- I am openly happy to see them go back to school at the end of the holidays. I liken the anticipation to that I felt in the run-up to Christmas when I was a child. I am positively jubilant and am completely unable to empathise with those who bang on about how much they are dreading the end of the holidays and how they are going to miss their children hugely blah, blah blah. To my mind they are one of two things: liars or delusional.
- I have manufactured an incurable and deadly allergy to glue and paint to prevent any attempts at “messy play” in my house. Anyway, isn’t that what schools are for? But painting and sticking is fun isn’t it? No, it’s not and frankly depriving my children of this extra dimension to their childhood is not going to keep me awake at night.
- I don’t iron any of my children’s clothes – I fold. I fold very well indeed. Folding is a much under-rated skill which I have perfected over many years of iron-shirking. I don’t like ironing and spending hours sweating over an ironing board is pointless if the person you’re ironing for a) doesn’t notice your effort b)couldn’t care less whether their clothing is creased c)has spilled something down the front of ironed clothing within 2 minutes of dressing. As for ironing underwear…come on, please – surely your time can be used more productively?
- I don’t do nametapes. Well, actually strictly speaking that is not true. At the start of my mothering “career”, I painstakingly sewed on scores of nametapes – pricking my finger on the needle countless times, accidentally sewing the item to my trousers on more than one occasion and wishing constantly that my children had shorter names and that I had married someone whose surname was one syllable of two letters. I gave up sewing on nametapes years ago and moved on to “iron on” nametapes: I refer you to the point I made above – I don’t iron. So now, I employ a much easier method – permanent marker. Not the neatest, I’ll grant you, but marvellously quick and most effective.
- I have started buying mashed potato rather than making it. This slippery slope into culinary laziness started innocuously with buying ready-made fishcakes and chicken nuggets and now has insidiously spread to buying mashed potato and even, on occasion, ready-to-microwave vegetables. I am not proud of this and I can almost hear the gasps of horror from the more wholesome amongst you. The bottom line is this – I hate peeling potatoes and my mash is always lumpy and either too sloppy or too stodgy. Life is too short to mash especially when someone else can do it much better than you at a reasonable price.
- I would often secretly prefer a glass of wine and a flick through Facebook than reading a bedtime story to my children. I don’t believe I am alone in this but perhaps alone in admitting to it. I know reading to children is vital and I do sometimes enjoy it but frankly there are some days when I am ready to lamp Peppa Pig and the rest of her porcine family. I do find a few medicinal sips of wine before reading “Peppa Pig” does help with these irrationally aggressive thoughts and stops the urge to jump up and down in muddy puddles until Peppa et al are completely soaked and begging you to stop.
- I don’t like watching kids’ films or cartoons. So as not to be mean-spirited, I do, on occasion, sit down with the children to watch a film. Most recently, the Minions movie – all I can say is that the parts which I did not sleep or text through were mind-numbingly terrible and I simply can’t understand why my children found it so hilarious and then compounded my misery by shouting “King Bob” endlessly for days afterwards. Watching the Minions movie was two hours of my life that I can never get back.
- I don’t let them win games. Well, I do sometimes but often my competitiveness gets the better of me. Does it matter if I win “Ludo”? Somehow it does seem to. I love Scrabble and there is no way that I am going to let my children win even if it is Junior Scrabble. Pathetic I know. The only game which I couldn’t give a toss about is Snakes and Ladders which is without doubt the most painful, excruciatingly dull game ever invented and when forced to play, I wish fervently that my opponent gets to 100 without encountering any snakes but landing on every ladder opportunity just to stop the monotony.
- I get shouty in supermarkets. Everyone else’s children seem to be behaving absolutely fine. Mine, on the other hand,turn into demented lunatics playing their own version of “Supermarket Sweep” at the expense of any old ladies or food products which are in their way. I get shouty; they behave even worse; I threaten something I can’t possibly carry out – eg no television ever ever ever again; they ignore me.
- I wouldn’t give them my last Rolo. Actually this is not strictly true – I would give them my last Rolo as I don’t like Rolos much but I certainly would not give them my last fizzy cola bottle. No way. I know that I bang on about sharing at least 20 times a day to the children, but sometimes I don’t want to share. The last fizzy cola bottle is one of those occasions. Anyway, sweets are bad for their teeth, right?
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If I was in any doubt as to what my children think of me then my daughter has put me entirely straight on the matter. Aged 4 she has become rather obsessed with the bigger questions in life – how do we die? When do we die? Where do we go when we die? I have tried my best to answer her questions in a way she would understand, reassuring her without looking totally clueless. However, it would appear that her concerns were slightly more mundane – nodding sagely as I told her about the ins and outs of Heaven, she asked “when you die, who will do the laundry?” If ever a question could bring one crashing down to earth from the contemplation of the esoteric delights of Heaven, then this is it. My daughter sees me as a washing machine. Her concerns about me dying are not about losing a loved one but rather focused on who will ensure she has a clean school uniform for Monday.
I would like to say that my sons who are older (and therefore supposedly wiser) can appreciate the finer points of who I am. This is not the case. My elder son seems to think that I do nothing all day and his regular accusation is “Mum, you don’t do anything for us”. I can honestly say that there is hardly anything that I can imagine that my son could say that annoys me more than that particular accusation. It is guaranteed to send me into a rant about the usual “you don’t know how lucky you are” stuff and an endless list of examples of my activity on his behalf. Rant over, I always ask myself why on earth I felt it necessary to justify my existence to a 9 year old…but I can’t stop myself. My extreme reaction to his statement always bemuses him and my humiliation is complete when he says “it’s ok, mum, no need to get all stressed, I didn’t mean it”.
