Tag Archives: Real Life

Nine

Apparently we don’t take photos of just the two of us? This is the most recent I could find…

A few days into my Grand Experiment with Temporary Diabetes – which sucks, by the way, I mean no one should flirt with diabetes even a little bit because it’s scary and tedious and it really sucks – I kept on getting my breakfasts wrong. I already knew that pancakes, waffles, toast or remotely edible cereal were all out, but unsweetened porridge started to make my little sugar reader cry too. And guys, I love breakfast. It’s my favourite meal. And so I wanted to cry a little bit as well.

‘Look’, said Tim, coming in to pick up my empty porridge bowl – THE LAST PORRIDGE BOWL OF SCOTLAND, it turned out – ‘just start eating protein for breakfast instead of carbs. You’ll be full, but your blood sugar will be fine’.

‘Protein is hard!’ I snapped. ‘Who’s going to make eggs and bacon every morning?’

He rolled his eyes, and replied like it was obvious. ‘I will’.

And he has, every morning since. Frying pan, sizzling butter, plate delivered hot onto my bedside table while I’m still rolling my giant carcass off the mattress and unsticking my eyelids. I never doubted that he was that kind of man, but he is totally that kind of man.

It’s our ninth wedding anniversary today.

When we got married we were young, young enough that these days I would tsk and say ‘whoa, that’s very young’. I know that marrying in your early twenties has its risks, and it’s true that we’ve had to do a lot of our Practising Being A Healthy Relationship-Haver on each other. We have felt and stumbled our way into better patterns, bit by sometimes-painful bit. Our wedding day was all gauzy satin and red roses – a long way from the weeks when I see him only in exercise lycra with helmet dents in his forehead, or else pyjamas (hey, you own jeans! I exclaim on Saturday mornings); where we get into bed and I’m so huge that all we do is groan in unison and switch our bedside lamps off; where a Tesco Indian Meal for Two is cause for an entirely sincere midweek high-five. There’s not much glitter in our day-to-day, but it feels special to me. It feels like home.

Life with children is sublime and ridiculous; mortgages and car bills are stressful; work takes up nearly all of our time (whether that’s wrangling a small boy onto the toilet when it’s already far too late, or ploughing through tech demos at the office). We have done one university degree, four jobs, two houses, three pregnancies and two-and-three-quarter children, and that’s a lot of scenery for nine years. But he has been the fixed point in all my whirling constellations, all this time. Still the person I can’t wait to walk through the door in the evenings. Maker of our morning eggs. Recipient of my ten thousand daily text messages.

Honestly, I would not be anywhere else.

Notes from the Trenches: 9

Instagram looks like this. My text messages do not.

One of my favourite things about these Notes from the Trenches posts – aside from the fact that I think a good bit of unfiltered honesty makes all of us feel a little less insane – is that when I look through my last six months of frantic text messages, I can see how much we’ve changed. Every half-year seems to come with its own theme, and it’s rarely the same as the last one. Does this mean there will come a day where I’m not texting Tim about unbridled public faeces disasters? Oh, I live in hope.

This last six months I have mostly learned: that my tolerance for three-year-old tantrums or five-year-old stubbornness when combined with pregnancy is at the sort of miniscule level not much higher than, um, zero. And that our pitched battles over the heating will last until one of us dies (then I will keep turning it up from beyond the grave, cackling).

Look, see: your normal is normal too.

 

24 June

[It’s the day of the Brexit referendum result: I have cried all morning, and run off to the woods to avoid humanity. Then this.]
A good day all round. T also got dipped in. The bike fell over with him in it.

 

16 July

Danger of taking boys to Sports Day:

‘Look, that fat man in the grey is going to lose’.

‘SHE’S really slow. Go faster lady!’




8 August

H: I don’t want a bath today.

Me: you have to, you’re dirty

[disappears for fifteen minutes; reappears naked]

H: Mummy, I accidentally wiped myself all over with wipes so now I’m clean.

(Accidentally?)

 

31 August

How was your day? IKEA go ok?

I think you mean ‘your-KEA’, according to T.

 

9 September

‘No, it’s not screen time. That’s later.’

‘AH. I  GONNA PUNCH EVERYSING.’

(5 mins later)

‘Mummy, come hang out wiz me while I poo’.

Emotional hurricane.

 

5 October

Another poo in pants morning – in Holland and Barrett, no spare pants, toilets a 10-min walk away [horror face].

We managed to get there and I remembered I’d just bought some face wipes. So he got cleaned up with tea tree oil (!) and went pantsless (and, presumably, slightly stinging) to the car. Unpleasant.

 

6 October

YES HEATING NAZI IT WAS TIME

 – Retribution: 

Right, just for that I’m stapling the spare duvet to ours so that you overheat to death at night.

 

22nd October

[On the way home from a funeral]

Right, done and dusted. 

WHOA, sorry, unfortunate idiom to use on the way to the crematorium! Pretend I didn’t say that. 

 

25th October

We got out after all (they played nicely for an hour then tried to kill each other with colanders. Fresh air it was).

