The black hole of Christmas cheer

Christmas Cheer Mothering Frights

I watch my son as his bottom lip, hanging slack from an open jaw, is bothered repeatedly by his protruding tongue. He then jams his fingers into his mouth. And I don’t mean a dainty suck. It’s like watching a bottom-feeding sea creature attempt to eat an octopus, tentacles first.

It can only mean one thing. The pre-school Christmas songs. I am repeatedly told that Christmas is full of joy. Unfortunately, this thirty minutes is the black hole of Christmas cheer for pretty much everyone involved.

We are ushered in and propelled toward three rows of chairs that have seemingly been loaned from the dolls’ house in the toddler’s room. I am wondering if I should take one for each bum cheek, but parents are still streaming in behind me so decide against it. And there we settle, chins resting against knees, the chairs in front resting against shins behind and all with a perfect view of the back of some dad’s huge head. I lean right and manage to catch a glimpse of B amongst the twenty or so other three and four year olds who are staring at the mass of parents with a mixture of fear and…well, a bit more fear.

There is a palpable air of expectation radiating from the audience. I have attended too many of these events to be in anticipation of a production that rivals the Sound of Music, with seven-part harmonies and pitch perfect singing, but I have a grain of hope that it won’t be totally horrendous. Which is my first mistake.

I notice that B is not in the clothes that he was wearing that morning and wonder briefly if there has been some cataclysmic pants-shitting event that will mean I will largely be spending my evening scraping semi-dried poo from an undersized pant gusset, but then I realise that they are all in slightly strange outfits. It is as if twenty small children have been thrown into a cement mixer with three bags of charity clothes and a few of Santa’s elves’ cast-offs.

A staff member, a girl (not to be patronising, but most of the staff at the nursery could quite easily qualify as my daughter they are that young… or I am that old) so cheery it makes my eyes water, welcomes us all to thirty minutes of our lives that we can never get back.

And so we are mistreated to half an hour of Cheery singing to the parents whilst twenty kids stand in a straggly line engaging in a range of nose picking, bum scratching and thumb sucking whilst completely ignoring her pleas to join in. Song lyrics are mumbled through barely open lips, shoes are studied so intently that several pairs are in danger of spontaneously combusting and a handful of children slowly and inexorably slide into hysterical tears.

B stands, eyes cast downwards, sucking his fist. He occasionally musters enough effort to lift his gaze to mine, at which point his eyes implore me to stop this horrific madness. I smile and wave and silently implore the same. He does momentarily take his upper limb from his mouth and I wonder for a brief, overly-optimistic moment that he is about to burst into song – or at least let a few Christmassy words drip from his mouth – but no. Instead, he lolls his tongue around his lips, looking for a window to lick.

A couple of the kids have, by now, pulled their Santa hats down to their chin to make is clear that they are taking no further part in this ritual Yuletide humiliation, and that they are definitely not going to lie on the floor and pretend to be asleep, let alone flap their arms and pretend to be angels. And all the while, Cheery is emoting her way through a variety of songs and story-telling, valiantly imploring various children to repeat the lines.

She pulls an incalcitrant-looking boy toward her.
“Joe, say ‘I can see the angels!’”

Joe says nothing.

“Say it for me, Joe.”

Joe appears to be trying on selective mutism for size. It suits him.

“I can see the angels, Joe?”

But it appears that Joe cannot. She releases him from her grip and grabs another child.

“Say ‘I can see the angels’ Flora.”

Flora’s bottom lip starts to tremble. A large proportion of the audience are willing her to JUST SAY THE BLOODY LINE SO WE CAN ALL MOVE ON. Flora starts to cry and snot dribbles from her nose as my will to live seeps slowly from several of my orifices.

And so the Christmas concert chaos continues. More children do not say the lines that they no doubt delivered with such panache in rehearsals the day before. Songs are not sung. Actions are not actioned. If I had wanted to spend half an hour staring at a pack of kids doing nothing, I could have propped up my eldest’s class photo against a bottle of wine at home and at least had the pleasure of sitting in a chair not made to suit the physique of a sodding Oopma Loompa.

