The Luck Rollercoaster

Talking of Parenting Fails, we’ve had a recent spate of good luck (I won free tickets to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, a pair of return ferry tickets to Orkney, and a free money purse) followed by a run of bad. Only the bad luck is vaguely interesting – want to hear about it?

Unlucky Number 1

The first of the 3 was when The Boss created for the minxes their very own scene from Frozen when he shattered the rear windscreen of the car over them.

Who needs a windscreen anyway..? Image: Frozen cover by electronic pop duo RKVC; from their website.

We were 8 hours into the long journey from outside London to home after a lovely week’s holiday at The Boss’s parents, and still had 200 miles to drive. We stopped at Annandale Water services for a quick legstretch walk around the wee lake and a coffee for me. The Boss strapped the minxes into their car seats then slammed the door shut. I think this must have been when the gas strut that holds the boot door open sheared off, because he then opened the boot to fetch some sweeties, and then shut it with an almighty BANG. The gas strut poked through the windscreen and the glass shattered into thousands of tiny blue squares. Luckily we drive a saloon-style car so it showered over the parcel shelf and not over the 3 traumatised little screamers in the back seat.

It took a looooong time to calm the kids and reassure them that no-one was hurt and everything was fine and that I wasn’t really going to kill their father…

I swear thunderclouds follow us around, just waiting on a wee bit of bad luck for their opportunity to make things 100 times worse with the addition of heavy rain. Remember the last 2 epic walk fails? Sure enough, as I came up for air after calming down, there was a big, black cloud. Down came the rain through the jagged hole in the back of the car. Thankfully, the 3 fleecy cuddle blankets that happened to be in the back seat worked wonders in propping up glass shards and catching the worst of the rain.

What can I say about the rest? We couldn’t get a repair any time soon (Autoglass sucked their teeth when we told them we were in Scotland, then said they reckoned they could get a new windscreen to us in 11 days) and the sympathetic cleaner at the service station helpfully warned us to buy a £14 parking ticket to avoid an automatic massive fine if the car was going to be there longer than 2 hours. Another helpful cleaner helped me source 5 fantastically thick bin-bags to make impromptu repairs. The Boss was kept busy and out of trouble by ferrying minxes to the toilet, packing up all 10,000 loose items in the car cabin and boot, and phoning the Breakdown Recovery helpline that I suddenly remembered we’d gotten free with my last main dealer service – excellent! A pick-up truck turned up after a few hours and towed us to the garage after swapping banter about overly-strong husbands. The minxes perked up at the adventure of strapping their car seats inside the cab of a real, actual tow truck that was loud and rumbly! They also cackled hysterically at the driver’s ring-tone for calls from his wife (general alarms) and text messages (gunshots). They loved that the courtesy car to get us and half our luggage (the important stuff: Maxi’s birthday presents and the kids’ clothes) was teeny: The Boss had to squeeze in the back with Maxi and Midi, and Mini’s big car seat had to go in the front beside me. It was smelly and dirty, the inside windscreen was smeared with something that wouldn’t wipe off (dog drool?), the tires needed a lot of inflating and it leaked ‘stuff’ from under the bonnet, but I didn’t care: I filled it with petrol, filled ourselves with a celebratory and speedy Da Evul McDonalds Fast Food, pointed it north and got us home the same night. Hooray!

We swapped it for our car and the rest of the luggage when another tow-truck arrived at home the next afternoon. Our Mondeo became the local comedy feature for a week until the new windscreen arrived. It wasn’t that it looked like a chariot: it was more the sight of me painstakingly brushing the ground around the car with a dustpan and brush to pick up every last little bit of glass. I’d have been better hoovering the drive like The Boss.

So: bar one emergency journey to the garage for the new gas strut, with our temporary dustsheet/tarpaulin windscreen billowing in the breeze because it was only held together with a ton of string, sellotape and earwax, we were confined to home for the entire second week of the Easter Holidays. The minxes loved that, spending hours every day pedaling around the cul de sac with their fellow little girl cycle-gang members in one big feral pack, terrorising all the adult commuters, so it wasn’t all terrible.

Unlucky Number 2

The 2nd of the 3 bits of rotten luck happened just one day after we got the new windscreen: Midi was mucking about on her bunk bed, slipped, and bashed her front teeth on the bunk barrier. The Boss was up to his elbows in bright purple hair dye and I was in the bath, having my hair painted (well, it’s less messy that way). After stopping the bleeding and crying, Midi starting spitting out little chunks of tooth. I was pretty sure they were baby tooth fragments, but put them in a bit of milk until I was sure. Paracetamol calmed the pain and I couldn’t see any adult tooth damage, so decided to leave the dentist visit to the next morning.

