Adding to the family

I posted an article from Standard Issue magazine last week complaining about the number of people who assume you will have more than one child. Bless them, the interfering souls.

I have since realised the main reason for having another child.

It is to avoid having leftover food. I am currently ordering our Christmas food. Croissants come in packs of 4, 8 or 10. None of them divisible by 3. Sausages come in 8s. Why? What’s wrong with 6?

People with two children. that’s what. They dominate the market and now I’m having to deal with their fallout. Grrrr…

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Mr Darcy’s Christmas trees

If you’ve ever watched a child screaming and wondered why its mother didn’t shut it up, please be aware that she may not be able to. I offered a perfect specimen of parental incompetence earlier on today as we sat in the car in Sainsbury’s car park while S bought a newspaper. E has suddenly taken against the car and wanted to get out, or sit on my knee, neither of which were possible. So she bawled. I tried everything except get her out or sit her on my knee to get her to stop but nothing worked so instead I sat and wished S would hurry up.

“What’s wrong with her?” he helpfully asked when he got back.

Anyway, we were off on a day trip to Sudbury Hall, home to the Museum of Childhood and location for many Pride and Prejudice scenes (for the proper BBC series, I’m not talking bloody Keira Knightley movie versions here). It’s just over half an hour drive and one of the only National Trust places near us that we haven’t tried yet.

By the time we arrived E had talked about passing buses, lorries and ambulances and then fallen asleep – tears were forgotten. She was in one of those outfits that you can only get away with in childhood – a blue dress with net skirt and sparkly dots on, car tights, wellies, a parka, one of my crocheted scarves and a knitted hat. She was also loaded up with three soft toys.

sudburySudbury is impressive looking and they do things with handmade Christmas decorations as an added attraction. Anywhere that swathes the concrete balls they decorate driveways with to look like Christmas puddings is ok by me. Inside there were loads of Christmas trees. E was thrilled – she’s very into Christmas trees at the moment. (The volunteer on the door asked us to hold our bags in front of us so that we didn’t knock anything over – as if anyone used to living in our tiny house could feel cramped in a bloody stately home.)

sudbury 2In the last two weeks or so, E has become fluent in her favourite books, quoting large sections by heart. One of her current favourites features a dark scary cave, a line that she came out with as we walked through a long corridor decked out in lights archways of greenery.

The long gallery at Darcy’s house was filled with Christmas trees, at least nine of them, and all much better to look at than the paintings (“many family portraits , but they could have little to fix the attention of a stranger.”) E loved them, of course, exclaiming in wonder and showing us all the decorations on them. It’s almost worth keeping a tree up all year long, just to keep her occupied…

sudbury 3We made a bird feeder from a pine cone and some lard in the grounds, and then played for a while in the woodland play area which, if I remember rightly, was funded by my work – no branding though… As if E wasn’t excited enough by the Christmas trees, the bird feeder and by being with us, there was then a ship to climb on – she immediately decided it was a pirate ship and stood proudly at the front, clutching the rigging and telling us she was a pirate “aaarrggghhhh.”

We never made it into the museum of childhood to see the old toys so may have to return another day. Everything closed up at three and we came home.

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A moon update and further reflections

Yesterday I told you about the moon lamp I’d bought for Elinor and how it was marketed as being good for space mad boys and their dads. This lunchtime I got an email from the company saying they were now aware of this and would retract this message. Result! And so quick. So that’s good.

In the meantime I’d been looking at the Let Toys be Toys campaign who kindly RT’d my blog post. I got a lot of Twitter replies (and a couple of comments) with all sorts of different responses – all of them helpful, and all them as equally valid as my own complaint. So I thought I’d follow up and tell you all about them. One person told me about her mother who makes handcrafted gifts and finds it incredibly hard to source supplies that will allow her to make a good range of things for boys – the rag dolls are all girls, for example.

Another mother told me that her son had a doll taken from him by a girl who told him dolls weren’t for boys. They were both two years old. A colleague in my TUC course told me about how incredibly hard it was to find a toy oven for her son who loved cooking. We should think about what this does to boys too. Let Toys be Toys most read blog post is one that explores this very issue.

boysOn International Men’s Day this year a picture did the rounds on Twitter. It was a list written by a group of nine-year old boys who were asked what they didn’t like about being a boy. Here’s what they said:

  • Not able to be a mother
  • Not suppost (sic) to cry
  • Not allowed to be a cheerleader
  • Suppost to do all the work
  • Suppost to like violence
  • Suppost to play football
  • Boys smell bad
  • Having an automatic bad reputation
  • Grow hair everywhere

Isn’t that the saddest thing you’ve read? A bunch of nine- year olds – nine, ffs – think they’re supposed to be violent. And if you need any evidence of how badly we treat young people in this country, try dealing with nine-year olds who already know they have an automatic bad reputation, just by being there. It’s really awful.

