mummy is always tired

The anti-social mum

Who would’ve thought that taking your child to school could be such a social minefield? I know it shouldn’t be hard, but it is – especially if you’re not keen on people at the best of times.

Sometimes, my jaw hurts from the amount of fake smiling I have to do at drop off and pick up, and sometimes I find myself blurting out sentences that make no sense, or are hastily concocted and make me sound moronic.

Some people are naturals at small talk – alas, I am not one of them. I even started cutting my own hair because I didn’t want to have to talk to the hairdresser. I know that makes me sound barking mad and really anti-social, but if I’m honest, my brain just needs a rest.

Some people can be hilariously witty about the trials and tribulations of being a parent and let’s be honest – websites are littered with ‘funny mummy blogs’ that are all well put together and painfully honest about shitty nappies and lumpy vomit.

There’s a kind of communal ‘hurrah’ we’re all in the same boat sort of feeling but it’s confession time for me – I never read any other parenting blogs. Part of it, is because I can’t be bothered and the other part is because I actually really don’t care.

I don’t think it’s because I’m heartless, more just because I find my own experiences enough, thank you very much. I have my own stuff to worry about, without reading someone else’s raucously funny post about being the anti-mum and finding solace at the end of a wine bottle.

But I think most of it, is just because I’m tired. I’m so tired that I nearly fell asleep in my yoga class (I know, how terribly yummy mummy – don’t I have better things to do? At the moment – no). But it’s not nearly so yummy when I tell you the class was full of people who could barely stand on one leg, let alone wrap it around the other and fold over. It was hardly latte sipping, lunch meeting posh totty territory.

Because life is rarely as glamorous, exciting or as hilarious as most people make out – it’s full of pretty mundane stuff and sometimes, that’s OK. I, for one, quite like to plod, I like to stay in, watch TV and sometimes it makes me feel good when I mop the floor. See – exciting, I am not; but I am content (even without a wine bottle and a straw).

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How many adults does it take to change a three year old?

If it is my three year old, then the answer is four. This is the scene that greeted me last week – the sight of four grown ups cajoling a three year old into some leggings. Meanwhile my three year old is doing what she does best – yelling, screaming, kicking and being an all round prima donna.

But let’s rewind for a moment. Why was I seeing this? Well, I received a phone call. Our youngest had a bit of a tizz and wet herself – she didn’t want to go for a wee in the toilets because there were boys in there. Clearly my child is a coy 19th century throwback and decorum is the buzz word du jour. So whilst she didn’t want to be seen ‘going to the toilet’ she decided it was less embarrassing to just piss herself in front of everyone.

And remember what happens when our youngest gets into a tizz? Yes – that’s right, she then throws up. And me being a bad mother had failed to refill her bag with a change of clothes. So, the phone call was a plea for more things because not a stitch was to be found in the whole of the nursery…that she would wear.

When I arrive she is like a cornered animal and any irritation I’d harboured for her diva antics just evaporated, there she was, having a meltdown with one legging leg flapping in the air as she’s trying desperately to kick the other leg off. If that wasn’t ridiculous enough, she’s doing it with no pants on. Pants. I’ve forgotten to bring her clean pants. And we don’t have time to stop off home and get some more as we have to pick up the older one from school. You’ll have to go commando I tell her. She looks at me as if I’m mad, of course she does, she has no idea what going commando means. But she agrees and off we go; pants problem solved.

So back at home I rifle through her bag, if there are no clothes in it why does it always seem so full I think. Ah. I see why. She has stuffed it with paper and stolen objects from nursery, pilfering is another of her favourite past times. The child has ASBO stamped on her somewhere, I just haven’t found it.

I dutifully fill up her bag and vow to myself I won’t be so slack in future.  I cram in four pairs of pants, tops and leggings. There. Wee and vomit your way through those in a day young lady. I dare you.

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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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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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Another soft play party – sigh….

Our eldest has been invited to another soft play party. It’s great she is so popular but I hadn’t realised just how ‘involved’ I would have to be at these parties. This will be the second soft play party (at the same venue) in less than a month so at least we know the drill. It basically entails the children jumping, climbing, sliding and throwing air filled plastic balls at each other – and me. Most parents can get away with dumping their cherubs at the base of what is essentially fancy scaffolding and squirrelling themselves away in a corner to have a gossip. Not me. Sadly I have to tag along with my eldest which means crawling along padded corridors and going down slides in a sack. The alternative (as she is going through a clingy phase) would be to have her sitting on my lap on the sidelines watching everyone else have fun, as much as I would prefer sitting on my backside watching other people exert themselves, this would defeat the purpose of her invitation.

