Thursday, 29 September 2016

Autumn '16

So, they are all back at school. No. 4 is now no longer under my control for most of the week and is getting on brilliantly - far above my expectations. Bea is also getting on wonderfully well at her secondary school. By the end of the first day her tears and tantrums from the term before were forgotten and she was brimming with its brilliance. The school is very strict and has a weird policy regarding the compulsory wearing of tights if you wear a skirt - regardless of temperature - and there is an awful lot more homework and hard work, but on the whole she likes her teachers, loves her new friends and has entirely forgiven me 'ruining her life' by sending her to a different school to her primary school friends. Even the boys are happy, (for now). G is happily reunited with his friends and and Ted's class tables are helpfully named after different types of sharks which are his current obsession. And both boys have been voted by their classmates to be School Councillors which is rather lovely as there are only two per year so I was most proud.  I can't pretend that everyone is happy every day but, on the whole, the new school term has not been quite the trauma I had feared for anyone.

Cybs isn't screaming and clinging on to me every morning and sits on the mat with the other children with very little fuss. I am quite amazed by it all. I don't know quite what I was expecting but that wasn't it. It was me that cried on the first day and had to escape quickly to ensure that she didn't see me. It is quite unlike me to cry about such things - I certainly didn't for the last two. But as she is a summer baby she seems so much smaller and more baby like. I think that, combined with the lovely summer, made leaving her that much harder. I'm pretty sure the worst thing about a child starting school is that having known every little detail of their life, from how much liquid they've ingested to how much poo they have ejected, you suddenly don't know anything about six hours of their day. Other people are now far more involved in their lives and you are just 'the mum' - the teacher even refers to them as 'her children' which for some reason struck me on Cybil's first day. Also they are assessed for various things from the moment they arrive on site and although I am more than happy to point out the children's faults and moan and write about them, the moment anyone else does it I become immediately defensive and pretty annoyed. After a few days of Cybs being at school it dawned on me that any minute now I will have to sign a form allowing her to be weighed as part of the government screening programme and yet again I will get a letter home telling me she is bloody obese. I HATE THESE. I know it's important, there's an epidemic blah blah blah. But I already know she's heavy. I think it's delicious, as I did with G before her. I will do my best as a responsible parent to ensure she doesn't end up with Type 2 Diabetes and using a mobility scooter at 16 because her bones can't carry her heft but I really don't want anyone else to point it out to me and include helpful 'tips and ideas' for small changes - "Don't give them cans of coke - why not swap it for a lovely glass of water?" NO SHIT. Why don't they extend the whole monitoring thing to more important stuff, like personality. Why don't other people get letters home telling them that their child has almost no personality and is borderline thick as shit. HUH? But no, it's how heavy you are that seems to be all that matters. I have no idea where I need to send it but I have taken the time to re-write the letter they send out to the parents of those children who have a little more meat to their bones in order to soften the blow a bit. It is far more useful than their current standard correspondence.

Dear parents of X
We had the pleasure of meeting your child, X, last week who is obviously a very enthusiastic and happy child. One of the many things we noticed was her great love of food. This is a wonderful aspect to her multi faceted personality and may well lead her on to an exciting career in catering in later years, however we think it might help her in the future if she enjoyed a little less food in the present. I'm sure you're already well aware of this and have plans in place, we just bring it to your attention on the off chance you were blind or thick as two short planks, which is actually more common that you might think! Please don't worry about it as it won't take too much to make a huge difference. If you can't think of any changes we have helpfully included 'An idiots guide' to feeding children and exercise.
All the best
Govt people

Interestingly, my ability to adjust to her being at school every day is remarkable. It is quiet at home, yes, but Dot is more than happy to make up for that and create quite a lot of noise and mess so I don't feel too bereft at the loss. She is happy to empty absolutely every cupboard and drawer in the kitchen and I have just spent half an hour recovering bits of Weetabix that she had thoughtfully scattered throughout the downstairs. She's also a big fan of spending hours on end moving things that belong in one room to another room where they most definitely do not belong. And she gets pretty pissed off when you don't give her what she wants, the minute she wants it. Mainly food and my iPhone. I had, once again, planned to achieve an awful lot in the weeks where I only have one at home. So far the six years of thank you notes I need to write/the children need to write have gone unwritten. Photobooks have also not been lovingly created from the million or so photos I am keen to organise. Clothes remain unsorted and exercise remains very much not undertaken. However I HAVE managed to organise the kitchen cupboards and my scary coat cupboard which was waist high with absolutely everything you can ever imagine. It is now possible to not only find coats/shoes/cleaning equipment with exceptional ease BUT you can also walk in to the cupboard and reach the far end. It is miraculous.

