Monthly Archives: August 2015

31st August 2015

The ultimate guide to inappropriate baby toys (which is all they will ever want to play with).

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1. Your phone.

Don’t buy them their own. Not only is this silly considering they will probably ring Australia and leave the line open for 7 hours and 33 minutes, but they will never, ever like it as much as yours.

2. A wire.

Preferably one attached to the wall. Preferably with a switch you can flick on and off. Also preferably with something interesting at the other end.

3. Steps

Don’t bother buying expensive garden toys. Just re-landscape your garden to include a giant set of dangerous steps! As soon as they are on the move, your baby won’t want to play with anything else!

4. Your car keys

Real keys that drive your real car. They will not be fooled by coloured plastic keys. They would like to roam around with these real keys and slot them into toys, into cupboards, and `between sofa cushions. It would be unreasonable to expect them to stay within eyesight – and they won’t.

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5. Your glasses

Glasses for your eyes, that is. Although having said that, a box of wine glasses would also be fun. So generally, if they are glasses and they belong to you, they will go down very well indeed.

6. Curtains.

Not for the windows! For swinging on, hiding behind, winding themselves up in, and trying to pull off the window frame. All done with a high-pitched squeal (in case you had any doubts where they were hiding).

7. Your bag

Sacrifice your bag and its contents and your baby’s attention will be gripped for record lengths of time! Yes, the contents will be emptied onto the floor, dropped between cracks in the floorboards, and scattered in mystery places throughout the house, but think of it as a sacrifice for your child’s happiness and will soften the blow.

8. Older children

Especially the kind that are boisterous, noisy and liable to cause injury in play areas. Your baby will want to follow them like a little lamb, up the steepest ladders, down the most extreme slides, and generally wherever the older child likes to put their big, stampy feet.

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 14.17.409. Older children’s toys

Expect a toy that belongs to an older child to become the single most important toy in the entire world. Hazardous small parts or frightening elements will be an advantage.

10. A box of tissues.

To pull out the box one by one, rip up into a million pieces, and leave all over the floor like cheap confetti. Also to take to the sink and create a big sloppy mess that blocks up the plug hole (nb: a toilet roll works just as well).

11. A cupboard with breakable items inside.

The contents must have breakable. Don’t try and fool them with less entertaining plastic goods. They will lose interest in seconds.

12. Wheels

Wheels on buggies, wheels on scooters, wheels on their sibling’s bicycle, wheels on massive great trucks. Babies aren’t bothered about what they belong to – they turn round, which makes them one of the best toys ever made (especially if they recently rolled through dirt).

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 14.09.4413. The cat

A walking toy for pinning to the floor for hugs, licking, and sharing food. This would in fact be the best toy ever, but you will find that it is unreliable (he is usually hiding on top of the kitchen cupboards or roaming the streets several miles away from his baby).

14. The dog

As above, except the dog is unlikely to run away, making it far better value for money as toys go.

15. The toilet

Fascinating. Makes louds noises when you drop the lid, has water inside for dropping things into, and isn’t always the most hygienic spot in the house – which makes it brilliant fun!

16. Credit cards

The great thing about credit cards is that a) you can chew them and b) they slot perfectly between things, under things, and behind things. The more credit cards you can spare, the more fun baby will have!

17. Coins

Shiny coins! That they absolutely, definitely, totally have to put into their mouth as soon as they see them. Just to see if they taste nice. And give you a heart attack when you see a flash of gold between their teeth as they stride past.

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 14.15.4518. Your shoes

The dirtier, the better. And yes they will need to put the soles into their mouths and chew as a taste test. That’s just how it is.

19. Mud

In fact, this applies to anything wet, messy or yucky. Old chewing gum, for example, would be a great toy. As would the dog’s bowl, a dirty puddle, or the leftovers in the bin. Warning – they will definitely want to taste it too.

20. People who don’t really like children

When they catch sight of these child-hating people, they wont be able to resist making enough noise to draw attention to themselves, smiling like a loon to a completely blank response, and making a beeline for them whenever they have the freedom to move. These people are like the Pied Piper of Babies (only they hate children).



