mummy is always tired

All Hail TV

Don’t you just love being made to feel inadequate? Not on purpose because it usually never is, it’s just being made to feel you’re not quite up to it because your own insecurities tell you so. Which is even worse in a way because at least if someone purposely tried to make you feel bad you could give them a telling off (in your head obviously because you’d never actually tell people what you really thought of them – like – to their face.)

So one of the playground mums announces that she never lets her children (note – plural) watch TV in the afternoons or evenings. TV – she said – was only allowed in the mornings whilst they were having breakfast because it allowed everyone to wake up in their own time.

Well whoop de do was my first thought. Good for you, your kids are clearly never coming over to ours for tea because TV features quite prominently between 5 and 6 o’clock. That one hour of TV lets me make dinner, empty the dishwasher (which I usually do only when I absolutely have to because there is something I find deeply depressing about emptying the dishwasher) and crucially it allows me to drink a glass of wine and pour another.

Now, I can multitask with the best of them (watch TV, read a trashy magazine, eat chocolate and drink alcohol). But clearly this woman is some sort of Stepford wife, not only can she run a household but she can mentally stimulate three children without the aid of TV as a babysitter or as a source of factual information. So then I tried to cheer myself up by being realistic – my four year old has more questions than I have the answers to and sometimes those answers are just better explained by Nina and the Neurons.

I used to think I was really maternal, then I had my own children and reality suddenly kicked in. The lovely images of raising children, baking bread and making cupcakes with pretty coloured icing, kicking up autumn leaves and collecting conkers and pine cones to make into some miscellaneous thing – it didn’t matter what because the theory is that it’s all about utilising ‘natures gifts’.

Ha! Well that was soon replaced by the complexities of juggling two children who like to argue over who holds the cheese in a supermarket to never having enough hours to make proper cupcakes for birthdays – my icing is always watery and so the hundreds and thousands slowly dribble off the edge of the cakes like they are crying…pooling into sugary, gooey puddles of misery. Collecting conkers and pine cones? Well, yes they still do that but only to make missiles to aim at each other’s heads.

So I marvel at any parent who can occupy any child for any length of time without any TV. And whilst I marvel, I’ll pour myself another glass of wine.

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The School Gate

Our eldest has started ‘big school’ as she proudly calls it. To be honest we were dreading it – she is – and I mean this in the kindest possible way – socially awkward. She is the child that will blankly stare at you when you greet her even though you have known her since birth.

But, so far – so good. She bounds into school and has sworn that she will never be ‘on the grey cloud and definitely not the thunder cloud’ which I can only presume is the school equivalent of the naughty step. Every day she smugly announces those unfortunates that have been caught in the act and whose names have ended up on ‘the cloud’. I have mixed feelings about these announcements. On the one hand, I admire her vow to always be good but at the same time, this denouncing of her peers is, well, ever so slightly smug. Three words spring to mind – goody two shoes – and nobody likes a goody two shoes but I guess she is only four and she will learn.

One thing I had not prepared myself for was the playground ‘chat’. Drop off and pick up takes place in the playground and there is usually some hanging around whilst the doors open/close, inevitably this means some form of idle conversation.

Now, part of reaching the grand old age of 35 is that you know your strengths and weaknesses. I am sad to say, idle chatter is not one of my strengths – ask me anything about sworn enemies of Starfleet, warp speed and the Klingons and I could give you a sermon. But chat about the weather, where I’ve been on holiday and what’s for tea, my mind panics and I break out into a sweat.

I never quite know how to time idle chatter – do I jump in and run the risk of interrupting and come across as that shouty woman that never lets anyone finish their sentences or do I wait and then become known as mental mum who just stands and hovers, completely mute. It’s a game of strategy and one that sadly I haven’t yet mastered.

I know it’s really quite ridiculous – after all who cares? Whether I have anything to say or not isn’t going to alter the state of the universe. But it’s that old playground insecurity of being left out or being the odd one or even worse, the weird one that no one wants to stand next to, let alone speak to.

