we’re more than half-way through the Dadvent Calendar

My husband has been overseas, for work, for nigh on a month. It’s been a busy month, which has been good in some ways – fun, sunny, summery, celebratory – but bad in others, ie : with 3 children in my sole care, each of whom has a packed-out end-of-term calendar, I am exhausted.

To give our children some concept of the time for which he was going to be away, we made what I christened a “Dadvent Calendar” – a series of numbered, decorated envelopes hung with pegs on a string along the length of our hallway. Every evening, the children write on a slip of coloured paper a line or two about what they’ve been up to that day. We kill many birds this way – they get the discipline of regular, journal-style writing, their dad gets a series of off-beat snippets to read when he gets back, so that hopefully he won’t feel that he’s missed out on quite so much and, crucially, I don’t have to answer endless questions of the “When will Daddy be home?” nature, as they are more than capable of counting the un-stuffed envelopes themselves.

Anyway, as I say. We’re on the home stretch. Sorry, did I mention that I was exhausted?

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I asked “Where’s mine?”

Today I attended the end-of-term presentation put on by the gymnastics group that my two eldest children attend every Monday morning. Having been to one of these before, I already kind of knew that it’s something you go to purely for the sake of the happiness of your children; in terms of showcasing the ‘skills’ they’ve supposedly ‘acquired’ over the course of the term, well, let’s just say that I’ve seen them perform more interesting manoeuvres just walking around the supermarket.

Anyway, they enjoy it and there is something in me – I think it’s the bit that is often seen enthusiastically waving an Australian flag – that rejoices in the fact of them starting the week at 8am with an hour of physical activity, however tame that might be.

But their instructor, oh lordy. Whatever ‘skills’ she has ‘acquired’ in the course of her gymnastics career, banter and personableness are not among them. Seriously. Personality of a dial tone, and a voice like an emery board on a garden paving stone.

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After the demonstration (and much enthusiastic clapping) the children were given their medals and certificates. Next, the announcement that there was to be an extra certificate handed out this term: for children who had achieved 100% attendance. Which mine had, and so they were duly called up.

After photos and whatnot, I wandered over to the coach. She regarded my approach warily; last time we spoke, it was because I was insisting that she re-issue their certificates as she’d mis-spelled their surname. She also knows that I’m friends with another parent, a dad, who’s taken her to task about a non-refundable missed (missed by her, not by the child) lesson.

“So that was fun!” I said brightly. “But, um, the certificates … where’s mine?”

Blank look.

“The certificates? For 100% attendance?” I persisted. “Y’know, because like, who’s the one who’s managed to get them here every week? On a Monday? For 8am?”

I’m joking, of course I am. But her complete failure to get it just makes me perverse. She’s still gawping at me.

“Oh! No certificate! I see,” I say. “So – a discount on next term’s fees then, is that it?”

She actually manages to burble something at this point, a fact that is hardly surprising given her refusal to refund my friend the lesson that she’d cancelled.

Finally I laugh. “I’m joking,” I say. “Goodness! Of course I’m joking!”

She’s off the hook, she relaxes, and says something – I could be wrong, because my ears instinctively turn off when confronted with a displeasing voice – about how parents should get certificates ha ha something. I don’t know, something like that. All I know – and I do know that one shouldn’t take pleasure in another’s discomfiture, so shame on me etc etc – but all I know is that, for the rest of the day, whenever I thought of her expressionless, I-totally-don’t-get-your-humour face, it made me chortle.

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their reports were so good

Am I allowed a moment of not-so-quiet maternal pride?

My first and second-born brought their school reports home today.

They were both bloody excellent. Lots of fantastic comments about their strengths and, just as importantly, about their efforts to succeed in areas where they’re not such naturals. Loads of social feedback too, mainly about the fact that they’re both considerate, kind, funny and engaging, with a strong sense of fairness and team-play.

I’m so proud of both of them. Is it okay to say that?

It wasn’t all welling up with tears and swelling up with pride though. There was a laugh to be had; well a quiet smile anyway. On the section of the reports where they’re able to write for themselves what they feel their strengths and favourite things are, there’s a section asking them to say what they feel they’d like to get better at. Reading? Writing? Maths? or Other?

Both of them marked ‘Other’. My son, it seems, would like to get better at football. Fair enough. Lord knows, there’s money enough in it. And I always had a yen to call him Pelé.

My daughter, however, who carries her digital skipping rope with her everywhere, would like to get better at….skipping. Seems that the Skip2Bfit day at school had quite some impact. But once I’d recovered from my quiet chortle, I was rather relieved! I feared I’d put her off skipping for life when I was getting back in to shape after the birth of my third child: without the ability to get out of the house for decent running sessions, I did a lot of Tabata and HIT skipping in the presence of the children. There may have been an instance or two where one of them came too close to me, and consequently to the wildly rotating rope. Hey, I was a house-bound woman on a weight-loss mission. It wasn’t intentional. Honest!

Anyway. Reports. Twirly Toes P and C-Meister-C: I am massively proud of both of you.

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some people know how to do summer dressing

 

Okay, so some people don’t.

But in town today, I saw so many people who looked warm-weather fabulous. Some somewhat conservative in their style, others more flamboyant. But lots and lots of eye candy; lots of women – mostly women, actually – who made me smile, if not outwardly, then at least on the inside. Just that sense of low-level elation that you get from seeing something that pleaseth the eye.

