WHEN THE TABLES ARE TURNED

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There is an unspoken rule of parenting and actually life in general that should be tattooed on everybody’s arm on leaving the womb which is; SMUGNESS DOESN’T PAY. The second that even a sniff of smugness is spoken or thought, you have inadvertently set yourself up for the most almighty of falls without a soft duvet to land on, more like a hard concrete slab.

Rewind, two weeks. We had had a morning out and the boys had been eerily excellently behaved. Being fools, we decided to chance upon this and went to a bar for lunch. On being seated, the nine month old baby at the table behind us started to shriek, not your average shriek, think horror film multiplied by a zillion kind of shriek. Her family applauded and thought this was hilarious, especially the more she did it. The boys put their hands over their ears, S rolled his eyes and I , oh yes I dared to comment. (Shoot me now) I actually said these words to S ” I`m so glad ours never shrieked”  S said they did shriek but maybe because they´re ours, we didn’t mind. “No, no, no” Say I , momentarily possessed by some hideous smug-arse.  The shrieking continues, the boys are drawing  and we place our order to an apologetic waitress.

The waitress brings our lunch. Chips for Boy 2 and Pasta for Boy 1. Boy 1 steals one of Boy 2´s chips. Boy 2 smiles and takes a strand of cheese from the intended for pasta cheese bowl. Boy 1 howls, leaps up and basically turns into something terrifying that lurks in a world of Ninja Turtles and Horror films for the over thirty-fives. All eyes turn. All chatting stops. The cd jumps and the fruit machine stops flashing. This is not a cute baby making a noise, this is a languishing, raging five year old. Hell hath no fury like a ferocious five year old protecting his cheese. People are shuffling with anticipation waiting to see …

                                                  HOW THE PARENTS ARE GOING TO REACT.

 Awkward, as the parents are frantically eyeing up all escape routes, unfortunately the only way is past everyone and the ice-cream fridge. So much for sitting at the back of the bar “so we don’t disturb anybody else.”

In slow motion I get up and pick up the exploding 5 year old. I move to the side, crouch down and in a very slightly  on the edge, incredibly slow voice try to reason with him, the words ice-cream may have been used. He stops shaking and we do the walk of shame back to the table. En route, I have a masterplan (cop out idea) and ask for another bowl of cheese. Surely, if each boy has a bowl, all will be ok and peace will reign. Surely?

Waitress brings extra bowl. Boy 2 smiles, he just wanted a bit of cheese on his chips. As he reaches for the cheese, Boy 1 rears his head. More howling and writhing and raging takes place, “It´s my cheeeeeeese!” he yells ” I have pasttttaaaaaa” I look around hopefully, wondering  if anybody wants to claim the 2015 winner of the world´s most brattish sounding child. No, no takers. I consider throwing in a bowl of cheese for good measure.

I remove him again and try rationalising, pointing out he may be being ever so slightly majorly unreasonable. We go back in. On seeing the cheese, what lies within resurfaces. I hand him over to S, who also takes him outside for quite a while. I think the words ice-cream and Lego were used.

The bar is still silent. Boy 2 swallows the cheese, I hastily smuggled him and we flatten the bowls so there is no evidence of pilfering. In comes Boy 1 and the onlookers wait eagerly for their next installment. It is here, dear Reader that I think i need to point out something. There is absolutely NO point to this argument because Boy 1 is in fact…

LACTOSE INTOLERANT.

Yes. You read it right. Boy 1 can’t eat cheese and had no intention of eating it anyway.

On his return, he is calmer but still not giving up the cheese. Then, as five year old logic and boredom sets in, he smiles. Squeezes Boy 2´s hand and says “Here you are, you like cheese and chips”  and  promptly throws the contents of both bowls onto Boy 2´s plate. We hear a small ripple of clapping and finish our lunch to the audible comments about our terrible parenting and the soothing dulcet tones of a very cute shrieking baby.

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HOW CLEAN IS YOUR HOUSE?

The boys are drinking their bedtime milk from champagne flutes. I’m not Hyacinth Bouquet and the champagne flutes are in fact plastic and for the record, I don’t actually know how they got to be in our house. But our dishwasher has not read its job description and has broken down for the umpteenth time this week, leaving a kitchen which resembles the leaning tower of Pisa with a conservatory built on the back.