I think I must have slipped into a temporary coma, as when I next look at Cheery she is firmly ushering gaggles of reluctant kids into a vague semblance of a line behind B. “And all the children got on the train. Choo choo! Let’s go!”

Unsurprisingly, the train does not move.

“Let’s go, B!” Cheery shouts as B stands rooted to the floor, licking his fist disconsolately whilst the children-shaped carriages behind him start to surge forward. If he doesn’t get a bloody move on, there’ll be a derailment of epic proportions and it will take us another hour to untangle the children. Finally, a teacher enters stage left and drags B around by his wrist at which point I am unsure whether to laugh, cry or leave. I think B is having exactly the same thought.

And then, mercifully, it seems we have reached the denouement. For some reason that has completely escaped me, now Cheery has a Tupperware box of metallic glitter shapes that she is handing out to all the kids.

“Throw the glitter over your mummys and daddys, children!” Cheery shrills. Oh good. I knew there was something missing from this whole experience, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until now.

Instantly the kids are all transfixed by how it is that every single piece of that glitter is somehow utterly stuck to their sweaty palms, no matter how hard they shake their hands. I smile. Cheery is now throwing the glitter shapes over the children, who look up in glee. Several then start to cry as they realise that their teacher has, to all intents and purposes, just thrown tiny metallic shapes in their eyes.

And there we have it. Another Christmas, another excruciating children’s performance. Those Von Trapp children have got a lot to bloody answer for. I collect B and we get in the car to go home.

“Did you like your Christmas play?” I ask.

“No,” he sullenly replies.

No. Me neither. I turn out of the car park and we never speak of it again.


Assume the position: The Interloper Fidget, the Duel Laser Death Stare or the Mummy Mount?

You know those articles you see occasionally in the weekend supplements all about the psychology of sleep positions? The ones with the photos of an unfeasibly good looking couple with pressed pyjamas and remarkably dribble-free pillows? The ones that get hastily trotted out in a time when it’s not so much a slow news week, but the globe has pretty much stopped turning and the world’s population is hibernating? Yes, those. I was thinking about those the other day, as I hauled myself out of bed one morning, unrested and terminally fatigued. I was thinking what a load of bollocks they are. They say nothing of the truth of sleeping positions for parents. So, to put the record straight, here is the undefinitive guide to sleep positions of parents.

Firstly, some quick introductions.

Fig 1. Daddy

Fig 1. Daddy

 

This is daddy. Actual daddy does not hang out in skater-wear, but it was slightly Hobson’s choice. I was looking for a fireman, so that I could make an extremely puerile joke about the length of his hose, but I am far too mature for that. (I couldn’t find the hose). I could have gone for a pirate, but the thought of a man lying in bed with a hook instead of a left hand made me wince too much.

 

Fig. 2. Mummy

Fig. 2. Mummy

This is me, mummy. Can I just clarify that this looks absolutely nothing like me, but it is surprisingly hard to find a female Playmobil person, let alone one that resembles a knackered forty four year old with permanent bed-hair. There was a female pirate (a piratess?) but she’s gone missing. I have a suspicion my son has buried her in the garden. So I am stuck with this: a colonial woman with an alarming sense of colour coordination, as well as an even more alarming amount of what looks like ginger stubble on her face. Either that or she’s in early onset leprosy. And just for the record, I do not tend to wear a sun visor in bed.

Fig. 3. The Son

Fig. 3. The Son

 

And this is our three year old son. This is by far the most accurate depiction of a family member. In fact, one might almost call it his doppelganger. Granted, my son has a nose, fingers and a couple of opposable thumbs, but let’s not get picky.

 

 

The primary sleep positions of parents are as follows:

Fig 4. The Parallel Planks

Fig 4. The Parallel Planks

 

The Parallel Planks. Gone are the days of The Spoon, or the Entwined. The Parallel Plank is all about two people who get into bed and are so bloody knackered they haven’t got the energy to turn onto their sides. Lying on the back to sleep is not the most comfortable of positions, but don’t worry. They won’t be asleep for long.

 

 

 

 

Fig 5. The Interloper Fidget

Fig 5. The Interloper Fidget

 

The Interloper Fidget. And so it begins. Entering from the foot of the bed, son has divided the planks and mimics the sleeping parents, with one main difference: he doesn’t shitting-well keep still. As you see in Fig. 5, all three sets of eyes are wide open.

