Monthly Archives: February 2013

Ruling with a rod of jelly

B is crawling. He is as pleased as a dog with two cocks, and about as stable. I am obviously operating under the assumption that a dog with twice as many willies would be unstable, probably because he would be like any man in this predicament and be unable to take his eyes off his new-found pendulous additions, thus banging into things and toppling over with gay abandon. But I digress.

B’s inability to stay on all fours without pitching head first onto the floor boards or falling sideways and ending up like a flailing up-turned beetle, is not proving to be a deterrent. He wriggles in my arms like a bag of angry ferrets until I put him on the floor, and then he is off, like the bloody Duracell Bunny.

Our days at home are now accompanied by the little slap-slap of tiny palms making deliberate contact with the floor as he crawls around the table or explores the kitchen, only ceasing temporarily if he gets his head stuck in the frame of the chair. B was so pissed off before he learned to crawl, whining if he was left to sit on the floor too long. But now, the downstairs is his oyster and his new-found freedom is a thing of unalloyed joy for him.

So once again, we have had to brush off the dust and deploy our Danger Radar as he tries to pull open a drawer, stick his fingers in an open knot-hole in the floorboards and climb into a cupboard we carelessly left open. We leave a scattering of toys on the floor so that he can amuse himself, but unfortunately, his big red bus, his rain maker and his toy phone have all lost their appeal in the face of something so alluring he can hardly believe his luck: plugs and electric sockets. Now, most of our sockets have the child protectors still in them from when E was a baby – not because we were very good at planning ahead, but because I gave up trying to remove them after I broke four fingernails in an attempt  to prise them out. So there is little danger of actual electrocution. But I feel it is only good parental practise to warn him off even touching a plug. The trouble is, we have one at his eye level that  is not only shiny and white, it has bloody flashing lights on it as well. It could not be more alluring to an eleven month old if it carried the Fisher Price logo and played The Wheels on the Bus.

As soon as B gets put on the floor, he is off, making a bee-line to the flashing plug. Ah, I think, this is the first time I will be able to assert my parental authority, and it is important that he understands the concept of ‘no’. After all, he will be hearing it a bloody lot over the coming years, so it is essential that he grasps the concept early on. In my mind’s eye, I tell B ‘No’ in a stern manner, and he backs away from the plug and never touches it again. That is the sort of parent that I am, in my head. Back in the real world, I firmly say ‘no’ and shake my head as he reaches out to touch the plug, looks at me for a moment, then smiles. No, this is not the desired effect. I repeat the admonishment, but his arm is still outstretched toward the plug as he grins again. He obviously has not quite grasped ‘no’, I sigh, as I am forced to put down my cup of tea and physically remove him from the plug’s vicinity.

The next day, I hear the familiar ‘slap slap’ as he races toward the plugs. I look across at him and he looks at me as he crawls closer. There is no way that this child does not know he is up to no good. Right, this is it. I will put my foot down properly this time, and he will understand that I mean business.

He sits down in front  of the plug and turns to look at me. “NO!” I half-shout and force out a frown of epic proportions. Even E looks up with a scared look on his face.

B pauses momentarily and then starts to laugh. But not just a chuckle. A great big belly laugh that rocks him back then forwards on his bottom.

“NO!” I repeat. E gets up to look at B, intrigued and no doubt pleased that B is now able to share a portion of the tellings off that get handed out in our household. B laughs so hard, he actually tips himself backwards and bangs his head on the floor, promptly ceasing all further laughter and all thoughts of touching the plug.

So victory is mine. Okay, it’s not the victory I was hoping for. But when you seemingly rule your children with a rod of jelly, you take your victories where you can get them.

The Second Child Syndrome

When I had my first baby, I felt my life (and my cervix) had been run over by a juggernaut, which then promptly reversed back over it in case there was anything left resembling its former shape. It has to be said, I took to motherhood like a duck to… concrete. I waddled about (that’ll be the C-Section, then) with my feathers permanently ruffled, trying desperately to build a good enough nest for my squawking offspring and… okay, I think I may have wrung every last cliché out of the duck analogy, but you catch my drift.

