Word of the Week: Bedtime

New bunkbeds!

Anyone who read my Flat Pack! post on Wednesday will know it’s been all about the new bunk beds this week! Although it felt like a big move – and frankly, a huge transition particularly for EJ who has now gone straight from his cot to a full size single bottom bunk at the tender age of two, I’m glad that we’ve done it. Having said that it hasn’t all been plain sailing. On night one EJ climbed in and went out like a light no problem, but night two he wasn’t quite so docile and cried when I tried to tuck him in and leave. I climbed in with him, sang a lullaby, let him have his milk, tried to leave again but he was having none of it. JJ tried to take over for me bless him, but EJ just wanted his mummy! Eventually I told him I was going to go and have my shower and come straight back and, to my amazement, he agreed! Needless to say he was sparko by the time I returned and we went through the same thing last night too so I’m hoping a routine of sorts is forming and he’ll be comfortable with his new bedtime views very soon ( especially as I’m on my own with them for the next few nights while the hubster works).

It was the hubster’s birthday this week but unfortunately we didn’t have much of a chance to celebrate. In the past we have used this week to take a little holiday (this time last year we had a lovely week in Cornwall) but now JJ is at big school we can’t do that any more sadly. I will have to make a better effort next year – particularly because it will be a bit of a milestone for him!

I’ve certainly been falling into bed each night exhausted myself and feeling as though things I normally stay on top of have slid a bit – not least the cleaning this week as my cleaning day was cancelled out by flat pack hell! I am also still trying to find some kind of blogging flow to my week but right now I am writing posts at random times like 5am in the morning – and just can’t seem to get a routine to it, so it seems that most of my posting is happening in the latter part of the week. I find it such a solitary activity that I prefer to do it when I’m on my own. Unfortunately the hubster’s shift pattern is all over the place and often changes at the last minute so I rarely know where I stand.

Other than that, it’s all good and we are enjoying the absolutely glorious autumn colours ( and finally getting to wear some new layered outfits and boots!) but not so much all these squally rain showers!

How was your week?

 

The Reading Residence

Why be smug?

Every once in a while I read a post written deep within this parenting niche and it really resonates. When a post is open, honest and true and touches upon experiences which are obviously so commonly recognised it feels bonding, it feels inclusive and supportive – there’s a real sense of all being in this thing together.

No one ever said that being a mother and a wife was going to be all plain sailing and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea in life, but why, I ask you, why, do some people, who have chosen a different path, feel the need to stick their oar in with a smug comment, essentially boasting that their life choices are better than yours?

When I look at people who have chosen to stick with one child I sometimes think, ‘you’ve got it so easy’, but when I look at someone with three children, my first thought is not ‘ha ha! Look at the merry-go-round you’ve opted for, you fool!’. No, I look up and wonder what I’m missing, how much more fun a family of five might have in years to come (not that I would, in any way, want to have another child myself mind you!). I would certainly never in a million years dump a smug mother-of-two comment onto a post which had opened up about how tough a mother of three was finding the challenge some days.

What these smug ‘single, child-free by choice and living it up’ commentators don’t admit to is that no-one gets away with a life which is a series of ups and no downs. Like the economy, life, by it’s very nature, is all about the peaks and troughs.

I get the feeling that single people who trawl the parenting niche must be there for a reason. Personally, I suspect that they are searching for affirmation of their own life choices and ready to leap on a post which is brave enough to explore some of the less shiny happy moments of the parenting experience.

One recent example, on a brilliant blog I follow (Sisterhood and All That), states “ No kids and no husband means I can lie in bed all day if I want without anyone messing up my kitchen counters. Bliss. Feel free to take this opportunity to tell me what I’m missing out on and how you wouldn’t swap it for the world. Go on. You know you want to…it will make you go all warm and gooey inside” which is essentially the written equivalent of a sharp angry poke in the eye attempting to negate any potential comebacks which might seek to point out that actually, getting married and having children isn’t just a series of screaming, hair-pulling, anxiety inducing misery. (Steph, I apologise if this was genuinely written in jest by your sister or something!).

