Tuesday 27 April 2010

If Your Name's Not Down, You're Not Going Out

Ever since a certain incident last Thursday when The Husband 'forgot' that I was going out, I have decided to install a Family Calendar. About last Thursday - I was supposed to go out with the girls for a curry, but The Husband rang at 7.30pm to say he was running behind schedule and he would be home by 8pm at the latest. The Husband is the only person in the world who can make it from Birmingham to Bedfordshire in twenty minutes, apparently. Anyway he gets home at gone 9pm and had clearly forgotten that I was supposed to be going out. To be honest, I hadn't really been in the mood for a girlie night, but I wasn't going to let him know that. I was torn between just laughing it off or going into one about how he has all the freedom and I am just a caged animal who bloody well can't even go out for ONE SODDING NIGHT. It was only when the girls rang me to say 'where are you there's a poppadom with your name on it' that The Husband cottoned on. I decided to go for the I don't really mind missing out attitude, but we all know that I've got it stored in my brain under "Things To Bring Up In Future Arguments".
The idea is to revolve our lives around the Family Calendar. Which is never ever going to happen because we seem to live in constant chaos, but for the moment I am pretending that we are a functional, organized unit. The calendar is detailed as follows:
So far this week I have listed the below activities:
MUM: buy soap
DAD: working late Wednesday & Thursday
THE ELDEST ONE: football
THE TOMBOY: football
THE TODDLER: whatever Mum is doing plus cutting/smashing/spilling/burning

On one hand, the Family Calendar makes me feel like I am totally in control, the captain of the family ship, the matriarch overseeing her brood and their whereabouts. I'm hoping that when one of my London friends calls and asks what I've been up to, I can check the Family Calender and reel off numerous exciting activities. But on the other hand, it really depresses me because there it is in black&white how dull my life is. I think I'm going to put on there a few made up things so when people come over they get a glimpse of a fun-packed, adventure-filled family with numerous social gatherings for Mum & Dad. But anyone who knows me will suspect that it's bulls**t.
The Family Calendar also has the downside that it may give The Husband an advantage over me. For example last night he said "You know I'm out with a client tomorrow night" to which I had no idea and started to moan about how he never tells me anything in advance - soon to be cut off with his retort "Well, I did put it on the planner". Damn!
But I've thought of the perfect revenge. Next time he suggests any form of friskiness, especially during Glee or Desperate Housewives, I will quick-as-a-flash retaliate "Sorry darling, we can't. It's not on the Family Calendar".

Saturday 24 April 2010

Don't Try This At Home

The Husband is really into Carefree Parenting. Which I think borders on Careless Parenting but who am I to judge when my P-Factor (parenting factor- geddit?) is practically zero. The Husband has enough trust in his children to let them run free. The Husband will happily walk in front of them while at the same time be watching them. The Husband respects his children in their choices of play, however dangerous. The Neurotic Mum (ie me) does not.
Whenever The Husband manages to tear himself away from the business of wheeling and dealing, he likes to do jobs in the garden. This often includes leaving shears within reach of The Toddler who is going through his Freddy Kruger phase and the current favourite of building a fire to burn rubbish. Jobs in the garden have a HUGE impact on my weekend stress levels. The Husband says that I am too much of a worrier and really he has enough experience of cremating leaves within a centimetre of young children to know what he is doing. He is always telling me to BACK OFF because I sound like a broken record which definitely isn't Shiny Happy People but more like Moany Naggy People.
The children LOVE it when The Husband has a garden fire. They have a built-in ability to know that it really winds me up and they think it's hilarious when the score is DAD 1 : Mum 0 especially when it's Dad's fire versus Mum's homework. The Husband believes that Nature is free, fun and better than any teacher (although he draws the line at camping - so do I, you can't be this glamorous and a camper). The Husband likes basic things that entertain the children and can't understand why I think they would rather be in Starbucks.
Anyway, this particular day not so long ago, The Husband decided to set alight the landfill site full of compost which is the bottom of our garden. He made sure that the children stayed as close as possible by giving them sticks to poke at the flames. I was not convinced by the laughter and squeals of delight because all I could think was 'well that's another bloody load of clothes to wash and it's all very well for Fun Dad because he doesn't even know where the soap powder is kept'. After about 45 minutes of joviality, The Husband sent a smoke signal that he was taking them to the park and yes, before you ask, the fire is out. Seizing the opportunity for some rare Peace & Quiet, I snuck into bed with a magazine. Well I must have dozed off because some moments later I came round to shouts of "Helllloooo!!!! Anybody Home????" and a strange crackling sound. I ran downstairs to be met by the next-door builders and what can only be described as The Great Fire Of Garden. There were flames shooting up the trees and smoke bellowing into the sky. And I am not exaggerating - it was mayhem. The builders started shovelling soil onto the flames as I frantically phoned The Husband: "You better get home now, the garden is on fire!". And I can just picture him turning round to the kids and saying "Oh Neurotic Mummy needs Fun Daddy home, there's a match that needs blowing out".
Well you should have seen the look on his face when he arrived back and saw the damage caused by the now extinguished fire. It was a cross between realising that I had been telling the truth and bloody hell I am gonna get it for sure this time.
And also a little disappointment that the children hadn't been within inches of the blaze to teach them about nature at its best.

