Being ill when you've a new baby to feed and care for, and a toddler to entertain and stop from throwing himself down the stairs or off the back of the sofa, is not fun. When you're the Mummy there isn't a day off - there's nobody you can call to say "I'm not well so I'm staying in bed today, see you tomorrow" because the children, unfortunately, won't let you shove them in a cupboard and come back to them in the morning. When you wake up with a throat that feels like it's filled with shards of glass, eyes full of itching powder, Barry White's voice, a cough that sounds like you've chainsmoked for 35 years and someone replaced your bones with hot rubber in the night you know you're in for a tough day. When your husband has to be a proper grown up and go out to work because he has meetings even though you're giving him your best puppy eyes and growling "pleeeeeease be me for the day, I can't" you know you have to man up. When your head feels like the insides are going to pound their way out and the toddler is using his special, ultra awful shrill shriek because his jigsaw pieces won't fit together (IT'S THE WRONG PIECE ROMAN IT'S THE WRONG BLOODY PIECE STOP SCREAMING!) you just have to cope. Three mugs of mocha, two paracetamol and two ibruprufen and you're curled up on the sofa with your douvet and a pile of books to read to the biggun, whilst littlun is attached for a day of endless feeds, you're trying to interest biggun in "The Jungle Book" which seems to hold very little appeal - you're trying not to cry - then miracle of miracles, the big one falls asleep! Just like that! No battles, no demands for "milk milk Mummy!" no wrestling, he's asleep! Quick Mummy, close your eyes, snuggle down, hurrah! Somehow you get through the rest of the day - the toddler sleeps for a couple of hours, so you can too, and everyone wakes up feeling marginally less unwell. Eventually, three hundred years after he set off to work, your husband arrives home with ice cream for your throat, a magazine for the toddler for being such a good boy (whether he was or not, we didn't kill each other, it's a good result for the day) and maoam to make you smile, he runs you a bath then lets you doze whilst he gives a bath to both your sons then cooks you dinner - you survive, but only because he came home. When you're the Mummy and you're poorly you can't just turn off - you have to keep going, even at minimum capacity, and hope that your children are content with a quiet, inside day - but you miss being the child, and your Mummy tucking you up on the sofa with a bag of mint imperials and a bottle of lucozade. Mummies are superhuman. They just never feel it!
Yes, that's me. Yes, that's a shaved head. Yes, I'm 14. Yes, it seemed like a great idea at the time. Yes, I'd love to do it again. No, my husband isn't keen....
That's my friend Carman with me - she's moved back to Hong Kong now, but regularly tortures us all by posting pictures like the above on Facebook and tagging me so that all the friends I've made since school get to see what a trogolodyte I truly was. Goodtimes.
Being a full time Mummy is the hardest job I've ever had - and by far the most rewarding. Something I'm very guilty of, though, is my constant urge to 'go it alone' to prove to everyone (not that anyone's looking) how well I can cope - which usually leads to my being unable to cope.
For a lot of SAHMs the isolation is the killer. You're stuck at home all day with tiny people who don't speak the same language and who rely on you for EVERYTHING and who can, guaranteed, stay away for three entire days just when you're coming down with a stinking cold and need extra sleep. They are champions of testing your patience and the absolute limits of what you can deal with on a daily basis - then just as you're losing your mind they give you a sticky kiss, fall asleep on your knee and give you their last rolo* and suddenly it's all ok.
Sometimes though, when you're too tired and grumpy, and they're screaming like banshees, you just want to hibernate - you want to stay in your jim jams, close the curtains, take the phone off the hook and slob in front of the telly ALL DAY eating crisps.
That right there is the day you go out. Go on, get up, brush your hair, put on something you don't feel like a bag lady wearing and GET OUT. Do not underestimate the magical powers of "Out Of The House". That can mean a walk to the shop, to the park with a ball, to the playground for the swings, to see a friend or your Mum (I wish she lived close enough!) or to a playgroup. Whichever it is I guarantee that by the time you head home again you'll feel at least 673% better**. Fresh air, a bit of exercise and letting the kids run it off a bit will soothe everyone's tempers - even in the rain (which is smashing to go out in because kids LOVE umbrellas and jumping in puddles in wellies! Mind you - so does this particular Mummy...)
Better than all that though is the playgroups. The kids get social interraction, get to play, learn new skills and get to learn all about sharing (this is a steep learning curve - most are initially VERY bad at it - they'll learn, don't be embarassed, every kid there did the screaming bit) and YOU get to speak to some grown ups. Grown ups who can use real words. Grown ups who know what you're going through. Grown ups who understand and who can help you to laugh at the bad days and give you a hug when you need one. Grown ups who are like you, and who will like you. It might take a bit of trial and error to find the groups you like and where you'll make real friends, so go to everything. If you think it seems cliquey when you get there it's not - it's just that they're real friends and know each other - so don't stop going, KEEP going and in a few weeks they'll know you too and you'll be an insider. Go to them all, keep going to the best ones and soon you'll have a busy social life and lots of friends you can call on the days where you really aren't going to get out of your jim jams.
It also means that by the time your kids are ready to start school (or preschool or nursery or daycare) they're used to being around groups of people and already know some of the kids there and will settle in much easier. See, by seeing other grown ups and drinking coffee and eating cake you are helping your child and their happiness - win win!
When I moved here (to Dorset) I didn't know anyone and I felt pretty blooming lonely at the start - I was a long way from home, my husband was away a lot training for his new job and I had ten thousand new hormones raging through my heavily pregnant body making everything seem hard.
So I went to some groups. I even stalked the WI briefly - then remembered I don't like old ladies. It was the best thing I ever did - I made a whole new group of friends that I see weekly, and not just at groups, I built a whole new support network and I know now that if I'm having a hard day there's someone nearby I can turn to. If it's a nice day there's someone to meet for a walk in the sun. If it's raining there's someone who'll invite us over to play. My children have friends the same age and so do I - and it's a great feeling.
