The Usual Suspects… of the Mums Forum

Parenting is probably the most judgmental field around. The idea of being a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ mum, although frowned upon, is in every new parents mind, and whether we have one newborn baby, or seven kids aged 0-20, we all have our opinions. In person, we try and limit what we brag about, moan about, and definitely how much we judge other parents. Online however? No such qualms exist. The Internet is absolutely full of mums who just cant wait to have their say, as if there aren’t literally thousands of women reading what you’re writing and invariably mouthing expletives at their screen in frustration at your idiocy.

I give you, The Usual Suspects.

Mum who doesn’t know how good she has it
This mum is like nails on a chalkboard to most parents, new or otherwise. She has a really good baby, a really easy time of it, and yet insists she is doing terribly. Yes, it’s all relative, and we all have our hard days, but worries like “No matter what I do, my daughter wont sit in her bouncy chair for longer than 45 minutes” or “My baby is 9 days old and never sleeps for longer than four hours at a time” are going to get you slapped.
Ditto with parents who complain about how difficult taking their kids on long haul flights multiple times a year is. Oh, I’m so sorry you’re going on holiday… Again.

My unhelpful answer: I hope God sends you twins next time. 

Panicky Mum
Can I give my 1yo raisins? Can I put any sunscreen on my daughter? What kind of towels are best for my baby’s skin? Should I wake my twins up, they’ve been sleeping for four hours? Can I eat chocolate while I’m breastfeeding? My baby ate 4ox and normally eats 4.5oz, what should I do?

My unhelpful answer: Do whatever you want. it doesn’t matter. And take some Prozac. 

Negligent Mum
My son has had this rash for three days. It started like this… -shows photo- and this morning I woke up and it’s like this. -shows additional photo- Has anyone experienced anything like this before?

My unhelpful answer: YES. Doctors have. I guarantee they’ve seen lots of rashes. You might even say it’s their JOB. The next one of these I see is getting a visit from social services you awful awful parent. 

By the Book Mum
This mother is generally a first time mum, although not always, and has been fooled by books and faux friends into thinking her baby is able to be programmed according to a schedule laid out kindly for her in pre-read literature. She is puzzled as to why at the six week mark, her newborn didn’t immediately start sleeping through the night. Why at six months, her son doesn’t love pureed cauliflower and lentil mush, made exactly how it was outlined on page 28.  Why after exactly two hours of playtime, her baby doesn’t seem sleepy.

“My baby is 6 weeks old, and doesn’t seem to be able to sleep through the night. He generally sleeps 4 hours, and then 3 hours, and then anywhere from 3 hours to 6 hours. I’m so tired, and if I try not feeding him, he just screams! How can I routine him?”

My unhelpful answer: Babies cry. Newborns need feeding often. Routine is not a verb. 

Fake Bragger
Disguised as a question, but really a blatant showing off fest, they normally start like this. 
“Is it normal that my 2 month old is making loads of noises already? This morning I swear she said mama! What’s that about?”
“I’m just wondering if it’s okay that my 7 month old took his first steps today… like is it safe for his ankles as he’s soooo teeny?”
“Has anyone experienced a week old baby sleeping for eight hours? My baby has done it two nights in a row now, and is putting on weight really well, and the midwife said it’s fine, but do you think I should be concerned at all?”

My unhelpful answer:  Shut up. NO ONE CARES. 

Negative poster
This one might in fact be my Mother in law. To every question, and every response, she basically answers “That’s really dangerous.” Sounds easy at first, but it’s actually a challenge finding negative answers to some posts. 

  • Baby in his own room? Nope, death by neglect.
  • Baby in my room? No way, attachment issues.
  • Which formula? You should be breastfeeding.
  • Should I stop BF now? Yes, do you have separation issues?
  • Can my kid have crisps? No, she’ll become obese.
  • Should I give her carrots? No-she’ll choke. 
  • Experience with trampolines? Broken bones. 
  • Experience with bikes? Car accidents. 
  • Experience with cuddly toys? Suffocation.

