Tuesday, 23 May 2017
It's not easy to make sense of some of the things happening in the world right now. And by right now, I mean always. There is always something horrible and upsetting in the news. From equality to violence to terrorism, there is always something that is painful, upsetting or scary to read about it. I don't usually share those news stories with Ebony. She's too little, really, to make sense of a lot of those news. I can't make sense of them myself. I didn't tell her about the Westminster attack a couple of months ago, I wouldn't have known what to say.
I talk to her about upsetting news stories sometimes. Not because they are in the news, but because they get stuck in my head and I feel it is my job to educate her. I have spoken to her about famine, about inequality, about climate change. I talk to her about the issues I feel are important and which I feel we have even just a little bit of power to do something about. I can talk to her about climate change because I can teach her things to do that can reduce her impact on the planet. I can talk to her about inequality because I want her to grow up and see for herself that things aren't fair and that we need to force change. But how can I tell her about horrible things we can't control?
"Oh fucking hell, there's been a blast in Manchester." Those were the words out of Laurie's mouth at about quarter to eight this morning as we were all sitting in bed. Ebony was playing with her sister, but she paused when he said it.
"What's a blast?" She said to me. I guess I should be thankful she didn't ask what fucking meant and that she instead focused on the word blast. I shot Laurie an angry glare before realising that, actually, I would have to tell her about it this time. Kids at school would know about it, they would be talking about it in the playground. We don't live far from Manchester, it was possible that someone from her school could have been there last night.
I answered her question. I told her that a blast was another way of saying a bomb had gone off, that somebody had let a bomb off to hurt people and the police were trying to work out why. She had questions, of course. She wanted to know if we knew anybody that lived there, if people had been hurt, if children had been hurt. She wanted to know who did it. She wanted to know why. I couldn't answer that one, but I did my best, explaining that sometimes people want to hurt other people.
We got dressed, we read her school reading books and we sat down to eat breakfast. Then she brought it up again. She said people would probably be feeling sad about it today. That even if they didn't know the people who got hurt they would still feel sad because it was a sad thing to happen and it's not nice when people get hurt. And that even if the person who did it got hurt that was still sad because nobody ever deserved to be hurt. And then we cleaned our teeth, we put our shoes on and we walked to school.
Monday, 22 May 2017
‘Family kitchen’ is just a polite way of saying ‘messy kitchen’, or is it in my house, anyway. There are always letters from school cluttering up the side, abandoned hair bobbles and clips (the few that actually return home) on the breakfast bar and dirty cups and plates that have been dumped on the worktop. It is a lived in kitchen. Like, really lived in. Sometimes, it’s clean and sparkly and lovely but most of the time, it’s lived in. I thought I would write a post sharing some of the things I consider to be family kitchen essentials. They’re the things I think make life easier or prettier in a family kitchen. I’ve left out the obvious like wooden wine racks to store All The Wine you need to devour at bedtime.
Saturday, 20 May 2017
The idea of space is somewhat terrifying, nothing makes me feel more insignificant than looking up at a star full of skies and realising just how small I am. I am scared of the deepness of the sea, but space is a whole other kettle of fish. It’s just so big. Too big. So big I can’t even begin to comprehend it. But, I want to encourage Ebony to enjoy science and so I’ve been thinking of ways we can learn more about space together. I don’t want her to be one of the many girls who, by the time they leave primary school, have already given up all hope of ever conquering maths or science. I don’t want her to be limited by her gender. I don’t want her to conform to society’s view that science is for boys.
So, I have been plotting ways to get her enthralled in science. She loves learning about how the human body works, she’s fascinated by animals and she really likes ‘making potions’ (these are, almost always, 99% my fancy conditioner). Here are a few of the ways I am, or wish I was, trying to get her into space (har har har):
Friday, 12 May 2017
Every so often, something happens which reaffirms to me that I am not exactly killing it at this whole adulting thing. It might be the frantic search for matching school socks approximately five minutes after we need to leave the house every morning (even writing this won't motivate me to seek out socks in advance of tomorrow's pre-school panic) or the fact that we sometimes have to go and buy ingredients for dinner at dinner time because I forgot to organise it in advance.
Some days, I get the big one off to school on time, whisk the little one home for a nap and then have a productive two hours writing away on my laptop and other days I can't find my hairbrush. Being the adult and being expected to keep family life running smoothly isn't easy and sometimes I find myself failing.
Take Ebony's bed, for example. Ebony finally got her own room when we moved into this house. She was two and a half years old when we finally transitioned her out of our room (although could somebody let her know this because she doesn't seem to have taken the hint very well). We decorated her room. We painted the walls white, we dug out brightly coloued toys to add a splash of colour and my parents bought her a bed. We didn't go for solid oak bedroom furniture which, in hindsight, perhaps we should have. Instead, we chose a white wooden bed, simple, pretty, perfect. It looked beautiful in her bedroom (bedroom tour here). Or it did until it got broken.
