A problem shared is a problem ‘shared’

A while ago, I took the kids out for one of those spontaneous ‘fun days out’ that turned out to be anything but. My only consolation was that we ended up near a place to eat and, recalling the events of the day, I thought I would take advantage of the opportunity to eat food that was probably going to shorten my lifespan by a few years.

As we were waiting for our food to arrive, a group of young (late teens/early twenties) sat at the table adjacent to ours. One was pouring her heart out to the others about boyfriend trouble. Something along the lines of:

‘Oh, I just don’t think I could forgive him for this.’

‘It just hurts so much!’

‘But we’ve been together so long, how can I just throw it all away?’

‘I wish I could walk away, but I just love him so much!’

‘Blah, blah, boo hoo!’

Amid all her dramatic proclamations of love and tears of sorrow, her two friends were trying their best to console her. They had perfected the look of wistful sympathy that anyone telling a tale of woe wants to see from their confidants (as much as eyebrows that come courtesy of a stencil allow anyway) and one even shed an empathetic tear.

Cue a flurry of tearful sobs, claims of him not deserving her and lots of hugs.

In the middle of the tears, the waiter delivered the mocktails they had ordered. At this point, all was forgotten and all 3 simultaneously took out their phones, took a picture of their drinks and (I presume) added them to social media, before putting their phones on the table and continuing to discuss their heartbreak, like this was just a natural course of action.

Because, clearly, it doesn’t matter what tragedy befalls you, it pales into insignificance when there is a possibility that your beverage may go ‘unshared’.

So, I am sharing mine.

After all, if your drink doesn’t have your toddler’s grubby pasta fingerprints all over it, is it even worth sharing?

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School Drop-Off Drama

I was dropping my little one off at nursery the other morning, which is on the same premises as a busy primary school in a residential area, so parking is always a bit tight.
He only goes one day a week, and I don’t always take the car, so it’s still new to us and I’m yet to become one of those expert parents who can turn up a minute before school starts and know exactly where they can find a space.
To my delight, I found a space close to the school so I pulled in, but soon realised that there were many overgrown trees close to the passenger’s side and I would have struggled to get my little one out of his car seat. I could see there was a space just a couple of metres down the road so I pulled back out and parked there instead. (There is a point to all this mundane detail, I promise!)
After I had dropped my boy off and returned to the car, I was confronted by an angry lady claiming that I had hit her car and ‘run away’. She pointed at some scuff marks on my car and said that there were also some on hers.
I apologised, explained that I hadn’t realised I had made contact with her car and gave her my details to pay for whatever damage had been done to hers.
Now, for most people, this would have sufficed but this lady had obviously watched a few too many episodes of The Bill in her day and clearly felt that this qualified her to conduct an interrogation.
She didn’t believe that I hadn’t realised that I’d scratched her car, and kept repeating that I had ‘run away’.
I am, undoubtedly, stupid, as I scraped a car and didn’t even realise, but even I am not stupid enough to do a ‘hit and run’, where both sides of the street were full of parents as potential witnesses, and ‘run away’ just a couple of metres down the road and then park up, with the owner of the car watching me from across the road. (I could see some women staring at me as I was pulling out, but assumed they were belittling my questionable parking skills.)

Further supposed proof of my guilt was that I had been ‘loitering’ at the bottom of the street once I had come out of the school grounds without any reasonable cause, other than to hide.
I had actually gone to buy sanitary towels from the Tesco Express that’s on the corner, realised I’d left my bag in the car and turned back around again. (Although I omitted this detail in my explanation to her, mostly because it was none of her business, but also for fear that she would want me to produce a bloodied tampon as evidence.)
She then thanked me for ruining her day and was off on her jolly way. I later got a text with a pretty steep quote for repair that also stated that police had been informed because I fled the scene of the crime.
I did feel like she was being unreasonably aggressive, but then she did believe that I had damaged her car and then went to great lengths to evade captivity, by moving just a couple of metres away with the owner of the car watching me, so perhaps that’s understandable (even if it is stupid).
What isn’t reasonable though is the conversation that took place between this lady and another one.
As I was making my way back towards my car, I noticed two women standing by my car and gesturing at me.
As they saw me approaching, one said:
‘She’s one of them. She probably won’t even speak English.’
While the lady who the car belonged to responded with:
‘It’s probably not even legal or got insurance.’
(I’m assuming ‘it’ was a reference to the car rather than me.)

They took one look at me, saw someone with brown skin that’s dressed a bit differently and assumed that I was an illiterate, criminal, immigrant. I’m about as ‘by the book’ as a person can be and, given that I am an English teacher (in theory more than in practice these days), I probably have a better command of the English language than the two of these imbeciles put together, so it’s almost laughable that they would assume these things.
Almost laughable.
Because I can’t help but wonder if they would make these same assumptions if I had been white. Certainly, they would have had unsavoury things to say about me, but would they really have assumed that an unfortunate accident was part of a criminal lifestyle where I drive stolen, uninsured cars and then feign ignorance to get out of it.
I very much doubt it.

It’s perfectly understandable that she was annoyed about the damage to her car and there are many acceptable ways of expressing justified annoyance, but throwing about casually racist stereotypes is not one of them.

I’m not accusing anyone of racism (the two of them may well be, but I’m not suggesting that our exchange is evidence of it), but they did have prejudicial views that affect how they see other people and these views are far more common in society than anyone is comfortable to admit. Especially when it comes to women who look and dress like me.
I’m not, by the way, claiming that the beholders of these prejudicial views are always white while the victims are always brown. Prejudice exists in all walks of life and across all societies. We all know that. But making assumptions and stereotyping entire groups of people based on trivial details is far too common and, more worryingly, far too accepted.

