Monthly Archives: May 2013

Lethal Weapon 5: The Revenge of the Spoon

Self-feeding is the time in a baby’s life when they get a tantalising glimpse of control. Up until now, B has been a willing but passive participant in meal times. He knows a loaded spoon when he sees it, opens his mouth wide and I shovel it in. Repeat until the bowl is empty or he gives a solemn shake of the head. Easy.

But, as with all things baby, new skills must be learned, and I find the mastery of the spoon one of the more taxing. Don’t get me wrong, as anyone who knows me will testify, I am not one of those parents who laments each passing stage of my off-springs’ lives with the lament: ‘oh, they are growing up so quickly, I miss them sucking the life blood from my breast / wanting to be picked up every three minutes / wiping their shitty arse’ [Delete as appropriate]. Oh no, I cannot wait for B to be competent driving a spoon. I am no fan of eating my lunch one-handed, whilst I feed B with the other. It’s a feat of coordination that can get quite problematic. More than once I have forgotten which hand is holding whose cutlery, resulting in me eating a spoonful of mushed up pasta whilst B eyes up a whole meatball balanced on the huge fork in front of him whilst wondering how the hell he is going to get something the size of his fist in his gob.   It’s simply the process of getting to that stage of spoon mastery that I hate.

I give B a spoon to hold whilst I get down to feeding him. But now, there is invariably an empty spoon jammed in his cake-hole that I have to somehow remove before I can insert the food-laden one. And as anyone who has ever tried to take anything from a one year old that they have no wish to relinquish, only pepper spray or concerted tickling does the job. Once I do manage to remove said spoon, it is then a race to see who can get their spoon in first. Luckily, I strategically bring the full size fork in my other hand into play at this juncture to parry his away. It’s like toddler fencing. I might even start wearing a sieve over my face to make the whole thing feel a bit more authentic.

Now I appreciate that inserting a spoon into a bowl of food, bringing it up to your mouth, inserting into the mouth and then removing it is a feat for a one year old akin to me trying to juggle five flaming batons whilst riding a unicycle, but it doesn’t make it any more pleasant to witness. I help him grasp the spoon the correct way up, but by the time it is in the food, it is upside down. I turn it round. He turns it back. I turn it round again. He squawks with displeasure so I back off. He looks inordinately pleased with himself, but we will see who laughs longest, Mr Upside-Down Spoon. He’ll be too busy chewing on nothing to even raise a chuckle. Somehow, he manages to balance a piece of onion and a chunk of chicken on the back of the spoon, which plop to the floor as he carries the spoon in a rather ostentatious arc to his mouth. If I were him, I would really leave the artistic flourishes until he has had a bit more practise. Whilst he is staring intently at his mid-air spoon, wondering who the fuck just nicked his food, I manage to get a spoonful in. This could take some time.

Meal after meal, he refuses to turn the spoon up the right way, my dexterous, gifted son. But lucky for him, there are some foods that work with an inverted spoon. Yogurt, for instance. It scores just about high enough on the Gloop Scale for a reasonable amount of it to stick to the back of the spoon. However, by the time he has jabbed the spoon in the general direction of his face a couple of times, smearing yogurt across his cheeks in long tracks like some kind of dairy warrior, then managing to apply a thin coating to his eyelid, there is precious little left to eat by the time it actually does docks in his mouth. It is a painful process to watch. But not as bad as baked beans. Those slippery little blighters have no intention of clinging on to the back of a plastic spoon on its wobbly journey upwards. They plop onto the table, down his front, or onto the floor quicker than I can scoop them up. And there is always one bean that hides from me as I wipe the floor after dinner, turning up hard and slightly grimy three days later in B’s mouth as he explores the floor for a mid-afternoon snack.

