Things I’ve Learned About Single Parenting

I have now been a single parent for just over a year. And while I am an utter newbie compared to some, I do feel that I have come a long way in that time.

When I first started out, I had absolutely no idea how I was going to cope. I was almost definitely sure that I was going to crash and burn within weeks. I mean, how do you meet the needs of three demanding children without splitting yourself into pieces?

It turns out, there’s only one way to do it. And that’s just to do it. And do it again. And do it some more. Then you realise that actually, you’ve been surviving for a while now, nobody has any lasting physical damage and you’re actually not all that bad at it.

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That said, I couldn’t have managed without learning some valuable lessons. Some came from friends, some just came into my head late at night when I was talking to myself (I do that a lot.)

I’ve taken the liberty of writing some of these lessons down. Not because I think they’ll be particularly useful to you, but more because they’re a little bit funny. And if I can’t let my various trials and tribulations stand as a form of amusement for you all, then what the fuck is the point?

Anyway, here we go!

1. Friends can teach you the most bizarrely useful skills

One of the handiest things I have learned this year was taught to me in the very first week. I was trying to declutter, which as anyone knows is at the top of the to do list in this situation. While doing so, I ran into a bit of a problem.

It was the children’s play tent. Or, as I like to call it, ‘the place where balloons go to die.’ You see, I have a slight… balloon issue.

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That is, I’m fucking terrified of them.

It’s not the balloons, per se. It’s all that potential they have.

Popping potential.

And they’re just so freaking unpredictable. You can sit a toddler of a weight roughly equivalent to a small boulder on one, and nothing happens. Breathe on it two seconds later and BANG!

So, you see my problem.

My solution for an unreasonable amount of time had been: shove them in the tent and forget all about them.

You know, you can roll your eyes as much as you want. It worked! Up to a point. For now, the tent was full. Of course, I could have just taken a pin and popped them all. But the mere thought of that made me do a nervous dance on jelly legs.

Which, by the way, looks goddamn hilarious. But is not an entirely practical method for completing the task at hand.

Luckily, there was a friend on the way to solve my problem. She taught me to snip the balloon next to the knot, so that it deflated slowly and, mostly importantly, noiselessly.

Life. Changed.

Yes, I am aware that everyone knows this trick. I apologise deeply for my lack of practical life skills.

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I don’t even care, problem solved.

Next!

2. A double bed containing one adult can fit three children in

Not comfortably, mind.

Between illness, nightmares and general fuckery, my bed can become like a conveyor belt at times. Big Girl and Little Girl tend to sleep through as a rule, while Squeak has maybe once? Twice?

Nah, I’m exaggerating again.

So, there’s always at least one child in there, snoring, sleeping with her eyes open and casually groping my boob.

Standard.

And when it goes wrong with the others, they have to do it simultaneously. In comes Little Girl, clinging to my back like a limpet, wheezing and flipping a 360 degree turn every time she coughs.

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Just as I drift off again, Big Girl pads in, quivering as she exits a particularly gruesome nightmare. A nightmare which, of course, she must tell me absolutely every detail of before passing out on whichever sliver of sheet she can locate.

It’s a full house! Or should that be full bed?

Hang on a minute. Does it still count as ‘fitting’ if I am lying rigid and glassy-eyed, sandwiched between two children who are attempting to reach temperatures approximately three degrees hotter than the Sun? How about if it takes me four hours to get back to sleep because I feel like I’m being slowly suffocated?

Ok, how about if I’m weeping? Twitching?

Hmmm, I might need to rethink this section.

3. Even my phone knows

I have to admit, this did amuse me just a touch! I was texting a friend, and for some reason I needed to type the word ‘kiss.’ No, I have no idea why. What occurred next clearly shows that I do not write it very often.

So tippety-tap I went. And up popped this:

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Whaaaaat? How did my phone know? Is this part of the new update?

It’s like my phone peeped at me through its creepy, stalker eye (what, you thought that was a camera?) and said, “Yeah, she’s got no call to be writing that.”

Judgy pants.

4. The evenings are quiet

If there’s one thing I can say about my house, it’s that it is loud. The usual; soundtrack sounds a bit like this:

“BANG! Ow! THUMP! Nooooo! SWISH-CRACK! Not my pigtails! CLICK-CLACK! Pikachu, I choose YOU!”

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It’s an eclectic mix.

So once everybody is finally floating along the plane I like to call ‘sleeping with one eye open,’ I like to collapse and become one with the couch. And, you know, throw a couple of blankets over me and switch on Netflix.

The only problem is, none of these objects are particularly good conversationalists. Therefore, I spend a lot of time sitting in silence. Well, silence interspersed with the metallic tick of knitting needles, anyway.

It isn’t really that big an issue. I’m a quiet kind of person, so I savour these moments.

Aah, peace!

Then, the phone rings. Uh oh.

For anyone who’s not sure why this wouldn’t be absolutely fine, allow me to illuminate you. You see, it’s in this sort of situation that you can get a bit of a surprise.

Well, I can get a bit of a surprise. That is, my voice. It comes out sounding not exactly as I would expect it to.

