Category Archives: parenting

Bottom-dwelling, snail-eating loachfish, and all that jazz

We have not so much introduced the children to the joy of fish as we have introduced them to the cycle of death. It seems there is more to this aquarium malarky than you might first think.
With hairy things off limits, due to my husband’s nasal challenges, it was to fish that we turned to fulfil our dreams of owning a family pet.
Of the first batch of four fish only one survived beyond three months. Two died in under a week. One never made it out of the plastic bag we brought her home in. Looking after fish was beginning to make childcare look like a piece of piss.
We had opted for a tropical tank on the grounds that it allows you to buy some slightly more exotic and interesting fish than your bog standard goldfish. Although as a friend recently remarked it is a curious thing that we then went on to buy a bunch of fish that bear an uncanny resemblance to goldfish.

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It is one of these goldfish doppelgängers that is our survivor, our veritable Beyonce of the fish world. She is a heart-shaped brilliant red platy called Ruby and has become an important fish in the family. In moments when I have doubted my ability to keep a biologically viable tank I have oft thought of Ruby, and her will to live, and it has given me the confidence to carry on.
It has been a learning curve. On my first visit to the pet shop I decided I wanted a small tank and a very beautiful angelfish. What an amateur I was. Angelfish require a minimum of about 90 litres of water. The tank I was looking at was 9 litres. “They need room to swim and turn around,’ pointed out the shop assistant, eyes rolling.
It really is worth getting a decent sized tank. That way you can get an interesting number of fish and be confident that they are enjoying a decent quality of life. I think a minimum of 50 litres, a heater and a filter and you have what you need.
Unfortunately the design and style of fish tanks has not really evolved since the seventies. Being an interior snob (see other posts) I was determined to find a solution. I found a wooden cased tank that I was able to paint in the same Abigail Ahern Mercer Green as my kitchen and then used House of Hackney’s house print as the backdrop to the aquarium.

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For decoration I added lots of lumps of lava stone that have interesting nooks and crannies for the fish to hide in. I do feel a bit bad about not putting in my kids’ choices of accessories that included a replica of the Eiffel tower, the Roman Colisseum, a shipwreck and a bubbling bum air filter. Actually I don’t feel that bad.
We chose from a rainbow coloured cornucopia of fish, including five-banded barbs, Strawberry and Blue Neon Dwarf Rasboras, disc shaped Gourami and beautiful, vividly coloured scarlet and neon tetras. We are the proud owners of two lamp eye fish, tiny, grey and with bright blue eyes. Ours are called Honda and Fiat.
In an imaginative use of alliteration we decided to call our red fish by names beginning with R. We have Ruby Ray and, and chosen, rather brilliantly by the phonically focused five-year old, a fish called Arse. Curiously the other name that he is wedded to is Isabella. Give that our mortality rates mirror that of sixteenth century royals, we are currently housing Isabella III.
I am really trying hard to embrace life as an aquarist, but there are limits. Pleasantly surprised by my enthusiasm, the shop assistant asked if I had considered purchasing a bottom-dwelling, snail-eating loachfish. I reminded him that he was dealing with a woman only recently robbed of her dreams of owning a big brown-eyed, fluffy cockerpoo. One step at a time.

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Go forth faithful hound

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It didn’t take a Freudian wise arse to work out why I was busy googling miniature Schnauzer puppies. As the image of one popped up on my screen, at the same time as my smallest cherub, the similarities were only too plain to see. Gorgeous big brown devoted eyes, full of unconditional love and adoration. Cute rufflesome tops and an air of energetic youthful joy. It was time for my smallest hound to leave home and join big school. And I was going to miss him very much indeed.

The wider implications of my youngest and last child’s departure into mainstream school, had been building in my mind for some time. Somehow the physical departure of him to legally obligated education became synonymous with the end of my fertile years, impending old age and death. “Glad to see you’ve kept it all in perspective then,” said one wise friend.

