Monthly Archives: November 2011

Has mummy got a willy?

E is in the bath, making the most of his remaining bath-play time as the water drains away. He starts to play with his willy, a broad grin on his face, flicking and pulling. I ask him not to do this, but I am not entirely sure why. I can sense that am lacking in sincerity as I say it. Part of me feels that I should tell him to stop, but quite frankly,  it’s all natural, isn’t it? And well, boys and their willies… there’s something of the genetic imperative about a good fumble of your own tackle, isn’t there?

And this is by no means a recently developed fascination. A good few months ago, E and I were sitting in the kitchen whilst he had his post-nursery snack.

“Has mummy got a willy?” he asked as he bit into a piece of banana.

“No, sweetie, only boys have willies. You have a willy, daddy has a willy…” I fear this explanation could go on for some time. “… every boy as a willy.”

“My friend at nursery has a willy,” E comments. I assume he has concluded this by means of deductive reasoning rather than actually being witness to his friend’s private parts, but knowing the friend in question, I couldn’t rule anything out.

“Yes, poppet. Boys have willies. Girls don’t have willies.” Oh shit, why did I have to bring girls into the conversation? Please, please don’t ask what girls have instead of a willy. The word ‘willy’ seems so toddler friendly. Not too technical, not too childish, and pretty universal. I have no desire to rename his willy with some ridiculous baby-speak, implying that his willy is something akin to Lord Voldemort, whose name must never be uttered for fear of death by dark magic. I have never been tempted to refer to it as a ‘pinkie winkie’, or a ‘winky-winker’ or a ‘nobby nibbler’ or some such other ridiculous name that could be a character from The Night Garden (‘Oh look, Nobby Nibbler is taking a ride on the Pinky Ponk. What fun! Wave to Nobby Nibbler, everyone!’). Yet nor does it feel quite right to go straight for the linguistic jugular and refer to it as a ‘penis’.

But girls bits? That’s a whole new ball game. Sorry, that should probably be hole game. There seems to be no consensus amongst friends who have girls and a quick dip into that soup of mis-information we like to call the internet throws up a startling  range of options, including such delights as froo-froo, hoo-ha and tinker. Froo-froo? Who the hell thought that one up? It conjures up images of a vagina framed with lacy pink frills and satin bows, perhaps with a bit of soft lighting and inoffensive music playing gently in the background. It is making me feel queasy. And hoo-ha? Cue posh voice, exclaiming: “By Jove! There’s been a bit of a hoo-ha, don’t you know!” And the dictionary definition of hoo-ha? A fuss or disturbance. I think that is all we need to know to ensure we do not call our vaginas a ‘hoo-ha’. That’s not to say that it couldn’t be involved´ in a hoo-ah, but that’s another story altogether…

By the time I look again, E had reached further back and is giving his balls a good old scratch, before moving further back still.  “What are you doing?” I enquire. “I’m sticking my finger up my bottom,” he replies matter of factly.

Oh. Right. I believe that is what is called in the trade a good old-fashioned conversation stopper. Now please wash your hands.

Unexpected tantrum in the bagging area

Ah, the supermarket. That testing ground of parental competence. I only have three things to get, but as soon as I pick up the first, E runs off. I walk briskly after him, calling him to come back without trying to alert my fellow shoppers that there is an unruly child and ineffectual parent on the loose. But he takes no notice whatsoever, so I resort to shepherding him from a distance into the aisle that I need. I feel like an amateur contestant on One Man and his Dog. Or is that One Mum and her Sprog? Sweating with the stress, I pick up my last required item before E puts on a spurt of steam and disappears round a corner. Immediately, my heart is racing and I rush to get him back in my sightline. Thank fuck, there he is.

