Shouty Mama

It always starts off so well. When the kids are in the throes of a meltdown or being extremely defiant, I try to follow the advice espoused by various child rearing experts. Talk to your children calmly, don’t get angry, give them a warning, walk away….we all know the drill. But when your monsters repeatedly ignore your instructions [cough cough, I mean requests] it’s hard not to turn into a raving lunatic that froths at the mouth.

Little Ludoo mid meltdown
Little Ludoo mid meltdown

Take Flump. She basically acts like I’m either invisible or that she has a serious hearing impediment. Today I asked her, as I always do, to brush her teeth and wash her face before bedtime. She ignored me. I asked her again. She ignored me. By the 6th time I was starting to get vexed, especially as Ludoo was whinging about wanting to eat more cheerios. She still ignored me. I gave her a stern warning and the countdown to three. She still ignored me. And then I exploded into a mad, raving loony. It wasn’t pretty, nor was it helpful as it all ended in tears and hysteria. Then I got pissed off that the day had been ruined and felt horrendously guilty about losing my temper. I then had my moment of introspection and asked myself, since when did I become a shouty mama?

A bit of self reflection
A bit of self reflection can only be done with a jumbo sized mug of tea

The reality is we all have bad days and, whilst shouting at our kids is not ideal, it’s not abnormal and doesn’t make us evil. And just because we lose our cool now and then, okay, quite often, that doesn’t make us crap mums. Tell me which mother of multiple small children is in a permanent state of domestic bliss and happiness? Tell me??? I’m not saying my preferred style of parenting is to scream and shout but sometimes, just sometimes, it’s inevitable. The key thing is it doesn’t define my relationship with my children. Yes, I might become scary on occasion, but I also have many magnificent moments with them.

As women we are plagued by maternal guilt and are our own worst critics. But how about we focus on some of the wonderful things that we do for our children instead? We provide the foundation for our families and sometimes the weight of this can take its toll. We may have our shaky moments but we quickly realign ourselves and stay strong. We all have low points in parenting but I believe as long as we make it abundantly clear to our children that we love and cherish them, and that we are sorry for any ill temper, they will be forgiving of our flaws. It never ceases to amaze me how in a few short seconds a child can, with their forgiveness, turn a shouty moment into a magical moment.

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PARENTS’ EVENING

It’s that time of year when a lot of us are invited into school for parents’ evening. In theory this should be a straightforward matter. You go in, listen to what the teacher has to say about your beloved, ask questions and ideally leave feeling peachy. In reality, it rarely works this way.

Don't stress!
Don’t stress!

Firstly it’s a mass scramble to get the appointment that you want. Everything is done online now so you have to sit at the computer, fingers poised, waiting for the booking system to open. If you forget you’re basically screwed and will end up with the worst appointment slot ever, namely when the kids are normally having their meltdowns or when it’s impossible for you to sort out babysitting. Whatever the case, you’re screwed and you only have yourself to blame.

Like me, you might even consider taking an early appointment, straight after school, so that you don’t have to go home, rush around, get a babysitter and then come out again. In theory this should work well. Think again. Unless you are lucky enough to be blessed with angelic children who will sit quietly in the corner reading books whilst you have your appointment (seriously, there are some kids that do this) then just DON’T DO IT. My two monsters spent the entire time running around the school hall shrieking with laughter playing tag. I barely heard a word of what the teacher said, got eyeballed by irritated parents and basically felt humiliated.

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So true…..(The Simpsons)

So this time I tried the opposite approach and opted for the late appointment at 7pm, leaving the kids at home. To be honest, it felt like a night out. I loved leaving the house on my own, enjoyed catching up with friends in the school hall and had countless cups of tea without interruption. It was flipping brilliant. The only negative was that by this stage of the evening, the appointments were all running late (there’s always one overly keen parent who monopolises the teachers and asks a million questions), the teachers were knackered and there was no time for discussion. Oh well…who cares? At least I got a night out midweek. Woo hoo!

The worst scenario for me would have been for the teachers to tell me that Flump was badly behaved. Asian family rule number 1: Never bring shame upon the family.  Or that she wasn’t reaching her academic targets. Asian family rule number 2: You must always get good grades so that you can become a doctor, lawyer or engineer, even if you are only seven years of age.  It doesn’t matter how anglicised or alternative you think you are, if you have a drop of Asian blood in you, these rules apply.

Parents’ evening is like a rite of passage for parents. It’s all a bit nerve-racking the first few times, as we have no idea what to expect, but after a while it becomes easier. Then of course it gets worse again as the kids get older and have exams to pass. But until that horror kicks in, I’m going to make the most of my midweek night out…I might even organise dinner and drinks next time around! Who would have thought parents’ evening could be so much fun?