Friday 23 April 2010

Food Glorious Food

It is rubbish having to feed three kids. I'm pretty lucky that they more or less eat the same thing but often I have to try to remember who is having peas and who is having beans and who likes both and who doesn't like either.
To be honest, The Toddler is on a strict diet of dirt and stones at the moment which is making things a little easier. He also likes the odd bit of grass. I've looked in my Annabel Karmel book but she doesn't seem to have a Soil & Bean Hotpot in her repertoire.
Actually I am pretty good because I do panic if they've not had fruit or vegetables that day but it's soooo hard especially if you're out&about or feeling lazy.
If I had my way, the Five-A-Day would be:
1) Left over Easter Egg
2) Leaves
3) Pizza Hut
4) Walkers Crisps (any flavour)
5) Anything microwaved
OkayOkay, so I am exaggerating. But I have tried all the Annabel Karmel stuff even bloody Popcorn Chicken and it never goes down as well as jars from Boots and Chip Shop. I find when I have spent hours cooking some Annabel Karmel creation, it's often received with cries of "It's dis-gus-ting" and "I don't like it".
I just googled Annabel Karmel and I can't find anything bad said about her on the internet. That is frightening. She is one of those people that exist (like Gina Ford) who are there to show us that we are doing it all wrong and our goal should be to emulate them. These days I deliberately avoid reading the childcare gurus since it is precisely this modern orthodoxy that is causing the feeling that I am doing a bad job at parenting.
When I first was getting to know The Best Friend, I bumped into her in Morrisons and we got chatting. I really needed to get fruitshoots but wasn't sure if she was the kind of mum who would agree with that or give me a lecture. I was mildly panicking about the way the conversation might go but then I spotted in her trolley Microwave Fries (honestly I'm not that bad) so I knew it would be okay for me to grab my fruitshoots. It was precisely at this point she became a firm friend. We've all had these experiences. There are mums I have come across that really take it to the other extreme. For example, I went to a party once and there was a mum who didn't feed her daughter any sugar, ever. Clearly that child will grow up and gorge herself on sweets and chocolate whereas I find that having them in the house at all times makes my children have a take-it-or-leave-it attitude to confectionery.
What I do try and do is eat with the children. But family mealtimes can be a nightmare. There is the fidgety ants-in-his-pants Eldest One, there is the wild Toddler who flings food around the room and pours juice over his dinner. Then there is the moany Tomboy who whines "He's got the blue bowl, I want the blue bowl". Perhaps those families that never sit down to eat together but stuff themselves with ready meals in front of the telly have got it right?
Oh and can I just say that Jamie Oliver is really getting on my nerves with trying to change the way this nation feeds their children? That man can never be at home! I bet his wife is stressed out to the eyeballs that she's practically a single mum so sneaks the odd McDonalds into the house?
Anyway all I'm saying is surely there is a happy medium where you can feed the kids lovely home cooked food and crap without feeling guilty. Chocolate Casserole anyone?

Wednesday 21 April 2010

A Toddler-Flavoured Milkshake please

In the excitement that is MY LIFE, I had to go to Sainsburys today to buy toilet roll. And for added entertainment, my friend had asked me to get her some milk while I was there. When I got home I left the milk on the kitchen table so I wouldn't forget to drop it round her house (I can't go shopping and remember to go to a friend's - the grey matter which is The Baby Brain cannot process two actions in one day).
Anyway, I went upstairs to get a jumper and while I was in my bedroom The Toddler must have realised that climbing on the table to look at the milk was a damn sight more interesting than playing with his train set. And for extra value, The Toddler decided to push the 6 pint plastic container off the table with as much force as his 18month old arm could muster up. The result - the plastic exploded on impact with the floor leaving 6 pints of milk saturating the kitchen. Forget the volcanic ash, a room drenched in volcanic milk is much more hazardous to life as we know it. (well my life anyway, I'm not stuck in the Dominican Republic am I, but The Isle Of Groundhog Day). I came downstairs to find that not only had my kitchen and contents been decorated in a paint called Organic FullFat but also The Toddler was jumping Peppa-Pig styleeee in a milky puddle.
I froze on the spot. I would be utterly rubbish in a crisis. It took a good ten minutes for The Baby Brain to reboot and activate. I scooped up The Toddler and strait-jacketed him into his highchair then ran upstairs to grab many towels to clear up the mess. Which took forever. There was milk everywhere, even in places that I didn't know existed like The Oven and The Cleaning Products Cupboard.
Now, I'm a great believer (although not a practitioner) in the saying 'if you can't change your situation then you can change your attitude towards it'. The extra cleaning up I had to do today could have ruined the whole week. But instead I realised that I had an interesting story to tell at the park after school and, hey, material for tonight's blog.
I guess there's no use crying over spilt milk.

