Monthly Archives: November 2012

Job Description: Mum of a Four Year Old

A busy, full time role that requires dedication, extreme patience and expertise in three hundred and eighty two different specialisms. The job would suit someone prepared to be on-call twenty four hours a day. You may also have another part- or full-time occupation at the same time, but you will get no recognition for this.

Salary: Fuck all. You do it for the love of it, remember?

Hours: All of them.

Location: Everywhere.

Holiday: You are allowed to go on holiday, but you take the child with you. So it’s the same shit, just slightly less well equipped and with a different bed.

Benefits: Errr….

Bonus scheme: You might get more than five hours consecutive sleep. Then again, you might not.

Pension: Forget it, you’ll still be skint then.

Key skills required:  

Nurse -particular expertise in putting plasters over non-existent wounds preferable.

Chef – ability to rustle up a meal in ten minutes when you have blatantly forgotten to go to Tesco a must

Arts and craft teacher – must be able to remain calm even when glitter becomes glued to the sofa and you are picking up tiny sequin shapes for three weeks afterwards. Also need to be able to stomach staring at atrocious artwork on the fridge until it accidentally falls into the bin.

Musician – a wide repertoire of songs needed to avoid boredom (for you and child). Ability to sing in tune optional.

Story teller – should be able to spin an engaging story from six random words at any point in the day.

Encyclopaedia – a broad and in-depth general knowledge is required, specifically covering how the moon stays in the ky, what death is, why bagels have holes in them and where milk comes from. Use of the internet is tolerated but not ncouraged.

Domestic operative – should be able to wash up, tidy, hoover, put washing on and iron competently. Preferably imultaneously.

Selective deafness – not an essential skill, but recommended for the prolonged periods of whinging, crying for no reason nd repetitive requests for chocolate buttons.

Bum wiper -grimacing to be done only when not being observed

Party planner – your skills of organisation will be required to project plan these annual events. Party bag ideas that don’t involve plastic wiggly snakes and fun-sized box of Smarties an advantage. Diplomacy will be required in order to stop child inviting anyone he has ever met.  

Disciplinarian – the role demands that you are the child’s moral compass and boundary-setter. A range of techniques will be required, including the naughty step, toy removal and thinking time. Bribery may also be used sparingly for when you really, really have to get him in the car right now.

Chief Funster – during the three minutes you are not disciplining, you are expected to be Chief Funster, including (but not exclusively) funny dancing and songs, pretending to be a spaceman, gun fights with twigs, puddle jumping and wrecking the kitchen (otherwise referred to as baking). It is imperative that excitement levels are controlled throughout. See above for when you fail to do this.

Personal shopper – all shopping trips you make will be for the child. At no point will there be the time or budget to purchase items for yourself. All clothing choices must be analysed for stain resistance, durability during prolonged periods of ‘I’m a doggy’ and fit (garments to be at least one size too large to enable growing room).

Baggage Handler – Strong arms and shoulders are required, as you will be expected to carry all of the child’s baggage. And scooter. And hat and gloves. And the collection of thirty muddy twigs gathered en route. And the unidentified green plastic thing he has just prised off the pavement.

Chauffeur – you will need the ability to look in different directions with each eye: one on the road ahead, one on the rear view mirror. You are required to supply a range of music for in-car entertainment and never, ever ask for your stereo to be tuned to a radio station you like. You are responsible for the up-keep of the vehicle which includes picking half masticated raisins out of the carpet pile and scraping shoe mud from the back of the front seats.

Please apply with a covering letter written in Marmite or sprinkly glitter.

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Mummy, can I help?

Sometimes, as a mum, I feel like a servant to my toddler. I say sometimes, I mean pretty much all of the time. Even when he is asleep, as I am usually dealing with the fall-out from whatever activity he was engaged in prior to bedtime. Or picking up his clothes from the landing which often involves hunting the errant sock that he oh-so-hilariously kicked from his foot three seconds after I had uttered the words: “Please don’t kick your sock off.” I cajole it out from behind the radiator with a sigh and move on to replacing sixteen books onto the shelf, collateral damage from his lengthy story selection process.  

There are many reasons why I hate that time of day, involving turning off the television, bath time,  washing hair, getting him out the bath without one of us having a tantrum all spring to mind – not to mention  the fact that it is not quite wine ‘o’ clock yet – but it is the tidying that galls me the most. If only he would bloody help, I think, as I scoop up a heavy snow-fall of ripped up paper fragments and search for pen lids under the sofa.  But I know I don’t mean this. Because E is of an age that means whenever I hear the phrase ‘mummy, can I help?’ my heart momentarily stops and my sphincter starts to twitch.

