Wasps, Screams and Coffee


We’ve just been camping with family, and experienced some of those screams.

I don’t mean the excited screams when they see their big cousins.

Or the offended sobs followed by a distraught cry of:  ‘Mummy Mummy!  Tiddler said I was naughty!‘  (Toddler is now 5 and easily offended).

Nor even the sounds that accompany knees hitting gritstone, gravel or tarmac, which seem to happen thirty times a day.

No:  I’m talking about real screams.   The ones that make your blood run cold because you know there’s actually something wrong.

The first wasn’t serious; Toddler had an encounter with a wasp.

Here’s the thing with wasps:  they aren’t actually out to sting people.  The don’t think to themselves: ‘Look!  There’s a little person down there eating a sandwich.  Well, as a wasp I must give them a sting to spoil their day.’

No.  Wasps are like everyone else:  out for what they can get.  Stinging a human doesn’t get them anything (other than maybe squashed).  The jam sandwich in the human’s hand, however…

The Thing is, just don’t wave your sandwich.  And when the wasps do notice it, don’t flap at them or make them feel threatened.  If they want to walk up your arm, let them walk up your arm.  They see a surface near the food for walking along, not a weak spot to sting out of malice.  Chris Packham, wildlife expert, told the Guardian that he used to smear jam around his kids’ mouths to teach them this lesson.

Anyway, Toddler listened to my wasp-talk like is was Gospel, didn’t she.  No hysteria for her; her calmness and collectedness were cool.  While other people were flapping their way through breakfast, she concentrated on more important things, like making sure she got her turn at pushing the plunger on Grandad’s cafetiere.

Then one of the little shits, completely unprovoked, flew down and put its stinger in her hand.


One of those screams.  Although, five minutes and a fascinating chat about the inflammatory process later and Toddler had almost forgotten.

I had not.  I even considered leaving a jelly out in the sun (a trick of my mothers:  the wasps stick to it, then it sets overnight; the following day, you top it up a bit with boiling water and repeat the process.  The dead wasps make neat layers.  Art.)

A few mornings later I was lying in, when I gathered from voices outside my tent that one of the cousins hadn’t been seen for a while.  Perhaps she’d Toddled to the toilet.  Someone went to check.  They returned:  she hadn’t.  At this point, I got the impression people were mounting a search so I mounted my own search for some clothes so I could go out and help.

Then there was the scream.  A pair of quick little feet scampered past the tent and the voice, still screaming, articulated: ‘Daddy!’

I would have run out of my tent completely naked then, but Hubby was clearly there.

‘Hot coffee from the cafetiere,’ he called.  With the adults distracted, Tiddler had spotted his chance to have a turn at pressing the plunger.

‘Shit. Cold water for ten minutes.’

I dressed and followed the screams up the campsite to the hose-pipe.

The thing about Consent is, if someone doesn’t want you to do something, then you should stop doing it.  Again, my kid had taken Mummy’s words to heart.

‘I don’t want you to, Daddy,’ he was screaming, while struggling, and kicking.   ‘MUMMY!  Mummy tell Daddy I don’t want to be wet!’

But when your child’s skin is blistering before your eyes, you just grab them and hold them still as you can for the hose-pipe.  He was beyond being reasoned with.  Then you remember to check that your missing niece has been located, wrap Tiddler in cling-film, cuddle him them all the way to minor injuries (it hurts too much to get him in the car-seat) and carry him in still screaming.

‘He’s got some very major minor burns.’

There followed a long, harrowing day.

By the time we left minor injuries, Tiddler was wearing a net to hold his dressings in place and had some pain relief on board.  He was quiet and cuddling a special teddy (importantly in his favourite colour) that he’s been very attached to since.

By the time we got to the Burns Unit, he was positively cheerful.  He spotted lots of toys in the waiting area and had to be told more than once not to ride the scooter into the other patients.

Then the nurse gave him more pain relief

‘What’s that?’


‘But he’s not really painful n – Oh.  Is that because you’re going to change the bandages?’

She was.  And she pulled each blister away, too.


