Thursday, 28 April 2016


I've begun to notice an unfortunate tendency in myself. A tendency to come here, to my laptop, and write about how I'm feeling. How can that be unfortunate? Well it is when I'm choosing to do that instead of actually talking to real human beings. Real human beings like my husband for instance. It's a cop out. A way to express myself without actually having to open my mouth. Because it's easier to write. Easier to refine and rework what I want to say. Easier to launch it off into the void. Easier than having an actual flesh-and-blood connection. And I don't think that's very good for me. Or for BigBear. Or for our marriage. It's not that I don't talk to him at all. It's just that I find it easier to turn to the written word than the spoken one. And I know he reads my blog (eventually, when the posts reach the top of his RSS feed) so I know that if I bleat enough here, it'll get to him one day. But it would probably be healthier if I just turned and talked to the person beside me on the sofa, despite both of us having an inherent tendency to avoid such dangerous areas as "talking about feelings".

So I'm going to take a bit of a break from pouring out my heart to the world, and try and focus on pouring it out to BigBear, to whom I pledged my heart.

That doesn't mean I'm going to stop blogging, but that I might focus a little more on the lighter side of life. For instance the entertainment potential involved in raising a semi-northern child...

This may only work for those familiar with regional accents in England, so apologies if it's a complete mystery to you. We were watching the snooker today, en famille, as a rather soothing, un-strenuous pastime in the leper colony, and BigBear explained that Alan McManus was playing. Pronounced with a short "a", as BigBear does with most occurrences of the letter "a", such as bath, grass, path. LittleBear very kindly explained to me that "Alan McMarnus" was playing, using a good, long, southern "a", having not only assumed that Daddy was just being Northern, but also that his half-witted mother would need a translation into Southern. Poor old Alan now has a new name in the Bear house.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Feeling like a terrible mother (again)

Today I drove to work in tears. Tears of anger, tears of frustration, tears of guilt, tears of exhaustion.

I'll set the scene...

LittleBear has a lurgy. Fever, coughs, chills, runny nose, general misery.

BigBear has been almost incapacitated with The Mystery Foot Injury (probably sunburn, followed by compression in shoes leading to extensive bruising.) BigBear has also had a lurgy, followed by a brief glimpse of the potential of no-lurgy, before succumbing to another bout of lurgy.

I have far too much to do at work, and going on holiday didn't do much to improve the situation.

I am succumbing to a lurgy, currently stalled at swolled glands and tedious dry cough.

Last night I got up three times - the first time (midnight) because LittleBear was coughing and crying, though it turned out my poor baby was doing both in his sleep. The second time (4:30am) because LittleBear had finished the water in this bottle and wanted some more. The third time (5:30am) because I heard LittleBear call out to me, and dashed into his room, only to find him fast asleep. I still don't know if I dreamt it, or he cried out in his sleep. Either way, I still hauled myself out of bed for no reason, and (to add insult to injury) I didn't go back to sleep again between then and 7, when a small boy trotted into my room and announced in his whiniest voice that he didn't want to go to nursery, as it's the "horriblest thing ever". Being the evil-tempered bitch that I am, I offered no sympathy and informed him he had no choice. You see? This is why I'm not having another child. Deprive me of sleep and I become foul to everyone near me. I become someone I don't want to be, certainly someone a poorly little boy doesn't deserve as a mother.

By the time I'd got LittleBear dressed and fed, BigBear had also managed to surface, appearing about as healthy as his son. It seemed highly unlikely that either were in a fit state to do anything of much use, so BigBear went back to bed and I took LittleBear to nursery and myself to work. And as I drove I was overcome:

... overcome with guilt and shame that I was leaving my son with other people when he was sick, just so I could go to work. I was placing work over the wellbeing of my beautiful, trusting, loving little child, and I hate myself for doing so.

... overcome with total exhaustion, having looked after said sick child for the past few days, having been woken through the night for the past two nights, and knowing that if I stayed home with him I'd carry on being the foul, bad-tempered, intolerant mother he'd found first thing this morning. And overcome with misery and frustration that I couldn't be who he needs me to be, and guilt that I so desperately wanted the break from that particular responsibility that only work could give me.

