Tag Archives: children

Making memories that will last a lifetime (or at least until they can afford therapy)

It started with a wish. A wish to celebrate my precious first born finishing nursery and getting ready for big school. I’ll take him out for the day, I thought, and make some magical memories to show how proud I am of the kind, funny child he has become. I spotted a half price online ticket deal to Groombridge Place, and when I realised that under-3s go free I factored Baby Bones into the equation too. It will be wonderful, I thought. Even though thunderstorms are forecast, we will have an amazing time. We’ll marvel at nature and turn over leaves and dash through rain showers and I’ll even get someone to take a picture of the three of us so that I am in a bloody family photo for once.

Today was that day. Here is what actually happened: PFB son started moaning halfway through the hour long drive to get there, and carried on for most of the trip (are we there yet? It’s taking aaaaaages. I’m just hot and thirsty and I want to get there. Why are you telling me off? I was just…ufff. I want to go home!) PMS me defaulted instantly to pissed off. The peacocks on the lawn, the hawks flying to command and the beautiful ornate gardens were mere backdrops to our hissed disagreements and the occasional ringing sound of a cast iron bollocking. No thunderstorm, but a sticky heat that bore down on us all like a fat man in a bad suit. Toddler daughter was cheerful, but her adamant refusal to rest little legs in the pushchair grew a bit tiresome after the fourth or fifth mile of walking. The high point of excitement for PFB was getting to use his new lunchbox. Which was, admittedly, gratifying, but we could have done that at home and saved eight quid.

Is it me? I wondered, head in hands, as I tried to explain for the sixth time that no, I couldn’t play Swashbuckle while trailing a snail’s-pace toddler around a two storey wooden climbing frame. Am I doing it all wrong? Where is the magic I so hoped to create? As someone whose own lovely, magic-making mum carked it long ago, my first worry is always ‘how do I know if I’m getting it right?’ How do you know if the memories they’re making are the kind you want to hang onto?

I welled up a little hearing my son make friends with another small boy and tell him all about our family, my sentimental heart clutching at how quickly he is growing up. But then I passed a couple of stony-faced South African mums barking ‘all you’ve done from the minute we got here is complain’ in the direction of their sullen offspring and was reminded that actually, kids of all ages are a pain in arse quite a lot of the time, and that’s ok. Hell, it’s normal. Being bollocked for arselike behaviour is also normal. How else does one learn not to be an arse?

And then we caught the boat back to the cafe and I received a lovely compliment from the boatman about my tattoo (‘it looks like someone’s taken a watercolour brush to you!’ Thanks, lovely and peerless Hannah Aitchison). I drove us home in a kind of cold beer tractor beam, propelled only by the throbbing image of refrigerated ale. I shooed two hot, dirty children into the knackered arms of Mr Bones, who had only just finished cleaning the paint off himself after a long day’s decorating. And PFB son, the moaning wonder, ran straight in to say ‘hey dad, I had a GREAT time today! I saw lots of animals, I climbed on a pirate ship, and we went on a boat! And I used my lunchbox and had my own lunch!’

I guess they make their own memories.

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First steps into sexism

You know, this kind of thing really pisses me off. Daughter is now walking, so we went along to Clarks to get her some shoes. I like Clarks products and I generally find their staff competent and helpful. But while browsing the racks of first shoes for boys (uniformly blue/brown, dinosaur motif) and girls (uniformly pink/purple, flower motif), what do I see but this:

In case it isn’t clear, the text under the boys’ shoes says ‘For every wobbly step’ while that under the girls’ shoes says ‘For every gorgeous outfit’.

That’s right, girls. Your shoes aren’t for walking. Silly girls!
I read those two apparently innocuous sentences, and then I looked at my one year old daughter toddling proudly around the shop floor, trying to climb on the seats, investigating other people’s buggies and generally being her forthright self, and I thought how dare you? Anyone who has watched a baby master the art of bipedal movement knows how amazing it is to see the focus and determination shine out of such an apparently soft and helpless thing. How dare you, marketing drones of Clarks, suggest that my daughter’s shoes are not to form part of the celebration of movement, when she has dragged, rolled, stumbled, crawled, bumped and cruised her way to independence?

And then I just felt depressed, because if this is the message that pertains to her at 1yo, how much more sexist shite is she going to have to wade through in her life?

Craven that I am, I still bought the shoes. They fit well and keep her soles safe and are mostly not pink. But I’ll be writing to head office about their marketing strategy, and I will be looking around for a decent supplier of children’s boots. After all, when wading through shite, cute maryjanes just don’t cut it.