I have to pre-empt this tale by explaining that my child was entirely stable, rational and indeed looking forward to going to school. If he had at any point shown nerves or worry I would have immediately transformed into Mrs Topsy Turvy. But he didn’t so instead I turned into Mrs Sobbing Screwball.

It didn’t help that in the month leading up to him joining school we had been given the unique opportunity to be together everyday. In reception class they stagger pupil’s arrivals and we had landed one of the last spots. As such, with his sisters at school, we indulged in some glorious one-on-one time. We hit the park, searched for early conkers, ate lunch at the new bistro in town. We visited museums, brunched in Covent Garden, laughed at booby jokes and spent quite a few days at the zoo watching the new baby gorilla. My boy is great company and we had a brilliant time hanging out together.

 

In many ways he is my perfect man. He is my chivalrous knight, who likes to carry heavy things and open doors for me. He is my court jester, who laughs loudest at my jokes and loves to wiggle out a salsa to make me laugh in return. He is my confidante: we agree who is crazy and who sells a good burger. He is my comforter. He never seems to tire of kissing and hugging me and lets me sniff him regularly. He misses me when I leave and cheers when I return. He loves me no matter what I do, weigh or wear. He appreciates my dance moves and thinks I am a brilliant artist. I wept at the thought of no longer being able to spend days with my loyal companion.

But inevitably it came. On the day school starts they go in just after lunch, as a gentle introduction. This meant that I had a few more hours to kill. Luckily a fellow mum needed advice on wedding outfits so I was able to distract myself for a few hours. Then, hand in hand, as we have for many months, we made our way to the supermarket. As is our routine my boy fetches the shopping basket and carries it for me until his hands are hurting. Then I hold the basket and we browse the sandwiches for about three minutes before both settling for a tuna and sweetcorn sarnie. A small debate about a suitable treat ensues and we settle for some fruit and a biscuit.

We headed home, quietly ate our lunch together and then sat on the sofa for a quick last view of Numberjacks on the telly. As we sat there I felt a small hand came to rest on my knee. Then his whole body leaned on me and small fingers worked their way under mine. As I sniffed away at the back of his head it became became very very damp. My heart hurt.

“Mummy you are really going to have to try and stop crying,” said a small pragmatic voice. I agreed that I needed to try harder. Minutes later, with that clearly not working, he came up with a masterplan: “I will give you penguin. That will help,” he said.

Thank God for wise friend who at that moment telephoned to see how it was going. She had thought that he was starting in the morning and was, I think, anticipating that by now I would be in chilled-out decompression mode. What she got instead was a hyperventilating freakoid.
Laughing her head off at me she promised to remind me of this emotional breakdown over a glass of wine later in the week and then happily distracted me with talk of workplace shennanigans.

By the time I put down the phone it was time to grab his school bag and run.
We made it into school and my boy raced off to find his peg and some dinosaurs. As I turned my red, fetchingly swollen face towards him and asked him if he wanted me to stay, he made the only sensible decision. “No Mummy, you go. See you later,” he said and ran off to play with sand.

I made my way back along the road, dark glasses on, silently weeping. Once I’d closed my front door I wailed like a banshee. It felt like, and was, a full stop to a very certain and very special part of my life.

And then the next day came. It was fine. He was happy, with a lovely teacher and making new friends. I was peeing solo, enjoying silence and beginning to do some writing. Here we are. Life goes on. What’s next I wonder.

