Mother (Almost Never) Knows Best: June 2018

Friday, 29 June 2018

End of the Road: A Pre School Graduation

This week has been a mixed bag of emotions in this role of parenting. I have had soaring highs with a perfect day of solo childcare; when all the stars aligned and we had beautiful weather, impeccable behaviour and exuberant health working in our favour. This was swiftly followed by crushing lows when sports day was announced 24hours in advance and a stream of meetings for me and a husband whose patients do not permit flexible working meant my little girl was left watching from the sidelines without a parent for the parent and child race.

However, all of this was nothing compared to the emotional torrent that was Pre- School Graduation. I had been more than a little vexed when I had to cancel my residential training course (which would have to be replaced with  tedious e-learning to be undertaken in my 'spare time') in order to attend a ceremony which is about as redundant as the cucumber slices I occasionally dare to leave on my daughter's plate, but RSVP I did. Fear not, dear child, I shall be there. The mere thought of leaving her, once again, to face a "momentous" occasion alone when the vast majority of her peers would be waving to their families in the audience meant that I was willing to appear, less than a "team player" in the workplace and forgot my previous commitments.

I will confess that I had no expectation for the event itself and certainly did not anticipate shedding any tears at the sight of my daughter bidding farewell to organised play in favour of formal education. I was there because I didn't want her to feel slighted. With only four years of life experience behind her this was a pretty big deal, she had been told so by those whose opinion mattered most; her friends and teachers. This was her being shunted into the world from the safe haven of everything she had known into a new and unknown vortex. Nothing would ever be the same again.

Then she emerged in a cap and gown and I realised that, for her, nothing would ever be the same again.

The Graduate

Having returned to the workplace when she was a mere 7 months of age, she had been part of this institution for the vast majority of her short life. It was everything and everyone, beyond her immediate family, whom she had ever known. Her nursery education was her only independent state; her friends and teachers were hers and hers alone. A place where I could merely stand on the outside looking in and would devour any morsel of information from her time there that she might choose to throw my way.

This day heralded the beginning of the end.

3 Little Buttons
The Pramshed

Thursday, 21 June 2018

What I Go To School For: My First Day at School

Yesterday was a big day for me. I had to walk into an alien environment, meet a room full of new people and convince them that I have friend potential; for yesterday was my first day at school. It was also my daughter's, but at some point a child has to learn that it's not all about them.

Best foot forward

Anyhoo, I stand in the playground with a mouth as dry as the desert, clammy hands gripping my bag and brandishing a smile that I hope radiates just the right amount of friendly but is potentially denoting a hint of lunacy. As I reluctantly leave the security of my toddler's hand hold, I feel exposed in my solitary state and have to navigate my way through the gauntlet of small talk with my daughter's potential new friends' parents. One minute I am terrified that I ooze inferiority amongst people who are far more experienced in these sorts of situations whilst the next, I fear that a stench of superiority clings to my person due to the unfortunate case of "resting bitch face" but what I am actually exuding is upper lip sweat. The holding pen which we have been shepherded, is built like a conservatory and has slowly peaked at the temperature of the sun. However, determined not to let my little girl down, I surreptitiously wipe my lip and broaden that smile, inducing a maniacal eye twitch that does nothing to reassure my peers.

Was I being measured up?

I desperately want to get this right as finding the right place for our girl in the education system involved long, hard deliberations, multiple financial assessments and more school visits than a workaholic HMIE employee with a bus pass. Eventually we chose to send our girl to a particularly lovely independent school. Now, where I was state schooled, my husband boarded and, quite frankly, we are both equally super and ended up in the same place and in the same profession (albeit briefly but that is another story). So I am not here to argue my case, defend myself and my family's choice or pretend that it's the right decision for everyone but for our little girl it is. So that is that.

However as a novice to the world of independent schooling,  I find myself fumbling about in the dark a bit; worrying about etiquette, my own ignorance and dress codes. In fact, as a person who is likely to be buried in her athletic wear, whose daughter stops doing whatever has captivated her attention this far to look her mother up and down with mouth gaping when she dons anything lacking the lycra stretch, a person whom has been known to frequent her husband's side of the wardrobe rather than her own; I will admit to getting into a little bit of a flap about what to wear on our first day. Should I look like I had:

A) Made an effort (giving the impression that I am ready to get involved - PTA here I come!)?

B) Just left the office (despite it being on one of my non-working days)?

C) Just left the play park ("check me, interacting with my prodigy! I only ever check my phone at nap time you know.")?

D) Just left the gym (suggesting that we have enough money that I don't need to work and can have my children in full time child care)?

How was I meant to look?! What was "the right impression"  to be giving? We should have been given guidance; we should have been given uniforms.

Too much?

This school business has got me all in pickle, and it's just because I want to get it right, for her, but do you know what I learnt from my first day? We are all in the same boat. Everyone was a little bit nervous and everyone was trying to make the best impression. I wonder what school will teach me next?

