I Want To Give Blood

Before having children I started giving blood – and also signed up to the bone marrow register. I managed to donate blood six times before I had to stop due to pregnancy and breastfeeding. I’ve always wanted to give blood, to give something back and to do my bit to help people and I’m now at the point where I can have time by myself for long enough to go and donate again.

So, I dug out my blood donation card with my donor number on it and I tried to sign into the website but sadly a system update meant I had to reregister – but the National Blood Service staff were really helpful, updated all my details – as I had got married and moved house since I last donated – and gave me the information I needed to register again.

I registered and immediately loved the new website – it’s so much more intuitive than it had been a few years back. But then I searched for an available appointment to give blood.

The website searches for the nearest venues within 3-4 miles of where you live – further I guess if you live in a rural area – and tell you the next available date. When I searched for an appointment the next blood donation session was about 15 days away but, when I looked for an appointment they were fully booked.

I looked at other locations and they were all fully booked. They all had limited walk in availability but, with a job, a blog, two children and a shift working husband I can’t walk in to the venue and sit and wait. I need an appointment to fit my life around it and so I booked the next available appointment.

On 24th January.

When I go and give blood I can only donate every four months and yet, to donate for the first time I have to wait over three months. Is it just me that thinks that’s crazy?

I thought, and still think, that the country needs people to donate blood. There are people having transfusions every day and the blood supply could run out if people don’t keep donating. But, for people like me to donate there needs to be the appointment availability to be able to go and donate.

I have to wait three months to donate and in that time I could already donated, only having to wait an extra month before donating for a second time. Yet, those three months are wasted and if it’s the same for everyone else registering to give blood, to go and try and do a good deed, that’s a lot of blood that the blood bank is missing out on. I just hope that the three month – or longer in some cases – wait doesn’t make people decide against donating, put it off for even longer or wait until nearer the time only to find that there’s a four, five or six month wait when they get around to trying again.

If the National Blood Service want people to donate they need to make it more accessible, they need to have more sessions or more appointments available at the sessions. I know, budgets etc. But, blood is a pretty critical thing, isn’t it? Plus, you can’t grow it, make it or buy it. You need people, people willing to spend just a few minutes giving blood and I am sure if it was easier more people would do it.

My appointment is booked for January, I just wish I could give blood sooner.

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Do You Ignore Other People’s Children?

Not surprisingly, I spend a lot of time with LP and Little Man. When the children are at home with me we might do the typical things like going shopping, to the post office and generally running errands before having a couple of hours at the park or soft play.

On these normal days the children talk constantly. They talk to me and they talk to anyone else too. If LP has got a new top, new shoes or, on one occasion, a new watch she will spend the whole day showing those new things to everyone she meets, asking them to look at it and telling them about it.

Other days, when there isn’t anything new LP and Little Man will both wave at people in the shops, saying “Hello man!” cheerily or just bouncing up and down. They are both incredibly sociable little things and love to greet people, talk to them and make them smile.

I always watch the children when they’re interacting with random people and it’s amazing how differently people react to them. Some will smile, say hello and treat the children as equals, making conversation and wishing them a nice day at the end.

Others will smile politely and hurry on with their business, not really knowing what the correct etiquette is when greeted by a four year old standing in a shopping trolley. But others make me sad.

There are quite a few others who will point blank ignore the children. Who will act as if they are not there and even when the children say hello again those people won’t even look in their direction. There have been times at soft play where Little Man has been playing with another child and will start to talk to the child’s parent. The parent looks at him whilst he is talking and then, when he has finished, will look away as if he isn’t even there. Not even attempting to understand him or give any sort of reply.

When we’re in soft play and another child talks to me, I’ll reply. If a child in the supermarket says hello, I’ll smile and say hello back before smiling at the child’s parent too, letting them know that I don’t mind the little interruption on my shopping trip. If a child talks to me I treat them like an equal, I don’t think of them as just a child but as another person, an individual in their own right and someone who deserves my time, my focus and enough respect to not be ignored.

Would those people ignore a colleague at work? Would they look away if a neighbour said good morning to them? Would they completely blank a friendly shop assistant when buying their weekly shop? I doubt it. So why do people treat children so differently?

Children learn about how to treat people by the way they are treated. They soak up every little interaction and I know that I want Little Man to keep chatting, to have those random conversations and to keep being that confident little boy. I don’t want him to think that he’ll be ignored, that his words don’t matter or that people will have something better to do than listen to him.

Next time a small child asks you something in soft play or shouts hello in the supermarket, take a moment to reply or smile at them before carrying on with your day.

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Older Children and Pushchair Judgement

What age should children stop using a pushchair? What age were your children when they stopped using a pushchair? For us, there is no end in sight to our pushchair days and it’s something I thought I should write about.

