Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Be kind. Never stop caring. Because we are the fortunate ones, for now...

We all have to make difficult decisions every day as parents. 

When to stop breastfeeding, whether to send your baby to a childminder or a nursery when you go back to work, when to move them into a bed from their cot, which infant school to put down as your first choice.

But what if you had to decide if getting on a boat to sail over dangerous waters to a country you've never been to and don't speak the language is safer than staying where you were born. 

What if you had to look in the eyes of your small children and weigh up whether taking them on that treacherous journey was less dangerous than staying in your war-torn country.

I read an article in The Independent today that suggested practical ways in which you could help refugees; how you could make donations, where to drop off clothes, that kind of thing, and then I made the mistake of reading some of the comments below. Vile, heartless rants from people who accused them of wanting a free ride or sponging off wealthier European countries. 

And I thought, when did it become OK to think so little of other human beings that their actual right to life became a privilege?

When did we stop thinking of people as people and started thinking of them as a number. X number of refugees are arriving in Calais every day. X number of refugees are entering the UK. This will put a strain of X pounds on the economy.

When did we stop caring? 

Every one of the people living in sub-standard conditions, waiting to hear if we will help them, has escaped terrifying circumstances to make a life-threatening journey to get there. 

Everyone of those people has a name. They had a home. A life. Friends. They have family, people who care about them. Or maybe they did. Maybe they don't any more. 

As I dressed my daughter this morning to take her to nursery, I thought of the mother of the little Syrian boy who tragically drowned and who's body washed up on the beach.

His mum must have dressed him that morning in warm clothes, knowing the journey they had ahead. Given him breakfast and then left their house for the last time, desperation and hope for a better, safer, life driving her. 

Because no mother puts her child on a boat unless it is safer than the alternative.

We sign the petitions then scroll onto the next Facebook post. I know. I've done it myself. 

But as I sit in my comfy flat writing this, there are thousands of people sleeping in camps that will have turned to bogs over the last few days in the rain. As my children peacefully sleep in their beds, there will be toddlers and babies tonight clinging to their parents, cold and hungry. 

I'm not suggesting we should feel bad about being safe or warm or happy, I just think we need to remember that a year ago, many of these families may also have been planning for their children to start school, buying school uniforms or organising family days out. 

If someone had told them that a year on they would be thousands of miles away from home, living in a makeshift camp, not sure if members of their family have survived the journey, they wouldn't believe you.

So be kind. Hold your children tighter. Say I love you more often. And do what you can to help. Because we are the fortunate ones. But we never know when our luck might change. 

Monday, 24 August 2015

Week 202- kitchens, beige children and washing up in the bath...

Having your kitchen replaced is really straightforward and even a bit of a laugh, said NO-ONE EVER. 

The children are turning beige from the amount of microwave crap they are eating.

I've put on the best part of half a stone in seven days from mainlining Tesco own brand macaroni cheese.

And the plug hole in the bath is blocked up with old bits of food as we have to do the washing up in there.

Thank God for wine. 

It's so low maintenance.

It only needs a corkscrew at best if it's posh, but mainly just a glass. 

Or a mug if all the glasses are in the bath.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Week 201- childfree, drinking and the impending sense of doom...

I've been childfree for a week.

And I thought it was going to be the business.

Yep, of course I expected I was going to miss the children. 

But six whole nights having an entire double bed to myself with the potential of going to bed past midnight and not panicking my face off about whether my day was going to start the next morning before 6am. Are you shitting me? This was going to be boss.

But, the best laid plans...

Day one was fine. I've had the odd night solo so no big deal. And it meant that I could watch The Good Wife back-to-back.

Day two and I'd cleaned the house from top to bottom when I got in from work, a job I'd been meaning to do pretty much since we moved in.

By day three I was starting to feel a bit jumpy. Like something was missing, that feeling you get when you might have left your card behind the bar of the pub and gone home. Or cced someone into an e-mail you didn't mean to. 

Just a bit nervous. A tad wobbly.

Day four and I was going a bit crackers.

I'd watched all the rest of series five of The Good Wife. There's nearly 20 episodes and it was gone 2am when I'd finished. And Will dies! Seriously?! How am I meant to feel about that at 1am when I'm 3/4 of the way through a bottle of Merlot and no one to talk to about it?

