The other day I had a proper conversation on the phone with my Dad. That butt of many a telecoms company advert, the stilted "Is Mum there?" interaction that I must confess to being an all too common feature of my relationship with my father (Note to self: must try harder!).
We talked about quite a lot of things, and tangentially, my mum's current list of worries. Mum is always worrying about something, and I have many conflicting feelings about this. In my less-generous moments, I think "Well what does she have to worry about?" (sorry Mum!). Her 3 kids have all left home, we're relatively well settled, they gave us the best they could in terms of education, and for goodness sake, we're grown ups. But then, she's still working, there's my Dad (sorry Dad!), and while we may have all left home and have families of our own, well, I am sure that we, her children, and now her 5 grandchildren, give her plenty to worry about - not to mention our various dogs which she views almost the same as her grandchildren (that's good for the dogs btw, rather than bad for the grandchildren) vicariously if nothing else. She also has plenty of other things to worry about - always has done - but hasn't really let on to me. I mean, why would you burden your kids? There are lots of things she worries about, has worried about through the years that I have had no idea about whatsoever...
Me on the other hand? I have LOADS to worry about.
It's one of those things people tell you about being a parent - is it just about mothers? I can't remember - that you don't actually believe until it happens. The worry. Along with the guilt.
Guilt and worry - I mean it's not a great combination, is it? Doesn't really sell 'motherhood' (or parenthood) does it?
I like to think I've got the guilt thing mostly under control, although it does rear its ugly head every so often - those times when I abandon Blue & Pink to the TV so that I can work, those times when I effect excessive tiredness and drink a glass of wine instead of reading bed time stories...
But the worry? No, it's not under control at all. There are the silly niggly worries - the too much TV worries (see 'Guilt' above), the not eating enough fruit/eating too many sweets worries, the are they getting enough exercise, enough rest, are they doing too many activities/not enough activities after school, the which secondary school worries (and yes, I know #firstworldproblems all of them). Then there are the bigger, more serious worries - how our own, adult, actions, big or small will impact on them, both us personally (decamping to West Wales slots in nicely here), and humanity generally (UKIP, global warming, war, famine, pestilence - I rest my case)
I'm beginning to actually realise this state of perpetual worry - the one I mock my mum for, is something that I too have unwittingly succumbed to, and am now in a constant sweat about something - actually a number of things - a good combination of worries, each registering different scores on the worry scale. I find myself saying "be careful" to the children ALL THE TIME, even though I want them to go out there and be adventurous, even though I collude with the Husband to put them into positions where they will need to take risks. There's always another thing to fret over, even if it's only in the abstract...
It goes beyond an 'absolute' state of worry, too. The resolution of one worry doesn't lift the burden, lessen it - it just leaves a void for another worry to slip in to. For those of you who have read this blog relatively frequently over the last few years, you'll know that my son, my Blue, had leukaemia when he was younger. Diagnosed at 2, we spent a year pretty much living in and out of hospital, followed with another 2 years of monthly chemo. Pink was born 3 months in, it was a tough time. A lot of good came out of it, but it was gruelling and terrible too (though eased by the amazing and awesome NHS team of doctors and nurses who looked after us all, and our wonderful family and friends who supported us through it)and frankly, not a time I'd like to return to.
Since the end of his chemo in June 2009, we have had check ups - initially every month, gradually spacing out to every 6 months. We've had a couple of wobbles, and on one occasion I did take him in to hospital to get his blood counts checked, but he has stayed healthy. That hasn't meant that every bruise, every nose bleed, every cold that hasn't shifted quickly enough hasn't cause my heart to stop, but slowly, this particular worry - the initial worry/panic that he would actually die when he was first diagnosed - shifted from being an ever present heart-gripping worry screaming in my ear, to one of the low level on going worries of life.
And now its gone.
