Neither Seen Nor Heard

Wee Willie Winkie runs through the Net,

Facebook and Twitter posts parents can’t forget.

Daily Mail comments, vitriol and spite

“Thank f*ck the kids are back at school

We hate them in our sight.”

Six weeks of school holidays can seem like an eternity for parents, but more so it seems that the elongated experience of having children in the public sphere is just TOO MUCH for certain sections of society. Mostly the intolerant/ignorant/self-centred sections who can’t bear anyone other than other people just like them within their space. Since Brexit, these voices now believe it’s ok to be more intolerant/ignorant/self-centred than ever. Thus the holidays has seen an increase in belligerent voices bemoaning kids these days and poor parenting.

  
My heckles started rising following a report on The Pool on the rise of pre-emptive apology packs parents are increasingly handing out on flights, should they have the audacity to have a small child with them. Because, apparently, small children shouldn’t be allowed to mix in confined public spaces with grown-ups who may not like small children (even if the parents have had to pay an adult fare in order for their child to have such a luxury as a seat to themselves). It’s unacceptable for children to fidget in their seats (even though, actually, 100% screen time isn’t all it takes to keep a small child entertained for 8 hours and the amount of space on an aircraft is clearly too little if a toddler’s feet can spoil the day of the person in front of them) or to make a fuss because their ears hurt. People (who certainly didn’t deserve plastic bags of earplugs and boiled sweets) threw their dummies from their plane seats as the holidays wore on.

And you didn’t have to leave the country to anger the child-hating contingency. Just taking a child out was enough to envoke wrath. Daily Mail writer, Tess Stimson, felt no shame in snapping at a disabled child in a restaurant for banging a spoon on a table. The restaurant appears to have been the last hope saloon for those having a bad day, which made it ok for her to lose her rag…but then not for it to be ok for the kid’s parent to react.

Back in Victorian times children were preferably seen and not heard. These days it would seem people would prefer it if they didn’t have to be seen either. The very hell of ankle-biters getting in the way on public transport or in shops or in cinemas or restaurants. As Tess puts it, “If someone can’t control their child, they should leave them at home with a babysitter.” As though kids run amok 24/7 or parents can predict when/where/how things might go pear-shaped. That’s certainly not how I’ve ever experienced it. But for the sake of sparing the intolerant the experience of being near a child should they kick-off it’s best they just stay indoors attached to their technology?

Except then it’s wrong that children should be so attached to their phones and tablets when what they ought to be experiencing is the outdoors. Preferably the outdoors of the 1950s…in an Enid Blyton book…as though time travel into a fictional realm is ever an option for keeping the kids occupied in the holidays! Ever feel like you can’t win?

  

…far away from any adults who could be offended by the children’s chewing.

A poor mum in my local Morrisons couldn’t win yesterday. Her 3-year-old son was yelling that he wanted a lolly. Without losing her cool she stood her ground whilst also managing to keep her baby calm in its pram. “You’re doing a great job,” I told her as I passed, having had bad experiences in the very same shop myself. But at the other end of the store people were tutting and commenting.

“Well, that’s made sure I never have kids,” some blonde twenty-something flounced.

“Makes you wish for ear defenders,” the check-out woman snarked.

“Actually, I think the mum’s doing great,” I replied. “It’s not easy when they kick-off, but she’s not giving in. That takes some doing. I say good for her.”

“Oh God, the last thing she should do is give him a sodding lolly,” the checkout woman conceded. 

“Even if it means standing her ground despite the screaming. Yep.” And on behalf of that mum I had a big smug smile on my face as I left the store. 

God, I love people changing their tune in the face of reason!

  
Thankfully for Tess Stimson and her child-despising ilk they can breathe a sigh of relief that kids have gone back to school (although now they’ll grumble that the traffic’s so much worse around the time of the school run!). Maybe, with all this spare time, free from the tyranny of other people’s children and all the energy expended complaining online, they should take a look at the adults around them. The ones who get drunk on airlines and the ones who insist on having their chairs reclined for the entire duration of the flight; the ones on trains who have to take up four seats even though they’re alone and the ones who encroach on personal space with their manspreading; the ones who refuse to grow up and clog up the queue on the Dumbo ride at Disney (seriously, it’s a kids’ ride – move over to Orbitron); the ones who bowl down residential streets at 2am steaming drunk and screaming obscenities and the ones at 6pm in family restaurants who insist on loudly calling each other “c*nts” (I winced typing that, but not as much as I did standing next to them with Boo at teatime on Bank Holiday Monday). 

