My poor first-born is losing her hair. Not through any awful disease, but through the clutches of her evil little sister. My chest looks like a tigers’ coat, I’m covered in little scratches and pinch marks. We are the victims in a campaign of abuse….from our 11-month old baby….
Mornings in our house go like this: Girly No2, at 11 months old, is the first to wake up, some time between 5.30 and 7am. She comes into our bed, one of us crawls down the stairs and makes her a bottle, relishing in the 5 minutes peace her guzzling brings. She then thrashes, butts and crawls all over us while we both wake up. At some point, our 3-year-old, Girly No1, will bound in, laden with teddies and Frozen dolls. She climbs into our bed and has her milk and we all wake up chatting about our day ahead. Picture perfect family life.
Except the picture fails to acknowledge what is really going on. Because at some point during this idyllic hour, my Girly No2 will attack her big sister, grabbing at her head with her little fat fists, pulling clumps of beautiful hair from her beautiful head. It’s awful. No1 shouts, cries and whimpers, holding her poor little head. My innocent-looking cherub, with her big eyes and pouty lips, retreats with a handful of long blonde curly strands twined around her fingers, the hint of a smile on her lips. It’s like the aftermath of a drunken brawl in Wetherspoons. The victor, No2, sits back to watch the reaction. She is unperturbed by my telling off, sometimes shouting back at me, other times looking at me with the facial expression of a sullen teenager. She will briefly go quiet, plotting her next move. Some time later she will dive at my chest, head butting with her mouth open making a “waw waw waw” noise against my skin – like the Native American noise we used to make as children with our hands on our mouths. Sometimes she’ll catch my cheekbone with her lump of a head, or she’ll squash my boob until it’s completely flat, a move that makes me think a mammogram will be perfectly manageable for me. Yesterday morning she bit me on the tummy. It’s surprising how much three tiny little teeth can hurt. Most days though, it’s her signature move she pulls; she sits next to me, eyeing my chest, then – when she is ready – she’ll swiftly lean forward and pinch me, scratching me with her tiny fingernails. She purposefully draws lines, beaming with pride at the red mark-making she leaves behind. She’s mean. And she hurts.
With both girls, we have tried to avoid shouting “no” and instead use expressions like “we don’t do that in this house, we don’t hurt our big sisters” in a stern voice. It worked well with No1, she didn’t learn the word “no” for ages. You very quickly learn as a parent that your children parrot back the words you use all the time. It’s better hearing her tell another child that “we don’t throw balls inside, we might break the window” rather than listening to her shouting “no” at them and a row breaking out. It also allows for a conversation beyond shouting. With this second little minx though, explanations aren’t working. She is too young. She doesn’t understand. More significantly though, she doesn’t care. I have lost it once or twice and shouted “NO!” at her. The first time the saddest thing happened…the lip came out and she cried, big dollopy tears streaming down her cheeks. It didn’t change anything though, and the next time I did it she just shouted back at me. Exactly what I was trying to avoid. My cousin, mother of 7, said do it back – a swift tug of the hair will stop it. I have tried this, she just stared at me. Maybe I didn’t do it hard enough.
Me? Hurt you? As if! Look at me!
Candy Stripes Can Work
I think I’m out of options. I just have to keep them apart and be ‘on it’ all the time. The second No2 eyes No1’s hair and starts to raise her chubby fist I move her out of reaching distance. With my chest I do my best to move her hand away and now it’s winter I wear much higher tops. But we still have lots of attacks. I try and keep her fingernails short but, quite frankly, it’s like wresting a really strong worm. Her nails are so small and she moves so much it is my least favourite activity. I would rather sport the candy-stripe skin. For her sisters hair though, there is little more I can do other than hope she grows out of it soon.
The whole hurting situation rises again later in the day. As everyone starts to get tired and hungry, it is Girly No1’s turn to inflict pain. Every iota of attention paid to No2 results in a jump on my head or a deep thigh massage with her bony little feet. My cheekbones and boobs are again the inevitable victims of these jellybob attacks (translator: jealous; we try not to use the word jealous). No2 often takes an “accidental” kick to the head or may be pushed face-down into the rug. These incidents are easier to deal with – naughty steps, removal of toys etc. In a recent stay with Nana, they were separated for hours. Literally were not allowed within a 2m radius of one another. This certainly helps No1, but No2 doesn’t care! She makes it her mission to climb onto No1’s lap. This makes No1 panic and she gets sad that she can’t be near her baby sister. These discipline methods work. With No2 though, I fear that life will be very different. She is missing the caring gene. Sister Auntie is exactly the same. I had hoped this inclination could be over-ridden but 11 months in, I am not hopeful. It is war, and I, the innocent bystander, come off the worst.
Many a time, in my child-free years, I saw an angry looking mum being snippy with her children. Poor babies, I would think, hateful mother. I hadn’t accounted for the headbutts, kicks and scratches she would have endured that day. Not to mention the level of alert she would have to be on, awaiting the break out of war between her two or more children. Then placating one whilst shouting at the other one in a way that won’t sound horrendous coming out of a toddler’s mouth at a later date. It’s exhausting. And painful. I had heard motherhood was painful. After birth I thought they meant emotionally, not actual physical pain! I do not like it! I have no answers on this one, dear readers. Short of total fingernail removal, obligatory swimming hats to hide hair and Wacky Warehouse inspired interior design….I’m out. All advice welcome on how to manage a naturally aggressive and very resilient 11-month old attacking her family. And then more generally on warring sisters. I knew they would fight later but they’re so young! Do they really want to inflict pain on the other one?! I cannot cope with this for the next 16 years. Until you tell me what to do, we shall be donning puffer jackets and ski helmets. All of us. Please help me, it’s hot in here.
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Hard as I try not to obsess over my body size and appearance, the constant barrage of messages saying I should instantly be thin again is pretty hard to ignore. Ten months after giving birth to my second child, I’m about ten pounds off my pre-baby weight. Having put on 3.5 stone with this last pregnancy, that’s not bad right?! Sadly it’s the last ten pounds that transforms me from Potato to Woman…
In the run up to our holiday, every magazine I saw brandished a headline saying “Back to Pre-Baby Weight [24 hours / 2 days / 1 week] After Giving Birth” alongside a picture of perfect abs belonging to KK, Cheryl Cole, Janet Jackson, super duper supermodel…Abs Abs Abs everywhere. It has become so extreme that when I saw Cheryl Cole casually strewn across her boat deck, I thought it a was positive thing that she looked like that after four months, at least it wasn’t two weeks like the rest of them. FOUR MONTHS! FUCK OFF! Who looks like that four months after giving birth?! I can barely feel my abs ten months on, never mind have them ripping through my sheer cover-up when I’m lying flat. And I work out five times a week! I mean mine are in there somewhere but there are no visible ripples. I reminded myself that they are celebrities. They have trainers, chefs and nutritionists. Their careers are built on their bodies looking great. Satisfied that the MumTum was safe for today, I checked Facebook only to be hit with the “I just-fit-in-my-pre-baby-jeans-ten-days-after-giving-birth” brigade. FUCK OFF AGAIN! I don’t begrudge them it, well done and all that, but what the hell? Where is all your baby jelly?! Why can you do pregnancy so much better than me?! Even as I’ve lost weight this year (two stone so far) and fit back into some of my clothes, my top buttons are still separated from their holes. I was ordering something the other day (some THINX actually, I’m giving them a bash!), but they were in American sizes. The hip and waist sizes were about 8 inches apart, as you would expect (waist 32-34”, hips 40-42”) and I remembered my own measurements used to be a solid ten inches apart. Since the US-shipped pants would be a pain to return, I decided to measure myself before ordering. Big mistake. It turns out that my hips and waist measurements are currently the same. Which officially makes me a potato.
I had seen the holiday pictures, I know I’m not at my most slender best but to be a potato shape? Come on! I’ve barely eaten this year! This last statement is a lie. I have eaten. My problem is that I’m a sugar addict and whilst I can maintain a weight eating lots of sugar, I cannot lose it. Weight loss is a real bore for me. I have lost my two stone doing the Forever Living C9 every couple of months. It’s 9 days of not eating very much but my exercise habits have become really well established, and my food consumption is infinitely better than it was. I do get hungry and a little grumpy while I’m doing it but it’s only 9 days. It means that the rest of the time, I don’t have to explain to my girlies why I’m drinking smoothies instead of eating toast with them (Mummy is not allowed). Or why we can’t go into the bakery for gingerbread men today (Mummy has no willpower). Or why we’re not eating the same thing for dinner (Mummy is Clean living this week). I’ve talked before about my deep vehemence not to have my daughters obsessed with their weight and appearance. Ordinarily we talk about healthy, good-for-you foods, and our exercise regime is very visible to the Girlies. No1 knows where the yoga mat is and pretends my mini dry shampoos and hairsprays are weights. She can downward dog with the best of us! No2 bounces on her bottom while we’re star jumping. It’s a good start, and it’s nothing to do with standing on scales, measuring thighs or crying into the biscuit barrel. The sooner I get back to normal the better.
