Tag Archives: Growing up

Toy Story ruined my life

This is Jeffrey.

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Jeffrey once got left in a café in Hackney; my husband had to leg it back sharpish when we realised he was missing only 5 minutes from home. Jeffrey came with us to Barcelona; after the Hackney café incident though, he wasn’t trusted to leave the apartment so didn’t really see the sights. Jeffrey was once the cause of the most traumatic bedtime in memory, when his owner – our eldest son – snuck him into the bath when we weren’t looking, not realising monkeys take a lot longer to dry than people and therefore couldn’t accompany him to bed.

Jeffrey is part of our family.

This is Sleepy Bunny.

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Sleepy Bunny is disgusting – a constant bundle of smeared snot and spit, chewed and sucked on continuously and inexplicably all day by our youngest. Sleepy bunny is also a saviour; when all else fails, ‘do you want bunny?’ is sometimes the only thing to stem the tears. Sleepy Bunny is also my nemesis; I can often be found running around the house at 2am muttering ‘where the f***is Sleepy Bunny’ when we have forgotten to put him in the cot at bedtime. Sleepy Bunny is an enigma; no one has the faintest idea where he came from!

Sleepy Bunny is part of our family.
(Had I known this at the start, I would have given him a better name.)

The attachment a young child has to their soft toy is a strange and beautiful thing. A source of comfort, a confidante and an early friend, the soft toy is a staple of any kid’s life.
But soft toys are slowly destroying my sanity.

I blame Toy Story.

Every time I tidy up, ramming seemingly endless toys into which ever bag, box or tub has most room (I’ll sort it all out one day, I promise), the shiny plastic eyes of a fluffy owl seem to gleam up at me, begging me not to leave them stuck underneath that stupid phone on a string, it’s sharp plastic edges sticking into its fuzzy little wings.

Last week, we had a mini-clear out; my son chose a few toys he never played with and agreed to give them to charity. As I placed the bag at the end of our driveway for collection, an elephant’s trunk reached out to me. ‘I’m sorry Nellie’, I whispered (yes really!), ‘but no one plays with you here anymore. Maybe you can find a new child to play with, someone who really appreciates you’. I hoped this was the case, and she wouldn’t be left on a shelf, gathering dust for ever more.

And on rare occasions when Sleepy Bunny isn’t being used as a chew toy, I find him/her (can an animal which is half blanket have a gender?!) unceremoniously abandoned in a corner of the room. ‘Don’t worry’, I want to say, ‘He still really loves you. He’s just busy trying to figure out how to break into the snack drawer’.

I blame Toy Story because, with alarming regularity, I imagine the boys’ toys springing to life the moment I leave the room. I imagine them crawling desperately out of the crush of the toy box. ‘When the hell is she going to sort us all out?’ they wheeze. ‘There’s a soft toy bag upstairs, why aren’t we all in that? Why do I always end up with the double decker bus on my head?!’ I imagine them comparing their days, those who haven’t been played with in months quietly sobbing into their cotton padded sleeves when they hear of the fun Tom the Triceratops and Eddie Dinosaur had in the garden today.

But most of all, I think about Jeffrey. Poor Jeffrey. Once so loved, but now so often rejected. I imagine the silent hurt he feels every time I say to my eldest, ‘Do you want to cuddle up with Jeffrey?’, and he cheerfully replies ‘No thanks’ as he turns to gaze adoringly at his Spiderman posters, or switches on the torch to look at his Horrible Science book under the duvet.

I imagine Jeffrey’s heart breaking as he realises: ‘He’s growing up. He doesn’t need me anymore’.

I’m sorry Jeffrey. I know how you feel. I really do.

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You’re not that good, you’re just a parent!

Earlier this week, the world of Twitter made me aware of this exercise in smug self-satisfaction, thinly disguise as an article about the difficult decisions of modern parenthood.

If (unlike me apparently) you have better things to do with your life than read mediocre – bordering on dull – parenting articles online, here’s the general gist:

Journalist talks about all the ‘sacrifices’ she has made for her children – i.e. Taking them to football practice on a weekend, being involved in their school and social lives, not getting hammered every night of the week and actually paying some attention to them – as opposed to all those other feckless parents she is friends with who apparently spend their lives bemoaning to anyone who will listen how outrageous it is that they are expected to abandon any aspect of their pre-parenthood life to actually care for their own offspring. Her general message: other parents are crap, I am good and I want everyone to know about it.