But you know, whoever you are, just keep searching out the negative bits and we’ll keep dishing ‘em up, but remember to shut your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears and sing ‘la la la’ if you happen to stumble across anything that looks anything like this:

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Feminism: a beginner’s guide

feminist is not a dirty word

When I was at university the only thing I really understood about feminism was that it involved Germaine Greer and lots of “texts” like The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (which honed in on the unhappiness of American housewives of the 1950s) and The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf which argued that society’s demands on women to conform to an almost unattainable standard of beauty had increased in line with women’s achievements. Then there was Andrea Dworkin – an unashamedly radical feminist who  focused on the subject of sex and pornography. To be honest these intellectual, academic women seemed like radicals or extremists at the time, synonymous with man-hating, hairy-legged, lentil-munching nutters.

But actually? They had a point. Now we see the launch of the UN’s “He for She” campaign for which actress Emma Watson recently delivered such a heartfelt speech attempting to address and redefine the true definition of feminism – one which simply argues for gender equality.

 

Trending on my Facebook news feed I saw that David Tenant was supporting the campaign which, essentially, is trying to get men on board and show that, in the final analysis, it’s all about human rights. There were a good 800 comments attached to his He for She selfie and I flicked through a few pages curious to the general reaction. Aside from many people commenting on how old he looks (and he’s only 42 so I can only assume the commentators are smug twenty-somethings) there is obviously still a misconception about feminism – the same misconception that led Katy Perry to reject the label whilst still embracing the ideology.

People seem to think that feminism seeks to discriminate against men – overlooking the abuse of men within relationships and all the other ways that men might suffer within society, but to me, that’s like saying Battersea Dogs Home is discriminating against cats (they’re not – I believe they take cats in too) – it seems like a way of undermining the end goal.

Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy, recently argued that it is the term “feminism” itself which is the problem, claiming that if you stick “ism” or “ist” on the end of anything then it gives a negative connotation (see: racism). He suggested a new term, “genderist” which would be used to name and shame those who, either overtly or subtly undermine women. There’s been a lot of debate over that one too.

For me, the “He for She” campaign, whilst passionate and true, can never change the status quo because the men who will support it (see: David Tenant) are already enlightened and don’t have that niggling feeling of being threatened by change. The men I read about daily who threaten and control the women in their lives – the perpetrators of domestic violence – what will this campaign mean to them? They will laugh in its face.

And then there are those who would pay it lip service. I heard a snippet of a talk radio show a few days ago for which the question of the day (hour?) was ‘should men be expected to pay for dinner on a first date?’ and the male DJ was attempting to argue that, if women are truly seeking equality, then we should expect to go halves on such occasions. I have to admit that this made my blood boil a bit and I was desperate for someone to phone in and put my case for me. Unfortunately no-one did (not while I was listening anyway). My very first thought was, how extremely shallow for a man to be willing to take the first step to accept feminism by thinking of it as a money saving exercise for the average bloke. I wanted to tell him that this is an absolute nonsense in a world where women are still not treated equally in the workplace, still have lower salary expectations and where the traditionally female jobs like nurse, carer and teacher are valued (and paid) so much lower than their traditionally male equivalents.

Although this is rapidly descending into a message of doom, I do feel like all the recent debate and high profile over women’s rights and expectations can only be a good thing in helping to chip away at the male-dominated infrastructure. And as a mother of boys I feel some responsibility to show them that gender equality is a good and desirable thing.

What do you think about the UN campaign? Do you disagree with me about who should pay on the first date? Please leave a comment below.

