My shameless attempt to swiftly back pedal into the fairy kingdom

tooth_fairy_grave

“Look me in the eye mummy. Tell me the truth. The tooth fairy is you, isn’t it?”

The world seemed to momentarily stop spinning. I felt the weight of parental responsibility bear down on me, its hot sticky breath with just a trace of day-old gin making me hold my breath. This, I knew, was a pivotal moment, one of those moments when you can triumph as a parent, showing your mettle in the face of a six year old boy who had somehow got wind of the fact that the tooth fairy, with her habit of carrying enough pound coins about her person to drown a small kitten and her ability to pass through closed windows, may not be real.

I did a lot of thinking in those few silent seconds that followed my son’s question, consisting mainly of other questions to which I had no answer. Should I lie? We all know lying is wrong, but in this instance, involving fairies and a tooth, is it actually okay to lie? If I tell the truth, will I be robbing him of the magic of childhood? Is the tooth fairy really part of the magic of childhood, or is getting a pound from your parents to put towards the new Lego Mixel actually significantly more magical? Am I just perpetuating a load of nonsense because my parents did to me, and their parents before them? If my son stops believing, does the Tooth Fairy die? Actually, I knew the answer to that one, I’m not that bloody thick.

The rational side of my brain shouts at me: “Tell him the bloody truth! Fairies? What a load of sodding twaddle.”

The single brain cell that represents the romantic side just tutted, and muttered “I never get my own way round here. I would kill you all in cold blood if only I could stop running gaily through this sunny meadow of buttercups.”

Finally, I opened my mouth and some words came out. “Yes. You’re right, the tooth fairy is me and daddy.” So let’s face it. I didn’t so much triumph as crash and burn under the laser-beam stare of a boy who got a sniff of the fact that he had been labouring under a well crafted conspiracy theory with wings for many years.

My son looks back at me, silent, with eyes wide. “Really?”

“Err… no, of course the tooth fairy is real.” Even I am embarrassed at my shameless attempt to swiftly back pedal into the fairy kingdom.

“No it isn’t,” he replies defiantly. I have given him a glimpse of the truth, and he is not letting it go now.

“No, Okay, it isn’t.”

E ponders for a bit. “So you’ve been lying to me?”

Bloody hell, this is really turning into a conversation to remember.

“Well, things like telling children about the tooth fairy isn’t technically lying. And anyway, it’s more fun to believe it is a fairy who takes your tooth and leaves a pound.” He looks sceptical under the weight of more lies.

“Of course,”  I continue unwisely, “I might be wrong. The tooth fairy may be real after all.”

My son looks a little confused. To be honest, there is so much double-bluffing and counter-briefing going on, I am a little confused myself. It is at this point that I make a mental note never to pursue a career in MI5.

E wanders off. I can’t tell if he is crestfallen at the confirmation that the tooth fairy is a great big scam cooked up by evil lying parents, or he needs a poo.

I wonder if I have done the right thing. It just felt that I had to tell the truth at the moment my son was boring holes into my face with his big, blue, innocent eyes (okay, okay, I am laying it on with a trowel in a pathetic attempt to justify myself, I know). But perhaps I have done him a disservice. I hatch a cunning plan. I decide to leave a note from the tooth fairy under his pillow. It’s a high risk strategy, given that it could either convince him the tooth fairy is alive and well or will totally confuse the hell out of him.

Just before I go to bed, I sneak into his room and slide my hand slowly under his pillow to retrieve the tooth. No tooth. Bugger, I whisper quietly, and delve further. E stirs and I freeze. I could really be doing something more useful at eleven o’ clock in the evening than this. Like going to bed. E settles, and I push my hand further in. His head lolls to one side as I am now practically lying on the bed, my entire arm engulfed by a Star Wars pillow. I roll my eyes at Chewbacca and retreat.

I call for reinforcements, but M cannot locate the sodding tooth either. Bugger this, I am knackered. I shove a quid under his pillow, dismiss all thoughts of a fairy note, and piss off to bed.

I feel a tap on my arm and I slowly open my eyes. The luminescent figures of 4:23 swim in front of my eyes. Bloody hell.

“Mummy!” E looms over me. In the grainy half- light of my bedroom, I can see him brandishing a pound coin, holding it up between his fingers in victory.

“Oh good,” I mumbled. “The tooth fairy came them.”

I could almost hear his eyes rolling as a response. “I tricked you! I put another pillow at the other end of the bed and put my tooth under that. If there was a tooth fairy, she would have known. And you didn’t. I knew there was no such thing as the tooth fairy!”

And that, dear reader, is why I shall always strive to tell my son the truth about those cultural lies we peddle simply to confuse our children and make them resort to the sort of underhand trickery that means you are completely outwitted by a six year old and that makes you look like an utter idiot

Watch out Santa. I’m coming for you…

 


Like Lego, but with less knobbly bits (or 5 reasons why I love Minecraft)

minecraft_scoll_final

I do not claim to be an expert in Minecraft. For those of you with social lives, or perhaps with kids too old to succumb to the blocky siren call of this gaming phenomenon, Minecraft is a game where you build shit, and knock shit down. It’s a bit like Lego, but with less knobbly bits and with one distinct advantage: never has a parent stepped on a bit of Minecraft in bare feet and shouted eighteen rude words in one breath, all of which basically mean ‘holy fuck that hurts’.

There are people who have expanded on my pithy definition of Minecraft, calling it a sandbox game. They refer to the fact that the game territory is a blank canvas, on which the player is only limited by his or her imagination (or that of the Minecrafter that they have just watched on YouTube). Again, Minecraft wins hands down over an actual sandbox, seeing as you don’t get sand in your gusset when playing it.

