Monday, 11 April 2011


Attitude. Urrgh!

It is such a small and inadequate word to describe the most rage making and sometimes baffling behaviour. Indeed, I am sure that when I say to my daughter, "..and less of your attitude!", she has no idea what it is I am referring to. Of course, she is only five, but even so. I had expected to encounter this kind of behaviour, but was confident that I had another ten years or so to prepare myself. I mean, where does it come from? I do understand that for a youngster there is an awful lot to assimilate and contend with on a day to day basis, there are a multitude of frustrations and obstacles that must be overcome and dealth with, parents amongst them. At my absolute parenting best I can overlook a minor display of attitude after considering all the aforementioned. Life, even for a five year old, can be difficult and confusing.

However, how can a totally innocent and calmly spoken comment or request trigger the avalanche of attitude I am occasionally, (but altogther too frequently) met with? For example, I say " How are you doing darling? Oh well done, dont forget to put your tights on." Does she say, "Ok mummy." and smile? No. She says, "Ohhh! I'm doing it! "
Not too bad you might think, but the "Ohhh!" comes out as a loud exorcist type growl in a rising crescendo, culminating in "I'm doing it!" at ear splitting volume and accompanied by much thrashing and throwing of objects. Okaay.

Well, in the face of such an unexpected outburst I was, believe it or not, speechless. No longer was I basking in the warm glow of the words, "Mummy, you are amazing." which had been lovingly spoken just a few minutes before. No, I have been toppled from my parenting pedestal and am now, inexplicably, the enemy. I am at once fuming and flabergasted. After a moments silent consideration, my instinct is to pick up the thrown objects and loudly throw them back, expressing my confusion and hurt at such an angry and unnecessary display. However, not being five, but considerably older and supposedly wiser, I instead opt for a slightly injured, not quite shouted response and swiftly depart before I revert to childish remonstrations.

How can such fury and contempt issue forth from the most angelic little mouth? Somehow, this 'thing' is capable of transforming a pleasant, calm, well behaved offspring into something which is almost unrecognisable. Again, on a good day, I am able to watch the manifestation of 'attitude' from a detached and scientific standpoint, noting the subtle difference between a tantrum, which, mericfully are now a rare occurence, and true attitude with its heady mix of rage, contempt and frustration. No other behaviour has me feeling as angry, hurt and confused. The one consolation I can see is that by the time I do experience the dreaded teenage version of this most challenging phenomenon, I will have had plenty of practice in dealing with it. So there.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Dogs versus Children

Feeling the pressure of my public to publish another post and distinctly lacking in inspiration, I was growing desperate. And then, boom! It came to me. I was having one of those days, well, in truth I had had about three consecutive 'one of those days' and I began yet another walk up to the school seriously questionning the comparative benefits of children and dogs. Of course, being completely masachistic I have both, but I was beginning to wonder whether we should have contented ourselves with four legged dependents as opposed to the deceptively angelic and large mouthed bipeds.

Let us consider each case in turn.


My dad, bless him used to say that it was impossible to convince childless couples of the advantages of having children. When you think about it, this would appear to be true. On call 24 hours a day, spending money like it's going out of fashion, sleepless nights, repeated and unrealistic demands, incesssant, meaningless chatter and stress levels through the roof. This improves slightly when they grow a bit, chatter, though still incessant becomes slightly less meaningless, negotiation features slightly more when meeting demands and they have that most wonderful of things, a BED TIME. Stress levels may soar throughout the day, but you know if you can just hang on in there, that come 7pm, (or 6.30pm if the day is particularly taxing), you will be able to return your settee to its intended shape and purpose. Not only that, you will be so blissfully happy to just be sitting down by yourself, you find yourself actually enjoying 'Cowboy Builders'.

A pretty reliable barometer of the success or otherwise of our day is whether or not the children are in their pyjamas when my husband returns home from work at 5.30pm. This is likely to have been the kind of day where I couldn't wait to get them to school, missed them the instant I dropped them off, planned something special for them after school and then, after enduring the bickering and tears which begin the instant we are reunited, wanted to take them straight back.

Or swap them for a couple of greyhounds.


Dog ownership is a wonderful thing. It has been demonstrated that the health of dog owners is improved by their four legged friends and the strength of bond between them is so strong it rivals that of mother and child. Hmmm.

