When motherhood means impersonating furniture

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Our heating chugs into life at 5.30am. The whole house groans and shifts, boiling water trickling into radiators and pushing out hisses of warm air. Getting ready for us all to wake up with our alarms an hour later, even though in this darkest winter month the sun won’t rise until nearly eight o’ clock.

About twice a week the noise wakes Teddy up. He’s a light sleeper anyway, not like his dead-to-the-world brother who topples off the toilet regularly when we wake him up to pee. As soon as he’s awake he yells for one of us in a croaky voice, and I get up sharpish to rescue him, since a Teddy unattended is one that will soon rouse half the street.

We pad back to the big bed, through the dark and the new warmth, and I lie him between us, As soon as I’ve settled myself he wriggles over determinedly and wedges himself into my side. It’s a bizarre thing that a boy who needs strapping down during the day (if you want him within sight) only wants enclosure at night. He sleeps best in his cot, jammed up against the bars. When he’s not in his cot, he likes to pretend I’m one. I don’t usually sleep well with fierce little elbows under my ribs and a hoarse, admonitory ‘Mummeeee, I need a cuggle‘, floating out of the dark every time I move away. So I don’t sleep much during that last hour, as you wouldn’t if you were pretending to be a cot. But it feels like hibernating in endless cosy blankets with a tiny, fluffy, indignant animal, and if this is what it is to be a cot then I never want to move anywhere at all.


At half-past three we roll in from school, cold and wet. We’ve never done full school days in winter before, and this stormy November has severely cramped our style. No walks and no outings: just school, a snack, and then – since H is too frazzled for homework and too damp and exhausted to play – we put on a film. Old-school Disney, new-school Pixar, Harry Potter with the proviso that we stick to ones that are almost age-appropriate.

I have been in two-year-old mode all day, and switching abruptly back to four-year-old interaction is jarring and wonderful. I can’t eat chocolate sneakily and pretend it’s grapes, but we can have proper conversation. So he tells me about his day while I turn on the radiators and hunt for the remote and the rain batters the inky windows in bursts. Then as I find it and sit down, he curls right against me like a cat. The music starts up, T hops to his feet (he can’t sit still under a blanket for a million pounds) and we’re off.

At some point I extract myself to put in some more washing. H immediately whimpers after me ‘Mummy! My neck hurts when you’re not here!’ Meaning, of course, that he’s using me as an armchair and now I’ve left his head to fend for itself. It’s not all that comfortable being an armchair – I’m twisted round the wrong way and I’ve needed the loo for about half an hour – but today I leave the washing where it is and come back. The radiators hum gently with hot air. It’s dark and blustery outside, and my four-year-old only wants to sit with me, and if this is what it is to be an armchair then I don’t want to move anywhere at all.

Besides, I don’t know how much longer they’ll want me as part of their furniture. Not long, probably. Not very much longer at all.

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Bacon, waffles, malteasers, birthday

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You can’t really tell, because he’s the eternally youthful type who probably has an ageing portrait of himself in our loft (behind the saggy maternity clothes and 20000 small empty cardboard boxes), but Tim finally turned thirty this month.

We were born in the same year, but I was first, so there’s a long eight months in the middle of the year where I am thirty and wrinkled and hobbling towards the grave, and he is gambolling along in the verdant Spring of his life at twenty-nine, so it’s always gratifying when he catches up. I have been telling him good things about thirty for ages. It’s been kind to me so far. I hope it agrees with him too.

Since it was a big one we tried to cram in all his favourite things. A boy-free night in a spa hotel in one of our favourite cities. A massage. Some huge dinners. The new James Bond film at the IMAX, in the squashy seats. Having arranged all this beforehand in secret, we left him a washing line hung with notes and sweets to follow from bed to the birthday table, to let him know what we’d be doing. Please imagine for a second pegging sweeties onto a piece of wool with tiny pegs and in the unrestrained presence of a ravenous two-year-old. At 6am. T thought Christmas had come early. I thought I’d panic-sweated out a full two pounds by the time we were done.