But these are not the only reasons I love Minecraft. Let me clarify: I don’t love Minecraft, with its crude, tessellating building blocks, people with cubiod heads and impossible navigation tools (eight times I tried to walk through that bloody door. It’s ridiculous). But I do love what Minecraft is teaching my 6 year old son, who is an avid fan.  I feel a list coming on…

Lesson 1: Hone your skills. E’s first attempt at a dwelling was… well, to his face I think I described it as ‘ooh, interesting…’ and after he left the room as ‘a bit shit’.  He was inordinately proud of this shabby hut, with no windows and a single bed inside. Until about three days later, when he went back, knocked in a few windows, added a huge glass extension and a rather elegant chimney. It was like watching a very cubey episode of Grand Designs unfold before my very eyes. Minecraft has taught my son that whilst practise does not always make perfect, it makes you create something much, much better that would sell for around half a million on the open market.

Lesson 2: Perfection is in the eye of the beholder. Minecraft is the perfect demonstration that the pursuit of perfection is a somewhat futile exercise. My son learned this as he returned to his des res creation after four days with fresh eyes and the experience of sitting through a really annoying nerd show off his Minecraft palaces on YouTube, and decided it was a bit rubbish. So he knocked it down and started again. To make something perfect. And yes, there is a pattern emerging here.

Lesson 3: The value of research. Watching endless videos of other Minecrafters take you on a tour of their buildings, like a crazed estate agent who has had too many Haribo, may seem like a waste of time. But in fact, this is theoretical research in action. E would never have been able to build that disco room had he not seen another Minecrafter use glow stone to such effect. And what is life without the ability to build a disco room at a moment’s notice?

Lesson 4: Beware of fire. E’s next creation was a huge timber framed house, split over four levels, with over twenty rooms, a loft conversion and a granny annexe. The floors were built of glass, under which E had created a huge lava pool. Already, this is beginning to sound like the opening scenes from an episode of Casualty, and sure enough, the next time he went to play, his lovingly created building was engulfed in flames. He pleaded with me to help, but being a Minecraft virgin, all I could do was stare helplessly at this voracious inferno. I did try and throw a tea towel over his Hudl at one point, but to no avail. Only after E had stopped sobbing, many, many, many minutes after the remaining annexe was swallowed up by pixellated flames, did two lessons get learned. One: don’t play (or build) with lava. Two: timber-framed houses are just bloody asking for trouble.

Lesson 5: If you can’t loop the loop an obstacle, build a slide instead. “I’m going to build a loop-the-loop roller coaster,” E announces as he settles down with Minecraft. I leave him to it and return half an hour later to check on progress. “I can’t do it,” he says glumly. “I don’t know how.” I say something profound and not at all annoying, like ‘ just keep trying’ and disappear.  Some time later, I ask him how it’s going. He informs me that despite many attempts, he could not get the roller coaster to loop the loop. “So I built a really long slide, instead.” And there you have it: the answer to pretty much all of life’s problems: a really long slide.


Eating. Farting. Laughing. Shouting. Jumping. Fighting. Running. Shouting.

KerpowEating. Farting. Laughing. Shouting. Jumping. Fighting. Running. Shouting.  Life with two small boys, summed up in eight short words. And yes, I do know that the list has two occurrences of shouting. That’s because they do a lot of it. In fact, probably twice as much as they should.

I am not about to embark on a character assassination of boys. After all, I married one and then gave birth to two (not simultaneously, I hasten to add). But I do often ponder about a family of male offspring, usually when a mother of girls makes a snarky comment about boys being a bit retarded and way too noisy. “Oh, sometimes they can be delightful,” I reply loudly over the bloodcurdling yells of my children, trying not to notice them in my peripheral vision, one seemingly wiping a bogey on his sleeve whilst the other jumps up and down with his tongue out. “Really… delightful,” I add and slink away to hang out with mums of boys who think nothing of having a fifteen minute conversation about the colours of light sabres and blowing off. And curiously, these two topics of conversation are not as mutually exclusive as you may think.

And of course, let’s get the farting out of the way quickly. They love blowing off. They love hearing someone else blow off. They love talking about blowing off. It is all HIL. AIR. I. OUS. Enough said, I think.

We should probably get the whole volume thing out of the way as well. I know some parents who have the two-pronged Indoor Voice / Outdoor Voice rule. Whereas our family has a single guideline for speaking: it’s the Standing on Top of a Mountain and Trying to Get the Attention of Someone Standing Way Down Below rule. It’s much simpler to remember, I find. And I really don’t mind the noise my children make. They are boys: and like many other boys throughout the ages who have expelled decibels from their mouths like their very life depended on it, they are bloody noisy. I find this simple scientific equation sums it up quite nicely: E + T = V (energy plus testosterone equals volume). No, I don’t mind at all. Just so long as I can sneak off into another room and pop my headphones in, they can whoop and holler ’til the cows come home. Or the neighbours pop round.

But my boys do seem to have an issue when it comes to understanding the function of some objects. They see the sofa as a trampoline. They see cutlery as drum sticks. They see cereal bowls as formal headwear. My dressing gown belt is a laser beam, whilst a plastic hanger is a bow and arrow. A tin of beans is a bowling ball and dried pasta is suddenly confetti. Toilet roll becomes bandages, sticks become rifles and socks are close-combat missiles. They seem a tad confused, but not as confused as I, who return to the kitchen after five minutes’ absence  to find the floor covered in pasta, socks, an assortment of hangers and two boys writhing around in the middle of it all, hooting with laughter and bashing each other round the head with swords. Which are in fact an empty kitchen roll tubes.

As most mothers of boys would agree, living with boys is not too dissimilar to owning dogs. The only things you have to ask daily, without fail, are: Have they had their exercise? Have they had enough to eat? Have they had a poo? And Have you given them a quick tickle and a stroke? And if you can answer in the affirmative to these four questions by bedtime, you are pretty much ROCKING IT as a mother of boys.

