Tuesday, 24 December 2013
Instead, here is 35 seconds of my children singing, because unless you're their grandmother I doubt you can take any more:
May all your bears have cribs - not just at Christmas, but tonight and every night, and may nobody tell you you're doing it wrong. I think you're doing a fine job.
Merry Christmas to all - it's been lovely spending this year with you.
Monday, 9 December 2013
In Which I Cannot Find A Snappy Title For A Post Where I Try To Gather My Thoughts About Parenting Children From Hard Places Who Often Display Harder-Than-Average Behaviours, Which May Or May Not Be Due To The Aforementioned Hard Things They Have Experienced (But On Balance, Probably Are, At Least Partially)
|I don't think this was about trauma.|
Friday, 29 November 2013
|Moments like this are basically why I wanted to be a parent. It's 11am on aTuesday, and she's wearing her pyjamas, a gold medal and a box on her head. Because of course she is.|
|Also moments like this. They went through a brief period of being obsessed with 'wotzing'. It was hilarious.|
|I only had to take about fourteen leaving-the-house shots to get one where they are both semi-smiling.|
|So big / still so little.|
|Face? What face? This is my everyday face.|
|In fact, we should probably both be models.|
|Control your emotions, Pink.|
|There's a reason that kissing should be left until we are much, much older. And then not with each other.|
|This is probably my favourite photo of them all day. It's just a shame the lady they are snuggling is not me.|
|My choices are this one, where they are clearly thinking we could not possibly be more bored, Mummy|
|Or this one, where I appear to be part hammerhead shark. Oh well.|
|Pink is going through a phase of being really, really into weddings.|
|I'm sure the whole 'flowergirl' experience is part of the reason, of course,|
|but a few days ago, she was doing something random like eating her dinner when she looked up at me, sighed, and out of the blue said Oh mummy, I am going to be SUCH a beautiful bride.|
|And I just had to say Yes, Pink, I think you probably will'.|
|And she paused for a while and then said I just think that I want to live with Blue for all of the days.|
|And if every day was like this, who could blame her?|
Tuesday, 19 November 2013
|we have no idea what she is talking about! We are freaking adorable!|
Monday, 11 November 2013
It's one thing to wonder, and another thing to know. At some point you look at them and say 'okay, this isn't normal anymore'. I think I've just reached this point with my dear little boy, and it's hurting. Please don't tell me everything is going to be okay, because either I will want to scratch your eyes out or I will cry, and I hate crying, and I bet you would hate having your eyes scratched out too.
|You should all move here. It's super pretty. Not.|
They have no idea how fragile their little bodies are; no idea how much more precious they are than a plastic ball. They chase after the wrong things, even when it could destroy them. Sort of reminds me of someone else I know.
Tuesday, 29 October 2013
Very occasionally - every few years or so - I get terrible headaches that stay for weeks and won't leave, no matter what I do. I'm just coming out the back end of one of these episodes now (I'm also in Barcelona, but that's a different story).
As soon as I can look at a computer monitor without wincing in pain, I'll blog again. And then I'll delete this short and inconsequential post.
Wednesday, 16 October 2013
What would I miss if I didn't have it with me? What would I miss if I left the thing alone rather than jumping for it as soon as it calls me? I wouldn't know that I could get 15% off winter coats at Banana Republic; coats I have no intention of buying. I might miss an incredibly urgent letter from my alumni association. Shock news: they want my money. I would miss knowing that a grand total of 8 people 'liked' my status on facebook. How would I ever cope?
Like everyone else, I have to fight the 'switch on and switch off' temptation of the phone in my pocket. Too often, actually, it's the phone in my hand. I don't really need to check for the price of silver wire on ebay right now, or read every single review of every single Barcelona guide book on amazon, or try to find the perfect rose gold shoes* whatever other compulsive activity I'm doing in order to block out whatever it is I'm trying to avoid.
On the other hand.
I know there's nothing important going on, but sometimes I just want something other than the thing that is happening. Is that really so awful? Sometimes there is a limit to the number of diet cokes I can drink during a 45 minute dinner marathon, and I want to look at pictures of tropical beaches and pretend I'm sitting under a baking sun rather than being yelled at by four-year-olds in the dim and grisly suburbs. Looking after kids is really, really boring sometimes, you know?** Boring and difficult; the worst combination. When I'm at my job, I always say that I can do boring or I can do difficult, but not together or I'm going to make mistakes***. Parenthood has proved me right about that many times over.
