Why I Understand Now

23 Mar

I really do

The other day I was sitting in a play café watching my son happily and ritualistically dismantle every single toy in the room whilst dressed as a green fairy, when another small boy, a few months younger, walked up to an infant girl and clobbered her around the head with a slice of wooden toast. It clearly hurt, the girl started screaming, and the boy looked around for someone else to smack.

The boy’s mum rushed, horrified, across the room to mitigate any further acts of violence. The boy promptly launched into a tantrum of epic, unprecedented proportions.

The mum lifted her eyes in a sort of helpless, ‘I’m sorry, I’m doing my best’ plea to the other mums and dads in the room. And every single one of us gave her that special, knowing look back that passes between parents sometimes. It’s called the ‘I know’ look, and it is one of those tiny, subtle little signs of support that keep you going on really tough days.

This is not one of those dreadful, exclusive, ‘I’m a parent, look at this sad private little club I’m in!’ posts. It’s just meant to be a message of solidarity. Neither is it a plea for concern. Sometimes, sugar-coated versions of parenting life are just not that palatable. The good comes with bad.

And I get it now, I really do. No longer do I do that thing where I look across at the parent of a child who is being truly hideous, acting out, screaming, crying, throwing things, lying on the floor in paroxysm of rage, and judge them. I just smile and give them the kindest eyes I can, because I’ve been there. I understand.

I understand the special little lopsided half-smile every parent seems to have when watching their kids from afar.

I understand the greasy hair, the snot-stained clothes, the mismatched shoes, the bags under the eyes.

I understand when you don’t text back for days.

I understand when the tiniest cut or scrape has you worried out of your mind.

I understand if you sometimes find social situations without children in them a bit daunting, or overwhelming.

I understand why the phrase ‘It’s just a phase, enjoy it while they are young!’ just inspires feelings of pure unadulterated fury.

I understand when you can’t finish a single sentence during any conversation.

I understand the desire to punch any other kid that bullies your own squarely in the nose.

I understand when you haven’t noticed your skirt is tucked in your knickers, nor do you particularly care.

I understand when you look hungrily at the bottle of wine on the shelf at 10.30 in the morning.

I understand when you talk to me like I’m a two year old, because that’s the age group you’ve been around all day.

I understand the last minute fancy dress failure (my son’s Easter Bonnet is likely to be a pair of tights with some eggshell selotaped on).

I understand the pride that comes with a finger painting, collage, glitter picture or anything really your kid has made for you.

I understand the joy in teaching them something new, and watching them fly with it.

I understand exhaustion. More than anything, I truly understand what it is to be so tired all the time you sort of shuffle about like a zombie until the weekend, when you then all shuffle about en masse.

I understand that life can now, sometimes, be a bit of a scary, daunting place, full of worry.

I also understand that you have a new found purpose that seems to make everything else in your life meaningful.

I understand all of this because I’ve now felt it, been there, got the t-shirt and the matching bra and knickers. At night, I sometimes creep into my son’s bedroom and watch him sleep, celebrating all the little successes we’ve had and reeling from the multiple catastrophes. Growing a baby is hard. Growing a person is even harder.

You’re all doing a brilliant job. I mean it.



Calm down dear, it’s only Christmas

24 Dec
Excited child Christmas


Picture a scene: it’s dark, it’s 5 am, and two exhausted parents are snoring deeply in their bed.

Suddenly, there is a scrabbling sound from the room next door, then the ‘thud-thud-thud-thud’ of little feet pounding across the floor.

Without preamble, a tiny bundle of curls and hysteria launches himself at velocity onto the poor, prone, unsuspecting parents and starts jumping up and down on their heads until they wake up. Content that his mission has been achieved, he wriggles in between us and then spends half an hour kicking Husband in the bollocks and elbowing me in the mouth while we older folk lie there in bleary-eyed denial that once again, we are awake only 5 hours after we went to bed (mostly our fault).

Now imagine this has been going on for about a month.

I think it is safe to say someone is excited about Christmas.

Which is wonderful, because really, that’s what Christmas is all about, isn’t it? Unbridled joy, excitement, anticipation. And it’s probably my fault for gearing up the Christmas machine in roughly mid-August (I really, really do like it).

