Monthly Archives: December 2013

An old bloke who has clearly no self control when it comes to the mince pies

We are off to see Santa. Of course we are: it’s freezing cold, I have a list of jobs to do as long as my face and at least fifty percent of my children are too young to give a flying reindeer about Santa. So why on earth wouldn’t we?

We have tried a number of Santa visits over the years. The local fire station (queued for hours, Santa’s beard was so wonky we could all clearly see the brown facial stubble underneath, somewhat ruining the illusion), the local shopping centre (a 3D film where E refused to wear the glasses, somewhat ruining the illusion) and the local school (E recognising Santa’s elf as his friend’s mum, somewhat ruining the illusion). It was less about evoking the magic of Christmas, more about teetering on the edge of having the whole Santa myth come crashing down around our ears in a cloud of polystyrene snowflakes.

So this year, I thought we would try the local farm, where at least, even if Santa’s beard accidentally falls in the fire and his false belly drops on his feet, the boys get to enjoy a tractor ride. The day before we are due to go, I remind E that his trip to Santa is imminent.

“Will it be the real Santa, mummy, or a pretend Santa?” he asks, looking at me with those eyes that say  ‘I may know the answer to the question that I have just asked you, but I may not. So it’s up to you… but be very, very careful how you answer this’. Well, it was either those eyes, or the ‘have you got any chocolate in your pockets?’ eyes, it can be difficult to tell the difference sometimes.

I look back at him, as usual, not really knowing what to say. What’s the official parenting line on crappy Santas who are just after a bit of cash in hand on the run up to Christmas?

“Erm…” It’s no good, I think. I can’t possibly say it’s the real Santa. Hang on… what am I thinking, the ‘real Santa’? There is no bloody Santa, for chrissakes. That’s the trouble when most of the Western world colludes in a whopping great fib, I start to forget where reality ends and a mythical fat bloke in a ridiculous red suit with white furry cuffs begins.

“It will probably be… a pretend one,” I say. “After all, Santa is very busy at the moment.” Wait, that is starting to sound like Santa won’t have time to watch him like a hawk to make sure he is being a good boy, and let’s face it, wielding that threat over a five year old for the whole of December is pretty much the ONLY redeeming feature of the whole Santa charade.

“But the pretend one reports into Santa every day,” I add quickly. “So you still have to be extra good.” I look at my son, trying to work out if he has swallowed this load of old bollocks. The jury is decidedly out.

I do wonder how much longer he will believe in Santa. We have come close on a few occasions, mainly due to my own ineptitude, of blowing the whole thing. Last year, he spotted that some of the presents from mummy and daddy had the same wrapping paper as those from Santa, and how could that be? I remember fumbling through some half-arsed explanation that held about as much water as a sieve, but I just about got away with it. There was also some very intense questioning about how Santa could possibly come down our chimney as our fire has a door on it, and only after much insistence that Santa has a magic key did he stop interrogating me. And then there was the time that Santa bought him a play kitchen, which even a four year old could see would never fit down the chimney so just how did it get here? I tell you, believing in Santa is sodding exhausting in our house.

It’s not even as if Santa is a particularly good role model. An old bloke who has clearly no self control when it comes to the mince pies, who only has one outfit, works for one day a year before sitting on his fat arse waiting for December to roll round again, drinks whilst operating heavy reindeers, can’t be fucked to shave and so has a beard that could house several generations of rodents, and who is a little too keen to have small children sitting on his lap. He probably claims job seekers allowance, too.

My youngest has the right idea about Santa. When we did go to see him, after the tractor ride, the moment he clapped eyes on that be-hatted buffoon, he screamed his head off. Quite right, too.

 

To all readers of Mothering Frights, to those who come back week after week like a small child who touches something hot, feels the pain, but can’t help but touch it again, to all those who pop in occasionally when they have absolutely nothing else to do, and to all those who are reading this by accident as they had Googled ‘best Santa visits’ and found this on page thirteen, may I take this opportunity to wish you and yours a jolly spiffing Christmas. May your Lego sets be simple, your puzzles have all the pieces and your family board games over very quickly. See you on the other side.


The Top Ten Places Parents Have To Visit Before They Die

Walking the Inca trail. Swishing your manicured toes in the warm lapping waves of a Maldives beach. Being punted (I said punted) down a Venice canal as you sit resplendent in a gondola… I don’t know about you, but I have pretty much had my fill of those ‘Ten Places You Have To Visit Before You Die’ lists. Cluttering up my social media streams, they are there for two reasons and two reasons only. One: to make people feel shit about their last trip to the Kent coast for a week of sand castle building, wiping ice cream from small chins and park visits in the drizzle. And two: so that richer people you don’t know but suddenly hate, who are less encumbered with small children and nursery fees, can show off . “I can tick off eight thanks to our last amazing trip to Easter Island! Just booking our cruise to see the Northern Lights!” Really? How very lovely for you. Now piss off out of my timeline and go count your air miles, or something.

