52 Stories Family History

52 Stories #3 with Carly Ford

If you had to pin-point 3 main values that your parents lived by and tried to instil in you, what would they be?

Family and Marriage

Today the society we live in expects much of us. As a female, we should be beautiful, fit, healthy, a working Mum, excellent housekeeper and cook vegan meals from scratch. This is just the message we receive from the media; I have the added pressure of having to fit into the cookie-cutter shaped hole of a Classic Latter Day Saint Family. It’s not even a 2.4 children scenario… more like 4/6 children! I myself have 3 children and my surname doesn’t even match theirs! 

I delight in my children. I am proud to call them mine and couldn’t love them more. When I find myself calling the school to talk to them about one of my children, I dread them asking for my name. It makes me feel disassociated with my own flesh and blood. It makes me want to plead with the person on the phone to understand… to earnestly assure them that I am no less their mother than any of the other parents who have the honour of sharing a last name with their offspring. I want to beg them not to judge me, to tell them that this was not the course I expected my life to take. 

Don’t even get me started on what happened when I tried to pick up a parcel for my children from the sorting office! When they left to return home on Saturday evening, Sam and Emma realised they had both neglected to remember to pack particular items. Being important (Sam’s mobile phone and Emma’s electric toothbrush), their Dad told them he would post these home. He did so on Monday but I was out when delivery was attempted on Tuesday morning. I had to wait until the next day to collect from the sorting office. It wasn’t until I was standing in the queue that I realised that their Dad had addressed the parcel to my son. The problem was that you need ID in order to collect. My debit card usually suffices, so this is what I normally produce. I tried this but because my surname did not match the name on the parcel, they refused to give it to me. The man behind the screen asked me who’s name was on the package. I explained it was addressed to my son but that we had different surnames. I was told that I needed proof of my address instead now to show that I lived where the parcel had been delivered. I went home empty-handed! Obviously I don’t regret getting re-married and the decision I made to take Chris’ name. Times like these merely serve as a reminder that my life hasn’t turned out how I’d dreamed. 

Having one failed marriage leaves me firmly in the minority at church. And why shouldn’t it? It’s not like it’s a part of the plan of happiness we are taught there. It’s not a milestone in life to strive for. We are not urged to date, get married, have children and then divorce. -As if that is specifically part of the journey we want for ourselves! And it’s not like I want other people to experience the pain that comes with the ripping apart of the family unit just so that I’m not in so much of a minority. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy (although that’s not to say that I’ve secretly thought that the experience would bring some people down a peg or two!). 

However outdated the concept of marriage is to many, my parents live their lives by honouring their vows. 

They taught me to do the same. I love the union of marriage. I love having someone that is my “one”. I strongly believe that it is important to be faithful to your chosen companion in mind and body. Chris often says that he believes that we can accomplish anything together. We are united as a team attempting to achieve a life that is as happy and comfortable as possible. 

I have been bred to marry. Ever since I was born I’ve attended the same church. We are repeatedly taught that the only way to true happiness is to enter into the bonds of an eternal marriage, one that isn’t broken by death. I genuinely don’t know where that leaves me now but honestly, Chris is the best thing that ever happened to me. I wish we could have started our adult lives together and I ache that I didn’t bear his children. However, this is the journey my life has taken and I’m grateful to be with Chris now. If this was the only way we could spend our lives together, then I’m happy with that. 

Education

From sorting balls on a production line to urging vulnerable citizens to switch energy providers, my Dad has worked in a multitude of places. He would work nearly anywhere to earn a crust and has taught me to give an honest day’s work for my money. Both of my parents have a fantastic work ethic and encouraged me to get a Saturday job as soon as I was legally of age.

I worked in retail when I was 16 until just before I took my A-Level exams at the age of 18. I left employment at Jeanster to revise and my parents paid me for this study time, so I wasn’t out of pocket. They’ve always taught me the importance of a good education. My Mum urged me to read as this is a passion of hers. It remains now one of my favourite past times. I have read over a thousand books in my 37 years (although when I was younger many of these accumulated from Sweet Valley High and The Baby Sitter’s Club). Nowadays I love anything from a gritty thriller to chick-lit or an 18th century classic. Speed reading is a talent I have honed and one I value highly. Although, this can be a disadvantage when watching a film with subtitles as I always read too fast and then the speech does not match the text. 