Old enough NOT to be clogging up the queue, even as a mouse!

Wherever you look there are annoying idiots clogging our streets. But because it’s a public place, they’re allowed to be there. Just the same as kids are! Either we all shut ourselves away in fear of grating on somebody’s nerves, or we suck it up and deal with it when somebody’s being an irritant. Kids aren’t born into this world as fully socially-functioning beings, and neither will they ever be if we don’t let them out…even if sometimes that doesn’t go so brilliantly well.
Those who still can’t abide the way parents today pander to their “gremlins” (to quote from a comments thread) might be best to ensure they cram everything into the hours of 9am and 3pm for the next seven weeks. Those people will still be intolerant/ignorant/self-centred muppets though, so if they could provide little ‘apologies for being a knob’ packs to dish out to all those potentially offended with their bigoted views, that would be appreciated. I look forward to receiving my bigotry-blocking earphones. 

Rewind

The start of September and it seems there are two types of parent: those who can’t wait for their kids to go back to school and those mourning the loss of the summer holidays. 

I can understand the first group of parents completely. Maybe it’s the hell of juggling work with childcare. Holiday schemes are expensive; holiday entitlement doesn’t equate to the amount of time the kids have off school; family generosity only runs so far; and it’s a rare employer who’ll let you stash the kids in the bottom drawer of the filing cupboard. It’s not an easy juggle. Or there are the challenges of having a brood around 24/7: the whines of boredom or cries of sibling disharmony; the perpetual requests for chaperoning/food/cash. It’s not hard to simultaneously begrudge teachers their six weeks holiday and consider it as the least they deserve for putting up with 30 needy/whingy bundles of perpetual motion/complete slothfulness each day.

But then I get where the second group is coming from too. We’ve been lucky to have a beautiful summer for once. When the sun’s shining and no one’s crying/sulking on a family day out. Ok, maybe the bliss only lasted for five minutes, but Instagram is there so that even if the days have had blips, all evidence will suggest that you’re living life in an Enid Blyton world (where Fanny and Dick are nothing more than names, rather than insults hissed between siblings in the back of the car).

  
And thus the world seems like a beautiful place. School feels like a cruel prison of thought control – let’s home school and let them learn via the resources of the National Trust!

But actually, there’s a third group of parents: those wondering where the hell August went!

Back in July the holidays loomed large. A familiar dread: what on earth are we going to do with the kids for 6 weeks? So how can we be here so soon?!

Week 1: Ticking off the to-do list

  

It’s vitally important not to let the kids atrophy in a summer of pyjama days and iPads. We will venture forth an expand their minds so that they return to school with abstract knowledge of medieval fortresses and scientific endeavour!

  
Week 2: Holy Joe, where did all of the money go?!

A week of days out, family restaurants en route to home and gift shop purchases and the coffers are suffering.

And, actually, for all of the entrance fees and audio guides, playing in fountains will always be more enthralling than a museum exhibit. 

  
Plus middle-class, middle-aged National Trust women have a low tolerance threshold for children having a meltdown. Perhaps we won’t be taking out that membership just yet.

  
Perhaps we’d better take it a bit easy. Let’s not stray so far from home – the park is lovely and the beach is up the road. Free fun! Or, at least free fun until Noodles discovers the pleasures of the seaside arcades! 

  
Week 3: Crafting (i.e. we’ll never get that sodding glitter out the carpet!)

The kids don’t want to go out in the car any more. Oh well, the odd pyjama day won’t hurt. (Besides, there are no more clean clothes left!) We’ll get the glue out instead and craft a present for Granny, maybe do some baking later. Probably best to wear old/dirty/scruffy clothes for that anyway. Just don’t answer the door to anyone!

  
But then the floor is sticky with PVA, there are paint smears over the walls and the mountains of washing are now sprinkled with glitter! The kitchen is no better. The sink is piled with bowls of melted butter and cake batter*. 

(*Who am I kidding! That cake batter bowl was licked so clean it barely needed washing!)

There’s a layer of flour and icing sugar on every surface and you regret not buying a proper guard for the Kitchen Aid mixer.

