When I started this blog, Flea was just three years old.
It was 2009. I’d split up from my husband and moved to the North of England. We moved into a fixer upper house. I was trying to look after a pre-schooler and make a living as a freelance writer. Flea was convinced she was either a boy called Aiden, or a dog called Sizzles.
Thirteen years on (and a few months) we’re still here!
That’s long enough to have a childhood captured in this blog. More than 1,000 blog posts and stories capturing our favourite moments, adventures and milestones.
This girl who ran through Manchester in her Team Elmo tee shirt is now is sifting through university offers and preparing for A-Levels. People are starting to ask me what I’ll do when she leaves home, in less than a year.
Some of you probably still don’t know Flea’s real name. But you know the important stuff. You know I love her body and soul. You know you can be a single Mum and still raise your child in a fun, adventurous, loving home. You can travel. You can be happy. I promise, if you’re new to this single parenting lark, you CAN be happy.
To prove it, here are 13 years of favourite moments, from my blog.
When Flea was three, I was always out and about at some toddler activity, trying to make friends. Meanwhile, Flea was pretending to be a dog called Sizzles and dreaming of growing up to be a pirate or a burglar. She seemed worried about puppies that might eat our biscuits, and enjoyed making up songs about that time I accidentally punched her in the face.
At four, Flea started school and the highlight of her first day was that there was cake for pudding. Meanwhile I was starting a lifetime habit of being late for school, losing half the uniform and being woken up at 3am by my four year old to discuss death.
Another post tells the story about how Flea shouted for me in the middle of the night. I stumbled to her room to answer the urgent question, “If it’s the Christmas holidays, why haven’t we been on holiday yet?” I loved re-reading this post about 10 random things Flea said in one week this year. Four year olds are brilliant.
This was the year I convinced Flea of things. Like practice reading, where she read a book at bedtime and I closed my eyes and listened. She was full of questions ALL the time. Like, “When food goes in your stomach, does it come to life?” and “Is there a lifeboat in case fish can’t swim?”
It was also the age where Flea destroyed my reputation in public with her little news updates. “My Mummy says if we don’t have clean clothes, we can just take them out of the laundry basket,” was a favourite. Although I had to forgive her because after not making her favourite people list last year, this year I got an actual proposal.
Flea had been looking forward to her sixth birthday for months, apparently, because Grandma said she was making sausages. At six, Flea was still a dog called Sizzles, even when it came to a hospital appointment where she barked and panted at the doctor and would only agree to being examined if he referred to her hands as “paws.” And yes, she licked him.
But my favourite memory of this was year was Flea sending me the extremely flattering letter below. When I asked her about the picture, she said, “Oh, that’s the dog you’re going to buy me now I’m six, Mummy. Did you see how many kisses I put?”
It was also the year of our first trip to New York together. We went to see a Spiderman show on Broadway and designed our own Muppets at FAO Schwartz. It was brilliant.
At seven, Flea started to get really brave and want to do lots of adventurous activities. Which was great because it led to one of the greatest days of my life, when her Dad got stuck on a high wire course and had to be rescued with a giant winch. It’s no exaggeration to say we still laugh at this story ten years later.
I loved eight. After a few years, my work situation had stabilised and Flea was old enough that we could start to travel more. That summer we visited Spain and France, then New York and Cape Cod. Back home, we visited the (then) brand new Harry Potter Studios, and also took in Legoland and Warwick Castle. What a whirlwind!
The summer Flea turned nine was one of the best we’ve ever had – it was our first California road trip.
Closer to home, 9 was a real shift in parenting. It was Flea’s first time riding her bike the shops alone. She learned to make coffee, and took up skateboarding and climbing. She went on a school ski trip to Switzerland and I pretty much lost my mind. Also there was that time we did the egg roulette challenge.
Flea’s last year of primary school was about sleepovers and best friends and weekends spent bowling, climbing and watching movies. It was also time to start thinking about secondary school, and all that would involve.