 

2nd November

T has caught our putrid throat. He kept waking up and crying, and wasn’t awake enough to tell me why (in the end his coughing tipped me off). Eventually he woke up more and I said ‘T, what’s the matter?’ He screwed up his little red face and croaked ‘Things…just DON’T GO WIGHT’. How existential.

 

6 November

I’m getting an early night.

[40 mins later]

THE CROWN IS SO GOOD I AM CRYING

– Thought you were getting an early night? 🙂

I only watched one. I’m about to turn in and feel sad about George VI’s lung cancer and excellent kingmanship.

 

9 November

PS, I solved the mystery of the magic decreasing heating.

 

11 November

I forgot to tell you: that thing that has been inevitable since September happened yesterday, when I apparently sent T to nursery wearing one of his shoes and one of H’s.

 

15 November

Exiting Tesco.

Pull up next to the car and notice a weird white stain on the door. Where did that come from, I think. I lick my finger and see if it comes off. No joy. I click the unlock button and nothing happens.

THEN I REALISE IT’S AN IDENTICAL MAZDA TWO SPACES AWAY FROM MY CAR, TO WHICH I JUST APPLIED MY SPITTLE.

 

17 November

Phantom Menace, and T sees Jar Jar Binks.

‘Um, is he a dinosaur? Or a frog?’

Unfortunately I haven’t got a clue what’s going on so I can’t answer their m a n y questions.

– Simple – he’s an alien!

Oh, well I knew that one. It’s my ‘someone’s attacking that planet for some reasons and these magic Jedis are involved because more reasons’ bits that are lacking somewhat.

 

20 November

T’s poo arrived. In two parts. In his pyjamas.

I only saw/evacuated one part, and stepped backwards onto the large, squishy other.

Thank you, washable bath mats.

 

26 November

Do I Need The Loo Or Am I Being Kicked In The Anus From The Inside: The Pregnancy Story

 

2nd December

THIS IS THE WORST ONE BY FAR:

T: where’s your special willy?

Me: my what

T: your special willy

Me: it’s called a vagina, remember?

T: [puts head down on my lap] I can’t hear it

Me: yeah, no, they don’t sing or anything

T: they don’t?!

– You guys talk too much about private parts…

If he asks, I have to tell him the truth! Even though it makes me do a full-body cringe. 

 

7th December

I just want you to know I came thiiiis close to McDonald’s this lunchtime, but heroically refrained.

– Lunch? It’s only 11.30am!

Yeah, that’s when we have lunch. I’m hungry all the time; it makes no odds to me.

 

17th December

Nice relaxing bath (eyeroll).

Yes, they’re both sat on a stool right next to me, having carefully moved my phone and book somewhere else, and are telling me about their favourite Pokemon/poking my giant belly. Just sign me up for a Lush advert, eh?

Previous Notes from the Trenches are here. I’ve been sending screechy pixels through the air since H was tiny. Well, you have to. Why should Tim miss out on all the fun? 

Angry mummy: Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

photo-03-11-2016-2-43-02-pm

Tim is away for a fortnight. It’s the longest he’s ever been gone. The night before he went, I admitted I was nervous.

‘It’s not that I can’t handle it’, I told him. ‘I can. We will be fine. It’s just I’ve never done solo parenting for so long with two children AND a pregnancy. I have never been more short-tempered than I am now, and they have never been less inclined to listen to me. So I don’t know how it’s going to go’.

It’s true that if you’re looking for something that will poke holes through your parenting self-esteem, pregnancy will do the job nicely. They are watching much more TV than I would normally allow – hours of it, while I shuffle through glacially-paced housework or just sit next to them, exhausted – and I am snappy. Irritable. I am not willfully unkind (we still read, talk, laugh at each other’s jokes), but there is so much less give in me. I can feel it, bleeding through the edges of my self-restraint: a brittleness that means I raise my voice the second time, not the tenth; that means I want things done now, immediately, in exactly the way I’ve asked.

None of this has been my finest hour. I feel it. I think they feel it too.

I have been in a couple of parenting discussions lately where we’ve talked about the importance of being authentic in front of your children. I read a lot of articles where the language of motherhood is expressed in endless, self-immolating sacrifice. Cherish every moment. Sleep next to them, and wake up whenever they wake up. Carry them constantly. Play imaginatively at the park. When they push back, draw them in with extra love. Be present. Be present. Be present.

Now I should say here (before the Emails come) that there’s nothing wrong and an awful lot right with all of these philosophies: if they work for you and your child and make you both happy, go for it. I use many of them myself, and try to do better in the many areas I fall short. But my issue is that they all seem to combine without leaving room for human error, for normal human limitation. I don’t see a lot of acknowledgement that you are a person too, a person with a long history of her own that existed long before you became a mother, with loves and hates and boundless complexities, plenty of which have little to do with your beloved children.

I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t automatically put their children’s needs before their own, and I’m not advocating the opposite here. But is their emotional health well-served by watching us give and give without any space for ourselves, without any visible screw-ups and apologies? I don’t want my children to aim for perfection, swallow their own flaws and beat themselves up when they inevitably get it wrong – but they’ll try, if that’s what they see me do. I want them to make mistakes, learn from them, and empathise with other people’s. I want them to feel the value of a heartfelt, meaningful apology. I want them to know that the substance of life is in the repair, not the plain sailing.

