Monthly Archives: October 2011

The last word

I sense a presence close by and open my eyes. In the half light, I see E standing above  me. I shift my gaze to the clock radio: fuck. 5.10am. No way. I haul myself out of bed and ignoring E’s protestations, I shepherd him back into bed. I refuse to entertain the idea that my day begins now, when it is still dark, there is no traffic on the roads and the time starts with a five.

It is clear that he is a fully paid up member of the wide awake club, so utilising a tactic that worked for M the last time E got up at ridiculous ‘o’ clock,  I get into his bed with him. I wedge myself up against the wall and try in vain to cover both of us in robot duvet. I can feel my feet exposed to the air and try to clench my buttocks so they are not quite so in contact with the cold wall. Super.

M and I have always had a rule: E is not allowed to sleep in our bed. All through the sleepless baby nights, we stuck fast to this, mindful that it only takes one incidence to create a habit for a toddler.  I learnt this to my cost one evening, trying to help him fall asleep – I held his hand and stroked it, only for it to take three weeks for him to bloody stop asking me to repeat the gesture. But now, as with every parental principle, the ‘no sleep in our bed’ rule it is at the mercy of interpretation. It has become a tad more elastic, shall we say.  The rule suddenly comes with caveats. He still does not go to sleep in our bed, nor sleep all night in our bed. But if it is 6am, he can now crawl in, as we are way too tired to do anything more constructive with him. I am anticipating that the 6am rule will be incrementally revised as we get more tired, so that soon he will be allowed in at 5am, then by the time he is four will be dispensing with his bed entirely. But for now, it is time for him to be in his own room.

“Right, it is still night time. I want you to lie still, be very quiet and go back to sleep,” I say sternly, laying down what I think are some very clear guidelines for the whole two-in-a-bed scenario. However, it become quickly apparent that what he actually hears is: ” Right, I want you to lie there and wriggle as much as possible, whilst slowly pushing mummy off this small pillow using only your forehead until the back of my head is squashed against the wall. And talk in a stage whisper so loud that it would be quieter to shout.”

Which is precisely what happens for the next fifty minutes.

It quickly becomes apparent that hell will freeze over (or at least my feet and arse will) before he goes back to sleep, but I am curiously reluctant to give up on this strategy just yet. I am nothing if not behaviourally inflexible at this time of the morning. Sorry, at this time of the sodding night.

“I want to go your side, mummy,” E whines. Oh god, not the whining. Anything but the bloody whining.

“No E, you sleep your side, this is my side.” Technically, I have less of a side, more of a slither, but it’s too early for the pedant in me to make a fuss.

“Mummy, I want to go your side,” he repeats, ratcheting up the whining as he goes. My teeth are already clenched in utter irritation.

“Stop. Whining. Please.” I hiss, which prompts further whining regarding the suddenly highly unsatisfactory side of the bed that he has the misfortune to currently inhabit. There is nothing on this earth designed to make me run out of patience quicker than whining. Although to be fair, having been awake since just gone five, I would hardly call my reserves of patience abundant in the first place.

“Look. I am staying on this side. If you keep whining, I will go back to my bed and leave you here. Alone.”

Ah, deployment of the ineffectual ultimatum so early in proceedings. I must be tired and emotional.

E falls silent, but the silence is not comforting. It has the unmistakable feel of simply being a pause in proceedings. Sure enough, E then starts to clamber onto me to at least join me in the nirvana that is the left side of the bed.

I start to tell him to get off me, but a palm pushed into my cheek as he climbs puts quite an effective end to my request as my face is squashed firmly into the pillow. So then E is lying draped on top of me, whilst I am captive underneath, lying on my side.

“Get off now,” I order.

“I want this side,” he replies.

“How can I move with you on top of me?” I ask out of the side of my mouth that is not stuffed with pillow, wincing as his titanium tipped toe nails scratch through my pyjama trousers and down my thigh. I am trying hard not to swear, but it is a Herculean effort. I attempt to tip him back to his side, not so aggressively that he rolls right out of bed and onto the floor (although I reserve the right to attempt this later) but he clings like a bloody limpet in a storm. I’d cry, but quite frankly, I am too fucking tired.

“I want this side.”

“Stop it.”

“I want this side.”

“Stop it.”

I am stuck.

Stuck under my son, jammed up against the wall. And stuck in this pointless, life-draining conversation (actually, conversation is rather too kind a word to describe the mono-syllabic exchange that I am engaged in), too tired to change tack, too irritated and far too bloody minded to not have the last word.

E’s arm dangles down my chest and his fingers find my boob. He gives my nipple a hard squeeze.

