23 April 2008

The Worm's Turned

If there’s one thing guaranteed to upset the smooth running of my marriage, it’s the undertaking of a joint DIY project.

After the IKEA flat packing incident of 2004, where things were said that can never be forgotten, all manual endeavours have been lovingly redirected towards my father. As much as I know he enjoys the scale and range of DIY challenges presented, I’ve noticed my mother isn’t particularly supportive as she rants bitterly about the outstanding jobs in their own home. Plus, an increased interest in golf has caused service levels to drop and it can sometimes feel a bit mean eating Custard Creams at the base of the ladder whilst the senior citizen at the top sways perilously in the breeze.

So, this week, I ignored my better judgement and appointed Accountant as my labourer, to assist in the makeover of our front garden. To avoid arguments, I reiterated that I was Project Leader and he was to do what I said. He looked at me with the same sad eyes as when I’d informed him his holiday was to be usefully applied to hard labour. I handed him his spade.

As I managed his days sawing out thick tree roots, digging trenches and lugging heavy bags of gravel, I took to the serious work of designing my new feature garden. As tiring as the internet research was, I devised a perfect plan.

Chickie, entranced by all the mud, followed daddy round with his little wheelbarrow, helpfully collecting all the snails and worms who had lost their homes and relocating them to a happier place. Well, most of them - apart from the ones he ate. But even Chickie’s disturbing new hobby couldn’t dampen my spirits. My creative juices were pumping and I was about to spend a lot of money. I was very happy. Until I took my labourer with me to B&Q. Again, I was specific as to his function. He was to provide a carry to car and investment service. No more, no less.

On the way there, my previously meek employee became difficult when talks turned to budget. Accountant’s suggestion that we revamp the garden for 50p or less didn’t allow for the 100 box hedges, 2 topiary trees, 4 tier traditional water feature and hot pink gardening gloves essential to creating the classic English garden.

As I put my case forward to the man I’d hoped to have broken by now, I was battered with intense questioning and forced to present a cost/benefit analysis. Wishing more than ever that I could generate my own income without compromising my cushy lifestyle, I conceded the hot pink gloves in the hope of winning him over.

Thanks to Accountant’s audit and subsequent negotiations, planting commenced hours later than scheduled. Looking up from my trench, Accountant’s smug face peered back through the window. His first self-appointed task as New Project Leader, to watch Arsenal v Liverpool from the comfort of his sofa.

17 April 2008

Teething Troubles

Peeling my son off of the paving slabs outside McDonalds whilst dodging the flailing limbs propelling around my head, I wasn’t the only one who noticed that motherhood wasn’t going as well for me as anticipated.

Nanna looked on with furrowed brow whilst my sister bit the lip which was quivering with the satisfaction of a woman who would never again endure such torment. Passers-by scowled as I struggled to restrain my portable delinquent.

A month after the arrival of the terrible twos, I’ve become accustomed to the disapproving stares of those who’ve never experienced or forgotten what it is like to be on the receiving end of a toddler.

When Chickie hatched, he showed all the signs of being a timid soul. He’d cry when he came into contact with other children. If the other child cried too, he would become inconsolable. Loud noises upset him, as did quiet ones.

Then, inexplicably, it all changed. We all sighed with relief, happy that he’d come out of himself. Now talks are being held to see how to put him back in.

In-depth analysis of sleeping patterns, diet, bowel movements, peer group, parenting style and Accountant’s gene pool proved inconclusive. Although, I had strong suspicions a rogue chromosome from Accountant’s side of the family was to blame, I had no evidence. Yet, all those critical eyes remained fixed on me - expecting reformation.

In desperation, I consulted Accountant, recounting colourful examples of the verbal abuse and anti-social activities his son was engaged in whilst he spent his days sipping coffee in his tranquil office. I tried to keep the bitterness from my voice as I remembered my own tranquil little office of three years before. Accountant chuckled. “Chickie” he said lovingly, shaking his head before wandering off to who knows where.

Easter holidays meant my temperamental companion was due to spend some 336 hours by my side. With public outings now a perilous minefield fraught with humiliation and condemnation, there was a strong chance they’d all be spent in the house. I begged Accountant not to leave me alone. He agreed, then ‘forgot’ to submit his holiday form.
Dejected and at a loss as to why my son had chosen the wrong road so early in life, I let the guilt I’d been trying to ignore wash over me. I was the mother, I should have done something.

It was my Mother-in-Law who eventually suggested he might be teething. At last, a tangible reason that wasn’t my fault. I felt much better. Once confirmed, I rang up stakeholders to redeem myself and my offspring. My sister sounded unconvinced but played along.

Then I stopped to consider why I hadn’t noticed his new molars. Red cheeks, runny nose, disrupted sleep. Oh God, this was basic stuff.

I went to bed that night wondering when I might hope to grasp the basic principles of parenting, and what on earth I was going to do if the Calpol ever stopped working.

09 April 2008


A hush fell over the room. Nanna looked at Grandad. Grandad looked at Mummy and Mummy stared at her son. Grandad’s hand hovered over a bowl of fudge. No one moved, fearing the slightest stirring may re-detonate the puce toddler currently eye-balling us through the glass bowl.