In that sleep-deprived haze of new motherhood, there was nothing I would not do if I thought E needed it. I warmed his cot blanket to make transition from arms-to-cot less traumatic. I did baby massage, which turned out to be not a lot of massaging and quite a lot of placating a screaming baby who was pissed off that he had been stripped to his nappy in the middle of day and sandpapered by my rough, cold fingers.  I pureed lorry loads of fresh fruit and veg to ensure he had the most nutritionally balanced diet, condemning our kitchen cupboards to always be crammed with ridiculously small Tupperware pots that are of no use to man nor beast unless you really want to save those five baked beans for tomorrow’s supper. I took him to music classes, to gym classes, to swimming classes, gritting my teeth through the lot and fighting the urge to punch the overly-cheerful and outrageously condescending woman who was in charge, or the mother who called E fat, or the baby who didn’t scream the whole way though swimming. One small cough from E would make me wonder if dialling 999 was an over-reaction and I was practically on first name terms with the nurse who was on night shift at NHS Direct. As you can see: a natural.

And then came my second.  To say I was a little more relaxed may be an understatement along the lines of ‘giving birth chafes a bit’. With E, we always brought the monitor downstairs of an evening, keeping an ear open for snuffles, coughs and cries for milk. We never bothered with B. If he needs us, I reason, all he has to do is shout. Very loudly.

And those classes. I did consider enrolling B for one or two. Then I remembered just how horrible they were and somehow never got round to it. I thought music classes might be fun for him, to instil a joy of music that would last him a lifetime, so I tried him with E’s xylophone. He chewed it for a while, then hit himself in the eye with the stick and screamed the sodding house down. So that was fifty quid well saved.  Mothers have said to me that they took their second child to exactly the same classes as they did with their first, to give them the same experiences and opportunities. I applaud that. Clappity clap. It’s just all that jolly singing and enforced fun – it’s not good for them , I am sure. And it’s certainly not good for me to do it twice, for chrissakes. If B ever asks why E got to go to all the classes whilst he had none, I will take him along to one. That’ll shut him up.

And the concern for my second son’s health is not anywhere as prolific as with E. We spent many a long hour poring over the baby books, trying to diagnose a spot, a cough or a cry as something that needed the intervention of a trained medical professional . With B, a raging temperature and loss of appetite only prompted a visit to the GP so I could find out exactly how much Calpol I could really shove down him before he turned into a strawberry – and we ended up in hospital for three days. (My parenting style may be more relaxed with the second child, I never claimed it to be better).

And of course, B gets no new clothes. Hand me downs that are seasonally inappropriate are the order of the day. Too cold for a tee shirt? It’s all about layering. Getting him undressed of an evening is like peeling a bloody onion.

I think my pendulum may have swung a little too far, leaving uptight, swinging through relaxed and heading toward comatose. One morning in the first few weeks of B being in nursery, he was particularly upset as I handed him over. I left with a quick kiss and a wave  and just as I had finished peeling off the blue plastic condoms you have to wear over your shoes, one of the lovely girls from the baby room came running out to tell me that it was okay, B had stopped crying. I looked at her, nonplussed. Why did she run out to tell me that? And then I realised. Because that is what I would have been desperate to hear if B was my first born. I thanked her, and felt momentarily guilty for such an absence of concern. Then I found a packet of chocolate buttons in my coat pocket and forgot all about it.

The trouble is, doubling the number of kids you have does not double your attention capacity. Now, I am no expert on anything to do with parenting (or much else, to be honest. Perhaps building bungalows from Lego would be my specialist subject) and am a rank amateur in comparison to all those parents with more than two kids                                                … sorry, I had to go for a quick lie down, just thinking about having more than two kids makes me dizzy. But it seems to me that I have one pot of attention, one pot of sympathy, one pot of tolerance and so on… and some of these pots are pretty bloody small to begin with (let’s just say my pot of patience could be mistaken for a thimble). And when I gave birth to my second, no one turned up to give me second pots of those things. No. Now, my pot of attention has to shared between two. And you know how crap kids are at sharing. If both are wailing for my attention, E gets the lion’s share, and B gets to run his finger round the inside and lick whatever morsel is left behind.  That is just the lot of the second child.

Which is why I will never, ever have any more children. For a start, all those hands in my pots would be just so bloody annoying. And because if my attitude to my second is anything to go by, the third would sleep in a shoe box, eat carpet dust and be lucky if I even get round to naming him.

The second child syndrome

Would the real tooth fairy please stand up

Several conversations with E recently has made me think about the control that parents have over their young offspring. We control what they eat, what they watch, what they do – and more fundamentally, what they believe. And then slowly, whilst our backs are turned picking up tiny pieces of a rocket or running them back and forth to nursery, we don’t.

