Look who’s talking. (R’s story)

Boy, what a terrible afternoon I’ve had. You just wouldn’t believe what my Ima has put me through.

Today I wasn’t with my Ima, because she didn’t exist. Everyone knows when you don’t see someone, they don’t exist. Anyway, I was at work, watching and playing with the nice lady who cooks much nicer food than my Ima, (even though I admit it does look the same) and suddenly my Ima existed again. No warning, nothing, she just arrives while I was eating my supper. Well that put me right off my food, and no matter what coaxing and distracting she tried, I wasn’t going to have one more bite. No sir. I didn’t mind as I was sure there wouldn’t be any consequences.

Anyway, then I wanted to leave right away, and my mean Ima made me have a clean nappy, (what was wrong with the old one?) shoes, (does anyone know the point of those?) and a hat (I didn’t mind that so much-I do look pretty fly in a cap) before we left. Finally we got out of the door, and my Ima tries to put me in the buggy. The buggy! I can’t remember exactly what was so bad about it, but I know I was definitely not going to get in there, so I started walking in the right direction. But Ima wouldn’t listen to me and kept making me go the other way. She seemed to be getting frustrated every time I went the right way again, so even though I was correct I let her make the wrong decision and followed her instead. Eventually we got to the park. It took much longer than usual. I’m sure it would have been quicker my way, and definitely if Ima had stopped asking me to get in the buggy every time I stopped to look at flowers and leaves.

The park is my favourite place, but someone had forgotten to open the windows or put the fan on, cause I was very hot and uncomfortable. I can’t see how that would affect anyone else, so I was hoping that Ima would be especially good and well behaved to make me feel better. No such luck. First she offered me some water, which I drank. But then she took out my juice. I’d never seen it before, but it must be mine-as everything is. She started drinking from MY juice! I let her know how upset I was by throwing my glasses on the floor. That’s the best way to show her that I’m cross. She had the cheek to tell me off about my glasses, but didn’t make me wear them again. She gave me my juice back, and I took a sip and decided to keep the lid in my hand so she couldnt put it away. She asked me for the lid. I said no. She asked again. I didn’t answer as I’d already told her no. My poor Ima, she only recently started understanding yes and no, so sometimes it’s hard for her. Then you will never believe what happened, she SNATCHED the lid out my hand and put it back on the bottle! Boy was I angry. I sat on that climbing frame and kicked and shouted. But nothing, she just walked away like she couldnt even see me. Eventually she came back with more juice, and the ultimate insult- a straw. What does she think I am? A baby?! I threw the straw on the ground where it belongs. Gosh I was hot and uncomfortable, and something else… that’s right, hungry. Why was I hungry? Didn’t I finish supper? Why didn’t my Ima let me finish my supper? I couldn’t remember but I’m sure it was her fault. This day was going from bad to worse.

Just then my phone rang from Ima’s bag, and she had a quick chat with the man inside the phone. He sometimes sounds like my Daddy, or Ima’s friend Auntie M, but mostly he sounds like my Nana. I wanted my phone very much, but Ima wouldn’t let me have it for no good reason. That upset me for nearly 7 seconds until I found a breadstick. Remind me what was wrong again?

Things were looking up. I decided to find a new game, and started climbing up the stairs to the slide sideways. How fun! Why do people do it frontways? I wondered. But here comes Ima again, spoiling all my fun. Yes yes, I hear you telling me to turn around and climb properly, but I don’t want to. No, stop it! Stop lifting me off the slide, I want to climb this way! Ok FINE. I can wait.. I can be patient… Let’s pretend I’m walking towards the swings… and yes! NOW! I ran towards the slide and started climbing sideways again, but … OUCH! Why am I on the floor?! Why am I all dirty? Why does my arm hurt? Where’s my Ima and why did she let this happen to me? Horrible terrible parent, why didn’t she warn me this could happen???