I have to say that the care was excellent.  Tiddler had two relatively superficial burns, one one his inside wrist and the other on his abdomen.  There was a lot of waiting about, but that meant we were lucky: a burns’ unit is not the sort of place where I’d want to be at the top of a doctor’s priority list.  Tiddler is going to be fine.

Meanwhile, hubby had very soggy feet from the hose-pipe and I was suffering slightly from the disorientation of a short-sighted person who has left their tent with no glasses on.

By the time we got back to the campsite, Tiddler was asleep and it was natural to make a coffee.

But I didn’t quite have the heart.





My Family and Other People




Bigger parenting mistakes than mine have been made;  you must have heard about the woman whose child fell into a gorilla enclosure.

And the Dad who got so angry with his rock-throwing 7-year old on a forest-trip that he got in the car and drove away.  Obviously he looped back to pick him up, but by then the kid had vanished; he was missing in the Japanese forest for another six days before being found safe.

Anyway, both parents probably feel shit already and their position makes them very easy victims of social media outrage without my adding to it.

Instead lets explore greyer areas of parent-criticizing; let me tell you about my bank holiday.

We arrived at the campsite late, a biggish party of us.  We put up our tents, gossiped and  laughed, probably slammed more car doors than were strictly necessary and after a while the lady from the tent opposite came over to tell us, politely but assertively, to shut up.

Fair cop.  But of all the noise we were making, the thing she specifically focused on was how far the children’s voices carried.  In particular, Tiddler had woken up as we unpacked the car, wanted to get back to sleep and was sobbing gently.

We weren’t ignoring him.  Having established that Tiddler doesn’t have removable batteries, hubby was doing everything he could to jiggle and soothe him, including walking him a long way away from the tents while it was at its worst, while the others helped me to assemble the bedding compartment.

I understand that the woman has a right to a quiet campsite.  We shouldn’t have been laughing, talking or banging doors.  But it’s hard to know what else I could have done about Tiddler.  It’s not that we particularly like his crying voice ourselves.  I assured her that I was on it and then breathed a huge sigh of relief because once I could get into my sleeping bag, he slid in next to me and was out before he’d even finished demanding a story.

But it made me fret.  Next time we go camping he might not wake up, but perhaps I shouldn’t take him, just in case?  Should we only go if we can arrive at a civilized time (that would be never, with my job)?  Or carry a sign that says:  ‘Don’t worry!  He won’t do this all night, I promise!’

But what if something else, something largely unpredictable, made him cry in the middle of the night?  Is it OK to assume the goodwill of neighbouring campers in that scenario?  Of course the answer lies between two extreme viewpoints; that of  a mother who wants to camp and a childless couple who want peace.  The lines will always require negociation.  If you’re pregnant and have a bit of spare time, never underestimate the value of practising sheepish smiles.

At the pub the following night, despite having booked, our group waited an hour and a half between ordering our food and its arrival.  My kids were knackered – but they were also awesome.  They didn’t argue or fight or scream much; they read books, chatted in a civilised manner and went in and out of the open side-door to play hide and seek on the lawn.  Sure, one of them knocked my glass over at one point, but they were great.

Or so I thought.  The lady at the next table calmly complained that the children walking past to access the lawn had been impinging on her ability to relax.  She obviously had no idea what an achievement for a three and five-year-old she had just witnessed, or how much worse her ability to relax would have been if I’d have insisted they sat at the table with their arms folded.  I’m afraid that I (equally calmly) explained it to her.

Those who don’t want to have to run into children during their bank-holiday breaks are always welcome to stay at home with the door locked, because I’m of the view that kids are part of our society and should be accepted in public life.  Yes, their needs and abilities are slightly different to most adults, but then we wouldn’t tap an elderly person on the shoulder and complain that they got up to pee too much, would we?

