Days Out – Oxford Museum of Natural History.

My husband describes Oxford as ‘Camden on holiday’ with a diverse melting pot of people all with similar cultural interests.

Nearly 8 weeks after my initial DVT diagnosis and then later, a more severe diagnosis of clotting in other parts of my body, it was time for me to attempt an actual adventure out of the house. While my mobility has been greatly affected by these latest medical developments, every so often I wake up and feel like I can face the day. When this happens, I absolutely HAVE to jump on it, if I didn’t I would be permanently housebound and this would drive me nuts.

When I moved back to the UK in 2014, I made it one of my personal missions to explore as much of this beautiful country as I could before holidaying in Europe or far away exotic Indian Ocean islands. What better way to get to know a city and its heritage than by visiting one of its most historic buildings, a museum.

I woke up feeling like I could take on the world and after a brief internet search of things to do, I came across the Oxford Museum of Natural History located in the beautiful city of Oxford, a place I had never been and merely an hours drive from my doorstep. Admission to the museum is free (Music to all parent’s ears) however a donation would be appreciated.

Shevy Moonsomnia and daughter in car

Parking in Oxford

Fortunately, the museum’s website was very informative and quite useful in making the decision to use a park and ride. There is very limited roadside parking in and around Oxford centre and there is no parking at the museum itself. City Centre parkades can cost up to £20 for the day, a little expensive for a family day out on a budget.

We opted for the Pear Tree park and ride where we could park our car and pay £6.80 to get a combined parking and return bus ticket for the family (2 adults and up to 3 children). The buses run throughout the day every 10 minutes and drop you right in the middle of the bustling and very busy town centre.

I am not sure if these park and rides are always so busy but the buses get jam packed pretty quickly, this meant that we were separated on board (as I had to have a seat) but this worked out well as the Oxford local next to me was able to tell me which stop to get off at to be closest to the museum – It isn’t as complicated as it sounds, the bus stops a few times to collect travellers en route to town but once in town, we got off at George street (Stop A2).

The Museum

Once we got into the town centre, we had a short walk of about 12 minutes from the bus stop to the museum. I was a little worried about this as I had already had a long car ride but it was a pleasant stroll through the town Christmas market (Warning! Take cash… or don’t if you don’t want to buy EVERYTHING) and down the tree lined streets filled with autumn glow. The town was heaving with people, locals and tourists alike but the overall vibe was fun and energetic, despite the misty rain falling. My husband describes Oxford as ‘Camden on holiday’ with a diverse melting pot of people all with similar cultural interests.

Young girl walking through autumn leaves

The museum, founded in 1860, proudly parades its Neo-Gothic architecture for the visitors and residents of Oxford to see. The building is as beautiful on the outside as it is inside and has all the feel of historic heritage. Once inside it is near impossible to look straight ahead as your eyes will immediately wander upwards to the sprawling ceiling and its impressive architecture. Whale carcasses suspended from the rafters and taxidermy bears at the entrance are merely a taste of the treasures hidden inside.

Despite the number of people crammed into the town centre, the museum itself was actually pleasantly occupied. There weren’t too many crowds that one could feel claustrophobic and the museum had chairs laid out sparsely along the exhibits for their mobility challenged visitors, namely me. I was able to sit down when the standing became too much and thanks to the open plan nature of the museum, easily spotted my family when I was ready to brave the next few steps.

The museum is one large floor space that has been partitioned by various exhibits including taxidermy, skeletons, dinosaurs, rocks and fossils all accommpanied by their written facts and findings. There are so many different types of creatures to see and many sensory experiences for the children, like touching a hippo head and cuddling a badger. My youngest was particularly excited about the dinosaurs and couldn’t wait to have a picture with the triceratops. On the ground floor, you can also find a lecture hall, the gift shop and then the doorway to the Pitt rivers museum (I will have to visit on my next trip).

Upstairs on the 1st floor, you can find a coffee shop and a gallery, while sitting having a bite to eat I also spotted the individual pillars that are sourced from different rock and stone from all over the country. Sadly, by this point I was not able to do much more walking so was not able to look at the gallery. The cafe was sufficient but it definitely had more of a student budget feel, there was not much on offer and the seating was limited but it was relatively inexpensive and all four of us had a snacky lunch and drink for £14!

Down the rabbit hole. 

It isn’t a suprise that Lewis Carroll drew inspiration from the museums zoology, entomology, palaeontology and mineral collections to create some of his characters in the legendary tale of Alice in Wonderland. I feel like a heathen not knowing as much about the famous author as I should have and now have an excuse to venture back into Wonderland to experience all of the ‘Alice’ adventures that Oxford has to offer.

Overall this was a fabulous day out and for a little over £20, we had a family day out for 4 including a light lunch and the exploration of a new little town and its treasures.

Oxford, I will be back!

Shevy

Xx

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Parenting, the dark side – Like versus Love.

Let’s be clear, love is not like

Being a mum is so difficult.

There is no manual; there is no textbook; there is no 30 days free return policy.

