Thursday, 19 February 2009

The younger woman

I can remember a scene from a film that was always on my favourites list called "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe", in which Kathy Bates' character drives her car repeatedly into a shiny new sports car belonging to two younger, well-preened women. I can't fully remember what prompted this; it was something to do with a parking space I think, but I do remember that as she drove away she shouted out to them something along the lines of: "Why did I do that? Because I'm older than you and I have more car insurance." Now clearly in the face of disastrous climate change I cannot possibly condone this kind of irresponsible behaviour, and in my current financial state I would hardly be crowing about my insurance rates, but I am definitely getting to an age and life stage where I can relate to the sentiments she expressed.

As someone who works and has two young children I struggle to find time for things that might be considered an extravagance, such as getting a haircut for example. Well this week I'd finally got to the point where I can hardly see out through my fringe and as I have been feeling rather frumpy of late I decided to go for it, find time and get a style update. The only time I could squeeze in an appointment though meant I had to ask work if it was ok to stretch my lunch hour, which they were ok about. I recall having a long discussion with the ever-so much younger woman at the hair salon reception desk about when we could find a mutually agreeable time before writing the agreed time in my diary.

So imagine turning up at said salon (this is after realising I had left my purse at home and needed to rush back to get it) only to find out that the lovely younger woman had not even written the appointment in the diary. Grrrr. Did I get an apology? No, just a vague stare and a patronising tone of: "Well I haven't written it down, are you sure we said today?" In my head I replied with an equally patronising tone: "Yes honey we did say today, you clearly were too busy talking to your friend to write it down." Although in reality I left the salon speechless and feeling rather deflated.

Oh well, I guess I have a date with my kitchen scissors to look forward to and will have to find some other way of boosting confidence. Bleargh.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

A day off

This week is my five year old's half-term holiday so I booked today off work in order to take two year old into nursery as usual and have a full day alone with my big girl. It is always a tough one - balancing the needs of both children, I have no idea how people do it with more than two. Of course I did have a few pangs of guilt dropping off my younger daughter, as she's obviously old enough to cotton onto what is happening around her, but I reasoned that she gets a fair amount of one-to-one time during term-time.

I had planned to take a train trip to a local town as a small-scale day out but it was rather a wet day and so we scaled down our plans. I followed her lead and we painted pictures and then made pancakes for lunch. We also did some things that you might not expect to be on a five year old girl's list of things to do when not at school; I needed to take apart a shelving unit that was blocking up the kitchen, so she unscrewed that for me, enjoying every minute. At one point I did wonder if we would get out at all - in fact we had a rather ridiculous discussion when she announced she wanted to "stay at home and tidy up". In hindsight I think she just wanted to help and to be like mummy for the day, as when I sulkily (yes, I know I'm the adult but it was my day off too!) said something along the lines off: "Well if we're staying at home I'm just going to sort out this laundry then and you can do whatever you want." (Pathetic, I know, I'm ashamed.) She then followed me and without a word started hanging wet clothes on the drying maiden. Oh, sweetheart.

Eventually we did go out for an hour or so though, to a local attraction where the queues were several feet deep. On seeing the number of people there I did wonder if I oughtn't to have listened to my wise daughter, but we had fun once we got in. And there was a face painter inside (more queues obviously) - always a winner.

It probably wasn't until about an hour later when we had picked up two year old from nursery that I really appreciated how lovely it had been to spend a day alone with my elder child. Don't get me wrong I love both my children dearly and equally, but it is still good to actually manage to have a full conversation with one of them with no interruptions. On the way back home my car started to overheat so I opened up the bonnet ready to check the radiator as soon as we pulled into the drive. Two year old announced she needed the toilet, I had frozen food in the boot of the car and my phone rang within about five seconds of opening the car doors. We got inside, both children throwing off coats and shoes in random directions as they walked in, both simultaneously asking for different items from the bag of shopping I was carrying in whilst also helping them up the steps and answering the phone and keeping an eye on the open car... Phew.

Overall a good day though.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Toilet humour

Both girls seem to synchronise their toilet habits fairly often at the moment, which can lead to some rather amusing conversations overheard from outside the bathroom.

This morning both sat doing their business (one on toilet, one on potty) chatting away. Then they start taking it in turn to tell each other 'jokes' like some kind of bizarre parody of a comedy double act. This is something they have really cottoned onto since pulling open several crackers at Christmas.

The favourite starter tends to be a variation of a joke that went: "Why did the apple go to hospital? Because he wasn't peeling very well." Despite the fact that they have recited various variations of this over and over the telling always elicits peals of giggles from both girls each time.

This morning two year old stretched her version into: "Why did the poo go to London? (the poo always makes an appearance at some point in the proceedings) Because he had to go to hospital." Apparently this was hilarious rather than simply surreal.