 

 

 

 

Fig 6. The Duel Laser Death Stare

Fig 6. The Duel Laser Death Stare

The Dual Laser Death Stare. Desperate to stop the son from poking his finger up their noses, kicking her in the stomach or kneeing him in the fireman’s hose,  the parents have now adopted the Dual Laser Death Stare. Glaring at the son from both sides, they futilely attempt to keep him still with only the strength of their combined gazes. Often accompanied by the sound of grinding teeth.

 

 

 

 

Fig 7. The Inversion

Fig 7. The Inversion

The Inversion. Usually only recognised by mummy when she realises she has five small toes in her mouth, the Inversion is popular with kids who like to break the rules. Once awake and conscious of the inverted son, neither parent can then sleep for fear of having to explain to the paediatric A&E consultant just how they kneed their son full in the face and partially suffocated him “by accident”.

 

 

 

 

Fig 8. The Classic N

Fig 8. The Classic N

 

The Classic N. The N stands for No. As in No Sleep. Or as in No, you cannot have both legs on the mattress, actually. One parent enjoys the son grinding his head into their neck, a little like death by sandpaper and compressed windpipe all in one, whilst the other sustains multiple toe-nail induced deep tissue wounds to their upper thigh.

 

 

 

 

Fig. 9. The Pillow Bridge

Fig. 9. The Pillow Bridge

 

The Pillow Bridge. This is by far the most structurally sound of all the positions. Once the son lodges himself between the parents, he assumes the tensile strength of titanium and the load-bearing capacity of a ten foot wide concrete column, and cannot be moved. The Pillow Bridge forces both parents to deploy the Single Buttock Clench to ensure they stay on the bed, thus ensuring the only thing part from their son to go to sleep is the other, semi-dangling bum cheek.

 

 

Fig 10. The Mummy Mount

Fig 10. The Mummy Mount

The Mummy Mount. Whilst a traditional Mummy Mount is what got the parents into this god-forsaken predicament to begin with, this is a completely different kettle of 3 year olds. The side effects of the Mummy Mount are that mummy’s core body temperature rises by 47.5 degrees whilst her lung capacity decreases by 1.25 litres. The son, however, can sleep like a fifty foot log, as that is approximately what he seems to weigh.

 

 

 

Fig 11. The Partial Surrender

Fig 11. The Partial Surrender

The Partial Surrender. This sleep position usually occurs between the hours of 3am and 5am. The Partial Surrender comprises incremental movements from the son that gradually forces one or other parent to give up and leave the bed. In Fig. 11, daddy has surrendered and traipsed to the spare room, whilst mummy secretly wishes she’d bloody escaped there three hours ago.

 

 

 

 

Fig 12. The Total Surrender (or The Victory Starfish)

Fig 12. The Total Surrender (or The Victory Starfish)

The Total Surrender (or the Victory Starfish). Both parents have waved the white duvet and vacated in the Total Surrender; one to the spare bed, the other downstairs as it is pointless to try and sleep. The son slumbers in a Victory Starfish, a sleep that is solitary and ultimately refreshing, with only the faint sound from downstairs of a string of vociferous expletives to accompany his gentle snoring.


A handful of warm and lumpy vomit

mr_benn_transformer

My son was coveting a Transformers toy recently, no doubt having seen them advertised on the television. You know the sort of advert – where the screen is filled with an image of a toy transforming into a six foot tank shooting real lasers at the touch of the button, whilst a line of text that should technically be read by microfiche reads ‘Toy does not turn into a tank or shoot real lasers. Some steps have been removed. Your child will receive this toy and may harbour a nagging sense of disappointment for the rest of his life’.

Mind you, Transformers do seem a handy bunch. After all, they are robots in disguise. They are disguised as a car, to be precise. Or sometimes a freight lorry. My son did have a Transformer once, called Optimus Prime. Together, we managed to transform it into the aforementioned lorry over the period of an hour. Call me old fashioned, but a disguise that takes the best part of 60 minutes to change is not an unqualified success. Let’s face it. Mr Benn can facilitate an entire outfit change by taking off his hat, so those bloody Transformers need to buck their ideas up. If a mode of transport if proving tricky, then perhaps they should be a little less ambitious, and transform into something a tad simpler. Like a stick.