I doubt either of the Middle Class ladies I came across yesterday would consider themselves as having prejudicial views and I doubt they would proudly declare the stereotypes they believe to be true about other races in normal circumstances. Yet when one of them saw me and made a derogatory comment based on my skin colour and outfit, the other was quick to add that I was probably also a criminal too.
So,  I have some advice for these two ladies, which would probably benefit us all. The next time any of you see someone that’s a bit different to you, see them for what they are – a human being with flaws just like you and a life that is every bit as complicated and nuanced as yours. If they do something wrong, judge that one action instead of making assumptions about their entire lifestyle or seeing it as a typical trait of an entire race.

They may be your cup of tea, they may not, but you’ll only discover which is the case if you approach them and accept that they are made up of more than just a skin colour/religion/type of dress and you don’t know anything about them.
And to those people that have taken one look at me and made assumptions that perhaps I may be too daft to hold a conversation, or have links to the mafia like the delightful lady I met yesterday, let me tell you that it is completely and utterly your loss because I am a hoot, even if I do say so myself!

You Know You’re a Mum During Ramadhan When…

  1. You’re having caffeine withdrawal headaches. Let’s face it, a strong coffee or tea is a trusted companion of most mums, and not being able to have one whilst you SELRES_6e15bea4-2923-42ee-8bb0-8348393f94a7SELRES_d5579fee-4cb4-41c5-8419-8d06576eac6bprepare for warSELRES_d5579fee-4cb4-41c5-8419-8d06576eac6bSELRES_6e15bea4-2923-42ee-8bb0-8348393f94a7 get the kids ready and start the school-run takes some getting used to.

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2. You instantly regret not eating or drinking much at suhoor when you wake up feeling both hungry and thirsty and wonder how you’re going to get through the day (although it’s usually fine).

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3. Your iftaar meals become a little less elaborate and ambitious as the month goes on.

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4.You spend the day teaching your kids the importance of being kind and patient, but then lose your s*** (I mean sabr, of course!) over something as trivial as a misplaced sock because you’re soooooooo tired.

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5. You’re sooooooooo tired.

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6. Your fridge is suddenly full of fruit! You find yourself eating more fruit in this month than in the rest of the year combined.

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7. You have to stop yourself from licking your fingers or nibbling at something from the kids’ plates every time you give them something to eat.

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8. While you appreciate that it’s hard for your husband to go to work whilst fasting, you secretly resent him a little for being able to rest for a few hours when he gets back even though you both wake up at the same time.

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9. Kids’ bedtimes have suddenly become a little earlier and all bedtime rituals are now governed by what takes the least amount of time.

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10. The various forms of worship you do throughout the month have become a little more basic in comparison to what they were during the serene, pre-kids Ramadhans of yesteryear.

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(Though hopefully not quite as basic as this!)

How to Make an Engaging Ramadhan Calendar in Five Easy Steps

As Ramadhan is fast approaching, and in an attempt to get into the right frame of mind, I thought I would take a break from my usual pointless rants and do a blog post that may actually be considered useful.

My eldest is almost 5 and now takes an interest in learning new things. As I have started teaching her to read Arabic over the past year and she has started learning many of the short surahs from the Quran, I wanted to get her involved in Ramadhan this year. She’s obviously too young to fast, but I wanted to do something that would help create a sense of excitement and allow her to feel as though she was participating.

I did a ‘good deed jar’ a while back so she sees the importance of doing nice things and being good to others. We just decorated an old bolognaise jar:

jar

She gets to put a marble in the jar every time she does a ‘good deed’ and, once it’s full, she’ll get to choose a day out for us all. Although, knowing my luck, she’ll probably say she wants to go to somewhere like Disneyland and feel cheated when I say no.

It’s probably worth noting that, if you’re planning to do something similar, choose the size of your jar carefully. I think ours is perhaps too big as we started a couple of months ago and, although she has almost 30 marbles in it, it still looks like there’s hardly anything in there.

I’d seen a few online posts about Good Deed Calendars and thought doing something similar would be a good way of getting her involved and a good way of getting a few more marbles in the jar before she decides she doesn’t care about it any more. I decided I would take it a step further and include a short fact about Islam, as well as the good deed suggestion, and a treat for each day. Each of these would be placed in a small envelope and attached to the calendar. This way, she can look forward to opening them each day, will learn something new (even if she doesn’t remember the fact itself, it will still give us something to talk about and she’s bound to retain some of our conversation) and she’ll be getting involved by intending to do a good deed each day.

I wrote and drew pictures for the good deed cards myself. She’s only 4 so including pictures is important as it will help her work out what the card is asking her to do. If drawing isn’t your thing, or you just don’t have time, you can go on a site called mamateachesme.com and download a free printout with 30 good deeds – it’s what I used as inspiration for the 30 deeds I included.

The calendar itself can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. Mine took over an entire week of very late nights, after putting the kids to bed, to finish. I get that not everyone is in a position to be able to do that, but it can be easily adjusted and simplified so that it is less time consuming.

So, here’s how you can make your own:

STEP ONE – Decide what you are going to call it. I called mine, ’30 good deeds, 30 facts and 30 treats for 30 days of Ramadhan’. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, I know, but at least there’ll be no doubt about exactly what it is! And it’s better than my original thought of 30 good deeds, 30 facts and 30 treats for 29 or 30 days of Ramadhan depending on when the moon is sighted/whether you trust who sighted it/whether it can be seen in your particular country/what school of thought you follow/if you just want unity.

STEP TWO – Create a backdrop for the calendar. I did this:

calendar

It doesn’t have to be a picture though, it could be patterns or you could even just use coloured paper instead – it just depends on how creative you feel like being and how much time you have, so do whatever tickles your fancy! (What an incredibly strange phase!)

