I’m offline for a couple of weeks after this post – I’m working on something magnificent and it requires my full concentration. I’m sure that you can all survive a fortnight without my ridiculous posts on nipples, orifices and social distancing problems, but as a parting shot to see you through, here I am on video, cutting my own hair with (completely inappropriate) paper scissors.
Some will have seen this on IGTV but I am well aware that many of you don’t use Instagram or Facebook (sensible probably – they are the biggest time-suckers!) and so I’ve uploaded the whole thing to Youtube and embedded it below.
See you all later, alligator: if you need me urgently then ring my Mum! But don’t knock for me, I’m not allowed out. Hohoho…
Remember the absolute mortification when a friend called for you but your Mum wouldn’t let you out because tea was nearly ready? And you’d hear your Mum say
“No, Sean/Lee/Nat/Jamie, she can’t come out now, her tea’s nearly on the table.”
“Oh OK,” they’d answer, “can she come out after?”
“Maybe,” your Mum would say, “depends.”
“What time’ll she be finished?”
“Not sure yet, Sean/Lee/Nat/Jamie, maybe you go and play and if she’s finished she’ll come and find you.”
“How will she know where I am though?” Sean/Lee/Nat/Jamie would say.
From your position at the top of the stairs you’d just about be able to see their bike lying on its side in the front garden, the wheels still spinning. And you’d be thinking bloody hell Sean/Lee/Nat/Jamie, you’re pushing your luck with all of these questions! Back away from the door and save yourself!
To be fair, my Mum was a very patient Mum. Maybe because she was a teacher. She could deal with a whole barrage of pointless questions and she always managed to keep her voice steady and kind. I’d lose the plot if people kept knocking on my door now. Not least because the dog goes crackers anytime anyone approaches and then someone else has to shout at the dog to stop him from barking and someone else always has to say “he’s only guarding!”: it’s a right old performance. So if I had been a mother in the eighties, with no Great Uncle iPad and only three telly channels, then I’m sure I’d have been a very short-tempered and highly-stressed sort of mother. I’d have been leaning on that doorframe with a Benson & Hedges dangling from my lower lip. Smudged eyeliner, hair wrapped in a handkerchief, glass of 3pm sherry in my hand.
“I said she’d be out after tea, didn’t I? NOW PISS OFF YOU LITTLE GITS!”
On that note, here I am massacring my own hair. It was actually looking rather nice before I chopped it – let this be a lesson to you!
had some notes on what the kids have been up to, because this is supposed to be a life update. They have been making little things from modelling clay (an elephant, a toadstool garden, pictured above – guess who actually made them both? Thank you, yes, I know they are brilliant), making dens around the garden, populating the dens with every single toy they can find and then leaving them out overnight to go soggy and finally, bringing stuff inside that should be outside. Leaves. Stones. Snails, dead or alive.
I feel as though this is a very particular parenting era that we are experiencing right now, with its own set of rules and quirks. It changes every week, but I think I could sum up the current era (daughter: just turned five, son: three and a half) with the following headings: inflexibility, warm hands and continuing exhaustion.
Inflexibility. There is suddenly a real lack of wriggle room when it comes to negotiations. I find it so frustrating, trying to get two small, loud people to do stuff they don’t want to do that I frequently resort to a) making threats I later don’t have the energy to uphold (“I will take all of the toys from your bedroom and put them in a bin bag if you don’t stop whacking her with the space robot!”) and b) telling minor fibs. Usually my little lies involve something being closed or something needing batteries. “Can we watch the iPad?” “No, it needs batteries.” “Can you make us a den in the living room?” “No, the living room’s…closed.”
Warm hands. I’m trying to appreciate the feeling of small, warm hands in mine. Because my daughter is now almost as tall as me, seemingly, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to pick her up. She’s just suddenly quite long and unwieldy. It’s like trying to walk along carrying an olive tree, or, I don’t know, a small hat stand. A clothes airer. Everything’s angular, rangy. Limbtastic. And so I know that soon I’ll be weeping over that poem – how does it go?
One day you will carry them on your hip then set them down
And never pick them up that way again
(If you ever want to have a maudlin old weep then read the whole thing – it’s called The Last Time. In fact I’ll type it out below for you. Hankies at the ready.)
So yes, even though she’s still grabbing my face for kisses, and the three year-old still likes to be picked up and carried now and then, and both of them still curl their little warm hands into my palm when we walk along, I know that they are growing up faster than I can process and that I must remember every tiny detail. Perfectly round tummies sticking out of the gap between outgrown pyjama tops and bottoms, messy, sweaty night-hair, tiny arms that seem as fragile as bird bones when you rub them with sunscreen, mispronounced words (favourite of the week is Trinoceros, which I personally think is an excellent replacement for Triceratops), the instantly-recognisable little call of “Mummy? Mummy?” from up the stairs, the spilt drinks and dropped food, the theme tune to World Kitchen on CBeebies (every day at noon on lockdown, the soundtrack to our luncheons), the very particular bedtime routines…
Continuing Exhaustion. My final defining characteristic of this particular life era: ongoing, relentless exhaustion. Sometimes I try to look back on the baby years and work out whether they were blissfully relaxing in comparison, or horrendously tiring. Maybe as things get easier, and you get more sleep, you become spoilt and you think you’re more tired, but on the other hand, babies are pretty low-maintenance in comparison to small children. You feed them, you change their nappies, you (eventually) get them to sleep, but for the majority of the day you can manage to do stuff like make a cup of tea, fold some laundry, write a few emails, and you can do it all whilst the baby stares at a shadow on the wall and catches invisible butterflies and drools on itself. Not possible with kids. Maybe things change, but at the moment, 5+3, there’s a window of approximately eight minutes when they will quietly and enjoyably play and then all hell breaks loose. And if hell isn’t breaking loose then someone is asking a question, repeatedly, with exactly the same intonation and rhythm, over and over again until someone answers, and quite often it’s not even a question it’s just a statement phrased like a question, which is irritating and incorrect at the best of times but when it’s on robotic repeat for over thirty seconds it’s easy just to absolutely lose your mind:
“Mummy he put lego in my ear? Mummy? He put lego in my ear? Mummy he put lego in my ear? Mummy? Mummy he put lego in my ear?”