Mummy Hugs

An hour ago Midi Minx woke up crying, fretting about some wee innocent incident a few weeks ago that her 6 yo mind is feeling guilty about. Like any parent would, I fixed it with a Mummy Cuddle. She clung to me like a baby monkey as I held her and stroked her hair out of her wet green eyes till she was ready to go back to sleep, feelings salved.

I last received a Mummy Cuddle myself 8 years ago, when Maxi was 4 months old. If I thought hard enough, I could probably figure out the exact date. My mum was newly-diagnosed with lung cancer. I’d flown up to stay with her for a few days with baby Maxi, our continual mother-daughter feud on cease-fire. We were chatting about just rubbish really as we nipped in to the local Tesco to get something healthy for dinner. Crossing the doorway I suddenly blurted out of nowhere: “I’m not ready for you to die, Mum”, and stood sobbing, baby in her car seat at my feet. I remember she enveloped me in her arms, not giving 2 hoots about all the rushing shoppers swerving around us with tuts and glares. She gave me the kind of tight body squeeze that mums specialise in, the kind that blot out all the hurt for a minute, then smiled, kissed me, and said, “I’m not ready to die yet, either. Silly girl. It’s ok. Don’t worry. So, d’you want to get a Chinese carry-out for dinner, instead?”

I’ve been watching and reading about the current Ebola outbreak for months, I think from when I first read that MSF had declared it out of control. I saw a photo the other day (above: John Moore—Getty Images from Time.com) that encapsulates everything I feel about that disease. It’s a nurse in full personal protective equipment, looking as Other Worldly as Marty McFly (Back to the Future) when he emerges from the DeLorean in Peabody’s barn in 1955. The suited-up person is awkwardly carrying a little child, maybe 2 or 3 years old, who’s suspected of having Ebola. The sheer contrast between the lightly-clad child and the plastic-layered adult stuns me. I find it so terribly cruel that because the devastating virus is passed by touching infected body fluids, people have to shield themselves from that basic human nurturing instinct: to touch. Ebola sufferers are unable to be touched, stroked, hugged when they are suffering, frightened, needing reassurance. When these babies (and children and adults) most need physical human skin-to-skin contact, they can’t have it. Survival doesn’t herald a return of the miraculous Mummy Cuddle, even if family members are still alive: survivors are reporting being shunned by fearful friends and family. I read that some Ebola survivors are trusting their new immunity to the virus to volunteer to work with children sick with Ebola, so that they can provide them with human touch.

I have an electronic friend, C, whose youngest son was born a few weeks after Mini Minx, and who shares a birthday with Maxi. We met on an online antenatal forum and kept in loose touch ever since via Facebook. A few months ago she sent owl-mad Midi a wee leather owl purse that Midi cherishes. Midi had been chattering about how kind The Lady Who Sent Me Charlotte The Owl Purse was, and I realised I’d not heard anything from her for a wee while, as you often do now with Facebook’s tightly algorithm-ed newsfeed. So the other night I clicked on her profile to catch up with her news over the past month. It was bad and I cried reading it, a whole month of posts, page after page: her little 4 yo has just been diagnosed with Stage 4 High Risk Neuroblastoma. I can’t comprehend it. My mind can’t even begin to understand that kind of devastation. It’s too big a tragedy. It’s shocking. Mind-freezing. Little Jake takes after his strong, feisty, full of life mummy, so over the coming days I’m sure he’ll be coping with his treatments like a warrior far beyond his years and experience. Midi found something for him in the shop today that she reckons will make him and his mum smile a bit (and it’s nothing to do with owls, shock-horror!) What’s making me weep for him now, though, is that last night his illness made him hurt far too much to have a Mummy Cuddle. He so badly needed one; he cried for one; C was desperate to give him a pain-blotting, fear-quenching squeeze, but he just couldn’t bear it. So cruel and unfair, to them both.

I hugged my 3 in their sleep last night a little more tightly than usual, and thought of little Jake.

Perils of Being Scotlish

I say I say I say... This Scotsman and an Englishman walk into a bar, and... What, too soon? Too soon.