STEP THREE: Decide which 30 deeds and facts you are going to include and write/draw them into boxes, ensuring that they are not too big, as you need to fit 30 of them onto your calendar and they need to fit in the envelopes. Unfortunately, I’d already finished doing mine, cut them up and placed them inside envelopes by the time I had decided to do this blog post so I don’t have a picture of them all, but here’s an example of what I mean:

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Sorry about the writing. I laminated my fact cards so that they would last longer and I could use them for other purposes later on, but it means they don’t photograph very well.

If any of you are interested in knowing what I included for each day, I will be posting a photo of each fact and good deed on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/sarcasticmuslimmama) each day once my daughter has opened the envelope for that day.

STEP FOUR: Place a fact, a good deed and a treat (if you wish) into a small envelope and then write what day of Ramadhan it is for on the outside. Something like this:

envelope

STEP FIVE: Decide how you’re going to attach the envelopes to the calendar. The easiest thing to do would be to stick the envelopes directly onto the calendar. I decided to feed twine through holes that I’d placed on opposite sides and then attach the envelopes onto the twine using small, decorated pegs because I like to make life as difficult as possible for myself.

And voila! Here is your finished product:

finished calendar

If you choose to do it my way, you will need to add more sheets of paper/card to the back to make it stronger, as the weight of the envelopes on the string will make the calendar curve inwards.

May I also take this opportunity to wish all those that have subscribed/followed/liked/disliked/ignored my blog/Facebook page a very happy and blessed Ramadhan. May it be filled with barakah, gratitude, generosity and not too much bad breath! If you know, you know!

An Amateur’s Guide to Potty Training – Potty Training in 4 Steps

There’s lots of ups and downs when potty training a child. Your emotions will fluctuate between having high hopes to wishing you never started. Generally, you will feel something like this:

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I am in the process of potty training my youngest child and have found it so much easier than I did the last time around. I think I’ve supressed a lot of the memories from before, but I just remember saying, seeing, smelling, cleaning and getting stressed about wee and poo a lot.

We got there in the end, as does everyone eventually, but it wasn’t a particularly enjoyable time for either of us and I wish I had been more relaxed during the process.

Well, I have done it differently this time and it has been so much better for both of us. I know it can be daunting when you decide your child is ‘ready’ but then don’t really know how to go about it, so I’m sharing what worked for me in the hope that it may work for others of you too.

1) Potty or toilet seat:
I guess this decision will partly depend on how old/big the child is. My daughter wasn’t quite 2 when I started potty training her and was, quite literally, scared shitless of the toilet (she withheld poo for days on end).

I decided it was best that she started off on a potty. I bought her an all singing and dancing one that looked like a mini toilet, played a tune when she sat on it, had a sensor that detected faecal matter and provided a drumroll (which actually made her jump most of the time and meant that most of the aforementioned matter ended up on the floor), would say encouraging phrases when she got up without doing anything which I was usually too annoyed to do and even dispensed stickers.

Sounds great, right? Well, maybe it was to begin with, but the novelty soon wore off. It took my daughter 3 months to transition from a potty to a toilet and she refused to sit on anything else which meant that, FOR THREE WHOLE MONTHS, rather than lovingly carrying my child on any outing we went on, I had a small toilet attached to me hip instead!

Although, I do remember once taking her to use the potty in the public toilets at the park. After she had done a wee, the potty recognised her achievement with the phrase, “Well done, you did it! Don’t forget to flush and wash your hands!” At which point the lady in the cubicle flushed obligingly and rushed to the sink, whilst looking around very confused. So, it may have made me look like an utter twat every time I left the house, but at least it was entertaining!

Unsurprisingly, I decided to skip the potty stage this time. My son was a little afraid of the toilet seat to begin with, but I tried to get him used to it before potty training, so would just put him on there for about 30 seconds before bath times and he gradually began to hate it less  get used to it.

It also helped that he regularly saw a sibling using it because I think this makes it more normal. This is especially true when said sibling likes to leave the door wide open when using the downstairs bathroom opposite the glass panelled porch so that, not only can her brother see what she’s doing, but anyone walking past our house can too. The postman has been greeted with a straining faced waving child a few times.

2) Establish:
I accept that this method may not be for everyone, but I didn’t bother with pullups at home and immediately put him in pants.

According to potty training literature, choosing pants is supposed to a big, ceremonial occasion where you allow your child to choose his own pants, which represent his transition from toddler to little boy, and enables him to be involved in the decision-making process and even take a little control over it.

We went to Asda where I picked out some Batman pants and said, “Shall we get these?” to which he replied, “Quack! Quack!” and threw a lollipop at my head, so Batman it was!

Next comes the feral bit. You put them in their pants, or just leave them naked from the waist down, and let whatever happens happen. It’s probably best to keep them in one room at this stage and lay a sheet down over the carpet and some old towels on the sofa.

Tell him that he’s not going to wear a nappy anymore and that he’s going to use the toilet like you do. When he inevitably wets himself, you say, in your cheeriest voice, something along the lines of, “Well done for pissing all over yourself and my carpet doing a wee outside your nappy. Next time, let’s try to do in the toilet.”

I then let him just play as usual for the next couple of hours, saying the same drivel whenever he had an accident, but encouraging him to sit on the toilet every 40 minutes, or 20 minutes after a drink, for no more than a few minutes each time. I know it’s a bit weird, but I made a note of it every time he did anything. Something like this (excuse my son’s scribbles):

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It should help establish a pattern so you’ll know how long he can go without a wee or how soon after a drink he needs to go. It means that you don’t have to continuously say, “Do you need a wee?” which can quickly become tiresome for both of you, and he will probably start ignoring you if you say it too often.