My unhelpful answer: I’m surprised you were brave enough to turn on the computer. Especially Facebook, don’t you know, someone is hacking into your account and identity thieving you RIGHT NOW.

The Seller
Not interested in giving or receiving advice, this lady truly subscribes to the idiom of one woman’s rubbish is another’s treasure. Except it generally isn’t. “For sale, 24 bottles and teats.” “10 cloth nappies, nearly new.”  What?! How can you think anyone wants those? More annoying still, “for sale, various toddler toys, all need a good clean but in good condition.” So clean them! Surely that would make it a more desirable sale?

My general rule: If a charity shop wont take it, we probably don’t want to spend a tenner and drive to Frogmore for it either. 

Noticed any other Usual Suspects to add to my list?

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Toddler Hide n’ Seek

One thing you ought to know about playing Hide and Seek with a two year old.

It’s lame.

R totally gets the concept. He covers his eyes, and counts to ten. When he finds me, he says “Found you!” and then he knows to go hide while I count to ten. He laughs joyously when I find him and we start over. Sounds like the perfect game of Hide and Seek right? So what’s the problem? EVERYTHING.

Firstly, I’m not allowed to hide. I have to basically stand somewhere, partly concealed by an object. So to clarify, crouching behind the washing line? No, absolutely not, cue angry toddler. However, standing behind, but not obscured by the washing line? Fine.
In a cupboard? You must be joking. Half way behind a half open door? Yes, perfect.

So basically, if I think of an awesome place to hide, it has to be pushed aside for the more blatant “in the corner of the room” option.

Additionally, I have to offer extreme clues to my whereabouts from my ‘hidden’ state, or nothing happens. My son gets to ten, and then just stands there with his eyes covered. Sometimes he might carry on, “iveden, telve, thirteen, fourteen, fedenteen, fifteen, thirteen, eighteen… for the rest of my life. So the first clue is where my voice is coming from when I say, “Now you should come find Ima, I wonder where she is?”
The next clue is inevitably given if I’m not either a) where I was last time, or b) directly in front of his face. That involves me saying “I wonder if Ima is standing partially but not entirely obscured by the washing line?”

Hopes of Hiding = Ruined.

Now onto seeking. Just imagine the lengths you have to go to as a human being to put up a genuine go of seeking, under the following circumstances:

  • The seeker doesn’t wait for you to cover your eyes before he finds his hiding place.
  • The seeker only has one place that he hides, under the table.
  • The seeker isn’t actually managing to hide any of him in that one place, it’s possible that more of him can be seen from partly under the table than when he is just standing up in the middle of a room.
  • The seeker likes to count, so joins in, making it impossible not to hear where he is.
  • When you try to play along by saying “Oh dear, I wonder where R is?” he answers you. “Here I am! Under the table!”

Hopes of Seeking = decimated.

It’s a good thing he’s cute.

photo

On Loneliness and Grieving.

Seven summers ago I sat shiva. It changes you. People say I have a strange relationship with death; they’re usually people who thankfully haven’t had any relationship with it at all. But I don’t think that comes from losing a parent. I think I was always aware of the idea that people might not be there the next day. That trust was a hard gift to give when you considered the likelihood of being left alone at any minute without warning.

So when, indeed without warning, a matter of hours after happily hanging up the phone on one of several daily calls to my father, I was summoned almost wordlessly to his already dead body, no chance to say goodbye, I can’t remember feeling shocked. The often quoted feeling of  ‘this cant be happening to me’  never even crossed my mind. It almost made sense, somehow.

Back then, for whatever reason, I chose to focus on the positive in the situation for the most part. I felt grief, I tore my clothes, I cried what must have been buckets of real tears, don’t get me wrong. It was probably the saddest and most difficult period in my life. But I’m not sure I ever complained. I’m not sure I ever shouted and raved about how unfair it was. Anger didn’t come into the equation for me.

Not then anyway.