My sudden urge to sort and tidy has been precipitated by my selfish solo departure this weekend. It is just basic science that the further you go from your home and the more selfish the reason for the trip, then the more likely you are die. It's basically D (distance) + S (selfishness) = % chance of death. So, if you have to go somewhere locally for work, all good. If you go to Barbados for two weeks of indulgence and decadence then it's curtains for sure.  I am only going to Kent for two nights of old-school-friend fun so I think it's pretty much 50:50. I'm not a massive fan of those odds so I am making sure that the children know that I love them, the house is tidy and that all the tupperware, shoes and coats are sorted and easy to find. It's bad enough that K will suddenly be left in charge of five grieving children without struggling to find a plastic container with a lid that fits in the mayhem of the school mornings. As I haven't managed to sort the photos into photobooks or albums it is imperative that in the event of my death my Facebook page is made in to a memorial site as they are currently the only photo albums in existence for 90% of the children's lives.  Just in case anything does happen I'll let you guys know that the rest of the photos are on my phone/external hard drive and a few laptops - the hard drive is in my underwear drawer - I keep it there to hide it from burglars, obviously and the passwords for the laptops are Alicia0. If I don't die this weekend and go on to win the lottery and therefore able to build my 'dream' house it would contain a dedicated photo room - just for photo albums, photo filing cabinets, photo printing, photo framing, photo sorting and its walls would be adorned with photo wallpaper. I would also hire a photo archivist to do all of the above - I just thought I'd share that with you.

It's funny but with every stage of baby/childhood you inevitably end up looking forward to the next stage. Even from the very first day when I am deeply in love and hormonally 'high' I look forward to the milk coming in so that I can properly feed and for the days my bits feel slightly less battered. Then I start looking forward to the days when they have a regular sleep and are able to go more than an hour or so without my boob in their mouth. Then it's the days when they will go to bed at bedtime and I can have my evenings back, then the days you can bribe them with chocolate, drop them off at nursery/school and have time to sort the washing and pair up socks etc etc. But with every stage I find that you gain and lose in equal measure. Obviously it comes with a whole new heap of utter cuteness or useful independence (depending on the age) but it also comes with a whole new host of problems. When Dot started talking I was so excited. "Cat". I was so pleased she was an early talker and the children and I were keen to get her to say it over and over again for our own amusement and to show off her obvious brilliance to others. Fast forward a month or so and dear god it has lost its appeal. It doesn't help that she is scared of the cat so whilst she might spend the day in search of the 'cat' and then pointing at it and saying 'cat' over and over and over again, as soon as it moves or comes near her she screams and yells CAT because, ultimately, she doesn't actually want the fricking cat. She also says Ted. But he has a tendency to play with her in a 'boy' way which usually means shouting in her face or throwing stuff and this tends to result in her crying so, again, she says Ted over and over and over again, finds him, and then cries. It is pretty annoying. (He has also helpfully taught her to say 'shake that booty' and then filmed it for hilarity's sake - which is exceedingly 'boy' of him). Same with any stage to be honest. The excitement at them all growing up and the changes this brings to us as a family, also throws up new issues you hadn't thought about. Instagram, homework, boys, girls, friendship woes, willies, bits (I'm still not ok with the whole labia/vagina thing - I don't care what 'right on' folks say - I don't ask if the children want to urinate or defecate or to wipe their anus - I don't think all things need to be bloody anatomically correct so I will still use 'bits' until I find a suitable alternative)  puberty, freedom, choices, future - and we're only twelve years in. I can't imagine how much life is going to change in the next twelve years - Dot will be a teenager then and Bea will be 24 - this is all unimaginable right now. My greatest fear though, is the fear that I might not get to see it. I think it is every mothers fear.  I think that is why we go a bit crazy worrying about stuff and trying to control everything. I think. Or it is age or the fact that we are turning in to our mothers. Either way, I shall be driving extremely carefully all the way to Kent and back.

