Saturday, 24 September 2011

It's Your Party And I'll Cry If I Want To

WHEN I was a child, children's parties were inviting a few selected friends home to have jelly and ice-cream and curly egg mayonnaise sandwiches, most likely in that order. Someone's dad would do the Harry Worth thing using a door frame (you know the thing) and there'd be Pass the Parcel  And - but only if the birthday child's house was big enough and they had enough seats - a game of musical chairs. There would be balloons and the party would be punctuated with a loud *POP* and an ever louder *SQUEEAL* throughout.

Perhaps it is this nostalgic view of what a children's party should be that has made me so against the Wacky Warehouse party. I say Wacky Warehouse (mainly because the last six parties I have taken the Small Boy to have all been held in one particular Wacky Warehouse) but it could be any generic soft-play area that offers party packages - a Cheeky Monkeys, a Little Monsters.

And I hate them. Really hate them. Loathe them. Two hours of hell in an (always drafty) room with a lot of scaffolding, netting and plastic balls in the corner. They call it a play-area but basically it's a big cage, with cushioned bits. There's formica and hard chairs and primary colours and cartoons on the wall. All it's missing is a woman in a cardi in the corner to put you right back in primary school.

Your child runs squealing with excitement into the "play-area" (children notoriously have no discernment) and you have to chase after them because they've broken the cardinal rule which is "No Shoes" - the first commandment of soft play.

Already "glowing" after wrestling a pair of shoes from a child in a ball-pool, you then have to face the Party Mothers. They're the same Playground Mothers you see five days a week, but instead of the three minutes of smiling and nodding at each other you can just about manage each day, you now face two hours together. Two hours on hard chairs while your children hit each other, trip each other, fight and scream in a cage in the corner. You can't actually hear each other because of the screaming and the shouting, but you have to pretend you do. Sometimes there is tea, despite there being a bar in the next room.

A carefully assessed amount of time later - just time enough for your neatly turned-out child to turn in a ravening red-faced shouty thing - a klaxon sounds for food, regardless of the time of day. Once, you had to fill in tick boxes on the identikit invitations of what your child might eat two weeks down the line at 11 o'clock in the morning.

Now though there is a buffet option though it IS mostly what you used to tick boxes for, but is now a free-for-all leading to the last-chicken-nugget-on-the-tray scuffle.


children's-party-nightmares



Several children WILL spill their drinks on other children. Some children WILL refuse to eat anything at all. SOME children will eat their allocated individual pot of tomato sauce with a spoon *looks hard at the Small Boy.*

ALL the mothers will be smiling with the slightly deranged, glazed rictus of the much pummelled and put-upon.

Someone will say: "Well, he never does that at home."

A child will be sick.

There will also be cake. Supplied by the family and sometimes, by the newbies celebrating their first born, home-baked and carefully crafted. Though it matters not one jot. Thirty seconds after the food is finished, the cake is slid in front of the birthday child. There may be an "Oooh" from the assembled mothers (depending on the elaborateness of the cake and the politeness of the assembled mothers). Candles will be lit, "Happy Birthday" sung at a out of time trot and candles blown.

There will be games, orchestrated by a staff member in a jaunty cap who harbors ambitions to appear on The X Factor. They will remain relentlessly cheerful, even if the child they threw out of musical statues is prostrate and sobbing at their feet.

OR, if you're deeply unlucky, the games will be conducted by a dragging-knuckled effigy of boredom seething with some untold resentment most of which they relieve by picking on happy looking, shiny faced, enthusiastic party goers at Pass the Parcel reducing them all mercilessly to tantrums or tears.

Eventually, at last, you will be released back into real life. But not until the party-goers have been presented with a plastic bag replete with one small toy (that will break within 3 hours), a small packet of chocolate buttons, a piece of cake (remember the cake) and an attached helium balloon destined to float up to your ceiling the minute you reach home and hang around like an embarrassed ghost for the next three weeks.

Your child will bounce off the wall for several hours. Eventually they will fall asleep. They will have had a: 'Fantastic', 'Brilliant,' and sometimes, depending on the development of vocabulary, 'Awesome' time.

They will not remember anything about it when they wake up in the morning.

But you will. And the next time you open an innocuous envelope from school with THAT invitation in, your heart will sink just that little bit further... Every. Single. Time.


The Hardest Lesson to Learn

THERE'S an awful lot of things that a body has to learn and remember as it negotiates it's way from newborn to baby to toddler to child to teenager and eventually to adulthood .... Really hard things like walking and talking and that's just for starters.

Learning to read, to write, tying shoelaces, telling the time - all trials to master and duly mastered one way or another they are, but one thing seems impossible to learn. One concept is too confusing to grasp. One lesson to learn that, at least in my house, is failed on a daily basis.

Lights, lamps, televisions, DVD players, game stations, hair straighteners, hair curlers, hair crimpers, showers and taps are all left shining, burbling, gently steaming or dripping away as is their wont while the offspring spring off to do something else without a care in the world.

