YOU know your four-year-old isn’t a baby any more when he turns to you and his grandparents in the middle of dinner and says: ‘Hey, what are you losers talking about?’
I could have died. In fact, I did. This post is being written from *Derek Acorah voice* beyond the grave. I was so mortified that I just upped and died from morto at the dinner table.
Well, I didn’t die, so much as laugh. Because I am a terrible parent and I don’t know what any of you are doing here looking for advice from me because I am the last person who should be giving it.
I’m blaming the PJ Masks. And myself of course, because when isn’t challenging behaviour the mother’s fault?
But mainly, yeah, the PJ Masks. They’re just such smart, smug little fuckers. Solving crime – IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT when children are supposed to be IN BED – and being all sarky and smug with the Night Ninja and the Ninjalinos. It’s all losers and ha! and whatever you’re having yourself.
It’s not the only time Cat Boy et al have got him into trouble either. There was the ‘bozo’ incident in school a couple of months back as well.
It was another child’s birthday and The Beast had been invited to his party that weekend. Upon leaving school on the Friday he turned to the Birthday Boy and said ‘See you Sunday, you big birthday bozo!’.
Big birthday bozo.
Big. Birthday. Bozo.
In full view of the other parents too. All of whom looked like they were halfway between bursting out laughing and marching him up to the local juvenile detention centre themselves.
I spent a good lot of that weekend whispering ‘big birthday bozo’ to myself and biting my fist in agony.
So we’ve had a lot of Very Serious Conversations about appropriate language outside the home and while it’s ok to mess here and call me a Pooh Pooh Head for example, it wouldn’t go down so well in the playground. I’m hoping it sticks for later years when he’s bellowing ‘fuck you fuck face’ at his friends out in the street. I’m hoping by cracking down on bozos and losers at this age, that he’ll think twice before swearing like a sailor on the street when he’s 12.
I’m hoping. (Though, judging by my own language, I’m not very hopeFUL.)
It’s all a sign that he’s growing up and while sometimes my arms ache for the tiny soft helpless baby that he once was, it’s also a positive sign. Well as positive as calling his grandparents losers can be. (Sorry again lads. And sorry for laughing!)
In the same vein we were on holidays recently and noticed that for the first year he was really able to participate in the holiday and ‘get’ that we were on holidays.
He was so much more independent, more able to use the equipment in the playground for example, clambering over the rocks on the beach without help; entertaining himself with stickers while we finished dinner. It was blissful. Ok, it was still a holiday with a kid, so more a work trip than a relaxing retreat, but it really felt like a break this time.
Next month now he’ll go back to preschool for his final year before Big School. We’re not ready for Big School yet, either of us. Much as I’m enjoying his new-found independence, I’m not ready to let him go just yet. I’m happy to keep him where he is for the time being and I’ll deal with uniforms and school bags and classrooms in September 2018.
Which is ages away, right losers?
There are 17 school days left.
You know what that means, don’t you?
Yes, that’s right. That means only 17 more POXY school lunches to make.
Oh God the absolute DRUDGERY of the school lunches. I only have one kid and I don’t work outside the home and still the bloody school lunch sticks in my craw every single day. It’s my nemesis, the Lex Luther to my Superman, the Ares to my Wonder Woman.
I had never really paid attention before when parents talked about making school lunches.
I’d see features in magazines and newspapers about how to make the perfect school lunch and what to put into a lunchbox and how to persuade the kids to eat them and I’d think ‘what’s the big fuss, it’s only lunch’.
But now I know. Now I know what the fuss is about. The scales have fallen from my smug unbelieving eyes and now I understand.
It’s not the lunch itself, per se. Though, it is soul destroying if you make something for your little person, at their request, and then they don’t eat it.
But the thing that I find the biggest killer is the actual having to make the actual lunch. It’s the making of it, d’ya see?
Kids need to eat EVERYDAY, did you know that? They sit there looking at you with big mournful faces and you’re thinking ‘I just FED you two days ago’. But no, it’s every day. Several times a day.
Hence the having to make the actual lunch.
No matter what time it is when they go to bed you have to drag your carcass back downstairs and fill up that bloody bastardin’ lunchbox. Or, if you make your lunches in the morning, you’ve to shlep down the stairs at a reasonable hour to do it. You can’t send them to school unless it’s done, it simply cannot be skipped and left until tomorrow. Unlike say, washing your windows, which I haven’t done here since 2011. Lunches are compulsory, there’s no escaping it.
Last year I wrote a post about how I missed Fridays now that I’m a parent, as when you’re parenting, Fridays mean very little. Still up a the crack of dawn, still beholden to a tiny dictator, Saturday is no different to Wednesday.
However a wiser Mam than I told me that once you kid starts school you get your Fridays back in a small way, as every Friday night you don’t have to make a school lunch! Saturdays too! It’s a small freedom from the daily grind. And you know what, she was right.
Every Friday night I come down the stairs after wrangling The Beast into bed and I’m free as a bird to do whatever I want. Which is basically stay in and watch TV, but, you know at least I’m not making lunches, hey?!