Now, I’m definitely not laying any claim to being a summer dresser of fabuloso standards but I will say that I was mildly pleased with myself for remembering, and putting into place, one of my Summer Commandments. Which is:

“Always have, in your arsenal of strappy flat sandals, at least one pair with a closed back.”

The reason being, you see, that there is bound to be a day when your feet, notably your heels, just aren’t quite up to scratch. So what, you say? Who’s going to notice, you ask? I’ll tell you who. The person, or people, behind you on the Tube escalators, that’s who. Think of them. Have some consideration for your fellow passengers! It’s surely enough that they’ve had a hot sweaty ride on a crowded, airless Underground train. As they head eagerly, gratefully towards the World Outside, don’t bring ’em down with the sight of your greying, cracked heels.

My own feet are looking less than lovely at the moment: despite the fact that I have the Soap & Glory foot buffer, I just haven’t been using it, I’m afraid. Lots of long runs combined with a lot on my plate and hastily snatched grooming time (in short: husband away working for a month, at a time when the activities and arrangements of our three children seem suddenly to have exploded in pace and volume). But shod in these coral & metallic babies, who was to know??

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for the record - not my feet!

for the record – not my feet!

she admired his skills

Sitting in the sun on Peckham Rye with my 5 year old son, I suddenly spy a familiar face nearby. She’s someone I know from a few years ago, from a seemingly endless but happy round of baby groups, toddler gyms and One O’Clock Clubs, places I frequented, especially on wet days, when I had “3 Under 3” children.

My son has scoffed his lunch so as to maximise football time and is practising his ‘skills’. It’s been a recent thing, this passion – and, actually, talent – for sport. Cricket, football, rugby. All of a sudden he’s into, and good at, all three of them.

The woman I recognise is watching him as she walks towards us. I assume it’s because she vaguely recognises him from toddlerhood and is trying to piece his identity together. When she gets closer, I’ll call out to her.

She looks startled when I wave, holding her hand up to shield her eyes from the sun and squinting at me. “Hello! I didn’t see you there!” she says. And then she glances from me to my son. “Is that..? Oh my goodness! He looks so grown up. I was just admiring his footballing. He’s very good, isn’t he?”

I feel a ridiculous swell of pride. He is very good. It’s not just that though; of course it’s nice to have your children admired, but there’s more to it than that. There’s the pleasure I feel in knowing that his dad is a good’un; one who spends time with his children, plays with them and fosters their enthusiasm about a diverse range of things. And there’s the fact that my brother was, or maybe still is, a brilliant sportsman; he’s always lots of fun with the children when we see him but I can’t now help but look forward to when we next visit him (he lives overseas) and the fun he’ll have with them, and they with him. All up, it’s a good feeling. And so nice to see a familiar, friendly face from a time that, despite not being all that long ago, seems to be rapidly receding in the face of the hectic pace of my current state of motherhood.

Master C playing Beat the Goalie at a summer fair

Master C playing Beat the Goalie at a summer fair

she called me a mensch

“Do you even know what that means?” she asks.

I’m on the phone to one of my good friends, staring blankly at displays of cards: on my way to post my mother’s 70th birthday present, I am suddenly stricken by anxiety over whether she will want a card saying 70 (“Oh god! Did you really need to remind me?!!”) versus cards that don’t say 70 (it’s a special birthday … will keeping it low-key be construed as a being dismissive/ uncaring?)

“It’s like a schmuck, isn’t it?” I ask, absently, picking up and putting down another card. “Or that woman who moved to New York and discovered the power of the pedicure?”

“No,” says my friend, firmly. “It’s a good, solid, dependable person. Someone who’s just there. You’re so there. You’re always there for me.”

I’m slightly stunned. All I’ve done is make sure she has a place to bring her kids for dinner over the course of the next few weeks: she’s having building work done, and her partner is away. And I am a schmuck – I’m still stressing over the frickin’ card.

I found a card eventually. Even made it to the post office. All of that felt good. But someone telling me that they could count on me, hot on the heels of a period of time where, as I mentioned yesterday, I’ve had to think about who I can count on felt (in the interests of keeping it Germanic) über gut.

 

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we live in the world today

I haven’t posted in a while. Busy, yes. But also not all that happy. There’s been stuff, pretty rubbish stuff, questioning relationships with friends and relatives, and having to make decisions of a ‘moving on’ nature. Bah. Yuk.

Maybe I should change the name of this blog to “Today I smiled because…” Even when I’m not happy, there’s always something that makes me smile. Like the dad at the fair today, proudly bouncing his toddler daughter on the edge of the bouncy castle, gazing Pimmsily around at all and sundry, oblivious to the fact that her poo-filled pull-up had slipped down her legs and was bouncing, revoltingly, hilariously, by her ankles.

But there was a thing last weekend that’s brought a smile to my face every time I’ve thought about it. My daughter and I had some time together in the afternoon and went to meet the boys and my husband later, where they were playing football with two of my eldest son’s classmates and their dads. As we walked across the Rye to them, I was suddenly struck by the fact that, of the three dads, one (the one I’m married to) was (boringly) hetero and married. One, Muslim and unmarried, but cohabiting/ defacto/ whatever the acceptable term is. And the other, gay, in a relationship that’s about to hit the 20-year mark, and married in a civil ceremony 4 years ago.

I have clear memories of the problems I encountered as the child of a mixed race marriage in the 70s. The world is by no means perfect now, but I love that my children are growing up to question some things while accepting others without a flicker. And, of course, that they are growing up with a dad who’s brilliant, and would be, regardless of colour, race or creed.