My friend related a conversation to me from a recent party she attended
, where a mother of a girl stated quite matter-of-factly that she was worried about her daughter starting school, as being with boys would damage her daughter’s  (unsurprisingly highly developed and sophisticated) intellect. The word ‘bollocks’ springs to mind at this juncture. It is true, much of education lends itself to what I consider to be attributes mainly held by girls: listening and sitting still. And I have to admit, my 6 year old will not win any listening prizes any time soon (unless the competition involves me standing fifty foot away from him and whispering ‘do you want some chocolate?’, in which case he would wipe the floor with everyone else and return home victorious). And when I read with him, it is like watching a ferret trying to stand still on hot coals whilst someone tickles his sphincter. Yet he learns with the best of them…even the girls. And let’s face it, school is only one aspect of their education. My sons are also schooled in the ways of the ninja. They know twenty-three different sound effects for a gun. And they can empty their plate of food before you’ve had time to season yours with pepper. All of which is an exhilarating and exhausting blend of joy and insanity.

So, to Boy-Hating Mother I simply say: SMELL MY BLOW OFF.


Superman Pants and a Play Mobil Cowboy

potty_cowboy

“Ouch.” I have been stubbing my toe on this bloody potty for months. I watch with a frown as it skitters across the bathroom floor and comes to rest by the shower. I wouldn’t mind, but the only thing that potty has had in it is dust. Oh, and a Play Mobil cowboy. He got lost on the way to the Sherriff’s office, apparently.

I have many strengths as a parent. There’s… well, nothing comes to mind right now, but I’m sure there’s something. However, I am confident in saying that potty training is not one of them. Just the thought of it makes me grit my teeth, stick my fingers in my ears and sing ‘LA LA LA LA’ very loudly. Oh, there you go, there’s one of my strengths: the ability to pretend stuff isn’t happening. Is that the sound of a huge boxful of Lego being tipped onto the lounge floor? Yes. So I will just ignore it. Is that the frenzied yelps of one son terrorising the other with a light sabre? Yes. What yelps?

You see, I have already been on the potty training roller coaster once. You know the one. It looks scary from a distance, looks even worse when you get close, it is full of ups and downs, you can’t seem to bloody well get off of it once you’re on and everyone’s socks end up getting wet. Or maybe that last one is just me?

I would like to claim full credit for potty training my eldest son, but really, I feel it only fair to give E’s nursery the majority of the credit as they did all the hard work, mostly as they got fed up waiting for me to do it. I am not a complete shirker: I did try. I remember one particularly enjoyable time when I sat on the edge of the bath whilst E was on the toilet, reading him book after book, waiting for him to wee. Just one drop of the yellow stuff needed to exit his willy and splash into the bowl, and that would have technically qualified as a success. I waited and read. Waited and read. Just one drop. Is that too much to ask? Slowly, my bum turned numb but I pushed through the discomfort barrier as the pile of books by my feet grew ever taller. I could have read him the entire Harry Potter series in the time we were in that sodding bathroom. Finally, I could stand it no more and lifted E off the toilet. The moment his feet touched the floor a huge stream of wee erupted.  My will to live dribbled out of me and joined the puddle of piss on the floor.

So, I am heeding the advice of waiting until my youngest is ready before we attempt to get him out of nappies. The trouble is, I am not sure he will ever be ready. When asked about whether he wants to wear big boy pants and wee in the toilet, his reply is: “Yes. Tomorrow.” And so we have gently introduced him to the world of potty training paraphernalia. We have tempted him with pants on which Superman is emblazoned. We have shown him the Thomas the Tank Engine training seat. We have left the potty in the bathroom for me to repeatedly stub my toe on. But nothing. Not an inkling of interest.

We did get close, once. I asked B at bath time if he would like to try on the Superman pants and he readily agreed. I casually reached for a pair as I fist-bumped myself on the inside (not easy to do without looking slightly demented and injuring a major organ). He stepped into the pants and I started to pull them up. As they reached his knees, he started to scream. Just in case the scream was unrelated to the whole trying-on-the-pants situation, I edged them up a bit further. The screaming escalated and I reluctantly removed the pants. Bugger. He obviously isn’t ready to have a superhero wrapped over his genitals. Honestly, he doesn’t know what he’s missing.

I patiently explained what the potty was for, once I had removed the cowboy and most of the dust. B looked at the potty, then at me, and let out a rip-roaring laugh. I probably found this a little less amusing than him. When he had calmed down sufficiently that he was not bent double with mirth, I asked him if he wanted to try and sit on the potty.

“Yes,” he replied with a solemn nod. “Tomorrow.”

So, not the potty then. Let’s move right on to the training seat. Look, it’s got Thomas on it. And a track that you put your bottom on. B looks suspicious. I smile at him. Look, I can just pop it on the toilet seat… and you sit on it. Easy. B narrows his eyes slightly. I persevere. And then you just poke your willy down, and you can have a wee!

“Poke my willy!” he shouts and laughs excitedly. Again, I am a tad less hysterically amused about this than he appears to be.

I remove the training seat from the toilet and return it to its resting place behind the door with a sigh.

“Maybe we can try again later?” I ask.

B wanders off, disinterested. I watch him go. I will try again later, I promise myself. Well, when I say later, I mean at some point soon. And when I say soon, I mean probably not today. I then decide to take a leaf out of my son’s book. I will definitely try again. Tomorrow.

