Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Bah humbug?

I have to admit that I have been struggling to feel the spirit of Christmas this time around, instead feeling mainly a sense of panic at a seemingly insurmountable list of 'things that must be done'.

Occasionally though my gloom melts a little. Yesterday I went to pick up five year old from school after watching her school nativity in the morning. She was beaming from ear to ear when I told her how much her little sister and I had enjoyed watching her sing. I had managed to fight back the tears as I walked into the school hall for the event, but only just.

Anyway, whilst waiting in the queue outside her classroom at end of school time I noticed a Christmas 'wish tree' her class had made. Each child had written something on a piece of paper to hang on a branch. Amongst the wishes for parties, pancakes and other such things, I spotted my little girl's name. Her piece of paper had a picture of a little heart, neatly coloured in, with the words: "A heart for mummy."

Tears? Oh yes. I apologise in advance if this sounds corny, but I am truly grateful that this Christmas the words of wise five year old are helping to teach me a new meaning and depth to the word 'love'.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

The intangible difference between Pooh and poo.

We had a great afternoon post-school today. I felt I had been rather grouchy on the morning school run and the sun was shining so I decided a walk up to the library to exchange books would be good for all three of us. We even stopped at a cafe on the way for banana milkshake and chocolate flapjack, a Tuesday treat to keep us going up the hill.

Of course seconds after leaving the cafe both kids were whinging and I was regretting having played the trump treat cards so early - 'behave because I have just given you chocolate flapjack' just does not work in the same way as 'if you behave you can have...' (Obviously I would never stoop to such ridiculous methods of bribery. Ahem)

The walk home was lovely though, we now always include 'the fruit man' on our walks home from Town Street as the girls pick what fruit they want (their choices are not always very climate friendly I am sorry to say - although five year old went for apples today) and the owner of the greengrocer's shop always gives each girl a handful of raisins and a beaming smile. I did end up pushing both of them sitting on each others knees in our rickety pushchair for the last part of the journey, but it is downhill by then so my paltry muscles can cope just about.

At bedtime the two year old chose a Winnie the Pooh book that I have previously only read to my elder child. She has heard of Pooh bear before but clearly the idea is still quite amusing to her. I begin reading...

Two year old: "Where's the poo mummy?"
Me: "There, that's Winnie the Pooh, the bear."
Two year old: "But where's the poo though?"
Me: "It's the name of a bear, Winnie the Pooh, not an actual poo."
Five year old helps out: "You've got a Winnie in your nursery haven't you?"
Two year old sniggers: "Willy." Giggles on both sides.
Five year old, through giggles: "Winnie, not willy."
Two year old: "Maxi's got a willy."
By this point I am reluctantly giving into the giggles.
Me: "Shall I carry on reading or shall we put the light out girls?"
Both girls: "Read mummy!"
Pause.
Two year old: "But where's the poo?"
Sigh.

Monday, 1 December 2008

The guilt

Nobody ever really tells you about the guilt associated with becoming a parent. And even if they do mention it your pre-parent self no doubt shrugged it off. Oh, that'll never happen to me.
It has happened to every parent that I know though, to differing degrees of course.
Going back to work? Guilt.
Children having trouble settling into nursery? Guilt.
Putting a dvd on at the weekend while you get a few things done? Guilt.
Feeding your children rubbish because you haven't had time to cook and you know they won't eat your food anyway? Guilt.
Well when you have made a conscious decision to divide their family into two that guilt is more than doubled.

After school today I had to go pick up the car from the garage, so I left youngest at home and asked eldest if she wanted to come with me or go back home and play with Nana. "I want to come with you Mummy," was the reply. I explained that it might take a while to pick up the car but she was keen so we set off on the bus to the garage. Once there I discovered the car was not ready (surprise) and we could have up to an hour to wait. Again I asked five year old if she wanted me to take her home, but she wanted to stay. Obviously the word 'hour' has no real meaning to her, but still it made me feel that she was really so desperate for some time alone with me that she was prepared to sit in a boring car showroom just to get that. Of course maybe to a five year old a car showroom has more appeal than it does to a 30-something mother-of-two who has neither the means nor desire to buy a new car, I mean they had a box of crayons after all. But it did give me a pang of that by now familiar guilt. Living on my own with two young children, it is rare that my eldest gets time with me alone, and I was impressed with her response to this particular chance. We drew and coloured together, and chatted about our day. In hindsight it was more than just an hour in a car showroom.

