Tag Archives: ramble

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.

A comparitive study of tiredness

Recently I’ve been experimenting with the 5:2 diet. Although it hasn’t really got past 6:1 with me, because fast days seem to result in a two day hangover of headache and fatigue. On the fast day itself, though, I’ve felt terrific: clear headed and full of energy, instead of thick headed and full of food.

So on Saturday night I did something pretty rock and roll. It was out there, I know, but…I decided to stay up late for no reason. I got home from babysitting for a friend at around midnight and had to make a cheesecake before I went to bed. This makes me sound like one of those mummy bloggers with shiny hair and well organised storage who put up artfully composed photos of home made jam. I am not one of those people. In case you need evidence, here’s a shot of my front room right now:

my front room

But the cake had to get made, so I cracked open a beer and got on with it. The house was quiet, my thoughts were my own, the beer was good. I was enjoying myself.

So when the cake was done at 1am, I thought ‘why not sit down with another beer and do some stuff?’ Reasons not to do this included the fact that it was my turn to get up with Loki the queen of 5am starts, and the busy day with friends that the cake was for. But I just couldn’t resist the chance to be alone in my own head for a bit longer.

So I accepted the fact that I would not sleep much and probably feel like shit all Sunday, and I spent a very enjoyable couple of hours reading blogs, writing emails etc. Went to bed at 3am, madam was up at 4.30am.

NOW, to the point. Once the initial hibernation feeling had worn off, about 3 lightning speed cups of tea into the day, I felt alright. Better than alright – I felt good. It was fun to hang out with a chatty, bumbling companion, physically I felt no pain and there was a pleasant floating feeling in my head. It was a bit like being on E, except that it didn’t cost me £5 and there was much less likelihood of interrupting a conversation with someone in order to vom on their shoes.

Not only that, this feeling stayed all day. We went to our friends’ house and had a fabulous time, loads of food, conversation, laughing and minimal need to parent. The kids immersed themselves in an imaginary guinea pig world for about four hours while we sat in the kitchen and spraffed. AND THEN we all went to another friend’s house for a child’s birthday party and while a gang of feral preschoolers ran between our feet we hung out in a kitchen, drank out of plastic cups and kind of sort of partied. It was some perfect Sunday fun.

There have been a lot of times since having kids that I have been so desperately, painfully tired that I felt everything was impossible. Sustained sleep deprivation is of course used as a form of torture and anyone who’s dealt with a small face in the night could tell you why, if they weren’t so bloody knackered that they couldn’t form a sentence. What seems to have made the difference this time was that I chose to stay up that late rather than having it inflicted upon me, and I used that time to satisfy myself (steady now). I’ve always been a night owl, creatively speaking, and it looks like that hasn’t changed. Staying up till 3am isn’t really a sustainable solution to the pram in the hall conundrum though. I got in bed at 9pm last night and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

It is also undoubtedly true that I wouldn’t have felt so great on Sunday if we had spent the day vacuuming the car or going to Ikea. Maintaining your own social life when you have kids is important. So thanks Hannah and Rich, Leo and Kat, Estelle and Pete, lovely awesome friends. You make driving round the North Circular worthwhile!

Parenting the toddlergeist

My 20 month old daughter wants a big girl bed. I know this because a couple of nights ago, following several nights of unusual bedtime hysterics, she ran into the bedroom she and Boy Bones share and demanded to get up on his bed. Once on the bed she wriggled under his duvet, sat up against his pillows and beamed at me.

So we cuddled together just like I do when reading the boy’s bedtime stories and when we’d finished she lay down and got comfy on his pillows. Thinking she might want some company, as he often does, I laid down next to her. This triggered a flood of angry noises and emphatic pushing of me away from her. No, she did not want me in the big bed. She wanted herself, alone, in a big bed. She gave me a meaningful look, one which said ‘I hope we understand each other.’

Some months ago, as he was getting ready for bed, my son complained as I cleared away the tiles from a game we’d been playing: “But they’re my lots of eggs, mum!” I asked what they were going to hatch into. “Ten baby Girl Bones!” he yelled with glee. A grinding shudder ran down my left arm, the extra achy one, the arm whose shoulder grinds a bit whenever I pick up my one baby Girl Bones. Ten of her…what would life be like? She is an elemental force, a mischievous imp, a toddlergeist. She is the reason my boots are full of blueberries and there is play food down our toilet. If I were to rename the kids based on what they’re like, she would definitely be Loki.

