Mummy Hugs

An hour ago Midi Minx woke up crying, fretting about some wee innocent incident a few weeks ago that her 6 yo mind is feeling guilty about. Like any parent would, I fixed it with a Mummy Cuddle. She clung to me like a baby monkey as I held her and stroked her hair out of her wet green eyes till she was ready to go back to sleep, feelings salved.

I last received a Mummy Cuddle myself 8 years ago, when Maxi was 4 months old. If I thought hard enough, I could probably figure out the exact date. My mum was newly-diagnosed with lung cancer. I’d flown up to stay with her for a few days with baby Maxi, our continual mother-daughter feud on cease-fire. We were chatting about just rubbish really as we nipped in to the local Tesco to get something healthy for dinner. Crossing the doorway I suddenly blurted out of nowhere: “I’m not ready for you to die, Mum”, and stood sobbing, baby in her car seat at my feet. I remember she enveloped me in her arms, not giving 2 hoots about all the rushing shoppers swerving around us with tuts and glares. She gave me the kind of tight body squeeze that mums specialise in, the kind that blot out all the hurt for a minute, then smiled, kissed me, and said, “I’m not ready to die yet, either. Silly girl. It’s ok. Don’t worry. So, d’you want to get a Chinese carry-out for dinner, instead?”

I’ve been watching and reading about the current Ebola outbreak for months, I think from when I first read that MSF had declared it out of control. I saw a photo the other day (above: John Moore—Getty Images from Time.com) that encapsulates everything I feel about that disease. It’s a nurse in full personal protective equipment, looking as Other Worldly as Marty McFly (Back to the Future) when he emerges from the DeLorean in Peabody’s barn in 1955. The suited-up person is awkwardly carrying a little child, maybe 2 or 3 years old, who’s suspected of having Ebola. The sheer contrast between the lightly-clad child and the plastic-layered adult stuns me. I find it so terribly cruel that because the devastating virus is passed by touching infected body fluids, people have to shield themselves from that basic human nurturing instinct: to touch. Ebola sufferers are unable to be touched, stroked, hugged when they are suffering, frightened, needing reassurance. When these babies (and children and adults) most need physical human skin-to-skin contact, they can’t have it. Survival doesn’t herald a return of the miraculous Mummy Cuddle, even if family members are still alive: survivors are reporting being shunned by fearful friends and family. I read that some Ebola survivors are trusting their new immunity to the virus to volunteer to work with children sick with Ebola, so that they can provide them with human touch.

I have an electronic friend, C, whose youngest son was born a few weeks after Mini Minx, and who shares a birthday with Maxi. We met on an online antenatal forum and kept in loose touch ever since via Facebook. A few months ago she sent owl-mad Midi a wee leather owl purse that Midi cherishes. Midi had been chattering about how kind The Lady Who Sent Me Charlotte The Owl Purse was, and I realised I’d not heard anything from her for a wee while, as you often do now with Facebook’s tightly algorithm-ed newsfeed. So the other night I clicked on her profile to catch up with her news over the past month. It was bad and I cried reading it, a whole month of posts, page after page: her little 4 yo has just been diagnosed with Stage 4 High Risk Neuroblastoma. I can’t comprehend it. My mind can’t even begin to understand that kind of devastation. It’s too big a tragedy. It’s shocking. Mind-freezing. Little Jake takes after his strong, feisty, full of life mummy, so over the coming days I’m sure he’ll be coping with his treatments like a warrior far beyond his years and experience. Midi found something for him in the shop today that she reckons will make him and his mum smile a bit (and it’s nothing to do with owls, shock-horror!) What’s making me weep for him now, though, is that last night his illness made him hurt far too much to have a Mummy Cuddle. He so badly needed one; he cried for one; C was desperate to give him a pain-blotting, fear-quenching squeeze, but he just couldn’t bear it. So cruel and unfair, to them both.

I hugged my 3 in their sleep last night a little more tightly than usual, and thought of little Jake.

Have Sewing Machine; Will Traumatise.

May 6

Maxi-gets-through-morning-school-run-without-being-shrieked-at shocker! She got up at 6.45am with The Boss and they had a lovely leisurely breakfast together. When I stumbled into the kitchen at 7.20 she was happily sketching on her billboard-sized drawing pad. Then she had her favourite kind of morning: safely tucked away in her room, away from her noisy sisters, making Lego models. Who was this happy, cheerful, compliant little girl?!

