Sunday, 1 March 2015

Week 177- Mojos, minging nighties and taking advice from a three-year-old...

When I was little I remember being scared of authority.

Teachers. Other people’s parents. The woman at the Post Office who sold sherbet dips and Mojos.

These were all grown-ups. And hence, a little bit scary.

In stark contrast to this, my daughter now calls me and Ben, ‘the guys.’

She’ll be chatting to her toys, and be like, ‘the guys are taking us to the park later on.’

Or we’ll be calling her through for dinner and she’ll say,  ‘OK guys, just coming!’

It’s like we’re her contemporaries. Or over-familiar colleagues.

And I have to check myself for not treating her as such.

The other day I was getting ready to go out for a drink with a friend. 

This is a rare occasion and I’d been making a bit of a big deal about it so my daughter knew that something ‘exciting’ was happening and didn’t want to go to bed until she’d seen me get dressed.

She curled up on our bed and said, ‘ you look lovely mummy.’ Which gave me a bit of a warm glow.

Followed swiftly by, ‘but I don’t like your dress.’

‘Right.’ I panicked. ‘What about this one?’

‘I don’t like that one either.’

I used to live with a house full of girls at university and we used to do the same thing for each other; the harsh analysis of each other’s outfits before we left the house in the evening.

The only main difference here was that no-one was chain-smoking fags. And a large glass of red wine had been replaced by a small beaker of blue-top milk.

So I held up another dress.

‘What about this one?’

‘I like the one you were wearing the other day.’

She was unbudgable. Whatever I was wearing the other day was far better than any of the outfits I was trying on. But I had no idea what she was talking about.

My daughter was getting more and more frustrated, until she slammed down her milk, went over to the dirty laundry basket and tugged out an old nightie.

A disgusting nightie that you’d think twice about giving birth in, that had been the back-up of the back-up night clothes. Only for emergencies.

But with the builders in all week and the house covered in dust, we hadn’t been able to wash anything for days so were all having to wear an eclectic mix of items until normal services resumed.

‘This one.’ She thrust it at me with pride. ‘The pink one.’

Of course. My daughter, the lover of anything pink, despite my coaching from birth.

‘You look beautiful in this one mummy.’

And this is where I draw the line.

She might talk to me with the neutrality of a couple of friends who are catching up over a bite to eat after work.

But the advice taking stops here.

There’s nothing more wonderful that your child telling you you’re beautiful.

But not if it means you have to go out on the town in a minging, dirty pink Primark nightie circa 1992.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Week 176- B and Q catalogues, bearded weirdos and hide and seek...

We’ve started going to B and Q at the weekends out of choice.

I feel like a little bit of me has died.

And if that’s not bad enough, I picked up brochures for their kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms, and perused them over a glass of wine on a Saturday night.

That's right. 

When other people are in the pub, having sex or dancing the night away, I’M FLICKING THROUGH B AND Q CATALOGUES.

I think the early on-set middle-aged moment really sunk in when I saw my daughter desperately trying to entertain herself in what is pretty much an aircraft hangar full of bathroom fittings and men in paint-splattered trousers.

She was looking through all the cupboards in the display kitchen in the hope that there may be something interesting in them or, better still, a snack.

I had been in the very same position at a similar age with my dad. I remember thinking; this can’t be it, can it? Shops can’t really be this massively boring, can they?

As Ben and I were discussing the pros and cons of toilets with handles versus those with buttons (handles all the way btw) I realised I hadn’t seen my daughter for a little while.

I half-heartedly called her name a couple of times whilst picking up paint colour charts.

By the forth shout-out with no response, I started to get a bit worried.

As I looked down the empty aisles, my pulse started to beat a little bit too loudly in my ears.

Unnecessary adrenaline is one of the most unproductive things a body can produce.

Your rational mind is telling you, ‘calm down, she will just have wandered off,’ where as the adrenaline-fuelled panic is screaming, ‘the guy with the beard who was carrying the big tin of emulsion on aisle 3 looked like a total child-snatching weirdo!’

I started to mum-run around the store, where you go the same speed as walking but your legs are doing twice as much work, Fred Flintstone style.

I couldn’t find her anywhere.

And at the point where I was about to get a member of staff to do a call out for a lost little girl, I heard a muffled, ‘I’m here mummy!’

A familiar shape was hiding under the covers in the display bed.

Panic over. It was just an elaborate game of hide and seek.

Turns out, lack of sleep, an over-active imagination and an inbuilt maternal-instinct to panic your face off about your children on a minute-by-minute basis, can transform a face-punchingly sedate B and Q into a pretty fucking dangerous place after all.

