Saturday, 24 May 2008

I have married my mother

It appears that I may have married my mother. It wasn't immediately apparent at first, but it has shown itself in little winks and nudges over the years until today, when it finally twigged. Yes I have definitely married my mother. Oh dear.
Obviously I haven't actually married her, that would be weird, at the very least illegal, but the emerging similarities between Husband and my Mother are alarming. They both allow themselves a quiet panic (badly disguised) when confronted with my chocolate/chardonnay habit, they both treat texting like it is a form of devil worship (cue more badly disguised panic), both have a penchant for tutting under their breath when the television programme fails to meet their expectation (but never at Ray Mears/Jeremy Clarkson (Husband) Coronation Street/Heartbeat (Mother)), both think that anything the children do beautifully (manners/eating/general genius) is a direct result of their influence while any misbehaviour is down to my parenting skills, and neither has a clue as to how to work a dishwasher. In fact my Mother's dishwasher stands open at all times, gleaming and shining in the light, cleaner than the day it was bought, which it should be, she has never used it. She likes guests to see the inside so that they think that she's so fastidious that she cleans inside the dishwasher (should I point out that it's self-cleaning?) therefore giving the two fingers to Shirley-the-competition who also has a gleaming house/dishwasher and a secret cleaner to help her to do it.
I know about the secret cleaner because Shirley-the-competition has a daughter my age, we were pitched against each other at any opportunity when we were growing up as part of the competition - anything would do, as long as I won at it. The fuse finally blew when we were asked to have a Who Can Write Their Name The Quickest competition and I technically won, having written my first name first, but Shirley-the-competition's daughter went on to write her three middle names and started on the double-barrelled surname which, said her mother, negated the competition due to her daughter's obvious desire to stretch herself while I was obviously quite happy to do the minimum. Cue a fierce but polite row at which us two girls decided to throw in the towel. We were 27.
So here I am, several years free of competitive parenting and enjoying the freedom to tie my shoelaces without a stop watch being bought out. I have sworn many times that my children would never be subjected to the same level of expectation and they haven't. They will probably never appreciate it, having never experienced it, and will look up from their worthwhile job as a street cleaner and judge me for not having invited them to stretch themselves.
Or maybe not. This morning I walked into the playroom where Husband was dressing Isla. You know he said, Isla can put her dress on three seconds faster than last week, he showed me the stop watch as proof. I wonder how fast Matilda can do it, she's coming to stay next week isn't she, we could have a look.
I told you, I have married my mother.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Things I have said to my four year old today

  • It's broccoli
  • You do like it you have it nearly every day
  • It's always been green
  • And stalky
  • I'll give you an ice cream if you eat your broccoli
  • Absolutely I promise
  • No I won't buy the green kind again
  • I don't think the shop sells pink broccoli but I'll give it a go
  • Good now eat your broccoli
  • Leave Mummy's tummy alone please
  • It is not all nice and squishy
  • It's not it's toned and tight
  • Stop bouncing teddy on it please
  • No you can't dress yourself today
  • Because we're in a hurry
  • Arm in please
  • And other arm
  • It's upside down
  • Yes I am a bit silly let's start again
  • Arm in please
  • Other arm
  • It doesn't matter it looks good upside down
  • Yes you probably would have done a better job
  • Pardon?
  • Please don't say that again Isla
  • About the lady's nice big round bottom
  • I know you were being nice
  • It is lovely and big
  • Ssh about her bottom
  • If you have to talk just whisper
  • No she isn't going to have a baby
  • Can you carry the milk to the checkout please?
  • What do you mean daddy says we don't have to pay for milk?
  • I'm sure he was joking
  • Well just don't mention it to the checkout lady
  • Isla I said not to mention it
  • I know you whispered but it looks rude
  • Why don't you talk about the lady's nice big round boobs?

