We Survived Soft Play…

So on Friday me & the boy ventured into unchartered territory: namely Soft Play. I’d arranged to see my lovely friend Kelly & her adorable son Ashton a little while ago & this week she suggested this as a play date idea. She’d recently been there herself, so thought it would be a great way for the boys to get to know each other; let off some steam & briefly save our lounges from the usual carnage as an added bonus. Initially I was quite excited at going, it would be a brand new experience for both of us, & a safe place for my little commando crawler to explore. I’d even ‘bigged it up’ to him that morning whilst I was getting him dressed…hmmm, hindsight is a wonderful thing hey. I’d built it up in my mind that it wouldn’t be as bad as feared or had read about, (www.theunmumsymum.co.uk/surviving-soft-play.html) after all it was a weekday in term time & we were getting there as soon as it opened, so should be calm, in theory.

We arrived, negotiated the ridiculously heavy entrance door, I was juggling Benjamin, my handbag & his extensive bag of: spare clothes, finger foods, bottles, nappies, wipes, coat, gloves(?!), monkey & muzzie, you know, all the essentials! Kelly was much more prepared than me, with her compact buggy that carried everything she needed. I’m such a rookie still it seems. We duly paid our £1.50 as an ‘accompanying adult fee’ (I think it’s odd that the babies are free & yet they’re seemingly getting the most benefit from the whole ‘experience’?!) We tracked down a table to ‘camp out’ on, piling everything high up so we could actually keep an eye on our belongings whilst sat in the murky depths of the ball pool. We placed the boys on the café floor, whilst we cast aside our shoes. All of a sudden there was a shriek & a stray ball came flying out & ricocheted off of Benjamin’s head, but luckily he didn’t really realise what had happened, I should have taken it as a sign right then. I was horrified to discover how we had to enter; literally had to climb over a huge plastic block, into a mini ball pool & over another massive block to get to another completely plastic-covered ‘flat’ area all whilst carrying over a stone of wriggly, excited baby. Seriously I felt like I was on “It’s a Knockout” all whilst wearing slippery tights & a leopard print shirtdress. Even in mummahood I’ll never learn to dress appropriately it seems. We put the boys in the biggest space & hoped for the best. Benjamin didn’t quite know what he was supposed to do; there was nothing in the space except more plastic cubes & he found himself sliding all over the show, just as his Mumma had to get into this surreal slippery soft play circle of hell. Imagine a slightly chubby Bambi on ice if you will, well for both of us really when I think back to it! We enjoyed this space for a few minutes before some preschoolers entered & our hearts sank. It seems that the etiquette for older children is for their parents to abandon them upon entry, allow them to free-range it until an accident occurs, or another parent has to step in to ‘break things up’ & then they have to reluctantly intervene. Kelly & I ended up forming a human shield around our babies – creating a force field to fend off rogue children & plastic cubes being launched from every direction. Even one of the members of staff came over & told us that we could tell older children to move to another area if they became too boisterous. After a few stern looks, trying to locate the offender’s parent, we then decided to relocate to the comparative ‘safety’ of one of the mini ball pits. The boys were so good & patient & I love the photo below of the two of them sharing a moment amongst the chaos together. I on the other hand was trying not to think of all the bodily fluids that have probably passed over said balls & praying I didn’t find any ‘presents’ with my practically bare feet. We lasted for a whole nineteen minutes in this multi-coloured, wipe clean, seizure-inducing war zone. The boys needed food & we needed our sanity back. We crossed the one-way gated threshold, after deciding that we definitely wouldn’t be going back in & retreated to the baby swings outside in the adjacent park. Fresh air, perfect.

I’m glad we went. I think. It was just as I thought it would be, but I was genuinely disappointed that we didn’t get a badge of honour when leaving, something along the lines of “we survived soft play”. Go us! We might go back, I mean it was the best that Jamin has ‘day slept’ in a long time (probably all the adrenalin running through him?!) Then maybe next time we can be the Mummas who get to enjoy a leisurely coffee; all while our little darlings cause the chaos, well maybe.