“Beep!” he yells.

And there it is. The last word.

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Sick and tired

E and I are doing bath time, which passes with only minor splashing incidents and one near-fatal loss of a Play Mobil diver’s helmet down the plug hole.

E obviously decides that this is not enough excitement for one day and whilst I am trying to dry him on the change unit, he starts to pummel me with his legs. As much as I love having my ribs broken by my son, I decide that I can do without this much chest pain, and tell him in no uncertain terms to stop. Which he duly ignores. I tell him to stop again. He continues to kick me. After a couple more iterations, I am incredibly pissed off and distinctly out of patience, deciding the more direct action of clamping my arm over his legs is the solution.

This does work, but I soon realise that we have reached an impasse, as I cannot get him into his pyjamas whilst he is in a leg lock and both my arms are being used as restrainers. I consider my options, trying to ignore his repeated yells of “get off my legs, mummy!” God that boy has a fog horn on him, as my father would say. So now employing elbows, torso and briefly my forehead on his tummy (bringing my nose briefly into contact with his willy, which I fear transgresses the line of motherly duty under any circumstance) I restrain him sufficiently whilst affixing a haphazard nappy. I am starting to sweat now. I thought bedtime was supposed to be a time for calm? I could cut my own arm off without flinching, the amount of adrenaline I have pumping round my body at this exact moment in time.

Finally, somehow, in a blaze of yelling and limb-grabbing, his pyjamas are on. I am exhausted. And furious. Before E, I had never experienced those two emotions together. Either I was exhausted (‘god, that late night is really catching up with me’) or furious (‘and then she had the nerve to ask for a replacement hamster’) but not both. Now, it happens all the time, this state of exhuriousness. A fragile calm settles in the bedroom and he drinks his milk as I read him two stories – minus the funny voices. There are no funny voices for naughty boys.

E climbs into bed in preparation for his final story, told by me or M with the lights out, sitting next to his bed. He gets to choose the topic or the characters, and we have to ad lib a suitable story. It’s like a third rate bloody Jackanory without the comfortable chair. I simply love it, it is just the thing I want to tax my battered brain with at seven ‘o’ clock at night when I am totally knackered, have dealt with multiple boy-strops, have a shit load of things still to do and just want a bloody glass of wine for crying out loud.

“So what do you want in your story?” I ask.

“Sandy, Brandy, Rosie…” E pauses. Pops’ three dogs make it onto the request list most nights, so I have quite a range of crappy dog based adventures up my sleeve.

“… and snow.”

Fine, snow it is. I start the story, but no more than a minute in, E shouts: “No! Not snow!” I carry on regardless (story rule number 4c: no request retraction allowed) but he repeats himself in an ever-louder voice until we are both almost shouting to be heard over one another. Eventually I stop, mostly out of concern that the neighbours can hear me ranting about three talking dogs and a magical snowman with conkers for eyes (well, who has coal to hand in the middle of the bloody forest?) and will shortly request to have me sectioned. I give him a final warning to be quiet, which he ignores, so I leave the room with a cursory, gritted-teeth ‘goodnight’.

E is immediately out of his bed and out the door, at which point I usher him firmly back. And then again. And then for a third time.  And possibly a fourth, I am not sure as I am so pissed off I can’t see properly, let alone count.

So I bring out the big guns: the threat of locking his bedroom door. Now, his door does not actually lock. I know that. The door knows that. Luckily, E doesn’t, and long may his ignorance remain. This always works an absolute treat to keep him bed-bound long enough for him to fall asleep. But tonight, of course, it doesn’t work. He reappears at the bedroom door.

“Right, that is IT,” I shout, my last atom of patience dribbling out my arse as I carry him back to bed, leave the room and shut the door behind me.

A plaintive crying starts up and E rattles the door knob furiously. I hold the other side, wondering if this actually constitutes child cruelty – he sounds so upset. Nah. If I had rigged an electrical current to the knob, then maybe. This is simply a containment strategy. Although that thought does makes me feel like I am dealing with a bucking bronco. Actually, given the bashing my ribs took, it’s probably a fair assessment. I do feel awful, holding the door shut, but not yet awful enough to desist.

It is then, as I am just pondering how long we are going to keep up this knob-struggle, that I hear it. The unmistakable sound of vomit hitting carpet at high velocity.

I immediately open the door to see E, strings of puke dangling from his bottom lip, looking forlornly at the large pool of sick in front of him. As I frantically look for a mussie cloth in the drawers and on the shelves to mop it up, I try not to think that this is an act of revenge. Lock me in my room, will you bitch? Take that…huuuurrrrlll.

