Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Negotiator

Things are getting fractious between myself and E. Last night I had the audacity to ask a question so outrageous in its presumptuousness that E has had to put his foot down. My exact words were: “Please come upstairs, your bath is ready.”

The request was met with a silence that spoke a thousand words, most of them ‘no’. I asked again. He laid down on the sofa, just  in case simply sitting was taken as a sign that he may well do as he was told any minute.

We are now entering negotiation territory. Actually, to call it a negotiation is somewhat inaccurate. The definition of negotiation is something along the lines of ‘discussion aimed at reaching an agreement’. What is actually happening here is from my side, a discussion aimed at total submission, and from E’s side a discussion aimed at making me chew off my own fingers  in utter frustration.

I take a deep breath and try to channel Super Nanny, but inadvertently seem to have channelled Freddie from Elm Street.

“Get upstairs now,” I say, trying hard to remain calm and not shout. This endeavour, it turns out, is a complete and utter waste of time and as E replies with a defiant  ‘no’, calm, quiet and their bedfellow effective parenting all leave the room in a huff.

Despite overwhelming evidence that shouting does not work, I decide to give it one last go in case since I last shouted,  it has undergone an effectiveness make over and is now the parenting style du jour.  Alas, no. One shout later and E is lying on his stomach, just in case lying on his back was taken as a sign that he may weaken at any minute.

So I bring out the big guns, used by professional negotiators everywhere when swift resolution is required.

“If you don’t get upstairs now, you will lose television for a week.” Hah, stick that, stroppy boy.

“I don’t want television anyway,” E replies. Now, despite knowing that this is a lie of an impressive magnitude, it immediately neuters my threat and I cast around for Plan B.

“Fine. I will take away your pirate ship.”

“I don’t want my pirate ship.”

“Your scooter.”  Plan C isn’t up to much, admittedly.

“Don’t want it.”

Goddamn him. How are we supposed to negotiate if he doesn’t stick to the rules?  Rule one: on threat of treat removal, capitulate immediately. Rule two: never pretend that the treats or toys are indispensable. Rule three: don’t wipe your nose on your sleeve. (Okay, that is not a negotiation rule. But given the state of his sleeves, it’s worth a try at any juncture).

So I move to Rule four: when rules one and two are ignored, abort negotiation.

I pick him up, kicking and screaming, and haul him up the stairs. Well, I think negotiation is overrated… particularly when I am losing.


The company of other mums is fantastic, a real support network – a chance to realise that there are a whole host of other unfortunate people in the same leaky, uncomfortable, precarious and unseaworthy boat as you. (This boat, by the way, is the good ship Parenting. I get a little sea sick on it and I’ve lost the goddamn oars).

And yet. And yet. Get a group of mums (a fatigue of mothers?) together and there can occur something a little less palatable, a little more divisive. I call it oneupmumship. Mums who just can’t help but boast about their offspring. Of course, every mum and dad wishes that the embodiment of their combined genes will be a perfect specimen of a human being, a wish that lasts usually about a fortnight at which point you can’t help but momentarily hate your baby for not having the skill to sleep through the night. And every day you realise that your child moves a little further away from perfection, slowly but surely. So all that is left is oneupmanship: your child may not be perfect, but as long he is better than someone else’s child, some comfort can be had.

Waiting to see the health visitor recently, I eaves-dropped on a conversation between two mums:

“My son walked at nine months, he was a really early walker.”

“Really? Wow. Mine was crawling at five months.”

“Oh, mine didn’t bother to crawl. He just walked at nine months. And a week later, literally, he ran. Proper running. Literally.”

At which point a silence fell in the waiting room. The woman who was suddenly contemplating that her baby must practically be a retard for not running a marathon by ten months could not muster up a reply to top that. But of course,  there was an appropriate response:

Fuck. Right. Off.

Detachment parenting

Attachment parenting. I wondered what this was all about when I first heard the phrase a few weeks ago – for me, it conjures up an image of a parent being pulled down the pavement by number of scampering toddlers on retractable dog leads. After a little Googling, it turns out this is not strictly accurate, but for fear of digressing, I do think there is money to be made from this. After all, there are those who make a decent living from taking dogs for a walk on behalf of their owners who have better things to do with their time than go trudging round the neighbourhood in the pissing rain picking up shit as it drops from their dog’s arse – I am sure there are plenty of parents who would pay to have their offspring exercised in the same manner. You can sign me up, for a start.

Anyway, those who advocate attachment parenting are fans of, amongst other things, co-sleeping. I have one word to say about this, but I feel so strongly about it that I feel compelled to repeat it three times: No. No. No. I have the misfortune to experience co-sleeping – usually at about 5am when B starts his morning scream and subsequently wakes up E, who then sees it is light outside and refuses to believe it is not ‘up time’. So in a vain attempt to allow M and I to stay in bed for a while longer, both boys come into bed with us. I have no idea why we have done this more than once, it is horrendous. (Actually, I do know why. It is because we are so fucking knackered that the thought of staying in bed even when the chance of getting any more sleep is as remote as a lottery win, is worth the gamble).