I Got This

Bringing up Georgia
Motherhood The Real Deal

Saturday, 16 June 2018

You've Got a Friend In Me: An Open Letter to My Friends

Dear Friends,

I am sorry. 

I realise that I don't call, email or even text you as much as I should. I know that there are times when you must feel like I am selfishly absorbed in my own little world and have forgotten the pivotal role that you played at that particularly bad time in my life or how we used to live in one another's pockets without even having to verbalise our shared thoughts because we already knew what one another were thinking about every aspect of every day. I am conscious of the fact that you have things going on, things that as your friend I should be aware of and should be there to offer counsel or merely act as a sounding board, allowing you to vent your frustrations or voice your concerns; things that I would be aware of if I was more present in your daily life.

Me: in your daily life

Whilst, I am not normally one to blow my own trumpet but I like to think that I used to be pretty good as friends go. I realise that my ability to pick up the phone has always been somewhat lacking, fearing the conversation unnatural and stilted, but I made up for it in other ways. I used to be good at just "checking in" or dropping a text or Facebook message when I came across something that reminded me of you or us. I used to make the effort to visit, even if just for one night so that I could see you in person, feel us ease into our relationship like we had never been apart and put the world to rights; solving everyone else's problems and making light of our own.

I used to be a good friend.

Putting the world to rights

Now I struggle to remember birthdays or anniversaries, even when I played a key role in the ceremony. Now, I reply to messages a week later, having received them whilst wrestling with my toddler who is reluctant to get his nappy changed despite smelling like a blocked swear drain and being unable to sit down for fear of sending poop into crevices from where it shall never be recovered. Now, I see or hear things that remind me of you and induce a smile and I put them on the list. I put them on the list of things to do as undoubtedly when I experience such a memory I will be herding the small people from one activity to another or in the middle of a very complex role play. Now, I think of arranging a visit to spend time with you and I have to sit down with my husband and work it when he can alter his rota to accommodate the lion share of childcare. I have to factor in continuity for my kids, resident training required for work and my husband's extra curricular activities at which point we get distracted by a child crying out, unable to sleep and seeking parental comfort and the planning is forgotten for another few weeks.

They can be distracting

But know this, I love you and I miss you. I do remember the way we use to be and I hope and pray that one day we will be there again. 

I ask for you to be patient. 

For my children are two and four. Their world's are hectic but limited and they are the centre of it and I am their moon; their constant. They are the best thing that I have ever done but they devour my time, attention and thoughts like I could never have imagined. They are relentless in their capacity and need for love and attention and I must be there to give it. When I am not there I am desperately trying to look like a professional in a job where I constantly feel out of my depth but valued at the same time. I am spread as thinly as the lactose intolerant would spread butter on toast but it won't be this way forever; one day I will be back.


One day we will have girls' weekends and extended conversations over WhatsApp where we discuss everything and nothing. One day we will get the chance to relax together and be us again. 

One day, my lovely, we will be the best of friends once again.

Mum Muddling Through

Monday, 11 June 2018

Walk the Line: The Mother - Daughter Relationship

This weekend I have been on a mini break and by mini break I mean that I have been bed ridden with a nasty bout of tonsillitis. Thankfully, this illness fell on the same weekend that I was due to run the Great Run Women's 10k with my mother to raise money for the fantastic Glasgow Children's Hospital Charity. So whilst I was very disappointed not to be able to fulfil my promise to the charity and my mother (who ran it anyway) it did mean that I was back at the homestead with a husband geared up for the role of childcare allowing me to retreat back into the role of the child and wallow in my ill health without fretting about which child was going to maim the other.

As I emerged from the confines of my bedroom 24 hours later (with the offspring safely ensconced in a city 40 miles away) and lolloped from couch to kitchen where my preferred drinks were found chilling and the ice cream was freezing, ready to ease the searing pain in my throat at a moment's notice, I started thinking about my relationship with my mother. 

Hold on to your hats people.

I was always a good child almost to the extent of, quite frankly, being a little dull. I habitually towed the line and would be racked with guilt if I ever strayed from the desired behaviour. I was convinced that the world is a karmically balanced place and that any questionable act on my part would lead to a punishment elsewhere. So I did the right thing. All the time. My best friend once told me that were we planning an activity that would test our responsibility as a group the first question out of her mother's mouth would be "is [Mother Almost Never Knows Best] going?" and if my friend hoped for an answer in the affirmative she would always say yes. The truth is, that the plan wasn't always to do the right thing (I mean we were teenagers) and there were many times where I would cry off and even ask my mother to lie and say I was grounded (having never actually been grounded in my life) just so that I could avoid doing the wrong thing as it would fill me with dread and a terrible stomach ache. 

My inability to bend the rules (never mind break them) meant that my mother eventually took things into her own hands and demanded my elder brothers take me out on a night out, a somewhat surprising turn of events as she, herself, was no rebel and the venue they were attending was not one for the under age and would most definitely be selling the old "dancing juice".

