I know we’ve been careful. We’ve skulked about and met in the twilight hours, we are sure not to even so much as look at each other when he’s about. But I fear we may not have been as careful as we should.
These past seven weeks have been magical. They say you can’t love two people at the same time – but they were wrong. As soon as I laid my eyes on you I was in love.
Don’t get me wrong – I still loved him, but in a different way.
Sometimes with you … it’s just easier. With him – it’s complicated. He wants to talk and play games and craves all my attention. Whereas you – all you want to do is stare in my eyes and be held. And you smell so good. And you’re so frickin gorgeous. Everyone says so.
My phone is full of pictures of you I fear he might see – but I can’t stop, and I can’t delete them.
We have our secret hour – at 4am, when it’s just the two of us. I make a cup of tea and we just lay together and giggle and lie in peace. The whole house sleeps unaware of our secret love affair. It makes me so happy. Just our time. But the guilt I feel is immeasurable.
The other night I just sat at the end of his bed weeping, weeping that I had betrayed him – that I had replaced him. Wept for our old relationship – when he was the one and only, the precious first.
And I thought he had no clue – I thought we were carrying on and he hadn’t noticed. How could I be so arrogant? So naive? In the last couple of weeks he’s not sleeping, he’s angry and he wants to spend much more time with me. Baby, I think he knows.
I’ve done my best to reassure him. I never mention you, I try and have one on one time and I tell him all the time that he is the only one for me. “I love you” I say 200 times a day. But I fear things will never be the same.
I’ll never forget the first time my son was walloped.
We were at a ‘mum meet up’ at the local church hall. He was not yet two and running around happily, not a care in the world, safe in the knowledge that he had a blissful, blessed life. Another, larger boy looked him up and down, thought for a moment, before opening his palm wide and pushing it with full force, very slowly, into my son’s face – forcing my son’s head back a good ten inches.
I saw the expression on my only child’s sweet, innocent face- utter devastation; shock, confusion. In his eyes was a flash of a new realisation – that life is actually pretty shite – and it’s full of bastards!
I watched the child with my seething eyes and scanned the room for the ‘bad mother’… where was the bitch? (slowly takes off earrings and tucks shoes under the chair) IT’S ON SKANK!
I couldn’t identify her … and my son was now howling and screaming so much that all eyes were on me (tag! You’re now the bad mother). So we scurried off.
I told Grandma. She wasn’t best pleased. I tried to explain to her that the police had more pressing matters on their hands and probably wouldn’t be too interested in filling out a report about the incident.
Soon after, at another kids’ group my son was bitten by another child. I saw the whole incident. Thankfully the fact I had put my son in such a chunky heavy-duty knit that morning had saved his left arm. This time I saw the mum. It’s on!
Ah! But what do I do now? What do I say? How does one start a sentence with a complete stranger that segues to “your child tried to draw blood from my child.” Do you start by complimenting her on her shoes… or remarking on the humidity… and then slamming into “I have reason to believe your spawn is feral.”
I ended up shuffling up and apologising, stuttering and falling over my words like Hugh Grant trying to declare his love. I tried to tell her what had happened in the most polite / British way possible as a look of mortification crawled over her exhausted face. She apologised profusely as I backed away saying it was no problem – of course, no problem, and I felt worse for bringing it up.
If you look up the word “Awkward” in the dictionary I think you’ll find a small picture of one parent trying to tell another parent that their child walloped theirs.
The thing is, my son grew up over the next few months and started getting a bit more boisterous, a bit more ‘playful’, a bit more heavy handed. He clomps about the play groups like a pissed up platypus knocking into the smaller children like they’re wobbly pins at a bowling alley. And slowly you realise, with horror, that one day your child will be the one who wallops another child. And it serves you right for being so judgemental.
My time at kids’ groups is sectioned into: 80% terrified my son will clobber another kid, 10% terrified my son will be pummelled by another kid and 10% being thankful another child is doing the clouting for today. I am also waiting for a not so understanding parent to launch themselves through the air at me like someone out of The Matrix.