Looking around I also feel slightly inadequate, I mean so many of these mums have three children, all of which have been dressed, fed and some even have their hair beautifully plaited. This is a problem for me because when I got home from the school run (bear in mind I’d had a conversation with the teaching assistant and went on to see the doctor) I realised that I’d forgotten to put in my second earring. Had they been discreet studs it might not have mattered, but I like big, dangly ones and so it was probably pretty obvious I’d woken up and failed miserably to dress myself. I could pretend it was some grand fashion statement but looking at the rest of me, it’d be clear that it wasn’t. Great.

So our fears for our socially awkward eldest have evaporated only to be replaced by fears for her socially awkward mother…I always wondered where she got it from…

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Viva La Diva

No this isn’t about Eurovision classics. It’s a description of our youngest. Aged two and a half her motto is ‘why do something for yourself when someone else can do it for you.’ She is – put quite simply – a demanding little madam.

Yes I agree ‘it’s the parents fault.’ As the youngest she has been indulged but to counter the nature vs nurture debate, can I just say that she does have an innate manipulative streak – and I mean that in the kindest possible way.

She knows when she does wrong but she is a master manipulator. She has a skill which I can only liken to Puss in Boots in Shrek – the cat that makes his eyes as wide as saucers to entrance his enemies before annihilating them. Our little bird, the tiny well behaved, passive baby now rules not only our roost but nursery’s too.

You see, our youngest has not only managed to turn household situations to her advantage but she also has managed to engineer it so that life at nursery is one long joyride – literally. Nursery have what look like deckchairs on wheels and our youngest always manages to convince someone to wheel her around, usually whilst la diva reads a book or admires some shiny new plaything she’s discovered.

She is also a drama queen of epic proportions. She has perfected the art of mimicry and will happily shadow an entire telephone conversation, tilting her head, nodding, uh-huh-ing and ah-ha-ing in all the right places.

She adores being in the limelight, the latest scenario involved much protesting when a thunder fly smaller than tomato seed landed on her leg. There was much hand waving and then the lifting of the skirt with the leg out, tilted forward, toes pointing – the girl is a natural at live performance.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s hilarious, other times it’s a pain in the backside. Especially at the supermarket when she HAS to hold the same cheese as her sister, or she HAS to help load the conveyor belt or in town when she HAS to have that tantrum in the street, lying face down, hands and feet banging on the ground. Oh yes – that family is us – they aren’t stereotypes for no reason.

But she’s our diva and very entertaining she is to, one day when she’s collecting that Oscar, it’ll all be worth it…won’t it?

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Weapons of not mass destruction

It is 7.45 am and there is screaming from the hallway, the eldest one is distraught. I race over and demand an explanation (calmly and not shouty because I’ve stopped being shouty mum remember).

The response to my question of ‘what’s going on?’ was not what I was expecting: ‘she’s got a weapon and she going to use it against me. Or it could be a sword….I think it’s a sword mummy.’

Ok – so once I’d finished guffawing – ‘weapon?’ I mean seriously, how on earth does ‘weapon’ ease its way into a four year old’s vocabulary? Anyway, back to this weapon, I’m thinking I’ve been careless. Maybe our youngest has been brandishing the metal skewer I use to poke vegetables to check they are cooked, or maybe she’s found a screwdriver in daddy’s box of random, miscellaneous things, or some scissors, perhaps a knife?

No. I turn around and the weapon of much distress is a hollowed out pawn from a Ludo set that she has stuck her index finger in. Clearly this now pointy, blue tipped finger is a real threat so early in the day. All I can think of is how this Ludo set has become a perennial pain. It came with a set of indecipherable instructions and as such I refuse to play it.

The only person who does know how to play it, is Grandma. But because only Grandma knows how to play, it’s played by ‘Grandma’s rules’ which involves a bizarre ritual of aimlessly moving the pawns around the board until you decide to house them wherever you like. It makes no sense. It makes even less sense when your four year old tries to explain it.

And so I tell the youngest whilst restraining my irritation at this ridiculous board game to put away her 1 inch plastic weapon. The boxed pawns and board are now sitting on a shelf…waiting…until I decide on my own weapon for its annihilation.

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The Bath Poo

Our youngest decided to potty train herself a few weeks ago. No doubt she was fed up of hiding in corners or behind curtains to secretly squeeze one out and then deny it despite the trail of smell quite literally following her around.