In my head, I sound pretty perky. Energetic, even. And definitely female.

But out loud, after three hours rest? Well, my voice box tends to take a little while to catch up to the party.

So what actually comes out of my mouth is croaky. It’s grouchy. And it’s decidedly deeper than I anticipated.

Dammit, I sound like Yoda!

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Which is great for the self esteem, as you can imagine.

5. When a kid throws up on me, I have no idea what to do first

Stomach bugs. In a house full of bacteria-laden germ factories (or as some like to call them, children), they’ve just gotta happen. The last one we had hit Squeak harder than everyone else. The poor kid must have been puking for about four days!

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Now, don’t get me wrong. I know how to deal with a vomiting child. I have a handy checklist that goes a bit like this:

a. Comfort child

b. Clean up child

c. Stand up without dislodging revoltingness onto the carpet

d. Get changed

e. Put washing on

f. Rinse and repeat

Ta-da! Couldn’t be simpler. Except… where do I start, exactly? All of the towels, cloths and general cleaning paraphernalia are rather more than an arm’s reach away. Said child is howling, there’s a rapidly cooling pool around my nether regions and I’m doing battle with my over sensitive gag reflex.

I’m sorry,  that was a bit graphic.

Oh no, wait! Actually not that sorry.

I’d stand up, but the mess! But I have to stand up. But the carpet! I haven’t really figured out a successful method as yet.

Man, it was way easier when someone could just pass me a freaking towel.

6. Quick thinking is essential

So, at the moment, Little Girl’s most favourite and best activity in the world is building with Lego. That stupidly pointy shit spends most of the day strewn across the floor, repeatedly stabbing me in the feet because goddammit I don’t have time to look where I’m going!

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I did wonder if we would have any trouble with Squeak attempting to ingest some of the smaller pieces, but so far that hasn’t been an issue.

Mainly because Squeak doesn’t really dig predictability.

Therefore, when she came to me, whimpering and with her finger digging in her nostril, I guessed that things may have gone a little awry.

Fun fact: Did you know that the diamonds from Lego kits are almost exactly toddler nostril sized?

I know, right? Actually, strike the ‘almost.’ That thing was a perfect fit.

Obviously, my first thought was, “Shit.” Then, “I’m in the middle of cooking dinner on a school night!” And finally, “How the fuck do I get that out?”

I couldn’t drop everything and go to A&E. Well, I could, but it’s not really desirable to trail two extra, hungry children along with me.

At times like this, it’s not what you know. It’s who you know. And luckily for me, a friend of mine once had this happen with a couple of raisins and a much younger child.

Her story is way grosser than mine. But she taught me a little trick, which I remembered at this most opportune of times.

So I grabbed Squeak, pinched her empty nostril shut and blew in her mouth.

And it was out! That was it. From disaster to success in a second, all thanks to my ability to retain pieces of information that spend most of their time being utterly useless.

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Go team!

7. Changing a lightbulb involves risking life and limb

When it comes to completely this, the most mundane of all DIY tasks, the odds are stacked against me. Here’s why:

a. My ceilings are super high.

b. I am super small.

c. I am also terrified of heights.

d. My stepladder is a rickety freaking deathtrap.

But you know, you gotta do what you gotta do. And sitting in the dark isn’t exactly my idea of fun, either.

There be scary things in the dark.

There be scary things in the dark.

Even with this knowledge, it’s still no picnic. Changing a lightbulb when you can’t look at the fixture because you’ll freak out and fall off the ladder. Bracing yourself four times on the way up so you don’t fall off the ladder. Desperately trying to control your quivering legs so you don’t wobble the ladder over.

It all boils down to the fucking ladder, essentially.

<looks up> Shit. Bulb’s gone.

***

So, what parenting lessons have you learned this year?

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Parenting Skills I Have Never Acquired

Parenting is essentially a college course that you never graduate from. Everything is a learning opportunity, and I am constantly picking up little tips and tricks to make my life a bit easier. I have the walking with a child hanging off my leg, the cooking in three minute bursts and the dressing an octopus skills down pat.

But there are some skills I’ve never quite managed to acquire. Maybe I missed that lesson, maybe my kids were busy doing some other fuckery or maybe I’m just an idiot.

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I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Anyway, let’s get on!

The Ability To Change Nappies Standing Up

I know that so much of writing depends on the visual. So, for the purpose of enlightening you all, I must explain that in this scenario, I am not the one doing the standing up. Obviously. Because while due to my slightly underdeveloped height I am closer to the floor than the average person, my arms are also proportionately stumpy. So, in summary, I cannot change a floor-lying person from the vertical position.

Glad we cleared that up.

Anyway, I have seen so many posts online where people bemoan their newly mobile babies’ inability to lie still for the essential nappy changing process. The solution that is always given, without question, is ‘just changing him standing up!’

Well folks, I am most certainly not without question. More specifically, I am asking, “How the fuck do you do that??”

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Lookit the thighs!

You see? Now you’re visualising!