So, as I was pondering those Transformers, something struck me. For once it was not a flying Play Mobil person, as my 3 year old was not in the same room as I. A thought struck me. Forget Bumblebee (and let us just pause to consider if a rotund, stripy insect that regularly flies into closed windows and will only sting if REALLY, REALLY bloody annoyed is the best name they could have come up with). It is parents who are the ultimate transformers, because we can transform into pretty much anything that the situation demands of us. There is no situation too sticky, too precarious, too vomit-inducing, or too snotty to resolve. Just casting my mind back to the last few months, my transformer skills have included:

– A sick bowl. Who hasn’t held their cupped hands out in front of a poorly child, who thirty seconds ago was adamant they were not going to be sick and then with the next breath starts to wretch uncontrollably? And not only do I transform into a sick bowl, I then carry this handful of vomit, warm and lumpy, with its unmistakable fragrance, across the hall to the bathroom without spilling a drop.

– A human tissue.  With absolutely no moment’s notice, pretty much any item of clothing that I am wearing can transform into a tissue. Shoulders are a particular favourite with my three year old, who takes the opportunity of being picked up to lay down a silvery trail of snot across my shoulder. I don’t know what’s worse: having snot on my shoulder or other people thinking that I let slugs walk over me.

– A domestic sat nav.  I can transform into sat nav mode at will, usually in response to the question: ‘Where’s my hoodie?’ Or ‘Have you seen my front tooth? I left it on the toilet.’ Yes, I reply. In the bedroom, past the pile of books, left of the toy chest, under the teddy. Now you have reached your destination.

– A bank. Can I have my pocket money please? Can you buy me that magazine please? Can I have that pound that was on the table? Not only do I transform into a bank, I seem to be slowly transforming into a walking overdraft whilst my son increases his wealth. On the upside, I know where he keeps it so can always borrow a couple of quid back. Not that I would ever do that. No. Hardly ever.

– A teacher. Let’s do your reading. Let’s do your spellings. Let’s do some maths. Shall we do a wordsearch? I can transform into a teacher at the drop of a reading journal. Look, it’s a split diagraph. If I buy a tin of beans at 55 pence how much change will I get from a pound? Which of these three items is heaviest? I am one interactive white board and thirteen weeks holiday away from being fully qualified, surely?

– Google. Many times a day, I transform into Google (other search engines are available, but let’s face it, they’re not as good). ‘How many cars can one factory make in a day?’ ‘How do you make glass?’ ‘Why are there holes in bagels?’ ‘What do nits look like?’ How many street lights are there in this country?’ If there is no access to actual Google, then I have carte blanche to make up the answers. So if my son ever tells you that there are holes in bagels so that knights could practise their archery, or that nits have three orange eyes and fourteen legs, you know why.

– a pack horse. Walking to school, my son merrily skips along whilst I am encumbered by a school bag, a PE kit and a tennis racket. He then makes me carry his cap, shortly followed by his jacket, and possibly his jumper. And at the weekends, it gets no better. Instead of a school bag, I get to carry a bloody great scooter instead. And if it’s not their clobber, its crap that I need to carry to cover any child-based eventuality: wipes, nappies, spare pants, cattle prod, pop-up nuclear bunker…

Optimus Prime, you are an amateur in a world of parent transformers. We laugh in the face of your pathetic attempts to transform into a lorry in an hour, whilst we change from Chef to Lego builder to nail cutter in the space of five minutes. Mr Prime, you have a lot to learn on the transforming front.

 

So, I would love to know what your particular parental transforming skill is?


My shameless attempt to swiftly back pedal into the fairy kingdom

tooth_fairy_grave

“Look me in the eye mummy. Tell me the truth. The tooth fairy is you, isn’t it?”

The world seemed to momentarily stop spinning. I felt the weight of parental responsibility bear down on me, its hot sticky breath with just a trace of day-old gin making me hold my breath. This, I knew, was a pivotal moment, one of those moments when you can triumph as a parent, showing your mettle in the face of a six year old boy who had somehow got wind of the fact that the tooth fairy, with her habit of carrying enough pound coins about her person to drown a small kitten and her ability to pass through closed windows, may not be real.