My aims are to be fit, healthy and toned, and back to pre-baby weight. But I was made to feel bad the other day when I bumped into a new Potential Friend – you know the kind, you cross over at various classes but you’ve not yet made the jump to meet up on your own? She told me she doesn’t drink though so sadly I don’t think she is my NBF. I can’t be Besties with someone who will remember everything from a night out. Anyway she has seen a nutritionist to shift the “baby remains” (an unfortunate choice of expression, I’m not sure English is her first language!) and get back to her wedding weight. I was slightly taken aback, my target weight is pre-baby, but that is still just over a stone heavier than my wedding weight. Have I let myself go?! Should I be aiming to get back to wedding weight? That was hard work. I spent all my free time in the gym and didn’t drink alcohol or eat biscuits for months before the wedding. It was such a bore. And now I’m in my mid-thirties, I have two children, a house, a husband, a pet tortoise, do I really need to be a TopShop size ten? Is this what letting yourself go means?! I don’t think I have…I still care what I look like, I make an effort most days, and I definitely care whether my husband is attracted to me. I know that I can carry a little extra weight without looking bad because of my height and I look back at pre-baby pictures and think even though I thought I was fat at the time, I looked great. Now I have let go of my dreams of being discovered by Storm while out shopping with my friends, have I let myself go? Do I really need to put myself and my family through the grumpiness that will come with potentially another two c9’s?! I don’t think it’s fair. I want to focus on being fit and eating healthily….but I still want to eat chocolate Hobnobs.
The problem is that the world makes you obsessed with your body and what you have. I have always thought I have had a fairly healthy attitude towards my body – I accept the things I can’t change and I don’t moan about things without doing something about it. But the post baby bod is a difficult one – you can’t help but feel bad when other people are leaving the hospital with a newborn, a thigh gap and a six pack. The press are particularly awful on the matter though. It heaps pressure on at a time where you’re trying to do too many other things. Eating cake should be totally acceptable at a time when you’re up all hours, running around, feeding, teaching, loving, caring, crying and all the other millions of things we have to do in the first year of our babies’ lives. I think there should be a worldwide ban on referencing baby weight in the first 12 months after someone has given birth. I think we should start a campaign, under the hashtag – #StayAwayFromTheMumTum. Just as soon as I’ve eaten last packet of party rings. I’m C9-ing again from tomorrow, this last 10lb will be gone! I might have pie for dinner though. And custard for dessert. And obviously chocolate Hobnobs for a late night snack….
Share your own post baby Body stories under the #StayAwayFromTheMumTum on Twitter or Facebook. And please share this week’s post, I haven’t had any new likes for a while. Thanks lovelies xx
I write this week from the glorious sands of Halkidiki. Some well-deserved September sunshine for my little family of four, now that the decision of my working future is made. It has been a heavenly few days being waited on hand and foot, sipping champagne and cocktails all day and night and swimming in our own private pool. Although I have still had to deal with at least 3 shits a day that aren’t even mine….
Obligatory beautiful beach view. This is what I can see right now.
We really splurged on this holiday, telling ourselves that the stress of the last year meant we really deserved a luxurious break. And luxurious it was! We stayed at the IKOS Olivia in Halkidiki, Greece, the top all-inclusive in Europe according to TripAdvisor. Husband says that Rio Ferdinand was here a few weeks ago….is that good or bad?!
We stayed in the Premier Inn at Gatwick the night before, in an effort to sleep for at least 5 hours before the flight, where 4 of us would be squeezing into 3 seats. The snug hotel room was made up entirely of bed, delighting our very-nearly 3-year old Girly no1 who promptly declared “I like holiday Mummy!”. I reminded her we hadn’t been on a plane yet and asked her for the 85th time to just pick a bed, lie in it and go to sleep as we had a very early start tomorrow. As both girls took it in turns to shout and wake each other up, Husband was becoming more and more cross knowing full well we would be up in six hours time, imagining our little angels-on-the-outside-demons-on-the-inside shouting, crying and climbing all over the plane. We eventually hid in the bathroom vainly applying fake tan to pass the time, having last night caught the first ten minutes of The Secret Life of the Holiday Resort seeing Spaniards laugh their heads off when asked how to spot an English tourist – “pink! Hahaha!”. When we emerged from the tiny bathroom they were both asleep.
We were up at 3am to board our SleazyJet flight, an airline I once hated for their tight fisted approach to something I considered to be a luxury, but since having children, I have realised they are amazing. They don’t count your bags, or rush you, or let you sit separately. They make their lives easier by letting you do what you need to for your children. I’m a convert to the orange and white plane. Although Girly no1 would like to know if you (EasyJet) could start doing pink aeroplanes? A re-brand, perhaps? Think Sheila’s Wheels but for the air. We boarded the plane late, following numerous problems with boarding passes, baggage labels and payments. Boarding the plane last, we walked down the aisle to a Mexican wave of “please-don’t-let-them-be-near-me” faces, the bushy haired gentleman in row 8 failing to hide his disappointment as we moved in behind him and he laid eyes on my very loudly moaning toddler and jiggly dribbley baby. He actually got off quite lightly with just one piece of cheese in his ear and only one hair pull. I congratulated my children for their excellent aeroplane decorum. The flight was actually not too bad (see my top tips here), we collected our luggage quickly and our ‘luxury private transfer’ was waiting. Luxury for husband in the cool leather passenger seat of the new-ish Mercedes estate. Less so for me, squeezed between two bulky car seats and two exhausted and now very sweaty children. We promptly all fell asleep. Husband and I woke up 2 minutes before pulling up outside an unassuming building with lots of security. We were ushered out of the car into the cool, air-conditioned marble luxury of the hotel foyer, handed a glass of sparkling wine and were told to sit down and relax. I left my brain right there by the sprawling leaves of whatever beautiful foliage was tickling my shoulder for the week and have been a melted pool of sleepy, happy, slightly drunk, mush ever since.
This place is beautiful, classy and elegant. The people are polite, smiley and warm. It’s just chilled. You can lie on the beach on comfy towels and bake whilst someone delivers iced watermelon and any cocktail you can think of. It’s dreamy. Even when the girls are with us….though that’s more like one of those dreams that is great while it lasts but you know something bad is about to happen. Which it inevitably does. This is the problem with holidays with children, as we have learnt in the last three years. A holiday isn’t really a holiday. It’s the exact same routine as you follow at home, but you do it somewhere hot with sweaty and tired children from all the late nights and 5 hours of swimming a day. After a particularly gruelling two weeks in the South of France last summer (overly water-confident two-year old combined with an unfenced pool plus a heavily pregnant me), Husband was insistent on 5* resort plus, most importantly, childcare. However lots of places won’t take your two year old and your ten month old….it’s like they’ve been forewarned. We had to search high and low for somewhere where “all inclusive” and “luxurious” actually mean those things, adding childcare into the equation seemed impossible. We tried Club Med (great kids club but booked up), Tots2Travel (kids clubs booked up) and Mark Warner (too sporty for my lazy family) but none of them ticked every box. Eventually using good old TripAdvisor, we came across the IKOS hotels. 5* all inclusive luxury with childcare, Michelin star menus, branded spirits, decent cocktails and stunning grounds and rooms. The childcare was an additional £500 for 5 mornings of peace plus 4 nights of babysitting. But boy was it worth it. I have read two books – for the first time in three years. I have had two massages – the first was so good I went back for more two days later. I have talked crap with my Husband – not logistics, children or money but about stupid things like whether referencing my 2nd toe implies I only have two toes or not. I have been tipsy from all the champagne – mostly after the children are in bed of course. I’ve laid on the beach with my earphones in, gazing at the still blue waters of the Aegean Sea with an icy pina colada on the table next to me (after 11am only) doing nothing but perve on beautiful Russian women with 4 children and washboard stomachs. One was so beautiful it was all I could do not to reach out and touch her porcelain face when I passed her in the onsite shop. Sure I feel guilty dropping the girls off at the crèche leaving them with a bunch of unknown Greek women but then when no1 runs out all smiles with the Gruffalo crumble she made and saying “Kalimera Mummy” I think I can live with it. They won’t remember it anyway. Any guilt I do have is quickly dampened when I lay eyes on the sparkling blue waters of the pool and sieved (I kid you not) sands of the beach.