... overcome with rage that my only option when my boy is sick is to take time off work or to leave him with a nursery. Rage that BigBear has the temerity to be ill at the same time, and wouldn't look after him today. And then BigBear phoned and said I should bring LittleBear home at lunctime - as long as he could sleep this morning, he could look after LittleBear in the afternoon. Which at least eased some of the burden of misery.

So I worked all morning, collected my sad little child from nursery at lunchtime, left him with his sickly father for the afternoon and returned from work at the end of the day to find the two of them contendedly watching penguins on television with a telltale heap of lego at their feet.

Then LittleBear refused to eat the toast he'd asked for because "it tastes funny". And he refused to eat the cheese sandwich he requested as an alternative because "it's crunchy" (no, I don't know, I tried it, it was fine.) And then PhysicsBear, with aching predicatability, got cross about food. Because I have this memory of when he was 18 months old and got a cold. Before that point he'd eat anything. Afterwards? We hit the realm of no meat, no sauce, no normal children's food. And in my perverse way, I've always lingeringly blamed it on the cold. And now here he is, with a cold, refusing to eat food he loves and all I can think is "Nooooooo! If you give up eating this now, you may never eat it again, and we CANNOT lose toast and cheese sandwiches from the menu". Have I ever mentioned I'm irrational and weird when over-tired?

So I was cross, LittleBear was crying and my day basically couldn't get any worse. Then BigBear came back from his hobble around the block to test his feet, and asked what was up. So then I started crying and my lovely little boy came round the table to put his arms round me, stroke my hair and give me a cuddle. And as well as being the most adorable thing ever, I discovered that yes, my day could get worse, when I allow my baby to have to comfort his own mother when she's been shouting at him.

And then at bathtime, we found a sprinkling of spots on LittleBear's back. It really is the day that just keeps giving.

I suspect I will be at home with my LittleBear tomorrow. But if I am, I will remember how awful I felt today when I chose to put work before LittleBear. I love my work, I care passionately about doing a good job and not letting my colleagues down. But I love my LittleBear more than anything else in the world. And yes, I checked that the spots disappeared when I pressed them with a glass.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

My holiday: an epilogue

So we've been home for a few days now, and after five loads of laundry, three trips to the shops for food and rather a large number of cups of tea, I'm in need of a holiday....

On the last Monday of our holiday, BigBear started to complain that his feet were hurting. We weren't entirely sure why they were hurting, and it was in an inexplicable area - round the back of his heel. By Tuesday he was barely able to walk, his feet were red and inflamed, and sunburn suddenly became the obvious answer. On the plus side, his sinus/ear/nose infection seemed to have mostly gone. Unfortunately, Tuesday was the day we'd arranged our Completely Awesome Day Out, so despite his reservations, and limping, BigBear spent the day out and about and on his feet. (Our Completely Awesome Day Out was a ferry to Lanzarote, a bus ride to the another village and then.... a submarine ride! I might write about it all later, but it's not really the point here.)

On Wednesday we had to pack up to fly home. BigBear was almost literally unable to walk, reduced to crawling at times. His feet were agony. But we had two 20kg suitcases, three pieces of hand luggage and a small boy to wrangle. I did my best, but even SuperBear is unable to physically manhandle all of that. Somehow, and it's no longer clear how, we did get home, despite the Highways' Agency's best efforts to prevent us, by having overnight road closures on every single road we wanted to use. My poor LittleBear only got to sleep (in the car) just before 10pm. I'd had to carry him for large stretches of the escape from Gatwick Airport, which has done my back the world of good.

On Thursday, I had to wake LittleBear and inform him it was time to get up and go to nursery, and then console an exhausted and sobbing small boy that nursery wasn't actually "the horriblest thing in the whole world." I also had to inform him that no, if I took him to nursery it wouldn't be "weeks" before I came back to get him, and that no, 5pm is not "the middle of the night". We left BigBear in bed, even more immobilised than Wednesday, his heels now livid, purple and exuding heat.

Admittedly Friday, Saturday and Sunday have not involved work or nursery. But incapacitated husband, coughing, feverish, miserable boy, agitated, irritating cat and far, far, far too much laundry and housework have featured heavily. And I'm bloody exhausted. Despite the fact that my two bears let me stay in bed until 11:30 this morning (bliss!) I feel as though the world has already piled up at my door and is battering it down.