Before that, we took a road trip to Canada and spent six weeks exploring forests, riding enormous ziplines and learning to paddleboard. It was a BLAST. By the end of that summer, I remember thinking how much more grown up Flea seemed.
I can’t even fathom how much Flea changed during her first year of senior school. She had moved from the school she’d attended since she was three and there was a lot of growing up that year.
It was also the year Flea started playing hockey and decided that the worst thing that could ever happen was for me to speak to her, or any of her friends, in public.
Flea dyed her hair pink, joined the county hockey team, then discovered the perils of exam stress. Suddenly, it was vitally important to have the right clothes and the right shoes and after five years, Flea stopped making YouTube videos because the kids at school thought it was lame.
After suffering with exam stress and friendship issues at school, when Flea was 13, we made the choice for her to return to her old school. Year 9 can be brutal. I wrote a post about all the things I wanted my girl to know.
After a really worrying few months, she settled back in and seemed much happier. We took a return trip to California and both got ridiculously excited by seeing actual Lorelei Gilmore’s house.
Fourteen was an interesting year and my blogging definitely shifted. As Flea got older, I blogged more generally because she was often MORTIFIED by the very idea I might write about her online. Which was perfectly reasonable. But this was the year Flea chose her GCSE options and I asked readers for advice about things like monitoring internet usage, how to get teenagers out of bed, and what to do when the PE teacher hates your daughter and the way that those kids who are ‘easy’ tend to get ignored.
Just after Flea turned 14, we had a big family dispute, and half of our family cut me (and therefore also Flea) out of their lives. I know that Flea found it tough, and she learned some truths about life that I’d have liked her not to know for a few more years. In between all the drama, we managed some fun trips to Greece and Italy.
A month or two before Flea turned 15, the UK went into lockdown. For my teen, being 15 was about remote schooling, revising for GCSEs and how to survive when it’s a single woman and a teenager in the same house.
Lockdown was when we bought our first kayaks and getting on the water saved our mental health. And lucky for Flea that she managed to have a GREAT house party before lockdown. Here’s her last day at the same school she had her first day at, way back when she was three!
After all the stress of lockdown, Flea threw herself into sixth form life, commuting 30 miles to a different town to attend a grammar school.
After getting a solid set of GCSE results Flea transformed into a super motivated academic, and set her sights on attending a top university. To inspire her, we set off on a mini road trip visiting five universities over October half-term.
This was also the year we discovered home exchanging. We were still on a travel budget this year but managed to spend a great week in Scotland with friends and then went on to spend Christmas in Switzerland!
And here we are. Flea is 17. This last year has been a real whirlwind. Since coming out of lockdown, Flea has set herself some ambitious targets and has revealed a drive I honestly never knew she possessed.
She’s worked with a trainer to regain her fitness after a year of lockdown living. She sat her mock exams in July, and got grades that put her on course for her target universities. She spent her summer attending summer schools at two universities and a week-long Shakespeare course, to help improve her uni application.
We had a week in Greece, and Flea came back and submitted her uni applications. She now just needs to decide where she wants to go!
Blogging is a Lifeline
I could tell you blogging for 13 years has been professionally beneficial or I’ve learned about technology or social media.
I don’t know about that.
What I can say is that blogging has been a lifeline. When I started I was newly single, living in a town where I knew nobody. Blogging gave me a connection to other, like-minded Mums. It’s not just a childhood we’ve captured, it’s our story. Me and Flea.
At every stage of parenting, blogging has allowed me to share stories and challenges and memories and find support and understanding and advice that’s made me think differently about the way I parent. It’s helped me to make friends and be inspired about travel and reassure me that all parents and kids go through similar things on this journey.
But as I’ve said before, I am sure, I love that our story is here to be remembered. By me, and by readers but also by Flea. Look at the fun we had! Look at how much adventure we squeezed into our ordinary lives! See how much you were loved?