It was rubbish, but it got me thinking. If I scanned all my blog posts for the phrase ‘pre-baby’ or ‘pre-parenthood’, I fear that to the untrained eye it may well appear that I am one of those feckless parents who bemoans the fact that their life has to change just to accommodate a being so small they could probably squish themselves inside a dustbin during hide and seek and not be found until calling the police had become a serious consideration.

Obviously life changes considerably when you have a child, often more than you expect: you have to get up much earlier; you have to eat dinner so early you are hungry again by 9pm; you can’t just sit on your backside as soon as you get in from work – you actually have to do stuff; you have to respond to every social request with either ‘I’ll check the family calendar’ or ‘I’ll see if we can get a babysitter’; and forget about any kind of spontaneity like post work pub trips, they are a thing of the past.

It’s not such a bad thing. These days, every time I get the chance for a post-work pint I’m so excited at the novelty that I’m inevitably disappointed when I realise that it’s largely just people sitting around and moaning about work – like the staff room at lunchtime but with alcohol and much more expensive.

It’s a clear case of ‘the grass is always greener’. There are plenty of things I remember fondly from my youth, but that doesn’t mean I expect to relive them now. I remember as a teenager in my goth-inspired phase sneaking into the local dodgy club underage, dressed in baggy combat pants, a t-shirt emblazoned with a character from children’s TV and more eyeliner than Alice Cooper. It was great, but you couldn’t pay me enough to do it now. As a student it seemed a great idea to go out every now and then wearing fairy wings for no apparent reason, but if someone suggested it this weekend I’d be backing towards the door within seconds. Only a few years ago, I remember staying up every Saturday night until sunrise with a different array of people spread across the living room floor each weekend. It was amazing, and to be honest I do still miss it – but then I remind myself that I also hated my job, had no idea what to do with my life and spent my weekdays commuting in the sweaty pit of the central line, desperate for the weekend to provide an escape from the drudgery.

Pre-baby life was great, but that was then, and now post-baby life is just as great too. There’s no point comparing – it’s a totally different beast.

No one deserves a medal simple for accepting things have moved on. That’s just life. Our identities are made from where we have been and what we have done, and it’s the new and different things we do which make us more interesting. We don’t need to abandon who we are, everything we do and everything we hold precious to embrace that, we just adapt. No one writes articles about how amazing they are because as adults they have accepted they have to go to work and therefore can no long while away the hours scrawling notes about who they fancy on their pencil cases, or praising people who no longer attempt to subsist on a diet of Dominos pizza and Redbull once they’ve left uni. It’s called growing up!

Whether you like it or not we all have to do it in the end, otherwise you’ll end up as one of those scary middle aged women who lurk in the corner of Yates’ pubs, wearing clothes from the teenage rails in New Look and drinking Bacardi Breezers long after they’ve gone out of fashion.

Now that would make a much more interesting article!

Stop making kids grow up so fast.

Being a grown up is rubbish for many reasons:
– having to work all the time
– paying rent/mortgages
– paying bills
– having to be aware of how much you spend on bills
– curbing your spending on more fun things to make sure you have enough left to pay the bills
– assembling flat pack furniture
– buying flat pack furniture
– spending a whole day of your precious weekend looking at and buying flat pack furniture

The list could go on forever, but in many ways the worst aspect of modern adult life is the relentless obsession with how you look. Some would say this peaks during teenage years, but really that’s just the beginning of a lifelong torturous routine of spending hours of your time and oodles of your cash trying to look a just little bit different than you do naturally, and even more hours being annoyed that it hasn’t quite worked.

Since becoming a parent it has gradually become clear to me how much of my time, money and energy I have wasted on the way I look. When my son walks in to my bedroom and says ‘what mummy doin?’ I give the simple answer: ‘straightening my hair’. This is followed by a puzzled but accepting look. I imagine him thinking ‘That’s weird – why do that when you could be doing jigsaws or running up and down the hallway? Seems like a waste of time to me.’