So to those SAHMs who are lonely, fed up and watching yet another repeat on Cbeebies turn the telly off, put your shoes on and GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT!
Check out your local sure start centres and libraries for groups and activities before the big bad lame-ass government close them all down
*nobody EVER gives away the last rolo. My brother always used to open his packet at 'the wrong end' and give our Mum his first rolo because he 'loved her the best' - but never enough to watch her eat the final vestiges of his hard earned sweeties!
When we were young we spent a number of years living at my Grandparent's house with my Mum, it was a very happy time there (at least all my memories of that time are happy) and my Grandmother - known to all my friends as 'Nanny B' - and I were very close. I moved back in with them in my later teenage years and our relationship got even closer. Nanny B was a most incredible woman and a great friend.
Through my childhood she did the odd bit of freelance art work (probably far more than I was aware of) and absolutely no cooking. Cooking was my Grampa's job (known to everyone, family, friends and colleagues as PB) she also ran her own clothing company from the garage, making clothes for children and, oddly, collectable bears. We were always dressed for school in Nanny B's creations - cue sailor suits and twee dresses, mine made to match the ones my Dolly - funnily enough named "Little Lizzie" - wore daily. Oh how I love to choose our outfit for the day!
When I was very young I knew Nanny B was brilliant to us and lots of fun to be around, and spoiled us rotten, but I didn't realise until much later how incredible she just was, altogether.
In the early 1990s in Cumbria there was no real source for aftercare for anyone who had suffered sexual abuse - the view of the police force was that no such service was required as "That kind of thing simple doesn't happen in Cumbria".
How ridiculous. Where there are people, sadly, that kind of thing happens. It shouldn't, not anywhere, but it does - and for the people who suffer there needs to be some kind of help. Nanny B knew that and using her wits and her slightly overwhelming personality she managed to encourage some funding and, qualifying as a psychotherapist, she founded the "South Cumbria Rape and Abuse Service". She and a few friends ran the service from a room atop a cramped building in Kendal and provided councelling for victims of rape and abuse, as adults or as children, FOR adults and children. The service was very quickly overwhelmed by people who needed their help, so Nanny B did a bit more work and got more funding, another office and more staff, all working voluntarily as far as possible.
In 1994 Nanny B won the Cumbrian Woman of the Year award for what she'd already achieved. Her work and that of SCRAS were vital to so many people and changed, and saved, so many lives. Nanny B was loved by everyone who met her and taught me a lot about working harder, standing up for yourself and what is right, and feminism. She had her own very unique sense of humour and sharp wit and had very little time for other people's flaws - either fix it or fight it seemed to be her view; self pity wasn't allowed because YOU have the strength to change and improve your situation, nobody will do it for you (unless she could, in which case she would, no questions asked!) and she taught me, and a whole bunch of my friends, to be independent and believe in our own intelligence.
She also made Cumbria and a whole generation aware of the risks of date rape and date rape drugs at a time when they were becoming rife but not widely spoken about. She and her colleagues at SCRAS gave talks at every school and youth group they could get to to educate young people about the dangers and about what is and isn't acceptable in their sexual relationships - ie you CAN say no, you CAN change your mind, you CAN report it and you DON'T deserve it if something happens that you didn't invite. She taught us all to stick together on nights out, to buy drinks in bottles and to keep it where you could see it so nobody could spike you. She taught us not to take drinks from strangers, not just for the risk of them being spiked but also because some people expect something in return, and I don't mean another drink!
She also taught me that being perfect isn't possible, being flawed is ok, and working with your strengths makes up for where you go wrong.
In 2006 Nanny B died, and her loss was felt by a huge number of people. Her illness was thankfully brief but we lost her far too young, far too quickly, and most of us still find it hard to talk about her because the loss is so great. The day she died my brother came to collect me from work because my family knew that nobody else could look after me well enough after hearing those words. She died two days after I graduated my degree - which I was close to quitting a great many times, but Nanny B talked me down and convinced me to stick it out. Thanks to her I did, and she got to see me achieve it, for which I'll always be grateful.
Her funeral was the hardest, and most touching, experience of my life. So many beautiful words were spoken about her and so many people had been touched by her work and life.
That year the SCRAS service she'd founded was renamed as the Christine Birchall Trust in her honour.
I am proud of a great many things and of a number of people for the things they achieved - but most of all I am proud of my Grandmother, of what she achieved, and that she was mine.
You can support the Trust - still registered here under the original name - by donating here
At the moment, for both boys, I'm addicted to the prefolds - they're the easiest to use, quickest to change and most retro looking so I like them best! I'm loving nappy nippas - a genius invention that removes my fear of giving them some kind of massively inappropriate genital piercing - and just look how very scrumptious my chunky wee boy is!
At the moment for nappy covers I'm using our birth-to-potty pocket nappys with no stuffing just as a cover over the prefolds - it means less laundry and thus I don't have to spend more pennies (though I'd love to!) at 5 1/2 weeks Jasper *should* be on the smallest fitting still - but prefolds are big, and he's a massive big fat chunk (13lb at 5 weeks - what a boom boom!) so he's on the middle one - I just have to put bigger trousers on to fit his massive butt!
We popped to the library today - something we normally do a lot but which I'd avoided for a while due to massive fines (books that were meant to be back when I was stuck in a wheelchair and then in hospital) - today we took a box of chocolates to thank the wonderful lady who works in our local library because she helped us to fill in a couple of forms explaining our recent circumstances to the big mysterious library bosses - and they waived the fines (around £30 in total) so that we can continue using the library. This is the second time she's done it for us this year, saving us around £45 altogether in fines which is just brilliant (and perhaps now I'll stop returning things so late? Or letting Roman at them with a sharpie?! Hmm...)