I say I say I say… This Scotsman and an Englishman walk into a bar, and… What, too soon? Too soon.

Nearly 2 weeks have passed since the Scottish Referendum. I’ve not posted anything about it on here because for the past couple of months I’ve been writing most nights, for most of the night, back and forth in private messages about it on Facebook and emails. I’m not about to start on here, either, and how I voted was private. I only mention it in relation to how it affected the minxes – the usual subjects of this blog!

On the run-up to the vote, The Boss and I distracted the kids from their usual flick-food-under-the-table-at-your-sister games by talking about it together over dinner. The younger 2’s reaction was “Mummy and Daddy are talking scribble – must mean that it’s something we’re not allowed! I want it! I want it now!” whereas Maxi thought about some of the points we discussed and argued, and joined in a bit. She was very put-out that I refused to share my voting intention with them, but hey, when your kids memorise absolutely everything they hear, to later parrot verbatim at the most embarrassing moment possible, you’re a bit careful about what you say. (I’m still haunted by the “Mummy said you probably wouldn’t be arsed to do that” ShopGate incident, and the “Where’s your broomstick? Mummy said you came in on one” debacle, and just about every single time the kids mention me at school).

Maxi was born in Swindon and picked up her Daddy’s accent, probably because he was the stay-at-home parent when she was learning to talk. As a pre-schooler she declared that she was Scot-lish, and we’ve brought her up to consider both sides of her heritage to be equally special. So she took some recent playground taunts about “The English” a bit to heart. After one doomed-we’re-all-doomed-regardless-of-the-result referendum dinner discussion between her parents, she later reflected: “So no matter what the grown-ups vote, yes or no, one side is going to hate me?” I reassured her that wouldn’t be the case; that people differentiate between a nation’s policies and its people.

In school, as in classrooms all over the country, her class discussed the main points in the referendum. It stirred up a bit of anti-English declarations, and some of the kids crowed about Maxi’s birthplace. When she told me about it, I suggested she ignore it – it would soon blow over. We talked about which kids were teasing her. I asked her what they all had in common. She noted that they were all older than her; they had all teased her about other things before; that she cared what they thought; that other kids in the class cared what they thought; and that other kids liked to copy them. I pointed out that none of them were exactly the smartest nor the most brilliant examples of logical reasoning, but I don’t think she was swayed by that.

I told her the kids were being racist and bigoted, and that if she couldn’t shrug it off, she should challenge them. “Be proud of being half-English!” I told her. “You’ve got the best of both countries!” She didn’t look particularly proud. “Your headmaster is English”, I reminded her. “If the kids say to you again, ‘All English people are stupid!’, then ask them if they think their headmaster is stupid”. Maxi sniggered. The kids’ headmaster is an absolute star. I think I’ve raved about him about a hundred times on here. No-one could accuse him of being stupid! She relaxed a bit, armed with a decent one-liner.

The next day, the day of the result, the taunts kept on. Maxi’s prepped one-liner ammunition fell on unhearing ears. She was a subdued little girl that night. When her class-mates painted a picture of The English as smug, arrogant, stupid, cruel, bloated, rich masters, Maxi was seeing those caricatures with the faces of people she loved: her Daddy, her grandparents, aunts and uncles.

Although I was sure it would blow over after the weekend, I dropped by to see Maxi’s teacher on the Friday morning, to give him a bit of a head’s up about what his pupils were saying in the playground. I didn’t name names, and I wasn’t ratting on the children, I was just sharing info that he might or might not find useful, either now or in the future. I stressed that I wasn’t making a complaint, just suggesting he maybe use it as an opportunity to discuss racism in general with the class.

At lunchtime, the head collared me, wanting names. He explained that actually there was enough being said for the police to be involved. What?!! Surely they’re just little kids? They don’t really know what they’re saying; probably just repeating what they’ve heard on the telly or at home. He disagreed, but didn’t out and out say I was being naive.

That afternoon, Maxi came skipping out of school, full of chatter about the “brilliant and really interesting” class assembly they’d just had, all about racism and judging people based on silly assumptions.