Yes, I know I could wash up and I have, but it`s the pile that keeps giving and I am now tempted to test the hair washing theory, the one where you don’t wash your hair for months and then it self cleans and you are left with the glossiest of manes, hopefully it applies to plates boasting congealed remnants of lunches gone-by.

In my most fantastical of dreams, my house resembles one on Wisteria Lane, (possibly Bree’s) pristine and smelling of freshly baked goods and exotic flowers, unfortunately real life is the stuff of nightmares and is much more hysteria than wisteria and smells of burnt and wee thanks to two boys who find it hilarious to aim for the sky rather than the bowl . But for some excruciatingly dull reason, I am always stressing about it. Always. I feel like I am constantly cleaning and tidying up a la ground hog day, but to no avail. I know two small children doesn’t help the mix, but I think it´s me, I think I’m just not very good at the whole cleaning malarkey. When my house is spotless and shiny (in my eyes) it probably looks like a before shot on How clean is your house?

Thankfully, my children don’t share this worry and if it was up to them, this is how they would maintain that “we live in the movies” look.

Spilt drink on the floor
Grab nearest item off clothes horse (big socks work really well) and rub half-heartedly until it’s slippy, but you can’t see it. If you are pernickety and want to dry it, then use a skirt or dress, usually found on radiator. It gives it a nice glean and a magazine finish.

Clothes
No need to worry about mountains of clothes to be washed, just turn top/ trousers around and then inside out – magic. You instantly have 4 wears out of said garment, and nobody will notice it’s the same as each new stain and mark will add a certain “where did he get that?” envy to it.

Food
Don’t bother picking up food that’s fallen off your plate, it’s always good to have snacks to hand 24/7, there is nothing tastier than a 3 (week) day old fishfinger or bean.

Lego
Lego must be left strewn on the floor at all times, no matter where it is. At all times.

Toys
Collect as many as you possibly can, hoard them. It’s all about plastic, the brighter and noisier, the better. Never throw or give anything away, you can never have too many broken kinder surprise toys. If there are complaints, just brush them under the sofa; nobody ever looks there anyway.

Just last week, we were at the doctors looking at a very glossy magazine, with pictures of houses I think I should probably live in, and O pointed at an exquisitely gorgeous pristine house with an exquisitely clean family standing in front of it. “Why are they so grumpy?” he asked, genuinely concerned. “Is it because they haven’t got a sandpit?” he said scouring the photos, shaking some sand out of his hair.
Evidently, sparkling cleanliness = grumpiness and misery. In that case, I say bring on the dirt and the huge grubby faced smiles. Always.

This is obviously a stock photo and NOT a photo of the pile of clothes I have to fold and put away...

This is obviously a stock photo and NOT a photo of the pile of clothes I have to fold and put away…

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IT´S TIME TO TALK

Whilst pretending I didn’t have a zillion things to do today on my day off, I stumbled across This Morning where they were talking about Mental Health Illnesses in aid of #Time to talk , #Time to change in order to end Mental Health stigma. I have been toying with the idea of blogging about my personal experience of depression and anxiety for a while. Apologies if this post makes you puke in your shoes, weep from tears of boredom or just weep, but if just one person reads it and can relate to it then that´s really quite awesome.

About six months ago when it all got a bit too much for me, I went to see a doctor who diagnosed me with depression and anxiety and lovingly reprimanded me for not seeking help previously and for “being strong for too long”. I was promptly put on pills and started seeing a psychologist, who is the absolute bees knees. Nothing I say is met with a curly wurly cuckoo sign and no eyes are rolled. Anything goes.

When you become a parent, in my case a Mum, I think there is an unspoken self inflicted pressure to just keep on going, if you let your guard down then you’ve failed. If you can’t keep it all together then how are your kids supposed to? I now think that with my second born, I had undiagnosed post natal depression and because at the time I didn’t have a huge support network here, I just plodded on dealing with all the other things going on, a sibling diagnosed with cancer and the four of us being temporarily homeless and living in a relative´s home which although was obviously a blessing, was also an incredibly difficult time. I was also incredibly lonely. I am so fortunate to have the most wonderful group of friends and brilliant family, but when all communications are done by phone and the only way of seeing them is by jumping on a plane, it’s not the most practical of solutions. So you get on with it, burying yourself in nappies and birthday parties.