Because let’s face it. I have too few pennies and two (many) children to even begin to contemplate those places as realistic destinations for a quick week away during the school holidays. Not to mention the thought of getting on planes with a twenty month old who will only sit still for as long as it takes to shovel a packet of raisins down his gullet. I say shovel, it’s more like inhaling. I should really have called him Dyson.

Those lists piss me off. I stand absolutely no chance of even a couple of ticks: I have two small children, a husband, a job, a mortgage and quite frankly, I struggle to tick stuff off my to-do list, let alone a list that involves global travel and the ability to pack light. So I have decided to create an alternative list. A list that I stand a very good chance of completing. A list that I feel is a tad more sensible – and what it lacks in ambition it more than makes up for in realism. So, pens at the ready, here it is.

10 places to visit before you die (a parent’s version).

1. The supermarket. The pure adrenaline rush of navigating those aisles with an incalcitrant trolley and even more stubborn offspring will have you coming back for more (that and the fact that your toddler was yelling so loudly you forgot to buy bread). Even more spectacular when there is an unexpected tantrum in the bagging area.

2. The soft play centre. The shimmering oasis at the end of every parental question as to how to entertain the kids on a wet morning. Glistening vinyl landscapes, replete with new species of bacteria in every crevice and a host of unidentified fluids for the young explorers, as well as the renowned ‘wall of sound’ noise effect reminiscent of three hundred over-excited hyenas, are just the start of this magical experience.

3. The GP’s waiting room. This is an experience to be repeated. Often. We recommend eschewing the more popular booked appointment for a will-they-won’t-they slot with the on-call duty team, so you can luxuriate in the hard benches and beige carpet tiles for anywhere up to an hour. Thrill-seekers should forget to bring any toys and watch as every occupant of the waiting room prays for you and your barely-controlled child to spontaneously combust.

4. Santa’s Grotto. There is nowhere better to spend one and a half minutes of your life in than this fabulous feat of temporary architecture known as Santa’s Grotto. Watch the delightful anticipation of your offspring build into destructive boredom as you wait in the queue for fifty minutes with other like-minded saps who are about to be relieved of many pounds in exchange for a plastic curio that will last for approximately seven minutes. Book early to ensure disappointment.

5. The car. Experience a journey like no other aboard your very own vehicle. Fuel your adrenaline with the excitement of driving one-handed, your torso twisted sideways and with one arm flailing into the back seat to hand over a drink or break up a fight. All with an incessant soundtrack of children’s songs on the CD player. It will leave you breathless.

6. The shoe shop. A great weekend escape, a trip to the shoe shop is sure to thrill. Jostle for a seating cube with other parents who are all eyeing up the sale rack, praying that their children’s’ feet have not grown again. For a real treat, take a one year old who has an aversion to shoe shops, or shoes, or simply not doing as he is told. It will be a memory to treasure.

7. The library. A trip not for the fainthearted, this one, being as it mixes over-exuberant, loud children with an environment that prides itself on its tranquillity. Marvel at the rows of books that you will never have time to read and instead, settle down with your child and attempt to master the ‘reading out loud in a partial whisper’ skill so beloved by the local population.

8. The garden. A real treasure right on your doorstep, time spent in the garden is a real pleasure. Watch as the one year old attempts to sample the local delicacies by licking a muddy leaf and poking the wet mud before sucking his fingers. If you are really lucky, your five year old will create his own wailing wall, having slipped on a discarded muddy leaf and banged his head on the concrete.

9. Play dates. Some call this the Holy Grail of parental destinations. The play date is an experience of both thrills and spills: you thrill in the luxury of leaving your particular shit-hole of a house behind and being in someone else’s’ tidier abode, before having the white-knuckle experience of your child spilling blackcurrant juice all over their lounge carpet. Not for the faint-hearted.

10. The cinema. For adrenaline junkies only, a trip to the cinema will have you on the edge of your seat. From the tense moment you spot the local custom of eating your own body weight in popcorn, then the mid-film whisper from your child that they really need a wee, then the semi-crouched walk in the dark to the exit before an accident happens, to the threat of vomit from the back seat on the way home from eating too much popcorn, this is an adventure to really get the blood pumping. May involve chipmunks which can trigger an aneurism, so please check at the time of booking.

Tickety-tick tick. How many can you tick?

Why not really spoil your friend’s Christmas and buy them my book, Womb with a View? Sorry, I dont’ know what happened there. I meant why not really spoil your friend this Christmas and buy them my book, Womb with a View? The shiny paperback version is available from www.jodienewman.co.uk where you can also read extracts in a fabulously generous ‘try before you buy’ scheme. Or search for the Kindle version on Amazon (I think I left it on the blue table, under a pile of magazines and a three-day-old cup of coffee).