Unsurprisingly, this frenzy has coincided with a month of extreme naughtiness. And there are only so many times you can frown, shake your head sadly and say (in futility) ‘If you don’t start behaving, Santa won’t come‘. Aside from this being a blatant lie, my son is just not interested in the consequences. All he knows is that EVERYTHING IS VERY EXCITING.

So hopefully, Santa won’t be too tired to deliver presents this year. At this rate you are likely to find him face down in our rug smothered in crumbs and Port (hang on, that sounds like my idea of a party).

Sleep deprivation aside, there is nothing else- nothing else- like looking into your child’s glistening, hopeful, slightly maniacal eyes and imagining his face on Christmas morning. It reminds me of the butterflies I used to get when I was a Kid- a feeling that sadly is harder to replicate the older you get. They do say you can live again through your Children, and as George Benson once sang, ‘the Children are our future’. I think this might be a truism, if only because it gives me an excuse to play with his toy kitchen and playmobil castle (I am dead jealous of his toys).

Love, peace and light to all- and a Merry Crimble from us.


Time (has anyone got any?)

17 Sep
parenting blog time issues

Ahh, Stock Photography.

So, basically, I don’t blog any more.

I know, I know- it’s against all the rules. Thou shalt blog every day, every week, every month, otherwise your Blog is consigned to the doldrums. As a Marketing Manager who frequently commutes back and forth from the digital hemisphere, my laziness is even more inexcusable.


It’s a bit hard these days to find the time or energy to write anything other than ‘HELP ME’ onto a post it note and attach it to my forehead.

Here’s what a typical day looks like at the moment:

6.30 am

Wake up to the sound of Child hammering bedroom wall with plastic mallet shouting ‘MUMMY I’VE DONE A POO!!’ Fall out of bed and race to bedroom to find poo all over walls, floor, curtains. The day has begun.

7.30 am

Child is still not dressed or fed and room smells of disinfectant. Wrestle clothes onto child who has suddenly grown ten extra legs. Lovingly dump Shreddies into a bowl and sprinkle blueberries on top to assuage guilt over not preparing freshly made porridge and sliced fruit.

Child decides that despite being ravenously hungry, he no longer wants breakfast. Spend next twenty minutes swapping cutlery, chairs, clothes, breakfasts until eventually we have all eaten something, even if it wasn’t what we intended to eat.

Clean child, floor, husband’s trouser legs, walls, highchair and own hair of Shreddie residue. Feebly fend off enthusiastic cuddles whilst doing so then cave and allow child to embrace you and coat you in Shreddie glue and milk.

8.00 am

Frantically clean self again, apply makeup and throw on halfway clean work shirt. Decide whether to brush hair or teeth, as not enough time to do both. Teeth win, largely because you can’t bundle your teeth into a hair band to disguise how greasy and unbrushed they are.

8.15 am

Wave child off with husband for nursery run. Leave house. Go back to house for forgotten coat/bag/glasses/wallet. Get side tracked, spend 20 minutes reapplying makeup, stacking dishwasher, straightening rug, putting toys away. Remember its actually a work day and leave the house again.

8.45 am

Arrive at work sweaty and reddened with stig-in-the-dump-hair.


Leave work. Walk for forty minutes to Nursery.


Arrive at nursery. Spend half an hour trying to remove child and comrades from bath tub/boat/mud kitchen. Succeed after strenuous bribery in getting out nursery front door to find nappy needs changing. Debate on whether to leave it or change it myself in park. Decide to let them do it as I’VE CHANGED MORE THAN MY FAIR SHARE, dammit

6.15 pm

Get home. Unleash child into house. House is disaster zone within twenty-three flat seconds.


Bedtime. Read fourth story in row. Child employs every delaying tactic known to man. Skilfully divert attention back to comfortable bed, cuddly toys, star lamp, turtle lamp, moon-in-my-room lamp.


Child relents and sings quietly to self in bed until asleep.


Dinner is ready. Dinner gets cold as phone rings and every family member under sun including fourth cousin three times removed remembers you exist and wants to talk.


Dinner eaten. Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners starts back-to-back screening marathon.


Having been asleep on couch for two hours, decide to go to bed.


Can’t sleep.

6.30 am

Wake up to sound of….

So blogging has taken a bit of a back seat. Sorry about that. I still love you all!

