Mother (Almost Never) Knows Best

Friday, 19 January 2018

Advice to my Younger Self Wrapped Up in an 80s Bow

As my youngest edges ever closer to meeting the admissions criteria for the exclusive club of the terrible twos, I realise that in many ways I am emerging into the light having thrown off the shackles of the baby years. With this realisation I have started to think about what I would tell my pre child self were I to be able to go back in time? What nuggets of wisdom would I impart to that naive, insecure and needlessly bored mid twenties self? Except that you should maybe avoid that hairdresser in the West End as she'll give you a shag-come-mullet hairstyle that will take forever to grow out. Being that unsolicited advice is never particularly welcome I decided to wrap it up in an 80s trend gift box to go with your inevitable and highly regrettable haircut, the all important power ballad .You are welcome.


NOTHING'S GONNA STOP US NOW

Everyone has heard this old adage before but once you are not actively preventing, you are actively trying to conceive. You'll want to give yourself time, presuming there will be difficulties and you will need to get a year of "trying" under your belt (excuse the pun) before you can secure investigation and intervention with the NHS. Don't be fooled. In retrospect, those two blue lines herald our future within one month and you shall be less than prepared.

You will sit.

For 3 hours.

Staring.

Just staring.

It will be bad timing what with a new job, a house hunt underway, a husband in training and professional exams looming in the near future but the horse will now be whinnying from the other side of the door as you ham- fistedly try to wrestle with the Yale.

Just staring...



TWO OUT OF THREE AIN'T BAD

Those three dark haired children (two boys and a girl obviously) that you have always envisioned will disappear in a plume of smoke like a bad magic act. Instead, be prepared for only being able to welcome the two into your family but being lucky enough to watch your affectionate and doting daughter help mould her younger brother into something pretty fantastic.
The Dynamic Duo

ALONE


You will never be alone. You may think this is sweet and endearing that your beloved cherubs will love you so much that they cannot bear to be parted from your loving embrace. The reality is that there will be full days where you will not get a moment of solitude and this includes bathroom breaks, showers and body hair maintenance regimes. Expect plenty of questions in relation to the afore mentioned activities. You'll start offering to do all the chores that you loathe; gallantly offering to scrub the encrusted dishes until they sparkle like a Fairy advert, cleaning out the wardrobes of all the clothes which you no longer fit and even brandishing the iron from time to time merely so that you can secure a few moments of tranquility away from the barked instructions of your toddler on how to be a good cat owner, when you don't own a cat.


You will NEVER be alone

IF I COULD TURN BACK TIME


There may be days when you feel like this. Don't beat yourself up, everyone does even if they don't say it. I realise that in your pre-child naivety you probably think that it is horribly disloyal to your unborn, perfect progeny but it's not that you don't want them it's just that sometimes you crave the hedonistic days of minimal responsibility.

Well that and lie ins. My word, do you crave a lie in.

A toddler is the cruellest of alarm clocks


THEY'D DO ANYTHING FOR LOVE (BUT THEY WONT DO THAT)

And by "that" they mean eat any non-beige food groups. I know you live on vegetables and have a remarkably healthy diet free from sugary treats (damn you diabetes) but your children will not be swayed by your behaviour. I know you've been told that they will eat whatever you eat and that it is merely your ability to parent that will prevent this. You are wrong. There is nothing and no one as stubborn as a toddler faced with vegetable.

Good luck to you and God speed.


This paltry portion will go uneaten


EVERY ROSE HAS ITS THORN

Surprises happen (you'll have two of them) and there will be times when things look bleak. You'll think you are prepared for it not to go to plan but in all honesty you will feel sucker punched. Keep going. Once you know, you know and you can start to deal with it. Hope will endure, merely shifting its focus and small triumphs will undoubtedly result. These are the things to cling to in times of uncertainty. Know that if things had worked out differently then you wouldn't have what you have now, and believe me you want what you have now.

Please though, the hairdresser? STAY AWAY.