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

May Day

So Isla has had her party. I can hear regular readers breathing a sigh of relief, at last! We no longer have to hear about the ruddy birthday, get on with it please! And move on. Ok, but I have to stress, that any frustration you're feeling is incomparable to ours.
We did her proud, the princess theme was carried out right through to the napkins, we even rented a bouncy castle with a (rather dodgy and obviously in breach of copyright) picture of Cinderella on it, tea was set for twelve suitably attired princesses, and games and fun galore were planned.
Two o'clock came and people started arriving to drop off their princesses. Did you hear me? I said drop off. Drop off! Have some time to yourself! Enjoy the next few hours while I offer free, and extremely fun, childcare and food. But no, in came the mummies (some with husbands surgically attached) and refused to leave. I panicked, threw caution to the wind and gaily assumed the role of gracious of course I was expecting you host. Every spare cake was thrown into use and divided into twenty (didn't know you could slice a cake into twenty? Neither did I, I usually cut it into one and eat that slice myself). Tea cups were grabbed from the dodgy-and-chipped-tea-cup collection at the back of the cupboard, I even remembered to empty any spiders and bits of fluff. The spare emergency box of UHT milk was made use of and I improvised like a pro, all the time keeping up what I assume was amusing and interesting chatter in the manner of Frank Spencer. I don't know whether I didn't give anyone a chance, or that my chatter was so entertaining and informative that nobody wanted it to stop, but there was complete silence in the kitchen. I could hear Husband's brain whirring over time Talk! Oh Please! For the love of God, someone talk to someone else, anything to shut my wife up.
I shut myself up, by loudly and musically announcing I was off to the sitting room for party games, and would everyone please make themselves at home and help themselves to some cake.
I left the kitchen in a cloud of false mirth, desperate to face the relatively easy company of twelve princesses. Until I felt behind me a kind of ominous presence. I turned slowly, hoping aginst hope to find a poltergeist, a ghoul with it's head chopped off, anything (anything!) but what I knew I would see. There behind me in a funeral like procession walked the Parents-That-Refused-To-Leave, I almost (almost) stalled, before automatically moving into oh there you are, I thought I'd lost you! mode and beckoned them wildly into the sitting room.
There stood before us a glory of pink and sparkle, not one head was left unadorned, tiaras winked in the sunshine offering hope and, well, more hope I suppose. I picked up the pink CD player that Isla had been given for Christmas and trilled who wants to play some party gaaaames! I even offered a whoop whoop a la Oprah, but stopped short at the you go girl! for fear of looking false.
They stood there, in silence, all pink dresses, twisted knees and turned in toes, the theme for this party should have been awkwardness as opposed to princesses. Friend-from-pre-school Alexa began chewing her tiara, Ava started to cry, no one it seemed, wanted to play, except Isla who was on home territory and couldn't wait to begin.
I turned again (this was beginning to be a theme) and the Parents-Who-Refused-To-Leave stared silently, they didn't even have any cake in their hands, didn't they know how hard I'd sliced, and at great speed? What did they expect me to do? If they had in fact, as expected, left, then I would have danced around manically in a Ko Ko the Klown stylee, roly poly-d like a rabid dog, roared and lept re enacting a lion and gazelle hunt, anything, to get them going. Instead I sheepishly started the CD player, the rendition of Pants! not serving at all to lighten the mood, while Husband and I realised that it was not as cute as first though that Isla knew all the words.
I think you'll find came a well meaning voice behind me that they'll liven up a bit after the tea, a bit of sugar works wonders. Tea? Sugar?But the tea isn't until the end I spluttered, horrified at my gaff. Now, I know that Isla is our first child but our memories can't be that bad surely? Husband and I both remember parties in our day, pass the parcel, musical bumps, no parents watching and the tea at the end before going home time. Who had changed the rules? And not told me?
And sugar? Damn, damn my well meaning rice cakes and raisins, damn Gillian McKeith who haunts my dreams with innovative new TV shows such as Surprise the Inadequate Parent - which one shall we shame tonight? (cue looming large blue finger booming It Could Be YOOOOU) And I knew, just knew, that any sign of a jelly tot or French fancy at Isla's tea, she be down on me like a vulture to a field mouse and take me down in the manner of the Titanic (Jack! Jack!) and film her best episode yet.
Silence swelled about the room like an unwelcome large guest who's stolen from you before and you weren't expecting to ever come back to visit. In desperation I looked around, and spied Husband quivering behind the pink CD player still blaring out Pants! Lenny Henry's voice had never sounded so accussing. We caught each other's eye and I gave him the wink, the one that offered promises of glorious unmentionables later if he would go with me on this one.
Everybody outside! I yelled, in a voice that could have been heard around the globe, I think the monster's hiding on the bouncy castle! Twelve pink slippered princesses leapt into life and screamed appreciatively, Husband gave me a return look that meant said unmentionables were going to be considerable, and after a pint. A flurry of pink jumped onto the castle as Husband went behind to roar in his best I'm going to get you voice. And still the Parents-Who-Refused-To-Leave (from here on known as TPWRTL) refused to leave. They watched Husband give an Oscar worthy monster performance, his red face the only clue as to the humiliation he was enduring. I heard a loud voice, a scratchy desperate one exit my mouth. Tea! Tea is ready! It wasn't, but anything was less painful than this.
I sat twelve princesses down to a barely cooked tea of sausage and chips and watched them eat in silence, watched - silently - by the PWRTLs. But they did start to warm up, it was quite miraculous really. Chatter started, each princess tried to out do the other in how many jewels they had on their tiara, crikey food was even thrown and I was delighted, delighted! Ah, you see, it's not that bad, all they needed was a bit of food. And sugar on the chips.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

