I’ve learned a fair few things after having three kids, although none of which was by gentle and voluntary persuasion. Yeah, it’s kind of like being hit in the forehead with a plank of wood at every turn. I’ve been poked, pinched, prodded, asked very detailed questions about my anatomy, screamed at, sucked dry, sneezed on and smacked in the face with random, pointy objects.
Motherhood certainly isn’t the toughest job in the world, but it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. It teaches you selflessness and strength and patience when you’re at your wits end and feel like a psychotic break would be a nice change of pace. It teaches you to be curious about the world and how it works and how inconvenient life can be, and why people behave the way they do and why certain smells come out of random orifices at completely inappropriate times.
Personally, for me as a writer, it provides a hell of a lot of material, because let’s be honest: running around after drunk midgets that have no depth perception or hazard awareness is basically like watching a comedy movie gone terribly wrong and there are always tears at the end (mine). These feral people say things, and do things, that make the average adult human say WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING IN YOUR BRAIN RIGHT NOW AND WHY AM I SUPPOSED TO BE IN CHARGE OF THIS?!
So, I guess to start off 2017, I’d like to share a handful of things that I know, with absolute certainty, to be true. Some of which you may have heard me write about before, I don’t remember. To be honest, I’m lucky if I remember their names most of the time.
1. If at any point during the day I leave the room where the kids are, even if I’ve been with them for 45 minutes straight, 13 seconds after I leave there will be a piercing scream, followed by a YOU TOUCHED THE AIR AROUND ME AND I HATE YOU, and then crying. Lots and lots of crying. I also know that my reaction to this, will most certainly be, 9 times out of 10: “I AM NOT COMING BACK IN THERE, SORT THE PROBLEM OUT YOURSELVES JUST DON’T BREAK ANYTHING.”
2. Play centres are absolutely for neglecting your kids and getting on with the stuff you have to do (i.e online shopping, having coffee and staring into the middle distance, sorting out bills, stalking ex-boyfriends on Facebook). I’ve honed my selective hearing and focus to such an efficient and superhuman degree that I can actually sit in One of those infernal padded cages bursting with feral children and write for 3 hours straight. Play centres are NOT made for adults to crawl into and out of germ-laced ball pools or climb that ridiculous netting that has been sneezed on a million times. Gross.
3. Fantasies about escaping your life are very necessary. I have fantasies about galloping across a field on a wild horse and never coming back, and leaving my husband to wonder where I am, why the toilets aren’t scrubbed, why the kids are feral and screaming at him and more importantly, why there’s no bacon in the fridge. Bliss.
4. Kids don’t always need stories at bedtime. Don’t force yourself. When mine ask me to make a story up I say “There once was a lovely prince/princess who lived in a castle and they were tired and went to bed because when they didn’t their mother got angry and her eyes got big and scary and she threw all their toys in the bin and so they always went to bed really nicely. THE END.” This works very well. And the glass of wine waiting for me downstairs is still nice and cold. Result.
5. Glitter was invented by people that hate kids. And parents.
6. Saying NO to stuff– to them, to people, to parties, to events, to groups, to buying ridiculous toys— is okay. It’s *always* okay.
7. I want to murder Peppa Pig, but I also think she’s a savvy businesswoman. She’s created a giant pink empire by being the sarcastic, entitled, manipulative centre of her family and has brainwashed kids of all ages and cultures to worship her porcine world. She’s bossing it. Good for her. (Related: a friend of mine didn’t agree with Barbies. I respected that, some people don’t like them. And then another friend said to me: “Barbie is a badass though. She’s had about 10 careers, drives a convertible sports car and has been stringing along that douche Ken for years.”. Excellent point.)
8. Disneyland is only the “Happiest Place On Earth” for children. For (some) parents its the “Money Pit of Plastic Tat And Tantrum Hell”.
9. Mumsnet and Babycentre can make any mother go temporarily insane. I was constantly obsessed and angry during the 3 years I used those sites. You want to discuss the cleanly joy of having a “penis beaker”? Fabulous. But not on my time, thanks. (Google: ‘Mumsnet do you dunk your penis’. You won’t be disappointed.)
10. All kids have a demon side. Even the ‘perfect’ ones. As soon as I assume that one of my kids is the “quiet and sweet one”, and I relax in the blissful, smug joy of that assumption, that same kid runs naked into the garden screaming “I WILL KILL YOU DEAD WITH YOUR HEAD EXPLODING AND EAT YOUR BRAINS” (my neighbours love me).
11. Kids have a radar for fear/nervousness/awkwardness. And they will use it against you.
12. If you’re naked, you will be interrogated. In our house, nakedness is an opportunity for kids to ask things about ‘why bumholes get itchy’, ‘why my hair down there is shaped in a tidy triangle’, ‘why willies get warm and stand up sometimes’ (I mean COME ON.), ‘and why farts are smellier in the bath’.
13. Always, ALWAYS bring snacks. Cost-effective and gives you some peace and quiet. My friends call me the “snack lady” because anywhere I go, I stuff my handbag with enough snacks and drinks for 8 kids.
14. Hating on myself is a no-no. Body-shaming, self-hate, and the words “diet” and “fat” are all bad things. Kids don’t want you to hate yourself. They want you to cuddle with them and share snacks. Kids love us if we love us.
15. Driving with kids is one of the most dangerous things I’ve ever done. It’s like being the stunt-person on a car-chase film except you’re not paid six-figures and there’s always hissing and screaming (mostly you, shouting obscenities).
16. Lists are always good. Although they do tend to reveal how often you’re failing spectacularly.
17. Kids don’t give a toss about any of this. Especially about #16. They love strongly, unconditionally and purely. Even when we forget to feed them and shout at them too much.
18. Apparently, we need to feed them. And not shout at them too much. Oops.
19. You can actually survive for months and years on 4 hours’ sleep. My youngest, who is almost 3, has only ONCE slept through the night. No kidding. That’s almost 1,095 days of surviving on roughly 5-6 hours of sleep per night. I lose my keys a lot. And I fall asleep mid-sente…
20. Try your best. It’s the only thing that matters.
First published in January 2017.