Archive for the tag “boys”

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.

Maybe encouraging rugby wasn’t such a good idea…

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A festive guide to sibling squabbling

‘Muuuum! He hit me!’
‘But muuuuum… he punched me!’
‘Well, he hit me first!’
‘Only ‘cos he used a rude word’
‘Yeah, but only ‘cos he called me a BAD name’
‘Because he nearly sat on my arm…’
‘Only because he sat too close to me on MY sofa!’
‘Yeah, but he was whispering… and breathing… and ‘stuff’.’

This is, very obviously, a fictional scenario. In our house this Christmas, the boys will play beautifully together all the time, respecting each other’s needs and encouraging each other to shine. Err… ahem.
***
There are nearly two years between my brother and I. Two years and at least two universes. Because we are totally and blatantly and irritatingly different.

When I was eight, my parents bought a ramshackle pair of gable-ends in the wilds of Scotland and set about restoring the water mill to its former glory. This would’ve been a fantastic idea, had it not been for the fact that the building work required us to live on site in a caravan (a ‘built for two, occasionally three’-type van, not a swanky modern mobile home) for over 12 months. And even this would not have been so bad had it not meant me sharing a bedroom (I use the term loosely) with my BROTHER.

I had the top bunk in our 4 foot wide cubicle. To reach the chemical loo on the other side of the paper-thin wall, I had to slither past my brother (still sleeping) on the bottom bunk. Only he wasn’t. The minute he’d hear me begin to clamber out of bed, he’d stick out an innocent leg, dramatically impeding my drop to the floor. Then, whilst I was still recovering, he’d leap out of bed himself, race round the corner and commandeer the loo for his morning pee. ‘Muuuuum!’ I’d shriek, racing after him and banging, furious, on the door, ‘Muuuuum… he won’t let me go to the loo!’ My mother, six feet away on a pull down bed, would sigh, and pull the blankets over her head.

And so the day, and indeed the years, continued.
He liked computers, I liked horses.
He liked being inside, I liked being out.
He didn’t like my friends and I didn’t like his.
If he was into this, then I was into that.
We had absolutely nothing in common and we made sure that the world knew about our differences. Horrid Henry and his side’kick’ had nothing on us.
***
When I was 30 I had my first son. My brother had had a daughter the year before. Suddenly my brother and I had something in common. No longer did he live on planet mathematics whilst I languished on a humanities’ star; now, to our amazement, we inhabited the same world of nappies, bottles and too little sleep. For the first time, we could empathise with each other, could see where we were coming from, respect our rights and wrongs. We started, albeit very belatedly, to get along.

So this Christmas day, my mother (whom I realise, equally belatedly, must either have been a saint or astonishingly unaware) will smile when I sit calmly next to my brother, chatting pleasantly to him about this and that, and I, in turn, will smile too. Because I will know that my boys – no doubt kicking each other under the table – will not continue their sibling squabbling forever. If history, and my maths are anything to go by, I’ve only got another 22 years or so to go. I’ll raise a glass of festive cheer to that.

‘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

5 moments of motherhood to savour

Sensible Son is 11 today. And today he is (literally and metaphorically) boarding a bus and heading off with his mates, for a week-long residential in the ‘big smoke’.

Naturally, he is super-excited about the prospect: ‘We’re going to the Rainforest Café for dinner, having breakfast in the hotel, we’re even allowed to take sweets… and stuff.’ The educational benefits of the Science Museum and the V&A appear to have slipped his tweenager mind. And, of course, I’m excited for him too. Well… kind of.

I’m excited for him to step out into the wonderful world, to board that bus armed with only a spare pair of boxers and a redundant flannel. It’s just that I wonder how on earth his going came round so soon. One minute, it seems to me, I was puffing through contractions watching Harry Potter and the next I’m waving goodbye to my almost-taller-than-me son. If it’s not deemed ‘uncool’ to wave them off that is. Life, it seems to me, is speeding past so fast.