I grab his hand, the abduction scenario narrowly averted. Okay, perhaps it wasn’t a narrow aversion. The aisle E absconded to contains one elderly man pondering the relative merits of tomato or minestrone as soup of choice, a mother with a sickeningly well behaved child who is not trying to escape every time she turned her gaze shelf-ward and a middle aged bloke with a basket full of bread products and milk (perhaps he is a professional hedgehog feeder). None of them a particularly obvious weirdo but I never underestimate the evil potential of a minestrone soup eater.

I reach to the shelf for something, and E is off again. I call to him in my best public-mummy voice. This is a complicated one to perfect, what with it being a blend of warm, maternal engagement, a dash of strictness to emphasise that I am a Mother In Control and a smattering of fun, lest someone think I am a mardy old bitch. I am trying hard not to grit my teeth as I speak.

E stops about ten foot away and turns to face me. “Come here sweetie,” I call gaily, whilst fixing him with my hardest, unblinking stare in an attempt to make clear the subtext of my words: if you do into come here now, I will throw you in the carrier bag recycling unit.

He smiles and runs off. Okay, I am officially teetering on the brink of losing my temper. I have never done this in public, and the thought of the shame and the looks of disgust from onlookers (along with the other mothers looking on and making silent judgments about my poor parenting skills, whilst secretly being fucking relieved it’s not them) makes me take a small step back from the crumbling edifice that is my patience.

I have no choice now but to break into a run to catch him, otherwise in a few seconds he will be out of sight again and into the ready meal aisle, and if there is ever a place where abductors are likely to be found, it is surely in that hallowed ground of abundant saturated fat and colossal salt intake. I scoop him up in my free arm and march to the tills. E is shouting at me to let him go and flailing wildly. He is gradually slipping out of my grip, and before we reach the crisps his feet are nearly trailing on the floor, his belly is on display to all and sundry and my arm is basically around his neck. I hitch him back up and try not to think about the sweat that I can feel is trickling down my left temple or the people who must be staring at me, wrestling with my yelling, puce-faced child. Thankfully, there is a self serve till free and I rush toward it. Now I am confronted by the logistical problem of actually being one arm short of being able to scan the items, bag them and hold onto a wriggling, shouting toddler. I attempt to start to swipe a cucumber through the till, but it is no good. I am half expecting the automated voice to announce: “Unexpected tantrum in the bagging area. Please seek assistance.” It is at this point I discover an entirely new manoeuvre: the thigh lock. I shove E between my legs and clamp him tight between my thighs, under his arms. This, he does not like. This, I like very much. E continues to make his displeasure known, but I ignore both him and the stares of the self-serve assistant who hovers nearby. Finally, I complete the payment and I pick E up like a short roll of carpet and head purposefully out the door.

Now screaming about the injustice of not being given a go on Bob the Builder which I tell him is not plugged in as I carry him past it, I wrestle E into his car seat. His tears plop forlornly onto his tee shirt as I drip sweat onto his trousers. I want to berate him for his behaviour but I am so angry I appear to have forgot how to formulate speech. No doubt provoked by my silence, he ratchets his wailing up a notch or two. It is at this point that my brain seems to make a decision. It can either instruct me to match his anger, which would probably mean me slamming the car door shut and walking home alone, or to not lose the plot and do something else instead. So I become really, really calm. Two seconds ago, I could have screamed until my tongue fell out, but faced with pretty much no other option, I regain utter composure. I calmly walk round to the driver’s side and get in.

“I think we’ll listen to mummy’s songs today, shall we?” I say in a happy voice over the shouting, as I turn on the radio. I fear that one hint of Incey Wincey Spider may propel me back into tongue-falling out territory.  We drive home, E still crying and shouting, me ‘tra-la-la-ing’ along to the radio with all the forced gaiety and barely concealed bitterness of a CBeebies presenter.

As we reach home, I try not to think about the impending ‘get child from car to house’ battle in which I am about to engage, nor the refusal of E to move away from the fridge so I can shut the bloody door, nor his insistence that he must drink a smoothie that I have just purchased right now or the world may very well end.

Ah, the supermarket shop. It’s the gift that just keeps on giving.