You see, the problem with young children is that they love to jump on the bed. On all beds. They jump high and far and with enthusiasm. No matter how many times I asked her not to jump on the bed, I would still hear the familiar creak of the springs giving way under her weight as she leapt around the room. Three weeks ago, she had a friend to play. They went upstairs, as they often do, keen to explore the toys hidden upstairs. I was making dinner in the kitchen, the baby balanced in the crook of my arm whilst I cut vegetables one-handed, so I didn't hear the bouncing of the springs. I didn't hear the telltale creak of the floorboards under the bed or the almighty snap when the bed collapsed under the weight of two excited little girls drunk on the freedom of a playdate.
The next morning, Laurie noticed that her bed was a little more diagonal than it used to be. A snapped slat and some broken screws seemed to be to blame. My dad came round, the man who can fix absolutely anything (just ask Ebony - 'you can try, mummy, but when it doesn't work, we can ask papa and he will fix it') with a bit of wood glue and a few spare screws. The two of them disappeared upstairs to fix the bed and appeared triumphant an hour later. It was fixed apart from the slat. That was all we needed to do, replace the slat. That was three weeks ago. Ebony is upstairs now fast asleep on her mattress on the floor because we haven't replaced the slat. Laurie tried, he claims, but Homebase didn't have the right part. I haven't even done that. If I think back to my own childhood, there is no way my dad would have left me sleeping on the floor for three weeks. He would have replaced that slat straight away, he probably had a garage full of spare slats just in case such a problem ever arose. But poor Ebony, with me and Laurie for parents, she has to sleep on the floor.
This is a collaborative post.
Thursday, 11 May 2017
Motherhood is all-encompassing. Five years ago, it washed over me like a tide, dragging me under and pinning me down on the ocean floor as I fought for air to fill my lungs while powerful waves broke over me. Every so often, I summon the strength to swim up to the surface and catch my breath, I fill my lungs with the oxygen I once took for granted but which now feels special as though my very being depends on it, only to be dragged back down to the sandy floor as the next wave crashes over my head. It is exhausting, to tread water in a stormy sea, gulping huge breaths of air into my lungs and not knowing when I might be able to breathe again, so consumed by my battle with and against the ocean that all sense of who I am is lost.
Motherhood is relentless. Even when my bones ache from exhaustion and my brain is filled with nothing more than a dense fog of tiredness, I still rise in the night without hesitation to take care of my children. They come first, their hunger or nightmares or clammy limbs reaching out for a cuddle always take precedence over my desperate need for sleep. I cannot sleep, I have accepted that, not yet, maybe in a few years, but for now, the tiredness is as much a part of me as my left arm. It is always there and, as a result, I have stopped noticing it a lot of the time, but sometimes, as I stare into the bathroom mirror and look at the pink eyes staring back at me, and the dark circles under them and the age lines creeping out at the corners, it comes rushing back to me so powerfully that I fear I will keel over and be unable to get up.
Motherhood is chaotic. It is the desperate juggling act of trying to look after the basic needs of my family whilst also finding the time to write, to invoice, to do admin, to wash laundry and pair socks and cook dinners and shop so that the cupboards aren't bare. It is the endless chore of picking up toys, of cleaning teeth, of remembering birthdays, of making sure everybody is eating well. It is the constant worry that I'm not doing enough, of trying to improve, to be better, to mother in a way that will protect them in the future, it is the late night ordering of parenting books from Amazon and knowing that they will sit gathering dust beside my bed until I finally find the time and energy to read them and, by that point, that it could be too late, that I may already have done everything wrong.
Motherhood is like a kettle boiling, that shrill whistle sounding loudly in my ear while I try to gather my thoughts and think about what to do next, my insides hot whilst frustration bubbles beneath the surface. Motherhood is getting things wrong and making mistakes and wishing I had been better. It is sitting down in the evenings and letting the day wash over me, thinking about where I went wrong and what I should have done instead, it is the never-ending conversation with Laurie about who we are as parents and who we want to be. It is knowing that finding the time for that conversation isn't always easy but that it is always important, that if we stop thinking about it, if we fall into habit and parent without analysis, then we aren't doing it right. There is always room for improvement, there are always apologies to be made and bonds to be strengthened, even when there isn't time because life is in the way.
Motherhood is me. It is always there, even when my children are not. Become a mother rewired my brain and changed the way I see the world. It changed everything. It made the world smaller, it made my fears bigger and it threw my ribcage open and exposed my heart to the elements where it seems in constant danger of getting hurt. It is beautiful and powerful and vaster than any skyscraper. And, sometimes, it's nice to get away from it all. Sometimes, it's nice to escape from motherhood, just for a little bit. I need to walk away from real life, to throw myself back into the past, to meet friends and drink wine and talk about politics and forget about motherhood and all that it entails. That little break, that night away to a different city with different conversations and busy streets and new foods to try, gives me the chance to swim to the surface and take a big gulp of fresh air and remind myself who I am. I am a mother and that is the biggest part of my identity now while my children are little, but I'm also lots of other things and, when the waves break around me instead of over my head, it's nice to remember those things, to breathe them in and hold my breath, letting them rush through my veins, before I am dragged back under again.