 

 

 

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Female Friendships

I’ve always believed that having a good set of girlfriends is a really positive and enriching experience. With age and responsibility our lives become increasingly busy with work, relationships and/or kids, but in my view we should always make time for our female friends. And yes, I even mean make time for that one crazy, overly emotional, slightly neurotic friend who we all love and despair over.

First and foremost, we can’t beat the ‘old is gold’ friendships. Those friends that have known us since childhood and travelled through life with us. From ugly duckling to spotty adolescent, these friends have seen us at our worst. We can share our private thoughts with them safe in the knowledge that they will not judge us and will always want the best for us. These are the most precious friendships.

Thirty five years of friendship
Thirty five years of friendship..not a word about my hair

Then we also have those friendships from our late teens/early 20’s, when we have shared milestone moments like moving away from home, university, our first job or first serious relationship.  These are wonderful friendships that we have experienced in our most formative years, as we have developed and matured into adulthood. These friends knew us before the realities and responsibilities of life kicked in, when we were full of hope and dreams.

And let’s not forget our crazy, party girl friends who still frequent the most happening places in town and always guarantee a good night out. We know they will make us behave disgracefully, dance around our handbags and shriek with laughter all night long, but that we will pay for it the next morning when we can’t get out of bed and spend all week feeling and looking like death warmed up.

Then there are our work or school mum friends who we see every day but perhaps don’t know very well, on a personal level. Some of these relationships will remain courteous and superficial but, over time, there will be one or two people who we really connect with. These friendships are engaging and exciting because we have a shared experience.

And finally there’s the crazy, psycho friend who drains the life out of us with all of her drama and emotional anguish but who has a heart of gold. We know that, in between all of her sobbing and self-loathing, she will happily offer a shoulder to cry on should we need it.

In my experience, the best female friendships are the ones that are uncomplicated. The ones that don’t simmer with complex layers of resentment, competitiveness or envy.  Moreover they need to be reciprocal. It’s no good if I’m always the one offering tea, biscuits and pastries but never get an invitation back. No, thank you very much – I’d like a chocolate hobnob please. It’s not so much about expectation but more about making a person feel valued and appreciated. Once you identify who your closest female allies are, life becomes so much simpler and healthier.  So we should rejoice in our female friendships; put the nappies /laptop/dyson vacuum cleaner to one side and enjoy a bit of girly fun as there’s no heartier laughter than that experienced with our girlfriends.

From ugly ducklings to party girls. Childhood friends
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Ten Years On

It’s been ten LONG years since the Old Git and I got married. Eleven since we first met and I changed his life for the better. After months of relentless pursuit, I finally gave in and said ‘yes’ (just to stop him from hounding me, to be honest). He hasn’t looked back since, obviously, and thanks me everyday for being such a great wife. Okay, he doesn’t really do this last bit but I know he thinks it on the inside. 

The day we said "I Do"
The day we said “I Do”

Naturally things change over the course of ten years. The Old Git isn’t quite as attentive or adoring as he used to be and I just find him annoying most of the time. We don’t gaze into each other’s eyes like we used to or spend hours discussing our feelings. Nope. Instead we spend a lot of time eyeballing each other angrily or discussing our monthly budget (yawn). Yes, this is married life ten years down the line. Throw in a couple of hyperactive kids and it’s a life completely different to the one I started with.

That being said, it’s one I wouldn’t want to change (apart from the bit about the Old Git going on about monthly budgets…yawn). It’s quite nice having the odd cuddle and even better having someone I can whinge to on demand. The Old Git is a bit like a warm old blankie..he makes me feel all toastie and snug. We’ve had highs and lows, moments of extreme joy and sadness. Such is life. But we’ve managed to endure them together and move forward.  With time comes understanding and patience. Key ingredients for any marriage. I’m no expert but what I do know is that, ten years on, the Old Git and I know when to choose our battles, understand when the other is feeling vulnerable and support each other’s dreams and aspirations. Furthermore, he gives me full charge of the TV remote control which would otherwise be a deal breaker.

It also helps if you still fancy your other half. Imagine if the Old Git was annoying AND unattractive? That would just be too much for me to bear.

On our ten year wedding anniversary
On our ten year wedding anniversary

Some people like to project this rosy image of constant marital bliss but this is deceptive. Behind closed doors every relationship faces challenges and is tested. We are all imperfect and so are our relationships. But that doesn’t mean that they are not good, healthy or fulfilling. They can be all of these things even in their state of imperfection. My Old Git may annoy me but I’m not going to ask for a refund quite just yet. He isn’t a bad catch and is aging quite nicely. Who knows what the next ten years will bring?

