Long Time No Blawg

I know I don’t blog about Roo so much and I tend to focus on Flo, but his time will come. Believe me. There’s just so much to talk about with him currently that my fingers would be reduced to stubs from typing for so long. I prefer to discuss this particular wrecking ball over a glass of something alcoholic with somebody offering occasional sympathetic nods.

I digress. My little girl turns four next month. She’s not as little as I like to think and make out that she is. Flo has realised what it takes to be cool at nursery, and every day I feel like I’m losing a little bit of the baby she was.

“I’m going to call you Mum from now on.”

“Oh. Why? Don’t you call me that anyway?”

“No. When I was younger, I called you Mummy. Now you are Mum.”

“Oh, right.”

“Mum?”

“Yeah?”

“Just checking it works.”

I feel like I’ve had to step up to the mark more than ever this past year. She’s watching everything I do. She is downloading information from my body language, absorbing words that I say and figuring out how to put them into her own context. She’s watching how I react to situations and mirroring them when she encounters them for herself. It is, quite frankly, terrifying.

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It’s a level of responsibility that I never thought I would encounter so soon. I think it’s slightly naive of me to think this in hindsight, but in my eyes she’s not three-nearly-four; Flo is my baby. In my mind, she’s still a chubby little kid with a cute fringe that can barely count to ten. And then she walks into the room; bangs grown out, legs that look too long for her body and is counting to 30. In French. Whut.

The stepping up to the mark has had to come in the form of loving myself just that teensy bit more. I’ve had to have more faith in my decisions and stand by them. I have had to go about my day with the conviction that the path I am taking is the right one to wander down. I put myself down a lot and I always have – self-deprecation gets you places; people think you’re funny. However, having confidence in yourself gets you to the right places. The places that were waiting just around the corner for you but you were looking too far past to even take them into consideration.

It hasn’t been easy and I am trying my hardest to take any and all compliments well. The bad thing is that I am always looking for a loophole in what somebody is saying; I’m always waiting for the backhand, the ‘but’ or ‘although’ or ‘however’, or at least the comparison. But I’m surrounding myself with people who don’t offer that option. I’ve got friends who have fought my corner (hard!), and it’s not against anyone else but myself. They’re fighting to get me to see myself for how they see me.

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And so I’m taking what they’re saying into consideration. There are no negatives, only constructive positives. That is what I want for my daughter. I don’t want her to view herself as being dependent, as being a failure, as being not pretty enough.  I do not want her to think that she is any less than the amazing little being that she is, but I understand that that has to start with me.

I have started to recall to her the good things that I hear or see about myself. I tell her when I have aced my lesson observations. I let her know if I feel I’ve played a piano piece really well. I say I’m beautiful in front of her, I say I love my curves in front of her, I say that I love how my cheeks pop when I smile in front of her. (These are things that have been said to me; they’re not original thoughts.) The more I say it, the more I believe it. The more I believe it, the more I will say it. It’s a precious little infinity circle that I never want to break.

The result? I have a little girl who chastises me for thinking that I am anything less than what I am. She tells me that she is smart, she is funny, she is kind. She makes a point of rolling her eyes and smiling when her brother copies her and explains that it’s because she is such a good teacher that he is doing so. She describes her friends and family as if she were writing an ad for them. If she has to put something down, she gives a reason to balance it back up again (e.g. the kitten scratched her but it’s okay because he’s just a cheeky little cat trying to have fun and he’s only a baby, he doesn’t know any better!).

I just hope I’ve done the right thing.

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The Baby/Life Balance

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A year ago today, we (Me, F&R) moved into our house. It was a bit of a manic blur, to be honest; I’d never lived entirely on my own, especially not with two very small children in tow, and the amount of people that rallied around from start to finish and got me fully moved in made it so that I felt like I was just standing on the sidelines and watching for most of it. I was starting from scratch and didn’t know how to cope. When the kids went to bed at 7, I went to bed five minutes after; I didn’t see the point in staying awake when I had nobody to converse with, and it would make the next day come quicker. People told me that time was a great healer, and I was desperately wishing for the days to pass by as fast as they could so I could get to a safe space. It’s the only self-care for my mental health that wasn’t a conscious effort – it was me giving up.

