How to unravel mummy’s sanity – a guide for kids

The thing to remember about mummy is that she loves you very much, so you can try a selection or indeed all of these sanity-eroding activities and – once she’s regained her composure – she will still love you.  She may be stressed.  She may be exhausted.  She may howl at the moon and drink heavily.  But – and this is the important thing – she will still love you.

  1. Loiter aimlessly in the mornings. Mummy feels an obligation to get you to school on time, and it’s your job to challenge her compulsion.  Top challenges to her obsession with timeliness include: staring vacantly into space when you should be eating your breakfast; and playing hide and seek with your sibling instead of getting dressed.  Why not further spice things up by waiting until you’re half way to school and then announcing that you’ve left your bag at home?
  2. Never ever put laundry in the basket. Unless, of course, you have just tried something on, but decided not to wear it.  In that case, you should always put it in the basket.  A fun way to create extra laundry is to have friends over for a play date then get them to try on all your clothes and do the same.  I mean, if mummy didn’t have laundry, she would literally have nothing to do all day.
  3. Never eat vegetables. In fact, carefully pore through every plate of food looking for anything green and, when you find something, immediately declare the entire meal unfit for human consumption.  If mummy wants you to eat even one of your five-a-day, she needs to get much more inventive than carelessly chopping a few vegetables into your spaghetti Bolognese.
  4. Behave like the perfect child at other people’s houses. Tidy up.  Eat all your vegetables.  Tell your friend’s parents how much you love school.  Mummy will be completely baffled by reports of your good behaviour, but unable to tell other parents that you are actually a complete horror.
  5. Never do anything the first time mummy asks. I mean, if she’s only asked once, how do you know she’s serious?  Wait till she’s really yelling and then take the high ground by telling her you were about to do it, but because she’s shouting you’re not going to.  This might also be a good time to remind her that she should be using her inside voice.
    spirit crush 9a

    Because I said so!

  6. No matter how foul you have been to mummy, become an absolute angel as soon as daddy gets home. This will undermine the credibility of everything mummy says about you, whilst giving daddy an excellent opportunity to share his parenting wisdom.  Mummy loves hearing from daddy how her parenting could be improved.
  7. Start a fight with your sibling for no reason. The best time to do this is in the car, as that is when mummy is least able to figure out who started it and deal with it appropriately.  Mummy will be trapped in a sort of double jeopardy: she wants to turn round and conduct the Spanish Inquisition, but she doesn’t want to take her eye off the road and veer headlong into the oncoming traffic.  Honestly, next time you’re bored on a journey, just quietly lean over and give your sibling a quick pinch, then sit back and enjoy the fireworks.
  8. Save the best to last. When you think mummy really can’t take any more, when she has completely lost it and looks like she may never get it back, tearfully throw your arms round her and tell her you love her.  She will (almost certainly) forgive you (eventually) because, like I said at the start, mummy loves you very much.  And now you have laid the groundwork for starting it all again tomorrow…


Fetid trainers, missing gloves and mystery parcels: welcome to the average morning at my house

All those people who don’t have children, all they have to do is get up in the morning and go to work.  I bet some of them even manage to eat breakfast before they leave.  Sometimes I fantasise about the luxury of making and then eating my own breakfast!  In my house, I have already broken up two fights and emergency hand-washed a pair of school tights before 7.30am.  (For some reason we are always short of tights, even though I do more washing than the laundrette.)

So if you’ve seen me on the school run, or had the misfortune to sit in a meeting where I’ve arrived sweaty and slightly frazzled, let me tell you about a typical week in my house…

Monday:  Due to the unseasonally cold weather, my youngest daughter says she would like to wear her gloves to school.  She watches me search all the usual places gloves might be.  Then she watches me painstakingly empty The Cupboard of Doom, in which all things that haven’t been put away in their rightful place generally lurk.  There are many interesting and useful items in The Cupboard of Doom – some of which have been ‘lost’ for months – but my daughter’s gloves are not amongst them.  After ten minutes of diligent searching, and with the entire contents of the cupboard arrayed around me, I admit defeat.  “Perhaps you could wear mummy’s gloves instead?” I suggest.  ‘Or,’ says my daughter helpfully, ‘perhaps I should wear the ones in my pocket?’ “Oh yes, darling” I say brightly.  “That’s a great idea.  Why don’t you do that?”  Grrrrrrrrr.

morning tarmacTuesday:  When I get home from the school run, there is a card on my doormat from the Post Office saying I have a parcel.  I go to the Post Office to retrieve said parcel, but have to pay £1.50 as the sender has underpaid the postage.  As I turn away from the counter clutching the mysterious package, I notice that it isn’t actually addressed to me.  There is no return address on it, or information that might enable me to forward it to the person it is addressed to, so the kindly man at the Post Office says I should keep it.  When I open it, the parcel contains a small chunk of tarmac.  There is no note or explanation enclosed.  This is definitely the worst way to spend £1.50 I can think of.