 


A prayer to the God of Dressing Up like a Moron

I don’t wish to come across as some mardy old miserablist, but I bloody hate fancy dress. There are no redeeming features of a fancy dress party, apart from the moment it is over or at the very least, when someone laughs too loudly and accidentally swallows their Dracula teeth. Really, there should be no event in existence that requires more preparation than a token squirt of extra deodorant and a quick check that a child has not wiped his nose down your top when you weren’t looking. Fancy dress is flipping hard work. As you don your crappy costume in preparation, you are burdening yourself not only with ridiculous shoes, or face painting that looks like it was applied by a myopic toddler with anger issues, but also with the cumbersome expectation that you are going to have the most fun you’ve ever had. Because that’s the rule with fancy dress. Everyone has the BEST time EVER because EVERYTHING is so bloody HILARIOUS.

And even when you made the effort, some bugger with more money than sense has hired a costume of such epic grandeur and historical accuracy that you instantly feel like a twat, standing there in a dress made only with one pair of charity curtains, a stapler and a single viewing of a two and a half minute instructional You Tube video.

I endured a few terrible fancy dress parties in my twenties, and at one, after spending a large proportion of the evening with a cardboard toilet cistern embellished with an oversized thermometer on my head (I went as a hot flush, but lord only knows why. I can’t imagine the theme of the party was the menopause) I vowed that that was it. And by the time I was in my thirties, I was brave enough to decline any fancy dress party invites with a resolute ‘not on your fucking life, thank you’.

But my hiatus from fancy dress and the horrors therein has been short lived, as my boys, like most other children of their age who know no better and have yet to suffer the ignominy of whacking their boss in the face with a wooden toilet flush, bloody love fancy dress.

And my foray back into dressing up has not altered my opinion. At nursery, the first Christmas Songs Concert that my son was part of was fancy dress, and E was one of the elves. These days, fancy dress is all about speed and nothing about effort for me. I dug out a green top and trousers, hurriedly cut a few triangles out of some creased-looking red felt I found under the stairs, stitched them loosely to the neck and spent the princely sum of £1.99 on an elf hat so tragic looking it made grown men cry. But, it was job done. On the day, it was slightly horrifying to see that proper parents had made significantly more of an effort. Particularly one girl, dressed as a Christmas tree, who was expertly adorned with a set of multi-coloured LED fairy lights. That actually worked. Really. No one likes a show off. I was secretly hoping that the nursery manager would have her escorted off the premises until she had undergone a PAT test to ensure she conformed to EU safety regulations, but to no avail.

And to add insult to injury, my boys indulge in impromptu dressing up. They innocently sneak off to the play room, only to emerge as a pirate, with an inside-out waistcoat and an eye patch hovering somewhere near a right ear. Or even more alarming, a three foot  Spiderman clutching a light sabre. These all-in-one superhero costumes are the worst. I have no idea what they are made from, but I can tell you one thing. That fabric is not on speaking terms with natural fibres. If my son runs around too fast in one of those costumes, it generates enough electricity to get National Grid interested. And the nadir of this sorry superhero attire is a superhero fancy dress birthday party at a soft play centre. Right there is a scenario that makes me start foaming at the mouth. A triumvirate of evil so heinous that I am coming out in hives just thinking about it. Particularly the moment when, after forty minutes of running, climbing, rolling and jumping on saliva-smeared vinyl shapes, my superhero-cladded son emerges, sweating profusely, and distinctly resembling  what is essentially a large version of a boil in the bag cod. There is no smell quite like that of the inside of a superhero costume that has been in gainful employment for a summer’s afternoon.

World Book Day strikes fear into my heart. I briefly scroll through blogs and websites dedicated to dressing up ideas, staring with incredulity that anyone would want to spend the day wrapped in green foam, clutching an oversized strawberry and pretending to be a hungry caterpillar. I stare disconsolately at an image of a boy dressed as Willy Wonka,  wondering just how long that outfit took to make and wondering if I collected all the discarded chocolate wrappers from around the house and stuck them to a tee shirt, if it would create a similar effect. I enquire with trepidation which book character my son wants to dress up as. Please let it be Harry Potter, I implore the God of Dressing Up like a Moron, please. I know, somewhere in the dressing up box, is a crumpled cloak, a pair of glasses and a gnarled, plastic wand.  Harry Potter is the exception that proves the rule: I love Harry Potter fancy dress. It is basically school uniform with a few accessories, including one you can make with an eyeliner pencil. I mean, what is not to love about that?

“Errr… can I go as Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot?” An image flashes through my panicked mind, of me, at 3am, wrestling with a mountain of cardboard boxes, silver paint and oversized mouse ears.

“No.” I reply. “How about Harry Potter?”

“Errr… not really.”

“How about Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Haribo?”

Briberarmus, as Harry might say.

 

So voting season is truly in full swing. There’s that little election-thingy on the horizon, but much more importantly are these two: The Dogs Doodah’s UK’s Funniest Blog 2015, for which Mothering Frights has been shortlisted and the Britmum’s Brilliance in Blogging 2015, where the blog could be nominated in the Family section. If you fancy casting your vote for this blog, I would be hugely appreciative and I won’t come round your house and whack you round the face with a wooden toilet flush. I know. I’m nice like that.

Vote in the Dogs Doodahs here and for and for Britmums Brilliance in Blogging here.

 

 


Steaming hot baked beans on a naked willy

cowboy_hat

Willies. They’re a big thing in our house. This is not a boast about appendage size, by the way. It is more to do with frequency, there being three males in our house. Willies just seem to be… well, everywhere.

It is curious to be witness to my six year old become so fascinated with his willy, and sharing this new-found enthusiasm with his friends. One of his mates, at the lunch table, turned to my son and with a thoughtful look on his face, asked: “Do you want to see my willy?”

I stopped, mid-chew. As lunch time conversation topics go, I wasn’t quite prepared for this. Minecraft, definitely. How ninjas kill a baddie blindfolded, yes. How long it would take to cut off all your limbs with a light sabre, possibly. But an offer for my son to cast his eyes over his pal’s willy? Not so much.

