Monthly Archives: September 2012

We’re on the road to nowhere…

“I don’t want to take my scooter, I want to walk.”

Eleven words that strike terror in my heart.

“No, scooting is much more fun than walking,” I say breezily, picking up his scooter and swinging it back and forth. “Much more fun.”

It certainly bloody is. If E wants to walk anywhere, we have to plan in about an hour and a half’s contingency time. In fact, I am not sure that technically, it can be called walking. It is slower than a meander, less purposeful than a wander and significantly more irritating than an amble.

We may set out with good intention, with me carefully explaining that the library shuts soon (a big fat functional lie, obviously) so we must not dawdle, stop or be otherwise distracted. But that boy could be distracted by a fucking dust particle if the mood takes him.

“Look, mummy!” he cries, squatting on his haunches and staring intently at the ground. I am already ten foot ahead.

“Yes, lovely. Now come on.”

“No, you can’t see from there.”

He’s bloody right I can’t see from here, there is a red mist descending and it’s decreasing visibility by the second.

“Come on, please.”

“Just look.”

With clenched teeth I retrace my steps. Retracing my steps is not a good thing. In the war of the walks, it is nigh on admitting defeat.  We have progressed so little that I can still see our house and I fleetingly think of aborting the trip and going home.

I look at where he is staring.

“Look, an ant, mummy.”

“Oh yes.” I consider mustering a little more enthusiasm but find I am shit out of eagerness.

E stands, stamps on the ant and we recommence our journey. For a short while. Perhaps five or six steps. And then E stops again. I plead through gritted teeth for him to get a move on, and he assures me that he will only be a second, he just wants to collect these stones. I turn around to see that he is stood in the middle of someone’s gravel drive. I wonder if I laid down in the middle of the pavement and sobbed quietly, anyone would mind?

Eventually, as the last dribble of sanity leaks from me, we restart our walk, with E’s pockets bulging with a part of the neighbour’s driveway. A pigeon lands on the pavement in front of us, and with a delighted laugh, E chases the startled bird, which flies off in the direction we are heading. What a bloody result. E is running down the road, eating up the  yards. I follow with glee but my happiness is inevitably short lived as the pigeon, still skittering from pavement to sky, does a complete about turn causing E to retrace most of his steps. Buggar.

The pigeon having finally escaped, I am left with the task of restarting our walk. E, on the other hand, has tasked himself with picking every berry from a bush in someone’s front garden.  Bloody hell. A tectonic plate could get to the sodding library faster than my son. And give a lot less back chat, too.

“Please, come ON.”

E ignores me.

“If you don’t come now, we won’t have time to watch the television later.”

Bingo. Reluctantly, E moves away from the bush, before stopping and placing a berry on the ground. He takes another step, stops, and carefully places another berry on the ground.

“What are you doing?” I can barely contain a scream that is threatening to emerge.

“Just leaving a trail for the birds to follow.” I knew it was a bloody mistake to read him Hansel and Gretel.

And so the walk continues, excruciatingly slowly. And with every step of progress we make, a persistent thought nags at me. With every metre we move toward the library, a cold sense of dread settles on me. We’ve got to walk all the bloody way home yet. I stifle a small sob and take another step forward.

 

 

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It’s a holiday, but not as we know it

We are on holiday. The definition of which is something along the lines of to have time off, to take a break from business or to have an extended period of recreation and leisure.  So it actually turns out I am not on holiday and it is factually utterly inaccurate to claim that we are. So in effect, we are in a different place, with the same old shit.

And thinking about it, it is bloody obvious that I am not on holiday. Because if I was on holiday as I so rashly just claimed, then these are just some of the things that I would not choose to fill my time with:

– getting up at 3am

– lugging around a change bag that I can barely lift as it is filled  to bursting point with items to cover every baby- and toddler-related predicament, from pants filled with shit to bogey smears on sleeves

– not going in any shops as they are deemed ‘booooriiiing’

– not reading any books. And not only not reading any books, not reading any newspapers either

– sitting down for a maximum of half an hour a day due to the incessant plaintive cry of ‘can you play with me pleeeeeaseeeee’

I know that I am being slightly disingenuous. It is my middle name (christ, did I get ribbed for that one).   It is lovely to be away from the house, tooling around on the beach. But after I have thrown the ninetieth stone into the sea and played fifteen iterations of pirates and monsters, I have to admit that my mind may inadvertently start to conjure up an image of me on a lounger,  cocktail in one hand, book in the other. In utter silence. And definitely no requests to be a chaperone to the toilet as a poo is urgently required, and absolutely no chants of ‘mummy is a sausage face’ whatsoever.

So there you have it. We are on a not-a-holiday. The same old same old, but nearer to the sea. A samecation, as it will henceforth be known.


Liar, liar, pants on fire

“How do  you die, mummy?”