I am much less judge-y than I used to be – I know it is only a matter of time before it’s my child doing the biting / head butting / kicking / walloping. I also know it’s not bad parenting. While my mum still scowls “but where has that girl learnt to wallop? mmm…” I know it’s not as simple as that – I know it’s the child experimenting, testing, playing, expressing.
I know this because since turning two – my own, gorgeous, innocent, wide eyed angel has head butted and bitten me. Me! As though my three day labour means NOTHING to him! He has bitten the hand that literally feeds him. And he certainly hasn’t learnt that from home – unless he can read mummy’s mind when Daddy doesn’t fill the dishwasher (not a euphemism).
And then there is the delicate politics of when you see someone else’s child get walloped. Do you intervene? Is it your place? Where is the rule book?
This morning at a huge soft play centre I witnessed a very small child head butt a larger girl around seven times. We will call the head butter child B for Butt-er. The taller child was sobbing and trying to get away. We will call her child C for Cry. So B is head butting and C is crying. I assume they must be siblings (ah…sibling love – what joys I have to come). I look around the room to see if I can identify the mum of the pair just to let her know child C is very upset.
I see a room of mums enjoying their coffees, reading the papers, chatting to friends. I have no clue which mother owns these two gladiators. I look back at the children. Child C is now lying on the floor screaming as child B punches her. Oh dear. It’s escalated. Time to do something. Yes – it will be awkward but politics means sometimes doing the hard things, putting your head above the parapet, intervening in wars.
So I approach a large table of mums and ask if they have little girls – say what I have seen and they set about going into the soft play to retreive children. Job done. You can feel very pleased with yourself now Steph.
To my horror I realise soon after that the girls were not sisters. They were strangers. And the table I have been at is child B’s mother. The head butter. I see child C in hysterics with her mother at the other end of the room trying to explain to her mum what had happened. The mum then walks up and down the room, clearly upset, looking for the offender and mum.
Lord! What do I do now?! Bloody Hell.
After much deliberation I slither up to the mum of the very upset pummelled girl. My exact words:
“Er….excuse me…I don’t really know how to do this. I haven’t done this before (I meant parenting really). But if it was my son, I would want to know.” I then kindly explain that another child had been head butting her child (and thumping) and that I would have intervened – but they were on the second level and I can’t clamber up the slide at seven months pregnant…(or usually).
The mother was very thankful that I told her what had happened – before asking “WHO IS THE MOTHER?”
Oh….Shit. Gulp. “I think, I mean, I think, I mean it could have been…but I’m not sure – it might have been her?” I subtly nod my head towards the mother in the opposite corner of the ring, I mean ‘room’.
“Thanks” she says, as she strides her way towards her, walloped child in her arms. Me left there looking shifty – like a proper grass! Like the kid in class who just told teacher! Like a drunk, meddling instigator of a fight in a dodgy pub. I have thrown the grenade and can now only sit there like a lemon.
I see the women exchange words and the child is made to apologise. I squirm in the corner trying to look at the menu of “chip butties” intently as the room stare at me – Little Miss Tattletale.
Moments later the younger child, head butter – well she decides she wants another go and does the exact same to child C.
The mum sees it now.
She exclaims something pretty rude into the air.
It’s earrings off.
Ding Ding Ding.
Grandma and I make a swift exit as we see the mother storming up to the parent – it’s on!!
After my 3.40am wake up on a Saturday morning I like to watch some Dawson’s Creek on Sony TV. In between the sickly sweet, utterly false, utopian, fictional drama – I have become aware of your advert. This one …
I feel we need to have a little chat about it.
The woman in it appears to be well rested, her hair is done and she has a lovely face of make up. Where are her bags? Where are her wrinkles? Where is the mascara smudged across her pale, sleep deprived, dry, pained face? Where are her roots? Why isn’t her hair matted and greasy? Why does she appear to have showered in the last day? Why does she look so happy?