Is there something I’m missing here? I get that changing the nappy of a kid that can corkscrew his own freaking body borders on the bloody impossible, but I can’t see how this makes it any easier. I mean, I’m seeing mess, I’m seeing chaos, I’m seeing my hand wedged between two ballooning baby thighs. And yes, I’m also seeing stealth poos and me futilely chasing a waddling shit machine across a room with a cream carpet.

How do you do it? Seriously tell me, because despite my last child rapidly approaching potty training, I feel like this knowledge would bring me peace.

So bring me peace, goddammit!

The Ability To Listen To Two Conversations At Once

My kids come out of school smiling, rumpled and extremely rosy-cheeked.

What, you mean that's make up?

What, you mean that’s make up?

Does the school’s heating even have an off button?

We begin the walk home, that inevitably involves snails, falling over and an awkward conversation about genitalia.

You know, the usual.

As we walk, I ask the same question I always ask: “So, how was your day?”

What follows is a cacophony of noise that sounds approximately like this:

“Blah blah blah geflurgle bleath a playtime vegan hurly flooby hot dinner mooga PENIS!” Or something along those lines, anyway.

Ten points for anyone who tried saying that out loud. No judgement, I did it like ten times.

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Squeak tried it too.

Now, in my opinion I should have the ability to listen to both of my attention-hungry scholars simultaneously. I mean, I have two ears! But actually what results is an overwhelming of the senses so great that I have to fight the urge to stick my fingers in my ears and shout, “La la la la la la la!”

So instead I have to referee a game of turn taking, partial sentences and periods where a child grabs at my sleeve urgently, only to follow it up with, “Errrmmmmmmmmmm…..”

What a pain in the arse.

The Ability To Make Sense Out Of Utter Nonsense

If you guys agree with me on just one thing in this post, it’ll be this: Kids are really fucking weird.

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Mmm hmm.

You’ve got to be constantly on your toes. Forget brain surgery, screw quantum physics and military strategies can kiss my ass. Trying to figure out what oils the cogs of my kids’ brains is one of the more perplexing tasks of my day.

You’d think that, having had so much practice, I’d be really good at knowing how to respond.

Well, I don’t want to undersell myself. I do have a fairly consistent response. It’s just not all that helpful.

Allow me to illustrate with a little story. The other night, Squeak woke up. On the scale of zero to hysteria, she was hovering somewhere around the strangled howl level. So, being the responsible mother that I am, I ran upstairs to sort her out.

Sliding into bed next to her, I asked my usual question, “Ah honey, what’s the matter?” I don’t know why I bother asking, the answer is nearly always *mumble* *mumble* *squeak* But hey, after being silent for the couple of hours following bedtime, it’s always good to know the vocal cords still work!

That night, Squeak decided to mix it up a little. Her face crumpled as she yelled, ” I lost my head!” And she continued to sniffle.

Now, what I should have done at this point was to comfort her. Cuddle, kiss, wave my boob in her general direction. Like, whatever.

What actually happened is that I sat on the bed, staring at Squeak with an incredulous expression on my face. I’m guessing it was akin to the look I imagine I would wear if I ever actually managed a full night’s sleep.

They're not in my bed, but it's only a matter of time.

They’re not in my bed, but it’s only a matter of time.

Yeah, as if that’s ever going to happen.

I didn’t do any of the comforting things. And the staring lasted for way longer than is truly acceptable when faced with a wailing toddler.

My bad. Really got to sort this shit out.

The Ability To Look An Angry Child In The Face Without Laughing

There is one thing I know to be true about angry children: They look really fucking funny.

I don’t know if it’s the sight of such an adult expression on a young face, or if I’m just some sort of sick individual who glories in the less pleasant emotions of my offspring.

Nope, it’s definitely the first one. They just look so freaking funny! And of course you’ve got the foot stamping as well. Squeak has levelled this one up with her invention of the ‘double foot stamp.’ I mean, essentially it’s just pissed off jumping. But that’s what makes it special!

cheese

It’s clear to me that I need to find a way to contain my laughter. I can’t think of one situation where it’s ever made it any better. But for me, the easiest giggler in the whole world, that’s easier said than done.

So I’m going to continue, messing up my authoritative stance within my house and escalating minor altercations with my guffaws.

That is, until they stop provoking me!

The Ability To See My Child Falling And Not Stand Frozen To The Spot (Sometimes With My Eyes Closed)

I’d like to begin by stating that I am neither evil, nor mildly sociopathic. I can’t help it! I think it’s some kind of fucked up reflex, although for the life of me I can’t figure out how it could possibly be useful.

It can be kind of frustrating. As we’re walking along, I see the trip, the tangled feet, the flailing of arms as my kid begins the downward journey towards the ‘splat!’ on the pavement. And my brain is yelling, “Run to her! Catch her! Fucking do something!” But apparently, the connection between said brain and my traitorous body momentarily lapses, because instead I become like a tree, completely rooted to the spot. And yes, sometimes my eyes close.

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Why??

Once they’ve landed on the floor the spell is broken and I can run to them, scoop them up and do all of the various comforting things that are in my repetoire. All good. Well, except for the complete parenting fail that preceded it, anyway.

