Can I Send Them To School In Their Jammies?

Nooooooo, don't make us go clothes shopping!

Nooooooo, don’t make us go clothes shopping!

A massive box arrived today full of every single pair of school trousers that M&S do that could vaguely be in Maxi and Midi’s sizes. They’re growing like weeds, up and outwards, and have already outgrown most of the uniform bought in August. We fought from 3.45pm till 4.30pm tonight trying all 16 pairs of trousers on. After lots of squeals and yells and yanks and tugs and if-you-don’t-stand-still threats, both found 2 pairs each that vaguely fit.

Not bad, I thought – max out the credit card temporarily till the returns get processed, but save myself a long, arduous journey with 2 grumpy kids to the city, and no guarantee of any trousers in their size anyway. Bonus!

The weather forecast for the rest of the week is freezing cold, so in a desperate fit of organisation I washed and tumbled the trousers straightaway, ready to take up the hems tonight and be worn tomorrow.

Maxi’s favourite pair have shrunk so badly after one wash that she now can’t walk in them.

I’d already taped up the box of returns, so got the ‘fun’ of fighting with botch tape anew to get them in with the other eleventy-thousand returns.

I hate online shopping for trousers for kids that only list waist sizes (which are adjustable anyway) and not hip / bum widths (which aren’t), so you have to guess what size will fit. I hate that different styles have totally different fits even when ostensibly the same age size. I hate clothes that shrink. I hate ‘skin kind’ clothes that are anything but, for both the wearer and the fitter. I hate clothes shopping!

Maybe we should turn nudist and move somewhere much warmer?

/grump

Trout Throws A Tantrum

I’ve often thought about what great friends I have and how lucky I am to have met them through our kids: first you share a ‘hello’ as you recognise them in the playground; then it’s a shared raised eyebrow and telepathic message of solidarity at one of our kids throwing a tantrum; then it’s a chat in the blisteringly cold rain while we’re waiting on our kids being released from school into our care again. Next thing you know, they know you so well that they can say *exactly* the right thing to make you feel loved and accepted and forgiven and back on an even keel again.

Today those words were: “Man up!”

Tissue Heart
Maxi had quite a morning – up around 0630hrs and making the most exquisitely beautiful hand-made bit of paper shaped in a loveheart for her Daddy’s birthday. And I mean hand-made – she’d obviously spent hours ripping up tissue, toilet roll and paper into the most tiny pieces. When I found it leaking a river of gungy gunk from under my laundry basket, I didn’t stop to reflect on the hard work, vision and sheer technically brilliant craftwork she’d shown. Oh no. I just saw my newly-mopped floor being stained and my long-suffering laundry basket about to go mouldy. (Of course it will. Instantly). I grumped and helped her put the heart-paper under a pot instead.

She niggled at both her sisters. She tormented Midi so much about things that make her feel sick that Midi refused to eat breakfast. She niggled some more, so Midi whacked her murderously. She set off a siren wail; not a cry of distress, but a proper, stroppy wail. It feel like nails down the blackboard of my tolerance. When I feel anger at my little girl’s cry, it instantly makes me feel deeply guilty as an additional, fun, free layer. Kind of like a depth-glaze to my cross-ness.

As an encore, Maxi decided to make Mini cry. Then she sat at the breakfast table repeating the same nonsensical phrase over and over and over and over and over again, twiddling with and rattling felt pens, even when I took them off her. She ignored me when I told her to stop playing and eat breakfast or she’d be late. At 0830hrs, 2 hours after getting up, she was still in her nightie. I marched her into her room, picked up her discarded uniform (oh yeah, the one I stupidly bothered to iron when I felt ill) and gave it to her roughly. At 0845hrs she was still in her nightie, singing something in made-up words and annoying her sisters. I shouted. She jumped and burst into tears. At 0850hrs I flipped out at her skirt: it fit her when I bought it 3 weeks ago, but at that moment she’d tucked the front down under her tummy, pulled the back almost to her shoulder blades, and given herself a Man-Beer-Belly. I’m strict with myself about not criticising the kids’ bodies, but don’t want to give her bullies any ammunition, so insisted she straighten her skirt. I didn’t do it very sensitively, so she stropped and wailed and flounced. At 0855hrs I sent her sisters out the house and slammed the door on Maxi.