Breakfast time. It is complicated enough, what with preparing B’s breakfast, shovelling it down him then keeping him entertained sufficiently so he doesn’t start wailing whilst I then prepare mine and E’s, without the added hindrance – sorry – help, of a four year old. I am about to pour milk onto his cereal when he asks to assist. I stop and look at what I am holding: a six pint plastic bottle brimful of milk. Jesus wept.

“Errr… it’s a bit heavy really,” I say to E. I know I should encourage him to help , but really. I got up at 5.30am, I have already been sprayed with Weetabix when B let out an almighty sneeze mid-chew  and have just found myself opening the oven to find the milk. Can’t we start the whole helping thing tomorrow?

“Pleeeeeease.”

We come to an agreement that I will hold his bowl and have one hand on the milk, and he can pour. To be fair, my vision of a tsunami of milk washing us both out the front door turns out to be a little alarmist and I escape lightly with milky socks. I can live with that, although I purposefully don’t think about my sock aroma eight hours hence.

But that is not the end of the breakfast helping. Oh no. Neither of us have cried yet. “Can I butter my bagel, mummy?” Oh goody, I don’t think the table has enough grease smeared all over it yet, so that would be perfect.

I place the bagel and accessories in front of him and stand well back. Milky socks are one thing, I can do without having lumps of Flora in my hair as well.

He digs a lump of butter out of the tub roughly the size of a tennis ball and I twitch involuntarily as every synapse in my brain screams: MOVE THE FUCKING BUTTER RIGHT NOW AND TAKE OVER.  I watch him fastidiously fill the hole in the bagel with said butter,  and then smear the remaining three atoms around the bagel itself.

“Shall I spread the Marmite sweetie?” I ask breezily, and reach for the knife.

“No thanks,” he replies and pulls the jar towards him.  I wince and hold my breath.

With much concentration, E sets about the task and does not stop until there is enough Marmite on the bagel to carry out an impromptu chemical peel on the roof of the mouth of anyone idiotic enough to take a bite.  He surveys his handiwork for a few seconds. “I’m not hungry,” he states and pushes the plate away. Really? What on earth is it about three inches of Marmite that you don’t fancy?

Now I do appreciate that helping is the best way for learning to take place. It is how kids start to gain a little independence in their lives, which engenders a sense of responsibility and autonomy. All very worthwhile. Which, as with most worthwhile activities involving your own kids, means it is excruciating to be part of. Call me a miserable old harridan, (it wouldn’t be the first time) but is there not some way to go from totally inept to black belt without the shit in between? I can take E for swimming lessons, why can’t I take him for breakfast preparation lessons? That way, it can all happen somewhere else, he can pin his certificate on the fridge and I can hand over toasted bread products and toppings without fearing for my own sanity.

Dressing. Ugh. Now there’s another activity that needs to be learned away from the home. And when I say home, I mean me. A long time ago, I used to have infinite patience, regardless of the situation I was in. Then I had kids and my patience fucked off with my pelvic floor muscles and my disposable income and I was left with a fuse the length of an ant. Watching E get dressed when we are on the clock and have to get to nursery is agonising. What with the spontaneous outbreak of dancing (not by me, just to clarify), the long suspension of progress whilst he practically wets himself laughing when he realises his pants are on back to front and Spiderman is climbing up his bum crack, and then the two-legs-in-one-trouser-leg trick which I suspect is done on purpose so he can jump around with his legs jammed together like a rabbit trying to escape from a strait jacket, it is not a speedy process. In fact, if he doesn’t get a bloody move on, he will have grown out of his bloody trousers before we get to the front door.  By the time he is reaching for the buttons on his top, I can’t help myself – I am practically hyperventilating from the stress of watching and I and reach out to take over. “Don’t help mummy,” he says sternly. I actually have to sit on my hands to stop myself poking that sodding button through the hole myself, whilst my inner control freak bangs it’s head repeatedly against the wall and sobs for mercy. It has to be said, those of us with children who are partial to a large dollop of control in their lives are destined to reguarly poke their own eyes out with barely-controlled frustration.  Finally, button through hole,  we leave the bedroom: E at last, fully dressed and me, with my teeth ground down to small enamel stumps. I  may have to go for a lie down. No help required.

 Don’t forget, head on over to http://www.jodienewman.co.uk for the debut book from Jodie Newman, writer of Mothering Frights, mediocre mother and expert swearer.