“Oh?” I said, feigning nonchalance.

“And it’s really funny:” Maxi said, “Every time Mr X asked a question, it was always A, B and C who put up their hands to answer. It was like they were just soooooo desperate to impress Mr X. If only he knew that it was really them who were being horrible to me!”

“Oh, he knows, Maxi. He knows!” I suspect that he’d have known even if I’d not grassed them to him earlier. Good headteachers are like parents: they’ve got eyes and ears EVERYWHERE. (For goodness’ sake don’t anyone tell my kids about Facebook Messenger – they currently think I’m omnipresent).

Road Rain Ragin’

Aside

Midi Minx at 22 months old, Dec 2009. Not much has changed since.

I’m so ANGRY!!!!

To the Yummy Mummy in the Discovery the other day, blatting down the back road in the pouring rain:

Yes, dear, I *know* that the nasty rain is scary! It might smear your caked make-up and fluff-up your newly-straightened bleach job; it makes you faff about with all those hundreds of confusing levers, to find the windscreen wiper one; it sprays up when you drive so fast and stops you being able to see; and it makes Torquil and Desdemona in the back squeal when it touches their precious skin. But PLEASE don’t cuddle up to my car’s bumper for comfort, because:

  • I have a heart of black coal and don’t give a shit
  • I might have to stop faster than you can blink your heavy eyes
  • … actually, I can’t be arsed anymore: BRAKING DISTANCE, BRAKING DISTANCE, BRAKING DISTANCE you stupid fool. Look it up.

And to the pair of teen wannabe goths:

Stop sticking to other cars’ shadows. The light won’t really melt you. And you might live long enough to lose your virginity. If you’re really lucky.

The Revenge of the Evil Ones

Poor Midi!

She’s a right little Dr Doolittle. There’s something irresistible about her hands to animals. She can blow huge bubbles around the bathroom, and she can tempt newts from the garden. Or hoverflies from flowers. I don’t know what it is about her hands, but she’s usually got something crawling all over them.

This morning a wasp wanted to cuddle up to her. It buzzed all around her skirt as she balanced on the playground beam. It landed on her shoes, her skirt, her hands. It was determined to get close to my lovely girl! She rebuffed its advances, so the little fecker stung her on the inside of her wrist.

My poor, poor baby! She squealed in surprise at one of her Normally Loving Subjects daring to hurt the Queen of the Insect World. Then she cried in pain. She’s never been stung before.

I distracted her with a bit of a chemistry lesson as I marched her home again, and why I was going to put some vinegar on it. She’s 6, so she’s not got much of a clue of what an acid is, never mind an alkali. But a quick splash of vinegar, a spoon of anti-histamine, a big Mummy Cuddle, and she was fine to trot back to school, saying that it was feeling better. The sting quickly came up in a white donut against an angry red background, hence me giving her some medicine. Hopefully she won’t be too drowsy. And hopefully the fact that she smells like a fish supper won’t make her teachers feel too hungry…

EVIL!!!!! Photo: Wikipedia

Big Parenting Milestone

Yesterday morning I was lying groggily in bed, hoping that the coffee and morning news on the TV would wake me up enough to shamble out of bed and go get breakfast sorted. The younger kids often sneak into my bed for a quick 5 minute snuggle while they wake up; Maxi Minx normally prefers to stay in her own bed, reading.

Not yesterday. As she hopped into my bed I thought, oh, this is an unexpected pleasure – how nice!

“Muuuuuuuum?” she asked.

Oh-oh. I recognise that tone of voice. Maybe not so nice. 

“What’s S-E-X?”

Definitely not so nice! Wide-awake! Panic!

“Hmmmm…”, I said, playing for time. “Well, it can mean different things. In what context did you hear it?”

“Oh, like Gangnam Style!” she said, mimicking the cross-wristed dance.

??!

“Well,” I said, ever the teacher, “What do you think it means?”

“Some people in my class say it’s when a man and a woman get into bed together, naked”, she giggled. “And they never say ‘sex': they always say ‘ess-ee-ex'”.