E chewed his pasta slowly, seemingly considering the offer. The suspense was killing me.

“Go on, then,” he finally said.

“Woah!” I waved my fork around in front of me, a sauce-laden piece of penne skidding across the table. “No willies whilst we’re eating, thank you.”

Call me old fashioned, but there’s a sentence I didn’t ever anticipate saying.

And the whole getting naked thing is quite a popular play date past time, it seems, up there with Lego and light sabre battles. On one occasion, E was up in his room with a friend and his younger brother. I went up to offer them drinks, but refreshments were not really on their agenda. Instead, I found them all jumping around naked. I stood in the doorway, my brain creaking under the strain of trying to process what I was witness to. Three little tiddly willies, flapping around, accompanied by hoots of laughter and the odd swish of a plastic sword. (To clarify, that last statement was not a euphemism, one of them had the ‘even a naked pirate is never off duty’ thing going on).  I could not decide whether I should be amused, horrified or dialing Childline, so instead I just offered them all some apple juice, with a warning not to sit down on the floor due to the copious scattering of Lego bricks. There was no way I was explaining to my friend’s mum as I handed him back that he may have a number of Lego bricks and a tiny construction worker holding a broom wedged up his bum crack.

But I got wise to the naked shenanigans. Next time E had a friend over, I intercepted the strip off. I opened the bedroom door to see two boys, fingers poised round shirt buttons, looking a tad sheepish. “No getting naked today, boys,” I said.

They looked crestfallen. “But why, mummy?”

“Because…” Actually, that was an excellent question. Why shouldn’t they get naked? I pondered for a moment, before realising there was no reason on earth why they shouldn’t. It is all a natural part of growing up. Mind you, so is picking your nose and eating it, and I roundly do not endorse that. So, as often with my scant parenting skills, I found myself backed into a Cul de Sac of Refusal of my own design and there was no way out without a massive reversal of position. And no one likes to see a parent clumsily reversing back up a narrow cul de sac. Someone could get killed, for God’s sake, or humiliated, at the very least.

“Because…” I continued, “it’s nearly tea time. Have you ever dropped steaming hot baked beans on a naked willy?”

Two pairs of widened eyes stare at me.

“No.”
“Well… they are so hot… you’re in danger of your willy falling off.”

Hands moved away from buttons. Hah. Mummy 1, Willies Nil.

But despite that moment of triumph, it has not stemmed the tide of willies. If a new friend is invited to our house, I may casually ask the mum her position on willy waggling as a suitable past time. If she clutches her son to her breast with a horrified look, I make sure we crack open Junior Scrabble and stay well away from nudity. But most times, I let it happen. It means that play dates round our house resemble some kind of CBeebies Brokeback Mountain, but hey. Worse things happen at sea. In fact, worse things happen in our bath. Willy hoopla, anyone?

Did this raise a smile? A little titter? A guffaw? Did a tiny bit of wee come out? If so, would you do me the delightful favour of popping on over to http://www.thedogsdoodahs.com/funny-blog-award-2015.aspx and voting for my Mothering Frights blog, as it been shortlisted for The Dog’s Doodahs UK’s Funniest Blog 2015. And before you ask, no, my mum does not work for the Dog’s Doodahs. It will take about 1 minute. Honest. So go on. Please. I’ll be yer friend for ever. 

 


Frantic areas of tight, angry scribbles

blakes_scribbles“Look mummy, I did a picture.”

Oh Christ. I take a deep breath and slowly move my eyes to the piece of paper in front of my two year old son, who is looking up at me expectantly, biro poised between his fingers. On the paper are swirls and swirls of black lines that occasionally break into frantic areas of tight, angry scribbles. If this drawing had been done in an art therapy class, the tutor’s hand would slowly be moving toward the panic button concealed under the desk round about now.

“Lovely, darling,” I lie.

“It’s a cave.”

Of course it is.

“And there’s the lion.” He points to an area of scribble.

“Oh yes,” I say. “Is that another lion over there?” I point to a similar area of scribble.

“No mummy, silly. It’s a monster.” He looks at me as if I am an idiot. It’s an expression I see quite a lot from my son.

Well pardon me for not knowing my scribbles from my scrawls. You see, I am all for encouraging creative expression in my kids, it’s an essential part of their development, it encourages them to look at the world afresh, blah pencil blah crayon blah. And I am even quite happy to lie to their faces, telling them that the hasty daubs of thick, shit-brown paint that they have managed to plop onto the paper are quite lovely. (And exactly what the hell is it about my kids and paint? I give them four distinct colours and four paintbrushes. I turn my back for one minute to give my retinas a rest from what they are doing, and suddenly, they have four pots of paints the colour of dog shit.) But just don’t ask me to like their creations. Or pin them on the fridge. I mean, it’s one thing to pretend that my son’s latest masterpiece, seemingly created by randomly dropping felt tips onto the paper from a great height, is good. But don’t make me look at it every day.

Not loving my sons’ artistic endeavours does not mean I love them any less. No, I leave that for when they have a strop in public. The way I see it, they are practising. My two year old still sometimes holds a pen in his fist as if he is going to stab someone (and given his propensity to get the hump at the drop of a felt tip pen, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility) so I don’t expect him to have quite mastered cross hatching and stippling just yet. But I don’t need to keep their practises. After all, if I was shopping for a vacuum, I wouldn’t seek out one of James Dyson’s early prototypes. ‘Yes please, I’ll take the one with bits of sellotape all over it and a motor that unexpectedly blows crap all over my lounge carpet if it’s left on too long.” No. I want the one when he has finished practising. The one that look nice and works like it bloody should.