Now I just had a text message saying the girls can go to the other half of their family for two nights this coming weekend, rather than the usual one night. This means I can do more of the chores that build up during the week, and also go out and see friends two whole nights in a row. What do I feel? Guilt, of course.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Weekend at home

Now that we are officially one of those 'broken' families, my kids spend the occasional weekend away with Daddy, which overall means they are away from home more often than they were pre-divorce.

This week five year-old had been asking if we could 'just stay at home' for a change, so I said that was fine and she seemed rather excited in a five year-oldish kind of way. I am not inferring that she doesn't like to spend time away with my ex, but I suppose now that she goes to school five days a week, it sometimes seems to her that she has hardly been at home at all.

I sometimes feel guilty as I do look forward to my 'time off' for a whole host of reasons, even though I now spend less time with my children than I ever did before. As a married mum I only ever worked two days a week, now I work three, and their stays away from me were few and far between rather than monthly or fortnightly as they are now. My guilt also extends to the fact that I still feel somewhat overwhelmed when we are alone together just the three of us for a couple of days.

This weekend was different though. I tried to approach the whole idea of staying home in a more positive light. Not quite out loud, I said to myself: "Try not to think of the things you clearly won't get done, they are mostly boring tasks anyway (laundry, washing up, tidying, going to the loo as a few examples), instead embrace the joy of being five and two."

On Saturday I decided this would include some decorating. Not inside my house obviously. That would clearly be insane. No, we trawled through my external cupboard and found a dozen or so of those little test pots of emulsion you buy when in the midst of long-drawn out arguments over which particular shade of pale green you want to paint the kitchen. We had a go at painting the kids' playhouse, although for the two year old this mostly involved handing me pot after pot asking me to open the next one fifteen seconds after the previous. Five year old was very much into the spirit of the idea though, adding shapes and stripes to the house that has been mostly ignored at the bottom of our garden for two years, possibly because it does tend to be used as a handy alternative to a shed at times. She even asked later if we could paint some more of the house another time, so I felt it must have been a positive experience.

Overall I reckoned we had a good day, despite the tears at bedtime when the same little girl who had been asking for a weekend at home suddenly blurted out: "Oh, but we didn't go anywhere today mummy." Oh how contrary to be five.

Now all I need to do is work out how to get the paint out of my hair before I go back to work on Wednesday.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Attachment

This morning two year old decided she wanted to take a lump of plasticine and a yellow plastic modelling tool to nursery. Who am I to argue with such a decision? Following the usual hustle and bustle associated with getting from the bottom of the steps inside the house to the bottom of the steps outside the house she takes up her place in the pushchair, holding said items one in each hand.

'Make me a snail mummy' she then proceeds to demand at regular intervals as we make our way to school. (You might correctly infer from that request that my modelling skills are rather underdeveloped)
'Well, I need both hands to push the pushchair just at the moment honey.'

She manages to maintain her hold on the plasticine and tool for most of the journey, with a short break for eating a clementine - at which point I am handed the precious cargo for safekeeping.

Thankfully the workers at her nursery are suitably impressed when she hands them the plasticine on arrival a short while later. They are obviously well trained in expressing delight at strange objects. Possibly there is even a special module on the average nursery training scheme aimed specifically at developing such a skill.

The journey home proves slightly more fraught as we are handed back the lump of modelling substance and the yellow tool, only to drop it en route. The sound that accompanies the tears that follow would have broken the heart of an iceberg. Fortunately it had fallen onto the bottom of the pushchair and not onto a random bit of passing pavement. Phew.

On arriving home, what is the first request? Snack? Telly? Find favourite toys? No, 'make me a snail mummy.' Irresistable really.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Wonder

There was a moment just before my girls climbed into bed that I stepped back and watched while remembering just how wonderful they are. Admittedly I have had 24 hours away from them this weekend, of course it is easier to acknowledge their good points after a little bit of distance that gives me a chance to reset my energy levels and be an adult for a little while.

It is always true that they are amazing, astounding and incredible. But sometimes I forget.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

On being two

Breakfast yesterday was bran flakes by request. Once we sort the complications of what particular cutlery / bowl / type of milk etc is required the breakfast can be consumed by small child standing on chair.
Small voice says, "Mummy I've got a bran flake on my toe."
"Well, wipe it off then."
"I'm busy eating my bran flakes at the moment, you do it mummy."
Hmmm.

