Cogitations with the kids: Why This Big Girl Does Cry.

for chainMe: Please don’t throw that food on the floor.
The five year old: Why Mummy?
Me: Because if you do I shall cry.
The three year old: Grown ups don’t cry Mummy!
Dad: Yes they do, just not as often as children.
The five year old: Why?
Dad: Sometimes grown ups think they can’t cry. But they can.
The five year old: Why?
Dad: Because they think they don’t look strong if they cry.
The seven year old: Well that’s silly because children are strong and they cry all the time.
Me: Well, children cry more because sometimes they use crying to communicate.
The five year old: Why?
Me: Because they might not have the words yet to explain how they feel.

At this point, I accidentally drop a bit of pizza in my husband’s drink, as I am trying to pass the pizza to the 3 year old

Me: See, if I’d have dropped that in the 3 year old’s drink, he might have cried, rather than us having a chat and me saying sorry.
Dad: Yes, me and your Mum can have a conversation about it and speak about it and then it is OK.
The seven year old: Oh I get it.

pause

Like a grown up might say, “Fucking Hell”.

Shocked pause.

the five year old: Why might they say that, Mummy?

Stunned silence

the three year old: Fucking hell.

The Naked Rambler’s Brother Installed Our Staircase, and other small steps towards understanding attitudes to nudity

The naked rambler’s brother installed our staircase. Fact. He was fully clothed when he did it. Public nudity is not a family trait.

The naked rambler is a chap who has been in prison for 2 and a half years for breaching an ASBO ordering him to cover up in public.

I read about his latest exploits just after I had read this article about a woman who has turned to art to express her despair at being forced to wear  the burqua.

While I was reading that article, I noticed that the 3 year old was starkers, standing on the window sill, waving to the passers by. I wondered if I was being irresponsible leaving him there. Parenting-peado-paranoia has taken hold of my mind.

When I finally retrieved my son, I looked out of the window and noted that my husband has nearly completed the installation of the outside bath. We wear swimming costumes in the outdoor bath. We do this to protect our pot smoking, heavy drinking, swearing neighbours who peer over our fence, from the obscenity that is our bodies. Because we are nice like that.

Speaking of swimming costumes, I went to the pool other day in an attempt to shift some of the baby weight (the baby starts school in September).

While in the changing rooms, two teenage girls shamed one of their ‘friends’ due to some perceived imperfection with her body. The shamed girl shuffled into a tiny cubicle to change.  In disgust, I stood there naked aside from the towel I was using to dry my arms, and I stared the bullies down: “this is what a human looks like”, my eyes challenged them. They more than understood.

The incident reminded me of a conversation I once had with the naked rambler’s brother’s girlfriend. She was in the female changing room at the local baths, showering naked. A mother with her 7 year old son asked if perhaps my naked friend could keep her swimming costume on while showering so as not to upset the little boy.

I must first point out that my friend was German, and had not quite got a handle of the subtleties of some words in the English Language. So, you can imagine the concerned mother’s face when she was told, “He came out of your c*nt, I’m sure he doesn’t mind mine”.

Try saying it in a German accent. Brilliant.

Are our continental friends more comfortable with their bodies than us Brits? Perhaps it was the Dutch traveller that misled our English Rose into getting her boobs out at a sacred monument in Malaysia. Seems a bit disrespectful, but to be fair on them I am not sure they anticipated that their actions could result in an earthquake, courtesy of the wrath of the Gods.

I wonder what 20 somethings do think about nudity these days. They have grown up surrounded by music videos verging on porn, by actual porn, by being told that boys fail at school because girls’ skirts are too short, that it’s OK to breastfeed in public. No it isn’t. Yes it is. No it isn’t.

That they live in a free country.

That they can dress how they please.

Although burqua wearing really isn’t cricket

And being naked in public is most likely a step too far, whether you are rambling or not.

And as for all the steps in between full coverage and full nudity, who knows?

Not me!

I’m going to have a bath. Things are always clearer after a bath…..

…..aren’t they?

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We’re Not Bored Son, We’re Buffering

The kids are watching some film or other on Netflix when I hear them sigh. When I investigate I see the circle on the screen spinning round and round. Inundated with info and struggling to find space or capacity or to hear itself above all the other techno babble, the computer is buffering.