Anyway, on the last morning of the holiday the kids were being little sods and knowing their limits, I hadn’t bothered to do anything about the fact that they looked as if they’d been dragged through a hedge backwards, twice. Spotty faces (midged), covered in cuts and bruises, with hair you couldn’t have got a cat-brush through, at least one of them had lost its shoes (the other might just have been refusing to wear any – or any trousers).  The pub we stumbled on turned out to have a gorgeous beer-garden, an expensive menu and an exciting condiments tray.  Tiddler ate more condiments than anything else.  He was having a great time.  We sang ‘we’re going on a bear hunt’ more than twice (with a supermarket:  ‘scuse me, scuse me, scuse me’) which caused loud hilarity.

I winced when I saw a woman walking towards me.  I nearly picked up the kids and ran.  But when she said hello she had a North American accent, which stereotyping suggested was a good sign, so I stayed.

‘I just wanted to say, how nice it is to see children who aren’t overly controlled.  You know, shoes thrown aside, hair tangled up, being allowed to be a little bit wild.  It’s just great.’

I nearly hugged the woman.  But I didn’t in the end, because parents can be dangerous animals.  If you interact too closely with the other species and an outsider interprets it wrong, you never know when up might end up getting shot.

In Admiration of Single Parents

Did I tell you I admire single parents?

Well, I don’t think I used strong enough language.  I don’t understand why those strong, resiliant super-heroes don’t dress themselves like this:

Perhaps they don’t see themselves that way; perhaps they evolve tough as nails without noticing.

I have been lone parenting for four weeks now – and have mostly evolved into a mushy heap, while other life forms are evolving within my washing pile.

I knew it was coming.  Early mornings; frantic, coffee-fuelled activity; coaxing and getting-ready and stamping and not-wanting-to-get-ready and loosing things and chaos and the spilling of breakfast cereal.  Leaning over, holding Big Sprog’s trousers out, waiting for her to step into them; the frustrated words that mean hurry-up-stop-looking-out-of-the-window; the inevitable crying; the Mummy-feeling-crap.  And while we’re talking trousers and crap, there’s the shitting-down by Toddler of Mummy’s clean ones last week, two minutes before nursery drop-off and work.

Yes, I’m working:  2.5 days.  The children go to a babysitter they love so much that they don’t like going home.  I’m too relieved to be disappointed.

Tiddler has been weeing in a potty.  He likes to clean up after himself.  I glance round to see him precariously carrying a full potty on the stairs to empty into the toilet, or the bathroom floor if he misses, or worse still the waste paper basket.  All kinds of things end up in there; except waste paper which belongs on the floor.

How many times do I pick paper up?  How many times do I retreive the little plastic bits of games that they never seem to play, just spread around the carpet to make the hoover cough?  How many times do I replace books on the shelf; pick up five mugs, each with a bit of sour milk in the bottom; retreive discarded pyjamas, shoes and socks?  How many times do I clean spilled coffee?  Toss the Duplo bricks back into the bucket?  Fish a stash of books out of Big Sprog’s duvet cover, before putting said cover back around the duvet?  Soak up a flooded bathroom using another towel that will now need to be washed?  Not enough, I guess.

Why do the pesky critters eat so much?  Or why do they request food, graze for a while, then request something else?  I’ve read so much about letting kids eat when they are hungry and not judging or not force-feeding them. But as a result there is always food lying about and the only thing they consistently finish is melon.  Melon hands are sticky hands and the best place to wipe sticky hands is on mummy’s trousers – having first inspected them for signs of poo, of course.

Eating makes them grow.  One of them has always grown out of something: wellies; school-tights; trousers; socks.  The financial aspect is one thing:  finding time to pop to the shop to get it is quite another.

There’s no ‘popping’ anywhere.  There’s dragging, coaxing, bribing and the employment of silly games.  We walk through W H Smith wriggling our fingers in the air like demented witches, to stop us from touching.  But Popping?  Not so much.  I had some improtant vet-related paperwork that I had to ‘pop’ to the Post Office at the start of January.  I carried it round with me for weeks, but every time we passed a Post office there was an enormous queue, and Tiddler was crying, hungry or wanting to climb the walls.  Eventually I decided to make a special Post-Office trip in the car, but there was a tantrum on buckling the car-seat.  I rested the envelope on top of the car while I soothed things out.  That’s the last time I saw it.