Day five and I meet some friends in the pub who are also all mums. 

Thank god. 

Too much wine and a minor celebratory spot (Dave Glover from Emmerdale in case you're wondering) and I'm starting to feel more human again.

Day six and it's there again but about a hundred times worse. 

That impending sense of doom. 

So far I've eaten all the chocolate in the house, including some cooking chocolate that's been welded to the back of the fridge for over a year and worked my way through most of the red wine we'd brought back from France. 

I go to my sister's and give my niece a big sniff. 

What the fuck has happened to me? 

I'm a mess. 

I miss my children with an ache I hadn't experienced before and it's totally shit. 

I've got a kind of nervous energy that makes me feel like I'm about to get bollocked on a major level at any given moment.

Day seven.

They're home.

Nancy invites me to accompany her for a poo and Thomas pulls up my t shirt and jabs his finger right into my belly button. 

Normality is restores. 

The feeling in my chest immediately disappears.

I'm going to have to man up. 

Because I can't be feeling like I'm having a faux heart attack if I'm away from them for more than ten seconds. 

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Week 200- camping, drinking and puking on ferries...

We’ve done it! 

We’ve survived two weeks in France with small children without killing one another!

I’d like to say that we braved the full fourteen days in a tent, but I had a major panic about three minutes before we set off for the ferry and booked the last two nights in an Air B and B in Brittany.

Turns out I shouldn’t have bothered because:

a) we’ve totally got this camping thing nailed*

b) the photos on the Air B and B site were taken using an estate agent’s wide-angle-lens and we were actually staying in a converted shipping container in the owner’s back garden, who was OBSESSED with making sure we closed our car door quietly as to not disturb anyone who lived within a two-mile-radius of the most boring village in the whole of France.

The faces of enthusiasm in a packed car. (We were still parked outside the house at this point.)

I’ve drunk so much red wine over the last two weeks that my teeth have gone permanently grey, the children are covered in spots from living on a diet of pastries and, although the weather was so hot you collected pools of sweat in the crease of your arm by just standing still for 10 seconds; I’ve still managed to put on a stone from the amount of soft cheese I’ve consumed. (Who gets fatter in a heat wave? That’s worth a Brownie badge in itself.)

There are things I need to record from this holiday so I don’t forget them for next time-

1. Always take more than three spare sets of clothes on the ferry for everyone. Because we get seasick. All of us. And although it’s a ball-ache to drag a massive back of clothes around the ferry, it’s more inconvenient to all be covered in puke and have nothing to change into when you’re staring down the barrel of a five-hour drive. The smell of sick doesn’t improve in the heat.

2. Don’t kid myself that I’m not going to be mainlining red wine and small bottled beers from the moment we pitch the tent. Go to the hypermarche as a matter of urgency, as the campsite shop thrives off that kind of faux self-control and charges four times as much for a bottle of Cotes de Rhone.

3. Always bring a child who’s old enough to speak along when I may be confronted with having to attempt French. And then instruct them to do it instead. It’s far more endearing for a shop assistant to have a three-year-old attempting to ask for four croissants and a bottle of UHT milk than a 36 year old woman who can’t remember anything past Tricolore 1.

4. If the children are happy then we can have a decent holiday. It might not be glamorous, or even remotely cultural hanging around a campsite all day, messing about in the swimming pool but if the kids are knackered, the chances are they’ll nod off in the pram and then we can enjoy an ENTIRE meal without having to chase one of them around the restaurant. And that means wine. A whole bottle if they’re really worn out.

5. Hanging out with your own children is ace when you don’t have an agenda. When you can get to know them, when you have full days to just bugger about, kick a ball around and have a chat with one of your daughter’s seven toys who are all called Rosie. To spend two weeks without having to say ‘HURRY UP, WE’RE GOING TO BE LATE!’ is bliss.

And that now is the sign of the best holiday.

*totally haven’t nailed it.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Week 198- i-parenting, talking on your mobile and losing the remote...

My one-year-old son would prefer to toddle around with my phone held in the crook of his neck whilst he babbles away, rather than play with an entire bedroom full of age specific toys.

He can’t even talk.

