Pop!

Some people dont like it when mothers show off about their children being “advanced.” Often these people are other mothers, and sometimes these people dont have kids of their own. They find the stories of mini accomplishments and milestones met irritating and arrogant, and often unnecessary. “After all” they say, “all of our kids are intelligent in their own way, and you shouldnt make other children and parents feel bad just because they might be slightly behind.”
Some people take it a step further, and think we should never brag about our kids at all, even when they are not early at something, because it only serves to make them conceited and/or give them complexes about what they can and cant do.

If you think you’re one of these people, you should probably stop reading. Because I’m a mother who may be about to show off about her child. It may be embarrassing to admit it on a public forum, but I’m actually a mother who cried real tears this morning in front of absolute strangers while watching my 18 month old at a music group.

Oblivious to all around, (as he so often is) I watched as my son tracked and followed bubbles around the room, reaching up to point and pop them with a room full of other kids ages 1-4.

Bubbles. You’ve seen them right? Those entirely clear, floaty things that are pretty much INVISIBLE.

And I let myself cry. That my tiny baby boy, who once upon a time couldnt see his fingers move up to his face, and would jump in surprise when his parents leaned down to kiss his forehead, and who a year ago was giving us his first real smile, was standing in front of me proving all my doubts and fears wrong.

And so as I watched him walk into a wall and fall flat on his face in his eagerness to follow a floaty shiny circle of nothingness through the air, I’ve really never been more proud.

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If Aristotle worked in Starbucks..

I’ve heard it said that it’s just twists of fate that make people successful or unsuccessful in life. That our careers are decided upon just as much by where we’re born and the choices our parents make as our own drive to succeed and conscious decisions regarding goals and ambition.

Today I met one such example, who has obviously been handed an unfair lot in life, most likely through no fault of her own.

Out in Hampstead, near one of the more charming Starbucks locations, we were deciding whether to stop for a quick drink or go peruse the bookshelves of Waterstones. C turned to the barista and through no intention of his own, was given the oddest answer ever given to this particular question.

“What time do you close?”
“What time are we open untill? Or what time do we close?”

Baffling. Clearly I am not on the same plane as this particular barista, because try as I might, I am not seeing the subtle distinction.

After spending a few hours mulling it over, I have come up with two possible solutions to my conundrum.

1. She is one of those poor unfortunate souls who has come over from Eastern Europe and is forced to be a waitress, even though she in fact holds a Doctorate in Philosophy.
2. She is a first class idiot.

I’ll leave it to you to decide.

(Ps: No offence meant. She’s probably very happy with her job. After all, if I were a barista, I’d just leave the apron at work, say it really fast, and hope people assume I practise law.)

‘Helpful’ Grandparenting

I overheard a conversation today at a toddler group at the library. Two grandmothers had brought their grandchildren along, and were clearly enjoying the bonding time together. These young grannies were possibly mid fifties, and both had grandchildren of about 18 months to 2 years, about the same age as my own son.

What caught my attention initially was their talk of nap times. “Oh it depends how long I have her for” one grandma said, “if she’s with me for the whole day, she’ll have two naps.” The other grandma expressed surprise that the child was not down to just one long sleep in the day, to which granny #1 answered, “Oh yes, my daughter tells me only to give her one, but how can I get anything done that way? I always give her two, it’s much easier for me, I dont mind that she’s sleeping more than usual”

I’m sure you don’t mind, [I wish I’d replied] because it isnt you having to settle her that evening, and having no idea why she isnt tired! I was really irritated by her attitude, but not overly surprised. I’ve often heard mums complaining that their own parents dont listen to the ‘rules’ they’ve put in place for their children.

The whole concept kind of confuses me. Our parents tell us they are so proud of the way we raise our own children, they praise us for being great mothers and fathers, and yet find it impossible to keep to our guidelines.

Do you not trust us? Is it hard to see us as grown up enough to make sensible and thought out choices about our own offspring?

I can imagine that after a lifetime of being able to make the rules, it must be hard to suddenly have to listen to your own child, and adhere to their way of thinking, especially where it differs from your own. I can see that when times change, and what you did as a young mum is no longer the norm, it can seem OTT or uneccesary to be strict about routines or some of the more modern parenting techniques which involve unwavering consistency.

