Pretending not to be a parent

Standard

I wasn’t sure if I was going to write a blog post tonight but as the baby has been a bit of a monster for the last two hours I thought I could do with an excuse so that I can legitimately hide out in the living room while the beard tries to settle her. I am playing the game of pretending the screaming child is not mine. These are not the elements of parenthood that most people ‘fess up to and I admit I am not particularly proud of myself right now but sometimes for the good of your sanity you just have to give yourself a little break every now and again.

I feel like this week has been particularly challenging. I am not sure why.

I was coming back from some child activity this week that I’d been to on my own and I landed child number one in front of the tv and left child number two screaming indignantly from her cot whilst I struggled to unpack and fold up the pram outside so I  could put it away in the cupboard under the stairs. Having condensed ourselves from roomy French flat to what I believe would be described in real estate terms as a ‘cosy’ London apartment there is no longer room to leave prams set up in corridors.

Our front door is a bit enthusiastic about not wasting energy or allowing strangers in so has a tendency to swing to and shut you out on a regular basis, we learnt the hard way that you need to keep your keys to hand until securely across the threshold. Anyway, as I was contending with the pram and all its accoutrements and the door swung to once again behind me I eagerly drunk in the silence. Our flat is at least of a solid enough construction so that the noise of a screaming infant does not travel through a closed front door. And I’ll admit, I briefly contemplated ‘accidentally’ leaving my keys inside on the next buggy emptying run so that I would end up being locked out.

Sure, wanting to be locked away from your children isn’t the most motherhood promoting of thoughts but in my defence the hubby wasn’t far away and it would only have been for ten minutes or so of shivering on the doorstep outwardly bemoaning my bad luck, inwardly warmed by the thought of ten blissful minutes abdicating all responsibility. You’ll be please to know, and can put down the phone to child services, that I did not give into temptation and carried out the operation of getting in the house with two small children, a buggy that has bred all sorts of stuff in the underbelly of its storage unit in the hour or so you’ve been outside, and bags of shopping hanging off the pram hooks. Getting back into the house is marginally easier than getting out of the house which requires a more detailed consideration of planning and preparation to make sure you don’t leave behind one of the essentials such as the snacks/nappies/wipes/children.

Recently I was asked how I enjoyed motherhood. I wasn’t sure how serious a question it was and how detailed an answer was required, I suspected that the stock ‘it’s amazing’ answer was the one I was supposed to trot out and indeed I did, although I added the disclaimer that it did have its challenges from time to time. Challenges being akin to when a teacher would tell you your answer at school was interesting, interesting meaning wrong, challenging meaning it could be really bloody difficult.

Don’t get me wrong I love my girls more than I could ever have thought humanly possible, I would crawl over broken glass and eat my own arm for them if required. It’s just that sometimes I’d just like a little time off and I’m not very good at making that happen or taking advantage of opportunities when presented.

For example, this afternoon the beard took out the senior and generally more demanding monster for the afternoon and he asked me how I was going to enjoy my downtime with just the teeny one (note that even my downtime still involves a level of parenting) and I didn’t know how to answer or what to do. Just chilling at home didn’t really seem an option so I harnessed her up, bagged a brolly (has been a miserable rainy day today) and tootled off to vote again (there having been a mix-up preventing me from doing so in the morning, not because I have been committing voter fraud) before trudging around the shopping area on the trawl for Christmas presents. Quiet time equals time to get stuff done, not time to just be.

I really suck at relaxing. The evenings, once both minions have finally settled (or at least until the littlest one wakes up again), are my best opportunity for having a bit of me time and sometimes I like to just squander that on a bit of Netflix. Other times I find myself wasting a good chunk of time debating whether it’s better to just go to bed and sleep while I can or to stay up and watch another episode/ read another chapter or have a bath.

Most of the time I ultimately just end up wasting about two hours casually browsing through social media and the BBC news app whilst I try to figure out what to do with myself.  When you get to the alleged news stories about being single at Christmas that’s generally a good time to move ont tom something else. Why is this even in the news? Is it purely to break up the tedium of Brexit or misery of stabbing stories that otherwise dominate?

