Ask any woman of a certain age to list the top 5 loves of her life, and I can pretty much guarantee that wine will be one of them. And rightly so. A recent survey suggests that in moderation wine is good for you. Wine makes you relax. Wine makes you happy. Oh, Wine. You need to hear how much I love you…
Do you dream about emigrating? Find yourself asking what it’s all about? Do you ever question why it is that you or your husband work all year for a measly couple of weeks off in the summer? Dream of a different life? An easier life? Continue reading “So you want to emigrate? 3 tips to consider.”
I had my first child when I was 30. He started school when I was 34. You think you know it all at 30, but of course, this isn’t true. Nor at 40, and probably not 50, 60, 70 or 80 either. I suppose life would be boring if we knew it all. Sort of. But. There are things that I do know now, things that had I known then would have made my life a damn sight easier. Or maybe just my conscience clearer. Mostly around the whole school thing.
Those hideous first few days when your child is about to start school. Feeling as though they’re abandoning you. This little person who has been my right-hand man for 4 or 5 years is now off to school. Wearing his new shoes and uniform and looking all grown up. It’s Tuesday! We always go for our big food shop together on Tuesday and then for a fluffy afterwards…Yes, I know I swore I’d never take you back there again after you kicked over the chair and broke one of the spindles, but it’s our place. Our routine.
The First day of school. Trying your hardest to be cheerful. Upbeat. ‘It’s going to be soo exciting.’ And then the dreaded question. “Will you stay with me, Mummy?” Up the path to the classroom. All the while chattering on incessantly about how ‘those gates are a nice colour blue’ and ‘I wonder if that tree always has those pretty flowers?’ His hand starting to grip a little bit tighter now. Why couldn’t I have been more like that new entrant Mother? You know the one I mean? Always there, smiling, confident, breezing in as though she’s done it a million times before. Her child biting at the bit to get into the classroom. To show the new teacher a picture that he’d drawn in the summer holidays.
But no. There’s You. Still trying to figure out where your child is supposed to hang his coat up. “Oh look! Your peg is next to Lauras. That’s a nice name. I bet she’s a lovely little girl” you blabber. Pease let her be a lovely little girl. You want to go to the teacher, take her to one side and say “can I just let you know…he’s a really sensitive little boy” but she’s already swarmed with all of the other pushys and you don’t want to be one of those.
I wish I’d known this.
That they’ll always be yours. No matter how many hours a day they’re away from you at school they will still be your number one and you theirs. You’ve done the groundwork. They’ll love you and miss you immensely. It’s just their new adventure.
Homework. Those first few years of school. My son was so little. I look back at the photos and literally, he was a baby.
Why then, when he’d been at school for 6 hours already and was thoroughly exhausted, did I make him sit in a car park- waiting for his swimming lessons to start and force that tired little boy to read the assigned book that had been given to him for homework?
There was an alternative woman who had a child in the same class as my son. You can read more about her here. She had quite an effect on me. I watched her float into school one morning with a letter for the headmaster stating that under no circumstances was her child to be given homework. He wouldn’t be doing it she said. Not ever. At the time, I was too busy trying to keep in with the in-crowd and so outwardly scoffed at her hippy ideas. Deep down though, I knew that she was right. I wish I’d said the same thing. Wish I’d been brave enough to stand out from the crowd like her.
All of those wasted hours spent doing extra work with a tiny child who was already exhausted were the most unproductive, unnecessary and needless to say the most stressful waste of hours of mine and his life.
Being told he was slow in maths.
How many nights did I spend crying and worrying myself sick once I’d been told that my 6-year-old was not up to standard with his numeracy?
His teacher advised me that on our summer holiday to France, I should spend an hour a day with my slow child asking him to add up the numbers on the car number plates. And you know what? This silly cow did. There were tears every day on that holiday. Both from him and from me. The poor boy dreaded it if a car drove past. And regardless of my efforts, every time those annoying little stat test papers came back, they would bring with them that familiar ache of dread in the pit of my stomach. There it was glaring out at me. Numeracy. Still shit. Below average. Not good enough.
I wish I’d known that this would happen.
That at 15 years old, my son would pass his maths exam (that he took a year early.) He wanted to get it out of the way as he hated maths. He passed his algebra exam and now has the required maths achievements should he want to go to university. (You can read about my thoughts on that though, here.) All of that worrying. All of those tears. What a waste.