Stock photos have been used to prevent the humiliation of the innocent

Letters to my Daughter

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

CBeebies: The Hit List

Were I to coordinate a group of assassins to neutralise the key players in the CBeebies organisation undoubtedly to the delight and admiration of my fellow parental associates (who have only gained admission to the alliance by indisputably evidencing their credentials e.g. bare handed poo fishing, scooping baby vomit from soft furnishings and anatomical crevices, regular 3 person showers and not in a good way, etc.) I am pretty sure that I could identify the potential hit list without any need for spontaneously combusting devices or "burn after reading" type instruction. Furthermore, I truly believe that there are potential assassins lurking within the CBeebies programmes who are merely awaiting instruction and would readily eliminate the "marks" at a moment's notice. Let me address the likely targets one by one:

Mark 1
Name: Bing "The Bastard" Bunny

MO: Incessant whining about all things that may not go his way. Classes any abominable behaviour as a "Bing Thing" thereby nullifying any blame that may be placed at his door. Such a deplorable, repugnant rabbit that even his parents failed to form any sort of loving connection with him, abandoning him in his infancy into the care of a stuffed toy. Aforementioned toy is clearly both clinically depressed (note the regular sighs, monotone voice, lack of heartfelt emotion, apathy) and suffering from a form of Stockholm Syndrome as he is yet to liberate himself despite appearing to be in the charge of the house keys.

Execution: I think Paget is clearly for hire. She has never forgiven the reprehensible rabbit for his pilfering ways after he pocketed that lollipop, professing ignorance over the crime of shop lifting (Thieving? It's a Bing Thing). In addition, she is also clearly harbouring a deep seated resentment regarding the abhorrent animal's hold on her beloved Flop whom she is definitely lusting after.
As a stuffed toy, Paget will be able to deliver a Myxomatosis infected vector into the mark's vicinity without risking her own health. If the contemptible cousin Coco is having a sleepover, a bonus may be required.

The Repugnant Rabbit

Mark 2
Name: Raa Raa "The Infernal" Little Lion

MO: Unabating, unrelenting, nonsensical noise maker. Only happy when irritating all those who surround him. Will even go out of his way to find other animals to disturb (see Crocky fishing, Topsy reading, etc). Incapable of musicality so will therefore relay his key information in a rhythm not unlike slam poetry. Painful.

Execution: Rumour has it that Zebby has links with the American dental community and is believed to have forged a deal in which he will trade locations of certain members of the Jingly Jangly Jungle in return for his life. Whilst generally we consider ourselves, as an association, to be animal lovers (with the exception of Mark 1) we would be willing to let this King of the Jungle go for a bit of peace and quiet first thing in the morning.
The Loathsome Lion


Mark 3:
Name: Topsy and Tim's "Galling" Grandma

MO: An incredibly silly woman with a terrible taste in canine companions. Never to be heard uttering anything of any consequence. Will frequently summon her imbecile son to run numerous errands in relation to her pampered pooches whom she treats like children.

Execution: Joy may already be plotting this one. If anything, this hired gun may need to be reigned in. Her unfeigned loathing is evidenced in her spitting out the name "Jean" whenever the grandmother makes an impromptu and unsolicited appearance. Joy clearly blames her for creating and nurturing the woeful excuse for a husband whom she has to endure on a daily basis; a man so incompetent that he can lose his keys for a full episode before having his pre schooler find them in the door.
I think with Joy, we agree to cut her loose. Let her do what she has to but agree that should she be caught we will deny all knowledge of her existence.

The Galling Grandma and her imbecile son


With this, I conclude our first round of hits. It should be noted that this list is by no means comprehensive with further marks likely to be added in the very near future. However, I think we can all agree that Duggee is entirely safe and should be considered a national treasure.
National Treasure


The PramshedPin this image on Pinterest
The Pramshed
Mum Muddling Through

Friday, 12 January 2018

Now you are 4: An Open Letter to My Daughter

Dearest Bear

So today you turn 4; a proper little girl armed with beautiful blonde curls and strong, considered opinions. Despite the fact that you will imminently be donning your oversized backpack, learning to tie a tie and waving me off at the school gates, it seems like only yesterday you hurtled into the world pink, startled and desperate to be held.
Never parted for long

Long gone are those days though as despite still being found close at hand, you are now a whirlwind of excitement, never to be restrained by physical affection and consistently travelling at breakneck speed in both body and conversation. You are happiest when letting the world know how you feel whether it be through song or dialogue and any silences that may slip through your net will be soon filled with your demand to be informed of "what's your gossip?"