I thought the comment about not being able to be a mother was interesting too. They’ve picked up that we value mums more? Or their dads are at work a lot and they don’t see them?

Anyway, while I’m fighting the good fight for the girls, we should really consider the bum deal this serves to boys too. Who are we serving with this pigeonholing?

*Thanks to everyone who commented or got in contact. 

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Gendering the moon…

As the nights get colder, I start a quest to find E a pair of pyjamas with long sleeves. It’s  quest because the shops of Nottingham appear to be catering purely for fans of Frozen.

Now let’s start with a disclaimer. I have seen Frozen. I enjoyed Frozen. In the main, I enjoy Disney movies. I do not, however, really understand the hype over Frozen. Yes, it was ok, but the snowman was annoying, I don’t remember any of the songs and it’s not as good as Beauty and the Beast. And let’s be clear. It’s not about female empowerment. The only way it’s about female empowerment is if you have the boundaries of femininity marked out by the limited parameters of Disney movies. Woo – they don’t get married at the end! It must be a feminist movie! Well no. For a start, one of them wants to get married and is only put off by the bloke being a nasty piece of wet lettuce-ness. And second, they are still princesses with their lives marked out by being princesses and having absolutely no independence and control over their lives. It’ll be about female empowerment when one of them kicks the bloody snowman’s head off with her DMs and runs off to make her own way in the world, her way.

Anyway, my actual problem with Frozen is that E wasn’t bothered by watching it. I sat her down, and she paid absolutely no attention to it at all. S and I watched it, she wandered off. The only thing she’s ever watched with attention on TV is the adaptation of her favourite book, Room on the Broom. She’s seen some of the Little Mermaid this week and likes the mer people but only for about 10 minutes before she gets bored. So why should she have PJs with Frozen characters on? She won’t like them.

I did manage to track some down after a week’s worth of wandering round the shops. They have pink on them but TBH finding something not pink and not Frozen is probably asking for the moon on a stick. Which brings us to the next thing.

Now E is in her big bed, I thought she might like to have a lamp in her room, for when she’s a bit bigger and wants to play in the mornings or something. Looking for children’s lamps means you come face to face with a lot of unnerving creatures with bulbs inside them – their faces would induce nightmares in adults, let alone small folk. And then I found a lovely small moon lamp. It was supposed to be like the moon – with craters on and everything. It was a reasonable price. I was about to click Buy when I noticed the description: Space mad boys will love this cool nightlight and probably some of the Dads too. 

Really? Just the space mad boys? And their dads? Is that because little girls don’t look up?

When did the moon become a boys-only thing?

I realise this was one website, one tiny independent seller trying to make a living. (And because I liked the light and hated the other options I have bought it but included a disappointed note). But really, it’s little things like this that reflect a wider problem. The wider problem of not having enough women going into science and technology industries. Many people will be like me and send feedback and ignore crap like this but not everyone will. Some girls (and their parents) will worry about how it looks to others that their girl likes the moon or dinosaurs or pirates or reading or any of the things that E likes at the moment. (My mother, in buying more PJs for E for Christmas found some lovely dinosaur ones that were marketed as being for boys. She too sent them a disappointed note. If we have to, my family will change this shit one email at a time. But it really shouldn’t be necessary. It’s 2014, doncha know.)

Anyway I wish to finish this blog post on a positive note. Here’s a picture of some space scientists recently celebrating a successful rocket launch to Mars:

Source: BBC

Source: BBC

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In search of a good meal…

Maybe it’s my fault for having a child who doesn’t really eat sandwiches, or perhaps I’m just not going to the right places, but it appears to be increasingly difficult to find somewhere to take E for lunch on a Monday. We usually come into the city, sometimes to go swimming, sometimes for shopping or mooching. Near the swimming pool is a greasy spoon cafe where we sometimes go for beans on toast (her) and something else (me). But I don’t want to go there every week, especially if we’re not swimming, which we weren’t this week. We were shopping.

As I said, she doesn’t really do sandwiches, and if I’m honest, I’m not keen either. I love bread but am wary of it as a weight inducing nightmare and it’s also incredibly boring. When I used to travel about a lot in a previous job, if I’d been out and about a lot in one week I’d actually get cravings for salad – something I didn’t believe was possible. So no sandwiches for lunch rules out practically every coffee shop in the city.

Aubrey’s and Alley Cafe are out because they’re upstairs. Jam Cafe is shut on Mondays (I think). I used to take her to the Broadway but last time we went I discovered they’d got rid of their children’s menu, leaving fewer choices in general – many of which were sandwiches and most of which involved chilli in some form. The Malt Cross, while looking great since the refurb, doesn’t have a broad menu (again sandwiches/ burgers make up the bulk). This country appears to be running on sandwiches. No wonder there’s an obesity problem.