  
Moreover, everyone’s so full of raw cake mix that no one wants to eat the buns you’ve so lovingly created. Maybe Granny can have them. We can present them in the tissue box now so covered in rhinestones it looks as though it’s rolled in Dolly Parton’s dressing up box. She’ll love it!

Week 4: What do you mean Granny doesn’t want to have the kids stay for a week?!

And after we’d so kindly given her a rhinestone-encrusted tissue box filled with dodgy-looking biscuits. 

Oh well, we’ll get the school uniform sorted instead. Except the blazers should have been ordered before school broke up for the summer and no one’s stocking the size trousers we need. Do you think Noodles will mind wearing a pleated skirt instead? Just until the shops re-stock…just after Easter when the Back to School stuff gets launched again.

  
Oh, and must remember to send apology flowers to the shop girl in Clarks! No one deserves that sort of hell for minimum wage!

Week 5: I’m done!

Sod it! These holidays are an eternal roll call of parental tortures! We’re out of cash, patience and underwear. Pyjamas rule, hair rushing is overrated, bedtime doesn’t exist in the hope that a late night will result in a lie-in and tablets are our friends (both the medicinal and technological sort)! 

  
Besides, the kids need time to go feral. They’ll be shut indoors for 6 hours a day bending to the will of the curriculum soon enough. Although feral nowadays means they’ve embodied the spirit of the Annoying Orange rather than got dirty playing in the garden.

At least staying in means that all the neglected chores can be done. Except the whirlwind of two children means that things are messed up far quicker than can be tidied by one mum, let alone tackling the bigger projects that need doing. Perhaps I’ll just drink wine instead.

    
Just stay away from other people’s Facebook pictures of their Mediterranean holidays and kid-friendly festivals. They’re probably secretly hating it anyway. In fact, I’m sure an Amaro filter is secret code for this-might-look-like-perfection-but-is-actually-hell-on-earth.

Week 6: Wait, what?!

Woah! What do your an it’s the last week of the holidays?!?! But we haven’t ticked off all the things on our Summer Activity to do list!!! We haven’t signed up for the library reading scheme. We didn’t make it to that theme park. We haven’t done the BFG Dream Jars trail around London. We haven’t made those homemade Jaffa cakes and I haven’t even ordered the name tags for the uniform, let alone sew them in! Sharpie marker will just have to do. It’s worked every other year after all!

And so we cram in what we can. At least by doing it all in the last week they might remember something for their What We Did in the Summer Holidays assignment back at school. Although what we mostly did was sit in traffic with all the other frantic families.

 

The bank holiday traffic was worth it for more fountain fun!
 
And here we are, facing the final weekend before we all take pictures of our kids in front of our front doors. Noodles is about to start school and Boo is moving up to blazer territory. I want to freeze time, but also get a routine back. I’m very much done, but also very much not. Maybe if we could just rewind and do it all again just once? Then maybe I’ll appreciate these golden days of summer, rather than feeling guilty about going to work then guilty that I’m not at work. Maybe I’ll have a better plan and Noodles and Boo will spend less time in their pyjamas. Or maybe it would be just the same. After all, it’s always the same every year. I never quite learn to distinguish between a heartbeat and eternity! And thus the sun sets on another school summer break.

  
There’s only 7 weeks ’til half term anyway.  Now, if you’ll excuse me I’ve got some shirts to label with Sharpie markers.

Til Death Do Us Part

Teflon Man and I celebrated our twelfth wedding anniversary last weekend. Twelve years. It was a beautiful day, but I do often regret not choosing a new kitchen instead.

  
But we wouldn’t have celebrated the installation of a new kitchen with a fancy, child-free trip to London, so there’s that. Flash hotel with petal-scattered bed and free champagne. We downed the champers and swept the petals aside…to watch the Olympics (Tom Daley in teeny speedos is all I’m saying). Then a sublime meal in a posh restaurant followed by cocktails in the fancy-pants hotel bar…then a sleepless night due to indigestion! Ah, the romance!

 

After 12 years marriage, the dark is definitely our friend!
 
Sunday morning, our anniversary proper, we exchanged gifts amid the marshmallow-plump duvet. We’ve only ever done cursory gifts for our anniversary mostly in line with the traditional gift list made up by who-knows-who, but which at least offers desperate partners some sort of direction and reminds others that a gift is to be expected!!! (Apart from our third anniversary where the combination of a 9-day-old Boo and a lack of breastfeeding facilities In town meant that I returned home in tears and without a present for TM. But I had just created his child in my body, so I got away with it.)