Express Yourself

With such articulate and persuasive speech I sometimes forget that you are only four and despite treasuring every heartfelt disclosure that you entrust unto me, I fear that I may be a little too stringent at times which is tough on the little person who feels others' disappointment so keenly. Never take this as a criticism though. Your empathic nature takes my breath away and it is quite possibly my favourite thing about you. No one is ever to be excluded from play, your brother is comforted for every knock and hardship he endures, treats are shared with others without the need for petition and your mummy's frequent desertions to run is permitted with minimal fuss even though i know you would much rather be spending that time elbow deep in pink glitter or channelling your inner princess.

Channel your inner princess


Your moral compass is set straight and true, guiding you on a course from which deviations are few and far between. You will instinctively choose what is right over what you want without counsel and whilst this doesn't always make you popular you don't seem to understand why anyone would choose to do anything else.

Stay strong

In summary my girl, you are beautiful inside and out. Your go to emotion is unadulterated joy evidenced by the skip in your step and the song in your voice. Stay you, stay kind, stay happy.

Stay you, stay kind, stay happy

All my love

Mummy

P.S. if you could eat some non beige food in the near future I would be very grateful


Rhyming with Wine
Letters to my Daughter

Monday, 8 January 2018

The Tiger Who Came to Tea: EXPOSED

Sophie's mum was locked in the trance of an Instagram scrolling spiral when she absent mindedly reached for her drink and was both surprised and disturbed by the levity of the bottle in her grasp. Had she really finished the beers that her husband had been saving for his return from that overnight "team building exercise" in the Cotswolds? You know the one: "it's SUCH a chore", he "wouldn't go if [he] could get out of it", he would "MUCH rather be at home" with she and Sophie, she "shouldn't be jealous" as he would have "no fun whatsoever". Sophie's mother was somewhat skeptical.

To be fair it was very unlike her to drink before the all-acceptable 6pm but Sophie had been a particular terror that day. It had started with the pilfering of her mother's favourite lipstick from her coat pocket (as who actually gets to use a handbag?) She then proceeded to use the beloved cosmetic as a drawing implement to depict, what could only be described, as the scene of a massacre on her bedroom wall. All within the time it took for her mother to put a wash on.
Toddler Art

Her creative streak obviously worked up quite the appetite as, whilst her mother was distracted by her artistic endeavours, Sophie stealthily moved to the kitchen and devoured the twelve currant buns which were due to be donated to the nursery bake sale the following afternoon.
Post fuel stop and whilst her mother was preoccupied trying to salvage the walls, Sophie managed to empty all of her mother's finest hair products (overlooking the Aldi goods) into the bath before turning on all of the taps. The resulting deluge was of biblical proportions and the subsequent mopping required every towel in the house to stem the flow.
Water Play

Not yet satisfied with the level of devastation that she had left in her wake, Sophie then went on to kidnap a rather vicious looking Ginger Tom who strayed into their garden whilst her mother was still in the bathroom on bended knee, cursing her husband for having the pleasure of working full-time. Sophie coaxed the fierce feline into the house using the tuna sandwiches that had gone uneaten after her feast of currant buns, before concealing him in the larder.
You shall not pass

 Now, whilst Sophie is clearly a spirited child, she would never be accused of being cruel and, not wanting the cat to go thirsty, had poured out the four pint carton of milk that she had liberated from the fridge. Having largely missed the shallow bowl which she had meticulously placed on the floor of the larder, the dish now appeared like a speck in the ocean.
Milky Goodness

And that is exactly how Sophie's mother felt. As she sat there picking the label off her empty beer bottle, she could hear the grating saccharine voice of Topsy and Tim's mother mocking her from the TV just like those "instamums" and their #blessed images of motherhood that she had perused whilst Sophie was finally on lock down in front of the digital babysitter. All they were meant to achieve that day was a trip to the local supermarket but once the frantic feline was freed from its enforced captivity, it emerged confused and angry taking great leaps from one kitchen surface to another, taking several breakables out on its journey. Seeing the utter shambles that lay before her, Sophie's mother had picked her way through the fragments, opened the fridge and cracked open that beer.