She is the most direct and unwavering personality I’ve ever known. Even my pregnancy with her was direct. With my son, I had no clue. It took five days of lateness for me to half-arsedly mumble something about doing a test and then a further five minutes of slack-jawed shock to absorb the second line. With her, five days before my period was even due I was smelling the ghost of food long after it had decamped to the outside bin. After two consecutive nights of dreaming about going downstairs to take a positive pregnancy test, I got the message, went downstairs and took a positive pregnancy test. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see the words I AM HERE stencilled across my uterus at the twelve week scan.

Before I had children, I thought that people who said babies come with their own personalities were probably on drugs. I mean, a baby is a sack of needs with a mouth, isn’t it? But both of my spawn have made me eat that half formed opinion many a time, and Girl Bones’ blunt and direct ability to communicate is just another illustration of my own stupidity on that score. From her refusal to sleep anywhere but next to me in our bed (until the day she decided she preferred her cot, at which point she refused to sleep anywhere else), to her early mastery of the point-and-meaningful-look combo, to her love of the tactical facepalm during particularly expressive tantrums, she’s a girl with a lot to say and small tolerance for repetition, hesitation or deviation. She knows what she wants and she wants you to act upon it now, while she’s busy growing up enough to do it herself.

Despite the fact that this makes parenting her bloody hard work, I do hope she carries these attributes along into adult life. Because the thing that makes the shouting, the bossiness, the stubbornness okay, more than okay, is the spark in her eye that says life is so fucking wonderful. Life to her is a wonderful game, a game that she can win. I want her to feel like that every day of her life. When she crosses paths with haters and abusers and ignorami and loudmouths and tailgaters and twats, I want her to look them in the eye, laugh her head off and carry on winning. Which is why, when I’m listening to her cackle with joy as I chase her down the street for the twentieth time, I’m laughing too.

Sentimentality

Yesterday I had an odd moment. I was dancing Baby Bones around the living room to the sound of disc one of Aerial, and towards the end he nodded off in my arms. This left me alone to listen to ‘A Coral Room’, the final track, one that always makes me cry. Only this time I didn’t cry. I had a sudden warm wave of remembering that I love my mum, despite what she did. It was weird but kind of nice. I’ve been angry with her for so long, I had forgotten what it felt like.

Then again, motherhood is just one big emerald sea of sentiment. This morning I welled up midway through singing along with Leona Lewis’s cover of ‘Run’, ffs. After so many years of ruthlessly guarding my softest parts, it’s quite bizarre to find them so close to the surface. I can only hope this proves useful once I start bereavement counselling, otherwise it’s a lifetime of crying at RSPCA adverts and uplifting local news items for me. Not that I do that now, you understand.

Monday morning whiteout

We have actual snow here for the first time in years. Leicester weather usually upholds the city’s market-leader status as most average place on earth, so our reasonable dusting of powder here equates to national crisis elsewhere; I understand that London is deserted save the occasional fur-clad alpha male doing battle with enraged woolly mammoths. Mr Bones has trudged off to work looking like an Arctic explorer, leaving Baby Bones and I snugged up under the duvet.

I am happy about being under the duvet for a number of reasons, not least of which is the added opportunity to admire and enjoy our new bed linen from John Lewis. I feel I should get as much pleasure from this stuff as possible since Saturday’s expedition to buy it ended up being so stressful. The main focus of our shopping trip was a highchair, now that Baby Bones is fixating on everything we eat and drink, but of course we couldn’t just buy the highchair and take it home – we had to buy it, take it home, set it up, find the piece that instantly pinged off, take it apart again, put it back in its box and return it to the store in exchange for a non-faulty version. Mr Bones and I both like JL, but not enough to warrant going twice in one day.

Still, we all survived and Baby Bones has had his first taste of sitting at the table. Let the actual eating of food begin! (When he’s ready, of course – I think he’s still at the “I’m interested but I don’t know why” stage of comprehension when it comes to watching us eat. Despite my stepmother’s insistence over Christmas that I should “put a dab of custard on his lips, let him get the taste for it”.)