Then, there you are, suddenly mum (or dad) and baby. Get on with it.

I love my children, to the ends of the earth. In fact, I don’t know a mother who doesn’t (I know really decent people). I look at my children every day and watch them grow, spread their wings, look at how beautiful and how individual they are becoming… the light side of parenthood.

What is all too often not discussed and swept under the carpet as taboo is the dark side of parenting, the side that brings out the human being in all of us. The side that makes us question our parental capabilities.

Children playing in autumn leaves

Love versus Like.

Let’s be clear, love is not like. I can love someone with all of my heart: an inexplicable and immeasurable need to ensure somebody else’s happiness, wellbeing and safety. Love is putting someone else’s needs above your own without reason or explanation. I love my children and I would go to any extent to ensure that they have everything their little hearts desire (to my own detriment at times) as long as I possibly can.

Love is the intense, involuntary, incomparable and unconditional affection you feel for someone else and in this case, how I feel about my children: a feeling beyond words, beyond measure, beyond explanation.

Just because I love my children, doesn’t mean I always have to like them.

Children are only small human beings after all and humans CAN be annoying. Why would your own children be any different? When you put a group of unique and individual personalities into a small space for a prolonged period of time (18 years plus), there is bound to be some head butting – That was a description of a family unit and not a prison might I add, though at times not dissimilar.

I am the first to admit, with love, that there are times that I do not like my own children. This is not a permanent state of dislike, I am not going to reject their justification nor will I ignore them as a result of this dislike (if it can be helped) but all too often, mothers are expected to forget who they are as a human being and be the epitome of motherly perfection instead, I am sorry, I am just not that mum.

I know that I can love my children without actually liking them; the two feelings are not mutually exclusive.

I can almost feel the judgement as some people would read that line and wonder how can I say that about my own children, those perfect mums I’ve already mentioned included. Disliking my daughters when their actions are unlikeable is by no means a reflection of my love for them, nor is it a reflection of my ability as a parent to raise likeable human beings. Likeability is subjective, what I may consider to be likeable is highly likely to be annoying and offensive to most, so who am I to dictate to my children how they should or should not be when it comes to being socially accepted. In fact, through life they are going to encounter people who dislike them, colleagues who dislike them, mutual friends and romantic interests who dislike them. The way I see it, I am teaching them a valuable lesson:

Not EVERYONE will like you. Not everyone will like what you do, how you act, what you wear, what you say. This is not a bad thing, how boring the world would be if we all liked each other and had nothing to tweet about. I have accepted that there are a lot of people that do not like me (including my young human beings sometimes) and I have learned that this is a good thing, I no longer have to force myself to be around people who don’t appreciate all of me for me. They too deserve to learn this lesson.

Children looking at the locks on Bristol bridge

Behavioural dislike.

Unfortunately, dislike for your own children is likely to stem from behavioural concerns, this as they navigate the treacherous hormonal paths in front of them. No, I don’t like my six year old when she is bursting into tears every 5 minutes about unnecessary things. Nor do I like my eleven year old daughter when she is giving me a side eye and talking over me as she is being reprimanded for once again not doing something completely, so she may race back to her Snapchat story.

I am very fortunate in that these are normal behavioural changes for children of their ages, they are forming their own identities; they are being influenced by their peer groups and they are learning who they are and who they would like to be in this, a digital age. Just because these changes and moods are to be expected, doesn’t mean I have to like it – I am allowed to wear my own brat hat every now and again, no matter how many times I am told my children are well behaved and adjusted.

Social Expectation.

 

As a parent, it is very difficult not to feel like you are failing when you log into Instagram and see pictures of your friends’ happy, bubbly, posing children or when you go onto Facebook and the updates are only positive ones. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I myself am guilty of only pushing the positive online versus the negative, though I feel that this (Moonsomnia) is the right platform to look at the dark side (and sometimes light side) of parenting and start the conversation.

I feel that social media and society do create this expectation that we have to be this perfect mum above all else. Slowly but surely, we are getting to a point where we are pushing back; acknowledging that we are not actually mum’s first. We are human beings first and being a mum is one of the most important opportunities we have been gifted, it does not define who we are and we make mistakes, we don’t have perfect child-parent relationships (show me someone who does) and we are no longer afraid to talk about the darker elements of being a mum. It isn’t all daisies and roses.

Being a parent doesn’t come with a ‘HOW TO’ guide and we are all fumbling along the way, making mistakes and learning from each other. It is still foreign to me that stigma in this day and age is STILL A THING and there is a stigma attached to admitting that there are times you dislike your own child.

That doesn’t make you a bad person; it makes you an honest one.

So the next time your child does something you don’t like, don’t be ashamed to admit to yourself that you genuinely didn’t like it. Don’t be ashamed to talk about it and remember, you are a human being with human emotions and robotic stamina: you are a SUPER MUM (or dad!).

I would love to hear about your dark parenting experiences, help me by commenting below so I don’t feel so alone…

Xx

Shevy

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