LP is going to be five in August. Little Man has just turned three. So we should be nearly pushchair free, shouldn’t we?

Well, no. We shouldn’t.

You see, using a pushchair is pretty much like every other parenting decision – when to stop breastfeeding, when to stop using bottles, when to get the children into a set routine, when to potty train. Using a pushchair is just the same – there is no right or wrong answer.

LP has always been really petite and lacks stamina when walking. Her walk to school is a mile each way and often it is just too much for her so we have been using our Silver Cross Surf and buggy board since she started preschool. This means that every day Little Man is in the pushchair as he can’t really walk long distances either.

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When the next school year starts in September, and Little Man starts preschool, we are going to try and get rid of the buggy board, using a simple stroller to take Little Man to preschool and LP can walk by the side. We’re hoping by that point she’ll be more used to walking that distance and it won’t be as hard for her. Then, when the time comes, Little Man can walk to school too – it’s a shame he can’t use a buggy board himself – the problem with being the last baby!

But the school run is only one of the times we use a pushchair. We also use a double stroller when we go on long days out – on our regular trips to Legoland, to National Trust properties or on a trip to the seaside. Neither LP or Little Man can endure a whole day out without at least a spell or two in the pushchair and it has space for all our bags, coats and other stuff underneath too, making a day out easier for all of us.

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But on those days out, where we have a nearly five year old and three year old in a double stroller, we do attract attention. Mainly because, despite their age difference, LP and Little Man can pass as twins and people often comment on that. When I say no, there’s 20 months between them people do the maths and ask which is older, and I then say that LP is nearly five, Little Man is three and they typically give the stroller a double take – or, sometimes, comment on the fact we’re still using a pushchair.

They don’t comment out of interest or curiosity, they comment because they are taken aback that we would still be using a pushchair with a child aged nearly five. Their comments or questions are heavy with judgement and, the first time, made me feel like I was doing something wrong and made me think that, maybe, at nearly five, LP shouldn’t be using a pushchair.

But then I looked at our life. I looked at LP and Little Man and I realised that actually I know what is best for them and I know a time will come where we won’t be using the pushchair any more, the children will be able to walk longer distances and won’t get so exhausted on a long day out. The children will walk to school and they will hop, skip and jump between the rides at Legoland and our pushchair days will be long behind us.

But for now we will keep doing what suits our family. We’ll use a pushchair and a buggy board for the school run – at some point dropping the board. We’ll use a double buggy on long days out and in time that will stop to.

Before I know it we’ll be carrying backpacks of stuff rather than putting it under the pushchair, we’ll be carrying school bags and we’ll have much more space in the car boot. But until then we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing.

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Children and Gambling

Children and gambling. That’s a bad mix, right?

I wouldn’t let the children bet on a horse. I wouldn’t let the children anywhere near fruit machines. I wouldn’t let the children buy a scratch card. But, I’d probably let the children help me pick lottery numbers and, really, if I bought a scratch card I’d probably let the children help me scratch it off.

But one thing I always, always let the children do, and encourage them to do, is play on 2p arcade machines. They will happily spend half an hour in an arcade with me, sharing £5 of 2ps between us over that time, watching them as they bounce their way down to the moving layers at the bottom, sometimes pushing more coins out or even a plastic toy but more often than not pushing coins into the dark depths of the machine, never to be seen again.

But 2p machines aren’t gambling are they? They’re just a bit of fun in an arcade. What about the 10p versions where you throw your money away five times quicker than the 2p ones? What about the grab machines where you pay 20p to try and grab a cuddly toy? They’re not gambling either are they?

So, the children and I can easily spend £5 on the arcade machines, trying to win yet more 2ps or a pack of hair clips. That £5 disappears in no time at all and yet I wouldn’t let the children buy a scratch card, a scratch card that costs less than the money we put in those 2p machines and which probably has a better prize on offer.

I would happily help the children put those 2ps in the machine for as long as it took to get rid of them all, watching more fall out the bottom and putting those in too. But I wouldn’t let the children put a pound in a fruit machine.

I know that there are laws about scratch cards, the lottery, betting and even fruit machines but as a parent often things come into question that aren’t just governed by the law and instead are decided by our own morality, our own conscience and, often, the way that we have always done things.

I grew up playing 2p machines in seaside arcades with my parents and grandparents. It was the way we would always end a day at the beach and it’s something that I have loved introducing the children to. They love putting their 2ps into the machines, trying to win another piece of brightly coloured tat from inside and inevitably losing all their 2ps in the end, going home tired but happy and with those grubby hands you only get from old 2ps.