29th August 2015

How my ambitions have changed since becoming a mother

Screen Shot 2015-08-29 at 19.51.39Spending money

I used to wait until payday to treat myself to something new every month, whilst saving on the side for a new handbag, piece of furniture, or amazing holiday.

Now I covet things for the boys. I see photos of beautiful kids’ rooms and dream about doing the same for them. I buy them clothes I see online. I look forward to their birthdays so I can spoil them. I still like the odd treat – but give me a wad of cash and I won’t be spending the majority on myself.

Ambitions for my children

Before they were born, I dreamt of my sons in the spotlight at Twickenham, Wembley or Wimbledon. I imagined them suited and booted as they walked into their first job with a great salary. They could pick from a host of dream careers – whatever they wanted would be theirs to take.

Whilst I still want success for them, I genuinely just want them to be happy. I’m not sure one of my sons will be that sporty or the other that academic – but that doesn’t matter a jot if they live a long and happy life.

Holidays

I used to imagine holidaying with my children in luxurious hotels and far-flung cities. I imagined taking a year off work and travelling along craggy coasts and desert landscapes in a motor home. I imagined getting home at the end of it and declaring that it had been the best year of our lives as my ruffled my children’s sun-bleached hair and watched them making dens in the garden with new-found survival skills.

Since I’ve had children and been on a few holidays with them, I have realised that two weeks in self-catering accommodation, a beach within walking distance, and local shop around the corner is the making of the perfect holiday. And the thought of 12 months in a motor home with my children leaves me in a cold sweat.

My home

I dreamt of living in a beautiful mansion in the countryside. It would be vast, with acres of land for the kids to roam. They would grow up exploring this land on big adventures, while I cooked their dinner on an aga. Then we’d all eat together on a giant wooden table and recount the tales of what they had seen.

Life happened – and we live in a vast city on the other side of the world to my dreams, in an apartment, without the giant wooden table. But even if I achieved that dream one day, my children wouldn’t be leaving my sight to go on adventures in the countryside – we’d have a secure garden and I’d be able to see them for a window at all time. Oh and it turns out that I am rubbish at cooking, so the aga would be there merely for decoration.

My legacy

I used to dream about my future career, my name in print, and the opportunities I would be offered as I rose up the career ladder. I would be remembered for what I had achieved and the words I had written.

Since I’ve become a mother, the best compliment you could ever pay me is ‘you are a good mother.’ In fact, if those words were engraved on my gravestone after living a long and happy life, that would be success. Seriously, what could be better? ‘Success’ has been totally redefined.



27th August 2015

Daddy in charge? It’s not babysitting. It’s parenting.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 15.42.51Rewind three years, when I was in the fug of exhausted newborn days, and my husband suggested I should head out with a friend for the evening for the first time post-mummyhood. I was excited about the idea, checking “you sure you will be OK babysitting for the night?

He stopped in his tracks. “Babysitting?” he said. “It’s not babysitting. He’s my child too!

He was totally right, of course, and since that moment I have never looked at the time he spends alone with the children in the same way. It might be less frequent than the time alone I spend with them, but it is no less important – and it is part of the co-parenting effort that makes our family tick.

It is not called babysitting.

It is called parenting.

I have given it very little thought ever since that day. He is a good, loving, and very much appreciated husband and father. When he is on holiday and I am busy with work, he very frequently takes the boys off so I can concentrate in peace. In fact, in the last few weeks, he has also taken them overnight to stay with his parents or sister so I can have a few uninterrupted nights sleep.

He’s great and I’m lucky to have him. I never take him for granted and know I picked a good’un.

But he doesn’t deserve a medal for his parenting.

It’s just how it should be.

They are his children too. It was his decision to have them. And in fact, even if it hadn’t been his decision, they are still his responsibility and he should (and would) step up.

In the past three years, no one has told me that I deserve a medal for the time I spend with my children. No one has told me that I am a saint for taking the kids back to the UK for 8 weeks without my husband around and enduring 56 mornings that started at 5.30am on my own.

I do deserve a medal for that (or a very, very large glass of wine), but that should solely come from my husband. The general population thinks: “Well they are your children.  That is your decision. What do you want? A pat on the back?” And quite right too. They are, it was, and I ask for nothing.

But that didn’t stop me overhearing a conversation in the post office last week where a mother told an older lady that the kids were with their dad all day. “You’re lucky” she said. “I don’t know many men that would babysit for the whole day these days!”