Those three hours of bliss each morning made our week away. Because paradise is less paradisey with our two beautiful children. Obviously I want them to have a lovely time too (even though neither of them will remember a thing) but they do make things less holiday and more just-another-day. Today, for example, I have cleaned up three turds, none of them mine. Meal times are still meal times. Any meal in public with a ten month old is inevitably embarrassing and tense, though less so with a few pre-1pm cocktails I find. Yesterday no2 squeezed watermelon in her hand with a demonic look on her face as though she was killing a small fish; she threw pasta onto the back of the angry looking KGB Dad sat behind us; and then puked all over us both when we were stood next to the beautifully arranged dish of ‘freshly caught and grilled red bream’ – splashing the feet of an old Greek woman whose fish I fear did not escape the sick shower. Earlier today, she started to strain and go red and cry. The only way to make her happy was to help pull at the hard round poo trying to break out of her. Whilst this was going on I was mid-argument with no1 about whether to wear her best (Little White Company!) dress to crèche knowing full well that the session involves eating, painting and going down dirty slides. Some days are the same no matter where you are in the world.
That’s enough relaxing for me. It’s time to pick up the girlies. Time to change from my black bikini (fine for lying flat and still) into my new body shaper swimming costume (needed for chasing my toddler around the pool and containing MumTum). I briefly wonder as I remove the gusset sticker whether they change them each time they are returned to the shop….I hope so. What a shit job for someone, changing fanny stickers. Yuck. Anyway, worry not, dear reader. By the time you read this, I’ll be under grey skies again. You can stop hating me.
Hope you have enjoyed this week’s musings. Please remember to like, share, comment here or over on Facebook. I do love some interaction xx
Ever thought about whose job it is to stick these in? Or, more importantly, change them?
Flying with babies is, let’s be honest, a bloody nightmare! We do it because we are cool and our life will not be changed by little people. Except that the days of gliding around duty free followed by a bottle of champagne, a casual stroll to the gate, and a relaxing and slightly hazy flight are no longer. Now you have fifteen bags, grumpy airport security and tired children to contend with. Not to mention all the things that can be spilt and dropped from your aeroplane seat. I can’t help with that, but I can help you with how to break up the flight. I’m going to assume it’s a 3-hour flight (any longer than that and you’re mad) with a baby and a toddler and a Daddy (though he is totally interchangeable with Wife, Auntie, Nanny, Uncle etc in this scenario). Here are the things we do to make flying with babies that bit easier…
Don’t board the plane first, board last. Flying with babies is hard enough. Why would you sit in a warm, confined space with two giant maggots any longer than you have to? I think the airlines try and make you do it so they can take your pram away and have it all stowed and ready to go. Airports are spaces for running and crawling, aeroplanes are not. Stay in the open space as long as you can. Do last minute toilet runs and nappy changes. Don’t forget a shot of calpol at this point to help with hurting ears.
The first half hour – Faff
Arrive at your seat and get organised. We book a row relatively near the front seating toddler by the window setting her up with an iPad and her headphones. I sit in the middle. And husband on the aisle with the baby. She then has people to flirt with, we can easily escape for nappy changes, and Husband can make a bed for her with his arms using aisle space if he needs it. We always take bottles for take off and landing, the sucking helps unblock their ears. I stow all the bags around toddlers feet as she doesn’t need the leg space, making sure I can easily reach food and, more importantly, wet wipes.
30-60 mins – Eat
Food serving time. Whether it’s yours or theirs, serve it one piece at a time on to their tray. You can really string this one out. If you fancy a tea of coffee, it’s at your peril. I use it to try and have 5 minutes peace – you know the ‘I-can’t-hold-the-baby-right-now-as-I-have-a-hot-drink’ face and gestures. First hour down people!
60-90 mins – Sleep
The baby should sleep for an hour, exhausted from routine interruptions and from all of the stimulation. Don’t let them sleep in the airport. Make sure you have warm milk and comforters. And Daddy’s arms! The toddler should be content with the iPad for a little longer. If you’re not a screen-friendly parent or they don’t sleep then read on…
90-120 mins – Play, Draw, See
Two hours down nearly. This is the toughest time. You’re losing stamina and the little ones have had enough of the 30x30x30 space allocated to them. Pack a bag with wrapped up toys in. Allow one for every 10-20 mins depending on your childs’ attention span. They don’t have to be new, they can be old things and new, just exciting as they are unknown. I would remove all the packaging from anything new before you wrap them saving time and space – you don’t want to be crammed in your seat with hard plastic shells scraping your knees because the air hostess isn’t walking past with a plastic bag. Include a book or two so you can stop and read and talk about them. Think about little card or travel games if they are old enough to understand. I Spy is also an old classic. We play a colour version with Girly no1 as she isn’t there with letters yet.
120-150 mins – Snack and Change
Same as food – do it slowly. One piece at a time so it cannot be swept onto the floor. Use this period to take them each to the toilet and change into destination clothes (see below)
The last half an hour – Prepare to land
You’re on the home stretch. Make a game of gathering all the rubbish ready to go in the air hostess’ bag. Start looking out the window for signs of land. Make bottles and drinks ready for landing and pack as much as you can into as few bags as possible.
Get Husband out of his seat to hold some aisle space. Put baby in his seat while you ferret around on the floor picking up toys and other forgotten items. This is the most glamorous part – arse in the air gathering up toys amongst trodden in food. Lovely. When you have it all, disembark as early as possible. Buses and airports abroad tend to be more ‘first come first served’ rather than needs-based. Once you’re through passport control (run a mini HIIT session for the toddler in the queue containing star jumps, twirling and high knees), station yourselves on a bench and send Husband to collect bags and prams. Let little ones sit on the floor and crawl or play away from the crowds…you can wash them later.
Don’t forget to take these things when flying with babies…..
Snacks – Lots of them. I like rice cakes and raisins as they last a long time.
Bottles on take off and landing – Buy the ready-made milk or whatever your little person is drinking and have them to hand in a receptacle they can suck (boob also works!). Don’t give to them too early though, we have often run out before we’ve made it to the runway. Rookies.
Extra nappies – I read somewhere before no1’s first trip abroad that something in take off and landing makes your small person….how do I put this politely….completely evacuate their bowels of all contents. Take extra nappies, nappy sacks and a fresh pack of wipes. Oh and don’t forget the changes of clothes for likely leakages.
Destination clothes – If you’re going somewhere that is a different temperature, take them some appropriate clothes to put on before landing. They don’t just survive like us and a hot and bothered child is an angry and difficult one. It will not make for a relaxed start to your trip.
Toy Bag – One that can be easily open and closed without dropping everything. We use a back pack with lots of accessible pockets. I also liked this little thing – a pillow and iPad holder in one. It doesn’t hold much though so we took an extra backpack of things.
Send me your own tips and must have products for flying with babies. Do it via the comments below, my Facebook page or contact me here! Link to more blog posts here.
There seems to me to be three types of toddler. There’s the angry-stampy-throwing-on-the-floor type; there’s the manic-shouty-running-circles-around-mum kind; then there’s my one. The whiney-melodramatic-crying-about-everything-that-hasn’t-happened kind…
Before you have children, when you are very much in the “eww…kids” phase of life, you see these snotty whining clingy children and can’t help but sneer. Urgh. Why would you want one of those noisy soggy limpets hanging off of you all the time? No thank you. When eventually you start to open your mind to the possibility of a child, you imagine your quiet, polite, funny if you’re lucky, little mini-me as something of an accessory to delight in, and show off. Then you blink and find yourself staring down at the stringy little runner bean wrapped around your ankle emitting a tortuous noise that makes you want to shoot yourself in the head. You wonder how this happened. I was adamant I wouldn’t have a whingey, whiney child. Much rather a boisterous opinionated one that stamps and shouts – at least it would have a backbone. Alas it was not meant to be. A whingey whiney very-almost-three-year-old is exactly what I have. My days are bombarded with a whining sound that can only be compared with an air raid siren from WWI. “wwwwWWWWHHHAAAAAaaaaaa wwwwWWWWHHHAAAAAaaaaaa”. Unaccompanied by tears but loud enough to make the old deaf guy over the road turn his head – it’s deafening. It’s alarming and stress-inducing. It comes unexpectedly and at the drop of a hat. Any threat of pain or unwanted suggestion of activity. “Whaaaaa I fell over” – “but you didn’t bleed”; “whaaaa I tripped up” – “but you didn’t actually fall”; “whaaaa a wasp just flew near me” – “but it was the other side of the window”; “whaaa I don’t like it Mummy” – “but you haven’t even tried it.” It drives me to distraction. It turns me into a horrible mother. “WHY ARE YOU CRYING!?” I find myself yelling unsympathetically at my little girl 25 times a day. Shocked bystanders hold their phones in their hands threatening to call social services when they see her sad face, giant eyes and scrunched up features. “THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU!” I bark at her. I’m not unsympathetic. Like any mother, my stomach lurches when she runs too fast. My jaw sets when another child says something mean. My shoulders rise when she walks into something. I very much worry for her and when she is genuinely hurt, my love and cuddles are abundant. But only when there are genuine tears. The whining noise that has become the soundtrack to my life is more than I can bear. “wwwwWWWWHHHAAAAAaaaaaa”. I see the child-free sneer with distaste. She has become the anti-advert for starting a family. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Those golden curls were meant to be symbolic of her angelic-ness. An actual angel, not a pretend one. Her little face was meant to draw people in, not make them turn away in disgust when they hear her. The noise gets worse when she is tired, louder and more frequent. Every little thing sets her off….”whaaaa I need a drink”; “whaaaa she tried to touch me”; “whaaa I need a wee”. JUST GO TO THE BLOODY TOILET THEN!
