Wednesday, 30 December 2009

"Mummy, why is Cinderella marrying a woman?"

'Mummy, why is Cinderella marrying a woman?'
'But I thought she had a wicked stepmother and that her Father was dead.'
'Who is Buttons anyway?'
'But they're supposed to be ugly sisters, not ugly brothers.'

Hmm, yes, quite.

Remind me next time we go to a Pantomime not to read the 'real' story ten times in a row just so they know it well before they go. It only leads to confusion. Especially when you're five and three.

But despite a few, erm, storyline setbacks, our trip to see Cinderella at the Pavilion Theatre in Worthing starring Todd Carty as Buttons was perhaps the biggest treat the girls have ever had. (I know, I know. We obviously lead an insular life devoid of any form of excitement whatsoever).

But seriously, in a world of television, DVD and even cinema, to actually experience singing, dancing and real-life audience interaction was so novel that for most of the performance all they could do was sit, wide-eyed in amazement.

Strangely though, and I still can't quite work out why, because I really, really wanted to enjoy it, I found it all a bit tiresome. Was it the stage-school over-acting of the leading lady? Or the long drawn-out dance scenes which seemed a tad irrelevant? Or the fact that our seats were so far from the stage that my, ahem, less than 20/20 vision couldn't appreciate the full magnificence of the stage and all its theatrics?

Like I said, I'm not really sure.

To be honest, I spent more time staring in wonder at the two girls staring in wonder at all that was going on in front of them, than I did staring at the performance itself. Their little faces were transfixed, their eyes enormous and unblinking, their hands siumltaneously gripping their red velvet seats and at the same time pointing to the villain. For five-year-old Renée, the chance to shout out 'He's behind you' was taken at every available opportunity, to such an extent that by the end of the night she could hardly speak. And when a real pony was conjured by one wave of the fairy Godmother's magic wand, I thought Renée would hyperventilate with happiness.

'Was it really magic Mummy? Did the Fairy Godmother really do that?'

For me, it was this child-like delight which was the highlight of the evening. Just to see my two little girls laughing, giggling and screaming with outrage was enough to make me want to take them back again and again.

And when the announcement came just as the curtains had finally drawn to a close that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs would be shown next year, it was a look of delight that filled their little faces.

'Mummy, can we come next year, pleeeeeeeeeeeeease?'

'Yes little ones, of course we can.'

I'll just have to do my very best to get seats nearer the front. Perhaps then we'll all be able to enjoy it.

This post is for The Great Panto Review 2009 hosted by the amazing Linda Jones from Have a Lovely Time. Thanks so much to Worthing Theatres for the tickets. Cinderella runs until Sunday 3rd January and tickets are priced between £12 for concessions to £36 for a family. Further details can be found on their website.

Please consider donating to NACCPO (National Alliance of Childhood cancer Parent Organisations) which is a very worthy charity supported by the Great Panto Review.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

The one where I am never invited round for wine and mince pies ever again

I think I may have foot in mouth disease.

Or some such ridiculous ailment which causes me to regret almost everything that comes out of my mouth the instant it is uttered.

After last week's debacle I thought I may be on the road to recovery.

But no. Apparently not.

Let me explain.

You see I'm not really a Christmassy sort of person. I think I may be in denial about the whole event. Two days away you say? Still plenty of time to buy presents surely...

In fact, when I was 19, instead of spending Christmas with my family I ran away to Thailand for a month and sat on a beach on my own. My brother put a photo of me in my place at the table and laid a party hat on top of it.

It runs deep you see. And I still don't think I've been quite forgiven.

Before I became a mother I had this image that I would tell my children the truth about Father Christmas. Why would I want to lie to them? I mean, how awful would it be for them to love and trust their mother only for them to find out that the man with the white beard and red outfit never even existed and that I'd known all along?

But then when I became a mother it all changed.

Of course it did.

But then everything does, doesn't it?

So now I help them choose what biscuits to leave by the fireplace and share their excitement when they wake up in the morning to find that two out of the three have been eaten, whilst subtley wiping crumbs from the corner of my mouth. And I read them stories about The Night Before Christmas and skip the pages where the little girl doubts that Father Christmas exists. I mean, I wouldn't want to put any funny thoughts into their head, would I?

I love their little faces and the hopes and dreams that fill them.

As every mother does.


Cut to this afternoon where I'm sharing wine and mince pies with a friend.

Her eight-year-old daughter approaches us.

"Are you excited about Christmas?" I ask.

She nods.

"My favourite part was always getting the stocking from Father Christmas", I continued.

"Do you think Father Christmas will still bring me presents even though I'm grown-up?" She asked with a wry smile (or so I thought).