Numerous instances of this exchange have got me thinking: what am I doing? I spend about 30 minutes every morning getting myself ready: washing hair, drying hair, straightening hair, putting on make up (if hair straighteners confuse him, god knows what he thinks when he sees me drawing lines of concealer across half my face in an attempt to hide my sleep deprivation!). Pre-baby I spent about twice that time. If I spend about an average of 3.5 hours a week just getting ready (almost certainly an underestimation) since I officially became an adult at 18, I have spent 2548 hours just making myself look a little bit better than I did when I woke up. 2548 HOURS!!!! That’s 106 full days of my life.

Just looking at the figure makes me feel sick. Imagine what I could do with an extra 106 days! But I won’t change, I know I won’t. Occasionally I leave the house with my hair tied up instead of straightened and I genuinely believe that’s progress. I’m brainwashed. I really feel I need that 30 minutes of pampering before I can face the world, or rather let the world face me.

That’s why being a grown up is rubbish. Kids don’t think like that. My son won’t accept he can’t keep wearing the same nappy until it’s so full it falls round his ankles and stops him from playing ready, steady, go. Twice I have picked him up from the childminder to find him wearing pyjama tops because they had cars on and he wanted to wear a car that day. He doesn’t care that he looks like no one can be bothered to dress him in the morning, he’s got a car on his top!

How many of us have sat in conversations with friends who are intelligent, sensible and rational in every way, except when they begin checking the calorie content of a snack bar, complaining they need to be healthier then later that evening ordering a large glass of rosé? Or listened to them moan about how skint they are and that they can’t possibly come and met you for a coffee but, oh yes it is a new top. Do you like it? I bought it last week. On sale of course.

In my view, one of the best and simplest things we could do for our children is to protect them from this bullshit. Particularly the girls. Some boys and men may fall prey to these too, but we all know that in our society it’s the women who come under the most pressure to look a certain way and who are constantly objectified and sexualised.

So why, oh why, oh why do I keep seeing children in bikinis? CHILDREN in BIKINIS! They are not a practical choice for charging round paddling pools or jumping off water slides (any grown woman who’s had an embarrassing slip at a holiday water park could testify to that!). They are boring – what child would choose pink leopard print (one of the joys I saw in the park today) over Peppa Pig or multicoloured spots or giant stars? But most of all, they are just too adult. Literally, they are designed to cover up the adult parts of the body which children either don’t have or should not be worrying about yet. I can just about forgive the frilly spotty crop top and shorts I saw last week, striking a balance of just enough frills to be childish and just enough covered not to be garish. But when a child so young they have no curves and still giggle at the word poo is running around in just enough material to cover their nipples, with briefs held up by the flimsiest of ties, I can’t help but cringe. Clearly copied from a design intended for women to highlight their best assets, it masquerades as swimwear but is actually a sign of how little we have come to respect childhood. It might be fun to dress a child up in a suit for a day, to give them a t-shirt which matches their dad’s so they look like a mini-me, but that’s what it should remain. Fun. Dressing up.

Teenage years and adulthood are fraught enough with concerns about out sex and appearance – why the hell introduce your child to all that when you could wrap them up in an all-in-one wetsuit covered with colourful fish? Plus, you’d save a shed load on suncream.

Baby fashions: when childhood becomes more Kat Moon than Cat in the Hat.

Happiness

by A.A. Milne

John had
Great Big
Waterproof
Boots on;
John had a
Great Big
Waterproof
Hat;
John had a
Great Big
Waterproof
Mackintosh —
And that
(Said John)
Is
That.

Baby clothes, in my opinion, should conform to two key principles:

  1. Keep the baby warm and dry
  2. Be easy to get off and clean when they inevitably end up covered in a substance seemingly more adhesive than superglue and so foul-smelling David Bowie should confine it to the Bog of Eternal Stench (That’s a Labyrinth reference. If you didn’t get it, you clearly didn’t grow up in the 80s)

However we all know that children’s clothes, like adult clothes, can often be more to us than simply functional items. They are an outward message to the world: ‘This is who I am’. They can tell you more about a person than a thousand Facebook updates.

And while babies can’t access social media, their clothes too can be more than just a simple cover up. They can be fun; they give the people who choose them endless joy; and while babies can only show limited aspects of their personality, what they wear can tell us endless amounts about their parents.