If you are told that your child is ‘slow in anything, get the teacher to put it in writing then rip the piece of paper up and flush it down the toilet. When your child is ready, they will learn. I promise.
Bullying. It’s every parent dread, isn’t it? Here’s your baby going happily along, believing that everyone in the world resembles the characters from children’s TV, and then it hits them. They come to learn that there are mean kids out there. Of course there are. There are also mean adults out there too. Mean parents. But we are bigger and stronger, and we have cars that we can go and sit in and hide. Mascara that we can slap on to cover up the tears.
My son started to be bullied after about a year at school. And this was supposedly a ‘nice’ school. They had the buddy system with the older kids. Plastered all over the walls were the posters about being kind and respectful, all of those things that bullies don’t give a shit about.
Back then, stupidly, I dealt with it the PC way. The way that every school asks you to deal with it. The way that won’t bring attention to the precious school and maybe affect their stats. I went to the headmaster who said he would speak sternly to the boy in question. My boy continued to be bullied. I went back. This time the same man insisted he would have the child in question write a letter to my son, apologising for scratching his back. My boy continued to be bullied. All the while, while I’m faffing around backwards and forwards with a teacher who is more concerned with his school’s stats, my son is becoming increasingly terrified of going to school.
Unfortunately, if your child is in the least bit different, stands out from the crowd, doesn’t fit neatly into the box, there’s a fair chance that some bullying will come their way during the school years.I’m sorry but its highly likely. My son is an actor, he sings at any given opportunity. He doesn’t like rugby. He used to wear coloured contacts so people would think he was a vampire (I know, don’t.)
I wish I’d known back then just to kick up the most almighty fuss imaginable. Fight for him. I know that people say that by doing this you make it worse for the child but believe me, that’s crap. His life at school was hell anyway. It couldn’t have been any worse. I wish I’d fought his corner so hard so that he knew that no matter what, his mum would never stop fighting for him.
Friends.Yours, not theirs.
Standing outside the school gates and making gossipy chit chat with a load of women whom you normally wouldn’t ask the time of day from. They were the times that when I think of them now, send shivers down my spine.
You try so hard. You want to be accepted. Be part of the mummy club. But what is it with these parents? Why the hell is it, that all they want to do is mouth off about how their child can recite her nine times tables while playing the flute, or brag about how their little Johnny is going to skip an academic year next year because he is soo intelligent.
You. Wanting the playground to open up and swallow you. Even considering going over to the caretaker and asking him if he needs some help sweeping up the leaves. Anything to get away from this bunch of seagulls.
What you long for is a friend. A real friend. You want to talk about how much wine you needed to get through last week or how your jeans are too tight as a result of it. But unless you are really, really lucky you won’t find that friend hovering at the school gate. You have to look in the car park. She’s there look! Sitting in her car pretending to read something important on her phone. Secretly waiting for 10 seconds before the bell rings so that she can rush over, grab her child and make her getaway.
I wish I’d looked for her straight away. I found her eventually, but it took me 4 years. She too, rushed into the classroom late, flustered. I knew then that I’d found my partner in crime (Hi Anjie). 4 Years. 4 Years wasted on dead end acquaintances. Pushy parents whose goal in life is to make other parents feel inadequate.
There are many more ‘wish I’d known then what I know nows’ but I think this post is long enough. Anyway, it’s 10 am, and the grass needs cutting. It’s forecast to rain at midday.
Maybe, when I’m 70 I’ll say “I wish I’d known to get a ride on mower.”
I’d love to hear of your wish I’d knowns. Jot some down in the comment box below. Let me know your wisdom. Right. To the grass.
It’s Sunday, and I’m in the library. Alone. The reason for this being that I refused to play a game for two hours with my husband and children.
The game in question?
I’ll say that again in case you didn’t quite get it. Frisbee. Golf.
That’s not to say I didn’t try to play. I did. I participated for about twenty minutes, running pathetically to catch the Frisbee. Getting annoyed when Tess lost one of the Frisbees in the river. Complaining loudly when I finally caught the annoying flying disk, that the hard plastic “hurt my hands.”
Twenty minutes I persevered before I stuck out my lip like the whinge bucket that I am and whined:
“Why don’t you just drop me at the library?”
“What’s the matter with you? It’s fun!”
I’m putting the exclamation mark there because that’s how he said it to me. Brian, the perfect game playing dad. All fun and excitement. The very word. Fun. It makes me nervous.