Unlike children, dogs are pretty much happy whatever. Whatever you say to your dog it will look at you with an expression that says, "Yeah! Great! What a brilliant idea!" Dogs do not moan about getting dressed because, blissfully, they come fully clothed. They actually like walking and will not throw a hissy fit because you didn't bring the car. In terms of food, a dog will love you for just simply feeding it, anything. They never ask to go to McDonalds and do not need nagging to use their knife and fork. You can allow your dog to eat in whatever way it chooses safe in the knowledge that you are not condemning it to a future life of social isolation and ridicule. They let you have a cup of coffee. They might even cuddle up next to you while you drink it, but will refrain from pulling your hair, poking your squidgy bits or blocking your view of the tele with their head. Dogs are so wonderfully silent. Even if they do give you attitude, it's actually kind of cute and it doesn't have you reaching for the anger management books.

So, on the face of it, it would appear our canine companions emerge victorious. But do they? It's true, they do all of the above and they love you no matter what, but they cannot make you little mispelled notes of apology and cautiously slide them under your door, or make such innocently profound observations that it is at once both amazing and a little sad. As far as I know, no dog has appeared in a school nativity play where an angel loses her plimsoll and the camels head falls off. Dogs cannot, when shown a crescent moon, remark sadly that the moon is broken and while they will love you to the last wag of their tail, they cannot belly laugh with you over a silly, family-understood-only phrase.

So, I am forced to admit, as I look forward to another week of trudging up to school with two reluctant and increasingly argumentative offspring, that as much as I love my dogs and would indeed like to add another greyhound, that our decision to reproduce was indeed the right one.

(Of course, if you ask me again on Friday, I may be forced to reconsider.).

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Poem of the day

Time alone can grant me leave
to cut this putrid chord,
whose stench now overwhelms me
with your dull and spiteful words.

And your parody of friendliness!
A thinly veiled sham.
Thank God I found my reason
and replaced you with a man.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Poem of the day: Untitled

Yes of course we have a table sir,
or we'll find one, as it's you.
You told us you were coming?
Well if you're sure, it must be true.

Would sir care to see the menu?
Sir, this is your usual chair.
No of course I'll find another,
we are nothing if not fair.

Your starter sir? A splendid choice,
would you like Confusion with your Pain?
Or a sprinkling of the finest Guilt,
with a side order of Shame?

I don't believe you've tried the Conscience sir,
but correct me if I'm wrong.
Oh, too bitter for your palate?
It's flavour is a little strong.

Oh I see, it is the aftertaste
which lingers for a while.
In that case sir, may I suggest
a large glass of Denial.

And for your main course? Loneliness,
with Torment on the side.
Of course sir, would you like your Tears
boiled, baked or fried?

Now, for dessert, I think you'll find
we've added to the list.
It's Love sir, very sweet to taste...
Remove it? Of course, if you insist.

You're not leaving us already sir?
Oh no problem, pay next time.
and yes, it was my own mistake
that made you spill your wine.

Oh sir, it is too awful,
what bad manners I have showed.
Perhaps then, sir would care to take,
some Ego for the road.

Written 2000

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Birthday Party (or not)

Recently, that wonderful but dreaded time of my daughters birthday raced toward me. Not only did I have to adjust to her becoming a whopping five years old,(five! Already!) such a momentous occassion could not of course be allowed to slip quietly by in a quiet, dignified and 35 year old way. Oh no. There must be a party. Or must there? Competition amongst parents is fierce when it comes to birthday parties. Get it wrong and you find yourself suddenly ostracised at the school gates. If, on the other hand you carry it off as a big-hearted-eco-friendly-domestic goddess, you may claim your rightful place as the object of all envy.
As the big day came thundering toward me with, it seemed gathering momentum and great expectation, (hers, not mine), I considered the options.

1. No Celebration. Unthinkable even for a grumpy, unsentimental person such as myself.

2. Wacky Warehouse. Again unthinkable, but for entirely different reasons. I have been to Wacky Warehouse more times than I care to remember and every time, after about ten seconds of stepping through the door, I ask myself why I thought going there was such a great idea. It can only be sheer desperation that would cause an otherwise sane individual, (that is I), to voluntarily submit themselves to what is basically a massive sensory overload. Why would I think that if two children are driving me mad, going somewhere where there are a hundred squealing young is the answer? True, I can drink a relatively hot cup of 'coffee' undisturbed and if all I want to do is drink and stare dumbly at the wall then fair play. Concentration is impossible and should I be lucky enough to have the company of another half crazed mother, conversation is equally difficult, frequently punctuated as it is by piercing screams, indeed once, one of them was mine. Not only that, but I cant quite completely relax and spend every five minutes or so frantically scanning ball pools and slides searching for the offspring. At least, I used to scan every five minutes, since watching several seaons of 'Criminal Minds' back to back, my paranoia has reached new levels and I now scan every two.
Clearly then, the wacky party was a definite no.