Saturday 17 April 2010

Parent Attax

It's a scary scary world. Any of you who have ever been sucked into the world of collecting cards/stickers to fill a book will understand what I am going on about. I'm talking Club Penguin, Star Wars, Top Gear, Bella Sara, WWE Slam Attax and, in my household, Match Attax.
When The Eldest One announced that he wanted the Match Attax starter pack (book and cards included) I initially thought well why not at least it gets him away from the telly. Over the past few months it's been a Match Attax frenzy in this house and The Eldest One has successfully managed to get most of his mates into collecting by manipulating me into buying their starter pack. Which finds their parents loving me then subsequently hating me. But be warned - we were in about Week Five of collecting when it dawned on me that these starter packs plus acquiring the full set of cards for my son was costing me the same as buying him his own real-life football club. It has left his piggy bank and my child benefit account depleted.
It works like this - the starter pack is £4.99 and then subsequent packs are 50p each for six cards. Spending a paltry 50p seems a bit mean so you're always going to round it up to £1 or £2. But then you realise that your kid is having a couple of friends over so you have to buy them Match Attax too. You end up spending a fiver which doesn't seem so bad when the ten shiny packs light up the faces of children. Three times a week. However the fact that you are the Cool Mum who always buys Match Attax far outweighs the cost.
The companies that make these cards are very very clever. They always introduce extremely rare cards. Or in the case of football when it's the transfer season they bring in the new players. It's a form of controlling us. George Orwell would have a lot to say about Match Attax.
The more the kids collect, the more likely they are to get 'bad' cards and only a few 'good' cards which they need. Their friends (and their friends' parents), who have just started collecting, benefit greatly from this as they get given all the swaps (more cards for the kid and less cost to their parents). Swaps can be a nightmare. My son's friend only needed the West Ham manager to complete his managers so my son swapped it with him for the Hull City goalie. I then asked The Eldest One what managers he needed and he said "The West Ham manager" BUT HE'D JUST SWAPPED IT!
The most devastating moment in The Eldest One's life happened last week when he had a friend over who didn't collect Match Attax. I was completely conned into buying them two packs each even though the mate wasn't bothered. And because The Tomboy simply has to have everything The Eldest One has, I had to buy her two packs too. Plus sweets. A fiver later seemed nothing compared to the twenty minutes of peace&quiet I was going to have. (Yes I will pay to escape parental duties, no matter what the cost). Imagine the scene - the one card The Eldest One had been coveting for a month was the West Ham manager (see above)...but lo and behold, it appeared in a pack that his mate had! The Eldest One had a COMPLETE MELTDOWN and seeing this reaction, the mate held onto it with his dear life even though he didn't collect Match Attax. And you'll never guess what I did. Realising that this could cause some serious emotional damage, I went back to the shop and bought packets until the West Ham manager appeared. I figured that eight quid was nothing compared to the price of therapy that would have been needed in his future years.
On a positive note, the card collection provides me with some serious negotiation and disciplinary means. It's the only thing that The Eldest One seems to care about if I take it away. His daily routine and behaviour are governed by the thought that I might buy him Match Attax. And if that means I get less back chat, well, that's priceless.

Ministry Of Idle

Ministry of Mum very highly recommends "The Idle Parent" by Tom Hodgkinson. I bought it by chance, then lost it after only reading two pages (hidden by the kids no doubt), then found it again and it has changed my life overnight. Well, not literally changed my life but has made me very happy that there is now a parenting guide in existence which doesn't make me feel inadequate. It is a godsend. Tom Hodgkinson basically argues that by backing off from our children they become more self-reliant, confident, contented and free - and we get to lie in bed longer. It's something I've been trying to do for ages but guilt has stopped me. And what's most interesting is that the author has three children who seem to fit the mould of my kids - The Eldest One being demanding due to neurotic first-time parents, The Tomboy being slightly less high maintenance but more self-sufficient and The Toddler who has always been left to his own devices, is the most relaxed & confident.
So today is Day One of my new regime of Idle Parenting sans guilt.
This morning I played 'Attack of the 80cm Toddler' which meant he climbed all over me laughing while I basically got to lie in bed for twenty minutes extra.
I then successfully got The Eldest One to fetch me some water while I sat on the sofa.
Half an hour sunbathing while The Toddler played with a wooden spoon and flower pots.
Lunchtime spent writing this blog with children playing happily and safely in the garden, back door firmly closed.
I am also pleased to confirm that The Tomboy's biscuit handing out skills are coming along nicely.
The result so far - happier children and happier parents. And if it means I can sit and watch The Hills repeats on MTV while The Toddler plays with a piece of paper then it's a win/win situation for all.