The Highs & Lows of My Geriatric Mummahood…

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Easy like Sunday Mornings…a rare ‘lie in’ until 7am!

So twice last week, two of the lovely ladies I’ve been working with recently were surprised to hear that I’m turning 40 in just under six months. I was shocked that they were shocked to be honest; maybe it was my hormonal breakout that fooled them or maybe they were just being kind. It certainly made my day, as since going back to work, I’ve certainly felt my age more than ever (it’s only been two weeks!) & it’s made me think about all that geriatric mummahood actually entails for me.

I guess it made me realise that older, doesn’t necessarily mean wiser. Well certainly not in my experience. I’m not naturally maternal & I know I never have been. Even as an early years teacher, I loved my job, adored the children, but was more ‘Mary Poppins’ than ‘Molly Wealsey’ about things – but certainly not, “practically perfect in every way” that’s for sure! It gave me a great insight into how I wanted to parent: I’ve been lucky to have known some absolutely inspirational Mummas in my career & this, combined with my own parents’ methods & reading the fantastic “French Children Don’t Throw Food” by Pamela Druckerman (www.pameladruckerman.com) have shaped my ‘style’ so to speak. We’re strict with Benjamin already; he’s beginning to learn his boundaries & he knows if he’s over-stepped them. This may sound harsh for an eight month old, but both Tim & I are firm believers in setting ground rules early on, then loosening up a little later. We’ve both found it successful with Tim’s other two children (for all involved) to do it this way, rather than allowing a ‘free for all’ to start with, then trying to rein things in later when it’s all gone a bit wahey! It’s harder than I thought it would be, but I keep having to tell myself that I’m not Benjamin’s friend, not just yet. For now at least, I’m just one of his guides & mentors in this crazy thing called ‘life’. What a responsibility!

For me, the lows of being ‘an older Mumma’ have to be the extreme tiredness, the complete achiness & the occasional overwhelming feelings of frustration. I’m sure this is no different from other Mummas, of all ages, but at times I’ve felt like my age has exacerbated these negatives. Looking back, I don’t think I fell into the complete depths of Post-Natal Depression, but on some days, back in the beginning, I was definitely paddling in the shallows. My emotions consumed me: I was angry with myself that I felt ‘trapped’ in this new role of motherhood; something that I had wanted so badly, for so long. I hated the fact this beautiful tiny human, that I had, in part created, was dependent upon me for everything. Literally everything. And part of me wanted to run far far away. I’d had 38 years of just thinking of myself, I was (& probably still am but to a lesser extent) a selfish person to a certain degree. I like my own time, company & space & always have. It’s taken a lot for me to write this, it’s not something I’ve really vocalised, let alone typed. I’m lucky in that I had Tim to talk to, to shout at even. He listened to me vent & talked some sense back into me. Thank goodness. But I can see how easy it would be to slip into the vicious cycle of depression. I found: http://www.mind.org.uk to be a fantastic source of information. My other main ‘low’ has been the intense physical pain. For the first three months, I felt brittle, like an old porcelain teacup. Every movement was agony & some days I was genuinely terrified that I would ‘shatter’. Then I developed ‘de Quervain’s tenosynovitis’ aka tendonitis of the wrist. My age, my gender & my recent motherhood were all contributing factors apparently. Joy. So after seeing two doctors, a physiotherapist, being given exercises & a sexy black splint that I’m meant to wear 24/7, but found that I’m allergic to, so can only bear wearing it at night time (along with my fluffly socks & dressing gown) Tim’s a lucky man! Haha! I feel that things are getting better. I don’t have to think about how to pick the boy up & everyday tasks are getting easier again thankfully. Thank you NHS. I could go on with other ailments: breakouts, hair issues (various!), dry skin etc. etc. but I’ll leave it here for now!