But as I said before, I expected all this.  It’s the fabric of having kids.  It’s the unexpected things that cause the problems.

Loosing my phone.  I couldn’t ring for help or sympathy.  I couldn’t even call myself on hubby’s phone and see if I could hear it ring.  I Facebooked and Big Brother helped me out.

The dishwasher broke.  Doesn’t sound like much, does it?  We didn’t have a dishwasher for years.  But suddenly there was nowhere to hide the pots.  Put them on the surface and there’s no surface left.  With my kids’ style of eating, washing-up-as-you-go-along is frustrating.  The house took a day to go from chaotic and a little bit grubby to absolutely gross.

It’s hard fixing dishwashers with Toddler on your back.  Never-the-less, I downloaded the Destructions which told me to check the filters.  They were clean.  So I called the lady on the helpdesk who said I needed to clear my sink’s u-bend.

She didn’t say that when you take all the pipes apart under the sink, you’ll need to remember how to plug them back together.  Now I couldn’t use my sink OR my dishwasher.  Thank God Gareth came round and helped me out.

Another time my phone-charger died and the battery had no juice to wake me up next morning.  There’s an alarm on our cooker so I tried to set that, but I wasn’t sure if it had worked or not.  There’s an online alarm-clock feature you can use, but I happened to know that my lap-top sometimes does automatically shut-down when it knows I’m not watching, and I couldn’t work out how to turn this feature off.  Then I remembered an old alarm-clock, a relic of my Grannie’s life that hubby wouldn’t let me throw away because it says ‘Made In Glasglow’ on it.  I wound it up, tested the alarm a few times.  It wasn’t consistent.  I set it anyway and lay awake half the night, worried I’d never wake up.

Dunno why.  It was like that scene in Four Weddings where Hugh Grant wakes up to a roomful of alarms.   The kids didn’t stir but I raced round the house, pump dangling, swtiching them all off.  Then I started to laugh.

There’s the hardest thing about lone parenting.  You’re laughing at your desperation, or you’re happy because they’ve gone up a reading-book colour, or you’re about ready to put them down the loo, and you look for someone to tell.

I guess it’s why the super-single-parents I know are so very good at reaching out and cultivating friendships.  Anyway:  they’re heroes, those people.  Heroes.





Kids, Weddings and the Tash



We’re driving to Scotland.

Snowflakes in the windscreen resemble the Star Wars titles.  The kids (thank goodness) have fallen asleep.  Radio 3 is featuring a jazz soloist ‘on electronics,’ which is the sort of soundscape a manatee might swim around to on a nature programme.

‘Do people listen to this stuff for pleasure?’ I ask hubby, ‘Or just so they can call themselves open-minded?’

‘Shhhh!’ says hubby.

The music wells.

‘Listen!  The manatee has seen a fish!’

‘Stop it,’ says hubby.

‘Oh shit,’ I say.


‘I forgot to pack any shoes.’


Last year we got a wedding invitation.

And another.

Then another.

And two more.

I won’t make bus-waiting analogies, but suddenly my family and friends were so busy nuping-up in different corners of the country that my car-tyres and my dress started to look worn.  In fact, I bought a second dress.

I know.

You’d think that having been a bride would make me critical of other couples’ weddings, but I’ve soppily adored them all.  I’m not one of those wedding-describers-and-comparers.  I’ve brought kids; I’m more worried about other people judging me.

Just because I’m paranoid, doesn’t mean nobody’s judging.  Plenty of loved-up thirty-somethings are transparently conscious that society expects them to sprog.  Such couples try to use your example to confirm to themselves that parenting would be amazing (or managable, or terrifying, or the end of their social lives as they know them – all of which are true).  And eveyone comments on your kids’ behaviour.

At weddings  you want to make your children and your parenting look idyllic.  Like Facebook in real life.

Damnit! –  I wasn’t even a perfectionist in the days when all I had to remember were a dress, some shoes and a present.