So anyway, in a few more weeks, the ultimate Friday will be upon us. School Holidays Friday. No more school lunches for two blissful months.
Seventeen more days.
Just seventeen more days to freedom.
WHEN we moved into our house eight years ago there was a rectangular space in the hall, just at the bottom of the stairs, the same as millions of houses all over the country.
And like millions of homeowners all over the country, when we moved in first that space was filled with a lovely table and lamp, sometimes a vase of flowers and, more often than not, big piles of junk post.
As the years went on the table was moved out in favour of a baby buggy, baby bag, baby car seat and all the paraphernalia that goes with a newborn.
Then the buggy was replaced by a big boy stroller and now that The Beast is four and no longer using a stroller of any kind, that space in our hall now houses his brand new bike.
In a couple of years if Santy is feeling generous, that bike might be replaced by a bigger one but after that it’d be a tight squeeze to get a big kid bike in there, so it’ll probably have to go out the back.
Leaving the space in the hall empty.
In other homes there’s always another buggy (or four!) to fill the hole. Always a sibling’s bike to sit neatly on the tiles. In other homes their space in the hall rarely empties.
But in this house, once the space is empty, that’s it, it’s empty.
Of passing years and growing up. Of leaving babyhood behind. Not this coming September, but the following one, The Beast will head off to big school, leaving the space in the hall empty for even longer each day, with not even a school bag to fill it
And once the babyhood is over, once we’re in the midst of growing up, once the bikes get bigger and the rooms are emptier for more hours each day – where does that leave me?
According to newspapers and magazines and overheard conversations on the playground, it’ll mean I can get back to work, it’ll mean I can finally have my life back, it’ll mean I can break free of the chains of mothering and finally ‘do’ something again.
But here’s the thing:
I don’t want to. I don’t want to do any of those things. And I’m enormously privileged that financially I don’t have to.
I’m happy. I like me, just the way I am. For the first time in my life I can say with absolute conviction that I am content, that I am fulfilled, that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Which is not to say that it is easy, because it is not. Being a stay at home mother can be wonderful and exciting and boring and monotonous all in the one day. All in the one hour. Which is not to say that I have embraced motherhood entirely and never struggle with it, because I do. Of course I do. Sometimes the walls of this well proportioned, large house feel very close together. Sometimes I question everything. But always, always, the answer to the question is that I am in the right place. For me.
For other mothers, it is the exact opposite, they are chomping at the bit to return to work, to do something outside of mothering and to that I say bravo. Every parent should be able to do what they want to do.
I have friends returning to work and education after 20 years at home. I have friends writing books and designing jewellery and opening delis and I am so fucking proud of them that I feel as though my heart is going to burst.
But I want to be here. At home. My ambitions are less. That might seem wasteful and shameful to some of you, but it’s the bald truth. My ambition is to be at home, with my son, for as long as I want to.
Maybe in a few years things will change. Maybe I’ll still be a stay at home Mam when The Beast is 15. I don’t know. Do I have to decide now? Is it not ok if my five-year plan simply says ‘To be happy’?
What I do know though is that my work here in my home is worthwhile. It’s important and it means something to me. It means everything to me. And that shouldn’t be under estimated. And it shouldn’t be seen as second best.
So no, I won’t be looking for part-time work once The Beast starts school. I won’t be going back to college. I won’t be changing the life I have here, right now. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
And as for that space in the hall – well, maybe it’s ok if it just stays empty.
I think I write a variation of this post every year on here, or if not here on my Facebook page, so you’re probably all sick of me waffling on, but hey, tradition is tradition so here it is.
I like Valentine’s Day.
It seems it’s a bit of a novelty these days to admit that you like Valentine’s Day, that you get some pleasure out of the day. In every newspaper and blog, in online forums and in real life people poo poo Valentine’s Day, giving out about commercialism and overpriced tat and forced love.
And you know, I get it. I do. Because in a way they’re right. Nobody needs a six-foot teddy bear holding a heart. ‘Special Valentine’s Menus’ in restaurants bring me out in a rash and spending €6 on a supermarket card makes me die a little inside. So I really do get it. That aspect of Valentine’s Day isn’t necessary at all. (Though, if it’s your bag, fair play, none of my business.)
But here’s what I think IS important and IS necessary – taking a breath and telling someone you love them. Just that. It doesn’t have to be a romantic partner, it can be your Mam, your kid, your best friend. Just taking that breath, that pause, from our busy lives to remember love is important.
And why Valentine’s Day comes in handy as a reminder of that. Just a reminder, a nudge. Of course we should be telling our loved ones that we love them everyday, we should be showering our lovers in rose petals and champagne every hour, we should be texting love notes non stop, we should be permanently ensconced in a rosy glow of desire – but the reality is we don’t and we’re not.
Because life gets in the way. Kids get in the way. Sick parents get in the way. Demanding bosses get in the way. Mortgages and sky-high rents get in the way. Job losses and illness and depression and worry and stress and being ALIVE gets in the way.