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Sibling Love

I’m not sure what’s up with my kids these days but they are acting like the spawn of Satan.  Every evening, as soon as we step into the house the hysteria begins. It takes a whole five minutes before one of them starts howling (normally Ludoo) and the other starts shouting angrily (normally Flump).

They used to get on so well (okay, maybe I’m exaggerating but at least they could be in the same room together without wanting to smack each other) but lately the sibling tension has reached new heights. If it’s not Ludoo destroying his sister’s carefully constructed Lego creation, it’s Flump snatching her brother’s precious toy cars and throwing them behind the radiator, never to be retrieved again. The daily ritual of Flump screaming at her brother to “get outttttt!” whilst he beats down her door hysterically normally culminates with me threatening to send them both to bed immediately. Big sigh. It’s exhausting and infuriating. Why the heck can’t they just get along?

Of course my siblings and I were model children. NOT. Admittedly at school we were perfectly well behaved as we knew Asian parents would not tolerate any kind of public embarrassment, and to be summoned into the headmistress’s office for bad behaviour would have been the ultimate humiliation. We knew better than to risk that.

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The Khan siblings

But at home it was a different matter. My younger brother and I wanted to kill each other for a good portion of our childhood. We used to grunt at each other angrily and were always separated in the car by our older sister who would sit in the middle in case we tried to savage each other. I once dislodged my brother’s front tooth by kicking him in the face and he once stabbed my sister in the arm with a biro. We were such lovely, charming children.

My brother and I used to fight like cat and dog

I suppose I don’t really have a leg to stand on when I complain about my own children not getting along as my poor parents had to endure much worse. That being said, my siblings and I are perfectly well adjusted, happy individuals who have positive and healthy relationships with each other now…thirty years on! Crap! I really hope it doesn’t take that long for Ludoo and Flump to start getting along again.

Of course it’s completely normal for siblings to quarrel and as long as they aren’t having a punch up my philosophy is to not intervene and give them the opportunity to resolve things themselves.  But very young children (like my own) often need help resolving conflict and managing their emotions. Finding a way to encourage them to work as a team (someone suggested a ‘Teamwork Jar’ where you can add and deduct coins for good/bad teamwork), as well as not taking sides are both excellent starting points.  I’m hopeful my two monkeys will revert to being friends again soon but in the meantime I’m going to invest in a really good pair of headphones to drown out the screaming and work on my scary, threatening voice. Of course we all want to equip our kids with the right life skills and develop their emotional intelligence, but sometimes (okay, quite often) we just have to ignore, threaten and repeat.  Eventually they should just wear themselves out.

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A Note to my Firstborn on her 7th Birthday

I never knew my capacity to love until I met you.  I never realised how completely consumed I could become by another person. As soon as you were born my heart missed a beat and you became an intrinsic part of me. You are in my every breath and in my every heartbeat. How joyful my life is with you in it, and for that I thank you.

I didn’t always find motherhood easy. When you were born, my life dramatically changed and it took some time to mentally adjust. I struggled with the loss of freedom, spontaneity and sleep. I worried about your every move and became anxious. But with time my confidence grew and I learned to trust my own instincts. I stopped trying to achieve perfection and embraced all the highs and lows of new motherhood, safe in the knowledge that you’d love me unconditionally, that the hard times wouldn’t last forever and that I’d always do my best to make you feel loved and safe.

I soon realised there was no “one way” to parent, and that my way was valid and good. I felt empowered and fulfilled. Having you in my life has tested me in so many different ways and forced me to become a better, kinder, more patient and giving person. I am not infallible and do make mistakes. For that I am sorry and I hope you will forgive me. But know one thing, my love for you is all encompassing and resolute. My passion for you is all consuming. My prayers for you are enduring.

The day Flump was born
The day Flump was born

There is no greater love than a mother’s love and no more exquisite an experience than holding your first born in your arms. You are no longer my only child but you will always be my first. You are the first that stole my heart, the first that made me cry and the first that made me beam with pride and joy. Happy birthday my darling girl.

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Me Time

Remember when you used to have a life….before the kids came along, and you could do whatever you pleased? When getting your roots done, your eyebrows threaded or legs waxed was considered basic maintenance and not luxury ‘time out’ from noisy, belligerent/beautiful brats? These days I have to meticulously plan and book all of these necessary appointments well in advance (and yes, they are necessary as nobody wants to have a moustache or a caterpillar monobrow – it’s not a good look). But I also consider these appointments a bit of a treat these days as they enable me to escape the madhouse and focus on myself, albeit for pruning purposes. As I’m being plucked and prodded I feel immensely thankful that I have an hour to myself to indulge on ME.