Oh no, she really, really wants to know. Right now. At 7.20am on a Thursday morning.

“That can be a little part of it. But sex is lots more than that”, I started. Then noticed that she looked a tiny bit disappointed. Hmmmm, why disappointed? What did she really want to know? “Basically it’s how men and women make babies. It’s how the sperm gets to meet the egg inside a woman. Do you want me to tell you how?”

“No, Mummy”, she said.

Phew!!! But… but… why not?! Isn’t that what you asked? Steel yourself, Trout, and dig some more:

“But I’ve not answered your question, have I?” She shook her head and sniggered.

Eek! My innocent 8 yo actually sniggered!

“It’s in Gangnam Style, when he sings Heyyyyy, sexy lady!” she elaborated.

Oh boy… I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but here goes…

“Ah. A man would call a woman sexy if he thinks she’s really attractive and he wants to have sex with her. And a woman would call a man sexy if she wants to have sex with him. But a child would never describe someone as sexy, because a child wouldn’t have sex. And an adult would never describe a child as sexy, because only adults have sex”, I started. “And Mummy and Daddy are married, so we only have sex with each other, not with anyone else”.

Inward wince. Actually, please don’t ask me exactly the mechanics of sex. I need another coffee first. I wish to hell I’d bought an Usborne book or gotten something from the library to help. I’m so unprepared! They only know the physical changes at puberty. They only know what babies are made of and how they come out. I should have elaborated. Should I stick to hetero sex only? Or be vague? 

Maxi looked pensive. I asked whether she wanted to know exactly what happens when 2 grown-ups have sex, or if she’d like me to tell her that another time.

“No, I don’t want to know that. I want to know about Henry VIII”, she said.

?!!!! You what…?

“How could he sex all 6 of his wives?” she asked

“Eh? But… but… he was only married to one at a time!” I explained. “And you say ‘How could he have sex with all 6 of his wives’. So it was just one at a time.”

Maxi chortled again. “Hehehehehe! So it wasn’t all 7 of them together in one bed?”

Noooooo! I’m not supposed to be covering orgies in my first sex education talk!!!!! Unfair!!!!

“No. One at a time”.

“And it’s between grown-ups?” I nodded. “So you can’t have sex with toys?” she asked, mischievously.

For the love of… Now we’re doing sex-play?!

I sniggered myself. “No. You don’t have sex with Bagpuss”.

“OK, Mummy. Thank you. Can I have peanut butter and jam on my toast this morning?” she pleaded, changing the subject.

I got let off lightly!

"No way - mummies and daddies don't do that!" "Way! Mummy said so"

“No way – mummies and daddies don’t do that!”
“Way! Mummy said so”
“Ah-hahahahahahahaaaaa!”

I was out teaching knitting last night. I thought Maxi might collar The Boss and ask him similar questions. The imp in me considered leaving him to it, cold. But I love him too much, so nabbed him as he got home and gave him a quick run down of the morning’s conversation, and to leave anything to me that he felt uncomfy with. He doubled up, giggled like a teenager and blushed. Bless!

When I got home that night Maxi was still awake. I asked her again whether I’d answered her question properly about sex. “Yes”. Did she want to know any more? “Not just now”. Would she ask me if she wanted to know anything? “Oh yes!”

I felt very honoured.

This morning over breakfast the conversation was about how some of the older girls are already wearing bras and cropped tops. “But their little boobies aren’t as saggy as yours, Mummy!” Thank you darling. Pass the milk.

A Day in the Life of Mini

After my last little rant, please don’t shoot me, but… yes, there are some serious perks to being a stay-at-home mum. Today I relished one of them.

I’m not sure why, but in our village some people have gotten together and opened up the Village Hall from now till Hallowe’en for a few hours on Tuesdays to serve tea and cakes for a donation. It’s not normally my kind of thing (I’m shy and antisocial), but we’re still new and it’s a great way to meet people. Not brave enough to go on my own, I’d not been planning to go. On a whim, I left the cleaning and tidying, and prepping for some craft teaching I’m doing to pay for the new washing machine (!!), and decided to go with little Mini Minx. She’s always up for meeting new people. She found her favourite satin handbag, put her library card in it, and skipped round the corner with me for a little Mummy-Daughter afternoon tea.

plate of iced empire biscuits

Vampire Biscuits. Always make me and Mini miss our friend Margot, and the brilliant blethers we had over coffee and cake before we moved.

