The maddest movie in the world

Imagine a film directed by Stanley Kubrick, written by Lewis Carroll with a visual feast designed by Baz Lurhman. The movie progresses as a stream of consciousness, with the key protagonist narrating the entire time. It would go something like this:

“Oh, I’m awake. I was asleep. Why am I awake now? MUMMMMMYYYY. No, not you, Mummy, I want Daddy. Oh, Daddy. No, I want Mummy. I want breakfast. I want Weetos. Thank you, Daddy. <Sniff. Bottom lip tremble> SOB! YOU GAVE ME WEETOS! I WANTED WEETOS AND YOU GAVE ME WEETOS! <Suddenly, tears dry up>. Mmm, I love Weetos. I want my hair done. My sister is having her hair done. I want mine done. NOW. NOW, MUMMY, NOW. Oooh, look – a squirrel.

“I’m outside. I can see the chickens. I will feed Buzz Lightyear to the chickens. Here you are, chickens. SOB! THEY’RE PECKING MY BUZZ LIGHTYEAR! MUMMMMMMMYYYYYY! Ooooh, look – a squirrel. I’m in the car. I want to walk. I WANT DOWN! MUMMMMMMMYYYYY! DOWN! I don’t want to walk. Mummy, tuddle. TUDDLE, MUMMY! You can push the pram, carry Big’s school bag AND carry me! Mummy! TUDDLE! Down. Down, Mummy.

“Mummy, it’s a Gruffalo! IT’S A GRUFFALO! Do you agree, Mummy? Yes. NO, IT’S NOT A GRUFFALO! <Bottom lip tremble> Ooooh, look – a squirrel. I want to do a puzzle. No, I do it myself. Help, Mummy. NO, I DO IT MYSELF! GO ‘WAY. MUMMMMMYYYYY!

“Lunches. I want my lunches. MUMMMMYYYY. Mmmm, pasta. <Inhales food> Lollipop. I want a lollipop. Fank you, Mummy. <Inhales lolly> Mummy’s lap. I want Mummy’s lap. I want to tidy up. I will throw all the play food out of the kitchen so I can tidy up. Ooooh, look – a squirrel. Why is there play food everywhere? MUMMMMMYYYY!

“Where’s Big? Big is at pre-school. I want Big. <Bottom lip tremble>There’s Little. I want to stand on Little. Stop it, Mummy, let me stand on Little! Oooh, look – a squirrel.

“It’s bath time. I don’t want a bath. I don’t want to get out of the bath. I want to do drawing. I want to draw on the bath. I want to draw on my sister in the bath. <Bottom lip tremble> I want to be asleep. I am asleep.”

The movie’s title? A day in the mind of a two-year-old. Exhausting.

The maddest movie in the world

A post script

Ps First Time Mum, I forgot to tell you about the Guilt. No one warns you about the Guilt.  The Guilt is always lurking;  a bit like the smell of the bad nappy of a just-weaned six-month-old that you changed a while ago but somehow still lingers in your nostrils. You will feel guilty about everything: Too much TV, using ready-made food, needing a wee when they’re crying… The Guilt is powerful and omnipresent.  With experience,  you’ll learn to ignore it and your rational brain will take over. You’re doing the best you can and honestly,  truly, black and bluely,  that is good enough.

When you become a second and even a third time mum,  the Guilt resurfaces.  How could you do that to your first born? Of course this is helped by said first born giving you the cold shoulder. Don’t worry,  Rational You will come back. Probably shortly after your day three day of irrational and uncontrollable crying.  This doesn’t just happen after having a baby: A friend of mine adopted a cat and cried for a week.

I forgot to tell you that there will be moments that in your pre-mum life would have given you a tummy upset from all the cringing. These will be water off a duck’s back. Bottom explosions (theirs,  not yours.  Yours are still embarrassing), public meltdowns (two out of three of mine treated me to simultaneous tantrums at pick up today.  Number three joined in when we got home) and inappropriate questions (Mummy, why is that man wearing a skirt?) will abound and it’ll just wash over you.  You’ll find yourself discussing your post-birth bits with near strangers without a shred of embarrassment.  It’s refreshing. 

But did I mention the love?  There is just so much love.

A post script

A letter to a first time mum

Dear First Time Mum

FTM (can I call you that?), I’ve been meaning to write to you for a while. It’s exciting, isn’t it? Watching your body change for the first time and wondering who it is that’s residing under your ribs. At first, it’s difficult to imagine that it’s an actual person. You won’t believe that until he or she finally comes out.