3. The home based party. Ermm, I did consider this and not too briefly either, but in the end, this too was discarded as a fitting way to celebrate the beginning of our girls sixth year. A party at home requires not only more and more imaginative ways to play musical statues/bumps/chairs, but also the dreaded Party Bag. Our kids love party bags. When they receive an invitation to a party they are already anticipating the inevitable mass produced plastic content contained therein, just as I am as quick to breathe a sigh of relief that it isnt a 'funhouse' party. No, if I was going to do party bags I would want to put into them proper gifts, gifts that would last longer than thirty minutes and that hadnt necessarily been made in China. I would put in gifts that would not cause parents to say "Wow" in a dead monotone, or cause them to worry about spills, stains or E numbers. If our kids gave out party bags, they would be filled with quality items that would entertain and endure. No matter that the cost of such wondrous offerings would mean they were permitted only one guest, it would be the prada of the party bag.
You see then the dilemma. Our daughter would shortly turn five, the magic number where it seems her independence and knowledge of the world has instantaneously quadrupled and I am being told constantly to "stop fussing." I had to think of something fast.
And then it came to me in a rare moment of clarity. She would not mind how much the party, (or not) cost. She wouldnt remember if little Chardonnay had had exactly the same party the year before and she certainly wouldnt care whether I bought party bags or made them myself with my teeth out of handmade paper. I had had the most revolutionary birthday celebration idea. Minimal cost, zero imported plastic and maximum offspring satisfaction. Playing. Would you believe, children love it. It's free, it makes them happy and they get to choose the games and the themes. Call me a rebel, but I refused to compete, scoffed at the idea of mini carrier bags filled with tat and instead watched proudly as our daughter and her closest friends, (at that time) had fun, inside and out, upstairs and down with hardly any adult interference. At the critical moment when the birthday girl was inclined to become a little diva-ish turning her guests into faithful puppies with a swish of her sparkly pink wand, a scrumptious tea was served. No celebraton would be complete without jelly and ice cream not to mention the pink pony birthday cake which very nearly wasnt.
And have I been shunned at the school gate? Not yet, although neither am I an object of envy. I am instead the mother of a five year old little girl who giggled her way through her birthday.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010


The kids and I have recently returned from a visit to Grans house. Nothing unusual about that you might think, but this particular Gran resides on the Isle of Lewis. For those whose geography is as good as mine, that's an island off the left side of Scotland. Of course, you could drive up and take the ferry if you were either travelling alone or barking mad, but we find it easier and happier to fly. For reasons I do not entirely understand, this involves two flights, one to Edinburgh or Glasgow and then another flight onto Stornoway. For sheer practicality and preservation of sanity, I only ever take one case. Everything for me and the children simply must fit into one suitcase and really it is surprising how there always seems to be just a little more room for those last minute essentials; toothpaste, toothbrushes, day cream and a selection of lipsticks to match every possible outfit.
One bag of hand luggage and we were ready for the off! But no. The children appeared at the car clutching all manner of soft toys, blankets and quality freebies from McDonalds. Hmmm. Paddy at the car, or paddy at the airport? We really had to go so we chose airport. Luckily the distraction of the airport and the excitement of the ensuing adventure meant they didn't notice they had left half their stuff in the car.
After checking about a hundred times that I had brought my hideous photo ID and all the required documentation we went to check in. At this point I always worry that something will be wrong. I don't know what it could be, maybe we had only booked one child onto the flight, or maybe there were new rules like you couldn't board the plane carrying a large cuddly dog. Whatever, I only relax, (yeah, right), when I am holding our boarding cards. We bid farewell to the case, fervently hoping to be reunited in Stornoway. After a tearful goodbye to Dad, we headed to security. Having done the flying thing a few times, I headed somewhat smugly toward the conveyer belt and beepers, observing with a degree of sympathy those virgin travellers rummaging frantically in ther bags for any liquids and trying to get them to fit into the stupidly small plastic bags they so kindly give you at airports.
I put my bag on the conveyer, grabbing one tray for our coats and a second for the security blankets, (Bobbas), and cuddly dog. We all found the sight of a floppy toy dog over hanging the tray heading for the x-ray machine quite funny. Judging by the lack of amusement on the faces of security staff, they did not.
Not surprisingly, the sight of three or four uniformed unsmiling grown ups is not a helpful inducement when trying to get ones children to walk through the beeper. However, after a friendly nudge, they were soon through and free to wander about aimlessly whilst waiting for me. I always beep the beepers. Always. I have taken to just walking through and holding my arms up, legs wide ready to be searched. Because of this and also because of my peverse sense of humour, I was wearing a pair of trousers with as many metal buckles and bits as I could find. I genuinely forgot my hair clip was metal.
Some little time later we emerged on the other side and as always headed straight for the monitors in the vain hope that our gate number would be displayed. Instructed to 'Wait in Lounge' we rebelled by first going off to the loo, then grabbing some of the worlds most expensive sandwiches and smoothies. (And, as an aside, why when presented with a range of liquid refreshment, do the children pick the most expensive? And then of course despite assurances to the contrary, refuse to drink it.)
We settled on the floor of the 'lounge' in a corner which afforded us, well, the boy, a view of aeroplanes and airport activity. I think it was at the point where I was almost forcing my daughter to drink the over priced smoothie when offspring number two announced, "I haven't got Bobba."
I laughed because clearly this was impossible. So impossible in fact that I searched the area around us repeatedly hoping that somehow I had neglected to spot an off-white, slightly smelly muslin square. Still in denial, I searched my bag, knowing myself and knowing that I could quite easily have put it in there without knowing I was doing it. No. White Label Bobba was not there. I must appear as scatter brained as I can increasingly be, because when I went back to security and asked if they had found a smelly whitish blanket thing, the man said they had not, but had I checked my bag?
Disaster!! Still, I thought, muslin squares are an essential baby item, there is a Boots, surely there we will find brother of Bobba. No. They sell ridiculously large, (expensive) cups and beakers, almost a whole range of baby food and assorted acessories, but not muslin squares.
The toilets! I hear you cry, did you leave it in the loos? Well if we did, someone got there first. Bobba simply disappeared. In the end I got so desparate I was even looking in the bins.
It was time to go to the gate. Amazing how time flies when you have lost your sons only security blanket. Boarding the plane was my saviour! He was so excited about the flight that all thoughts of Bobba were temporarily suspended.
He still occasionally asks about him and we wonder were Bobba is now. Did he board a plane that day? Did he seize the chance to travel to some exotic clime?
Sadly we will never know. I do know however that the next time we fly, that little bit of room left in the case will be reserved for extra muslin squares.