They don't care one jot that constantly leaking electricity costs money. Real Money. And I thank the heavens every day that we don't have a water meter or I WOULD have to sell a child a year just to pay the bills.

Should they care about the bills? Maybe not, but I have to, dull and boring though they are. So I'm constantly leaping out from behind doors and into rooms with my clarion call of "Turn that off." When they go to bed I sneak around the house checking taps and plugs, turning things from stand-by to off, like some ninja health and safety officer.

When they've managed to learn everything that they have already (and one of them has learnt Chinese for heaven's sake) would it really be so hard to learn to turn things off ..... Really *Sobs a little.*

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Silent Sunday



5 Things I Have Learned This Week:

1: The Boy can fall asleep while listening to 'Rainbow Rave Up' and it's '40 Massive Dance Anthems'  full volume on his CD Player but 'Bedtime With The Mr Men' will having him bouncing off the walls for hours.


2: That we possess a copy of 'Rainbow Rave Up,' ...... though where it came from remains a mystery. *Unpacks desk lamp and Fedora, lights cheroot*

3: The first time your teenager is late home after a date with her new boyfriend, you DO start chewing the carpet. Fact.

4: Being a parent of twin teenage girls is being 40% Pierluigi Collina, 40% Kofi Annan and 20% Sir Mervyn King 

5: Where Guatemala is.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Children Do Say The Funniest Things.. And Then Sometimes They Don't

I WAS going to write about The Boy and the hilariously, funny things he says. You know the kind of thing - every child trots out a variety of questions and opinions that are so knee-ticklingly amusing, they are pressed forever into the memory (or in the modern world, committed to posterity in the wonderful world of the web).

I WAS going to share the sheer brilliance of his asking whether we could rewind Christmas like we can rewind TV and do it all again... and again ... and again.

I WAS going to do that but then today I spent the afternoon with The Boy and his classmates on a walk around our local area as part of their learning about the environment. As we walked back to school from the allotments, after they chuckled at my stumpy carrots and oohed at my whopping courgettes, we passed one of the boy's houses.

We were just wondering if we should knock on the door and invite ourselves all in for a cup of tea when the little boy, whose house it was, said to me confidentially: "I don't have a daddy."

And trotting along besides me, clutching my hand he told  me that his Daddy lived elsewhere. That his Mummy and Daddy had been together but before he was one year old, his Daddy had left them.

He used to go see his daddy every so often until he was four years old, he said, and then they all fell out and now his daddy didn't like his mummy and didn't like him. So now he didn't see his daddy at all anymore.

Five years old and he sounded worldly-wise but not in the least self-pitying. He had his mummy and his grandma and his grandad. He didn't miss his daddy, he said but then wistfully asked: "Has Oliver got a daddy."

How I didn't sweep him off the floor and hug the very bones of him, I don't know. I was severely tempted to deny all knowledge of Oliver's daddy too, though I didn't.

Not quite Don't Children Say The Funniest Things I know. But I do think that one day, there might be one particular daddy who will realise he's missed having a whole treasure chest full of memories to keep him warm.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

5 Things I Have Learned This Week:

1: You spend the six weeks of summer praying for school to start again and the minute it does, you wish they were all back home again because it's far too quiet. And THEN you realise that this is what it feels like when the torture stops

2: I was entirely right not to take up a career in the medical profession *props post-operative man in corner, feeds him painkillers, drinks wine*

2: The easiest way to stop a teenager wanting her bellybutton piercing is to take her to have her bellybutton pierced.

3: That I wish I'd known that before spending three months being nagged about it.

4: THERE ARE CHRISTMAS ADVERTS ON THE TV, CHRISTMAS PRESENTS IN THE SHOPS AND CHRISTMAS CHOCOLATES IN THE SUPERMARKETS AND IT IS TOO SOON I TELL YOU, MUCH TOO SOON. I WILL NOT BE PANICKED. I WILL NOT BE PANICKED


5: There are http://www.xmasclock.com/  days until Christmas .......... *panics*

Friday, 9 September 2011

The Cruelty of Youth

Ah, the cruelty of youth ... or of my own two youths to be particular.

Girl One and Two are teenage girls. They are 15 years old. They are clever. They are beautiful. They are kind to children and dumb creatures alike (one of them even loves Jedward), but to me.. the woman that carried them in her womb and practically died (died I tell you) in the delivery suite. The woman from whom they obviously inherited their brains and beauty. Obviously *looks around challengingly*... To me, they are needlessly cruel.

Twin One thinks it's beyond hilarious to call me "Bingo Wings." She likes to call me it, rather louder than necessary, when we are company, whether we know the company we are in or not. The pitiful looks I've had whilst trundling through a crowded supermarket as Twin One strides along cheerfully calling "Oi, Bingo Wings, look at this." have taught me there are no holes in the floors of supermarkets large enough to swallow me and my bingo wings. Teeny, tiny little wings though they might be.

Their latest cruelty though not just takes the biscuit, it takes an entire tin and a complete biscuit aisle too. Sat on the sofa flanking one of the boyfriend's du jour, they asked him between muffled giggles: "How old do you think Mum is?"