Labour isn’t that bad. Really, it’s not. It’s 24 hours of awfulness followed by complete amnesia. The second you hold that baby, you won’t remember what a contraction felt like. Within 24 hours, you won’t remember life before that baby, either. Nature is clever like that. Your life will cataclysmically change. It will never be the same again. You will never be the same again. And you know what? You will love the new you.

Becoming a mother gives you a confidence that’s primal. You start to speak your mind more and mind your manners less. Anyone threatens my cub and this tiger is going to have their eyes out. You’ll be the same. From the second you see their beautiful scrunched up little face, you know that you would die for them. Your heart will break every time they cry and you will feel like it is going to burst because there is just so much love.

And it’s not just for your baby, that love. You will fall in love with your partner all over again when you see him with your baby.You will see a tenderness there that you’d never noticed before. You’ll watch him cradle that tiny baby in his big hands and you will melt. That doesn’t mean you’ll want to resume any of that physical stuff. No siree, not with all those stitches. If you’re lucky, he’s the supportive type. If so, that’s a godsend.

Little things will become treasured memories. Sitting around the table having a Sunday roast, just you and your little family. Your little tribe. Just you and them against the world. A walk in the park where watching your firstborn discover the joy of jumping in a muddy puddle or a pile of leaves will make you want to take a photo of that memory and put it somewhere safe. You see the world differently when you look at it through their brand new eyes.

You will feel fear like you’ve never felt it before. Fear of the changing world around us and suddenly every situation is dangerous. You want to wrap that baby up in cotton wool and never expose him to badness that is around the corner. And it’s not just him. Suddenly, you’ll worry about your own mortality and how you can’t possibly ever die when he/she will always need their mum. You’ll worry about your partner’s mortality because you can’t possibly do this on your own. The what ifs become massive and they will keep you awake at night.

On the subject of being awake at night, FTM, you will never sleep again. The moment your baby takes a deep breath, you’ll be wide awake. He stirs, you’re ready. He cries, you’re there. He turns over in his sleep, you’re out of the bed to check he’s alright. Your partner will sleep through this, blissfully unaware. And do you know what? You’ll cope. You’ll adjust to broken and poor quality sleep and you’ll be just as efficient as you were before.

You’ll second guess yourself all the time, FTM, and I really don’t want you to do that. It took having my third baby before I completely trusted my instincts. I’d do what the health visitor said because they must be right – they’d got a clipboard and name badge. Not this time. This time I’m enjoying my baby and I’m doing it my way. For the first 16 weeks, I cuddled her to sleep for every nap and at night. “You’re making a rod for your own back,” they said. Did I? At 18-weeks she happily self-settles and only wakes once to feed during the night. Don’t listen to them, FTM. Do what you think is right.

The advice will be endless. Your mum will want you to do it her way. She’s probably the one you can trust the most. After all, she did a pretty good job on you, right? But between her, your friends, the professionals and the thousands of parenting books you’ve undoubtably bought because YOU JUST WANT TO GET IT RIGHT, your ears will start to bleed with all the well meaning by contradictory snippets of wisdom. Close your eyes, FTM, and breathe. You are you. And you are all that baby needs.

I was given one piece of advice that was invaluable when I had Big and that was to enjoy her. I thought it was a strange thing to say, but now I totally get it. Take your time, FTM. Gaze at your baby, cuddle him tight and don’t let life get in the way. He is your life, and you are his.

Enjoy that baby.


Mum of three. X

A letter to a first time mum


This week,  I’ve had cause to reflect and I’m hugely grateful for what I’ve seen in the mirror.

The events of this weekend in Paris and elsewhere will make all of us hug our freedom a little closer. How one human being can think bursting into a rock concert on a Friday night and killing innocent people is a good idea is beyond me. In God’s name? Don’t make me laugh. What kind of God wants children to grow up without their mother?  Wives to live without their husbands? Mothers to mourn their children?

The news shocked me to the core. Lovely (and he is lovely) Husband often travels into central London and overseas for work. I hate him being away,  even if it does mean I get to eat children’s tea with the girls and not have to pretend to prefer grown up food. With the recent attack and then Gatwick’s subsequent evacuation  my immediate thought was that I didn’t want him to go away this week. I wanted to keep him safe with us. I’d even make a beef bourginon.

I gave myself a shake.  That’s what these brainwashed cowards want: To take our joi de vive and freedom away and that’s not going to happen. With fish fingers, peas and potato letters in mind, I’ll wave him off with a smile.