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Tim had specified a few techie presents I’d gratefully ordered from Amazon, so while he exclaimed over extra-powerful lights and a G-clamp (which sounds much ruder than it is, alas), the boys and I made waffles and bacon. He’d requested a Malteaser cake, and I’d rummaged all around the internet before settling on this one. It was a standard three-layer chocolate cake, made into a thing of wonder by pouring half a tin of Horlicks powder into the cake mix and frosting. Did you know the inside of Malteasers is basically solid Horlicks? I love them both, but now I love them both more.

We put an ice fountain on it instead of a regular candle. Because one thing we haven’t done yet with this house is burn it down, so we thought we’d have a crack.

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We had a quiet day while H was at school, spent mostly eating more cake, watching James Bond movies and weeping a little over Daniel Craig’s beautiful craggy face. Then we dropped the boys off with their grandparents and headed down to Winchester.

We haven’t been away without them all year. Oh, the bed. The huge, squashy-pillowed bed and uninterrupted sleep therein. The pizza-and-pie restaurant we found for dinner. The geriatric couple we made friends with in the sauna, until the lady ruthlessly stole my towel. After Tim’s massage the next morning he emerged smelling bewitchingly of lavender, and we popped into IKEA for a few bits before settling down to weep over Daniel Craig’s beautiful craggy face in HIGH DEFINITION. That bit where he drives the car into the oh my gosh I can’t even. Even Tim couldn’t even. The gentleman sat next to me couldn’t even, and this was despite Tim’s lavender oils drifting soothingly down the aisle. We haven’t been quite the same since.

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Anyway, he makes a good thirty. He makes a good basically everything. Ready for another decade, Mr J? I’ll bring the cake. You bring the G-clamp, now you’ve got one.

Five messages to give your tiny introvert

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When was the last time you read an article extolling the writer’s love for fuzzy socks and a good book over a loud party? About two-and-a-half minutes ago, right? They’re everywhere. Susan Cain’s Quiet seems to have kicked off the season of the introvert. It feels like it’s suddenly quite hip to sit for a while in a toilet cubicle because no one can see you in there.

These are my people. They are also, I think, the people of my eldest boy.

He might not always be this way. That’s fine too. I try to be cautious about applying labels with glue that won’t rub off. But for now I’m working with the hypothesis that an introvert is raising a probable introvert, and it can be tricky for both of us. It’s not easy being a parent of small, sticky children when alone time is important to you. My toilet cubicle moments now come with an audience. At the end of the day, when I’m tired and frazzled, I almost always have someone literally clinging to my coattails.

Have you noticed, though, that being a small child and an introvert is equally difficult? We encourage and reward people-person behaviour almost from birth:

‘Oh, he’s such a smiler! Always chatting away to complete strangers.’

‘Say hello to [this relation you’ve never met], darling. Now give her a hug. Now give her a kiss.’

‘Why don’t you go and play with the other children? Go on, ask them if you can play.’

If you have a child who refuses to play the game, who doesn’t want to talk about himself unless he knows you very well, who finds large groups overwhelming, whoever might be in them: we read that as being shy, or difficult, or not having good manners.

I interpreted it that way too. Me! When actually, if someone made me do the things I make H do in the name of good child-behaviour, I’d be stressed and furious. The day I realised this (*ping* <–that was my lightbulb moment) I knew I had to get over the why-isn’t-he-performing-for-strangers thing and start parenting with an introvert’s head on.

A DISCLAIMER: I am very obviously not an authority in parenting (a whole four years in, steady on). But I am a flipping expert at being an introvert. My badge is in the shape of an unoccupied toilet cubicle and I wear it proudly. And I know it’s easy to make an introverted child feel out of place and wrong, when all they are is wired differently, because I’ve accidentally done it myself.

So from that perspective, here are five messages I think a tiny introvert needs to hear loud and clear.

You will need alone time, so ask for it

Introverts recharge in their own company. How often are small children left alone, particularly when they have a sibling? Little introverts find this confusing, I think: sometimes they need to be clingy and sometimes they want to be by themselves. They anticipate a birthday party gleefully for weeks and then, half an hour in, they’re completely overwhelmed by their friends. I’ve tried to let H know that it’s alright to need alone time. When he asks for it, I make sure we accommodate him.

