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.



Kids Party ‘Life Hack’

Birthday Cake mummy!

Does anyone else look at some of the stuff on Pinterest and feel a) stunned that other people have the time, skill and creativity to create childrens’ rooms that look like they were designed and commissioned for a Terence Conran photo shoot, or handmade toys, clothes and artefacts straight out of a glossy magazine, b) just a wee bit inadequate?

I’ll admit it, in my ideal world I would not be so rich that I could pay for a professional to do this for me, I would do it myself – brilliantly! But unfortunately I’m a bit lazy and I don’t have much free time.

I know people make their own party decorations and gifts to save money, be thrifty and frugal, but I think they primarily do it because they like to feel like Supermum for a day, show off their hidden talents and prove to the world that they are the loving, crafty, best mums in the world.

But I say screw that – if you’re a bad mum like me, get a life hack. I have to admit I only recently became aware of the life hack phenomenon – but the concept has always existed and it’s great if you don’t mind a bit of cheating and lying! Essentially it is shop bought, jazzed up to look like homemade. Or, if you want to be a bit kinder to yourself, it is ‘customisation’.

So EJ turns two at the end of July and I’ve given myself a mere three weeks to plan and organise his party (other than booking the hall and inviting a few friends – go me!). Over the weekend I began pondering on a theme (gotta love a theme!). I didn’t want a generic Disney or Cbeebies party – maybe in the past that was OK (JJ had Disney Cars for his 2nd Birthday) but since I started blogging (and signed up to Pinterest) my horizons have expanded a little and I have developed some quite specific tastes. Anything vintage to do with childhood works for me, but I also love bright, multi-colours.

I figure that with my last child at age 2 this is probably my final chance to make all the decisions – from here on I’ll have to grudgingly accept the fact that my children are developing their own tastes. I guess you can choose their room theme when they’re young and naiive adaptable, proudly plaster it all over t’internet, but how often do you see parent bloggers showcasing their teens’ murky dens? I don’t know, maybe they do but somehow I can’t see anyone being too quick to share images of dirty pants hung over the end of beds, old applecores flung carelessly on the floor and piles of unfinished homework lying forlorn on desks strewn with hair product and glitter nail polish, while black walls advertise obscure bands?  (I’m guessing).

But I digress.

My first thought on party theme was cowboys/Wild West – a theme that can be adapted and vintaged up to your heart’s content. But it is a bit samey – cowboys, horses…I suppose I could have hired one of those mechanical bucking broncos you see on hen nights as a refreshing change from a bouncy castle… What was that? Did someone mention the word ‘law-suit’? Yes, you’re probably right.

Then I hit on a stroke of pure genius – ‘A Day at the Circus’ – I love it! It’s child friendly, it’s vintage, it’s multi-coloured, it involves lions and fire-eaters (law-suit again? Oh right – better scratch that off the to-do list) and best of all, it’s hackable! OK I admit, one thing it’s not is original (just go to Pinterest and type in ‘circus party’ – this is where I’ve been all weekend).

So far I’ve bought the basics – themed cups, plates, table cloth, some red & yellow balloons, party blowers, 10 metres of bunting, a miniature big top tent (quickly checks bank balance). I’ve even got my Ringmaster’s outfit sorted – that is the kind of sh*t mum I am – got my priorities all wrong (it’s not ‘sexy ringmistress’ though, that really would be beyond the pale, even for me!).

So where’s the ‘hack’ you may ask. Well, it’s the cake that bothers me. I’ve seen some works of true genius during my little online odyssy, let me tell you. But it occurred to me that they aren’t really cakes at all. They are works of art – it would be a bloody travesty to sink a knife into one of those creations. Besides which I am not talented enough and I would end up with something that looked like it was thrown together by a small child.

circus cake - professional

I toyed with the idea of attempting one of those in yer face 6 or 7 layer rainbow sponges…

rainbow cake

and then I got real. I don’t have the time, equipment or food colourings for that. My oven can only cook a sponge through by charcoaling the bottom third, and I’m not sure that rainbow with additional black stripes would impress anyone… Keep it simple – that’s where I’m at right now. I’ll concentrate on one lovely chocolate sponge – chop the bottom third off and then plaster it in whippy white frosting. The decoration will be colourful and there will be a home-made bunting cake topper!

