Categories
Parenthood

Mother’s Day for the single parent (or those with an inconsiderate ‘partner’)

Mother’s Day, a day of joy for most, a day of disappointment for some.

My very first Mother’s Day, W (5) was still on oxygen in his 4th NICU (that’s neonatal intensive care unit for those who don’t know). I made an effort for both his grandmothers, bath sets, chocolates, flowers and cards and yet I woke to nothing. Quietly disappointed, I made my way to the hospital where I received a card of his footprints – cue emotional snotty wreck. When by the end of the day, nothing had materialised for me, despite a Sunday lunch at ex-MIL watching her and ex-SIL open presents, be gifted flowers etc I asked my then other half if he had bought anything for me on behalf of our son he replied ‘you’re not my mother and I don’t believe in commercialisation anyway.’

To say my first Mother’s Day was ruined would be an understatement. There I was a first time mother yet not really a mother because my baby was in intensive care and on the day when I need to feel like a ‘proper’ mum the most, I was let down. Subsequent Mother’s Days didn’t fare any better and as a single parent didn’t seem to hold much hope. 5 years later and I’ve decided to take charge. Too often I’ve seen single parents or mums whose partners aren’t much better than useless/thoughtless/inconsiderate (take your pick), but why do we mums settle for less than what we give on others special days? Create the day you want for yourself!

I invited a good friend (who also happens to be a single parent) and her son over for brunch (pink champagne mandatory). I also set up a Mother’s Day themed sensory science activity (bicarbonate of soda, rose petals, essential oils – rose & lavender, lemon juice) filling our home with a glorious bubble bath smell. The children had fun, the mums were laughing we all had a glorious day. The cherry on top was not only the unexpected gifts from my sisters and the boys as well as the cuddles and kisses galore, but that by taking charge of my day and my own happiness I had the best Mother’s Day that I’ve ever had!

Advertisements
Categories
Parenthood

What does it mean to LOOK like a boy?

“If you’re so into gender neutral everything, then why do you care if people call your children girls or boys?” Is probably what you’re thinking if you’re reading this and know my stance on gender neutral parenting (HINT: it’s a good thing).

So what does gender neutral parenting mean to me? Some wrongly assume it means forcing your child to become the opposite gender to which they were born (or do I mean sex? Gender is a social construct, sex is biological). In other words, turning my boys into girls *eye roll*. For me, it’s about not limiting my children’s experiences and opportunities by subscribing to a gender stereotype, allowing them to enjoy everything our environment has to offer children, regardless of what’s in-between their legs.

And yet, it irks me when my boys are called princesses. I know I have ‘pretty’ boys. I have often been told that W is too pretty to be a boy with his curls and green eyes – because these are sex-linked traits, right? B was referred to as my ‘proper boy’ while W was ‘dainty and delicate’, now that B has shoulder-length hair that is sometimes styled away from his face this has switched. While my gender neutral parenting approach, certainly doesn’t extend to gender identity, because it’s not something I have ever really thought about and I’m not sure if I ever will: they are both adamant that they are boys, they do get quite upset when somebody refers to them using typically female associated words ‘princess, darling, sweetheart etc.’.

The issue, I have come to realise, is that they and I are bothered by the assumptions they are little girls not only for the exaggerated double takes when corrected, but the expectation as to what a ‘proper little boy’ is supposed to look like. My boys look like boys, because they are boys. They look like themselves, why should they look the way other people expect or demand of them merely because it will determine the way they interact with my children? For example, the most common phrases heard, depending on wether they believe my children to be boys or girls:

Boys = look after your mum.

Girls = help your mum.

That difference in language is what bothers me, it’s damaging. I am striving to raise well-rounded children and a stranger undoes my hard work with a throwaway comment. W was so affected that he insisted on all his lovely curls being shaved off so that people would know he was a boy (if he’s wearing a hat, he still gets called princess which usually generates a scowl of disapproval). Fortunately, he has over time, come to realise that most people are ignorant, but that doesn’t mean that other people’s voices won’t shape his view of the world around him and his opinion of himself.