Regrettably, the silence was but a fleeting interlude born of Chickie’s need to refill the small but forceful lungs he had drained of all oxygen. As he picked up where he left off, this time accompanied by a dramatic full body drop to the floor, I had to admit this performance was impressive.

Grandad remained frozen. “Put the F-U-D-G-E down” I spelt. He did. “Look, Grandad’s put it back.” I offered the bowl. He took a brief moment from pounding the floor to swipe it out of my hands causing him to head butt the chair. Then, from somewhere deep within, a repellent screeching began that just wouldn’t stop. Concerned he might pop something, I looked to my parents, with their combined eighty years experience, for suggestions.

“He should have had a nap” said Nanna.

Not as useful as I’d hoped. I turned to my father for something more solution orientated but, it was hard for him to speak through all the fudge that was swelling his cheeks. It seemed the distraction caused by Chickie’s second meltdown had suited one particular senior citizen very nicely. Grandad was heading for the naughty step but not before Chuckie.

A rigid Chick was folded into a seated position, read his rights and deposited onto the step. Where he remained for two seconds. When the door began shaking on its hinges as Chickie rammed it from the other side, Grandad, finally swallowing, spoke, “Perhaps you should call the police?”

I’ve noticed that those family members who are just a free bus ride away from freedom, find these situations more amusing than the parent. I mustered an eyebrow raise before deliberating my next move. What would my Supermum friends do?

They’d drop to their knees, maintaining a soothing yet authoritative eye contact whilst explaining in tones straight off a relaxation tape why the behaviour was unacceptable. Child would then nod in mute agreement, apologise to the family for any unpleasantness before sitting down quietly to read “Expressing Your Feelings: The Alternatives”.

I had a better idea. “Chickie?”
“NO!” said the door.
“Grandad’s been very naughty”
Grandad frowned.
“I think he needs to go on the Naughty Step”

I opened the door and a delighted Chickie strutted in to collect his bewildered prisoner. From the comfort of our respective sofas, Nanna and I watched Chickie lead Grandad away, gleefully explaining how naughty he was.

The rules of the Naughty Step are simple. One minute spent on the step for every year of age. Which meant a fine vintage like Grandad required ‘guarding’ for exactly 1 hour and 9 minutes!

Mum and I thought of him briefly as we sipped our tea, dunked our biscuits and watched Deal or No Deal.

03 April 2008

Rain on Mummy's Parade

It was a morning, much like all the others, with a sky the colour of old knickers spitting a fine drizzle over the lucky occupants of Southern England. Chickie looked up at his Director of Entertainment, expecting to be amused.

I racked my brains for alternate options to spending my day buried up to the eyebrows in plastic balls, whiling away the dreary hours in the technicolour nightmare that is an Indoor Children’s Activity Centre. Whilst I had no doubt Chickie would happily amuse himself feeding mummy through the giant mangler and making her swing from the monkey bars, I fancied something less energetic.

Eventually, a cunning plan developed. It was risky but filled with possibilities. M&S Holmbush - undercover shopping.

Chickie was wedged into the trolley seat at the front. His new potty, a full range of snacks and his toy car collection, placed in the compartment at the back. I was prepared. How bad could it be?

After a successful start that found my trolley brimming with summer wear, things took a downward turn in Home Furnishings when, entranced by loo roll holders, I made my first mistake.

Never position toddler within two metres of anything you don’t wish to be harmed. A kind lady picked up the pile of towels Chickie had swept onto the floor. As Chickie loudly informed her that she was a ,” NAUGHTY LADY”, I muttered my apologies and pushed him away. Straight into the toy department.

Mistake Number Two. Avoid the toy department at all costs.

“Choo Choo!” screamed Chickie at the first sight of Thomas and his friends. After Chickie had made a full appraisal of each and every toy, mummy was losing interest. It took an Emergency Vehicle Set and a packet of chocolate biscuits to secure a quiet exit.

Next came, “Potty Mummy”. A twenty minute round trip that produced nothing other than a fully mobile Chickie who refused to get back into the trolley once released. A 100m sprint through menswear, finally led to the changing rooms and Mistake Numéro Trois.

Avoid changing rooms with curtains. I had just stepped into the pencil skirt when Chickie bolted. Ignoring my shrieks, he ran straight out, past the assistants on the desk and onto the shop floor. A little pink bullet, cackling like a looney.

In hot pursuit, came mummy, sporting grey ankle socks set off beautifully by the knee length skirt she was holding up like a towel. “Come back here NOW!” I said, trying to convey my utter seriousness whilst pretending to be good humoured to my fellow shoppers. Chickie picked up speed.

By the time I returned to the changing rooms, flushed from exertion and humiliation, the assistant had kindly moved my belongings to a new changing room with a lock. Chickie pressed the ‘Assistance’ button on entry and there his finger remained.

Chickie slept soundly that night, having had a lovely day at the Indoor Children’s Activity Centre that is Marks and Spencer.