I started marching to school, intending to entreat the care of the younger pair off on any willing parent while I ran back for Maxi. When she saw I was really walking her sisters to school without her, she magically got her stuff together and got out the house. Yes, I was that Terrible Chav Mum, yelling at her in the street. Again. No self-control. Adult tantrum. With a croaky throat.

I ignored her and walked to school with the other 2, then felt deeply shamed as she came up to me at the gate and gave me a kiss goodbye, looking and acting like nothing had happened. Oh God. Either she’s not affected at all by this horrible morning and doesn’t realise why I completely lost my temper or she’s so used to me being angry that it no longer affects her. Guilt. Anger. Guilt. Anger. Guilt. Guilt. More guilt. She’s just a little girl. She’s not behaving like this just to make me angry.

I wailed at some friends that I couldn’t cope any more. They applied Emergency Pal Aid and talked me into a better perspective in the playground and in the street for a while afterwards.

The irony of my friends giving me the parenting that I needed wasn’t lost on me. If only I’d applied the same loving help to my little daughter when she was in the same boat as me not an hour earlier… Still, I know she’ll be having a lovely, supportive and happy morning in school right now. And until I get another opportunity to practice not being wound-up about things not worth being cross about, I’ve got 2 birthday cakes to finish baking that’ll soothe my guilt till home-time.

Rinse and repeat.

Grumpy McGrump From the Land Grump

The Good

Essential item on The Trout’s list to Santa

Midi coughed at dinner and sprayed me and the wall and my food with a mouthful of snot-streaked milk. Mini rubbed her eczema-covered flaky face and hands over my jumper to scratch it, and left a few million flakes of skin on me, like a leper. Maxi howled over me after swimming, wailing that she’d failed her assessment because she’d not done half of it.

“I couldn’t hear what they asked me to do!” she wailed. Why not? “Because I was still halfway down the pool!”

Over a river of snot (hers) dribbling down my jacket, I repeated the monologue I give her every single week: if she’s too slow or distracted or absent-minded to do what they want her to do, in the time they give her, then she absolutely has not met the criteria to progress. There is no blame or fault. I will not ask her instructors to make allowances. They do not have to bend to her need to set off in her own sweet time, 3 minutes after everyone else.

I feel sorry for the poor child, as I’m only properly realising now that she honestly doesn’t have the ‘hurry’ or ‘time aware’ software uploaded in her brain that everyone else has, and also that I don’t have the skills to teach her. I just don’t. I’ve given up. It causes us all too much distress. I also fully understand the frustration and anger on the part of adults dealing with her in time-important situations. It’s easy for me to tell them that she’s not actually being selfish or precious or naughty, but it’s not easy for them (us!) to really, properly understand what’s going on in her head and cut her some slack.

The Bad

In tonight’s 30 minute journey from one small town on the east coast of Scotland to the next, I think I ran the gamut of the aggressive eejits who think the speed limit is a minimum limit. I ignored the white van towing a ride home on my rear bumper. I also restrained myself from shouting more than ‘Dickhead!’ at the moronic Jaguar driver who finally overtook, but on a solid white line in a known accident blackspot. I finally had a very petulant outburst at the BMW driver who tried to shunt me onto the dual carriageway, before he doubled-up in the central reservation and blocked my view out, then tried to undertake me on pulling off: I drove the remaining half-mile into town in 2nd gear, just for shits and giggles (mine). I wondered if the aggressive walrus would have a heart-attack? Obviously I hoped not. Ish.

I'll either send it to him as a Christmas present, or just use it as shower gel...

I’ll either send it to him as a Christmas present, or just use it as shower gel…

The Ugly

This morning I walked to the local shop with a pile of parcels to post. It was bitterly cold, but I took the time to look around at the beautiful winter sky. I watched a man open the main dog poo bin and remove the full poo bags with his BARE HANDS and sling them into the back of the Council wagon he was driving. While I repressed a bit of vomit, he drove past me and up to the shop, where he emptied their outdoor litter bins into his wagon, too, giving them a good old scoop out with his (still bare) hands. He then went into the shop, where he had a lovely big chat with the people in there. As I walked out, parcels posted, he made a joke that I stiffly replied to. “Awwwww, are you tired?” he chuckled and enveloped me in a big bear hug. He patted my jacket with his big rubbish- and dog-poo-touching hands. I detached, smiled that very icy smile that you need to have about 100 generations of British in your genes to properly do instead of punching someone in the face, marched home in a seething rage, and put the jacket straight in the washing machine. OCD? Maybe. But at least I can sleep tonight. Ewwwwww!