When the babies were small, sometimes I would put them in the stroller and take them for an outing, and while we were walking I would put my ipod in and listen to music. At first I felt guilty, and used to hide the headphones under my hair, but actually it was great - they got to watch the trees, see the sights, and I got to enjoy something grown up. I do not think any permanent damage was done by me not leaning over the top of their seats and saying 'Oh look, a birdie!' every twenty seconds. I listened to a lot of Broken Bells at that time in my life; even now I can't hear any of their songs without being transported back to the river path near our house, pacing my way across the bridge, feeling that intense happy-sadness that comes with new motherhood and marking the hours until naptime.
That ipod technique doesn't fly around here any more. There's still a lot of music in my life, but it's mostly Mary Poppins and frankly, more often than not, that's what I'm trying to mentally escape from. And so I find myself on my phone.
Am I doing this too much? Well, probably. Is it hurting my kids? Shouldn't I be stimulating their young minds more? Well, I don't know, but I think probably not. Personally, I think that if I'm the kind of mother who stops to wonder whether my child is getting enough stimulation, then my child is doing fine. Never before in the history of mankind have children been so thought-about, so played-with, had so much attention paid to them. Children do not need to be watched and adored every moment of the day. And I don't know what mothers did to distract themselves before cellphones were invented, but I'm sure they did something. (Maybe they cleaned the house. Imagine that!)
Kids give so much negative feedback, so much of the time (I won't / I didn't / I can't / I don't want to) that it's positively thrilling, at times, to know that there might be a tiny adult somewhere, inside my phone, who is going to say something encouraging to me, send me a nice email, do something that will make me laugh or maybe just give me ten seconds of respite so I don't yell. I need encouragement through my day, and often the place I get the most is through my phone. I don't think this is anything to be sneezed at.
(Sometimes I actually use my phone to take pictures of my kids, so there's that, too. Hey, look, I was already holding it! What a coincidence).
And yet I've read and heard a few people saying some pretty judgy things about mothers who spend too much time on their phones, and it bothers me. I don't disagree that probably, lots of us could do a better job to get the balance right between boredom, engagement and distraction (I talked about pushing kids through the boredom barrier recently, and I'm all too aware that sometimes I use my phone as a way to avoid pushing through my own). However, this attitude always, always makes me uncomfortable, and not (just) because it makes me feel guilty.
I don't know. I think that most mothers who I see idly thumbing on their phones are probably bored; bored and tired and wondering how much longer they have to stay at the swings until they can legitimately claim it's time for dinner. And if you think they shouldn't be bored and tired, if you would prefer to see them engaging their children more actively, I have a solution - offer to babysit and give that mother a bit of time to herself. Yes, that's right - walk up to her and say 'hey there, mama, you look like you could do with a break. How about I push that swing for you while you take an hour or so to read a book in that coffee shop?'
Is this too weird? Is it impossible? Would nobody ever, ever, do it, because they would seem like some kind of crazy kidnapper, offering to look after a stranger's children? Well, maybe this is right, but my opinion is: if we don't know a person well enough to offer to babysit her kids, we don't know her well enough to judge the fact that she is on her cellphone.
Perhaps we should, instead, try this. No crazy kidnapping involved. Every time someone judges a mother for being on her phone, they should be forced, by law, to shout something distracting and encouraging at her. After all, if we don't like the fact that this woman is going to her phone for encouragement, for emotional sustenance, if we think she should be getting that from real relationships, well, we should be willing to be that real person. And maybe we should all try it. Next time you feel tempted to shake your head at someone, instead do this: walk past and say 'you are doing such a good job' or 'those kids obviously love you so much, I can tell by the way they smile at you' or any one of the many things we find it easy enough to type on facebook but rarely say in real life or, if that's too uncomfortable, I dunno, just hand them a really funny picture of a cat.
Maybe this cellphone addiction so many of us have really is a sign that society is disintegrating around us, like people say. Maybe it's reason to worry. Maybe it's an epidemic. But if it's an epidemic of anything, I think it's an epidemic of loneliness rather than laziness, and we can all do something about that.