I can imagine if someone repeatedly asked me that question,I’d find it quite irritating after a while. Although, if they did, thanks to a lack of pelvic floor exercises and the thought of a little rest, my answer would almost always be yes.

If your child is reluctant to sit on the toilet/potty, the wise ones suggest an incentive, such as stickers or marbles in a jar every time they go. They might lose interest after a couple of days, but hopefully by then they will be more willing anyway. By the end of the second day, my boy started putting the stickers in the toilet so I didn’t bother continuing with them after that.

There’s no need to hold your child hostage either. Short outings are fine but encourage a trip to the toilet before you go and as soon as you come back. I did put a pullup on at this stage but took it off as soon as we got home. If you are hardcore and go without a pullup, make sure you take spare pants, trousers and socks with you.

Likewise, going to the toilet before and after meals is probably a good idea too.

It’s very unlikely that there will be any lightbulb moment at this stage, so if you’ve managed to get him to understand that the toilet is for wees and poos and he’s happy to sit on it, even if he doesn’t do much/anything on there, you’ve done well. It’s funny what counts as an achievement when you’re a parent, isn’t it?

Now time to get the Dettol out!

3) Practise:
Because I could see that there was a gradual increase in the length of time between wees the day before, I waited an hour before taking him to the toilet on the second day, unless he’d had a substantial amount to drink. I added an extra 5 minutes to the wait each time to begin with but never let him go more than an hour and a half.

I let him play as normal throughout the day and we even went out to feed the ducks. I tried not to hover over him too much and just started looking for signs that he needed to go. It was very quick, but he would usually stop what he was doing, stick his bum out a little and have a glazed look on his face. As soon as I saw the beginnings of this process, I suggested, in my nicest voice, that we go to the toilet and the response was almost always, “No, I don’t like it!” At which point, I just picked him up and placed him on the toilet. Being nice all the time is far too exhausting!

The main aim for this day was to get more wees in the toilet than in the holy pants.

After doing a wee on the toilet, my boy started to say, “Finished Mama!” which told me that he knew what he was expected to do when he was on there so I was happy with the way things were going.

Success!

4) Reinforce:
The third day consisted of more of the same, really. I was still making a note of every wee and poo so had a good idea of when he needed to go.

During this day, he managed to tell me twice that he needed a wee. We’re on day 5 as I write this and he hasn’t told me again since, but I’m still pleased that we managed to achieve this. If he didn’t say anything, I took him to the toilet every two hours. He didn’t have any accidents throughout this day and did something every time I put him on the toilet so I knew that the hardest part of our potty-training journey was over.

In fact, I was basking in smugness over how well it was going that evening while I was reading a bedtime story to both kids. I noticed him starting to strain but, by the time I got to the bathroom, it was too late. Fortunately, he already had his night-time pullup on so there was no damage done.

I removed the soiled pullup, cleaned him and then sent him downstairs to tell his dad to put another one on whilst I continued to read to my daughter. I then heard the muffled sound of my husband’s voice, which went from sounding pleased to see him to screaming in horror.

My boy hadn’t been feeling too well that day and I had heard him coughing on the way down the stairs so assumed he had perhaps vomited. It turns out that was wishful thinking.

When I left my daughter’s room, I saw blobs of runny poo trickled the whole way down the staircase, which then descended into blobs of poo, spaced between poo footprints, across the hallway and culminated with a poo bum print on my husband’s clothes!

I’ve not been smug since except for when I saw there was a poo bum print on my husband’s clothes instead of mine.

Things to remember:

  • They will have good and bad days. It’s a completely new skill and it will take time for them to master it.
  • It is likely that, to begin with, there will be occasions where they will not do anything on the toilet and then wee on the floor as soon you take them off. It will make you want to scream into a pillow after they’ve done it a few times, but take comfort in the fact that you’re not doing anything wrong, all kids do it and they’re not doing it on purpose even though it will sometimes feel that way.
  • When they have accidents, remember that it’s only a little person’s wee you’re cleaning and it’s not a big deal. Keep telling yourself this until you actually believe it.
  • It may help to continue keeping a record for a while. On days where they have a few accidents, it can be easy to lose perspective and start thinking that things are worse than they actually are. If you can look at the record at the end of the day and see that they’ve done more in the toilet/potty than in their pants, things are going well.
  • All the generic potty training cliches: Waiting until they’ve shown signs of ‘readiness’ before you start, consistency is key – starting and stopping will only make the process longer, don’t start if they are going through any kind of change etc etc. They are cliches because they are true even though hearing them will make you want to poke the eyes out of the person saying them.

Forecast for the the next few months:

Mainly dry with the occasional showery spells.

The Mamalo’s Child on World Book Day

An alternative take on Julia Donaldson’s The Gruffalo’s Child

 

The Mamalo said that no child should,
Enter school on March 1st dressed as Red Riding Hood.
“Why not? Why not?” “Because if you do,
The World Book Day snobs will be after you.
I’ve seen them before,” said the Mamalo.
“On Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and Vimeo.”
“What are they like? Tell us, Mother.
Do they pretend to be friends whilst trying to outdo one another?”

“Where do I start?” The Mamalo said,
Hiding an Asda receipt for a costume under her bed.

“Red Riding Hood will not do, with a red cape and bow,
You must hand-stich a moustache to look like Edgar Allen Poe.
For there is no tale of greater woe,
Then of those who’ve been Harry Potter three years in a row.”

One snowy day, as Mamalo sighed with despair,
Over something about which the child couldn’t less care,
The Child explored the literary delights to be found,
Created by the competitive parents on the school playground.

The snow fell fast and the wind blew wild.
“Why am I dressed like this, again?” asked the Mamalo’s Child.

Aha! Oho! A dark reflection in the snow!
What nuanced interpretation of literature will it bestow?
Contrasting materials and reflective thingymabob,
Could this be the work of the Big Bad Snob?

