I ran into an acquaintance the other day who had recently delivered a baby. She looked phenomenal, with no remnants whatsoever of the baby weight lingering around.
“How the hell do you look like that?” I asked, not even attempting to mask my utter annoyance.
“Oh, you know,” she explained. “Since I had a baby plus a toddler, I just spend all of my time running after them so the weight fell off. Plus, I just never seem to remember to eat!”
That was not the response I wanted to hear.
I’ve seen countless celebrities singing the same tune and it always makes me crazy. I have three kids and I have never once found myself running after them. Maybe I’ll dash over if I hear a loud thud followed by silence, but certainly not often enough to break a sweat. Sure, I’m with them constantly, but my normal pace is more like a saunter. My heart rate is steady and you could never call gently pushing a kid on a swing an aerobic workout.
And, how does one forget how to eat? Like, ever? The only time I ever came remotely close to not eating three square meals plus snacks daily was when I had bad morning sickness! Babies eat regularly. Kids are constantly asking for snacks and meals and treats. Never mind, that their plates constantly need to be “cleaned/finished”. As a mother you are surrounded by food– how on earth is it forgettable?!
If you’re rocking a post-baby body and I ask how you got it, please give me a response like:
“I’m starving and miserable, but I really wanted to get in these freaking jeans again”
“I work my ass off at the gym 24/7.”
“Genetics. You should see my mom.”
“Honestly, I have no idea how the hell it came off so fast.”
Or, even the dreaded, “I’m eating less and moving more.”
Those I can understand. I can’t relate to them, but I can live with them.
But, please don’t give me the running around and forgetting to eat bullshit.
I’ve been there. I know better.
I love Christmas. I’m the one who has a minimum of 15 guests for dinner, cooking for hours in the kitchen so that we can sit; parents, brothers, sisters, children, ex husband and current husband, on borrowed tables and over eat together. I save up for Christmas presents every month throughout the year no matter how skint I am, because I know I’ll be more skint at christmas. I start buying presents and decorations on January. As I said; I love Christmas.
As a kid Christmas was a magical time. It was looked forward to pretty much all year. It was the reason that the cold and dark evenings of winter didn’t matter as much as it should have. Christmas was always a time where we were all together, I remember it as happy; snuggles in the house and warm.
Advent calendars were exciting. I remember back before we had chocolate ones; the excitement of not knowing what would be behind that thin scrap of paper. What picture would be revealed? Then came the chocolate ones which, for the first year at least was so exciting; chocolate? Everyday? Yes please. However advent calendars somehow lost their charm; they became about a piece of chocolate and not about the unknown.
And more recently, in addition to this piece of chocolate we have the addition of a new count down, I’m not sure what they are called, it seems to be different in every house. Some call it Ernie, others it’s Pixie or Twinkle, it’s elf on the bloody shelf. And I just do not get it; so some elf, misbehaves making a mess in your house every day, in some houses bringing a gift each day in the run up to Christmas? WTF? Why?
Yes yes I know that all my Elf on the Shelf loving friends will be shouting at me right now that it’s about the magic, it’s the anticipation, it’s exciting and you will see their little faces light up as they go seek him out each day, but why? Why do we feel the need to make something that when I was a kid was the most exciting day of the year even more exciting? Surely it’s exciting enough?
What does some cuddly toy making a mess in your house everyday add to that? Can we not keep our kids excited without sprinkling flour all over the place, or spilling milk on the floor and sitting a stuffed toy next to it? My kids make that kind of mess everyday, they don’t need me adding to it and pretending it’s an elf doing it.
And I know that some people will say it’s a way of getting children to behave in December, which does make me kind of think how the hell do they get their kids to behave the rest of the year?
Nope. I just don’t get it. For me the magic of Christmas is built up by the slow drawing in of the nights. It is the Christmas songs on the radio, the plans of families getting together. It is the cold days. It is the wrapping presents. It is the simple things. And that’s how I want Christmas to be for my boys. I don’t want to ruin it with more expectation.
Plus I’d never remember to move the damn elf every night!!!