You can show all of your emotions to me

I can’t think of a better way to push an introvert further in than to let them know, subconsciously or overtly, that you don’t want to see their anger, frustration, jealousy or sadness. They may want to process these feelings independently, especially as they get older, but they do need to know that they always have a safe place with you. The rule in our house is that all your feelings are ok…but it’s not ok to express them with disrespect or fists.

Take your time

Here’s the thing: being an introverted child doesn’t get you a free pass out of good manners, just like being an introverted adult isn’t an excuse for being rude. But it takes them more time to adjust to social situations, so be their ally and give them the time. Let them sit with you for a while before answering questions. Let them know that they can smile instead of saying anything, if that’s easier. Don’t apologise for their quietness in front of them and other adults, in that smiling, passive-aggressive way that communicates to them that they’ve done something wrong.

Be kind, be kind, be kind

They might never be the life and soul of the party. They need to know – because they won’t hear it from many places – that this is alright. There’s more than one way to make your presence felt. There at the edge of the group they will find others. They can be kind, and notice people that don’t usually get noticed. They can make all the difference. What a valuable thing that is.

You are enough: to me, to you and to everyone

Like it or not, schools, work environments and social situations reward people who think on their feet and speak up loudly. Your tiny introvert will get the message from a thousand places: you are too quiet, too slow, too awkward, too boring. Make sure they never, ever get that from you.

There’s nothing wrong with them. To you, they are perfect. Inside a toilet cubicle or out, they are enough. They are enough. Whisper it in their ear. Shout it to the tree-tops if you have to. They are enough.

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Leaf-fall, and other things

We are on the last leg of a long walk (for you), and I am carrying the bike you have just started to ride and the hat you refuse to wear. It’s just starting to turn cold, just the tiniest of chills in the air. Your hands are always red hot, your feet as well, and you probably don’t need a hat at all with the fire you generate for yourself.

In sight of the house, and you are flagging, which for you means wandering off to squeeze through fences and hide behind trees, anything to postpone the moment I will suggest carrying you. I am pretending that we are steam engines to keep you moving. Your jumper is mustard and your duffel coat is stained with greenish moss and you are, as ever, the most beautiful thing I ever saw in my life. Your nose is starting to run and you’re rubbing it across your cheeks in that disgusting way two-year-olds do. You are cold, then. We need to get home.

Then the wind roars and swirls over us, and shakes another batch of dry leaves off the oak trees high above our heads. Thousands of them are pulled free of their last tethers, caught up in gusts and eddies as though for a final hurrah. They swirl in formation, mesmerisingly, like migrating birds, and then fall to earth. We’re caught in it like snow. You look up, and up.

‘The leabs! The leabs are falling down!’ you exclaim. Mouth open in wonder. You can’t stop looking. You still can’t say your V’s.

It’s been a bit of a hard week, where I have wrestled with knotty adult things I will not tell you about, now or later. Or maybe I will, much later, when you find you have wrestling of your own to do. Watching you stand, open-mouthed, in swirling leaf-flakes doesn’t solve anything for me, in the way that beautiful things don’t ever negate hard things but stand side by side with them, light and shadow together and complete in themselves. But for a minute I watch you watching the leaf-fall, and think about how unbearably lovely the look on your face is, and rest. I’m glad of a rest, and glad it comes with you.

‘Do you want some lunch?’ I ask you once the wind has dropped.

‘Yep’, you say, adding after a moment of consideration, ‘a Teddy lunch. Not a train lunch’.

I’d forgotten we were steam trains. I make a wheeshing sound, and not a good one.

‘Thass a elephant noise’, you say, reprovingly.

‘Oh yes. Sorry.’

I shift your bike under my other arm, and we go home.

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When peace was declared in the trenches

This year I keep thinking about the Armistice. The war ended. Life resumed. There must have been many, many things that were never the same afterwards. Shattered lives can be pinched back together with effort and time, but some damage runs deep. Most families, after all, had someone who never came home.

