Who’s going to drive you home…?

So many times I have heard it. “Oh you have two boys then a girl? That’s the perfect combination, two older boys to take care of their little sister.”

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IMG_1306.jpgSo many times I have heard it. “Oh you have two boys then a girl? That’s the perfect combination, two older boys to take care of their little sister.” It’s often followed by “Her boyfriends better watch out,” or “It will be so handy having those older brothers when she’s 18!”

It’s never sat well with me. I DO love the fact I have two boys then a girl but only because I get to experience the closeness and craziness of same-sex siblings and I get a girl too. But not so I can dress her up as a princess or so she has two older boys to look after her. No, just because she’s a girl like me, I like girls, girls are cool, like boys are, and it’s kind of cool to create one. No other reason.

I just can’t shake the fact that before she’s even aware she’s a girl, before she can even speak for herself, her role is being positioned as a) in need of protection and care from boys b) the future object of predatory men.

It’s International Women’s Day today which made me want to write this. But I think this is unfair on both little girls and little boys. Boys hear this and think a) it’s their role to look after helpless women and b) they are going to and are indeed expected to turn into predatory men. And that somehow that girl they are playing dinosaurs with is the prey?

It might be a throwaway comment. It might be that they do look out for her (and her them!) when she’s bigger and it might be that one day she needs their help. But that’s far more likely if we keep portraying men as a threat to women and women as in need of protection. How does my partner feel when he hears this? Our children are being told that men are a danger to women. That women are in some way in need of male protection – from men. And this is happening before they can talk or properly understand the world around them. And we wonder why we’re in a mess?

Society takes its shape from a whole bundle of things, but how we treat and speak to our children has to be the place we start to make it right.

My Random Musings

KERBOOM cake

imageIn the future, if I ever struggle to remember what it was like to have a three-year-old child, I will just look at a photo of the birthday cake I made BUB.2 for his fourth birthday.

He had seen similar cakes on the internet when I was searching for dinosaur cakes and said he wanted one just like it. So a volcano it was. I’m not a cake-maker and time is of the vanilla essence, so I roped my Mum into making the chocolate sponges. I chose this chocolate madeira cake recipe, because madeira is a firmer sponge, less likely to crumble when being formed into a volcano.

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For the crater I decided it would be best to bake the sponge in a Pyrex measuring jug, to give the right sort of shape. I had seen volcano cakes that had been created using a dome-shaped cake tin, but I’m afraid that results in more of a Christmas pudding effect than a volcano.

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Next, I covered the entire cake in chocolate buttercream icing, using rough strokes to achieve the look of a craggy, lava-eroded mountain. Nothing Christmas-puddingy about this monster.

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And then I went a *little* crazy over the decoration.

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Strawberry laces, jelly beans and coloured fondant icing for the lava, mini Toblerones, fudge and chocolate chunks for the tumbling rocks and popping candy and sparklers for the KERBOOM.

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We decided to use mini toy dinosaurs on a grassy edge rather than attempting to fashion them out of fondant icing. I have my limits. BUB.1 came up with the idea of using Cadbury mini eggs for dinosaur eggs. I liked it.

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One minute happy, playing dinosaurs and the next moment, often without warning, KERBOOM, an almighty explosion.

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And that, in a nutshell, is being three.

We’re all picking up the same sh*t

Parents who stay at home aren’t a blubbery, economically-useless void. A parent at home undertakes a series of daily tasks THAT SOMEONE HAS TO DO.

imageWhy do we keep talking about non-working mothers? They are like unicorns, they do not exist. If there was such a thing as a non-working mother, “working” mothers wouldn’t have to pay someone to do their (non) job in order for them to go to work. They’d just leave the kids on the shelf at home.

This (non) job in question has an economic value which you can find out by typing the word “childcare” into Google, followed by your local area. This job only has an economic value if the person doing the job is a relative stranger to the child. That’s not to say it’s a highly-regarded career choice, when of course it should be. But the point is, it’s the SAME job, no matter who is doing it. The only difference is, one person gets a detailed job description, a salary and holidays. The other doesn’t.

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Parents who stay at home aren’t a blubbery, economically useless void. A parent at home undertakes a series of daily tasks THAT SOMEONE HAS TO DO. That parent can either go to work and get paid to do something else while they pay someone to look after their child or they can look after their child themselves. Often this depends on their individual financial and personal needs and desires, as it should. We are all different.