You perfect your brave face, the homesickness grows and grows, but you muster on. From fear that somebody might dare suggest you need a break, time out to relax and remove the breakfast from your hair. But the idea terrifies you, so you push on and push it away. The years tumble by, the boys get older and their needs change, but you are still able to hide behind them. Everything gets too much, a phone call brings you out in a sweat, anything anybody says that might hint at a bit of criticism means you spend the day crying and feeling useless. You make plans to go out, then somebody with the intention of encouraging you makes you feel suffocated by the pressure to god forbid, have fun. The self doubt in your head gets louder, you distance yourself from even more people and avoid public situations where somebody might endeavor to ask you how you are.  Because the truth is that you really are not o.k at all. And you need a hug, a huge one, one that cushions you and makes you feel safe. But you don’t ask for it , because you have forgotten how to, instead you keep on pushing on and away.

Just because you are depressed, it doesn’t mean that you don’t laugh anymore, there are days when you laugh so hard and again I have been so blessed because when I am alone with the boys I am able to put my feelings to one side. I often think I need to write them a Thank you letter and give them a box of chocolates, (although they would cry and say they want Lego ), for grounding me and giving me a purpose. I realise I am so fortunate to have them, when I feel anxious I see their ridiculously cheeky, normally sticky faces and it makes it all ok.

When I picked the boys up from school at lunchtime, I mentioned to somebody I was going to write this post and they said, with the best intentions, “Be careful, you’re applying for jobs aren’t you? It might jeopardise your chances.” This is exactly the stigma that needs to stop.

Just because you are feeling how you feel, doesn’t mean you can’t be a capable parent, of course you can. The fact that your children are dressed, went to school and had dinner, even if it was Weetabix and crisps and that you had a giggle is huge. It also doesn’t mean you don’t laugh and can’t do your job well

The day something snaps and you ask for help, it is scary and the change doesn’t happen overnight or the day you start taking your pills, but it starts very slowly but surely, you might not notice it, but people around you do and it is a boost and you realise that you have achieved things you wouldn’t have a few years ago and you will wonder why you didn’t talk about it from the very beginning.

 

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IT’S O.K TO BE DIFFERENT

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I am not a violent person. However, if ONE more random stranger dares to point out that the boys “are very different, aren`t they?” with negative connotations mostly aimed at the non-show off of the two. I shall have to take action with whatever I have about my person (Most likely a stray lego brick , a snotty wetwipe or a soggy banana)

I am fully aware my children are different, and eternally grateful for it! If they were exactly the same I wouldn’t have needed to think of a name for the second , I could have just called them O and O, also quite honestly I actually don’t know if I would be able to cope if they had exactly the same personality traits. Variety is the spice of life and all that jazz. If they wrote their own personal ads F´s would read like this:

      3 year old male; slapstick hilarious, not frightened of anything,except for vegetables. Very good at getting out of tricky situations by putting on the charm. Interests: showing off to the max, making an almighty mess, kissing and dressing up.

and O’s:

                    4 year old male; dry sense of humour, very caring, very good at hiding when in trouble. Interests: Lego, crumpets and Lego. In fact, everything EXCEPT for School. 

  I think that I am particularly adverse to people comparing the boys negatively because when we were younger I was “the chatty one” and my sister was the “quiet one”. Nothing wrong with that, but when my sister went to the primary school I had just left, a teacher constantly compared her to me so much so that my Mum promptly whisked her out of that school and into one which I had never been to and she blossomed and was quite the queen bee.

It is natural to compare, we all do it. It’s how we gauge normality, development and tastes. I just think that when it comes to characters, it pays to be respectful and accepting. Yes, the boys are different  and I know I am nauseatingly biased, but for me they are as hilarious, as manic, as wonderful, as annoying, as loud, as quiet, as brilliant, as grumpy and as cuddly as each other. It just manifests itself in different ways. There are days when F is quiet and O shows off to new heights and when they are in  cahoots it can be flipping exhausting. Good exhausting but this is where a clone, a magic wand or a troop of staff would come in handy.

They may be different but I love them exactly, head over heels , not a lego brick in it, completely the same.

Separation anxiety (at 35)

 

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Yesterday, I overheard somebody telling her friend how happy she was with what she had achieved this year. The nosy neighbour part of me (about 99.98 per cent) loitered with intent, eager to hear what she had done. Unfortunately, two shrieking boys scuppered this plan.