Categories
Parenthood

Please, don’t touch my child! He kicks.

Dear ‘people that think children are public property’,

I’m not sure if you got the memo, but if you didn’t, I just wanted to let you know: it is not okay to touch another person without their consent, even if they are a child – children are people too.

There seems to be a select group of individuals that see a child as an invitation to interact, that’s not how it works. I didn’t like people touching me before I got pregnant, and hormonal me certainly did not like strangers coming up to me in the street to rub my belly and pass on well intended but misinformed advice, while I tried to wrangle a screaming, planking toddler into a buggy. London tube rules such as don’t make eye contact let alone think about starting a conversation with a stranger, still apply even if I have two ‘cute/gorgeous/perfect’ monsters in tow.

So why do it?

My initial reaction is to blame ignorance with underlying racism. W has a lovely crown of curls adorning his head, while B has long dark straight hair, streaked with blond. Once ethnicity is ascertained, the language is changed; W’s hair becomes a ‘frizzy afro’ and B’s becomes ‘good hair’, both become specimens that certain individuals seem compelled to ‘handle’. I might be wrong, but I often get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as my children are treated as some sort of science experiment or genetic mutations. Unfortunately this isn’t exclusive to the people that start a conversation so that I can at least have the opportunity to call them out. It will be the random guy at the airport that runs his hands through W’s curls as he walks past like some sort of lucky charm, or the woman who tugs B’s hair as he holds my hand at the cash point.

I have no real way to conclude this post, I’m just astounded by the number of people feel that it is acceptable to TOUCH a child they do not know, WITHOUT PERMISSION. All I can really say is…

KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF AND OFF OF MY CHILDREN!!!

~FYI I am now actively encouraging my children to kick anybody that touches them without their permission – be warned.~

Categories
Christmas Parenthood

Elves, Shelves and Hypocrites

It’s that time of year when a creepy little doll arrives in many homes, while parents across the country think of different scenarios to place it in during the lead up to Christmas. Buddy arrived to our home last year, dressed in green, antics given up on before the first week was up.

elf

Everywhere I look, there are ‘Elf on the Shelf’ idea blogs and parents lamenting the pressure and hassle it takes to set the Elf up with incriminating evidence for their children to find in the morning. Let me just summarise the whole ‘Elf on the Shelf’ thing and what it is meant to involve, broken down into 5 simple steps:

  1. You buy an Elf, either from a store or from a random lady via Facebook/Craigslist/Amazon/EBay etc.
  2. You tell your children that Santa has sent one of his elves to keep an eye on them to find out if they belong on the NAUGHTY or NICE list (remember this detail).
  3. You tell your children that they can’t touch the Elf because otherwise his magic won’t work any more and they will automatically go on the NAUGHTY list.
  4. You spend the next 24 nights, bending over backwards to make the elf have NAUGHTY experiences that you would never allow your children to even think of.
  5. You cry into a glass of wine over the fact that an inanimate object has more fun than everybody else in your family.

meme

Any other time of year, it would NOT be acceptable for one person to tell one or more people that if they don’t behave correctly, they will tell another person not to bring them presents. WHILE, simultaneously, behaving inappropriately with other people, sh*tting on the table and generally displaying sociopathic tendencies. That is NOT OK. And yet we expect our children to believe that an inanimate object has that kind of power over them? The word HYPOCRITE springs to mind. So I have come up with two ‘alternative’ Elf on the Shelf ideas:

Option 1 – Fast-Track Nice List Package

Buddy arrived this year with a Tesco Bag for Life, we are doing a REVERSE Advent. Each day we will put in a food/sanitary/toiletry item to then donate to a local food bank. (Yay for charity!)

Option 2 – Don’t Buy an Elf

Stress free christmas, no elf to remember to move about, nobody messing up your home, win-win situation.

What will you be doing this year? 