Where are all the fucking mussies? I ransack the change unit in a panic. A year ago, I could stick my hand out whilst standing anywhere in the house and hit the mussie jackpot. But can I find one now? I then realise that the sick might only be phase one of a vomit tsunami, so I abandon my search for a cloth and frantically start to try and locate the sick bowl under the bed, throwing strained and unenthusiastic placations over my shoulder to E, who is still rooted to the spot.

Locating the bowl amongst the dust and an array of small cars, a plastic giraffe and the obligatory piece of Lego, I place it next to E, who is still utterly silent. Now I turn my attentions back to the puddle of sick before it sinks into the carpet completely. I run to the bathroom for a mussie substitute. There is nothing. Loo roll? No, that’ll never work. Can I scrape it up with his bath tractor? Or maybe one of the stacking cups? Wait. I grab his flannel, dampen it, and run back.  I start to try and scrape the vomit together. Stop. Corralling a pool of sick with a damp flannel is never going to work. I fly downstairs with a shout of “don’t move!” to E, despite the fact his has scarcely blinked since this whole episode began.

I grab a spoon from the drainer and pelt back upstairs. I am hot, sweating, furious and exhausted – sorry, in a state of exhuriousness – and as I kneel in front of him scraping sick off the carpet with the spoon and dumping it into the sick bowl, am now harbouring a small thought that E could puke on the back of my head at any moment.

After some time elapses, a small voice pipes up: “Mummy, I have sick on my feet.”

I look up and sure enough, E’s feet are swathed in lumpy vomit, which does go some way to explain why his hasn’t moved an inch. Mind you, this is useful information: the next time E won’t stand still to have his teeth cleaned, all I need to do is smear his feet in sick and hey presto.

I crawl toward him, only slightly bothered by the fact that the knees of my jeans are now soaked with puke-smelling carpet juice and I wipe his feet clean. He brightens up considerably at this juncture. Noticing that there are sick splatters all the way up the toy box, I sigh and go to the bathroom to rinse the flannel to clean it up. On my return, E is sitting in the chair. I am aware of the large distance that is now between him and the sick bowl and it is making me slightly apprehensive.

“I’m sitting in the chair, mummy,” he informs me. “But I am not going to be sick.”

I am not quite sure why this last comment makes me feel like quite such a bitch, but it does. I am not sure I entirely trust him not to puke again as a final act of revenge for me being such a nasty, door-locking mummy.

Mind you, I’m not the one who is going to have to use that flannel in the morning.


Mmmmm… fish eyes

We are at the seaside for the weekend. E and I are in the harbour to buy some fish for lunch. E peers up to the fish stall, coming eye to eye with a rather large, slack-jawed sea bream.

“Look, fish!” he exclaims and reaches out a finger to touch it. I busy myself with buying some salmon, and when I look down he is repeatedly rubbing his finger over the fish’s glassy eye. My top lip curls with involuntary disgust.

Purchase made, we leave the market.

“Carry me, mummy.”

I sigh. “No, walk please, poppet.”

He stops dead. “Carry me mummy. Please.”

I weigh up the options:

a) a long and drawn out negotiation about him walking, ending up in him sitting on the floor in the middle of a bustling harbour with tourists stepping around him with barely concealed irritation,

b) slap him round the chops with a wet salmon for being lazy and disobedient, or

c) carry him and get back to the house before sun down.

Whilst the salmon option proves highly tempting, I reluctantly leave our lunch in the carrier bag and pick him up. He immediately pops his finger into my mouth and wiggles it around. Christ on a bike, what is that hideous taste? And then I remember. Mmmm. Fish eyes. This day just keeps getting better.


R/FxPC=IP

Laura Slinn

Sometimes, I am astounded that there are actually any human beings left on this planet.

Many times in a day, I ponder the activity that E is currently engaged in and I can’t help but play a future scene in my head, involving one or other of the emergency services or medical professionals.

Ambulance man, crouched over my prostrate son:”So, Mrs N, let’s run though this again, shall we?”

“Well, you see, what happened was… well. E was scooting round the dining room at high speed and must have mis-steered, and he cracked his head open on the corner of the table and sort of fell over. I guess…”

“You guess?”

“Yes, well, I was in the next room.”

“The next room?”

“Yes. Well… no. I was upstairs.”

“This is not getting any better, Mrs N.”

“No. So probably best not to mention that was actually in the shower singing along to the radio?”

“No, probably not.”

“Right-o.”

The Casualty doctor: “Tell me, how did E come to dislocate his shoulder?”