She was broken from her reverie by the sound of a key turning in the door. "Daddy!" shouted the little girl as, pyjama clad, she bounded off the couch and threw herself upon her father. Sophie's mother, having leapt to her feet and not wanting to appear as though this had been the extent of today's activities, hid the incriminating beverage behind her back. 
#instamum

Her husband's eyes scanned the room as he took in the scene of devastation surrounding him. He looked to Sophie's mother "what on earth happened here?!"
She gulped as she saw the ginger Tom passing the window behind him, weighed down by its heavy belly.

"Erm... We had a... Tiger... come to tea? Yes? Yes. That's right. A Tiger."

"Ri-ight" he said hesitantly, spying the empty bottles. "Well I'm hungry and you look like you need fed so get your coats on and I'll take you to the local caff."

#blessed
Rhyming with Wine
The Pramshed

Friday, 5 January 2018

Toddler Life: Loathing Imaginary Play


Now, you may think me disloyal but I really struggle with spending a day solo parenting in the house. Not to put it too bluntly, I get a little bored. Mind achingly, soul crushingly bored. Obviously I adore my children, I cannot imagine my life without them, the time I spend with them is so precious and they continue to amaze me every day etc. but most of their games seem to revolve around role play and if there is one thing I loathe in life it is role play.

Living the Dream
I detest taking on the persona of Maleficent, Scar, Gaston, The Wicked Stepmother or Ursula and my hatred is not solely limited to Disney villains. I also despise playing the pet, the pet owner, the big sister, the shop customer or the tea party attendant. It’s just not my bag. My husband, on the other hand, will immerse himself in it; happily getting down on all fours, adopting silly voices and inhabiting the character he has been given for not an inconsiderable length of time. He has clearly missed his calling; Royal Shakespeare Company eat your heart out.
Husband: Always game for a spot of role play (not like that)
I should also point out that I am immensely proud of my children’s ability to flex their imaginations and play make –believe, it eases my concerns that the digital babysitter features too much in their day to day lives and their brains are therefore fighting the transition to mush. I delight in my daughter’s long lasting friendship with her imaginary friend “Beega” (although that Beega needs a good dose of the naughty step with the way she constantly tries to lead my cherubic child astray) but I just don’t want to participate in it. Can I not just be a spectator? Is an audience not essential to any budding thespian?  

Daughter (left) with the lesser spotted Beega (right)

That is not to say that I hate being with my offspring, not at all, I just hate playing with my offspring. I enjoy many other aspects of spending time with them including (but not limited to) arts & crafts, outdoor pursuits, reading (with heartfelt voices), ball games, jigsaws, anything involving bubbles and building. But with my abhorrence of all things play-acting weighing heavily on my mind, I routinely seek out organised activities to fill our time, thus avoiding any lull which may require me to pretend, put on a voice or manipulate my body into the form of another creature. I remember in Nick Hornby’s About a Boy the protagonist, being happily unemployed, divides the day stretching out in front of him into manageable blocks. Whilst I found it entirely depressing in my ignorant liberated youth, since entering the world of toddler parenting it is a strategy to which I can entirely relate. An hour of dance class here, a trip to Book Bug at the library there, even a trip to the supermarket can be thrown in for good measure and once you factor in half an hour there and back, I can easily while away the day enjoyably. I should also point out that chatting with my four year old whilst we journey (the near two year old is no raconteur) is one of my all-time favourite past times and I consider her to be some of the finest company I have all week.
The Toddler conversation varies from the sublime to the ridiculous
However, should I wake in the morning with a day free of scheduling or pre-planned activities stretching out in front of me, like a pirates gang plank sure to plunge me into certain misery, I feel a cold sweat coming on. What if they want to pretend?
Utter dread
I know if I put my mind to it, I could easily feel guilty about this admission but truth be told I don’t remember ever enjoying make believe even as a child and I am almost certain that my imagination has always been somewhat encumbered by a depressingly realistic outlook. So I think I shall console myself with the fact that I put my heart and soul into narrating their numerous stories voices and all, and I must acknowledge the fact that parenting is not always the most enjoyable of jobs (see scooping excrement out the bath, night feeds, pelvic floor weakness and the mum/dad bod, plus the salary is downright deplorable). There will be times when I shall just have to steel myself, wave my limbs about like a demented fish, flick my hair back, issue a guttural laugh and decree my children to be “poor unfortunate souls!”.  