I’d love it if someone could give me an insight into this one, because it makes me feel really guilty! But no matter how hard I ponder it, I always come back to the same conclusion: I am really fucking stupid.

Help me!

The Ability To Pick Up Children From School Without Leaving The House

Well ok, I haven’t exactly figured out how to achieve this one yet. I think you’ll agree it’s a bit of a pipe dream. But come on, a woman’s gotta hope.

Right?

Right??

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Things My Kids Love That I Just Don’t Understand

As much as we love our beloved broods, they can be rather different to us. Sometimes they have beliefs which clash with ours, or act in ways we would never dream of.

Serious stuff.

So obviously I am not addressing that here. I am choosing instead to focus on the various trivial odd or annoying things my kids do, which I cannot even begin to understand.

The things that make me attempt to raise an eyebrow, before remembering that I can’t actually do that.

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I guess I’ll just frown instead.

1. Stripping Naked In The Dead Of Winter

I appear to have raised three children who don’t really don’t get the appeal of clothes. Nor do they see the point in keep them on, except under extreme duress (because, you know, hypothermia?)

I can’t say it’s something I’ve ever been particularly keen on. I like clothes! Well, except when I was pregnant with Big Girl during a heatwave in 2007, and even then there was underwear involved!

But in summer, when it’s absolutely roasting, I can kind of see where they might be coming from. You know, waistbands and seams can be so irritating! But they don’t restrict their nudity to the warmer months. They’re quite happy to strip off in all temperatures.

To put it bluntly, what the fuck? I’m not even going to try it out to see what they like so much about it. I mean, in winter I get dressed in stages just so I never have to be completely naked. At any time. And getting out of the shower is just torturous. Did you know that my hair needs rinsing like eleven extra times when it’s cold?

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Uh huh, for real.

So, when I’m sitting looking at my daughters’ chilly, pink toes, I’m going to suggest they get some goddamn socks on. No matter how much they roll their eyes at me. No matter how much they explain that they are not even a tiny bit cold.

Because that, my friends, is obviously a lie.

2. Being Upside Down

Do you ever play that game with your little one, where they sit facing you and then you slowly tip them backwards so they’re lying on your knee with their heads dangling off the end?

Do yours giggle as much as mine do when you do?

I did this to Squeak yesterday, and she reacted exactly as predicted. Uproarious laughter, cries of “More! More!” and a couple of amusing instructions to put her ‘upside up.’

Which, of course, is the opposite of upside down. Duh!

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Now, if somebody tipping me upside down, with or without my consent, I would react in one very specific way.

That is, I would freak the fuck out.

It is just not natural to want to spend so much time upside down. We are not bats! The girls even watch TV upside down sometimes, and holding Squeak up by her ankles is often a surefire way to prevent SqueakRage.

I don’t care, I’m not convinced. Despite spending my childhood being epically good at headstands, I actually do not enjoy the sensation of all of my blood rushing to my head. Who does?

Um, I meant besides bats.

3. Eating With Their Hands

If there’s any statement that I’m sure most people will agree with, it’s this one: Children are bloody disgusting.

I know, right?!

I may be biased with this one, because I am not a massive fan of getting things on my hands. I don’t like being greasy or sticky, and I hate getting dough on my hands when I’m making bread.

Which, you’ll agree, could be an issue.

They say it’s easy to pass on your own pet peeves and idiosyncrasies to your children. Well, I guess mine must be immune to this, because they love nothing more than getting very very dirty.

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Success. Or is it?

Regardless, that’s the way they are. They’re the kids you see elbow deep in mud so it impacts under their fingernails <shudders> or licking random outdoor items.

We’re working on that one.

Now, I have attempted to teach my children some table manners. And, as a rule, they’re pretty good! But God, knives and forks are such a hassle. They delay the passage of delicious food to mouth by oooh… milliseconds!

So when the girls think I am not watching, or if they get distracted, I see the little hands creep out.

I guess it must taste better! And this applies to all foods including, after Squeak’s vast experimentation, yoghurt.

Ick.

4. Bacon

I’m sure there are tons of people scrambling for their keyboards right at this moment to admonish me and make me mend my ways.

Well at least I hope there are. Otherwise I’m just talking to myself!

Anyway, you’ve got no chance. You can try and try and try, I am never going to like that shit, or understand why anyone else does.

I mean, ewww! Just ugh. It’s all salty and greasy and chewy and urgh! Just no!

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No no no.

Of course, being contrarily-natured little hellcats, my kids love it with a capital L. I don’t cook it very often, but when I do they scoff it down. They have tried feeding me their half-chewed morsels, but I am not to be swayed. Yuck!

And if you’re sitting there thinking that I only wrote this bit to piss you all off, well how very dare you!

Honest.

5. Watching The Same Crappy Programme Over And Over

Not the most succinct of titles, but I couldn’t think of a way to shorten it!

Anyway, do your children have a favourite TV programme. For a long time (and I mean a long freaking time), Little Girl’s absolute best one was Max and Ruby. You know, the story of two little rabbits; one being a rather bossy older sister, and the other being a stubborn, slightly sociopathic younger brother who won’t do a damn thing his sister says. Oh, and a neglectful grandmother pops up once in a while.