The handover of the chocolates and the thanking went fine - then lovely lady and I had a chat, then another regular came over to coo over Jasper. Said regular is around a thousand years old and is taken to the library by taxi once a week. I've seen her many times and she plays peepo with Roman a lot but we'd never spoken. Today she asked his name - when I told her she said "Oh dear me, why on earth would you call him that? It's horrible!" - I was absolutely gobsmacked! This is another example where I'd like to point out that being old does not mean you get to be obnoxious - the same rules of society still apply, manners being one of the important ones. If you can't say anything nice, shut the heck up! She spent a few more minutes slating his name ("ugly" and "Ridiculous" also being uttered) then asked Jasper's name...cue "Oh dear - well, it's better than Roman I suppose!".
By that point I was quite tempted to bash her with my pushchair so lovely library lady stepped in and told her how pleased she was to see us out and about as my pregnancy had made me quite unwell and I'd been in a wheelchair. "You've no stamina for it these days you see. I had ten myself, in fifteen years, and they all still visit (of course they do, you're their Mummy!)".
I asked the standard "How on earth did you cope with ten?" and she said the only thing I didn't find offensive of the whole exchange;
"Well, it's hard - but it's hard with one, you just cope. My husband was away with the navy a lot so I had no choice but to cope. The only alternative is to give someone else your baby. Would you give someone your baby? No. And if you had to, how would you choose which? Exactly. So you just cope."
I've long been - always been - the kind of person who finds it nigh on impossible to turn to others for help, to admit that I need more than I can provide or cope with alone. Since my teenage years I've been fiercely independent and held down a number of jobs simultaneously throughout my degree in order to pay my rent and bills and still be able to study. I've berated myself many times for finishing my degree with a 2:2 - but recently have managed to tell myself that it's still an honours grade and I still achieved that whilst working 50 hours a week through my entire third year - so actually, it's not bad going.
There were times - as few as I could get away with and far more than I'd like - that I had to call upon family and ask for help - usually financial - and generally I'd go without food in order to pay my rent (and have done so, a great many times) rather than call my Dad and admit I was skint again. I prided myself throughout that time that although it was hard I was doing it on my own and taking care of myself. I didn't need anyone else's help and I didn't rely on anyone else - that way I knew where I was and how I would get through the month. (Hungry, generally). I always kept a roof over my head - even if it had mould on - and I kept myself in employment.
Since my teenage years I've never been out of work, even if that work was minimum wage and menial, because I've always insisted I'd rather take a bad job than live on handouts or benefits. That's still my attitude. Whilst I'm more than capable and qualified to obtain a higher level of position I often took small jobs in convenience stores that were flexible around my studies, or as top ups around a full time job that didn't pay well, or more recently because it brought in some much needed extra income to support my young family.
Since early in my pregnancy, however, I've been unable to work - I do pregnancy very badly and have a lot of health problems. The work I was doing when I got pregnant was once again minimum wage shop work which was bringing in an income and showing I was capable and willing to work to excuse my prolongued maternity leave since having Roman - when we'd left London and I'd left my last full time job. I'd been looking for a 'better' job and hadn't found anything suitable, though I'd applied for endless things (hurrah for the economy right?) and then health problems in the pregnacy meant I had to leave the shop job and that essentially nobody with any sense would employ me (heck, I wouldn't!). That's meant that for two years now I've been entirely dependent on my husband. Financially, emotionally, every way, for everything. He provides my home, my shelter, my food, my lifestyle, my everything. I have had to sit on my feelings of repulsion for dependence because I've had no choice. In return I've cared for and entertained and educated our children (as well as I could) and cared for our home (horribly badly - I am an incredibly shoddy housewife who fails at cleaning!).
During the last two years I learned to drive and, on my second attempt, passed my test. HURRAH! Some independence!
Alas, no. We bought me a car but before I passed my test she failed her MOT and we couldn't afford to repair her - we planned to do so once I got a job, but a job never materialised and not having a car limited what I could apply for - how irritating! Every month we totted up our available cash and said "not this month - but maybe next month" and for 18 months I clung to the idea that the only reason I wasn't more independent, couldn't take my children (and myself!) away from the immediate locality, couldn't travel to visit friends and family and just to get away for a change of scenery for the day, was that the car was having to wait until 'next month'. However, in that time, seeing her sitting there (rotting there) on the drive gave me some semblance of independence - some tiny false gleam of a life where I didn't need to ask someone or pay someone to take me somewhere - where I could just sling the boys into their carseats and head out. It particularly helped towards the end of my second pregnancy when I was stuck in a wheelchair in the house with a very fed up, very active toddler. Next month, I said, we'll fix my car and I can take him out - we can drive to some of his groups or to visit someone.
Today we finally admitted it was never going to happen. 18 months is a long time for a car to sit in the weather without moving when she needs work anyway - and the can be done/can afford/is worth it ratio finally tipped to "Scrap the bloody thing". (Most people think it was there about a year ago but knew what it meant to me to be able to look at her and hope). A very nice man with a very exciting truck came this morning, bright and early, and took her away.
It might seem silly but it feels like my last scrap of independence has gone with her. We can't afford to get me a car, we couldn't afford to run one at the moment if it were given, so I am (as I have always been) reliant on lifts, on Alex, on the terrible bus service, which means I'm still limited to basically things within walking distance to entertain my children and stimulate myself. Whilst there's a fair amount around it still feels stifling. I can't even enjoy evening or weekend trips where I get to take myself out because I'm not allowed to drive Alex's company car until I've had my license for three years.
For someone who was always viciously independent - detrimentaly so at times - that's a hard pill to swallow.