This explains how parents might get in interesting and spirited debate with their kids about how rules and customs have changed over the years, and how child-rearing has evolved in the last generation. None of this explains to me how a grandparent can see no problem whatsoever with nodding in agreement when their daughter gives a direct request, “put him down at 1pm” “don’t give him anything sugary” “no TV please” and then go and do the exact opposite, and not even mention it. Especially when they probably went through the exact same thing with their own parents!

Maybe this is harsh, but having control over eating/sleeping/treats and the like, is simply not one of the perks of being a grandparent. There are so many, and I’ve heard many say that they actually prefer it to parenthood. But making those decisions is not your job. It’s the parents job. And it makes sense, because the parents are the ones who have to deal with the inevitable consequences of too much/not enough sleep, or the wrong kinds of foods, or a overstimulated toddler bouncing off the walls.

Dont get me wrong, ‘m sure I speak for all parents when I say that any help or babysitting from grandparents is incredibly kind and helpful. After all, you dont have to be offering at all! And maybe I’m the one being OTT now. But I speak only for ourselves when I say, that if our parents were secretly doing the opposite of what we were asking them to do, even with the best intentions in the world-that kind of help we can really do without.

Cooking and Connecting

Can you remember the first time you cooked with your mother? The first time you were given a wooden spoon and told to stir, carefully? Or handed the oh so heavy bag of flour to pour slowly into a mixing bowl? Or even taught how to crack an egg without having to pick bits of shell out the batter immediately afterward?

Most people probably have formative memories of baking and cooking with their parents, helping to prepare simple suppers or special ocassion baked treats. Apart from being a fun activity to keep kids entertained, it also helps children feel included in the household and is a truly bonding experience for both adult and youngster alike.

My first memory of cooking with my mum however, was this week. “Surely not!” [I hear you cry.] I suppose I’ve never asked and she never offered. We’re very different types of chefs, to say the least, and while she learned all her cooking from school, (meaning she knows all the right movements for ‘fold’ vs ‘stir’ and ‘blanche’ vs ‘saute’) my culinary efforts, mainly self taught, often do end in picking eggshell out the batter. Nevertheless, I’m happy for the most part with my gut cooking instinct, and I would tentatively say I’m a better cook than my mother, perhaps just because I try harder. Perhaps down to the differences between us, both in the kitchen and out of it, we’ve just never bonded over a hot stove.

But this week, I half asked and she half offered to teach me one of our only ‘family recipes.’ As we stood in my kitchen, unpacking ingredients and peeling vegetables, I was struck by how strange it was that we hadn’t done this countless times before. It’s such a standard mother/daughter activity, and surely should have just naturally occured before I was even old enough to remember it. But it didnt. And now, at 24, that natural part of it has drifted somehow askew. As I peeled and chopped and stirred the passover ingredients together, I felt some other emotions being mixed in too. As a child these may have been excitement and wonder at watching our own creation come into fruition. Each slice of our masterpiece would taste better because of the fun and closeness that went into it. As a child, it would be an adventure. As an adult, there was a touch too much inhibition and self-consciousness to give our activity the natural smoothness it should have had. Somewhere mixed in the batter was both of our yearning for this to be just another normal family activity, and to wipe away the bittersweet knowledge that this was the First Time. It felt forced.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in its never too late, and I am so very glad that even at 62 and 24 respectively, we’re finally learning to engage in these ‘normal’ mother/daughter pastimes. Its just that like so many other new things we’re both trying of late, it makes me wonder why we didnt try it years ago.

But the answer to that is obvious. In fact, I’ve already mentioned it right here. Where did my mother learn all her cooking? At school.

And so the way out of this cycle is a no-brainer also. The next time I have an urge to bake a cake, I wont be waiting for R to have his nap. I’ll be making sure he’s right next to me smearing batter over the walls and spilling the flour on the floor. Creating a memory that he’ll never be able to remember.

