Wednesday, 23 January 2008

One day

One day I will have a small car again. One that only fits me and the occasional passenger and is clean, shiny and hand print free at all times.
One day I will go with my husband on a second honeymoon (for two), wake with the sun high in the sky, get ridiculously and dizzyingly drunk at lunch time and go straight to bed until the next morning.
One day my house will stay the way I left it, not mysteriously mess up the minute I turn my back.
One day I will pop out to the shops - and I mean pop - and be finished in five minutes. I may even treat myself to a basket rather than a trolley-for-three and queue up giddily in the baskets only aisle.
One day I will go to all the shops in my village and buy elegant things for dinner, stopping to chat or for a coffee at leisure. I will be able to fit myself (because there is only myself and no pram) into every tiny specialist shop, smug and happy that I'm 'buying locally'.
One day I will have a cup of tea during nap time without the tension that someone may wake at any minute and ruin the moment. In fact I may even have a set cup-of-tea-time that I adhere to religiously just because I can.
One day my children will refer to me as That Mad Old Bat or The Parental Guidance rather than Mummy Can I Have and I will be pleased at my eccentricities and lack of responsibility.
One day I will actually go on a 'date night' (ha ha ha, did anyone really believe they would ever get to do that?) with my husband without the little knot of tension that everything's alright at home.
One day my kitchen will be my own, the high chair, mini chair-and-table set and play mat will be gone and I will dance a waltz with my husband around our own elegant dining table in all the space.
One day my day will end when I want it to, possibly as late as 11pm, rather than at 3pm when I start thinking about school pick up and tea.
One day evenings will be for relaxing, possibly a glass of wine or even the cinema, not getting-ready-for-the-morning, ironing, sandwiches and signing notes.
One day I will sleep all night long without nightmares/coughs/toilets/monsters to wake me.

One day the house will be ever so quiet, I will be able to whisper to myself and hear the echo.
One day strangers won't smile at me on the street, pause and say; isn't she/he lovely, envious of my status, my life, my treasures.
One day I won't get up to two smiling faces, ever so pleased that I'm awake and ready to play.
One day the worry will be further away and thus more scary and less controllable.
One day my tea break will be interrupted by the phone ringing, and it will be one of the children and I shall be very very glad.
One day my heart won't burst with pride every morning just for the existence of another human being.
One day the feeling of a tiny hand slipping into mine, skipping and pulling at it while I go, will be a distant, precious memory hard to grasp and pin down.
One day tiny clothes and underwear that is so cute your heart skips will be missing from my washing line, my ironing pile.
One day I will wish for little cold feet and snuffly noses to creep into bed with me. I may even wake in the night thinking they have only to find it was a dream.
One day I won't be a hero, a queen, the focus and meaning in my children's lives. Just an ordinary person living invisibly.
One day life will be for filling, but not necessarily fulfilling, not in the same way anyway.

Until grandchildren.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

The smug mummy cook book

If I had begun this blog three years ago and had posted a list entitled 'books I am planning to write' (regular readers will know that there is at least one blog called this) then the Smug Mummy Cook Book will have been up there with the best of them. Of course it wouldn't have actually been called that but you get the gist. Three years ago Isla was eight months old and an only child. I was a lot younger (both chronologically, nervously and wrinkle wise), and full of all the idealistic, fantabulous ways that I was going to bring up my children. Oh yes, I had a list, a long one stating all the thing I was never going to do (derived mainly from my fuzzy and uncomprehending childhood memories) and all the things I was definitely going to do (derived from a mish mash of - deep breath - people I admired, parents who had seemed cool at school (even though their child is now in borstal), You Are What You Eat magazine, Super Nanny magazine, made up rules that felt 'right', books including; The way of the Spiritual Child, Get
Out Of My Class Stupid!, The Demon Headmaster, The Fat Ladies Club and of course the What to Expect... books - you've got to get them hitting those milestones.)

To my credit I have, four years later, kept some of them; I have never ever taught Isla or Jack to swear in Punjabi, they hardly ever sleep in our bed except to get off to sleep and in the morning and I'm very strict about it being after 5am, meal times are strictly observed in timing with the Teletubbies, if pudding is eaten first then a promise must be made to eat all of their dinner after, shouting at them, while not strictly banned as I thought it would be, occurs in a timely monthly cycle so they know when to expect it. Wonderful, I'm very very pleased with myself.

