Archive for the category “gender differences”

Unexpected benefits of boys

20140210_114041I bought myself a new coat yesterday. It is warm, intact and it is clean and, because I want it to stay that way, it is pink. Another unexpected benefit of being a Mother Of Boys.
So, I went to hang up my pristine pink affair and found, to my horror, that there were no hooks left. Each and every hook in our house (and believe me there are many) has been filled with the following:
• Waterproofs (only they’re probably not entirely and the zip is bound to be broken. And we’ll only find this out as we are rushing out of the house)
• Winter coats (permanently filthy and, more often than not, damp. And if by some miracle, the rest of the coat isn’t, there will definitely be a handful of sodden sand in the pocket)
• School coats (in theory to be kept clean and only worn when on official business. In practice often used as substitutes for the above when it’s discovered they’re wet)
• Sundry other coats which we appear to have accumulated – rarely worn, probably ripped and really should be relegated to recycling

While I was writing MOB Rule I stumbled across this quote:
‘Definition of a sweater: an item of clothing worn by a son when his mother is chilly’
Well, I am substituting sweater with coat. Because in our house, despite the multitude of outside garments we appear to possess, getting the boys to put one on is akin to my going on a diet. Not worth the effort and unlikely to end in success.

‘Get your coats boys,’ I say, ‘we’re going for a walk!’
‘But it’s not raining,’ they retort, ‘we won’t get wet!’
‘No, not now it isn’t, but it might do later…’
‘But I’ve checked the weather online – it’s going to be dry all day.’
‘The forecast’s not always right you know… and anyway, you might get cold.’
‘It’s not cold,’ they reply, ‘in fact we’re burning!’
‘Of course you are – it’s warm inside the house but once you’re out…’
‘But mum,’ they say strutting in shorts and T-shirts, ‘we’re we’re mammals, we’re warm blooded – not like you, you’re… cold blooded!’
Guess that makes me a snake then, or maybe a cod.
‘Suit yourselves,’ I give up, slithering my ‘gills’ into my gloves. ‘On your heads be it.’
We head outside.
***
That day the weather forecast got it right. And to their loud satisfaction they remained bone dry. Last weekend, however, they got it wrong.
We are half way along the coast when the skies decide to dump their sodden contents onto our heads. The boys put up their hoodies but they do little to help. One by one, they sidle up to me and my rucsac.
‘Mum,’ they shout over the howling gale, ‘muuum… did you bring my coat?’
‘Might have,’ I dangle, delving into my pre-packed bag. They grab their garments and even zip them up. Cold blooded I may be, cold hearted I’m not.

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‘Three boys? How do you cope?’ and other insults!

Last week we escaped to Spain. In a move most unbefitting of the ‘plan at least 6 months ahead’ people both the FOB and I are, we double-clicked on Easy Jet and winged our way to some summer sun.

For four whole days I did not wear a wetsuit, for four whole days we had meals outside, for four whole days the boys washed in sea water and didn’t see a shower. The FOB read a paper, I read a book and, due to the presence of a 24/7 pool, I suspect the boys (don’t tell their teachers) didn’t read a word. We fried prawns in garlic on the barbie, and ate them to an accompaniment of persistent cicadas, grazed on never-tried tapas in a side-street café, gorged on slices of giant water melon, oozing pips and pink juice. With the odd obligatory glass of Rioja for good measure, our much needed mini-break was complete.

Thus it was that we arrived at Alicante airport on Sunday evening revitalised, brown and – in two out of three boy cases – barefoot. (Their only footwear had been ‘mislaid’ at the bottom of a particularly stomach-churning slide in Acqualandia water park that day… but that’s another story, for another blog.) Loaded with assortment of hand luggage only, we made our way through scanners, security and into departures. I grabbed a bench, near the queue for the plane, and we sank gratefully onto our seats and waited to be called.

