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Monday, 30 March 2009


You'd forgive me for thinking I'm living in a parallel universe in which no parents exist, the drink of choice is pink milk, and the children are called things like Charlie, Lola, Lotta and Marv. In this universe it is ever so extremely important that you intone, gigglingly, in slightly pretentious toddler speak, putting a lot of extra emphasis on certain words in order to convey their importance and to show off that you know them.
Yes, my life is currently ruled by Charlie and Lola, Nath's current obsession and one eagerly adopted by his sisters. This means that when I return from work I am greeted by three small faces momentarily turned in my direction and then back to the TV screen, which is always showing one of Nath's new collection of Charlie and Lola DVDs. It also means that whenever I ask anyone to do anything I am treated to a very loud, "Sorry, I am just too very extremely busy", and whenever we eat a meal together (ie every day) I am regaled with a list of foods that will never be eaten ("I will never not ever eat a tomato"...etc) but whose fantasy counterparts are completely acceptable ("Ah, it's a moonsquirter - that's okay then.") Whilst in the shower the other morning I could hear a quite vocal discussion taking place between Nathan and Eden. They were speaking in unnaturally high voices and guffawing at each other conspiratorially. As I stepped out of the shower I could hear the words more clearly and realised they were reciting word for word an entire Charlie and Lola show, play acting the parts and enjoying themselves immensely.
You might wonder if all this is more than a little irritating but there are a number of things to be grateful for, here. At least Nath's captivation with Charlie and Lola has taken sway over his obsession with killer robot wars, and at least this all goes to demonstrate that TV doesn't kill children's imaginations, after all. Well not exactly, anyway. It just slightly warps them. It seems to be doing quite a lot of good for their memory and recall abilities, too.
Yes, the imaginative streak seems alive and well in the entire family at present. Whilst changing Ava's nappy in a restaurant's baby room over the weekend, she suddenly whispered, a propos of nothing, "Ssshhh, we're in a dark forest!"
"Oh gosh, are we?" I asked. "Are there any creatures in the dark forest, Ava?"
"Yes." She answered, in a stage whisper. "There are dark tigers and dark ducks."
And that was that. Funny girl.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Ava grows up

It's official. I don't have any little people in the house who could realistically be classed as babies. Ava, our youngest, started nursery on Monday morning, and with that small step, off she went on a journey that gradually takes them further and further away from you and closer and closer to independence. Looking at her, all innocent and unaware of what she was about to encounter, in her little, blue, nursery-branded sweatshirt, was enough to make me yell hysterically, 'Don't go!' grab her up into my arms and try to hold onto that umbilical link, just for a few days more. But no, just as my Dad always counselled me, it's our job as parents to teach our children how to manage without us. But Dad, why is that sometimes so very hard?
Monday morning I was due in the office early. We had a big day ahead of us including an important author presentation. Quite apart from trying to rein in my hero worship of the guy I needed to be sure I didn't fluff my part of the presentation and let down my colleagues. But the butterflies in my stomach were all about this little picture I had in my head of Ava in her blue sweatshirt wandering around the big, new nursery looking for her Mum and Dad and wondering why we'd left her with all these strange people. Thank God it was Paul who was going to have to handle the drop-off. I was simultaneously relieved, guilty about feeling relieved, and somewhat sad that the job wasn't mine this time. That's not just a paradox - that's, like, a three-dimensional paradox. Or something. No wonder my stomach was in knots.
Paul called me at 10.10am. He had arrived at the nursery with her at 10am and he was already leaving! She had launched herself in to the thick of it the minute they had arrived, trying out the activities at every table in the course of a few minutes and settling at the painting easel with a look of disbelief that someone could have laid out all this fun stuff and noone was stopping her from playing with it all. She had more or less ignored him when he had told her he was leaving. His voice sounded a bit wobbly.
'Oh, phew,' I said, 'I think.'
As I went into the presentation my butterflies had disappeared. Ava was going to be okay. The small matter of a major author's happiness would be peanuts.

P.S. Do not allow this post to full you with sentimentality and sympathy for poor little Ava. Both her brother and sister are this week sporting bruises over their eyes after 'combative encounters' with their 'cute baby sister'. If I wasn't already certain she was growing up fast that should be physical evidence enough!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Juggling, in extremis

Nathan's birthday party was craaaaaaayzeeee. 14 four year olds (mainly boys) in our very small living room, plus most of their parents, too. Next year, the local soft play centre it is. It was however very, very nice to see placid, low maintenance, non-attention-seeking Nath, the quiet and gentle and slightly dopey one of our three, taking centre stage and even enjoying it in his own little way. Have to admit, was slightly embarassed by his guest greeting manner (airplaning down the hall, yelling at the top of his voice, 'PRESENT!', yanking the front door open and snatching the present from each unsuspecting guest's grip before running back down the hall and into the living room without so much as a 'hello', 'how are you?' or 'come in'. Hmm, maybe not so quiet). Still, he made up for it later by joining in the party games (after a bit of persuasion), NOT crying when someone else won the pass-the-parcel, and, importantly, RECOGNISING WHAT HIS CAKE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE - YIPPPEEEEEE! So, yes, the cake worked out okay, and with the indoor sparklers going for the jet engines it really looked quite spectacular. Most importantly, Nathie loved it.

But here, you can judge for yourselves:

The day I wrote my last post, as I laboured over this cake and hoped against hope that Nath wouldn't take one look at it and say, 'Err, what is it, Mum?' I had to laugh at the Extreme Sport that is Working Motherhood. Here I was, sticking bits of Victoria Sponge together with jam, licking a bit too much of the icing off the spoon, and wondering whether I'd got the gun metal silver effects right on the Fighter Jet Wings, when only 48 hours before I'd been stepping off the red eye from New York where I'd been at the annual TOC conference speaking to an audience of 1000 people about 'The Future of Publishing'. (See embarassing pics, here).

With all this flipping between such frankly silly extremes, it's a wonder we don't get more mixed up and confused than we already are, and no surprise that so many of us develop a bad case of Imposter Syndrome. I can't work out whether I think I'm more of an Imposter-Future-Gazer or Imposter-Mother, but I'm probably a bit of both.