Male depression kills more men than cancer! Why are we not talking about it?

We have come to the end of January and are now in the first week of February, the two months considered the most depressing of the year. The sheer lack of sunlight can make us feel lethargic and, financial concerns are more apparent once the dust of Christmas has settled and normality ensues. Sadly divorce and suicide rates are considerably higher in January, and I know personally that a New Year does not always bring new hope to everybody. Over the course of the last 2 years six men that I know socially have committed suicide. Four of which had absolutely no medically documented history of depression and amongst their close circle of friends the general consensus was that “it was completely out of the blue” and “we never saw it coming”. However, for the deceased this obviously wasn’t the case and the depression, as for so many men had manifested itself over the years. Left undisclosed and untreated and, most of all undiscussed with any of their close male friends and family.

Male suicide is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45, estimated at around 4,500 per year . That’s higher than cancer which is around 3,000. In addition to this the Office of national statistics outlines the harrowing facts that the male suicide rate is three times higher than the female rate. Even more alarming, this rate has increased gradually year on year since 2002, but what hasn’t increased is the support or understanding of male depression. We continue to not talk about it in any great depth within schools, the media, and I’m confident it’s not something discussed around the dinner table.
I was glad to hear that Theresa May has declared that mental health problems are everyone’s problems and has vowed a step change in the way Britain deals with the issue. I feel that the issue of men’s mental health, in particular, needs to start with open communication and in order to start that we need to tackle the stigma that men feel about discussing their problems.
Women are considered to be the more out spoken sex when it comes to our feelings and our anxieties. Men tend to internalise any feelings of anxiety they may have and avoid conversations relating to their state of mind or, want to admit that anything is troubling them.
These differences are shown in my relationship with my partner. I get very nervous in new social situations and if I am feeling stressed my personality changes and I will be very vocal about what is troubling me.I am certainly not immune to the monthly menstrual ,emotional imbalance that enables me to argue with a stuffed teddy bear 7 days out of every month!
My partner however is exceptionally good when meeting new people, incredibly well liked amongst his peers and will always be the one to diffuse any of our domestic disputes. He, however, requires a monthly prescription of anti depressants to get him through the day.Yet, nobody would think for a second that this man, who is very successful, both in his personal and professional life would need the support of medication to help balance his mindset. My partner does however have a family who are very supportive and due to a heriditary history of mental illness could offer advice and continued support. Other men are not so fortunate.

Today we live in a society full of endless celebrity, social pressures and a ‘you CAN have it all’ attitude to a work life/personal life balance. A lot of people’s lives however are just a train commute from a full head on collision, that even a lo-fi Instagram filter isn’t going to mask well. Despite, many celebrities exposing every second of their ‘perfect lives’ and creating an ideal that many will feel needs to be obtained, there are a few celebrities out there who utilise their position to highlight the social issues faced by men. They don’t shy away from the darkest subject matters of suicide and most Importantly they provide advice on how to get help. Two of the best examples I have encountered who continuously champion male mental health issues are Stephen Paul Manderson AKA rapper Professor Green and ex footballer Stan Collymore. Both could be considered controversial choices when it comes to role models for men, especially given their highly publicised brutish, male personas. Many would consider they fit the typical mould of men who are less likely to discuss their anxieties and feelings. That is why I believe both these individuals are what other men need in order to have a platform to discuss the undiscussed; male depression.

Stephen Manderson’s father committed suicide, and due to an estranged relationship with his mother this led to his grandmother becoming his main guardian. Mental illness is like all illnesses and can be hereditary so when Manderson found himself personally in the midst of depression it naturally conjured up questions about his late father. Interestingly a documentary he participated in entitled “Professor Green: Suicide and me” for BBC3 was the first time he and his grandmother had talked openly about it since the incident. Despite the connection to mental health it had not been discussed between them no doubt because of the raw emotions it would evoke. Imagine then, how difficult it is for a man who has no starting point to voice his concern about his own state of mind. How do you possibly just turn round to your friends or family one day and say “I feel like I want to kill myself” or “every day is a constant struggle”. How does the person they have used as a sounding board then react and advise? I’m quite confident that most would simply say “you need to get help” rather than actually talking in depth with that person abut their mental health, or even having any idea of where to turn for guidance themselves.