Speak and S-P-E-L-L

It seems that it is not just E’s language that evolves ever forward as time goes on. As his talking and comprehension improves, so our obfuscation of certain words has been forced to develop with it. Not so long ago, we could simply slightly change the word that we didn’t want him to understand by throwing in a surplus syllable or two – raisin became rasioni, park became parkioni and so forth. I have absolutely no idea why we felt it necessary to go cod-Italian, but it seemed to workio, and we certainly had him fooled for a while. We could safely enquire of the other if we had packed the raisionis without provoking an incessant inquisition as to why he couldn’t have raisins NOW. And we could suggest a trip to the parkioni without invoking an unremitting loop of the question ‘are we going to the park yet?’ executed with seemingly inhuman disregard for the need to take a breath for several minutes.

But then one day E turned to us and asked if he could have some raisionis NOW and we realised the game was up.

We tried just saying certain words quickly and quietly, slipping them past E whilst he was distracted by something shiny, or intent on fishing a particularly juicy bogey from his nostril. However, this was a high risk strategy and began to backfire on us frequently. ‘God, he was a right git,’ I moaned to M, whispering git at a volume only dolphins and bats could detect, yet immediately prompting a gleeful round of ‘git, git git, git…’ from E, who up until three seconds previously, had seemed to be utterly engrossed in trying to decapitate a Play Mobil fireman using only a plastic dragon.

We did try lip reading, but at the point that which I had to mouth ‘Zingzillas’ seven times with ever more over elaborate mouth movements and M thought I was choking on some food, we abandoned that method. Life’s too bloody short. Sorry. B-l-o-o-d-y short.

So we were left with no other option than to revert to that old parental favourite – the spelling out of the word. Shall we go to the p-a-r-k? M might ask in the morning over breakfast, a perfect method for not raising hopes that would be cruelly dashed if it rained, or we decided to do a fascinating house chore instead, such as the never-ending loft run to rid ourselves of toys and clothes that E had grown out of.

So the spelling strategy worked fine. ‘Blimey, he is a s-o-d,’ I would say and E wouldn’t bat an eyelid.

However, there is one small snag. M was not standing first in the queue for spelling when he lined up for his talents. He was too busy working out magic maths at the front of the maths queue. (Personally, I was some way up the spelling queue, but failed the entrance exam for the maths queue entirely). But for both of us, it does slow down the conversational flow somewhat and usually, somewhere around the seventh letter of M’s latest spelling marathon I start to glaze over. And it is amazing how trying to spell a word whilst engaged in another activity can render you useless at both. Attempting to ask M if we should take a packet of chocolate buttons out with us for E whilst putting on E’s shoes, resulted in E wearing his left shoe on his right foot and M wondering why on earth I was suggesting we take a chocolate bottom to the park. So fuck it, we packed an apple, it is much easier to spell.

The Sweeney

I install E in his car seat to take him home from nursery. I get behind the wheel and put the key in the ignition.

“Follow that car!” he shouts pointing out of the window at a car pulling out of the car park.

Christ, did he swap his Fireman Sam DVD for The Sweeney when I wasn’t looking?

It’s not plugged in


I sigh. it is no good, I am going to have to face the fact that E and I need to go to Tescos. This is something I try very hard to avoid, given the myriad of things that can provoke sulks, tantrums or tears, and not always belonging to E. I can’t bear the stress of it. But today, it has to be done.

“I want to go on Bob the Builder!” E wails as we pass the ride outside the door. Thanks, Tesco.

“It’s not plugged in,” I lie. If I had a pound for every time he has asked and I have told him this, I would not get quite so pissed off, as I would have plenty of bloody money to waste on thirty seconds of my son bobbing around in a bright yellow tractor.  I hate these sodding rides with a passion. For months he didn’t realise what they were and I wasn’t going to disabuse him of his ignorance. But then he did know, by some strange toddler osmosis or something. Probably some furtive meetings him and his friends have every week at nursery behind the play shed.