My children became my comfort blanket. Although I like to live quite spontaneously, there’s something quite reassuring about the routine that they had instilled in my day. Not everything had to have a purpose, as such, but it certainly helped. Walks around my new hometown gave me a sense of familiarity as well as getting us out for a little while; visits to friends and family gave me the chance to natter off any concerns and worries I had; popping along to mother & toddler groups helped me to see that I wasn’t alone in my situation. Whatever I was doing, it wasn’t around my schedule. I had other people to put before me. They are still put before me in everything I do.

I’m a great starter, OK-middler and rubbish finisher. I am disorganised. I rely too much on the help of others, particularly my family. I don’t have many friends, just a bunch of acquaintances; I’m not as popular as I think I am. Teaching is a profession that I would absolutely suck at, as well as being one that isn’t compatible with family life or relationships. Some things you hear so much that you start to believe them, regardless of how long you have been working towards it or how important it is to you. As such, these thoughts about myself had been swirling around my head for such an amount of time and given me enough self-doubt that I had reached a point where I had become frozen.

Eventually, I stopped going to bed really early. I sat and listened to myself. I went over the thoughts in my head and focused on what I needed to do – not just for the kids, but for me too. I applied for the PGCE that I had been put off doing.

I got rejected.

I’ll say it again: I’m a great starter, OK-middler and rubbish finisher. I’d started and I’d not even gotten to the middle before being turned away. I’m quite accepting of situations, which is my downfall. I had fully accepted that I wasn’t good enough, and that was that. Then my comfort blanket was brought up. How could I show such complacence? How would I set a good example for my kids if I just sat back and nodded and didn’t question a) why and b) what I could have done better? If this was the start, what else would I sit back and let slide by? I went to the top and asked what I had done wrong. The answer was simple: my personal statement wasn’t up to scratch, but I could send another one if I wanted. And so I did. I got an interview. I went in and completed the interview. I came out, and…

I got rejected.

But now, I liked the feeling of not being complacent anymore – of not accepting satisfaction unless it was entirely right for me. I got in touch again. I jumped through the hoops, ran the race and hurdled the obstacles that they set out for me, the conditions that I had to meet over the course of a couple of months. Eventually, I got to the end.

I’d finished. I’d been a great starter, an even better middler and a fantastic finisher.

A year ago today was new beginnings in doing something that I had never done before and previously had thought that I would never be able to do by myself. Today, I started my Primary PGCE – which, to me last year, would have seemed unobtainable. I’m trying to think of things that are out of my reach now that I’m going to push myself to go for. The spontaneity will have to sit tight for a bit, but as long as I have the drive of doing the best for me and my pod, I know that we’ll all do just fine – and, really, there doesn’t have to be an end. Not if we don’t want there to be one.

 

 

 

 

 

Roll Up And Ride On Regression

I’m very prepared to admit right now that, as a single mum of two young children, I rely on the television a lot. It helps to appease a lot of situations, especially when I’m trying to Get Shit Done. We tend to spend quite a lot of time out of the house, but it provides a comfortable level of background noise for when we’re in.

A couple of months ago, I lost the remote for the TV. I scoured high and low for it, and the general conclusion was that it had been placed in the bin by a small boy who had obviously been fed past midnight and was going through one of his utter gremlin episodes. I didn’t intercept it before it made the journey to the outside bin, never to be seen again, and so we couldn’t watch the big black box anymore (no matter how much I pressed all the buttons on the side in some vain attempt to get it to work). So I tried streaming CBeebies through – before realising that I could get anything I wanted up to show them. Which means that 90s me was screaming on the inside to let rip with my childhood favourites. Obviously, I happily obliged this inner voice and eagerly studied my children’s faces to see if I could spot any signs of inherited glee. Here were my findings:

 

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First up, boating classic Rosie and Jim. I’m never quite sure of the person who’s steering the boat; I had vivid recollections of a guy with a beard (maybe John?) and a woman they called Loopy Ears. There may have been others, but I wasn’t interested in them at all – I just wanted these snogging, glorified sexdolls to tell me a story.  They’re so dead behind the eyes. What happens when the cameras aren’t rolling? (or when they are…)

Flo’s verdict: Really boring, wanted to know why the duck didn’t move, thought Jim was a girl.

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Next was this work of brilliance. I have the Moomins on DVD, so they were easy enough to find. I always forget just how dark this cartoon actually is, and how horrifying that tiny shit Little My appears to kids. Only when Flo started asking me “why is the ginger one so angry and scary?” did I regress and feel her terror.

Flo’s verdict: Watched for quite a bit, didn’t stop asking what animals Moomins were (wasn’t satisfied with Moomin, wanted to know what country they lived in – told her Finland as I thought this would be correctish?), was a bit overwhelmed by it all. Roo was enchanted and watched the whole thing. Good boy.