I used to despair about the tsunami of artwork that would pour into the house from nursery. When my son’s carer would say ‘we have collected all his work for you to take home’ my heart would sink to my boots. But, I soon realised, there is hope. This is exactly what the council introduced recycling for.  I leave the latest drawings  proudly on the kitchen table from when they arrive home, but once the boys are safely tucked up in bed, I escort the heinous attempt at drawing a flower – or perhaps it is a car, I can’t remember – to the recycling bin. If I am dealing with many pictures, the strategy is to take one or two each evening whilst slowly moving the remaining pile from the centre of the table, to the side of the table, then carefully placing the newspaper or post over them so that they forget they even existed and Operation Artwork Extraction can begin in earnest. But the key thing here is to take the picture to the bin and bury it deep. Really deep. Because you only need to be caught out once leaving your son’s drawing near the top of the bin, and be questioned ferociously by your offspring the next morning as to how exactly their creation ended up in said bin, and then have to blame daddy, before you learn your lesson good and proper.

And I can’t talk about my son’s pictures without mentioning that substance so evil, so malevolent, that it haunts me on a regular basis. It is the Devil’s Dandruff. GLITTER. Because I may dispose of my sons’ pictures, but I cannot eradicate the glitter. It inveigles its way into nooks and crannies. It has an access-all-areas pass to surfaces and crevices that should be physically impossible to reach. My son made me a card recently, smothered in glitter. That evening, I found a twinkling spot of glitter somewhere it had no right to be. In my pants. IN MY PANTS. And three days later, I found another renegade piece clinging to my son’s forehead.  So enough is enough. When a picture with glitter enters my house, I  seal off the downstairs, don my chemical warfare suit, and using six foot prongs, take it straight to the bin.

I will allow my children’s’ pictures onto my fridge, I am not a total bitch. They just have to finish practising first.


A badly-constructed balaclava made from half a sheep

haribo

I can understand why my two year old son is petrified of Santa. Firstly, there’s that facial hair. Let’s face it, the man looks like he about to commit some unnamed atrocity with only a badly-constructed balaclava made from half a sheep to disguise him.

And then there is the lack of face. Never trust a man who squints out from behind a hirsute curtain with only his eyeballs on display. It’s an excellent life lesson learned early, that one.

Not forgetting that bloody annoying fake laugh. “HO HO HO” he chuckles mirthlessly, his alcohol-induced halitosis wafting through his beard. Even my six year old knows when I am faking it and calls me out regularly, so how Santa thinks he is going to get away with it astounds me. One day recently, having heard a particular poo joke in at least its fifteenth iteration, I forced out a sound that I hoped would pass muster on the laughter parade – but no. “Mummy, that was a fake laugh. Laugh properly.” At which point, having been rumbled, I did. Which is more than Santa ever does.

So let’s turn our attention to that ridiculous outfit. If he works as hard on Christmas Eve as he claims he does, there is no way he would be sporting white cuffs. How on earth would you remove the soot stains earned from shimmying down several million chimneys from white cuffs? No. Here is a man who patently sits on his fat arse in his sleigh playing Candy Crush whilst the poor elves on minimum wage clamber down chimneys to deliver his wares.

But perhaps I am over-thinking this a tad. After all, all my son knows is that the man in red with the freakish beard is Very Scary Indeed. At the school Christmas bazaar, we duly paid our two pounds to visit Santa’s grotto. My husband managed to pull the curtain back a good six inches before B got a peek of Father C, at which point he screamed until his tonsils fell out and refused to set foot into the lair. Sorry, grotto. I was annoyed as the day before, I had just spent ten pounds on a ticket to see a Santa at our local farm for the following weekend. If I wanted to see my two year old crumple to the floor in sobs of hysteria, I don’t have to pay a tenner for the privilege, I can just take my iPad away from him.

And so the day arrives where we are going to see Santa. We have decided on Exposure Therapy for B’s Santa phobia (for Latin scholars amongst you: Fatbastarditus): making him face his fears head on is the only way. It had nothing to do with the fact that the farm didn’t give refunds. And at least they would get a tractor ride out of it.

We were herded to the tractor by an elf – a grown man with a face that not only had been well lived in, but had then been left derelict and condemned. A rash of tattoos and the smell of cigarettes completed the look. I think he may have been on day release from elf prison for crimes against reindeer.

So we all set off, trundling slowly across a field. The organisers had thoughtfully covered the trailer we were in with plastic, in case of rain. They had spared no expense, getting a rare kind of clear plastic that gave the impression of being transparent, when in fact you could see fuck all through it. “Look at the cows,” I said to the boys.

“Is that a cow?” my eldest asked. “I thought it was a pig.”

“Well, I guess it could be, it’s hard to tell…oh no, wait, I think it’s a pile of mud…”

We arrive at the grotto, a log cabin surrounded by tiny fir trees, which had had a box of baubles and tinsel thrown at them in haste.

The four of us enter, B in his daddy’s arms, face buried in his shoulder, already braced for the onslaught of Santa-induced fear.

“Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas!” said Santa.

B starts to whimper quietly as E nervously takes a seat next to Father C. Laps are apparently out of bounds these days. It’s Health and Safety gone sane.

“And what… ho ho ho… do you want for… ho ho  ho… Christmas?” he asks E. Okay, that is really enough with the whole ho ho ho thing.

“A spy scope,” E answers.

That’s stumped him. He looks at me, bewildered. Well, at least I think he’s bewildered, but I base that solely on his hat twitching slightly. E has a knack for confusing Santa. Two years ago, in another grotty grotto, having waited for forty minutes in the freezing cold, we had finally got inside and E had answered the question with: “a giraffe”. Santa immediately looked panicked and glanced at me. As penance for waiting so long, I couldn’t help but ask him how he would get a giraffe down a chimney. It was amusing to see a flustered Father C get out of that one.

“It’s like a periscope, but for spies,” I clarify.