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. A lot has been going on and I just couldn’t seem to decide on which thing to focus on; however this morning it became blatantly obvious.
I am one of those people who wakes up and is ready to go. I don’t need to slowly waken and set lots of different alarms. Most mornings I’m awake before my alarm even goes off. And I savour those moment when the kids come in for a cuddle and tell me they love me. This morning the youngest told me that he is most comfortable “when I hold him”, which just about melted my heart. Those kids are awesome.
So why is it that nearly every day, or so it feels. I end up just about ready to nail said child/children to the wall!!
Take this morning for example; lovely cuddles completed, I tell the boys to go get dressed. This shouldn’t be a problem, after all last night I laid their clothes out for them. It should just be a case of putting them on, a feat that, on a good day they can manage in under a minute. So why, today, did it take nearly an hour? An hour interspersed with me alternately sending youngest to the naughty step to get dressed, to me screaming at him to just get dressed, only to have him wander in 5 minutes later, wearing a pair of pants and s single sock, moaning that he can’t open the can of soap he just found in his room?! WTH were you doing in your room, I ask? Why aren’t you dressed? “Because I want to wash my dirty hands” came the reply. Perfectly reasonable you might think, however, there was nothing dirty on his hands 5 minutes ago and now, when he was supposed to be getting dressed, somehow his whole hands are covered in red pen?! So, swallowing my rage, I squirt some soap into his hands and tell him to be quick about washing them and then, GET DRESSED.
10 minutes later, he is back, this time he has two socks and a filthy school T-shirt on, that is most certainly not the nicely cleaned and ironed one is laid out for him the previous evening, and instead looks like he has used it to clean off a homeless guys bare feet. “Why aren’t you wearing the t-shirt I left out for you? Why aren’t you dressed? Where did you find that thing?” I ask astounded. To which the reply is that this was all he could find?!?! I damn near rip the filthy t-shirt off his head and walk into his room and pick up the neat pile of trousers and t-shirt I left sitting, prominently RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF HIS ROOM!!
I send him back to the naughty step to get dressed.
5 minutes later progress appears to have been made; well he now has a clean t-shirt on, however now he has a new gripe! Last night in a clearly weak moment which I have regretted from the moment the words were out of my mouth, I agreed that he could have a packed lunch today. This is a rare treat that he is rarely allowed (I mean at his age they get free school meals, why would I do a packed lunch), so you’d think the child would be grateful, but no, not a chance, even the sandwich filling turned into a battle, him wanting PB&J and me insisting he couldn’t. Anyway, this morning he has decided that he wants to swap the contents of the lunch box I’ve made for him as there’s not enough in it!! Arrgghhh, GET DRESSED!!! And give me that lunch box so I can launch it out of the window!
The flip side of this is that as he can see me getting increasingly frustrated with his younger brother, the middle one takes the opportunity to shine; he is dressed with no prompting from me, brushes his teeth at the first request, prepares his packed lunch and sits in the front room all ready to go calling out to his younger brother to stop being naughty. Yay. At least one of my children can behave thinks I, prematurely as it turns out.
The next time I come downstairs, miraculously the youngest is now dressed and comes out of the kitchen carrying a bag of chocolate, which I happen to know was in the back of one of the top cupboards, asking if he can have it for breakfast. No. You cannot, and GET YOUR BLOODY SHOES ON!!! I scream as I grab the chocolate and slam it into the bin, “no one is having any chocolate in this house ever again!” A perfectly reasonable response I feel!
It is then that the middle one, decides to tell me that when he had climbed the cupboards to reach said chocolate, he “may” have broken the door on the cupboard below! Closer inspection reveals that the cupboard below no longer actually has a door, it is more that a door is leant against the cupboard at a jaunty angle, and that the hinges have ripped out so spectacularly that there is no hope of ever securing it again.
At this point there is no stopping the rage which I have been swallowing back nearly all morning. Both boys are dispatched to sit in the front room and behave until I’ve made my coffee and we can go. Do they think this is good behaviour? Do they think I want to give them nice things and a new house if they can’t look after this one? I spend two further minutes berating them before I go off to make the much needed coffee!