Mudpie Fridays

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

The Blog Rules


Having made it this far you can consider yourself to be part of an elite club, the cool crowd, a trend setter if you will. For you see my blog is, as of yet, undiscovered by the masses. I like to think that this is in part due to my complete ineptitude at all things IT based and in part due to a reluctance to expose myself (not like that) to criticism or ridicule. With this in mind I have looked to other, more knowledgeable, sources for advice on how to increase traffic or pique interest amongst those who have thus far not ventured to the undiscovered wilderness of the Mother (Almost Never) Knows Best website. Whilst their advice is reassuringly consistent it entirely goes against my nature... Let me explain:

1. PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE!

The vast majority of successful blogger types advise the use of personal accounts on all social media platforms to pester friends, relatives and casual acquaintances to boost your traffic. After all, who would be more interested in knowing your inner most thoughts, feelings, worries and veritable failings than those closest to you? With increased traffic you draw attention to yourself from the cool kids like Google who will then direct even more traffic in your direction by ranking you higher in the pecking order, like school girls. Whilst a very sensible suggestion, I have several problems with the use of those I know. My first issue is that some of those people may feature in my parental musings in some way or will do in the future and the possibility of offending them fills me with dread. What if they feel I have misrepresented them or their poop throwing soft play enthusiast of a child? Secondly, I couldn't stand a response to be issued in person. And I do mean a response of any kind. Positive and I would have to shuffle my feet awkwardly, mumble incoherently and then run away as quickly as I could; negative and I would instantaneously erupt like a fire hydrant, mumble incoherently and run away as quickly as I could. Thirdly and finally, whilst I can almost get my head around the blood relatives and close friends reading my words it's the loose acquaintances reading it that I fear. The ones who know little of the real you but have fixed notions of who you are and your approach to life and parenting. I might be aloof, conceited or indifferent in their eyes currently but once they know, they know the real me and I can't take pretend to be anything else. It's not unlike the turning-up-naked-to-high-school dream but I have an unsightly body rash, every one has 20-20 vision and the school bell never rings. Apparently I have high school issues....

2. FIND YOUR VOICE AND STICK TO IT!

I totally understand where this advice is coming from. When certain posts are consistently proving to be more popular than others you need to give the people what they want. Know your market. Stick to what you are good at. Lots of people have made successful blogs based on this concept (all of whom I love by the by and am by no means suggesting anyone is a 'one trick' pony): Fran at "Whinge, Whinge Wine" will reliably be there to make us feel better about the times that we love our children but would also gladly shoot them out of a cannon, the Rhyming Mum and Rhyming with Wine will consistently help us laugh about our parental woes to a metronomic beat, and the Honest Mum will routinely soothe us through any life quandary with her sage advice and positive outlook.

Readers want to know what they are getting before they click through. They need to know that you are dependable and will give them what they want. Much like a stable marriage, reliability is essential for an enduring blog relationship. This I get. The only issue I have is that I am not reliably anything. Like many others, I didn't start my blog with a view to earn money by reviewing products, nor do I expect it to be serialised in a magazine or to be the launch pad for my glittering book writing career (although one can dream); I started writing to improve my mental health, deal with some difficult experiences, exercise a few of my hormone addled brain cells and provide some light relief to the somewhat relentless nature of parenthood. If I were to limit myself to having to be consistently witty, heart warming or novel I fear the blog would become something of a chore and would last as long as my brief foray into the world of knitting (3 rows of one scarf with 7 dropped stiches.)

3. SEO

I beg your pardon?
I think I just have to accept that until I am willing to out myself on social media platforms, remain consistently consistent and learn to cope with a touch of coding that my traffic will be less Spaghetti Junction and more bridal path.