It’s like tonight, I could try to go to bed early(ish) now that the beard seems to have settled her, but I find myself tapping away here instead. The baby hasn’t been sleeping well, ergo I have not been sleeping well and I’ve got a bit of a miserable cold on top, so as much rest as possible makes sense when caffeine can only do so much for me tomorrow but on the flip side blogging means hiding out, pretending I am capable of more than the odd flight of fancy of a carefree childless existence, and a therapeutic spewing of my disorganised thoughts across the computer screen.

At least this is a better outcome than spending multiple hours going over the same old Instagram posts over and over again. Anyway, time to draw to a close, a new dawn, a new day and no doubt new ‘challenges’ but also new opportunities for love, life and laughter await.

Release the Kraken!

Standard

Generally once a week I go to softplay with niblet and the monster and if the beard isn’t DIYing/jobhunting/hiding out from his family sometimes he’ll come with us. For those not in the know softplay is pretty much as it sounds there’s soft stuff to play with that theoretically you can’t hurt yourself on. Theoretically because the place is designed for children so if you are an adult trying to chase your toddler around the obstacle course at speed there is scope for injuries to pride in addition to the aching joints of scrambling through what is essentially a hamster run for small children.

On Monday I went solo. There were a few other kids but they were a bit younger than my eldest and so she wanted me to join in her in the rat run and chase her around. The previous week she managed this by ingeniously stealing my shoes and hiding them in the monkey cage (note that shoes are absolutely forbidden in the softplay sanctuary) so I had no choice but to offload the baby to an adjacent parent and scamper after her.

Sometimes I can stay in the grown up area with the excuse of needing to ensure the teeny one isn’t either stolen by a deranged mother who has suffered one to many blows to the head of the kiddie iron curtain that blocks one of the softplay routes or trampled by someone else’s pint sized person. Yet on Monday the miniest-me gave me no excuse not to join her sister, by sleeping soundly for the duration in the adjoining room. It’s not always a good thing when your kid is a solid sleeper.

Don’t get me wrong softplay is fun, think of it like a mini parcour but where the biggest risk is damaged pride rather than broken bones, the problem is having to keep at it with my Duracell bunny of a child with her limitless supplies of energy. After a couple of laps I want to rest up a bit, but no chance of that.

The other problem Monday was my choice of clothing. I’ve been trialling this new thing recently where I no longer save my best clothes for best, having accepted that life as a mother of two means these sorts of occasions are going to be few and far between and that a skirt has the same likelihood of sticky child survival rating as a go to pair of jeans. Also having moved into a smaller space in London than we had in France with seriously reduced storage options I have had a stern talking to myself that if I don’t wear stuff then I have to throw it out.

I’ve actually really been enjoying taking a bit of time each morning to put on clothes that make me happy and feel like a bit more of a real functioning adult, with the caveat that whatever I wear has to be easily breast accessible so that I can whip out the baps on demand for bubba.

In conclusion, on Monday, I wasn’t really appropriately addressed for softplay in a dress and tights combo as I scampered about the micro maze trying to keep up with the whirlwind that somehow I created (I am yawning as I write this at the ripe time of 10pm).

Yet the skirt and dress was the least of my problems and the real issue was the nursing bra. Honestly boobs and motherhood are a nightmare. Sure, they are a fairly essential piece of kit if you are going down the breastfeeding route but the headaches they cause, not to mention the backache with the engorged pendulums (penduli?) swinging off your front. Maybe its less of an issue if your pre-pregnancy breasts were of the perky pancake variety, in which case you might be pleased as they slightly increase to a more tactile satsuma size. What is not joyful is if you started off well-endowed in the chest department, had one baby and went up a couple of bra sizes and then was horrified to discover that with pregnancy number two they swell yet again so that as you are looking to buy some new maternity bras in Marks and Spencers and you realise that you need the next size up which doesn’t actually exist in store even in the plus-sized section! If I have more children I’m going to have order some kind of boat cover tarpaulins to keep these mammoths in check.

I do not have great fitting nursing bras, they are not underwired, presumably so that when you have a hormonal surge you aren’t tempted to rip out the wire and jab it in the eye of the next person who asks you whether your baby is ‘good’ (they are a few weeks old, the concept of good and evil is a bit beyond them at this moment, or at least so they’d have us believe). The lack of a wire does help a bit with the comfort levels but does not help with containment.