The highs of my late motherhood on the other hand, are that I know how I want to parent, as I explained earlier. I have high expectations of Benjamin. I am confident to correct him in public, if necessary. My patience for his learning is high, although my tolerance for his whinging is incredibly low(!) On particularly bad days I have to walk away, then come back a few minutes later: ready to start again. Most importantly though, I appreciate the ‘now.’ As clichéd as it sounds, I guess I’m more aware of ‘the moment’ than ever before. I’ve always been aware of poignant ‘now’ markers in my life, scenes/moments that I’m drawn back to time & again. Things that I knew were significant, but I was unaware as to why at the time. I spend a lot of my working life listening to people reminisce about their interesting lives & I genuinely love it. I’ve always been fascinated by people; hearing about their memories of loved ones & the special times they’ve shared, holidays, laughter & their ambitions. Sometimes, these wonderful people can’t remember what they ate for lunch, but can remember the most intricate detail of years gone by: of fleeting moments when they fell in love, or when their children were growing up & homes they’ve lived in. I’ve decided that ‘mindfulness’ is not really a new trend, people have always been aware of the ‘now’ but not really realised its significance: it’s equally important to remember those ‘now moments’. It’s proved in our older age, as these are the things that we hold onto. Essentially they get us through life: they help us to cope.

We’ve had a great few days; it started on Friday when Benjamin & I went on a ‘Spring Hunt’ – looking for signs of new life & longer, warmer days. And although the boy slept for most of it, I rediscovered my mojo for snapping things on my iPhone that caught my eye, mainly flowers & landscapes. Saturday & Sunday were spent with some of our fabulous friends & it was great to entertain & make dinner for everyone. It was lovely to be just us again & this was highlighted to me. We were even allowed to enjoy our bed until 7am on Sunday. What a treat! Time with Benjamin continues to be precious & I cherish the subtleties of his weekly developments. Nothing makes us happier than hearing the boy properly belly laugh & giggle when I pretend to “eat him up” at the end of the day or Tim tickles him. It’s truly heart-warming & the troubles of the day just melt away for both of us.

For the first time since giving birth, this weekend has shown me how to reconnect with just ‘being me’ & combining this with being a Mumma. I can do both. The ‘highest of highs’ for me though, is that I actually can’t wait to reminisce upon my own family memories: all whilst not forgetting to be mindful of being ‘in the moment’ of course!

Thank you for reading. I’d love to hear the highs & lows of your Mummahood…

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We’re Going on a Spring Hunt!..What a beautiful day…

Old friends & new ‘Mummy’ friends: because chatting over a coffee is cheaper than a therapist…

I’m good at being on my own, I always have been. Growing up as an only child in a small village: I needed to enjoy my own company & for the most part, I did. Don’t get me wrong, I had friends & I did see them regularly, but I didn’t rely upon them. As clichéd as it sounds, my Mum was my best friend & I was more than happy with that. Now, as I’m older, married & have very sadly lost my wonderful Mum, my husband Tim has taken on this role of being my Bestie. Lucky him! I know, more vom-inducing clichés! I love to talk to him about everything really & I’m sure an outsider would think we were absolute nutters if they heard even half of our eclectic topics of conversation. However sometimes, just sometimes, you need another perspective, another point of view, a female take on a situation & that’s when I start messaging ‘my squad’! I hate this expression, almost as much as I hate the term ‘Mummy friends’ if I’m being completely honest. When I was childless, this phrase used to make me physically shudder. I’m not sure why, but probably because it sounded like a secret exclusive club, that at the time, I never thought I would be in.

