Just Call Me Superhero School Run Mum…

It’s official. I frickin’ HATE the school run.

What’s not to love about always, ALWAYS being late. Sprinting down the road with coats, bags and offspring trailing behind you, as other parents are already returning to their cars?!!

It’s the equivalent of being lapped I tell you.

It’s got so bad that I actually now frequently refer to the school run as ‘Mummy’s Walk of Shame’. And I’m pretty sure I’ve been mentally blacklisted by the head. Poor Mini-me…

Now what is so difficult you may ask about getting pint-sized people up, cleaned, dressed, fed and out? And I totally get you. Other parents seem to manage perfectly well. Many of my friends (some with three or more children) seem to manage perfectly well – so why the hell can’t I get my arse in gear and do the same?!

It’s a question I’m continually asking myself believe me. Often I congratulate myself on having a few minutes to spare, but then before I know it the clock is mocking me again, Mini-me is shouting up the stairs about my continual lateness and we screech the car out of the drive for today’s thrilling and slightly sweaty obstacle race.

The other day, as Mini-me quizzically surveyed her stressed mother from the back seat, she announced: “Mummy, if I was a superhero I could make sure we got to school on time every day. I could fly us there, and you could hang off my leg.

“Or, maybe you could be the superhero and that would mean we got there on time.”

Wishful thinking Mini-me, but what the hell…

Here, in the spirit of what I should be aspiring to (and Mini-me’s current obsession with dressing up) I give you the manifesto of Superhero School Run Mum. Curse her!

 

  1. Superhero School Run Mum is not fazed by inclement weather. She leaps puddles in the style of Greg Rutherford, and never forgets to pack spare socks for soggy offspring.

 

  1. Superhero School Run Mum never looks anything but well put together. Her ponytail is always sleek and she has never once sported ‘visible t-shirt sweat stripes under bra’.

 

  1. While for others the clock may sneer: ‘You should have left three minutes ago and you’re still not dressed’, Superhero School Run Mum can actually turn back time, and even enjoys a hot beverage pre 9am.

 

  1. You will never find Superhero School Run Mum lying on the bedroom floor swearing like a sailor while trying to force her legs into skinny jeans straight from the dryer in the style of a slightly ageing overweight sausage dog. No, she breaks in her denim the night before and has never heard of ‘styling out a muffin top.’

 

  1. When Superhero School Run Mum’s other half asks where his shirt, wallet or sanity is, she would never dream of replying: ‘How the f*** should I know. Do I look like your mother?!’

 

  1. Shouting is something you will never hear from Superhero School Run Mum. Her house is like something out of The Waltons, even at 7am. And as for kicking the car door, or muttering repeatedly under her breath: ‘I hate the sodding school run’, why it’s unthinkable.

 

  1. Superhero School Run Mum’s offspring eat a proper breakfast that includes all the major food groups. Gwyneth’s latest cook book takes pride of place in her kitchen, Nutella is banned and no one mentions the iPad before school, let alone uses it for bribery purposes…

 

  1. Superhero School Run Mum’s friends wouldn’t dream of chuckling about her lateness. Indeed she is known for arriving earlier than everyone else at the school playground and can always be relied upon for her soothing company.

 

  1. Not once has Superhero School Run Mum got all the way home and then realised she is still carrying her child’s book bag – and then had to make a return trip in torrential rain.

 

  1. Superhero School Run Mum is always the best source of knowledge for dates, school trips, homework deadlines, charity events, clubs and non-school uniform days. And she has never once ranted over sorting out something for Show and Tell.

 

Personally I think we should shoot the b****, but each to their own…

Judgmental parenting – in all its forms

So it seems this Facebook ‘Motherhood Challenge’ thingy has been causing quite a bit of a stir.

Articles in the nationals moaning about the ‘smugness’ of being nominated to post pictures of you and your kids on social media, people dissecting the whole issue on breakfast radio, people who have done it getting upset that others are upset about it.

And so the debate rolls on…

Having not been nominated myself I can only assume I must be slap, bang in the middle of the ‘crappy mum’ camp. Well, tell me something I didn’t already know!

Only joking – I can’t profess to have had majorly strong feelings either way on this one. Apart from noticing none of my FB friends had tagged me, and scanning through the lovely snaps of those that have.

I do understand the dislike of the whole ‘parental club’ thing though. You know what I mean, feeling like you’re included in something (even though you’re not even sure entirely what that is) and so somehow endorsed as a member of the badge-wearing ‘good parenting’ brigade.

Way back when after having Mini-me, like most first-time mums I suppose, I really felt the need to try and slot in with all the other mums I knew.

The fact that I hated, and I mean REALLY hated, breastfeeding worried me stupid for example because others used to wax lyrical about the amazing, natural bonding and sheer joy of it all.

Meanwhile I sat wincing in front of the television desperately trying to distract myself with episodes of Gilmore Girls and wondering just how long this horrendous, un-natural feeling of being a human cow had to continue for.