Some years are harder than others (Year 4: Fruit – a tip: go for a nice, expensive bottle of wine rather than, say, a bunch of bananas) and with the purchase of a bread tin followed by a kitchen knife possibly TM is incrementally buying me the kitchen I could’ve had all those years ago. But this year was easy: silk. I gave TM a tie (which, it turned out, looked suspiciously similar to the ones worn by the waiters at the posh restaurant. I promise I bought it in advance and didn’t haggle with the maitre’d whilst TM was in the gents.) Luckily for TM, I didn’t present it à la Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.

 
TM meanwhile bypassed the option of lingerie (always a good move as he’d only be bound to get the size wrong, which would only lead to upset whether too big – ‘he thinks I’m fat’ – or too small – ‘I am fat and he wishes I was thinner. Or he was too busy eyeing up the sales girl when he bought it.’) Instead he chose a Hermes style silk scarf. The sort that sophisticated, mostly French women pull off effortlessly, whilst the rest of us mortals struggle with complicated Pinterest instructions to have even a clue what to do with it.

  
I don’t even know how to fold it into the required shape before tying it. But it least it was impossible to get the size wrong.

Back home though I had a bit of a panic. Optimistically assuming that we’ll still be together for our 13th anniversary, I realised that we had now ticked off the major fallback gifts for men: cotton, leather, wool, and silk – hankies, wallet, socks and tie. Only cuff links remain (seeing shaving cream and aftershave isn’t an option on the list) and silver isn’t for another thirteen years!!!

Next year is lace. It’s going to be a struggle. The gift-giving sector of the market is struggling here. I did a Google search and it isn’t pretty. My retinas are still recovering!!! Don’t even go there!

  
  

But it gets worse. Either the list-makers knew they were scraping the bottom of the barrel when lacy g-strings for men became a thing (seriously DON’T look!) or by 15 years of marriage we’re meant to know our other halves well enough to go it alone. I know my other half well enough to know this is a recipe for disaster!

(Exhibit A: remember this?)

  
From 2020 (after lace, ivory and crystal) my anniversary presents are doomed!

And then it struck me. Marriage can be murder, only with a longer sentence for a single decision and we’ve essentially chosen our cellmate (even if sometimes we wonder what the hell we were thinking!). 

  
In which case, the natural filler for those gift blanks are surely the murder weapons from Cluedo.

  
What woman wouldn’t be pleased to receive a spanner after say, sixteen years of marriage. It seems appropriate if you’ve come to think of your husband as a bit of a tool. Some seem like appropriate gifts already – the candlestick more so than the lead piping perhaps. 

  
And could it be an incentive to treat your partner with more respect than a second/third decade of marriage might engender naturally? ‘Perhaps I won’t call him a “cockwomble” out loud in case he stabs me with the anniversary dagger.’  (But then I don’t live somewhere where handguns are kept in bedside tables as standard, and actually, in those places where they are, altercations still happen but tend not to end well, so maybe not.)

But it’s at least a direction for suggestions until someone decides ‘luxury kitchen upgrade’ deserves to be on the list (which it totally does!). Traditionally anniversary gifts can already be appropriated as murder weapons…and surely it’s not just coincidence that I have Cell Block Tango on perma-loop in my head when TM is around. Isn’t it then a natural progression of gift ideas?

One warning though: once you’ve collected your full set of household items/murder weapons (plus some fine-bone china as we stick with tradition for 20 years of wedded bliss) just beware of any invitations to stately homes to celebrate. Or grab your candlestick and head to the library – all’s fair in love, war and anniversary gifts after all.

  

The Lazy Parent’s Guide to Sleepover Parties

Boo turned 9 last week. Halfway to adult – gulp! Last year’s party for her 8th was an unbeatable beast of a celebration: we hired Elsa to entertain the kids (and the adults! – just look at my sister’s enchanted face!).

  
It was wonderful, but I was aware that Boo was on the cusp of out-growing childhood parties, so decided we’d go out with a bang.

Knowing that her celebrations would be more low-key this year, I asked Boo what she wanted to do. She uttered back a word that sends chills through your average parent: “I want a sleepover, please, Mummy.”