 

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Cbeebies – it’s a love/hate thing…

From the sublime:

Sarah and Duck

To the ridiculous:

kate and mim mim

I know a lot of people have had some pretty harsh things to say about Postman Pat. The man is clearly an incompetent nerd. However as a piece of programming, the commissioners have gone right somewhere (see: my five year old glued to back to back episodes on the iPlayer). I know all about the secret chucklings at the mere mention of Mr Tumble’s spotty bag, – love him or hate him, he gets bums on seats. And when it comes to Topsy and Tim – well, just read this post and you’ll see that not everyone is as forgiving as me when it comes to annoyingly perky twins banging on about their big house move for SIX YEARS*.

But the latest addition to the schedule is a step too far even for me. I’m thinking of starting a petition to get Kate and Mim Mim banned from the box for good. I have not spoken about this to a single person but I know I can’t be alone in finding this the freakiest, most badly conceived idea ever. It follows the adventures of ‘feisty’ five year old Kate and her favourite toy bunny Mim Mim – essentially a cute teddy right up until the moment he morphs into a giant fricking weirdo with an accent which appears to be half Australian, half Dick Van Dyke circa Mary Poppins. Meanwhile her imaginary world (Mimiloo) appears to be housed by Pixar’s scariest alien rejects.

Take this example of a typical episode: “A Case of the Giggles” – in which the dynamic duo are tasked with finding a “Merry Berry Bush” in order to make it laugh (I kid you not – and this, my friends, is surely a prime candidate for Scott Mills’ Innuendo Bingo – poor old Mary Berry, it’s just a bit personal really, isn’t it?). (For anyone not familiar with Innuendo Bingo try this clip with Gerard Butler – you can thank me later):

But you know, it’s irrelevant what I think about it (or any of you discerning parents either for that matter). As long as the kids love it, it doesn’t matter if Mimiloo is actually my personal ‘Event Horizon’. Oh, but here’s the thing: my kids LOATHE it from the sincerest bottom of  their Postman Pat-, Peppa Pig-, Thomas the Tank-loving hearts. Respect to the munchkins.

On the other end of the Cbeebies spectrum, one of my all-time favourites has to be Sarah and Duck. What is not to love, I ask you, about a small girl who hangs with a duck, bakes a cake and gets baking tips from the cake itself, doesn’t appear to have parents but seems quite pally with a woman known only as ‘scarf lady’ (whose bag is pretty friendly too) and gets to know an animate umbrella who doesn’t like getting wet and has to borrow one of her wellies to get home? Christmas this year will be all about the Sarah and Duck merchandise – BBC Shop? I’ll be your bitch.

*that might possibly have been six months…

 

The meaning of life…

meaningoflife

On Monday afternoon when I returned from work, the hubster was home on a day off and EJ was having a nap. I started to notice that my vision was going a bit blurry at the edges. I don’t normally get headaches but this one was rapidly going from bad to worse. I managed the school run and agreed to take the boys down to the local swing park but fortunately the hubster returned from the gym and kindly offered to take them for me while I went to lay in a darkened room. Before I had a chance to get myself horizontal I glanced out of the window and saw a strange scene. We live right on a main road and one of the cars driving past our row of parked cars had slowed down and stopped, holding up traffic behind him. He was looking over at where my husband was crouching down between the parked cars. I hadn’t heard a shout or screech of brakes and so I wondered what was going on. Thirty seconds later they came back into the house and the husband informed that two year old EJ had just run out into the road whilst he himself had been grappling with the five year old’s hefty bike (complete with stabilisers) and EJ’s own scooter. Fortunately (extremely fortunately) he had had enough time to grab EJ a foot out into the road and haul him back unharmed, but he was completely shaken up and shouting about not taking bikes or scooters anywhere ever again.

Both boys collapsed in tears on me and we all had a bit of a cry. It’s times like this that you think to yourself ‘what if?’ and ‘there, for the grace of God, go I’. And in the moments, and hours and days afterwards you hold your children, drink them in with your eyes as they are sleeping, breathe in the scent of their fluffy heads, and try not to imagine what life would be like without them.