At home I racked my tired brain for my 2014 achievements, my overly optimistic list of goals had long been turned into a chocolatey finger stained paper aeroplane.In fact, that crumpled list has tormented me daily with a niggling sense of failure at not being able to do the simplest thing.

However, my 2015 resolution is to stop beating myself up about what I haven’t achieved and focus on what I have. No matter how minuscule. And in the spirit of onwards and upwardsness , I  gave myself a pat on the back for once having a shower for longer than 37 seconds and for the day that the boys wore nearly almost matching socks. Go me! But in light of this impromptu awards ceremony, my achievement of 2014 was going away for a whole 71 hours, 26 minutes and 49 seconds completely on my own, not a wetwipe in sight (apart from the one moulded to my shoe).

This is nothing compared to living with wolves or climbing a mountain in rollerblades, but for me it’s up there. We were supposed to be going to a wedding, all four of us, but the day we were due to fly, the menfolk all decided to be snotty, coughy and pukey. Cue, a tear fuelled Jeremy Kyle style email to the bride telling her of my plight and apologising profusely for missing the wedding. As I pressed send, I felt properly awful and this is when I heard a few stern teachery voices ( mostly my Mum’s) telling me to go solo! Knees knocking, the furthest and longest I had been away from the boys before was not very long or far at all. (You could measure the distance with a trundle wheel and not get tired) But I knew that I would regret not going more than staying, so I armed S with ibuprofen and chocolate and the boys with a sick bowl and an early Christmas present which appeased wails of ” Mummies can’t go on aeroplanes, it’s not allowed, the police will shout” and shut the door with a nervous thud and went on my way. Only to walk back through the door a minute later to get my boarding pass which was on the floor heading for the paints.

The journey was long, I cleared all my phone messages, ate the family bag of crisps which still left approximately 70 hours and 41 minutes to get through. On the jampacked plane, I felt smug to have a whole row to myself until the air hostess asked me if there were three members of my party missing and I burst into tears. Pathetic, I know. This was the first time in nearly five years that I had been properly away from the boys due to, if I am honest mostly lack of confidence and fear. The idea of being away from them filled me with utter dread , I didn’t really know how to be me anymore , I was a Mum now and seemed to have lost belief in myself as an individual. To a degree, I needed them more than they needed me.

You will be pleased to hear that you can now put down your screechy violin , as after boring a few people with videos of the boys doing not a lot and offering to look after somebody’s son, I got a grip. A proper grown up one and from that moment on and I had the most fun ever. The wedding was incredible, I met lots of new people, didn’t end up covered in snot (just champagne) and I caught up with old friends and had conversations with a beginning, a middle and an end. Novel.

I got home bursting at the seams with excitement to see the boys who were bursting with excitement to get their little painted hands on the Lego surprise I had promised them. Everybody was happy and brimming in their new found role reversal confidence.Every now and again, O asks me when I’m going away again because he really needs some Lego. It took me a long time to achieve that goal, but as my Mum just reminded me it also took me a long time to take the stabilisers off my bike, but I did it. Eventually.

 

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QUESTIONS I NEVER ASKED UNTIL I HAD CHILDREN

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1.What is the point of trousers with imitation drawstrings? Is it to enable the game “Let’s pretend we’re wearing drawstring trousers”?

2. Why on the one night of the year you go out and reacquaint yourself  with a few bottles and a half of wine, is it a cue for the littlest to projectile vomit everywhere and the oldest to declare 3am the new get up time?

3. Who are THEY? Where do THEY live? What do THEY do when they’re not saying what we should and shouldn’t do?

4. Why, once out of the house and in the eye of the general public do  children turn into the stuff of nightmares?

5.Why haven’t they invented a lego reject button on the hoover?

6.Why once you or anybody in the vicinity has uttered the words “He´ll fall asleep on the way home” or “We’re in for an early night ” does that translate as car journey from hell with a screaming non asleep toddler or that it is actually time for astronaut practice, which entails launching off a bookcase until said child cracks his head and can only be consoled by eating Cheetos and watching Frozen six times.

7. Why the minute you sit down, catch a breath, go to the loo or have thoughts about putting the kettle on, do they know to have a monster nosebleed or get their toes stuck under the door?

8.Why would anybody dream of making white clothes for any child under the age of 26?

9. Why two seconds after giving birth aren’t we provided with Mary Poppins` clicky fingers?

10. What did I do before?