I did a lot of thinking in those few silent seconds that followed my son’s question, consisting mainly of other questions to which I had no answer. Should I lie? We all know lying is wrong, but in this instance, involving fairies and a tooth, is it actually okay to lie? If I tell the truth, will I be robbing him of the magic of childhood? Is the tooth fairy really part of the magic of childhood, or is getting a pound from your parents to put towards the new Lego Mixel actually significantly more magical? Am I just perpetuating a load of nonsense because my parents did to me, and their parents before them? If my son stops believing, does the Tooth Fairy die? Actually, I knew the answer to that one, I’m not that bloody thick.

The rational side of my brain shouts at me: “Tell him the bloody truth! Fairies? What a load of sodding twaddle.”

The single brain cell that represents the romantic side just tutted, and muttered “I never get my own way round here. I would kill you all in cold blood if only I could stop running gaily through this sunny meadow of buttercups.”

Finally, I opened my mouth and some words came out. “Yes. You’re right, the tooth fairy is me and daddy.” So let’s face it. I didn’t so much triumph as crash and burn under the laser-beam stare of a boy who got a sniff of the fact that he had been labouring under a well crafted conspiracy theory with wings for many years.

My son looks back at me, silent, with eyes wide. “Really?”

“Err… no, of course the tooth fairy is real.” Even I am embarrassed at my shameless attempt to swiftly back pedal into the fairy kingdom.

“No it isn’t,” he replies defiantly. I have given him a glimpse of the truth, and he is not letting it go now.

“No, Okay, it isn’t.”

E ponders for a bit. “So you’ve been lying to me?”

Bloody hell, this is really turning into a conversation to remember.

“Well, things like telling children about the tooth fairy isn’t technically lying. And anyway, it’s more fun to believe it is a fairy who takes your tooth and leaves a pound.” He looks sceptical under the weight of more lies.

“Of course,”  I continue unwisely, “I might be wrong. The tooth fairy may be real after all.”

My son looks a little confused. To be honest, there is so much double-bluffing and counter-briefing going on, I am a little confused myself. It is at this point that I make a mental note never to pursue a career in MI5.

E wanders off. I can’t tell if he is crestfallen at the confirmation that the tooth fairy is a great big scam cooked up by evil lying parents, or he needs a poo.

I wonder if I have done the right thing. It just felt that I had to tell the truth at the moment my son was boring holes into my face with his big, blue, innocent eyes (okay, okay, I am laying it on with a trowel in a pathetic attempt to justify myself, I know). But perhaps I have done him a disservice. I hatch a cunning plan. I decide to leave a note from the tooth fairy under his pillow. It’s a high risk strategy, given that it could either convince him the tooth fairy is alive and well or will totally confuse the hell out of him.

Just before I go to bed, I sneak into his room and slide my hand slowly under his pillow to retrieve the tooth. No tooth. Bugger, I whisper quietly, and delve further. E stirs and I freeze. I could really be doing something more useful at eleven o’ clock in the evening than this. Like going to bed. E settles, and I push my hand further in. His head lolls to one side as I am now practically lying on the bed, my entire arm engulfed by a Star Wars pillow. I roll my eyes at Chewbacca and retreat.

I call for reinforcements, but M cannot locate the sodding tooth either. Bugger this, I am knackered. I shove a quid under his pillow, dismiss all thoughts of a fairy note, and piss off to bed.

I feel a tap on my arm and I slowly open my eyes. The luminescent figures of 4:23 swim in front of my eyes. Bloody hell.

“Mummy!” E looms over me. In the grainy half- light of my bedroom, I can see him brandishing a pound coin, holding it up between his fingers in victory.

“Oh good,” I mumbled. “The tooth fairy came them.”

I could almost hear his eyes rolling as a response. “I tricked you! I put another pillow at the other end of the bed and put my tooth under that. If there was a tooth fairy, she would have known. And you didn’t. I knew there was no such thing as the tooth fairy!”