Around turned the child, clearly not one of the pros,
As his tribute to Funny Bones was just his skeletal night clothes.
“You’re not the Snob?” “No, my mum thinks this day is crap, to be honest.
But the Snob’s over there, claiming her efforts are just modest.”

The snow fell fast and the wind blew wild.
“Why am I dressed like this, again? Asked the Mamalo’s Child.

Aha! Oho! A prop in the snow!
Accessories are a must, didn’t you know?
Bright colours and sequins – a domesticated person’s job.
Could this be the work of the Big Bad Snob?

A blue dress, a bow and some old crockery,
A last-minute Alice resourced by lost property.
“You’re not the Snob?!” “Oh no, not quite.
She’s run off in a panic over a broken fairy light.”

The snow fell fast and the wind blew wild,
“Why am I dressed like this again?” asked the Mamalo’s Child.

Aha! Oho! A ghost costume in the snow!
Another ‘family project’ that was done solo?
No paper mache or crafty treat,
Just a freshly salivated on white bed sheet.

“You’re not the snob.” “No, she’s wearing colours that are assorted,
Combing the wool that she’s had especially imported.”

“It’s all just a trick!” Said the Mamalo’s Child,
As she bumped into a six-year-old Oscar Wilde.
“I don’t believe in the Big Bad Snob…
But here’s someone that’s done a mediocre job!
Not great, not terrible, but the kind of result
That could possibly warrant a thinly veiled insult.

“Wait, wait, wait! Before you mock,
Let me show you something that’s sure to shock.”
The Child spied a glue gun clenched in her fist.
“The Big Bad Snob – so she does exist!”
“Just let me hop on to this deserving platform
And I’ll show the result of a five-page brainstorm.”

Out came the sun, it was bright and round.
An overcompensating shadow fell onto the ground.

Who is this creature so perfectly groomed?
The facial hair so lifelike – from the corpse it was exhumed.
The outfit’s beautifully tailored, every seam a hand-stitch,
It takes the attention away from the boy’s new nervous twitch.
Commanding attention; a bestower of sight
Because attached to the coat are flashing fairy lights.
Boasting superior knowledge and skills- a brilliant conjunction.
What does is matter if the child’s starting to malfunction.
Oh help! Oh no!
It’s an illuminated Edgar Allen Poe!

 

#Worldbookday

 

 

 

 

Helicopter Mums and Carefree Dads

There is one argument that occurs regularly in our household. Actually, there are quite a few:

 

“You don’t change enough nappies!”

 

“You don’t help out enough around the house!”

 

“The bathroom always smells like something died and has been decomposing for a month, every time you go in there!”

 

But to avoid delving into the intricacies of what could be perceived as a dysfunctional marriage, I’m just going to focus on one for the purpose of this post: “You don’t help when it comes to disciplining the kids!”

 

In our house, I am the only one who enforces rules, I am the master of routines and the only parent that says “no” when there is a need for it (and sometimes when there isn’t a need, but being a mum can be stressful and unjustifiable aggression is an unfortunate consequence).

 

Dad, on the other hand, is a shameless Yes Man. If the kids don’t want to eat something I’ve spent two hours making, “It’s fine. They can just have a sandwich.” If they don’t want to go to bed on time, “It’s ok. Going to sleep half an hour later each day isn’t going to make any difference.” If our four-year-old makes excuses every night for a week so she can sleep in our room, “What difference does it make where she sleeps, as long as she sleeps?” And, of course, the only way to stop tears and tantrums is by giving them whatever they want.

 

It drives me crazy! I feel like I’m always the MC (Master of Constant-acrimony) while Dad gets to be the DJ (Dumb Joker) at the party where I’m always having the least amount of fun.  In his defence, when things go too far, and he can’t get the kids to listen when he needs them to, he’ll graciously step aside and let me deal with it on his behalf.

 

As much as it frustrates me, I’ve come to realise that I couldn’t be like Dad even if I wanted to be.

Not too long ago, there was a documentary on Channel 4 called Feral Families about parents who follow a No Rules Parenting approach.

 

These parents had pulled their kids out of school, allowed them to eat what they want, when they want it, sleep when they want and basically do what they like 24/7. At first, I was as aghast as any uptight, self-congratulatory mum would be and, to be honest, it seemed many of the families on the show had opted for the approach because it allowed them to not have to face the more challenging aspects of parenting.

 

At one point, however, I saw an eight-year-old ask her mum if she could shave off her hair and witnessed her mum compliantly hand her some electric hair trimmers without any hesitation. The mum explained that she had taught her daughter how to use them safely and that she would learn more from being able to make her own decisions; If it ends up not looking nice, she will think twice before acting on impulse again, but if she likes it then there’s no reason why she shouldn’t do it as children have a right over their own bodies.

 

I remember hearing all this against a backdrop of half-naked kids sliding down stairs on mattresses at midnight and being surprised at the fact that I actually agreed with her.

I thought about how much more relaxed our household would be if I didn’t hover over every decision that needs to be made, insist that things need to be done in a particular way and allowed the kids to have more of a say in the decisions that affected them (or even any kind of say in anything).

 

I decided that I would try I would try to take a more hands-off parenting approach and promised that I would allow the children to make more of their own decisions…I didn’t say it out loud, of course, because that would mean I could be held to account for my intentions, and I wouldn’t want that, but just to myself in a completely self-appeasing and pointless way.

 

I have to admit, the next morning, I felt like a different person. When my four-year-old woke up at 5am and insisted to go downstairs and watch TV, I allowed it thinking that when she gets tired during the day because she hasn’t had enough sleep, she’ll see for herself that going downstairs so early wasn’t a good idea.