The mother’s mouth formed into a polite smile, but I could see her eyes weren’t feeling the same.

I am sure that she feels like I feel.

I am thankful and grateful to have a husband that adores his children. I am also thankful and grateful that he understands when I need some time alone.

But he is not doing me a favour.

It is not babysitting.

It is parenting.

And that’s exactly the way it should be.



25th August 2015

For my readers in the Middle East: The GapKids Casting Call finalists have been selected! Vote now for your favourite!

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With so many happy faces entered into the GapKids Casting Call, it was almost impossible to judge – but the finalists have now been announced in the GapKids Casting Call 2015!

So without further ado, here are the finalists in each category, which will each receive a Dhs1,000 gift voucher from Gap!

collage Boys 0-4 Collage collage collage

So now we need to find a winner in each category – and the voting is over to you!

To vote, log onto the app by clicking here and click on the FINALIST tab. You will be able to view the finalists and vote ONCE in each category.

Voting will close on 29th August, with the final 4 winners (one from each category) will be announced on 3rd September. Each of these 4 children will win Dhs2,500 in Gap vouchers, as well as the opportunity to be featured in Emirates Woman Mini and select Gap store window displays!

Congratulations to all the finalists – and good luck!



21st August 2015

You know you are an expat when…

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 13.13.481. You have two of everything. Two sets of keys, two different phones, and two sets of currency in your wallet. After arriving in the respective country, you look at these things like they are completely alien (was a 50p coin always that size?) – but within an hour, it’s like you’ve never been away.

2. You use the word ‘home’ to describe two places. You put different emphasis on the word at times and sometimes call one place ‘home home’ and the other just ‘home’. People around you are continually confused by which one you mean, but it  makes perfect sense to you.

3. You are more used to catching flights than you are buses. Get on a bus and work out where you are going? Cold sweat. Arrive at an airport with a 12-hour flight stretched in front of you, two kids in tow, and unexpected delay on the tarmac? Well within your comfort zone.

4. Your vocabulary has evolved. A different language has infiltrated into your every day vocabulary. You don’t notice it yourself, but when you arrive home, you notice your friends and family laughing or wincing when the words are dropped into conversation.

5. You need a holiday to recover from a holiday. You use up all your annual leave to visit friends and family, squeezing so much into the few weeks that you are exhausted by the end of it. In fact, your plans are so carefully mapped out in your diary or mind that if one friend cancels, you feel the room spinning for a few seconds before you set about putting the jigsaw of visitations back together. And the other thing? Those visits are never, ever long enough.

6. Time stands still. When you fly back to your home country, you are amazed by how little has changed. The nature of your own life is so fast-paced that you expect your home turf to change just as quickly, so it is baffling to discover the buildings in the same place and people doing the same old things. This is both comforting and unnerving in equal measure.

7. You appreciate your homeland more. The other thing that is true of return visits is that you suddenly appreciate the place you previously took for granted for so many years. The beauty of the countryside, the perfection of the food, the smell just after it rains, the choice in the supermarket aisles. Your senses are suddenly awake to things you never noticed in the past.

8. You are used to friends leaving. Expat communities are transient – and you have become used to saying goodbye to friends as they announce they are leaving for new adventures.  It never gets easier seeing a good friend leave, but you learn to appreciate how much richer you are for having them in your life.

9. You have mixed feelings about returning to your old life. On one hand, it would be amazing to be home. On the other, would you not miss a life of constant jet setting and excitement? The question is always in your mind and discussed continually with expat friends.

10. Saying goodbye is still hard. You’d think with time that saying goodbye to friends and family would get easier, but it doesn’t. With each visit, the same emotions spill to the surface and you question your expat life.  But despite this, you have learnt how to turn your mind to other things – and as soon as you are through the airport security, your mind quickly turns to your life at the other side.



17th August 2015

A shout-out to the working mums

photo-300x300I talk a lot about the time that I spend with my children in this blog – which makes a lot of sense, as it’s a parenting blog after all. But the truth is that during the working week, I only spend half the time with my children.

This is because I am a working mum.