“Oh,… ho ho ho… so you can spy on mummy…ho ho ho?”

Err, no, you raging pervert, it is not for spying on mummy.

“No, mainly for looking round corners…” I say.

He turns his attention to B, still trying to burrow his way into M’s ribcage.

“And what… ho ho ho… do you want, little one?” I may have to poke him in the eye if he keeps laughing like that.

B ignores him. Santa pulls a pack of Haribo from his pocket and offers them to B. This, I have to admit, is a stroke of genius. Immediately on hearing the rustle of a packet of Haribo, B turns, takes them, and says “a train set” before returning to his semi-foetal position on M’s shoulder.

We quit whilst we are ahead, with two boys clutching a present that can only be minutes away from inducing mild disappointment, and with cold feet and runny noses, we return home, full of relief. Oh no, wait. Full of the magic of Christmas. That is definitely what I meant to say.

Mothering Frights would like to wish you all a tip-top, wonderful Christmas. May your Lego instructions be simple, the tantrums be short-lived and your gin and tonic be early. Really early.


What sort of chicken goes moo?

chicken_goes_moo

“What sound does a cow make?”

“Umph.”

Umph? I stare at my two year old son. A cow goes umph? Only if it trips over a cow pat. I look up at the health visitor, who is in turn looking at my child with a barely disguised air of disappointment.  I just love these developmental tests, they really seem to bring out the best in my offspring.

The health visitor, who for the purposes of brevity I shall call Annoying (abbreviated from the more formal Annoyingly Smug About Childcare Skills), tries again and points to a chicken.

“What sound does this animal make?”

There is a pause. I am attempting to telepathically communicate the word CLUCK to B. I know he knows it. He knows he knows it. And I am pretty damn sure that he knows that I know that he knows it. But he seems determined not to let Annoying know any of this, for fear I may, in a certain light whilst squinting, look like a competent parent.

“Moo,” he replies.

Moo? MOO?! Bloody moo? What sort of a chicken goes moo? He’s doing this on purpose, I think, as I watch Annoying write something down on her form. Just because I wouldn’t let him stick his finger up my nostril this morning, it seems that it’s now payback time.

“Okay,” chirps Annoying. “Let’s try one last animal, shall we? What sound does a pig make?”

I glare at my son. He knows what this particular non-verbal communication means all too well. It is the international scowl of ‘don’t you bloody dare’.

“Oink,” he answers begrudgingly. Thank fuck for that.

“So, let’s move onto colours,” Annoying says. My heart sinks. My son is utterly crap at colours. So was his brother. It must be a genetic flaw on his father’s side, as I am pretty sure my first words were ‘turquoise’ and ‘burnt umber’.

I sigh as the colour chart is laid out before him. I look at the first swatch: red. I mentally bet myself a fiver that he calls it yellow.

“What colour is this?”

“Lellow.” Well. I may have a thicko for a son, but at least I’m a fiver up.

“Good try… but that’s red. Let’s try the next one. What colour is this?”

“Lellow.”

“No, that’s blue. Let’s try again.”

And so it goes on. Lellow, lellow, lellow. All the way through the sodding colour spectrum. Why Annoying doesn’t just call it quits after green, I don’t know, because if a child thinks red and blue are both the colour yellow, I think it is safe to assume that he is not going to recognise purple or brown.

Annoying looks  up at me. “You really need to teach him his colours now, mum.” Instantly I grind my teeth at being called mum. My name is on the sheet of paper less than a foot away from her face. Would it be too much to ask for her to use my actual name rather than reduce me to a relational component of my offspring? (You can tell I am getting mad, I start to use words of more than three syllables).

And so that becomes our parenting mission, to teach our two year old his colours. Whenever the opportunity arises, I ask him what colour a certain object is.

“Lellow,” he always replies.

Even his brother starts to lend a hand. “What colour is this?” he asks, waving a blue Lego brick in front of him.
“Lellow.”

We walk through the nursery car park one morning.

“What colour is that car?” I ask casually.

“Lellow.”

“Not quite, it’s blue.”

What colour is this car,” I say, pointing to the next one.
“Lellow.”

Oh for crying out loud.

“No, that’s black. This one?”

There is a pause before he looks up at me.

“It’s your turn to say,” he states and walks purposefully toward the nursery entrance. So that’s told me then.

A few days later, we seem to have a bit of a break through. I ask him what colour a red ball is.

“Red,” he replies. Bingo. I duly clap and high five him, then slightly giddy on success, I hold up a blue train.

“And what colour is this?”

“Red.”

“No, this is blue. What about this?” I point to a green stuffed toy.

“Red.”

At this point, I may have laid my head on the table for a while and pretended I was somewhere else.

 

In a last ditch attempt to help my son away from his monochrome outlook on the world of colour, I dig out a kid’s colour book.

I point to a red square. Let’s start with an easy one.

“What colour is this?”

He stares solemnly at the shape in silence.

So…” I say at last, “what colour is it?”

Still there is silence.

I may need to give him a clue. “It’s rrrrrrr…?”

He looks at me. “Rr-lellow?”

Is he taking the piss? “No, it’s not rrlellow,” I reply. “It’s rrrrrr…?”

“Rr-blue.”

I take a deep breath. Then another. I may need a brown paper bag to breathe into if this carries on. A brown paper bag which, I am fairly sure, my son would call lellow. Or perhaps rlellow, whatever sodding colour THAT is supposed to be.

“Not rrblue, no,” I say. “Because that’s not actually a colour, is it? It’s “rrrrrr…?” I tap the red square, perhaps a tad harder than is strictly necessary.

“Rrr-green,” he says.

I close the book. “That’s right, it’s rrgreen. Now. Shall we read Postman Bear?”