Nowadays it’s a military operation remembering:

  • my insulin and sweets
  • to disappear my moutache (it’s thick and curly thanks to sprogging hormones)
  • to wash the kids
  • ..and brush their hair
  • a ribbon matching my daughter’s dress (and keep her still enough to apply it)
  • my son’s trousers, shirt and matching socks
  • a spare set for after he vomits
  • nappies
  • food to bribe them with if the photographs take ages
  • wet-wipes for their fingers
  • and of course – when he joins us – cuff-links to put on hubby.

The cuff-links aren’t important; hubby can improvise them from things found around the hotel-room. Some people would cringe if their partner rocked lime-green pipe cleaners, but it’s a fabulous ice-breaker at wedding-breakfast.

Another good ice-breaker:  “it was my fault the bride was so late”.  One time the rain was pouring down, the motorways were slow and the map on my phone kept flipping upside-down and loosing its signal most unhelpfully.  The stupid roads had plenty of decision points but nowhere to pull in.  The kids kept asking ‘Are you lost, Mummy?’  and giggling like hyenas.

I found the hotel.  The staff directed me through the rain to my room without offering to help with my two giant suitcases or two small, trailing children, but I chilled out when I saw my huge, golf-course-view suite.  Said suite was quickly strewn with clothes, disguarded sandwiches, crumbs and dirty nappies while I sorted us all out and packed us back into the car in record time.  We drew up outside the church just as the bride’s father came out to see if the coast was clear for their arrival.  He kindly held things up to let me get the family into position.


Sitting in the service is the most risky part of the day and I’ve learned (the hard way) to sit near an exit.  It’s amazing how much blushing you can do between your pew and the church door.

Years ago, a priest stopped a wedding service I was attending:  ‘everybody.  Listen to that.  A crying baby.  What a beautiful sound.  Now then, who’s going to jiggle him while we say a prayer for crying babies parents….’

At the time I was one of the afore-mentioned thirty-somethings.  Now I look back and wonder how those parents managed to restrain themselves from hugging the guy.

Wedding-breakfasts are great.  Children hate sitting still once they’ve finished throwing food everywhere, so a little club of parents meets in the corridor outside.  They pretend to drink responsibly, selectively listen to the speeches and coo privately over the gorgeous sight of their little ones toddling around.

The fewer Toddlers there are the less sociable the corridor, but also the more you stand out.  Walk anywhere and someone will say:  ‘He went that way.  And isn’t he gorgeous!’

Toddlers are like dogs for getting you into conversations with admiring stangers.  But should the conversation become interesting, it’s hard to stay in one place to see it through.

Who cares?  I’ve had a super time chasing my kids round weddings.  We’ve visited hotels and beaches.  Danced to jazz-bands, discos and ceilidhs.  My daughter had one whole dance-floor doing ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ to Abba.  Couples and guests alike have been wonderfully welcoming of our offspring.




Of course, not every invitation has extended to our kids and I’m pleased about that too, especially since these weddings have been in Scotland where I have willling in-laws. I’d forgotten what it was like to sit still for dinner, and be able to dance and drink too much and to introduce myself to a stanger who doesn’t instantly label me ‘mother’.

The night with the Star-Wars snowflakes, we were due to arrive at the in-laws’ around two am and set off early next day.  I thought I’d save time by waxing my moutache and eyebrows in the car.

The following morning, replacing the forgotten shoes in Edinburgh was easy.  What I couldn’t replace, sadly, were my eyebrows:  they’d completely disappeared.  And there was a big, ugly flesh-crater waxed out of my upper lip, too.

The point is that one can’t always blame one’s kids for one’s social inadequacies.

Perhaps I ‘ll blame the manatee-Jazz.




Clipart from:  http://www.clipartsheep.com/manatee-clipart-1812056.html.   Also:  http://www.cutecliparts.com and Nate Krien (title picture) @ twitter.com

Cheshire-Cat-Thomas and the early morning run

Tiddler’s favourite pyjama top is very faded.   All that remains is Thomas the Tank Engine’s disembodied face and funnel grinning out of a blue background where his body used to be.  Many’s the morning I’ve opened my eyes to this startling Thomas-Cheshire-cat, and to a jolly Tiddler grin just a short distance above it.