“Yes Mummy, don’t be so boring. Why don’t you ever want to play games with us?”
Sod off Tween. Looking all lovely in your shorts and your high ponytail.
Making me feel like an old biddy.
Stop siding with Mr fun and look at my red raw knuckles. Look at the sweat under my arms because I insisted on bringing this granny fleece.
They gave in. I got driven to the library which conveniently is just five minutes drive away.
“Let’s just go back and play for a couple of hours by ourselves. We’ll pick Mummy up later.”
Let me tell you; this was not said in a sympathetic way. She practically kicked me out onto the pavement.
To be honest, deep down, I was secretly hoping that they would decide to abandon the idea of Frisbee golf, knowing that I wasn’t going to be joining them. But, I kid you not; I saw smoke coming from the wheels of the van they sped away so fast.
And so, here I sit. With a handful of smellies and three foreign students.
It’s a beautiful day, sun cracking the flags, and where am I? In a stifling library, attempting to write a blog post. I’ve straightened my chair, three times. I’ve looked twice at the closed cafe in the corner. Sighing loudly and rolling my eyes dramatically at the inconvenience of not being able to get an overpriced cup of tea. I’m resisting the urge to pick up my phone and text them to see if Sonny has been smashed in the face with the Frisbee and needs his mum.
No. Don’t do that.
It will be good for the kids to spend time with their Dad. Without sourdough trailing behind them. My tweens words start to creep in. They ring in my ears. Ears that are now getting hot from other people’s breath.
“Why do you never play games with us?”
She’s right. I think back to when they were little. Those dreaded words that would turn me cold.
“Mummy, can you play a game with us?”
Oh, God. Oh no. No.
“Mummy’s just going to pull all the hundreds of sheets and pillowcases out of the airing cupboard and then pretend to put them all back in some sort of order. I know, why don’t you get your dollies and put them all to bed under this washed out dirty looking grey sheet and watch them until they wake up? That would be exciting wouldn’t it?!”
Or even worse. In the car.
“mummy, shall we play eye spy?”
Shit. We’re driving from Bath to Cornwall along the motorway. There’s only ever going to be T for tree or C for car.
“I know… Why don’t you two play ‘the first to speak’ game?!”
Clever, inventive, mummy.
No wonder these rich parents employ clowns and jugglers for their children’s birthdays. It’s not because they’re loaded. It’s because they don’t want to admit that they hate playing games with the little buggers.
It’s not just games that involve children that turn me sour. No. They’re bad enough, but, the thought of adults playing games together without children present? Well. That just takes the biscuit. Why would full grown mature adults, who, quite frankly should know better, want to play a bloody game? Have they never heard of wine? Or bed?
I sit here, in the place that only saddos come to on a sunny Sunday, and contemplate why I hate games so much. It’s not as if we don’t have millions of games of which I could at least try and find a flicker of joy, We do. They’re crammed into what is supposed to be the printer cupboard (I know, posh aren’t we?) They spew out onto the floor every time I sneak open the door to get a piece of paper or the stapler. Annoying pieces of wooden rectangles mixing up with yellow counters and that little dog out of the monopoly or worse still, the saddle from Buckaroo. It just adds to my game hating anguish.
And I know what people will say,
“They won’t be around for long, and once they’re gone, you’d do anything to play games with them.”
No, I won’t.
I can’t see me sitting there, old and grey- well just older and no longer dying my hair- with the sudden urge to play Frisbee golf with my children. Anyway, they’d be about forty, and by then, they too will be middle aged and bitter like me.
I’m one of those people that others call, ’a bad sport’. I’m not in the slightest way competitive. Not like Mr Fun and my tween. I don’t care who gets the first frisbee in the net. It’s boring.
From what I gathered in my whole twenty minutes of participating, the only fun thing about playing golf frisbee is purposely throwing the frisbee away from the target and making someone else go and fetch it. This way, you get a few minutes respite, in which you can either, kick some grass, have a nose around at what other frisbee golf players are doing –usually nothing because they’re too busy being boring- or go and read the rules board. Again.
Way da minute though. Before I fall head first into the pit of parenting doom, pulling you down with me, I must remind myself, and my children (you’d better be reading this) of a couple of points.
Granted, I may not be the first to put my hand up for ‘Guess Who” (they’ve all got bloody beards and glasses, even the women.) But, let us not forget the “fun” things that I do play with you. You see, the best type of games are those that you don’t even know you’re playing. That’s the trick. These aren’t organised games my loves. These are the games of life my chickadees.