On the plus side though the nice scrap man gave me £100 for her, in crispy notes, which Alex said I should use to get my hair done. Tempting - but I think I'm going to use it to treat him. He does everything for me and takes very little reward - so now I just have to think of something to do in return. Any ideas?
Nope - not another post about PND; this is about clothes!
I was reading another blog - a rather excellently written one by mamamule - which spoke about her loathing for pink and the fact that if you've a daughter you're limited to pretty much a choice or pink or brighter pink, sometimes with sparkles.
This isn't just an issue that effects parents of girls; it happens to us Mums of boys too. Not pink, obviously, because boys aren't 'meant' to have anything pink. Blue though, good lord the blue. If it's not blue it's sludge. Why oh why would I want to dress my beautiful sons in clothes akin to a muddy puddle? Ok - re-reading that sentence I can see a certain sense (too much sibilance!) in dressing boys in muddy-puddle coloured attire - but seriously, what dreary choices!
It's a real struggle when dressing boys to find things that aren't the aforementioned blueorsludge and to find clothes without the obvious pictures strewn over them - robots, dinosaurs, diggers. Roman LIKES diggers, but that doesn't mean I want every item of clothing he wears to have one on - espescially (take NOTE clothing manufacturers!) those nasty, rubbery ironed on pictures that you can't iron and that come off in the wash, or are simply peeled off in sticky blobs by toddlers. If you MUST stick some image on the front can you at the very least sew it on, or print it, not that god awful rubbery paint stuff? Hideous. Garish, cheap and tacky. (The latter in a very literal sense when I indulge in my monthly attempt at ironing!).
Roman has a couple of colourful items of clothing - my particular favourites currently are a bright green pair of jogging bottoms that were a hand-me-down and a bright orange t-shirt bought by one of his Grandads (lots of love to Grandad Chris and his shopping skills there!) - I love him in these clothes. They show a lot of his personality AND I can pick him out in the moshpit at sing sign and play from the far end of the room and see if it's him making another kid cry (which it always is, because the bus has come out of the box).
It's harder to choose colourful clothes (or clothes that aren't pink if you have girls) if you're poor - the cheaper stores seem to have the least imagination and stick safely to the jeans and sludge coloured hoody styles - ugh.
This is a message to the manufacturers and to the buyers for those stores - quit it! We want colour, we want style, we want personality - get on it!
Today our friendly Health Visitor popped over for Jasper's last home visit and Roman's two year check. You'll be pleased to know that both boys are doing excellently (though Roman is super dinky small). Aside from that the fun for today is Roman's as-yet-undiagnosed illness, causing fever, some vomit and a LOT of whining and clingy times, and Jasper's wonderful evening contribution of the 5-'till-9-whine - 4 hours or so of crying for no reason, every evening. I remember Roman doing the same and thinking it would never end, and not even noticing that it did - but I know it's just a phase. It's just one I hate, and tempts me into giving the baby back (only I know where he came from and I'm pretty sure he wouldn't fit).
One of the things the HV did today was the hideously transparent PND questionnaire. I scored a 10 which means he had to ask all kinds of fun further questions, but it all seems pretty obvious to me. The hormones are still all over the place, the period hormones are heading back into my body. The sleep deprivation has gone beyond the few nights people can cope fine with and is now actual deprivation, which means that I wake still tired every single day no matter whether it's been a good night or not. I'm not good at tired. Who is? Roman is ill, which is very stressful, and his whinging would wear down anyone, even if they weren't worn out already. On top of that we're moving in less than two weeks and I've got a lot of packing still to do (yes, most of it) and, though I'm excited because I like moving, I'm aware I'll be further from the friends I've made so I'm a bit nervous about getting lonely with a new baby and a toddler in tow - fun.
So yes, this isn't a very easy week. Is it PND? I don't think so. Baby blues, a touch, perhaps - but not full on PND. Mainly because I don't have time.
Some days I think I'd like to have PND. To just go back upstairs, put some shouty music on, on headphones, and bury my head under the douvet and make everything above someone else's problem for a while. Only Alex is at work and there IS nobody else - so I don't get to opt out, I have to do it because they all need me. That's what stops me getting depressed. It's too self indulgent, and I just don't have the time.
(To people who have or are suffered/suffering PND I'm not for one second implying that you 'opted in' to it - far from it - it's something that swoops down and takes you whether you want it to or not - I'm just saying how I feel today, which is like I'm looking down on PND and finding it quite tempting, but I'm not there yet!)
Fingers crossed I'll get a decent night of sleep tonight and Roman will feel better by the morning. Then it's just a little while longer of the mystery-evening-shouts from the baby and he'll be a person, and we're rocking and rolling again. Babies are hard work.
Do you remember, when we were young, the semi-feral pack you ran around with? Do you remember school holidays where you woke, stuffed your face with ricicles (covered in extra sugar) then put on your shoes and no coat and ran outside to spend the day (sans coat in the cold or sunblock in the summer) running wild, playing knock-a-door-run, climbing trees, only coming in for more food and sqush with actual e-numbers and very little fruit content when your Mum bellowed from the doorway. Them were't days right!?
This isn't just yet another "golden childhood" posts, nor is it harping on about how lead paint didn't do us no harm, etc etc, it's more a query; is it acceptable now?
Wandering the streets of my very rural, very safe little island I see no packs of feral children. I see the occasional teenager, sometimes in a small group, loitering. Sometimes they even look like they might cause trouble like the papers are always warning about. Sometimes they even graffiti something - tut. What I don't see though are bunches of ten year olds running around with sticks and pretending to be an invading alien army. I don't see any primary school kids playing on the green at the end of the cul-de-sac pretending to be in a ship, hopping from one 'safe patch' to another because the muddy bits are gateways to hell. I don't see them running to the park and splitting into teams to play french cricket or 5 a side football, forming alliences and enemies that will last all the way to tomorrow lunchtime when new teams are picked.