 

I even managed to suppress a fit when my youngest smeared bum cream all over his bedroom wall believing that when he sees how he’s ruined his beloved dinosaur wall display, he’ll know not to do it again.

 

There was a genuine sense of peace in the house and it wasn’t just the atmosphere that had changed; I was calm, level-headed, open-minded and softly-spoken… and it lasted all of one hour!

 

It took my toddler spilling half a bowl of Coco Pops on me 10 minutes before school starts and my daughter having an uncontrollable meltdown just as we were walking out of the door because she decided that she wanted sandwiches, despite insisting on having school dinners when asked just half an hour earlier, for me to resort to a more ‘traditional’ parenting style and tell my daughter that she was having a school dinner or going hungry.

 

On the way to school, in a haze of green from the snot that was streaming from my daughter’s nose, who was still crying because she felt desperately hard-done-by, and the stench of curdled milk coming from my clothes, I realised that No Rules Parenting just wasn’t for me.

 

Was I really expecting my four-year-old to take responsibility for her own tiredness? This is the same child who once insisted that she didn’t need a hat, gloves or a scarf to play in the snow and then blamed me for allowing the snow to be so cold. Or was I expecting the child, that once deliberately stepped in dog poo and then ran inside to make and admire the footsteps he created on the carpet, to give a duck’s butt about bedroom interior design?

 

To be frank, I found being hands-off far more stressful than being hands-on. Children live in the present, they only think about what would make them happy in any given instant, they don’t worry about what’s in their best interest but just about what they think they want and, while this is part of the unparalleled beauty of children, it makes them notoriously bad at making decisions. As dictatorial as it sounds, most of the time, they need someone to make those decisions for them.

 

And as much as it would make my life easier to give into the occasional tantrum or not follow a routine some days, I always worry that giving in sometimes will mean the kids testing me all the time so I don’t.

 

Luckily, I don’t have to because they already have a parent that’s always ready to give in. While it deeply frustrates me most of the time, and it means that the kids very rarely listen to their dad, I’ve come to realise that to function as a ‘normal’ family, it’s necessary to have that balance in a household to allow the children to feel as though as they can escape the routine sometimes and for Dad to be able to enjoy the little time he gets to spend with them.

 

He really just isn’t very good at the whole disciplining children thing. He was once forced to look after the kids alone for a few days while I was away and realised, the hard way, that he couldn’t be Fun Dad all the time if he wanted the kids to do what he told them to.

 

I returned to find my daughter in a crying heap because her dad threatened to chop off the heads of all her dolls because she wouldn’t stop jumping off the sofa. When I questioned whether this was a proportionate response, he refused to back down because he had gotten so worked up. He then spent the entire next day apologising to her because he felt so guilty.

 

I know it’s not ideal, but I have happy, healthy and (reasonably) well behaved kids and, while I take most of the credit for that, I have to accept that they wouldn’t be as happy if they didn’t know they could bend the rules sometimes.

So if, like me, you are fed up of always being the villain, just accept that constant popularity is just another sacrifice you’re making that will benefit your children in the long run.

Besides, if me and Dad we were always on the same page about parenting, who on earth would I blame for everything?

 

 

The Trouble With Losing Weight

I have struggled with my weight for quite some time now. Perhaps the term ‘struggled’ is misleading. What I mean is that, for years now, I have consistently eaten far more than I need to, eaten foods that contain my weight in sugar and my idea of exercise has been walking to the fish and chip shop.  I then ‘struggle’ to come to terms with the number that comes up on the scales.

 

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Historically, I was slim; skinny, in fact. It’s not because my diet was any better  and I have always had a big appetite– I could just eat what I wanted and never gained weight… What an utterly annoying bastard I was!

But then I got older, I became less active, my metabolism slowed down and I have mental images of my insides exploding due to them being overfilled and kebabs leaking out of the seams, which is what has caused all the lumps and bumps.

It’s something that has got worse since my daughter started nursery. She goes for three hours a day and my boy is usually asleep for a lot of that time. This then becomes the only time in the day when I can watch a little TV, not have to hide behind the sofa to eat chocolate and/or eat a meal in peace where I don’t have to keep getting up to fetch things, mop up spills, have little fingers in my food because the food in my plate is better even though it’s exactly the same as theirs or have to stop to pick out anything with any colour. The other day, I had to remove what turned out to be a mostly eaten chip from my daughter’s plate because it looked too much like sweetcorn. It’s the only time of day when I actually get to enjoy my food so, naturally, I end up eating the entire time!

I have tried to lose weight countless times, whereby I strive to eliminate sugary and fatty foods, find alternatives to unhealthy snacks and eat my five-a-day.  The problem with eating this way is that is not enjoyable. I don’t mind eating  a salad for lunch or having a grilled piece of meat with a side of vegetables for dinner, but it means that I am simply eating so that there is something in my stomach and there is no pleasure in it because, essentially, you’re eating the type of food they throw to the monkeys at the zoo.

I can usually maintain it for about five weeks, but I don’t lose much weight in that time, then end up getting frustrated and eventually allow bad habits to slowly creep in. For the past few years now, my life has been a continuous cycle of losing four pounds and subsequently gaining six.

The thing is, I’ve never been massively concerned about losing weight. Partly because I am tall so I can carry it better than most, partly because I wear shapeless clothes so other people don’t notice as much and partly because the picture I have of myself in my head clearly uses a Snapchat filter and never looks that bad.

However, I made a horrible discovery the other week when I weighed myself and realised that I was the same weight that I had been at the end of  my pregnancy with my daughter. To put that into context, the extra fat that I was carrying around has the equivalent weight of a small human in a sack of water.

I was determined to make a lasting change this time so, rather than cutting everything out, I would introduce a number of small changes to my diet over a long period of time and still allow myself the occasional treat so I’m not just eating monkey food all the time.