After a particularly bad week not long ago, I decided enough was enough. Enter Evil Mum. The next time she stumbled but didn’t actually trip I continued walking. As the wailing became louder, I brusquely said “is there blood or are there broken bones? No? Then stop crying”. The next incident was some water down her front in a restaurant. “It will dry” I said, and kept on eating. Next time, in the park she actually fell. But no blood, no tears, no scratches, not even a pink graze. The moaning crescendo’d….I had had enough. “STAND UP. Why are you crying? Just stop it. Let’s go on the slide.” The other mums all looked aghast. I realised I looked cold but it had become ridiculous. Being firm now is the only thing that worked. The siren reduced to a whimper and eventually tailed off leaving just the sound of gossiping parents. We carried on like this for a week. Evil Mum conquered the whine siren. For a while, anyway.
I hate being mean. It makes me sad. I don’t want to be horrible to her but I genuinely believe it to be attention seeking, and it grates on me like little else in the world. I want her to know I love her but making that noise will not be the thing that elicits affection. I always try and think about how this behaviour manifests itself later in life. She will be the class cry-baby. The teenage sour face. The adult moaner. The wet weekend. The drip. People will roll their eyes when they think about spending time with her. It would be no good for her in the long term to let this carry on. A little tough love now will be good for her in the long run, particularly as this is nothing deeper-routed than a cry for Mummy and Daddy’s attention. I find it suspicious that the ramped-up whining coincided with the arrival of no2. But being mean when she cries feels horrible and it makes me feel bad. At night, before we go to bed, I go in to her bedroom and stroke her angelic blonde curls, kissing her soft chubby cheeks. I tell her I’m sorry I’m not more patient and that I can’t be more like the Mums that don’t snap. I tell her I love watching her go down her slide and that I love how inquisitive she is. I love her impatience, it reminds me of me. I love her frustration that she’s not more independent. I love that she expects to be able to do everything straight away. I love that she can’t talk when she first wakes up. I love that she randomly gives me kisses and cuddles when she’s in the middle of playing. I love that she says I’m her best friend and likes to hold my hand. I love that she can almost write her name (with lots of l’s and a special i-dot). I love all of her. But fucking hell she can be hard work!
The whining has eased off for now. It’s nice that I don’t have to be cold and callous in front of the nice sing-song mums all the time. It comes back every now and then and we have lots of chats about being brave and not crying about things that haven’t happened. It’s OK to cry when we’re sad or scared or hurt, but not for no reason, my little girl who cried wolf. Child psychologists may tell me this isn’t the way to handle this situation but like many other things as a parent, we do what we think is best. I’m sure friends, teachers and she herself will thank us in the long term. I hope so anyway. Wine is the only whine we want in our lives, my love.
Share with me your own tips on handling your toddlers’ whining either below or on the Facebook post. Thanks for stopping by! xx
The girl who whined wolf
Last week I talked a lot about vagina anxiety and the unknown of getting back to “normal” but it’s not just my vagina, I want to feel normal again. Maybe even a bit cool so I can fit back in to my old London stomping ground. But I’m a Mum now. And the only cool in my life seems to be the temperature of my baby’s feet in a footless babygrow…
Before I start, I feel I should caveat this post for the purposes of people that know me, who will be sat there thinking “she was never cool! How deluded is this woman?!” She was a geek! The cool I talk about is “my cool”. The version of myself when I actually feel good. When I actually style an outfit, pair coordinating accessories with matching shoes; where I get dressed up and go out for the day feeling sexy and confident; strutting into bar and ordering a drink with a smile on my face surveying the other people, checking out their faces and outfits; cracking jokes and laughing with people I’ve not met before; having no worries, just being and feeling cool. Basically all the things I definitely don’t feel after I have a baby.
A child-free friend of mine was telling me the other day about a night out with her sister, who has a baby roughly the same age as my Girly no2 (9 months). She had spent hours before their night out jollying her sister along to get her out of the door and drunk. She described how her sister didn’t know what to wear, then she didn’t like her outfit, then that her make up felt tired, then that her shoes were too high. Then when it came to leave she had a wobble and didn’t want to go – they were off out in London to be surrounded by beautiful, young cool kids. “I know exactly how she feels” I answered emphatically, knowing that my friend didn’t really understand and was probably a little annoyed at having to give her so much encouragement when she should just be grateful for being out. I recognised every feeling from my own first big night(s) out after having no1, and then I went through it again with no2. It wasn’t any easier the second time around, other than that I was expecting the discomfort – though I think that made it worse. London seems to be much worse than a night out in your local pub. Even having lived in London for 7 or so years, it feels intimidating. At 8 and three quarters months pregnant, we moved back to Hampshire where we had both grown up. It was totally the right decision for us, I love bringing our babies up surrounded by green, near parks, lakes, beaches and lots of other families. Plus being near their grandparents is vital, for their sakes, and ours. We wouldn’t get out at all if it wasn’t for them! But lots of our life is still in London – friends, work and things we enjoy doing. It means that we regularly go back. The difference now though is that I don’t feel the same there. I don’t feel quite cool enough to fit into London now. Whilst I’m not officially a country bumpkin and I haven’t quite got to the “that big bad city” feeling whereby I need to plan my journey to the end, don my walking boots and walk round with the tube map on a clipboard, I can’t just waltz in feeling like a Londoner now. I even haven’t got an Oyster card, even though they’re all but redundant now contactless cards exist. I feel like my clothes don’t fit right, even though anything goes up there. My make up feels weird on my face, even though you can be a 60-year old man in drag and people won’t gawp. I feel like I use the wrong words, even though I know that there is every nationality you could imagine, it’s like an after party at the Olympic Village, there is no common vernacular. I feel I have nothing exciting to talk about because the most exciting place I went this week is the soft play with the cow print slide, even though I know my friends and family think what I am doing is exciting in itself. The truth is that it’s not really about cool, about London, about the people or the outfit, it’s about me having changed and not quite knowing how to be cool with myself anymore. It’s hard when your life is so dramatically different to how it used to be. A few weeks ago I took the girlies to a baby dance class. The first part wasn’t so bad. We sat on the floor, picked out fluffy toys and sang the corresponding nursery rhyme. A little cringey when there are only two other adults in the room and you can her your own trodden-on-cat-like singing voice, but it’s do-able. Then we got to the one about the elephant and his nose and his knees and we had to stand up and do this weird dance. I should add here that we were in a glass-fronted foyer of a church where people regularly walk by. As we were bending down to touch our toes exposing our muffin-top mum tums in the worst possible way, a group of teenagers walked by in their uniforms and I just wanted to run and hide in the toilets. I imagined them all pointing and laughing and was taken back to being 13 and a Kicker-clad classmate asking me if I was still bought my shoes in Clarke’s. It was a foot stomp too far from cool for me. At 35 years old, and a mother of two, I am well aware that this is ridiculous. Singing and dancing for your children is cool, it’s exactly what they love. And I love doing it too. In my house. With no one watching. We love a kitchen disco. I just can’t bring myself to do the elephant stomp in front of see-through walls and a group of teenagers.
As well as high waisted jeans, 4-inch heels and denim shorts with at least a finger lengths fabric either side of the gusset, I am no longer cool in lots of other ways. My purse has trebled in size – I need somewhere to put my Sparks, Advantage, Nectar, Body Shop and JoJo loyalty cards. I always carry a pack of tissues and some antibacterial hand spray – especially if in London! I have a paper diary to keep track of everyone’s commitments. I have a rain coat. I only wear thongs if I have to. I listen to radio 2, and embarrassingly, I enjoy some parts of Jeremy Vine’s show. Sister can list a load more things, as she thoroughly enjoys reminding me of all the ways I am no longer cool. I try and hang on to some shred of my old life with the little things. I keep up my Grazia subscription, even though I only read one in four. I always have a pedicure when my toenails need doing. I have a limited edition print pram. I have a handbag-looking changing bag (Storksak obvs!). I have Hunters with laces down the front for jumping in muddy puddles. And I only go the baby groups that I can bear…mum and baby yoga, swimming and baby sensory. Although even this last one breaches my new cool limits sometimes. I can’t help but feel like an idiot singing to a fluffy duck whilst my baby frowns and then looks the other way. Life is different now though. My need to be practical and fit in with my babies wildly outweighs my desire to be cool. The changes in me aren’t a negative, they just make it that little bit harder for me to be like I used to. I was reminded of this when my child-free friend asked me a few weeks ago, as she has for every festival we have been to together, which outfits I was taking to Latitude. It hit me like a bus that I didn’t even know what I had packed for myself, but I did know that I had 4 packs of wet wipes, a clean bed sheet for every night and up to four layers for each of the girls’ bed time outfits. For me I assumed it was the same stuff I normally wore to roll around on the grass in and maybe an extra necklace and a ring or two. When I opened my suitcase, I was right. I was in no danger of escaped pubic hairs sticking out of my too-short-shorts and nor would I suffer a ripped ear lobe from an irresistibly dangly earring. Practical but not cool.