Why doesn’t she look like an extra from The Walking Dead?
Why is the baby dressed in a clean, white baby grow? But more importantly, why is he sleeping soundly? He appears to be fast asleep. If this is the case – why is his mother awake? And if she is awake why isn’t she on Twitter, glugging coffee, brushing her teeth, watching Judge Judy and frantically rubbing baby wipes under her arm pits (all at the same time)?
Where is the bedside table of crap?
Several used baby wipes
Sick covered muslins
Three cold half cups of tea
A large glass of orange squash
Several packets of wipes
a take away pizza box
Tissues (used and unused)
dust covered books
a breast pump
dirty baby bottles
one red wine stained wine glass
Some empty packets of quavers
Gripe water and saline solution
a half eaten lemon drizzle cake
Why is her other half hugging her? Why is he sleeping? Why is he also happy? Where is his beer gut, grey hair and furrowed brow? Why is he in the same bed as her? Why isn’t he in a separate room? why isn’t he snoring?
Most importantly, why is she not spitting at him through gritted teeth “It’s your fucking turn you fucking arse hole!”
Now I know what you’re thinking – it’s an advert. Adverts are supposed to sell us the ideal – the dream. But I fear you are treading on thin legal ground here. Aren’t there some rules about false advertising?
I don’t worry for myself – I am a mother of two. I’m experienced. I am worried about the new parents to be – they might stumble across your advert after some love making and a lie in. Over their eggs Benedict and bucks fizz they might say “oh look sweetheart, doesn’t that look great?” “Yes pumpkin” he will reply, “let’s buy that!” and they will look forward to the day they will resemble the folks in your ad.
Over nine months later they might come knocking on your door asking for a full refund because daddy’s new nickname is ‘useless tit’, they haven’t slept in thirty six hours, and he’s spent the last four hours Googling “why is my baby crying” and “flights to Peru” on his iPad.
Can I suggest you just dial it back a tad?
First off – put the man in a separate room. The last thing she needs is to have to deal with a large sweaty, snoring lump hogging the bed and the duvet.
She needs to stretch out and if he is there and “doesn’t hear the baby crying” in the night the next time you’ll see her will be in a factual documentary about Spousal smothering. The theme tune of which will be “He had it coming” from Chicago.
Next – get rid of the natural lighting and the beautiful sun beams across the sleeping baby’s face. She should have black out ‘blinds in a box’ on her window that she had to buy after her neighbours complained about having to see her walk about with her breasts out wearing only her pants for two weeks straight. The last thing she needs after being awake for fourteen hours is a reminder that it is now day time outside. The lighting should be dimmed with the constant flicker of a mute Judge Judy lighting up the room from the table of crap.
Now make her a bit more realistic. I know she’s got a gorgeous baby and all – but no one is that smug. Keep your actress up for a few days and make her live on a diet of biscuits and toast for a week. Keep making her hot cups of tea and tell her she can’t drink them – don’t let her wash, or brush her teeth for a day or so, tape some earphones to her head and play ‘this is a song that will get on your nerves’ for seven hours and finally slap her across her face with a wet trout for good measure.
Make sure there is a side table of crap.
Lastly – get a baby model with a cold or colic who is wide awake and likes the sound of his own voice.
Sons, I want you to prepare yourself for your father and I coming to dinner in around twenty years time (or whenever you hopefully move out).
I’ll ring ahead of time and insist you make my favourite – lasagne – from scratch, and your dad’s favourite – apple crumble. As soon as we arrive your dad will take off one shoe: Just one mind.
I’ll ask for red wine but will only drink it if it is given to me in a very specific cup and if you hold it to my lips whenever I shout. I will jut my tongue in and out of it without ever actually drinking it as that’s just how I will roll.
Once dinner is served your dad will refuse to sit at the table and announce he hates lasagne. He will cry and continually request chocolate milk and a bread roll.