I’m angry today. With a lot of people. I’m angry that you didn’t phone me, even though I told you in advance what day it is. I’m angry that I had to tell you what day it is in the first place, and that I have to explain (even though you’ll never understand) why it’s important to me. I’m angry that you are allowed the immense privilege of not understanding, and I have to go through this, distancing me from everyone un-scarred and whole in my life.

I’m angry with you too. I can’t understand how you can let this slip your mind. How you can marry someone and have a child together, and never think she might end up in this position. And I’m so frustrated that now I’m here dealing with it, you can’t remember something as important as today and phone me up and see how I am. How can you tell me that this is all harder for you than me, if this day hasn’t even crossed your mind, in a fraction of the way it’s taken camp in my own these last few weeks?

I’m even annoyed at my family. For reaching milestones that he never will, for taking for granted relationships he will never experience, simply for not being his sons, his wife, his nephews, nieces, parents, siblings. Mostly for leaving me the only one who feels this, and giving me no outlet to satisfactorily share it, and in most cases for hardly trying. I can’t pick up the phone and ask for a memory that’s slipped just out of reach, because no one else shares it, or worse still, because the risk of blank faces is just too frighteningly painful. I just have to wait while it fades further out of mind, losing the very puzzle pieces that made up a man’s life. I can’t pop round anywhere to reminisce, because no one shared our relationship.
Ironically, this was the very fact I so eagerly clung to while I sat shiva at 19.

It was only me. I was so proud to alone walk my Dad out of this world with dignity, to do the customs and laws that a family member does according to Jewish law, all on my own. I felt I was really making a difference, really proving that our relationship had always been him and me, and that was no different in his death, no intrusions. It was almost sacred- just the two of us.

But now it’s the one of me.

So I’m angry with You most of all. Not for taking him away from me, that’s too easy, although as I grow up I realise just how cut short his years were, taken at 63. But it’s the way of the world after all, a child losing a parent. But mainly for the way You left me here.
My mother wasn’t his wife, my brothers weren’t his sons. My husband and my son never knew him, I have no uncles or aunts, no grandparents. To make things slightly crueller, there could have been a lifetime companion to share this grief with, miscarried at seven weeks. At one year old, I was destined to be entirely alone in this, and I didn’t even know it.

So I sit here, writing mainly to myself, the only person who has been feeling this day approach with a heavy heart, and the only one who woke up this morning remembering, and wondering what might have been.

Today would have been my Daddy’s 70th birthday. Not old, not really, but seven long years gone. My life is truly so changed since he knew it, that I wonder if he would recognise me at all. And yet the people in my life now, have moved on from even the memory of ‘him and me’ to the point where they can’t remember the importance of today even when I’ve told them directly, let alone out of care of me. It’s not their fault, why should they? It’s only me who is stuck in both times. Missing and living simultaneously. Both getting on with life, and coping with death.

Still, I cant help but wonder whether the burden would be lighter to bear if there were anyone else to share the load.

Dear Dad…

I’m so sad tonight. I wish I could pick up the phone and call you up and tell you how I’m feeling and let all my frustrations out. You would probably listen awkwardly because I’m a woman and I’d be crying, and then you would tell me a story that hardly seems related, but somehow makes me feel better anyway. I would put down the phone feeling all cried out in the way you normally can only be when you’re by yourself, but in a good way, instead of this lonely aching feeling that I’m left with right now.

You never met R, so I don’t know how you would deal with his visual impairment or his and our frustration at his speech delays. For all I know, when it comes to his medical history, you would be just as unhelpful as my remaining parent, not knowing what to say or do to help, or how to be supportive in the way we need. But I do know for certain one thing, when it comes to his everyday life, you would be here.

You would take me to appointments when I needed the company, you would be phoning off the hook every day to see how we both are, you would hug me when the terrible two’s were driving me mad, or there wasn’t anything helpful left to say. I can’t imagine a day going by where you wouldn’t want to see us both, to hold your grandson, to sit with your daughter, and just while away the time with us both.