I don’t know how you carry on, honestly, crawling out of hell and unspeakable horror, and bringing it home with you to find flowers, tablecloths and small talk.

They probably knew all that. Still, when peace was declared, they sang.

Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on – on – and out of sight.

Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away … O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.

Siegfried Sassoon

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How not to be a big fat parenting loser

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I think about this all the time.

Usually after 7pm.

While standing in a kitchen that looks like King Henry VIII has been on a carbs rampage.

Has today been a success? How do I know when I’ve done alright? Do I get a gold star today, or what?

If you replace ‘gold star’ with ‘piece of cake’ then you’ll understand my anxiety on this score.

Seriously, though. One of the things I mourn the most, in my chaotic child-filled life, is the lack of regular performance reviews. I just want someone to sit me down once a month and tell me where I’m succeeding and where I can improve. I want my tiny children to act as no tiny children do, and say ‘we have a lovely life, mother mine, and what I most appreciate about you is this’. I am an editor to my bones, and I just want someone to put a giant tick next to my name in red pen.

When I was pregnant with T, I spent a horrible, wintery first trimester being a bit of a mess. H was barely eighteen months. It was dark, and it rained a lot, and we spent a lot of time indoors. And I was so sick. So miserably unable to do any of the things that are the fist-bumps-to-self of life, the things that usually communicate to myself that I’m doing a good job. It was a real black hole.

It was an effort to get out of bed, to hold a conversation, to go through the motions of a normal day. It hurt the muscles of my face to smile. I’d never experienced anything like it before, and it was terrifying.

I don’t know why I’m telling you this, really, except that I remembered then, more than ever before, that having children often takes away parts of you that you think are essential – it’s usually the flashy, superficial, performance-related parts of you – and you have to learn to feel right and good and whole without them. One of the things I did, once I realised that this wasn’t just rain and sickness but something more insidious, was to write a list of positive things about myself (Tim had to help) and stick them on my mirror. They had nothing to do with goals, achievements or status, just things that could be true whatever I was doing. I read them out like a robot every morning. Gradually, eventually, by tiny degrees, they started to feel true again.

(I am not saying that lists on your mirror are a cure for depression. They are not, and I was lucky: mine was temporary, tied up with first trimester sickness, and some part of me sensed it. I just dug in and hung on till it lifted, and having positive thoughts around was like a catechism I could repeat till it got better. Lots of people suffer more permanently and completely, and if that’s you: please take and do whatever you need to feel better. You deserve good things, and good care.)

Anyway. I’ve never been anywhere close to that since then, thankfully, but the same question bothers me on a smaller scale. Was today alright? How do I know when I’m succeeding?

Here’s a list of things that make me feel like we’ve had a gold star day:

  • when I’ve been sufficiently busy
  • when I’ve made dinner from scratch
  • when I’ve vacuumed before Tim gets home
  • when we’ve been outside, particularly if the boys have walked a decent distance (what does that even mean?)
  • when I’ve answered my backed-up emails
  • when the TV has been on for less than two hours
  • when I walked or cycled to school instead of getting in the car
  • when I’ve talked about something on social media that is NOT about children
  • when the boys are wearing attractive outfits
  • when my hair doesn’t look like a fuzzball wig
  • when I’ve written something I’m proud of
  • when T has eaten some lunch, particularly if it’s outside the holy trinity of strawberry yoghurt, grapes and raisins
  • when a photo has got twenty likes on Instagram
  • when H shows signs of wanting to read or build things without my input
  • when I’ve had a conversation with another adult person in the playground that did not make me want to curl up and die with embarrassment
  • when H says something hilariously precocious, particularly if it’s about Harry Potter (like that has anything to do with me?!).

They’re like little hurdles I set myself, little imaginary tick boxes for the universe. Bit ludicrous, aren’t they? But I don’t think they’re wrong, necessarily. Or, um, not all of them. A large part of my job is caring for children, after all, and when they are engaged in a variety of activities and eating things containing vitamins, well, that’s very good indeed. And if dressing carefully and putting makeup on makes me feel more together, more competent, then I am all for that too.