When did kids stop playing outside?! Even now I'd love to go outside and play "Stonio" with my mates in the evening sun (it's hard to explain to the uninitiated, but stonio was the greatest game ever. The highllights were throwing a stone - a big stone - as high as you could, screaming "Stonio stonio stonio" in a French accent and dodging just before it caved your skull in. The finer details were...well, there are no finer details, that's it!) and I'd love to teach it to my kids, along with French cricket and tag and whateverthatgamewascalled where we had time travelling space ships and used that thing we know as imagination to travel the multiverse. Hell, we understood the word multiverse!
I think now about my kids growing up and think "I totally get it" when I think about my Mum throwing us out at first light and only letting us back in for feeding time and hosing down before bed; the house would stay tidy, the laundry could be done, the crossword could be attempted and - good lord - a cup of tea drunk whilst still warm! Unheard of! I think about it and begin to look forward to the days when I can turf my child out the front door safe in the knowledge they'll be feral with a whole gang and actually quite safe because there's the unspoken rule that you stay within bellowing distance of at least one kid's house - and therefore parent - and the kids are all responsible, as much as a child can be. No serious injury ever occurred (aside from that one time Will B shot my brother in the head with a bow and arrow, but that was an accident. Oh - and that one time Will B fell out the tree and broke his arm - but that was AWESOME.)
Is it a social tabboo, clingy parenting, clingy kids or addiction to games consoles that keeps kids in these days? Am I not going to be 'allowed' to send them out to play unsupervised? Is it just not the done thing? My toddler loves to be outside and when we get to the playground he wants me to sit on the bench whilst he runs around doing his thang - often trailing after some bigger kids - he comes to get me when he needs help and I run over (well, kind of immediately materialise at his side without touching the ground en route) if he falls or is about to attempt the big slide unaided. He gets grumpy if I trail after him like I've witnessed some other Mummies do - am I terribly, terribly lax?
He's going to fall over someday. He's going to break his arm someday. He's going to do something awful like lick a frog (me) or fall into a river surrounded by rat poison from a tree (my brother) or plummet backwards from the treehouse (me again) because kids do, whether you're looking or not - but surely keeping them inside to avoid those things makes them more dangerous? Surely gradually letting kids explore and experience more makes them less likely to climb inside a cement mixer than more?
I don't know - it just makes me sad that it's unlikely my kids will get the same freedom to run wild that we got as kids - for whatever reasons the Daily Mail tell us. I miss that freedom now I'm an adult but I think that even if I allowed my children the opportunity they'd be out there alone, because all the other Mummies are more cautious.
What were your best experiences of feral childhood? How much time did you spend inside in the summer hols?
Over the last week I've seen the internet go mad with righteous, vengeful pride over a video. The video shows a teenage boy bodyslamming another boy. Reports vary from saying that the victim - the boy bodyslammed, who is at least half the size of the aggressor - suffers a grazed knee to concussion and a shattered shinbone. I'm not sure which of these is true but having seen the video I was sickened by the violence involved, by the crowd of children watching the violence and egging it on, and by the fact that it happened within a school, within school hours, and that the teachers didn't intervene.
Reading that paragraph, if you'd been given no back story, you'd think the bigger boy deserved the suspension he was given and you'd agree that violence of any nature is something that should be punished and stopped - that any aggressive attack such as this should result in his expulsion.
However the boy - called Casey Haynes - is being regarded as some kind of modern day hero. Why? Because his violence was in retaliation to a vicious, violent campaign of bullying that had - according to reports - been occurring for some time. The video shows - is being filmed TO show - the smaller boy, the bully, taunting Casey, dancing around him as he stands nervously against a wall, grinning to his 'audience' as he then punches Casey repeatedly in the face and torso. The children watching are clearly amused by it, were clearly expecting it and are filming it for its entertainment value. Casey has, apparently, been bullied for a long time within the school and this particular day is the day he 'stands up for himself' - he picked up the smaller boy after numerous punches to his face, he spins him over and slams him into the ground. The smaller boy does stand quickly, hobbling, and grins into the camera but I'm inclined to believe the reports that his leg is broken.
Because Casey is lashing out after a prolonged campaign of bullying the majority of people who have seen the video chant the same refrain "Go for it Casey", "Good lad Casey" and most seem to think his reaction was not only justified but positively heroic, to be applauded. That the bully deserved what he got.
Excuse me? A child - he is a CHILD - deserved to be bodyslammed, to potentially have his leg broken? I'm sorry - to the people who are saying that - you're idiotic. No child deserves violence - NO CHILD, NO PERSON. Bully, victim of bullying, whatever, nobody deserves that.
Don't get me wrong - I can see how and why Casey was pushed to that point - I can sympathise, empathise even, with the fact that he felt so scared, so cornered, so worn down by the bullying that he HAD to react and that reaction was the only way he could see out of his situation. I get it. Trust me, after years of relentless bullying throughout my school years I more than understand his despair. That doesn't in any way justify it, it doesn't make it acceptable, it does NOT make it heroic. He is a scared, angry child and he lashes out like scared, angry people do. That is not ok.
What is also not ok is that he was bullied for so long and to such an extent that he couldn't see any other way out. What is not ok is that the staff in the school were aware he was being buillied, and by whom, and that adequate steps weren't taken to protect him. What is not ok is that a crowd of children were cheering the bully on and filming physical abuse for entertainment, nor is it ok that our society still views violence in so many forms AS amusing.
What is not ok is the number of people who insist that they won't abide violence but who seem to think that reactionary violence, retaliation, is ok - is to be encouraged.