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The jerk-off theorem

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‘Masturbation’, screeched the doctor. ‘She’s masturbating,” she repeated rolling every sound with nauseating relish. Clearly imparting this type of information was her way of getting off.
Now I love breaking a taboo as much as the next pseudo liberal North London twat- but in this instance my reaction didn’t disappoint. Sputtering I asked what exactly she was on about, and indeed was she talking about my daughter.
‘Well it’s one of the three possibilities,” she proclaimed provocatively. “Excessive daydreaming, MASTURBATION, or absentee seizures.”
Let me take you a step back.
My daughter has recently been diagnosed with dyslexia. We were in hospital because, as part of the exploration of this diagnosis, it has become apparent that she has significant problems with concentration and focus. Her class teacher, the school SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) and me, her mum, had noticed that she has daily periods of blanks. She seems to completely zone out of her surroundings and then, after maybe just seconds, blinks her way back into the present. Absentee seizures, also known as petit mal, offer one explanation.
This is a condition reasonably common in children that the SENCO was keen for us to rule out. The symptoms are quite difficult to pinpoint. Brief, sudden lapses of consciousness -they often seem like someone is just staring into space for a few seconds. The condition is not life threatening, is normally grown out of, and can be treated with anti-seizure drugs.
All this I was aware of. I was just not expecting the jerk-off theorem.
But keen to rise to the oppressively assertive, sexually liberated, guff-gauntlet being thrown my way, I gamely went forward.
“Achieving this state of bliss would, I presume, require some kind of jigging around?” I queried. “Given that we are talking about my daughter going into complete state of still, verging on unconsciousness I am not sure this applies.”
I could also point out that school SENCO and teachers are trained to spot this type of thing. Children do ‘self-soothe’. If it had been the issue I would have happily let her wank on about it. But given there was no suggestion that this was happening I was keen to discuss the other more likely issues behind these absences. Eventually she did and we were finally able to leave when she signed the necessary forms for us to come back for an EEG.
To be honest this doctor immediately got my back up. She was wearing “look at me I have a personality’ pink Doctor Martin boots and “I may be fifty but I refuse to be invisible” type clothing.
After a brief chat with my daughter she asked me to talk through the conditions that had brought us to her consulting room. Well what she actually said was “So Mummy tell me all about it.”
I know that it doesn’t really matter but there is something about a fully grown women calling me Mummy that really grates. I restrained myself from blowing her nose.
Instead I asked for my daughter to go outside and play with some toys while we had this talk. The doctor refused. “She is not going anywhere. She is seven-years old and it is entirely appropriate for her to be in the room.”
I disagreed and told her that all the information she needed was in the notes from the GP. We found ourselves in a stand-off.
I really felt that this doctor should respect my wishes. I know my child and I am best able to judge what it is appropriate for her to hear. I did not want to frighten her unnecessarily by using words like seizure. I also did not want to explain that family members, fellow parents and her teachers were also all observing her. All of this particularly because no actual diagnosis has been made.
Having asked my girl a few more questions, and realising that I was not going to speak in front of her, she did finally ask her to leave the room so that the adults could talk. It was at this point that she took great delight in screaming “masturbation” at me. It seemed a mean, gratuitous and sensationalist way of putting me back in my place.
With the session finishing our toss technician informed me in her best head girl voice that I was to “head straight back to school now.” I’m not sure where she thought we were heading. To score some penny sweets and have a Peppa Pig marathon. As my daughter confided to me in a quiet voice as we left: “That woman. She sure is crazy”

PS: She has had her EEG and we are waiting for the results. I am looking forward to telling her that she was such a day dreamer we had to have her brain professionally scanned.