Until the next time (if all goes well). 


Saturday, 10 September 2016

Summer '16

Time and Money. I struggle with both. The minute I know I have a lot of either coming my way I get terrifically over excited and spend the lead up to their arrival imagining all the wonderful things I will do with them. I research lots of things I will buy with the money - totally forgetting all the things I have already committed to, cheques I have written or tedious direct debits I choose to pretend don't exist.  I buy the things/pay for the things I've been looking forward to with the sudden influx of money and when it is all gone (which it all does, in around 24 hours), I suddenly remember all the mundane things the money should have been used for and become quite depressed about the fact that I have no way of meeting the commitments and then the realisation that I will have to break the news to K that he will have to meet them instead, and then he becomes pretty annoyed and normally tells me he doesn't have any money either. The same is true of time. Six weeks of summer holidays sounds like a blissful amount of time. I researched all the things we could do, planned and promised all sorts of day trips, cinema trips and play dates. I achieved a mere fraction of them. I am genuinely shocked that the six weeks went by so bloody quickly. I find myself wishing we had two more weeks which is a first. I can only conclude that the sun has made the difference. 

We have had such a wonderful summer holiday it seems cruel that it should all come to such an abrupt end. Obviously it hasn't all been sunshine and lollipops, there has been plenty of shouting and ranting and threats to kill people to boot but on the whole, it has been stupendous but we have seen lots of lovely people, been to lovely places and swum in the lovely and bracing British sea lots and lots and lots. I even managed to get the boys out of the house time and time again thanks to the wonderful Pok√©mon Go. I will not hear a word against it. Even going in to town to run the dullest of errands was met with joyous excitement (and intense argument over who was going to hold the phone first) because they were happy to search for new pokemon and pokeballs to add to their virtual collection. Such a nice change to Minecraft which has them sitting down for hours on end and then having real life fisticuffs over people invading each other's virtual 'worlds' and ruining virtual buildings with virtual TNT.

Our family holiday to the Isle of Wight was a stupendous success. We managed to actually enjoy large parts of the week even with five children, the British weather and that I had paid scant attention to the finer details in regards to the house we hired, and only realised the day before that it was a three bed, not the four beds I had planned and that it wasn't actually suitable for small children. None of it hampered the week as badly as I feared. I just kept a closer eye on Dot than I would normally and we spent lots of time out and about, even enjoying a day at a theme park - which isn't a sentence I thought I would ever utter. The ferry crossing there and back gave the children a sufficient enough experience of 'travel' and the long car journey on the mainland was more than enough to convince the adults that any ideas of driving to foreign lands would have to wait for several years thanks to a two hour traffic jam and copious sick. G is not a great traveller and half way through the stop/starting two hour M25 'fun' the complaints of his tummy ache reached an interesting climax when he began to spray everything within a few feet of his mouth with the eclectic contents of his stomach. I was in the front, driving and was lucky enough to have him sitting next to me in the passenger seat so I had the unenviable task of trying to clear up the mess/stem the flow whilst driving forward a few metres every few minutes. K had come up with the genius idea of sitting in the very back of our people carrier to better 'control' the children en route (I suspect it was also to fit in a long nap, which he commenced after about half an hour in to the five hour journey) and was therefore unable to be any use to us other than to dry heave at the smell and  yell for the windows to be opened permanently. Due to the jam, we managed to miss our allotted ferry time but luckily made it on the very next one and I cleaned G and the car up sufficiently enough to be able to continue our journey onwards once we made it on to the island. Although I couldn't have predicted that he would then be sick yet again, but by that point I really had gone past the point of caring about the damage/smell and just concentrated on getting us to the house and the washing machine it housed, as quickly as possible. The journey home was mercifully sick free although still long but an awful lot quieter and more pleasant smelling.