For some reason, it was my Ima who looked like she had had enough of the park and the whole afternoon, even though it was me having such a terrible time, and she picked me up and after a quick cuddle put me in the buggy. I was about to moan for food, when she read my mind and gave me a whole packet of breadsticks to eat. Boy, that’s more like it. Normally I only get one or two, which would make me cry when they were done. As I finished the breadsticks, she already had a peppa pig ready on the magic phone for me to watch. It was amazing. She must have been feeling very happy to give me so many treats all in one go. I hope she knows how lucky she is not to be hungry, tired and far too hot like I was, and feeling so rubbish. But I didn’t dwell on it. After all, I wasn’t hungry any more after the 17 breadsticks, and much less tired and hot after the shady ride in the buggy home.

But when I got home, I was angry. What a bad day I was having. Ima didn’t seem to understand, or at least, she wasn’t doing anything about it, so I decided to cry and whinge non-stop for a while. But if anything-she got less sympathetic. I wasn’t sure I could take much more of this treatment. She carried me to the bathroom and started running the bath. A bath! I don’t want a bath, I shouted, I hate baths!

(Ten minutes later.)

Why are you trying to take me out of the bath? I want my bath! I shouted. I love baths!

You probably wonder why I decided to have an Ima in the first place after all this negligence on her part. Well, on days like today I wont pretend I don’t ask myself that question. But most days aren’t like this. Most days she doesn’t make the world too hot, or keep me hungry for what must be hours, or refuse to play with me or be wantonly mean. Most days she tries not to give me too much time to myself, and offers me lots of delicious broccoli and not too much yucky chicken. In fact, as crazy as it may seem, once we all go to sleep at 7pm, I will probably miss her, even today. I will probably miss her enough that after a little while, I will cry very loudly so she comes in and I can have just one more quick cuddle. I know that she doesn’t mean to be difficult. She just doesn’t know any better yet. She’s only an Ima after all.

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The arrival of Desh and Nah.

My son can say Yes and No!

Well, more accurately, he can say Desh and Nah. But as I am his mother, I can understand what he means perfectly. Also, they are accompanied by head nodding and shaking respectively, which was a bit of a clue if I’m honest.

It’s amazing! Firstly, the gloat-y mother bit you all abhor. Feel free to skim. Most parents tell me their kids learn the word no and its uses months before yes. Some parents of teenagers still seem to be unsure if their kids have mastered the positive response to questions. Not my baby. He only seems to say no if the suggestion is truly awful, (ie: bedtime) and nods happily to most other questions, (breadsticks, grapes, crackers, raisins- he isn’t fussy.) Seriously though, he really thinks about his response rather than going straight to ‘Nahhhh.”

Which is really what I am celebrating. The arrival of Yes and No means that he is comprehending what I am saying well enough to have his own response. How cool is that? And pretty complex if you think about it.  Ima is saying something that I can either agree or disagree with, and then I can let her know which response I’m having. The only problem is that he hasn’t quite mastered whether I’m going to agree with his response to my response yet.

Yes sweetheart, I know you said you don’t want a nappy on, but we are in fact on our way to rhyme time in the buggy, so I think we’l keep in on.
I know baby, I can see that you are bringing me the shaving cream and nodding at me chanting desh desh desh.. but it isn’t technically edible, so I’m not going to unscrew it for you to drink ok?

At the moment I’m still in that giddy excited phase where my son is ACTUALLY communicating with me, so I really don’t mind what the outcome of our conversation is. I just spend most of my time with him offering stuff. If there’s nothing child-friendly around, I improvise. R? Do you want my watch? This tissue? A hug? (That last one is guaranteed to get me a fierce Nah.) If I’m really strapped for questions I just ask every five minutes if he wants to go to sleep. I’m pretty sure he now thinks nap time is a game that he can avoid with the magic word No.

What’s amazing is that he can really express himself with those two words and one or two other useless ones. (Yes, I can see that’s a ball without you telling me.) It’s opened up a whole world for us both. I don’t have to listen to him crying at me and helplessly try any number of options, I can just ask. He doesn’t get surprised that it is suddenly sleep time, or that I’ve given him a snack he didn’t fancy, or any other aspect of his day hasn’t gone as he anticipated. He can have a tiny bit of control over his choices, and I love it. I love knowing that however minor they seem to me, his choices are what his life is made up of, and I am giving him some input for the first time.

And even though it’s been less than a week, I can see that he is happier for it. Adult or baby, don’t we all want the chance to make decisions for ourselves?