I was once reduced to tears by someone who thought fit to comment on how putting Peppa Pig on the iPad was probably not the most stimulating dinner accompaniment for my one-year-old.

Now as a part-time working mum of two of course my skin has thickened, my standards have slipped and I’m far more likely to laugh than cry about such things.

I’m a really big fan of sometimes sloppy, honest parenting – and so are most of my friends. So it’s lovely when we all have a good giggle about that morning’s ‘disasters’ at the school gates.

Mini-me’s pants falling round her ankles as we raced into school this morning was today’s… Nothing like a teaching assistant shouting at you about knicker elastic before 9am to make you feel like mother of the year!

But enough about that.

All this social media outrage has got me thinking about whether I myself am guilty of being a judgmental parent. After all it works both ways.

Just because I don’t juice things for my toddler, limit screen time and scour children’s cookbooks and draw up a weekly menu what gives me the right to scoff at those who do?

And I’ve been really horrible about Gwyneth Paltrow in the past but clearly her uber-healthy methods work for her brood… Resisting the urge to say more here…

Anyway that’s what I’m going to take from all this. Trying to just focus on my own family, making any changes that would be good for us, and perhaps not having a little chuckle about people who choose not to own a TV set or decide to home school.

Because that could quite rightly be construed as horribly smug too.

Drinking, Parenting and rubber ducks

I’ve never been the kind of person to give something up, either in the post-Christmas ‘flabby phase’ or for Lent.

I’m more of the ‘eat what you like and pretend that running after a one and four-year-old equates to proper exercise’ camp. But this year I decided to put the plonk on hold, not as some smug convert to Dry January you understand but really to see how long I could last without it.

(Besides I had a glass or two on my birthday at the start of the month and a small serving at lunch out this past weekend so I wouldn’t fit the proper criteria anyway!)

The result so far is that I’ve managed to pretty much go without my usual nightly glass of wine for more than three weeks. Pretty astounding for me…

One of my early memories back at home from the hospital with Blue-eyed boy is the visit we were paid by our health visitor.

Amongst asking questions about jaundice and feeding she also quizzed us about our drinking habits and how many units of alcohol we consumed on a weekly basis.

We looked at her like she was a bit mad, after all we now had two children under the age of three. Shouldn’t it be obvious then, we thought, that having ‘the odd glass to take the edge off’ was probably going to become a therapeutic – if not medicinal – necessity?

And unlike with Mini-me, I had absolutely no shame second time around in working out exactly how long it takes for a small glass of white wine to work its way out of your system so I could factor this into the feeding schedule. I know, Mother of the Year!

I’ve never really thought much about how becoming a parent has affected my drinking habits. Apart from making the connection that it’s probably gone up as a result.

But when Mini-me started school in September I started to notice that the occasions on which I’d pour myself a glass ‘a little earlier than usual’ were becoming more frequent. Let’s face it sometimes you need a little pick-me up to get through a whingeing bath time episode.

And as one friend said this week, it’s not like we’re out at the pub every other night any more. Vino in the company of rubber ducks can actually constitute a ‘good night’ these days.

Something about juggling even more than I’d been used to in the past though – homework, PTA bits and pieces, reading all the school paperwork, trying to organise regular playdates for Mini-me – with work and, well, just life, meant I’d started to rely on wine perhaps a little more than I should to help me relax of an evening.

Don’t get me wrong. The most I ever drink is a couple of glasses, even on the rare occasions when I am out. And I can’t even remember the last time I had a hangover because, frankly, it’s just not worth it. (God I sound boring!)

I once edited a story at the women’s magazine where I used to work about a mum who hid neat vodka in the iron. If I’d reached this stage I would be worried!

But what’s been nice over the past few weeks is realising that if I can push through the 6pm slump, I’m usually fine with a cuppa come 8.30pm.

(The fact that I seem to have filled the alcohol void with more chocolate and cake-type treats is by the by!)

How long my uncharacteristic drinking behaviour continues for remains to be seen.

We’re moving house in a few weeks so all that lovely packing will probably drive me to drink.

But honestly if I can get through some evenings without reaching for the corkscrew (or more often these days the screw top!) then I’m not going to worry about those days when I text my friends asking whether it’s ‘wine o’clock’ yet.

Because I’m only human – and the fact remains that I have absolutely no desire to become Gwyneth Paltrow.

Toast Jenga – and other ‘finger food’ revelations

Working as a journalist for over 15 years means you do encounter slightly bonkers stories from time to time.

Especially working in the UK, where people love to sell tales to the tabloids of how they bought a vegetable that looks like Santa Claus, or a tortilla that looks like Jesus. Ahem…

My personal highlight has to be when hubby was made to strip off so he could be photographed pretending to be a naked ‘hermit’ living in some cave in the North of England. The hermit was famous for some reason, I forget why, but still it must have been a fantastically slow news day.