‘Aged between 31 and 65?’ chirped a voice suddenly at my elbow.
I jumped.
‘Pardon?’ I said.
‘Aged between 31 and 65,’ repeated the voice, ‘just a few quick questions… now, then… married?’ The Voice thrust a survey in front of our faces.
‘Err, yes,’ replied the FOB, for want of a better answer.
‘Good,’ squeaked the Voice again, ‘And how many children?’
‘Thr…’ began the FOB. I interrupted.
‘Sorry,’ I said, ‘but what is this for?’
‘Oh, it’ll just take a few minutes, a few questions and you could win A HOLIDAY! Now then… ’
But, I thought, I AM on holiday, and to be honest, was looking forward to a few moments reflecting on the last few days with my husband. Not, I thought, increasingly infuriated, answering the unsolicited questions of this intruder.
‘No thanks, we’re fine,’ I said, pretty politely for a post-Burger-King airport on a Sunday night.
The Voice turned red, then turned away.
‘Never mind,’ she flounced over her shoulder, ‘I wasn’t looking forward to talking to you with them.’ She glared pointedly at my sons who were slumped on the bench chatting quietly. ‘How on earth,’ she sulked, ‘do you cope with three boys?’
I coughed. I spluttered. My maternal hackles rose.
‘Cope? Cope?! I, I, I… I love having my boys!’ I exploded loudly, for the benefit of the Voice, the rest of the departure lounge but mostly for my much maligned sons. And then I watched, open-mouthed and fuming, as she scuttled off to foist herself upon other unsuspecting tourists.

***

Half an hour later and we’d boarded the plane. And the smoke was merely coming out of my ears in small whisps now.
Sensible Son and Binary Boy settled down next to their dad, discussing the physics of flight before snuggling down to sleep. Feisty Fellow laid his head obediently in my lap and assumed the kip position for the duration of the flight. I stroked his salt-starched head, absent-mindedly. Would she have said the same to a mother surrounded by a glory of girls, rather than a MOB outnumbered by husband and sons? Would she have branded a MOG with the same preconceived – if inadvertent – insult? I allowed my eyes to shut, and we swooped into the sky.
Boys in pool

The MOB goes live on Radio Wales

Last week I had the privilege of being interviewed about MOB Rule on BBC Radio Wales.

Water bottle and sweaty palms at the ready, Rob quickly put me at ease and we had an interesting and lively chat about boys, bodily functions and parenting issues. To listen click here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01qzfr7 and, if you don’t have a spare three hours to listen to the whole programme, move the cursor to around 1hour10 in. When you get to Phil Collins you’re almost there!!

It’s only available for another couple of days so if you want to tune in, you’d better be quick!

What happens when the MOB goes away for the night?

I went away on Saturday night. By myself, to a friend’s birthday party. No boys, no FOB, just me on my tod. I had a lovely time, catching up with old friends and having a good natter.

On Sunday I came home. I walked through the door to a pretty clean house and an appropriately rapturous welcome.

‘Did you have fun with dad?’ I ask the boys, at least one of them wrapped around my waist.

‘Yeah… it was great!’ boy 1 enthuses, ‘he made us an awesome supper!’

‘Yeah,’ adds boy 2, ‘we had sausages, eggs, bacon, beans on toast… a proper fry up!’ I sniff the lard-laden air in mild despair: pray tell, where’s the five-a-day goodness in that?

‘And,’ adds boy 3, ‘we stayed up really late. I went to bed after 9pm, and the others went even later than that!’ His brothers shoot him a looks-could-kill stare, but boy 3 blunders happily on, ‘Dad let us do all sorts of things that you SO wouldn’t!’

Oh really? Now this is interesting.

***

In the nearly 11 years I have been a MOB, I have learned that the FOB and I – whilst mostly highly compatible – do differ in some of our approaches to parenting. Differences which merely confirm my long-suspected belief that men are indeed from Mars, whilst women hail from a neighbouring, but oh-so-alien planet. Here is a list of things the FOB will willingly do for his sons, and I will not:

  1. He will drive right through puddles on the road just to see the splash.
  2. At the boys’ request, he will drive even faster through puddles on the road in order to see an even bigger splash.
  3. He will let them experiment with bonfires and burning sticks under the auspices of ‘learning’. The same theory also applies to any remotely dodgy activity which could be deemed even slightly scientific.
  4. He will embark on a boy bonding ‘team hug’ in the full knowledge that it will undoubtedly end in tears.
  5. He will allow, nay encourage, them to jump the waves. In the depths of winter, without spare clothes.
  6. He will suggest a race, regardless of state of exhaustion or frame of mind. And consequently, ‘good loser’ is not the phrase which springs to mind.
  7. He will watch as they re-enact ‘you’ve-been-framed-moments’ on the lawn on their bikes, reminiscing with a smile that he was exactly the same as them at their age.

And therein lies the Mars/Venus moment. Because the FOB is a boy and I am not. Things that come naturally to him, and his sons, fill me with horror and fear. Of course I want the boys to have fun and I am definitely more Tomboy than Barbie myself, but does fun really have to involve so much Savlon, mud and madness? Apparently, according to dad (and them) it does.