"Of course", I replied. "Father Christmas brought me presents until I was 18, even though I knew he didn't exist.

Her eyes grew wider than I even thought possible.

"You mean he really doesn't exist?"

Oh fuckity fuck............

THE seminal moment in a child's life, ruined by yours truly.

I think I shall go back to hating Christmas again. Or failing that, stick my head under the bed covers and not come out until January 1st.

Now there's a thought...

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Be careful what you say...

It's a well-known fact that you must never tell children what you really think. Or in fact, you must never reveal the full truth about so many things, whether it be that Father Christmas couldn't possibly deliver presents to so many children in such a short space of time, or that the scribble they have so expertly penned isn't quite as artistic as your loud exclamations made it seem.

Our job as parents is to protect our children from the harsh realities of life. When the saucepan lid is dropped on our un-slippered feet, the piercing protestation which we would once have uttered with great applomb, suddenly becomes,


for fear of inappropriate repetition at precisely the wrong moment.

But on occasion, all our good intentions become unravelled in a millisecond. And I'm not talking about the moment that our beloved toddler shouts 'BUGGER' when they drop their rattle in the supermarket. These moments are pure genius and are to be cherished, I can assure you.

This one, however, is not.

For the past couple of weeks Renée has been uncharacteristically quiet. And for a child whose most common ailment is a touch of verbal diarrhoea, this has come as something of a shock, if not a welcome relief.

I initially put it down to a combination of a cold and end-of-term fatigue. But on closer investigation it seemed that something else entirely was responsible.

"Mummy, I used to have two best friends", she muttered quietly a couple of days ago.

"That's right darling, you did." I was absentmindedly stirring the pasta and it took a while to register.

"Did? You mean you don't any more?"

She looked down at her feet and wiped away something invisible on her dress.

"Now I've only got one."

"What do you mean darling?" I stopped stirring the pasta, knelt down in front of her and raised her chin a little, just enough for her to look at me.

What I saw almost broke my heart.

A quivering bottom lip, red-rimmed eyes already beginning to fill with tears and a tiny five-year-old totally distraught at the injustice of life.

It transpires that one of Renée's best friends, Miss A, has told Renée that she doesn't want to be her friend any more, that she doesn't like her and that if she does anything wrong, Miss A willl go straight to the teacher and tell on her.

Now I know it's commonplace for friends to fall out with each other, especially when they're so young (I mean, Hell, it even happens when we're adults), but when you have a sobbing little girl in your arms, all your motherly instincts go into overdrive and you'll say anything to make it better.

Of course, what I should have said was this.

"Try not to be sad darling. I'm sure she doesn't mean it. Find someone else to play with and she'll want to be your friend again soon."

What I said instead was this.

"Well that's just typical isn't it? Well, I never liked Miss A. She's very mean. In fact, she's horrible and I never could see why you liked her. And I definitely won't be inviting her round to this house again. You have plenty of other friends who I like and we'll invite them round instead. Miss A is mean and horrible and I don't like her."

The good thing is, it made Renée feel much better and her tears soon went away.

The bad thing is, I hadn't really thought much further than that. That is, until I picked Renée up from school the following day.

"How was school darling?" I asked.

"It was ok", she replied. "I told Miss A that you didn't like her, you thought she was horrible and that she's not invited to our house ever again. She said she was going to tell her Mummy".


Now I'm not quite sure why I didn't think she'd repeat it, but we all live and learn. I certainly won't be making that mistake again.

Now all that's left for me to do is to patch up yet another friendship.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

I'm sorry I pull your hair - I do love you really

This post was inspired by Josie from Sleep is for the Weak and her amazing Writing Workshops. If you haven't already taken part then do pay her a visit.

Not only is she a fantastic writer, but she's also an amazing person and I urge to to read each and every post she writes.

So here we go. Writing prompt number 4. Put yourself in somebody else's shoes...

To my big sister Renée,

You know when I tell you that I don't love you and then I hit you? Well, you know I don't mean it really? And I don't mean to bite you either, or pull your hair. You know I love you really, don't you? Sometimes I think I love you even more than Mummy. But then Mummy gives me sweeties and I think that maybe I love Mummy more.

But I think you're my best friend. Am I your best friend too? I hope I am because I feel happy when I'm with you. Mummy says that best friends make you feel happy and share things with you. And you share everything with me, even your olives and grapefruit and broccoli which you pass to me when Mummy isn't looking. That's when I know you must be my best friend.

And when you're not there I feel I bit sad. Mummy tries to cheer me up and read me stories, but it doesn't feel the same because she always has lots of other things to do and she gets cross when I want her to read the same book over and over again. You never get cross with me. And I miss you when you're at school. I try not to miss you too much because I'm a big girl and I can do big girl things on my own, but you can do everything just a bit better than me.