I proudly announced to a fellow mummy how our youngest had the wees sorted in just a couple of days. Clearly that was a mistake because less than three hours later, the God of anti smugness struck and the result was nothing short of a pint of wee over the dining room chair – a wooden chair no less. Who knew aged pine chairs would be so absorbent – like a sponge to water. As such I am not saying which chair it was because what house guests don’t know won’t hurt them.

So…apart from that, there have been few other liquid accidents. However, she’s been reluctant to extend her potty abilities to include solid packages. She’s been leaving it and leaving it, only to get to day three absolutely bursting – quite literally and no amount of raisins or dried dates could flush through the blockage.

No. Silly me. Clearly what was needed was a lovely, relaxing bath. Preferably when your sister is in it as well and when it’s only mummy on bath duty. And so here we were, both girls splashing around when our youngest suddenly jumps up clutching her bottom screaming ‘I need a poo!’

Quick! I’m panicking now, the thought of it scooping up out the bath doesn’t appeal. My hands? No judging by what’s rapidly making an appearance they won’t be big enough. Ok what’s next, the toy boat? No, too many nooks and crannies to clean out after. I’ve got it – one of the stacking cups, number one, the largest of them all thank goodness – shame it wasn’t the number two, but that would have been too perfect.

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An attempt at ‘doing exercises’

I’ve discovered I’m a really slow swimmer. I know this because for every one lap I do, everyone around me manages two. I’ve made this discovery because of my new fitness regime which has been devised in an attempt to resolve ‘mummy’s wobbly tummy’ issue.

You see, not only does mummy have two children to thank for her wobbly tummy, mummy is lucky enough to have two children who have yet to discover the art of tact. Mummy’s tummy (also fondly known as ‘jelly belly’ which is quite obviously a hilarious phrase my eldest and her sidekick have learnt from daddy) has had much bashing – literally. The children have enjoyed slapping it – no doubt to hear and see the reverberations ripple across it.

So, enough was enough and I joined a gym, where I was dutifully weighed and measured and told I was 22% fat. Which apparently is the upper most tier of fatness for my height. I politely thanked the gym instructor for that motivating fact whilst inwardly cursing that gold Lindt bunny I had consumed over Easter.

But I am not the only one ‘doing exercises’ as my eldest calls it. She has also started to do PE at preschool. From what I can gather, PE is mainly made up of star jumps, balancing things on heads and a vague attempt at juggling cups (although I suspect she made that one last one up).

However, one exercise clearly stood out as ‘the one to do’. I caught her doing a bizarre contortion of downward dog with her arms then criss crossing followed by that peculiar sideways roll action that ham actors do when escaping something life threatening in a bad movie. This, she announced was a roly poly. “Well don’t do that, you’ll break your neck” I said to which she replied “if I break my neck mummy, I’ll just be a head”.

Hmmm, I didn’t have an answer for that retort, but I guess at least she’s trying however cack-handed the attempt. A bit like my swimming – I’m trying and I’ll get there – just maybe a little slower.

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The night before Christmas……

‘It’ll get easier’. That’s what people say to me all the time about having small children. I know it will – after all it can’t get any harder surely, because that would just be unfair. Although, I’m not sure if ‘easier’ is really true. It’s just a different set of issues. The issues become less of the soiled and stained variety and more of the type of thing you actually have to do something about. One of the things that has developed is my eldest’s understanding of actions and their consequences.

So, just before Christmas my eldest came home from nursery having proudly made ‘reindeer food’ (a concoction of porridge oats and glitter) to leave out with instructions to: “sprinkle on the lawn at night so the reindeer have a path in sight” or words to that effect. The food was carefully placed to one side in preparation for Christmas Eve. That day she had also met Father Christmas who gave her a gift. This was placed under the tree.

Sadly, porridge oats delight not only reindeer. It seems dogs are partial to them too. Especially it seems when they are mixed with glitter and wrapped in cellophane with a bow. I came home from work early the following day to a scene of utter destruction. The reindeer food had gone. The cellophane ripped open and just a few lonely grains of oats lay scattered on the floor. I had one thought: the dog.