And that, children, is why we don’t touch our faces after shaking the hands of strange men. Or being shaken by strange, touchy-feely men.

Not a hand basin

Rights, Wrongs and Refugees

I think everyone’s seen and cried over photos of dead children and adult refugees, washed up on Mediterranean beaches. My friends seem to splitting into 3 mind-groups:

1.  ones who sympathise, but don’t see it as being something the UK should be involved in:

“Too many chancers amongst the refugees, wanting to come here for benefits and a free house”

“They should get help from the first safe country they get to – not us”

2.  ones who are heartbroken, but don’t see how they can help:

“What good is signing a petition? What can I actually do?”

3.  ones determined to do something concrete to help, collecting supplies, aid and money to be sent directly to refugees in Calais and the rest of Europe:

“Never mind an EU butter mountain – I’m adding to the Calais toothpaste mountain!”

“God, can you imagine having your period when you’re stuck living in an underpass with hundreds of other people, and you’re totally destitute?”

“If the Government won’t do anything, I will; I can’t sit and do nothing”

I’ve been starting to talk to the minxes about it. It’s difficult trying to hit the right level – baldly saying that kids like them are dying either because they stayed in their country or because they’ve not been able to get to safety when fleeing, is a bit much for a 5 year old to hear!

Why am I talking to my kids at all? Well, it came up in a long car journey conversation…

Midi’s feeling a little bit victimised by kids at school teasing her because her best friend happens to be a boy (“Oooo, you fancy him! He’s your boyfriend!”) Till now she’s chosen to ignore the silly tattle and rise above it, but is now finding it hard because in her eyes it’s relentless. So we talked about how sometimes it’s best to ignore stuff you don’t like, but sometimes you do need to stand up for yourself. We discussed things she could say back. I suggested statements she could challenge her tormentors with (and she said they were far too offensive and that I should keep my ideas to myself. I agreed that was a fair call!)

At the same time, Maxi was moaning about being stuck in the Rights Respecting Group at school, instead of the fun Gardening, Eco or Enterprise Groups that she’d hoped for. “We just get to make posters about UNICEF”, she grumbled. I reminded her about when she’d been in the Pupil Council as a P1 and had won the Headteacher’s Award for Citizenship – that she’d spoken her mind and suggested ideas to help others, and how proud I’d been (and am) of her empathy. I pointed out that she’d been able to shape the group somewhat, to make it more useful and fun just by voicing her opinions. (I also reminded her that she couldn’t judge the group on one short session, but that’s another story entirely).

I asked whether Maxi could stand up for Midi in the playground and talk down anyone teasing her sister. Maxi fretted about getting into trouble from her teacher for saying unkind things to other kids. “But what if that kid is being unkind to your sister?” I challenged. Maxi looked torn.

So that got us on to what happens when people collectively choose to keep quiet and just let wrong things happen. I told them about the Civil Rights Movement in America in the 60s. We talked about how many countries actually have to have laws now safeguarding people with different coloured skin, religion, sexuality, gender and disabilities because as a group, humans don’t seem to be brave enough to stand up to discriminating individuals and challenge their behaviours. We talked about how sometimes you have to weigh up the consequences of putting your head above the crowd and saying aloud, “That’s not right!” with what’ll happen if you just ignore it. Sometimes it’s best to say nothing, sometimes it’s not.

“You 3 children have been blessed with good brains. I hope I can teach you to use them properly and to judge right from wrong. I hope you can decide when to be brave and stand up and speak out against wrong-doing. If you do, I’ll always back you. Always. Even if you get into trouble”, I said. And gulped – I saw a suspicious light shining in Midi’s eyes, which may not be a good thing…

So then that took me onto refugees fleeing Syria in their millions, dying in their thousands, and why people in the rest of the world are upset and angry about it. Some people are angry about what their countries are doing about it, and some are angry about what their countries are NOT doing about. Who’s right? Who can know? We talked about what we can do, and I told them about some people locally collecting clothes, tents, toiletries, money, etc. I told them that the problem won’t go away by just sheltering the millions – there needs to be both short and long-term help. And sometimes it’s seems like such a huge problem that lots of people don’t know where to start or don’t think they can do anything, so feel frozen. And do nothing.