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Time out. Woo hoo!

Some women feel terribly guilty about indulging on themselves. Fortunately for me, I don’t suffer from any such affliction. I even make a point of having monthly massages to destress and get rid of all of those toxins (that’s what I tell the Old Git anyway when he rolls his eyes at me as I’m heading out of the door). Happy wife, happy life. Happy mummy, happy home. Mums experience daily levels of stress that often go through the roof, be it when your kids repeatedly ignore you, have hissy fits in the supermarket or reject all meals and demand Cheerios instead. Sometimes I feel as if my eyeballs will pop out of my head out of sheer fury or that I will implode with frustration. Having a relaxing massage or getting my eyebrows beautifully threaded is a welcome, exotic escape from this and provides me with much needed respite. I don’t care if you are a brain surgeon or a CEO of a multi-million dollar company, kids can stress you out like no other, as well as emotionally and physically drain you.

There is of course the small matter of living within your means. Nobody is suggesting you splash out on a luxury spa weekend every month (although it sounds delightful) or have a hair and beauty consultation with a celebrity stylist. As implausible as it sounds, pampering doesn’t have to be lavish or overpriced. It just has to focus on you.

So whether it’s an evening spent at the gym, a touch up at the local hairdressers, or a quick mani/pedi, all these things are valid ways to spend your time, not just because they help you keep fit or look good, but primarily because they give you a breath of fresh air and make you feel good. How brilliant is it to be able to read Hello Magazine whilst drinking tea at the hairdressers and not have to worry about Ludoo having a potty accident? How wonderful is it to be able to get my threading done whilst listening to relaxing music and have no child whinging about using the iPad or wiping their snotty nose on my top? Glorious. It’s a brief reminder of my life B.K. (Before Kids) and a way of affirming my own identity as Shazia Khan the woman, not Shazia Khan the mum. Most of the time I tend to the needs of my kids, but for that one hour of pruning, I tend to myself.

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Embarrassing Encounters

Last week I saw my builder in his underpants. It’s true. He’d been working on my bathroom, and after he’d packed up for the day, he decided to get changed out of his “builder pants” into his regular trousers. Which is fine, apart from the fact that he decided to do this in the corridor. Of course I walked out, only to be confronted by my builder with his trousers around his ankles and an expression of utter shock on his face. What’s more, he wasn’t wearing boxers but skimpy Y-fronts. For once in my life I was completely speechless. Neither of us knew where to look or what to do. I quickly composed myself, walked past, he pulled up his trousers and now we act as if nothing ever happened. Which is of course the most appropriate way to deal with such an encounter.

But then it got me thinking about all the other embarrassing experiences that I’ve had. Like when I walked in on my friend’s (now ex) husband sitting on the loo at a dinner party. I just could not look him in the eye again after that. Or when I was around eighteen and my top, which was buttoned down the front, completely popped open whilst I was talking to a male friend. Just like that. In full view, in the middle of the library. Credit to my friend who kept his eyes firmly on my face. But that just seems to be the British way. We pretend as nothing has happened and quietly move on.

Of course children are the one MAJOR exception to this. They don’t ever quietly ignore things and will always make a song and dance about anything potentially embarrassing. But it’s not because they are evil little psychopaths. No. It’s primarily because they are still learning to process other people’s feelings and filter their own thoughts. So, when Ludoo points at people in the supermarket and asks loudly why they have got a “big belly” (no, these are not pregnant women), or when Flump stares at people in the changing room, after swimming, and queries why they have “fur” on their private parts, I have to remind myself that they are still learning the art of empathy and sensitivity (but first I bollock them for embarrassing me so publicly).

Kids often ask quite valid questions but always at the wrong time. They don’t get the concepts of tact and discretion. They just tell it like it is and it takes years of embarrassing episodes before they understand that it’s not necessary to blurt the first thing that comes into their overactive, chaotic, brilliant little minds, especially if it refers to other people’s body parts. Big sigh.

But back to my builder. I have to say I am impressed by how quickly we have both been able to forget and move on from “pants gate.” There’s no residual awkwardness and he seems to be doing a good job in the bathroom. The only thing I will say is that I do have the occasional flashing image of his skinny legs in tight underpants. He really does need to invest in a decent pair of boxers.

y-fronts-i6
Just say NO to pants like these
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Personal Space? What’s that?

I don’t know what it is about little people but they have absolutely NO concept of personal body space. If they are giving you kisses and cuddles, that’s all well and good, but a lot of the time it’s neither of the above. I’m forever getting poked, prodded, tugged, stepped on, yanked and slapped.