The dog was in his bed, looking as innocent as he possibly good, slowly wagging his tail. Just a little bow jauntily discarded, giving away his dreadful deed.

Now, if it were just the issue of the reindeer food that would be one thing. But no. Part of the crime scene involved nursery Father Christmas’ present. This too lay ripped open, but clearly of no edible value this lay (thankfully) intact and rather forlornly on the floor.

What do I do?! Shout at the dog, wrap up the present or re make the reindeer food? Too many options, I decided to just collect the children and break the news to my eldest.

The reaction was exactly as I expected. Otis, I explained, had found the reindeer food and decided to eat it and then open the present from Father Christmas. The reaction was instant. Tears. Lots of them and wailing. Wailing of such epic proportions it was like the world had ended.

Now, I’m not heartless but the sheer ridiculousness of it suddenly hit me and I could feel that dreadful rumble of laughter wanting to erupt out of me. I tried, I really tried but I couldn’t hold it in. I started laughing. Laughing so hard tears were rolling down my face.

The effect was instantaneous. My eldest stopped wailing and looked at me, confused. Was I laughing or crying at the shared upset of the dog having consumed the reindeer food and opening her present? With tears still making their way down my cheek I explained that the consequence of leaving the reindeer food and present at dog height was simply too irresistible an offer for a greedy Labrador.

Otis has since been regarded with deep suspicion, with all food and favourite toys being safely tucked away. I also found an interesting consequence of Otis’ consumption of the reindeer food – a very colourful, glitter laced dog poo shimmering on the lawn. A reminder that every action has a consequence and to always be prepared.

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No one likes a cry baby

So, just read an article about a mother who received a letter through her door saying: ‘You may be able to ignore your baby crying but we are tired of listening to him crying non-stop all day’. My gut instinct was to sympathise with this mother and as I read the comments of other readers on the page, my sympathy only grew.

Babies cry. It is a fact of life, all I can say is thank god we only have one neighbour and that we don’t like them very much. If everyone close to where we live posted us letters about children crying we probably wouldn’t be able to find the front door again.

Our eldest cried for what felt like ten months straight, 24 hours a day. I learnt how to peel potatoes, load laundry and pee with a baby strapped to my chest – it was the only way to peace.

In the fog of what was new parenthood I was amazed at how an otherwise, helpless being could also calculate when I was sitting as opposed to standing. Standing was good. Standing meant happiness and quiet. Sitting meant screaming and hysteria (inevitably mine). I would spend ages shimmying in front of MTV in a bid for quiet.

Our second was totally different. She slept for hours and hours only waking to feed then falling asleep, drunk on milk. It was bliss. Slightly unnerving, but we weren’t going to complain, there’s only 21 months between them and we were grateful for the rest.

Now, however our second is showing signs of definite prima Donna-isms. She wails at every – what she perceives – injustice. Namely, if she’s not allowed ‘more gwapes’ (grapes) or ‘more cheese’ or ‘more cakker’ (crackers)….you get the idea.

She cries when she’s not allowed to play tiddly winks with the cat food, she cries when she told off for cleaning the 12 ft trampoline with wet wipes. She likes to get her own way. Sadly, she has parents who like to get their own way too and so for a lot of things she gets told ‘no’ and cries.

So, I sympathise with the ‘mum who lets her child cry all day’ (which I’m sure it’s not, there must be meal breaks after all). Sometimes being a parent is about making unpopular decisions. My advice to those neighbours? Buy some ear plugs.

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To shop or not?

Is it a good idea to take your child food shopping? Discuss. I’ve just read an article debating this and I am very much in the ‘no’ camp. So imagine how much my eyes rolled when I read about one mum’s delight at taking their child supermarket shopping.

Apparently, it’s really enjoyable to teach your child about where your food has come from – yes that’s right, because all food originates in a windowless box uniformly stacked on shelves in tins and plastic wrapping. It’s important apparently for children to realise that someone has chosen their food and learn that it doesn’t just appear on the table. Indeed, someone has carefully chosen your food, a buyer in a smart office even before it’s arrived in said windowless box.

Apparently it’s fun to turn food shopping into a game and have your child select tins from the shelf and tick them off your list as you go along. Really? Who is this child? Whoever they belong to, do you want to swap?

