Archive for the tag “raising boys”

‘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

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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’.

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.

‘Saw this postcard and thought of you!’ Can’t think why…

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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.

The MOB heads north…an interview in the Northern Echo on the ‘Rules of Engagement’

Recently I had great fun being interviewed by fellow (more multiple than me) MOB Ruth Campbell. We chewed the female-only fat and discussed the – ultimate – joys of boys. To find out more about the ‘Rules of engagement’ go to…http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/leisure/lifestyle/10175319.Rules_of_engagement/

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

MOB’s Log on MOB’s blog

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Calling last minute Father (and Mother) Christmas’: The Ultimate Gift Guide for Boys…for free

For anyone who missed out on the ‘12 Tweets of What to Buy a Boy for Christmas’, here is my complete list of suggestions in one printable page (to be sung to the tune of either ‘The 12 days of Christmas’ or ‘Pick of the Pops’):

1. A marble run
Hours of fun and still loved at 10.
2. Hama beads
I know it sounds unlikely but give them (especially animal shapes) a go.
3. ‘Best of Jennings’ by Anthony Buckeridge
A spiffing raucous read for kids and adults alike.
4. A chemistry lab kit
Supervise as he revels in violent volcanoes and sulphurous smells.
5. The Guinness World Records height chart
It seems I’m just less than the largest loo roll.
6. Geomag
It’s marbles Jim, but not as we know it. Magnetic fun for all the family!
7. Click clack track
Strangely mesmerising, we never bought one and wished we had.
8. Any fact-filled book by Mitchell Symons
‘Did you know?’ sessions will never the same.
9. UNO, Boggle Slam or a good ol’ fashioned pack of cards
Endless opportunities for bad behaviour.
10. Hexbugs, of any shape or form
Just make sure you include backup batteries.
11. Elefun
Certain chaos as boys trample everything underfoot to catch bugs in nets.
12. The Dangerous Book for Boys
Full of facts and fun for the males (big and small) in your life.

Failing any of the above, just give them a big cardboard box and some bubble wrap. Job done.

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