Well, it took an hour of not getting through to the dentist to realise that it was a local NHS holiday. I spoke to a very helpful (!) person on the emergency dentist line. After explaining what had happened and asking if a dentist could check the bits left in her gum, the telephonist recapped:

Her: “So which tooth has fallen out?”

Me: “No. Both her top front teeth have broken into bits”

Her: “Is that front left or front right?”

Me: “Both. Both.

Her, scolding tone: “Well, at 7 it’s completely normal for her teeth to fall out anyway. And because they’ve come clean out…”

Me, interrupting: “They’ve not fallen out; they’re broken. They’re smashed. They’re both in pieces. She has half a tooth left in one bit and a little shard of the other tooth still in her gum”.

Her: “OK… I can make an appointment for you at 2.10. Please be there 5 minutes beforehand”

Me, after a pause: “… And where’s that appointment at?”

Her: (says name of nearest city)

Me: “…Uh, which surgery will that be at?”

Her: (says name of a street)

Me: “Can you give me an address I can look up? I don’t know (city) – I’m new here”

Her: (starts giving me driving directions from “the barrier” of the city’s hospital. I know of at least 3 barriers I can enter by, all about a mile apart. I’m not sure that her request to “look for the green wall” will be helpful to me or not)

Me, sighing: “Can you say the name of the surgery again slowly?”

So: the city is an hour’s drive away and I won’t get back in time to pick up Maxi from school – I’m going to have to take both girls out of school for the afternoon, and Mini will be with us anyway. Oh me, it’s the first day back at school, but the school staff are wonderfully helpful and sympathetic.

We eventually find the dentist, just as the rest of one tooth fell out in Midi’s hands. The dentist asks me whether I want the other tooth extracted or not. I’m not sure I’m qualified to have an opinion or not, y’know… She beckons me over to look in Midi’s more-sharklike-than-usual little mouth. I admit that I’ve happily carried out emergency first-aid on severed fingers and bashed heads, but anything to do with teeth makes me want to boak. She made me look. I nearly barfed.

All ended well when the rest of the teeth fell out a few days later. The Tooth Fairy showed her sense of humour by giving a coin for every tooth-fragment. It still only totalled £1, despite Midi’s hopes of a gold coin for every piece!

Unlucky Number 3

On the way home from the emergency dentist, the 3rd bit of rubbish luck hit us. Literally. We stopped at a busy roundabout and were shunted. I’d had the amazing good fortune to have put the handbrake on, so we didn’t go rocketing into the path of the lorries and cars thundering round the roundabout. Still, the jolt and the huge BANG made my hands shake and the minxes scream in terror. It took me a few attempts to put the hazard lights on (why won’t my hands work? Why are they hitting the radio button? Why are they now hitting power? Why won’t they go to the hazards? What’s wrong with the link between my brain and my hands?!)

I soothed the kids, checked no-one was hurt, got out the car, and walked round to talk to 2 frightened faces in the car behind. I guess I was a bit stern as I barked: “I’ve got 3 hysterical kids in the backseat. I’m going to calm them down. Then I’m going to drive over there (pointing). You are going to follow me and then we are going to sort this out”. I whirled on my heel, did just that, then the Other Driver and me faced each other. She was very, very pregnant. We immediately established that no-one was hurt and that the bumpers were just scuffed. I gave her a huge hug and said, “Och that’s what bumpers are for”. I think the 2 men in her car were a bit startled at big scary purple-headed me giving the woman an unexpected hug, so they leapt out their car and made reassuring noises. One of them started wiping the dust and grime off my bumper with his hoodie sleeve to show me that the scratches weren’t too bad, bless him, and it took me a while to persuade him to stop.

The woman and I swapped details, frightened hands making our scribbled notes look like they were written by axe-murderers, then I walked the adrenaline off for a bit before driving home.

The bumper didn’t fall off and everything was fine. I admit to hibernating for pretty much the following week. Shields up!

One Month After Maxi and I Finally Had ‘The Talk’

Remember back in September when Maxi first asked me about sex? Well, she never did get back to me about those finer details. She’s in a composite class with kids ranging from 8 to 12 year olds, so I figured they’re probably discussing sex amongst themselves. The subject didn’t come up naturally in conversation at home, and I couldn’t find a non-cringeworthy way to just broach the subject. So I finally pulled my finger out last month and sourced some books from the library to help:

“Let’s talk: about girls, boys, babies, bodies, families and friends”, Harris, Robie H; Emberley, Michael. Walker, 2007. It was listed as being roughly appropriate for ages 4-7 years.

and

“Let’s talk about where babies come from: a book about eggs, sperm, birth, babies and families” (same authors and publisher, from 2002). This was listed as roughly for ages 6-10.