We leave the house without further incident (if you don’t count the daily squabble over who gets to sit in the front) and once we are all safely strapped in the car, I look across at them both and my heart melts. They are both grinning at me, and the youngest cheekily pokes his tongue out and tells me he loves me. The middle one leans forward to plant a kiss on my lips and a hug round my neck. They apologise. Peace is restored.
I drop them off and we have a hug and a cuddle, and as I drive away I am determined that tomorrow it will be different. Tomorrow I will be calm. I will not shout, I will be the perfect mum. It won’t happen though, I’ll try, they will try, but they are two mischievous boys and I am an overtired, harassed mum of three. Whilst it may not be ideal, and I’d prefer we didn’t have the rows in the first place, the fact that we all forgive and forget so freely, that despite everything we all leave with a kiss and a cuddle, feeling loved surely says a lot more about our live than the fact we were at loggerheads 5 minutes before…doesn’t it?!
Anyway tomorrow is a new dawn!
Some days it is like I wake up and it just doesn’t matter what I do, what good intentions I may have, I mess it up. Every thing I touch turns to crap. In my head I will see a picture of how something is going to be; it could be anything, a day out with the kids, a meeting at work, and yet no matter my intentions it all goes to pot.
Take a day out with the kids for instance. The kids might all moan about getting their shoes on when I ask, they might sulk and whinge that they can’t find them, or they don’t want to go out they’d rather watch TV. And I’ll get pissed off. Don’t they know that this is supposed to be fun? Don’t they realise that I took a day off work to spend with them. How ungrateful are they? So what do I do? I shout at them, they don’t understand how this is supposed to be fun and so I tell them; In no uncertain terms I shout at them and let them know how they are ruining the day. They are selfish and ungrateful and they should appreciate me wanting to take them out.
They will then, 9/10 times all jump up and get moving and apologise to me. We will get going to wherever we were going to go, but the day will feel slightly tarnished, slightly forced and I will spend most of it chastising myself for being a terrible person/mother.
It happens in other areas of my life too. When I am tired or feeling low and all I actually want is to feel loved and needed and wanted, I often seem to express it in extremely unlovable ways. I might pick a fight with a loved one, then end up in floods of tears because, actually the last thing I wanted to do was alienate them. I just needed something from them (love, reassurance, support) and couldn’t express it in a way that showed how much I needed it. Maybe I tried to be loving and it was missed, or I’m sad and want to know that someone is there for me and so I behave badly. It is a child-like response that I am aware of but seem to have little control over it. I want the dream. I want it perfect.
And yet it’s almost like I self sabotage things that are good in my life. Seriously, why am I so bothered by the fact that kids would rather stay home watching the TV rather than come out and do something that I think is better for them. They were happy, perhaps I should have been happy too. But no, I have an image in my head as to how the day is going to go and so I relentlessly pursue it against all opposition. I need to learn to chill out more. To let things go. To know that the way things are in my head isn’t the way that things have to be. If anyone should know that it’s me.
Its not just me that does this though, I see it or hear it all the time from my friends, or people on the street. Somehow we are conditioned into thinking that things are always going to be perfect, that we will get married and live happily ever after, that our friends will drop everything because we need them, our kids will be beautiful and angelic and well behaved. And maybe that is a reality for some people. Maybe all of my friends are as bat shit crazy as I am and actually there is a whole community of “normal” people out their living the lives of their dreams.
Whatever. I honestly don’t think I care, because do you know what? Sometimes it is from the shadows of our failings that the best things happen. Perhaps if I didn’t feel that guilt for shouting at the kids I wouldn’t have made the extra effort to ride the zip wire with them. We wouldn’t have made those memories that hopefully they will remember forever. Perhaps I wouldn’t have reached out to a friend and reaffirmed our friendship over the stories of my fuck ups and their commiserations and affirmation that I am, indeed bat shit crazy.