Each mealtime I fight the urge to grab his wrist to help get the spoon where it should be, and to sellotape the spoon the right bloody way up in his fist. I admit, I am a control freak. His ham-fisted attempts at self feeding are all very noble and part of the natural journey of a baby to independence, but  in the same was as no one goes to see a play when the actors are just starting to rehearse, because it would be annoying, boring and utterly rubbish, I have no real desire to witness my son gouge his own eyeball out en route to getting to grips with cutlery. Quite frankly, I just cannot wait for B to get this spoon thing licked.

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Like some kind of straight-legged zombie

Pop! Pop! Listen… the sound of champagne corks popping to celebrate my 100th Mothering Frights post. Oh no, wait. Maybe it’s the sound of my hip joints as I hoist a child up into my arms. Or my dreams of a tidy house. Or perhaps my youngest son’s shoulders, as they are ripped from their sockets by my eldest’s idea of fun, involving dragging said child around the floor by his wrists. Either way, I have stumbled my way to 100 posts, for which you can all be truly unthankful. For those who have been with me from the start: much thanks and a gold carriage clock for Long Suffering, sorry, I mean Long Service. For those who have joined late to the party: where the hell have you been? Never mind, you are here now. Chuck your coat on the pile, grab a warm beer from the kitchen and enjoy…

B, now at the grand old age of nearly 14 months, is pissed off. It’s his new trick. We had clapping, we had ripping the Velcro straps on his shoes open, we had covering his ears with his hands (this may be purely as a way to block out my dreary mummy witterings). But he seems to have entered his Emo phase, as he will often be found sitting on the floor, narked off. It is often accompanied by wailing, just in case we haven’t realised that his unattractive, scrunched up face means he is angry.

It is mostly brought on by his inability to walk, coupled with his overwhelming desire to do so. The blame for his failure to make his own legs work I put squarely at his feet. However, the blame for his grumpiness may lay with us, his idiotic parents, who have started ‘poddling’ him around. Poddling is a term we coined with E, when he was at the same, frustrated, not-walking-but-wanting-to stage.

Poddle (v): the back-breaking activity of walking a toddler round by standing behind them, holding both their hands, often in a syncopated waddle. Can be accompanied by a huge grin (toddler) and continual grimace (parent).

We poddled with E, him staggering like some diminutive drunk in search of one final beer, around the house, for what seemed like six months – at the end of which my spine was practically fused into a bent-over position and I felt about ninety. So I swore I would not poddle B. He could crawl until he was six for all I cared, but I am four years older now, ten times more tired, fifteen time busier and twenty times more likely to come up with made up statistics – and I refuse to poddle.

Which parental resolution of course, lasted about three and a half minutes before I poddled him. I don’t know how it happened. One moment B was standing, left hand resting on the sofa, the other waving in the air as if he was flagging down a taxi, and then there we were, poddling. He must have caught me off guard, in a moment where my long-term fatigue had drenched my brain in glue, and I was in a good mood (I did say it was a rare moment) and before I knew it, I was off, waddling awkwardly round the furniture with a delighted one year old doing some kind of straight-legged zombie walk in front of me.

Circuits of the kitchen table, down the hall into the bathroom, back up the hall, into the lounge, round the sofa, back to the kitchen, to the front door, back to the kitchen… already my eyes are watering with the ache in the small of my back and I swear my vertebrae are starting to crumble. Enough. I stop by a chair and place his hands on the seat, emitting an involuntary grunt that only middle aged people can truly perfect as I try to straighten up. B clings to my forefinger like a vice, sensing his poddling is under threat. I prise his hand off, but he refuses to use the chair as support. So there is nothing left to do but try and make him sit down. B is already getting angry, and as I try to lower him to the floor by leaning his upright frame backwards, he instantly employs the toddler transformation trick: turning from human to wooden plank. I lower him a bit more, but he is still rigid. It is no good, I am going to have to resort to plan B: folding. Folding a toddler is not dissimilar to folding a napkin, except the former rarely ends up looking like a swan and I don’t swear so much when I am folding a piece of square fabric. I push his torso roughly in the middle, hoping that brute force will create a bend, but he resists. Now with one arm round his shoulders, I try the fold again, this time with the edge of my hand at the top of his legs. I fight the urge to solve the problem with one hefty karate chop to the waist, so we remain in this position for half a minute, both of us struggling for supremacy, until finally he succumbs and lands with a thud on his arse. Immediately he starts to scream and waves both hands in the air.