Sunday, 6 June 2010


Have you seen the film, 'The Negotiator'? It stars Samuel L.Jackson and Kevin Spacey, both trained hostage negotiators who end up on opposite sides in a tense and action packed battle of nerve and wit. As well as being an excellent film, fast paced with an engaging and easily understood storyline, it is also essential viewing for every parent of a preschooler. At this point you may be questionning my state of mind, but bear with me. Without wishing to spoil it for you, (because obviously you will be wanting to watch it), there is a scene in the film which contains a valuable lesson for parents everywhere. During a somewhat fraught telephone conversation, Samuel L. Jackson basically shreds the nerves of an obviously anxious and inexperienced police officer. Amongst all the taunts and shouting, the key point of this exchange is that as a negotiator you must never use the word, 'No' when speaking with a hostage taker. Makes them cross apparently. Remind you of anything? In a hostage situation, tensions run high, say the wrong thing and it all goes horribly wrong. A neotiator may be faced with urealistic demands from the hostage taker, demands which can never be met and yet an outright refusal is impossible. Instead, he must be creative in his responses, say no without actually saying it.

Well, hello people! How day-to-day is this situation for you? How many times are we, as parents dealing with our very own mini hostage takers? Ok, so there are no actual hostages, not usually anyway although the odd sibling or family pet may become unwittingly involved, but the happiness of the day, the sanity of the parents, these virtual hostages are put at risk whenever we are faced with the task of having to say no. Quick thinking is required, accurate assessment of the childs state of mind essential. Are they tired? Hungry? Over tired? The volatility of the situation increases with every box you tick. Like a negotiator, you know the straightforward response, the one you would really like to make, "No, you cannot have another biscuit." would spell disaster and unparalleled rage. Now, unlike a negotiator whose sole purpose in such a situation is to be a negotiator, you are probably doing a hundred other things at the same time. Trying to refuse a request creatively when you have your head in a cupboard or you are up to your eyes in wipes and nappy cream is no easy task. Practice my friends, practice. Thing is, it may sound bonkers to some but it actually does work. Replacing, "No you cannot have another biscuit." with "I know what you can have, let me show you..." or "It's nearly dinner time, would you like to help me?" may just make the difference between wanting a cup of tea after bedtime or a large glass of wine. Not only will these skills help to defuse lots of lovely little bombs, you will have had oodles of preparation for a new career in years to come. Watch the film, you'll love it, you may disagree with everything I've said, but it's still a great movie.