Owning a Two Year Old

23 Jun
Disclaimer: this is not my son. Could be, though.

Disclaimer: this is not my son. Could be, though.

All hands on deck, land ahoy! The Kid’s second birthday, spotted off the port bow!

Which is awesome, and scary, and exciting, and sad all at once.

After the event (which was lovely, much more fun than adult birthdays, despite the crushing guilt I felt in ordering a ready-made birthday cake and NOT MAKING IT MYSELF *sob*), I sat around for a while mooning about time and how it flies, leafed through family photo albums, caressed the pages of the Red Book and tried to remember how it felt when, drugged and terrified, I held him for the first time.

Actually, I say I ‘sat around’. What really happened was that, in between mopping up food, tears, broken toys, stickers, sand and mud, I had a few spare seconds to feel nostalgic and then the Kid pulled all the tinned foods we own out of the kitchen cupboards and began throwing them at me. Until he dropped one on his foot. I’ll let you figure out what happened next.

So rather than wasting time mourning what has passed, I thought I’d try and illustrate for those of you who haven’t experienced it yet what it is like, living with a Two Year old.

What is it like?

What is it like?

It’s like opening your doors to a great tidal wave of energy which smashes past you and surges through your tiny house and crashes repeatedly against the shores of your exhausted, swollen-hearted bodies and recedes, only to re-group and attack again. With cuddles, and snot.

It’s like being best friends with the most confident human being in the world. Entrances to social situations are enthusiastic (professional networkers take note). Announcements such as ‘Good morning everyone!’ are delivered with great gusto and assurance that the sentiment will be returned in kind. And it is.

It’s like visiting a super-futuristic behavioral science institution and having all of your embarrassment thresholds forcibly re-programmed. For example, you find yourself saying ‘hello’ a lot, loudly, cheerfully, in passing. Mostly to inanimate objects that can’t return the greeting.

‘Hello stray pube that I found in the bath!’

‘Hello woodlouse which I’m trying to squash with my index finger!’

‘Hello plane in the sky!’

‘Hello dustbin!’

‘Hello lady in black car!’ (Lady has car window rolled down, narrows her eyes and looks warily at me).

‘Hello abandoned rusty tin can in the gutter!’

It’s pretty much the same with ‘Goodbye’, except it’s not cheerful, it’s suitably mournful.
It’s like the English language suddenly exists for you and your family alone, and is no longer a rigid thing constrained by the rules of the Collins English Dictionary. The spoken word in my son’s adorable lisp mouth is a thing of beauty, wonder. ‘Stick’ becomes ‘Dick!’ (as in ‘Mummy! Got a Big Dick!’ Cue laughter). ‘Hippopotamus’ becomes ‘Hip-pop-matapus’. ‘Astronaut’ becomes ‘Astanought’ and dammit, if they don’t all sound better than the actual correct words do.

It’s like Diplomacy has become your new superpower. As The Kid’s power of speech develops at a rate of knots, so does the realization that he can express his preferences and dislikes. ‘I don’t like it Mummy!’ echoes around the halls of the Bungaloid, ripe with all the disdain a toddler can muster:

‘You do like it, darling, it’s your favourite’.

‘No. Don’t like it’.

‘Oh, OK then. If you don’t like it, I’ll just eat it, how about that?’

‘NO! Alex eat it!’

‘Ok then darling, try a small mouthful, here you go.’


‘Are you sure? Shall I take it away? I’ll take it away. First I’ll just leave it here in front of you for a few minutes while I tactfully disappear off somewhere and watch from the corner while pretending to fetch a …oh, good, you do like it, HOORAY!’


It’s like having your heart trampled on in the most flippant, brutal way imaginable every day:

‘Do you love Daddy?’

‘I love you Daddy!’

‘Do you love Mummy?’

‘I love you Daddy!’

‘Do you love Mummy?’

‘I love you….LEGO!’

And then repaired when you least expect it:

‘I love Mummy!’ Followed by rugby tackle from behind with dinosaur entourage and:  ‘Look, Mummy Dinosaur, Daddy Dinosaur, Alex Dinosaur!’

It’s like an endurance test for your patience:

‘Want some more blueberries’

‘Say please’


‘Say please’

*Looks at floor*

‘Say please’

*Points at radio, starts chair-dancing*

‘Say please or no blueberries’

*Feigns surprise, points up at sky* ‘Helicopter!’