I’d go so far as to say I deserved a sit off and a gander at their bathroom magazine after all that.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Week 175- flapjacks, Kate Tempest and Febrezing your work clothes...

I'd bought tickets to see Kate Tempest back in October, thinking, come February we'd be going out all the time.

What an optimistic fool.

With both children not even considering sleep before 8pm these days, a show that started at 7.30 seemed a tad ambitious.

But with a good friend, who's also a mother of two, offering to babysit we thought we'd give it a bash.

I breastfed my son from pretty much the moment I got him through the front door in the hope that he'd just nod off. In contrast I agreed to a long and sugar-filled list of demands from my daughter in return for her absolute assurance that she would go to bed the very second our friend turned up.

And at 7.20, we were miraculously in a taxi. Neither of us had eaten. And I'd only had time to Febreze my works clothes. But we were out. And more to the point, on time.

Now. The thing about buying tickets so far in advance for a night out is that you can sometimes forget the exact details of what the tickets were for.

I'd watched Kate Tempest perform before. She was fantastic. She also had started moments after the doors had opened.

This was not to be one of those nights.

As we entered the club, the forth people in the queue, it felt like the end of a primary school disco when they turn the lights on in the school hall just before your parents come to pick you up.

Stark strip lighting and no music. In fact virtually no atmosphere.

It turns out there was a support act, which wasn't starting for another 45 minutes, and then a further hour till the main event.

I'd totally misjudged the evening. We had turned, half-starved to a club-night-style event and were virtually there before the bar staff had started their shift.

'Play it cool,' Ben and I whispered to each other.

The venue didn't sell food. Obviously. Not even a packet of dry roasted.

Instead we ducked out over the road to the volley ball court cafe, which had also just, moments before, closed the kitchens.

So armed with a handful of flapjacks they were just about to bin, we re-entered the club, panicking we'd get searched and they'd confiscate them. 

The place was starting to fill up a bit by then with effortlessly beautiful people who must have been about a third our age. 

And I had a think about what my 20-year-old self would say to me now; the total keeno, dressed in my works clothes, panicking my face off that I'd get chucked out of a night for smuggling in oat-based products.

She'd probably be shaking her head in despair whilst downing a pre-pub bottle of red wine and chain-smoking Embassy Number 1.

But then she doesn't have two children yet.

She still has that all to come.

And fast-forward fifteen years and she'll be painfully grateful for any opportunity to go out, so much so that it becomes standard to turn up two hours early to a gig.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Week 174- helicopter mums, mastitis and being the king of brill...

My children have both been with the child-minder for four days solid for the first time in their short lives.

And neither of them seemed bothered in the slightest.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I want them to be independent, of course I do. 

I don’t plan to turn into a helicopter mum. Making friends with their mates and enrolling as a mature student at their universities. 

But I would like them to at least acknowledge that I’m not there.

My son has never been away from me for more than a day, and now he’s spending over half his week with a, to all intents and purposes, complete stranger. And he’s having the time of his life by all accounts.

I, on the other hand, went to bits.

I don’t mean emotionally. 

To be honest, I missed them both. Of course I did. But being in the company of adults felt like a long over-due treat. Being able to pop out and buy a sandwich, or pay a bill and only take my handbag with me instead of a double buggy, change bag, waterproof cover, wellies, two lunchboxes and a bottle of milk, felt like being unshackled.

But my body had other ideas.

After a week of colds and coughs, my son had reverted back to feeding through the night.

And as a consequence, I developed mastitis.


I thought the eye-watering days of not being able to fasten your coat up without feeling like someone was Chinese burning your chest were over.

And it took four days to go away.



So, this milk bar is reaching closing time.

I can’t spend my life carrying around an electric breast-pump, praying that I won’t have to find a discreet meeting room with a plug socket.

And in the meantime, I’m going to be the most entertaining, fun, not-mardy, never brush off the ‘can you play with me?’ with an ‘in a minute’, kind of mum ever.

So that my children have a brill time with the childminder.

But they remember that the King of Brill comes to pick them up at 5.30.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Week 173- regressing, leaking and Jurassic Park...

Your children sense change.

They sniff it out with the accuracy of a detection dog at Bangkok airport.

And, once they’ve firmly established that something is going on, they react.

Almost always in the exact opposite way you’d like them to.

On the eve of the eve of my return to work my son decided to stop sleeping with the commitment of a raver at a free-party.

