Tag Archives: Motherhood

This Is Where We Are: a letter to my sons on Mother’s Day (5)

Every year on Mother’s Day, I write about how I mother my babies day-to-day. I think they might like to know how the little things felt, as well as the big ones. Here goes the fifth (late again – will this become part of the tradition? Yes).

Dear Future Versions of Henry and Teddy,

This has been my fifth Mothering Sunday, and you are four-and-a-half and two-and-three-quarters, respectively. And we look like this.

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In previous years we’ve taken Mother’s Day photos in natural light, somewhere outdoors, possibly with matching outfits. We ran out of time for that, this year, but I’m glad. When I look back at this phase in our lives, this is how it will feel. We are dishevelled and muddy from walking home through fields. I wear those trousers every day despite the giant hole in one knee, which I got from kneeling on asphalt wrestling Teddy into pushchairs. Henry in school uniform – hasn’t that been a transformative, defining part of the last six months – and Teddy wearing a piece of everything he’s eaten today. I need my hair cutting. I always need my hair cutting. We’re a mess, but it’s a good mess.

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Ted, you still wake up first. Will you always? It feels like it. Six am, on the lucky days. We have an unspoken rule that the parent you’re shouting for is the one who has to get up for you. You seem to be favouring Daddy this month (yessss). You are way past two-and-a-half, and it still hasn’t occurred to you to try climbing out of your cot. (Much more cautious than your brother, who climbed high and early and often.) You are getting taller, suddenly. Long fingers, long feet. Still the blue eyes, the half-ton of white-blonde hair. You are quite heart-stoppingly beautiful, altogether. We don’t really know how it happened.

You are also, alas, the twoiest two-year-old that ever lived. Once you had full sentences and strong opinions in your arsenal, we were sunk. You are constantly nattering, shouting, protesting, singing. Singing! That’s a new one for us. You pick up songs from nowhere and sing them to yourself – accurately and in full – in the bath. Your current favourites are Hey Jude (by ‘zer Beatles’), Life on Mars (by ‘Starman’) and the Frozen soundtrack (while you provide an audio commentary to explain what would be happening on screen right now, if we could see it).

You also love: your stuffed dog and cat, your rainbow wellies, books, the ‘little wed boike’ you inherited from Henry this year, Thomas the Tank Engine, grapes and yoghurt, and all the beleaguered pets belonging to our neighbours. You hate: having to get in the pushchair, having to get into your car seat, getting out of the bath, sending Henry into school and not being able to follow, having to do anything you weren’t going to do anyway. You are the best and most exhausting of daytime companions, the teller of terrible jokes, the giver of spontaneous hugs. ‘I baaaaaack!’ you shout, as you run into a room you left thirty seconds ago. We three introverts couldn’t do without you for a moment.

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Henry, my love: isn’t being four fantastic? It feels like a crossroads of an age: we get occasional flashes of toddlerhood, when you struggle with taking turns or decide you don’t like chicken again today; then sometimes I look at you and can see ahead, to the quiet, capable and fascinating boy you’re going to be. So soon, so soon. You are so much calmer, more able to articulate your ideas and feelings. You do a heck of a lot of both, being you: interested in everything, and also hyper-aware of how you and others feel. It’s a funny old (sometimes exhausting) mix. All this emotion makes you a worrier who tends towards melodrama (‘my TEARS are BURNING MY FACE!’ you screeched at me last week). I’m hoping you’ll feel more at ease with time, and that you know you always have a safe place here with me.

You started school in September and you took to it immediately, much to our relief. You like to learn, as I said, and once you had a small circle of friends to call your own, you flew. Writing, reading, solving little counting problems – all new, and you seem to thrive on it. We walk home with you peppering me with facts and questions from your scooter. This morning you asked me to locate and explain all of your major organs, and the kidneys were your favourite. I suspect because they work with wee, and toilet jokes are king. All this is total joy.

Other things you love: dinosaurs, sausage and mash, your scooter, your books, your dinosaur trainers, your red Oxford hoodie (worn so often you’ve broken the zip), and our giant box of Duplo. You eat well and you’d sleep for much longer if it weren’t for Teddy bouncing on your head. You’re growing out of all your trousers simultaneously, again.

So there we are. I wonder, often, what you’ll remember when you’re older, now you’re starting to remember. From my vantage point I can see it all, of course, including the hard and terrible days. I know that I am often tired and bedraggled, that I’m not very patient, and that I make dinner too late (does that ring a bell? Like, 6pm at the earliest?).

But we’ve been walking home through the gorse this week. All out, and all blazing yellow. We made up a rhyme between us to remember its name, ages ago, and you always do. You tell me jokes and I laugh because the telling of them is funny even if the joke isn’t (it isn’t, sorry). We take off our wellies and come into the warm and I put the kettle on. I hope you’ll remember that feeling, the same one I get when the kettle starts to boil: I love this, and you – so much I can’t really articulate it, after all this – and I wouldn’t be anywhere else.