At this juncture, I should take a photo of him, Photoshop an Alton Towers ride into the background so that five years hence, I can claim we took him to loads of great places when he was little, but instead, mission completed, I walk away to go and find a back brace. B throws himself on his tummy and flails about in utter disgust that I have stopped poddling with him, and no doubt bereft at the realisation that he has a heartless harridan as a mother. I’ll say something for my youngest son. He can throw a good tantrum when the need arises.

B did try and walk the other day. I was sitting on the lounge floor, B standing next to me. I could see him eyeing up the sofa, about two foot in front of him. He stared at it for a while, then launched his arms forward with every intention of taking his first step. What he failed to do was inform his legs of the plan, which remained resolutely rooted to the spot. I watched as, like a tiny tree that had been felled with one brutal swing of the axe, he tipped straight forward toward the floor. I did manage, between snorts of amusement, to break his fall, so he ended up gently in a face-to-the-floor position, Again. So whilst he was there, he took the opportunity for a bit of a scream and a cry. It obviously seemed a bit churlish not to, really.

There are absolutely no redeeming features of a poddle. It makes your back ache, walking round your house with your eye level a constant four foot from the ground can only lead to dissatisfaction when you start to your house from a different angle, it is the dullest activity known to man, a dullness that is inversely proportionate to the glee of the mobile toddler, and moreover, ending a poddle will result in being on the receiving end of the wrath of a one year old. But I have a plan. When I really am ninety, and my back is bent in two and my vertebrae fused together like a calcified boomerang due to years of poddling, I will stick my arthritic hands in the air and demand to be poddled by B. That’ll bloody show him.


The shittiest end of the shittiest stick

Remember the May bank holiday we’ve just had? You know, the one that was watched over by that strange glowing, yellow orb that bathed us in warm air…now, what the hell is it called… wait, I’ll get there… oh yes, that’s it. The sun. What did you do? Barbeque? An impromptu day at the seaside? A trip to the park with ice cream and cold drinks? Well whoopie for you. I wrestled a bunk bed for four hours.

We had promised E that if he was a good boy – and I mean, a really good boy – we would get the extension kit out and turn his humdrum bed into a thing of magic and intrigue: a bunk bed. This talismanic promise had transformed a lippy, incalcitrant four year old into a paragon of manners and niceness. Confirming what I had always suspected: get a big enough bribe and you can get your kids to do absolutely bloody anything. There is a point, granted, at which this strategy falls apart – or at least, becomes eye-wateringly expensive, as E demonstrated some time ago. I told him that if he did this (I have no recollection what this was, but no doubt it was an utterly outrageous request such as tidying up his toys or not dislocating his brother’s arm) then he would get a treat. “A big treat?” he enquired. “Yes,” I replied, thinking of a £5 game I had languishing at the back of the cupboard. “What, like a house?” he asked. I was not sure if I was more disturbed that the treat scale has suddenly escalated into the start of a property portfolio, or that he was already thinking of moving out.

There is another down-side to this strategy: at some point, we had to fulfil our promise. Which is why, on the sunniest bank holiday known to man, there I was, allen key in hand, surrounded by heavy white planks of wood  in a variety of shapes and sizes. I eyed them suspiciously as I wrestled with an inordinately long and unwieldy cardboard box like some crazed Cardboard Dundee in a ridiculously small and square room, as I spotted that there were six planks that all looked the same. But I’d been caught out with crazy assumptions like that before. There would be crucial differences. Differences so small that it would take a forensic scientist to spot them, but differences all the same. One hole in a slightly different position. A chamfered end. One set of holes that are countersunk (oh yes, get me with the DIY lingo). All minute differences that go unnoticed until you are on the penultimate stage, at which point you realise that you are going to have to dismantle the whole bloody thing and start again. But not before you stab yourself repeatedly in the eye with your screwdriver, though. And the evil flat pack overlord would never agree to label the pieces. Oh no. He is far too malicious for that. This is the being that has been known to remove one crucial screw from the fixing pack, just for kicks. Lets sort out the rank amateurs from the vaguely competent right here and now, don’t label a thing and leave it all to sodding guesswork.