I’m lucky, because I have a flexible, freelance job, where I can choose to spend the afternoons with the boys and work instead in the evenings. But I am still the Mum that kisses her baby goodbye every morning, grabs her laptop, and walks out the door. And I am still the Mum that drops her oldest off at his classroom 20 minutes later, jumps in the car again, and doesn’t return home again to play with her baby.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a twinge of guilt writing that. After all, my first child got his Mummy at home for much longer. We joined baby classes, we hung out at play dates, and we wandered around the supermarket practicing the words for fruit and different colours of tins on the shelves out loud.

I hear the baby call my name when I walk out of the door in the morning and I often feel like walking straight back through it again.

But I love what I do. I enjoy working. My family needs me to work. And I make no apology for doing it.

It occurred to me last week, while chatting to a friend about her impending return to work after maternity leave, that there are so many of us doing it – and we all share the same worries, the same tug of emotions as we walk out of the door in the morning, and the same mad dash to be finished in time to get home to them at the end of our working day.

They are often unspoken, these shared emotions and shared journeys of being a working mum. We pass other mothers in the street on the way to work, we sit down to meetings with other mothers, and we sit next to other mothers on the train or bus at the end of the day.  But we rarely mention our mutual gang of little people. We don’t wear badges declaring that they are waiting for us at home.

But they are always in our minds, even when we are distracted.

Having been a stay-at-home Mum initially (albeit a marathon of writing when he was napping), I know one thing for sure: I am no less of a mother now that I work every day. I am still the one making the decisions about their life, getting excited about milestones, looking through photos of them at night when they sleep, and enjoying the early morning cuddles when their hair is wild and they smell deliciously like sleep.

I feel no different – and I am absolutely sure that they feel no differently about me.

So here is a shout out to my fellow working mothers – a gang of mothers that walk out of the door every morning, checking their skirt for marmite smears before they jump in the car or take their seat on the train.

Mothers that woke in the night to a little face asking to go for a wee; Mothers that woke to a baby screaming for milk; Mothers that sat up late working on their laptops so they could watch their child singing in a school play the next morning.; Mothers that juggle childcare like a complicated jigsaw puzzle; and Mothers that keep their phone on their desks all day in case it should ring.

I’m with you.

Your family is with you.

And despite the marmite smears, the twinges of guilt, the childcare juggling, and the dashes home for bedtime, I think we are all doing a pretty amazing job.



16th August 2015

10 things I am currently loving…

CURRENTLY LOVING

Some of these companies are based in the UK and some are based in UAE, but everything is available to be delivered in both countries. I have listed prices in £ and Dhs – ignore the currency that doesn’t apply to you!

For the boys…

1 – The Little Boy Who Lost His Name

If you have a gift to buy for a child, this book really is perfect. The story is tailored to your child’s name, helping them go on an adventure (and meeting a group of wonderful creatures on the way) to find the letters of their name. The look on Stanley’s face when he spotted the letters of Stanley was priceless. He’s been asking for it to be read every single night.  Little girls aren’t left out, with The Girl That Lost Her Name also available!

Buy: £18.99 (Dhs110), buy it here (This is a UK company, with FREE international delivery to anywhere in the world).

2 – Cuddle Dry

If you are heading away on holiday this summer, I can highly recommend Cuddle Dry’s SPF Poncho Towel. Throw it on at the pool or beach – and it will protect little one’s skin with SPF50.  We have used Wilfred’s in Dubai and Cornwall this summer and he looked ridiculously cute too!

Buy: £27.99 (Dhs160), buy it here (This is a UK company, with international delivery available to anywhere in the world).

3 – Coochy Coo

If you are looking for a school or nursery bag for little ones, I can recommend the Dubai company Coochy Coo, who sell a range of bags that can be embroidered with a child’s name. Wilfred has a brilliant shark-design Beatrix rucksack with his name on for nursery, whilst Stanley has a dark blue personalised nursery bag for his first year at school. They are simple, cute, and affordable!

Buy: 199 AED / 249 AED (£35 / £43)buy here (This is a Dubai company, with international delivery available to anywhere in the world).