“I’m bored” moans the 7 year old when faced with this momentary glitch in his passive entertainment. “Being bored” is a new phrase for him, and a thoroughly depressing one at that. I feel a pang of shame: how did I let this happen?

In a flash he’s gone from being exhilarated at finding his toes, to a couple of seconds of buffering bringing on utter despondency.

In a cruel ironic twist, this awareness of boredom seems to coincide with a time when I am unable to move without stumbling upon some action figure, or Innotab charger, or bag of books, or second hand puzzle. Our house is fit to burst with toys, it’s decorated with items chosen specifically with the kids in mind, we have even given over the kitchen table to glitter. Play dates role in. New clubs pop up.

There is no time to do any more. How can he be bored?

The natural first response to this phrase from any Cogito Ergo Mum is to wonder, “What am I doing wrong?”

Have I spoiled them? Do they have too much? Are they watching too many adverts that leave them feeling their current toys are somehow lacking? Is school now so structured that they are now unable to work out how to entertain themselves in whatever free time they have?

My second response is “Actually, I’m a bit bored too.”

With all of our stuff, all of our luck, all of our security it is tempting to dismiss this boredom as a first world problem. It probably is, but it’s a problem I want to solve: I am not going to let us waste all we have under a cloud of feeling generally uninspired.

I look at the 7 year old, who just had his birthday, and I look at me, soon to turn 40 and I find some surprising similarities. It seems we have both reached some sort of cross roads. The mid life one is not a surprise. But the 7 year old’s is.

When I think about it, there seems some subtle but profound change comes when a child reaches 7. It’s like he has taken a step away from engaging 100% with external experiences, and a little step inwards.

He seems to be processing, thinking, reflecting, wondering how he is going to interpret all the stimuli life throws at him. Inundated with all this new information, I realise perhaps the 7 year old isn’t bored at all. I think he might be buffering.

There’s so much to listen to, to think about, to reflect upon, to decide upon, to worry about, to take delight in. The 40 year old and the 7 year old can both sense a change in the road that lies ahead. We are both a little paralysed by all that might come next. It’s easier to claim boredom than deal with it.

As with the computer when it is overwhelmed, I reckon its time to shut down a few apps: stash away the lesser used toys, lose the charger for the Innotab, remember not to worry too much about the homework. Or, in my case, let the more thankless chores slip for a while, turn off Facebook, have faith that the next part of my journey will make itself clear through the fog soon.

But for all this to happen, we have to stop for a while. Perhaps keep a pen at hand, and a book. Keep the doors open to the outside world, and our arms open for cuddles.

We need to not beat ourselves up or fear that we are not just bored but, worse still, boring.

We’re not bored son, we’re buffering.

I don’t know about you, but I see no shame in that.

Politics: what do you know?

When I was 4 there were some things that I knew.

I knew 1+1 = 2. I knew living in an intergenerational family set up behind the sweet shop that we ran was awesome. I knew Father Christmas existed. I knew the Tories were evil. I knew that you all knew this too.

I wasn’t actually sure what ” the Tories” was. I knew what it looked like: Margaret Thatcher. I knew that the Tories wanted to quash the spirit of all humankind, and probably Father Christmas, and it would be likely to steal my sweets given half a chance. I had a vague notion that people who hung around the periphery of the Royal Family, and people who had barths rather than baths were also somehow involved in this dastardly plot.

In 1992, one thing we all knew was that Labour would win the General Election. Humankind had finally found the strength, the courage to rise up, and so would begin the end of all of our woes.

But then Labour did not win. And in that eerily quiet day in our school, as my class mates and I tried to come to terms with a disappointment more desolate and desperate than I can possibly explain here, my perception of the world changed forever.

A group of us trundled along to our A Level Theatre Studies class and I recall vividly that the lesson was run more like a group bereavement session. We sat around a table and I asked the teacher, with innocent honesty “But how did they win? Nobody voted for them.”

He replied, in a voice that had hints of ‘barth’ rather than ‘bath’, “That’s why I moved here Abby: because nobody here believes the Tories are right”.

I knew the Tories were evil. But you knew they weren’t. WTF.