Can I have a holiday now?

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Universal panacea

One of the things that has been making this holiday marginally more challenging than it needs to be is The Lurgy. BigBear came down with Unidentified Lurgy last weekend, and it has gradually migrated around his throat, sinuses, ears and head. The back of this throat currently looks like something that has just come from the butcher's block, and apparently his ears are "crunchy" (something I am unable to offer independent verification of). I've meanwhile been suffering from a slightly different, milder, more cold-like bleugh.

This morning started with a lemsip for me, which improved the morning immensely, and a lie-in for BigBear while me and LittleBear tanked up on melon (him) and coffee (me) for breakfast. OK, admittedly I also had pain au raisin, croissant and pain au chocolate, but my waistline would rather you didn't mention that.

We then resumed our holiday routine - the morning on the beach, followed by lunch, some quiet story and play time in our rooms during the hottest part of the day, then late afternoon by the pool. And in between stories and pool time, my two bears watched an episode of "Dinosaur Planet" on Youtube. So I took the opportunity to settle down on one of the many vacant pool loungers, with my book. Ahhhhh.....

Then BigBear brought LittleBear down to play, fetched me a glass of beer, and we had a very peaceful afternoon, playing, splashing and generally relaxing. I dipped into my book from time to time, dipped into the pool with LittleBear, drank beer, and watched my LittleBear be completely uninhibited in the pool. I particularly enjoyed the following exchange:

Small Boy: I've got a Superman swimming costume!
Small Boy: What's your name?
LB: <gives real name>
Small Boy: How old are you?
LB: Four <holding up four fingers to remove all doubt>
Small Boy: I'm four too! Do you know what my name is?
LB: No
Small Boy: I'm Captain Phantom!
LB: ... <confused>
Parent: His name's Milan
Small Boy: Don't call me Milan! I'm Captain Phantom!
Parent: Yes dear, but his name's really Milan

And despite my observations yesterday about some parents being weird or shit, most of them are delightful. There was the nice German man who "rahhhed" an inflatable crocodile repeatedly for LittleBear (who "rahhhed" back even more ferociously). And the lovely French man who was amused and delightfully apologetic to have his pronunciation of LittleBear's name corrected. LittleBear didn't take to having a rolled "r" in his name... And the kind Spanish chap who played throwing and catching with his own boys and mine. And BigBear found a sun lounger in the shade (a shade lounger?) and played with LittleBear, and my afternoon became increasingly mellow. Which definitely, absolutely, completely had nothing to do with drinking beer. No connection at all. Honest.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Further observations

1. Some parents are completely shit. When a toddler pool has two 2-year-olds, a 3-year old and two 4-year-olds in it, allowing your 7-8 year olds to rampage around on a 6 foot long, 3 foot high inflatable killer whale to the point where they ride over the top of a 2-year old and completely submerge him, while you sit on a sun lounger and smoke a cigarette is shit parenting.

2. Some parents are completely weird. Putting girls as young as two in a bikini is just weird. They don't have breasts. The bikini sits in a strange place and is utterly pointless. Let them run around naked, or just in swimming pants/trunks like the boys, or in an all-in-one, but stop treating them like tiny "sexy" adults. It's weird.

3. A surprising number of people don't seem to have got the message about sunburn. A horrifying number of children and adults are wandering around with awful sunburn.

4. Some parents are shit or weird and I'm not sure which. If your son (aged ~6) smacks his head on the side of the pool and then sits on the side sobbing and clutching his head, being the fourth adult to arrive on scene, despite being only a few feet away, and then shrugging and walking off is either shit or weird. Maybe your child is a little git, but if he's had a head injury, would some attention and sympathy really kill you?

5. Zeal in the use of bleach to clean bathrooms is commendable only up to the point where your guests' clothes get bleached (and thus ruined) whenever they actually use the bathroom. This was enough to banish my munchkin-like outer carapace and have me marching to reception, bleached clothes in hand...

