Waking up to the news about the Paris terror attacks this morning has probably brought us all a little bit closer to our own mortality. The nature of what Hollande and Bush before him called ‘Acts of War’ feels so random when the M.O. for the so called ‘warfare’ is a surprise attack on innocent people going about their lives, a night out in a restaurant – perhaps celebrating a birthday or anniversary, a footie fan’s big night out at an international friendly, a metal-head’s long awaited gig… there but for the Grace of God go I, or any one of us.
The other day I was alerted to just how bad a mother I actually am. My six year old had decided to play an impromptu game of hide and seek (there’s nothing like a small boy flying out at you from a dark corner when you’re least expecting it) and found his way down the side of the sofa in our back room (which doubles as a general dumping ground – lets not even mention the urinal in the corner). It wasn’t long before he re-appeared excitedly wielding a shiny white box with brightly coloured pictures on the side. “Mummy, what’s this, can we open it?!” he gushed as his little brother got in on the act, squealing with delight at the suggestion of *new toys*. “Put that back now!” I snapped – it was essentially a baby toy for 18 months plus which I’d picked up in a sale a few weeks ago to save for a friend’s son at Christmas.
A few weeks ago I was beginning to feel like the proverbial ‘money tree’ – I guess this is something every parent goes through from a pretty early point in their kids’ lives when they begin to demand this that and the other everywhere you go. It used to be a biscuit from the bakery counter in Sainsbogs but JJ has upped the game lately and now he’ll expect me to buy him the most expensive toy we happen to walk past at any given time.
At the same time his behaviour has gone a bit haywire – I’m still trying to figure out whether this is a normal developmental ‘thing’ for a six year old – I get plenty of hits on a quick Google search – or whether this is something very specific to him and our family situation. At any rate the two problems (monetary/material demands and behaviour in general) have collided and, after a heart to heart with my mum, she offered to begin giving him and his little brother an ‘allowance’ of £1 a week – *on condition* that she received a good report on his recent behaviour. The idea is that he will be able to put his own money towards saving for things he really wants rather than expecting us to pay for everything and if he is badly behaved then he may be forced to experience the consequences of ‘negative equity’.
This is actually an exciting moment for me – I feel like it has been forever since I wrote a new post for the blog and even though I managed to get “The Truth about…” linky up last Tuesday I didn’t even link a post to it myself because I didn’t have time to write one. I guess that’s the thing about the summer holidays – even though you don’t think much will change (particularly when you continue to stay mostly within your normal working pattern) the whole space-time continuum seems to just shift a little and every bit of spare time is sucked into this vacuum filled with days out, family, friends, picnics, playgrounds, birthdays, ad infinitum. All of that is lovely but the extra time with the two of my boys together can definitely add up to feeling like I am on full time mum duty. Bedtimes have crept later and later into the evening and I feel so much more tired by the end of each day that all I want to do is watch some entertaining TV programme and then fall into bed.
Where we live there is a Lido located literally five minutes’ walk away, down next to our local recreation ground. Obviously it is only open over the summer months and in recent years we haven’t made the most of it due to a number of factors: weather, age of children, cost. However this year, in a drive to keep the venue economically viable the price drops by half after 3.30pm in the afternoon, which means after school visits are back on the agenda (£5.65 for me and the boys as under threes go free).
I sometimes wonder what my life might look like now if I hadn’t had children. I can picture glimpses of an alternate reality à la ‘Sliding Doors’. Sometimes its hard to appreciate what you have until its happened – you literally “don’t know what you’ve got til its gone” – but if I didn’t have my children, what would I be doing right now?
I’m pretty sure I’d still be working full time five days a week. Because I used to work shifts I would either have been home since 3.30pm or I’d be sitting at my desk at work now, at 8.15pm with another 2 and 3 quarter hours to go. If I had got home mid afternoon I would probably have gone to the gym. Because I would have had more money I might have upgraded to a nicer gym than the one I used to go to. I might have considered taking an exercise class later on in the evening, but I’d have to get up at 5.45-6am to be at work for 7 in the morning. Of course there would always be the thought of a lie-in at the weekend, but a lie in for me would be no later than 9am.
When JJ turned two I asked my parents to buy him a balance bike for his birthday. I guess I’d seen plenty of other kids whizzing about on such contraptions and it seemed like a good idea. On the recommendation of a friend we went with a “Tiny Bike” which turned out to be a great choice as it is so small and light and compact that it was easy to just throw it over the handle bars of the buggy and take it along to the park even if we weren’t sure whether it would be used on any given occasion. To be honest though, nine times out of ten it was used – JJ absolutely loved it and whilst he started off, as they all do, more or less walking along with the bike between his legs, within a few months he was practically flying down hills with the wind in his hair and not a care in the world!
During the week we had a bit of a ‘first’ in our home: one of JJ’s new school friends (who’s house he had been to for a play and for tea during the half term holiday) came to our house for a reciprocal play date. I’m sure that as the years go by this will become a very ordinary occurence, but this time around, there was a little bit of magic to it.
Now, heaven knows I’m not going to lie, I didn’t quite know what to expect. Both JJ and his friend are boisterous five year old boys and there is an awful lot of ‘stuff’ in our house which could be pulled out and chucked around – let’s just say I was expecting to end the evening with a high blood pressure reading and a stiff glass of the hard stuff.
The truth is, I wrote this post a week ago but I have been struggling with blogging recently – life has got in the way, but, as this post testifies, that’s not necessarily a bad thing…
After mulling over the nature of the blogosphere in December last week I came to the conclusion that, a bit like the housing market, things slow down – for everyone – at this time of year. For this reason it is a good time to down tools, ease off the linkies, switch off the stats and back away from the iPhone.
So I’m quite the old hand at this parenting lark these days. Unfortunately that doesn’t actually mean I know what the flip I’m doing at any given moment
all the time. As bad luck would have it, I’m constantly being left on my own with small children (and sadly a degree in American literature is no qualification for dealing with the task of herding two full on, obstreperous little people). At no point, for example, has either child referred to naturalism in the novels of Mark Twain, and sadly, What Maisie Knew by Henry James hasn’t shed any light, for me, on what goes through a child’s mind (then again, my husband hasn’t left me for the governess yet – pah ha ha!!).