Fortunately hubby was only ‘on show’ from the waist up poor thing. (And poor snapper come to that!)

But given all that I was still highly amused, and a little shocked, when a story popped up in my inbox yesterday about a dad resorting to desperate measures to get his two little girls to eat a proper breakfast. Apparently the poor sod has to start each day by crafting and then playing an elaborate game of toast Jenga…

After painstakingly building each tower of toast fingers, which he creates in three different flavours by the way, he and his one and three-year-old then battle it out to see who is ‘top of the toast’

Apparently this is a good way to ‘spice up’ the most important meal of the day.

One wonders if he’s considered offering his pre-schoolers eggs with chilli flakes. Or last night’s left over curry?!

In all seriousness I have great admiration for parents prepared to go to extreme lengths to ensure their offspring are chomping on a perfectly balanced daily menu, probably because I seem to have lost the inspiration to do it myself.

I have vague memories of poaching and then lovingly flaking fillets of fish for mini-me, which would then be mixed with diced, de-seeded tomatoes and pre-charred aubergine.

And then of her throwing it at the wall.

Now hubby and I are more of the ‘spaghetti hoops and cheese on toast for tea okay?’ school of thought. And we are also big consumers of brioche.

Oh dear all this is sounding very ‘un-Gwyneth’… Or at least like Caroline Aherne’s character from the Royle Family who used to make ‘her Dave’ Dairylea on toast for dinner.

I do actually cook from scratch pretty often, but it’s usually a fairly safe selection of ever-rotating meals, like meatballs, chilli, sausage casserole and spag bol.

Probably why when my dad, a brilliant cook, offers mini-me options such as frittata that she has absolutely no idea what he’s on about and proceeds to request fish fingers and ice-cream please.

And poor old blue-eyed boy is not likely to encounter a toast Jenga tower in the Neat Freak kitchen any time soon.

Having worked right through with him and now juggling two businesses as well as the kids I have to admit that toast with a choice of two toppings is about as exotic as it will probably ever get for him.

That reminds me I’m sure someone told me recently that they make their children home-made waffles. Hmm, must cross them off the Christmas card list immediately.

The ‘relaxing’ art of eating out with children

Last week some friends and I took the sprogs to our favourite local children’s café to sample lots of caffeine (us) and a spot of African drumming (them).

Yes mini-me, blue-eyed boy and I are very global in our choice of leisure pursuits don’t you know… (Not really, unless you count me shamefully watching Teen Mom 2 on MTV after they’ve gone to bed. Trash-tastic yes, but I maintain great entertainment with the added bonus of making you feel like the world’s best parent!)

Still the drumming sounded like a brilliant idea, something a little different and a good way to wear the rugrats out while we adults, hopefully, got to drink our still-hot beverages and catch up a little. (Otherwise known as having a good old mum moan.)

The trouble was that we’d forgotten that dining out of any description involving pre-school children can and usually does descend into total chaos. You know, of the food flinging, kiddie whinging, baby screaming, exploding nappy variety.

Now add an hour’s worth of percussion into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for something that’s anything but relaxing.

As usual my friends and I tried to maintain yelled conversations over the madness whilst wet-wiping various offspring, lifting luke-warm tea out of the path of marauding toddlers, doling out rice cakes to babies and averting potential toy injuries before they happened. I’m tensing up just thinking about it.

Then later we texted each other to say: ‘So nice to see you, sorry we didn’t get the chance to chat properly.’ And the fact is we never really do. In fact, the last time I really caught up with a friend was when Rachel, my pal from Light Monkey Photography came round – and that was only because the sprogs were playing nicely for the cameras!

Still, it doesn’t stop the other halves from casting aspersions on how we spend our days though, you know in those precious few hours between wiping arses, performing numerous household tasks and fitting work in as well.

‘I’d love to stay home and drink coffee with my mates,’ hubby has been known to mutter on various occasions to the soundtrack of me grinding my teeth in frustration.

‘God knows what they think we do at these meetings,’ one of the mum BFFs said in exasperated tones. ‘We ought to install ‘nanny cam’ to reveal the reality.’

Couldn’t have put it better myself.

As a mum I suppose you are just more used to the whole rigmarole of ‘café culture with kids’ so your tolerance level for dirty looks received from other diners and increasing numbness to treat bribery are naturally just higher.

(Incidentally my personal ‘treat equation’ for mini-me has been known to extend to three bags of pom-bears in the quest for good behaviour. Goodness, I do hope Gwyneth ‘mung bean’ Paltrow isn’t reading this – she’s bound to report me!)

Well, parental guru that I am, I say load yourself up with high-carb snacks, chuck some raisins in to make yourself better, and get them grazing.

With any luck you’ll manage to slurp down a cuppa and consume a chocolate biscuit in the space of three seconds and the outing can be declared a success. Hooray!

Never mind the indigestion pains. You’re used to it by now…