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Where does it gurrrrrrr? Where does it stop? Hopefully not at the Dot stop, that was a pile of wank. Thankfully YouTube makes it so you can Google whichever stop you want to land on. I went for the Roundabout stop, Why Bird stop and Playground stop (where the character from my actual nightmares, Lizzie Dreams the marionette, used to be flung around to COME ON EVERYBODYYY LET’S MOVE TO THE MUSIIIIC). Roo picked up interest with all of it, but having not been brought up with such uncertainty on what was going to happen in the show, Flo thought fit to question everything. Who’s Rosie? She’s the roundabout. Why has the roundabout got a name? Because Mr. Jolly named her. Why did he give a name to a roundabout? STOP THE QUESTIONS, SIT BACK AND ROLL UP AND RIDE ON THE MAGICAL, MUSICAL, MERRY-GO-ROUND, JEEZ LOUISE. Why’s it so hard to accept man, just go with the flow and enjoy the acid trip without any drugs entering your system.

Flo’s verdict: Confused.

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This was my absolute favourite when I was younger. Looking back, it was a bit fucked up. Three kids all live together in an abandoned house with a donkey in the back yard and a secret ratbag called Furryboo that we weren’t meant to talk about but popped up and scared the shit out of me in every single episode. One of the kids was French, one spoke like Joey Essex if he had his balls clamped and the last one was a nerd who liked to pull the others up on anything they’d gotten wrong. Recipe for disaster in the real world as Tom would’ve been dropkicked into next week anywhere else. Both kids watched all of it, mainly in a trance at Tilly’s voice (as was I at their age).

Flo’s verdict: Pretty house and they look like really good friends. Duh, course they are, they’re the Tots.

We’ve been watching more, but I’ll save them for next time. They don’t make ’em like they used to. Sigh.

 

 

 

 

 

Lend Me Your Ears

When my daughter was first placed into my arms, I didn’t know what to do. Partly because I was off my face on a combination of Pethidine and Nitrous Oxide, but even more so due to the fact that I had never really held a newborn before. At least, not held one without being able to hand them back when they started screaming, or when I felt too uncomfortable to hold them. The latter always came first.

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I had nobody to pass this baby onto. I learned this more than ever when, at 1am on a lonely yet incredibly muggy Mother & Baby ward 7 hours after birth, the cries wouldn’t stop – and I was clueless on what to do. I hobbled to the front desk and told the midwives I needed to sleep but couldn’t calm the baby down. They stared blankly back at me before slowly explaining that I needed to learn how to cope, and that she – the baby – will tell me what to do; I just needed to listen.

 

I was taken aback. I needed to learn? I don’t need to learn anything! I had always found everything so easy throughout my life, could blag my way through any exam, yet here I was with something so small and defenceless in my arms and I didn’t know where the hell to start. Clearly it was her problem, not mine, and they needed to sort it out ASAP. ‘Needed to learn’. Pfft. They must have been confused.

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Three years later, and I think I’m finally getting to grips with this form of further education. I’m keeping an open mind to my learning abilities and realising that there’s no amount of blagging that I can do to convince somebody that I’m doing a good job; the evidence stands right in front of me, now multiplied by two, and they can tell no lies (seriously, have you ever tried getting a kid in for free to an attraction by lying about their age? They’ll catch you out – they’re three years old and damn proud of it, sir!).

 

I still don’t really know what I’m doing, but these little people are guiding me. I try to do what I think is right and often get rebuked; a cry of “No, Mummy, that’s not fair!” or “I can do it myself now!”, perhaps even a “He doesn’t like that – I know what will stop him crying and it’s not what you’re doing!”. All things which stop me in my tracks and make me think about this little girl in front of me and what she’s saying. And then I flick back to what the midwife said, the anti-christ in my eyes at the time, who was right all along.

 

She’ll tell me what I need to do. I just need to listen.

 

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I have learned to cope; I have learned so much more than to cope. I have learned to love like I have never loved before. I have learned that breakfast for dinner sometimes isn’t such a bad thing, and neither is dinner for breakfast – because “it’s all going to the same place anyway”. I’ve learned songs I’ve never sang before, dances with moves I never thought I’d be able to do. I’ve learned more compassion, empathy, how to laugh at something that would have made me angry previously because, in the whole scheme of things, what is it to me? What would have seemed like my everything before is now my nothing, because these little people, they are my everything – a terrifying thought yet an exceedingly simple concept. I’m never too uncomfortable to hold them and only wish that the cuddles could go on. And hey, I’ve become a great listener to the ones who deserve to be listened to. It just took me a little bit of learning to find that out. 