This is what it might look like in my imagination:

'easy' circus cake

As a little additional extra I’m also going to make my own strong man moustaches on sticks for a bit of photo-booth action! (And thereby save myself about £5).

moustache on stick

I was thinking home-made cupcakes, cupcake toppers and a ‘feed the lion’ beanbag toss but come on now, let’s not let this hacking nonsense get totally out of hand!



Keeping the monkeys in the enclosure…

First nights behind the gate

When JJ first started to notice that there was a world outside his cot I was quick to flick through all the ‘baby safety’ catalogues and source the tallest, most secure stair gate I could find to put across his bedroom door. Of course this is mainly for his own protection as his doorway drops down a step and faces out over a steep staircase which itself cannot be gated due to the non-symmetrical pattern of the banisters.. But no-one’s complaining that we have also benefited from the peace and quiet afforded by our child’s inability to run into the living room at 9.30pm demanding a banana. Or refuse to go to bed and stay there. Or re-appear 200 times to have a good old whinge about CBeebies axing Topsy and Tim.

I would certainly recommend this form of ‘sleep training’ to anyone with small children – keep the monkeys in the enclosure, that’s what I say!

To be fair three nights of ‘training’ was all it really took to make him feel comfortable with the situation. There have been times when he has actually taken us to task for forgetting to shut the gate behind us! And now, after just under four years of safety-conscious gating we have suddenly experienced the first instance of him realising that he could drag a small stool across, climb up and flip himself over the top. The reason he did this was to join his brother for an early morning cuddle in the cot which is currently located in the master bedroom. As the cot will shortly be transferred to his room and we will have all the same ‘safety’ issues with EJ, I’m not anticipating a removal of the gate any time soon.

Of course it also works as a ‘place of safety’ during a godalmighty meltdown…(for me!) These four year old boys and their testosterone surges eh?! (cue nervous, slightly manic laughter!) Now pass me the gin…


Collaborative hoovering

005I’d like to think I’m not the only person out there who’s house cleaning standards dropped somewhat with the advent of children. Not to say that my home was ever a Mecca of dazzling surfaces and rarely was furniture ever moved – even in spring. Nowadays though, the entire fiasco generally consists of an hour and a half flying around the house with a cloth and a hoover once a week on a Tuesday afternoon. Occasionally a dustpan gets involved.

Last week however, my annual leave petered out at work with three whole weeks left to go. Drastic action had to be taken in order to fulfil my lacklustre yet obsessive need to maintain my own half-arsed standards. Yes, that’s right, I enlisted the assistance of the boy.

As an incentive (!) to miss out on a post pre-school play date I informed him that there was a little friend called Henry at home waiting to play with him. Intrigued, he went along with my charade.

Back home Henry appeared in all his red and black glory from the cupboard under the stairs. JJ examined him from all angles before demanding an explanation. Apparently he was expecting a red Henry. Henry is only half red. This is the kind of obsessive compulsive behaviour you come to expect from a pre-schooler.

After some persuasion I managed to convince him that this would be fun! (And allow me to crack on with the beef casserole). You can see where this story is leading can’t you? Yep, ten minutes later I was shuffling along the corridor noting the enormous amount of dried mud JJ had somehow managed to miss and he was shouting “Mummy, you’ve missed a bit” from his perch on the sofa, Chuggington blasting out of his froggy earphones.

Ah well, one week, three bits of fluff less for me to deal with, a trained up child… Hmmm, perhaps some more delegation is required here; next week, the story of EJ’s love of sink cleaning (who knew one small patch of sink would require three quarters of a bottle of Fairy Liquid though? True story…)