Wednesday 14 April 2010

A Brief Glimpse At My Parenting Skills

The Eldest One was really getting on my nerves today - he can totally tell when I am in a tetchy mood and picks on me. Yeah yeah I know I'm the adult and he's the child but everything about him was grating on me.
So I said to him "Why can't you just be nicely behaved and, well, normal like the other six year olds we know?"
and he said "It's really hard being six"
and I replied "Well you should try being the parent of a six year old"
and he said "It's just a difficult age"
and I replied "Just wait til you're nearly 41 like me"
I'm not sure that he learnt anything and I'm not sure about my parenting skills but hey it put me in a better mood.

Tuesday 13 April 2010

Blah Blah Blah

I've just tried about sixteen times to write my blog. And I can't get into the groove tonight. Which is a shame because the kids are in bed, The Husband is working late and there is no American crap on telly. I was making excuses to myself like 'oh well I've got to do packed lunches' and 'there's school uniform to iron' which even I can't fall for when in fact it's school holidays. I could fake a blog, pretty much in the same way I sometimes fake something else (hell, I need my sleep!) but then you guys would be suspicious in the way The Husband always is. I could nick someone else's blog but all the ones I have been looking at are by families really into their kids so everyone would know I'd stolen it.
So instead I am going to write a poem. An ode to my lost blog.
My head is all fuzzy
Filled with smoke and fog
Hello baby brain
Goodbye blog

You can tell I've not had much adult conversation today. The Eldest One was at a mates so I decided to take The Tomboy out for lunch while The Toddler slept in his buggy. Except The Toddler only slept for 8 minutes. And The Tomboy didn't give a monkeys about bonding with her mother over lunch. The conversation was basically me saying "Please don't" and "Let's go".
I used to be pretty good at conversation, especially the adult variety. I could tell funny stories and the occasional joke. I would even go as far to say I had a natural talent for chatting. Alas, seven years of interrupted conversation has taken its toll on me and it's pretty hard to get a full sentence out. It goes something like:
"Well what I think is...(Kids, Can You Stop That Now!!!)...emmm ehhhh....(Right You Get Upstairs Until Dinner) really should go for it because...(I Said Now!!!!)...sorry, call you back in a minute...
I just googled 'Adult Conversation' and it was depressing because I didn't understand anything that came up. Like Climate Change and The Media Revolution. So here's a little list of subjects for Adults (With Demanding Children) Conversations. Which is apt because The Husband said earlier that I only have 8 topics of conversation these days:
1) How many times I am interrupted when trying to speak to a friend
2) Sorry I've just got to change his nappy situations
3) Let's talk about which kids we like and which we don't
4) Why I don't care anymore when he/she cries
5) I need a night out
6) My husband is really getting on my nerves
7) I really want to lose weight/give up smoking/not have special love tonight
8) Paranoia in the playground (was she funny with you??? he didn't even say hello to me. etc.)

I can tell you I am very very good at these conversations, I've had seven years of practice. But don't expect a full uninterrupted sentence.

quick note: The Husband tried to talk to me about a situation at his work last night and I totally panicked. All I heard was ' two hours...' And it's funny because I always moan that he never talks to me about his work. And I really protest when he says it's because I'm not interested.

I'm waffling now. Uninterrupted. Blah Blah Blah.

