This month the iTDi (International Teacher Development Association) blog was all about ‘Outside Influences‘, or the people outside education who have shaped our teaching. Many bloggers have added their own posts to this, include Vicky Loras and Anne Hendler. They have inspired me to write about the women in my family, all of whom have had a big influence on the person I’ve become.
My dad’s mum
When my dad was four and his brother was two, my granddad had a stroke which affected his language and movement, and meant he couldn’t work again. If I remember the story correctly, he was sitting opposite my grandma on the train on the way to a holiday in Cornwall when it happened. This was in 1964.
Thanks in large part to my grandma’s care, he lived until 1999 and I was lucky enough to know him. She made him persevere to communicate clearly with her because she wouldn’t respond until he’d made himself understood. She supported him, brought up two children, and worked to bring in money for the family (although I’m not sure exactly how these three things fitted together, and I can’t ask her about it any more).
When I knew granddad, he could look after himself and contribute to the house and garden, but he needed a stick to get around at home, and a wheelchair outside. Grandma and granddad looked after my brother and I for a couple of weeks each summer and took us on day trips to various places. I have lots of happy memories of those times, and that typical childhood haze of blue skies and long summer days 🙂
Grandma’s strength of will was amazing, and she never let anything get in her way. She never left the UK, but loved hearing about my travels. I used to take her to various places around the UK too. One of the reasons I got into the habit of taking so many photos was to share them with her.
My mum’s mum
My granddad was in the Merchant Navy, meaning he was away for long stretches of time. Grandma stayed at home to look after the family. At one point, she had four children under the age of five and was effectively a single mum when grandy was away. Money was never easy: she made clothes for the family and learnt to be a great cook, with nothing ever wasted. Nobody ever did without.
My brother and I also stayed with them every summer, and my memories from their house are no less happy than with my dad’s parents. They used to live in a huge Victorian house with a magical garden that has unfortunately now been divided up into three properties. They helped us to explore England and Wales, and encouraged us to be inquisitive and ask questions about the world.
Now grandma helps us to keep our extended family together. If I can have a family as strong as the one my grandma has built, I will be a very happy person. Both of my grandmas taught me to appreciate what I have, to avoid waste and to realize how lucky I am.
At the age of two, my aunt was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Inevitably this has had a huge effect on her life, and it has had other knock-on effects with her health too. I’ve watched her go through hip replacements and a cataract operation, and carry on regardless, with a positive attitude to life. Watching her has helped me with my own health problems, because I know that they don’t have to stop me from doing what I want to with my life. She was also part of the inspiration for making me and other members of my family start to exercise more when she began doing walking challenges. This was the beginning of my weight loss and general move towards being a healthier person.
I’ve also been influenced by the way my aunt managed to stay in touch with so many of her friends in pre-internet days, through meeting them regularly and making a real effort. I think this is so important, and I’m lucky that I have it easier with facebook, email and Skype. Finally, she inspired me to learn to play cards, and I’ve enjoyed teaching her kids to play many card games in return.
Mum is another very strong, very independent woman. She built a career in librarianship, moving on to high levels of management within the UK council system. I’ve watched and learnt from her about many aspects of management and communication, and we’ve often discussed her work in ways that I hope will be useful to me as I move into management myself. When I was young, she used to help my dad with his pet shop too, working at the library during the week and the shop at weekends. Time management was key, and I’ve inherited this from her (I hope!)
My parents split up when I was 12, and although this was obviously not an easy process, watching mum get through it and continue to look after my brother and I has also shown me what it means to be strong. Mum has been so supportive of me and my brother throughout our lives. She has never told me what to do with my life, or complained about any of my choices. We’ve always been told that as long as we’re happy, she’s happy. I know other people who are badgered about when they will get married, or have children, or why they choose to live so far away, but I’ve never had that once. Mum has let me live my own life and make my own mistakes.
I’m incredibly lucky to have four role models like this, women who are strong, and yet know how to support each other and the people around them, and ask for support when they need it. Of course, this isn’t all I’ve learnt from them, but I’ve already cried a few times while writing this, and I need to draw a line somewhere 🙂
Thank you ladies!