I was more than happy with the friends I had before Benjamin was born. My small circle was made up of: my oldest, dearest College friend, my fab holiday companion (from an eventful trip to India a few yeas ago) & two of my wonderful previous work colleagues. A couple of them were Mummies already; so I would ask them for advice if Google couldn’t supply the answer I was looking for. I thought no more friends were needed. I didn’t want to have to talk about myself ‘from scratch’ – akin to dating all over again. I was reluctant to attend Antenatal Classes & I remember Tim having to practically force me out the door to go to Baby Groups in the beginning. But as I look back over the last six months, I’ve realised that I have made three more close friends: two of them being much coveted ‘Mummy friends’ & one of them being my super neighbour, whom I never really knew until Benjamin was born. It always makes me smile that, in a crowded room, you can be drawn towards just one or two people & on some level they are drawn towards you – for reasons unknown at the time. This happened with my new pals…

Tim & I were sat in said Antenatal class, learning about breathing techniques, birth plans (lols!), pain relief & breastfeeding guidance with about ten other couples. We were easily in the top three of the eldest parents, no surprise there. After our visualisations, squeezing a knitted boobie & pulling plastic babies out of replica pelvises each week we were starving; so headed straight for the nearest Golden Arches to satisfy my Fillet O’ Fish craving at the time. We weren’t the only ones with the same idea, our new friends Alison & Richard had shared our thoughts. And that’s how we met. We have the same views on the same topics; including parenting values & we have had spookily similar life experiences. They are such easy-going & caring people, we could both listen to them for hours. Maybe our subconscious knew we would make great friends & we’ve stayed in touch ever since & I am sure that we always will. I love it that Benjamin has a little ‘girlfriend’ already in Amelia (he’s not allowed to date anyone else though. Ever.) And I also love the time that we all spend together. You know there’s a strong rapport when conversation is effortless. It can’t be the first friendship to have formed over a shared love of Maccy D’s sweet & sour sauce, surely?!

I met my second new close friend initially at one of the Baby Groups (that Tim had managed to persuade me to go to back in the early days). It was your standard: plastic toys scattered on the floor affair, large beanbags around the edge for the non-mobile babies (where I had positioned a sleeping Benjamin) & lots of cold tea/coffee for the stressed new Mummies who hadn’t slept the night before. Two ladies approached me & after the usual “hello, how old is your little one? Yes, he’s a big lad: his Daddy is 6’2” etc. etc.” I was asked, “Are you Tim Green’s wife?” They were both in the same year as him at school. This isn’t the first time that this has happened to me: it’s a small village & he was clearly a friendly boy?! I’m just praying that I won’t get asked, “Are you Benjamin Green’s Mum?” later on for similar reasons! Anyway, we had a lovely chat together & I thought no more of it. I didn’t go back to the group for a couple of weeks & didn’t ask for names/numbers. Then, one sweltering August morning I decided to take the boy for a walk – quite early because we were experiencing a massive heat wave & keeping Benjamin cool was a constant worry. That’s when I bumped into Claire. Again, we had much in common & we’ve been ‘baby group buddies’ & good friends ever since. I love her quick thinking & sound advice. I also love the little friendship that Albert & Benjamin have struck up already.

My new neighbour friend, Laura, came over one day to pick up a parcel (one of the ‘perks’ of maternity leave, you get to be a mini Post Office) & heard Benjamin grumbling, so we invited her in. He loves her cuddles & fuss (because Mumma & Daddy clearly don’t give him enough attention!) And we all love our new friendship. The four of us: her boyfriend Adam & Tim, have had many a night putting the world to rights over a bottle of bubbles, complete with baby monitor turned up extra loud.

I guess the point of my blog post is that I’ve realised that there is always room for more friends. Each friend has different qualities; different life experiences to draw from & can support you in different ways. I guess I’ve always known this. I’ve needed advice, guidance & reassurance over the last few weeks & I’ve known which friends (old & new) to turn to. They have made themselves available & have kept me sane. Many cuppas have been drunk & I can’t thank them enough, they are all superstars & I hope I can be there for them when they need a listening ear. I also hope I can show Benjamin the importance of friendship, being friendly & ultimately knowing who to trust. Although the latter is incredibly tricky even as an adult.

I can’t wait for Benjamin to grow up with Amelia & Albert. I really hope they form part of his ‘squad’, his ‘go to’ people for sound advice & support, just like their fab Mummies are for me…well who else can he ask which are the tastiest rusks & best spot for his Cow & Gate elevenses?