But I don’t think the reverse of any of these makes the day a failure. I will say that again so I believe it more: I don’t think the reverse of any of these makes the day a failure. That’s what I sometimes have trouble getting my head around.

Yesterday was the last day of H’s half-term holiday – which I have loved, because we’ve been busy (tick) and it’s been cold enough to wear coordinating jumpers (tick). We waited a few hours for the fog to lift, and it didn’t, so we went out into the woods anyway. I didn’t bring a pushchair so we’d go at their pace, rather than mine, which meant I spent quite a bit of it cajoling them out of streams and back to the car park. We got a bit muddy and made up some rude pirate names and stopped halfway for leftover Halloween sweets and I told them scary witch stories that had terrible flat endings (I tend to run out of ideas as we go along). Then we came home, they ate supernoodles and nothing else (!), T had a nap and H watched two Toy Story films back-to-back.

It was a mixed day. It was a great day. We all found things in it that made us happy. And I think that’s it, that’s where the gold star lives after all: perhaps that’s the only category we really need.

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What are your (silly or serious) categories for having a successful day? You know you can let go of all of them as long as you’re all still alive, right? Yeah, let’s repeat that together and maybe it’ll sink in. 

Halloweens in awkward lycra are the best Halloweens of all

Anyway, what I always say is: it’s not a church social if someone doesn’t turn up awkwardly in spandex.

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I reckon we’ve got about six years before this becomes horribly embarrassing instead of the coolest thing they’ve ever heard of, so I think it’s only right that we go all out while we can.

The lack of readily-available red leggings in shops is an absolute scandal, by the way. And H is having the time of his life, but is putting on a serious superhero face for the camera. He spent half an hour after putting on his costume running around, punching things, and digging for compliments about his sparkly mask.


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(PS: we spent Friday deciding on costumes, planning costumes, shopping for costume bits, watching the Incredibles and talking excitedly about wearing the costumes. H did not stop talking about it all. day. This morning we went to Sainsbury’s for a red bedsheet that could double as a monster tongue – don’t ask – and H asked me what it was for.

‘The Halloween party! Tonight! The one we’re dressing up for!’

‘We’re dressing up? Oh good, I want to go as Spiderman’.


Something to bake: Hummingbird Bakery Hazelnut Praline Muffins

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As the evenings get darker, I go back to baking. Cakes, preferably. Well, let’s be honest. Chocolate cakes.

I find it odd to remember that I used to find baking stressful. In case you’re new here, I used to be so inept in the kitchen that we barely ate cake at all, and just made do with a lot of delicious Tesco cheesecake and chocolate gateau. I know, WHAT. Then I decided I wanted to get better at something, so started to bake every week and blog about it. The failures were horrific. And I still don’t produce anything polished, and I still look at fondant icing with fear and trembling. But now – weighing out butter and sugar, pouring out precise teaspoons of vanilla essence and tapping spoons of cocoa powder against the container to level them out – it’s a soothing ritual that feels particularly wintery. Dark windows. Kitchen warm with the fug of boiling sugars and baking muffins. Making a giant mess that Tim will volunteer to clear up in exchange for eating whatever I’ve made. I flipping love it.

I haven’t ventured much further than chocolate chip cookies this summer, so when the clocks looked like changing I dug out the recipe books. I always have this idea that I’ll go for one of the wholesome-looking fruit loaves or flapjack traybakes…and then one of the recipes mentions Nutella and I’m like ‘I’M SORRY, YOU WERE SAYING?’

So it was, and in preparation for book club that evening – something else I love doing when the nights draw in – I made the Hummingbird Bakery’s Hazelnut Praline muffins. This is the Hummingbird Bakery being all coy about product placement, by the way, because what they actually mean is Muffins With Giant Gobs of Nutella Inside. It’s alright, HB – when you say ‘chocolate hazelnut spread’, we aaaaall know what you mean.