And that, dear reader, is why I shall always strive to tell my son the truth about those cultural lies we peddle simply to confuse our children and make them resort to the sort of underhand trickery that means you are completely outwitted by a six year old and that makes you look like an utter idiot

Watch out Santa. I’m coming for you…

 


Like Lego, but with less knobbly bits (or 5 reasons why I love Minecraft)

minecraft_scoll_final

I do not claim to be an expert in Minecraft. For those of you with social lives, or perhaps with kids too old to succumb to the blocky siren call of this gaming phenomenon, Minecraft is a game where you build shit, and knock shit down. It’s a bit like Lego, but with less knobbly bits and with one distinct advantage: never has a parent stepped on a bit of Minecraft in bare feet and shouted eighteen rude words in one breath, all of which basically mean ‘holy fuck that hurts’.

There are people who have expanded on my pithy definition of Minecraft, calling it a sandbox game. They refer to the fact that the game territory is a blank canvas, on which the player is only limited by his or her imagination (or that of the Minecrafter that they have just watched on YouTube). Again, Minecraft wins hands down over an actual sandbox, seeing as you don’t get sand in your gusset when playing it.

But these are not the only reasons I love Minecraft. Let me clarify: I don’t love Minecraft, with its crude, tessellating building blocks, people with cubiod heads and impossible navigation tools (eight times I tried to walk through that bloody door. It’s ridiculous). But I do love what Minecraft is teaching my 6 year old son, who is an avid fan.  I feel a list coming on…

Lesson 1: Hone your skills. E’s first attempt at a dwelling was… well, to his face I think I described it as ‘ooh, interesting…’ and after he left the room as ‘a bit shit’.  He was inordinately proud of this shabby hut, with no windows and a single bed inside. Until about three days later, when he went back, knocked in a few windows, added a huge glass extension and a rather elegant chimney. It was like watching a very cubey episode of Grand Designs unfold before my very eyes. Minecraft has taught my son that whilst practise does not always make perfect, it makes you create something much, much better that would sell for around half a million on the open market.

Lesson 2: Perfection is in the eye of the beholder. Minecraft is the perfect demonstration that the pursuit of perfection is a somewhat futile exercise. My son learned this as he returned to his des res creation after four days with fresh eyes and the experience of sitting through a really annoying nerd show off his Minecraft palaces on YouTube, and decided it was a bit rubbish. So he knocked it down and started again. To make something perfect. And yes, there is a pattern emerging here.

Lesson 3: The value of research. Watching endless videos of other Minecrafters take you on a tour of their buildings, like a crazed estate agent who has had too many Haribo, may seem like a waste of time. But in fact, this is theoretical research in action. E would never have been able to build that disco room had he not seen another Minecrafter use glow stone to such effect. And what is life without the ability to build a disco room at a moment’s notice?

Lesson 4: Beware of fire. E’s next creation was a huge timber framed house, split over four levels, with over twenty rooms, a loft conversion and a granny annexe. The floors were built of glass, under which E had created a huge lava pool. Already, this is beginning to sound like the opening scenes from an episode of Casualty, and sure enough, the next time he went to play, his lovingly created building was engulfed in flames. He pleaded with me to help, but being a Minecraft virgin, all I could do was stare helplessly at this voracious inferno. I did try and throw a tea towel over his Hudl at one point, but to no avail. Only after E had stopped sobbing, many, many, many minutes after the remaining annexe was swallowed up by pixellated flames, did two lessons get learned. One: don’t play (or build) with lava. Two: timber-framed houses are just bloody asking for trouble.

Lesson 5: If you can’t loop the loop an obstacle, build a slide instead. “I’m going to build a loop-the-loop roller coaster,” E announces as he settles down with Minecraft. I leave him to it and return half an hour later to check on progress. “I can’t do it,” he says glumly. “I don’t know how.” I say something profound and not at all annoying, like ‘ just keep trying’ and disappear.  Some time later, I ask him how it’s going. He informs me that despite many attempts, he could not get the roller coaster to loop the loop. “So I built a really long slide, instead.” And there you have it: the answer to pretty much all of life’s problems: a really long slide.


Eating. Farting. Laughing. Shouting. Jumping. Fighting. Running. Shouting.