6. LittleBear will not eat plain rice here, because "it tastes funny". Nor will he eat sweetcorn, or peas, for the same reasons. Nor can he be tempted by the idea of mixing them. When rice, peas and sweetcorn is one of the dishes on offer however, he will eat three helpings and not have room left for the chips that he also asked for. Though he'll still have room for three large slices of melon and a bowl of natural yoghurt. Go on. You explain my son's eating habits, because I can't.

7. Other people are even more insular than me, which is a situation I found impossible to imagine up to this point. Despite the fact that there is a beautiful, empty, sandy beach less than 300m from the front of the hotel, we have yet to have to share the beach with anyone other than a few couples emerging from the hotel that's actually built on the edge of the beach. Seriously, nobody is shifting beyond pool, bar, restaurant and hotel room.

Note pertaining to topics 2 and 3:
Obviously I am neither shit nor weird for dressing my son in a swimsuit that comes down to his knees and past his elbows, and slathering all remaining surfaces in factor 50 suncream. This is not paranoia, this is a lifetime of pale skin in action.

A bit of balance

Despite the anxiety-ridden nights, and their occasional ability to spill over into the day, it's only fair to point out that it's really rather lovely here. And that sitting on hot, white sand under a clear blue sky, listening to the waves break on the volcanic rocks and rattle them back down into the ocean, while playing games of great peril with a Giganotosaurus, a Liopleurodon and a Triceratops is actually a rather lovely way of spending a morning.

And sitting (on a purloined pool lounger) beside a 30cm deep pool while my LittleBear and a polyglot mixture of other boys and girls hurl themselves around in the water is quite a tranquil way to spend the afternoon.

And meandering around a room, picking this and that to eat without having to think about when to boil the pan for the vegetables, or how far in advance to turn the oven on, or whether the knife I want is actually clean, is genuinely relaxing. Not having to wash up afterwards is even more relaxing.

So if anyone got the impression I'm not managing to enjoy this holiday at all, I apologise. During the day I do (mostly) manage to live in the moment, and to enjoy those moments.

Friday, 15 April 2016

The same old story

So, here I am, in an all-inclusive, sunny, beautiful resort, just a hundred metres from an almost deserted sandy beach on which the Atlantic is gently breaking,  with a dramatic black volcano rising up out of the water a mile or two away. I don't have to cook, or wash up, or clean, or drive anywhere, or shop. I just have to meander to the other side of the resort three times a day to help myself to as much food and drink as I feel like, or pop in to one of half a dozen bars during the day for any drinks I want. There are 5 different swimming pools, two of them shallow enough that LittleBear is able to stand everywhere in them, and so I only need to sit on the sidelines and watch him splash around.

No, I'm not trying to make you feel jealous. I'm not trying to show off about what a splendid holiday we're having. I'm just laying the groundwork for the absurdity of the next statement.

Last night I lay awake from approximately 4am onwards in a state of extreme anxiety. I was on the verge of tears, and could only think that I just wanted to run away, to go home, to escape, to be back in the known, the familiar, the safe, the unchallenging. All I could do was lie there in despair as my mind galloped round and round in circles trying to find more and more novel ways in which everything could go wrong...

I fretted about the selection of food, all of which (aside perhaps from the tripe) I'd be happy to eat, but only a small proportion of which either of my Bears is able to face. Apparently the milk, cheese, rice, ice-cream and croissants all "taste a bit funny". So LittleBear has now closed down his options to melon, melon, melon, pineapple, melon, watermelon, melon, bread and butter, melon, melon, cucumber, tomato and chips. Oh, and he's now discovered Mars Bar ice-creams, which may be the beginning of a slippery slope. I think he can probably survive on melon for a week, but it's bringing back all my Deranged Food Dictator tendencies again, and I've worked very hard to eliminate those. So that was a good subject to spend several hours getting into a state about.

I fretted about the pool loungers. Yes, really I did. Despite polite little notices everywhere telling people not to reserve them with their towels, obviously this is what happens. So when we head to the baby/toddler pools, where I really do want to be able to sit within sight/reach of my LittleBear, the pool is ringed with unoccupied loungers with towels spread upon them. There is literally nowhere to sit. And it leaves me a bit stuck. So I spent quite a while just feeling generally fraught about that.* Basically it came down to imagining all sorts of horrible ways in which I would end up in a confrontation with a massive, irate, heavily-tattoed man whose towel I might or might not have looked at funnily.