I poured a huge bag of fixings into E’s sick bowl which seemed somehow appropriate, and stacked the pieces in size order, as a classic displacement  activity to put off the inevitable. But eventually, when I had rearranged the planks according to number of holes, I could put it off no longer.  I opened the instructions and immediately felt a bit queasy, which was inconvenient, unless I wanted to puke all over an impressive selection of screws, bolts and things that probably do have names, but not in this brain. A complex drawing of three different planks intersecting with a handful of nuts, bolts and ‘niblets’ as I named them, on the end of a swarm of arrows that pointed to a peppering of holes in a fourth plank, swam before my eyes. DIYer’s panic started to rise in my stomach: that feeling you get when you are past the point of return (i.e. you’ve ripped the packaging so there is no way you can return the item, claiming you purchased it in error and please could you swap it for an extra thick mattress as that is almost as good as a bunk bed when you are four) but have no idea how to proceed. I turn the page, thinking that perhaps that was going to be the most complicated stage and it would all become clear on page two. It got worse. I quickly flicked back and sighed.

In this state of overwhelm, I started to consider M, who at that precise moment in time was downstairs cooking lunch. He really got the fucking good end of the deal here. I, however seem to have ended up holding the shittiest end of the shittiest stick on shit day. Otherwise known as a bank holiday.

There was nothing else for it, I had to make a start. Triple-counting holes and double checking instructions, I began. In the small, almost airless room, I was starting to build up quite a sweat. Then E wandered in and uttered those immortal words that froze the sweat on my brow and curdled the contents of my stomach: “Can I help, mummy?”

So now, I was wielding six foot planks around an airless, tiny room whilst trying not to decapitate my son, who kept stealing the bloody screwdriver at critical moments and dropping niblets under the bed. And when he wasn’t doing that, he was creating electrostatic confetti from a sheet of polystyrene when my back was turned, no doubt granules of which would still be turning up three years hence.  I was continually blinking sweat out of my eyes and occasionally allowing myself a brief glimpse out of the window at the blue sky beyond, just to reinforce what I was really missing.

“Can I hammer that in, mummy?” I pondered just how busy A&E may be on a bank holiday Monday, as E banged a dowel into oblivion with glee. Can I resign as a parent, please?  I’d agree to a sabbatical. Hell, I’d sign up five minutes of solitary confinement in the toilet right now.

I wipe a trickle of sweat from my hot, red face.

“Lunch is ready!” shouted M from downstairs. E jumped up with a ‘yippee’ and disappeared out of the door like a rat down a drainpipe, or a four year old in pursuit of meatballs, leaving me on my knees, bent over a plank of wood, half way through screwing in a niblet whilst keeping another plank upright with judicious use of my head, and lining up a dowel  as I balance a six foot plank on my thigh and simultaneously support another under my arm. DIY is definitely for octopuses. Or  the clinically insane. And definitely NOT for a sunny bank holiday. Now, where does this shitty stick go?

Well, whadda you know. This is my 99th post on Mothering Frights. I am nothing if not persistent. Expect fireworks, dancing ladies and copious amounts of champagne next week. Please note: a fervent imagination will be required.

To help pass the time until next week, why not hop on over to www.jodienewman.co.uk or Amazon to buy Womb with a View, my book about the experience of being pregnant and becoming a mum for the first time. Apparently, it’s a great test for those creaky post-birth pelvic floors. £6.99 for the paperback from my site, or £3.99 for the Kindle version from Amazon. There, you will also find reviews. They’re not bad, considering no chocolate button bribes were used.


The sun has got his hat on. The bastard.