This has been a tradition for me for years, and one I have introduced the children to. But is it really any less gambling than just buying a scratch card? Yes, it does give satisfaction for that little bit longer but it is still throwing money away, spending money to have a chance at a prize. Are 2p machines just gambling in disguise?

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Has Pinterest made our Expectations Unachievably High?

When I was a child Pinterest didn’t exist. Heck, the internet didn’t even really exist – and we had the wonders of dial-up throughout my teenage years. Social media is something so recent really, still so new and, like all technology, it is ever evolving.

But when I was a child none of this existed. Our home was full of simple things and the only technology was a really bulky and heavy wooden veneer television and a BBC computer. It was a far cry from modern times but it was a childhood, and home, that I loved.

My days were spent playing with simple toys, reading books and baking cakes with my Mum. We were constantly baking and we made all sorts of cakes and bakes. Every bake was an adventure and they were creations fit for a homely cafe or a school bake sale. They tasted delicious and our house smelt wonderful for hours after a baking session.

As a child I didn’t have Birthday parties, my parents just couldn’t afford them. Instead we had Birthday tea with our cousins and had things like jam sandwiches and crisps in bowls on the table. We’d have treats like Jammy Dodgers and chocolate mini rolls. It was simple and it was perfect.

As a child I had no expectations of Birthday parties, of fancy cakes or making masterpieces in the kitchen with my Mum. We did what we did, we both loved it and it was perfect. I didn’t need or want anything else – I didn’t know any different.

But zoom forward 25 years and I have already created a childhood for my children where they expect a party – having had one each year since they were born. The parties have been simple – with a barbecue in the garden, a bouncy castle and a party buffet. I don’t have it in me to ever make a Birthday cake, preferring to buy a huge personalised £15 one from Costco. But the children now expect a party every year and this year those parties will get bigger – as LP has more friends to invite and she has been to more parties herself, expecting the same as her friends have had.

I always said that I’d like the children to have parties so this isn’t an issue – I want them to have what I didn’t have as a child and I want them to have that special day with their friends. But when planning a Birthday party where is the first place you look as a modern day parent on social media? Pinterest.

So you look on Pinterest at all the party themes. Pinterest gives you ideas for decorations, the perfect cake and other foodie treats. Every single kind of party inspiration is there on your phone or computer screen, ready to recreate in your own home.

Except, it isn’t that easy is it? Those people creating those Pinterest friendly posts have so much time to create those masterpieces. It may be their hundredth attempt at creating the perfect Sophia the First cake or their eighteenth attempt at making a Jake and the Neverland Pirates piñata. Most people creating those top posts on Pinterest don’t create them with little children at their feet, in their own busy kitchen and with the stress of an actual party to plan.

Then Pinterest shows you the images of cakes to bake, homes to decorate and so much more. There are ideas for every aspect of your life, all perfectly filtered and portrayed to be so easily reachable and yet so perfect. The ideal life there inside the screens of Pinterest.

But is Pinterest portraying a rose tinted version of anyone’s life? Aspects of life that are perfectly attainable and achievable or is Pinterest really just setting the bar far too high and setting many parents up to fail?

You see, having creations on the pages of Pinterest, creations that have been made by someone makes many people feel that they should be able to recreate those same cakes, party centrepieces or costumes at home. It gives them inspiration and even a guide on how to make it and they focus all their efforts on this thing of their Pinterest dreams.

But I have seen across social media more Pinterest ‘fails’ than I have seen perfect Pinterest recreations. There are posts every single day of people commenting how their creation isn’t one for Pinterest. Pinterest is a site of perfection where we can pin our hopes, dreams and ambitions within that one website. We can pin everything from gift lists to how we would like our brand new guest bedroom. We can pin everything, creating this bubble of expectation and hope for the future.

But having a shiny Pinterest board full of ideas and inspiration doesn’t make that fancy cake any more achievable. It doesn’t make that white, clean and minimalist family home any more realistic. It just makes ordinary parents feel like they should try harder, do better and achieve more.

I had an amazing childhood, full of homemade cake and basic Birthday teas of jam sandwiches and bowls of Skips. I am sure that our own children would be happy with exactly the same Birthday gatherings and homemade cakes that wouldn’t win any competition. Children love the simple things – home made cake and fun with their friends but instead of giving them that we have been sucked into a world of shiny Pinterest portrayals of life that has just left our own expectations incredibly high.

I think we should go back to basics – enjoying making cakes with our kids and putting crisps in bowls for their Birthdays. We should do the things that make us happy and not try to live up to these Pinterest expectations. Pinterest has been around for six years and I am sure that all of our lives were pretty amazing before that – just with a little less pressure on ourselves and much lower expectations.

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