One of the daily tasks in childcare happens to be love. The rest, the stuff that takes up 99% of their waking time, are routine, sometimes laborious, often sticky tasks that keep a child alive and healthy. Yes, I check Facebook. Occasionally I get half an hour to write or pay my bills online or eat my lunch sitting down. Every now and then I meet some friends for lunch, which we spend cajoling, feeding, cleaning and running after our children that we can’t just leave at home to do their own beans on toast.

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Every minute of the day is spent working, whether it’s with a smile on my face or sitting rocking in a corner. This day starts at 6.30am (on a good day) and ends around 9pm (on a good day) giving me approximately an hour to myself before I need to go to bed.

Small children don’t cook their own meals, fetch their own things, go to the toilet alone, shop for food and clothes, amuse themselves, clean themselves, wash themselves, fetch their own toys, put their toys away, clean spaghetti from the walls, take themselves out and about, socialise with other humans, take themselves to bed or learn to do ANY of those things by themselves. They don’t get it instantly. They learn with the intensive help of one or more able adults over the course of a few years. Not just by watching, but by having it done for them, day in day out, and then by being shown how to do it themselves. This is a full time job, for a parent or for a childcare professional. It is truly exhausting. But all that really matters is that it’s done with care and love and that can happen at home or in a childcare setting.

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What lucky, lucky children they are in our part of the world, having food, water, warmth, toys and love. So why do I keep reading articles bickering over who is doing it? We’re all picking up the same sh*t here. Someone is doing it and, by and large, we get a generation of functioning human beings at the end of it. That’s all that matters.

Why is it only considered a job if these tasks are performed by a stranger rather than a parent, or more specifically, a mother? You don’t hear many stay-at-home-Dads referred to as non-working fathers. They are demi-gods who have sacrificed much and are rushed off their feet.

Which is what I consider every non-working AND working mother I know to be.

“I’ve been to paradise…”

wallup-119659.jpgLast night I went to bed wondering what I’d do with a few hours to myself on this Mother’s Day weekend. In my dream, I told my own Mum that “I’d like to walk down the centre of Manhattan, turning left or right whenever I want to.”

Today, I’ll probably end up sniffing books in Waterstones, missing my babies and buying them all some new trousers.

But this idea of some “me time” involves getting in the car, car parks, carrying bags, bumping into people, trying to get to the loo, trying to find somewhere to eat, all the things I spend every day doing.

It might sound conceited, or dangerously like Charlene (“I moved like Harlow in Monte Carlo…”), but the only place I really want to go to is somewhere I rarely get to go. My own mind. Just sit there for a bit, quietly. To not speak, to not hear my own voice saying the same thing over and over and over again. To let myself wander around, without bags, without a buggy, without a million things running passed me or towards me.

So what I might do is go into the office, shut the door, put some headphones on and shut out everything and everyone but me for a couple of hours.

Anything to avoid ending up in H&M. Again.

Weight loss, it’s a thing.

Aside from rigorously following Slimming World for eight months, people ask me how I lost 3.5 stone (three of which I tell myself were each of the BUBs’ fault, half a stone was the biscuits’ fault, but it’s probably the other way round).

What was the secret? It was this:

Individually-wrapped Moser Roth chocolate bars from Aldi. To be precise, and you do need to be, five 25 gram bars per packet, in a myriad of flavours. And Sauvignon Blanc. Measured into 125ml or 175ml glasses. Preferably this bottle from Aldi, or Brancott Estate or whatever I could lay my hands on.

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For me, it was most nights for the chocolate. If I wasn’t having wine then I could sometimes have two chocolate bars, depending on what else I’d had that day.

It was my ‘thing’. You need to have your ‘thing’.

Fortunately my ‘thing’ was also all the stuff you can have and indeed much of which there are no limits on: beans, potatoes, noodles, cous cous, fat-free dairy products, pasta, lean meat and fish, chicken, vegetables, fruit, rice, a sprinkle of cheese. MARMITE. Think every meal you’ve ever cooked, but loaded with more vegetables and cooked in less fat or oil. That’s dinner sorted.

There’s no tedious calorie counting and minimal weighing, just cheese, nuts, cereal and bread for me, which you’re allowed a little of each day. Fair enough. I ate huge plates of food when I was hungry and went back for more if I wanted.

The secret to not wanting all the 25g bars of chocolate in the packet is to make sure that you’re not hungry. Ever. It’s that easy. Keep eating the right stuff all day. Pile it high.

And that’s why diets that leave you hungry will never work. The chocolate (or whatever your ‘thing’ is) will always win.

And, sometimes the chocolate DOES win, even when you’re stuffed to the gills. The wine definitely has a knack of winning. That’s life, and the trick then is to just carry on the next day as if nothing has happened. It can be your dirty little secret.