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Mum mates

gossip

This is an ode to the joy that is my fabulous mum friends. My fellow pram-pushers, nose-wipers, burp-bringer-uppers. I have got to know these incredible women over the past six years, ever since my firstborn started nursery, and they are a constant source of joy, inspiration, compassion and laughter. I feel incredibly lucky that I can make friends like this amidst the madness of modern motherhood.
Gate mates, mum mates, mum friends, whatever you call them, these are the people that can act like a lifeline in the constantly changing demands of life and new parenthood. In a few snatched minutes of the morning and afternoon, they are often the people who can become most acquainted with events in your life.
This relationship can be a slow burn, but close your eyes and six years have passed and these are the friends who have shared seminal moments of your life.
From a new haircut, cancer scares and house moves to child ailments, pre-birth wax arrangements, parental bereavement, redundancy and homework, to vasectomy timing, depression and what constitutes a decent Cesar salad. Together we can deal with all of this and more.
Topics we have discussed include do pubes go grey? When is the best time and how do you tell your children the facts of life? Catchment areas for schools!!! How to juggle a career and parenthood? The merits of a gamine haircut.
Contrary to the myth that seems to pitch stay-at-home mums against working mums, I have never found this to be an obstacle to friendship. I just want up-for-a-laugh mum, tell-it-how-it-is mum and I-trust-you-with-my-child-and-therefore-my-life-mum.
In many ways it does feel a bit funny making new friends at this stage of your life. Probably the last time you experienced this kind of social pressure/experimentation was when you were a child yourself in the school playground or maybe at university. It can feel quite daunting entering a playground where you know no one and playdates can feel like mini dates for the adults too.
But in many ways this is a great time in your life to make friends. By your thirties you have hopefully worked out your style, taste in music and basic moral compass. You have shed a lot of youthful bullshit and appreciate time spent with good people. I love that my Mum is still making friends in her sixties.
Inspired by my daughter’s recent homework I have written a Kennings poem, rather than an ode, for my fabulous mum mates. A Kennings poem is a riddle made up of several lines of kennings to describe something or someone.

Joy creators
Cheer leaders
Belly laughers
Truth tellers
Solace providers
Sense sharers
Compassion givers
Tosser spotters
Party makers
Drink pourers
Idea suppliers
Blog subscribers
Hug squeezers
Giggle inducers
Boob squashers
Ear benders
Constructive critics
Fashion stylers
Interior admirers
Mood enhancers
Kid sitters
Ailment advisors
Plaster donators
Secret conferrers
My saviours

NB It sounds like I am ignoring my very dear childhood friends, school friends and university friends, but they are sensible enough to know that a Kennings ditty is also due to them. Now there’s something to look forward to…

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Parent/ teacher relations. NB no micro shorts allowed

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I vividly remember one parent teacher evening watching the startled expression of the young form mistress as a Dad arrived. Resplendent in micro cycling shorts, he sat himself down in one of the kids mini-chairs, pulled his knees up to his chin, and gave her a frankly biologically detailed view of the physiology of his knackers. How she managed to remain focused on phonics amazes me, but the lady deserved a medal. Navigating parent/teacher evenings, and that communication with your children’s teachers, is one of the many new relationships that parenthood springs upon you.
If you are not part of the teaching profession then, like me, the last time you interacted with this crowd was probably when you were wearing big gym knickers and knee high socks.
I find myself sort of regressing in the face of these memories. Despite the fact that you revisit this relationship a fully-formed adult, with a lifetimes of experiences and knowledge, the undeniable thought persists. That teachers are not human. When I bumped into some my children’s teachers in the pub I was a painful mix of mortified and weirdly over-excited. When I saw the deputy head in the supermarket I adopted a sort of Cold War spy-style crouching manoeuvre behind some lemons and then, when spotted, became incoherently implausible as to why I was head-butting lemons.
When a new head introduced the practice of addressing teachers by their first names the playground rang loud with grown-up sniggers as we battled to call Mr Anderson- Mark with a straight face.
I can only imagine the staffroom conversations centring around why ‘so many middle-aged women were behaving like giggling teenage morons.’
Equally at the other end of the scale I found myself adopting Victorian-era patois when attempting to discuss a new boyfriend with one female teacher, who was at most seven years younger than me.
“How lovely. And you long have you been courting this young man” I found myself asking, in my best impression of a Bronte sister on an uptight day.
There is also the obstacle course that is teacher gift giving. Our current primary school parent teacher association asks for one annual donation from parents. This covers all teacher gifts, a total bargain at £25/year. It completely removes the strain of trying to be thoughtful, creative and impressive with £10. The alternative, which is what we did at their first primary school, is to go it alone or club together with other parents.
General good bets are John Lewis vouchers, a book, bottle of wine or flowers. Not wildly original but generally acceptable.
Be careful if you go off-piste. I remember the snort of derision from one (very wise) mum when she overheard a group of us discussing the etiquette of buying one young teacher a T-shirt and socks for Christmas. “Socks are practically pants. It’s just not acceptable,” she said emphatically.