Let’s stay here as long as we can.

With much love,

Your mother.

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Two time-stoppers

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(i)

I am walking to school. Pushing the pushchair with two hefty toddlers in it, wellies mud-streaked, balancing H’s scooter over the top with a spare finger, sweaty enough to make me feel like this is exercise. It’s one of my favourite things to do. The light is grey as steel, but the woods look good in anything.

I look up, and there’s a kite balancing on the topmost branch of the nearest tree. A kite, or a hawk? I never know. I wish I did. We see them quite often, wheeling far overhead, but I’ve never seen one perched before. This one sways gently on its spindly seat. So much bigger than I expected. A muscled, burly chest, layered with feathers. I’m overwhelmed by how solid it is, how heavy and powerful it looks, how its stillness communicates itself as terrifying, ferocious observation. I wouldn’t like to be a sparrow in the field below and feel that glare on my back.

I stop the pushchair and point up. ‘Look, can you see the bird?’ I want them to see it too, and I don’t want to move before it does. Then I don’t have to: it lets out a pure, cold, bird-of-prey cry, the kind I’ve heard on documentaries but never in front of me, never slicing through the air on top of my head, and peels off. Wings open smoothly as it falls and then it’s not falling anymore, but flying. It must have seen a sparrow.

I let out my breath, and push on.

 

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(ii)

I have heaved all three of our shopping bags in from the car, and closed all the doors. It’s our doing-things day, the one where I wheedle T around two supermarkets and clean up the house after the weekend. I love restocking our empty fridge and cupboards, cramming the shelves with a week of fresh food. Planning and making our meals answers one of my deepest, most basic needs as a mother: I can feed them good things, I can keep them well, I can keep them loved. I think about this every Monday, stuffing onions into the fridge drawer.

‘Put music on?’ T asks.

‘Of course’, I say. ‘What would you like?’

I don’t really expect him to answer, but he screws up tiny nose and does: ‘Um…Starman’.

We’ve been hitting the Bowie back catalogue hard since he passed away. I suppose you pore over someone’s genius more when you know there’s no more to come. The boys are old enough to recognise them this time around. They love them, though they’re not as fierce about Life on Mars as I am.

I crank up the volume and the slightly discordant guitar riff jangles through the kitchen, then Bowie comes in for the first verse, that hard, spare voice lingering over the repeated ‘oh-oh-ohs’. T starts to dance, all shoulders and lunges. I join in, swirling my coat around us like a cloak. He grabs my hand and I spin us both round in lazy circles on the kitchen floor, waiting for the moment where the chorus kicks in with a rush and an octave leap.

I know this is something I’ll remember years later: this minute, this chubby hand and leaping toddler and soft late-morning light and Bowie loud in the air. I can feel it solidifying into memory in front of me, like our edges are turning sepia before we’re quite done with them. Possibly I’ll never listen to Starman again without being transported right back here. Swishing coat. Hand in the air. T’s laughter. And here comes the chorus: Star-maaaaaan, waiting in the sky.

He laughs. I laugh. I get out bread, grapes, cheese, and make us some lunch.

Living Arrows in January: how we get lost

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(Living Arrows is a portrait project run by Hayley at the Shutterflies blog, capturing the little moments of childhood. The title comes from a Kahlil Gibran poem called ‘Children’, which I’ve reproduced at the end of this post. It’s supposed to be one a week, which I definitely don’t have the staying power for, alas; but I thought doing one a month would be a nice record and encourage me to get the big camera out more often. Hope you enjoy!)

I’ve read a couple of articles recently about letting children off the leash. Not straining to fill their every hour or worrying constantly about their development, just letting them entertain themselves and be children.

I think it’s a great idea in theory. Or maybe a great idea in a few years. Though I try my hardest to shoo the boys towards their toys and independent play, they want to include me constantly. They ping back towards me one after the other, wanting my opinion, my approval, my ability to put right an injustice. It’s like they’re a gang, and I’m the ringleader. Well, obviously, I can’t deny my street cred. It’s not that I want to be a helicopter parent; it’s just that, at the moment, they and I don’t know any other way to be.

The only activity they truly don’t need me for is screen time. So I save that for the witching hour, otherwise we’d never eat dinner, ever.

That’s why I like getting out to the woods (also because if I go too long without walking I start feeling claustrophobic, which I realised for the first time this Christmas. Blimey. Am I one of those people now?). They don’t need my approval for puddles, or stone-throwing, or poking things with giant sticks. It doesn’t matter if they get dirty, though my car and the washing machine weep bitter tears when we get home.