‘Morning, Mummy!’ shouts Tiddler cheerily.

I really hope I don’t scowl every time.  I try hard not to.

Tiddler might be a morning person, but I most definitely am not.

In fact, getting out of bed is usually the worst part of my day.  Having done so, I tend to be a grump. I flounder through the house getting ready, loosing things and snapping at people, before gradually stablising and stumbling out of the door.  When I’m not working, hubby plays with Tiddler first thing and Big Sprog and I tend to sleep for longer.  I can concentrate on anything at two in the morning, but at something-to-seven I am useless.

Anyway, did I tell you about my 10K?  The race is called the Percy Pud and it’s a little bit like Glastonbury in that at 7pm on the night of Monday 5th October, runners all over Sheffield waited in front of their computers for a special link to appear.  When it did, we all tried to register at once and met a frantic ‘loading’ signal…..

Still, with a bit of persistance I managed to get a place.

The Sheffield Striders, the club who organise the race, claim that what makes it so popular is the potential of the course for personal bests; or possibly the friendly, Christmassy atmosphere.  But we punters will tell you that we’re doing it because you get a Christmas pudding at the end.  This year, two-hundred-and-fifty runners registered within ten minutes of the link appearing; by the end of the night, it had sold out. Percy pud is definitely a race for people who know how to be quick….

Bea and I are getting quicker.  Yes: I’m running with a partner, the first time I’ve found someone to run with that’s been mutually convenient.  I proved too slow for Naomi, lived too far away for my friend Sarah, avoided roads too much for Becky and to take the hubby along would require a baby-sitter.  Bea and I rub along nicely though: Bea can set a pace well enough to stop me steaming off, getting ridiculously out of breath and having to stop in the first ten minutes, which is what I normally do on my own.  And she brings a gorgeous staffie along and we chat.  The only trouble is, finding a good time to run.

Bea, you see, has a business to run and two children to educate.  And I have to go to work.

‘How about 6.30 Thursday morning?’ asked Bea.  (Bea is a morning person, like Tiddler, only I don’t think she’s got a Cheshire-cat-Thomas pyjama top).

Fast-forward to Wednesday night.  I’d put myself to bed really early and lay there reading.  Hubby (who is actually the source of Tiddler’s early-morning genes – although he doesn’t wear pyjamas at all) let out a sudden loud guffaw.

I nearly jumped out of my skin.

‘What is it?’;

‘Is Bea really going to knock at our door at half-past-six in the morning to go running?’

‘Yes.  She just texted to confirm.’

‘And you’re going to get out of bed?’  He rolled over, snickering.

Actually, when Bea knocked on the door at 6.30am we were both out of bed, hubby completely starkers and scrabbling for a towel.  We were looking for a) the head torches I’d just put down somewhere before I went to the loo and b) the front door key, so we could let Bea in.

But to my utter surprise, I was almost smiling:  having gone to sleep at ten O’clock rather than my usual after-midnight, i was – if not full of beans – far from being empty.  So we went for a run and it was nice.  We started off in the dark but suddenly I noticed that it was not so dark as all that, and five minutes later I suddenly realised it was daylight.  How lovely!

We finished an hour after we’d started and I had just put the kettle on for a coffee before work when Tiddler came out creeping out of his room.  He was heading for my bedside to say Good Morning.

Then he looked up and saw me in the lounge already.  He grinned until his face cracked in two, Cheshire-Cat-Thomas grinning along with him.

And that morning, I found myself grinning right back.

My Minor Success (and other stories)

I haven’t been writing about my body very much this summer, because small successes don’t make good stories.

Better to write about the time when I went tripping across a pub beer-garden wearing a single flip-flop.  I was trying so hard not to drop the three pint-glasses that I let go of Tiddler’s foot with my elbow and I dropped him instead.  He fell from my shoulders onto concrete.

And no, I hadn’t had ANYTHING to drink.  And didn’t get anything after that, because the guy on the next table called 999 and told them Tiddler kept loosing consciousness.