The twins only had one sleepover. A game of balloon volleyball resulted in a broken lightbulb all over the sleeping bags, more things got broken (including my spirit) and I staked outside the living room door as we hit the small hours becoming increasingly grumpy until they relented and went to sleep. And then they had the audacity to burst into my bedroom demanding birthday presents at the crack of dawn. Before I could utter the words “Never. Again.” as I closed the door on the final devil child/guest the twins turned to me: “We never want another sleepover again.”

Unfortunately, when it comes to second-time round parenting, the ‘been there done that’ card is rendered null and void. I couldn’t deny Boo’s wishes on the grounds of her her sisters’ past misdemeanours. I decided I would take every reasonable step to make it as stress-free as possible. Here’s how you can too:

1) Ignore Pinterest

The thought of having a bunch of tween girls in my house for 17 hours was enough to bring me out in hives. What the heck was I meant to do with them (given that sleep would be limited and all games of balloon volleyball would be banned).

So I did the obvious and looked at Pinterest for inspiration. Except, whaaaat?!?! Indoor tents, glow-in-the-dark facepaint to ruin said tent and manicure stations worthy of my local salon.

  

Then there were helium balloons to be popped on the hour with a surprise activity in each. That would be 17 activities to think of and source…and fund! (AlthoughI’m guessing the 3am balloon would contain the message “GO THE HELL TO SLEEP!!!”)

 
I clicked the exit button before I ended up ordering coordinated pyjamas and decorate-your-own slippers and asked Boo how she wanted to fill her time (without letting her step anywhere near Google for ideas).

We bought Twister and Zootropolis and teeny tiny nail polishes. I got away with buying £5 air beds from Tesco rather than constructing Bedouin tents. Boo was still happy and I was less frazzled/bankrupt. 

2) Invite Conservatively

Whenever I told friends and family that we were having a sleepover in the run up to P-Day they’d wince. “How many have you got coming?” Numbers play a big factor. Each child equates to at least 1.5 times the likelihood of tears. Luckily we only ended up with three guests. 

Time played favourably in our case. Unintentionally, admittedly, I didn’t get round to handing out invites until the day before the end of term. Five children got invited with zero chance of substitution then when people couldn’t come (which is always inevitable when the party’s slap bang in the middle of the holidays). One child couldn’t make it, one child didn’t turn up. #win.

  

3) The Importance of Good Timing, Part 1

Party day and usually I’m up at the crack of dawn to get everything done before the guests arrive and then wanting to cry when my house hasn’t been turned into a magical palace by early afternoon. (Seriously, one year I even bought paint with the intention of making our front door more appealing before the party. The paint still remains in its tin.)

But the joy of the sleepover (there’s a phrase I never thought I’d say!) is that you’ve literally got all day to get ready with no need to invite guests until dusk. Parents are too grateful to be getting a night to themselves to be peturbed that they’ve got their kids all day and you’ve got time to paint the front door if you wish (although I’d advise indulging in a lie-in in preparation for the late night ahead).

4) Do Not Micro-Manage

Only a fool would arrange a sleepover for kids who need a constant stream of activities. The reason Boo loved the idea of a sleepover was that it made her feel all grown-up. (Bless her little tween heart.) But being grown-up is making your decisions  

  
 Make vague plans for some essential sleepover activities (DVD session, manicures, Truth or Dare, pillow fight, ‘midnight’ snack) and then let them crack on at their own pace.

  
Bonus tip if your daughter is in the Brownies: encourage them to use the party as a chance to earn their Hostess badge. They’ll be responsible for invites, activities, feeding and tidying. All you have to do is keep an eye on things (no maxing out your card on Dominos deliveries for midnight feast fulfilment) and sew on a badge once everything’s done. Result! 

5) Lessen the Workload

Think smart when it comes to activities and food. 

Rather than spending the afternoon covering myself in buttercream in order to provide a stack of cupcakes, I let the girls decorate the cakes themselves. Thanks to the judicious supply of sprinkles and popping candy this kept them occupied for two hours! Mind you, it’s going to take months to get every last spilled sprinkle from our dining room carpet. Oh well, it was a sacrifice worth making.

  
Rather than panicking at the last minute that I hadn’t got Boo party ready (or brushed her hair!) I left it for a makeover session. Boo may have emerged looking even messier (the creative nail art vision of 9-year-olds definitely exceeds their dexterity) but I saved myself even more time and effort.