Monday 12 April 2010

Gizza' job

I really admire these mums who work full or part time and still manage a crazy household and are happy with their perfect balance. Actually I don't actually admire them, I envy them. I used to be one. After the birth of The Eldest One and until the birth of The Toddler, I owned a childrenswear shop which gave me the ideal work/family lifestyle complete with my own identity and yes I suppose a level of ego. It was also fab because I worked in the centre of town and my mates were prone to popping in to see me. So it really was the ideal work/family/friends/and most importantly gossip balance.
I didn't consider that having three young children and a shop would be a tad difficult. I thought I could be WonderWoman but when I was eight months pregnant I realised I was actually BlunderWoman and hadn't given a thought to how I was going to manage the kids, the shop, the cost of childcare, the general day-to-day stuff and the stress. So it was bye bye shop and hello full-time motherhood. Which worked. For about six months. I loved being in the newborn baby bubble and standing still for a while. I think The Husband couldn't quite believe it. Nor could I. But then I came to my senses and no longer wanted to be a member of the Cult Of Motherhood, I would worship no more at The Temple Of The Child, I was - in a word - BORED.
My day reeked of groundhog: get woken early by the children, get them breakfast, organise oldest two for school, tell oldest two to hurry up, TELL OLDEST TWO TO HURRY UP, put wash on, think about having an alcoholic drink, think about exercise, read 'The Hungry Caterpillar', pick kids up, feed & bath them, bribe the kids to bed early, watch crap telly, sleep.
All of this punctuated by changing nappies and answering to 'Mummy, I need youuuuu'.
Now some of you out there enjoy this and I take a big hat off to you because I don't, and sometimes I wish I did. In my opinion, motherhood is changing and there are more of us out there rebelling and wanting a separate identity. But it's hard. I'll let you into a secret - these successful women who appear to have to all (a great career, a great family life), well THEY HAVE A NANNY! And I would kill for a nanny, even if she chained smoked, wore my clothes, stole the loo roll and ran up a long-distance phone bill.
I'm digressing.
So I had The Conversation with The Husband who could probably see it coming a mile off and told him my woes that I wanted to work but what do i do about the children when the only option is paying for help. The Husband, bless him in his innocence, suggested I get a night job in Aldi or Lidl. He didn't even mention Waitrose or John Lewis! So my life basically would become the groundhog day as described but the sleep bit would be replaced with go out to work. (note: I know a couple of fabulous mums who do this and they are truly wonderful, far better creatures than I ever hope to be and possibly far less selfish). Anyway, we couldn't agree on a solution. I always come up with reasons like who sorts the kids when they are ill, which he says are excuses but funny how the answer to this kind of question is always me.
So after a year of trying to decide what I want to do when I grow up, I've come up with the following: A part-time job please. Three days a week that fits around school hours. And school holidays. That provides a nanny (free). Salary of around 50k. Work uniform of Marc Jacobs, Prada Sport and Gucci included. Occasional travel to the Maldives. Lunch hour at The Ivy with never ending supply of Grazia mag. Dinner to take home. CVs that include past breast feeding, nappy changing, broken sleep, ironing and tantrum dealing will only be considered.

Saturday 10 April 2010

The Pond and The Plagues

So I think I am being punished by a Higher Being for writing some naughty things in my blog. There appears to be a Plague Of Tadpoles in our garden pond. Which I suppose is better than a Plague Of Toddlers.
We were very vigilant and grown-up when we moved into this house. We realised that the pond, no matter how pretty, was a potential danger to children. It might have come in handy from time to time, but the responsible parents in us told us to put a fence around it (this and constant nagging from my mother). However the way the fence is built allows for a little gap around the top end of the pond, that has never been a problem until now. The little gap has obviously never met The Toddler. Who today discovered the little gap and will try everything to make sure I am looking the other way as he squeezes his rather plump body through it. Not unlike Alice going through the rabbit hole. But unfortunately that which is a Wonderland to The Toddler is in fact a Dangerland to The Mother - not that he cares. And if he falls in, there is NO WAY I am going after him - I am far too glamorous to be covered in tadpoles and pond slime.
Before The Toddler's discovery, I was able to pop into the house to grab something or indeed go for a wee, knowing that he was safely playing outside. Now I can't even pop indoors to send a text as The Toddler has suddenly developed a sixth sense that tells him I am absent and therefore makes a beeline for the gap.
Just when I thought life with The Toddler couldn't get any worse, he finds another button to push.
The Husband assures me that tomorrow he will go to Homebase to buy wood or chicken wire to close up the gap. Which I am sure he will do. But then the wood or chicken wire will sit in the shed long after The Ten Plagues have been and gone. And I will be stuck in the garden forever more, unable to text and needing a wee.