That then took us on to World War 2 (by this time we were home and sitting at the dinner table with a very perplexed-looking Boss) and how just escaping to the geographically nearest country didn’t exactly help lots of Jews… We talked about how Britain tried to be a bit understanding and did nothing at the start, then waded in, and what some of the consequences were.

didn’t talk about Britain and America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan because we would have got bogged down even more in discussing when/whether it’s proper to impose your ideas of what constitutes right and wrong. That can wait for a few years (!)

I think most of it went over their heads, and I’m dreading to think what bits stuck and that they’re now parroting in school today. But for me:

Short-term – I’m donating some supplies locally.

Medium-term – I’ve signed petitions asking for my country to accept more refugees.

Long-term – I’m trying my absolute best to bring up my children, and therefore the next generation, to empathise with their fellow humans and to be brave enough to speak out against wrong. I hope they become wise enough to judge when speaking up is enough and when taking action is merited.

Eating at McDonalds

We visited McDonalds in Dundee for lunch today to review its child-friendliness for the Soil Association, as part of its Out To Lunch campaign. They’re spending the summer, along with an army of parent volunteers, assessing whether big chain restaurants:

  • Provide fresh, good quality food you can trust
  • Make it easy for you to choose healthy food
  • Welcome children and accommodate parents’ needs

I had mixed feelings being assigned McDonalds, having been thoroughly scunnered of Happy Meals after eating there 3 times over Easter, but was game to give it a try again because it was next door to the cinema that I took the minxes to today, as a Mid Summer Holidays bribe treat.

Walking through the door, I found some floor-to-ceiling touch-screen order screens. Wow! So I can avoid that excruciating wait for 3 minxes to decide on their order after changing their minds a thousand times once we’ve finally reached the cash desk / server? The screens were easy to navigate, and even Mini Minx could understand what she could and couldn’t include in her Happy Meal. Maxi got in a flap trying to remember all the options open to her, and had to check the big menu (that didn’t actually include every option) at the front above the sole till operator. And I felt you had to already know what healthy options (side salad, carrot sticks, fruit bag) were available in order to be able to find them.

Anyway, we ordered and paid for the food no problem, and I despatched the minxes off to find a table while I loitered in the main lobby waiting on my order like most of Dundee, blocking people who wanted to place their order with (shock-horror) a real, live person. I think the delay from entering the door to getting your food was comparable to the queueing system they had before. But we parents waiting on having our food delivered actually spoke to each other (“Are those screens new? What’s the point of them? Is it faster? Load of rubbish. New, new, new. Don’t like it”). Which is more than we did with McDonald’s staff – I made a point of asking some servers and cleaners questions, but if I hadn’t, the minxes and I could have easily swanned in and out without speaking to any of the staff. That’s such a shame, because every staff member at McDonalds that I spoke to today (or ever, actually) has been polite, friendly and helpful.

The food was pretty much what you expect of McDonalds – all the fun is in the unwrapping of parcels than in savouring and eating the food itself. So I distracted myself looking around the restaurant. There was a long table filled with tablets that played computer games. Yes, they had tenuous links to food (“Help Granny Smith get her apples back from thieves”), but what were they for? Entertaining kids while their parents loitered at the serving desk? Or distracting them while they shovelled bland calories down their faces without really noticing what they were eating? I asked a member of staff what the Magic Tables were, signposted at each end of the restaurant. He said that when the projectors above them originally worked, he thought they projected fish ponds onto the table-tops that responded to people moving their hands over it. It sounded fun! And it also sounded like another way for families to get through an entire meal without noticing what they were eating or talking to each other.

After the minxes’ initial excitement at being allowed to eat and drink whatever they wanted had subsided (“Mummy, can I really have a fruit shoot?” “We’re not on Netmums, so aye – fill your boots, wee Daughter”), I asked them how their visit could have been better.

“There were no colouring-in sheets”, said Maxi, “But the crayon drawer was overflowing. What’s the point of that?” (Maybe they’d be tasty deep-fried treats…?)

“They should have Magic Tables on every table!” Midi reckoned. I disagree; I prefer the minxes to look at their food, think about what they’re eating and notice how their bodies are responding to that food. Then they can stop when they have Happy Tummies (ie are full) rather than when the feeling of being fit to burst finally surfaces into their consciousness.