I’ve taken my two supermarket shopping and each time I’ve vowed never to do it again. If my youngest isn’t demanding to get in the trolley, then out of it and then in again she’s probably being helpful in other ways. Like licking the shopping list so my beautifully annotated notes disappear in a soggy blur. Or my eldest announcing to no one but everyone that that she needs a wee and quite possibly ‘needs to do a poo as well’ halfway through the shop.

My children would not carefully gather tins from the shelf. They would storm the aisles, touching EVERYTHING in their path. My eldest will suddenly decide is cold in the chiller aisle (she doesn’t ‘do’ coats under any circumstances, except when we went skiing she relented and wore a fleece) and want to go home – now. Or they both insist on holding the same thing, which inevitably leads to a meltdown of epic proportions. Or we make the fatal mistake of venturing out on pension day and getting in the way of someone old and irritable.

Then there’s the checkout. This is its very own nightmare scenario. I have a 3 year old on one side and a 2 year old on the other, each wanting to put things on the conveyor belt (which they are too short to reach). I have a queue of impatient (despite having all the time in the world, or perhaps not?) elderly people behind me and a checkout assistant who is processing the trolley contents so fast she could be propelling them into space. By this time I could quite easily forget I have two children and walk straight out. So, is it a good idea to take your child food shopping? Absolutely. Definitely. Not.

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The haircut

Our eldest could try the patience of a saint. Sadly, I’m not a saint and so not only has my patience been sorely tried, it has been exceeded more times than I can remember. Although she usually ends up doing what I’ve asked, the method of getting there is nothing to be proud of.

So, I made a pact with her. I promised I would try and stop shouting at her if she did as she was told. And it actually seems to be working……so far.

Now, I’ve tried the no shouting thing several times but usually something happens that makes me resort to my favourite method of control. So what has changed? Could it be that I have a new job, one that doesn’t make me angry and hostile. Or could it be that this new found parenting skill actually works. Or could it be the embellished tales of terrible consequences that I’ve been telling my eldest that has resulted in this turnaround?

Now embellished tales do not mean lies. It just means that I have exaggerated things ever so slightly. So, in response to her no hair brushing policy, I told my eldest that tiny little creatures would nest in her hair and start nibbling away. It worked. But only once. Time for another non shouty tactic.

My eldest’s hair had certainly become an issue. Her fringe was so long she couldn’t see, the rest of her hair was a bedraggled mess. The length combined with the snot production factory in her nose meant hair sticking to her face and slowly hardening throughout the day only to be peeled off with much protest at bath time.

Something had to give and so we ventured to the hairdressers. She has been before and we’ve not had any problems, she has sat docile and willingly. This time, obviously was different.

Nothing could convince her that getting her hair cut was a good idea. Sweets, biscuits, Peppa pig magazines, not even chocolate could sway her. So there was only one thing left to do. We held her down. Suddenly our three year old had developed the strength of 1000 men. It took two of us to hold her still while the scissors worked their magic. It sounds cruel but what was the alternative? Mucous encrusted hair is neither endearing or hygienic. A trip to the hairdresser would have been something I’d have been grateful for as a child but sadly no one told my mother that bowls, scissors and a round face do not equal a good haircut.

Although the method of getting her hair cut was pretty drastic, I didn’t raise my voice. So that’s good right? I’m sticking to the no shouting rule.

The other problem we have is the ‘wearing of new things’ issue. Our eldest doesn’t like to wear new clothes. At all. Ever. Especially shorts it seems. Which is becoming a problem because she is getting bigger and the shorts, are not. So, because we are doing ‘no shouting’ I had to resort to other tactics.

And so I threatened to put every other well worn item in the bin. By the time I got to her beloved Buzz and Woody pyjamas she gave in and on went the new shorts. Extreme? Yes. But it worked and most importantly, I didn’t raise my voice.

There is though, one remaining issue. The issue of the number twos. Our eldest only wears a nappy at bedtime but she has timed the passing of larger deposits so perfectly that they coincide with the nappy being on. So I’m going to have to think of another non shouty tall tale of terrible consequences to try and resolve this situation. It could be interesting. Perhaps involving partially melted mars bars?

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