It’s good to have those once in a while.

3 Little Buttons

Any day…

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“If you could live any day of your life again, what would it be?”, to which she answered: “Any day when my children were small.”

Wow. Not her wedding day, not that amazing holiday in Fiji, not the birth of her child, or a skydive, or the first concert, the road trip through France…no. Just any day, picked at random, when her children were small.

Anyone with small children knows that “any day” can involve lots of moments you might not want to repeat in a hurry. I don’t need to list examples, because if you had a time machine and could return to any given moment of any given day with your small children, nine times out of ten you’d land on a moment you probably wouldn’t want to repeat.

But it’s the other bits, isn’t it? The bits in between when they do a funny dance or creep up to you with a hug. And the big moments, the big, overriding feeling that they are yours, they are entirely yours. They are your world, and you theirs. They are little lives that depend on you.

No, I guess I can’t imagine that feeling being replicated by a kayak around a harbour or an amazing party once they’re grown and gone and no longer mine.

So next time I’m under the high chair for the eighth time that day gathering toast, or counting to ten, or combing the knots from my unwashed hair, or searching for the toothbrushes, or longing to sit down, or running back into the house for the fifth time, or catching my fingers in the buggy, or trying to do a zip up on a wriggling coat, I will hear those words “Any day when my children were small” and remember that this is the time of my life.

Acrobat

We moved to a different room and a mobile scanner was wheeled in, and all the while I was mouthing to Willy Wonka, in a Les Dawson-style whisper “She isn’t, she won’t be, she’s not.” She was.

1525295_10152137411275428_1544226014_nDid I have any warning? None. Or did I? My third pregnancy had gone along much like BUB.1 and .2’s, uncomfortable but uneventful, plenty of galloping heartbeats, searing heartburn and reassuring scans.

And when she arrived she was a dream come true. A pink, bawling cherry on our cake. She just came in a different way than I expected. My two very swift previous births had been initiated by my waters breaking just like in the films. So on this day last year, when my waters broke at midday, I knew the course of events.

Until she pooed. I was obliged to show the midwife my baby’s very first poo (meconium), upon which she leapt up and said she needed to check something as it looked like the baby might be bottom down. How clever, I thought, to be able to “read foetus poo”, like a palm reader, but she’d got it wrong of course. All of my external examinations had shown bum up, head down, including the one two days previously, at my 40th week check.

We moved to a different room and a mobile scanner was wheeled in, and all the while I was mouthing to Willy Wonka, in a Les Dawson-style whisper “She isn’t, she won’t be, she’s not.”

She was.

I knew immediately that would mean a C-section, so I asked out loud and yes, it would be a C-section. They prefer it that way, it’s safer and frankly I’d not read enough about breech births (i.e. nothing) to be able to put forward a case against it or even query it. By now, my contractions were fierce and furious, and knowing my track record on deliveries, I urged them to move quickly.

I was a little gutted, because out of the whole experience I had found the pushing stage to be utterly exhilarating. I was sad to miss that moment when the animal instinct takes over, but I was also in pain, felt the urge to push and wanted BUB.3 to be safe.

So to theatre, and with Emeli Sandé’s ‘Clown’ playing on the hospital radio, our acrobatic daughter was born. The spinal block was administered with a heavy hand and reached my nose, so I could barely hold her, shaking like a leaf and heavily monitored for hours afterwards. It didn’t matter.

It was only days later that I remembered what had happened to me a week or so before the birth. We’d been sitting watching Breaking Bad, a pastime that dominated the latter part of this pregnancy, when baby started to move fiercely. For about an hour it was as if she was trying to break out of my stomach, the whole thing was surging, rising and falling.

I had been horrified by Google’s assertion that she probably had the cord caught around her neck and was trying to wriggle free. I told myself she was just active, getting impatient, stretching her legs. But I knew it had been something more than just regular movements.

It is only with hindsight that I am now 99 per cent certain she swivelled up into a breech position that night and the last person to check her, a junior doctor at my local GP surgery, had missed it. I guess a bum and a head feel quite similar?

I didn’t even know for sure if it was possible for a baby to move that late in pregnancy, but apparently they can. I’ll never know for sure if mine did.

And I’m sure it’s not the last time my daughter will assert her free will, shock the living daylights out of me, cause me inconvenience and pain and leave me a physical wreck.

But I’ll try to always remember the little pink face, the shock of black hair and that first shaking, awe-struck cuddle whenever she does.