Fortunately there is help out there in the form of charities. One of the leading charities is supported by Professor Green himself and is called CALM; campaign against living miserably. They not only offer support through their online activity but also over the phone via a 365 days a year helpline. Their main objective is to be a tool that men can turn to in their darkest hour. However, they also want to challenge a deep rooted cultural barrier that often prevents men from seeking help, because of the stereotypical role they feel they have to play in society as the strong, dominant male.
I feel we all expect the person who has the illness to contact the charity themselves and/or go to the doctor. If you had a broken leg you wouldn’t be expected to drag your own body weight to the nearest A&E. Likewise if you had a bout of food poisoning, and couldn’t conjure up the strength to ring your doctor for advice, you would hope a family member could do it for you.
I firmly believe this is what needs to change in our attitude towards men and mental health. If you have the suspicion that someone is suffering, you should have the opportunity to get support to them, rather than them having to seek it out themselves. With further funding a charity could make outbound calls to mental health sufferers and start building a rapport with that person enabling them to have someone external to the family that they could slowly open up to.
I also think we should be looking further into both the mental and physical nature of men and the consequences for their mental well being.

Take for example Stan Collymore who has been very open both through his presenting jobs and his account on Twitter about his personal battle with mental health. He is a major advocate of how exercise has enabled him to keep some form of control over his depression and anxiety. In addition to this my own partner uses running as a means to calm any overwhelming feelings of worry and anxiety he might feel that day. He immediately feels a sense of achievement and productivity that he would not have felt had he not been able to get out of bed. This however is not a method that is accessible to everyone. Depression can be so overwhelming for some that they can’t physically lift their head from the pillow, and like Stan Collymore has encountered personally, “a feeling like your body has been drained of any life”. How can you then simply put on your running shoes and and have that get up and go mentality. I’m sure for even the most level headed person a daily exercise regime or running everyday is hard to achieve. It is why I do think their needs to be a focus on both charities and the government.
My partner is very fortunate that he can use the support of a personal trainer who has too suffered from depression.He understands the importance of setting achievable daily exercise goals that will enable the body to keep fit and my partners’ mind clear.
By coupling physical activity with open communication there is a balance that is more in tune with men’s mentality and physique than expecting them to be able to lie on a couch and talk about their emotions for an hour. This tactic hasn’t worked so far and I don’t think it will work in the future unless the nationwide treatment plan is more individualised to suit the gender differences.
Furthermore I believe that we accept that in all areas of life both men and women behave differently. This is also the case with mental health and suicide. Sadly, even the methods men use for suicide are different. Most men use hanging or firearms as a method of suicide and these methods are invariably fatal. It is harder to feel that hanging or shooting can be considered a cry for help when they usually result in death.
Women, however, are more likely to veer towards overdoses and self harm which will not always result in death. We understand and accept that women are more expressive emotionally, and therefore they find it easier to ask for, and find, help
Sadly, male suicide is still seen as more of a taboo. A male member of my family tragically killed himself, and for years his cause of death was discussed as a heart condition, rather than suicide.
More recently a close friend’s family chose not to have public service for their son who took his own life. As the mother of two boys my heart aches for her but, I do wonder if this would have been the case if he had he died from a physical illness.

It is imperative for families and friends to be more aware that despite mental illness not been something we can physically see, there are often physical signs in men that can point towards depression. Examples could be ongoing backache, sleep problems, sexual dysfunction, ongoing headaches or digestive disorders. None of these physical disorders will respond to medical treatment as they are not the root cause and are unfortunately the effects that mental health can have on a mans mental and physical wellbeing.

Mental health issues will, sadly, never go away. It’s not like meningitis or the flu that we can vaccinate against. It will continue to manifest itself, and is crippling to both the sufferer and their family and friends who struggle both to help and find help. We need to challenge the one size fits all solution to men’s and women’s mental health needs.
Only then, might we reduce the tragic loss of so many of our sons, fathers, brothers and husbands.

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Boys are lagging behind, and we need to act now!

As a woman I don’t think there is any other century I would prefer to live in than the current one. Not because of the advances in medicine, technology or education, despite how profound they may be, but for how far we have progressed in terms of equality for women. I only have to turn on the TV or pick up my favourite Grazia magazine to see the ongoing debate and continuous success stories surrounding equal pay, maternity rights, work from home opportunities and even diversity in female fashion to realise how far we have come. We no longer perceive the female role as having to stand behind the kitchen sink with her marigolds on. Yes, there is still progress to be made, but like life in any household, the society we live in will never be 100% perfect.