Bloody hell, ask me anything but that, please. I have E’s trainer in one hand, his ankle in the other, and an eye on the clock. Is it strictly necessary to have a conversation about the myriad ways a human can pop his clogs when we are due to meet friends in fifteen minutes?

“Well…” I begin, and then falter. What is an appropriate response for a three year old – sorry, three and three quarters?

“Ermm…” Now, there is a parenting approach that says you should always tell the truth. That to obscure the facts, to tell little white lies, does them no good in the long run. In theory, I totally agree with this strategy. In reality? Fuck that, I scatter lies around like toast crumbs around a toddler’s dining chair.  

At one end of the lie spectrum are Cultural Lies -our deception inheritance – embedded in our shared history. These are the lies that we don’t even think are lies, but exist because it is actually quite funny for a child to get so excited about the prospect of something that they nearly wet their pants. And to tell the truth would be just sadistic:

“When is Santa going to visit, mummy?”

“Santa does not exist, we buy your presents and you know those snowy footprints on the hearth? Flour. Oh, and while we are at it, the tooth fairy is total hogwash. Deal with it.”

There are also what I call the Functional Lies – the lies you tell so that your life, your day, or your shopping trip does not grind to a halt. Such as: “Oh dear, the Bob the Builder ride is broken. Never mind.” Or: “If you don’t sit properly in your car seat and the police see you, they will put you in jail.” As parents, we all need a few Functionals to oil the cogs of our day.

The truth can on occasion, it seems,  be a tad over-rated. Pop onto any online forum where a parent raises the knotty problem of what you call willies and fannies in the presence of your toddler and debate is provoked like an angry wasp in an upside down cup. The majority employ the Super-Sub Lie – a replacement word or phrase to soften the harsh linguistic blow that would otherwise be dealt to their innocent ears. (Although I fear that referring to your fanny as a hotdog bun, as one online mum stated, could cause problems when you are in the queue for lunch). Opposed to the Super-Sub Liars are the hardcore truth-sayers. For them, it can only be penis and vagina. I am sorry, but if my son refers to his willy as a penis before the age of sixteen, I don’t think I will ever recover.

And so to Cover Up lies, deployed when your darling offspring hears something inappropriate. It is amazing that a boy who cannot hear the request “please wash your hands for lunch” when you are standing two foot away from him can hear a gentle “fuck” when you are in the next room. Okay, perhaps it wasn’t as gentle as I thought, but I did stub my toe really hard. And how was I to know that he was no longer in the next room, but actually standing right behind me? I tell you, that boy could have a bloody career as a ninja assassin.

“What did you say, mummy?”

“Err. When?

“Just then.”

“Oh, Right. I said… duck.”

“Why?”

“Well… I was just thinking of ducks.”

“Why..”

“Because… look, have you washed your hands yet? If you have dirty hands when you eat it will make you sick for a week.”

(Note the last-minute use of a Functional Lie).

So, back to my son’s question of how we die. I ponder the use of a lie, for speed and an easy life. I am very, very tempted to reply to his question by telling him that you die if you don’t tidy your bedroom , but just about resist. I consider telling him that when you get old, you have to take ticket like the ones at the deli counter and just wait your turn. But I don’t. Most uncharacteristically, I decide to tell the truth.

“You die when you are very, very, very old.” I throw in several ‘verys’ as I don’t want him to think that his own parents, who must seem pretty ancient to him, are going to spring off this mortal coil at any minute.

Silence falls as I put his left trainer on. I think I may have just got away with it.

“How else?” Bollocks. Now what am I going to say? I think about another way of dying that I can explain without putting the fear of god into him and giving him nightmares for the next ten years. Obviously, all I can think of is horrific accidents involving large agricultural machines or gruesome stabbings in a dark, cold alleyways.

“Erm… if you have a very bad car accident, you might die.” Shitting hell, what did I say that for? The poor buggar is going to be so petrified he will never get in the car again. I am not sure I can cope with this truth malarkey. My pants may not be on fire, but I am way out of my depth here.

“How else?”

Okay, enough now. I employ the time-honoured strategy beloved of truth-dodging parents everywhere:

“Do you want some chocolate buttons?”


Dante’s Car Park

I am in the hospital car park, having had B weighed at the clinic and discussed the best way to un-bung a five month old who has started weaning but forgotten how to poo. I swear quietly but profusely at a 4×4 which has parked in the space next to me far too close to allow me to open the door fully. Sodding idiot, I think, as I stop the pram behind the car. Whoever had designed the car park had seen fit to only include three Parent and Child bays – after all, it’s only a busy hospital, there is bound to be no more than three kids at any one time. And just to add to the joy, they seemed to have cleverly shaved a foot off the width of each bay. Which was fine fifteen years ago, until everyone decided that a hulking great vehicle with tyres that come up to your waist and off-road capabilities was absolutely necessary in case they had to drive through a inordinately muddy puddle on the way to the post box.