A FOB friend told me about his own ‘Dangerous Days’. Days when, in the absence of mum, he and his sons would daringly embark on all sorts of stuff. They’d have fondue for supper, sparring for meat with angry sticks, or make their own candles, dipping wicks, and the odd finger, into molten wax. Once, he told me gleefully, the MOB had returned home to find a climbing wall snaking its way up the entirety of their stairs.

Maybe, I think, eyeing the still-to-scour grill with resignation, maybe I got away lightly with just over-tired boys and a fatty full fry.

Six reasons why it’s marvellous being a Mother Of Boys…

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/showbiz-and-lifestyle/showbiz/2013/02/05/what-is-it-really-like-being-the-mother-of-boys-91466-32745038/

What does the car you drive say about you?

The other day we went to the beach. Nothing – since we moved to coastal Devon – particularly unusual about that. We can, like so many other members of the ‘boy brigade’, frequently be found on a stretch of sand, exercising the ‘pups’, whatever the weather.

We pull into the car park in our Citroen C8, the replacement for our too-small two-boy Renault Scenic. It has 7 seats and is nearly 2m tall. Avoiding underground car parks is a small price to pay for banishing boy bickering. Grunting to a halt, I park the ‘bus’ as it’s affectionately known – far enough away not to risk scratches or dents – next to a fellow beach-walker’s car. It is pristine, pink and apparently ‘powered by Fairy Dust.’ The ‘MOB mobile’ most blatantly is not.

Here is a list of what ‘powers’ our car:
Sand
Babybel shells
Plasters
Sandwich crusts
Balls/marbles/anything round that might bounce or be kicked
Breadsticks
More sand
An apple core
A rounders bat
Mud
And – just for good measure – a bit more sand

A friend had the misfortune of travelling in our car – once. ‘If you added water to this,’ she reflected staring at the floor, ‘you could make pizza!’ How rude, I thought to myself, how rude. But I have to admit she probably has a point.

Thankfully, I have never been a car person. My first was a Suzuki Alto, followed swiftly (due to decrepitude) by a Fiat Punto. And a secondhand Polo was as glam as it got. Cars, to me, are there for a purpose: they are a vehicle for transporting me and my kids safely and swiftly from A to B. And, on a good day, hopefully back.

Still, I can’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy when I spot a particularly gorgeous car. Not, I’ll admit, one that’s shocking pink and seems to be spouting flowers, but one that is quirkily interesting, funky, fun. A Beetle maybe, in racing green or blue. A stripy 2CV with headlamps which bulge like bugs’ eyes. A Fiat 500 (old model of course), with only 2 doors and a sun roof to boot. Cars which, I am acutely aware, would struggle to house me and my weekly shop, let alone a bevy of boys.

For now, therefore, I will continue to board my people carrier bus. Practical, purposeful and let’s face it, a bit boring. But one day… One day, when my boys have flown the nest and are buying 7 seaters of their own, the FOB and I will buy our car. And we will strap our vintage suitcase full of scarves and light sweaters to the back, and drive off into the south of France sunset in our MG Midget. Just one boy and his babe on board.

‘All I want for Christmas is…’ The ultimate gift guide for mothers of boys

As you know, last week I was walking the streets of London. As, it seems, were an awful lot of others. And whilst I wandered round John Lewis looking aimlessly at everything, they were busily and purposefully filling their bags.

‘But it’s not even December yet,’ I grumbled to myself, ‘surely you can’t start Christmas shopping when it’s still only November!’ A dancing Santa on a nearby shelf begged to differ. ‘Ho Ho Ho!’ he chortled happily, patting his tummy and wiggling his bum.

My wander down Oxford Street got me thinking. What, I wondered, should be the top five gifts on every MOB’s list? What amazing paraphernalia would I not be without? What would I want my FOB to be lovingly wrapping up for me this Christmas eve?