I asked how their food could have been better.

“It was too plain,” said Maxi. “It would have been loads better if they’d used herbs and spices to give it richer flavours. There was too much emphasis on meat, cheese and carbs”. I pointed out that she could have chosen anything off the menu, even non-Happy Meal items. Indeed, I’d encouraged her to look. So was her criticism fair? “Yes, because the portion sizes for everything apart from Happy Meals are too big for me, and you don’t let me waste food”. True.

Midi noted that there were only 3 fish-fingers in her Happy Meal portion and that she’d wanted 5. “And there weren’t enough carrot sticks”, added my hungry 7 year old.

Mini didn’t offer an opinion on either question, being too impressed with her cheap plastic Minion toy to concentrate on what I was asking. Though I noticed that she’d left half her plain cheeseburger.

Will I go back? As things stand just now, no. McDonalds is hard to beat in terms of obtaining hot, cheap, fast food. But I feel that the subliminal message a restaurant that’s designed to appeal to children is sending is totally wrong: look at all the whizz-bang electronic things you can play with your entire visit that’ll distract you from your surrounding fellow humans and from what you’re actually throwing down your face. We won’t let your kin, strong flavours, challenging textures or even thinking get in the way of you lulling yourself into mindless sheep-sleep.

I’d rather go hungry and keep my wits about me.

Order number 24? Three Happy Meals and a coffee? Who’s Order 24? Credit: bitovi.com

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!

Standard Half-Term Rollercoaster

You're fooling no-one, Mini

You’re fooling no-one, Mini

Thursday was Day 1 of half-term. If the week continues like this, I’ll have aged a few decades before they go back to school.

It started really well with a playdate early on Thursday morning with one of Mini’s nursery friends and her little sister. The little sister is at that fantastic age when toddlers are becoming properly independent, able to walk where they want, use some words to express what they want, and in to absolutely everything. I say fantastic: it is to me, watching with reminiscing eyes and NOT the one with the sleepless nights, having to hover and Not.Blink.Not.Even.Once. Ha. I do remember and even blogged a bit about it… I guess this is what being a granny is going to feel like, but with the ‘affection’ feeling dialled right up into ‘unconditional love’.

The day got even better: a letter arrived addressed to me and The Boss from the school, telling us that Midi had gained 50 ClassDojo points*, that her teachers were very proud of her and that we should be as well. To reward her, she could come into school the next full day in whatever clothes she liked. Midi read it herself and literally bounced to the end of the house. I think she’s pleased… I’d thought they’d already made a big fuss of her for reaching 50 points: the whole of that day, she’d gotten to be first in every queue, her table were first to go anywhere, she got picked to be the one who did the weather chart, etc. etc. What a lovely thing to do! I suspect she is going to remember this achievement for the rest of her life!

After the world’s fastest lunch of fishfingers and beans (parp!), we got to swimming for Mini just in time, in our now-reliable car, and had a jolly old time while we waited on her lesson ending: I got to blether to my friend whose eldest daughter is in the same swimming class, and treated my eldest 2 minxes to crisps and fancy-pancy water.

So, you’d think they’d all be in a fairly good mood later that afternoon when we got home. Non. First, Midi was sat at the table, jabbering about someone (I wasn’t listening – I was mentally totting off a list of things to do for her birthday party on Sunday). Suddenly I heard the words “f**king w**ker” trip from the rosebud lips of my 6 yo. She also looked slyly at me. I didn’t get angry or shout. I just pointed out that if I told her teacher, she wouldn’t just lose one ClassDojo point, she’d have them all taken off her. I told her I was very disappointed as she knew better than to swear, and never in front of Mini. Midi went red, burst into tears and raced to her bed.

Well, I couldn’t shout, could I? That would have been hypocritical of Potty-Mouthed me. But I tell you, her accent when she pronounced those words was definitely not Glaswegian, so I think I can claim innocence – it had a definite ‘FOO-ging WANG-er’ sort of mid-Englandshire twang to it. So I’ve no idea where she heard it. And I reckon Mini is probably already gleefully repeating it. Bah.