I have accepted that there is a new cool me now. It’s remarkably different to the one from before. It no longer matters whether I go to Brownies or whether I’m playing Roll With It or House In The Country. I can’t remember the last time anyone questioned me on my jeans then sneered, apart from that time I told my Husband how much they actually cost of course. There will always be a new cider I don’t recognise and can’t pronounce in a bar in London, and I might be a bit behind the trend on which shade of ash blonde my hair should be, but there are ways of blending Mum cool with London cool, it just takes a bit of figuring out. Finding the things that really matter is the first step – mine is my feet, a vague awareness of current fashion trends and the odd accessory that makes me feel self-indulgent. Not worrying about it is the next one. But I’m not sure that will happen until the cool kids of Brick Lane start doing the elephant stomp.
Thanks for taking time out to read this! As usual, I really love to hear from you. Reactions, thoughts, inspirations or even wild disagreements and accusations of lunacy. Please share below or over on my Facebook page. Love love!
How YOU doin?
I had Girly no2 9 months ago and started this blog not long after. I never really stopped to think about what people would say, I certainly didn’t expect some of the lovely comments I receive. Most unexpected though, was that people would regularly ask me how my vagina was. It still happens now…
(Dads, there is a lot of Vagina in this week’s blog. Let that be your warning!)
I started writing this blog because I was genuinely perturbed at what I had experienced during childbirth. And how, despite the fact I already had a child, this time it all felt new again. Not the baby bit, that was pretty similar, but the “me” bit. How I felt, physically and emotionally. I put pen to paper (well, finger to screen), showed my husband and sister what I had written, and was told that I absolutely must share my thoughts with the world. I had visions of the group of girls that plagued my school years starting a club whereby they met up each week to read it and laugh. But then I remembered I didn’t give a shit about them and that actually there were people in my life whose opinions I did care about and they thought I was honest and funny, which was what I was going for. I genuinely never really thought about what the other people would say. I definitely didn’t stop to think about the secrets people would share with me. I never expected to learn about vaginal physiotherapiy (yep, that’s a thing); about what the right amount of drunk is to have sex for the first time after childbirth; or what THINX were (sanitary wear, if you’re not in the know either). None of this occurred to me until quite a few blogs had been posted. You see you don’t get much back online. Some of you are kind enough to like or share my posts, but I don’t see people smile or sneer as they read. I just assume people start to read and get bored, shrug and move on. I often wonder if it’s worth continuing to share my thoughts with the world until I see someone face to face that I haven’t seen in a while. At that point almost everyone mentions it and, more importantly, tells me how much it resonates and makes them laugh. After that, I hear all sorts – and I love it! Not because I’m nosey (I totally am) but because it makes me feel like what happened to my body 9 months ago and ever since, has happened to so many other people. In fact, worse has happened to other people. And I don’t feel like quite so much of a drama queen.
Childbirth is of course shocking and most people have some horror to share. I continue to be surprised, though, by what happens in the year after childbirth. I’ve heard more than one story about women whose pelvises have been so broken as the baby came out that they have had to have physiotherapy to put them back together again. Literally like Humpty Dumpty. But instead of 10,000 horses and 10,000 men it’s taken 10,000 pelvic floors and 10,000 leg lifts. The word prolapse was not even in my vocabulary before this blog. I’ve spoken to people who have experienced a vaginal prolapse. Their baby has literally taken their body with them as it tried to squeeze them out. You know why you shouldn’t run in the first 6 weeks after birth? Because your vagina might fall out. If you are lucky enough to have successfully ejected your baby, and your bones are back in the right place and your vagina hasn’t fallen out, then eventually you might make it through to the point where you think about having sex again. Besides dryness and tightness-paranoia, I haven’t heard too many stories about this. Mostly because people don’t like talking about it. No one wants to voice their inner fear about having a vagina like a cave that no penis can reach the walls of, and the worry that their partner might run away to some one with a tubigrip vagina. This one really goes on too, I’m not sure you ever stop thinking about whether your vagina will go back to normal, wondering whether your partner secretly longs for your old-school-vag. But it gets better and better until you’re back to whatever tickles your pickle again as you get braver and braver and stop having visions about sex re-tearing you from front to back. No doubt after that some time after that your periods will come back depending on feeding, contraceptives etc. At this point, more never-considered-before hurdles. Thinking I could just whack a Tampax in and continue about my day recently, I walked out of the bathroom like someone who had just sat inappropriately on a (very dry) telegraph pole. What is that?! No one had mentioned this before, just another joyous reminder of childbirth. A few Googles later, I’ve found nothing formal on the subject, just a load of Mumsnet threads of people experiencing the same tampon discomfort I have. Proffered explanations range from scar tissue dryness right through to needing a bottle-sized tampon. I’m going with the first explanation. Some people say it never goes, others say 2 or 3 periods later it will be fine. Either way, not fun and definitely not anticipated. Alternatives? Nappy like sanitary towels; Mooncups, which are egg cups that fit inside you to catch it all requiring manual emptying – not my bag, thanks; or the newly available THINX – pants that soak it all up and you wash them along with everything else. With the pants there is apparently no smell, they’re environmentally friendly, and they don’t rustle like a pair of paper trousers. I’m still undecided myself, but luckily I have another three weeks to think about it.
The post-childbirth body has been well documented by many more competent writers than I. I think the most confident of people have moments where they long for their pre-baby body. I assume most people like me search the internet for pictures of Kourtney Kardashian and Heidi Klum in a bikini, zooming in, obsessively searching for signs of wrinkled skin and stretch marks. Or under-eye shadows on Amal Clooney and Princess Katherine. Any Facebook beach shots from beautiful friends with multiple children I wonder why their boobs don’t look like just-emptied udders. It’s easy to obsess over other people and the difference between now you and pre-baby you. But in time you have to accept the things you can’t change back, and move on. I am very lucky in that Husband is amazing when it comes to my body and constantly reminds me of what I have done for him. He only ever notices the good things and anything he really can’t argue away (like the Braille underground map on my belly), “battle scars” he says, gazing adoringly at our two little girls, “I don’t care. I don’t see them”. That helps. And it reminds me to find my inner confidence and be proud of what I have achieved. He still finds me beautiful, and I’m not really that different on the outside….besides the bulging rounded tummy, the ridge over my csection scar, my one-shoe-size bigger feet, and the 3+ increase in ring size. They don’t matter. So if ever you were wondering how I, and my vagina, are since the first few blogs, I’m good! I’ve come a long way since those first few weeks where I felt like someone had set fire to my pelvis, and whilst my vagina might not be exactly as it once was, it’s OK. Healing still, but getting better all the time. My paranoia about sex has greatly reduced, all thanks to my Husband who says (and does!) all the right things. I don’t care if he’s lying, what he says makes me feel like I need to, for both of our sakes.
There’s so much talk after birth about getting our bodies back in shape, I never anticipated all these other things. We don’t just worry about getting our figures back; whether the fact that we cried every day for a week means we have post natal depression and whether that look on your babys’ face means she will be a psychopath, it goes beyond the first few weeks. The first year is full of surprises, mostly around the revelation that “normal” is no longer something you know and probably never will know in quite the same way. It takes a year for my tummy not to be rounded to the point where I could pass for being 12-weeks pregnant. I have fat fingers and feet that will never go back to their original size and have reduced my pre-child-and-therefore-extensive shoe and jewellery collection by half. I manically do pelvic floor exercises every day lest I leave a trail of wee or, even worse, period blood behind me or be the butt of a “that-baby-just-fell-out” joke from the boys. But the truth is, that you never really go back to normal. There’s a new normal you, and it just takes a bit of getting used to. I do think we should do each other a favour and talk about more of this gross stuff though, we would accept our new selves far more quickly. So next time we meet for a coffee, or if you’re feeling brave then leave a comment, tell me your “new you” woes and how you came to terms with them because I’ll bet me, or one of my friends, will be going through exactly the same thing.
Thanks as always for stopping by. I look forward to your comments. If you need a backing track for reading this blog, I would choose My Sharona, obviously replacing Sharona with vagina. See you soon! xx
Hello, how is your vagina?