“Right, you know what lads? I have only flipping well found out that eating loads of vegetables won’t make your chest hairy or your hair curly.”

“What? You’re kidding!”

” I know, I know.”

“Well, get this, right.  Too much playing with your willy won’t make it fall off.”

“Really? Now that’s a result.”

“Yeah, and guess what? That big yellow tractor shaped thing outside of Tescos? If you put a coin in it, it will go up and down and play Bob the Builder and everything!”

“Crikey, that sounds amazing!”

“Can you play with your willy whilst you are on it?”

E climbs into the Bob the Builder ride regardless of my protestations that it is not working, so I start to try and cajole him off. I sense a standoff approaching, but manage somehow to coax him to dismount. I am a teeny bit pissed off that I have to ‘coax’ my toddler rather than just exert my will but whilst the former can leave a large dent in my parental pride, the latter will inevitably lead to a very public battle which I can really do without.

Apparently, these rides are officially known as Kiddie Rides. Hmmm. Are You Fucking Kidding Rides would be more appropriate given that they cost fifty pence a go. I dread to think how much money we have poured into those grubby little slots.

I think the only time that these rides would be a good idea is if they were staffed. Then I could drop him off at the entrance of the shop, gleefully hand over a stack of fifty pence pieces to the tractor attendant and get my shopping done in peace. Even better, get the attendant to dress as Bob, then E wouldn’t give two hoots if the tractor was moving or not, he would just be gawping at a living, breathing Bob the Builder right in front of him. But as it is, unmanned and ludicrously expensive, it just makes the whole shopping thing more painful and drawn out.

Not only do we have a negotiation on the way in about whether or not he can ride the shiny yellow tractor, we have the same sodding conversation on the way out too. Giving him a ride on arrival is a shit idea: you have to then deal with the ‘not getting off’ scenario within a minute and both parties end up pissed off before you’ve even got to the fruit and veg. But it seems using the promise of a ride after the shopping providing there is good behaviour at all times is often of no use either; there is simply too much of a time lag between promise of treat and actual gratification. E might walk sedately into the shop, mindful of his impending ride, but one look at the grapes and he’s off, plucking them and popping them into his mouth with willful abandon then running off.

Hey, Mr Tesco, I tell you the every little bit that really would bloody help: put the bloody rides at the back of the car park, or in the bin, or just not right next to the door, okay? And whilst you are making some changes, please employ someone to let down the tyres of any moron who parks in the mother and toddler spaces who doesn’t have a kid with them. Even better, hunt them down and demand fifty pence from them to pay for a Bob the Builder ride for the poor kid who has just had to be dragged out the car via the back window as the only space left to park in was about three foot nothing wide.

Kiddie Rides. It is parental exploitation dressed as a round-headed, yellow-hatted dickhead builder (or any other children’s TV character whose head is usually far too large for its body and who sports less than a full complement of fingers).  I did once make the fundamental error of promising a ride once the shopping was complete, only to find my purse bereft of all change.  I fear I shall be paying dearly for this mistake in years to come, when the massive trauma that E suffered as a result of this oversight resurfaces and we are forced to pay for therapy, with the therapist dressed as Bob the Builder whilst the patient’s couch bobs up and down comfortingly.

Mummy, help. I’m stuck.

Several of us are at a soft play centre with the kids. Actually, those last three words are somewhat superfluous – of course we are with the bloody kids. There is no way on god’s earth that you would step foot in one of those atrocious play spaces if you didn’t really, really need to entertain the kids and wear them out sufficiently so that they might fall asleep without too much fuss later on. These places are hell incarnate.