4 – Go Go Merino Sleeping Bag

I use sleeping bags with the boys from the very early days until they move into a big boy bed, so Wilfred still has at least a year in a bag. I ordered the Go Go Merino Sleeping Bag from Baby Souk and I think it’s the best sleeping bag I’ve ever tried. I love it because the 100% natural fabric (finest merino and cotton) help to regulate Wilfred’s temperature as he sleeps – breathing absorbing and releasing moisture away from baby’s skin in warm conditions and insulating in colder. I used it in Dubai in the cold air conditioning – and then used it again the next night in the UK in a big heatwave. It’s expensive, but it’s so reassuring to know that Wilfred’s temperature is being regulated as he sleeps – and I love the way it looks, the softness, and the cosiness too!

Buy: Dhs400 (£70), buy here (This is a UAE company, with international delivery available to anywhere in the world)

5 – Whistle And Flute Ice Cream Top

I’m very excited that the cool brand Brighteyez.ae has opened up its virtual doors in the UAE – and this cool Whistle And Flute T-Shirt is going to be my first purchase. There’s lots on there for UAE mummies, who have had a limited choice of online shopping in the past. It’s already my favourite new website  – and it ships internationally for a flat fee of Dhs100 (£17) if something catches your eye abroad (google ‘Whistle And Flute’ and you should be able to find this T-Shirt in the UK too).

Buy: Dhs102 (£17.50) buy here (This is a UAE company, with international delivery available to anywhere in the world).

6 – The Shoes – Stan Smiths

Stanley is about to start school and the uniform rule is for white trainers with Velcro. I was about to head to Clarks and pick up some standard trainers when my friend Katie alerted me to Adidas Stan Smiths. They are white, they have velcro, and they have the word ‘Stan’ on the back, so what is not to love? But seriously, I am happy to discover this cool toddler-friendly footwear (available in different colours too if you are too scared to let them loose in white).

Buy: From £32 (Dhs180) buy here (Available in Adidas Stores across the Middle East).

 

For Me

The Shoes – FitFlops

I’m a fan of FitFlops for not only the way that they can help to tone legs, but also for the way they can help correct your posture. I haven’t worn mine for a few years as I left them in the UK, but when I spotted the new Spring Summer collection, it gave me a whole new reason to rediscover the brand! Very cool deigns, including nautical stripes, beaded straps, and snake print effects!

Buy: From £60 (Dhs350) (Available in the UK and UAE, visit the site for your nearest stockist).

The Top – Mother T-Shirt

I’ve been meaning to treat myself to this Organic Cotton T-Shirt for a while now and have finally made the order. Available in a range of colours and designs, the company Selfish Mother donates all profits from sales to the charity Women for Women International, which helps women in 8 war-torn regions to rebuild their lives. So much love for this T-Shirt. Expect to see my modeling it soon!

Buy: £30 (Dhs170) buy it here (This is a UK company, with international delivery available to anywhere in the world).

The Picnic Rug – Basil Bangs

It’s a bit of a joke amongst my friends now that I am in love with a picnic rug – but I can’t quite put into words how much I love this picnic rug by Basil Bangs at Baby Souk! This lightweight package (with a handle for hanging over buggies or shoulders) unfolds to a giant circular, wipe-clean, comfortable picnic blanket in the coolest print! It’s on sale at the moment, so shop shop shop!

Buy: Dhs338 (£58) buy it here (This is a UAE company, with international delivery available to anywhere in the world).

The Gift Shop – Blossoming Gifts

It’s always good to know reliable flower and gift delivery companies when I am over in Dubai and want to send a birthday gift to someone back at home. Blossoming Gifts is a great find, with really affordable flower bouquets, plants hampers, wines, and personalised gifts. My pick is the Baby Boy Gift Set, which contains goodies for new babies and mummies and would be very much appreciated in those early days at home!

Buy: £40.99 (Dhs235) buy it here (This is a UK company with delivery only available in the UK).