I fretted about the fact that I've managed to come on a sun/sand/pool holiday at a busy resort with a man who hates being too hot, hates being in the sun, hates sand, hates swimming pools and hates interacting with other people. (When asked why he agreed to the holiday, his answer is that he wants to make me and LittleBear happy, which is very sweet, but doesn't take into account the fact that I don't enjoy being happy at someone else's expense, and is therefore a bit counterproductive. Fortunately LittleBear is largely indifferent to whether Daddy is having a good time, so it works for him). So I lay awake wondering what we would be able to do that BigBear might actually enjoy, rather than simply tolerate for everyone else's sake. The only answer to which appears to be - leave BigBear in peace to read his book as much as possible.

By the time my boy launched himself onto my stomach at 7:30 and demanded that I "Play!" I was a wreck. At breakfast I tried desperately to not let the tears roll down my cheeks as I sat across the table from LittleBear. I don't want to make him sad or worried. And when the waitress walked past and gave me a cheery "Hola!" I smiled and responded, because I don't want the world to see that I'm broken. I don't want everyone to know that the moment I'm taken out of my comfort zone, the slightest problem takes on mammoth proportions. But most of all, I don't want to be this person. I don't want to crumble when faced with uncertainty or change. I don't want to fight the desire to run away and hide whenever there's something new or different. I don't want to lie awake at night and be so afraid. But I still don't know how to change.

Follow up:
LittleBear mostly ate melon today. He's still alive, so that's not a disaster.

BigBear sat on a rock and read his book while LittleBear and I took it in turns to bury each other in the sand, and then sat and read his book while LittleBear and I played in the pool. Hopefully this counts as a relaxing holiday for BigBear.

I discovered, by asking (yay me!) that the solution to the Vexatious Issue of The Pool Loungers is to approach a life guard and ask him to get more out of his stores. When I attempted this, he'd just gone on his break and wasn't there to ask. I tried to explain as much to LittleBear, who was heading into dangerous trembly bottom-lip territory at the thought of not being allowed in the pool, at which point a very large, heavily-tattoed man approached me.... and informed me that the six loungers at the side of the pool had been unoccupied (despite towels) since 8am, and since it was now 4pm, he didn't see that anyone would have a leg to stand on if they objected to us using them. So I shifted the towels and plonked myself down, with the bolshiness that sometimes accompanies stress and tiredness. BigBear was sent back to our room to read, and LittleBear hurled himself into the water.

* Yes, I realise this comes into the category of not simply a First World Problem, but something only a small fraction of the First World could struggle with.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

A holiday in observations

Not feeling quite strong or coherent enough to actually string together a post about the holiday on which we have just embarked, I will instead make a series of observations. You never know, I might make some more later in the holiday too.

1. Sharing a hotel room with two other bears who both snore is not conducive to a good night's sleep. Fortunately this was confined to the pre-holiday night in the airport hotel, and LittleBear now has his own room. I don't mind launching a well-aimed elbow at BigBear's ribs from time to time.

2. Four hours on an aeroplane with two ill parents and one over-excited small bear is about three and a half hours too many.

3. There is no greater gift in the world than a calm, obedient LittleBear who doesn't tear round a foreign airport like a loon while we wait for our bags to emerge from the baggage carousel.

4. There are really quite an alarming number of school-aged children on holiday during school term-time. And yes, they are English. They can't all be home-schooled.

5. Sunshine is a cure for many ills (see item 2)

6. Language is a barrier only for adults. LittleBear, FrenchGirl and GermanToddler appeared to play quite happily together in the pool today without being able to communicate by any means other than the universal language of leaping into the water and squealing.

7. A bucket and spade and a large expanse of sand is all that's really needed to keep a small boy who is inclined towards digging happy.

8. LittleBear shows every sign of being prepared to subsist on bread, chips, croissants, cucumber and fruit. I figure that that's fine for a week, and a good deal better than some of the plates of food that have walked past our table.

