Saturday, 28 April 2012

Children See, Children Do

I encountered this video by NAPCAN, an Australian organisation, while researching some extremely interesting stuff for work I'm doing on families and branding. It makes for striking viewing and illustrates how influential parents are on their offspring. 

While I steer clear of all but one of these traits, I'm afraid I sometimes turn into the screaming woman in the car.
I feel like crying. It's a dreadful potential legacy, and I don't want L to inherit it. I feel ashamed.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Helping the butterfly to unfold...

There are blossoms scattered where I wheeled L in her pushchair this afternoon. The sky was slate grey, water dripped off her rain cover (and from my hood) and she wanted to get home. I did, too, and was in a tired, rain-induced grump. I gave her a cluster of white blossom to hold and she put one in her mouth, declaring she'd eaten one (she hadn't). She said she was hungry. Then she wasn't. She was cross, then not. You get the picture. But there is now far more going on than predictable toddler contradictoriness. I can see that L is pushing boundaries and watching with sparkling alertness in her dancing eyes to see how I react to some of the things she says (or whispers, if they are cheeky). I am going to take it as a huge compliment that she – according to psychological theory – feels sufficiently secure at the age of just two and a half to do this. Itisgooditisgooditisgood. 

I look at L and see the steady gaze that meets mine, as it could be in its teenage version, and feel the pressure on me to get it right, NOW. It all feels suddenly pivotal. I vow to not lose my cool, and to be firm and try to understand what she's going through, no matter what, because, even though she can explain certain things, some of her feelings and needs are at the mercy of a lack of words and meaning. The finessing of language has yet to emerge... goodness knows, I have encountered grown men and women who lack some children's level of emotional articulacy. L says things, as of today it seems, simply to see what effect they have on Mummy. This is not toddler tantrum stuff; it is something that is new, and as the lying down and shouting fades in frequency (yes, her, not me, though it is sorely tempting at times), I suspect that this 'head' stuff will increase and call on my brain and heart in equal measure.

I want to show L that I mean business, can guide her, and am a strong (if sometimes flawed) role model capable of loving and nurturing through anything and everything. I'm not into the my child = my friend lark. I have chosen my friends to be my friends; I want L to have friends and to have me as more than just a friend, if I'm honest. A friendly mum, but a mum. It is a huge responsibility. Shoulder-crackingly massive. Crumbs. 

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

April showers (and drought, obviously)...

A very high tide © Mellifluous Dark
There has been talk of drought in these here parts. And, since the hosepipe ban that started at the beginning of April, it has rained and showered and been sharply sunny in London. We have had thunder, lightning, hail, pelting rain, drizzle, sunshine, wind, stillness, blue skies, soft breezes and blankets of grey cloud – all in the space of two days. L has had a crash course in British weather; happily, she is fascinated by storms, as am I. There is nothing quite like the majesty of a dark grey cloud that comes hurtling across the sky to make you remember that we are just the equivalent of little ants on this planet. Thunderstorms and the sea quickly convey our vulnerability and create (in me at any rate) a longing for tea and hot, buttered toast, or full-bodied red wine depending on the time of day. Oh, and let's not forget the Thames, which is a short distance from where I sit. Soon, the tide will be high; it will destroy unwary car-parkers, seep through some doorways and cut off roads and pathways. The spring tides are quite dramatic and strangely hypnotic – you just stare and stare at the water swelling and creeping higher. Only a fool would underestimate the strength and quiet power of this winding river. It is not a safe place for a quick dip.

I recall the drought of 1976 though I was but a youngster at primary school. Normally damp southern English earth was covered in cracks like the patterns on a giraffe. The heat was searing. My mum took a trip to South America to visit some of our family and dad painted the outside of the garage, his skin growing darker by the hour. It was hotter, on occasion, back here. The plants were dehyrated and water was reserved for drinking, washing dishes and clothes, and bathing. This year's drought, so far, sees a perfect concoction of a fledgling plant's needs met, what with the sun and water alternating that makes getting ready in the morning confusing – and even more time consuming.

he changeability of British weather – where I live, at any rate – gives me an excuse for my dozens of pairs of shoes and boots, my many coats and clothes for all seasons that bulge in a minimalist's nightmare of a wardrobe. Who are these people who can be so confident of the seasons in England that they manage to vacuum pack their winter/summer clothes away once the relevant season has supposedly passed? I've given up my longing for a capsule wardrobe. Why introduce more stress into your life? It's fun to have to take an umbrella and coat, and wear at least five layers in case the weather changes. Isn't it? L has several little coats and jackets piled on to the banister, and a small selection of footwear of varying permeability. Even if it is fiercely sunny, I'll shove a waterproof thing in my bag, because, well, who am I to know, eh? All those summer days where people have gone to work wearing flip-flops and come home with stains where the rain has bled the dye and washed their feet with London pavement water, just wouldn't be the same (just one of many reasons why flip-flops should be banned on the commute to work/at work). And, what on earth would we talk about? The economy? Nah. Too predictable by half (or three-and-a-half per cent – if we want to bring inflation into it!).