You would probably tell me that it’s her depression and the years of being alone, but you’ll have to excuse me for insisting that it is still not normal for a parent to not want to see their grandchildren. After almost three weeks of no contact, it is not normal for a parent to have to be bullied into spending some time with their daughter and grandchild. And yet that’s what happened today. And I don’t know why I bothered. After an hour and a half of sitting on my couch watching him while I played with him, a large portion of that spent with her eyes closed, she left. My mother hadn’t hugged him, kissed him, read to him, or even touched him. She hadn’t even moved from her spot on the couch to go down to his level and join a game.

It’s true- I might imagine you being here through the tragically rose coloured glasses of knowing you never will be again. But it’s not the fact that you’re gone that tells me you would hardly let R go if you had the chance, it’s just fact. Because somehow, with one parent who told me she had to ‘learn’ to hug me when I needed it, I still grew up affectionate and loving to my friends and family. Even though I’ve been told that I’m loved the least out of her children, I’ve somehow got a sense of self-worth and belief. And I didn’t give myself those things, you did.

So I know, with the certainty of really knowing a person, the way I’m coming to believe I never will know my own mother, that you would be cuddling and playing and singing with my little boy every chance you could get your hands on. You would call, probably too much, to find out how we are and to tell us you care. It wouldn’t be a chore, or something you needed to be reminded to do or argued into.

I don’t worry about R, the way I sometimes worry about myself. He has two parents that know how to make him feel loved and special. Thank God, he doesn’t need you in his life to make him feel supported and worth something.

Sadly however, I sometimes think that I still do.

Six Moments For Six Years

Tonight is six long years since my father passed away. I set aside from nightfall tonight until tomorrow night to remember him and all he gave me, and to learn in his memory.

Here are six moments in time I would love to have with you if I could.

1. Invite you for Shabbat at my house, the way I so often came to you. I’d cook, and plan, and worry about the food, and be so excited to welcome you into my own home. We would sing, and tell stories, and the time would run away from us, and I’d stay up all night asking the questions I never thought I wouldn’t get to ask.

2. Have a hug. As simple as it sounds, after it’s gone you never get the same kind of touch again that you receive from a parent. When the relationship is good, they know you, they empathise with you, they love you in an unconditional way, and that kind of emotion cant be transferred any better than through touch. Better than wishing for an entire day to sit and talk, I would love a chance to hear you call me sweetheart, and feel safe and loved in your arms again just for those few seconds.

3. Play with R. I’d sit back and watch the two of you spend effortless time together, him jabbering nonsense and you answering with pride. Reading him books, sitting him on your knee, looking into each other’s identical eyes, and singing him the same songs you once sang to me. Every day I hope that I can make up for the fact that he wont know his Zeida, and I’d love to see you with your grandson, just once.

4. Watch some Sci-Fi, play some board games, read silently next to each other, and pretend that the time isn’t precious and irreplaceable, and that we could do this every day if we wanted to, and that the choice to just exist together hasn’t been taken away forever.

5. Send you out with C, on a ‘male bonding’ outing. Who knows where you would go, and you’d probably both come back so very awkward, and to my annoyance, neither of you would remember what you even talked about or did. I’d just be so glad you got a chance to get to know each other, even in a small way, because my mind still finds it impossible to comprehend the two men in my life existing for me without true knowledge of the other. So yes, I’d gladly give up one of my nuggets of time with you, to know you got to meet him as my husband, even just that once.

6. Show you my world. How bitter-sweet to think of the amazing way my life turned out over the last six years, and yet how little of it you would recognise. You were always so unconditionally proud of me. Back then, I had just finished high school, now I have a degree and my own business. Like all 18 year olds, I worried I would never find ‘The One’, and now I proudly share my life with my best friend. The idea of kids didn’t cross my mind more than fleetingly, now my son is never out of my thoughts and yet somehow a complete stranger to you. These have been the years of my life that I’m likely to change the most. I’m simply a different person.

Six years on, would you even know me? And Daddy, would you still be proud?