8th August 2015

6 Things I Vowed To Do Differently The Second Time (But Failed Again)

Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 20.16.511 – Play Pen

When my first baby started ransacking our apartment at circa. 14 months old, I vowed that any future baby would be kept safe in a play pen. “I’ll do it right from the beginning,” I promised myself, convinced I would never again give freedom to a tiny terror. As soon as he took his first steps, however, I yelped with happiness at his cleverness – and when he started following his brother around like a little shadow, the play pen idea was abandoned. Two months later, with a ransacked apartment again, I vowed I would invest in a play pen if we ever had a third…

2 – Vegetables. My first baby munched away on vegetables as snacks when he was little – but then BAM, as soon as his taste buds developed, he spat them out in revolt and I had to smuggle them into sauces and smoothies to make sure he got his fair share (hassle). I was adamant that my second baby would be a vegetable loving monster and had great plans for baby led weaning, carrot stick snacks, and cucumber slices adorning every meal. But I had forgotten that I wouldn’t want to prepare dinner twice every night, so he enjoyed his own vegetable-smuggled dishes and soon hated the un-smuggled versions as much as his brother. Double fail.

3 – Alone Time

With my first at nursery several mornings a week by the time his baby brother arrived and a much calmer approach to motherhood (I knew what I was doing this time obvs), I vowed to enjoy every second of my time alone with my newborn. We would go on coffee dates with other mummies and minis, we would lie together under the baby gym, and we would spend all morning breastfeeding and bonding. When it came down to it, however, I had forgotten that things needed to be done, apartments needed to be cleaned, meals needed to be prepared, and brothers needed to be dropped off/picked up. I couldn’t hit pause on life – and our whilst our mornings together were lovely, they were not as idyllic as I had planned.

4 – Bedroom sharing

Our first baby shared our bedroom for 8 months – and when he moved, life transformed. So when we had baby number two, we vowed to move him earlier. We did it too – but then he didn’t sleep, so we moved him back. And when he started sleeping again back within an arms reach of Mummy and Daddy, we realised we liked sleep more than the idea of him being in another room. And that’s where he stayed there until he was over a year old.

5 – Reins

While pregnant with my second baby and chasing a toddler around (who could run much faster than a waddling pregnant woman, even with just a few months practice under his belt), I bought some reins and tried to attach them to said toddler. He flatly refused to wear them, making it an expensive and disappointing purchase. So I vowed to introduce them much earlier next time. “Want to take your first steps?” I imagined myself saying. “Not until Mummy fixes the reins on! That’s the rules!” Of course, I didn’t do it – and when I tried to attach them to a headstrong 15-month old, who was adamant he had every right to walk unaccompanied on the pavement of a busy road, I realised I’d completely missed the boat again. 

6 – Save Money Not Buying Anything

After the hit on our bank balance when I was pregnant with baby number one, we vowed to save money by reusing everything we already owned when his brother arrived nearly two years later. That plan went to pot when we realised we needed a double buggy, which was duly then purchased. I reverted to my money saving ways, until I walked past some sweet baby boy outfits in a shop one morning and I couldn’t resist. And then I wanted a new changing bag. And a beautiful knitted blanket.  It snowballed from there and he now pretty much has his own wardrobe.



5th August 2015

The snap decision to drive down memory lane…

9G6iazUmecIKJb1pLVDi9EhoeBPOVJv3aXFLhi0Ok94Today I was driving to the supermarket to grab a few things before work when suddenly I made a snap decision to take a detour. I signaled left and swung into a road I have not swung into for nearly 24 years.

That road was memory lane.

As I drove slowly down that road, my primary school came into view. And with the thought of Stanley starting school in just a few weeks time firmly in my mind, I waited to see if the memories would come flooding back.

They did.

There was the playground, where the summer fair was hosted every year. I remembered sack races, games where you had to hit a toy rat when he appeared from a tube, the taste of the sweetest toffee apples, and morris dancing with my class around a pole. I remembered entering my gerbils into the pet beauty contest and being more than a little miffed when they didn’t get a rosette. I remember excitement, music, laughter, and sunshine.

There was the school hall, where I had sung reluctantly in the choir and listened to assemblies every morning. I remember one Christmas when we all piled into the hall on the last day of term and sat on the floor to watch ET. I had been given one of those bracelets that snaps onto your wrist as a gift – as had most of the other childen in the hall as a bit of an 80’s fad. I can remember the sound of the snap, snap, snap, snap repetitively as we watched that film, bubbling with excitement about the holiday that would be starting just a few hours later.