This week has been a bit quieter than usual – it’s been rainy and grey and our normal haunts have been invaded by the “big kids” on their holidays. I’ve been going through photos picking the best ones to put on our 8-month-old-but-already-children-stained walls, wondering how on earth so much time has passed already….
Girly no2 is almost 9 months old and growing up crazily quickly. I can’t bear it. I keep wanting to hit pause on this phase of rolling around cooing, holding her toes and lifting her little (big) head like a meerkat. I have wanted this at every point since she emerged (far too polite a word for what happened). Girly no1 is 3 in 9 weeks and I’m already doing that annoying thing that all parents do of asking Husband how did we get here? Where have 3 years gone? How have we been parents for 3 bloody years?! It has gone so fast. She was a snuffling warthog that learnt to roll, then sat up, then ate, then crawled, then walked and then went from chubby little toddler to this slender (and slightly weird) little girl who asks me my favourite colour 14 times a day and says things at bed time like “tell Daddy to bring the telescope home from the garden at the pub”. I don’t know what this means or how she knows what a telescope is but I am in awe of how all these things have happened in the last 34 months. My baby is catching her up. When I see no2 with her face in the rug and her bum in the air shuffling to reach something she isn’t allowed, I know crawling is close and I want to hold her exactly where she is now. Not in a suffocating-her-in-the-rug way, just in a don’t-grow-so-fast way. She produces new sounds each day, we’ve gone from ba-ba-ba to ta-ta and da-da (no hint of ma-ma, second traitor in the family) and she’ll be waving and clapping before I know it. Having gone through it once before, I know what comes next and I know it’s thick and fast from here on out.
I don’t sit around weeping over future school uniforms or envisage packing them up for university but I do stare dreamily at my babies – trying to memorise every moment. I film them both, sometimes obsessively. I spend ages on my phone when they’re in bed deleting blurred shots and ruining Game of Thrones saying “look what she did today…” to Husband, who has worn the marks off the pause button on our Sky remote. I try and remember to write down silly things no1 has said and to capture crazy situations so that my parenting highs and lows are there to be read by them later. They’ll want to know about the many times they poo’d on Daddy, the time he accidentally licked some of their poo off of the back of his hand thinking it was curry; or the time they pee’d on the model sofa in the poshest sofa shop in Surrey and Mummy didn’t know what to do so just pretended it hadn’t happened; won’t they?
I hate all the old cliches like “every second is one you can’t get back” but annoyingly, like most other things I’ve discovered since becoming a parent, it’s true. Everyone says -where does the time go? We know where it goes, it just passes us by. When you have children it passes at breakneck speed. Once something is learnt and progress is made, it’s never the same again. Your babies change and grow constantly. You don’t want it to be the same forever, but part of you thinks ‘I do’. You just want to drink up the present into your body and slow it down so you can recall and relive it at any given moment. There was an episode of Black Mirror (if you’ve not watched it, you must) where everyone had an implant in their brain and you could replay and be back in every moment from the past. Shit for arguments, but amazing for babies. In the thick of it you count the hours til bedtime, or the days until a night out, then when a milestone happens you hit pause and realise it’s all so fast and you wish you had slowed down. Pictures and videos are the only real way of remembering at the minute – so I try and get it all, but without being on my phone the whole time.
I used to be annoyed by people who used their children in their profile pics on Facebook – how were you supposed to know it’s them? The learning to walk videos – everyone learns to walk, yawn. First day of school? Yep, they definitely look the same as all the other little hobbits in the same clothes. First day of school v’s last day of school? Shock horror, they grew. And then, my perfectly beautiful cherubs arrived. The sheer amazingness of this means I would happily share all of the amazing moments with anyone that would look or listen. Actually not anyone. Only people with children because I know how I felt BC (Before Children, though I’m disappointed if you didn’t figure that out by now). I don’t actually share that much on Facebook because I worry about photo ownership, how and where pictures are shared and where they might end up. Also, my Mum was photo-obsessed and I remember my friends walking through the gallery, sorry hallway, pointing, laughing, aaah-ing then laughing again at the timeline of my childhood to date. In today’s age of social media I don’t want to be responsible for this happening to my children, particularly with the bullying horror stories I hear and read about. Having said all that, I can’t help but post the odd picture. It’s too big a part of my life not to. My Facebook timeline would go from London Lush to Hampshire Hermit in 3 short years. The other thing is that they’re so cute! I love my little monkeys and I want the world to see these beautiful little animals I have made! In doing this I have ended up creating the hallway-come-gallery from my childhood, except I have done it electronically, eternally and in full view of the world. I assure myself it’s OK because of my friendships, privacy settings and the fact I can delete them all if they embarrass them at any point. I also question whether Facebook will be big in 10-15 years time or will it just be us old farts left on it. The reality is, though, that I have created an online gallery and a hallway gallery. Double the grief from their friends. We’ll cross that bridge when they get there.
The public gallery
We have a WhatsApp group (yes I’m aware of the irony of ownership) joined only by people that want to be part of it. On this I share my weekly highlights without shame. I send videos of no1 singing Let It Go over the babymonitor or no2 saying da-da-da with snot streaming into her mouth. Pictures of me with no make up or bra and awful Snapchat filters with no shame. Naked shots with just a cup to cover girly bits with no shame. Sometimes five and sometimes twenty. I don’t worry about how many or how often as long as they know how to turn off the “automatically save media to phone”, following a couple of friends trying to remove them selves discreetly from the group saying their phones were filling up with videos of my children. I’m sure this is absolutely the real reason that any of my friends risked the very big and very public “X HAS LEFT THE GROUP” announcement and not at all because they were sick of the pictures of my little stunners!
The beauty of my WhatsApp group, besides receiving unadultered adoration from lots of people about how beautiful my children are, is that it gives me my very own highlights reel for my babies. I scroll back through being very aware of how quickly they are changing. Between this blog (in which I’m sure they couldn’t be easily identified…?!) and the WhatsApp group, I think I have a good record of it all. The reality is that I can’t stop or slow down time, even if I wanted to. All I can do is appreciate every moment as it happens and use media to fill in the gaps of my memory, trying not to bore my friends and family too much in the process. All of this is of course until I get my I memory chip inserted when I’m assuming they will be able to upload up all the photos and videos and blog commentary so I can travel back in time!
Hope you have enjoyed this week’s publication! If so, please let me know with a thumbs up and a share if you have Mummy friends. I’m also interested in your views on sharing photos so please do share them. Ciao!
How can you not want to look at these babes?!
“How was the festival?” my friends keep asking with an amused smile waiting for the barrage of moans and groans. “Actually,” I reply, “it was fun! At times it even felt like a BC (Before Children) Festival”. “And the camping?” they ask, well aware of my attachment to my hair dryer, ecig and phone charger. I make a noise that is incomprehensible. “I’m just not sure we’re a camping kind of family.” I respond….
The day before we left for Latitude it was the Paramedic’s wedding. It was beautiful. We got home at not too late an hour with the intention of setting off at 6am. I had abstained from the sambucas and had my last drink at around 10 so I knew I was ok to at least start the 3-hour drive. The plan had been for Husband to drive, but he was already 4 shots down and at volume level 9 by 7pm so we both knew that wasn’t going to happen. We were in bed by midnight and everything was ready to be loaded into the car. At 1.30am, Girly no1 (nearly 3) woke up crying about her snotty nose. This is totally out of character for her, she doesn’t normally stir if there’s an electrical storm at her window. I ran in to wipe her nose and snuggle her back down. At 2.15am, Girly no2 (8 months) woke up screaming. I went in to pat and reassure and she went back off sounding sniffly and hoarse. At 3.25am she was awake again, crying and shouting. She went back off ten minutes later whimpering. At 4.10am, she was awake and raging. She was hot, red and sweaty. And she was inconsolable. At this point, Husband lifted his weary head and asked if she was crying. “Yes darling, she has been on and off for hours”. We gave her both medicines, patted, paced and whispered but nothing pacified her. Just before 5, Husband put her in the pram and went off walking, strangely bumping into an old rugby on the street. I still don’t know what he was doing at 4.55am at the end of our road. I had thought the voices were Husband cursing the baby. I tried to sleep while it was quiet but my head was full of packing, roof boxes, tents and all of the things I had probably forgotten. Husband and no2 were back just before six so we agreed to get our heads down until either Girly woke up. A few hours later, after three of us hung off the roof box to close it, we set off.