Our Monday routine includes a bus ride to two year old's mini-gym 'class' at the local leisure centre after dropping five year old off at school. This week for some reason small child wanted to go right to the back of the bus, so after dumping the pushchair at the front I followed her calling out 'hold on' at every third second as we went. Found a seat, journey was fine, then time to make our way back down the bus, again the words 'hold on' passing my lips several times. The bus stops. We climb off as best we can with one person having legs not much longer than the distance between the step and the pavement and the other carrying two bags, two coats and a pushchair. It seems though that the message about holding on had finally sunk in a little too deep.
"Ok you can let go now." (We are now standing on the pavement.) "Really, let go now... Let go of the bus now. Let go..."

Friday, 31 October 2008

Sleep and the lack of it

This morning I feel as though the inside of my head has been filled with some kind of fudge-like substance. Don't get me wrong, I know that I am lucky to have two beautiful children who provide endless amusement, but I would occasionally like more sleep. Please.

I am not entirely sure how it came to be that I managed to have not one but two daughters who think sleeping alone is some kind of travesty against human nature. The current pattern goes something like this... 7.15pm (ish) I am reading the last of the stories, lights out then settling into one last made-up story whilst holding a hand on each side. Fortunately the room is small enough for me to be able to do this. For the first few minutes I cherish the thought that in a few short years neither of them will want to hold my hand so it is a precious moment... but after about ten minutes of sitting stock still in silence I begin to remember that I have not slept properly for about five years, there is a pile of washing up / laundry / toys scattered across the floor and I would actually really like a glass of water before my head explodes. I know, I created this nightmare by giving in to their sleeptime demands, I know, I am weak etc etc, but this is the way it is and short of someone tying me onto a chair downstairs while they cry themselves to sleep it is not going to change until they decide they are old enough to cope with drifting off by themselves.

Eventually they are asleep and I creep downstairs.

1am (or thereabouts) two year old starts shouting, "MUMMY! Want to come in your bed!!!" She is about a foot and a half from five year old and is rather loud so I give in, sometimes after a half-hearted attempt to resettle her in her own bed.

3am five year old turns over and realises she is now alone in the room, so gets up and runs in like the clappers to join us. Sometimes there then follows a brief spat over who is going to lie where (next to mummy being the prime position), followed by exhaustion taking over one by one until we all sleep in fits and starts, limbs and torsos entangled.

No wonder then that when the alarm goes for my shower (yes the night routine means I have the only young children I know who have to be woken from slumber of a morning) I occasionally feel rather taken aback that the night really is over.

But that is when I have a chance to stand and look at my two beautiful angels as they sleep together, full of peace and innocence. For a moment or two, anyway.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

The think about pink

Ever since giving birth to my first beautiful daughter I have battled against the onslaught of all things pink and princess, but the might of the Western world is against me and occasionally I have to concede defeat in the face of a five year old who is apparently being drawn into a world that occasionally seems all but completely alien to me.

Sitting talking to her this afternoon she was cutting out figures from a 'Princess' magazine bought for her by her father, chatting about which was Sleeping Beauty etc and whether she should wear the cardboard crown with the pink side or yellow side showing. I asked her: "Why do you like princess magazines then?" The answer:"It's just I like all the jewels and things." Hmm.

The problem for my little girls - fascinated by make-up, jewellry, perfumes and all the things that women are 'supposed' to like, is that their mother is one of those women who literally showers, gets dressed and walks out of the door, and that really is the way I like it. My cupboards are not home to bottles of lotions and potions, nor am I someone who looks forward to a chance to go shopping for clothes and shoes.

It does fascinate me though, this subconscious grooming by our society, that teaches young girls what they are 'supposed' to like and dislike from such an early age. And it really is difficult to avoid. My five year old has very clear ideas about what toys / clothes / hobbies are suitable for each sex and I cannot honestly say where these ideas have come from. Certainly not from her mother, in fact I am probably far too quick in my middle class lefty-liberal way, to point out at every opportunity: "Well some boys like pink.... some boys are quiet and kind... some girls like blue... everyone is different and that's ok... etc etc"

What really makes me smile though is that when she's not thinking about what she should like and she lets her guard down, I am reassured by her ability to jump in with both feet and enjoy life in the way that I think all children should be allowed to whether they are male or female. So, when we went to an adventure playground yesterday she was the only girl in the queue for the rope slide (and not just once either), and today when I asked her to help me plant bulbs she spent more time picking up worms and woodlice than she did talking about the pretty flowers we were going to grow. Phew.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Words of wisdom

Both my daughters are equally able to surprise me with the things they say, as you would expect from a 2 and a 5 year old, but today it's been the elder whose words of wisdom(?) have stuck in my mind.
When writing her name she often writes the 's' backwards, as it would look if you glanced in a mirror, usually I tend to let this go but after hearing a comment about it I decided to ask her about it: "Yes that's very neat, did you know you've written the 's' back-to-front?" She replied quite quickly, telling me that:"I have to write it like that because if I make the 's' face the 'y' then they fight with each other."
Battling letters, an intriguing concept I think.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

An average morning?