There were the classrooms. I remembered the little desks that lifted so we could store our pencils and erasers inside, the strong scent of poster paints and PVC glue in the air, the artwork hanging from a string across the room to dry, and the sound of the chalk scratching the board as letters were drawn. I remember the shrill of the school bell making us jump and the screech of the chairs as everyone ran out of the room.

And there were the school fields, where we spent so many happy lunchtimes sat under trees chatting, drawing, and eating our sandwiches. Where we headed out during the day to hunt bugs and mark them down on our worksheet. And where sports day was held every year in the sunshine, as we balanced eggs on spoons and yelled for friends to run faster to win points for our house.

Happy memories.

Things I will never forget.

And as I drove back round the loop and rejoined the main road, I realised something: Stanley had all this to come.

This is the beginning.

He doesn’t know that I feel emotional about his first day at school getting ever closer. He doesn’t know that school marks the end of an era as my baby.  He doesn’t know that I will be holding back the tears when I say goodbye in a few weeks time.

And it’s better that way.

Because for him, this is the start of something exciting, something sparkly new, something that makes him feel grown up and much, much, much bigger than his brother.

And for me?

I’m glad I made that detour today, because it’s reminded me that starting school is part of life. A part of life that he will enjoy. And a part of life that will help to shape the person he will become.

And I have realised that I will get to experience it all again, but this time through his eyes.

The sack races, the smell of poster paints in the classroom, the sound of chairs screeching when it is time to leave, and the excitement building as the school holidays approach.

And in a way, I am suddenly quite excited about that.

Thank you memory lane. Thank you for that.

 



3rd August 2015

The parenting advice I chose to ignore

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 19.51.43Ban sugar

I kept sugar completely out of their diet until they were a year old, as I am not the kind of mother to wean with a box of smarties (who is?) But then I allowed it in moderation. I believe that if you ban something completely, a child will want it more than ever – such as my own parents banning chewing gum when I was a child, prompting me to run away to the corner shop and come back hiding a packet of Juicy Fruity in my armpit (true story, bit rank). If we’re  eating cake, they can have a small bit too. If they get a bag of sweets in a party bag, they can eat them. Some pleasures in life are OK in moderation – and I don’t want to find sweaty jelly sweets in their armpits in years to come.

Don’t let baby come into bed with you – he’ll never want to leave

The experts are right – he doesn’t want to leave. But if I get to sleep through the night, I am not complaining. And I am sure that a day will come when he realises that there is more room in his own bed. Until then, we’ll bring him into bed at 4am without feeling a morsel of guilt (don’t tell anyone, but we actually quite like him being there).

Never let children under the age of three watch TV

I’m pretty sure that the people that advocate this have something that I don’t. Maybe impeccably behaved children, a packed playroom of amazing toys, or full-time childcare.  They certainly wont have had to cook dinner with two children clambering up their legs screaming in a desperate attempt to throw a chopping board of raw chicken across the kitchen. I’ll thank Peppa Pig for her childcare at a later date.

Dummies are the devil

OK, so no one actually said that dummies were the devil – I exaggerated. But plenty of people have turned their nose up along the way. But that dummy helped my newborn to calm, my baby to settle, and my toddler to sleep – not to mention the fact that The British Medical Journal announced that using them reduces the risk of cot death. And yes I sometimes hate myself at 3am when I am scrabbling around for a dummy in the dark, but for the other 23 hours of the day, I am thankful for that dummy. And did I mention they are a godsend on a long haul flight?

Never play nursery rhymes in the car – they’ll demand to listen every time

I chose to ignore this advice when my baby screamed his way home from the supermarket once, then immediately calmed as I had the brainwave to pop a nursery rhymes CD in when stuck at the traffic lights. Instant calm. To be fair, the advisors were right for a while and I did get sick of nursery rhymes, but now it wouldn’t even cross their mind to ask and we listen to ‘Mummy’s music’. Small victories and all…

Leave them to cry

Somebody told me that I needed to do controlled crying to ensure my child slept through the night. I did try it once – and needed a couple of valium to get through it (another exaggeration; it was probably wine). I vowed never to do it again. When my child cried, I went to him. And guess what? He slept through the night at 13 months and has done since. My second child still doesn’t sleep through the night at 18 months – but that’s fine, you’d have to pay me serious money to do the valium/bucket of wine thing a second time. My liver probably thanks me.