I think the problem with my boobs is that they have had a taste of freedom and now they want more. They want to roam free and find out who they really are as they go off and do their own thing. This make me and my breasts a little out of sync as what I want is for them to stay in place long enough that people don’t mistake me for a piece of abstract art and so that milk doesn’t leak all over the shop.

So on a normal day I’m regularly adjusting the girls and trying to put them back in their roosts on a fairly frequent basis, on an active softplay day where I am scampering around a three foot high tunnel in my best Quasimodo impression trying to keep up with the tearaway two year old this is the perfect opportunity for the Kraken to try to escape. With no wire to keep them separated and too many clasps and hooks on the other side their best option is to work together and spring from the centre so that I found myself struggling with a very fetching uniboober scenario. As I’m scampering about trying to keep up with the child and keep the beasts of burden under control, hocking them back into place and in doing so accidentally unhooking them every so often so that they can make a dash for freedom from unexpected directions, I realise this is not the life I imagined for myself when I was a little girl daydreaming about my future.

Sure motherhood is full of wonders of life and a love unlike anything you ever thought possible but it’s also full of embarrassing bodily mishaps that no-one prepares you for.

The staff selling softplay admission have security cameras and were therefore able to witness my inner wardrobe wars. I suspect this is the reason why I got half priced entry when I went today.

Taking the long way around

Standard

I was in my Sainsbury’s local this evening where the women on the checkouts were discussing a new queuing system whereby people with prams would have to go around if another buggy user was already there because there would be no way to pass otherwise. One of the women commented that it seemed unfair that people with buggies have to go all the way around and I smiled and told her that parenting was all about taking the long way round.

The first time I realised this was shortly after monster numero uno was born and we went to visit the gardens of Voltaire’s chateau in Ferney-Voltaire where we were living. We’d frequently been pre child and after a somewhat gruelling walk up the top of the hill where the chateau was located (which became more gruelling as the first pregnancy wore on) it had been a simple thing to hop up the steps into the shop that served as gateway to the attraction. Ahh steps. With a pushchair in tow we now had to take the long and windy route up the ramp and seek out someone to allow us special access through the ramped entrance.

At least there was a ramped entrance. With a hefty piece of wheeled kit to take around I developed a new sympathy for the daleks. The inability to mount stairs, enter a narrow doorway or turn around in tight spaces is enough to drive anyone to plan for world domination and creation of a new world order with step-free access for everyone.

And it isn’t just stairs and narrow doorways or tightly packed boutiques that prove challenging, I had honestly never noticed how shockingly bad the pavements were in the town we were living in until I was trying to manoeuvre the potato on wheels on taxing adventures of things like getting to the carrefour marche to stock up on Nutella and eggs. And don’t even get me started on the cardboard boxes of the world who would see pavements as parking spots causing me to unleash the pedestrian rage that was constantly boiling away that could amount to loudly condemning them or on one occasion leaving a banana skin on their windscreen. I’m sure that really showed them.

All this was annoying with a pushchair but at least I could, albeit not without some struggling, wrestle the buggy on and off pavements and around the potholes, etc., how wheelchair users were supposed to live independently and manage those hazards I’ve no idea. The kinds of diversions I had to take with the buggy must have been nothing compared to the constant need for rerouting that someone in a wheelchair must have had to do to get from one side of town to the other.

At least the obstacles on pavements is less of an issue in London. There are enough ticket-happy traffic wardens in my area that anyone thinking of parking in inappropriate spaces is certainly going to get rewarded with a hefty fine and the constant fear of being sued means that councils tend to do their best to ensure dangers and blockages amidst public walkways are addressed as quickly as possible with the means available.

Living in Greenwich is great but we have been trying the occasional jaunt outside of the borough and travelling with two little ones means at least one pushchair is usually essential. There are so many things that I took for granted when we lived here previously sans children. Like how easy it was to just get on a bus. You see the bus, you get on the bus, sometimes its full so you have to stand up which was annoying. With a buggy you see the bus, you must check if the pram limit has already been reached before getting your ticket, if it has you have to wait for the next one or the one after that. If you have an appointment to get to you will either need to leave ridiculously early to allow for possibly being refused access to several buses or you walk.