And no, Tiddler wasn’t loosing consciousness and I knew that.  He was trying to go to sleep, which is why I’d made for the pub beer-garden in the first place.  But his sleepiness certainly worried the paramedics so I let them take me to hospital just in case.

And no, the paramedic couldn’t wake him up either when he went to sleep in the aumbulance, which is when they decided they were putting the blue lights on.

And no; we didn’t wait for triage at all…..

Which is when TIddler decided it was far too exciting to sleep any longer, sat up and started to smile and coo.  Little bugger.

Anyway:  where was I?  Better stories than my small success.

A routine hospital visit this time:  a nightmare thirty-minute wait.  We trooped to the loo together to do a sample (Mummy, Mummy!  Are you going to drink it?), read Hello magazine and sang Twinkle Twinkle on loop.  Unfortunately Tiddler still got restless and decided to drive his toy car up the leg and into the crotch of a mortified bloke.

When we were finally called in to see the nurse it was a great relief that she had a young woman with her who clearly wanted to play with the kids, allowing the nurse and I to concentrate on my diabetes in peace.  It was only after the appointment that I was asked to fill in a survey about the doctor I’d just seen.

‘I didn’t see the doctor.  I just saw the nur- oh, hang on.  That doctor.  Right.  Yeah, that doctor was excellent.’

So misconceptions can make interesting stories too.

But not so minor success.

You know the feeling.  Someone posts their training run on Facebook and you’re not supposed to think: ‘that’s not very far / fast,’ or ‘what a total show-off.’  You’re supposed to think:  ‘Go them!  Look at that developing athletic prowess!’

But lately I’ve noticed myself becomming more supportive.  ‘Proud’ should be encouraged  and ‘smug’ (derogatory-speak for ‘proud’) should be spun more positively or else shouldn’t exist at all.  Pride in your body is what keeps you exercising and it helps if your friends are proud of you, too.

I would say that:  I’m a smug person now.  It started with a few core exercises and then a bloke with wince-worthily shiny muscles: thank goodness this was you-tube because I couldn’t concentrate on his face.  Never-the-less it was a useful experience;  I was soon seeking out playparks with monkey-bars to exercise the kids in – and  learned to do a pull-up.

And the thing about being a tiny bit stronger is, you start to climb harder too.

‘Really?’ our friend Gareth dripped sarcasm.  ‘Who’d’ve thought it?’

But it wasn’t long before he installed a pull-up bar in one of our doorways.  I’m pleased to report that I can do three pull-ups now.

And do you know about campus boards?  Those big intimidating things at the climbing-walls, that the likes of me compeltely ignore?



‘Are you sure?’ I say to Gareth.  ‘Isn’t their some unwritten rule that I’m not actually allowed on there?’

But apparently not: Gareth and Naomi showed me some simple exercises.  That opened my mind a bit.

The biggest breakthrough however, was one day at the kiddy-wall.  The kiddy-wall has colour-coded routes according to their difficulty, and in my head these colours could be split into two groups:  ‘routes that Liz can attempt’ and ‘routes that Liz will never climb because she took up climbing too late / isn’t strong enough / doesn’t understand how anybody actually gets hold of those holds / has too many children.’

Except, one day I looked around and realised that I had now done all the Lizable routes.  Wow.  If I wanted a new project at the kiddy-wall, I was going to have to venture into the second territory:  I was going to have to try a black.

So I did.  I was sure to pick one tucked away in a corner so that no-one could see that I was trying it.  The bad news was, no-one saw me succeed.

So I put something on Facebook.  Like, I did a black.  Does that make me a real climber now?

The replies proved that my Facebook friends are nicer people than me.  I think someone used the word ‘inspiration….’

But hey, you must be bored already.  Let me tell you a good story – perhaps about the night Big Sprog vomitted all over my sleeping bag – instead.

Extreme Positivity

Or:  How is Positivity like Ironing?


My friend Becky says I was hard on myself last week when I discussed my own parenting.  To put it into perspective, Tiddler and Toddler are generally happy-enough little buggers so we’re probably doing OK.

