Friday, 22 November 2013

School Gates

There was a programme on last year called ‘Gates’.  It was a comedy about a set of parents who knew each other from the school gates.  Daughter had only just started school and I was able to take her and experience the gates for myself, and that programme terrified me.  I was off work under unpleasant circumstances and not my usual robust self, but I was terrified of meeting some of these characters.  One- up-manship, trying to run off with husbands…what was I letting myself in for?!

But in actual fact, I’ve made some lovely school gate friends, and I don’t even do the school gates now. What’s lovely is that between us, we manage to piece together the goings on at school.  She said what?  He did what?  Our children have us like amateur Miss Marple’s on our own, imagining the worst, but a couple of well- placed texts, Facebook messages or if it’s possible, get togethers, and we work out a more likely version of the truth.

I rely on a couple of mums who are able to do both end of the school day, who are generally In The Know.  I tried to do the whole PTA thing but work commitments got in the way.  Maybe one day.  Because what I’ve found out for definite is that you can’t rely on a five year old for accurate information, especially when Daughter’s intel is usually coloured by her interpretation that everyone else can do something she can’t, or has something she hasn’t. Or there’s some underlying hint that she’s been left out or ignored, quite often by the teacher.  It’s a good job I have my mum friends as jigsaw piecers, or I’d be up on the bounce at least once a week.  And being the clever little minx that she is, she knows exactly what pushes my panic button, leading to some kind of indulgence for her.  One of her favourites is that she either sat on the bench or walked round the playground ‘alone and lonely’.  It’s enough to make me pack in work and home school, just so she never has to go through the agony of being left out.  And then she’ll forget and tell me some jolly jape her and R have got up to.

It’s great to have a set of friends with children the same age, and most of the girls Daughter knows are the oldest, so we’re all feeling our way.  I’m convinced they’re all getting it more right than me, especially those who send their children in with a different lunch every day (Daughter has the same every single day) and I’ve even heard tell of cous-cous.  But nutritional values notwithstanding, there’s something wonderful about knowing you’re not the only one who doesn’t know this, that or the other.  And they’re a lovely set of little girls.  Not sure which one told Daughter that babies can come out of your bum, so hands up if that was your little cherub!  And what’s even nicer are those odd occasions where we get to meet up and we’re J, or J, or J (plenty of J’s at our school gates!), or R or H or whoever and not just someone’s mummy.  Because despite our little angel’s solid beliefs that our only purpose in life is to be their mummy, sometimes we do like to go out without spare socks and hand wipes in our bags.  Although revelations of recent times show that even on child-free occasions, some of us carry Rapunzel hair pieces round in our bags.  You know who you are..!

Friday, 15 November 2013

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...but it's November!

There’s a Christmassy chill about today.  Something in the air on my lunchtime dash about town made me feel festive for a passing minute.

When can one start to feel festive?  I think not until December.  This may well be because I have a December birthday and when I was a child there was no Christmas activity until my birthday cards had come down.  That served me well until I had Daughter, and then suddenly that didn’t leave enough time to get it all done.

Husband and I had a Christmas shopping day on Wednesday.  We hit the big city (Liverpool) and we hit it hard.  I shopped like it was Christmas Eve, and with a couple of exceptions, pretty much ticked off the list.  We were the couple people didn’t want to sit next to on the train, so surrounded by bags were we.  And I have to admit, I feel a bit smug.  No horrendous Saturday shopping for us, we can relax, fill the house with festive smells like mulled wine and watch Christmas films.  Daughter and I will do festive craft, wrap the gifts creatively and we’ll do all this wearing festive jumpers and through a blurred Hallmark focus.  Ha!

What will really happen?  The remaining presents will no doubt be elusive and cause more worry than the rest of the list put together.  I’ll leave the wrapping, thinking there’s plenty of time, and undoubtedly be wrapping on Christmas Eve.  And I’m not even acknowledging the fact that I haven’t got a clue what to buy Husband (what do you get the man who has everything?!)

I’m on Christmas dinner duty this year, thus establishing it as a biannual tradition (eek!) and the thought of it makes my hair frizz.  So many things at once!  But I think cold pigs in blankets add a certain frisson of excitement to the meal.  Maybe not the cold peas though.

I am planning the table though, because that’s much more fun to waste thinking time on than militarily planning how long I can take to peel each potato (what?  You can buy them ready peeled?  Put me down for some!)  I’ve got some ambitious plans for chair decorations and a permanent tab open on my iPad about making a giant decorative bow.