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If you think all this fuss is absurd be grateful that you are not in the the private sector. One local private primary school’s head had to step in, as once again competitive parents, raised the bar on teacher gift giving just a notch too high. In particular she referenced the gifting of a Chanel 2.55 handbag, RRP £2,500, that was closely followed by another family offering a teacher return tickets and a two week stay in the family villa in the Caribbean.
It is important to to form a decent relationship with these people that have such an important, influential and hopefully positive impact on your young children’s lives. But no good teacher can be bought. They just want them in school on time, potty trained with an aptitude to learn. Chanel- always a bonus. Perhaps a nail varnish next time.

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Chickenpox, nits and worms in school

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The email that induces a rush of endorphins for the weekend festivities. Yum.

Norovirus, we are ready to embrace you.

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Rerouting the Nile to Muswell Hill

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I had thought that we were doing quite well with our gold-sprayed shoebox Sarcophagus, that was until I saw the fanfare accompanying the arrival of a life-size replica of Tutankhamun’s mausoleum, bourne aloft through the playground by one parent. “And it has a working mechanism so that you can open it and become the mummy,” whispered a fellow mummy in awe.

Welcome to the world of the school project, otherwise known as a masterclass in parent one-upmanship.
In this particular instance homework was creating your own Ancient Egyptian artefact. My daughter decided to make a Sarcophagus.
Having stalked the ladies at Clarks, and actively talked some bewildered lady into buying a pair of burgundy loafers, we bagged ourselves a long narrow box and my daughter set to work creating her very own Ancient Egyptian masterpiece. She persuaded her younger sister to sacrifice a one-armed Tinkerbell to the project and we all watched avidly as my daughter mummified Tinks on the kitchen table. Various body parts were modelled for the Canopic jars and a good job done.
Or so I thought until little Johnny arrived with his colossal, three dimensional, fully interactive replica of the Ancient Pyramid complex of Pharaoh Khufu.
I pondered my next move. Hard landscaping my back garden to exactly mirror the undulations of the Valley of the Kings? Hiring a dromedary camel from London Zoo? Rerouting the Nile to Muswell Hill?
It has been my great joy to watch many examples of this type of parental shenanigans. I remember weeping with laughter at one Christmas assembly when the five ‘Christmas trees’ took to the stage. The children had been asked to design their own costumes. Three were similarly decked out in green tights, green tops with a number of baubles artfully sellotaped to their attire. One poor soul, whose mum had totally forgotten the event was happening, was still in school uniform but strangely clutching a cheese plant in front him, that normally resided by reception. Albeit adorned with a scrap of red tinsel.
And then there was the child whose outfit was so exquisitely sewn it could have been made by the costumiers of the Royal Shakespeare Company. It was already outrageously good, but as they walked on stage the Dad rushed to switch on the button that illuminated the entire costume with synchronised, flashing, Christmas lights. Pity cheese plant mum, whose boy looked like death could not come quickly enough.
School projects are the time when all the kids whose parents have a background in architecture and/or design tend to shine. In a former class where two dads were architects there was an openly acknowledged competition between them to see who could produce the more superior project in terms of function, structure and beauty. They would conduct in-depth analysis of each others projects. Or, lest we forget, their sons’ projects.
As far as I could work out size was a key factor in success.
With this in mind, and absolutely no forethought on design or purpose, I remember taping together four of the largest cardboard boxes I could lay my hands on when my daughter was asked to create a mathematical game. For me the overriding criteria for success was the inability of my child to carry the project into school on her own. I wanted a ‘thing’ that required the lifting power of at least two adults. We sort of overlooked the whole maths aspect of the project, but it did have a tunnel down which you could throw socks.
I have to say it was a triumphant moment. The boys in the playground, small and big, were truly impressed with the magnitude of ‘the sock sucker.’
As you can tell I had fallen headfirst into the trap of making the child’s project my own. And really let’s face it, this is not what it is all about. The whole idea of these projects is that the children have a chance to come up with their own ideas, try out new skills and take pride in THEIR accomplishment. Of course you are going to help source materials, handle hot glue, but at the end of the day what sense of achievement can it give them if they simply watch you do their homework.
Also do not try and palm the whole thing off on another parent. My mum still shudders at the recollection of one school holiday playdate where the child’s Mum deposited her six year-old with a wooden spoon and milk bottle and suggested ‘what fun it would be for the girls to do their Tudor doll project together.” It was a project that every parent dreaded. Every summer holiday this class were asked to create miniature Tudor masterpieces and on return to school an exhibition was held for everyone to gaze upon the handiwork. It was a day of judgement for all parents.
My mum, to her credit, refused to acquiesce to this lady’s suggestion and instead my friend and I had a lovely day at Birdworld. In the end the other mum got her dressmaker to run up the project. Nice (home)work if you can get it.