Another day I was walking through town on my lunch break from work and I passed an old lady on a crossing. She was old enough and frail enough to make me think that she was in her twilight years and also to feel almost a motherly instinct to help her and make sure she reached her destination unharmed. It got me thinking about life, where I’m at in the process and what that means. I actually had tears in my eyes when I put myself in that old lady’s place – looking back on my own life from far in the future, knowing that I will never have this much daily love and affection in my life once my children are grown and flown. I felt lonliness flood in, I felt the alienation of a modern world which was moving too fast for my ever decreasing grey matter. And more than that I just felt that there was this voice urging me to appreciate every single second and even in what seem like the ‘bad’ times, take that with a pinch of salt because before you know it, this special, infuriating, limiting, expanding time will be gone and it will feel like the blink of an eye.

 

Everything in moderation?

One glass a day

It seems that when you look into the subject, moderation seems to be about diets and eating habits or it’s seen through a religious filter. The latter is fascinating – I read an article by a metaphysician talking about Buddha’s ‘middle way’ and I like the idea that this is the way to enlightenment. I watched a programme once about young British drug addicts who were sent off to a Thai Monastery to detox and it makes sense because the one thing addicts cannot do is live their lives in moderation, so as much as they need the physical surroundings and care in coming off hard drugs, they also need help with their own enlightenment. Having said that they do say with alcohol, once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic and those who are reformed are generally unable to take up a normal life of drinking ‘one or two’ and then leaving it at that.

It seems sad that ‘middle’ has become a dirty word. Think of the negative connotations of ‘middle aged’, ‘middle management’, ‘middle of the road’… And yet I am probably defined by being in the middle in more ways than one. I am ‘middle aged’, I am middle class, I like driving in the middle of the road! I don’t want to be too slow and never reach my destination but equally I don’t want to be too fast and miss the opportunity to smell the roses along the way. Isn’t that just good sense?

I like the expression ‘everything in moderation’ particularly in relation to food because it implies that nothing is off limits and there is no need to deprive yourself, but somehow I also like the expression ‘everything in moderation, including moderation’  because if everyone did everything in moderation, all the time, then there would be no grand romantic gestures, no gut-busting super Sundaes to treat yourself to after a bad day at the office, no dancing ‘til dawn and indeed, no INXS 😉

As a parent, I think it makes sense to try and teach your children to moderate their own behaviour. But at the same time, we would all secretly be thrilled if our children did something amazing to set the world on fire. No one would ever describe Richard Branson as ‘average’, but maybe I’m mixing up the different definitions of ‘middle’, ‘moderate’ and ‘average’ as Branson is surely a moderate man who simply isn’t scared of taking risks? Does it say something about me that I would rather my child grow up to be the next Branson than the next Keith Richards?

Would you prefer your child to live an average life and be moderate in all things, or blaze a trail but potentially burn out?

Linking up Sara’s linky, The Prompt for a discussion on whether everything should always be experienced ‘in moderation’.

 

mumturnedmom

My beautiful, imperfect boy

I recently wrote a post explaining why I won’t be shedding any tears as I send my child off to big school for the first time this week. It may have given some of you the wrong idea about our lives. In order to redress the balance, and as a celebration of his *Fifth Birthday* next Sunday, here are some of the things I love about my beautiful, imperfect boy:

  • The way he makes me laugh, acting the fool, silly faces and duff jokes;
  • The simple beauty of him turning to me, waiting a beat and then, out of the blue telling me that he loves me;
  • His enthusiasm for all physical activities (ok, maybe not the bouncing off my non existent tummy muscles). He’ll happily scale a tall climbing frame, climb a tree, splash about in pools and take on giant water slides kick and throw balls, run like the wind (6 5k Park Runs already under his belt), and wrestle with his brother like a (slightly deranged and manic) Olympian. He is, essentially, the opposite of me, which makes me think that we will always have a strong bond (I know that’s a strange thing to say, but I think opposites both attract, feed off one another’s differences, and fill a lack in each other’s lives – as well as driving each other potty no doubt 🙂 );
  • His kind and sociable nature: he loves being with other children and having company, and whilst that can sometimes feel a little suffocating the millionth time I move from room to room only to find my every move being shadowed, it’s good to know I’ll never be lonely!;
  • The way he constantly surprises me with little shows of, completely guileless, intelligence (just counting up to 40 while he was sitting on the loo the other day, for example);
  • The way he is teaching me to be a better person, more mindful, less grouchy and quicker to accept my faults, say sorry, and move on;
  • And lastly, his beautiful face and wonderful cuddles.

JJ, if you’re reading this one day in the future, please know that I couldn’t love you more. Xxx

 

Why it’s important not to have the perfect child

Fairy castle

My eldest son starts ‘Big School’ for the first time this week. I am taking this in my stride. Yet I look around me (both physically and in the blogosphere) and wonder what’s going on in the lives of others. I read about tears shed at preschool graduations and a sense of loss that cuts so deep with the advent of ‘real’ school days that tears are literally splashing into chai lattes as I write. I, on the other hand, laugh in the face of enforced separation. My four (going on five) year old is not my best friend. We have not spent many happy hours crafting fairy castles out of cardboard boxes or reading adorable picture books about mischievous bunnies (goodbye Thomas, I hope you get locked up in Tidmouth Sheds never to be seen again!); we have not spent many happy hours baking misshapen cupcakes; I have not sipped a hot coffee whilst watching him happily colouring cute stick figure scenes.

Maybe it’s because his little brother came along just as he was getting to that interactive age and then took away my time and the ability to provide those lovely, age appropriate activities, guide and nurture hidden talents; maybe it’s because he’s so highly strung and always has been; maybe it’s because he’s a boisterous boy and would prefer to be wrestling or bouncing off my non existent tummy muscles rather than sit quietly painting or practicing his letters; or maybe it’s a combination of my temperament, lazy arsed attitude and the fact that I work part time.

At any rate, pity us if you will (we still have a bit of fun in our own way and a lot of love) – it is now that I look at those mums who have raised the perfect pre schooler and done the most wonderful, full and wide ranging list of activities together and laugh*out*loud! Because for me, this is not a bittersweet moment, it’s time for the teacher take over, a handover, If you will, to people who actually chose the nurturing of other people’s children AS * THEIR * CAREER (takes a moment to scratch head in confusion and just a little bit of awe). I know he will thrive. I know he will have his innate intelligence drawn out and guided in the right direction and you know what? At the weekends and school holidays maybe I will just break out the cardboard boxes and PVA glue. Or maybe I will just continue to referee the wrestling matches and judge the ‘who can scream the loudest’ contests and laugh at their silly antics.

Nutty bedtime

Either way there will be no tears in my artisan coffee, and that, my friends, is why it’s important not to have the perfect child.

Linking up to September’s Bad Mums Club.

 

badmumsclub

Out, out brief candle…

out out brief candle

This is an excerpt from one of my favourite Shakespearean speeches. I’m not sure why I love this so much as it is really quite depressing! Essentially, for anyone not familiar with Macbeth, this is the speech given by Macbeth after his wife goes mad and dies. He is grieving and pondering the nature and meaning of human life:

She should have died hereafter
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Sometimes it is worth noting that, in the universal scheme of things, our lives are a brief dot on the spectrum of human history. Maybe more positively (and more briefly!) it’s worth remembering the saying Carpe Diem – life is short – seize the day. I know I could get a little perspective on the bigger picture sometimes, and, as the mother of two such adorable sprogs whose childhood will whizz by in a flash, sometimes it is worth going back to basics and putting them at the centre of everything I do.

Linking up to this week’s Prompt from Sara over at Mum Turned Mom which was simply the word ‘brief’.