Well, the ladies and gent in there were lovely, engaging us in conversation as we scoffed some homemade goodies. Mini admired the hand embroidered and crocheted tablecloth, but quickly got bored at me daring to talk to someone else other than her. Still, it was such a treat! I warned Mini not to tell her sisters or Daddy in case they’d be jealous. But one of the ladies gave me 3 doggy bags of delicious traybakes to take home for them, so we were rumbled. I guess it’s going to have to be our Tuesday routine now: abandon elder 2 for sports before school, back for a quiet Mini-and-me breakfast, school and nursery with home lunch in the middle, library after school, tea and cake on the way home, homework. I think Tuesday is going to be my favourite day of the week!

Mini is also turning into a devious little sausage. About 4.45pm, as I was furiously stabbing a leg of lamb and shoving garlic into it (late. Too long on Facebook. Dinner Fail), she waggled a big coin in my face. What’s that? Where did you find it?

“I foun’ it on a pavement”, she whispered. “Don’ tell my sisters!” looking all conspiratorial.

I asked her where exactly and when. Turns out she’d spotted it in the road on the walk home while I was shepherding all 3 vaguely into the same piece of space-and-time, had picked it up and put it in her pocket, and “I smile about it all afternoon, Mummy, and I stroked it”. Hmph! A future bank robber when she grows up? “Mummy, can I put it in my piggy bank and make you rich?” Manipulative minx!

An hour ago she woke up with another night terror. I thought we’d sorted them out: every night when I go to check on her, I wake her up slightly about 2 hours after she falls asleep. Tonight she caught me out by having a terror an hour and a half after falling asleep. As usual, she stood on her bed, wailing in terror, lost in her own little world. As usual she ran to the corner of the room and back a few times, screaming. I know not to hold her or stop her, because it seems to make her worse (I guess it translates to something holding her back in her nightmare). So I just gently held her hand, as usual, and whispered the usual ineffectual stuff like, “There, there… it’s ok… Mummy’s here”.

grumpy miniAnyway, all of a sudden, she got very cross. Her brow wrinkled, she balled her hands into fists, and she marched back and forth across her bedroom in strident anger. She sat back down on her bed again, staring through me. “Oh”, I commented, “You’re very angry now!” She suddenly launched herself at me, flung her arms around my neck and accepted a big cuddle. I tucked her back in bed with a soft toy as she rubbed the care label in her nightie and fell asleep with her eyes open.

Mini has the most volatile, scary temper I’ve ever experienced. If she’s suddenly getting mad at her demons, then I’m delighted. I wish I could see inside her little head!

PS my favourite quote from today – she wanted “smashed-up eggs” for breakfast, and she wanted to make them herself. Intrigued, I let her. Scrambled eggs. She wanted scrambled eggs! She’s so violent…

Let’s All Be Friends

Mums who spend their 9-5 outside the home: please don’t piss off those who work their 9-5 inside the home by implying that your office-work is more valuable or time-consuming than anyone else’s. At different times in the past I’ve done both. Nowadays I’m concurrently doing a full-time job inside the house, a part-time job at nights inside the house and a part-time job on other nights outside the house. I can therefore credibly tell you that you’re talking out of your arse.

We all work hard. We all lack free time. My limited free time is no more worthy or less valuable than your limited free time. I’m offended by your snide implications but I’ll get over it. Maybe. While I’m sat on my bum drinking coffee, channel-surfing and flicking through magazines all morning tomorrow (!).

 

Edited to add:

Now I’ve calmed down a little, I should add that this was not addressed to *all* working-outside-the-home mums. Pffft, as if! I’m just reacting to one bleat too many of “I can’t do that because I work!” from 3 specific guilty parties. I couldn’t re-educate them at the time because I was / am too angry, and am trying / failing not to take it personally.