The recipe is from their Cake Days book, which I can recommend times one million, and is also online here, among many other places (Google it and it’ll come up). Muffins are particularly straightforward – one of those golden bakes where they’re still a piece of cake (sorry) even if you don’t have a freestanding mixer, a possibility that never seems to occur to Nigella et al. These days I do have one, but for quite a long time I didn’t, and it still makes me growly when recipe-writers forget.

Anyway. Dry ingredients. Wet ingredients that include some Nutella. Put a little muffin mixture in the bottom of each case, then slide a great shining bead of pure Nutella on top. You may need to microwave the Nutella a little to make it loose enough. I think it was at this point that I started weeping a little at the sheer joy of this life.

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More muffin mix on top of this. Then sprinkle on chopped hazelnuts and a giant sifting of caster sugar. This is supposed to make a crust on top when cooked, and mine just looked like…a layer of caster sugar. But they looked quite twinkly and Christmassy for that. Not a bad thing.

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So, the verdict:

They look lovely. As is typical of Hummingbird Bakery stuff, the muffin is light and crumby rather than dense and rich, but I prefer it that way. A bit of the Nutella had soaked into the surrounding cake, leaving, in my opinion, not enough in the middle. But since the remedy for this is Add More Nutella, it’s hardly bad news.

Guaranteed to make your gloomy early mornings – oh when will the small ones get used to going back an hour; when – ten times happier. I’m not recommending you eat them for breakfast, but…of course I am DEFINITELY recommending you eat them for breakfast.

Starting school has actually made us happier. Cheers, school.

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It’s the last day before half term, and I’m being entirely serious when I say: now we’re mostly over the big settling-in phase, having school back in our lives is the bizniz.

For H, definitely. He’s happy when he’s learning new things in a structured environment (I noticed that last year with nursery, but even more so now it’s full-time). I know school environments are trickier for some kids than others, but for this one we seem to be lucky: he really thrives. For the first couple of weeks he refused to tell me anything (‘What did you do at school today?’ ‘Hmm, I’ll tell you tomorrow’) but now he chatters the whole way home: facts about bones, about rhyming words, about experiments he’s done with cars and inner tubes. He tends to need a small circle of friends to call his own, and now he has one he’s much more settled and content.

For me too, though. In hindsight I think he was ready to move on to something I couldn’t give him. Honestly, we spent the last few months before September driving each other up the wall. Now I look forward to him coming home all day, and squeeze him to death all evening. He’s enjoying being the older, responsible sibling at the moment, and is nicer and funnier with it. So I’ve got more energy for tantrums and the bedtime routine. I am tired when Tim comes home, always, but not usually emotionally beaten down. And spending one-on-one time with E. bear during the day is just loveliness, from start to finish.

Then there’s the weekend. Do you remember getting through lunch in the dining hall, at school, and knowing you had just one set of lessons left before the weekend? You could smell it, in the whole building, a buzz of excitement and release. Friday. Almost there. I don’t know about you, but when I had babies that was one of the things I missed the most: no more Friday feeling. Now we have it back, because at the weekend we get to spend time with each other, all four of us. It feels like a holiday all over again. SATURDAYZ RULE. I feel like switching on SMTV Live again and doing the Postman Dance.

We spent last Saturday at Cliveden, a rambly old NT property that we haven’t been to for a couple of years (follow that link for hi-larious Tiny Bald Hen photos). There were bright leaves on every surface, a big maze we got thoroughly lost in, and a woodland walk that turned into a gorgeous path by the Thames on the way back. The boys were killing it in their woolly jumpers. We stopped in the tea room for scones and hot chocolate before we left. I genuinely thought that it can’t get much better than this. Jumpers. Scones. All of us together on a Saturday. We’ve got school to thank for that, I think.

PHOTOS OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN. I brought the camera but forgot to check the almost-dead battery – and it turned out to be the sort of place where not having a proper camera is like a dagger in the heart, so thank goodness for iPhones. Here’s one I got before the big camera packed up.