Holding onto controlE is a case in point. Being of the male persuasion, asking him what his day at nursery was like provokes a monosyllabic “good” if I am lucky, or a request to turn the volume up on the car stereo if I am not. He has friends who I don’t know, he eats things I am unaware of and I only glean what activities he does when I draw on my Clouseau-like powers of deduction and spot a splash of paint on his top, a smear of beans encrusted his lip, or sand pours from his shoe on removal. There is a portion of his life of which I am ignorant, and it suddenly dawned on me as I took a break from picking up sodding bits of rocket that this portion will only increase as time goes on.

He now says things that I know did not come from M and I, such as pink is yukky and is a girl’s colour. To be fair, pink is yukky, he is right, but I always ensured that my hatred of pink and general girliephobia remains unspoken in front of him. And continuing his obsession with death, he announced yesterday that heaven is where you go when you die. I know for a fact that we did not discuss this with him, as I am yet neither intellectually or emotionally prepared for the inquisition into what happens when we expire, mainly because four year olds never bloody know when to let it lie. I mumbled something about heaven being a place that some people believe is where you go when you die, then asked him if he wanted the volume up on the car stereo.

One of the aforementioned conversations made me ponder the outside influences that are now having a defining influence on my son and his take on the world. A chat about milk teeth falling out led to a discussion about what you do with the tooth.

“You put it under your pillow for the tooth fairy, don’ t you, mummy?” E asked.

“That’s right.”

“And the tooth fairy leaves a coin for you?”

“Only if you are very good.” Ha, never miss a bloody trick, me.

There is a long pause. “Is it you that really leaves the coin, mummy?”

Goddamn. Who the hell told him that the tooth fairy doesn’t exist?  I mentally oscillated between trying to keep up the pretence or telling the truth. I probably could have persuaded him of the existence of that winged coin bringer – until he had at least lost one tooth – if I tried extremely hard and was on top of my lying game but really, what was the point?

I have the sense that I am living on borrowed time with my control. And when I mean control, let’s face it, I mean lies. He has already rumbled that if the light is flashing on the top of the Bob the Builder ride, I must be lying when I say it is broken.  It will only be a matter of time before he realises that if he doesn’t stop mucking about on the back seat of the car and sit down, then a policeman won’t actually come and put him in jail.

Worryingly, it seems that I may have to stop the lies in the face of those evil outside influences that will soon tell him that Santa does not exist and that it is actually quite unlikely that I am not carrying any money and so probably could buy him a magazine. Actually, on reflection, no. I just need to get better lies or better parenting skills. Actually, let’s just stick to better lies.

Sowing the seed

Sowing the seedE and I are talking, and I mention about being pregnant with B. This has been referred to many times, not to mention the nine months that E witnessed the prodigious swelling of my tummy (well, let’s not lie: the only parts of me that didn’t swell were my eyeballs and my ear lobes) and not once did it provoke a question. Which as far as I am concerned, is a Good Thing. I know that I will, at some point, be having The Talk with my offspring about sex. I have no qualms about this; I have a flip chart, a laser pointer, I am not scared of whipping up a diagram replete with arrows – I am prepared. But not at the age of four. And I thought I had got away with it, until at this mention of being pregnant, E asks: “How did the baby get into your tummy?”

I swallow. Which is not the way he got in there, for anyone out there as blissfully ignorant as my son. “Erm… well. Daddy put him in there.” Is that the creak of Pandora’s box being opened wide?

E looks at me. I look at E.

“How does it grow?” Okay, of all the questions that could have come next, this, I feel, is not the worst.

“From a seed.” Brevity is the key here, I think to myself and am actually quite chuffed that  the whole seed thing is true in some sense and slightly plausible, and honest without scaring him shitless that his willy will spurt babies as soon as his pants are off if he’s not careful.

And that is it. No more questions. I practically do a little dance. That is most definitely a great escape.

Three days later we are in the kitchen.

“Mummy, how does daddy put the seed in your tummy?” Oh fuckity-fuck. My mind races through all the possible answers that I could give him at this point. An anatomically correct one? ‘Well, daddy puts his penis in… oh no. Absolutely not. A euphemistic one? Well, daddy parks his car in mummy’s… forget it, he’ll never sit in M’s car again. A liar-liar-pants-on-fire one? Well, I bought it from the seed shop…no. That just won’t do. Then it strikes me: the perfect reply. A masterstroke of a retort:

“Do you want some chocolate buttons?”

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