As I said, I didn’t haul my sorry bum out of bed till 7.20 – Mini had had me up for ages last night. She’d come in because … nope, I can’t even remember. A twisted sock. She missed my snarl. She wanted a cuddle. Whatever it was, it was enough for me to relent and let her in bed beside us. As usual, this was a huge mistake because she then spent the night waking up and complaining that she was cold and needed more covers; I was facing away from her and she needed Mummy Cuddles; I was facing her and my breath smelled like bums; I was cuddling her and making her too hot; I was facing away from her and she needed parental attention Right.This.Instant… yawn.

You can see how short the dress was without its new bottom tier. Loads more years left now. Ish...

You can see how short the dress was without its new bottom tier. Loads more years left now. Ish…

I spent my 90 child-free minutes today finishing off an owly dress for my Owly Girl. I’d bought a metre of owl fabric for Midi a year ago, but never used it. I’m on an insane bid to get to the bottom of my fabric stash, so decided she needed a new dress to run around in. As this was just 2 types of cotton, it was really easy to work with. Such a treat after last week’s trauma, discovering that t-shirt jersey is harder to work with than voile. (“I’ll just fold this jersey fabric in half… Argh, it keeps slipping! <shove, poke=””> Right, let’s line up this end and pin it as I go along… Smooth out! Smooth.Out.NOW Actually, banging helps <bang, thump=””> Oh hell, now it’s going all 3D on me!”). Five whole days of sailor-mouthing just to get a metre of jersey cut it in half, joined in a circle, hemmed, gathered, and attached to the bottom tier of a too-short dress. I’m never working with jersey ever again. Evil stuff! Och well, at least Midi doesn’t mind that the gathers are wonky.

Midi's Owl Dress

Midi’s Owl Dress

I finally bit the bullet and accepted that one of Mini’s library books was indeed lost forever and went to our old library to confess and pay up. The lovely librarian checked her entire stock of kids’ books in case we’d actually brought it back and it hadn’t been stamped in. She checked the bookcases; she checked the shelves; she checked the back rooms. It was so kind of her to take the time! She gently explained that the book I’d brought along to donate as a swap was no good because it had been published at a different time. We looked up the price. Yikes! She checked on Amazon for me in case we could get the exact same one cheaper. Yes!!! No… it was out of stock. Ach well, I’d brought my cheque book. The librarian said she’d check with HQ about the price because she didn’t think it fair that I pay the full price when she was sure it hadn’t been in great condition. She’d let me know. I thanked her profusely, grabbed Mini’s new stack of books and headed off.

Footery buttons and loops, but the twirling says that she likes it

Footery buttons and loops, but the twirling says that she likes it

Within a minute or 2, the librarian caught up with me in the carpark – HQ had agreed just to write it off. Wow! How lovely! I’d been fretting about the money, so I could have swung her off her feet in joy. What a kind lady! Libraries and librarians are (sometimes) just ace.

A less-than-enthralling afternoon ensued, fielding squabbling over who was getting to ride their bikes and who was going on a scooter to pester our long-suffering neighbours in the cul-de-sac. We’re so lucky that folk driving into the street seem to be very wary of 3 little female hooligans on wheels.

Though there were nearly only 2. Midi was determined to push every button of mine this afternoon, and make both her sisters cry repeatedly. I sent both her and a wailing Maxi to their rooms to separate them and give my ears a chance to stop bleeding. When I went to “have a little chat” with them 10 minutes later, Maxi was suitably penitent and looking chastened, whereas Midi was nonchalantly lounging on her bed, happily reading her new library books. She absolutely refused to apologise to Maxi for hitting her, or to me for shrieking and screaming like a banshee. I think the fact that she quietly apologised to Maxi in person, when they were washing hands before dinner together, saved her from yet another reading of the Riot Act.

I watched a tired Mini rubbing her clothes labels again tonight. Her little arm can barely twist behind her back to reach her trousers label. I asked her where she’d like me to make a tag that she could stroke on her next homemade nightie: “On your wrist? Your elbow? Your waist?” No: she preferred what she was used to (small of her back, the awkward sod). I moved her blanket round so she could reach its care label more easily. She didn’t like it. This toy? That toy? No. None of them were “rubbable” enough. I’m guessing it’s the silkiness of the tags that she loves, but Mini being the contrary sod that she is, it could be something random like the precise dimensions of the scrap of fabric!