 

mumturnedmom

Does beauty matter?

It seems we live in a society obsessed with beauty – the market is flooded with ‘beauty products’ and every woman, no matter how secure, holds just a little internal doubt if she isn’t the perfect 10, or has a couple of grey hairs or ‘laughter lines’ (AKA ‘crow’s feet’). But does it matter?

I know it used to matter a lot more to me. I used to believe that someone who was born beautiful was born with one huge advantage in life because having a pretty face would open doors without the need for a brain or a talent.

I still think that, to some extent, there is a psychology behind this. The more attractive you are (in the widely accepted social definition of what is ‘attractive’), the more other people will be open to having you around, whether that means giving you a shot at a highly sought ‘media’ job, or allowing you to pick and choose from a wider gene pool of potential partners.

But I know that the key element within beauty – which goes hand in hand with knowing that you have a physical advantage – is the confidence that brings.

I’ve known people (women) who would not be classed as ‘pretty’ who have done incredibly well for themselves through sheer force of self-confidence and self belief, and equally I know very pretty girls who are terribly insecure and full of self-doubt. So this obviously isn’t true in all cases and confidence certainly isn’t exclusively held by the beautiful ones.

Reading back through this it also occurs to me that we are almost exclusively talking about women – men go through life being judged and rewarded on a totally different set of criteria.

The unfortunate side effect of our society’s obsession with how we look is apparent when you look at someone like Katie Price or, just lately, Tulisa Contostavlos – people who were so unsure of their own natural beauty (or unsure of their ability to maintain standing in the media circus) that they opted for surgeries that have added nothing that was either necessary or successful, in fact Tulisa looks downright odd in my opinion – like a completely different person and in no way any more attractive than she was before.

Recently I happened across a mention of a woman who is known as ‘The Living Barbie’ doll and, after seeing a picture which I’d assumed was some sort of manga cartoon and then finding out that this was a real person, I did a bit more searching out of sheer car crash mentality. Here is the picture:

Human barbie doll

She denies having surgery other than a boob job but her waist is so thin that one interviewer described it as ‘a sock of skin wrapped around her spinal column’. She also wears ‘doll effect’ contact lenses which lend a plasticky or alien air to her being. There are plenty of articles out there musing on what this woman says about society, or what she thinks society wants or needs to see – mostly that she has attempted to adapt herself to fit into a hyper-sexualised, cartoonised male fantasy, that in reality isn’t what men want to see in the flesh at all. Massive eyes and bizarrely adjusted proportions on a woman actually seem more alien than attractive to the average man apparently.

There is also the fact that she seems miserable. Just Google ‘human barbie doll’ go to images and look through the page – barely a smile even hinted at – but come on, even Barbie smiles!

I’m kind of glad that I don’t have daughters to help navigate through those murky teenage years when they are at their most impressionable. My mum always drummed it into me and my sister that we were perfectly fine as we were but I never really agreed and always wanted to dye my hair blonde or improve on my disaster of a chin! I think my mum implied that, as we were a little physical reflection of her and my dad, it would be a bit insulting to them to want to improve on that!

I think my sister is doing a grand job helping my (14 and 15 year old) nieces to discover and focus on their passions rather than their looks – at least that is how it appears from being around them. I think that’s great and that’s how it should be but I think back to Kirstie Allsop’s recent controversial statement on the subject of mothering girls to focus on marriage and babies ahead of career goals and it makes me wonder whether she would then concentrate on making sure her daughters always look right, pretty enough, to catch a man, setting them up for a life of preening and narcissm…

So does beauty matter? Of course it matters when you think of it in terms of beauty in nature, and the pursuit of beauty in art and literature – but lets not allow society to mould the next generation into confused, dysmorphic young people who can’t see the wood for the trees.

Linking up with Sara over at Mum Turned Mom who’s prompt this week was the word ‘beauty’.

 

mumturnedmom

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