Wednesday:  We leave the house a bit late, but cleverly make up time by scootering to school at top speed.  My youngest daughter is just about to run into school when I notice that she’s not carrying her school bag.  When I ask her where it is, she looks at me blankly for a moment, then says helpfully ‘By the front door at home.’  She is resistant to my suggestion that she might survive without it today, as it contains ‘important things’ that she will need later.  So reluctantly I scooter home, collect the bag and then scooter back to school. On the scooter trip home it starts to rain.  Later in the day I phone my husband and mutter darkly about how I literally have no life of my own and everything I do is subservient to the requirements of our children.  He makes a vague tapping sound at his computer and says he’ll have to phone me back later.  He does not call back.

morning heroThursday:  Despite both daughters vigorously assuring me on Wednesday evening that they have absolutely, definitely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, done everything they needed to for school, on Thursday morning both children announce that they may have slightly, somewhat, maybe a little bit, exaggerated how much of their homework they have actually done.  In an unexpected burst of commitment to their education, neither child is prepared to leave for school until said homework has been completed.  Resignedly I take my trainers off and make another cup of tea.  I might as well be refreshed for scootering to school at top whack.

Friday:  My youngest daughter can’t find her trainers and toady is PE.  Apparently she last wore them pond wading on a school trip, after which she put them in a plastic bag.  Questions about where she might have put the bag are treated as unreasonable.  After a brief search the bag is located.  It smells like a skunk has crawled in it to die.  My daughter is upset and disbelieving when I tell her she can’t wear the trainers, even though they are soaking wet and smell like a tramp’s armpit.  Eventually I persuade her to wear her sister’s trainers, which although they are slightly too big, are completely dry, and have the added bonus that you can’t smell them from ten paces away.  I put the fetid trainers back in the bag to tackle later.  #winning

morning breakfast

After school drop-off, I have breakfast in a café with my bestie Sarah and recount the challenges of my week.  Sarah nods sympathetically, even though her week has actually been much more challenging than mine.  We both agree that the other is a total hero.  I head home with my spirit invigorated and then I type emails, make calls and generally work like a demon until school pick up – because there’s only a narrow window of opportunity before the madness starts again…

Three questions every parent asks themselves (probably)

People think the big questions are things like Is there a god? or Why are we here?  But on a day-to-day basis I spend literally no time wondering about the existence or otherwise of an omnipotent deity.  The big questions in my life are things like ‘are my children supposed to wear wellies for their school trip?’ and ‘why didn’t you tell me last week that you need an elephant costume this week?’

So the questions that are perplexing me at the moment are:

kids-toothbrush-holderQUESTION 1:  Why, when they have to do it every day, are my children constantly bewildered by the requirement to clean their teeth and get dressed before school?  They can remember the planets in order of their distance from the sun.  They can recall every promise I have ever made that is still unfulfilled.  They can even do grid multiplication (something I was never taught and, frankly, don’t understand).  But they cannot remember from leaving the breakfast table to arriving upstairs that they are supposed to clean their teeth.  By the time they reach the landing, they have literally no idea why they are there.  So instead of attending to their dental hygiene, they set about pulling faces in front of the mirror and competing for who can do the silliest walk.  And when I reprimand them, they look genuinely bewildered and hurt, as if the requirement to clean their teeth is entirely new information, and not something I say to them every morning after breakfast.  Seriously, why can’t they remember this?

QUESTION 2:  Am I rearing resilient children, or just excusing my lax parenting?  I only ask because my children’s diary is filled with so many activities that sometimes things fall between the cracks.  Well, I say ‘fall between the cracks’, but what I mean is disappear into a gaping hole.  On top of regular activities like swimming (pack knickers and a towel) and after school club (pack snacks – different sandwiches for each child), I am also required to be alert for school trips (pack £5 and a waterproof), class assemblies (wear costume to school, collect granny on the way) and opticians’ appointments (return to school to collect forgotten glasses).  On any given week at least one child will arrive at school without the requisite swimming costume/snack/signed consent form.  My children have become so accustomed to my parental under-performance that they aren’t in the least bit flustered when we get lost on the way to a party, show up late, or forget to take the present.  They’re used to it.  So am I teaching resilience (as I like to think), or just setting the bar really low for what constitutes competent parenting?

And lastly, and not really on the subject of my children:


I want you to know that I spent a long time searching for pics of the Bieber and they ALL look like soft porn

QUESTION 3:  Am I too old to like Justin Bieber?  I don’t mean Justin himself you understand.  Apart from anything else, I am old enough to be his mother, so that would be, well, eeeuuuwww.  But I do like his music.  My children find it grotesque and unacceptable that I should like any music that has been released since they were born (my eldest child is nine).  But they also moan and whine about listening to all my ‘Best of the 80s’ compilations (of which there are many – what with the 80s being such a good decade for music and all).  Actually, now I think about it, I realise that the real question is not whether I am too old to like Justin Bieber (answer: probably), but whether my children should be allowed to determine the music I listen to?  And just like that, it’s all about my children again…

If you too are grappling with important and fundamental questions like these, I’d love to hear them – please put them in the comments box at the botto0m of the page!