So for me Valentine’s Day is a chance to press pause. A chance to take a breath. An opportunity – an almost State sponsored opportunity! – to focus on love. To tell the people in my life that I love them and that I care for them. I think Valentine’s Day can also be a hard day for many people – particularly those who have lost a loved one and it can have unhappy memories, which is why I think it’s important not just to focus on romantic love, but on an all-encompassing love for those people who are important to you. And I find that when I really celebrate the true meaning of the day, that it makes me more inclined to be romantic or loving or just to take that breath and remind myself that I am surrounded by love, on other days of the year too. So it’s win win.
So tomorrow for Valentine’s Day I’m going to spend the day telling the people who are important to me that I love them. I’m going to spend some one on one time with my little man and I’m going to cook a special dinner. And I’m going to pause and remember how lucky I am and how wonderful it is to know love and to have love and to give love. And I’m going to resolve to try to keep Valentine’s Day in my heart all year round (thanks Charles Dickens).
And really, when you think of it, what’s so bad about that?
I’ve decided to embrace big knickers.
This isn’t about size or weight and it’s not about ‘letting yourself go’ it’s just about the fact that big knickers fit me and are comfortable.
And I like being comfortable.
Over the years I’ve tried every kind of knickers: briefs, thongs, bikinis, French knickers, lacy knickers, shorts and they were all grand, except when they weren’t.
Like when I was hauling bikini briefs back up to my waist, after feeling them slowly rolling down my thighs. Or reefing thongs out of my arse crack.
Or almost disembowelling myself when my French knickers rode so far up my hips that the gusset felt like it was actually trying to crawl up into my vagina.
Or secretly trying to scratch my Lady Garden on the bus on the way home after wearing lacy pants all day.
I’ve had enough.
I want a nice big knicker. A ‘full brief’ is I believe the proper term. Knickers that cover your bum, that actually come up to your waist and, even more radically, that cover your hips. Knickers that stay put on your body. You put them on in the morning and … they stay there. Covering your body. In a normal fashion.
And, possibly more importantly, big knickers tend to be made of cotton. Not nylon or polyester or even silk, but good old-fashioned healthy breathable cotton. Hello big knickers, goodbye cystitis.
I still have fancy knickers. Knickers that match my bra and I wear them regularly. Sometimes if I’m going out with my husband, or for a night on the town with my friends, but other times just on a random Wednesday, just because I like fancy matching underwear and I feel good when I wear them. But sometimes the matching bra is in the wash or the knickers are in the wash so I need a supply of regular every day knickers and I have decided the full brief is the brief for me.
I don’t care if they’re not sexy, or pretty or becoming. I don’t care if they make me look like I’m either pregnant or 80 years old – or both! I don’t care. They’re comfortable, they’re soft, they’re smooth. I am one with the full brief, and they are at one with me.
My name is Karen, I’m 38 years old, I wear big knickers and this is how it feels in my pants, every day:
Pox Mam lives in the Family Tree
With her Pox Husband Love and her Pox Beasty, wee.
One day she wakes early, for a bagel and lox.
Pox Mam, oh Pox Mam, beware of the Pox.
A Mam! Cried Chicken Pox. A well rested Mam.
Let’s change all that, I don’t give a damn.
I’ll push up the temp and bring out a spot,
Why stop at one, I’ll bring out a LOT.
I’m not just a Mam! Why can’t you see,
I’m Pox Mam, I’m Pox Mam,
I’M POX MAM, that’s me
And I want to burn down the family tree.
I’m not a Mam who needs sleep at night,
Sleep is for the weak,
I’ll stay up and fight.
I can go on, who needs a rest?
I’ll stay up with Pox Beast, it’s for the best.
He’ll scratch it and pop it and scratch it and then,
He’ll scratch it and pop it and scratch it again!
Pox Mam is lonely. Pox Mam is lost.
Pox Mam forgot her slippers, at her own cost.
She sits by the bed, stroking a feverish nose,
Trying to comfort, but dying to doze.
She cuddles the Pox Beast, wanting to cure
Then suddenly remembers, Calpol for sure!
She checks the time and sees it’s ok,
He can have another dose, hip hip hooray!
She squirts and she spoons and she gets it all in,
Another smear of Pox cream, why not, for the win.
The Beast’s breathing slows, he’s sleeping at last
Pox Mam, oh Pox Mam, get to bed fast!
Early next morning, after sleeping a while,
She checks on the Pox Beast, there’s more spots, by a mile
She thinks it might be a very long week,
Chicken pox really is not for the meek.
Still, Pox Beast is smiling, he’s really alright,
These pox won’t last for ever, a few more days (and a night!)
Pox Mam will get through, the best she will make
But also, fuck it all, she’s making a cake!
Because it’s her birthday, yes really, today
Chicken Pox bedammed, what do you say?
Chocolate or lemon or vanilla, oh my,
And coffee too, obvs, so she doesn’t just die
I’m Pox Mam, I’m Pox Mam,
I’M POX MAM, that’s me!
And I’m baking right here, in the family tree.
(This is ripped off from the wonderful Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler book, ‘Stick Man’ which is available here if you haven’t already got it. It’s one of The Beast’s favourites!)