In case it is not apparent at this juncture, I hate car parks. Particularly hospital car parks, as there is never a bloody space to park in. They must have severely underestimated the number of ill people, as there seems to be at least three cars for every space, and it took me a good ten minutes to find mine.

There are a few strategies when it comes to trying to find a space. There is the tried and tested Aimless Circles, whereby you simply do circuits of the car park over and over and over again until you either run out of petrol or go slightly insane. Then there is the Sit and Pounce, where you park up, engine idling, checking front, sides and rear view to see if you have stumbled upon the vicinity from which the next punter will depart. Personally, this involves  too little action and far too much being stationary for my liking. And finally, the stalker, where you loiter near the pedestrians departing the hospital buildings and slowly follow them to their car. This one strikes me as a little creepy and intimidating, particularly if the person you are following has just had their leg set in plaster and is still getting to grips with their crutches. Oh, there is another, which is to simply park illegally, but I have enough things to worry about in my life without wondering if I will return to a parking ticket, or to no car at all.

So today, I adopted the Aimless Circles approach. Round and round I went. I spied a lady opening her car. I slowed down even more, only to see her put a bag in her boot and leave again. There really should be a rule in car parks: if you return to your car, that’s it, game over: you must leave. None of this smug ‘oh, I am just dropping off my shopping, and now I am leaving the car in the space that I have and that you DON’T’ nonsense.  I continued to circle, navigating through what increasingly seems like Dante’s Inferno;  I passed through the first circle (limbo), some interminable time later, I pop out the other side of the fifth circle (wrath and sullenness) then cruise at three miles per hour through the seventh (violence).  Which mainly comprised me repeatedly banging my head against the steering wheel.

I was tootling up one of the lanes and another car, also executing the Aimless Circles manoeuvre, approached from the other direction. Almost perfectly in between us, a car reversed out of its space. it felt like I have entered a Western. I squinted my eyes, the other space seeker narrowed theirs. Fingers twitched. Who will be first on the indicator? Time slowed down, the car park fell silent, a small weed tumbled across the tarmac in the breeze. We both indicated: too close to call. I wondered if I should do the right thing and let them take the space? We both edged forward and I considered my options. Nice or nasty? Giver or grabber? And whilst I was deliberating thus, the other car sailed in and takes the space from under my nose. 

Then I was properly grumpy. I threw a few expletives around whilst checking my watch. There was now a back log of Aimless Circlers behind me, so I moved off, passing a Sit and Pounce who looked equally as glum.

I rounded the corner and there, like an automotive mirage bathed in shimmering sunlight, was a car pulling out of a space. There was no car approaching from the other direction and I was blocking the poor saps behind me. The man pulled out of his space and I raced in, heart pounding, sweat glistening on my brow. I have a space, I have a space. Victory was mine. I thanked the god of car park spaces and blessed that man: may the golden light of fortune forever shine on his perfect little Peugeot with the dented back wing.

I heave B out of the pram and somewhat unceremoniously plop him into the car seat. As the combined weight of B and the car seat is unliftable without the aid of a crane, I save ripping my arm muscles in two by leaving the car seat in situ at all times. But just the exertion of manhandling a baby whose thighs seem to be filled with concrete means that I am already building up quite an attractive sheen of sweat. The usual battle then begins as I try to extricate the straps from underneath B and retrieve the centre belt from deep under his bum. He seems remarkably calm as I root around his crotch and find the required elements to fasten him in. I grimace from bending over at an awkward angle, squashed against the door, whilst the sun fries my back through my black tee shirt. In principle, the seat clasp is a doddle: clip two straps together, push into centre clasp – job done. In reality, the effort required to actually get those sodding clips to click is almost Hurculean. I do appreciate that you cannot compromise on the safety of your beloved offspring, but really. I broke a fucking nail. I swear through gritted teeth as B looks on. It is marvellous having a baby around rather than a toddler, as swearing is right back on the agenda and this morning I am definitely making the most of it.

As I wipe my sweaty brow and take a few deep breaths, a voice calls out from behind me: “I presume this is your pram?” I look round to see an old lady pushing my pram toward me. “It rolled across the car park, dear.”

Oops. That’ll be the brake that I forgot to apply, then. I smile at her. How lovely of her, to bring the pram back. That’s the thing with retirees, they have lots of time on their hands to be nice. She sniffs. “It’s just as well your baby wasn’t in it.” Well, the supercilious old trout. That’s what happens when you spend your day watching re-runs of Miss Marple and Cash in the Attic, you turn into a miserable old bitch who likes nothing more than to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing and criticise already harassed mothers. I open my mouth to say this. Unfortunately, what comes out is: “Yes, isn’t it.” Damn that polite gene.