You can reach the light in the bathroom so when I need to do a pee pee I don't have to sit in the dark. I don't like being in the dark. Except when we're lying in bed together under the covers pretending to be monsters. I like the dark then. Because I know you're there with me. And I know that if the monsters do come, you'll make sure they won't hurt me. Because you're my big sister and I know that you love me.

Sometimes I wish you didn't have to go to school and we could stay at home every day and play monsters like we used to. But I know that when I'm an even bigger girl, like you, then I'll go to your school too. Sometimes when Mummy takes you into the playground in the morning, I want to come as well. But Mummy won't let me and it makes me cross. And when Mummy tries to stop me from following you I think maybe I don't love Mummy at all.

Every day I wait for you to come home and I try to be patient. Really I do. But when you come home with a friend it makes me a little bit sad because I want you to play with me and not them. I try to be grown-up and play the games that you play but I don't know my alphabet yet and I don't understand it when you start counting in big numbers. And when you don't want to play Mummies and Babies it makes me cross because we always used to play that together before you went to big school. And then I think if I pull your hair and bite you you'll know how cross I am and maybe you'll want to play with me again.

I'm sorry if it makes you cry. And I'm sorry if it leaves a red mark on your arm. But I just want to be with you. I want you to be my best friend forever. Thank you for loving me even when I hurt you. When I'm big and grown-up like you, maybe I can look after you too.

I love you.

Your little sister, Edie.

Monday, 7 December 2009

What does it mean to be a friend?

The other day I was apologising to a friend for having to cancel our much-anticipated, long-overdue get-together. The children were ill, hubby was away working and well, it just wasn't going to happen.

The thing is, she wasn't surprised.

"Oh, you're always cancelling", she said. "I never expect you to keep a date these days".

I should have been affronted, possibly even hurt. But I wasn't. Because it's true and she's right. I am always cancelling. I do always let people down. And despite endeavouring to make more of an effort every time it happens, I still don't seem to be able to do anything about it. I promised one friend I'd make plans to see them, ooh, about a year ago. I keep meaning to call another friend who's had a baby, but can't quite find the right moment. The list is, unfortunately, endless.

My friend went on, obviously having already spent time thinking about the likes of me.

"Pearl Lowe once said that you can only ever have two out of the three - friends, family and work. I'm still trying to challenge that and have all three."

"Crikey", I thought, "I'm struggling to have one..."

But it did make me think. Can we really have all three? Once children enter the equation, isn't it too much to ask for? Why do I always let people down? Why can't I keep a date? Is it just me?

And then it got me thinking about friendship and what it all means anyway. What does being a friend mean? Does it mean always being there for someone when they need you (not entirely practical when they're curled up on the sofa in an emotional mess needing a hug and you're a two-hour drive away wiping bottoms and changing nappies)? Or does it mean having had shared experiences? Knowing someone inside out? Enjoying their company? Or loving someone despite all their faults?

I'll tell you why I'm asking.

A very good friend of mine, (not the one above with a penchance for quoting Pearl Lowe) - Edie's godmother in fact, has recently decided that she doesn't want to be friends with me anymore. I know, I know. She's obviously completely crazy.

When I pressed her on her reasons why, she said,

"You're just a crap friend and you've cancelled the last four times we were meant to meet for what I can only see as a better offer".

A better offer? Well, possibly if you count having ill children, an absent husband and complete and utter exhaustion as better offers, then she may have a point.

I apologised, told her how sorry I was, offered to drive the hour and a half it takes to get to her house once my husband was around so he can pick up the children from nursery and school, but no. It seems I've let her down once too often.

I am, obviously, gutted, but given my circumstances, I really don't know how to redess the balance.

Here's the sob story.

My husband works away more often than he is at home. I never know when he's going to be away until a few days before. I have two small children who are 100% dependant on me. I have no family in the vicinity who can help out with childcare even in an emergency. What this means in terms of friendship is that even the best laid plans have to be cancelled if the children need me.

Does this make me a 'crap' friend?

I like to think it doesn't. And that when I do see friends I'm genuinely pleased to see them. I'm happy if they're doing well, caring if they're not. I'll offer advice, cake, cups of tea, just an ear. I'm interested to hear what they're doing. But I can't be there all the time. And that is no indication of how good a friend they are.

That's just the way it is.

And I'm sorry if that's not enough.


And just as a quick endnote - apologies to those of you who have commented on my previous two posts - I have been ridiculously busy at home and haven't had time to reply. But, I will do.

See - I'm a crap blogging friend as well.


I will make more of an effort. Just as soon as my children have grown-up and left home...