The one we are in is pretty much like all the others that I have had the misfortune to spend an afternoon in. It is a brightly lit landscape of primary-coloured plastic; an unending vista of wipe clean surfaces. Which is ironic, seeing as they are barely ever wiped. The chairs are bolted to the floor just so that there is plenty of room for the kids to drop food stuff as it makes its speedy way from table to mouth – food that is then trodden firmly into the carpet. Looking at the floor, the carpet is some way off the date of its annual hoover. Never mind, E’s socks will attract most of the squashed raisins, soggy biscuit pieces and melted chocolate crumbs leaving the lovely faded green carpet tiles almost pristine.

The play areas are marked off with floor-to-ceiling netting, giving them a rather appropriate likeness to large cages. The assortment of vinyl covered shapes held within glisten with the body fluids of every child who has ever clambered, dragged, licked and snotted their way over them. Baggy socks barely clinging to small feet can be seen waggling through portholes, flashes of bare limbs spotted crawling speedily through claustrophobic tunnels. The sound of sweaty flesh screeching against the plastic slide is an almost constant accompaniment to the over-exuberant screams and shouts that make me involuntarily wince. This is what passes as entertainment for a three year old. I would rather eat faeces. Mind you, given the germs that must have set up civilisation on most of the surfaces in this place, that too is not completely off the agenda.

The beverages on offer are…quite unique. It doesn’t actually matter if you order tea or coffee – by the time you have poured in a carton of white fluid masquerading as milk (but not before you have sworn at the unopenable foil lid that eventually surrenders its fight with a final defiant gesture of spitting a great flob of whiteness onto your jumper) and stirred with a plastic stick of dubious hygiene, they both taste the same – bloody awful. I have witnessed plates of food coming out of the kitchen at this place, and I use both the terms ‘food’ and ‘kitchen’ advisedly. Never have I seen so much beige on a single plate – chips, sausages, chicken shapes – it was like it had been assembled on the principles of a show home colour palette. Freezer to plate in about 3.30 minutes… I tried hard not to gag.

We have not had the most auspicious of starts to our fun-packed afternoon. E fell asleep in the car on the way here, guaranteeing that he is in the foulest of moods when I have to wake him up to go inside. I can’t really blame him as I am equally as grumpy if I am awoken from a slumber, but I personally don’t feel the need to scream until my face goes puce. Wrestling with a toddler in the car park is not my favourite way to spend ten minutes, but I finally manage to extricate him from the tentacles of the car seat harness and carry him inside.

Half an hour later, E is still refusing to leave my lap or retract his protruding bottom lip and I am coming to the conclusion that I may well have paid four pounds to sit with E at a plastic table and watch him eat a box of raisins whilst all the kids around him are clearly having a whale of a time. And on one occasion, a wail of a time, mainly caused by a not wholly unamusing scenario of two kids climbing up opposite sides of a large foam cylinder and cracking heads together as they arrive at the summit simultaneously.

Finally, with a combination of cajoling, levering his bum off my lap and the dissolving of the final atoms of his sulk, E goes off with his friends to play. Ah, the unadulterated joy of a grown up conversation without interruptions that usually involve the whereabouts of his toy car or what I have for his snack. We actually achieve that utter rarity: the completion of a single conversation. Pre-children, I used to take for granted telling or listening to a story from beginning to end. Shit, we even had time to pass comment or ask for clarification. Now, with kids in the vicinity, we are lucky to get passed ‘bloody hell, I had a nightmare yesterday…’ before a toilet break, an urgent nose wipe or a burning question involving the origins of raisins sends the conversation lurching into an irrevocable emergency stop.

Some time later, we became aware of a plaintive crying and we scan the play area. They say that a mother can recognise the cry of her offspring from three miles away during a blizzard with ear muffs on – or something like that – but my mummy gene must be a tad defective, as I can never tell if it is E who is crying unless I know for sure he is the only child in the room. High up on the top floor, an area reserved for fives and overs (didn’t he bloody read the notice?) I see him. He is standing, clasping the netting, evidently freaked out by finding himself the equivalent of three floors up. Obviously that long climb up the stairs didn’t prove enough of a clue. I walk over to him, straining my neck to see him, urging him to come down the way he came.