Hmm, pretty sure that’s not the synopsis you’ll find on their website.

Anyway, Little Girl was obsessed with them. It was all she asked for, all she paid attention to. To be honest I think she may have identified just a touch with single-minded little Max, but who am I to judge?

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She watched it as often as she was allowed. She didn’t care if she’d seen the episode a thousand times. By the end, she could recite whole scenes without a mistake.

Me, on the other hand? Well, if you play the theme song I’ll run away screaming. Or tear all of my hair out. Or just lie on the floor, desperately weeping.

Don’t get me wrong. I get liking a programme. I’ll happily rewatch things I’ve loved in the past and have a great time. But over and over again? On the same day? And for months and months afterwards?

Kill me now.

6. Lying (Badly)

Now, I do admit that this one may not quite belong on this list. But if kids don’t love crappy lying, then why do they spend so much time doing it?

I mean, I’m not saying that I’m complaining about this. So much of my parenting revolves around being able to work out what to believe from the tangled webs of imaginary stories I have to listen to on an hourly basis. Once, the lies actually become plausible, I’ve got no chance!

So I don’t want them to grow out of it too soon. Plus, it’s sometimes (read: often) rather amusing.

For example, Big Girl’s toothbrushing debacle. Now, we haven’t quite reached the stage of lazy hygiene issues with her, but if she’s got the choice of flopping on the couch and reading a book or performing some necessary cleansing task… well, you can guess what she picks!

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So one day, she came downstairs rather speedier than I expected, given that she likes to spending at least ten minutes staring at the ceiling while in a world of her own. “Have you brushed your teeth?” I asked.

“Oh yes!” she replied. A little too confidently, I thought. But she absolutely insisted that she’d done it.

“Ok,” said I. “I’ll just go upstairs and check your toothbrush,” thinking that I’d be able to tell if it had been used as it would be wet.

It turned out, it was much more simple than that. For you see, in the process of construction her work of fiction, Big Girl forgot to leave out one crucial step.

She put the toothpaste on the toothbrush.

Score 1 to me!

And then there was yesterday. As Big Girl was getting changed, I noticed that she had had a slight tights malfunction.

“Big Girl, what happened to your tights?”

“What do you mean?” she replied innocently, attempting to peer behind herself. (It also makes me giggle when kids do this. They’re like dogs chasing their tails.)

Huh? “Well, possibly I’m commenting on the fact that your entire left thigh is almost completely exposed. Are you trying to tell me that you didn’t notice that?”

“I didn’t do it!”

I think you can all guess how that story turned out.

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Now I just need to crack the ability to predict Big Girl’s long twisty tales that will eventually turn out to be entirely fabricated before I listened to them for ten minutes. She does it so well! The whole thing sounds entirely realistic, until just one detail at the end makes it all fall apart. “Was any of that true?” I cry.

“No.”

7. Being Thrown Up In The Air

Now I’ll admit, I don’t have a great many recollections of being thrown up in the air. That is because I have been far too heavy to become airborne for quite some time. But I’m sure I must have been, because that’s what parents do. Right?

But as an adult, I just. don’t. get it.

My kids ask to be thrown up high all the time. Squeak in particularly I suspect may have been a bird in a former life, because she loves it.

I know she loves it because she shouts, “Again!” as soon as she lands safely in my arms. But she doesn’t sound like she likes it. She does that really intense giggling that kids do when actually they’re shitting themselves. You know, like when you push them just a shade too high on a swing and you hear that laugh seconds before the hysterical tears begin?

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This time, however, the tears don’t come. It makes no fucking sense! If humans were meant to fly then we’d have hollow freaking bones. And feathers. And a much smaller population of people who are terrified of heights.

Oh yeah, and wings.

My kids’ love of being thrown in the air leads me to suspect two things: either, kids are crazy and have no concern for their own safety, or…

We are on the brink of an evolutionary leap.

Crap, I hope it’s the first one. If children manage to add flying into their repertoire, we’re all fucked.

***

So tell me, what do your kids love that you just don’t understand?

The Art Of The Overreaction

Howdy! Now listen. This post goes out to all the parents of big kids. You know, the ones with actual cheekbones and legs that seem to go on forever. The ones who write endless reams of song lyrics and only seem to communicate about motherfucking Minecraft. Yeah, the ones who strut about thinking they’re all that and a bag of chips, but still look like the babies they used to be when they’re asleep.

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Sigh.

So, for all the parents nodding in recognition to that last paragraph, I have a message for you.

You are literally ruining your children’s lives.

Yeah, that told you! And that’s from the gospel according to my beloved and barely pre-pubescent daughter.

No bullshit to be seen here.

To all the people who haven’t hit this stage yet, bloody lucky you! And to everyone who is still dwelling in the peace of that blissful, slightly moist haven of babyhood… Fare thee well, and Godspeed!

Or, you know, stick around. It always pays to be prepared.

Let me clarify this for you. If I were to explain Big Girl’s situation in a word, it would be ‘catastrophisation.’