Starting the holidays with our holiday, was, in hindsight, a master move. The end of the school year was incredibly bitter sweet as Beatrice had to say goodbye to her beloved school. The tears flowed at her leavers' ceremony and even I welled up at one point - thanks to a few hundred children singing about seasons changing and people growing and time passing etc. Bea absolutely loved that school and her happiness has been infectious. Her sadness at leaving such a happy place left me feeling uneasy and equally sad. I have chosen to send her to a different school to the one that almost all of her classmates are going to move on to so not only did she feel the loss of her beloved school but 99% of her friends as well. I do feel a bit guilty for tearing her away but she'll get over it and like most parental decisions, I have done it in the belief that it is in her best interest. Anyway, the fact that we immediately left on a family holiday helped her not to sit and brood and actually meant that the children had to get on with one another straight away and not spend any time getting used to being in each other's company constantly. It was lovely to witness actually. Other than the usual petty squabbles and silliness, B and G got on beautifully and G and Ted were thick as thieves as they realised the benefit in having each other now that they are outnumbered by girls. The little girls slept unexpectedly well as well - even though they were sharing a room - Dot started sleeping through the night in her borrowed travel cot and even Cybs stayed in her own bed a few times - a hitherto unheard of event. As soon as we got home we made the same changes - put her in a single bed as opposed to a toddler bed and bought a big travel cot for Dot and shoved her in the room too. So far, so good. Cybs still comes in to my bed every night but now, more often than not, Dot does not, and if she does it is well past midnight which has made life far more enjoyable and bearable for me.

Another life changing event has been the loss of Cybil's bloody dummies. I have no idea how we managed to get to her being four years old with her still insisting on taking one everywhere, but we did and my happiness at their demise is untold. As luck would have it I didn't even have to go through the rigmarole/expense of the dummy fairy to do it which adds to my happiness. On our second break of the holidays - to a lovely little holiday let in Spexhall next to the house of some friends of ours - I was left in charge as K sadly had to return to work for the last few days. I soothed my despair with wine and totally neglected the children and their bedtime needs as I indulged in a lovely grown up BBQ. By 9.30 pm and after a fruitless search for the sodding dummy, I allowed Cybs to fall asleep on the sofa in front of the TV in return for not crying about the lack of a silicone teat between her teeth. She happily agreed and the rest, as they say, is history. Sometimes neglect really is the way forward. Just in time actually as she is about to start school. I can't quite believe it. She is my first summer baby (she turned 4 at the beginning of August) so I'm not used to sending them in to full time education at such a ridiculously young age. My mother is convinced I should have tried to keep her off for another year so that she could start her reception year as the oldest, not the youngest. I wasn't convinced that that was any better an option than being the youngest so Monday it is. She will be leaving me. Initially for four days a week but then eventually the full five days a week. It seems an impossible thing but I know that it will be possible and it will happen. I'm not looking forward to it. Just me and Dot five days a week seems equally as odd and impossible. I've said it before I know, but how on earth I will actually send Dot to school so that I am here all alone five days a week - I have no idea. It is not something I can currently contemplate. I think I may just hate being alone. Even though I crave small pockets of time alone, great acres of time is not on my wish list. Maybe that is why I keep having babies.

I think it is also because on the whole, I genuinely enjoy the company of children. Again, I do not mean all of the time - I really do have times when I would like it to be ok to kick them because I am so unbearably frustrated at their behaviour, but, more often than not, doing stuff with them is pretty fun.  One of the absolute best of the best things about parenting is watching your children being joyful. All consuming, natural joy from something that hasn't been bought. Like watching Bea prance around in the shallow clear sea water of the Isle of Wight and performing endless hand stands and cartwheels, or them all playing a game together or when they realise Dot has learnt a new word (cat is pretty big news right now). It is what I find keeps me going and helps me deep breathe through the ridiculous fighting and whining and moaning and haranguing that I have relentlessly endured for six weeks. That is the greatest thing about the holidays. Watching the children playing happily, running around outside, in the sun, with other children and being childishly happy about it all is why the summer holidays are so much better with the sun and why I couldn't have planned what was going to happen to my time and money this summer because I quite simply couldn't have planned it better.