This week, we hit the magic 5 years from the end of chemo. No relapses. Although his consultant tells us there are documented cases of childhood leukaemia returning after this point, they are incredibly rare, so Blue has had the 'all clear'. Emotional doesn't even begin to describe it.
We left Piam Brown Ward, Southampton General Hospital at 4.30 on Thursday with a 5 hour drive home ahead of us, and I just wanted to sit and cry. We'd seen some of the nurses who had cared for us in the early days, Blue had even indulged in a cinammon swirl (despite his malfunctioning teeth) - the same cinammon swirls we used to tempt him out of his regular 'magic sleeps' when he had to have chemo injected into his spinal fluid every 3 months. To say it all felt bitter sweet is an understatement. As we headed up the A34, before turning West, we saw the Red Arrows flying in formation, presumably off to do D Day, and I exclaimed excitedly (perhaps misguidledly) "They are for you! To celebrate! Your 'All clear!".
Blue sat there for a bit in the car pondering this (I have to say I'd probably been behaving a little strangely all day), then announced "I am quite excited Mummy. I found some diamond on Minecraft"
No. Idea. Whatsoever.
I'm not even sure he ever registered that I have been worrying about it. But then, I spent most of the time while he was ill being positive, upbeat, trying to hold it together so he wasn't scared. Explaining calmly what would happen - that yes it would hurt but he could have a cinammon swirl at the end of it... I mean why would you burden your kids with that sort of worry? It was exhausting, but if it helped him deal with what he was going through, it was worth it. Is it a natural urge or instinct I wonder? Part of giving your kids optimism about the future, a feeling that life is there for the taking, that we protect them from our own concerns and worries?
And so now that's all over, what do I have to worry about? I feel quite at sea. I MUST have something to worry about. Well, Blue did kindly knock his teeth out during half term, so there is something to worry about with that. And on Saturday, I spent a not inconsiderable amount of time fretting about whether the banana in a banoffee pie went under or on top of the caramel layer - and what exactly to top it off with.
The kids have been going on and ON at me, since before I made the banoffee cake the other week to make this. I couldn't remember if I'd made it before - and it turns out that I produced it for a BBQ in 2012 (what would I do without this blog to remind me what we were eating 2 years ago??). After this week's news, it seemed an appropriate moment for indulgence.
I don't know why I was worried about where the flippin' banana slices should go or what to crumble over the top, but there you go. And in the end, I came down on the side of caution - with banana under and on top of the caramel, and chopped up curly wurly on top.
Trivial, may be, but, you know, I'll take trivial for now.
250g digestive biscuits
200g unsalted butter
100g soft light brown sugar
397g tin condensed milk
2 large bananas
300ml double cream
1.5 curly wurly bars, fridge cold (you can eat the remaining 0.5)
20cm loose bottomed cake tin, greased
Gently melt the butter in a medium sized pan (or in the microwave in a reasonabe sized bowl).
While the butter is melting, crush up the digestive biscuits - I whizzed them in a food processor - then stir them in to the melted butter.
Tip into the cake tin and spread out to cover the base and up the sides a little to make a 'case'. Pop this in the fridge for 10 minutes or so to firm up.
While you are doing this, slice up one of the bananas. Once the case has set, arrange the sliced banana over the biscuit base and set aside while you make the caramel.
In a heavy based saucepan, gently melt together the butter and sugar over a low heat stirring all the time to prevent burning.
Tip in the condensed milk, turn up the heat and bring to a boil, stirring all the time. Boil for around a minute till you have a golden, thickened caramel. Do resist the temptation to stick you finger in for a taste.
Pour this over the banana layer, then back in the fridge for at least an hour to cool and set.
When you're ready to serve, remove the pie from the fridge and unmould the pie (It ill still be on the tin base, but it will be much easier to slice if you have got rid of the sides.
Slice up the second banana and layer that over the caramel, then softly whip the cream and spread this, over the top of the banana. Cut up your curly wurly bars into varying sized chunks and scatter artfully over the top of the cream.