Also, unlike my previous attempts, I had decided that I would incorporate regular exercise. I had always been quite active growing up so there was no reason I couldn’t be like that again. Well, the baby in the sack may make things a little more difficult, but we’ll put that issue to one side for now.

In a bid to include exercise in my daily routine, something that my previous weight loss attempts had been lacking, I bought a zumba DVD and decided that I would go for a jog along the nearby canal every day. The zumba part was fine, apart from the first day I tried it. After not having done any rigorous exercise since I’d had my children, I was unable to move my legs for quite some time afterwards. But I actually quite enjoy it now.

The jogging part was a little more difficult.  For those of you that know me personally, I’m sure the thought of me jogging has produced some hilarious mental images, and so it should! For a start, what does someone like me wear to go jogging? Why, my husband’s trainers, tracksuit bottoms and a hoody fastened tightly around my head so I don’t have to wear a scarf, of course.

There were just a few small problem with this. The first day I went jogging, it was 24 degrees outside and I was already sweating by the time I got to the canal. Actually,  I was sweating by the time my husband had finished laughing at what I was wearing.

Next,  I had recently watched a video posted on Facebook of a Muslim man, wearing multiple layers of clothing, being publicly handcuffed and searched because he had been running to the mosque, as he was late for Friday prayers, and someone had called 999, reporting a potential terrorist.

Aware that I too probably looked like a man wearing multiple layers, and not wanting this to happen to me, not least because there was a old, funsized Bounty in the pocket  of my jogging bottoms that would make them doubt my explanation as to why I was running, as well as question my housekeeping, I tried to compensate by smiling at everyone that went passed.

However, I hadn’t taken into account that I was incredibly hot due to wearing winter clothes whilst jogging in summer heat, that my face had turned purple, that I was incredibly unfit and felt like I was going to die about three minutes into it and that, bearing all this in mind, my attempted smile probably gave the impression that I was having a stroke. Forget the police, I’m surprised that no one called me an ambulance!

In the end, I only jogged when I saw someone coming and walked the rest of the time. I even pretended to be out of breath a couple of times.

I’ve always been someone that’s never cared about what other people think of the way I look, but having a little more of me on display than usual made me feel a little more insecure. I jogged when I saw someone coming because I didn’t want anyone to think that I was out of shape and doing something out of the ordinary… because it’s not like the baby in the sack would have given that away(!) Even then I was paranoid that people were laughing at me.

It took me a few days to overcome this and think, Yes, I am overweight, but I am doing something about it and if someone finds that funny, they are welcome to laugh because I am not doing it for their benefit!

I should probably mention that if you are planning to start jogging, it’s probably best to plan the route you’re going to take. I had just said that I would go the distance of the canal, not realising that it is called the Leeds Liverpool Canal because it goes from Leeds to Liverpool! I had been ‘jogging’ for almost 3 miles before I realised that it wasn’t going to end anytime soon and then had to make the long journey back.

If you’re wondering how it’s going, I kept it up until I injured me knee, which I continued to ignore  until the pain became so unbearable that I couldn’t even walk on it. In hindsight, I probably pushed myself too hard and put too much pressure on my body especially given how heavy I was. I fully intend to resume once I have recovered, albeit at a gentler pace but… damn that baby in the sack!

The Mamalo

An alternative take on Julia Donaldson’s The Gruffalo, featuring all the things that turn us mamas into angry monsters.

Mamalo

 

A child took a stroll, throwing everything he could,
A dad saw the child while not doing what he should.

Where are you going to, small, messy child?
Let’s play catch close to where these dishes are piled.
“It’s terribly kind of you, Dad, but no –
I’m going to play with the Mamalo.”
The Mamalo? What’s a Mamalo?
“A Mamalo! Why, didn’t you know?”

“She’s easily irritated
And she’s always hot,
And when things aren’t done,
she shouts a lot.”

Where is she now?”
“Complaining about your thoughtlessness on the phone,
Threatening to break a part of you that is without a bone!”
The part without a bone? I’d better be on guard.
I wonder if I should play the ‘I’ve been at work, unlike you, all day’ card.

“Silly old Dad! Doesn’t he know,
There’s no such thing as a Mamalo?”

On went the child, throwing everything he could,
An older sibling saw the child while not doing what she should.

Where are you going to, little bro? Watch where you tread!
Let’s ignore the mess I’ve made and watch YouTube instead.
“That’s frightfully nice of you, sis, but no –
I’m going to sit with the Mamalo.”
The Mamalo? What’s a Mamalo?
“A Mamalo! Why, didn’t you know?”

“Messy rooms make her stomp,
shaking the fat on her thighs,
She’s strong enough to carry eight heavy bags,
Including the two under her eyes!”

Where is she now?
“Pulling the head off a Barbie,
While making a plan to cancel your party.”
“Cancel my party? I’ll tidy the Megablocks,
But first I’ll finish watching someone take a toy out of a box.”

“Silly old Sis! Doesn’t she know,
There’s no such thing as a Mamalo?”

On went the child, throwing everything he could.
The TV caught his attention, the way it should.

“Hey, you old fart! Life insurance you should buy,
So you don’t burden others when you selfishly die!”
“That’s wonderfully good of you, TV, but no –
I’ll be sure to tell the Mamalo though.”
The Mamalo? What’s a Mamalo?
“A Mamalo! Why, didn’t you know?”

“She’s extremely tall,
Her tummy wobbles like jelly,
When it shows things she dislikes,
She swears at the telly.”

“Where is she now?”
“Sitting on the toilet and I spied
Her angrily flicking through the TV Guide.”
“A TV guide? Who still uses those?
Oh dear! She’ll have spotted all the scheduled Muslim documentary shows.”