My three-year-old daughter has found different functions on our iPad that I didn’t know existed.

Or have any idea how to replicate.

And the pair of them think the remote control is the gateway to their eternal happiness.

I’ve become a fucking i-parent and I didn’t even see if happening.

Black plastic with buttons or a screen tops wooden toys or drawing for them- every time.

And it makes me wonder what messages I must be sending out to them everyday.

How many times my daughter asks me to watch her as she stands on one leg or spins round in circles and I’m casually scrolling through Facebook.

Or pushing my son along in the pram whilst quickly checking if I’m still winning the pair of French Connection jeans on the E-bay app on my phone which I a) can’t afford and am desperate that someone outbid me and b) will never fit into if I do, as I had a total body dysmorphia moment at 2am when I couldn’t sleep.

But, I feel like karma has finally bitten me on the ass.

My son has walked off with the remote control for the Virgin Media box and, try as I might to think like a one-year-old, have absolutely no idea where he has hid it.

Last time it was in his cot.

And the time before that, under the child step in the toilet.

But worse still, the TV is now stuck on channel 5 following a Milkshake marathon this morning.

So. If someone could tell me what happens in Humans this evening that would be fantastic.

I shall, instead, be thinking up ways to engage with my children that involves glue/ poster paint/ cardboard boxes/ loo rolls/ and a straw, as I can’t bear the thought that my daughter even knows what Netflix is, let alone requests it.

Following that I will be watching Police Interceptors Unleashed.


Sunday, 19 July 2015

Week 197- camping, driving and wetting your pants...

Summer holidays are around the corner and we're going camping in France. 

For ten days. 

That's right. 


The longest we've camped before has been two nights, and that was with one child, and we could basically see our house from the campsite.

Now we are going to drive 10 hours with a car-sick three-year-old and live in a tent for the best part of two weeks in an overcrowded campsite with children who wake up throughout the night and start the day at 5.30am.

I don't think we are going to a) make any friends or b) feel at all relaxed by the time we come home.

When growing up we camped in France every summer. I have fond childhood memories but I don't know if that's because my brain has cancelled out the horror of the experience as some kind of survival method. 

Me and my sister used to spend the first day wandering around the campsite looking for GB stickers on cars and willing them to have a child for us to play with. 

And I do remember having to hold tent poles for hours on end whilst my parent got more and more frustrated as they attempted to put the bloody thing up.

In fact I did wet myself one year as I stood for the best part of an hour holding a bit of tent up.

I was four, and I'm not intending to piss myself on this holiday unless absolutely necessary, but still...


That's it.

I'm going to book an Air B and B.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Week 196- gin, sleep and bingo wings...

I'd imagined that, given the chance of a childfree night away at a hotel, I would sleep for Britain and awake up half way through Sunday Brunch. 

So why is it that at 5.30am I'm sat bolt upright with that niggling feeling that I should be doing something?

It could be because I drank my body weight in gin at a friend's wedding and the alcohol-based anxiety sweats are starting to kick in.

But more likely, it's that I am now preprogrammed to wake up when my children wake up and therefore destined to never have a lie in again.  Ever.

Stupid, stupid brain.

At present, there are no less that three people sleeping in our bed at any given moment during the night. 

When one child wakes, there is a Rubik's cube-style shift around, seamlessly carrying one sleeping child out of our bed and back into their own to make way for the next.

Which, on paper, seems like a good idea as you get more that 4mm of bed to sleep on with one less person in there. 

But the practicalities mean your are basically walking around in a daze, weight-lifting small people for about two thirds of the night.

I should, by rights, have arms the size of Arnie instead of bingo wings but there you go, nature's cruel tricks again.

I keep reassuring myself that it is just a phase. That they will just, like everything, grow out of it. But a mate told me the other day that she knows of someone who's child still gets into bed with them every night and they're seven. THAT'S SEVEN.  That's three and a half years away...

So, next time I have a night away at a hotel on my own, I am going to go to bed late afternoon, having only drank peppermint tea, because, if I am going to wake up like clockwork at 5.30am everyday, and if my children are going to bed hop until they start secondary school, I'm going to have to be more strategic at catching up on those zeds. 

Even if it does mean going to bed straight after Neighbours.