Mummy Mates & Making Friends Via Your Kids

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Once you have children, you often make friends via them. I have made some fantastic friends over the past 9 years since India was born, stretching as far back as when I attended a First Time Mums’ group. None of us could see straight thanks to sleep deprivation, but we bonded over the shared loss of our waistlines.

Over the years I have since made friends with other parents from my girls’ nurseries and schools, and along the way life as a mummy has kept evolving and updating. No sooner have I adjusted to one stage of my daughters’ childhoods, than we are onto the next, and the transition has always been made easier through my buddies who are going through the same thing.

When I first became a mother, I was in awe of all my friends who had done it before me, to the extent of wondering how they were actually still functioning human beings.

It seems not so long ago that we were all steaming vegetables, pureeing them, and freezing the resulting mush in ice cube trays. Nearly a decade on I feel obliged to confess that this sounds like the ravings of a lunatic, but I once spent hours of my life sweating over sweet potatoes, which the media had convinced me I had to shovel into my child, or else they’d be knock-kneed with rickets by the time they first did a poo on a potty.

At the time all of this seemed completely normal, but then so did effectively milking myself over a sink when I returned from hospital, and the night my c-section wound burst open only for me to be told to hold a sanitary towel across it. Nowadays my reaction to the latter would be closer to “999!!” but back then I simply did as the midwives told me.

Over the years we often move on from the friends we made through having babies, though I am still in contact with those that I was always closest to. As our children age, they follow different paths, and we have to move with them. We return to work, we may move house, relationships change, and life, as ever, keeps marching on.

However, I remember each and every one of the mummy mates that I have had over the past 9 years, and I’d like to say a thank you to you all. It’s a mad ride, and without my friends, I couldn’t do it.

First published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 21st July 2015

Driving with your kids in the car. As relaxing as a rectal exam.

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I’ve wondered, since becoming a parent, how it can be illegal to drive whilst under the influence of alcohol, but not whilst you have umpteen tiny militants of your own making ensconced in the back seats.

When my eldest daughter was born, I spent the first two months in a state of sleep deprivation that has left me with some memories that are simply a boggled haze. However, one thing that I do remember is driving whilst feeling physically sick with exhaustion, and wondering how on earth it was sensible for me to be in control of anything – let alone a vehicle.

Then came the stage where I thought that if I had to twist my body one more time into a shape that was comfortable enough to lug about a car seat filled with chubby infant, my spine would snap. Either that, or I’d be left with a permanent hump on one shoulder, dragging my left foot behind me, looking like Quasimodo Does Parenthood.

After this stage had passed, I entered the next event: Toddler Spaghetti Limbs. This involved attempts to simultaneously contain and restrain a writhing toddler long enough to strap them into a car seat. No pressure there, then.

I would break out in a sweat (yet recall thinking, in my deluded state, that at least it would shift some baby-weight), and the toddler in question would go utterly limp. I would puff and pant, my backside hanging out of the car, sweat trickling down my pants, heaving the infant into the seat, praying all the while that my husband would beg to become a house husband, leaving me to return to the relative sanity of the workplace.

This stage was followed by Child Asks 3 Million Questions, which then progressed to the stage I now find myself at. Namely, Child Warfare.

I am not a naïve individual, but I do confess that before pregnancy, I imagined my offspring and I sharing happy journeys, singing Ten Green Bottles, and smiling at each other in the rearview.

Never did I dream that I would be driving like Nigel Mansell (minus facial hair, please God), in a car filled with bossy, irate, gremlins. Sometimes I literally throw food at them over my shoulder in order to distract them, and at others I fantasise about clubbing to death the person who wrote and recorded Let It Go.

Suffice to say, I drive my children everywhere… and they drive me mad.

First published in The Portsmouth News, 14th July 2015

When do you ring 101? (And why do you bother?)

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The police are one of the public services that I usually feel great admiration and respect for. They are integral to society, it is a job that I could never do, and we bring our children up to believe that they represent safety.

However, last week I saw suspicious behaviour outside my house. A neighbour of mine had also noticed, and although I am not going to describe it here, suffice to say that we are not talking about a couple of school kids having a sly drag on a cigarette. I wondered what to do about it, because the behaviour was such that it was concerning, but it was not an emergency. So I decided to call the fabled 101. I say ‘fabled’ because I have heard and read so many stories now about its general inadequacies, that I am beginning to wonder if it were named to purposefully coincide with the Room 101 of George Orwell’s novel,1984, namely a torture chamber in the Ministry of Love, in which prisoners are subjected to their own worst nightmare, fear or phobia, with the object of breaking down their resistance.

I was also cautious because my husband phoned 101 a while ago to report that a public bin had smoke pouring from it. However, all it resulted in was a call back saying that the fire service couldn’t find it and inferring that my husband was making a nuisance of himself, so I approached the call with some trepidation.

Once I had been put through to Hampshire Constabulary, I explained what I had witnessed and that I had been unsure as to what to do. I also explained that the people in question had made lascivious comments to me in front of my small children, and so I became increasingly perplexed when the woman that I spoke to essentially suggested that I confront them, and asked me, somewhat brusquely, whether or not I had “asked the people in question what they were doing”, because “that’s what she would have done”.

I resisted the urge to reply, in slow tones usually reserved for conversing with those who have suffered a great shock and are unsure of their surroundings, that perhaps this is because she is a police woman, but I did respond that I had no inclination to confront a bunch of strangers, especially given that I am a female with two tiny kiddiwink sidekicks. I then proceeded to make it clear that I had little appreciation for being spoken to as though I’m an incoherent toddler, bounding out of my first day at nursery clutching a glittered bog roll in one hand and a gold star sticker in the other.

After this, I am sorry to say, I hung up. The only reason I am sorry is because something needed to be done about what I had seen – especially as I had made it clear that I was reporting a fairly regular occurrence.

I am sure that the majority of police people are helpful, caring and doing a tough job with (if it’s anything like teaching), piles of paperwork that practically pour from their eyeballs. However, society and community should be a joint effort, and being spoken to as though I’ve rung 999 to report a leaf hanging at a dangerous angle from a tree is going to help no-one.

First published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 7th July 2015