Can you say…?

Four’s a Crowd

Me and my mother don’t really argue any more. We have ‘near-fights’ instead. They are similar to how women generally argue, ie: it doesn’t seem like we’re fighting, but we are. Women can be smiling, laughing, talking in an un-serious tone, and yet be having a huge fight at the same time. It’s all about the subtext. So it is with the two of us. We’ve got really quite good at not ignoring each other, or storming off in a huff, or shouting in public any more. But we still say mean things, or start a controversial topic knowing it wont end well, or say things in a sing-song happy voice which we know will grate on the other’s nerves. All part of the process, we’ll get there eventually.

Today we had a ‘near-fight’ about something which I think people will have  opinions over. So I’m going to throw it into the public domain and see what I get back, even though I know some people may disagree with me.

While out and about running errands together, I mentioned what we’d done at the weekend. By we, I mean myself, my husband and our 1yo. We went fruit picking. I didn’t say anything else. My entire sentence was “We went fruit picking at the weekend.” I’m not sure what I expected as a response, maybe “That’s fun-where did you go?” or “How nice, what did you pick?” or “Did R enjoy it, was he old enough?” etc. Basically I was just starting a conversation, and sharing-as I’ve heard people do with their parents once they’ve left home and lost the teenage secretiveness. Maybe I wanted to tell her how we went home afterwards and made strawberry ice cream together, or how the blender woke up R in a frantic state and it took an hour to get him settled again.

I didn’t get to say any of the above however, because the response I got was so negative. “Oh…. I would have loved to go fruit picking.” 

What can I say to that? Should I have said I’m sorry? Should I have said “next time we’ll invite you along then”? Should I have ignored the comment entirely and just carried on with the ice cream part?

Obviously I did nothing like the above, I got irritated and asked why she would answer like that, (putting her on the frightened defensive) and told her how the 3 of us rarely get a chance to go out as a family together (making her feel excluded of course) and that it’s not like every time we go out the house I think how lovely it would be if my mother joined us (making her feel like I dislike her company) and gave her a list of answers she should have said instead (making her feel condescended to). Her response was “you have so many lovely outings, and I have nothing.”

I did all the wrong things, and by the time we parted company, things were stilted and awkward, and ‘near-fight-like’ and no progress had been made. But I don’t think I’m wrong for the underlying point. Surely it’s fine for C and I to take our son out for family day-trips or outings just the 3 of us, without worrying about her not being there? It’s not our responsibility to invite her along every time we’re doing something she might also enjoy.

It’s not that we don’t ever want our parents with us. We spend lots of time together, and I told her that it would be lovely if she thought of something fun to do, and she phoned us up during the week asking if we wanted to do that on the next available day we all had. (she never would.) But nevertheless, if we make a plan, and carry it through, and have some much needed ‘the three of us’ time, I’m not going to feel like I have to keep it a secret because anyone else may feel left out. Especially when it is something that can so easily be replicated again anyway.

I know that at some point in our lives, our parents are meant to stop looking after us, and we start looking out for them instead. For some, it starts earlier than others, and certainly some of the older generation have more of a ‘life’ than others and so need it less. But I think we can only take responsibility for them so far, even if we do empathise with their loneliness. If a person chooses not to ask for what they want, or not to find the means and drive to do the activities they enjoy, it’s not up to their children to do it all for them. And it certainly doesn’t seem fair to make your kids feel bad for having that ‘get up and go’ which they themselves lack.

Change Please

I have a friend who had her first baby about 6 months ago, who I merrily judged throughout her pregnancy for the ridiculous things she said. “I wont get stretch marks because my sister never got stretch marks” “I wont have any trouble breastfeeding because I’m really committed to it, and I don’t give up” “I plan on working throughout my maternity leave, while the baby plays and stuff.” “I’ve read an article about how to get a baby sleeping through by 6 weeks. I plan to follow that, and then I can see my friends in the evenings.” I could go on, but you get the picture. It can all be summed up in one sentence really. Having a baby won’t change my life, and it wont change me.

What a crazy notion.