I wouldn’t say I excelled at school. I did not feel naturally good at anything. Apart from my A in English Language and my B in Drama, I got mostly C’s in my other GCSE subjects and even had to re-take my Science. I needed a C to be able to qualify as a teacher, which had been a goal of mine since I was 14, in year 9. I remember trying my hardest in a piece of homework or essay only to be ashamed of my marks when it was graded and returned to me. My best friend was one of those gifted individuals who did not even have to try to get straight A’s. I remember a time in History when we were secreting her selection of ball-point pens in her curly hair. -They could literally be hidden without a trace. We were supposed to be listening to instructions on an assignment but when the time came to carry these out, I was at a loss. Somehow, despite the massive distraction we had provided for ourselves, she knew exactly what to do! Sufficeth to say, she is now working as a solicitor (or the like) and has cleared security to work on cases for MI5! I, on the other hand, managed to scrape enough points with my A-Level results to go to University to further my studies. Fortunately I transcended the expectations I had for myself in English Literature, finding a talent for analysing poetry and prose. This meant I could major in this core subject and eventually choose to do a PGCE to teach. 

A year before I began university, tuition fees were introduced. Not only did my parents take care of these, they encouraged me to live at home free from paying rent and board. I also worked part-time for the duration of my student life. This meant I had disposable income, gained my English Literature degree (with honours) and can now use this to build a career. 

I am now a private tutor and I can firmly hold my parents responsible for enabling me to secure this position. 

Duty and Dependability

A prevalent memory of my childhood is my Dad coming home from work, having dinner with us and then heading out again. I never knew where he was going specifically but I knew it had something to do with the assignments he had accepted at church. He dutifully went about his business without complaint. 

Our home routine was fixed. We had family time on a Monday night which included a spiritual lesson of some kind, singing songs, a game and a sweet treat at the end. It was the guidance of The Church to hold this time on a Monday night. Periodically we would go out and do a fun, paid activity. My parents never wavered from this routine; ever since I can remember, Monday nights were the same. 

When Tuesday came around, we attended a youth group from the ages of twelve to eighteen. I knew I could always rely on my parents to drop me off and pick me up from these meetings in a timely fashion. I was never late to anything. Extra youth activities on a Friday or Saturday were always treated with the same level of importance. I knew I could rely on my lift and that I would be there well on time. This is  something that has definitely been passed on to me and is a skill I feel I personally have honed. I can’t stand tardiness. -It’s so inconvenient! I abhor waiting around for people, especially when, had I know I would have had that empty time, I could have put it to good use before I left. 

My Mum would always get us to school promptly. From as early as I can remember, I was able to guarantee that she would punctually pick me up every day. This, along with other things, enabled me to grow up knowing that I would be looked after no matter what. I knew I could confide in my Mum and that her and Dad wanted the best for me and helped me strive to achieve it. 

I believe it is a talent to have the balance of making your children feel safe and nurtured whilst encouraging them to become independent and to fight their own battles. I can recall quite a few instances of my Mum and Dad going into school to fight my corner. I don’t feel like they ever overstepped the mark, more-so discussing friendship or administrative issues calmly and sensitively. Due to this, I learnt very early in life to attempt to talk things through honestly with people if a problem occurred. This could be anything from dealing with a misunderstanding to articulating my thoughts and feelings to a willing listener. I specifically remember hearing that a girl at school had been saying unkind things about me behind my back. I felt helpless and couldn’t concentrate on anything else until I had sorted it out. I decided I was going to call her at home. We had an extended friendship group at the time so it wasn’t hard to find out her telephone number. When I rang to speak to her, I remember her vehemently denying having said anything about me. It didn’t matter that we both knew she was lying, she knew that if anything else got back to me, I would call her out on it. Talking to her put my mind are rest and I felt vindicated. She had the opportunity to address any concerns she may have had with me but chose not to. 

I feel that it is a skill to be able to communicate effectively with people. I have tried to hone this to the best of my ability. That’s not to say that everyone has always interpreted my actions in the way I intended; that I haven’t been called into question about the way I choose to conduct myself, but I’m at peace with who I am and that’s the most important attitude of them all. 

Carly is an English Tutor based in Northampton. She also writes for her blog Ford for Thought.

If you would like more information about 52 Stories, or submit one of your own then you can read about it here.


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