What is not ok is the number of comments I've seen from parents who've said "if that was my kid I'd teach him to hit them back too" and who would want their children to react to a bully with aggression. An eye for an eye? What a sickening concept.
I was raised to believe that violence is a bad thing and is something it is totally unacceptable to use in any situation. To me that includes if people are violent towards me. Hitting someone back is still hitting someone.
Don't get me wrong, I've done it - I've been pushed to that point and lashed out, I've lost my temper and lost control and hit someone - I don't think I'm a hero for doing so. I think it makes me as bad as the person who made me that angry or who I hit back.
It's the excuse domestic abusers use; "I would never have hit you if you hadn't made me so mad". That's not ok.
If I see children bullying my son - which I do, kids are kids and even just not wanting to play with him makes me mad - do I see red and tell him to kick them? Do I slap their mothers? No - I do what I was taught, and what I'm teaching my children - I walk away. I take my son and I walk away and I try to keep my temper. I have a nasty temper - I have the kind of temper that's led to me hiding in my room and smashing things, to me running to the woods and pulling down a small tree, to me screaming and swearing and threatening. It's not a nice temper, but I was told as a child that to lose it to the extent that I hurt someone else was totally unacceptable - so I learned not to. I learned as a toddler that hitting the people I was mad at was bad. In later years when I again lost that self control I didn't feel proud of myself, or justified, I felt sick. I felt sick and disgusted and sullied because I'd done what had been done to me - if it wasn't ok for that person to do it to me how was it going to be ok for me to do it to them?
That boy getting body slammed? He's a child. He's a cruel, vicious child - so are a lot of others. So were a lot of you, to someone, at school. How many of you can honestly say - even if you were the victim of hideous bullying - that you didn't pass some of that on? You never hit anyone? You never taunted anyone? You never called another kid names, teased them, upset them deliberately to feel better yourself? Didn't laugh at someone else getting bullied? Didn't run into the crowd chearing "fight, fight, fight" and get caught up in the thrill on the school field? If you tell me you did NONE of those things I will call you a liar because we all did. We all did, and it wasn't ok.
The Flashback Friday theme today seems to be memories of the early, heady days of falling in love, of meeting your soul mate. Obviously that's super special and important, and in homage to those days pre children and pre housework, um, discussions I would like to post this picture of my husband and I taken a few weeks after we met, when we were being all sexy and goth (hahaha!) - nobody had ever made me laugh, or think, as much as he did and this photo made me LAUGH.
The thing about soulmates, though, is that you don't just get the one. I count myself lucky to have so many. The people you know that, no matter what, no matter what time of day or night, no matter why, if you called, they'd come, and if they called, you'd go. The people you can go weeks, months, even years without seeing regularly but who could let themselves into your house, kick their shoes off, put their feet on your furniture and tell you to pop the kettle on and you'd do it happily, even if their feet were sweating on your coffee table.
These are my people. My soulmates.
This is my Na. She's like my sister. We met at school, in year 8, and hated each other. A few months later we hated everyone else instead. Ok, I hated everyone else - but Na is impossible to hate. She's lovable, reliable, adorable, dependable and (prizes for those spotting the source) lots of other things ending in 'ubble'. For 16 years now she's been the one I turn to when I need someone to tell me I'm being impulsive and ridiculous, and to stand by me anyway and never say "I told you so" when it goes wrong.
Na saw me through the Barlow glasses, the shaved head, the first drunk night out and some seriously dodgy fashion choices. She saw me through leaving home, losing my mind and all the way back. If you ever need a soulmate she comes highly recommended. You can't have her though, she's mine, and it's bad enough I have to share her with her Seadog.
Me and my Na, aged 17/18 on holiday (well I was, she was just at home) in Korea.
Next on my list of soulmates is my R. She and I met at primary school. She arrived in year two and was seated with me and from that day on she was my BFF. Mainly, initially, because she could read and, like me, wasn't related to the other kids in the school - it was that kind of place!
R and I have known each other FOREVER. We see each other once every year or two and very rarely speak on the phone, but if I asked, she'd come. She was bridesmaid at our wedding last year and arrived to the preparty with some kind of heavenly chocolate brownie tray bake thing. Gorgeous, lovely, hilarious AND bakes. The perfect friend!
Last is M. I have no pictures of us together in our yoof because we were both too busy hating how we looked to take pictures. M and I met at uni and both quit the course we'd met on to do something else before the first year was complete - but stayed friends anyway even when she moved home and I abandoned her to move to The South, which is almost, but not quite, unforgivable. M is the funniest person ON EARTH and I love her so much it makes my bones ache.
These are my soulmates. These are the flashbacks to the most significant times and relationships of my life, and my fear in each place that I was going to have to see it through alone, then along came these people and saved me, and made me. They all make me laugh, and none say "I told you so" when I mess up - which I do, a lot. That's love.
Back in the golden years of hazy fantasies, before I had children but when I was thinking about their potentially existing, I swore that I would be the hippiest Mummy ever created. I was going to be calm and serene and feed them on organic, home grown foods, I was going to home school, I was going to call them things like Willow and Cloud Moonbeam, we were going to live on a farm and have no TV and make our own paper and so on and so forth.
I was going to be the perfect pregnant woman too - I was going to skip all caffeine (almost managed that) not drink alcohol (pretty pleased that I DID manage that) avoid any and all additives (nope) artificial sweetners (nope) not eat sweets or junk food (apart from the daily multipack of wotsits and the addiction to sour haribo I'm sure I did ok...no, no I really didn't) and I was going to have a totally natural, totally olde worlde birth - not just a home birth, not just a water birth, some kind of earth mother woodland experience in a natural stream surrounded by chanting yoga instructors and doulas and nymphs (or something). Not for me the drugs and shouting and failing of the other women in the hospitals, useless women, stepping away from our roots; women have been managing birth naturally for thousands of years and the human race is still growing so there's no excuse not to do it naturally...right?
