Today I’m channelling a bit of John Ritter. Because why not? I used to watch ‘8 Simple Rules’ on ABC1 when we first got Freeview. I mean sure, it used to crackle, break up or plain old disappear at least half of the time. But it beat having to do anything productive, idle-arsed teen that I was.
Anyway, I got to thinking (as I do). And I thought, what I really need is a list of 8 simple rules for surviving my kids’ childhood. Sometimes it does feel as if I navigate the days like an army obstacle course, hanging on grimly to the very edges of what I laughingly call my sanity.
And, because I’m a helpful motherfucker, I wrote this shit down for you guys. Think of it as something similar to the WARNING! page in the instruction booklet for an electrical item. You’re not going to always need that information, but when you do, you’ll know about it!
1. Never Make A Special Effort With Food Just For Them
I have made this error on numerous occasions. It could be said that I just never learn.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not saying, “Fuck healthy food! Just feed your kids beige!” I’m just saying, make the effort for everyone, you included.
One thing I’ve found is that when you have three children, it is almost guaranteed that at least one will view your latest offerings with something approaching distaste. Like last night. I made the girls meringue nests with whipped cream and strawberries on top. Mmm mmm. I mean, who’s going to turn that down?
She looked at that stunning dessert as if I’d shit in a shoe and handed it to her on a plate. She glanced from it to me with an expression of increasing suspicion. Tentatively, she poked the cream and licked a finger.
It was not a hit. But she did eat the strawberries at least. Grudgingly.
I didn’t mind so much though. Big Girl and Little Girl devoured theirs, and I had one too. It was decidedly not bad.
But there are times when I want to eat after they’re in bed. And I have an awesome idea for a meal I just know they’ll love. So I plan, and shop, and cook. And as I proudly place in on the table in front of them, I am rewarded with three pairs of eyes staring up at me, with an expression that clearly states, “What in the fresh hell is this?”
Now, I cook the same thing for everyone. If they don’t like it, that just means extra leftovers for me.
And I’ll never shake a stick at that.
2. Never Admire Yourself
Yes, you bastarding parents! Dress in sacks and smear your faces with dust from the fireplace you totally meant to clean last week.
Well, that’s not exactly what I meant. Although sometimes I think I don’t look that much of a step away from that, at the close of the day.
This is what I’m on about. You know when, on a whim, you actually make a bit of an effort with your appearance. You pick an outfit that actually matches, and maybe even *gasp* iron it. Perchance you wear a little makeup, and brush your hair. Then you look at yourself in the mirror and nod, or smile a little. You look goooooood!
Take me advice. Avoid your kids completely after that. Because they can sense the pride you have in your appearance, and they will do their level best to fuck that shit up.
I’m talking an enthusiastic swipe of the nose across your shoulder during a hug. Or mucky, sticky fingers on your knees. Or a particularly explosive vomit from a small baby.
If you’ve got all together too cocky, I can tell you that a horrendous nappy malfunction is almost certainly winging its way towards you.
*shrugs* That’s kids for you! They survive by keeping us in our places.
3. Never Make Plans
Ok, so maybe I’m being a little excessive here.
A bit of downtime is essential to stay sane. Be it a night out, a coffee with friends, or just a movie and an oversized piece of cake at home, it can recharge your batteries and leave you refreshed to carry on with the whole parenting thang. Also, it is important to cultivate a bit of an identity outside of being ‘a mother.’ You are still a person with wants, needs, and interests outside of a game of roll-the-ball and Mr. fucking Tumble.
So, yeah, do make plans. But just make sure that you keep them a secret from your devious, scheming children.
Sorry, what was that? No no, I said darling, sweet children. You must have misheard.
Are you fooled? I thought not.
I have noticed, over the years, that my children are completely in synch with my plans to go out or put my feet up. In synch as in, present at the time I am supposed to be doing said thing. Honestly, the amount of times I have spent sprawled on a bed in fancy clothes, lying in an odd position so I don’t wreck my hair, feeding a child who is absolutely not going to sleep any time soon! That’s one of the reasons I don’t go out much.
And even if I only plan a relaxing evening at home, I can be sure that Squeak will come along for the party. There’s nothing like pausing a film every twenty minutes to run up to a baby who is suddenly struck down with a severe case of pretend teething.
Remember, never tell your kids anything. Because they will use it against you.
4. Never Join In On A Trampoline
Just don’t. Ok? Do I really need to go into the whys and wherefores?
I know it looks all fun and shit. Your kids are leaping up and down with gay abandon, giggling and squealing at the top of their voices. You want in on that joy. It’s understandable. But it’s a risky business.
Maybe it’s a three children thing. That is a helluva lot of childbirth, I guess it takes its toll.
