I REFER to him as The Beast here and I’m sure some of you must be imagining a great hulking Conor McGregor type – but the reality is my little man has always been a small wee chap.
Even when he was in the womb he was teeny – at one stage during a scan the sonographer said ‘Stand up, you’ to my husband while making measurements on the screen. Running her practised eye over Yer Man – who in fairness is on the shorter side – she nodded knowingly and laughed when we said we had an idea our baba wouldn’t ever be a supermodel.
When he was born he was an average 7lb and a half an ounce. Not small by any means, but the 0-3 month babygros we’d bought were swimming on him. Nana came to the rescue with some teeny Newborn sized ones which fitted perfectly and fitted for ages. Well meaning visitors brought clothes aged 6-9 months saying that their own kids were wearing six month old clothes by time they were eight weeks. Not so for us, those clothes didn’t go near him for months and months and months.
He stayed in his Moses basket for months, was in the bassinet part of his pram for ages too. And stayed in his high chair for years as well, he just fit fine and was happy to stay there.
When we did eventually move him up a size in clothes or into the buggy setting of the pram and into his cot from his Moses basket I was always struck at how tiny he seemed in the new setting. So used to seeing him nestled in the close confines of the Moses basket, for example, I thought he looked miniscule in the vast cot.
It’s been like that for his whole life.
Until recently. Until he stopped looking tiny in new settings and started looking just normal. Just as you’d expect a boy to look. I had started to accept that he was growing up – he had moved out of his cot to a junior bed and started preschool after all and I knew my baby was growing up. But he was still my tiny wee chap, I hadn’t noticed the physical differences.
And now it’s all I can see.
It started in April, when he got a bike from his grandparents for his birthday. I couldn’t wait to see him on it. I thought he’d look so cute and tiny. Only he didn’t. He looked like a preschooler. If anything a bit too big for the bike.
Long legs tumbling to the ground. Arms easily able to reach the handlebars. A sturdy broad chest.
We had to adjust the saddle and the handlebars, all the way up.
Then we went on holidays and visited some playgrounds and pet farms that we had gone to last year. And The Beast was able to use all the playground equipment with ease. He was tall enough to climb things, reach things, he didn’t need any help at all.
Clothes bought a few months ago are too small now, his feet are growing at an alarming rate (I’m keeping bloody Clarks in business), very shortly we’ll be getting him a new car seat.
And then last weekend we moved him from his junior bed into a regular adult single bed. He was excited, he had new PJs and brand new Transformer sheets, as well as Batman posters on the walls.
I was excited too. I thought surely, surely, I’d see my tiny little scrap again. Surely he’d look teeny in the big adult bed.
Reader, he didn’t.
He fit. He fit in the big bed. Ok, he’s not filling the bed by any means, but it doesn’t look ridiculously enormous. He’s not my baby in a huge bed. He’s just my boy in his comfy bed.
And last night, almost the last vestige of babyhood disappeared when he left his soothers for the Fairies to take away. His comfort and his joy and his lifelong love, easily left by his Fairy Door. It was his decision, he said big boys in big beds don’t need soo-soos anymore and he’d rather have a present that the Fairies would leave instead.
So the exchange was made. My big brave boy went to sleep, and stayed asleep and that was that. The end of an era.
My tiny man is gone. My little scrap is no more. Some bastardin’ fairies are flying around with his soo-soos in their mouths.
And I’m sobbing over newborn pics.
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.
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!)
THERE was a knock on the door the other week and it was a little lad from across the road looking for The Beast.
‘Is he comin’ out to play?’ the child asked, looking disappointed when I said that The Beast was with his Nana that day but would come out to play the next afternoon.
I barely managed to close the door before I burst into hysterical sobs – imagine, a friend calling for my boy. He has friends now. Kids that greet him on the street when we go to the shops, that run over to our garden when they see us out playing with trains on the driveway.
It’s too much for me, he’s growing up too fast, he’s not my baby any more, he’s a boy. A BOY!
DON’T LEAVE ME SON!
I had barely recovered when we got some post from his new pre-school, which he’ll be starting in September. Forms about allergies and vaccinations, names and addresses, boxes to tick. I can hardly believe the time has come around already but here we are, he’ll be heading off with his bag on his back and his lunchbox in just a couple of weeks.
DON’T LEAVE ME SON!
To send me further over the edge – sure why not – then we went to the shop and got all the stuff we needed to turn his cot into a toddler bed, complete with Thomas the Tank Engine duvet, the works. He hops in by himself now, he doesn’t need his little sleeping bag anymore, he has a big boy blanket. He’s delighted with himself while I’m doubled up with grief, sobbing into his pre-school forms trying to remember did I actually get him his 13-month vaccinations or did I forget. It’s all a blur.
And then today, Yer Man brought him off to get his hair cut in preparation for school, a good tight cut, a man’s cut, to last him until the mid-term break.
DON’T LEAVE ME SON!
Maybe it’s because I’m hepped up on pain pills from a tooth extraction yesterday (fairly brutal it has to be said) or maybe it’s because I’m a sap but I really just want to put a brick on his head and stop him from growing up and freeze him at this age forever.
It’s odd because when he was a newborn, I couldn’t wait for that stage to end. To be fair, it’s a really tough stage, particularly on a first baby as you’re totally flying blind and haven’t a notion what you’re at. But still, I kind of wished it away, I couldn’t wait for him to get a bit more independent, couldn’t wait for the night feeds to end, that sort of thing.
And it did end of course and once he started walking and talking I really found my groove with him and he with me and we’ve muddled along really nicely. And now I look at him and see that the baby stage is well and truly over, I’m sending him out into the world and he is truly a ‘big boy’ now.
It’s too much. My heart is broken. BROKEN! Pass me a few more Nurofen Plus there, go on, they can’t hurt, I AM BUT A SHELL OF A WOMAN!
I suppose I have to let him go, though, don’t I? Keeping him as my baby isn’t really an option. much as I’d like to. And I know that he’ll always be my baby even when he’s 40 and I know that even though he’s a big boy now he’s still only three, he’s still so tiny and still needs me so much. And I know that his having friends and going to school and having his own proper bed are all good things. They bring him joy and make him happy which is the most important thing.
Bye bye baby, baby goodbye …