Towards the end of my first pregnancy I got so gigantic and was in so much pain that my plans were out the window - I was sore, I was struggling to walk with hip problems and SPD, I was terrified that the big baby they were telling me I'd have would tear me to shreds on his way out and petrified (thank you Google for creating new neuroses) that something would go wrong and I wouldn't get to take my baby home. I refused (to my midwife's disgust) to write a birth plan because I knew that if I did and the birth didn't follow it EXACTLY I would totally lose the plot; I'm the kind of person who likes things to follow the rules and if I'd made a plan I'd absolutely need it to be followed TO THE LETTER or I'd never recover. I spoke to enough Mothers and pregnant women in my own pregnancy to realise (thankfully) that it was totally unrealistic to think before hand that you'd any idea how your birth would go - so I decided I'd go to the hospital, I'd not say no to any pain relief though I didn't want any of it, and I'd trust to the midwives and try to just go with whatever happened. That was the BEST decision of my life.
Even though I'd said I didn't want any drugs I ended up having all of them - the oxytocin drip to get my contractions going properly (Roman was back to back and it HURT, and I was SCARED, and that stops your body working the way it should when it comes to labour) then the gas and air (oh gas and air, how I do love thee) then the pethodin because I was begging for an epidural but the anaesthatist was in theatre so I'd have to wait a couple of hours...I was in labour for 5 days, two from the point they put the drip in, I was pushing for well over two hours, near three I think, towards the end Roman was getting very unwell and his heartrate was dropping scarily with each push and Alex was, with the midwife's instruction, standing with the Big Red Button in his hand ready to press it if I didn't get this baby out in three more pushes. The alarms were going off on the monitor constantly, the midwife looked worried, Alex looked terrified, I was terrified. On the push she'd deemed my last the head came out and my midwife reached inside very painfully and pulled Roman out by the arm and threw him onto me to make him breathe. Then I passed out, vomiting everywhere. Nice.
It was a HORRIBLE experience. Truly horrible. I got Roman, so it was worth it, and over time most of the fear and pain faded and I almost, kind of forgot what it had been like. The epidural had meant that I couldn't feel what was happening to my lower half for a lot of the experience and the position I'd been pushed into caused quite a lot of damage to my pelvis, meaning I struggled to walk after the birth and had months of physio. By the time I fell pregnant again I was much better, but not enough to prevent problems and I knew that a natural birth would again cause problems and hurt and that my baby was going to be big (Roman was 9lb9oz) and I was scared again. Then on crutches. Then in a wheelchair. Then my midwife referred me to a consultant who agreed that a natural birth wasn't for me, and recommended a C-section.
Best. Experience. Ever.
I started that day stuck in bed, needed to get into a wheelchair, with help, to go to the loo which was just feet away. I'd been taking codiene for months, tramadol for a couple of weeks and just wanted this pregnancy to be over. I finished it with my healthy baby, who had suffered no distress, who's heartrate had never dipped, who wasn't bruised and sore, in my arms as I stood - stood, on my own. I was holding and bonding with my baby much quicker than I'd been able to with Roman, I felt happy, relaxed, I felt no anger or bitterness towards my baby, which I had the first time. The team who delivered my son were incredible - friendly, professional, quick! The entire experience lacked the stress and anxious atmosphere that my first birth had had, it was bright and fun and efficient in the room and I felt bright and fun because of it, even with people's hands inside my abdomen.
Since the day though I've been made to feel, by numerous people, like I failed at womanhood. My very medical birth, plus my heavily drugged first birth, mean that I failed. Women have been achieving natural births for centuries, I'm told. *I* did it drug free, many people say. You know what, superwoman? There's no medal. There's no award. The prize at the end is a healthy baby, and I got two of those. That makes me luckier than a lot of people, and that makes me happy. There's no list of 'Better Women' that I failed to get onto. Yes, people have had drug free, intervention free births for centuries. Women and children have DIED during the experience for centuries too. It's called LABOUR - that's because, for a lot of people, it's really hard. Really, really hard, and traumatic, and can damage you. It's not a fun time, but you finish it with a family so it's worth it.
I know people who had lovely, successful home births, or water births, or even drug free births in a hospital. I'm thrilled for them, genuinely, and thrilled that they got the birth they wanted and that their babies are so beautiful and perfect and well. I also know a lot of women who had emergancy c-sections, or elective c-sections, or intervention during their birth in the form of forceps or similar. I know women who did and women who did not take the drugs. You know what? None of them are better or worse at parenting because of their birth choices, or because of the situation they ended up in whatever they'd planned.
What I also know is a lot of women who made plans, and didn't get to experience them. Women who were encouraged to have all natural births who ended being rushed to hospital, or into theatre, and struggled to bond with their baby or had counselling after the birth to recover from the experience. Who were made, like me, to feel like they'd failed the Sisterhood and their baby by not chanting through the pain.
Being a Mummy is hard enough without being judged and criticised for how you got there in the first place. Being a Mummy is hard. Giving birth is hard.
In 'the olden days' women had to give birth without pain relief - and we're supposed to carry on doing so, according to many people, because it's 'natural'. In those olden days people had legs amputated with no pain relief too - would you do that now? Would you have a wound stitched without anaesthetic? Would you allow someone to remove your appendix without? Would you even get through a headache or toothache with no paracetamol? Most people wouldn't - so why on EARTH would you experience something that can be so painful without pain relief if it's available? Why make something that's already pretty damned hard even harder? Why make yourself suffer, and possibly distress, or even harm, your child when you can have it easier?
From someone who was so determined to be 'Earth Mother' I am a fully fledged member of the c-section fan club. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I'm too posh to push or that it's the easy option - the recovery takes weeks and it's SORE - but compared to the damage I could have had it's far preferable and the experience was superb. Calm, quick, successful and complication free.