They still both like to keep me in sight. But it’s as though the very short pieces of elastic that connect me to both of them get to stretch out a little.

And T kept his bear hat on for a good half hour this time. Re-sult.

Living Arrows

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Kahlil Gibran

What it’s like

Maybe there’s something about having a houseful of people in their twenties, long before they start thinking about kids, that makes you concentrate on all the things you can’t do now you have children.

(Like staying in bed beyond 7am. Like popping out to the cinema spontaneously. Like, I don’t know, eating a meal and only having to think about your own table manners.)

Anyway, I can’t help doing that occasionally. But I find it useful to remind myself what motherhood is, as well as what it’s not.

For me, this month, it’s

having your two-year-old burst into a room full of people and search every face, anxiety all over him, until he finds yours, and his whole self relaxes.

sitting outside their room reading while they watch a Thomas film, and having them come out to check on you, one and then the other, every thirty seconds.

listening to your four-year-old read a book, his stubby forefinger pointing to the words as he makes the sounds, and feeling like a proper adult parent, doing this Real Parenty Thing, and also that you might die with pride and also that it’s almost time for Enid Blyton, surely.

carrying your too-heavy toddler through the crowds at Buckingham Palace, explaining when he asks that yes, the Queen is probably inside, and she’s probably eating some toast. He looks pleased with this answer. He tells his auntie. Suddenly he gasps, pats both hands solicitously on your cheeks and says ‘Mummy! You’re so cold! Where’s your coat?’

holding your four-year-old’s hand during a long muddy walk, and talking about dinosaurs. He tells you the difference between two dinosaurs you’ve never heard of (one has four claws, the other has two). You have no idea how he knows this. You envision a future, oh, very soon now, where his entire interior life will be joys, interests and complexities that have very little to do with you. The thought makes you feel excited, and a little bereft. Which makes you feel like an idiot but, after all (you reason), becoming less important to someone is hard to do, no matter who it is.

walking to school, one of them in the pushchair, the other scooting next to you, and a grey squirrel runs up the nearest telegraph pole in a flash of fur. For once you all see it, and all at the same time. You watch it up the pole, along the cable. It makes a leap sideways, three feet to the nearby tree. Tiny feet splayed against grey sky. All three of you – two-year-old, four-year-old, thirty-year-old mother – let out a delighted ‘oh!’ as it jumps.

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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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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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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.

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Dear boy: you can be unpretty here

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Some clichés about life with children just turn out to be true. It’s almost disappointing how predictable you are. That hilarious obsession with your first child’s milestones, followed by a wry detached affection for the progression of your second? Tick that box. The fact that you will get fat on leftover pizza crusts if you’re not careful, and one day catch yourself eating a chocolate chip cookie crumb straight from your toddler’s thigh? Yes, sorry. For that one I’m sorry to myself most of all.

Here’s our latest living-the-cliché moment: that four-year-olds spend their first weeks in September behaving impeccably at school, and like screechy rage demons at home.

‘I know he’s tired, and unsettled, and going through a huge transition’, I said to Tim the other night, wearily. ‘I know that. He has good reason. It will pass. But I’m still bearing the brunt of his meltdowns, and it’s awful’.

It really is. What I didn’t expect is that H starting school has been hard for me too. Is that a stupid thing to say? That’s how it feels. Quite apart from the new stresses of buying and labelling uniform, making sense of a bewildering forest of forms, incorporating an extra six miles of school run into the day, remembering to order school dinners and send in his PE kit, and trying to make a good impression with new people while soaked to the skin in a cycle helmet, I miss him. He’s gone most of the day, and when he comes back he spends a lot of it flinging himself into the deep end over taking his shoes off. We circle warily around each other, bumping against our respective pressure points until I snap, or else sit down on the floor, sigh out all my breath and say ‘shall we have another break for a hug?’.

He always does come in for a hug, regardless of how angry he is. I think that’s something.

What it has reminded me is that I am the safe place for all his crap. At school he is politely making sense of new people and routines: self-conscious, on edge, trying to fit in and impress. Then he comes home and hurls all his less-pretty parts at me. It’s the most backhanded of compliments, but compliment it is.

Because I am his constant, the backdrop to his universe. The messy labour of his day-to-day is mostly mine; I am his normality, for better and worse. When I’m reminding him to stop answering back, buttoning up his pyjamas while he tries to jump out of reach, or holding on to the kind-but-firm tone by the very skin of my teeth during his fourth time-out, it can just feel like work, bloody and unedifying. I sometimes wish he’d stand on ceremony for me too, just a little.

But he needs somewhere he can be unpretty. A place he can throw out his worst parts and have them gathered kindly in. Someone who has his back, in public and private. Hard as it is, I think I can do that. I think that has to be me. There’s something sacred in it, after all, being someone’s first line of defence. Even though in the moment it feels like being skinned alive by scream.