The concept of soft play is great and one which in theory I’m sure most adults would really enjoy. One thing which always makes me laugh is the disclaimer at the bottom of the invitation: “….avoid wearing man made fibres as these can cause burns when going down the slides.” This doesn’t seem to bother anyone else. But what if no one has read this and turns up head to toe in polyester? What then? The images of spontaneously combusting individuals fills me with horror but a curious mirth at the same time.

Plus, the reality of soft play is that you’re never quite sure what is lurking in the ball pit – after all how often are those balls cleaned? My eldest is really snotty – snotty in epic proportions, if we could convert snot into fuel we’d be self sufficient, but because I’m with her (wearing only the most natural, organic cotton I can find) I can clean her nose. But what of all those other snotty children whose parents are lucky enough not to have to follow a trail of screaming children? What happens to their mucous snail trails?

Also, my eldest sometimes dribbles when she is especially excited (a bit like our Labrador when he sees us eating apples) I’m sure she can’t be the only one who does this? Your own child’s snot and dribbles are one thing, potentially coming into contact with that of another child is something else.  So it’s with some trepidation that I sit inside the ball pit, usually huddled in one corner with my hands firmly in my lap.

At the last soft play party I ended up wiping the bloody nose of another child in our group whose parent had disappeared somewhere (to safety in the parent pack I assume). I had been well aware of this child’s runny nose, it wasn’t a real bleeder it was that icky snot trail tinged with blood where I guess due to excitement he’d burst a blood vessel in his nose. I was hoping to be able to ignore it until he went away but another child (not of our group and a few years older) shamed me into action by pointing it out to me in a very loud voice. “Oh dear so he has” I replied as innocently as I could whilst quietly cursing this do gooding child – clearly someone was being raised not to mind their own business.

I think ultimately I dread these birthday parties because of my own lack of contrived schmoozing ability. After all the only thing all the parents of the invited children have in common is – the children. And these aren’t even children old enough to properly articulate why they like each other enough to be invited/do the inviting. And so conversation is usually fairly stilted and by the time I get to the “so what school is ‘X’ going to in September” my repertoire has been exhausted. I used this line of conversation at the last soft play party, the answer was one word and I had no idea where this village school was geographically, so that was the end of that conversation. Awkward doesn’t do this scenario any justice whatsoever.

My other half calls me a ‘bah humbug’ but I’m of the thought that I have enough trouble keeping in touch with my actual friends. I have no compulsion to make chitchat with other parents whose lives really don’t interest me. Frankly I don’t really care where so and so will go to school or what they do for a living or where they’re going on holiday – I’m just being polite. So when my better half calls me a ‘bah humbug’ I say to him well why don’t you take our eldest instead? He just laughs at me and walks away……..right then……I’d better brush up on my small talk then hadn’t I?


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In Which We Discuss The Incident Of The New Shoes

We went shoe shopping last weekend.  I’d like to say it was a pleasant family exercise but unfortunately our eldest didn’t want to play ball and it was a rather fraught experience.   Our eldest is extraordinarily stubborn, she cannot be encouraged or cajoled or just plain bribed into doing things she doesn’t want to do.  Now in later life this may well prove to be a quality worth upholding, when you’re 3 it is just  incredibly irritating.  There are certain things our eldest is just known for amongst our friends – she doesn’t wear skirts, she doesn’t wear dresses, she won’t even wear a coat.  She will only wear t-shirts (must be short sleeved) and she will only wear leggings (the older the better) and she will only wear her beloved purple fleece (again, ancient). Even at her birthday party, whilst her friends wore neat dresses with sparkly boleros she wore an old t-shirt with faded printed leggings, captured for all time on camera with the frayed seams and bobbly finish.

We decided to attempt to rectify the situation and as one of her birthday presents we bought a lovely, new, fluffy navy blue fleece.  If she won’t wear a coat we’ll try and compromise and this was a happy medium – or so we thought.  The gift was unwrapped and the initial reaction was good – a smile – so far, parents 1, awkward infant 0.  However, our smugness was soon quashed when she refused point blank to try it on.  That was 3 weeks ago.  So each day for the last 3 weeks we have, every morning attempted bribery, threatened (and implemented) the naughty step in order to get her to just try the fleece on.  Only yesterday did we have success.  I’m not sure if it is stubbornness alone or the fear of wearing new things that makes her stubborn, either way it is something we have had to ‘factor in’ when introducing anything unfamiliar.  New clothes are presented and then added to the wardrobe, to be ignored for several months until their presence has become familiar and therefore acceptable to then finally be selected and worn usually accompanied by silent mutterings of ‘hallelujah’ by us.