We’d given him a bath. He’d had a feed. He’d lured me into the false sense of security by having a quick yawn.

I lowered him into his cot, which in itself is a bit of an impossible task as you have to stand on tip toes to grow about three inches, then fold yourself double to put him in.

I rested my hand on his chest and felt his gentle inhale/exhale and turned to leave.

Then had one more quick peek.

He looked so peaceful.

I started thinking about how much I’d miss hanging out with him everyday.

And in a moment of reflection/ stupidity I affectionately stroked his baby soft hair.

And then it happened.

He blinked his eyes wide open.

And I held my breath.

Maybe if he couldn’t hear me breathing he wouldn’t realise I was there like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.

But no.

He grinned at me.

Did a kind of B-Boy flip in his sleeping bag and stood up, clutching the side of the cot.

How could I have been so fucking stupid?

I tried to swiftly exit the room; thinking if I disappeared, the situation would somehow correct itself.

Then came the cry. It started as a lip wobble but crescendoed into wall-shaking sobs within seconds.

Fast forward six hours and I am lying in bed with him next to me. 

He’s no longer feeding but using me as some kind of human dummy. Which would be fine if it meant he actually went to sleep. 

But every time I unlatched him, he sprang upright to a sitting position, and launched himself back at me like a manic apple-bobber.

The following day, with a total of about 37 minutes sleep under my belt, I took my daughter swimming.

And as we got undressed in the tiniest of changing rooms, my daughter said, ‘mummy, you’re leaking.’

After months of weaning my son, of giving him bottles during the day, of encouraging him to try solids instead of breast milk, we regressed in one night by having the mother of all feeding marathons.

And my body has gone into milk-producing overdrive.

And I am about to leave him with a child-minder for four consecutive days and am producing more milk than your average dairy.

On the plus side, apparently babies can smell their mothers milk from up to 20 feet away, so at least this way he will definitely know when I am coming to pick him up at the end of the day. 

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Week 172- settling in, using your brain and smelling your children...

I am going back to work in one week.

Seven days.

I have approximately 168 hours to get the old grey matter fired up again.

For the last 10 months I have been living moment-by-moment.

Working out how you live day-to-day in the world with a toddler and a baby. How it is humanly possible to feed and clothe them both and still find the time to brush your own teeth and cram in the occasional round of Marmite on toast.

These have been months of looking inwards. Of focusing on my family. Of changing nappies, wiping tears, rubbing bumps and carrying children on a cocked hip. 

Now going to have to shift that focus.

Look out to the world again.

And speak to adults.

And I am excited and utterly petrified in equal measure.

I took my son for his first settling-in session last week.

I thought I'd be the mother of all cool about it. We've done this before. I am an old hand at giving my kids to other people to look after. The childminder is beyond brilliant (seriously - anyone who would regularly look after more than their own children deserves a knighthood).

My daughter has been going there for over two years.

A settling-in session should be viewed as a free half-hour to have a coffee without children.


But as I approached the door with both children I suddenly, completely unexpectedly, got a massive, all-encompassing, head-to-toe rush of panic.

How has the time passed so quickly?

It felt like only yesterday that I was shouting at the midwife, 'I'M DOING A POO!'

For her to calmly respond, 'I can see the top of his head. It's not a poo. It's your baby.'

And now he's starting childcare?

I had a super-quick ugly cry on the doorstep.

Then rang the bell.

And thirty minutes later I picked them both up, neither of them having noticed I'd gone.

Which, although I should have been reassured, was a tad disappointing.

I have, for the last nine months, provided pretty much round-the-clock care. I've just shoulder-cried when dropping you off. Come on son, at least a momentary wonder as to where your mum's gone wouldn't be out the question, would it?

But two days later and it's the big guns.

The two-hour settling in session.

And I'm ready.

In fact I'm more than ready.

I've got so much stuff to do in those 120 minutes that I literally pass the children, rugby-ball style, to the childminder and start to address the small matter of sorting out my life before rejoining the workforce.

See, that's the thing with being a parent. You're constantly in flux.

Within an hour, you can go from having the most absorbing, calming time passing a piece of Duplo to and from a baby, to listening to two children scream so loudly from tiredness, you feel like your ears may bleed.

So maybe going back to work will be the best thing all round.

It will be the opportunity to commit to one thing. To finish a sentence. To go to the loo without someone watching me. To be asked my opinion on matters other than, 'what's your favourite colour, pink or dark pink?' between 9- 5.

And come 6pm, I will hold my children tighter than they'd like.

And inhale them.

Like they're the best smell in the world.