Yes, I am aware that I may have made that word up. OK, I’m definitely sure! But it’s a really appropriate word, so there.

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Pffffffft!

I wish I could tell you that I’m sorry for that freak ass picture. But yeah, I’m not. Not one little bit.

Big Girl is the queen of this ‘catastrophisation’ crap at the moment. (Man, that word is hard to type!) She’s a whirling ball of hair tossing, eye rolling, hip cocking melodrama.

Oh, for God’s sake. Fair enough, let’s take a pause while all you puerile beings giggle because I said ‘cock.’

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<judgy face> Pathetic.

Done? Thank you!

Now, I’m not saying I don’t love watching Big Girl grow and develop. I love that I can have a conversation with her that ventures beyond the topic of toilet humour, and into more interesting subjects. And I think it’s great that she’s developed the ability to feign complete fascination with said ‘interesting subjects.’ She’s super fun!

But dear God, do not cross her.

I don’t know if it’s the start of the hormonal rollercoaster of adolescence or if I just have me an assertive, outspoken little person. Because everything I do that isn’t completely in keeping with her ideas is the biggest disaster ever.

Take the other day, for example. I’d class it as a day that had passed successfully. In other words, nobody suffered a possibly fatal injury and I spent no hours obsessing about the mistakes I’d made and regretting things I’d said.

You know, standard.

Well, Big Girl had been playing outside with one of her friends when I called her in for her dinner. As I opened the door, she got down on her knees (because obviously that’s the only way to ask me anything. Note that down for future reference) and begged me to allow her to have her friend over for a sleepover. That night.

Now, this other kid is lovely and a pleasure to be around. But am I really going to be organising impromptu sleepovers at 6 o’clock in the evening?

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That’s a no.

Big Girl didn’t take this so well. What ensued a huffing, puffing stomp interspersed with cries of, “You’re so unfair!” as she took off her shoes. Every time I spoke I had my head bitten off, while I channeled my inner calm person (who actually wasn’t on holiday this time!) Finally I’d had enough, and told her she could join us at the table when she was able to speak to me properly.

Whoa! So that was the wrong approach, apparently.

Gasp! <insert incredulous face here> “But what about my DINNER?!” she yelled.

Me: “Well, you can come in and have it when you have calmed down.”

Her: “What? Fine, I guess I’ll just have to STARVE to death!”

Yes, starve. You heard her correctly, folks. According to Calamity Girl, a well-nourished seven year old can expire when made to wait ten minutes for a meal.

Did not know that. Well, when you know better, you do better. Right, Maya Angelou? Close call there!

So to all you evil, neglectful parents that are starving your growing little waifs… Fuck you! You bastards.

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I can’t even look at you right now.

Then, there’s the lying. And this is not elaborately spun webs of deceit I’m talking about here. This is dumbass, pointless, ridiculously obvious falsehoods that an even partially trained monkey could unpick.

This really does baffle me. I mean, what’s the point? I think it all begins when children reach the age when they start to assume their parents are idiots who know pretty much zilch. When you start to sing along to a song that was out about fifteen years before they were born and they turn to you and incredulously exclaim, ” How do you know this song?”

Just so you know, that’s about six months before the stage where singing in public becomes a sackable offence. And that is about six months before just being in public with them is a crime against humanity.

The things you know!

Big Girl is an expert in stupid ass lies. The kind where she thinks she’s surely going to get away with it because I’m on the toilet, or screaming into a pillow.

What, you don’t do that? Well, whatever. You should really try it though.

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I’ll hear a yell drift up the stairs from the squeaky foghorn I like to call Little Girl. “Muuuuuuum! Big Girl took my toyyyyyyy!” Insert desperate howls of sorrow here.

(Honestly, sometimes I’d like to find out how my kids would react if an actual bad thing happened to them. Based on current reactions, I’d have to guess that their heads would explode.)

When I get into the room, I find Big Girl sitting on the couch with what can only be described as a completely fake innocent look plastered all over her face. By which I mean, looking guilty as fuck. And, of course, clutching the aforementioned toy in her fists.

“What’s going on?” I ask. I’m giving her an out here, you see. This is her chance to admit to what she’s done, make it right and leave me the hell out of it.

So of course she takes it! Job done.

Well, not quite. Usually, it goes a bit more like this:

Little Girl: “Big Girl took my toy. I was playing with it!” Of course her eyes are generally leaking by this point. Little Girl and confrontation… Not really a good mix.

Big Girl: (with a gasp of shock and affront) “I didn’t!”

Big Girl: “I didn’t! I DIDN’T! Oh, why don’t you believe me? You are so unfair. I DIDN’T!!” To further emphasise her point, she waves the stolen toy in  the air.

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Methinks someone doth protest to much. Amirite?

I doesn’t take a detective to work out what’s going on here. But still there’s always that shadow of doubt. What if I am being really unfair here? What if Little Girl has suddenly acquired the ability to lie without me noticing, and is using it (naturally) for evil?

There’s only one way to find out. So I say that look on Big Girl. The one that says, “Mama knows.” I wish I could take a picture of this look for reference. It’s a good look! But that would require effort on my part. So, no.