9. I occasionally wander if I make parenting harder than it needs to be when I find myself helping LittleBear solve a shark-based crossword and then design a wordsearch at 30,000 feet, when I could do the same as the people in the next row, who are asleep while their son is plugged into a portable device of some description. Then I notice the blank-eyed and slack-jawed expression on the six year-old child's face, and the animated, inquisitive bouncing from my small child and think maybe I'm just playing the hand I was dealt, both in terms of my own nature and my son's*.

10. Where are all the normal-shaped people? Our holiday appears to me mainly populated with the unfeasibly thin, bronzed and toned and the grossly overweight.

11. Anyone who says "I'm not being funny, but..." is almost guaranteed to be going to say something utterly outrageous. Like explaining the need to bring frozen bacon to the Canary Islands as, despite having access to pigs, apparently the Spanish are incapable of making lean bacon, which is a situation no right-thinking person can tolerate, obviously. Yes, we did have to share a hotel transfer with her.

12. Unbranded Canarian beer is not the tastiest beer in the world, but I've definitely had worse.

* I'm not judging you if you have a portable device that keeps your child occupied. On Sunday morning, LittleBear watched an hour of dinosaur videos on Youtube on my laptop while still in bed, as neither of his parents could quite face getting up. We don't have a judgemental leg to stand on. Nor do we have an aeroplane-compatible device to plug LittleBear into, or the foresight or good-sense to organise one. I think I might just be jealous.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Writing to my MP

Those of you who know me on Facebook will know that I've recently been angry about the government's plans to force all of our state schools into the hands of privately-owned Academy Trusts. In fact, here's what I wrote last week:

I find myself unable to coherently express the complete and utter contempt and loathing I have for the Tory government in general, Nicky Morgan in particular and her f***ing stupid opinions. Apparently it will be up to councils to "attract" academies to their area, just like they attract businesses. So what happens if they can't? Will you start paying uneducation benefit, or maybe school-seekers allowance, for all the kids who haven't got a school to go to? Because not having a school is *just like* not having a job isn't it? Or, just perhaps, Moron Morgan, schools and businesses aren't actually the same thing? And maybe having Local Education Authorities provide the schools that are required in their own areas isn't quite such a stupid way of arranging things? I'm so far beyond angry with this government and so bloody powerless to do anything about it (and that poisonous woman even told the teachers' union that there was no point complaining and fighting as there wouldn't be another general election for four years, so she can do what she wants...)

Having subsequently discovered that the 1922 Committee are expressing reservations about the whole plan, and that my own local (Conservative) MP actually sits on the Education Select Committee, I decided to exercise my democratic right and duty. I decided to write to my MP. Being a well brought-up lady at heart, I decided I couldn't exactly send my Facebook-rant to my MP and that I needed to write something that didn't read as though it had been written in green ink

It's taken me several days of cogitating, writing, re-writing, reading, re-reading and mulling, but I've finally hit "send" on the email. And then I thought maybe I'd post it here. After all, I share everything else here. But the funny thing is, the idea of sharing something the serious side of me has written almost makes me feel physically sick. I may have told you all about my battles with post-natal-depression, my struggles with anxiety, my night-time fears, my sense of inadequacy as a mother and my rage with many things, but that self-same anxiety rears up and savages me at the thought of sharing a "real" letter I've written. I can't hide behind a mask of hyperbole and flippancy. I can't fling unsubstantiated statistics around like confetti. I have to try and be measured, clear, concise and yet firm in my views. And I'm genuinely terrified that you might think instead all I manage is to sound stupid. Or pompous, or pretentious, or ill-informed, or naive, or ignorant. What if my MP thinks all those things? It would be bad enough if she thinks those things in private, but how much worse to have exposed my stupidity to the world as well as to a politician.

So, despite my intention to over-share on every topic that meanders across my grey matter, it turns out I can't. Instead I can tell you that the thought of sharing something that actually matters has made me really, really anxious. My hands are shaking as I type. The fear of being judged and found lacking is as strong as ever. You'll just have to imagine I've written a really great letter to my MP.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Conversations that I didn't want to have

LB: Oops

PB: What is it?

LB: I dropped the loo paper on the floor.

PB: Did it have poo on it?

LB: Yes, but it's OK, it didn't smudge poo on the floor, because I'd folded the poo up on the inside. I checked.
I guess it's time to clean the bathroom floor. And LittleBear.