When I was younger I stumbled across William Henry Davies’ poem, ‘Leisure’:

‘What is life, if full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare’

And as I gallop through my life as a mum, I realise – frequently – that I’m not that great at sitting down, let alone standing still in the sun and taking time out ‘to stare’. I find myself – too often – not necessarily savouring that moment, focussing instead on the junk they need to start collecting for next term’s topic, on the next school trip when they all need a packed lunch, looking forward to the next steps, instead of savouring the now.

I remember one afternoon about 8 years ago, standing in my kitchen, making supper. I had one baby on my hip, one boddler on the floor and the toddler wandering about with a needs-changing nappy. ‘Make the most of it,’ said a ‘been-there’ family friend smiling at the chaos, ‘it doesn’t last long!’

Thank goodness for that, I’d thought to myself at the time. But now… Now, I realise, a little sadly, that she was right.

So, at the risk of turning into a ‘been-there’ bore, here is my top 5 list of motherhood moments to savour:

  • Babygros

OK, their legs never bend the way you want them to, and you always get to the bottom popper before realising you’ve popped it wrong… but my goodness, they’re so scrumptious on a newborn baby. And a onesie doesn’t have as much appeal.

  • Breastfeeding

Yes, there’s that excruciating agony of the misaligned mouth and the months of sodden shirts and grey breastfeeding bras… but, ahh, that magic of a tiny finger entwined with mine, and a thin leg kicking gently in replete delight. That bright-white balcony bra can wait.

  • The grabbing of legs

I know it’s always at the most inopportune moment, that they sidle up to your thigh and attach like an octopus… but the 100% trust and need in those chubby arms is astonishingly special. A long limb slung casually round the shoulders isn’t quite the same.

  • ‘Dear Zoo’/Peepo/insert here the current ‘every-night-book’

Granted, it’s difficult to muster enthusiasm for ‘they sent me a…ooh…now what could it be?’ every night… but those chuckles, the appreciation of met toddler expectations and the snuggle-up peace of a bed-time book should not be underestimated. Creating avid readers is the ultimate investment in their education and in your future evening emancipation.

  • Mother & toddler groups

Yes, when you’re looking after little ones it can feel like some days you’ve done nothing but drink coffee and chat… but those hours of maternal bonding over Gina Ford will probably lead to forever friends. And you’ll never have such a great excuse again to eat cake and natter while you ‘work’.

Happy Eggster!

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Why I will resolve to lose weight again this year after all

My spam box today is full of miracle solutions for getting rid of excess stomach fat. ‘Start the New Year with a new skinny you’ they promise. Ordinarily, I might be tempted. This year, however, thanks to non-stop illness over the Festive Season, losing weight will not (unlike most years since I was about 16) be top of my ‘resolutions-for-the-New-Year-invariably-failed’ list.

What then I wonder, should be my, and the rest of the family’s, resolutions this year? I pose the question at the tea table.

‘What’s your New Year’s resolution for 2013, Sensible Son?’ I ask.
‘Ermm… to not wind up my brothers,’ he replies, gurning brightly at his smaller siblings.
‘And yours, Binary Boy?’ I say, ignoring his brother’s contorted face.
‘To not be wound up by my brothers,’ replies middle son, flicking a glob of baguette at his elder aggravator.
I intercept the baguette and turn to smallest son. ‘And you? What are you going to do in 2013, wee man?’
‘Ooh, wee man, wee man, maybe be a pee man,’chant his bigger brothers.
Feisty Fellow jumps down from the table. ‘To not over-react when they wind me up,’ he shouts over his shoulder, as he slams the door.

Oh. That went well.

‘What’s your New Year resolution then?’ the FOB asks me.
‘Well…’ I say, eyeing the door and waiting for it to inevitably re-open, ‘I was thinking the 3 c’s… to stay calm, to question, to cuddle…’
‘Question’s a ‘q’ not a ‘c’!’ interrupts Binary Boy.
‘…not get CROSS!’ I finish. ‘Yours?’ I ask the FOB. Crossly.
‘Sorry?’ he says with his special kind of dreaming of roof-structures smile. ‘Oh… er, mine… yes … to listen. That’s right. To be more attentive.’

I sigh. Clear up the kitchen. Flash up the computer and hover over some spam. After all, apparently you can never be too rich… or too thin.

Happy New Year from the MOB and her boys
x

Boys Rule… That’s what they think!

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