I want them to know that everyone has their own stuff, their own boundaries, their own imperfect histories. And they will too. And they should. To be this way is not a failure. Or, rather: failure is not a failure. It’s part of being a human in the world.

So sometimes they play and I read. Or they watch TV and I scroll through Twitter, only half-listening. Everyone in our family functions better if we get a good night’s sleep, so everyone is supposed to sleep in their own damn bed. I will happily read them three-inch piles of stories under a blanket for as long as they want, but I need them to make up their own games at the park. Sometimes they push me too far or ignore me for too long, and I shout. Sometimes I want to sit in a chair by myself for five minutes, until I’m ready to leap back in. I have an unusually small tolerance for baby voices (LITERALLY ZERO), but if they want to dance, I will always dance. And I place a great deal of value on treating books and people well, not littering, and apologising properly when you’ve messed things up.

If they had a different mother they’d have different stuff, but there’d always be plenty of stuff.

I want them to know that I will always try, always love them, always make it my highest priority to be their safe space, always make mistakes, always have my own way of being their mother, always, always apologise and mean it.

And they will make do with me, as children do. We will make room for each other, and they will tell laughing stories about my failures around the dinner table, in the time-honoured way children have always mocked their parents. That’s fine. I think, finally, I’m in a place where I don’t want them to only see my good side. It’s more important to me that we learn and keep learning – together, messily, and over and over again – how to be a human in the world.

Gloves on backwards, as per. Good HEAVENS I love that child.

Gloves on backwards, as per. Good HEAVENS I love that child.

This business of working out how to be a more patient parent is, um, an ongoing series. You can find the other posts here

Angry mummy: everything’s not lost

Photo 15-06-2016, 9 59 49 am (1024x1280)

This is the third post I’ve written about trying not to be a short-fuse parent. Here are numbers one and two. It’s, um, an ongoing series. 

You haven’t lost if you start to laugh halfway through the telling-off. (‘Lost’? Setting boundaries isn’t a wrestling match between you and your toddler, self.) This is what I say to myself, particularly after T has grinned his way through a reprimand, like he’s the gleeful and deliberate loser of a stare-out competition. I have only seen him be serious once, after I caught him drawing on every inch of bedroom wall he could reach with an orange crayon.

I went full-on pantomime villain for that, but you can’t bring out the panto every time.

This is an Angry Mummy post about catastrophic thinking, and how I apply it to lots of areas in life – I am nothing if not an equal opportunities catastrophist – but most especially to parenting. Catastrophic thinking is the habit that makes me obsess over imaginary road accidents and undiscovered tumours, when Tim is driving home late. It’s the tendency to jump immediately to the worst-case scenario, no matter how irrational, and (this is the crucial bit) it starts to affect how you behave afterwards. So in the imaginary-road-accident scenario, I am worrying instead of sleeping. I can’t get the sleep back, even when he gets home safe.

When it comes to parenting, it goes something like this: ‘oh no, I’ve come over all Wicked Witch of the West in Tesco. I’ve ruined this afternoon for them now. I might’s well carry on being snappy’. Like once I’ve raised my voice, or said something with a harsher edge than planned, I’ve used up my parenting credit for the day and no amount of apologising will bring it back. I am Wile E. Coyote, plummeting inevitably and forever off Good Mother Cliff, and once I’m off, I’m off.

wile-e-coyote-falling-off-cliff

Like all catastrophic thinking, this is a load of rubbish. Bad moments only have to be a moment. Hello, have I ever met my children? You can offer them a moderately-sized piece of cheese and they’ll get over any trauma in a second. They scrap and accidentally wang each other with blocks and not-so-accidentally trip each other up on the stairs, and three minutes later they’re sat in the bath, pretending to be twin shopkeepers in an ice cream parlour and offering each other cups of bubbly water (urgh). They don’t hold grudges. They think in moments, and I can too.

This is what I’m trying to remember. If I can get back my equilibrium – after, say, five minutes, some deep breaths and some medicinal Cadbury’s Whole Nut – and then I can come back and patch things up. If I’m trying to teach them that their sincere apologies mean something, then I have to believe that mine mean something too. Be jolly, and show them that I love them. Do some affection play (I liked the idea of this very much, even if ‘affection play’ sounds weird in a way I can’t work out). Then the love will act as an emotional counterweight to the witchiness.

Love enough, and that will be their prevailing memory.

Love enough, and they’ll understand how superficial and temporary the witch-in-Tesco thing is.

You know the thing about Wile E. Coyote? No matter how big the cloud of dust at his landing, he springs up and sprints his way back to the top of the cliff. You think the Road Runner is the winner in that story – ever cheerful, escaping traps with no more effort than a swerve and a blithe honk-honk. He’s not. It’s Wile E. Coyote, failing hard but refusing to be beaten, trying new theories and inventions with enthusiasm, falling off cliffs and under anvils and always coming back, and back, and back again for more.

Photo 15-06-2016, 9 56 35 am (800x800)

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