A Lovely Family Day

The Husband has been feeling charitable and decided to take a day off. To be honest, I'm not sure it was a decision made freely - I basically threatened him within an inch of his laptop to take some time off as it's the school holidays. And we all know that without his laptop The Husband is just a big blob of jelly on the floor. I think he realised that if he didn't have some extra family time then he might come home one night and find the entire contents of me & the kids out on the lawn.
Now the main rule to The Husband taking a day off is that he must absolutely stay in the office until at least 3am the night before. And he mustn't tell me he is going to do this until his normal home time. He stays late for two reasons 1) to avoid a major catastrophe such as a Black Hole forming where his desk sits in his absence and 2) to work two full days in one day to compensate for the day off thus ensuring his company gets more of him than his moaning wife ever could.
The Husband loves to tell anyone who will listen that his "diary changes daily" and a day off booked in advance renders this claim invalid and ruins his business street cred. So to avoid such a disaster he doesn't tell a soul that he is taking a day off (see below).
Now, The Husband is very clever and excellent at thinking up marriage tactics. On the morning of his day off he always lets me have The Lie-In and leaves me dozing until around 9am when he brings me a milky coffee and toast in bed. I then wander bleared-eyed and in love down the stairs for my lovely considerate Husband to announce that for the next hour he is an essential part of a conference call involving the offices in London, Paris and Mars. And of course I can't possibly complain because hasn't he just given me a lovely lie-in and cup of coffee with toast in bed? So I keep my mouth shut and smile sympathetically at him while the children decide to play fighting with sticks and I attempt to gain some control while the poor man is discussing "jumping through hoops" and "being left out in the cold".
The thing is, and I've probably mentioned this before, but The Husband lives in a very different time zone to me & you. He lives in RSHW Mean Time, which stands for Really Slow Hour World. So the one-hour conference call turns out to be one hour and 45 minutes plus another conference call to discuss the original conference call which lasts even longer.
I stay silent.
Around lunchtime The Husband announces that it's time to go to the park for a spot of family fun. Bearing in mind that his mobile phone is a distant relative and therefore is welcome on the trip. You have never seen multi-tasking as efficient as The Husband kicking a ball, pushing a swing, buying a lolly at the same time as dictating a letter to his secretary, presenting to a client and writing a Powerpoint presentation. It is an act worthy of the Britain's Got Talent final.
(Everything The Husband does within his working life utterly cannot wait until The Next Working Day and god forbid there is a weekend looming.)
At around 4pm I calculate that The Husband has spent 2.3 hours with the children and 6.7 hours on the phone with a bit of laptop-love in between. I feel that I am now in a position to mention this as The Lie-In was quite a long time ago. But alas, having a Husband with an Olympic gold in The Game Of Marriage means that he absolutely promises to make it up to me by taking another day off in the Christmas holidays 2015.
So as I sit here writing I wonder if The Husband working on his day off actually stems from his panic at being left alone with the children, which I can understand. Or could it be his panic at having to spend some time with me? Answers in the usual way please...

Wednesday 7 April 2010

Breeds of Mothers (part one)

Went to the farm today because it's a good place to go where I don't have to have too much to do with the children. Except The Toddler kept going near the goslings and getting hissed at by Mama Goose so I had to intervene before there was an incident.
Noticed that there are many Pedigree Mums out there having a lovely time interacting with their kids. And I was really the only Mongrel Mum who saw it as a break and an opportunity to get some 'me' time.
I come across many Pedigree Mums and it's so refreshing when I find a mum who thinks the way I do. For example, a mum approached me the other day to ask if I had managed to ascertain why the children hadn't done their spellings at school. I was like "oh haven't they? what, it's their day for spellings???" and she looked at me with such disdain. I felt totally guilty at having so little interest in the day-to-day schooling until I took The Toddler to a baby group and said to someone "God I don't know why I am here, I can't stand children" and she replied "Me neither, I hate it". And so I breathe a great sigh of relief! How great to meet someone who looks at motherhood the way I do.
Don't get me wrong, I like being a mum but I want to retain a sense of SELF. These mini conversations prove to me that I'M NOT ALONE in not wanting my world to revolve around the children and for my identity to be Their Mother. To find other mums who think like me is necessary to my existence. I couldn't survive on my own!!!
There's a new film out called 'Motherhood' starring Uma Thurman and it's done really badly at the box office. Whereas 'Sex And The City' does amazing. My point exactly - there are many of us out there who want a piece of designer clothes, sex chat, A list gossip and fantasy - why go to see a movie about the groundhog-day life we are living????
It's funny though the perceptions I have of other mums and the perceptions they have of me. My Northern friend asked "Do you have one of those mums in the playground who wears Ugg boots and nice clothes?" and I was astounded to say "Yeah! That's me!". She saw that type of mum as an Alpha female, totally in control. When the truth is I dress the way I dress to lift my low self-esteem but am sooo Beta female. If I turned up at school wearing joggers with greasy hair because I couldn't be arsed to make an effort, then that would be a fast downward spiral to losing the very piece of me that I am desperately trying to keep.
Does this make any sense? I have just had a bottle of beer and I'm feeling a bit lashed. I'm booze blogging ha ha.
I got chatting to one of the dads the other week at the park and I was moaning and groaning about the Dark Side of Motherhood and he said "Gosh I didn't realise you were one of us. I thought you were an Earth Mother". I was FLOORED. I've never baked a crumb or made a craft in the whole of my life!
So I got to thinking about the different breeds of mothers that are out there. There are many categories & sub-categories and I'll write more about that later (real meaning - there is something good on the telly and I can't be bothered to blog anymore). However I've decided mothers can be divided into Pedigree and Mongrel groups. Me? Oh I'm definitely Mongrel and Proud.
To quote Anne Enright "...Meanwhile I am nice to a whole range of people I wasn't bothered with before - doctors, teachers, shop assistants, and above all other mothers, whether or not they are my type."

Oooops I forgot my maternal instinct (FOOTNOTE)

Felt bad about writing all that last night - I guess I just wasn't feeling the love.
This morning The Tomboy crawled into my bed and we had such a lovely bonding cuddle that I felt really guilty.
Until she said "Mummy, why are you growing a beard?"