We were away last week. I refrain from using the usual terminology of ‘holiday’. This implies way too much relaxing, getting up late, impromptu glasses of wine and generally indulging yourself, and we have two children with us. There should be a more accurate way of describing our week at  an English coastal town… how about a Samecation?

Because when you have kids, a holiday is pretty much exactly the same shit, just a travel cot, more ice cream bribes and a hastily selected bag of toys that are never the ones they want to actually play with.

“Where’s my helicopter, mummy?”

“We didn’t bring it.”

“Owwwwwwwww. I wanted to bring it. It’s my favourite.”

“The blue helicopter? The one that you haven’t played with for about two years and is probably covered in an inch of dust by now, abandoned at the back of your shelves?”

“Yes! That one!”

“No, we still didn’t bring it.”

When we arrive, B is still in the throes of a virus, presenting itself as a high temperature that will not budge. So we did what any parent would do in this situation: fill our holsters with Calpol and Ibuprofen and drown him in them. Consequently, he was not sleeping well. Ergo, neither did we. The lure of staying up late as we were on holiday soon seemed utter folly in the face of a one year old screaming the house down at 1am, 3am and 5am. So moderate wine was imbibed before scurrying off to bed at half past ten. Rock and bloody roll.

Mercifully, the virus didn’t seem to enjoy the brisk sea air, and two days in, packed its bags and left. But not before it had arranged a house sitter: constipation. B’s bowels were suddenly in lock down. Food went in the top, but nothing came out the bottom and he was so uncomfortable, he barely slept at night.

He woke about every 20 to 30 minutes, and fidgeted, cried and generally was reluctant to go back to sleep. Maybe he was having nightmares about a giant poo with sweetcorn for eyes about to gobble him up . M and I took it in turns to deal with him, with ever increasing desperation for some sleep. I would stroke his back, leaning into the travel cot, willing him to close his eyes. Eventually, he would lay quiet, and I would stroke some more, trying to ignore the pain in my chest where the edge of the travel cot that I was leaning on was slowly breaking my torso in half. My back ached, my arm was going numb and my jaw throbbed from all that teeth clenching. Finally, B’s breathing slowed and inch by inch, I withdrew my hand. He stirred, and I froze, arm mid-air. Nothing. I retreated some more, standing upright and getting a head rush from having spent the last twenty minutes inverted unnaturally into the cot. I tip toed backwards out the door and got as far as sitting on the edge of my bed before B started screaming again. The unwritten rules of night time child care state that it is still your shift if you have not laid down in bed, so I dragged myself back to B’s room and the whole sorry charade began again.

And that is the pattern for the next two nights as well. M and I are broken human beings. Someone could have set fire to my hair and I doubt I would have had the energy to put it out. I would be spending the last ounce of energy I did have contemplating that whilst it was not ideal that my head was a blazing inferno, just think of all that lying down in a hospital bed it would mean.

Incredibly, the sun was out in a cloudless sky the day we decided to go to the beach. Along with the bloody blue helicopter, I had not seen fit to pack sun hats. We were going to Kent, for chrissakes, not the Algarve. But as we stepped out of the house and into the sun, I looked at my blonde son and his little brother, with his downy, thin hair and decided that we must get hats. Now. In fact, it might even be dangerous to walk to the shop without some kind of head shelter. This, I believe, is what happens when you get approximately one hours sleep a night for two nights in a row. You go slightly mad. Any kind of perspective on anything dribbles out of your arse; leaving you running to the shop like a mad woman, elbowing old people out of the way and kicking cats from your path in order to get to the basket of sun hats at the back of the lovely, but ultimately over-priced, local children’s’ boutique.

I selected one for B, trying not to be too obvious about searching out the cheapest one. It’s all relative though, as it was an eye watering £14. E, by far more picky, tried on every sodding one in the basket before selecting a nasty beige one that still cost the earth. By now, I was contemplating just how bad sun stroke could be, as it might be worth the risk, but my middle class guilt about burning the flesh from my offspring’s boneswas too strong, and I bought the two hats for approximately the price of a pair of kid’s shoes.