It’s been a long week. I’ve worked some long hours recently and as a result Paul has been taking on most of the household and childcare duties. The problem with that is that we have glaringly different ideas of acceptable levels of tidiness in the home, and in dress codes for the kids. In my world odd socks are not appropriate attire, (unless it’s 6am and the only other option is no socks at all), in Paul’s world this is not only acceptable but also to be encouraged. Equally, my idea of housework is to actually do housework, his is to hide whatever he can and get the kids to hide the rest.
I’ve got my niece staying with me at the moment, she is two days younger than my eldest and I love her being here. Not only is she company for the eldest, but she is fun and I can pretend I have a daughter without all the hassle of actually having a daughter!! I get the good bits, the cuddles and the girlie chats, without having to 1) give birth, or 2) nag her about the amount of make up that she wears! Anyway, as you can probably guess, life is hectic in my house at the moment!
As the cleaning fairy appears to have given up and left me to my own pathetic devices, I spent a few hours yesterday evening cleaning and tidying up the downstairs, (I mean honestly, no one sees upstairs so why bother?) it actually looked presentable by the time I left home this morning. It would never have passed an inspection by my nana, but hey, if someone (God forbid) visited unexpectedly I could probably pretend I was yet to tidy up and apologise for the mess!
Anyway, I’d mopped and swept the floors, tided up and washed up, put the washing on etc. I went off to work safe in the knowledge that the house looked ok (ish). I received a few missed calls from the eldest during the course of the day and when I rung him back he said he’d sorted out whatever he wanted in the first place. He also asked if he and my niece could go out on the bikes. No problem, says I, be home for tea. It was raining, I told them not to make a mess.
I picked up the younger two and got home around five. I walked into the front room, all was well. It was when I got to the dining room that I started to notice that things weren’t quite as I had left them. The mop and bucket were sitting prominently in the centre of the room, there were a few bits of mud on the floor. The dustpan and brush were on the dining table. Nothing much. A bit annoying but 2 minutes of sorting it out and things would be fine. Then I walked into the kitchen. Ah, the kitchen. It was a sight to behold: first off the bin was open and there were about 50 sheets of kitchen roll covered in some sort of black gunk. There were also the remains of some sort of doughy cooking, which I quickly identified (from the half empty bottle on top of the pile) as burnt pancakes!
I cast my eyes over to the cooker hob. It was covered in smears from where someone (only eldest and niece were home) had obviously made a mess when cooking and had wiped up rather ineptly. The work tops shared the same coating of smeared food. The draining board contained a huge pile of semi clean pots, pans, glasses, and bowls. It was piled up like a game of jenga, ready to topple at any moment! Actually in the sink was a massive over sized sponge, covered in mud and the wall, cupboard door and floor had splashes and slightly muddy puddles. I felt my hackles rising. I’d cleaned this place. It had looked ok. Why did they do this? I was annoyed.
And then I realised something. I was getting annoyed but actually I was looking at this all wrong. I was looking at the mess, what I wasn’t seeing was what is was evidence of. Instead I was seeing it as a bad thing, they had ruined all my hard work, but in reality it was evidence of many things and none of them were bad.
It was evidence they had been cooking, that they had tried to cook something that they had never done before. And they had failed, and continued to try. They had also recognised the mess and had tried to sort it out, because they knew that would make me happy. The smears on the cookers and worktop were evidence that they had attempted to tidy up.
The muddy puddles and splashes were from where they had tried to wash the mud from their bikes, they had tried to make me happy and in the process had probably made more of a mess, but the intention was good. And I was proud of them. They had also given me evidence that they had been out of the house, having fun and not watching TV or playing XBox.
The huge pile of jenga style washing up proved that they’d not only tidied up their own mess but they had also tried to tidy up the breakfast things I hadn’t had time to wash up before I left the house.
Sometimes, people may not always get things right, but the sentiment behind what they do can mean even more than the action itself.
If cleanliness is next to godliness, those two kids will never be His right hand man, however. In that moment they were Angels to me.
There’s something that no one ever warns you about having kids. Or perhaps they do, but it is incomprehensible to you before you have them. I mean, I’m sure people told me, but I just didn’t really get what they were saying to me. Maybe I just didn’t want to hear, maybe we are genetically predisposed to not get it. The thing is, you find out. Pretty damn quick, and then you realise that it’s too late.