This week I’ve been poorly. Very poorly. The kind of poorly where you lose five pounds in 24 hours. It’s not been pleasant. Anyone with smalls will relate to how hard it is when you can’t just bury yourself under a duvet. Medium was fascinated. She insisted on joining me in the loo – even pushing me slightly out of the way to watch the different colours splash the bowl. Too much info?  Sorry about that. I couldn’t even throw up in private.

I’m feeling so fortunate for the help I’ve had. My Treasure  (more on her another time. Carlsberg don’t make treasures,  but if they did…) stayed on so I could stay in bed,  my lovely mum held the fort for a few hours and one of the lovely preschool mums did a pick up for me. The latter was a godsend – I’m sure I would’ve been caught short waiting at the gates and I’m not sure how absorbant Tena would be in that situation.

Apart from evacuating my stomach every five minutes from every angle,  this week I’ve been sorting through photos for the grandparents’ Christmas calendars. Boy,  what a wonderful year. So many happy memories and beautiful smiling faces to choose from.

I’m feeling truly blessed and despite the depravity of some, what a wonderful world we live in.


Desperate bedtimes

Any parent that says bedtime is completely stress-free is a great, big fibber. By the time the dulcet tones of Charlie and Lola start, I’m ready to grab that smiley CBeebies logo and throw it in the log burner. The witching hour (this is not a myth: The witching hour is a real phenomenon. Designed to drive mums to wine. Or whine. Or probably both) is underway and the Big One and Medium One turn from lovely, fun little girls into WWF Pro Wrestlers jumping on each other and seeing who can make the other cry first. Once they’ve ascertained who wins that round, they try to see who can make the other cry the loudest. The winner of that round is hard to judge: I’m usually wailing above them.

I can remember when the Big One was a baby, and friends would tell me that their little angel was sleeping through already. They’d swiftly follow this statement with something along the lines of, “I only had to jump up and give him/her their dummy a few times.” I would adopt my polite face, and say, “Oh, that’s good.” Inside, my inner banshee was screaming: “THAT IS NOT SLEEPING THROUGH! Sleeping through is eight hours undisturbed bliss.” I haven’t had the latter since 2010.

We’ve been through all the bedtime traumas: The Medium One went through a stage of refusing to fall asleep unless Husband or I sat on the floor by her bed praying to the god of sleep that she’d fall asleep soon. We could be there for hours. The Big One used to want to suck my finger to sleep. Supernanny’s gradual retreat technique was pretty good, but fundamentally it took a strict routine to teach Big and Medium that when Mummy said it was time to go to sleep, it was time to go to sleep.

Part of this routine is a bath. Prior to my Sleep Dictator Mummy guise, bath time was fairly noisy. There was a lot of splashing and brightly coloured toys. It’s a quiet affair now. I leave the main light off and the girls bath with Husband’s cleverly designed mood lighting. There are bubbles, but no toys. It’s 15-minutes of winding down, gentle songs, trying to keep the girls at opposite ends of the bath to stop them resuming their wrestling. After their bath, they have a quick story, a kiss goodnight and, all being well, they’re left to fall asleep.

Tonight I had a secret ingredient and they were both out cold by 6.45. Little was sleeping off her bath (oh yes, I have all three in the bath at once. I’m brave, me) and feed in her rocker and I actually had a hot supper for the first time in forever.

I’m tempted not to share the identity of my secret ingredient, but I’m more selfless than that and I think there’s plenty to go round. InfaCare have brought out an ultra-mild night-time baby bath. Now, I’ve tried night time bath things before and been sadly disappointed but this one nearly sent me to sleep on the bathroom floor. Good job it didn’t. The bottle says it’s a ‘specially selected, safe and gentle fragrance’ but doesn’t specify exactly what it is. There’s definitely lavender in there. It certainly calmed my little wrestlers down and me, too. Instead of coming downstairs in a knot of argh, I was pretty calm.

I have to be careful with bath products; Medium has eczema and Little is too small to use anything but the kindest stuff. InfaCare say their bubble bath is gentle and suitable for littles with dry and sensitive skin. Medium’s skin certainly didn’t seem to mind it, but the proof will be in longer term use.

But why should the smalls get the best stuff? I’m going to let Husband juggle Little later and go for a soak myself. InfaCare, I’m coming to get you.

(I can’t help thinking I’ve jinxed the whole bedtime thing by writing this blog. I might yet be praying to the sleep gods again.)

Desperate bedtimes