We occasionally go to Thea Caffea but I find the delicate china cups and table service to be offputting and the range of things isn’t always great. I once took her to Sobar and ordered meatballs in tomato sauce which came heavily chilli-ed. I had to wipe the sauce off before feeding her – I couldn’t get something else because they don’t take cards and I didn’t have any more cash.

Later edit: went in Sobar yesterday & they do take cards now & do have a children’s menu! Aha!

So I turned to the reliable stalwarts of the high street. We went to M&S cafe, which I’d not been in before. Not only was it full of older ladies, it was tiny and guess what? They only sold sandwiches. And soup (with a bread roll).

We ended up in John Lewis where I read E the options from the children’s menu, bought her the preferred one whereupon she sat down and only ate 4 forkfuls of peas and half a chip. I ate the rest…

What I’m looking for is somewhere that does small versions of something reliable – a mild curry, a pasta dish, stew, stroganoff, that kind of thing. I don’t want fancy table service, I don’t want to pay a lot, I don’t want to cart around some cheese and a banana everywhere we go. This shouldn’t be hard to solve – where am I not looking? Suggestions please!

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Here we go…

We knew this time would come. It’s well documented. But I’m still bad at handling it. Yes, I’m talking about the terrible twos.

E has thrown two fits of the screaming ab dabs this weekend, one when we put her in the car to go to a park on Sunday afternoon, and the other today when I put her in her pushchair to go around town. She wanted to walk, she yelled. Walking at that time meant lying on the ground and rolling around. I’d already had to pick someone else’s chewing gum off her skirt.

She absolutely yells, really puts her soul into it and so I don’t handle it well, though neither time did I give in and do what she wanted. And I didn’t turn into one of those yelling slappy mothers either. But inwardly I was despairing.

Her other new trick is to throw things on the floor a lot. In shops, at the  dinner table, in the kitchen. Both S and I pick her up and put her in a corner when she does so, and later explain that she shouldn’t throw things. She now repeats that we told her not to throw things or comments that she’s not been good at throwing today. Today in a shop I told her off and she looked so troubled as she thought it through I thought I was going to laugh and ruin the whole stern mummy thing.

It’s harder not to laugh when she sticks her hand out, points and says No! like we do. It’s somehow reassuring that S is also finding this part hard. It’s also made harder by E being v sweet and funny and loving very quickly after being naughty. She lives very much in the moment so even a couple of minutes later she’s moved on past the naughtiness.

Having said all that, I think she’s not feeling quite well at the moment – she was off her food today and she’s incredibly tired. So we’ll hope that in a week’s time she’ll be better and this will be a very quick phase…

E is reading – Ten Little Pirates by Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty A countdown book where each of the pirates meets a deadly fate one by one as you read on. E is into pirates at the moment and can say “Aarrrggghhh!” quite well. The pictures are simple but there’s nice detail.

I am reading – FEMINISM BOOKS A PLENTY I’m taking a TUC course about female activism at the moment and borrowing the course leader’s library on a week by week basis. It’s like being an undergrad again as I note with horror that despite wanting to read it for years, I still haven’t got round to reading French’s The Women’s Room. I feel like a fraudulent feminist. Anyway, this week, Caitlin Moran and Natasha Walter, last week, Everyday Sexism and Misogynies by Joan Smith. The latter is useful for making sure no one bothers you in a bar while you wait for your reading group to turn up. I pass this on in case you find yourself in a similar predicament.

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Rolling out of a big girl’s bed…

We took E’s cot sides down last weekend and she’s been in her “big girl bed” ever since. Except when she hasn’t.

She was incredibly excited about a big bed and loves to go and see it and climb on it and have one of us lie down beside her on it.  It looks very low to the ground now the sides aren’t on it any more and the room has expanded a little. Since we’re now able to sit on the bed for bedtime I also removed the chair in her room and put it back in the bathroom where it used to live so there’s much more room up there now.

The first night she managed to stay in the bed all night. The second night S, when he got up at 5.30, looked in on her and found the bed empty and the duvet on the floor with no child beneath it. She had rolled under the bed and was very cross at him waking her up to put her back in bed, although not cross for longer than it took to go back to sleep.

Another night we were woken by her crying in confusion as she’d rolled out, turned upside down and rolled under the bed and was cold out from the covers. Again, once she was back on top of her pillow she was fine and even laughed about it the next day. On Friday S found her fast asleep, lying on the mattress with her feet out of bed and on the floor, so sort of slumped in her sleep.

It’s eventful so far. She hasn’t yet figured out that she could, if she wanted, get out of bed and walk around – at night time or in the morning. So far, we’re not dropping any hints – once she’s awake on a weekend morning it’s still the norm that she stays lying in bed and chunters for a bit to her toys. How long this will last is anyone’s guess. To be on the safe side, we have been closing the gate at the top of the stairs…

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