Brick-Gate

I normally shy away from gossipy news stories, but the Samantha Brick palaver has actually got me quite drawn in today. For those of you who’ve been hiding under a rock, (or scrubbing your surfaces) for the past 24 hours, Samantha Brick, a usually moderately interesting journalist and presenter, has gone viral. She wrote a piece for the Daily Mail yesterday which bemoaned the terrible fate of being so unbearably attractive that all women hate her and all men lust after her.

Oh dear. It’s a shame the column wasnt wide enough for her to fit in a sentence or two about the abysmal reality of having a large villa in France, being happily married or being frequently published in national newspapers and magazines. Then we could feel really sorry for her.

There’s been an interesting (if uneven) split in terms of responses. Most people seem to agree that she is a first class idiot for writing the article in the first place, and pretty arrogant to think that even if the words were true, anyone cares about the sentiment behind it. However, there are quite a few voices piping up on the internet and beyond, who are applauding Samantha Brick for her confidence and self esteem. Isnt this what all women desire to feel? they argue, Don’t we all want to think we’re the most beautiful woman in the world?

Personally, after some help from google images, I think she is pretty deluded, which of course doesnt matter in her own home with the privacy of her own bathroom mirror, but can certainly explain the backlash she has recieved by making her opinions so obscenely public.She describes how she frequently recives free gifts and drinks all over the world, and says “Whenever I’ve asked what I’ve done to deserve such treatment, the donors of these gifts have always said the same thing: my pleasing appearance and pretty smile made their day“. Come on, surely you didnt expect people not to call you arrogant?

But more importantly than her larger than life head, is the way she describes the relationships between females. Below are a few quotes from the article.

Women hate me for no other reason than my lovely looks

Over the years I’ve been dropped by countless friends who felt threatened if I was merely in the presence of their other halves

Unfortunately women find nothing more annoying than someone else being the most attractive girl in a room.

I Find that older women are the most hostile to beautiful women — perhaps because they feel their own bloom fading.

Once i finished laughing at the absurdity of these sentences, I realised how sad this is. This is a woman who obviously feels she has few if any female relationships, and has attributed it all to appearance and her perception of jealousy. Now I can only speak for myself, but if I think objectively about the female friends in my life, I can count many who I would say are more attractive than me. In absolutely no way does that relate to how close I feel to them, and to be honest, it isnt really something I think about too much. Most of us in this world are not supermodels or movie stars. Most of us, Samantha Brick included, are entirely average looking. Some days we make a little more effort, find a flattering outfit or the right shade of lipstick, and we might look a little better than we did. After a night on the town or a busy week, we become slightly more camera shy.
Samantha has basically put such emphasis on our appearance, put everything in her life down to the way she looks, and thereby absolved herself entirely of any responsibility to make her friendships work. She couldnt do anything about it, they were jealous of her. That friend has dropped her, it must be because the husband was attracted to her. Come on. Couldnt it possible be about your personality? Mightn’t you have done something that hurt their feelings? Could you both just not have made the effort, and so the friendship dwindled?

In my opinion, this kind of woman bashing, supposing that all females out there are afraid their husband is going to run off with the first blonde woman who walks through the door, or that no woman can bear to see anyone looking prettier than them walking down the street, is at best naive, and at worst, as sexist and shallow as her personal gripe is in the first place.

I think what has caused the hilarious and absurd backlash towards her, is that everyone knows the great thing about life and relationships is that attraction is subjective. There appears to be someone for everyone. We find it hard to believe that everywhere she goes, men find her beauty impossible to resist, because I’ve heard people say they could take or leave Jennifer Lopez. So to read Samantha’s cry of “Now I’m 41 and probably one of very few women entering her fifth decade welcoming the decline of my looks. I can’t wait for the wrinkles and the grey hair that will help me blend into the background” is a little hard to take. I’m sorry to tell you this, but no one knows who you are love. Except for those out there on Twitter suggesting the B in your surname is replaced with a P.

At least she’s learned her lesson though and is keeping her mouth shut from here on. In her response to the public outburst today, she just thought she would let us know, “While I was tearfully dealing with the emails and calls outside the supermarket, a young man approached me, offered to park my car and even get me a coffee.”