Point it Lower

I am the first to admit: when it comes to more than one child, I am a novice. Well, let’s face it, I was still pretty amateurish with just one, so two can be a… challenge. And when I say challenge, I mean a hair-tearing nightmare. To be fair (which doesn’t happen very often, so let’s go with this) given than my youngest is the ripe old age of 7 months, I am still reaping all sorts of short-term advantages: he stays where I put him, he usually doesn’t refuse my requests, he doesn’t ask for Scooby Doo every time he comes within twenty foot of the television – he pretty much goes along with the agenda he is given.

So I fear that the full force of two has yet to be unleashed on me. I catch glimpses, though, like accidentally seeing a few moments of a trailer for an utterly terrifying horror film. No matter how quickly you shut your eyes and hum loudly, there is no unknowing what you have just seen, and it leaves you slightly nauseous. My most recent glimpse was last week, when E fell ill and spent three days decorating every bed sheet, duvet cover and blanket with copious amounts of vomit. At one point, I had B crying on my left knee, which was stretched as far as my creaky hips would allow from my right knee, upon which I was balancing the sick bowl, into which E was violently emptying his stomach contents.  B was wailing E was vomiting: it’s how every girl wants to spend her day. I turned to B, smiling and overly-cheerful in an attempt to cease the crying and then turned to E, ‘there thereing’ and being all sympathetic. Then back to B, to try more smiling and cooing before attention returned to E, who was still wretching. Back and forth, forth and back, trying to keep them as far apart as possible. Because, in my head, which was mainly filled with sounds of screaming, vomiting and a single repetitive thought of when I might be able to lie down and have a glass of wine, it was imperative that the gap had to be too large for the sick germs to jump from the bowl to the baby and if I was going to dislocate my legs in the process, so be it. A minute later, in the middle of the sheer ridiculousness of it all, I found myself inadvertently being all concerned and tender with B and gurning a stupid grin at E, who peered up from the bowl, a globule of bile swinging from his bottom lip, and looked away, utterly unimpressed with my inappropriate gaiety.

So now I know. One sick child, one baby: a recipe for madness. But the sick child got well, the baby stopped crying and I ‘la-la-la-la-la’ed’ loudly enough in my own head that I almost could forget it ever happened. 

Until I got another glimpse. We are at a play space with a friend and her boy and baby. My friend’s boy, S, along with E, both decided that they needed a wee. “I’ll take them,” I say. I stand up and it is only then that I start to think I may have been a little hasty. This is unchartered territory for me. Nah, I think, as I usher the boys to the toilets. How hard can this be? It’s only one extra willy, after all. And there is a thought that doesn’t strike me that often.

We enter the toilet, and my first dilemma strikes. One boy per toilet or sharing? Sharing, of course. Can you imagine, returning to the table and having to admit to my friend that her son fell down the toilet whilst I was in the next cubicle undoing E’s jeans? I position them either side of the toilet and pull down pants and trousers, giving them strict instructions not to move. There is going to be no shenanigans on my watch.

Oh yes, this is actually a doddle, I muse, as I turn my attention to S, who, being a year younger than E, is struggling to get his willy above the seat.  So, two boys, one now on tip toes, pointing their willies into the toilet. That’s the hard bit done, surely. S starts to pee and bull’s-eye, it’s in the water. And then I am not quite sure what happens next. Time seems to slow down, whilst the stream of urine seems to speed up. In a split second, the wee is no longer splashing into the toilet bowl, but has suddenly re-directed to a perfect horizontal jet that sails over the toilet and starts to drench E. E, who for the first time in his life is heeding an instruction without the need for twenty-three repetitions, is not moving. Wee is soaking into his pants, dripping down his thighs and splashing onto his crumpled jeans.

“Oh, sweetie,” I say to S, trying not to shout with panic, “point it lower!”

Slowly, the stream of wee is lowered. I pull forty foot of toilet paper from the roll in one go wondering just how fucking stupid I was to position two willies face-to-face, as it were.. or perhaps eye-to-eye, and start the clean-up operation on E, sweating slightly from the stress. Unsurprisingly, E has had second thoughts about wanting a pee himself, so finally I pull his trousers up over still-damp legs and turn my attention back to S.

It is at this point that I realise he has not quite come out of this whole debacle unscathed, either. I look down and he is standing in a puddle of his own urine. I then realise that when I asked him to point his willy down, he did just that. And peed all over his socks.

I shout out a whole smorgasbord of heinous swear words in my head, and take a deep breath. All I can smell is pee. I lift S from his puddle and together, after a cursory hand wash where I pointlessly ask them to be careful and not splash themselves, we all trudge slowly back to the table, two of us covered in wee, one of us squelching slightly from the foot department and one of us totally not covered in any kind of glory whatsoever.