I think what I'm trying to say is this: don't be the judgement. Be the encouragement instead. Free babysitting or friendly shouting; that's your choices. But from here on out: no judgement. Shout something nice at a stranger on her cellphone today.
I dare you.
*Found 'em! And what is it about Autumn/Winter 2013? Suddenly I'm all about rose gold everything.
**And if you don't know that yet, I genuinely apologise if this post is annoying.
**Employee of the year, obviously.
Monday, 7 October 2013
Thursday, 26 September 2013
When my kids are bored, they don't role-play or imagine or read books or even beg for TV. When my kids are bored, they fight. One child needles, the other child squeals, then the first yells and the second bites. It's like the totally predictable steps in a dance that I've seen too many times before. I'm not talking about ordinary fighting, by the way. People who see this are all oh wow, your kids are awful fighters and I'm all I know and then we both run and prise them apart before anybody ends up in hospital, or jail.
|A post-fighting time-out. In a department store. Because they had just pulled over a mannequin. I am not making this up.|
I can't stand it. I can't stand the fighting, obviously, and I can't stand the way it means that they never ever push through to independent, sustained play. It's kind of pathological and I feel sick just writing about it.
It can't go on. They are getting big - they are four, for pity's sake - and lots of kids their age are in school. We decided we wanted to have them home with us until they were five, for attachment-y reasons, and I'm glad that we did that. I'm aware that if we'd done something different, I'd probably be glad that we had done that, too; I know our brains are predisposed to think that we've made good choices, so my lack of regret means nothing, really. I have some Big Thoughts about school readiness, and how attachment stuff ties into that, but I don't know how to write about it without sounding like I'm being judgy. And believe me, I am in no position to be judgy. I met the lovely Dr Spouse recently, and during the two-or-so hours we were together, my children whined constantly, had tantrums, did constant baby talk, tried to drink HER coffee (after I'd already let them drink MY coffee) and then one of them ran out onto the middle of the road. She will back me up that I am not in a position to make statements about how anybody else does parenting. And did they hit me, K? Yeah, I'm pretty sure at least one of them hit me.
But anyway, yes, I'm glad that they've been home with us. Attachment-wise, I do feel like they have needed it. But if I'm brutally honest, sometimes I fear that I mistake ordinary clinginess for attachment stuff, or that I've enabled what I should have been helping them to overcome. It's all very chicken-and-egg: what came first, the parent who stayed home and did attachment parenting or the child who sobbed with fear when he had to spend ten minutes being looked after by someone he didn't know?
Yeah, I don't know either.
I think that they are well and truly old enough - and mentally and physically developed enough - to be playing on their own, but the problem is that they don't know how to do it. Most kids learn from when they are tiny, but not my two. Because boredom has always turned into fighting, then into intervention from me, they do not know how to push through that boredom barrier. They have no idea what might wait on the other side. They are too old for this. They need to learn.
So: my kids need to learn to do some basic independent play, but it seems that they can't do it at home. I can't just neglect them and leave them to get on with it, because of the violence. The only way they can seem to play for any sustained period is if they are at a park or one of those horrible indoor play centres. For this reason, I have determined to start neglecting my kids in public places. The way it works is that I sit on a bench or a chair, within their line of sight, but I refuse to get up and play with them. I'm explicit with them about what is happening - I am staying here because you need to learn to play without any grownups - and then I shoo them away.
The advantage of all this is that I'm there - no need for anxiety - but I'm not cruise directing. Occasionally, I give them tips: for goodness sake, you have a twin. Go on the see saw, obviously, but I refuse to leave my chair.
Two minutes later: Mummy-mummy-mummy! I am on the slide! and then I say Yuh-huh, that's great, now keep playing. And if they say Come and watch me on the slide! I say no, I am staying here because you need to learn to play without any grownups.
Because really - really- they do need to learn to play without any grownups. When I write it there, it sounds kind of harsh. Either harsh, or utterly ridiculous, that I'm so panicked about doing the wrong thing by my kids that I'm even subjecting them to strategic neglect.
I won't lie, though, it's also kind of awesome. Goodbye, boiling park-rage that I usually succumb to. Hello, twenty minutes to actually read a book (with one eye, at least). Hello, time spent just staring into space and calling it parenting.