The point is, that we had no beef. We never went through "those difficult teenage years" when doors are slammed, secrets are kept and cruel words are uttered in the heat of the moment. If anything, I think my mother worried that I was trying to be too perfect, and setting myself a standard that I could never live up to thereby needlessly setting myself up for a failure with which I could never cope. 

When I look at my daughter and think about the loggerheads we get into, despite her only being 4, I am torn between thinking "will we ever be friends" and "oh I like your spirit". In some ways I love that she and I are totally different and I pray that she will push the boundaries (within reason), confident in the knowledge that she is good and kind and will never go too far wrong. It's just that I really love my mum and we are almost carbon copies of one another. She is the one on speed dial (if I knew how to program my phone) for any moans, pointless chats or good news; she is the one who my husband asks about when he comes in the door after a day at work (knowing that we will have spoken at least once since he left the house that morning) and she is the one who understands my parenting highs, lows and mediocrities. 

Thank goodness they get along

I want to have the same relationship with my daughter but worry that we aren't the same people. Then, I tell myself off as you can't birth your friends it's just that my mum and I got really lucky. It's just that I want her to be able to phone me up when something goes horribly wrong, I want her to ask me to help her plan her wedding knowing that I'll get it right for her, I want her to be able to talk to me about boys (the good and the bad) and contraception and her relationships. 

Basically when I grow up, I want to be my mum.

Like mother, like daughter

For those friends who read this and were lied to in the past, please forgive me?

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Old Before I Die: The Four Phases of Parenting

The past week has been spent "en famille" in the south of France. When I say "en famille" I mean, the extended variety. My husband's father reached a grand 80 years of age in the year 2018 and to commemorate this, his beloved wife of "too many years to mention" decided to treat/subject him to a week of his children, their significant others and mutinous offspring in the delightful surroundings of the sunny Dordogne. As we sat around the dinner table, umbrellas in hand, raising a glass to mark, both, his being another day closer to becoming penpals with the country's monarch and the brief absence of our progeny (although, ever eager to employ their linguistic skills they later decided to translate "en vacance" as "late night party" for the duration of our stay) I realised that we were, as a family, clearly experiencing the four stages of the adult enduring parenthood.

Evolution of the Parent 

Stage One: Unlimited Potential
My husband's twin sister is currently on the brink of adding her first twig to the increasingly thick canopy of our family tree. In fact, so close is she to sending her first child down nature's water slide that the husband has been brushing up on his knowledge of the choreography of birth just in case the subarctic temperatures of the swimming pool induce any untimely activity. In hindsight, both she and her husband have excelled at their pre-procreational state; they have run marathons, learnt languages, travelled to numerous far flung countries and found time to give back to the community. Having achieved all these, rather commendable, feats they have now shifted their attentions to starting a family. With their progeny still safely ensconced in the womb they epitomise the limitless potential of parenthood; where the possibilities and aspirations are endless and when you feel that you merely have to choose the type of parent you want to become.

Stage Two: The Thick of It
We clearly represent this stage. With a four year old who never draws breath and a two year old who can spot danger a mile off and run straight into it, our aspirations have shifted somewhat. Gone are the days when we had the time to consider how best to parent, replaced by a mere need to survive; when the hours between sunrise (0434) and sunset (2147) are spent battling to keep them alive, fed and law abiding. 

Parenting Toddlers: The Thick of It

Stage Three: Learning to Live Again
The husband's brother and his lovely wife demonstrate this plateau in parenthood; also known as the "school years". Their children are now of the age where they can mostly entertain themselves given the right tools, balls, sporting paraphernalia and IT equipment necessary. No longer are the adults being called upon to pretend to be crocodiles and attempt to catch the toes of the passing prey, now they are able to look on and marvel at how their efforts are panning out whilst learning how to best employ their new found spare time (when they are not fetching, carrying and ferrying their brood from one extracurricular activity to another or fretting about the intricacies of their pre-teen social circles).

Mostly down to the fetching and carrying one day...

Stage Four: Liberation
The in-laws now occupy the hallowed ground of reduced responsibility. Sure, they continue to weigh in and rescue their offspring in their hour(s) of need and I am sure they continue to expend far more energy than can possibly be imagined agonising over poor life decisions that their progeny may make from time to time but to all extents and purposes the baton of guardianship has been passed down the chain. With three adult children who are (almost) entirely self sufficient, they have re-entered a period of freedom that we can only dream about and live in that perfect hybrid state of being able to take pride in their grandchildren's adorable natures and daily accomplishments whilst not being responsible for moulding them into upstanding members of society and, best of all, being able to pass them back.

One day, I hope that I too shall be celebrating a landmark age surrounded by my nearest and dearest as they battle to wrangle their spirited offspring while I look on, glass of chilled wine in hand, intermittently engaging them in a brief game or illogical conversation for then I too shall pass them back.

3 Little Buttons
Mum Muddling Through

Everything Changes: Working Out the "Working Mother" Bit

It's been a big week this week and, no, we haven't sold our house. In fact, it is no longer even on the market which was both a hea...