In no other area of our lives, do we go through a huge experience, and expect to come out the other side the same way we went in. In no other area of our lives do we want to. For me at least, starting a family was the single biggest adjustment I am ever likely to make, it has involved the most changes to my lifestyle, the most alterations to my mindset, and the most practical differences in my day to day activities that I ever could have conceived beforehand. And before you do it, you simply cant understand that. Truthfully, you will never be truly prepared. But to go in with the naive and selfish assumption that you can (or would even want to) keep your life the same afterwards, just makes me think that a person isn’t ready for parenthood in the first place.

But as I said, none of us know what it is going to be like, and therefore we cant really be blamed for our naivety. What we can be blamed for, is taking that out of the pregnancy, and into our lives with our babies.

I haven’t spent much time with the woman I mentioned above since her pregnancy became an actual child, so I couldn’t say whether her ignorant viewpoint has passed over into motherhood. But I do know plenty of people for whom this is the case. The mums who are shocked when the ‘fool-proof’ technique for sleeping through the night doesn’t work from 2 weeks old, and therefore they can’t manage their usual 8 hours per night. The mums who complain that their six week olds aren’t able to be left with a babysitter so that they can regain their lost social life. And the parents who drag along toddlers at all hours of the evening to fit in with their own plans, long after they should be asleep.

I’m not saying there is no life after kids. But it adapts. It has to. If you cant afford a babysitter, the answer isn’t to drag your 2yo along with you and hope they nap in the buggy. You just can’t go out. Or you have to go somewhere free and use the money on the sitter instead. If your baby is still a newborn and genuinely needs feeding at night, then that’s what they need! There aren’t any ‘quick-fixes’ to help you feel better rested, that’s your job right now. It is true that we’re not all equipped to be with our kids 24/7, some of us find it impossible, either emotionally or financially. Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in working mums, at least part time, and taking the help when it is offered. But even that has its limits. If we are truly honest, we all know when we are acting in our families best interests and when our motives are mostly selfish.

Your baby hasn’t read the books, she doesn’t know what she should be doing; only what you teach her. And acting like your kid is an inconvenience to your schedule, teaches nothing but that, even if on the outside it seems to be working fine. Parenthood is meant to change you, not just the way you feel, but the way you behave. That’s why it is such a big deal in the first place.

It’s not always a case of forcing a baby out of a routine in order to keep your schedule of course. There are families which have full time help on hand to deal with all that ‘baby stuff’, night nurses, au-pairs, mother’s helps and the like, which means your life doesn’t have to change, as others would. But I really believe that even in these cases, you are not being honest with yourself about what your family needs. Whether you are both full time working parents, or just ladies of leisure who want the extra pair of hands, if your life is exactly the same as it was beforehand, then this may sound harsh, but why did you have the kids in the first place?

I’ve heard people say “Why should I have to choose between my social life/work/hobbies and my family?” and I laugh. That’s just life. We make choices, we make compromises. Surely the one factor that should never be compromised is your children, however great your own adjustments have to be.

So whether it’s someone else that’s doing the parenting for you, or whether you’re shaping your baby to fit into your schedule; if you’re in a position to say “Having kids hasn’t changed me” then I hate to be the one to tell you- you’re probably doing it wrong.

No Two Ways About It, That’s Strange. (Part 3)

Calling out across the world for help on explaining this one.

I was lucky enough to be thoroughly spoiled with a day-trip to Venice yesterday for my 25th birthday. It is truly tourist-ville, with every street corner overflowing with the unique list of items which Venice is famous for. Each stand or small shop was full to the bursting with decorative masks, Murano glassware, and Gondola themed trinkets. Of course, as it was Italy, you also cannot escape the Carbs infatuation, (I knew I’ve always wanted to go there for a reason) and you cant walk ten yards without spotting Pizza or Pasta in one form or another.

This was one form I wasn’t expecting. In nearly every shop, there was a section like the below. This was the only one I saw however with the helpful/confusing sign up, which made me think I may be missing something about the phenomenon. Any ideas?

If this is typical Italian cuisine-I’m just glad we didn’t have time to go to a restaurant. Is this really such a must-have in the pasta department? I have to say, the UK are missing a trick, as I’ve never seen it in Tesco.

Explanation or not, I’ll stick to fusilli thanks.