Strategic neglect. It's all I can come up with. And it's working okay - they can manage playing together outside for much longer than they used to - but it doesn't seem to be spilling over into how they deal with each other or themselves when they are trapped inside our small house.
And winter is coming.
Tuesday, 17 September 2013
I guess that's what I planned to do, at the beginning of this process. I knew it wouldn't be easy to turn a blog into a book - after all, I post without any proper editing; sometimes I write in present tense and sometimes in past tense; sometimes I just post photos. I knew that in order to get that stuff into book format, I'd be doing a lot of rearranging and fixing.
But then I downloaded all my text into a word document, and I found out that the real issue is not typos or editing or tense or any of that other kind of stuff. The real issue is pace.
Do you know what I mean by pace? Pace is, basically, how quickly the interesting things happen in a story. A good book has a reasonably constant sense of narrative tension running through it - this narrative tension acts like a tug on a string that is tied to the reader, pulling you forward into the next chapter and the next and the next. Some books pull you gently and others yank you in and give you whiplash, but an interesting story will always leave you wanting to turn the next page. To make this happen, authors need to make time behave in strange ways. Look at nearly any book, and you'll notice that three weeks happens in half a page, then two chapters are devoted to a one-hour party*. This is usually because no interesting things happened during that three-week stretch, and then lots of interesting things happened at the party.
This is basically the opposite of how blogging works. A blog is a chronicle of life as it's being lived. I post about once a week, so that means that I had about a hundred blog posts on waiting for a match (when nothing interesting happened) and ooh, about one on being in Ethiopia (when lots of interesting things happened). Yeah, that's not going to make for a very interesting book.
In the end - because of this stuff about pace - I basically ditched everything I had blogged and started writing again from scratch; I knew that was the only way to start winding a thread that might draw a reader in. And it made me think a lot about the difference between how we remember things, how we tell things, and how they really are.
Why don't we tell stories as they really were? Why don't we take the same amount of time to tell something as it really took to happen? I think the answer is - the hard bits, the waiting, the not-knowing, the uncertainty, the suffering - all those bits of our stories? Boring! So boring. This is why Hollywood gave us the magical thing known as: the montage. You know what I mean - a song is playing, the hero/ine is working** for something they believe in, and we see everything happen, but quickly, with music and drama. It's very clever, because in in two and a half minutes all the effort and waiting is over. We feel like we've been there, without any of the pesky, you know, actually being there. Here's the most famous example:
But what does this scene from Rocky have in common with your life? Oh yeah, that's right: nothing. Real life does not have montages. In real life, the the hard bits, the waiting, the not-knowing, the uncertainty, the suffering - those bits don't have any drama, and they don't have any music either. They're just hard and horrible and make you crazy. And by you I mean me.
The strange thing is, when we remember things, we don't really remember them they way they were - we tend to remember them the montage-way, remember them more like stories. We put put the stages we went through into neat little boxes - or I do, anyway. When I'm thinking about what we went through when we adopted, all the bits fit into one of these little boxes: The Fertility Horror Show, The Deciding, The Waiting, The Meeting, The Transition, And Then The Final Bits. So, even though the Waiting took approximately a hundred times longer than The Meeting, they kind of occupy the same space in my head. They are the same amount of story, even though they took vastly different amounts of time. It was a shock to me to go back to old bits of my blog and see just how long it all took.
I know that it was years between me getting an unwelcome, fertility-affecting genetic diagnosis and me becoming a mother. I know that I waited years - and I'm still kind of mad about it, sometimes - but that's not really what the memory feels like. Now that I'm out of it, the Waiting doesn't occupy a hundred times more space in my memory than the other bits, even though it took a hundred times as long.
Sometimes, if I'm honest, this probably makes me unsympathetic to people who are still in the middle of those things, whether adoption things or other kinds of hard-ness-es. I get bored when people continue to suffer and it's outside my limits of patience.
I need to remember to be kinder to people I know who are still living in the middle of a montage, who are in the thick of things. And today, I just wanted to say, if that's you, I hope you're doing okay. I'm sorry if the world's impatience with your suffering is making you sad.
Because I can remember that I've suffered, I think that I know what it's like, but I'm not really sure that I do. As someone who is out the other side, the memory of Waiting is just a tiny piece of my brain -whereas when I was a person who was Waiting, I'm pretty sure it took up all of my brain, entirely.