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Oooops I forgot my maternal instinct

I don't really remember the first time I saw all three of my children. It was more-than-likely due to the cocktail of morphine/epidural/pethidine/oxytocin/codeine that I was off my face on every time I gave birth. I sort of recall seeing The Eldest One but I was busy hallucinating about a dog licking my face to be too bothered about the newborn in front of me. So I certainly have never had that surge of unconditional love when maternal instinct supposedly kicks in straight after birth. My experiences are more like that bit in Alien when the creature bursts out of John Hurt's stomach. My kids are still extra-terrestrial to me and I often have no idea where they came from. We've somehow managed to get ourselves bound together in a curious sort of 3-legged race where we'll only cross the finish line when they turn 18.
I mentioned this to The Husband earlier and he laughed it off (possibly panicking at the thought of social services) and said I have a great maternal instinct. He meant it in a 'lioness protecting her pride' sort of way. When I have to pay out fifty quid to the plumber who has found pencils shoved down the sink, when The Toddler wakes up during Desperate Housewives, when I get asked two minutes into a car journey 'Are We There Yet????' - yeah I agree, my reactions to the kids can certainly be instinctual and definitely animalistic.
OOhhhhh you know what I'm talking about. We've all had those vomit-in-the-hair, how-long-til-bedtime, smash-your-toy-to-pieces, Husband-come-back-NOW moments.
Then I realised something. My non-maternal instinct is very much part of my maternal instinct. I say horrid things to the kids only because they can wind me up like no other human on this earth. I never fully ditch them in the supermarket when they are kicking off. I only ever smash the toy and throw the pieces out the window because they are bashing each other. I experience such humiliation and frustration because they are my children. All of this is surely deep rooted in my maternal love - right????

Monday 5 April 2010

Spirited Children

We've just got back from what was supposed to be a lovely meal out en famille with some friends, to finish off nicely the Easter break. I always go into these situations believing that it's going to be relaxing with plenty of time for an adult catch-up. Okay, so I suppose I should have learnt by now.
While our friends' children are sat nicely doing the colouring and quizzes in their kiddie packs, eating nicely, using manners, all the things I think my kids are going to do - my children are going MENTAL. The Eldest One can't decide if he wants apple juice or orange juice, finally deciding on apple juice but when it arrives he goes into argumentative teenage mode insisting that he asked for orange juice. He then spends the rest of his time chopping up the colouring pens with a knife. The Tomboy, dressed in pink trousers with football socks and a skull&crossbones beanie hat, is in a multiple-personality mood and spends the majority of the meal sulking outside the toilets, occasionally crying and sometimes cuddling. The Toddler refuses to sit in his highchair (note to self: always decline to sit in wheelchair when I'm an old lady) and is running around carrying a variation of wine glasses, cutlery and posh restaurant ornaments. I can tell The Husband is gritting his teeth while desperately trying not to make some comment about how the kids behaviour is down to my parenting. Our friends, bless them, are really sweet and sympathetic to the disaster which is unfolding around them, and offer the wise words "Oh how lovely to have spirited children!".
So I come home and look up in the dictionary the word 'spirited'. It gives this explanation: "displaying animation, vigour, or liveliness", which doesn't make me feel any better. I'm thinking about writing to Mr Collins Concise to offer the following definition "displaying intensity, persistence, sensitivity and LOUDNESS".
I think all children must have these characteristics but spirited children possess them at a crazy level. Mine in particular are off the scale. If you measured my kids on the Spirited Child Richter Scale, they would be at least a magnitude 7.0. Wherever they are, there is always a major fault line.
Having one spirited child must be fantastic, having two could be a challenge, but three???? I am seriously considering contacting that Angelina Jolie - she doesn't have an English kid yet in her 'rainbow family'.
Okay so I know I must be really grateful that they are healthy, normal (whatever that is), happy children yeah yeah yeah and I am - but only on the good days. I can tell by 8am whether it's going to be a 'good' day or a 'bad day'. The good days couldn't be better - spirited children on these days are funny, wonderful, interesting, loving, thoughtful and respectful. The bad days are a different story. And why oh why is it always at least two of them on the same day. How can I describe the experience of sliding from joy to exasperation within twenty seconds? Or the feeling of dread that it's another nine hours until bedtime? I'll make this clearer:
LOUDNESS: They don't cry, they shriek - it's a sound not unlike chalk down a blackboard. They're noisy when they play, when they eat, when they laugh, even when they're in the toilet. At recent parent's evening for The Eldest One, the teacher actually asked me if there is something wrong with his hearing because he is so LOUD.
PERSISTENCE: If I have mentioned that we might go to the park, they will go on&on&on to infinite and beyond until we go. And getting them to change their minds is a major undertaking.
SENSITIVITY: A look from the cat can cause major tears. They can sense I am in a foul mood or hungover before I even know it myself. Getting dressed can be torture - a loose button or 'bubbles' in socks or scratchy sleeves can render items unwearable.
EASILY DISTRACTED: Sending them to fetch something or getting into the car will probably take half an hour as something else will take their attention.
REGULARITY: Their wants and needs don't change daily, they change momentarily. And I just can't keep up. I've given up trying to second guess them because this causes even more issues. They are irregular in everything except doing a poo, which the three of them always time at exactly the same moment.
MOOD: There is never any grey area, it is seriously black or white.