Here are a few forms of entertainment that only mummy can do. These are; ‘Mummy’s kind of games’
• I can sit for hours talking to you about a film (if it’s British), or documentary that we have just watched. I’m then able to turn that into a writing lesson without you even noticing what I’ve done. Tah Dah!
• How about when I took you to that shipwreck with a pen and paper, and you took turns in writing a line of poetry about it until we had that crazy, beautiful poem?
• Or the time I Blindfolded you both, putting your hands into the bag to feel raw livers and kidneys to enrich your lesson on the sense of touch. Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that one. Now that I say it out loud, it makes me sound a bit freaky, and to be perfectly honest; I think it scared you for life)
• Getting us all in the car and chasing the sun for the best view of the eclipse. We drove for an hour pretending we were like that woman in Twister (well I did. You just wanted an ice-cream)
• And I absolutely loved taking you to that ancient woodland in the snow and pretending that we were in Narnia. (And yes Tess. I know. You started crying because I told you that your real parents were dead and that I was your new Mother from Witch kingdom, but come on, it was still a fantastic game)
So, there you have it. Each one of those ‘games’ gave me an enormous amount of pleasure, but not one contained a dice, or rules, or a Frisbee.
Apparently, it turns out that we are different. Game lovers and I.
Had I asked my game loving husband,
“Hey Bri, fancy walking two miles across the beach and writing a funny poem about that old ship?” he would probably have muttered something along the lines of,
“Ermm … I think Liverpool’s playing this afternoon and I’ve got to clean my van out. Then there’s the airing cupboard to sort…”
Aren’t we all, every single one of us different? Talented? Unique?
How boring to have the world full of people with similar personalities, with the same likes and dislikes. All wanting to play Frisbee golf. Or sit on slippery rocks with a wet bum, writing poetry.
I think it’s time to embrace those things that we are good at as parents, instead of focusing on those that we are not. Or those that we simply don’t enjoy. For me, its games, others feel bad about not liking cooking or exercise. But let’s stop giving ourselves such a bloody hard time because we can’t be the perfect everything. Love doing everything. Participate in everything. We’re good enough, more than good enough, and our unique strengths and talents add to societies bubbling concoction of beautiful and diverse personalities. Each of us able to offer something that another person can’t. If Hungry Hippos is your idea of fun, fantastic! If not, fantastic! (call me, now. We need to be friends).
Well. The library has indeed made me feel very philosophical. I must come here more often on a Sunday. I’m going home a new woman. (God help them).
I can only hope that my children remember this.
Their mother may well have been a miserable cow when it came to frisbee golf. But she did a bloody good party trick with a pack of chicken livers.
Eavesdropping on conversations is the best.
I know, I know. You think you have the perfect child, we all do. And they are; perfect I mean. It’s just that… you know that saying ‘ don’t tempt fate’? Well, it applies to all of the following points. So Parents. As desperate as you are to blurt out these statements, Don’t.
- “He is such a good sleeper”.
Granted, at the moment this is very convenient. Not for you getting up at 5 am to put the telly on. No thank you. We have a routine. We have this sleeping thing nailed. But, be warned. At 15…you can’t get them out of that same bed for love nor money. You long for a day, just one, when they’ll get up out of that stinking pit before 11 am. I’m still waiting.
2. “She eats anything. Her favourite is vegetable korma”.
That’s because she’s strapped into that chair with no way of escape. It doesn’t last. The Nigella Lawson pea risotto is a thing of the past, and will instead be replaced by the never-ending question: “does it have mushrooms in it?”
3. “He loves it when I play classical music in the car. I think he’s going to be a composer.”
If you’d rather listen to Adele than Baby Beethoven, do it. The only thing he will be composing in the car at 15 is a text. And guess what? You’re not part of it, so keep your eyes on the road . And , whatever .
4. “She’s already using her pincer grip.”
Believe me. When your girl reaches 13, and you see those thumbs whizzing over the Instagram keyboard at a hundred miles an hour, you’ll wish she’d kept those beautiful chubby fists in her mouth. Don’t encourage the use of fast fingers. Put mittens on until she’s 20 if necessary.
5. “He’s saying Dada, but I’m teaching him to say, Mama!”
Don’t. Once it starts, it never stops. Just leave it. Let Dada take the blame.