Categories
London Parenthood

Event Edit: Big Fish Little Fish Hackney – Drum n Bass

The concept of a family-friendly rave has intrigued me for quite a while, the Little Londoners were ecstatic at the idea of ‘going out’ with me rather than the usual, yet rare, babysitter (read: abandonment) scenario.

That’s where Big Fish Little Fish come in, their events promise top DJs and licensed bars for the ‘Big Fish’, as well as craft areas, play areas and face-painting and more for the ‘Little Fish’. I was excited, the boys were excited and there was an ‘optional’ fancy dress theme of togas, which of course I made them wear!

Upon arrival the Little Londoners were given a free glow stick each, to add to the assorted collection already adorning their wrists. We navigated past the buggy park to the front door, they had warned of a security check but as I no longer need to carry a changing bag we had a friendly face ushering us through to the rave room.

Our first mission was to wake up a little as they had both fallen asleep on our way to the event, so we headed over to the craft area run by Captain Cookie Crafts. There was a mural and a container of felt tips that W (4) happily took advantage of. There was also a craft table with some sort of headdress craft for children to make with a few examples dotted around. It was pretty busy so we steered clear, the play dough table was even more packed and the play area itself seem to trigger a few soft play flashbacks for B (3) as he clung to my leg whimpering. We avoided that area for the rest of our time until the end when W saw the opportunity to make his own ‘pirate’ headdress (I think they were meant to be Egyptian but didn’t have the heart to dampen his spirit).

Face painting was next on the agenda, this was provided by PHACEbyPhilly. W opted for a dragon and B opted for a crocodile. She was super fast and effective, I thought the face painting the boys had done at Into the Wild was brilliant, but this was on a whole other level!

After a few marshmallow pops and a couple bags of popcorn, washed down with apple juice we were ready to hit the dance floor. W happily showed off his best moves, and even tried out some questionable break dancing, that I had to put an end to due to the number of little walkers on the dance floor. DJ SS was headlining and played some pretty decent tunes that even I (not really a drum n bass fan) could get into. They managed to top the event off with some pretty cool light effects, bubble machines and glitter cannon!

The only tears we had were from me trying to get self-conscious/Velcro ‘baby’ B to detach from my leg and join W in dancing. We also had tears and screaming when it was time to go home, but that’s always a sign of a good time and we can’t wait for the NYE event, which has already sold out!

I’d definitely recommend going to BFLF event near you if you have the chance, but make sure you bring your partner, or if you’re a single parent like me, a friend, it would have been nice to have let W happily space out on the dance floor while also allowing B some ‘quiet’ time in the play area.

***

We were invited along for the purpose of this review.

Categories
Education Parenthood

Starting School: Schultüte 

A Schultüte is a wonderful German tradition for the first day of school. My grandmother is German and so it’s a tradition that we are passing down and I intend to keep within our family. I remember receiving mine when I first started, so of course I had to make one for W (4) on his first day!

For those of you that don’t know, a Schultüte is essentially a cone packed with goodies, to celebrate the year ahead. Some parents are more creative and able to make fantastic cones but I just stuck with card, wrapping paper, tissue paper and ribbons for W’s.


What’s inside?

You can put anything inside of these, I tried to think of things that I thought W would need as well as enjoy. I got him a couple of new books to read and Star Wars themed workbooks to support his learning (I can’t help but giggle over P is for Padme, or the saying on the back ‘Learn well. You will.’). The notebook, pencils and skipping rope are from Cath Kidston and I found a CD of alphabet songs to add to the boys collection.  W loves taking photos on my phone so I popped in a disposable camera for him to have a go at taking his own (the old fashioned way), also picked up a boys fragrance bottle from Next because he always wants to borrow my perfume! The Lego set and the Go Fish! game are just for fun and great activywe can do together. Not pictured are some triangular colouring pencils as they are easier for him to hold that I also picked up for him.

How to make it? 