But the old curmudgeon in me thinks ‘It’s mid-November!’, so I’m going to pretend I can’t see the decorations that are going up, close my ears to the Christmas music that’s playing and come 1st December I shall pretend I see it all for the first time and embrace the festivity.  Unless I can’t find these last presents or run out of sticky tape, and then I’ll be saying Bah Humbug!

Ho ho ho!

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Turning into my Mother

There was a news article in the summer suggesting that we begin turning into our parents at 32.  I’m 38 now, so it got me wondering if I’ve well and truly become my mother.

The thing that started me wondering was when I signed the slip volunteering to send homemade cakes into school for the school fair.  I had flashes of the scene in ‘I Don’t Know How She Does it!’ where the mother ‘distresses’ some shop-bought mince pies for the daughter to take to school as her contribution to the cake stall.  I can bake a nice enough cake, but I know already that the night before I’ll be up until all hours finishing it.

How does that suggest I’ve become my mother?  It doesn’t, to be honest, because my mum would have also ticked all the ‘I can help out’ boxes that accompanied the notes.  Parties, Christmas Fairs, trips, reading, embroidery…my mum helped out at them all.

Daughter would be lucky if I turned into my mother.  Without doubt, she was (is!) a better mother to me than I can ever hope to be to Daughter, and I really do try.  She was a stay-at-home Mum, and Sister and I never batted an eyelid to that, because most mums were then.  I don’t think we ever even considered that she might have had any other interests than us.  We never couldn’t wear our favourite dress because it was languishing in the ironing, (which is exactly where Daughter’s favourite school dress was when she wanted to wear it last week).  We never had to wait to wear our new pyjamas because they’d gone to my Nan’s to be taken it (which is exactly where Daughter’s new bought-especially-for-wear-pyjamas-to-school (again) –day are).  My pump bag had a hand embroidered name on it.

Imagine now, someone doing everything in their power to tend to your needs.  Before you even realised it was a need.  I don’t think that Sister and I were spoilt, but Mother’s number one purpose was making sure we were happy.  And we guzzled it up, not thinking twice.

It’s not even just the doing, which I like to think I would do if only I didn’t have to go to work.  The other overwhelming memory is that our mum was always, always interested.  And that’s where I fall way short of the example.  I famously have No Patience, and I wonder what Daughter misses out on because of that.  No wonder Daughter always wants to go to Nanny’s.  The only time I really remember Mother having no patience with me was when I had just learnt to sew and I sewed my bit of fabric to my tights.

I wouldn’t like you to think that Mother is some kind of apron wearing wet nelly, not at all.  But she is an example of a woman who sacrificed her own list for ours, and without a word of complaint to us (can’t guarantee that Father didn’t get the occasional ear bashing!).  So on that front, no; I haven’t turned into my mother because whether it’s choice or circumstance, Daughter’s list runs alongside mine.

But there are a myriad of ways in which I have turned into her, such as…

·         Airport stress and panic

·         Finishing people’s sentences

·         Talking to checkout operators

·         Forcing medication on people

·         Wanting to buy gifts as soon as people indicate they want them

·         Pressing food on people

·         Stocking up on a particular food once Husband has said he liked it once

·         Pulling a pursed-lipped face (po-face, we used to call it) when I disagree with something or pretend that I don’t think (scratch that, know) I’m right

Not too traumatic a list, I suppose.  But it’s interesting that it’s me that’s turning into Mother and not Sister.  Ah, that’s because she’s turned into Father!  That probably warrants a new post of its’ own!

Friday, 8 November 2013


I get lost all the time.  You wouldn’t believe how lost I can get.  It’s like I lack any kind of internal compass.  It surprises me, because Father knows how to get everywhere, and equipped me in all my pre sat nav travelling with clear directions, generally punctuated by pub landmarks.  Sister is relatively savvy in a local way.  Mother is quietly skilled, but me – blindfold me and spin me around in the living room and I’d get lost on the way to the kitchen.

It’s so bad that I have actually relied on Daughter (who’s 5, remember), to point out the way.  We were off on a family day trip and were setting the sat nav up, and she asked why we needed it.  So as not to get lost, I told her.  She looked at me with wide eyed incredulity.  ‘But we’ve been before!’.  So you see how challenged I am.

I’ve had a couple of corkers in the space of a week.  They were both on a Thursday, and so I will be driving straight home from work next Thursday (one of the few journeys I manage without a hitch).  Last week, I was heading to a Halloween party straight from work.  Husband had gone to Sister’s house, and they and Brother-in-Law were taking Daughter and Niece off to a party at a cricket club.  Sister gave me a couple of landmarks, and I set off reasonably confidently.  It took me three quarters of an hour.  It should have taken me ten minutes.  What I didn’t realise was that I’d been right by it three times but each time had turned right instead of left.  In my defence, it was dark and not signposted at all.