Once it was my whole life, now it's just a remembered montage. Now it's just a few pages in a book.
I'm trying to remember that this isn't what it felt like at the time.
*Unless you're reading something like 1984, by George Orwell. There are very few parties in Orwell.
**Or, in the case of Pretty Woman, shopping. Worst movie EVER. (And that's from someone who loves shopping).
Friday, 6 September 2013
When I woke up on Tuesday, I knew immediately it was book launch day. Or, to give it its due worth: Book Launch Day. I had a plan:
Book Launch Day: Agenda
8:30 am: Lazy pancake breakfast with darling children. Wallow in happiness regarding a big goal finally achieved.
9:30 am: Post pre-drafted blog post announcing book release.
9:31 am: Play with toys with darling children.
(ongoing) Reflect on how lucky I am to have darling children.
10:30 am: Go to park with darling children
12:30 pm: Eat lunch with darling children
1:30 pm: Darling children nap due to park-induced exhaustion. Prepare for super-fun book launch party.
3:30 pm: Outdoor water play with darling children (possibly including enriching educational experiences, if I can think of any)
5:30 pm: Dinner for darling children, handing over to sweet husband at 6pm for
6:00 pm Book Launch Party! Pour the champagne. Announce book giveaway #1. Say hello to lovely friends.
7:00 pm caramel popcorn smoothie. Give away book #1. Chatter. Maybe tweet a little.
8.00 pm Probably I'll need a coffee at this point. Give away book #2 Chatter some more. Continue tweeting.
9:00 pm Sprite zero! Give away book #3 Chatter yet more. Keep up the tweets.
10:00 pm Peach smoothie! Give away book #4. More chat, tweeting, etc.
11:00 pm Wind down with some tea. Give away book #5. Keep talking to lovely people. Continue to dazzle the twitterverse with razor-sharp wit.
12 midnight: Give away book #6, say goodnight, go to bed!
Yes, I really had my drinks planned, hour by hour. I was that excited. This day was going to be awesome.
Book Launch Day: What Actually Happened
8:30 am: Children are screaming at each other as if they are being stabbed with knives. Quickly abandon pancake plan. Pour bran flakes for all. Screaming continues.
8:35 am Realise I have scheduled a play date for this morning. At our house.
8:40 am: Realise I forgot to draft a blog post with details about where people can actually buy the book
8:41 am: Bang head against table
8:42 am: Screaming continues
8:43 am: Rush around house tidying up for play date
9:30 am: Children have finished breakfast. Desperately sit them in front of Peppa Pig. Run upstairs to write blog post.
9:31 am: Realise I don't have any amazon 'buy' buttons. Suddenly, writing blog post without these seems impossible.
9:32 am: Find amazon buttons on google images.
9:33 am: Realise I don't know how to get images to link to an external website.
9:34 am: Decide that this would be an excellent time to learn a little HTML.
9:45 am: Bang head against table
9:57am: Publish blog post, including fraudulent photograph of champagne drinking that was actually taken the previous night
9:58 am: Screaming has started again downstairs.
9:59 am: Realise I haven't showered, and smell terrible. Am desperate for a shower.
10:00 am: Doorbell rings. Play date!
[The next section of the day is rated R for violence, including hitting, biting and punching. Not suitable for a family blog. Censored].
4:00 pm Still unshowered. Probably too late to bother now.
4:01 pm Something has really gotten into these children today. They don't want to play with their kitchen.
4:02 pm Or their octopod
4:03 pm Or their animals
4:03 pm Or read a book
4:04 pm It seems they just want to hit each other.
4:05 pm Cannot help thinking that Launch Day would be a lot more fun if I didn't have to do all this mothering stuff.
4:06 pm Consider topic of book and realise the irony
4:07 pm Bang head on the table
4:08 pm Honestly, does there have to be THIS much screaming? If I yell at them, that would probably help make the house a bit quieter.
[The next section of the day is rated R for yelling. Not suitable for a family blog. Censored].
5:59 pm Jay gets home. Frantically hand over children. I really want to be on time for
6:00 pm Facebook Book Launch Party time! Hooray! Pour champagne. Wallow in happiness for thirty seconds. Realise the champagne is full of drowned fruit flies.