After I had offered to look after a third child for the day today I did begin to wonder whether I have finally completely lost the plot. Let's face it there are days when I struggle to make it through to bedtime with two children to run around after, never mind adding another into the equation. And never mind the fact that I had previously only ever seen this child at the school doors, being ushered in and out of class.

As it turned out today was a lovely day. Admittedly the first half an hour or so after she arrived I was counting down the hours wondering how we would fill the day, but all three girls got on really well, and this was helped by the fact that our visitor was an absolute pleasure to have around. She was completely unphased by the fact that she was spending the day at a new house, with a strange adult, she made sure little sister was included in the games and she was polite and positive throughout the day. How lovely.

I think the extra responsibility has done me in though. I have no idea how teachers keep their eye on an entire class from 9am through to 3pm five days a week. Personally, I am even more tired than usual just from the fact of knowing there was an extra child here. In fact by teatime I was so exhausted I was rushing my two up for a bath by 5.30 just to get closer to the end of the day, rather earlier than usual. And now I think I will follow their early lead and get myself to bed too. Hopefully I can get a couple of hours in before the night-time bed-swopping begins anew...

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Growing up

At the weekend we tried practicing some words the teacher had highlighted by writing the same word onto two pieces of paper and then matching the pairs up. At least that was my admittedly rather simple idea. But by the time I'd finished sorting out two year old's breakfast demands, five year old had drawn matching pictures to go with the words, coloured them in and sorted them into a much more sophisticated game of snap. These little things make me realise that my haphazard 'craft' sessions and unsophisticated painting style may not be sufficient to satisfy my children's developing standards for much longer. It also makes me realise more than ever how quickly they grow up and away from us.

This afternoon the elder child went to a friend's for tea after school. This is a fairly normal occurrence, but it wasn't until school pick-up time had been and gone that I really started to think about all this new socialising. There was my baby going off to a home that I have never set foot in, without any guidance or support (or interference) from me whatsoever. We modern-day parents are always being accused - amongst other things - of wrapping our kids up in cotton wool, but on this occasion I felt almost reckless. I had a home phone number and a first name, but other than that I only had a general sense that the mum seemed friendly and genuine. Is it ok to let your child go somewhere you have never been, and what things should make me think twice about allowing her to go to a stranger's house?

Of course she came back safe and sound - and reassuringly grumpy for the pre-teen five year old that she sometimes is. In fact during the handover I even seem to have offered to look after the friend in question while her mum is at work all day next Monday, so it's entirely possible that she's now sitting at home pondering the exact same questions as I.

Friday, 6 February 2009

I'd rather be large than smart

There is a children's television programme that my two enjoy called 'The Large Family'. It follows the fortunes of a family of elephants called, funnily enough, the Large family. There are four kids and two adults in this family, and the programme reflects the average chaotic nature of family life. I tend not to share my kids' taste in television, but occasionally I quite like to join them for this one as it offers a kind of therapy by proving that tidiness and organisation can quite happily go to pot in a home without any loss of love, kindness and warmth.

At the Large family home there is never a meal-time when no-one spills anything, never a two-way conversation in which everyone waits for the others to finish speaking before taking their turn, and things are forgotten and misplaced with the kind of regularity that I can truly identify with. ("Water bottle? Oh sorry I've forgotten it again honey... ask the teacher for a cup of water if you are thirsty.")

Next-door to the Large family live the Smart family. Life in their household is very different. The cupboards are never bare, the boy-child is always obedient, and you get the feeling they would lose their own heads before forgetting to take their water-bottles to school.

There was one episode in which a boy from the Smart family came for a sleepover at the Large house. I don't remember the full course of the programme but I do remember his shock at breakfast time when Mrs Large told him to put juice on his cereal because she'd forgotten to buy milk. Ha ha, the poor lad was distraught. I don't mean to sound cruel when I say that, but surely the children growing up amongst chaos, learning to make do and adapt are going to be better equipped for life in the real world than the poor boy who thinks you should always be able to see the pattern on a carpet and that crumb-free surfaces are the key to happiness?

Life is too short for colour-coding socks. Our children are young enough to find the world a wonderful place for such a short time and I don't believe anyone ever looked back at their childhood and thanked their lucky stars that their childhood home was clean and tidy. Keep on top of the essentials of course, but make time for enjoying the chaos too.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Missing my blog

My internet hub gave up the ghost over Christmas - which explains my recent lack of posts. I don't mind admitting that I am really missing this outlet though, it is rather cathartic to get some of the madness of the day down on paper, and also forces me to think back over the more positive and amusing things that happen in the course of an average day.

Hopefully I will be back online soon but for now I will just add this brief post. Living with two small children I do sometimes wonder whether my voice is ever really heard. The other day at bedtime I had been repeatedly asking five year old to put her pyjamas on for what seemed like an eternity. Eventually she replied in an exaggerated exasperated tone: "Oh, go on then, if you exist."

Well I do wonder sometimes.