Take yesterday. I was doing the usual ferrying around from nursery to school to home to swimming (taxi please). Whilst Flump was busy dunking her head underwater and ignoring all swimming instruction, Ludoo was hanging off me like a baby baboon. I could barely see a thing as his legs were wrapped around my neck and his ass was in my face. Each time I tried to rearrange myself he would find some other way of contorting his body around mine. Trying to make any conversation with other parents was completely pointless as Ludoo just got in the way….literally. On other occasions he has been known to wipe his nose all over my clothes just after I’ve got ready to go out, or rip my tights and find it hilarious. He’s a hooligan, I tell you (he must get it from his father).

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Baby gymnast

And then there’s Flump. She seems to have a worrying case of wandering hand syndrome. She is obsessed with poking and (ahem) squeezing certain body parts of mine. I keep telling her it’s TOTALLY INAPPROPRIATE but she insists she only wants to do it to me and that she likes how squidgy they are. Okay, too much information. But I really should have seen it coming as she did once pinch an estate agent on his ass when she was three years old…poor man didn’t know how to react, as the Old Git and I looked on horrified.  Anyway, the bottom line is (see what I did there?) my kids appear to have some serious boundary issues when it comes to me (thankfully they don’t do it to other people, apart from the estate agent incident which was years ago). As far as they are concerned, I am there to be jumped on or groped as and when they desire, and sometimes it flipping annoys me.

The question is how do I get them to respect my personal body space without rejecting them? I can hardly tell them to sod off, can I? I reckon the answer must lie in chocolate buttons. If I deduct a chocolate button from their hypothetical stash each time they physically harass me, then that should be incentive enough to stop, surely? Or perhaps I just have to sit it out and allow myself to be manhandled?  After all, it’s their way of showing affection and expressing their needs, albeit in an irritating and invasive way.  Soon they will be teenagers, slamming doors in my face and grunting at my every sentence. Then I will be the one harassing them, lunging for kisses and a cuddles.

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It’s a Mystery

There is something very suspicious going on with the Old Git. The other night he came home with a gift. He has been known to occasionally bring home some flowers or chocolates (three times a year on my birthday, our anniversary and Valentine’s Day, and even then it’s with some passive aggressive prompting from me), but on this occasion it was something different. He unexpectedly presented me with a  dress. Now for some of you lucky/smug folk this may be nothing extraordinary. But let me reiterate, this is not normal behaviour for the Old Git. Nope. This is the first time in almost ten years of marriage that he has ever surprised me with an item of clothing as a gift.  And what’s more shocking is that it was rather nice. Which leads me to only one conclusion…he must be having an affair.

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The dress in question

Why, after ten years of marriage, would he behave so strangely? What has prompted this sudden fit of generosity and romance? He must be feeling guilty about something. The mind is in OVERDRIVE. But I’ve checked his phone messages and emails (we all do it, right?) and there doesn’t appear to be any unusual activity. I’ve also checked the credit card statements and there aren’t any unaccounted expenses. When I query the Old Git about his motives he just shrugs sheepishly and carries on with his day.  Which leads me to my second conclusion….he must be having some sort of mid-life crisis.

You hear about it all the time. Men reach a certain age and they start questioning their priorities. They go out and buy convertible cars, take up extreme sports or pack in their jobs (if the Old Git ever did the latter he would be DEAD). My fear is the Old Git is heading towards some sort of dramatic, catastrophic life changing moment and the dress purchase is an indicator of this. SHIT. What the hell am I letting myself in for?

Then of course there is a third possible explanation. I could just take the Old Git’s word for it and accept (albeit suspiciously) that he just wanted to do something nice for me. He isn’t exactly the chatty type and so having a ‘deep n meaningful’ about why exactly he bought this dress hasn’t yet materialised, despite my best efforts (he would rather clean the toilet or watch paint dry than have a conversation like that). But what I am aware of is that he gave me this gift on the eve of his big milestone birthday. I wonder if the approach towards middle age has brought with it a moment of appreciation for him? He hasn’t said it in so many words, but I think he has realised just how flipping brilliant a person I am and how lucky he is to have me as his fantastic wife and the mother of his two (somewhat demanding) children. That must be it. Sometimes, at key moments in our lives, we do experience an epiphany about who and what is important and reach out to those we may take for granted. It gives us all that warm fuzzy feeling. I think I will settle for this rather more favourable interpretation of his recent strange behaviour. Naturally I’m very grateful and all that jazz, but let’s just say, I shall be watching him closely.

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Musings of a Harassed Mum