An invincible sense of outrage and a pair of scissors

Last weekend, I set off to accomplish a simple task. At least, I thought it was a simple task. And then it all got a bit… eary. No, I haven’t disabled the spelling auto-correct function on my computer (god forbid, my blogs would be unreadable). I don’t mean eerie. I mean eary.

You see, I went to buy a hat for my 18 month old son. In my head, this was not going to be one of the more taxing items on my To Do list. Clean out the fridge: tedious and potentially hazardous to my health. Put kids’ too-small clothes in loft: a potential trip to A&E in waiting as my five year old insists in climbing up the ladder after daddy. Buying a hat: piece of piss. This was the plan: enter shop. Choose hat. Pay for hat. Leave with hat. Put hat on son’s head. Go home.

This next statement may neatly cleave the mothering population in two, and cause half my readership to flounce off in righteous indignation (farewell, my dear three friends, it was nice knowing you). Ready? You may want to sit down.

I bloody hate kids’ hats with ears.

There. I’ve said it. But I fear that is not enough.

I blood hate kids’ hats with ears. Kids who wear hats with ears look utterly ridiculous. And their parents should be reported. To whom, I am not sure, but they definitely should be reported.

Every shop I entered, I had high hopes for my hat purchase. I didn’t think I was being particularly picky. I would have been happy with a beanie, or a bobble, or even a beanie with a bobble. Just not ears. So why the buggering hell did EVERY single hat in his size come with a pair of ears? Brown furry ears. Ahh, look, he looks like a little bear, how cute. Pointy blue ears. Oooh, he looks like a little monster, how funny. Green curved horns. Bless, he looks like a little dinosaur, how lovely. (Okay, horns are not technically ears, but they are still a crime against millinery). All I can say to ears is: NOOOOOOOOOOOO.

I know what those hats are trying to do. They are knitted with the same evil intent as all those bloody baby hats and jackets that have ears on the hood. They are making your child look like a tiny little animal. Like your pet. Let’s face it, the harm is already done within three months of birth: you are encouraged to put your baby to sleep in a wicker basket. The only things missing are a squeaky bone and an excess of moulting hair and there you have it: a dog basket. What is it with making our offspring into pets?

Well, I think I may have the answer. It’s all down to Mummy Goggles. We are all given a pair on the birth of our children, and once on, we can never take them off. They are a bit like rose tinted glasses, but a much, much stronger prescription. They totally distort our view of our offspring, so that every time our gaze falls upon that scrunched up, blotchy, frog-like face of our new-born, we can’t help but see the most beautiful, winsome baby ever to grace humanity with its presence. It is only every other bugger who looks at your baby and can’t help but think of Kermit the Frog. And whilst our mummy brains remain tricked into thinking that our baby is gorgeous, there is a small  voice that whispers in your ear: You can make her cuter, you know. You can make people REALLY believe your baby is cute. All you need is a pair of furry ears and everyone will think it is a fluffy little creature. And who doesn’t love a soppy kitten picture?

I tell you who. Bloody well me. If the hat-ear virus was confined to babies, I could just about cope. Actually, I couldn’t – but you know, I don’t want to appear irrational or anything. It is just the whole cute thing. Even saying the word provokes an immediate gag reflex. Your baby is not cute just becasue you have seen fit to shove a hat on its head that has two balls on top that look like knitted testicle warmers. He just looks like a simpleton with genitals on his head. And it seems there is no age that pretending to be a bloody animal is not appropriate.

I was out for a coffee with a friend and she took her two year old’s coat off. He was wearing a Gruffalo onesie with ears and prickles down his back. That is not day wear. That is sodding fancy dress. I must have missed the sign on Costa’s door that announced it was dress up like a twit day. And don’t get me started on onesies. No, really. I think my head might explode.

I fear my only course of action is to start the Anti-Ear Police. I would act outside of the law, like a ninja vigilante, armed only with an invincible sense of outrage at hats with ears and a pair of scissors. I would tip toe up to prams and toddlers, and whilst the mother’s back was turned, I would carefully and quietly cut the ears off. I would then poke them up the mother’s right nostril and tell them not to be so sodding ridiculous. So watch out, hat ears-lovers, I am coming for them. Snip… snip… snip…

laura slinnWant to poke something funny into someone’s Christmas stocking? Well look no further. Well, look just a bit further. Pop on over to www.jodienewman.co.uk/the-book to buy Womb with a View, my debut book about the joyous wonder of becoming a mother for the first time. Sorry, did I say joyous wonder? I meant bewildering nightmare. You can also buy the Kindle version from http://amzn.to/18YEbGH but that might be a little harder to wrap.