I went to her room to calm her down and have a chat. Midi was sobbingly apologetic and promised not to say it again. I told her I believed her. “Don’t tell Daddy!” she begged, “You tell him everything!”. While we were quietly talking, we heard Maxi’s siren wail go off. I’ve had nearly 6 years of Maxi’s Drama Siren Shriek shattering my ears (since she was 3). Although nowadays I try to ignore it, it sets my nerves jangling every time. It sounded like she’d had a limb severed. This is normal for her, and usually signifies that Mini’s threatened to lick her soft toy Bagpuss or some other equally horrendous terror. The siren kept on. I went to investigate.

I don’t know why Maxi had been rolling on the floor in the first place, but Mini had decided to sit down on her face, hard, to get her own back on Maxi for something. Neither girl was clear on the reasoning behind any of this. Those were the only facts I got. So it seems Mini’s tail-bone battered off poor Maxi’s nose. From the initial swelling I suspected a broken nose. Luckily it wasn’t, and the new banana bend in her previously slim and pretty nose faded after lots of cold compresses.

I tell you, I really needed to get out for a glass of wine at the pub that night! My wallet didn’t – I never buy whole bottles for wine at home that cost that much – so had to nurse it all evening. Still, it was great to get out and have a laugh and a blether with a big bunch of women similarly escaping half-term demons.

*ClassDojo is a computer app that Midi’s class uses that tracks each child’s behaviour. The kids get awarded points for doing things like working hard, working well in a team, persevering, that kind of thing: there are 8 or so different areas. They can also have points deducted for bad behaviour. Typically, Midi gets one or 2 points a day. The sole time she had a point deducted she was devastated (she sobbed so much she made the classroom assistant who’d deducted the point cry). As the parents can view the points from their PC or smartphone, the app also lets the teacher send messages to parents in a whole-class broadcast or individually. Parents can also reply or send messages to the teacher. Handy! Midi’s teacher is experimenting with sending photos to parents, so the Dojo points are illustrated with examples of work that they were awarded for. I was skeptical at first, but am now a convert.

Perils of Being Scotlish

I say I say I say... This Scotsman and an Englishman walk into a bar, and... What, too soon? Too soon.

I say I say I say… This Scotsman and an Englishman walk into a bar, and… What, too soon? Too soon.

Nearly 2 weeks have passed since the Scottish Referendum. I’ve not posted anything about it on here because for the past couple of months I’ve been writing most nights, for most of the night, back and forth in private messages about it on Facebook and emails. I’m not about to start on here, either, and how I voted was private. I only mention it in relation to how it affected the minxes – the usual subjects of this blog!

On the run-up to the vote, The Boss and I distracted the kids from their usual flick-food-under-the-table-at-your-sister games by talking about it together over dinner. The younger 2’s reaction was “Mummy and Daddy are talking scribble – must mean that it’s something we’re not allowed! I want it! I want it now!” whereas Maxi thought about some of the points we discussed and argued, and joined in a bit. She was very put-out that I refused to share my voting intention with them, but hey, when your kids memorise absolutely everything they hear, to later parrot verbatim at the most embarrassing moment possible, you’re a bit careful about what you say. (I’m still haunted by the “Mummy said you probably wouldn’t be arsed to do that” ShopGate incident, and the “Where’s your broomstick? Mummy said you came in on one” debacle, and just about every single time the kids mention me at school).

Maxi was born in Swindon and picked up her Daddy’s accent, probably because he was the stay-at-home parent when she was learning to talk. As a pre-schooler she declared that she was Scot-lish, and we’ve brought her up to consider both sides of her heritage to be equally special. So she took some recent playground taunts about “The English” a bit to heart. After one doomed-we’re-all-doomed-regardless-of-the-result referendum dinner discussion between her parents, she later reflected: “So no matter what the grown-ups vote, yes or no, one side is going to hate me?” I reassured her that wouldn’t be the case; that people differentiate between a nation’s policies and its people.

In school, as in classrooms all over the country, her class discussed the main points in the referendum. It stirred up a bit of anti-English declarations, and some of the kids crowed about Maxi’s birthplace. When she told me about it, I suggested she ignore it – it would soon blow over. We talked about which kids were teasing her. I asked her what they all had in common. She noted that they were all older than her; they had all teased her about other things before; that she cared what they thought; that other kids in the class cared what they thought; and that other kids liked to copy them. I pointed out that none of them were exactly the smartest nor the most brilliant examples of logical reasoning, but I don’t think she was swayed by that.