On the upside though, until then I can convince myself that its lack of popularity is solely due to meagre exposure and I can tell the story about the poop throwing soft play enthusiast!

Full disclosure, I had no idea what picture to attach but who doesn't like a pretty bubble?


Do you have any handy hints for the novice blogger? All suggestions welcomed!

Thursday, 28 December 2017

New Year, New Me, New Them

With the promising blank canvas of a New Year fast approaching I thought I would compile a list of things I am going to achieve through subtle changes in my parenting style in 2018. New Year, new me therefore new them. How can I possibly falter? These are my entirely realistic aims for 2018:

My 2 year old will lose the phrase “mine!” As his language develops I shall be able to reason with him about the importance of sharing and how much fun there is to be had merely by including others in your ball games. I am no fool and I realise that this will not happen overnight but I anticipate by his second birthday in March, he will be eagerly inviting his sister to discover the joys of his toys as if they belonged to the family as a whole and not as though he were the sole proprietor.
Sharing shall become second nature

My 4 year old will learn to pick up after herself
Gone will be the nights where our routine assessment of her continued survival, is rewarded by our failing miserably to pick a safe path through the utter carnage of our daughter’s bedroom, stifling expletives as poorly made plastic figurines become embedded in the soles of our feet. She will learn to respect and treasure her belongings, silently acknowledging that these have been gifted to her and that she is incredibly lucky child. When asked where her most treasured possessions are, she will respond immediately with their exact status and coordinates.
Carnage of the pre schooler


My 2 year old shall be potty trained Following on from his maturity in the world of sharing, my youngest will be keen to spare us from the arduous and often repugnant task of a toddler nappy change. Fetid excrement will no longer need to be extricated from the multitude of creases and crevasses of the boy toddler. He will treat the pot as his throne and undertake his responsibility as monarch in a dutiful fashion. He shall become accomplished in the world of toileting over a single weekend and our life will seamlessly change beyond recognition. Gone will be the days of heavy bags laden with a multitude of nappies, wipes and changes. We shall be light of foot and skip our way out into the world.
The joys of toilet training

My 4 year old will eat vegetables
After an initial period of bedding in, where I will expect a little reluctance on her part and a touch of gentle persuasion/bartering/threatening being administered on mine, she will be spontaneously requesting an assortment of plant based food adorn her plate. A positive rainbow of foodstuffs will be doled out of an evening and I shall feel satisfied in the knowledge that I am providing sustenance to optimise her health, energy levels and mental focus. Come Christmas 2018, she will be passing on the beige coloured potatoes and turkey so as not to waste any space on her plate for the plethora of sprouts, carrots and red cabbage.
Paltry portions of vegetables will be a thing of the past


My 2 year old will go to bed without debate
By the end of the first week in January, bedtime will be bedtime. Gone will be the evenings spent attempting to placate an irate, shrieking tot who was clearly cruelly abandoned in a former life. Nights will be reclaimed, lengthy discussions had and convoluted TV plots followed. We will no longer have to eat our dinner in relay form and rely on snatched, snippets of conversation to impart essential information. We shall have time as a couple, to chat, laugh and not discuss our offspring.
Bed sharing will be long gone

 Don’t think I can’t see you over there raising your eyebrows; doubt written all over your face. I hear the dubious tone in your voice; the “sure you will”, “aye right”’s being muttered under your breath. I sense your disbelief emanating through the internet. I am on to you.

 Little do you know, this is going to be the best year yet. It will be the year that I nail this parenting malarkey. People will be seeking me out from across the globe to advise them on how to mould their own children into perfect members of society. I will become the most sought after advisor on all things maternal, with my blog title requiring a swift change to a more positive outlook and page views going stratospheric as a consequence.

Or I might just teach a rhinoceros how to pirouette.


Do you have any (entirely realistic) New Year's resolutions? Please let me know in the comments!
My Random Musings

Advice to my Younger Self Wrapped Up in an 80s Bow

As my youngest edges ever closer to meeting the admissions criteria for the exclusive club of the terrible twos, I realise that in many ways...