I, however, am a mum of two boys so I will naturally be focused on their position within society, and how I can fully enable them to be successful and have a happy fulfilled life. What has become glaringly obvious to me as a mum of two sons is how much the emphasis in education and family life has changed, and how it is now the males who are lagging behind.

Take education for example, previous statistics stated that white, working class boys were continuously falling behind their female counterparts. Fast forward to the present day and irrespective of your race or social class, if you are male you are statistically behind compared to that of females across most academic subjects. The fact that adult men do seem to currently dominate in many of the ftse board rooms and top white collar professions has obscured the fact that our adolescent males are really behind. Given the amount of emphasis now put on a boys athletic ability, most young boys accept that girls should be the academic ones and boys should be lifting a trophy on playing field somewhere!

Having had two boys, and being an auntie to a niece, I am all too aware of how girls seem to progress at a quicker rate. Especially in terms of their language and social skills. My eldest son started school aged 4 and having never been exposed to the primary schooling system outside of my own personal experience, I was surprised to discover that one teaching style is expected to enable both genders to flourish. It is a psychological fact that male and female minds operate differently, so surely teaching methods should reflect this? Einstein famously said “I never teach my pupils, I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” I feel this couldn’t be more apt for boys’ learning styles. Can boys really sit on the carpet for long periods of time learning phonetic blends, or would it be better to have more activity based, kinaesthetic learning given that boys respond better to high energy environments? At my son’s primary school, the clubs tailored towards sport are dominated by the boys, while the gardening and cooking club are 100% girls, reinforcing the point that after a full day in school boys are like coiled springs and need to be a active.

Then there is the feminisation of the teaching profession to consider, as less and less men are applying for roles in primary and secondary education, making fewer male role models available outside of the family home.

Just recently at my local library where I attended a rhyme time session with my youngest, we had a man taking the session due to our normal lady been off with long term sickness. One of the other mums told me how her son was so excited that morning because he knew a man was going to be doing the songs and reading the story. As a 3 year old of a single mum he doesn’t get to see his dad every day and contact with other men will be brief when out and about doing the shopping, or an odd trip to see his elderly grandfather. Yes, this child is a perfectly happy little boy and his mum a wonderful parent, but should we as a society be trying to provide more male role models for him to interact with on a daily basis?

Let’s imagine for a moment that the whole system was flipped and primary education and family were dominated by men. I’m quite confident that concerns would be raised that there was a lack of support for girls emotional and educational needs. This certainly used to be the case, and as a society we have been very successful in reversing this discrimination, but now it appears to have been at the expense of too many boys.

In addition to this, I feel that the most successful companies have always had a mixed workforce with both male and female employees helping to achieve the required goals, though often with a different approach. Both genders providing different strengths within the market they deal with. If you were to have a company purely dominated by either men or women, it simply would be missing out on the other attributes the missing gender could bring.

So what could the solution be? First and foremost we need to realise that the gap is ever present and is only going to grow wider if we don’t tackle the issue now. We can’t strive forward as feminists, banging our drum for equal pay and a work life balance and not acknowledge the fact that there is a new gender facing inequalities. We need to seek out male role models for our sons and the education system and teaching styles needs to diversify to engage both genders. This needs to be addressed pretty quickly before, in my opinion, a large swathe of the male population feel they been left behind and disaffected with no useful role to play in society.

I’ve teamed up with Author Bill Byrne to discuss how important conversation is with our children, and how it shapes our relationship with them right through into adulthood.

When you’re with your children in the car do you have the radio on? When they are eating their breakfast do they do so in front of the television? At bedtime do you read them their bedtime story and kiss them good night and run downstairs so you can catch up on all the ironing! We are all guilty of it. Life dictates that there are some points in the day when we simply can’t stop what we are doing and focus all our attention on our children. We can’t let the dishes pile up, we can’t let the washing grow mould and all those little hand prints won’t wipe themselves away. However, there are a few opportunities you could grasp where you can have those precious moments with your children, and really talk to them.

“How long does it take to catch a fish?” by author Bill Byrne is a collection of stories about the relationship between a father and son and their personal journey. The stories are based on conversations Bill was able to have with his son throughout his adolescence, and gives a real insight into the male psyche. These conversations however, would not have been able to take place had the author not siezed those precious moments when all outside noise and interference could be replaced by just yourself and your child talking.