  
And rather than becoming all Monica Gellar OCD over finger sandwiches and sausage rolls I ordered in pizza and fried chicken. Boo loved it – “I feel like a teenager!” – and rather than lift a finger I just had to tap my thumb. 

Laziness in the guise of being a cool mum. What’s not to like?

6) Call It a Night

The given of the sleepover party is that it will be less sleep, more party. The girls were allowed to stay up late.

I hit my limit before they did. With them settled but still awake I headed to bed, telling them where to find me. They did. At 4.15am! Ridding them of a slug that had decided to join in the party wasn’t my idea of fun at that time, but at least I’d managed to catch some zzzzs first.

7) The Importance of Good Timing, Part 2

Do you know who isn’t fun? Sleep-deprived children! (Especially if you’re a sleep-deprived adult.) But do you know whose best at dealing with grumpy, over-tired children? Their parents, who’ve had the benefit of a night off! 

Allow said parents the benefit of a lie-in (their gratitude will know no bounds as they skip to your door high on the effects of an unbroken night’s sleep) and then pack all guests off before the sleep-deprived grumps kick in.

Midday worked well for us. Everyone left whilst they were still happy and it was far enough into the day to crack open a well-deserved bottle of wine without feeling like an alcoholic. 

So we did it! A sleepover with zero tears, tantrums or insurance claims. And for less effort than a normal party! Boo’s already decided she wants another one next year. 

My Daughter’s Trainers

   

With recent and not so recent terrorist attacks, the world doesn’t feel like such a safe place at the moment. Not that it’s ever been a bubble-wrapped world, but each week at present seems to bring an atrocity that no one could have expected. People out enjoying life, whether on a beach, at a concert, watching fireworks, in a shopping mall…doing normal stuff and then suddenly not. 

School’s out for summer and discussions of holidays and days out come with a side of caution. “But what if…?” enters conversations. “Aren’t you worried about…?” “But if we don’t go the terrorists win.”

(And I know that the threat to holidays and day trips is such a first-world issue, a tiny tip to the whole mess of a situation that affects millions in far more fundamental ways. I know and I feel ashamed of my petty concerns.)

Immigration issues and the possible expansion of the EU to include Turkey definitely influenced the Brexit decision. “But if Turkey join, we’ll essentially have a border with Syria.” Racism has been more blatant since the vote, racist attacks have increased. Red-top newspapers seem more than happy to tar all Muslims with the same brush. Watching ignorant reaction to the news is as depressing as watching the news itself.

I want to feel positive about our world. Most people are good. Most people want to live their best lives and can identify the difference between a militant extremist group and the 99.93% of the faith who equally want to live their best lives without harm.

But at the moment it’s hard. It’s hard with the abundance of images and comments.

And then yesterday I was washing Boo’s trainers. She was off on Brownie pack holiday and needed her trainers, but they were covered in cow poo.

Earlier in the week we’d taken part in our local Race For Life. Set on the Houghton Hall estate, the location was beautiful. It was also home to Brittish Longhorn cattle, sheep and deer. Even though the herds had been penned for the event, the ground was spattered with pats. In 26° heat, they were steaming! 

  
“This is vile,” I thought as I scrapped the dried poo from the treads of the soles. The white stained green and the hot water brought back the stench of the dung. But it also made clear my stance on ISIL.

The event had been great. 1500 girls and women ran, jogged and walked the 5k route to raise funds to save lives. We strode forth, our Pink Army, despite the heat, despite the pats, despite a desire to plant ourselves around the refreshments stall and do a sponsored ice-cream feast instead.

  
The whole field wasn’t bad, only small parts of it. We avoided areas that would have led to certain poo coverage. 

Nevertheless, there wasn’t a single one of us not effected by the poo in some way. Splashed calves, soiled shoes, a photo request that inadvertently led to the combination of a small child and a large pat!

It would have been more pleasant if the poo hadn’t been there. But it didn’t stop us from completing the route, it didn’t make us not want to do it all again next year. The beauty of the field far outweighed the mess and the smell of the pats. The sense of achievement and good achieved by our fund-raising made the world feel good. 

 Doing something felt better than not doing it. Staying at home would have kept Boo’s trainers box-fresh white, but we also wouldn’t have enjoyed ourselves as much as we did. 