Hear me now, though. I speak from experience. The first jump on a trampoline isn’t so bad. It’s the second one that provides a slightly unpleasant surprise. You know, the kind of surprise that comes from the feeling that 70% of your abdominal organs stayed at the bottom of the jump.
It’s a shocker.
P.S. If you insist on disregarding my helpful advice on this subject, at the very least go to the toilet first!
5. Never Stand Downwind
I don’t know if it’s just me, but my kids make some fairly horrendous smells. I guess they do eat a lot of greens. But I suspect that that is only part of the problem.
You see, toilet humour is a major focus in our house. At first it was only Big Girl that indulged in this obsession, but Little Girl has now also joined the crew. Nothing amuses them more than a good fart joke.
And in this case, the joke is firmly on me.
I have learned quickly to make a hasty exit when I see a red, scrunched- up face. It helps that they look at me with mischievous glints in their eyes. That’s a sure warning sign.
But no matter how hard I try, I still spend most of my time within a cloud of broccoli stench, surrounded by giggling girls.
I’m contemplating a nose peg.
6. Never Teach Them How To Play Mini Punch
Have you ever played Mini Punch? If not, then here’s a brief overview: if you see a Mini (as in, the car), you punch someone. Not a stranger, like. That would be pushing it. It’s preferable to punch the person that you’re playing the game with.
I know. It’s devastatingly complex.
I remember having great fun playing this as a kid, so I taught it to Big Girl and Little Girl.
It turns out, Big Girl is actually a lot better at Mini Punch than me. I’m sure her far superior eyesight helps, as does the fact that I spent as many moments as I can with my head in the clouds.
She can even clock an old Mini, and those souped up Mini trucks. (Is it just me that thinks they’re a complete contradiction? I mean, Mini. It’s in the name.)
And she has a competitive streak a mile wide. Which I didn’t exactly realise until we started playing this game.
I have many regrets. And a sore arm.
Oh, and Little Girl? She has absolutely no idea how to play Mini Punch. Or for that matter, what a Mini even is. So she just punches the crap out of me at every opportunity.
Which is fun.
7. Never Think Crayons Are Safe
I have a strict system when it comes to drawing paraphernalia in my house. Crayons are a free for all. They can be found on the little table which Squeak can reach, under various pieces of furniture, and inside a nappy or two at times. You know, whatever.
Felt tipped pens and colouring pencils, on the other hand, are kept well out of reach of the smallest beast. If she’s going to draw all over herself and anything else she can find, I’d rather it was temporary. I don’t want to have to explain why the kids have whiskers.
Again. (Yes, obviously that’s happened before.)
But, as usual, I haven’t quite thought it through. It is true that Squeak cannot give herself a Sharpie moustache of Dali-esque proportions. And my walls are free and clear of abstract scribbles.
However, crayons are not completely trouble-free. Because every time I enter the room at the moment, I find a Squeak munching thoughtfully on the tip of yet another one. “Mmmmm!” she says as she chews. I think she spends more time chewing on them than drawing.
The nappies are… illuminating.
8. Never Tell Them Something Is A Surprise
Can you tell there’s a story here?
Silly me. There’s always a story.
Last week, it was my dad’s birthday. So a few weeks ago, I carefully selected and ordered a really thoughtful gift. He is notoriously hard to buy for, so I was chuffed to find something that I thought he’d like. I showed it to the girls (first error), but told them not to tell him what it was, because it was a surprise.
I know that was a little ambitious, but a woman’s gotta try sometimes. Right?
And unexpectedly, they didn’t mention it to him at all. Every week they saw him, and not a word passed their lips. Which lulled me into an entirely false sense of security.
On Saturday, my dad arrived. After a bit of a play with the girls, I handed him his present, all wrapped up in brightly coloured wrapping paper. Still Big Girl and Little Girl kept schtumm. I was pretty sure we were home and dry.
We were not.
He opened all of his cards, then started on the present. And as he lifted the first flap of the paper, Little Girl piped up and said, “It’s a chopping board.”
Thanks a lot, Little Girl. I won’t be doing that again!
Just in case I’ve begun to sound a touch pessimistic, (Me? Never!) here’s one last bonus tip:
Always Accept The Hug.
Even if it comes with a prize. (N.B. The prize is usually some form of bodily fluids.)
Because there’s not much better than a little head resting on your shoulder, or a pair of arms clasped tightly around your neck. And as the children grow, they are so busy that a proper, big snuggle is something that they can barely take time out to ask for. I savour every one. Even the middle of the night ones, and the soggy ones, and the needy, screamy ones.
They’re almost as good as the thrill you get from jumping really, really high on a trampoline. And thankfully, without the unpleasant side effects.