As a mum of boys I am learning very quickly that my eldest son doesn’t want to talk for long periods of time about his feelings or anxieties, so this book enabled me to learn how to use the most ordinary of situations to develop a relationship with him. It made me question how I react in certain situations. For example, Bill writes of an incident where his son had left his homework to the last minute, and that resulted in them both racing around the kitchen cupboards mid school run to try and find items that contained glycerin for a school science project. As a result his son thanked him for not getting mad. I’m confident his son will appreciate this experience more than if his dad had lectured him about not completing the homework and slammed the car door shut.

The book also gave me encouragement to be not too fearful about my sons adolescent friendships and to let them just simply “work it out for themselves”. As a female it is in my very nature to make sure my son is content and happy around his peers. Normally, if he tells me he has been pushed or tripped over I will internalise that thought for days, going over and over in my head about how I can make it better. My head is filled with constant playground images of my poor child sat in the corner of the playground alone. But this simply isn’t the case. As parents we blow up the most trivial of situations in our minds when we should just simply let them get on with it. All too often our over involvement complicates what is just a very natural process of growing up, and getting some bumps and scrapes along the way.

As a parent we can read all the manuals and Google till we get cramp in our fingers, but I don’t think there will be any more sounder advice than that of a parent who quite frankly has “been there and done that” and most importantly will admit to their mistakes.

Every time I walk to the shops with my now 7 month old son I am always stopped by an elderly person who will coo over my baby, and then they immediately morph into their role as the wise old village elder and begin speaking of the old cliche about ‘how fast it goes’ and ‘to enjoy them while they are young.’ We exchange pleasantries and my son and I continue our day. I hear this message repated every day, and despite the exhaustion and the ongoing struggle with my household tasks I vow to cherish every moment.

Bill’s book reaffirms the message of how crucial it is that we listen to our children, and take care not to approach conversations with any negative connotations that stem
from unfavourable experiences in our own childhoods. I would highly recommend it as a reminder to appreciate every little experience with our children however poignant or ordinary, as it won’t be long before we are the wise old person in the street telling the next young parent to “enjoy it while it lasts”

My son isn’t interested in sport….. And that is fine!

My utility room at home contains a washing machine that is constantly on, a tumble dryer that is slowly creating its very own expensive carbon footprint, and also a corner dedicated to my eldest son’s discarded outdoor play pursuits! This includes a football, a golf club, a tennis racket, a scooter, and if I had not been so disorganised last term they would all be nestled on top of a karate kit! These items block the back of the door, and with each forced entry into the utility room I am reminded that my son just isn’t interested in sport, or any form of competitive physical play.

Before school each morning we arrive early enough to let him run around the playground. He will habitually play on all the apparatus and takes great delight in showing me (every morning) a secret opening in the bushes that has become his house. This house has its very own burglar alarm (a tree branch that you press down before entry), a sofa (a tree stump) and even a balcony which is a low wall that backs onto the football courts down below. It is here that a familiar group of boys from his year group play football before the morning bell.
I’ve often asked my son if he would like to join in, but this is always answered with a definite no and he continues with his imaginative play. He just isn’t interested and never has been during his short 6 years of life.

Naturally, as parents we have tried to expose our son to as many external activities as possible to discover what his passions are outside of the school curriculum. We tried football both in and outside of school, but he was more interested in what was lurking in the grass than the ball rolling on top of it. We tried golf, which I will add he was excellent at, but he had such hysterical fits before each lesson that I actually thought his lungs might burst. We have travelled to parks, helmet and plasters at the ready with his scooter, but he would much rather use the ramps as a launch pad for his superhero moves and best flying impressions. The only activity that we have firmly committed to is swimming, because whilst it is a sport and can most certainly be competitive it is also an essential life skill. However swimming is where it starts and stops with my son’s sporting interests.

As to be expected his lack of enthusiasm for sport has changed who he interacts with at school.He has always had a wide selection of friends, some that have been established from as young as 3 when he first started in pre-school. These friendships are naturally changing as each child explores their interests at playtime.
Sometimes on the way home from school we discuss who he has played with that day, and if I ask my son why he hasn’t played with a particular child for a while, it is always met with the stock answer, “They play football at break time.” Whilst it is sad that he doesn’t play with some of his old friends, I am pleased that he knows his own mind and is happy with the games and people he does play with.