Come on then, you exhausted little rager. Let me have it. Here’s your punching bag. Here’s the bucket for your assorted crap. Here stands your safe place, letting you know when your behaviour’s out of line, loving you and your messy parts even through gritted teeth, making yet more lasagne you’re too tired to eat.

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Inappropriate places I have peed in: a four-year-old’s guide to raising mum’s blood pressure

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No, you cannot wee on a national monument DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT WEEING ON A NATIONAL MONUMENT PLEASE.

Every mother has their weak spot. Something about living with and caring for small children that makes them certifiable, out of all proportion to the offence.

This is mine: pee. The waft of gently warmed underwear dribble. The need to find and queue for and visit public toilets, everywhere, every flipping day. I would burn every public toilet in a fire, if I could, and cackle and dance while I did it. Put me behind a trolley outside a toilet door, flicking attention between my groceries, and T, rioting in the trolley seat, and H, jiggling frantically with the classic four-year-old distress signal (‘I nee-ee-ee-d a wee-ee-ee-ee!’), and that red ‘Occupied’ square on the door lock, REFUSING TO MOVE because the person inside is having the slowest poo ever, and, well. I could happily flay something. And then you have to go in, and everything is disgusting, and all of it is within toddler reach, and it’s like it was designed to be a special kind of hell.

We do that several times a week. Oh gosh, I am getting furious just thinking about it.

In the wild it’s fine, of course. H is brilliant at just getting on with it. Off he pops into the ferns, often without telling me, and I just get the hand sanitiser ready for his return. But you can’t be in the wild all the time. And indoors, H’s bladder is a ninja. It has a finely tuned, impeccable sense of when would be the least helpful time to explode, and dances around until precisely that moment.

Dear reader, imagine yourself in the following real-life scenarios, and then imagine ‘I nee-ee-ee-d a wee-ee-ee-ee!’ spiraling up into the air like a bomb siren during the Blitz. Or imagine it’s not wee, but worse. SO MUCH WORSE. Are you panic-breathing yet?

  • (the classic): in the supermarket, when we have put just too many items in the trolley to abandon the endeavour for a loo break, but still have too many things on the list for him to cross his legs till we’re done.
  • at the park. Once he announces it I have about thirty seconds to hoist T under my arm like a parcel, grab H’s hand, locate the nearest dog waste bin to position ourselves behind and sprint there. It’s like an episode of Challenge Anneka, with more weeping.
  • just pulling into a space in the overcrowded, very stressful hospital car park. There are only eight minutes to go till my appointment and I still don’t know how to get there, let alone where the loos are.
  • while stuck up a tree. He has just this second climbed a little too high for me to get him without climbing up myself.
  • halfway home from nursery (EVERY DAY. We watered that bush EVERY DAY).
  • waiting for Daddy in the car at the airport. We can’t leave the car because T has chicken pox. I find a penguin he’s made at nursery from plastic bottles and felt, and dispense with the felt.
  • while driving to the garage to pick up the car. The garage will close in ten minutes. We are in stop-start traffic.
  • thirty-four seconds after we have already stopped very dangerously and suddenly on the motorway hard shoulder, because T reached forward and opened his door.
  • three separate times in the shower block of our camping ground, when I’m trying to get both boys through the shower myself. T is afraid of showers, and is making it known. The toilets are in a separate cubicle. Everything is hell.

Can we just go back to nappies?

Hello to all that (on first days at school)

September 15

This is it. Don’t get scared now.

I was going to write about sending H off to school as though it were an ending. In lots of ways, it is to me. Our longest, toughest (? maybe?) shift together is done. No more nappies, night feeds, rhyme times at the library. No more chopping grapes in half to better wheedle them into his mouth, or convincing him into the shopping trolley seat. No more making the universe he lives in, and bashing my brains out over getting it right. Did I only have him to myself for four years? It seems longer than that, and shorter. It seems like everything we’ve known so far is changing, because it is.

But as we sit over celebratory Happy Meals and chocolate milkshakes – because after all, you have a first ever day at school only once – it feels much more like a beginning.

Hello exercise books and HB pencils, magic E and book bags. Hello to PE on the apparatus, recorder lessons, and scarecrow tag in the playground.

Hello to libraries, and more books, more stories and more worlds to discover than you ever thought existed.

Hello to the Romans and the Tudors and the blasted Industrial Revolution.

Hello to beloved and crappy teachers, and beloved and crappy friends. To make ups and break ups. To being tested and passing, or failing, and learning things about yourself in the failure.

A beginning then, and a hopeful, thrilling one at that. I can’t keep him to myself when he has all this waiting in the wings.

The sun is out, Hen. September’s calling. You’ll feel that golden, autumnal pull towards change all your life, probably.

Go out there and get it.

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