And don't try and comfort me by saying they are unique/energetic/full of life. That's all a myth. Like eight hours of solid sleep. I spoke to my mum to get her opinion and all she had to say was "well, you were high maintenance as a child too". So I guess it's payback. Good job I grew up to be a Spirited Mum. It makes spirited family life more bearable, if only on the good days.

Thursday 1 April 2010

The Day Off

It's been a bit crazy.
First of all our internet & home phone went down which meant The Husband absolutely had to stay away Tuesday night because he can't cope with less ways of work to contact him and me moaning about how I can't blog. I worked out that I clocked up over 36 hours of being left alone with the children and because I had no internet & home phone, I actually had to talk to them. So I'm hoping that's given me a week free of special love as a reward.
What kept me going was that I was soon getting The Day Off. Once I worked out what this meant, I was very very excited. You see I have a friend's nanny who is going to take The Toddler one day a week with a view to me getting some 'Claire' time. This meaning housework but for now I'm pretending it means Loose Women and Milton Keynes shops. Ever since the arrangement was made a few weeks ago, the promise of The Day Off has helped me get through the demands, the hissy fits and general groundhog-day life with the children.
However then came The Episode which happened two days ago. I took The Toddler to the nanny for a 'trial' run - this being making sure he didn't have a total meltdown over being parted from me for more than one minute. He showed no signs of losing it so I made my getaway, only for something strange to happen, something very strange indeed. I got in the car to go home and was struck by an overwhelming feeling of Separation Anxiety. After sixteen months of trying to get rid of The Toddler, I completely PANICKED over the prospect of not having him with me. I had no idea what to do. Going back to fetch him was not an option as I didn't want to be seen as A Pathetic Mum. I'm already pretty rubbish at motherhood that I don't need another disorder. And calling The Husband was utterly forbidden - when he saw it was me, he would send me straight-to-voicemail and the idea of crying into his messages was not appealing. So I did the only thing I could think of - went straight to the shop to buy this week's Heat magazine. You will be relieved to hear that after intense therapy back home, with my feet up, no children and two hours of celebrity gossip, I soon recovered from The Episode.
Which brings me to yesterday. The Eldest One had gone to a mates which meant I only had two children at home. And I did what I always do - invite someone who has children over for tea. Thus ensuring that there are at least double the amount of kids in the house that I actually need. It was all going swimmingly well and I was actually managing some Adult Conversation, when The Tomboy fell over and cut her head. It was an annoying interruption until I realised she was bleeding, forcing me to switch into Good Mother Mode, which believe me isn't that easy. Her cut looked pretty bad and my friend, who equally transformed into A Grown Up, advised that I go to A&E.
This was a big turning point for me as The Tomboy's mum. Not only did I keep calm and responsibly deal with the situation, I also took her out in public dressed in a football shirt and her brother's army shorts. It crossed my mind to get her changed into reasonable attire, but in all the panic I forgot to grab a bag of emergency clothing. It's not that she dresses like a boy that bothers me, it's that other mothers might think I actually dress my daughter like that. So I only ever allow her strong sense of individuality to be practiced in the privacy of home. She's either very cool or very weird.
So a huge amount of glue and cuddles later, I am home and coming to terms with the fact that the doctor has suggested she doesn't go to school the next day. Which wouldn't normally be too much of a problem (honestly), except tomorrow is The Day Off.
Then The Eldest One walked in. A quick look at the cut on The Tomboy's head plus the red-stained tissues all around the house and The Eldest One's manic phobia about blood kicked in and within five seconds he is throwing up all over the kitchen floor. And any vomiting, no matter what the cause, means an instant no-no for school the next day.
So here I am. On The Day Off. Forcing The Eldest One and The Tomboy to watch hours upon hours of tv while I write my blog. There's nothing wrong with either of them. They are ok enough to be full of demands & arguments & fighting, aren't they? I've still managed to package The Toddler off to the nanny but, boy, am I paying the price.
I'm coping okay but did have a quick moan to The Husband earlier. His response? A philosophical theory which has made me feel sooooo much better about me losing The Day Off - "It's only a day, isn't it? What's the big deal??".