Everything I Am, Plus Some

Every time I see my Nan, she says the same thing to me about my children – “They’re growing away from you from the day they’re born”. Partly in reference to how independent they are, but I think the nostalgia factor is playing the main part. It’s true. Every day they fight against something when I try to help them. Whether it’s putting words in Flo’s mouth when trying to guess what she’s trying to say (I get a firm “No.” and a repeat of what it is she’s trying to get across) or holding Roo’s hand when he’s walking, the feeling that I am unwanted in those particular departments is growing stronger with each passing minute.

 

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I constantly have to remind myself that Florence only needs gentle guidance. I see so much of me reflecting in her from day to day. The way she tries to make people laugh to gain their attention and affection; her interest in wildlife and care for everything she touches; her workings out of her family tree and wanting to know how she’s linked to people, even the small age of Big Three.

But I need to snap myself out of that. You see, she is me and so much more. She is her friends, her brother, her family. She is the kindness of her Grandma, the feistiness of her Aunt and the sass of her cousin. She is Elsa, Moana and Merida, but equally, she is Aladdin and Hercules and Buzz. She is Dolly, Bruce, Regina, Simon & Garfunkel, she is every song that ever was that she has tried to sing along to. She is me and so much more; she is double the DNA, triple the threat and a million times better than I’ll ever be. I can pass on my knowledge and she’ll add to it – that’s the way it works, right? That’s the way it should work. That’s the way I want it to work. She’ll figure out how it works before I do.

She is me and so much more. I need to bring it home and stick with it. The guidance is there but I’m learning not to be as offended when it’s skipped over. A skip is a walk with a bounce in it. Bounce your way from A to B and it’s a pretty fun journey. Right?

Right.

5 Ways To Ruin A Rug

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

When I first moved into my house, I didn’t have much in terms of decoration. I’d moved from 2-bed terrace with small rooms (apart from a massive kitchen which didn’t get utilised enough) to a 3-story house with a big lounge space. I didn’t have sofas, I didn’t have a television, and I didn’t have a rug at this point.

Fast forward a couple of weeks from moving-in day and I had two sofas, two televisions and a rug that collective members of my family had defecated on so many times that it’s a wonder it kept its red colour. (I’d like to point out that they weren’t adults at the time – I hope.)

While it’s great that so many people put towards me being able to sit down in comfort and not stare at a brick wall once the kids had gone to bed, there was just something about the rug which I wasn’t too comfortable with. After reading the last paragraph, you’re probably well on the way to realising why.

I went to IKEA a couple of months later, armed with Christmas money and various bits and bobs that I had saved up in order to chuck out the old and bring in the brilliant. I went for a nice patterned piece which I thought went well with the room. You know what I didn’t take into account it going well with?

Toddlers.

And so, let me present to you … five ways to ruin a rug.

  1. Fruit

It’s only when you become a parent that you realise just how much time Satan probably put into devising specific fruits to chuck up into that garden with Adam and Eve. Bananas leave a stain as dark as your nightmares upon clothing that promised better, and blueberries turn your kid’s crap into something you’d probably get an amazing crop out of if you were that way inclined. And then there are mangoes. Delicious mangoes. My children feast on these as if they’re the last food on earth. Apart from when they don’t feast and are saving them for later, inevitably smashing them into my poor new rug in the process.

2. Shake ‘n’ Vac

I thought that this would be brilliant stuff to help rid my rug, the room, my life, of any unwanted odours. Turns out that it does get rid of odours, it just won’t come out of any carpet that’s a bit wavy. Should’ve read the label really.

3. Play-doh

Present my children with this at your peril. I have learned my lesson with play-doh. We can be having nice (contained!) fun with it on a table, and no matter how careful I am when packing away, it still makes its way to the rug. How? We’ll never know. Science. Magic. Voodoo.

4. Pens

Again, something that as a rule stays firmly away from the carpeted area, yet still manages to creep in up the sleeve of a child. I only tend to notice once they’ve coloured a flower in.

5. Me

I’m a law unto myself some days. The amount of stuff I’ve spilt on that rug is diabolical. Tea, wine, curry, my solitary tears. Everything. Let’s see how long this one lasts.