Out of the shop we went, into the sun. Within thirty seconds E has pulled the hat from his head, saying it was uncomfortable. B, who had been staring intently at the brim of the weird thing that had appeared on his head, yanked his hat off and refused to have to reinstated. With a sigh of resignation and overwhelming fatigue, I stuffed both the hats under the pram. A few minutes after this, the sun disappeared behind a great big cloud. Bloody sun hats. Sodding sun.

That afternoon, I was doing yet another circuit of the harbour with B in the pram, trying to get him to sleep. It is seemingly quite hard to drop off for a snooze when you have three days worth of poo threatening to poke out of your throat due to its ever increasing size, but he dozed off eventually. I trudged on, in a daze, trying not to feel miserable. Because when you are sleep deprived all you really want to do is push a pram around for hours.  It’s not like it adds to the sense of overwhelming futility, or anything. The pram wheel snagged on a stone. I pushed a bit harder. It was still jammed, so I pushed on, hoping the stone would dislodge, but no. So I pulled the pram toward me, before pushing again. That didn’t work, so I stopped and inspected the wheel. Around the back wheel was wrapped B’s new sun hat. I tutted and went to pull it off. It was only then that I realised that it was not just loosely wrapped around the wheel: it was wound round so tight that not one inch of it would budge. Pull as I might, I could not get the bloody thing off. So there I was, in the middle of the harbour, at the mercy of the cars driving past, stranded. I looked around for help: there was just an ice cream van. Could I freeze it off? Prise if off with a stick of flake? I suppose I could decorate it with some hundreds and thousands to pass the time. I spent the next quarter of an hour trying to free it, but it was jammed solid. Maybe I could find a fisherman with a knife? But then I thought about how much I have just paid for the bloody hat, and I can’t bring myself to do it. I put a call into M, who will be at least twenty minutes. I half-lift, half drag the pram onto the pedestrian area, as although I am not having a great time, getting squashed by a car would be significantly less of a laugh, and I sit down on the ground and try not to cry. B takes this as his cue to wake up and scream on my behalf, which he does with great gusto. I rock the pram and shush him, but there is no calming him down, so eventually, just leave him to cry. I am all out of ideas on the crying baby front. A woman walks past just as I have got back onto my haunches to have another go at freeing the hat, and makes a point of stepping round me, muttering something under her breath. I look up and manage to seriously clobber my temple on the pram frame. Well, this day just keeps getting better. I wonder when the killer whale is going to leap out of the sea and savage my limbs?

Then, just as the sun comes out because I am not hot and sweaty enough yet, a good twenty minutes since this whole debacle started, I get purchase on a tiny bit of the hat brim, and with copious and persistent wiggling, I manage to unwind it from the wheel. Hallelujah! The hat is missing one strap, but other than that, is intact. With a triumphant flourish and a quick dust down I put it on B’s head. He looks up at the brim, grabs it, and tosses it out the pram with contempt.

I may revise my renaming of our holiday. Samecation? Nah. Shitcation is far more accurate.


There’s a perfect parent inside, dying

I am the perfect parent. Okay, I may have to qualify that. I have the perfect parent, inside my head. I would like to think it is dying to get out, but I fear it may just be dying. Little by little, as I stumble across the obstacle course that is bringing up two children, slightly out of breath and a tad fearful that I may not quite make it across the next wall, trying to brush rusk crumbs from my eyebrows with one hand whilst trying to stop my youngest eating the mud, my perfect parent slowly crumbles. In the face of such mediocrity, confronted by snot-smeared jumpers and eye bags that seem to touch my jaw bone, there is little room left for perfection.

I know, for instance, that my perfect parent would not shout. Because we all know that shouting is just you admitting that you have lost. Both the argument and the plot. But hey, that doesn’t stop me. I sometimes use the excuse for E playing me up at bedtime that he is tired after a busy day: so can I now play that card too? The other evening, I was putting E to bed. All was going just fine and dandy and I was feeling pretty relaxed. Right there is the first sign that this was not going to end well. We put the book down that we had been reading and I asked him to get into bed. I could see his leg twitch, and then he decided not to comply. Oh good.