My middle son is trying to get his head around the fact that I did have a career before I accepted this long-term, badly paid, hideously long hours position of mother. He asked what I did before I had children and when I told him that I had worked in an office like his father does now, he looked incredulous. He asked me what my job is now, “Cleaner, taxi driver, cook, children’s social diary co-ordinator” I replied. Incredulous look again. “But when do you do all those jobs? Do you do them when we are in bed?” he asked. Clearly my description of my current job status did not ring any bells with him at all and I am slightly concerned that he now thinks that when he is tucked up in bed, I am busy driving around the county with a 2 way radio, taxi-ing random people from here to there before returning to cook 40 covers in a restaurant and finishing off with a few hours cleaning. Perception that I was working those sort of hours would at least explain why my daughter recently asked me if I had been 100 years old yet.
Does it bother me that my children perceive me like this? No, not really, after all this is what I do at the moment, at this stage in our lives. Yes, it would be nice if just once a week, one child picked up a wet towel abandoned on the floor after a bath, folded it and put it back on the towel rail in the bathroom – but I know this is just a pipe dream. Yes, it would be nice if just once a month, one child attempted the highly difficult and dangerous task of placing a plate in the dishwasher – but I know this is beyond all expectations.
What does bother me a little bit more is my own perception of myself as only the sum of these things. 2014 needs to be the year when I put this to rest and strike off “professional procrastinator” from my CV. Of course I shall continue to be a fairly average cleaner, taxi driver etc for my children, but also this year is my year to start something for myself. This blog was the start of it for me – this writing lark, and now I’ve got to get out there and do something with it….if only to see the incredulous look on my children’s faces if I do something that surprises them, something that falls outside of my usual job remit!
Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice…
Let’s get one thing straight, I adore my boys – I really adore them but I don’t get them. if I’m perfectly honest, as one of three girls myself, they are like little aliens to me most days. Occasionally I get one of those breakthrough moments when I think I’ve finally understood them and then out of nowhere, one will cross the room and nonchalantly kick his brother for no other reason – that I can fathom – than he can. I know what you’re thinking – there really isn’t very much to understand: boys are not complex. There is a lot of truth in this and I have lived the last 9 years of my life according to the maxim that boys are very much like dogs: feed them, water them and exercise them and all will be well with the world.
My two boys are very different in character but they also share common characteristics: the ability to wind the other up incessantly and the ability to wrestle any time, any place (preferably in a supermarket aisle in front of a tutting crowd of people without children and smug MOGs (Mothers of Girls). For a while I put this insatiable desire to be in physical contact with each other in some way 24/7 (usually in some painful-looking, totally unnatural wrestling hold) down to watching too much TV and particularly the ghastly WWE wrestling to which my elder son appears addicted (no, before you ask, I don’t let him watch it, but he’s clever, he’s cunning and he seems to find a way to outwit me…), but I don’t think this is the case. This is just the nature of boys. For the first five years of motherhood, I watched my boys with a growing sense of horror – what had I created? Rough and Tumble, they call it, no **** – that’s putting it mildly. Sometimes I can barely bear to watch and I am constantly amazed that they never seem to really hurt each other (well, not too badly). I don’t really intervene much these days, I let them work it out. I am resigned to the fact that this is how boys operate – it’s King of the Jungle stuff and I am not going to pretend to understand it. The fighting aside, I love my boys totally and I can only hope that the fisticuffs they indulge in now with each other will recede as they mature otherwise I shall be spending an increasing amount of time visiting the local nick.
I have to admit that due to the unruly behaviour of my boys on occasion (NB understatement), I did at times really question my mothering skills. I had deliberately ignored the Gina Ford route with mine – I realised very early on that I had already failed by her standards by 7am as I had not pulled up the black-out blinds, changed baby, had a shower myself and eaten my toast and marmalade. I didn’t think that feeling a failure so early on every morning would be particularly good for my confidence levels (which we all know are not exactly rocketing in the early days of motherhood). I found myself naturally gravitating to other “MOBs” (Mothers of Boys) because they understood that there was no way my children were going to sit at a table for half an hour, colouring, gluing and sticking (not unless they were able to do all those things to each other or one of my more prized possessions).
Then suddenly three years ago, I found myself with one foot in each camp – I had a little girl. Over the last 3 years, it has become obvious – it’s not about nurture (well at least not largely) but it is nature. I have done nothing to encourage her in any direction different to the boys but she naturally loves pink, plays with dolls, dresses up, watches me put on make-up in a rather disconcertingly fascinated manner and basically behaves in the stereotypical “girl” way. I have to add that at the moment she is proving an awful lot easier than the boys at that age. Yesterday, she had a playdate and I did absolutely nothing for 2 hours whilst these two adorable little girls dressed up, tottered around in little heels and played “Mummies and Babies” (where’s the Daddy you may well ask?! Is this a sign of the times?).
The biggest relief to me with a foot in each camp is that it is not my mothering skills that are at fault – they are as good or as bad as the next person. No, the simple fact is that boys and girls are fundamentally very different from birth and I would wager that boys are harder work in the first ten years of life (although enormously rewarding too) but I am under no illusions that come the teenage years, all those hours of my little girl watching me put on make-up and tottering around in my shoes is going towards creating the horror of “teenage girl”. I know at that point I shall probably be saying to my boys that they were hard work when they were younger but that their sister’s behaviour now is a whole new ball game and I shall be looking back fondly at the days of my “rough and tumble”, uncomplicated boys. However, for now, there is truth in the old ditty that girls are “Sugar and spice and all things nice” and boys are, well, fabulous, physical and sometimes just a little frustrating!