“Well, my husband was just swinging him around… and then…”

“Yes?”

“Well, it must have happened then…”

“Ellis was being swung round…by his hands?”

“Sort of.”

“Sort of?”

“Well, by one hand, if I must be precise.”

“Have you heard of Social Services?”

Policeman, pen poised above notebook: “So, just talk me though this again, Mrs N.”

“Well, E was by the sea defence wall throwing stones. And he sort of…toppled in…”

“To the freezing cold sea?”

“Well, it wasn’t actually, technically, freezing, to be fair.”

“And Mr N was?”

“Erm…collecting large stones to throw into the sea.”

“Right. And you were?”

“Ahem. Building sand castles.”

“Sand castles.”

“For E to knock down.”

“Fifteen foot away from your son.”

“You make it sound a long way…”

None of these scenarios have actually happened. But some of them very, very nearly, heart-stoppingly, sphinter-looseningly have, proving that every few minutes, E’s wellbeing spins on the flip of a coin. Scoot right past the kitchen table or smash his head into the edge? Sit on the arm of the sofa then get down, or fall backwards and knock himself out? Jump off the garden bench and kick the football, or stumble awkwardly and break a leg? Hold him down in a torso-lock out of sheer desperation to try and get him in the bloody car seat whilst he is mid-tantrum and succeed, or accidentally break one of his ribs and then try and claim he tripped over a squirrel?

Having a child seems to be a constant recalculation of risk versus freedom. It’s a tricky equation and I am pretty crap at mental arithmetic at the best of times but I reckon it goes something like this:

R / F x PC = IP – Risk divided by Freedom multiplied by Parental Competency equals the Injury Potential.

You just can’t be there doing what you feel you should to prevent the coin flipping the other way. Sometimes, you can foresee the potential risk. Blimey, sometimes, I can see it playing out in my head in glorious Technicolour with full squelchy sound effects and state-of-the-art CGI. He reaches up to the kitchen surface to get a piece of cheese and knocks the knife off, which plummets into his foot. Oh no, it’s okay, look…it has actually fallen on my foot instead. But foreseeing it doesn’t mean you act on it. After all, stuff gets in the way, like making cheese on toast, or finishing that phone call, or PA (which stands for Parental Apathy, but you don’t get to do that equation that until the advanced class).

So what do I do about the risks that could befall my precious son? At best,  I calculate it, cross my fingers, shrug my shoulders and hope for the best. Who’d have thought that I would have ended up with the same approach to parenting as I have to maths?


Hats off to you… no, really, take that hat off now

laura slinn

I am coming out of nursery as a little toddler is entering. He is wearing quite the most ridiculous hat I have ever seen and I am transfixed. In fact, I am not sure the term ‘hat’ really covers it. It is absolutely huge, vaguely spherical in form and predominantly orange with black stripes. And ears. Oh, I get it – a tiger. But christ, it’s got long, black sodding whiskers poking out of the front, for crying out loud. I am somewhat mesmerised and more than a little appalled.

Now, I am the first to admit that I have a bit of an issue with some kids’ clothes. Actually, that may be an understatement. Some clothes designed for babies and toddlers make me want to violently vomit, but not before I have poked the eyes out of the adult responsible.

It is true, I am fussy… or perhaps just have a modicum of sartorial common sense, depending on your view of how ridiculous you want your offspring to look. I don’t like anything with ears on. We already have a pair of ears on the side of our head, why would anyone need to sport a further, redundant pair? You never see a pair of trousers with another two legs sewn in, flapping wildly in the breeze.  So what is this horrific compunction of hats and hoods with sodding ears on? Just bloody stop it.

And I vehemently dislike  any item of kids’ clothing that is overly fluffy or furry. I know what clothes like this are trying to do, they are trying to make your baby or small child seem like a pet. And whilst babies may sleep in baskets and need toilet training, that is where the similarity ends. I don’t like garments with ‘cute’ animals on, because they are invariably not cute and more often than not involve a disgusting palette of pastel colours. I am positively allergic to any item of clothing that implores you to demonstrate love for the unfortunate wearer (‘Cuddle me!’ ‘Hugs please!’). And I can barely bring myself to even think about those hilarious slogans that deface otherwise quite wearable tops that make an oh-so-witty remark about its owner: ‘Look out, I’m trouble!’ ‘Cheeky Monkey!’ ‘I’m momma’s little hell raiser’. No you’re not, you are just a child with a parent whose friends have no taste in presents. ‘I’m so cute!’ No, you are not so cute, you are so un-cute your parents felt it a necessity to put you in that ridiculous tee shirt to make themselves feel better about the fact you are so damn ugly. When E was first born, he did receive one item of clothing as a present that nearly achieved the Awful Present Bingo full house: a furry jumper, with ears and a cutsie-wutsie embroidered teddy bear on the front. In pastel blue. It nearly brought me out in hives just unwrapping it, so I opened the bottom drawer of E’s tallboy with my foot, dropped the heinous jumper in and sealed the drawer with crime scene tape.