Thanks to Uncommon Goods and HD Wallpapers for the pictures featured in this blog.

Back to school: where did the holidays go?

BackToSchoolIs it only me who’s been caught completely by surprise by the end of the summer holidays?  It seems like only days ago that the entire holidays stretched before us waiting to be filled with sunshine and memories.  There were days out to be planned, play dates to be arranged and picnics to be prepared.  And just as I’m getting the hang of it, suddenly it’s time for the kids to go back to school again.

So now we’re into a whole new kind of planning.  Every item of school uniform must be laid out on the bed, tried on and sorted into piles: a pile for clothes that fit the eldest child; a pile for clothes that fit the youngest; a pile for clothes that are too small for the eldest, but too big for the youngest (put them to the back of the cupboard); and one for clothes that don’t fit either of my children any more (donate to friends with younger kids).

Then there’s a shopping trip for anything we’re still missing, followed by an evening of lovingly sewing name tapes on everything.  And, in case you’ve never done it, sewing name tapes on is one of the dullest jobs in the world.

The final item of school uniform is new shoes.  All parents know that children make a point of growing out of their shoes as often as possible.  Trying to keep your children in footwear that fits is like cutting an enormous hole in your pocket and then continuously filling it up with £20 notes.  It is an expensive and demoralising task.

And somehow, between the last minute shopping and the final playdates, a haircut must be fitted in.  I know, of course, that within seconds of arriving at school my children’s hair will look like a bush, and it will stay like that for the rest of term, but at least they will be presentable when they arrive in the playground on the first day.

This is also the point in the holidays when I generally have a bit of a panic-up that other, more diligent, parents have been practising the times tables with their children and reading War and Peace to them at bedtime.  I have obviously left it far too late to do any of that, and my children stare at me blankly as I call out maths questions over breakfast.

So now we are ready.  My children have had their hair cut.  They have uniforms that fit and new shoes waiting to be scuffed.  It’s truly the end of the holidays and the start of the new school year. I just hope that times tables are like riding a bicycle…

Why sports day makes my heart sing

Few events in the school calendar gladden my heart like Sports Day.  My children’s school has understood that if you’re going to take a day off work, you don’t want to waste it watching other people’s children running the 800 metres (worthy though such a pastime may be). You want to be greeted by coffee and cakes, you want the sports field festooned in bunting, and most of all you want to picnic like you’ve never picnicked before.

The day before the sporting action there is always a frenzy of mummies clashing trollies in M&S as we vie for the fanciest sandwich spreads, most exotic salads, and prettiest cakes. And that’s before we’ve even started to think about what to wear.

The dress code on these occasions is a moot point.  There is always a small number of parents who seem to have misunderstood the fundamental premise of sports day, and who show up in sports kit themselves (seriously – how bizarre is that?).  And another handful who have cleverly managed to squeeze a couple of hours work in beforehand, and who arrive suited, booted and slightly frazzled. But the majority of parents plump for smart-casual.  Not so smart they look like they’re actually trying, not so casual they look like they’ll be lying on the sofa watching Come Dine With Me later.

I, dear reader, have been working tirelessly to overturn the smart-casual convention.  I have been going all-out-Ascot with fancy frocks and and stiletto heels.  This year I upped the ante with a hat.  If you don’t count the woman in a beanie, I was a thought-leader on the what-to-do-with-a-bare-head front.

And then there are the actual sports.  Let’s start with the parents.  The dads race is so popular that this year they had to have heats and a final.  Every dad is in the race.  There are men running in shorts and trainers and men running in suits and ties.  And for the twenty or thirty seconds the race lasts, they are all heroes.  Dads everywhere, I salute you.

The mum’s race has an entirely different vibe.  There are only about 6 competitors, and four of them are wearing sports kit and running spikes.  What’s that about?  My children persuaded me to run it last year, and I spent the entire length of the track trying to stop my skirt from riding up and showing my knickers.  It goes without saying that I didn’t win.  I wasn’t even a valiant second.  Or third.  I’m thinking of requesting that next year they make it an obstacle race.

And so to the kids – the reason we are all actually there. I love cheering on the children – all the children, not just my own.  I love the way the crowd always gets behind the slow kid struggling at the back and roars with joy when they cross the line.  Everything about it is a microcosm of life.  It is a competition, and there are individual winners.  The children are also in houses, and each individual win contributes to the house’s overall success.  Each child feels the glory and tastes the pain of the wins and losses of others in their house.  But we are also a community, we celebrate those who have done well and support those who are struggling.  And isn’t that how life should be?  My children’s school is a great community to be part of.  Thank you, Mr H*.

* Mr H is headmaster at my children’s school and is regarded with awe and reverence in our house.  Nothing makes my children sharpen their manners like the words ‘What would Mr H say?’