I told her the kids were being racist and bigoted, and that if she couldn’t shrug it off, she should challenge them. “Be proud of being half-English!” I told her. “You’ve got the best of both countries!” She didn’t look particularly proud. “Your headmaster is English”, I reminded her. “If the kids say to you again, ‘All English people are stupid!’, then ask them if they think their headmaster is stupid”. Maxi sniggered. The kids’ headmaster is an absolute star. I think I’ve raved about him about a hundred times on here. No-one could accuse him of being stupid! She relaxed a bit, armed with a decent one-liner.

The next day, the day of the result, the taunts kept on. Maxi’s prepped one-liner ammunition fell on unhearing ears. She was a subdued little girl that night. When her class-mates painted a picture of The English as smug, arrogant, stupid, cruel, bloated, rich masters, Maxi was seeing those caricatures with the faces of people she loved: her Daddy, her grandparents, aunts and uncles.

Although I was sure it would blow over after the weekend, I dropped by to see Maxi’s teacher on the Friday morning, to give him a bit of a head’s up about what his pupils were saying in the playground. I didn’t name names, and I wasn’t ratting on the children, I was just sharing info that he might or might not find useful, either now or in the future. I stressed that I wasn’t making a complaint, just suggesting he maybe use it as an opportunity to discuss racism in general with the class.

At lunchtime, the head collared me, wanting names. He explained that actually there was enough being said for the police to be involved. What?!! Surely they’re just little kids? They don’t really know what they’re saying; probably just repeating what they’ve heard on the telly or at home. He disagreed, but didn’t out and out say I was being naive.

That afternoon, Maxi came skipping out of school, full of chatter about the “brilliant and really interesting” class assembly they’d just had, all about racism and judging people based on silly assumptions.

“Oh?” I said, feigning nonchalance.

“And it’s really funny:” Maxi said, “Every time Mr X asked a question, it was always A, B and C who put up their hands to answer. It was like they were just soooooo desperate to impress Mr X. If only he knew that it was really them who were being horrible to me!”

“Oh, he knows, Maxi. He knows!” I suspect that he’d have known even if I’d not grassed them to him earlier. Good headteachers are like parents: they’ve got eyes and ears EVERYWHERE. (For goodness’ sake don’t anyone tell my kids about Facebook Messenger – they currently think I’m omnipresent).

Road Rain Ragin’

Aside

Midi Minx at 22 months old, Dec 2009. Not much has changed since.

I’m so ANGRY!!!!

To the Yummy Mummy in the Discovery the other day, blatting down the back road in the pouring rain:

Yes, dear, I *know* that the nasty rain is scary! It might smear your caked make-up and fluff-up your newly-straightened bleach job; it makes you faff about with all those hundreds of confusing levers, to find the windscreen wiper one; it sprays up when you drive so fast and stops you being able to see; and it makes Torquil and Desdemona in the back squeal when it touches their precious skin. But PLEASE don’t cuddle up to my car’s bumper for comfort, because:

  • I have a heart of black coal and don’t give a shit
  • I might have to stop faster than you can blink your heavy eyes
  • … actually, I can’t be arsed anymore: BRAKING DISTANCE, BRAKING DISTANCE, BRAKING DISTANCE you stupid fool. Look it up.

And to the pair of teen wannabe goths:

Stop sticking to other cars’ shadows. The light won’t really melt you. And you might live long enough to lose your virginity. If you’re really lucky.

Let’s All Be Friends

Mums who spend their 9-5 outside the home: please don’t piss off those who work their 9-5 inside the home by implying that your office-work is more valuable or time-consuming than anyone else’s. At different times in the past I’ve done both. Nowadays I’m concurrently doing a full-time job inside the house, a part-time job at nights inside the house and a part-time job on other nights outside the house. I can therefore credibly tell you that you’re talking out of your arse.

We all work hard. We all lack free time. My limited free time is no more worthy or less valuable than your limited free time. I’m offended by your snide implications but I’ll get over it. Maybe. While I’m sat on my bum drinking coffee, channel-surfing and flicking through magazines all morning tomorrow (!).

 

Edited to add:

Now I’ve calmed down a little, I should add that this was not addressed to *all* working-outside-the-home mums. Pffft, as if! I’m just reacting to one bleat too many of “I can’t do that because I work!” from 3 specific guilty parties. I couldn’t re-educate them at the time because I was / am too angry, and am trying / failing not to take it personally.