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The birth of grandparents

The Birth of grandparents

It seems a strange irony that, when faced with the overwhelming
evidence of the inadequacy of their own child rearing, ie YOU,
your own parents retain a dogged belief that only they know
how to produce a well rounded and useful member of the human
race – and one that lives beyond its first year. And so, with the birth of the first grandchild, comes the birth of the first
grandparent.

Firstly, be prepared to accept a lot of advice. ‘That child is
cold’ said my Mum, astoundingly arriving at this conclusion despite the fact that 3000 miles and the Atlantic Ocean separated us. ‘I can hear it in her breathing’ she persevered.

“Actually that’s the TV,” I said

“If you have the TV on how can you tell if her breathing is OK?” countered mum. Strange that the onset of my rapid breathing didn’t alert her to the fact that her own child was verging on meltdown.

There is no doubt that pregnancy, birth and the aftermath fundamentally change the relationship you have with your parents. This takes many forms. You gain a greater appreciation for everything your parents have done for you and a greater understanding of the parental choices they have made. You also have to quickly accept that when it comes to grandchildren, grandmother is convinced she knows best.

The most immediate manifestation of this change in our relationship came 12 hours after labour, when I realized I had become surplus to requirements.

While incubating first grandchild I was enveloped in a glow of parental love, care and protection. From my fluffy gestating cocoon I could make all kinds of unreasonable demands for, luxury food, extensive naps and the latest issues of Marie Claire.

Post partum the regime got a whole lot tougher. This was keenly visible in the walk from hospital ward to car. As my husband proudly bore our newborn babe, in her spanking new car seat, my mum raced ahead of him to ensure safe passage. Strangers were politely requested to remove themselves from baby’s flightpath. Coughing in baby’s vicinity was deemed unacceptable and open breathing discouraged. My mother constantly adjusted baby’s blanket and bonnet for optimum temperature.

Meanwhile, virtually comatose after an 18-hour labour and with stitches pulling in all kinds of unpleasant places I limped at least ten metres behind this cavalcade. When my husband, mum and newborn babe disappeared out of the hospital’s revolving door and out of sight I began to worry they might go home without me.

It was probably my breast milk that saved me from total abandonment. This brings me on to another shocking discovery. You no longer own your own body and previously taboo subjects are open to all.

Suddenly my prudish mum discovers a love for discussing bodily functions. To clarify this is a woman who still refers to couples that are shagging, but not committing to each other, as ‘courting’. But suddenly leaky bladders, vaginal tears and anal fissure are all up for grabs over a family Sunday lunch.

“Isn’t it lovely we can talk about nipples and things now,” said Victorian-era mother to my husband, as they examined the instructions for my manual breast pump together “Ooh I think it grabs it and gives it a good squeeze. It’s a bit like milking a cow really isn’t it,” Husband didn’t answer. He just looked a bit sick.
Despite this I was very thankful for the help my parents / new grandparents offered in the early weeks after giving birth. My mum was brilliant for our morale – helping with hot meals and housework, and latterly looking after the older children while I tended to the newborn. Always happy to change a nappy, she answered the door and the telephone, managed guests and let me sleep.