Then yesterday I had to go an event at a local school for work.  I’d forgotten the sat nav, but the route planner I’d looked at told me 9 minutes.  The directions seemed straight forward enough.  Over an hour later, with the car running on fumes, I decided to try and head home.

I need The Knowledge.  Maybe I should sign up to some kind of taxi drivers course.  I thought it was an age thing, because I used to think nothing of driving into the city centre every Saturday (cheaper petrol and free parking), but while I took my eye off the ball and had a baby, they rebuilt the city and suddenly half the roads I used to use had disappeared, and it was all unfathomable.

I’ve got a couple of even worse examples.  Pre husbands, Sister and I went off to a wedding in Sheffield, me at the wheel.  We’d booked in to a hotel and the plan should have given us time to arrive, have a leisurely lunch and get changed.  When we saw a sign for Hull, we rang Father.  Apparently we had gone too far!  We begged the hotel to make us a sandwich and took hurried bites in between hair and makeup.  Father directed us home via a phone call every 15 minutes.

And then there was the year that me, Sister and C went to Blackpool for New Year.  This time C was driving.  We set off on the return journey (having arrived unscathed) and at some point one of us commented it seemed to be taking forever – a very long hour indeed.  The reason for that was because we had completely missed our Liverpool exit and were nearly in Birmingham.

So if I ever offer you a lift, be certain that you know the way, because there’s no guarantee that I do!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Little Miss Poorly

Daughter is poorly.  I should have realised she was under the weather when she didn’t join in at the party we went to on Saturday afternoon at all, but being the unsociable flower she can be, I just thought it was par for the course .  Then Auntie T and Big Cousin C visited, and she was on top form, impressing them with her interpretative dance routines.

On Sunday, she woke up at a time that should be illegal at the weekend.  Surely 7.20am is still the middle of the night on Sunday?  And why is it that I have to drag her out of (our) bed on a school day?  By 9.30am she was asleep again and our suspicions were roused.  She had a brief spell of cheerful wakefulness an hour later and then bam!  Asleep again.  She missed her new ballet class, much to the apparent distress of her Little Cousin E, who has been going to the class for an age.  And that was the hope of a pleasant Sunday gone.  She spent the day crying or sleeping.  She chose me as her cushion, and I caught up with some TV.  Even though she was poorly and I was trapped, a little part of me quite enjoyed it.  It’s been a long time since she’s had a sleep on me in the middle of the day, and a sleepy snuggle is right up there in my top five.  Her little baby face was so cute and peaceful, and just so lovely.  I did manage to make a roast dinner in between tears and snores, although I did forget the peas and the potatoes were extra crispy.

She slept with me, and Husband retreated to the spare room.  It was like sleeping with a ball of fire.  The morning brought a complaint that the light was too bright and off we went to the doctors.  Tonsillitis again.  She is definitely her Mummy’s daughter on this one.  Feeling like a bad Mummy, I organised a relay of Husband and Mother childcare and went to work, costing me £6.50 because the car park was full (the early bird catches the parking space where I work) and I had to park elsewhere.  I got in, and within half an hour she was sleeping on me again, which of course lead to a nightmare bedtime.

She slept with me again, and despite having half a double bed to herself, I still found myself hanging off the edge.  I’m surprised I didn’t wake up bald, because she pulled my hair like a caveman would to a prospective wife.  And then at 5am, a little cry of ‘Mummy, I feel really poorly’.  Cue soothing and offers of water.  Cue ‘Mummy, I think I‘m going to be…’.   And I learnt once more that tiny stomachs actually do hold an awful lot when one considers it splattered across the bedclothes.  There’s probably no worse chore than changing the bed at 5am.  Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, she started to cry again.  ‘Mummy, Fluff has got sick on him!’.  I could have wept.  I’ve never been allowed to put Fluff in the washing machine, but there was no escape this time.  I gathered the sicky clothes and surreptitiously picked up Fluff.  But nothing gets past Eagle Eye.  I fobbed her off with some story about putting him on the radiator to dry.  Off I went to put on my dawn wash.  As if to punish me for lying to my little innocent, a greater force got its back on me and pushed me down the last four stairs.  Yes, I did hurt myself.  But more importantly Fluff survived the wash and she was none the wiser.

Motherhood.  Imagine the job description!  But vomiting and falling down the stairs notwithstanding, it really is the best job ever.  I’ll consider my vomit stained PJs a badge of honour, and my salary is paid in cuddles.  If only I could get the mortgage company to accept that kind of currency!