I cut out a square of wrapping paper, stuck it onto some thing card, put glue along one side of the square and made a cone shape, sticking it down together. I glued tissue paper along the inside at the top, stuffed a ball of tissue into the base (a little like a cornetto) and then filled it up with presents, before tying the top with some ribbon.


He had already been given a new school bag and a Swatch watch at breakfast, so the look on his face to be surprised again when I picked him up was totally worth it! I couldn’t be more proud of him and so excited to see what the year ahead has in store.

 

Categories
Activity Ideas Parenthood Travel

Bucket List: Into the Wild Summer Festival

So, this was an item I had added to the bucket list and then immediately regretted! I didn’t know how on earth I was going to manage two under 5s by myself for a whole weekend of camping. I didn’t even have any camping gear, so it was a quick stop at Decathlon for the basics (honestly, BASICs). I got a 3 person pop-up tent, an inflatable mattress, 3 sleeping bags, a lamp to hang inside the tent, some (not) glow in the dark tent pegs and a couple of blankets.


The day arrived and I was really having some doubts about the feasibility of it all, I wasn’t bringing any food and just hoping there would be enough food options to cater to our tastes, I barely packed enough clothes and was wondering if it would be too late to change my mind, but we got there and in no time at all set up camp. Everybody was so friendly and helpful, the boys enjoyed taking turns to hammer the pegs into the ground and put out their sleeping bags before we explored what the festival had to offer.


There was a programme of workshops and various activities, I didn’t get the chance to do any of them as busy shepherding the boys, but they enjoyed a few fairground type rides that were free for the first day (swings and trampolines), there was a circus tent with dressing up, face painters (the face paint looked awesome with their coloured hair) and an arts and crafts tent where they made some wings. Plenty of music to enjoy throughout the day and communal fires to sit around. Most of the food was vegan, which again wasn’t an issue for us but the boys do snack a lot and it ended up being quite expensive by the end of the day feeding their grazing habits.


The main attraction for me was that it was a drink and drug free event, which meant there was something quite pleasant and relaxing about drinking chai, listening to Nick Mulvey and dancing/singing along with a sleeping B in the sling. There was no real need to feel cautious about walking back to our tent in the dark which made for a very safe and enjoyable environment for me and the children. Children were very much welcome to be children and W made hordes of friends that ran around in little feral packs, whooping and hollering with items of clothing missing and face paint streaked faces.


A typical day for us involved waking up rather early, mad dash to the toilets before getting ready for the day (minus shower as these were out of order!). We filled up our water bottles and then walked through the ‘village’ through to the main site for a bowl of porridge in the Into the Wild cafe tent. A short kids yoga session or dance meditation to start the day right followed be a short walk to see what activity the boys wanted to do, ranging from chalk carving at the tinker station to making mandalas or upcycling. A quick snack and they were free to roam the play equipment; there was a pirate ship, sand pit, parachute and climbing frame, building up an appetite for lunch.


The temperature really rose in the afternoon so we would out the blankets out and have a little nap or go to the cafe tent for the storytelling sessions. Another chance to play or draw before dinner and then a chance to chill out in the main tent listening to an aural delights that were on offer for that evening. Overall it was a very relaxed affair, the children had a blast and I would definitely consider going back again, perhaps a little more prepared!


I paid £80 for my adult ticket which included parking, camping pitch and all workshops, the boys were free as under 5 so I’m not entirely sure how much a child ticket would have cost but that information wouldn’t be hard to find. There were a few issues with water and the sawdust toilets were fine for me but took a bit of getting use to for the boys as their favourite part of going to the toilet is flushing it!


I found out afterwards that Tom Hardy had also been at the festival and I’d missed my chance for a photo!

Categories
Activity Ideas Parenthood Travel

The Bucket List: Seaside Trip

We’ve had a couple of days wrapped up inside thanks to blocked noses and sore throats, so yesterday when we all woke up feeling marginally better a little spontaneity was in order. I decided to take the opportunity to surprise the boys with a trip to the seaside (also an item on the bucket list).