You can imagine then our weariness when we realised our eldest finally needed some new shoes.  Her current shoes have been worn so much that there are bare exposed patches where the lovely pink leather has been eroded.   The good thing was that our youngest was also due some new shoes, brilliant! we thought, surely seeing her baby sister getting shiny, new shoes would be an incentive? Right? Of course not but you knew that and so, deep down did we.  While our youngest smiled with delight as her feet were measured and triumphantly carried her chosen pair of shoes around the shop, our eldest sat…. sullenly….. brooding in the buggy.  We tried the softly, softly approach and when that failed, there was no alternative but to resort to the tactics that would inevitably cause a ‘scene.’  So, I foolishly tried to force some new shoes on her feet only to be met with the agile twisting and turning that only an angry 3 year old can demonstrate, of course, no such performance can be displayed without sound and with all the volume of cinema surround sound came the high pitched scream of “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, I don’t want new shoes.” Needless to say I was shamed in to untangling velcro, feet and socks and putting the new shoes safely back in their box.

So Monday came and the stark contrast between our eldest and youngest was clearly evident.  There was our youngest, smartly dressed in tights, dress and winter coat, feet neat in patent leather topped off with little white bows standing next to our eldest who in comparison looked like she had been dressed from the nursery spare clothes box. But not to worry, I shall log the incident of the new shoes silently and store it away, to be resurrected when our eldest becomes a teenager and no doubt starts to demand new shoes on a whim, to which my reply will be “NO, because you don’t like new shoes do you darling?”

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In Which We Celebrate Our Greedy Dog

We have a dog.  A long suffering (he’s only three) very patient, very passive black Labrador called Otis.  He is the best dog in the world.  Like most Labradors, Otis is driven by his stomach and the need to fill it…..all the time.  He thinks about food all day, literally from the moment he wakes up to the moment we switch off the lights downstairs and head off to bed.  He follows me to the kitchen on the off chance that some tiny morsel might come his way; the size of the prize is not important.  He withstands the fiercest prods, pats and pokes from our two small children with quiet dignity and selflessness.  Although I’m sure this is all a small price to pay for living in a house with two children who more than occasionally drop food on to the floor by accident (or on purpose as I have observed on occasion).

Having Otis is brilliant, he is my unofficial vacuum cleaner.  The children can throw as many half eaten mouthfuls on the floor as they please, I can always rely on Otis to silently work his way through the mess.  He is keenly tuned in to mealtimes, the trigger is seeing me bring out the highchair tray for my youngest.  Even before I have finished clipping it on, Otis has taken up his standard position as close to the front of the highchair as he can get.  He sits in what must be the most uncomfortable set up for a large dog, he is cramped underneath the table between the highchair and the central pedestal of the dining table but he is waiting……patiently……for food.  Sometimes, if we are having one of his favourites, he cannot control himself and he will start to drool rather unattractively on to my lovely new rug.  This is not so endearing and if this happens he gets told off and tail between his legs he mooches off to his bed, however, like all Labradors, he is an optimist and 10 seconds later he is back, standing guard underneath the table.  I have also caught my eldest and Otis sharing food – biscuits usually, perhaps not the most hygienic but it all adds to strengthening the immune system.

Otis has also proven his worth when it comes to clearing up less than delightful delicacies.  Please stop reading if you are eating.  Because, you see, part of being a Labrador is to have the ability to find EVERYTHING a gastronomic pleasure, this extends to masticated spat out food, snot laced biscuit remnants and on occasion – sick (milky or with lumps).  Most of the time I turn a blind eye, I am secretly overjoyed that I don’t have to deal with too much yucky stuff to clear up – this is especially true with the vomit.  When our children were very tiny, watching the avid licking up of milky spew wasn’t too bad,  Otis relished this, he would lie on the floor for hours, licking away at the carpet, eager not to let one ounce of regurgitated breast milk go to waste.   However as the girls have got older the milky sick stage has passed to be replaced with that bile ridden lumpy chunder we all dread.  It smells bad, it looks terrible and it’s nightmare to clean – where do you start?  Otis! Yes, I am not ashamed to admit that I have often called upon his services to remove the offending partially digested contents of my childrens’ tummies.  Yum.