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In case you are fortunate enough not to be familiar with the Disney Planes universe, the plane T is holding is called El Chupacabra. Obviously perfect for a two-year-old to wrap his tongue around. He’s called El Blah Blah in our house, and I think it’s an improvement.

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May your photos always contain a casual hedge lean for extra sass.

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We’re all smiling because we made it to the centre of the maze before anyone died of starvation. RESULT.

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So help me, I am obsessed with little boys in jumpers. It’s all we’ve got, we mothers of boys. No little dresses to squeal over. It’s got to be jumpers, and I am all over it.

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The first of several hundred steps back up to the house, and between us we can count as high as twenty. It took a while.

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Ah, motherhood. To always be the head upon which they wish to dump their leaves. I’ll take it.

Happy half term, loves!

To the brand-new mother of two: embrace the chaos. Feel excellent about your pyjamas. This is all going to be fine.

To the brand-new mother of two,

Hello! Are you up and about today? Does your head feel like it’s above water?

It’s ok if not. It’s ok if not.

Listen, you probably don’t know which end is up at the minute. You are used to being one half of a double act with your first and adored child – your eldest, you’ll need to say now, and that’s what he’ll always be, and it will start to shape him from now on, this being the eldest – and suddenly there are twice as many children clamouring for your attention. It’s probably making you dizzy.

They need entirely different things.
They need them simultaneously.
They need them all the blooming time.
And there’s only one of you.

If it feels like you’re running from one to the other, patting out need-fires, that’s because you are, my love. Babies, toddlers and even preschoolers don’t have a pause button. You are it for them, and they don’t know how to wait for you, and they certainly don’t know how to take turns.

But isn’t it something, knowing you can love this much, that it wasn’t just a one-off with your eldest? Isn’t it a wild discovery, that two people can put the same genetic material together to make two babies, and those babies are entirely different from each other? I expected mine to be carbon copies of each other and they didn’t even feel like copies of me. They were fiery with their own life. Bursting with it. From the moment they left me to breathe their own air. It only ever felt like I’d set them loose on a path they were always going to take.

Some reality: it will be several months before you feel vaguely in control, and several more months before you can go anywhere near a routine. Chaos is part of your circumstances and is no reflection on you, so just go with it. Don’t feel bad about pyjama days. Feel good, feel excellent about keeping everyone fed and safe and (mostly) happy. Don’t forget to include yourself in the happiness equation. Assess yourself honestly, every day. If you really don’t feel right then ask for help.

Some advice (if you want it?): spend time with other adults during the day if you can. It doesn’t need to be a playgroup (I always hated playgroups) – it can just be a friend. If your partner works full time then, lovely as they undoubtedly are, they can’t understand what it’s like to interact with tiny irrational tyrants every day, never seeing another person with a fully developed and logical brain. They can’t understand it because they’ve never done it, don’t know the particular madness that creeps in when adults don’t interact with other adults. Please seek out conversation, sympathy. Come to my house. I will buy in biscuits and tell you you’re doing a wonderful job.

Some hope: every day they will both get a little more independent. They will understand and interact more, make you laugh more. The three of you will be like a little gang, conspiratorial, fond of each other’s company. Your going-out bag will get smaller. They will start to play with each other. They will forget there was ever a time they didn’t have each other. Watching the siblingness of them will add a new level of delight and send you back to your own siblings in appreciation.

And your new baby, your second, this stranger to you. You love him already, but wait till you see the first shoots of his personality pushing out. It will consume you all over again. Do you know how I feel about my second boy? I don’t have the words for it. He is such a bracing, blazing force of life, of nature. I can’t believe there was ever a time we lived without him. It feels like the world is infinitely brighter and more hopeful with him in it. It will be like that for you too.

Oh, is it feeding time again already? Of course it is.

Here, put Cbeebies back on for the toddler (don’t worry about it rotting his brain; it’s definitely not rotting his brain).

Here’s a biscuit. I’ll make you a cup of tea.

It might not help (because I’m just a person on the internet), but if it helps, I promise you: this is all going to be fine.

Photo 14-10-2015 5 20 02 pm (800x800)

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