“Come on, into bed please. Now.” I keep my tone as light as my irritation will allow, trying hard to convince myself that this is not going to end badly and that under utterly no circumstances am I going to lose my temper. Shouting? Not today, thank you. I will be calm personified. I momentarily close my eyes and channel Supernanny. I can do this.

E makes no attempt to move. I put my hand on his back, giving him a gentle nudge in the right direction, just in case he has forgotten where the bed is, seeing as it is all of three foot away and directly in his line of sight. There is no movement.

“You will lose television tomorrow if you don’t get into bed right away,” I inform him. This is the worst punishment I can inflict…. on me. I have no idea why I use it as a bargaining tool, it is much more painful for me to have a child without television, as it is the only thing that keeps him from getting every toy he owns off the shelves whilst simultaneously playing marbles right in front of B, who simply thinks he’s in one of those restaurants where the food rotates past you and you can help yourself.

E and I stare at each other and I can feel my blood start to simmer nicely in my veins. “Last chance.”

He knows we are at the end of negotiations and he moves his left foot forward about two centimetres. I open my mouth to reprimand him, and he moves his right foot forward two centimetres. The tiny, tiny steps continue, each one racheting up my blood pressure incrementally. Now I am in a quandary, because he is technically doing as I ask, but is at the same time, managing to make me want to chop his feet off. I fear my head might explode with barely contained irritation if he doesn’t get into bed soon, but mindful of my promise to myself not to shout, I pass the time by sinking my fingernails so deep into my palms, they poke out the back of my hand. Finally, he reaches the bed, but remains sitting up.

“Lie down please,” I order. He does not move. Then I shout at him. The perfect parent inside sniffs with disgust.

And I am damn sure the perfect parent answers every question asked with a full, patient and educational answer. I certainly vowed that this is what I would do. And then I had kids, and one of them reached the age where everything, from a leaf on the floor to a fluffy cloud, from a pea on his plate to a TV advert, provokes a barrage of questions.

“How does the earth stay in space?” I bloody knew I should never have bought him a book about space. You give them an inch to learn, they want to know about the whole bloody mile.

“It’s a thing called gravity that keeps it there, and keeps everything stuck to the earth.”

“I’m not stuck to the earth,” he helpfully points out, waggling one foot in the air. Okay, deep breath.

“Well, we all are, sort of.”

“Why?” Here we go.

“Because… ” I peer into the black hole that is my knowledge of all things space related.

“…otherwise we would all float away.”

“Why?”

“Well, it is gravity that keeps us all here.”

“Why?”

Now at this juncture, the perfect parent would persist, and gladly offer further explanation. (Mind you, the perfect parent might bloody well know what she was talking about, which would be a sodding help). I, however, saddled with general ignorance and long term sleep deprivation, wave the parental white flag: “Just because.” The perfect parent inside tuts loudly and turns away with an air of resigned disappointment.

The perfect parent would also take their children on a range of exciting, educational and inspiring activities when they are all together for the day. Me, I choose the local soft play area every week. Because a) I get a sit down, b) with a coffee c) with friends and d) E runs off with his friend and leaves us in peace for a bit. This is only slightly spoiled by having to now sit in the baby area with B, meaning I have to pretend to be delighted by the presence of other people’s children crawling over my feet and throwing plastic balls at my head.

I think we all probably have the perfect parent inside of us, the parent we dream of being when we are first expecting a child, when the delights of dealing with your offspring have yet to be made a reality and you can see no earthly reason why you would not always be consistent with your discipline and can confidently vow never use confectionery as a legitimate way to get your child to get into the bloody car right now. It’s just that some perfect parents are better hidden than others. Mine is currently lying under a pile of rubble, so deeply buried no one can hear her scream. Certainly not above my bloody shouting, they can’t.