I cleaned before the cleaner

Oh dear, I cleaned before the cleaner came. Rubbish I know, but it had to be done, really, honestly it did. Now, I'm not one of those lucky housewives who get to have a cleaner every week, oh no. Apparently we don't need one, I have Husband you see to help, and the children, crikey even the puppy chips in. Apparently.
Obviously I didn't give up my career to clean the house, or clear up after everybody else. I gave it up to raise the children, provide them with that much heralded parent (read mother) at home.Oh yes. Cleaning was something we would do in the evenings and at weekends, rather like when we both worked full time. We had a democratic partnership you see. Not for us those pre war roles, we were re-writing the rule book, let's hear it for emancipation! Yeah!
You see, since giving up work, ostensibly I don't work. No! Not a jot! So there's acres of time to clean, and acres of time left to raise the children. Lovely. Lucky me.
So, there we have it, somewhere along the line (clothesline, if you will), I agreed, albeit in stealth like stages that of course I could cook the tea/pop into Sainsburys/pick up the dry cleaning/clean the loo (skid marks a speciality), crikey I'll even spin plates I've so much time. A sunny afternoon with Jack screaming in the trolly, Isla skipping in front getting under the wheels simultaneously undressing Barbie and me picking out the menu for the week (five fruit and veg a day/check all labels/pretend the chicken nuggets are for the dog, you never know if Jamie O or even more hideously Gillian McK might pop up behind you, microphone in hand saying loudly tell me Mrs C, why do you feed your children such hideous junk? Oh the shame). Yep, that's how I envisaged raising my kids, in the supermarket.
So that was it, I gave up cleaning about a month ago. Ahhhhhh.
You see I was working on that stupid theory that if you don't wash your hair for a month it becomes self cleaning (it doesn't, trust me, it ends up smelling and anything within a two meter radius gets stuck in it. It's like a living compost bin). So I was going to put up with the slide into rubbish dump mess clinging on to the glimmer ahead that was shiny taps and fresh toilets. I closed my eyes with determination at the old toothpaste gnarled around the tube, hole completely blocked, the only way to dispense any was through a little cut in the side that Husband had made with his nail clippers.
I even turned a blind eye (and nose) to the blocked sink/shower/toilet. Husband blames my long hair, but if that's the only culprit then that would be admitting to being hairier than next door's dog (and she'd kill me, we meet for a glass of wine occasionally).
Gradually I began to despair, any glimmer in the distance was simply an old bottle top that no one had put out for recycling (another thing I have acres of time for). Either way the house looked disgusting, which in turn made me look disgusting. No one else you understand, me. At no point would anyone ever think that Husband allowed us to live in this mess would they? Oh no, he's busy at work, Wife has acres of time.
I booked a cleaner. Ahhhhhhhh.
The terror began slowly. What would they think of me (it was so bad the company said they thought they should send two. Two!), how could I let everyone live like this. Oh no! What had I done?
So that was that. I clung on, sat on my hands, drank copious amounts of chardonnay each evening to numb the fear of Friday, Judgement Day, I was not, repeat not (in slightly strangled voice) going to clean.
But no use, Thursday arrived, chardonnay stayed on ice, and I caved (you'll notice I cave frequently, I'm thinking of buying one of those hats with a torch on). Scrubbing brush and bleach in hand I scoured, swept and de-toothpasted the house. It looked fantastic, it said here lives a woman who looks after her family, not for her the shoddy corner cutting of the sloppy housewife. I left no corner cut, not even grazed. Husband came to bed, oblivious to the difference, but then why would he notice, even though he'd just spent a month getting the house just as he liked it? But I noticed, and so would the cleaners.
They came, they cleaned, they made absolutely no comment. No comment at all. Nothing! Where was my praise, my A+, my admiration at being so house proud that even at this level of clean I thought it needed a good going over by professionals? They said absolutely nothing.
Until they left, going down the path: more money than sense said cleaner #1 I know, easiest day I've had in years, you'd think she would have left it a bit, you know, just to get her money's worth said cleaner #2. As I said, more money than sense.