A tense silence descended as the boyfriend pondered which way to go, probably thinking out of the door and all the way home without stopping was the best one. He babbled and squirmed and wriggled a bit. The demonic pair that I spawned giggled and giggled and giggled a bit more urging him to guess. I pretended to ignore them from the kitchen.

"She's 46, aren't you Mum," they yelled joyously. "Mum, you're 46."

Yes, loudly announcing my age to all and sundry is their latest thrill. Family members, visitors, schoolfriends, passing strangers, all are apprised that I am, if not exactly over the hill, heading towards the summit with the speed of a gazelle if not the dexterity. Apparently this is both hugely amusing and equally as entertaining. Personally I fail to see the joke.

I'm hoping it's a phase they are going through. I suspect it isn't. Perhaps when I'm 86 I won't feel quite so wounded. Though I suspect I will.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

For Whom The School Bell Tolls

ON Monday morning, The Boy did not want to go to school.

He did not what to go to school so much that after going to school and running around for five minutes, when the bell rang and the doors opened, he set off back towards the school gate.

"Where are you going," I followed him in the I'm-not-running-after-my-escaping-son-at-all-everything's-fine manner one must employ when in the presence of other school mothers (a voracious breed inclined to cluck and tut at the slightest provocation).

By the time I caught up with him he was stomping off around the corner. "I'm going home," he announced.

We were, though, very on time for school.



After being woken on Tuesday morning, he flung himself headlong across the sofa and proceeded to relax with a fair amount of determination.

"Breakfast and school," I chimed as brightly as one can chime first thing in the morning. Probably more of a clang to be honest.

Boy rolled his eyes: "I did that yesterday," he said and continued his relaxing which was definitely edging towards full-on lolling.

"But you have to go again today," I pointed out. 

Clearly, this was not good news. Roused from the sofa, he crossed his arms: "I'm not going to school."

Things continued along this vein for a while. The clock ticking, his sister tutting.

"But you went every day last year, you know how it works" I said (or rather pleaded on bended knee while trying to thrust various of his limbs into various parts of uniform).

"But I did that," said The Boy stubbornly, "I don't want to do it again."

We were very nearly late for school.


Wednesday Morning and The Boy has to be hoisted out of bed. He is alarmingly patched in green which proves to be an over-enthusiastically wielded felt-tip pen. Nevertheless...

The Boy discovers 706 things he would rather be doing than going to school. He complains his pants don't fit, that his sock has a hole in it (it doesn't). He puts his shoes on the wrong feet. Then decides he needs to go to the bathroom much more urgently than he needs to go to school.

Not once does he say "I don't want to go to school."

We are very quite late to school.

I am very relieved. Normal service is resumed.



Saturday, 3 September 2011

5 Things I Have Learned This Week:

1: The word "Maybe" leaves my mouth but the word "Yes" ends up in the children's ears.

2: The sign language for 'Lesbian' and 'Dickhead' from Girl 2. (Though I'm not sure that it is proper sign language or that I will have the opportunity to use it or if I did use it, whether I would get punched in the face or not).

3: That we need to e-nun-ci-ate our words more carefully, particularly words like 'be-ing' for example (see below):

Daleks Killing a Human Bean by Oliver, aged 5.

4: That when they put the word Zero on a drinks can/ bottle they don't just mean zero sugar, they mean zero taste  and zero appeal and zero taste. Did I mention zero taste. Yes I'm looking at you Fanta Zero Icy Lemon.

5: I WILL mix gin with anything if we've run out of tonic. Yes I'm looking at you Fanta Zero Icy Lemon. *Slurp* *Grimace* *Slurp* *Grimace* etc.

Countdown to School

It's back to school on Monday morning and I'm waiting for a couple of the Darling Horrors to unearth some mud-spattered piece of PE kit that's been festering in a dark corner for the past six weeks while simultaneously announcing they need PE kit on Monday morning.

I expect this will happen at about 8.40pm on Sunday night despite the fact I have spent the past six weeks threatening everyone and anyone with instant decapitation if it does.

And Girls 1 and 2 have waited until today to claim they require new school shoes, flat and black and plain. They have been despatched to the shops alone - trying to find a pair of shoes both acceptable under school rules and to a pair of 15 year old girls is a journey of such will-sapping, mind-numbing drudgery I don't ever want to embark on it again. They WILL return with a pair of black ballet style pumps destined to fall apart after week one.

Girl 3 has spent a large proportion of the summer amassing a whole WHSmith's worth of pens, pencils and novelty rubbers. These will already have disappeared but Girl 3 won't discover this until bedtime on Sunday. This will mean tears. They will all be found in about three weeks time at the bottom of the Boy's toybox.

This year though the most important thing to sort out before Monday morning is The Boy who moves up to Class One and under the auspices of one Mrs Billam. She has already taught Girls 1, 2 and 3 and thanks to them, The Boy is under the delusion that her name is actually and really Mrs Killer-Billam. Things may well get a bit tense.
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