KerpowEating. Farting. Laughing. Shouting. Jumping. Fighting. Running. Shouting.  Life with two small boys, summed up in eight short words. And yes, I do know that the list has two occurrences of shouting. That’s because they do a lot of it. In fact, probably twice as much as they should.

I am not about to embark on a character assassination of boys. After all, I married one and then gave birth to two (not simultaneously, I hasten to add). But I do often ponder about a family of male offspring, usually when a mother of girls makes a snarky comment about boys being a bit retarded and way too noisy. “Oh, sometimes they can be delightful,” I reply loudly over the bloodcurdling yells of my children, trying not to notice them in my peripheral vision, one seemingly wiping a bogey on his sleeve whilst the other jumps up and down with his tongue out. “Really… delightful,” I add and slink away to hang out with mums of boys who think nothing of having a fifteen minute conversation about the colours of light sabres and blowing off. And curiously, these two topics of conversation are not as mutually exclusive as you may think.

And of course, let’s get the farting out of the way quickly. They love blowing off. They love hearing someone else blow off. They love talking about blowing off. It is all HIL. AIR. I. OUS. Enough said, I think.

We should probably get the whole volume thing out of the way as well. I know some parents who have the two-pronged Indoor Voice / Outdoor Voice rule. Whereas our family has a single guideline for speaking: it’s the Standing on Top of a Mountain and Trying to Get the Attention of Someone Standing Way Down Below rule. It’s much simpler to remember, I find. And I really don’t mind the noise my children make. They are boys: and like many other boys throughout the ages who have expelled decibels from their mouths like their very life depended on it, they are bloody noisy. I find this simple scientific equation sums it up quite nicely: E + T = V (energy plus testosterone equals volume). No, I don’t mind at all. Just so long as I can sneak off into another room and pop my headphones in, they can whoop and holler ’til the cows come home. Or the neighbours pop round.

But my boys do seem to have an issue when it comes to understanding the function of some objects. They see the sofa as a trampoline. They see cutlery as drum sticks. They see cereal bowls as formal headwear. My dressing gown belt is a laser beam, whilst a plastic hanger is a bow and arrow. A tin of beans is a bowling ball and dried pasta is suddenly confetti. Toilet roll becomes bandages, sticks become rifles and socks are close-combat missiles. They seem a tad confused, but not as confused as I, who return to the kitchen after five minutes’ absence  to find the floor covered in pasta, socks, an assortment of hangers and two boys writhing around in the middle of it all, hooting with laughter and bashing each other round the head with swords. Which are in fact an empty kitchen roll tubes.

As most mothers of boys would agree, living with boys is not too dissimilar to owning dogs. The only things you have to ask daily, without fail, are: Have they had their exercise? Have they had enough to eat? Have they had a poo? And Have you given them a quick tickle and a stroke? And if you can answer in the affirmative to these four questions by bedtime, you are pretty much ROCKING IT as a mother of boys.

My friend related a conversation to me from a recent party she attended
, where a mother of a girl stated quite matter-of-factly that she was worried about her daughter starting school, as being with boys would damage her daughter’s  (unsurprisingly highly developed and sophisticated) intellect. The word ‘bollocks’ springs to mind at this juncture. It is true, much of education lends itself to what I consider to be attributes mainly held by girls: listening and sitting still. And I have to admit, my 6 year old will not win any listening prizes any time soon (unless the competition involves me standing fifty foot away from him and whispering ‘do you want some chocolate?’, in which case he would wipe the floor with everyone else and return home victorious). And when I read with him, it is like watching a ferret trying to stand still on hot coals whilst someone tickles his sphincter. Yet he learns with the best of them…even the girls. And let’s face it, school is only one aspect of their education. My sons are also schooled in the ways of the ninja. They know twenty-three different sound effects for a gun. And they can empty their plate of food before you’ve had time to season yours with pepper. All of which is an exhilarating and exhausting blend of joy and insanity.

So, to Boy-Hating Mother I simply say: SMELL MY BLOW OFF.