So I shudder involuntarily at the tiger-hatted toddler, and then I see his older brother who is following behind. Holy shit. His head gear is simpler in execution, but significantly more alarming.  It is a furry brown hat that wraps around his head. Sprouting from the top are two, pink, furry ears. Now already I feel nauseous: pink and furry: right there is my axis of evil. But rather than being perky, upright ears, they lay limply on the hat, flopping reluctantly as he moves. Whichever way I look at them, and believe you me, I cannot take my eyes off this milliner’s monstrosity, they look just like a pair of flaccid penises. Or should that be penii? To be fair, and without wishing to sound like I have lived a sheltered life, I have only had to deal with penises in the singular at any one time up until this juncture, so I am not quite sure of the grammatically correct way to describe a pair. Never before have I encountered a hat so in need of a dose of Viagra… it the worst case of erectile dysfunction I have ever seen. As he passes me, I steal a final glance over my shoulder. No, they still look exactly like limp willies from that angle too.

So in one fell swoop, the comedy hat brothers have arrived. A huge, ginger be-whiskered tiger and a floppy cock head. Then comes the mother. She is not wearing a hat; just a ludicrous smile that seems to say ‘I know, look how impossibly cute and simultaneously amusing my boys look’ but should say ‘I am on medication, please don’t leave me in charge of the coat rack in the mornings’.


Stop with the questions. No. Really.

“Who put buttons on my trousers?” E asks.

“The people who  made them, sweetie.”

“Who that?”

“Err… do you want a drink?” (Conversation Diversionary Tactic Number 23).

“No. Who put buttons on my trousers?”

Please stop asking questions. I know you are curious about the world around you and everything is new and marvellous and thought-provoking and wonderful and amazing and strange, but please. I am tired, my brain aches and I am fed up of being the human manifestation of Google; it is exhausting. Just half an hour of no questions would be lovely.

A short while later: “What do chickens eat?”

Stop now.

A short while after that: “Where does bread grow?”

No really. Stop. My head hurts and I am not sure I can explain the manufacturing process of a loaf of bread in words of less than two syllables without starting to cry.

Sometime later: “Mummy. Why does dust float?”

Okay. Any more bloody questions and I will lock you in the shed.

Finally: “Why is it dark in the forest?”

That’s it. In the shed now.


Mummy, someone is splashing me

Laura Slinn

Another swimming lesson. Oh goodie, I can hardly contain my joy… whoops, there it goes, dribbling out of my arse. All joy now uncontained and lying in a puddle by my feet.

I am informed by the scrawny swim coach (who I still think should be out doing stoppies on his BMX rather than be actually employed at such a tender age) that it is assessment day. Seeing as we have only been to three lessons, I am not that interested, but he does inform me that E can get a certificate for attendance. If I pay £1.50. Brilliant. That, if ever there was, is the wooden spoon award. I am sure if I held up that particular certificate to the light the watermark would read ‘patronising guff’.

 

So we pretty much do our own thing whilst the other mothers try valiantly to get their offspring to execute an improbable 180 degree turn on their woggle without a helping hand. I watch one mother surreptitiously support the woggle from under the water, lips pursed with the effort of trying to look nonchalant as she tries to rotate her somewhat static daughter in the water. They swiftly move on to getting the kids to jump off the side, involving one mother tugging imploringly at her son’s ankles as he resolutely will not jump in.  I am suddenly enjoying this lesson much, much more.

And without the structure of actual exercises and instructions to make E incalcitrant and grumpy, we have a much better lesson. Ellis only asks once if he can get out and only threatens to cry twice and I divert any major tantrums with the threatened withdrawal of the post-swim biscuit, which works a treat thank god, as quite frankly, the only thing that is keeping me going at this precise moment in time is the thought of some frivolous, biscuit-based calorie consumption. So swimming is an absolute success, all things considered.

We are making our way across the pool, E happily installed on his float. He is kicking his legs ferociously, which is pretty much a first and I am stunned into silence. Then his face starts to crumple, and a frown appears. “Mummy, someone is splashing me,” he moans, twisting round to see the evil perpetrator. I hide a laugh.

“Yes, darling, it’s you,” Ah. My son the genius.