I didn’t actually plan my eldest child. That would have been stupid. I was 21, in a violent relationship and had a class A addiction. Ok, so I was obviously pretty stupid, but not that bloody stupid as to plan to bring a baby into my messed up world. Kids were not in my game plan, not that I actually had a game plan, but if I had, having a child would have been at the back, something distant, a target for my mid thirties.
I don’t know really why I took a pregnancy test (there was no real reason to seriously consider pregnancy) but I do know that I was alone, my partner was in prison for not paying a fine from years before that had finally caught up with him. I was driving from my house 100 miles to borrow the money to pay to get him out and I stopped and in the toilets of a service station, I pissed on a stick. To my utter terror, two little pink dots appeared. Well, I was utterly terrified when I bothered to read what that meant! I was pregnant. I was having a baby. Within minutes the terror turned to a strong feeling of protection and amazement. I had a baby inside of me. The ferociousness of that feeling was breathtaking. I remember going to pay for the fuel and telling the cashier; I just found out I’m pregnant, and her look of bewilderment at my random imparting of this news.
Within minutes I acknowledged this sudden turn of my life and now my life was completely changed. I knew without a doubt I loved this baby and wanted it, even though I knew that my partner would be furious and a terrible father.
And really, in that life changing moment, I should, in hindsight have realised what it was that I had never been able to realise before, but I didn’t. I focussed on getting through pregnancy, where I would end up with my beautiful baby and my life would be amazing. All I had to do was to bring this baby into the world safely. I still didn’t know the truth.
I was induced into labour many many weeks early due to complications, and then I couldn’t wait to give birth; to meet this baby who was a part of me, as much a part of me as my hand or face of nose.
And then he was born, after an excruciating labour, a long and torturous night, this tiny perfect baby. He was no longer in the cocooned protection of my abdomen. I cuddled him to me and held him and kissed him and stared in awe at his gorgeousness, and then it happened; for the first time. They said that he needed to go to special care. He was too small and unable to maintain his temperature, but it was ok, they were going to sort him out in special care and I could go see him later. The midwife, took him from my arms and as she turned away I realised, I realised this terrible thing that no one had told me about: it was agony. The baby that I had been in sole charge of, that I had nurtured and caressed and been fully responsible for, who was part of me, I was no longer able to protect. I still loved him as much, maybe more, however whereas before he was part of me, now he was separate. I wasn’t solely able to account for his safety and wellbeing. It was like a little piece of my heart was out there alone. Anything could happen to it. Even if I was there next to him, I was no longer able to have the illusion of being able to completely ensure he was safe.
As he got older, it got worse. There is a piece of me out there, every minute of every day, that I can’t live without, and yet over which I have limited control. If anything happened to him I would surely die. My natural instinct is to keep him close, keep him safe. And yet, to be a good parent, I’ve had to try to ignore the flutters in my heart when he walks out of the front door. I’ve had to stem the flow of my own veins and tears when he has been injured or upset. He is a part of me but I’ve had to accept that he is also fully his own self, with his own ways of crossing the road or dietary tastes. He could, one day make a decision that breaks my heart. If anything happens to him it will surely kill me too. It’s like walking around blind, deaf and dumb: at any moment your entire world could come crashing down around you. Your heart ripped away and there is nothing you can do to stop it. You can’t even see or hear when it is coming.
The stupid thing is, that even after finding this out, after watching a piece of me walking around unprotected, I didn’t ever think that having another child would mean another little piece of my heart walking around, jeopardising my life, as I know it. Or with the third. It just didn’t register, until the very moment that I had to let them go for that first time, and then it would hit me, a part of me was out in the big wide world without me to protect it. And that is huge. That is scary. And so I suppose it is no wonder that no one tells you, or if they do, that you might hear it, but you can’t understand. Because if anyone asked you, at any time, whether you’d like to live with your heart open and vulnerable, the very thing that keeps you alive, unprotected and uncontrollable, you would never ever agree.