiently brought to life. This is 101 on how it should be done. Their personalities and your family life shine through this depiction. A thoroughly well written and enjoyable read. Sigh. HMSx

    1. Thank you darling, and mostly for the inspiration too, on every level x

  4. Beautifully written. So nice to read a parenting blog where the writer has spent more time being a parent than being a blogger talking about being a parent (if you see what I mean) :-)

  5. Aptly put Hayley. I do hope all of us, as parents, can take on the same goal of allowing our children (with or without DS) to fly solo. Very glad to read that Natty is doing well, gives me hope that my little girl will follow a similar trajectory.

    1. Thank you! Have you seen my comment and question on your wonderful blog? xxx

  6. huge lump in the throat on that one. I share the same sentiment and wish my boys could stay this age forever x

  7. fabulous Hayley, as always...feels like i've just visited you all, thank you for sharing your summer...and you know, it made me remember many years that were in the supposed state of dis-array, got to the point where oats were actually growing in the boot of my car and i wasn't noticing this as strange or un-usual, which are the happiest memories of the kids... and me....enjoy it, savour it...and actually, though it changes as they get older, it also gets even better in it's own way...our children are all amazing and have rainbow-wings...we are just the wind beneath to help them open theirs and fly. xxx Katinka


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