Not everyone gets so lucky.

I know one new mum who just days after bringing baby home had a visit from the mother of all mothers-in-law. This woman arrived, poured herself a large glass of crisp white wine and only paused in her perusal of Hello magazine to ask if anyone else thought it a good idea to stop toddler B from starting up the garden hedge trimmer.

She went on to demand her meal re-cooked with gluten free pasta, dispatched the husband to the off license for “a properly chilled bottle of Pinot Grigio” while running her finger along the dust on the mantelpiece – tutting

Another friend, returning from hospital following a Caesarean section, recollected having to beg her mum to buy some fish fingers to feed her three hungry children. A longer stay in hospital had resulted in a fridge run bare. This grandmother said her weekly hair appointment meant that she didn’t have the time to make the 30-second journey across the street to the corner shop. She simply upped and left.

As the months and years roll on, the thing you can depend upon, is that grandparents will keep you abreast of the areas of parenting where you are still coming up short. This can span the spectrum of academic, behavioural, sociological and physiological problems, but can also focus on single issues such as a child’s haircut.

I have heard of one grandmother who decided that the delectable blonde curls of her three-year-old grandchild were interfering with his ability to run long distance. Against the mother’s express wishes, the next time Granny was babysitting she hotfooted it to the hairdressers and got the cherub’s barnet shorn. It has taken over 24 months of mediation for this particular mother/daughter combo to be talking again. It also provides a salient reminder of the need for you to establish the boundaries of what YOU want for YOUR child.

Even then expect gentle suggestions for better parenting. In the midst of a 4-week blitz of maladies, including chicken pox, cellular occulitis, winter vomiting and diarrhea, and with a
husband showing signs of an OCD induced breakdown- still my mother decided that this was the perfect moment to gift me the book, ‘How To Feed Your Children Healthy Meals’ alternately titled, ‘Stop Feeding Your Kids Crap-You Imbecile’.

“I knew you’d look at me like that”, said mum as I took the book while shoving her out the door. Note, I did take the book. Well it can’t hurt and sometimes, maybe occasionally, mother – that is grandmother – does know best.
Tips for Grandparents

Helpful

Enabling new parents to bag some sleep
Changing nappies
Cooking meals
Knowing when to leave
Getting rid of visitors that have outstayed their welcome

Not Helpful

Touching / peering closely at boobs
Input on contraceptive plans
Giving children Kit Kats for breakfast
Any suggestion that newborn’s name is not entirely perfect.

Please do link and like on the Selfish Mother site-http://www.selfishmother.com/the-birth-of-grandparents

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Anyone for synchronised French Horn?