Anyway, the cook book. You see the thing I didn't get was the whole hooha surrounding weaning. All the books, magazines, well meaning checkout girls/great-grannies/child nutrition cookery course leaders stressed time and time again about the importance of a varied diet and introducing vegetables first (except for great granny who assured me a lump of coal and a satsuma would be sufficient). I knew that! What I didn't know was how easy it was. The whole fussy eater thing was a big fat myth, propagated by super nanny to sell more magazines. My kids ate it all - garlic split peas? No problem, sprout and liver puree? Bring it on! Not finishing your sliced hamster in door knob sauce? Pass it over! Anything! I was a mummy extraordinaire, to be paraded, heralded, applauded, stuffed and hung above the high chair, well done me. This is the way to do it mums! I wanted to shout, come on, get with the programme! (Oprah had just started showing on freeview), you go girl! (sorry it's really catching). The whole weaning/getting them to eat healthy food was a breeze. Give them no option, put the plate in front of them and spoon it in. No nonsense was the way ahead. Weaning? Job done (Gordon Ramsey was also showing).
I had great plans for that cook book, if only I had the time/energy to put it together. I was going to make a mint. Then Isla turned three. Overnight she went from someone with the future potential to join Overeaters Anonymous, to Super Picker: the Girl With The Appetite of a Sparrow (showing on More 4 at some point). There was nothing, nothing that she liked except ice cream and crisps. Why? Why me? I'd done so well, worked so hard. I'd never outwardly boasted, no that would be crass ,but when friends brought their children over for tea it would often just happen to be roasted sweet potato with a morrell coulis, Isla's favourite (she ate all the other children's so there was no waste really, and they filled up on the guava fruit compote).
So that's it, Isla won't eat anything. Meal times are fraught with bribes, tears, threats of no Teletubbies/ice cream/future. I've tried crying myself, lecturing about osteoporosis, genetic counselling (diabetes is rife in our family) and good old fashioned tying her up and force feeding, but to no avail. Pride comes before a fall as they say and I'm truly humbled, sorry Other Mothers I was far too sure of myself. Never again.
So there it is, no cook book, I should have found the time to do it earlier but I was far too confident it would happen organically. I've learned my lesson, from now on I'm going to seize the day, write it down as it happens, if only I can have one last stab at being really really good at something to do with children. Having said that, Isla does like raw broccoli (dipped in ice cream but still). Hmm maybe those royalties aren't lost after all, Broccoli's a Breeze has a nice cook book ring to it don't you think? I'd best get started, Oprah's choosing her next book club book.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Yummy Mummy

The rise of the Yummy Mummy has been noted with horror in my neck of the woods (well by me anyway). Why? What is the point of them and, more importantly how do you get to be one? It's a bit of a vague category, no one has ever explained to me exactly what a Yummy Mummy does or looks like to deserve the accolade. My husband often tells me that I'm a Yummy Mummy, but I think it's his way of reassuring me he still fancies me, or indeed a form of foreplay that he'll need to keep up for the next week or two if it's going to work. I admire his optimism not to mention his ability to approach an old subject with fresh ideas. Anyway, where real Yummy Mummies are concerned, the general points to be observed according to my very unscientific surveys are that they must: be thin (possibly the most important requirement) have a baby (second only to being thin), be thin while having a baby and immediately afterwards be even thinner, wear thin clothes (indeed clothes their baby can fit into), pretend to eat a varied and healthy diet as opposed to slim-fasts and steamed fish, look as if they have just stepped out of the fashion pages of Vogue, push a ridiculously large pram that needs the nanny and the butler to assemble every morning, have long hair that they never tie back and baby never seems to pull/smear banana into and meet other Yummy Mummies for lunch everyday without worrying if their maternity pay will stretch to it. So that's me out then.