But we don’t just measure our dog’s worth by how much vomit he can eat, he provides endless entertainment.  He is the short horse that willingly if clumsily can be ridden around the kitchen, he is the funny shaped teddy bear that barks at unknown visitors, he is our hairy third child who does tricks for food (perhaps something we could train our human children to do).  Otis also provides us with everything we need to teach biology – more specifically –  his bottom does.  Our eldest has a keen fascination with what comes out of his rear end, we have a game called ‘find the poo’ which we like to play in the summer.  I hasten to add that it was our eldest that started this game and so far she has yet to tire of it.  Child number 1 is the poo spotter, child number 2 has yet to start playing this game and we, the adults have the grand task of picking up any identified poo.  Whilst I admit it’s not a conventional game it certainly gets us all outdoors.  This game was especially relevant when it came to teaching her the difference between wee-wees and poo-poos.

So there we have it, our lovely Otis is an essential and much loved member of our family – vacuum cleaner, sick mopper upper, biscuit sharing child entertainer, where would we be without him? Probably drowning in cookie crumbs, half eaten food and dried up vomit and I’m absolutely certain about one thing – my carpets wouldn’t still be cream.

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The one in which we talk about wee-wees and poo-poos

Joy to the world – our eldest has now been potty trained.  When I say potty trained, I mean during the day and up until yesterday just number ones.  Overall the transition was smooth but perhaps this was due to the chocolaty rewards that ensued after each potty captured wee-wee.  To be honest, it wasn’t an experience I was looking forward to, in fact I did everything I could think of to put it off, not because our eldest wasn’t ready it was probably more that I wasn’t.  I didn’t relish the thought of trying to memorize where every child friendly toilet in the town centre was, or having to deal with any ‘accidents’ in public places – who wants to peel off wee soaked pants in the middle of Sainsbury’s?

Although I needn’t have worried, in those early few days, my eldest demonstrated a bladder of steel.  Almost the whole day would pass before any sign of liquid gold being released.  By day 4 though the skill had been mastered, I’m not sure we did everything ‘by the book’ though, I don’t think chocolate covered mini biscuits are recommended rewards but whatever works, right?  ‘This is easy’ my other half jubilantly praised, ‘we should’ve done it ages ago’ (our eldest is the last of our ‘group’ to be potty trained by some distance), ‘hmmm’ I replied – and just how many poos and wees have you had to clean up I thought.

Success aside, there were obviously hilarities that occurred – though at the time hilarity wasn’t the word that sprung to mind.  There was the time after a long Sunday walk where my eldest ran into the house and couldn’t quite reach the potty in time – the result? Wellies filled to the brim with wee – ‘they’ll dry out’ said the other half – 5 weeks later they are still languishing in the utility room and even after this lengthy time I’m not quite sure if it’s the smell of urine or rubber that is most prevalent.

The time after that there was an incident with the ‘number two’.  Needless to say, the other half was nowhere in sight – he was actually out on the town, cleverly having planned Christmas drinks out with friends on Christmas Eve no less, but this is a WHOLE other story! So our eldest felt the urge and pushed before realising oops, there’s no nappy and started screaming as she realised that the offending number two would dirty her new Peppa Pig pants.  So alarming was this thought, said pushing stopped before the full deposit had made its way out.  Half in and half out, what do I do? I spent a panicked few seconds running around thinking about how to tackle this one, I was quite tempted to use one of the dog’s poop bags but thought that might send out the wrong message to my already distressed child.  But after countless wet wipes and cuddles later the situation was under control.

The one public accident we had was on an aeroplane.  That’s right, why have an accident on the ground, when you can have one thousands of miles in the air and where the only toilets are ones that are tiny and shared between hundreds of other people…..and usually engaged.  Anyway, this was my time to sit back, after all I had our youngest on my lap, let’s see how daddy copes with this one I thought. And actually, he coped really rather well, quick thinking and reflexes saw him whip a nappy under her bottom to catch the excess, a quick wipe down and a change of clothes later, all was calm again.  Although, we apologise if someone sat on a rather damp 28c seat back.

That brings us up to date and to yesterday which saw the first number two successfully (and safely) deposited in potty.  Hurrah!

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