B is generally not too disruptive once we have stopped him crying, but proper sleep is bloody impossible once there is a four month old baby lying beside you. I may close my eyes and pretend that I can fall into an untroubled sleep, but in my head the ‘baby-in-bed’ brain cell springs into action as soon as sleep draws near: it sends out an urgent message on a loop to every nerve ending in my body: don’t roll over, don’t roll over, don’t roll over. No one wants to wake up and discover they have created a baby pancake, so despite my long-term fatigue which means I can fall asleep at the drop of a duvet, a baby lying next to me is the best method known to man to keep sleep away. E is a more tricky proposition in terms of co-sleeping. Sorry, did I say tricky? I meant utterly, teeth grindingly annoying. Despite it being somewhere around 5am, he has usually decided that everyone should be as wide awake as him. He lies next to me, breathing in the oxygen by my face that should rightfully be mine. I move my head away from him a little. He moves his closer. Given that I am already teetering on the edge of the bed due to the fact that there are four bodies sharing a space designed for two, I resign myself to second-hand air. I close my eyes and feel the pull of sleep on me. Then I feel something else. E is tapping my eyelids with his fingers.

“Get off,” I whisper through gritted teeth. The tapping stops. I drift off again. A hand over my mouth brings me hurtling back.

“Get off now,” I try to whisper, but am somewhat impeded by a clammy palm still pressed to my lips. And so it goes on: a finger in my ear, a toe nail scraping down my calf, a knee in my stomach. I am just a sodding human activity centre, although activity centres don’t usually shout ‘if you don’t stop right now, there will be no CBeebies today’ at the top of their voice after a prolonged bout of prodding, pinching and poking.

Even if I wanted to parent my children in an attached kind of way, it is obvious I just do not have what it takes. Attachment parenting is meant to produce empathetic, secure and non-violent children, but it doesn’t seem to work like that in our house. The little foray into attachment parenting which I have encountered in a vain attempt to stay in bed after 5am has only succeeded in ensuring one of us stomps out of the bedroom in a sulk. Okay, so B, at four months old, is a little young to stomp. And M, being much more rational and calm than most, has yet to throw a wobbly. And E is being far too entertained to leave. So in fact, it is I who does the stomping. And thus, have invented a parenting style much more suited to my temperament: detachment parenting.

Stubborn Stains


If cleanliness is next to godliness, I am one streak of snot away from being cast down into the raging inferno of Beelzebub.

It’s not that I intend to get slowly covered in a smorgasbord of stains when I get up in the morning. In fact, as I pull on  freshly-washed top and trousers, I will often send up a little prayer to Persil, the god of clean clothes, to protect me from the onslaught of smears, dribbles and moist debris that seem to be attracted to my person. But my plea mostly falls on deaf ears.

There are the obvious, intentional stains. My delightful older son is at the root cause of most of these, particularly when he has a cold. There is nothing, repeat nothing, more utterly hilarious to a three year old than wiping his dangling pendulum of snot on my sleeve. And boy, is that stuff sticky. I should be collecting it all into small tubes and flogging it as a miracle glue to stick plane wings onto fuselages. If I don’t get to it with a damp cloth within ten minutes, the drying process takes effect and it transmogrifies into a substance harder than concrete and more abrasive than a Brillo pad. There have been the odd occasions where somehow, he has managed to decorate my sleeve with nose slime without me noticing, and it is only when I  bend my arm and there is a curious cracking noise that I realise that Bogey Boy has struck again. (Now there’s a superhero if ever there was: Bogey Boy, who fights evil and catches baddies, embalming them in sticky ropes of snot so they can never escape. Just stand well back when the buggar catches a cold though).

And then there are the baby stains. I don’t know what the collective noun for these is – a spatter of baby stains, perhaps – but all I do know is that I have a tendency to collect them, frequently. Shoulders are the most at risk, absorbing milky dribbles and flecks of sick as I carry B around. I am often seen sporting that most common part of a mummy’s uniform  -the asymmetrical sicky epaulettes.  But the baby stains can pretty much appear anywhere, without warning. I can get up from a chair, my arm brushing my trousers, and I can suddenly feel a wet patch that wasn’t there ten minutes ago. Or I can scratch my face and find it peculiarly damp. Careful investigation then ensues, with a tentative smell and a close-up inspection. I’m like Poirot with a muslin cloth, me.

Added to which are the general splats and splashes as a result of opening yoghurts, poking straws into juice cartons whilst foolishly allowing them to be held by a three year old, oh, and the fine spray of mucus from a baby sneeze, creating an impressive circumference of glistening globules given the tiny nostrils it exits from.

Barely an item of my clothing makes it to the washing machine without being doused in a liberal spraying of Vanish. Or Shit Out, as I prefer to call it. I am not sponsored by Vanish, more’s the pity, but credit where credit is due: I have yet to meet a stain, regardless of whether it originated from nose, bottom or mouth, that cannot be eradicated with the stuff. I’m thinking of carrying it around with me in a holster for rapid deployment. It certainly removes all stubborn stains I know of. It could only be improved one way, really. Stubborn stains are one thing, but if it could remove stubborn toddlers? Now that would be bloody marvellous.