‘There is no Helicopter. Say please or no Blueberries’

*Laughs, bats eyelashes*

It’s like living in a Pub Quiz all day, every day:

‘What’s that?’

‘A lorry’

‘What’s that?’

‘A tree’

‘What’s that?’

‘A Tetrapod, otherwise known as a Vertebrate, Amphibian, Mammaliaforme, Reptiliomorpha’

It’s like living in a cathedral inhabited by ten competing brass bands, until 7pm, when the noise vanishes and the house is too quiet, until the gentle, reassuring sea-sounds of my Kid snoring wash over the silence.

It’s like…too many things to define in one post. It’s cuddles, and dancing, and tears, and laughter, and surprises, and anger, and pride, and joy, and…

It’s pretty much the greatest thing ever.

Running a Tight Ship (or, why my Toddler is in charge)

8 Apr

‘Mate, if you don’t stop waggling that in my face I’ll bite it off’

It’s dinner time.

My better half and I are attempting to eat our food. My Son has more pressing issues to take care of: having noted the magnolia walls in our bungalow and convinced himself that aesthetically, a veneer of spattered, pre-masticated puree would look much better, he is attempting to perform gastronomic Feng Shui and redecorate our abode with half-chewed noodles and the vegetables I have wearily prepared knowing he will throw them everywhere but in his mouth. (It’s become a perverse sort of game, this vegetable thing. I know he won’t eat them. But I keep preparing them in the naïve hope that one day, he’ll turn that wide smile on me and exclaim ‘Why, Mother! These green things are the shizzle! I don’t know why I made such a darned fuss about them in the first place!’ At which point the sky will turn neon pink and a tiny army of shaven-headed leprechauns will leap out from behind the sofa and perform in it’s entirety The Ring Cycle for me with tiny brass instruments.)

Anyway. Clearly, whilst playing with your food is a healthy part of childhood, throwing food at the walls and then thumping Daddy in the face gleefully when he attempts to put a stop to said creativity is, well, not on. Once I’ve swallowed the laughter. Because thumping Daddy is never, ever, remotely, in any circumstance funny. Much.

‘Daddy,’ I say, using my sternest army voice, ‘It’s time for The Chair, please.’

If you think this sounds sinister, it’s not. The Chair is a small pine chair, which makes up a tiny wooden set of table and chairs we have in our kitchen. The Kid eats his breakfast there most mornings. Gradually, as The Kid draws closer to the age of Two (Fuuuuuuuuuuck), one chair in particular has taken on a second role: that of THE NAUGHTY CHAIR.

We don’t have any stairs in our Bungalow, you see. So ‘Go and sit on the naughty step!’ would be mildly anti-climactic and not very effective.

Resolutely, and with his best Daddy-Is-Cross face, Husband fetches the chair. Then we place it in the only place we can think of where there isn’t anything for the Kid to play with or amuse himself with: in the hallway, by the front door.

‘Now then,’ Daddy continues, sounding a bit like Carson from Downtown Abbey (which weirdly turns me on a bit), ‘We want you to sit on this chair quietly, because you were badly behaved and threw your food at the wall and hit Daddy in the mouth. So stay here until we come to get you. Do you understand?’

The Kid laughs adorably in his face, fluttering his long lashes and tossing his mad, blonde hair like a Timotei model.

Daddy retreats to the other side of the Bungalow. There is a 5 second silence. Then the pounding of tiny feet as the Kid runs after us, laughing hysterically.

Daddy’s face now resembles Carson after realizing the butter knives have not been set properly to a measurement of half an inch in from the edge of the table. He picks up The Kid quietly, marches down to The Chair and repeats the process. He makes it as far as the kitchen before the Kid catches up with him like some deliriously happy Labrador puppy bringing back a manky old tennis ball.

My better half looks at me with a flicker of despair. Having been through this process before, I try not to look smug and pick up our errant son, plonking him back on the seat, explaining why we’re doing this, blah blah blah. Then I leave before he can make eye contact and put me under his spell.

This time we get about thirty seconds before we realise he’s climbed into a giant cardboard box in the lounge and is having a little toddler cardboard box party. Sigh.

And repeat.