So why does all this amount to Yummy at all? I know it rhymes rather cleverly with mummy, but so does honey. Honey Mummy? Sounds good, after all the title is meant to suggest that they are desirable to men both pre and post pregnancy, so honey/bees round a honey pot/sticky sweetness all the references point to yes (both in and out of bed). Yummy Honey Mummy may be going a bit too far however. The next question to ask would be are Yummy Mummies really yummy? I mean really, would they taste better spread on toast than the rest of us? Surely they'd be a bit tough, all that sinewy leanness and the treadmill hard calves would break your teeth. Dining out on a softer, fatter (that's where all the flavour is according to Jamie Oliver) version would be far preferable. The Yummy Mummy would be all crocodile skin, hooped earrings and shiny white teeth, you wouldn't get much for your investment (which would have been considerable, The Portland doesn't come cheap you know).

So apart from a few WAGS (God bless them and their brain cell) and some celebrities, does anyone actually, personally know a proper bona fide Yummy Mummy? Think about it, they only really exist in Heat magazine (Grazia if they're really posh). Isn't it time we reclaimed the title, or merely claimed it for the first time? At the end of the day who's to say who's a Yummy Mummy and who isn't?
Let's make a pact, we'll all call ourselves Yummy Mummies and redefine the term, fling caution to the wind and emblazon it on our persona, our t-shirts go on then even our Tesco nappy bags. It would be fantastic! Freeing! One in the eye! For a while. I doubt though, however hard we push that the world will suddenly wake up to just how yummy the inside of the new Yummy Mummy is, whatever we look like on the outside. A new name will emerge assuredly out of the crowd to describe the original, real Yummy Mummies, forcing us sham ones to retreat from our new found power to lick our wounds (or ice creams) sullenly in the corner. Still, at least we're full of flavour.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

My head is stuck to the steering wheel

So I'm sitting here with my head stuck to the steering wheel, my forehead actually, and it's beginning to hurt. It's a strange place to contemplate life but that's perhaps the only thing left for me to do; there's nothing much to look at on my lap, the two bawling children in the back of the car mean the radio is rendered useless, and there's no magazine to hand. Life it is then.

The obvious question to ask myself is how come I am sitting in a supermarket car park with my head stuck to the steering wheel? I'd like to think that I could ask myself something deeper and more profound than that but my brain just isn't up to it.

It's just one of those days I tell myself, but I don't really know what 'one of those days' is. If my rather generous and broad definition is correct then nearly every day is one of those days. Child rearing full stop is one of those days. Why didn't anyone tell us? Would we have listened? No, probably not, not much gets through into the understanding bit of your brain when it's barricaded by sweet calm images of sleeping clean babies, bundled into pyjamas all ready to sleep a full thirteen hours straight. Ooh I'd like one of those the fantasy/idiocy part of your brain thinks.

It's no wonder that all the best selling mummy mags concentrate mainly on the horrors of birth and the pain relief options. In other words it's going to hurt ladies, a lot, but here's what you can do about it. In fact go for the epidural and you may only feel a slight sting. They know full well that to cover the horrors of child rearing would be to dramatically reduce their readership. There's no kindly midwife with pethidine/epidurals/TENS machines in the big wide world outside the hospital. No, you just have to get on with it with your brain firmly recording and experiencing everything in real time. The only pain relief is to get your husband to dead leg you, and it doesn't work for long believe me.

No one ever tells you that no matter how awful the birth, the best thing about it is there's an end. Child rearing lasts forever, way way past Christmas. According to older parents even when they leave home you worry about your children, (although I don't believe them, the understanding bit of my brain is barricaded by images of a calm, clean, quiet house and holidays in the sun for two). If the children don't call you they're lying in a ditch somewhere, and if they do it's time to remortgage the house. Again. There's a reason why mortgage is called a mortgage, you've got it until you die.

I digress, I'm sitting with my head stuck to the steering wheel contemplating life. Is that where I was? Am? Either way child rearing got me here, it may be one of those days where it all started with banana mush on the floor and I couldn't cope or it may be one of those days where it all started with conception and went downhill from there.