Nobody knows when or where the next attack will be. Nobody knows who will be affected next. But we can’t shut ourselves away on the off chance that it will be us. Heed guidance, but do stuff. Keep seeing the world as an inherently good place. There may be cow pats out there, but they don’t define the field.

A Goldfish Moment

It would appear I have the memory of a goldfish. And I therefore possibly shouldn’t schedule posts as I forget about them. 

Such was the case with my last post. I’ve finished it now (you can read it in full here) but thank you to those who were lovely enough to respond kindly to a semi-written piece anyway. If it wasn’t for you I’d have completely forgotten.

Sorry.

Shuffle ball-change, clap!

Tap, tap, tap, shuffle ball change, shuffle ball change, tap, tap, tap, shuffle ball change, stamp!

Boo’s had her first tap exam last week. As a result we’d had weeks and weeks of incessant dance practice. In the living room, in the street, on the school run, whilst splashing in puddles. Flap, flap, jump! Tap, snap, stamp, clap!

  

It’s been lovely though to see her perseverance. But, this isn’t a cutesy post about the importance of commitment to her art, but rather a post for all the dance mums and dads who feel they should probably be committed due to the strains of dance devotion.

Fame costs…

  

And so does dance school! There’s an audible collective wince whenever kids come out of a lesson clutching a bit of paper: exam costs, extra classes, special uniform, specific shoes, ribbons, socks, CDs. And just as we think we’ve stopped haemorrhaging money out comes the brown envelopes containing next term’s bill. Ouch!

You chauffeur awaits…

By the end of term we’re all knackered. Weekly normal classes are fine, but when extra classes raises the bar to three days on the trot you end up sat deflated in an overly-small changing room resigned to your fate. 

So There Was a Purpose to Girl’s World

Dress rehearsal and we rocked up with Boo’s hair in a French plait. Everyone else had their daughters’ hair in French pigtails! 

“But I can’t do two!” I wailed (a little over-dramatically, but it had been a long week). 

  
I never had a Girl’s World as a child. I was deprived of hair-braiding technique. But the assumption is that along as being an obligation-free lifestyle, with an endless money tree at the end of our gardens, we’re also professional-level hairdressers. Ballet buns are one thing (you can always use the vacuum for pulled-back perfection of the ponytail) but French plaits are a class above.

From dress-rehearsal to exam day Boo was my living mannequin.

The day before, I nailed it! I’ve never been so relieved. So was Boo’s scalp!

  
Just Call Me Ginger!

Having a child perma-tapping around the house has the same effect on my mind as the average Disney song: it infuses my perception by stealth until I wake up at 3am with it going round in my head.

  
I danced as a child myself (and as an adult too – I’d probably still be doing it if I hadn’t had two teachers retire on me, even though I have the body shape and flexibility of Disney’s dancing hippos). I know my way around a shuffle ball-change. At first I pretend I’m helping Boo by prancing around the living room with her, trying to encourage the syncopated rhythms. My excuse for tapping the routines out when she’s not there? There isn’t one. But I’d nailed the Boogie Woogie.

I draw the line at actually digging my tap shoes out. There is at least that. #dignity

Everyone’s Scared of the Dancing Teacher

  

The kids brace themselves before the lesson. But so do the parents. Miss K is not a patch on Abbey Lee on the Pyramid of Sterness, but there’s a tension around exams and shows. She wants the kids to do well, but you don’t get the best out of them by being nice. The kids want to do well for Miss K, but also don’t want to be called out for messing up. As parents, we sit and hope we’re not called in at the end of the class. Mostly we are. The tears are not always the children’s.

Ta-Dah!

Exam day, the day is sunny but the faces are solemn. Boo is “nervo-cited”. 

  
As she and her friends go in, those of us waiting in the changing room try to spy through the keyhole, trying to work out whose taps are whose. It doesn’t help ease the nerves.

And then the door opens and three grinning faces burst through.

  
And suddenly all the expense, the hours, the insanity seem to be worth it. We’ve a long summer wait before we get the results, but Boo and her friends are already winners.

Well done, dance parents – we made it!

Now just to get that goddamn Boogie Woogie out of my head.

Tap, tap, tap, shuffle ball change, shuffle ball change, tap, tap, tap, shuffle ball change, stamp!