640px-French_horn_front In a bid to make sure that your three-year-old doesn’t fall behind the evolutionary curve of humankind there is no avenue of extra curricular activity parents will not explore. I know perfectly normal, intelligent women who have, admittedly sent their husbands, to queue up at four in the morning to sign up their kid for a gymnastics class. At the head of the queue was some poor Granny who had been there since 2am with just a portable chair and a flask of coffee for company. Three back was a nanny who arrived at 3am and was being paid special night rates to stand in the queue and secure her ward a spot. Slacker Dad, who pitched up at 6am was too late to enrol his offspring. His daughter never did get the opportunity to execute a perfect back salto dismount, but she did learn that sometimes Daddy is unable to follow clear instructions from Mummy, and that this makes her cross. Now I understand the benefits of sport and exercise for children. We all want to improve their hand eye co-ordination, balance and fine motor skills, but where do you draw the line? Parental guilt that you are not doing everything humanly possible to give your child the best start in life, is probably the driving force behind extra curricular insanity. That and the fact that other parents are doing it. You can see the shockwaves of panic ripple through the playground as little Johnny arrives with his French Horn. You look to your own four-year old, busily whacking a bush with a shitty stick and ask: Am I denying the world a wind instrument maestro? Could the horn be his future? This is one of many questions we face. What are the optimal combinations of ages, timings, activities and venues that will produce a cogently balanced individual? That and how much is a French horn. The options are endless: French, Spanish, Mandarin, swimming, gymnastics, fencing, Kung Fu, Tae kwon do, tennis, ballet, tap, modern, street dance, drama, circus skills, spy club, film club, coding, pottery, art, piano, keyboards, clarinet, guitar, saxophone, drums, violin, French Horn, singing and brownies or scouts. To name but a few. I do think that it’s important to expose your children to a range of activities in order to see if they have a natural affinity or love for any particular pastime. But then you can become more selective. My children take part in a brilliant street dance class. I seriously believe that come adolescence and adulthood their ability not to look a total tit on the dance floor will always impress more than an ability to felt. Equally, teaching your kid to swim is a good life skill. They don’t have to smash the 100m freestyle world record, but neither do I want them to drown. Looked at practically I also think that the likelihood of them encountering a mass of water ranks infinitely higher than the chances of meeting a testy musketeer in the mood for a duel. Having said that none of my children have been given the chance to see if they could become England’s new champion foil for the under-18s. Because, just like buying a lottery ticket, you never entirely give up hope that beneath the veneer of your sticky, snotty Scooby Doo fanatic, there beats the heart of genius. I still harbour some hope that my little boy will become a world class footballer. I think the role of footballers’ mum sounds way more fun than footballer’s wife. The perks, but not the need for depilation or spray tanning. To be honest it would also answer a few pressing questions on the subject of pension provision. However, in the absence of sporting glory, I would settle for a child who enjoys a good knock around with their friends. Football is a brilliant, sociable, healthy activity and something they can enjoy for the rest of their lives. If your five-year old has not perfected the down dog yoga manoeuvre, it doesn’t spell disaster and a life destined for physical ineptitude. Equally, it is sometimes important to remember that merely months ago they were utterly delighted to discover that their willy grows magically. It really doesn’t matter that they can’t volley from the net. During term-time I reckon that, in addition to school classes, one physical and one cerebral extra activity a week is enough for the average primary school age kid. They still need time free to do their homework, play with friends and simply be. If you have a bored genius at home then obviously devise your own parenting schedule. This seems to work OK during term-time but come school holidays the frenetic need to fill children’s time with culturally, intellectually and spiritually fulfilling experiences, seems to hit us once again. Clearly you need to make sure that when, back at school, the teacher asks everyone to write a few sentences on what they got up to in the school holiday, yours is not the kid writing; ‘Successfully collected the full series of Tamagotchi toys from the McDonalds Happy Meals selection.” Equally, there has to be a middle ground between this and attempting to fit the development of early mankind and civilisation between the brief recesses of the scholastic year. But we are afraid of social anarchy, or someone else thinking that you are a shit parent. Thus we find ourselves frantically dragging our children around any number of museums, art galleries and exhibitions at the weekends and school holidays. You’ve decided that a day at the science museum is the only way to restore our child’s ability to compete with the Chinese in a global marketplace. As we herd the resistant little buggers around the history of particle science, they repeatedly ask when they’re going to see the bubble man. That or go to the cafe, the shop, the toilet or home. As we carefully breakdown the philosophy behind molecular biology, they try to work out how many raisins they can fit into one nostril. Then how many into their baby brother’s nostril.  Sometimes we need to know when to quit. Please leave any comments and do like me on this link-http://www.selfishmother.com/anyone-for-synchronised-french-horn/<

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The Plymouth Ski Slope and Snowboard Centre really does sound rather good

The parents of a five-year-old schoolboy have been invoiced for failing to attend a school friend’s birthday party and have been threatened with legal action if they do not pay.
The party, held at Plymouth Ski Slope and Snowboard Centre, cost £15.95 a head and included half an hour on a snow tubing run, three toboggan rides, a hot meal, ice cream, jelly and balloons.
My conclusion is that if I’m ever in Plymouth, and in needs of a kids’s party venue, I’ll definitely give the Ski Slope and Snowboard Centre some consideration. For the price that really does seem like a good deal, especially with a hot meal thrown in.

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