Then if you get on the bus you have to manage parking, ensuring the break is on, settling the bigger niblet, who doesn’t want to stay in the pushchair if the bubba is in the harness, and if the bubba is in the harness finding a secure enough spot that you can sit or stand without risk of endangering the mini one with a sudden brake of the bus, all whilst jolting along from one red light to the next.

Then there’s the tube. I used to just open up the tfl app, or use googlemaps to plot out my route for me. Now I have to consider things like what stations have step free access? What time of the day will I be travelling? Are we going to get crowded out by school kids or commuters? There are certain activities that are just off limits if they necessitate the taking of transport between 4-7pm.

We went to the Olympic Park one morning this week and headed back a bit later than planned so that by the time the bus dropped us at the nearest stop to home we were well into the bigger minion’s naptime. After an active morning charging around the park she had fallen asleep on the bus and so the beard decided that rather than waking her to get her into the pram he’d carry her home.  The quickest route home involves an overpass over a busy road. Carrying a 14kg package nestled over one shoulder the beard decided to take the quicker route of the stairs and so I duly trundled off with the babe strapped to my chest pushing the surplus pram via the very long and windy ramp.

Even when we don’t take out the buggy, life with children continues to require taking the long way round. Googlemaps estimation of how long it takes to walk somewhere should include an obstinate toddler mode whereby you factor in the route takes twice as long, requires constant doubling back and accounts for the time spent stopping to stare at a particularly interesting bit of stick we have found along the way. Even if the bigger one decides she wants to run somewhere and you think this is great we are moving at an almost normal pace then you still need to account for time spent dealing with the aftermath of at least one tripping over and the cleaning up and comforting that that entails.

I am not the most patient of people. My now husband, then boyfriend, used to laugh at me for how I’d race along to reach my destination regardless of whether we actually needed to be anywhere in a hurry or not. So adjusting to the meandering needs of children on wheels or who want to stop to take in the view has not been without its challenges. However, it also isn’t without its merits. For me being forced to stop to take in the view or to really think about why this leaf is quite so fascinating is probably quite beneficial for the soul. Or at least it would be if not at a time when I need to get to our destination to placate the screaming baby or happens to be that the exciting plastic bag worthy of prolonged inspection is directly in front of the religious fundamentalists who if they aren’t put off by the insane glint in my eye may actually want to have a conversation!

Ten Reasons I Can’t Accept a Compliment

Standard

1. I’m British. Self-deprecation is a national past-time.

2. I don’t know how. I’ve never been nominated for an Oscar so have never had any reason to spend hours in front of the mirror practicing my gracious acceptance speech.

3. I’m suspicious. I suspect you have a motive for something. My work colleague bought me two oranges this morning. He had an agenda. I think of your compliments as those oranges and am trying to work out the agenda.

4. You are complimenting me on the wrong things. Do I need a compliment on how nice this dress looks or how good my language skills are? Why do you never compliment me on the things that matter? Like when I made you a cup of tea without any cat hair floating on the top, the fact my hair doesn’t look horrendous although I couldn’t be bothered to shower that morning or that I stacked my collection of different sized post-it notes into a pleasingly aesthetic pyramid.

5. I’m not sure it is a compliment. ‘You’ve lost so much weight, well done!’ Is that a compliment? Is it just highlighting that I needed/still need to lose so much weight?

6. I’m cynical. I don’t believe you. I too have tacked on a ‘that looks really nice’ to a comment that was meant to stop at ‘oh, you have had your hair cut’ but was then followed by an awkward pause that needed to be filled.

7. I don’t want to reciprocate. Accepting the compliment may make me feel obliged to compliment you in return and lying is a sin. I’m not going to hell because of social conventions. Other reasons, sure. But not social conventions.

8. I have low self-esteem. You are probably mocking me. I’m going to find a nice corner to cry in now.

9. I have a god-complex. Your compliments are meaningless to me. Does the boot care if the ant thinks complimentary thoughts about it as it stomps the ant out of existence? No. Go waste your worthless compliments on someone who thinks you matter.

10. I don’t want to scare you off. Your compliment was lovely actually but if I say thanks in a way that truly expresses the overwhelming inner joy I feel with Cheshire cat grin and shiny eyes open-wide to frightening proportions and glistening with the tears of joy about to fall, you will not only never compliment me again but will probably move to a different country just to get away. Much safer to grumble a non-acknowledgement and move on.