It did actually start with banana mush, I slipped on it as I moved the high chair and then landed in it in my new jeans, Jack then threw up on my new boots and I knew the day was shaping up nicely. I was late to pick Isla up from pre school so she was crying as I arrived convinced I had left her for good, and continued to cry as she rubbed some chewing gum on my face that she'd found on the bottom of her shoe. I had forgotten to prepare any lunch so had to go to the supermarket to buy something nourishing (a pasty), and drove white knuckled round the car park trying to find a parent and child space. It was at this point that Jack joined Isla in a crying competition and itched rather successfully at his competitive gene. That was it, I looked back at them both, eyes screwed, noses snotty and tears pouring down their faces. Oh what a terrible awful life they were having, or I was giving them. No more, if you can't beat them join them as the saying goes. I screwed up my eyes, stuck my head on the steering wheel and set out to win the competition.

Too late I remembered the chewing gum and now I truly am stuck to the steering wheel. It's been about half an hour now and the car is strangely silent, Isla and Jack are confused and quiet. Excellent. That means I won.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Husband Flu

This blog was going to be entitled 'man flu', not very original I know but could we really get through the Winter without reporting on this annual epidemic of such grave proportions that it results in so many near death encounters? Indeed it would be scandalous to ignore it, heartless even when we consider just how much our men folk have been through. Luckily none of them, despite predictions, assurances (promises even) and some evidence to the contrary, have passed away. We emerge once again unscathed by such suffering (them), and a little scathed by such ministering (us) and of course worry (Husband is looking over my shoulder).
Husband's flu started about the time he first needed to blow his nose. It was a scary moment obviously, something was wrong with him, he might even feel poorly or, heaven's above need to go to the doctor's. In fact if a visit to the Scary Man was nigh the best thing to do, of course, was to take himself to bed and nurse himself until he was completely better to avoid such an encounter. The best thing about me, thought Husband, is that I make absolutely no fuss, in fact no one will even know I'm here. Unless I get really ill you understand. Yup, I understood.
He sat in bed like a small boy in an Enid Blyton story, special striped pyjamas on (kept from his childhood and saved for the really serious cases), knees drawn up and duvet up to his chin. There was a weak smile as I entered the sick room with a cup of tea which he bravely sipped while quite hot. I had blown on it like he'd asked, but still, it was brave. I placed a box of tissues on the bedside table and a bucket as requested just in case. Then I duly went downstairs for the forgotten items (hot water bottle, Lemsip, cough drops and a newspaper in case his head felt up to reading). Yes, he was a little trouper, no one but me knew he was ill, and he was nursing himself through it in his own way. Of course he was too ill to get up and actually nurse himself, so I had to do it but the thought was there, he whispered weakly.
It was a long afternoon for him, tea made his nose runnier so warm honey was duly administered, the hot water bottle was tricky to keep at just the right temperature despite him checking it on his thermometer, and the TV just wasn't up to scratch. He got through it somehow and struggled to bedtime managing a bowl of soup and chocolate pudding before checking the water bottle temperature and falling asleep next to me, exhausted.
In bed that night he proceeded to groan as loudly as possible and thrash about wildly as he tried to deal with his flu. Every nose blowing event was performed accompanied by an expletive and a comment on how much he wasn't sleeping and how long to go until I had to get up. If I had managed to go to sleep between these events then I was sure to be awoken by loud retching noises away from the bucket as a demonstration of what might possibly happen were he to feel sick and I had missed the warning signs.
By 2am I had had enough, he'd only used up one tissue all day and the 'sweat' patches were really spilled Lemsip. Risking a lifetime of references to my uncaring nature and pub near-death stories that I had no authority to refute so he could embellish at will, I moved to the spare room. I did explain to him why, but all he could reply was that he could see a bright light and should he go towards it? The dread of a cold bed and having to clean the guest sheets tomorrow were no deterrent to the thought of a decent few hours before getting up with the children. It was bliss, heaven, worth the lifetime's condemnation. For a while. He missed me you see, it may be his last night of sleeping next to me and wouldn't it be lovely to savour the moment? I felt the bed springs sink as he dragged himself into bed beside me. The groanings were louder this time although giving him the warm bit of the bed went some way to soothing them. The retching continued until the bucket was brought from our room and then almost ceased. We watched dawn rise together thankful that he'd survived the night.
I sent him to the doctors the next day, tail between his legs, deaf to his protestations that all he needed was a few more days of TLC. He emerged from the surgery triumphant and euphoric. The doctor had sympathised, hadn't asked him to remove any clothing and best of all given him a prescription for Strepsils.