Unvariably, what happens next is that a small voice pipes up with, “I did.” The faux innocent mask drops from Big Girl’s face, only to be replaced by regret. And, I imagine, a little surprise that I figured out her scheme. Because I’m an idiot, remember?

And then she returns the toy, and life goes on. Which, I regularly point out to her, would happen a lot quicker if she just told the bloody truth in the first place!

Kids, right?

Finally, of course, I cannot finish this post without talking about the whining. The fucking whining. Gah! Who knew words could contain so many vowels?

What do you mean, what do I mean? Are you freaking serious?

I’m talking about this. “Buuuuuuuut Muuuuuuuuuum, I don’t want to be first in the showerrrrrrrrrrrr!”

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You get me?

It goes through my head like nails on a blackboard. It’s so high-pitched! And how can they even hold enough air in their lungs to say all that without taking a breath?

Big Girl is a champion whiner. And who can blame her? The kid has a hard life, you know. Minecraft videos don’t just watch themselves. And when you’ve got two demonic underlings sisters getting under your feet… well, it’s no picnic!

But God, she doesn’t half take it to epic levels. You’d think every task she had to do was the worst form of torture. Picking up clothes, tidying up after herself, and don’t even get me started on  homework! Everything is so unfaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiir. None of her friends have to help out around the house. Oh, and without a doubt aaaaaall of them are allowed to do exactly what they want at all times.

Right?

Well, I don’t give a crap. One of the advantages of dragging yourself into adulthood is that you get to call the shots. End of. But just occasionally, I would like half of my conversations with Big Girl not to go like this:

Big Girl: <in voice that sounds like a dolphin try to speak English> “I don’t want to do myyyyyy homewoooooooork! It’s too haaaaaaard!”

Me: “Could you say that again? I can’t understand what you’re saying through all that whining.”

Big Girl: <same voice> “I don’t want to do my hooooommmmewooooooork!”

Me: “You’re still whining.”

Big Girl: <same voice> Nooooo I’m noooooooot! This is my normal vooooiiiiiice!”

Fuck it.

So did it ring any bells for you guys? Do you have a teenager in a child’s body? Have you bitten your tongue so many times recently that it has permanent grooves on it?

I’m not, then I’m glad for you. But you’ve got it coming. Get ready! And for anyone who recognises their much younger child in this post: Well done, your kid is like, super advanced! Also: ha ha.

Man, I can’t wait for the actual teenage years. Hey, maybe Big Girl will have got it out of her system by then!

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Shut up! A woman can dream.

The 30 Secret Signals Of The Rebel Toddler Squad

Hello all. I am writing this from my top secret, super hidden safety bunker. After discovering what I am about to tell you about, I figured that the best option was to get the hell out. I’d let you come and join me, but you know I’m just not that good at sharing.

Hang on, I’ll draw you a map.

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Nah! This shit is mine!

OK, let me tell you about what happened the other day. I was walking down the street with the kids when we passed some equally kid type people coming the other way.

So far, so normal.

But when this very angelic looking blonde toddler passed my girls, she casually waved her hand at them. Nothing to write about, I hear you cry?

Man, you guys are naive. Luckily, you’ve got me to work these things out for you.

You see, this girl wasn’t just saying hello. She was signalling to them.

It’s ok, I can see what you’re saying. I’m overthinking this, right?

Wrong! Because you see, after I discovered this I started doing some research. I have a found out that these demonic hellbeasts we call our ‘beloved children,’ have a whole language of their own, that they usually solely to fuck with us.

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Woman I can hold a crotch oak… I mean cockroach, without even flinching. What makes you think I can’t mess you right up?

I mean, realistically, what else would they use it for?

Believe me or not, it’s your neck on the line <shrugs> I took tremendous risks to get this to you, so you’d better bloody appreciate it. Now read!

Here are the first thirty signals. I’m sure there are more, but a girl’s gotta eat, you know? Plus toddlers are super fucking scary to work with.

1. Ear tug – Insist you’re a rabbit and only answer to the name Ralph. Refuse to eat carrots in any form.

2. Foot tap – Make like a rock.

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3. Nose scratch – Hold your breath when your mum comes to check you at night. Wait until she panics and pokes you. Then wake up, crying indignantly.

4. High five – Dress like this. All day.

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5. Head shake – Learn how to do a forward roll. Do it straight off the couch. (Bonus points if you bite your tongue.)

6. Bum wiggle – Shit yourself. Do it now!

7. Wave – help your mum to get you ready for bed. Ensure all help is decidedly unhelpful.

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8. Blow raspberry – Only accept a drink from the pink cup. No, the blue cup! The yellow! GREEN!!

9. Finger click – Glare at your mother all day long. Refuse to explain why.

10. Hop – Respond to every question with the word ‘poop.’ Unless it’s relevant.

11. Finger in nose – Lick that wall. Right there. Don’t avoid the green bit.

12. Teddy drop – Drop your teddy. Preferably into that slightly questionable puddle over there.

13. Clap – Splash so much in the shower that your mum slips on the wet floor and falls into the bath. Then howl because she hurt your little toe.