As a mummy I will encourage my son to explore all of his interests, and I won’t ever deter him from doing something just because it doesn’t fit the mould. I’m pretty confident Ed Sheeran’s mum and dad didn’t dismiss his passion for music and thrust a ball under his nose every time he went to lift up the piano lid! Besides which, I will have fewer grass stains to get out of my son’s clothes!!

A little thought before you post that picture of your child mid tantrum

Picture the scene, your child has their first interview for a job they really want, a panic ensues about what outfit to wear, arrangements are made about transport, and your darling child acts out mock questions in front of the mirror.
Meanwhile, their potential future boss is at work looking over pictures of your child growing up, and creating their own profile before they even walk through the door. That’s right, your child’s future supervisor, the person who in charge of their p45 and toilet breaks is currently looking at your son aged 6 after loosing his first tooth, skipping down the stairs aged 10 to his mountain of Christmas presents and even that video you posted of him doing a funny dance to the song he never stopped listening to!

I am from a time when all family pictures were located in a box that was stored on top of my parents wardrobe, or taken with a video camera that needed to be connected to the computer. This was not 100s of years ago as my children believe, but as early as the year 2000.
Shortly after that was the well known birth of the mother of all social networking sites; Facebook. Facebook has enabled us to literally document every second of our children’s daily lives and milestones for all to see. Every single school achievement, play date with friends and family get togethers with the grandparents, is captured and posted.
The old cliche of a teenager being hideously embarrassed by parents, eager to show the new boyfriend or girlfriend photos of a time when their child frolicked naked in the paddling pool is now an online reality, and is available to future partners, peers, friends of friends or even their employer. The option of silently sitting in the corner praying that said photo box, or video camera will be packed away to gather its next coat of dust has been completely lost. Your child’s life is available for all see.

Recently, I read an article about how teenage children refuse to accept their parents’ friend requests online, and they won’t allow them to take personal pictures from fear of them being posted on social media. Of course, teenagers have this choice, they can vocalise how they feel however, our babies and young children don’t yet have the understanding, or the capacity to express their opinions on these images. Yes, as parents we think our children are the most gorgeous beings to ever have walked the earth, but given the statistics on body image and teenage peer anxiety, are we not adding further fuel to the already roaring fire of social media pressures?

A mum on Twitter had written about her son’s mobile phone content, and she accompanied the article with a picture of him looking at his mobile with his face blurred out. Her son is currently of high school age, and due to the subject matter I’m sure she had felt it necessary to pixelate him, so as not to cause any embarrassment.
I am interested to discuss how we feel we are entitled, as parents, to document every part of their lives until we realise how body conscious they have become.

We are all too aware of our children’s photos getting in to the wrongs hands, or our social media friends getting irritated at constantly looking at our children’s faces on their news feed. More important than this though, is the long term affects on our children of this constant over exposure.l have significantly reduced the number of images of my children on social media and I am more particular about the images I do post.
I will save the photo of my son’s first triumph on his potty, until he reaches his teenage years and we meet his new girlfriend for the first time! As for the video of him reenacting the moves of his favourite superhero, that will just be for me and his dad to watch, and laugh fondly at.

Many of my friends will disagree and we are all entitled to our opinion, but lets cast our minds back to our school days, when we were asked by our teachers to bring in an old photo of ourselves for the ubiquitous ‘changes’ topic. I’m sure we all selected the most photogenic snap of ourselves, not the one where we were having a tear streaked, snotty nosed tantrum! Even as adults I don’t think we ever move faster than when a facebook notification pops up to tell us we’ve been tagged!

Yes, we should celebrate our children, there is nothing on this earth that warrants more attention, but in a society that is becoming obsessed with presenting their “perfect” life online to the detriment of some children’s mental health we need to enable, and support our children to achieve their own path to self worth.

A review of the fabulous Bobadeg books

I absolutely love reading, my 6 year old son absolutely loves reading and despite my youngest being only 6 months, he always settles when I get a book out. So, when I discovered bodabeg personalised books I was delighted.
With the advice of Fiona from bodabeg I decided upon 3 books, ‘That’s Poo,’ ‘The Funny Fish’ and ”The Jiggly Juggly Journey.’ All 3 were personalised with a picture of my sons’ faces attached to the main character which, is where the fun began. We were able to follow their adventure through the pages wether it was a deep sea dive or a ride in a hot air balloon.The rhyming and repetition in the stories enabled them to read,( and in James’ case babble,) with ease and confidence.