So what on earth am I to conclude about parents who choose to dress their child in this monstrosity…

3. Leopard print dress

Where Facebook has failed, Mylene Klass and Mothercare have stepped in, at last allowing babies to truly express themselves by making a “fashion statement!”

On a run-of-the mill shopping trip in Mothercare this week I happened upon this dress, so brash I would only have expected it to appear on Bette Lynch in Coronation Street circa 1988; a full leopard print party dress with frills and a ‘heart cut out back’ available for girls as young as 6 months. Well, while the style may not exactly be practical for a baby learning to crawl, the garish pattern may well help to disguise the results of a leaking nappy!

If the dress alone is not enough for you, you can accessorise (yes, apparently babies should accessorise) with matching leopard print socks and headband! I immediately snapped a picture and sent it to a friend who was in hospital having just given birth to a baby girl.

“Do you want me to pick this up for the new arrival?” I offered.

“Only if it comes with matching stilettos” she swiftly responded.

Sadly, Baby K at Mothercare hasn’t quite reached that stage yet. No imagination that place. Though if they ever get sight of this post, I wouldn’t be surprised if I found them as a new addition on my next shopping trip. I’ll take a cut of the profits – but for god’s sake don’t put my name on it.

Why are people so desperate for their children to grow up? Why dress them like mini-adults rather than just accepting that babies are babies. Even if we are going to a party – which Mothercare assures us this dress is “perfect” for and “sure to turn heads” – does anyone there really expect the babies to abandon practicality the way we do in order to look stylish? And do we really expect toddlers to make a “fashion statement”?

Dressing babies like mini-adults is nonsensical for so many reasons.

Firstly, the cost.

Last year, Marks and Spencer released the results of a survey (albeit one designed to support and promote their ‘Shwopping’ scheme, but it’s in a good cause so we’ll let them off) which revealed that the average under one year old owned 56 different outfits, totalling an average of £327. Now, unless you are willing to spend your life chained to the washing machine, you do need a significant amount of clothes as by the end of the day at least one set will be ruined by dribble/milk/sick/food/urine/poo or a mixture of all these things. But, for these same reasons, only a moron would invest in loads of clothes, or expensive ones.

A quick internet search for ‘designer baby clothes’ (a ridiculous phrase in itself), reveals some outrageously unsuitable options:

– If you feel three matching leopard print items just isn’t enough, you could always invest in some matching Ugg Boots. That’s right, for the bargain price of £45 you could equip your not-yet-walking child with boots which restrict her ankles and render her unable to move, making it much easier for you to sit on the computer searching for yet more inappropriate baby clothes.

– You could invest in beautiful striped Tommy Hilfiger babygrow for roughly the same price. If your little one is going to ruin an outfit with explosions from his backside which could rival Vesuvius for their force, let them at least do it in style!

– Or if you’re looking to splash out that little bit more, how about £101 for a fruity themed dress. Let’s skip past the frankly ludicrous cost and worry instead about the idea of labelling your young child “fresh and juicy”

Which brings me to my other point: if we do insist on dressing up little girls (there are a few mini-adult boys outfits, but nowhere near as many), must we force them into stereotypical, almost sexualised outfits? Mention leopard print to most people today and the majority will think of Kat Moon, the busty bawdy barmaid from EastEnders – hardly the ideal role model for a child so young they wouldn’t even recognise Ian Beale if he delivered fish and chips to their house in person. I don’t particularly want a brassy, saucy toddler – and I certainly don’t want Shane Richie for a son-in-law.

I guess I can’t totally rail against the idea of dressing up babies like dolls. On the same shopping trip I discovered the animal print nightmare, I bought this…

3. Bumblebee

Ok, I’ll justify it. As is so beautifully illustrated by AA Milne’s ‘Happiness’, a child’s clothes should be first practical and second allow them to enjoy the fact that they are actually a child. The bumblebee outfit is very soft and comfortable and I challenge you to find me any child who isn’t unfeasibly amused by an adult blowing raspberries and whispering “BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ” into their ears.

And anyway, he’s my bloody son and I’ll dress him how I want. Who the hell do you think you are to tell me otherwise?