“Errr… I can explain,” I start, with a weak smile and a silent promise that I will never, ever, take two children to the toilet without a trained professional.

 Enjoyed reading about accidents involving small children’s wee? Liked seeing just how crap one mother can be? Then get yourself over to http://www.jodienewman.co.uk and find out about Womb with a View, the new book by the writer of Mothering Frights. Releasing next week, so hurry…


What people say about your children (and what they really mean)

Kids provoke people. I don’t mean in that ‘if you don’t stop running around the restaurant tables, I will trip you up, you little shit’ kind of way. I mean in the ‘provoke to pass comment’ kind of way.

And these comments are rarely as innocuous as they at first might seem. Oh no. What may, on first ear-glance, seem to be an innocent little observation, is, on greater examination, a pointed criticism about your child’s behaviour and thus your parenting ability.

I am having a conversation with E at the supermarket checkout. I cannot even remember the specifics, but let’s say it was about him wanting yet another magazine with a load of plastic crap taped to the front, and me not wanting to buy it. Unlikely, I know, but true.

The woman on the till smiles thinly. “Ooh, he’s a bit of a negotiator, isn’t he?” she remarks. Which roughly translated, means ‘You have absolutely no authority over your child and quite frankly, you an embarrassment to the rest of us mothers’. I know that I get bested in an argument with a four year old more often than I would like. I know that I sometimes capitulate in the face of a trade-off between a Mike the Knight treasure chest that will last approximately three minutes and a sulk of such ferocity it will melt the pavement on which E walks. But really. Do I have to be reminded by a complete stranger with wonky lipstick? 

Another day, another conversation with E. Again, I can’t recall the details, but I would hazard a guess I might have been trying to explain something, like why shadows can be long or short, and he loses interest and calls me a Poo-Face, or something. Cue an eavesdropper who then rudely interrupts: “He’s got a good grasp of language, your boy.” Translation? ‘Your son is a cheeky little shit’.

I don’t really understand why people think it is alright to butt into a conversation a parent is having with their offspring. It is not acceptable between adults. I have never stood at a bar, listening in to two blokes talking, lean over and say ‘Your mate’s a bit of a twat, isn’t he?’ And it’s not as if I haven’t wanted to at times, believe me.

I thought strangers passing judgement was bad with a toddler, but I had forgotten just how out-of-hand it is with a baby. There seems to be an entire system of etiquette involved with coming into close proximity of a baby – I say etiquette, but that suggests a level of politeness, perhaps rudeness is more appropriate – that allows complete strangers to say whatever the hell they like about your nipper. In the course of about two weeks, I was lucky enough to hear the following said about B:

“You’re breeding them hardy.” Translation: Put some more fucking clothes on that baby, you idiot, or I’m calling the NCPCC.

“Ooh, I love chunky babies.” Translation: Your baby is fat.

“Hasn’t he grown!” Translation: You are overfeeding your child, he is threatening to have his own postcode if he gets any bigger.

“What lovely chubby cheeks!” Translation: Your baby is bloody fat.

“Ooh, he’s so pudgy I could eat him.” Translation: Your baby is so bloody fat I could feed my entire family for a week on him.

“They’re so cuddly at that age, when they have all that baby fat.” ALRIGHT. I know. My baby is fat. Please can we move on now? After all, it is only his cheeks that are properly fat and that is not his fault – it runs in the family. Many of his cousins sported rotund cheeks for a year or so. I think at some point in the dim and distant genetic past of my husband’s lineage, someone accidentally mated with a hamster who had just injested a week’s worth of dinners.

And then last week, perhaps the piece de resistance. We are at the cafe, en famille, for lunch. A woman walks past our table and stops. She looks first at M, then at me, before looking long and hard and both E and B.

“Oh my god,” she gushes, barely able to contain her astonishment. “Your children are beautiful”.  I smiled a thank you and she passes on her way, but it was only then I realised what she actually meant. Translation: how did two ugly buggars like you manage to produce children that looked like that?

Perhaps the only solution is to fight fire with fire. The next time someone takes it upon themselves to remark upon my children or my parenting skills (or lack of them) I will smile and reply: “Indeed. And do you know that your anorak makes you look like a window licker?”

Check out www.jodienewman.co.uk/the-book for another exclusive extract of the new book Womb with a View. You can pre-order the book on that site too. You know, if you have a coffee table with a wonky leg, or something.