It is really wonderful as a parent, to see your gorgeous child’s face on the pages of a book, and it is also an amazing keepsake. At the start of the book I was able to have the words ‘ to Isaac and James, hugs and kisses Mummy’ printed which, made it even more memorable.
My eldest son Isaac loves imaginative play and pretending to be the characters from the stories he reads.These books gave him the opportunity to enter into the character’s world on every page.This, I know, made him feel very special.

In addition to the interesting narrative, and lovely pictures, there are also some excellent tips for parents at the back of the books, to enable them to utilise the box as a learning tool. Some of the areas that are explored are, mathematical reasoning, pre-writing and verbal communication.

I would recommend these books to any parent looking for a personalised gift for their child or, a quirky bedtime read!

Brothers… A cameraderie that cannot be broken?

Looking at my 20 week scan picture 6 years ago I knew I was staring at a little baby boy. I was so confident in my judgment that despite telling everyone I had only bought gender natural colours such as lemon, white and cream, I had secretly bought a little blue knitted cardigan and tucked it away keeping my hunch firmly to myself.

The saying “a mother knows” couldn’t have been more apt when on the 20th of March 2010  Isaac was born.

The same however, can’t be said of my second baby. I had absolutely no gut feelings, and felt a strong desire to find out so that I could not only prepare myself, but also my 5 year old son who was absolutely desperate by this point for a baby brother.

When, on the 6th of November James was born and we were finally able to bring him home, I have never looked more lovingly and passionately at anyone as I did at the  two little people curled up together on our bed – my sons. That is why  I have such an intense desire for them to get along, and love one another.

I am  one of three children, but the only girl, and I have always looked on with envy at the relationship lots of my friends and relatives have with their same sex siblings. There is no doubt that I love my brothers and we have a close bond however, our conversations rarely go deeper than what our children are getting up to, and our get togethers are usually masterminded by the close friendship I am lucky enough to have with my sister in laws.

When looking on twitter and Facebook I often see pictures of my friends out with their sister or bother and they look incredibly close, usually sharing a night out with the mutual friends they have or, even going on holiday together. It is this closeness that I sincerely hope my sons will have when they are older.
  Naturally, it  goes without question, that I hope my sons will one day find someone whom they want to marry and have children with, as well as having their own, close  group of friends. But,  I would always hope that as brothers they have common ground, and remain in regular contact, not merely meeting one another when a celebration such a a birthday or wedding dictates it.
Currently, my eldest son Isaac adores his younger brother. I see his smile curve even wider if his little brother accompanies me to pick him up from school. He always includes him in the conversations he is having with his friends, despite James’ input being  little more than a dribbly, babble. He seems exceptionally proud of him and happier than ever when he is in his company. So, I am anxious to know  in what circumstances and when can I expect this close relationship to lessen, and for siblings go their separate ways?
  As well  as the relationships that make me envious, there are also the opposite. We hear of siblings who simply have very little to talk about or, the relationship is so fraught and challenging that they can’t  be in the same room as each other. Sometimes, these occur in a crisis situation such as caring for an elderly parent, bickering over finances or opposing views of the world. Whatever the age of the children, I’m sure all mothers would contemplate this state of affairs with great sadness.

As always in our celebrity culture we hear of famous relationships that make us wish for the same family ethos and bond as those of Andy and Jamie murray, Gary and Phil Neville and of course princes William and Harry. However, these high profile siblings seem to have a close relationship that has been maintained by their love of sport or their Royal position.

 What however, if my sons or yours have few common interests and don’t have such a strong familial  connection? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not wanting my two boys to be joined at the hip and masterminding the next pioneering invention together, Wright brother style but, I do want them to be as happy as they are now together right through into adulthood and beyond.  I want they to have respect for each other, I want them to question anyone’s negative judgement of the other and as a consequence reinforce the positives, most of all I want them to meet up and go for a beer and have fun together.

I am so excited about the prospect of them both walking down the stairs on Christmas Day together when James is older. I can’t wait for James to be wearing an old hand-me-down jumper of Isaac’s and I even look forward to when they are plotting behind my back together about how they can sneak sweets before dinner. Because that is what brothers do, they stick together, watch each other’s backs, and have a camaraderie that will mature irrespectively of whatever paths they both take in their professional and personal lives.

As their mummy I will naturally encourage their close relationship, and hope that in the years to come they will be hatching plans to meet up, when they have children of their own for that sneaky beer or two!