“Silly old TV! Doesn’t it know,
There’s no such thing as a Mamal…

…Oh!”
But who is this creature who’s flustered and hot?
Her voice is hoarse because she’s been shouting a lot,
She’s stomping and wobbling and has bags under her eyes;

Upon seeing all the mess, she huffs and she sighs.

She’s tall and her tummy wobbles like jelly,
She’s mumbling swearwords now she seen what’s on telly.

“Oh help! Oh no!
It’s a Mamalo!”

Let’s get changed,” the Mamalo said.
It’s time for you to go to bed.
“Maybe later, but before I do,
I want you to see I’m in charge of all you.
Just walk behind me and soon you’ll see,
I can get anyone to listen to me.”
All right,” said the Mamalo, bursting with laughter.
You go ahead and I’ll follow after.”

They walked and walked till the Mamalo said,
I hear the moron with the spotty bag ahead.
“It’s the TV,” said the child. “Why, TV, hello!”
The TV took one look at the Mamalo.
Switching off due to inaction,” was the message it showed,
And, quick as a flash, went into standby mode.

“You see?” said the child. “I told you so.”
Amazing!” said the Mamalo!

They walked some more till the Mamalo said,
I hear talk of mashems and fashems ahead.”
“It’s Big Sister,” said the child. “Why, sis, hello!”
His sister took one look at the Mamalo.
Goodbye, YouTube! Time to call it a day!”
And she quickly began to put her blocks away.

“You see?” said the child. “I told you so.”
Astounding!” said the Mamalo.

They walked some more till the Mamalo said,
I hear the rustling of a crisp packet ahead.”
“It’s Dad,” said the child. “Why, Dad, hello!”
Dad took one look at the Mamalo.
I’m going! I’m going!” Dad said, against his wishes,
And reluctantly picked up his dirty dishes.”

“Well, Mamalo,” said the child. “You see?
Everybody listens to me!
Now if there is something that you’d like me to do,
It will cost you a chocolate biscuit or two.”
A chocolate biscuit? That’s a small price to pay,
If it means you’ll go to bed when I say.”

The house went quiet and all because
The child got his own way, like he always does.

 

 

 

Why You Should Never Trust a Man That Uses a Map

'We're supposed to be going to Cornwall! That sign back there said 'Welcome to Scotland'!'

In an era of satellite navigation, no one under the age of 50 really ever uses maps anymore and many of us wouldn’t even know how to, should the need arise.

The other day, while I was at a local orienteering event with the kids at the National Trust garden close to where we live, I looked around and was amused by the gender stereotypical, almost cartoon-like, behaviours of some of the mums and dads.

One particular mum was clearly flustered and couldn’t seem to determine which way around the map should be held, before her irritated husband snatched the map off her and, without even looking at it, confidently led his family away in the wrong direction.

If you’re wondering how I fared, I took one look at the task sheet and then gave it one of the event organisers, telling her that I only brought the kids to feed the ducks and didn’t have enough time, otherwise I would have loved to join in. However, the event did remind me of an incident that took place in my youth.

Back in the day, I used to have enviable career prospects and worked in the highbrow establishment that is Primark. During the wintery evenings, when I would walk home in the dark, for a few weeks I kept coming across the same aging gentleman who would be sitting in his car, and would ask me to look at his map and give him directions to local points of interest that were close by.

Given that I could never even determine where we were on the map, I would always proceed by giving verbal directions whilst waving my arms and pointing at landmarks that couldn’t actually be seen from where we were standing. (FYI, I have a comically bad sense of direction. One of the students that I tutor lives about 2 miles away from me and the journey is mainly one straight road with only two turns to take, yet I had been tutoring him every week for almost two months before I felt that I knew the route well enough to not use my TomTom.)

This kept happening, every few days for a couple of weeks. I did think it was strange that he always insisted that I point things out on the map he had, even when the locations that he was seeking were always so close to where we were, and sometimes they were literally around the corner, but I quietly congratulated myself on how my direction-giving skills must be exceptional and thought nothing much of it.

On one particular evening, I had spotted the man’s car from afar and noticed that at least five other people had walked passed him, but he hadn’t asked any of them for directions.

Predictably, when he saw me approaching, he rolled down his window (remember those days?) and asked me. After pointing out that the place he was looking for was just further down the same street, and him still insisting that I show him on the map, being the astute person that I am, I realised that there was something strange about his behaviour and decided I was going to walk away.

As I straightened myself back up after leaning into the car window, my hand knocked down the map and I noticed that the man was holding something that looked like raw meat.

I remember thinking how unhygienic it was to handle raw meat in that way and walked off.

I’d been walking for about half a mile when I saw a poster advertising a portion of chips with a sausage for £1 in a chip shop window and it FINALLY dawned on me that the type of meat the man was handling was unhygienic for altogether different reasons.

He had been exposing himself to me on multiple occasions and I had been so busy showing off my knowledge of the slum streets of the city centre that I hadn’t even noticed.

Not only that, but I had been facilitating his thrills by pointing things out on the map and had continued to do this on no less than 6 separate occasions! What’s worse is that, despite him targeting me before, I greeted him with a smile and enthusiastically complied each time!

Part of me thinks he hit the jackpot when he met me and it’s no wonder he didn’t bother stopping anyone else who walked passed him that evening, as I doubt he had ever come across such an accommodating victim.

Another part actually feels a little bad for him. I’m guessing that men who expose their bits to women do so for the instant gratification they receive upon seeing the victim’s reaction. This poor chap had to wait two weeks for me for me to even see it and, even then, it wasn’t until I was half way home and saw a picture of a photoshopped banger that I realised what it was. What an incredibly arduous process it turned out to be for him!

PS: You may well laugh, but you should also know that it is not easy being me!