“Mummy, help. I’m stuck.”

Oh fuckity bollocks. I kick off my shoes with a sigh and start to navigate my way up to get him. The stairs turn out to be a hilariously entertaining zig zag, doubling back on themselves every few metres. I am starting to sweat slightly now, as I twist and turn slowly up toward my son. Is it my imagination or is it getting narrower? I start to call E to try and get him to come and find me, but he is not budging. More fuckity bollocks.

Soon after, as I make a spine-crunching turn near the top of the stairs, I realise I am stuck. Whether it is my child-rearing hips, my prodigious arse or some other part of my anatomy that is somewhat larger than a five year olds’, I am not sure. The only thing I am most certain of at this juncture is that I am not going any further and have an overwhelming desire to retreat which is handy, as that is the only direction I can go. Oh, and I am most definitely sure that my bum does look big in this.

I recommence my cajoling of E, who stares at me flapping about on the stairs with a certain curiousness.

“Come here,” I whisper urgently. “I am stuck.” The irony of this statement does not escape me, but I am too busy gritting my teeth and trying not to shout to acknowledge it with anything other than a quiet grunt.

For a moment, I think E smiles. He lets go of the netting and I beckon him to me, willing him to just get a bloody move on. If I hang round here much longer, there will be a backlog of small children behind me and soon a partial dismantlement of the play equipment involving the fire brigade may become the only remaining option open to us.

Suddenly, E hears his name being called behind him, and spotting a friend, he gleefully runs away to play, his vertigo and fear miraculously gone. I lay my sweaty forehead on a vinyl step for a moment until I realise it smells quite unpleasant, and make my tortuous way back down to my shoes. As I say, these places are hell incarnate. And they bloody stink of smelly socks.

You smell of giraffes

Half six, a glorious full night’s sleep under my metaphorical pyjama belt, and E comes into our bedroom. Long gone are the days that six thirty is considered an early start in this household. Pre-child, a lie in was defined by still wallowing in my duvet at nine thirty, a mini lie in half eight. Now half nine is the time we often leave the house, having all showered, breakfasted, put a load of washing on and played pirate ships. I shuffle over in the bed to let E in for a cuddle.

“Nice and quiet now,” I whisper, in what might be the most pointless use of oxygen ever. “It is still early and mummy and daddy are trying to sleep.”

E places both his hands palm down across my face.

“Your face is hot,” he comments. He moves closer. “You smell,” he adds.

Well  thank you, my darling offspring. There is nothing more endearing than a good old fashioned insult to start your day off with a swing.

“Of what?” I enquire, perhaps a little foolishly.

He pauses. “Strawberries.” Hmmm. I will accept that white lie in the interests of self delusion.

“I smell of apricots,” he informs me so I go in for an exaggerated sniff.

“No…” I reply, pretending to savour the smell. “I think you smell of bananas.”

“You smell of… giraffes,” he retorts. Interesting. But given that I can’t imagine that the odour of a giraffe is particularly fragrant, I certainly preferred it when I smelt of strawberries. I briefly ponder when a three year old is intellectually capable of grasping the concept of tact. Not bloody soon enough.

“Well, you smell of monkeys,” I say.

Ah. Not only have I been sucked into a conversation when I should by rights still be snoozing, I appear to have adopted the mentality of a toddler.  Why this surprises me I am not entirely sure.

“I am going to get Buzz,” Ellis says and wriggles out of bed. I am about to roll back into the space he has vacated but he spins back to face me and points his finger at his space sternly. ” Save my place mummy.” he warns, “I am going to get Buzz.”

He turns to go but comes back to the side of the bed again. “He comes in peace, mummy,” he adds, ever the informative three year old.

How come my son has no ability to remember to say thank you unprompted, or to put away his toys after playing with them, but can recall the catch phrase of a toy spaceman? Note to self: perhaps a little less Toy Story on DVD for that boy. And while I’m at it, get his sense of smell checked. Giraffes, indeed.