This time I retrieve him from his bedroom, which he runs into and shuts the door of so we can’t follow.

And repeat.

I remove the book he’s trying to disembowel from his grip.

And repeat.

Retrieve house keys and stop him trying to unlock the front door and hotwire the car(OK, made that one up.)

Eventually, it starts to sink in. Probably way past the point where he can remember what he did wrong, but it sinks in. He stays put on The Chair. For about forty seconds. I’ll take it.

I approach him as he sits there, looking angelic. I explained to him what he did wrong, why he was there, and asked him to say sorry.

‘Sowweeee’ he says, wrapping his arms around my neck and laughing. I ask him to say sorry to Daddy. ‘SOWWWEEEEEEE!’ he yells, and then ‘CUGGLE DADDY!’

We catch each other’s eye for a split second as he launches himself into a full-scale charm offensive, and we have a moment of pride and panic. Already, our Son is running rings around us. He knows who is really in charge. We might be the administrators of this arbitrary justice system but he’s the criminal mastermind.

Our Son is running a very tight ship indeed.


17 Mar

I have lost count of the number of times I have been actively corrected by a member of the male species this week.

It started when my phone broke down for the second time in three months, and I took it to a well-known mobile phone brand outlet for repair. As I entered the store, hair unbrushed, makeup smudged, trousers covered in porridge, practical walking boots coated in mud, I could see the man behind the desk prepare his best “How can I help you today, poor, provincial, clueless female?” smile. To be fair, I did have The Kid with me. For some reason this must automatically project an impression of stupidity, particularly when it comes to functional things like phones, computers, bills, cars, wiping my own bum etc.

I explained, in some careful detail, what the problem was- phone won’t turn on, gets stuck in a boot loop, won’t respond to hard re-boot, has happened before, I take care of the phone, it has a case, no water damage, not been dropped or smashed or kicked or sat upon (remarkable considering my phone emits a siren call for my son and he can barely keep his hands off it).

The man grunted, cast a disbelieving eye in the direction of the Kid. He plugged the offending item into a charger and waited, mouth compressed into a thin, mean, no-nonsense line.

As I waited, feeling a bit like a teenager waiting for my GCSE results, the Kid guzzles happily on his morning milk and points out interesting items like ‘Phone!’ ‘Man!’ ‘Phone!’ ‘Car!’ ‘Phone!’.  I smile indulgently at him, return my gaze to the man behind the counter. With a start, I realise he is looking at me with a combination of pity and sheer unadulterated scorn.

‘What?’ I say, backing away a little. He sighs theatrically.

‘Well, here’s your problem,’ he intones, raising an eyebrow in disdain.


‘Your phone has no battery power. If you charge it up, you might find you can use it again.’

Silence hits the room as I stare at him in disbelief.

Does wandering around with a child in tow really make so much difference to how intelligent a person believes I am?

If I were to repeat this exercise, dressed as I dress for the office, would the diagnosis have been the same?

The silence stretched as I played out several fantasies. First, I ripped out the man’s gizzard with my gnashing, bared teeth and then tied it around his testicles. Then I nailed him to a giant spinning target and shot faulty mobile handsets at him from a crossbow. Finally, I fed him to a colossal squid.

After I had simmered down, I explained PATIENTLY and CALMLY that no, I am not an idiot, the phone had simply run out of power whilst attempting, unsuccessfully, to boot for several hours. After another ten minutes of fiddling the man’s demeanour changed, became somewhat sheepish. I left the store feeling vilified.

So then, this continued to happen, throughout my week. Men looking at me with those large, round eyes and explaining something carefully as if to my own small child. ‘Toast goes in the toaster, darling’. ‘You’ll find all your bills in the ‘Billing’ section of your user account, Madam’. ‘The toilet paper can usually be found hanging from an extremely convenient hook device immediately to your left or right as you carry out your business, madam.’

I can only assume it is because I now give off an immutable air of chaos, panic and an incapacity to digest complex information.

I do not blame these men for trying to help me, educate me, make my life better in lots of little ‘helpful’ and informative ways. I do need to have a word with myself, sort out my ‘resting face’ and brush my teeth and hair more, obviously.

Ah well. At least there is one little man in my life not hell-bent on improving or correcting me.

‘I love you, monkey’ I say to The Kid, stroking his hair.