6. “She loves her big brother.”
Make the most of this one. It seems that when a pair of siblings enters into the dark void that is teenagerism, they make a secret pact. “In front of Mum and Dad, at least, we will hate each other .Especially at dinner time; just to ensure their dinner goes down in lumps.”
7. “I’m taking him to coffee mornings. He needs to socialise.”
If your idea of sitting in a big circle with a load of other knackered parents, staring and comparing little blobs, mashing, mushy banana (if you’re healthy) or digestives (if you were me) into their bibs, then go ahead. Honestly ? Go round to Grandmas, (if you don’t have one handy, there’s always the old people’s home down the road), make yourself a cup of tea, get a magazine (preferably not on good parenting), and let her hold and coo for an hour. Socialising done. And don’t worry, in 15 years he will have 1023 friends, on Facebook.
There then . That’s it for starters, but, be warned. As the years go by there arrives loads more. All the time. However, at least you’re in the ‘know’ now . You’re in the proper parents’ gang. You see, they don’t tell you these things at antenatal class, it’d seem a bit scary wouldn’t it? “Heres a free nappy, oh and by the way, anything good that happens? Just ignore it, it doesn’t last”.
So, new parent. Next time you’re stood waiting in line and someone asks how the new baby is, just say, ” naughty as hell ” that way, you’re not setting yourself up for future disappointments. Not only that, but you’ll keep the nosy old bag, the one listening to your conversation behind you, happy.
We are driving along us three and I, spotting an available time slot (squeezed in between the set of traffic lights ahead, ) see an ideal opportunity in which to have a quick maths lesson. This is what us homeschoolers do isn’t it ? look for every given opportunity to have a quick teach. This is so that when we collapse into bed at night, we can at least say to ourselves..” Ok .. we’ve spent the whole day driving around to different things, we’ve done the cleaning, had the cat spayed, ate lunch.. BUT at least we did that maths lesson in the car.”
Smugness. Tick. Thank you very much.
Only, apparently I picked the wrong day, the wrong time and the wrong child. Remember I have a 50/50 chance of getting the last one right.
So. Wrong Day.
“Oh noooo.. its Friday.. we unschool on Friday..” she wails.
Tell me . Now. Who are you homeschool people that publisize the fact that your children love to learn at every given opportunity? Bring them to me.
Yes, yes.. I know the aged supermarket trick ‘you add up these things as we go around and see how close you are to the total at the checkout..’ (Iit’s a good one Ill give you that ) but.. APART from that one ..how do you trick your children into thinking that your question,”who can tell me what fraction of those cars are red?”Is really a fun packed , ‘can’t think of anything Id rather do’ question , and not an excuse to curb their withering mothers paranoia that her children have learned absolutely ziltch over the past 8 years?
Right then. Friday we dont do maths. Got it. God forbid when she gets older and her boss asks ” hey Tess.. did you do 14 hours this week or 17 ?”
“Errm ..excuse me .. Mr Bossy boots boss.. its Friday. Let’s leave it ’till Monday shall we …?”
It’s 3.15pm. But the maths question is already out there , lingering like a bad smell. The eyes roll..sigh .. even ‘real’ School is finished. I follow the eyes and it’s true. Real life school children with bags and everything, walking along the road. Chatting. Not doing maths, not even the fun sort .
Tessa, like me.. panicks when under pressure (no pressure Tess, just tell me before the light goes to green) we probably know the answer ( honest ) but instead blurt out something that makes us sound like complete dim wits. Which we are not of course. We are geniuses.
We will refuse to answer. We will sigh ( a requirement when you’re 12 ) We will look out of the window ( I wander why the library has always got those same people sitting outside ?) We will start singing , not a song of course , just a la la melody that we’ve just made up ( we are immensely talented that way ) We will ask how the neighbours cat got run over last year ( because we are caring and compassionate ..and desperate now ) It’s Friday. We will not be answering maths questions .
There’s going to be a new rule. Maths questions (even those disguised as fun) like mobile phones, are to be banned from my car. Gone. Bye Bye. Ta ta .
Back to the neighbours dead cat .
“he was probably chasing a mouse because it was a lovely evening and the milk truck was going too fast to see him ”
“How fast ?”
” probably 130 Kmph ..”
“But that’s 30 over the limit !! ”
Ha !! Done !! Tricked !! Oh Yes.. big fat tick coming your way lady ..