6:01 pm Uh oh, I forgot I'm terrified of parties.
6:02 pm Pull yourself together, Claudia!
6:03 pm Pull myself together and start typing.
6:04 pm Realise that I can't see anybody and chatter to myself for a while.
6:05 pm Hooray, some people are here!
6:06 pm I think I might be using too many exclamation marks!!!!!
6:09 pm This champagne tastes sort of ... meaty. Is this how dead fruit flies taste?
6:10 pm Hang on, where have all the posts gone?
6:15 pm I get my first message telling me that nobody can see the posts.
6:16 pm I have no idea how to fix this. More messages.
6:17 pm Realise that I don't even know how to change my facebook profile picture, and there is no way I'm going to be able to sort this out.
6:18 pm Bang head against table.
6:19 pm Shout loudly at Mark Zuckerberg and all his evil minions, even though nobody can hear me.
[The next section of the day is rated R for unkind thoughts about a certain billionaire. Not suitable for a family blog. Censored].
7: 30 pm How is it 7:30? I haven't given away any books!
7: 35 pm Give away some books.
7:36 pm Realise I can't tag people when posting as a page manager, so people may never know they won
7:37 pm Bang head against table
7:38 pm There are actually people here! If the posts didn't keep on disappearing, I might even work out how to say hello to them all.
7:39 pm Realise I'll never be able to tweet while trying to keep track of the Disappearing Party. Secretly pleased.
7:40 pm Wish I wasn't having chest pains
7:41 pm Realise it may be hunger. Holler downstairs at Jay to make me nachos.
8:30 pm Jay brings me nachos with barbeque sauce. Coffee Chipotle, if you're interested.
8:45 pm The book is at #13 in the adoption category at Amazon! Yikes! [The next day it got to #2 in adoption overall, and #1 in Kindle which made me squeak out loud. Not that I was checking Amazon while at work, OH NO].
9: 15 pm How is it 9:15? I need to give away some more books!
9:16 pm Change into PJs and make some tea.
10:00 pm I know I'm using way! too! many! exclamation marks, but I just! can't! stop!
10:01 pm I must be chanelling a 13 year old girl.
10:03 pm: Why is there barbeque sauce on my floor?
10:04 pm: Why is there barbeque sauce on my foot?
11:00 pm: How can it be 11pm? I have to give away some more books!
11:02 pm: Realise I'll never be able to give away my stash of books in this amount of time. Decide to leave the final giveaway open until tomorrow. Keep chatting.
11:59 Keep on chatting. Goodness me, but adoption people are so nice! I love having so many of them in the same space.
12 midnight I've finally hit my stride! So the posts are disappearing, so what! I'm drinking tea and having an imaginary party on the internet in my pyjamas! The book is finally out! Life is good!
12:01 am: Realise I have to go to work tomorrow.
12:02 am: Bang head against table.
12:45 am: Post photograph of myself in my pyjamas, pretending to sleep, still unshowered:
|I appear to have a beetroot for a face in this photo. It's just the reflection from the pink velvet chair. I hope.|
12:46 am Say goodnight and go to bed
12:47 am Realise that despite screams, yelling and Mr Zuckerberg's best efforts, this day WAS awesome. Right, what can I write a book about next???
Tuesday, 3 September 2013
Here are the links:
Call me an amazon nerd, but when I typed 'Hypothetical' into the search box, and saw 'Hypothetical Future Baby' come up in the drop down menu, I nearly had kittens. THAT'S MY BOOK! said I. And I know it's only 10 in the morning (and yes, I am still in my dressing gown, and yes, I have to look after my kids today) but:
(Don't forget to join me this afternoon for the online launch party!)
Monday, 2 September 2013
I do love you though, Pinterestistas, and I hope this special post, just for you, means that I can be forgiven for dissing the big P last year.
I made these postcards for my book. I'm hoping that those of use who have been through the adoption process can relate. If, like me, you love to pin.... here's something for you.
(This is post number three of BOOK WEEK! The countdown is on.... Hypothetical Future Baby comes out TOMORROW!!! Don't forget the facebook launch party is on tomorrow evening, UK time - to work out when it's happening in your timezone, the simplest little online tool I've found is http://www.thetimezoneconverter.com/)