To me the idea of a home birth is just utterly disturbing - I can't imagine doing it myself. I think those who do it are super, and if it's what they wanted hurrah for their success - but for me? No. If I ever DO have another child (please lord NO) I'll be booking my spot on that table under the big bright lights and looking forward to it throughout the pregnancy. And I won't let anyone make me feel bad for it.
Today kind of got away with us. I had plenty planned and intended being, basically, superwoman - from cleaning and packing to entertaining and educating, showing the whole world that being a full time Mummy to two boys is easy peasy lemon squeezy.
There were no disasters, I just seemed to run out of day! The health visitor came this morning and I managed to get a bit of packing done, then suddenly it was lunch time and then there was a two hour battle to convince the small shouty man that a nap was JUST what he needed actually - with him attached to me for the entire two hours, making getting anything done absolutely impossible.
This afternoon the tiny man insisted on taking his place and being attached to me. One velcro child is hard enough, but two of them at the same time makes everything take just that little bit longer (read; impossible). In the end biggun snoozed for an hour and little spent all of it feeding and both finished up much happier, but I was frazzled and suffering cabin fever.
Fresh air time. Out of the house time. Sod the packing I'm going to stand in the sunshine time. Football in the park time.
We were too late in the day to go anywhere exciting, we were too poor to pay for anything exciting, the school bus was emptying large people into the playground (WHY do teenagers insist on playing on the toddler swings on their way home?!) so we picked up the football and toddled down the road in the glorious spring sun to play.
It really is the little things.
Not only did we get some exercise and some fresh air - both VITAL in maintaining your sanity as a Mum, and maintaining your small people and their wellbeing, but we had a really good giggle. Just as we were heading out of the door Daddy got home from work (how did it get so LATE?!) and was able to join us which made it even MORE exciting. Not only that but today we received a most excellent parcel which included a crocheted tea cosy (I like tea, and tea pots, and tea cosies - don't judge me.) and Roman decided it was a hat, a silly hat (he was right on that count at least) and wore it to make people laugh - which was again a success!
The park was great fun. The cobwebs were blown off, lots of running and spinning and kicking was done and everyone laughed a LOT - good times. I love my family, and I love how big a difference the small things can make. You don't need to throw money and big, extravagant gestures at your children, just give them attention and fun in the park, it's those small things they'll remember and appreciate.
I did say it was a silly 'hat'..but look at those kicking skills!
When I was a teenager I spent a LOT of time utterly mortified by my parents - by the things they said, did, wore, by their very existence. They seemed to be going out of their way to embarrass me, to show me up in front of my friends, to ruin my day. Dad cracked truely awful jokes when he saw my friends. Mum passed comment on my VPL in front of the boy from school I had a crush on. Dad asked if I'd bleached my 'tache when I was attempting to make myself up for a 'night out' at 16. Mum deliberately crashed the vacuum cleaner into my bedroom door at 8 every Sunday morning to wake me up after I'd spent the night sitting on the internet or listening to music not-quite-quietly-enough in my bedroom. Dad always embarrassed me in front of his friends, around whom I was DESPERATE to appear mature and sophisticated. He'd comment on my age (MORTIFYING) or tell an embarrassing story from my childhood (NOBODY NEEDS TO HEAR ABOUT THE POO/MARS BAR INCIDENT OKAY!?) or, worst of all, he'd actually try to speak to my friends. Like, actually have a conversation, as if he were an actual human being? Ha! Mum would deliberately embarrass me - she'd tell my brother's friends that I was due my period, or crack some joke about stuffed bras when I was trying to be flirty, or write a note telling my teacher that I'd had diarrhea when I'd pretended to be ill to get out of P.E. the day before. Dad would take great, great delight in letting people outside of the family know that I still slept, in my teens, in Aladdin pyjamas and had duck shaped slippers that I'd named. Mum would revel in massive satisfaction when I was dragged out of bed early at weekends, full of tutting and stomping and Kevin style door slamming and "It's SO UNFAIR" as I was sent outside to clean dog poo out of the grass before I mowed the lawn, rather than just slobbing around the house untidily eating everything that didn't move all day. I never understood. I never understood WHY my parents so enjoyed embarrassing me, or WHY they took such delight in making me get up before I was ready after a late night, WHY they made me do housework, WHY they made me tidy my room when they were more than capable of doing it for me whilst I watched the Hollyoaks omnibus. I get it now. Every time my son points at a man in the library and shouts "DADDY!" I get it. Every time my son chases a disabled lady around the park shouting "HAHAHAHA, WHEEL CHAIR!" I get it. Every time my baby pees or poos on my hands as I change his nappy I get it. Every time one or other of my children decides that 5am is the start of the day I get it. Every time my toddler screams at me because I didn't hand him a breadstick quick enough and he hasn't had his nap I get it. I get it. They did it for revenge. In 15 years I'll be doing the same. Why did they tell embarrassing stories to my friends? Because I'd spent so many years embarrassing them in front of theirs! Why did they insist on waking me so early at weekends? Because they were only awake at that time because of years of conditioning from my getting THEM up at the crack of dawn! Why did they torture me as a teenager and go out of their way to embarrass me? Because it's bloody funny, that's why! I can't wait for the day my children find me mortifying! I'll be that Mum picking them up from school in her slippers and calling all their little friends 'little friends' and all THEIR parents "Jonny's Mummy". I'll make sure everyone knows about that time Roman pood on his dinner, I'll make sure everyone knows about him sleeping with a baby dolly every night. You know why? Because I can! Mummy, Poppa, I'm sorry I embarrassed you - you're right, these children are my just deserts - but one day they'll have children too - then it's my turn to sit back and laugh!