An incident now known as Smartiegate

 

“Oh f…”

I am staring at my son’s willy and balls. I don’t tend to make a habit of this, but on this occasion, I made an exception. Clustered all around his bits are spots. Great big, red spots. It’s like my son has contracted some kind of STD.

I shout for back up and daddy appears.

“Oh f…” he frowns.  “I’ll put a fiver on chicken pox.”

“Not herpes, then?”

He doesn’t deem that my medical assessment warrants an answer.

And so, here it is. The pox. My first thought is to scan my mental diary, trying to work out just how much of a pain in the arse this was going to be in terms of work commitments. Sorry, my first thought was for the welfare and condition of my son. Of course it was. What was I thinking?

An incident the day before whilst on the way to school made a lot more sense now. E was complaining that he couldn’t touch his head as it hurt too much. I suggested that he simply didn’t touch his head to solve the problem, but he kept on mentioning it, convinced he had been stung by a wasp. This notion was down to the fact that a few weeks previously, he had been stung, and subsequently at every hint of pain, at every possibility of an ache, had claimed he had been stung. I told him the story about the boy who cried wasp but it didn’t seem to make much difference. However, that morning he really did keep banging on and on… and on about it, until I was forced to inspect his scalp. I found nothing, but then parting his hair is a bit like trying to hack your way through the denser part of the Amazon jungle.

So, I put E to bed with a dose of Calpol inside him and a sense of trepidation as to how bad it might get. I then made the grave error of looking in ‘What’s That Rash?’ (seriously, that is the title of the book. It is an A-Z of spots, rashes and pustules and is pretty much a GP’s version of soft porn). The image of a child with chicken pox spots covering every available centimetre of skin stayed echoing on my retinas long after I slammed the book shut and slid it back into place on the shelf.

“Can you get chicken pox in the eye?” I ask the following morning as I inspect my son for pox progress. I peer at his left eyeball, distinctly bloodshot and red. My son shrugs his shoulders. It is a shame that he can tell me the colour of everybody’s light sabres in Star Wars and how pirates punish their captives, but has nothing useful to say on the matter of eye pox.

I sigh. I am going to have to call for a GP’s appointment. Which is a bit like saying I must find a unicorn’s horn in the back garden. ‘You are eighth in the queue…’ a voice tells me once I had navigated the complex maze of options, designed specifically to weed out anyone who wasn’t seriously committed to being ill. We are most of the way through breakfast before I get to speak to the receptionist, whose role is to write my son’s name down on another list in order to speak to the duty doctor, who then might put him on a list for coming in to see them. I think Dante was a patient at our surgery. It’s where he got the idea for the nine circles of hell from.

So whilst we wait for the call back, I realise that I have no suitable lunch materials and will have to take E to the supermarket. I make him wear his hoodie, with the hood up, and instruct him to deny all knowledge of chicken pox should anyone ask. As the face spots are not quite in full flow, we might get away with it.

Obviously, the GP calls as I am in the fish aisle, so I conduct the entire conversation about my pox-ridden son in very hushed tones. She doesn’t like the sound of the eye thing, so asks us to come in, but not to take a seat. Chicken pox seems to be the modern version of leprosy. If she could have asked for my son not to touch anything, to breathe into a handkerchief and to have a man ringing a bell walk five paces in front of him, she would have.

It turns out that you can get pox in the eye and should this develop, we were advised to go straight to A&E. Oh good. Something to look forward to. It’s been at least a few months since I spent four hours in that particular form of purgatory. The GP advised Calamine for the spots (not, I presumed, for the eye one) so I duly purchased a bottle, only to receive a tsunami of texts from friends advising me that this was the worst thing I could do, and should be using aqueous Calamine instead. This, I think, is the future of medical advice: crowd source it.

Seeing as my son seemed well in himself, I decided we could do some reading and maths games, mainly because I am a bit of a bitch like that, before the whole DVD-on-the-sofa- because-I-am-poorly ritual began. But by the afternoon, E was feeling a little sorry for himself as the realisation dawned that being home with mummy was actually quite dull when he could be at school with his mates building stuff, drawing, running around and generally having fun. By then, I was feeling a little sorry for my To Do list, which softly called to me from my desk, reminding me of all the things I wasn’t doing, and tutting gently under its breath. I am not saying that I was not cut out to be a nurse, but I did find myself uttering the words ‘just get it down your neck now’ to my son as he was refusing to take a dose of Calpol for no ostensible reason other than he enjoyed seeing the veins on my neck bulge.

I prayed to Poxulese, the God of Childhood Illness, to make this a swift bout of chicken pox so that my son didn’t suffer too much. And perhaps so that I could actually get some bloody work done. And all hail Poxulese, he stopped picking his scabs long enough to hear my plea and two days later, most of my son’s spots were scabbing over. There was a brief dip in form when his temperature went stratospheric one evening, and I desperately tried to get him to take Ibuprofen which he point-blank refused. This led to an incident now known as Smartiegate: I bribed him to take his medicine by offering him some Smarties. Which he ate in bed. After he had cleaned his teeth. He was inordinately pleased with this surprising turn of events. I, however, felt sullied by my own inability to get a six year old to swallow a spoon of liquid. May Supernanny swoop down and put me on the naughty step for such an epic parenting fail. Either that or knock me flat with her prodigious bosom.

As fast as the pox had arrived, it left, and on the whole, it wasn’t anywhere near as grim as I thought it would be. Bits of it were quite fun, like when we played imaginary dot-to-dot on his stomach and drew the Millennium Falcon. Some bits were not quite so much fun, like trying to persuade my son to let me dab cream onto his balls and willy. I won’t be eating spotted dick for a while, that’s for sure.

And now we are on Pox Watch with his two year old brother. It’s got more red herrings, quizzical looks and cliff hangers than your average soap opera. So it’s only a matter of time before the BBC commission it.