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Discombobulation and peace

There have been things on my mind, so awful I will not go into them here. I want them to go. They should have no place in anyone's life. They will go.

My darling dad, wise in ways I can only dream of being, spoke to me today due to his concern over my concerns, and I feel different – better – as a result. He said his dad used to sit him down and speak to him in a similar way.

 hope one day to evoke such feelings in my child (though I wish for her to not go through these particular things that touched my life). I hope therefore that she never worries me in the way that I have those who love me...

Sorry, this is a tad indecipherable unless you are in my head (or are my dad), but so be it. Here's to wisdom and love.

Though this post is about my dad, thanks also to you who have also been there for me. You know who you are. You do make a difference.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Olympic effort

Is it wrong that I am not in the slightest excited about the Olympics? With each flash of the digital Olympic countdown clock, my sigh deepens, my eyes roll that bit more dramatically and eventually I glaze over. Or feel slightly annoyed. 

I feel bad about this negativity but I am fed up when leaflets come through the door telling me I won't be able to go here and there, and am expected to not use the bloody transport system in case visitors want to travel in July/August, in my home town. (To make myself feel a bit better, I'll go to one of the free events, just so my child can witness history or whatever, partly because we'll be trapped where we live for a few days and won't be able to go anywhere.) I want to feel elated, excited and eager but it all seems so removed from me (apart from the 'you must not go here/there' stuff), that I struggle to feel genuinely moved.

What troubles me most is the amount of money we have thrown at this event, and continue to throw at it. Billions of pounds at a time where I am in the red on the second of the month, where people talk of child poverty, where we are being screwed with tax and VAT, and no pay rises. We have one child because a) we can't afford a bigger place to live,  b) we work for a living (rather than depend on the state) – and living is f*cking hard at the moment – for many people, and c) April sees a raft of bills come in and I am juggling like crazy to ensure the fridge is stocked, the car legal, the amenities paid for, etc etc etc.  

The whole "it will be an investment for the future" also riles me. Where is the extra money coming from – the cash that will have to manifest to turn the Olympic Village into habitable homes? Who will buy these homes? Who will give them mortgages? Who will cycle in the velodrome? No – wait – that's being converted at a cost of, er, how much, into... what exactly? Why do the executives have to stay in hotels on Park Lane? 

I am a proud Briton and a passionate Londoner, and I value human endeavour and achievement; none of my moaning here is anything to do with that. Please let us win more gold than ever. Please. I was happy when we won the bid – I walked around Trafalgar Square with a good friend on the evening July 6 that year. The wind blew the ticker tape that was left on the ground from the celebrations and we were both smiling and excited as the sun faded from the sky. (The next day was 7/7.) 

Methinks the emperor's new clothes are so shiny, so shimmery and glitzy, that they have blinded many to the cost of this relatively short sporting event. Is anyone holding the purse strings? Are there any strings on the purse? I bloody doubt it. The original budget was £2.4 billion. It is now forecast to be £24 billion. 


Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Eye, eye...

This is not me...

When I can be bothered (and have enough time) to do my eye make-up well – nothing too ambitious, just a slick of liquid eyeliner on the top lash – people treat me differently. Not that they generally run screaming or anything, but I've had better than normal service, no-questions-asked refunds, a freebie thrown in here and there, and stuff of that ilk.

It could be that on those days that I have the eye thing working, I'm generally in less of a rush, probably have on clothes not stained with food, am wearing something other than my somewhat too-tight TopShop jeans (bought before motherhood) that have literally worn through at the knee, and have bothered to do something with my hair other than shove it into a broken butterfly clip (yes, I know I am too old for such a thing, but at least it's not a scrunchie, OK?).

 spent today looking after my young daughter after a maddeningly rubbish night's sleep due to drinking one small bottle of cheap beer... I worked last night and I have been working all evening (proofreading a complicated legal magazine), too. Little L has a couple of molars breaking through, so has been calling out for attention and pain relief, poor thing. My eyes are baggy; I've rubbed them due to tiredness and the start of the hayfever season. The mascara (why did I bother? Am I completely mad?) has served to do nothing but enhance the dark half-moons beneath my eyes. Today was not a liquid eyeliner today. I hope tomorrow will be...

For those who wish to learn how best to perfect that upper line, such as the one pictured above, 
this YouTube demo might help. I use Chanel liquid eyeliner in black, which has a fine brush; I think it gives a cleaner line than a pencil. I remove any mistakes with the tip of a slightly moistened cotton bud.