Superman Pants and a Play Mobil Cowboy

potty_cowboy

“Ouch.” I have been stubbing my toe on this bloody potty for months. I watch with a frown as it skitters across the bathroom floor and comes to rest by the shower. I wouldn’t mind, but the only thing that potty has had in it is dust. Oh, and a Play Mobil cowboy. He got lost on the way to the Sherriff’s office, apparently.

I have many strengths as a parent. There’s… well, nothing comes to mind right now, but I’m sure there’s something. However, I am confident in saying that potty training is not one of them. Just the thought of it makes me grit my teeth, stick my fingers in my ears and sing ‘LA LA LA LA’ very loudly. Oh, there you go, there’s one of my strengths: the ability to pretend stuff isn’t happening. Is that the sound of a huge boxful of Lego being tipped onto the lounge floor? Yes. So I will just ignore it. Is that the frenzied yelps of one son terrorising the other with a light sabre? Yes. What yelps?

You see, I have already been on the potty training roller coaster once. You know the one. It looks scary from a distance, looks even worse when you get close, it is full of ups and downs, you can’t seem to bloody well get off of it once you’re on and everyone’s socks end up getting wet. Or maybe that last one is just me?

I would like to claim full credit for potty training my eldest son, but really, I feel it only fair to give E’s nursery the majority of the credit as they did all the hard work, mostly as they got fed up waiting for me to do it. I am not a complete shirker: I did try. I remember one particularly enjoyable time when I sat on the edge of the bath whilst E was on the toilet, reading him book after book, waiting for him to wee. Just one drop of the yellow stuff needed to exit his willy and splash into the bowl, and that would have technically qualified as a success. I waited and read. Waited and read. Just one drop. Is that too much to ask? Slowly, my bum turned numb but I pushed through the discomfort barrier as the pile of books by my feet grew ever taller. I could have read him the entire Harry Potter series in the time we were in that sodding bathroom. Finally, I could stand it no more and lifted E off the toilet. The moment his feet touched the floor a huge stream of wee erupted.  My will to live dribbled out of me and joined the puddle of piss on the floor.

So, I am heeding the advice of waiting until my youngest is ready before we attempt to get him out of nappies. The trouble is, I am not sure he will ever be ready. When asked about whether he wants to wear big boy pants and wee in the toilet, his reply is: “Yes. Tomorrow.” And so we have gently introduced him to the world of potty training paraphernalia. We have tempted him with pants on which Superman is emblazoned. We have shown him the Thomas the Tank Engine training seat. We have left the potty in the bathroom for me to repeatedly stub my toe on. But nothing. Not an inkling of interest.

We did get close, once. I asked B at bath time if he would like to try on the Superman pants and he readily agreed. I casually reached for a pair as I fist-bumped myself on the inside (not easy to do without looking slightly demented and injuring a major organ). He stepped into the pants and I started to pull them up. As they reached his knees, he started to scream. Just in case the scream was unrelated to the whole trying-on-the-pants situation, I edged them up a bit further. The screaming escalated and I reluctantly removed the pants. Bugger. He obviously isn’t ready to have a superhero wrapped over his genitals. Honestly, he doesn’t know what he’s missing.

I patiently explained what the potty was for, once I had removed the cowboy and most of the dust. B looked at the potty, then at me, and let out a rip-roaring laugh. I probably found this a little less amusing than him. When he had calmed down sufficiently that he was not bent double with mirth, I asked him if he wanted to try and sit on the potty.

“Yes,” he replied with a solemn nod. “Tomorrow.”

So, not the potty then. Let’s move right on to the training seat. Look, it’s got Thomas on it. And a track that you put your bottom on. B looks suspicious. I smile at him. Look, I can just pop it on the toilet seat… and you sit on it. Easy. B narrows his eyes slightly. I persevere. And then you just poke your willy down, and you can have a wee!

“Poke my willy!” he shouts and laughs excitedly. Again, I am a tad less hysterically amused about this than he appears to be.

I remove the training seat from the toilet and return it to its resting place behind the door with a sigh.

“Maybe we can try again later?” I ask.

B wanders off, disinterested. I watch him go. I will try again later, I promise myself. Well, when I say later, I mean at some point soon. And when I say soon, I mean probably not today. I then decide to take a leaf out of my son’s book. I will definitely try again. Tomorrow.

 


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