I will eat your lasagne … If the stars are aligned, but be warned, if I get so much as a whiff of a vegetable I will straight up regurgitate it into your open hand. Half way through the lasagne I may decide it’s no longer my favourite – I think it was a different shade last time I had it – and I’ll demand dessert.
Your father will eat the custard, and the crumble topping but then he will discover there’s apple in the bowl and simultaneously shit himself and realise he’s only wearing one shoe which will devastate him.
He will then lie on the floor and eat any old food he can find in between the cracks in your floorboards that you cooked days ago. Probably lasagne – just tastier than the fresh lasagne on the table.
At some point I will want to hold my wine cup myself and when you’re not looking I’ll just let it tip out over your most recent or precious purchase.
We will go to bed at 7pm quite easily and instead of going to bed too, you stupidly will stay up to actually enjoy your evening and watch whatever the equivalent of Breaking Bad is in 2035. You will retire for the evening at about 11.30pm.
At 11.32pm I will start screaming as though I’m being slaughtered. As soon as you get out of your toasty bed I’ll stop. I will continue this every hour on the hour until 4am.
Your father will wake up at 11.45pm and start shouting out numbers, colours, modes of transport and favourite characters from his favourite TV program.
He will continue to do this every two hours on the hour.
At around 3.30am he will crawl in the dark on his hands and knees in search of an object – any object – then find the radiator in the room and bang his object against the radiator until you give up and get up at 4am.
(He may find a tambourine or xylophone – you probably don’t remember even buying them! But he can find them like a pig searching for truffles).
The next day we will both insist on chocolate cake for breakfast and make you watch utter shite on repeat for 4 hours.
Just when you think you can’t take anymore Grandma will pop round. She’ll give you a leaflet about the dangers of drinking too much and how it makes you terrible sons and give us a chocolate cake and a cuddle and take us off to the pub.
Prepare yourself lads,
We’re looking forward to it.
(Revenge is a dish best served cold, and that lasagne better be stone cold or I won’t touch it).
Apparently I have always had an issue with people looking at me. My mum said when I was tiny I would say “Mummy, why are they looking at me?” when out in town. She would say “because you’re so pretty sweetheart” (Mums always know what to say) but of course I didn’t believe her. As I got older and she got less patient she would say “Stephanie, people don’t care about you! They’re too worried about themselves.” But this worry of what other people think of me has remained.
When I brought my new born home I honestly felt I was on some sort of Big Brother new mum cam with a panel of Health visitors and midwives in some sort of forced torturous Gogglebox episode. I found any visits by professionals as stressful as previous OFSTED inspections – only I was in my pyjamas this time with one tit out.
Years later with my two year old and four year old boys I still have daily moments where I wonder who is looking and what they are thinking. My youngest has developed a new habit where he likes to buckle at the knees anytime he’s remotely unhappy. He reminds me of those wooden stocking fillers you used to get of a donkey – where you pressed the underside and the legs would collapse. He does this anywhere and everywhere, adding a skull throw down to really get the full effect. On mud or concrete – the choice is his.
When he does this I look around to see who my audience is. If I am really lucky it’s a fellow parent who I can roll my eyes at and they giggle at the ways of toddlers. If I am unlucky it’s an elderly Gentleman who almost holds his nose as he walks past worrying he’s going to catch something from my feral lot.
On the school run I walk down a gridlocked main road and see all of the people in cars watching us – my two boys just seem to draw attention. If I am lucky they hold hands and I see them cooing and ah-ing and I feel a burst of pride – look at me mummying really well!
However, the weight of worrying about other people’s opinions can’t be sustained. I retrace those wise mum words “people don’t care about you. They’re too busy worrying about themselves.” Maybe, as always, my mum is right.
I certainly hope so as I had to drag my youngest home by his reigns like a demented Dachshund after he removed his shoes, in the pissing down rain, as I tried to conduct an important telephone call and my eldest screamed because I wouldn’t let him hold his God damn chocolate egg. I hope the onlookers enjoyed that one.
Mum like no one’s watching – they don’t care as much as you think. Hopefully.