Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The Gallery: Motherhood

The theme for The Gallery over at Sticky Fingers this week is Motherhood. Do you know, I have been a mother for 1000 days. Yes, exactly 1000! My son was born in September 2007 at 3.30 am on an unseasonably warm day. His first photos are blurry, taken by a brand new grandmother with shaking hands in a semi-dark hospital room. The woman on those pictures, a mother for mere moments, doesn't look like me. The images don't capture the monumental life change that's just occured. Ten minutes ago I was one person, now we are two, tied together forever.

Since that moment I have taken thousands of pictures in an attempt to record my children's childhood, something that's racing by faster than I could possibly imagine. There are photos of laughing babies, crying babies, a wobbling toddler and a petulant pre-schooler. There are photos of first teeth, first holidays, first meals and first birthdays. There are pictures that show the change in me too, motherhood has left me considerably larger, with lines where once was smooth skin and with eye bags, but I hold my children and smile for the flash.

How can I choose just one photo to sum up 1000 days?

So I have cheated, and instead of a photograph this week I enter an aural picture of my children. Tonight, at dinnertime, I plugged a microphone into the laptop and let it record. Then I snipped a random part of the sound wave and changed the colours.

The clip might be C banging her cup on the highchair and laughing with glee
It might be T telling me he doesn't like 'omglet' without having taken a bite
It might be me retrieving dropped fruit from the floor for the 300th time
It might be 'I'm a Little Teapot' sung with a mouthful of beans
It might be reassuring shouts from the kitchen that I will be back very soon as the little one cries

It might be all of that, at once, at high volume, in stereo, again and again and again.

Life with my children is brighter and louder than I ever thought possible. And that, to me, is Motherhood.

Friday, 11 June 2010


Dear son,

These are your legs. They are Boy Legs, bruised and a little bit dirty no matter how long your bath. They run everywhere, except when they're jumping. You like doing 'moon jumps' like Bob. They pedal your trike and chase the Gruffalo down his big hole.

They are growing, slowly. You are nearly three and your 12-18m trousers are just half an inch too short. When you are thirteen you will wish your father and I were taller, but I know you will be a funny boy which girls like too. For now we are spending the summer in shorts.

At the table, your legs swing and kick, especially when you are making up stories. Yesterday they kicked me. I sent them, and you, to bed for that. You can kick a football without falling over, stand in first position and 'make a window', although you refuse to say plie. You can climb to the top of the big slide without my help.

You have ticklish toes and can put on your own shoes, though not always on the right foot. I grew those legs, although they have lost their rolls of baby chub which your sister is still modelling. You ask for 'magic cream' for the bruises that have appeared as if from nowhere. It is nothing but moisturiser but it makes you happy.

These are the legs that are taking you to pre-school and beyond. I shout 'don't run!' and mean it in more ways than one.

Love you,

Mum x

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Do you like ...

We are playing the 'do you like' game. It involves T asking me endlessly whether I approve of everything from pink to elephants via toilets and aeroplanes. I like this game, a lot, mainly because I can play whilst doing something, anything, else and it only requires a modicum of my attention. In fact he doesn't like it when I say too much. He's in charge. So far we have ascertained whether I like tomato ketchup (no), flags (yes) and beasties (yes).

Mummy, do you like red grapes?

No darling, I like green grapes

Mummy, do you like red grapes when they're cut up?

No I don't darling

Mummy, do you like red grapes when they're stuck together?

You mean whole darling?

No Mummy, grapes don't have holes!

Sunday, 6 June 2010


As a teenager I hated nothing more than sharing a bedroom with my sister. I had a black and white magazine centrefold of River Phoenix and the lyrics to 'Everybody Hurts' on my wall. I marked the date of my period on my Oasis 1994 wall calendar. She had pictures of ponies and a toy duck, called Peep Peep. I used to stand on it when she was pissing me off, and she used to cry.

I always wanted my children to have their own bedroom. Perhaps my younger sibling and I would get on much better now had we not had to endure, amongst other room-sharing joy, endless fights over the cassette soundtrack to our simultaneous GCSE and A-level revision. Two desks only 3 or 4 yards and a few thousand miles apart.

Plans change though and despite having put our house on the market when C was a mere lump under my jumper, we're still no closer to moving. She'd been sharing with us, latterly in a crib at the bottom of my bed. Her new crawling skills have put paid to that though as she can now pull herself up on its slatted sides and, even with the gliding function locked, is inches away from making a bid for freedom over the side.

So we did some major furniture rearranging. T has the single bed which was previously in our attic conversion (space saver stairs mean it's not a suitable child's bedroom) and, with the bars replaced, C has moved into his cot bed. And they are rooming in together.