When I criticise the slack, wobbly aspects of my body there is often someone who says that I ought to be kinder to myself about that, too.

But I know that I would undoubtedly feel, look and perform better if I ate a lower-fat, lower-carb diet and if I did my core exercises.  And my kids would undoubtedly be happier and more confident if I was more positive.

Still.  It’s been a long day, I’m tired and stressed and at the supermarket. It turns out that cream-cakes are on special.  Naturally, I am thinking, ‘Ah Well. I’ll eat sensibly tomorrow.’

And that same supermarket trip, Toddler is whining.  It’s as though she hasn’t noticed the cream-cakes in the trolly.  She’s hungry, she wants to buy jelly and Tiddler is poking her.  But remember:  I’m stressed and busy and also cross with myself about the cream-cakes.  So I tell her to be quiet.

And now I am stressed, busy, cross with myself about the cream-cakes and about snapping at my child.  I swear to do better tomorrow, when I’m less stressed.  Honestly, I will…..

And before I know it, tomorrow has arrived.  And have positive parenting, exercise and healthy eating got any easier while I was asleep?

…. How can i say this positively? ….

Perhaps they will do tomorrow.

I answered an advert for a free 30-minute try-out with Bea Marshall, a parenting coach (www.beamarshall.com/blog).  I think this woman is super.  Apparently, she doesn’t ever say ‘no’ to her kids – and we’re talking in a ‘guide-the-children-positively-to-make-confident-effective-decisions-for-themselves’ sort of a way, rather than a ‘letting-them-walk-all-over-you’ sort of a one.

It’s not a policy I can see myself adopting, but I do find her inspirational.  Not so much her lack of negativity with her children or even her articulate speaking on the subject (U-tube), but the fact that she didn’t say anything negative to me.  We had maybe five interactions.  During this time I inarticulately criticised her blog, took a coaching session, admitted that it was extremely helpful, wavered a lot, found what I perceived to be a problem with the booking form on her website, questioned her prices and then announced that I was not prepared to pay them.

(Yes, I know that you can’t put a price on improving interactions with your children, but everyone has a budget).

What did she say to that?  Of course, she thanked me for my feedback, said that she ‘honoured’ my decision and added:-

I also deeply admire and appreciate your honesty ….. that honesty and ability to ‘own’ your choice is powerful. Thank you.

So.  Bea says everything that the buisness communication books would reccommend.  And she says it with genuine warmth.  It is the very skill that I’d like to get better at.

But when I thought about it, I started to worry.  Is such studied warm communication healthy?  How would I ever know if someone like Bea liked me or not?  And if I was so disarmingly nice to everyone myself, how would I be myself?  How would I distinguish my friends?  By insulting them (even) more?

And then I realised:  I am having these thoughts under the assumption that Bea is a negative person hiding beneath a mask of postivie speaking.  Maybe this doesn’t have to be.

Maybe Bea is actually genuinely always positive; maybe it’s not a mask.  I’m not saying that she got my e-mail and her very first thought was:  ‘Wow!  Look at Liz; see how she’s owning that decision!’

But I certainly believe that she would walk around the supermarket thinking not ‘how tired and hungry I am’ but something like: ‘I can’t wait to get home and enjoy all this food.’

And not ‘What a horrid noise my Toddler is making’ but ‘How good it is that my children are communicating their needs to me!’

Perhaps she’d discover which of her children’s needs were most pressing and find time to deal with one or two.  I’ll bet you she would have found a way to make the cream-cakes on a offer a good thing, without eating too many.

Do you know, I think extreme positivity might be a little bit like the anceint craze of extreme ironing.  It seems faintly ridiculous from the outside but when you start doing it, perhaps it makes you happier; leads to great things; makes you stand out.

In fact, I’m going to try.

I have a good relationship with my children and my post was just me being strong enough to identify where this needs to be improved.  I would also like to bring my diet into balance and obtain a stronger core…..

But most of all, this week I am going to try to be positive for a week.

I’m sure that I have the potential to be excellent.