Successfully avoiding low bridges, we kept our roof box in tact and avoided sprinkling my pants across the pretty countryside of Sulfolk. We arrived at Latitude Festival with one woefully sad baby and one bored and hyperactive toddler. Our tent had been sent ahead and erected by the Northerners so we just had to get our tonnes of stuff into it. We paid for the Festival Taxi service to get us from the entrance, almost to the tent. There were four long trips from the car to the entrance, all done by a very sweaty Husband as I pacified a teary baby, but then one beautifully driven airport-car with a trailer full of our crap attached to it escorted us to the tent. Latitude had been described to me as England’s middle-class festival. This was brought to life during the taxi ride when we passed a group of teenage boys. They first appeared to be messing around jumping in front of us however as we drove passed them, one of them shouted “look at the baby! It’s so cute!” The rest of them nodded and coo’d their agreement. I briefly wondered if I had entered an alternate universe as they all smiled and waved at my wide-and-watery-eyed baby girl.
We finally arrived to be greeted by pink sheep and glitterballs
After a stressful hour inflating beds and sorting the tent, done mostly with a bouncing toddler on my back, I cracked open a tinny. Camping chairs out, we sat down to survey our surroundings. This is nice, I thought, we might relax after all. About 45 seconds later, I was back up again looking for clean syringes to top up no2 with Calpol. Then it was baby food time. Then clean nappies and the potty. Then it was time to pack the pram ready for an evening out. Torches, blankets, pj’s, medicine….it was a military operation in itself. The Latitude site isn’t actually that big, that’s one of the things that makes it great for families, but we still didn’t want to be backwards and forwards to the tent all the time. We headed out with our pimped up pram (by which I mean my friends’ double mountain buggy wrapped lazily in solar powered fairy lights) laden with back packs, changing bags and pram baskets full to the brim not with alcohol as in days of old, but of spare clothes, baby milk and pop-up tents. We met up with the rest of the group, including another mum of two whose children were 18 months and – wait for it – 8 weeks old! In many ways, she was the easiest of the bunch, just feeding and sleeping. Strapped to her Mummy or Daddy’s chest, beautiful Betty was an angel. We grabbed some food, watched a couple of acts and then at around 8pm, Girly no1 asked if she could put her jamamas (pj’s) on and get in the pram. “Yes!” I shouted, tempering my keenness lest she realise what she had said. Both girlys were asleep by 8.15pm leaving us to have a few ciders and watch Goldfrapp and the 1975. Perfect! We went back to the tent at 11-ish surrounded by pimped up Festival carts, all headed towards the family camping fields. No1 transferred into her Gruffalo ready-bed without too much noise other than a fight over whether she had to have her duvet or not. No2 was a different story. She was desperately unhappy, full of snot, sweating and crying. I felt awful and questioned my parental decision-making at bringing my sick baby camping at a festival. The music was deafening until 4 in the morning. As was teenage Chris, living in the tent behind us, shouting to Flora for hours about “having it” to some DJ. Had I heard his voice in the festival later that day, I would have slapped him, no questions asked. I felt better when no2 started screaming at 5am, knowing that he would only just have gone to bed. I fantasised about putting her in his tent, right by his head, and leaving her there. But he would probably have stayed asleep, comatose from all the microbrewery IPA he had drunk. I broke my rules and put no2 in our bed, snuggling her close to me all night. She woke every hour or so whimpering sadly, eventually sleeping for 2 consecutive hours from about 5. No1 woke up at that point demanding oaty bars and milk. Husband and I were not at our finest, snapping and bickering. It wasn’t helped by our slowly deflating air bed that left us laying on a pointy plastic frame of spikes. This happened every 3 or 4 hours, and the other one was jiggled up and down every time the other one moved. I hated camping at that point. The continual disappearance of everything we needed drove me mad. Syringes rolled away the moment you let go of them. The calpol never seemed to be in the changing bag where I left it. Clean nappies were buried in duvet the second I let go of them. I could never find baby wipes when I needed them, which was a lot. I hate losing things. At home I know where everything is and anything that is important, I have multiples of. One in the changing bag, one in the cupboard. One upstairs, one downstairs. The issue with camping is just not knowing where anything is. It’s not permanent enough for things to have ‘a home’ and this was exacerbated by our poorly baby. After two nights of no more than 45 minutes sleep in one go, I was a woman on the edge. I feel awful admitting this, but I may have told my darling princess of a two-year old to “just shut up and go back to sleep” when she was demanding things from me at 5am on Saturday morning. Not proud. I apologised profusely later in the morning after my first two-hour block of sleep in three days, cuddling and kissing her until she brutally pushed me off with a hand to the eye. I think I was forgiven.
I was so tired that Saturday that I felt sick all day. I drank us much tea as I could stomach in the morning but it wasn’t helping. Then my other Northern friend, StoryBook, and her Mum, Jewels, announced the beginning of the totally irrelevant, but very creative, ‘Jamaican Me Crazy’ party, producing pineapple and ginger cake, reggae music and Dark ‘n’ Stormy cocktails. I felt remarkably better after one of those. Girly no1 made everyone laugh with her huge duck poo – “Daddy, look! I did a poo on my potty and it’s a duck!” – proudly showing it off. I’m not sure the Northerner was too enamoured with the makeshift toilet alongside her tent but she managed to feign enthusiasm for the carefully crafted turd from my daughters’ behind. We got through the rest of the day with food and dance, peppered with the odd cocktail or a dirty vodka red bull when both girls were asleep. At one point I was sat in a tent in the amazing kids field making beetle bracelets with card, glitter and pipe cleaners, seriously thinking about nestling into the gritty looking cushions for a snooze. I sat through a kids theatre show about a Boy Scout and Grandad that I really didn’t understand. No1 fired questions at me about what was happening, which, whilst hilarious to everyone else, felt to me like I was undergoing an interrogation from the KGB. I couldn’t cope. No2 was much better after some sleep, and we kept up alternating Calpol and Nurofen every two hours. She slept most of the day occasionally waking for some Mummy snuggles and to refuse food. By 8.30pm both Girlys were again fast asleep in their jamamas in the pram while we bounced around to Mumford & Sons. It was great. We went back to the tent at midnight via a disco that played the best tracks of each year since 1980. We made it as far as 1998 then realised we were the last pram left in the festival. StoryBook and Forty-Fucking-Two (so-called for her youthful looks leading me to think she was ten years younger than she is) carried on partying and whilst I was slightly jealous, as we hiked off with our enormous pram, I was delighted to be in bed half an hour later, finally sleeping for 4 long consecutive hours. Bliss.
My little Festival fairy
Sunday morning was remarkably more calm than the other days. I did relent and give no1 the iPad for an hour so I could go back to sleep at 6am but I needed it so I forgave myself. I felt like a new woman! No2 woke up much much better and whilst still on food strike, she was happily guzzling milk and she laughed for the first time in days. I re-introduced her to the group as my real baby, declaring the tearful snot beast of the previous days an imposter. We made the best use of our last day exploring all the areas of the Festival we hadn’t seen yet. Latitude is so varied and has all these amazing secret bars and tents. We saw comedy and theatre, were covered in glitter and then set up camp with the rest of the group for the bigger acts of the night. We hid in the pop up tent for the brief showers and watched Girly no1 and her new best friend run, dance and roll around around the grass looking like mental fairies. It was amazing.
Overall it was a fantastic experience that I would 100% repeat. The downsides were the camping and the lugging of all the things, and no2 being poorly. The latter you obviously can’t plan for, but as I said to Husband through gritted teeth on the first night, we would be doing the same thing with her whether at home or in a field in Sulfolk. She would still be waking up and crying and I simply wasn’t willing to forgo the hundreds of pounds spent on tickets, tents, roof boxes and all the other crap we had to buy to get there. Camping is camping. Maybe it’s something you get better at. I still don’t love it, but I dislike it less. The best advice I was given prior to the festival was to not expect the festival experience to be the same with babies as without. We went in with that attitude meaning the grown up time we had gotten was enjoyed twice as much. The night times were almost our own, but with less alcohol than if we were alone, and the day times were actually pretty similar but with a better set up as we had cold beers, blankets and space. I think we probably will go back next year. But with a motor home.
I’d love to hear about your own camping and festival experiences. As usual, please like and share on Facebook or Twitter if you have enjoyed.
Three quarters of the FestiFam
Husband surprised booked us tickets to Latitude Festival next weekend! Yay! Woohoo! Amazing! But shitting hell! Do you know how much stuff we have to take?! And how much we have to buy? We don’t even have a bloody tent! And it is less than a week away. And we have a wedding the day before. And we have two children. TWO.
I love a list. I’m not going to lie. I’m also rather partial to a spreadsheet. I don’t use spreadsheets properly, I can’t even use half the functionality, but I love them for a list with panache, numerically ordered and peppered with the odd calculation. The list for Latitude Festival has little artistic flair, but it is epic in its purpose. To get a family of four, including an 8-month old and a 2-year old to survive in the middle of a field for four days. The list has sections, headings and locations. It’s a list to be proud of. It doesn’t compare with my wedding spreadsheet, that was on a whole other level. We got married in Italy so it had multiple tabs – address books, project plans, budgets, as well as currency conversion rates and automated guest counters. I’ve sent it on to other people to use since, I am that proud of it. Anyway, I digress. Latitude has been sprung on me as a result of drunken harassment from the Northerner. Husband responded by giving in, I think just to avoid the inevitable hours of badgering that would fill the rest of their three-day visit. I was momentarily floored and have struggled to sleep since with all the things that need to be done. I don’t normally stress over such things, I was a project manager many moons ago (still am now according to my brother) but this was a festival. With two children. Something we vowed we would never do! So I did what I do best and went into list-making overdrive. I have been dreaming of reams of paper, ballpoint and biro pens and different styles of bullet points.