He turns solemn eyes towards me. ‘Alex,’ he corrects.

How to leave the house when you have a toddler

2 Mar
getting out with a toddler

‘I know you’ve done a poo, but let’s just gloss over that for now, I’m three hours late…’

1. Wake up at 6 am, tired and a tiny bit hungover. Look out of window. Sun! Decide to make hay etc and get OUT THERE. Slightly delirious at prospect of winter drawing to a close, dig out sunglasses, flip-flops and shorts. Dress as if middle of summer in Death Valley.

2. Make breakfast. Ignore the fact that you are a bit cold and your toes want warm socks, not flip-flops. Pour cereal- SPECIFICALLY REQUESTED- into toddler’s bowl. Sit at child’s table in kitchen with toddler, as it is still too cold to sit at actual table located in conservatory. Threaten child with highchair in said cold conservatory if he doesn’t sit still and keep climbing off his chair to wipe soggy cornflakes all over bare legs. Watch in despair as child scorns all cornflakes and obsesses over your own bowl of identical cornflakes, wrestling with spoon, flipping cereal across the kitchen. Offer toast, fruit, pancakes, porridge, give up when all choices are roundly rejected.

3. Realise in horror that not only are legs cold and covered in milk and cornflakes but they are so hairy you could hook them up to a loom and make several persian rugs out of them. Look at child, still in pyjamas, still covered in cornflakes, intent on scattering every block of lego to the four corners of the wind. Decide that shower not really an option. Look at sunny weather. Decide that shorts might be a tad optimistic on 2nd of March.

4. Get changed at lightning speed into food smeared jeans and coffee-stained, paint-splattered cable knit jumper. Assess self in dusty mirror. Wonder if ‘bag-lady-vogue’ will ever come back in, er, vogue.

5. Hurry to kitchen where toddler is deconstructing dishwasher dirty plate by dirty plate. Retrieve all crockery and cutlery from around the house. Chase toddler into bedroom to get him dressed. Sort through all odd socks. Dig out final remaining clean dry pair of trousers. Realise they are aged 9-12 months, and toddler is 20 months. Shuffle them on him. Attempt to find tshirt. Turn around to find toddler has taken off trousers. Play this game for half an hour. In the end bribe with Thomas the Tank Engine via the wonder of youtube and mobile phone. Obsess over damage am doing to his development. Feel like terrible mother.

5. Decide park will be muddy. Search for wellies.

6. Locate wellies in really, really obvious place after scouring entire house for twenty minutes.

7. Search for keys.

8. Locate keys etc etc.

9. Search for child.

10. Locate child gazing lovingly out of window at a cement mixer parked outside of house. Child is immobile, round-eyed, slack-mouthed.

11. Decide cannot waste opportunity. Rush to bathroom to wash greasy hair.

12. Whilst head immersed in tepid water in sink discover that toddler has grown bored of cement mixer and somehow come across the word and accompanying action ‘Slap!’ in the few seconds I had left him alone. Decide to hide thesaurus, as can be only possible explanation. Proceed to withstand barrage of slapping whilst feebly trying to warn him that time-out will ensue if slapping does not immediately desist. Toddler laughs outright at mere suggestion of discipline and rages about the house slapping everything from dishwasher to television to all his toys, one by one. Attempt to rinse hair of soapsuds, achieve only 50% soapsud removal. Try timeout with rampaging toddler. Timeout fails. Give up on timeout and strap child into buggy. Give child banana to placate.

13. Put coat on. Realise coat is covered in mud from weekend excursion. Fuck it, its only the park, I’m not off to tea at Claridge’s.

14. I wish I was off at tea at Claridge’s though.

15. Look out of window again. Beautiful brilliant blue sky, bright sunshine. Spirits lift again.

16. Look at toddler. Banana has been squeezed to pulp in tiny fists and smeared over coat, legs, buggy, wall.

17. Contemplate cleaning it up. Toddler grins at me, banana slime leaking from his nostrils. None of banana has clearly made it into stomach where it should have gone.

18. Leave toddler covered in banana slime.

19. Exit the house. AT LAST.

20. Re-enter house, having forgotten to remove flip flops and put proper boots on. Its cold out there, brrr.

21. Leave house. Hurrah!

22. Sun goes in.