Well maybe 'average' is an unfair description of this morning, which was admittedly slightly more hectic than usual, mainly due to two year old being on the tail end of a cold and both daughters having been awake and giggling until after 9pm the night before.

Two year old was quite adamant that I did not need to go more than a foot from her in order to have a shower and was being more than a little vociferous about it, but as I hadn't washed my hair since Saturday I was pretty convinced it had to be done. So that was quite stressful. I try to adopt a 'I can't hear you when I am in the shower' attitude to my three minute indulgence but when small child reaches that kind of volume it is fairly hard to maintain.

Shower over, beginning to work on my theory that the possibility of us all being washed and dressed in time to leave for school was looking a bit far-fetched. Then I came out of the bathroom dripping to find five year old lying in my bed telling me she'd had an 'accident' (ie she'd wet the only bed in the house without waterproof bedding on it) - aaaarrrrgggghhhh! Well, why are you still lying in it then!!!!. (calm down, phew).

So now to strip the bed and her, wash her and the mattress down (it's now 7.15am)... then managed to coax both girls downstairs for breakfast, obviously with two year old glued to my hip the whole time as she was still exercising her lungs and was mostly quite grumpy. She wanted to sit on my knee in the kitchen but I was trying to prepare five year old's and my breakfast as well as my lunch at the same time... Ok so now it's 7.40, time to go back upstairs to get dressed. At this point the two year old was still attached to my hip and feeling quite sorry for herself.

Time to abandon the idea of getting younger child dressed as she was staying at home with grandparent due to illness. Washed, teeth brushed, dress elder child. Then swop my two single mattresses over so the wet one is by the window in case poorly two year old wants to sleep in my bed later. Remember to double-check I'm fully dressed as it's entirely possibly that by this point I had my pants on my head or something... put the washing on.... 8.20 all herded back downstairs for ritual searching for keys, coats, shoes, water bottles etc... 8.40 phone rings, it's mum saying "I'm stuck in traffic, it's not moving at all"... ok should still be ok I'll go in the car... 8.55 phone rings again "I'm still on the ring road" aaarrrggghh two year old is semi-naked in a pyjama top and nappy - ok so I'll meet mum at school and wrap two year old in a blanket in the car... all get in the car. Of course by this point it's peeing it down.... phew, do you want me to go on?

I suppose the end to that should be that in the end we all got where we needed to be. This evening it appears that we have brought someone else's coat home though.... hmmm tackle that one during tomorrow's hecticity.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Saturday

Saturday morning is rapidly replacing Sunday as the least looked forward to of the week. Single mum, knackered by five days of school run / work etc, now not relishing the thought of being woken sometime before 7 for 'bekfast'.
Trying hard not to get bogged down by the mountain of washing up and laundry, or to notice the spread of household items, food and toys across the floors.
This morning started early and we crammed in painting, playing, breakfast, playing, second breakfast in front of DVD while I sneaked in the shower for a minute or two. Five year old wet herself during mini-tantrum so cleared that up.... then moment of energy brings on a desire to escape the four walls and go up to the Chevin for a breath of fresh air and a run around. Inspired decision as it turns out, the girls loved it and we escaped the usual playpark /local shops with a trip ever-so-slightly further afield. Girls collected stones and kicked a ball around for a bit, mum and I tried to persuade them to get slightly closer to the dogs that passed, hoping their 'fear' will subside soon.
Rushed ending to the walk as we had to get back in time for lunch and 2 year old's nap before Dad came to pick them up.
Afternoon felt lonely as knew I had to make an effort to make some floor space visible and get a few things in order before the chaos began once more. Fortunately had time to go into the garden - made use of new jute bags for clearing the leaves off the lawn - it'll turn to leaf mould for use next spring, and prepared a patch for planting the blackcurrant bush. Girls delivered back in time to help out with the planting which was great.