Here, sparing no expense and after considerable thought, is my very own gift guide for the Mother of Boys:
1. Octopus sock and pant sorter. It is plastic and looks about as unsexy as they come, but my Octopus makes hanging out the inevitable assortment of socks and boxer shorts a much more satisfying and swifter operation. I got mine from… Ikea.
2. Cheese sliver-slicer. Invented, I think, by some smart Scandinavian, we first came across these years ago when we lived in Germany. Using the sliver-slicer ensures that the extra large lump of cheddar you bought thinking and hoping it would last all week, might actually last you and your boys more than one meal. I got mine from (you guessed it)… Ikea.
3. Welly-rack. The FOB made this much-admired object out of a piece of wood and old bits of broom. The welly-rack means that wellies (big and small) are stored outside, upside down and in argue-free pairs – no mud, no mess, no muddle. You can buy much posher, ready-made versions on Ebay.
4. Hand-held blender. Or ‘the whizzer’ as it’s technically known in our house. I have discovered that if it doesn’t actually look like what it actually is, the boys will eat pretty much anything in soup. Anything, that is, except brussel sprouts. I got mine from… Sainsbury’s.
5. Panasonic bread maker. I know there’s a bit of a food theme here, but every MOB knows that the way to their hearts is through their stomachs. Next to milk, bread is the other must-have we are always running out of. And now that I’ve discovered that milk can be frozen, my bread maker frees me from emergency supermarket sweeps. I got mine from… John Lewis.

My FOB (with the exception of a beautiful necklace he gave me one year) is not renowned for his prowess in the romantic gift department. Before we were even going out, he bought me a rolling pin for my birthday(?!), followed swiftly by a sag bag one Christmas and the next year a bin. Granted, the bin was a Brabantia and we still have it in the kitchen, but…

So, to all the FOBs out there reading this, and most especially mine: by all means take your pick from any or all of the above. But be warned, your MOB may rapidly find a use for that redundant rolling pin. This Festive season why not break the practical present habit of a lifetime, and try adding a little Chanel No. 5 for good MOB-measure? Because, as you know… we’re (definitely) worth it.

PS: Obviously if you’re after the ultimate present for the Mother of Boys, ‘MOB Rule’ can always be pre-ordered pre-publication on Amazon!

‘Stuff’ and, like, nonsense

There are moments as I mum when I realise that I am doing it all wrong. This is one of those moments.

I am in the car, driving my son and two female friends to after-school swimming. The ‘MOB mobile’, as we affectionately call the 7 seater ‘bus’ I use mainly to ferry small children around town, is full of bodies, bags and … silence.

“So,” I say cheerfully, glancing at my boy in the rear-view mirror, “what did you get up to at school today?”
His face doesn’t register, not even flicker.
“Hello there!” I sing. I have his attention. “What did you get up to at school?”
He gazes into the middle distance, studiously ignoring his inquisitive mother’s stare. “Stuff,” he grunts.
“‘Stuff?’” I repeat. “What kind of ‘stuff’?”
He yawns. “Just, like you know… ‘stuff’.”
“Hmmm,” I acknowledge reluctantly. “And you girls… what did you get up to?”

Half an hour later they both draw breath. I now know every single detail of every single hour, including who did what to whom, where and why. Blimey, I think, rubbing my throbbing temples, maybe having a slightly less forthcoming boy isn’t so bad after all. We arrive at the pool and tumble out.

***

Later that evening we are back from swimming. I am sitting at the supper table with all three boys.

“So,” I say to the swimmer’s brother, “what did you get up to at school today?”
He opens his mouth, realises it’s full of pasta, and rapidly closes it before I can say a word. Gesturing he’ll respond in a minute, he chews vigorously. Swimming son, however, sensing an opportunity to put in his two’pennyworth, fills the temporary void.
“We did maths today… it was really cool. And then we did PE and then ICT… ” The monologue continues for some minutes whilst his brother tries frantically to get a word in edgeways. ‘Swimmer’ however, is on a roll – he’s centre stage and he’s not getting off. His brother, disgruntled, eventually gives up and angrily stabs pieces of penne with his fork.

***

Still later that evening, the boys have had a book and are ready for bed. I kiss them goodnight, turn out the light. “Goodnight boys,” I say, “sleep well.” My foot is on the top step, poised to go downstairs.
“Muuumm,” says swimmer son.
“Hmmm?”
“Muuumm, I need to talk to you about something.”
“Now?!” I retort. It’s been a long day and my evening cup of tea is calling.
“About something that happened at school today.”
He sounds so serious, so sensible. I sigh and go back and perch on his bed.
“Right,” I say, settling in, “what is it that you need to talk to me about now?”
We sit in the darkness and I listen as he speaks.

***

So, I realise now what I’ve been doing wrong. I have been picking far too obvious and easy moments to try to communicate with my sons. What I need to do if I want more than just ‘stuff’, is to either ensure there’s plenty of fraternal competition for airspace when I ask my openers, or embark on a conversation when it’s actually high time for bed.

Then I bet you my MOB mobile they’ll be more than happy to chat.

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