It was then that I questioned absolutely everything I thought I knew. It was an event that shaped my life and no doubt contributed to the fact that one year later I’d applied to study philosophy at Reading.

When I moved down South to pursue my studies, I met lots of people at university who also knew lots of things. What all of them all seemed to know was that, as a northerner, I was definitely going to be super friendly. I could say quite outrageous things and people wouldn’t shun me. Instead they’d comment favourably upon what a down-to-earth, call a spade-a-spade funny lass I was. I never even had to say who I voted for – it was written all over my vowels.

After I graduated I worked all over the UK and then settled down to have my family. Along the way I have been at times pretty poor and at times very well off. My accent has faded but my friendship group has grown bigger and stronger.

Some of my closest friends now vote Conservative. I suspect some of them vote UKIP, but given my 6-month Farage barage on Facebook, we’ve silently agreed to not mention this. None of them try to quash my spirit, or steal my sweets. In fact most of them are very generous in every way possible.

Now I am 38, I still know that 1+1 = 2. I remain in constant bemusement that inter generational living is seen as a tragedy. I suspect it’s a good thing that my kids don’t live anywhere near a sweet shop. I know Father Christmas doesn’t exist, but I kind of wish he did.

I know this time last week we were guaranteed to be welcoming in a hung parliament. I know the Conservatives now govern us under a majority.

I know the anger and the fury that the outcome of the election has raised in some quarters. But, despite the fact that I did not vote Conservative, I don’t feel this anger or fury. Neither do I feel the desolation or despair of 1992.

Instead I feel that last week something hugely important happened within politics. Not so much the outcome, but the thought process that led to that outcome.

I know that for many of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s, our political affiiations were almost programmed into our DNA, and now this is just not the case. Now, more than ever, we want to think for ourselves.

I cannot predict how I might vote at the next election, let alone how my children might vote in future. Does this matter? Is this important? Do I have a role to play in helping my kids think through what they think about politics?

I think it does matter. I think it is important. I think I have a key role and that

we need to start talking to our children now, not about what to think about politics but how to think about politics.

You might disagree.

But then, when you think about it, what do you know?

Kids’ cogitations: brotherly love

for chain

The 3 boys have been arguing lately. Lots.

Yelling, shouting, screaming, hitting, not sharing. The usual type of behaviour for three little ones with only 39 months between eldest and youngest. Normal as it may be, it’s still wearing.

It culminated yesterday. A turf war over hand-mi-down Peppa Pig toys led to the confiscation of 2 and a half toy camper vans, Mrs Rabbit, and 3 small George pigs. Oh, and a bitten nipple. Not mine, I hasten to add.

It’s been getting so bad it’s started to impact my sleep. What am I doing wrong?

I thought to myself,

“There is a lot going on at the moment. Builders in, planning a couple of big events, some volunteer work at school. Perhaps I haven’t been giving them enough attention. Perhaps I’ve been snapping at them. Perhaps I’m setting a bad example.

I’ve always had quite a short fuse. Perhaps, no matter how I act, that temper of mine is already genetically programmed into their innocent looking heads.

And they are boys, they’ll be bigger than me when grown. And stronger. And full of testosterone.

What if the arguing gets worse? What if they start to hate each other? And it’s all my fault? And I can’t do anything about it? Because I’m doing something wrong but I don’t know what?

But maybe they do know what I’m doing wrong, but they just can’t articulate it. But the seed of resentment towards me has already been planted. And when they are grown, pitched against each other, angry, they might start to feel animosity towards me.

And then they’ll find comfort and love in a partner. And confide in that partner. And then that partner will see me for the rubbish mother I am. And all chances to redeem myself with the grandkids will be screwed.

Christmases are going to be hell on earth.

Where even can me and the husband, and three boys and their partners and their three kids each sit together to enjoy Christmas together.

God, Christmas is so stressful.

I HHAAAAAATTTTEEEEEE CHRRRIISSSSTTMMAAASSSS.”

After the above thought processes concluded, about 4 seconds after it started, I took a deep breath.

I remembered to have a little more faith in myself and the kids.

I asked the 6 year old if he knew why him and the two others had been arguing so much.

He laughed. Rolled his eyes.

“Because we’re brothers Mummy.”

Pause.

I love my brothers Mummy“.

Me too, little man.

Me too.