A list is for me a way of controlling my life. I like to be organised and have what I need. Mostly because I suffer with such horrific FOMO (that’s text speak for Fear Of Missing Out for those not in the know) and if I am prepared for most situations then I can indulge my desires. These days though, it’s more about the one thing I have learnt since having children and that is that organisation is the key. It’s the difference between driving home with two satisfied, sleepy children and gently transferring them to bed with a tender kiss on the forehead; versus veering round country roads at breakneck speed shouting “in a minute”, then force feeding cheese on toast to a sobbing toddler whilst the baby screams in her car seat, then all the way through nappy and pjs and then pauses every few suckles of her bottle just to remind you how bad a mother you are. Having a bag (ha! I see that too); having bags with enough nappies, drinks, snacks, calpol (never leave without it), bonjela, wet wipes, clothes, bibs, muslins and a couple of toys, is key to my sanity. I have no shame about going away for one night with my 4×4 car packed to the rafters with every piece of baby crap imaginable. I’ve even started to enjoy the increasingly shocked look on people’s faces as we make our fifth trip back to the car for yet more stuff. I’ll happily come back home with half a suitcase of clean clothes as a result of my over-packing and if anyone dares utter “are you sure you need all this?” they will be met not only with a death stare but also a “stay-out-of-this” hand. Because when your child is crying, you will do absolutely anything to stop it. Really it’s a selfish thing, if they’re happy you’re happy. And my way of keeping them happy is with all of the things. All of the things in the world that they might need. “Travel light” does not feature in this household.
For a festival this is a lot of things. I should confess at this point that not only have we never taken either child camping, I also don’t really like staying in a tent. Last time I went to a festival, we stayed in a little wooden house with a bed off of the floor. It was called a PodPad. It was actually OK. And a great hide out in the rain. But it’s one thing spending 3 days at a festival completely shit-faced and passing out at silly-o-clock in the morning having jumped up and down for 6 hours; it’s quite another to look after an 8-month old and a 2-year old in a wet field surrounded by canvas walls (are tents even made of canvas anymore?). I am dreading it more because a couple of months back we stayed at Sister’s Boyf’s house (Beardy), all in the same room. It was horrendous. We had a lovely time, of course, but the sleeping part was horrendous. The two travel cots were jammed next to each other alongside the bed. We put Girly no2 to bed first and when she was fast asleep, we put Girly no1 in bed. There were multiple visits back into the room. On the first visit, she was throwing her toy at no2’s head, retrieving it (roughly), then doing it again. For the second she had found a candle and was picking out wax with her little stubby finger and smearing it on the window. Maybe she didn’t enjoy the view of Dalston. By the third visit, she had found some earphones from somewhere and was wrapping them around her wrists making her hands go white. I was shocked as I thought I had successfully removed all potential murder weapons. All of this was of course to the backing music that was the Wheels on the Bus and If You’re Happy and You Know It. After she eventually passed out two hours later and we had finished our take away form the restaurant we were supposed to have eaten in, we crept into bed as silently as possible. Four hours later, at 4.30, we were all awake. No2 had woken no1, who had in turn woken us. It was a long weekend and not one that my Lists could have saved me from. Unless of course it had said “Find 4-bedroom place on Air BnB”, which will definitely be the plan next time.
You see why I am nervous about us all being in a tent together for three nights. I originally opted for a 3-room tent thinking there might be some quiet. Then I read some blogs from some far nicer Mums than me that said imagine how terrified your babies would be waking up in the night in completely strange surroundings following full days of new sights and sounds and not being able to see you. Dammit nice mums! Because of this, we’ve had to buy an enormous open tent with no rooms. There is the added advantage that it’s big enough for our elevated double bed of course but really I did it for the girlies…..! From the looks of my list, an 8-man tent is completely necessary. We will need all of this space to accommodate the suitcases, the wet weather gear, the toys, the pop up sun tent, the baby paddling pool, the milk and food pouches, the cool box of milk, the cross-country pram and all the other things on my list. I’ve opted not to take a cooking stove in the interest of saving space (!), we will take baby food and ready made milk, and some snacks but everything else we’ll eat out. It’s going to be even more expensive but we’ve already had to rent a roof box and I really do draw the line at a trailer.
I continue to add items to my list. And I enjoy adding little green ticks against my items once I have bought the things I need to buy. When I pack these into the bag and then the car they’ll get a double tick. Oh the joy of ticking off! In some sick way, I am enjoying the process. I feel far less stressed now I have some control back over this wild situation. I shouldn’t even be stressed. It doesn’t compare to the things I have had to do for work. But for some reason I am. We leave in seven days, six if you don’t include the wedding of the wonderful Paramedic and her lovely SAS Paramedic the day before. Six days to put stuff in a corner, then in a bag, then in a roof box (assuming it turns up). I’m sure it will be fine. I’m sure I won’t forget anything major. And if I do, it will probably be Husbands. Poor him. I wonder if I should take my hairdryer…
My list is below. Do let me know if I’ve forgotten anything or anything you think I might find useful. The car gets locked at 8am on Friday! Thanks for stopping by, please like and share on Facebook if you have enjoyed. And feel free to tag your friends!
The dress rehearsal went well
The Latitude List
- Minions backpack
- Pen for writing mob number on arm
- Sleep sack
- Dressing gown
- Shorts & t’s x6
- Sun dresses x6
- Leggings x3
- Pants x10
- Hoodies & jumpers x3
- Wet weather suit (at nursery)
- Wellies, Crocs & flip flops
- Night Nappies
- Ear defenders
- Towel and swimming costume
- Bed teddies
- Hats (sun and warm)
- Travel cot & sheep skin
- Sheets x3
- Ewan Sheep
- Sleep sacks (thick and thin)
- Nappies and sacks
- Calpol, nurofen & antihistamine
- Bum cream
- Clothes (pjs, vests, day stuff)
- Blankets x3
- Ear defenders
- Hats (sun and warm)
- Outfits (white jean shorts & black vest, green dress, shorts and drapey top)
- Green festival coat
- Ponchos (???)
- Jeans x2
- Jumpers (all saints x2, weird fish hoody, blue cardi)
- Pants & bra
- Make up
- Wellies & welly socks
- Flip flops & Trainers
- Swimming costume & towel
- Eye mask (bedside table)
- Swim shorts
Food & drink – Sainsbury’s order coming at 8am on Wednesday:
- Ella’s pouches x8 ✅
- Ready made aptamils (16) ✅
- Pimms ✅
- Rice cakes✅
- Raisins ✅
- Banana bread bars✅
- Apples & bananas✅
- Cereal bars ✅
- Milk ✅
- Towels (shower & swim)
- Feeding seat with tray
- Chargers & charging block
- Blankets (outside)
- Blankets to snuggle
- Camping chairs (x3 in shed)
- Bottles, cups, plates, bowls & spoons
- Tea towels
- Baby carrier (garage)
- Plastic pint holder
- Torches – handbag and kitchen box
- Girly cups & bowls
- Little cutlery
- Medicine box
- Playing cards
- Speaker & music phone
- Ear phones
- Dirty washing pop up thing
- Carrier bags for muddy boots
- Toilet rolls
- Sun shade tent
- Pop up pool
- Ice packs & cool box
- Gruffalo ready bed
- Our bedding, sleeping bag and sheet
Things to order, borrow or buy:
- Roof box – rental on Thurs (brief Beardy)
- Tent – Amazon ✅
- Air bed (ours) – eBay ✅
- Lanterns for in tent – amazon/eBay
- Pram – Shizzle ✅
- Glow sticks – Amazon & £land ✅
- Body paint – Amazon ✅
- Cool Box – Amazon ✅
- Washing up bucket/No2 bath – Amazon ✅
- Pen knife – Dad or Mum
- Pump – Dad ✅
- Tarpaulin – £land ✅
- Camping table – Mum
- Sponges – Sainsbury’s shop
- Anti bac handwash ✅
- Black bags & clear bags – Sainsbury’s shop
- Kitchen roll – Sainsbury’s shop
- Colouring for No1 ✅
- Ear plugs – Boots ✅
- Gaffer tape – £land ✅
- Freeze ice blocks
- Charge charging unit
- Pack cases
- Confirm roof box
- Wet weather stuff from nursery
- Washers for Pram wheel
- Pick up prescriptions
Have you seen my baseball?