The transition has been relatively smooth. There is space at the end of T's bed for me to sit cross-legged and feed his sister when she wakes in the night. I have trained myself to respond instantly to the baby monitor and Mummy-dummy her before she can wake her brother. He hasn't complained at all about sharing his room.

Just before creeping into bed at night I sneak in to check they are breathing. I listen for the tell-tale wet semi-snores but can hear only one set of in and outs. I panic and switch on the bedroom light. I place a hand on both babies, the room is so small that were it not for the high cot sides I could do this simultaneously. They are both well of course, but breathing in absolute perfect sync. Both tummy sleepers, their backs rise and fall with each other. I allow myself to breathe again, and creep out without waking either.

The breath thing is only one aspect of siblings who adore each other. C has nothing but smiles for big brother who will fetch her toys, pick up food she has flung on the floor and splash in the bath to make her giggle. I am increasingly content with the fact that I can't give them their own rooms because I have given them something much, much better. Each other.

Thursday, 3 June 2010


Last week I found my first grey hair. I was looking in the bathroom mirror, stuck between wondering how a splatter of toothpaste had got all the way up there and thinking I needed to tweeze my eyebrows when it caught my eye ... ... ... what is THAT?

I pulled it out and laid it on the bathroom shelf. I know that sounds a bit slummy Mummy but I had ideas of going back later and taking a photo for posterity, black humour sort of thing. We have a little silver 'first curl' pot that someone bought as a gift when we had T, perhaps they also do adult versions, inscribed with 'first granny hair'. I could curl the silvery thread up inside and in future years find it in a drawer somewhere and remember fondly a time I used to be dark.

Once the kids were in bed I went to retrieve the hair, camera in hand, but it had disappeared! I looked behind the Calpol, under the antibac hand wash and even inside the tooth mug but there was no sign. I started to think that maybe I'd dreamed the whole thing. I was 30 less than three months ago, I surely, absolutely, definitely cannot be going grey. Oh how we laughed.

I looked in the mirror again today. This time I was baring my teeth and wondering about flossing. Do you? Should I? Doesn't it hurt? Hang on ... ... what's THAT? AND THAT? AND THAT!

Now I know where my grey hair had gone. He'd gone to fetch his mates. First one, then three. Will tomorrow bring five? Or six? How long before they're all grey? To dye or no to dye? My eyebrows are still dark, am I going to end up a female Alistair Darling?

In an attempt to prevent having to think about it too much I smeared some more Colgate on the mirror. Distraction rules.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010


We are playing Connect 4 in the pub. Well I say the pub, it's more 'pub lite', a facsimile of the real thing with carefully placed beams and extortionately priced drinks*. It's pleasant enough, child friendly without being plastic, but not particularly authentic. You get in via a carpeted office style corridor, and there's a shiny lift to the posh restaurant upstairs.

Having said that, it's so long since I've been in any sort of pub, authentic or not, that I'm not one to quibble. It's 6 pm and after a late nap we're killing an hour post-swim and pre-tea. The baby is playing with a toy in her buggy and intermittently watching the lights on the fruit machine. The toddler is colouring in, the picture and coffee-cup full of crayons provided by the establishment. He pouts in concentration, his tongue sticking out of the corner of his lips, and scribbles red lines on Tinkerbell's face.

Board games are also provided. My spoilsport husband refuses to bring Mousetrap from the pile beside the bar so Connect 4 will have to do. We rack it up and begin. I'm the red tokens, he the yellow. Drop, pause, drop, pause, drop, long pause as we approach stalemate. The satisfying clunks have roused T from his crayoning. 'I want to play!' His father distracts him momentarily. With a few more moments thinking time he has this game in the bag. T fiddles with the catch at the bottom of the frame, threatening to send our carefully arranged counters into a pile. 'I want to plaaaaaaaay'. The whining is a bad sign. My husband taps his next token on the table, irritated, but T is one step ahead. He picks up a red disc and pops it into the nearest column before clapping himself enthusiastically.

My husband sits back and sighs. Then, moving forward, he looks at the game again. 'He's won it!' I don't understand 'He's bloody won it, look where he's put that piece!'. I follow the top red counter down ... one, two, three, four in a diagonal row! My two year old, without a thought, broke our grown-up impasse and won the game. And, as luck would have it, he picked up one of my pieces to do it.

Accidental victory is victory all the same and I claim the win. I love my boy!

*£9 for a pint, a G&T and a small orange squash. I don't drink much any more but that's dear, right?