The Boss and I read through them first to get an idea of what a pair of very well-researched books reckoned was about the right level of detail to explain to our 3 different minxes. I was deeply impressed with their straightforward content, the brilliant illustrations, their lightness of touch and whole approach. It all fitted very well with the no-nonsense way we (ok, I…) have been talking to the girls their whole lives about how their bodies will change at puberty, periods, and where and how babies grow. But I have to admit that The Boss and I still privately giggled over the books like a pair of immature schoolkids. We sniggered here and there, but I really creased up, laughing in shock, dismay and embarrassment, when I saw that the book for younger kids explicitly mentioned that sperm meet the egg because the man and woman get so close that his penis goes inside the woman’s vagina, and that it was called ‘having sex’. Oh… my… word! Yes, that’s a very straightforward explanation. Grand. So therefore we should be explaining in this much detail to Midi and Mini, too?! …Um, y’know, just hold on there a wee minute…

At that moment, I discovered just how old-fashioned and easily embarrassed I truly am. The mere thought of 7 year old Midi curling her lip in disgust at the idea of sex made me blush. Still, I could just about face my kids and give it a great shot of feigning ‘hey, this is no big deal, it’s just information about bodies and how you were made’. But I couldn’t face their friends’ parents hammering on our door, asking us to explain exactly why their little 3 year olds were running about shouting about penises: I absolutely, positively, definitely know that Mini would merrily spend the next 3 years telling the entire world (and his dog) all about what she’d learned. So I bottled it: I gave the first book to Maxi, asked her if she wanted to read it by herself, then said I’d ask her some questions when she’d finished.

The Boss and I stifled more nervous giggles while she read studiously. Putting on a face that was serious-but-nonchalant-and-a-bit-cool (well, it looked like that in the mirror when I practised – it probably just looked constipated), I asked her if there was anything in the book that was new information to her. She said she’d loved the ‘pretend x-rays’ that illustrated what people looked like inside. Hmmm, that’s not what I’d meant… I dived straight in and asked her if she’d known that sex was how sperm and eggs meet? I reminded her that a while ago she’d said that no, she hadn’t wanted me to tell her exactly what sex was. So was this new info to her? No, she said, she’d heard people talking about it ages ago. We chatted about the bits in the book she’d found interesting. Did she have any questions for me? Just one – could she read the second book?

She really enjoyed the older book. It didn’t go into sex in any more detail, other than that it was something only grown-ups did, but I’d already told her that.

I suggested that The Boss read the first book to Midi as a bedtime story. He suggested she read it herself when he was out of the house. I decided to put it all off for a wee while longer and chat about it with her in the summer holidays if the subject didn’t come up by itself in the meantime.

Anyway, fast-forward a month to this afternoon, on the drive home from swimming lessons.

Maxi: “Muuum, you know how babies are made and how sperm meets eggs? Like, exactly how the sperm meets the egg?”

I gripped the steering wheel a whole lot tighter. What timing, Maxi; what timing… “Yeeeeees”, I replied warily.

Maxi: “So you and Dad have done that 4 times?”

Me: “No: lots more times than that. Why?”

She looked at me in the rear view mirror, a look of abject horror contorting that beautiful little face. “Ewwwwwwww!!!!” she gasped.

Predictably, I sniggered. Well, it’s obviously my most eloquent answer to anything to do with sex, it seems.

Maxi: “Why would you ever want to do something like that?!”

Me: “Well, um, er, because actually it feels really nice”, to her disbelief. So I added: “But only when your body is completely mature and you’re a woman, not a girl. Otherwise, yeah, it would be pretty nasty”.

My cheeks burned. So did the back of my head, as my 9 year old stared at me in a strange mix of disgust and bemusement for the rest of the drive home.

I shared her observations with her Daddy later on, when just the 3 of us were in the kitchen. He laughed louder than she did, and agreed with me that every person who ever was, felt yucky about the thought of their parents having sex.

Yeah, right, Mummy. Crack on with those dumb-ass explanations. You're doing grand. I'm so not laughing...

Yeah, right, Mummy. Crack on with those dumb-ass explanations. You’re doing grand. I’m so not laughing…

Oh boy… Oh well, at least that’s now broken the ice for future chats with Maxi about the emotional side of sex. One down, 2 even more disparaging daughters to go.