I did a quick Google search over breakfast for the best beaches near London and Margate was the first one to pop up, so I searched for day trip suggestions.

After a less than 2hour drive, we parked in the recommended car park for Turner Contemporary (parking at £2.70 for 12 hours = a bargain). Unfortunately the art gallery closes on Mondays so that idea went straight out the window. Instead we went for a wander in the various antique shops and stumbled across The Curious Cupcake Cafe for a spot of lunch, and of course cupcakes. I really loved the old school milk bottles they served the boys’ milk in!


We then went to the highly recommended Shell Grotto, via the Tudor House. The boys were fascinated with the house but less than enamoured with the Shell Grotto. Made using 4.6million shells and no way of knowing how old it is, or why it was made in the first place. This underground Grotto was little more on the creepy side, too much for the boys, especially B who ‘escaped’ screaming his head off in fear. There is something to be admired about the intricate details and artistry that must have gone into it.


We couldn’t leave without a trip to the beach! (Dreamland was recommended to e by many friends when they knew where we were but I thought the boys could be too young to appreciate it) I hadn’t brought any swimsuits with me as I thought the sea would be too cold and the day too miserable for them to enjoy paddling in the sea. But we were graced with some glorious sun, they paddled and W promptly fell into the sea, face first much to everybody’s amusement!


We picked up a fish and chips, with mushy peas, dinner before heading home in another journey lasting less than 2 hours. It was such an easy drive and has definitely made me want to explore more of what our British coastal towns may have to offer!

Categories
Parenthood Travel

Does going on holiday without my children make me a bad mother? 

You may have recently read the Daily Mail (I know, I know!) article about the families that bring their nanny on holiday with them so that they can have a stress-free holiday, the children have fun and everybody is happy. Not according to the readers, some of the comments that I saw were in the region of “family holidays are just that, if you don’t want to spend time with your children you don’t deserve to have them.” Well I’m sorry DM readers, but I’m about to tell you one better. I have just been on holiday, WITHOUT my children and it was brilliant!


Firstly, I don’t agree with this whole concept of a ‘bad mother’ it takes very little for a mum to be brandished as a bad/inadequate parent, take my London Underground post for example. Whereas it takes very little for a dad to be a ‘good/hands on dad’. Thankfully I don’t really on internet strangers to affirm my parenting, I know that I’m a good parent, I’m exactly who they need me to be and part of that is being myself. Parenting is a full time, full on job, once you become a parent you understand what it is to truly love somebody and to give up your life for them, but that doesn’t mean you literally have to give up your life for them. I know some parents that have never had a night away from their children, even if it’s just to pop down to their local with a friend for a round or two, I’m talking parents of children in the 5yo region by the way. I can understand parents of very young children feeling anxious, but I must confess I had my first ‘night out’ to an Ann Summers party when W was 7 weeks old, B was 8 months old and still BFing when I went away for my first child free weekend, that was nearly 2 years ago now and I haven’t looked back.


This year I’ve been soaking up the sun in Ibiza, going out for amazing meals, meeting new people, have champagne at breakfast without it being frowned upon and drink sangria on the beach at midday, without having to run after two children who don’t understand the concept of lying on a beach or being unable to go out until 5am in the morning because I have to be back to relieve the babysitter. Now, in case you’re wondering child-free doesn’t mean that they are stuck at home twiddling their thumbs. They usually stay with a trusted relative that can manage W’s additional needs without feeling overwhelmed, I leave clear (strict) instructions which are usually ignored in favour of swimming every day, playing in the sun and getting spoilt rotten. We video call at every possible opportunity and I get sent updates with little photos and videos as requested, so that I can feel comfortable in the knowledge that they are happy, safe and secure.


For me as a single parent it’s a win win situation for all, the boys get a break from me and I get a break for them. We are in each other’s pockets 24/7, without another parent for them to bounce off or a partner to take the reins when I’m run down, this is our compromise. We all end up refreshed and happier for it, and I can’t see the harm in that.