14. Smile – Ask for your most favourite food for dinner. Then throw it on the floor.

15. Nose wiggle – Make every nonsense babble noise you make sound like those words your mum mutters under her breath when she’s having a bad day.

16. Jump – Cry until she lets you sleep in her bed. Sleep with your arse on her pillow.

17. Offer food – Hide this food in the couch cushions until it gets all sticky and gross. Then eat it. Scream blue murder when she tries to take it off you.

18. Ballerina pose – Spill your drink everywhere. Unless it’s water. Because what’s the fucking point in that?

Fuck this H2O bullshit!

Fuck this H2O bullshit!

19. Lick arm – Stand on literally anything shaped like a cylinder. Blame your mother when you fall off.

20. Arm flap – Check to see if you’ve mastered the art of flight yet. Preferably from a height.

21. Skip – Hone your abseiling skills. Using the curtains.

22. Trip over – Trip over, right now! Don’t use your hands to save yourself.

23. Jazz hands – Open one side of your nappy. Now wee!

24. Runny nose – Wait until two days before your birthday. Get sick.

25. Wiggle toes – Discard one shoe. Repeat until your mother turns a fetching shade of purple.

26. Finger point – Behave responsibly with your new scissors for two whole weeks. Then hack off a couple of clumps of hair.

27. Knee tap – Ask to play with play dough. Make a penis and insist on it being displayed on the mantelpiece. Forever.

28. Head scratch – Put a bead up your nose. Try to get it out but succeed only in pushing it further up. Don’t tell anyone.

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29. Wink – Refuse to go to sleep for at least two hours. Wait until your mum’s eyes drift shut in a haze of exhaustion. SCREAM!

30. Teeth baring – Vomit in a giant pile behind your toy kitchen. Deny all knowledge.

Who knew? There we were, assuming that our toddlers were either pissing about, procrastinating or just being plain annoying. And it turns out that we were actually completely right! But what makes it worse is that they’re doing it together.

Betcha glad that I told you now, aren’t you?

Now to get to my bunker, you need to make a left at… ah fuck it.

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It’s top secret for a reason!

Over and out.

7 Ways Kids Show They Love You

Happy Valentine’s Day! The day to show people how much you love them. And kids are so wonderfully open to displaying their love for us. It’s quite beautiful, really.

Except when it’s, um… not.

Obviously that’s what I’m planning to talk about today. My kids have found some slightly unconventional ways to show me just how much I mean to them. I appreciate it, really I do! Some of the time.

1. Sharing Food

Sharing is a great skill to learn. It’s hard though. Apparently kids don’t have the ability to learn to share properly until 3 or so. Which matches up pretty well with the hell I’m experiencing at the moment with 2 year old Squeak!

Still, there are times when even a smaller child can enjoy the experience of sharing with someone. Like their mother.

I’m sure most people who have procreated have had this happen to them. You’re sitting with your little person as they start learning how to feed themselves. You’re doing that whole enthusiastic smiley thing so that they don’t freak out about the fact that they just gagged so hard the food flew straight over the highchair tray and onto the floor.

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I’ve never stopped being impressed by that.

Just then, they pull a presumably tasty morsel out of their mouth and offer it to you. There it sits in between their thumb and forefinger, all partially masticated and moist.

Urgh.

They squawk at you indignantly as you try and avoid having to touch it, waving it in front of your nose. Take it, take it, TAKE IT!

In the end, you have to pluck it gingerly from them and pretend to eat it. Mmmmmm!

They’re never fooled by that.

It carries on as they get older, when things may be less moist but surely still extremely bacteria-laden.

Tell me, what is the nice way of saying, “Thanks, but I don’t know where your hands have been.””

“Or rather, I do.”

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Answers on a postcard, s’il vous plait!

2. Getting Dressed By Themselves

It’s no mean feat, learning to put your clothes on by yourself. The armholes look like leg holes, the head hole is constantly disappearing and don’t even get me started on buttons.

I know what I’m talking about. I got stuck in a jumper the other day.

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What? Yeah, sure. I was kidding!

That being said, dressing small people is a total ballache. By the time you’ve got one arm in they’ve wriggled the other one out, and your crotch is in just the right position for a well-aimed kick that really stings. And don’t even think about socks. Someone definitely needs to redesign those things.

So it’s great once they can do it themselves. You can just lay everything out and then sit back and grab a cuppa, jumping up to assist with head hole location as and when required.

The problem is, then they start getting picky about what they’re wearing. They want to take the whole ‘doing it themselves’ thing to the next level.

That’s when you end up leaving the house with something that looks a little bit like this:

festival zora

 

And you don’t even care. Because at least you didn’t have to fucking do it.

3. The Grin-Vom

First smiles are just the bestest thing ever. They come, conveniently, at the point when you’d happily put your kid in a basket on a doorstep, ring the bell and run away.

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Just me?

Yeah, ok.

And they’re so addictive. As soon as you’ve seen that first little grin, it’s hard to do anything other than try and get it to happen again. And again. And again. You’ll quite happily make a total arse of yourself at any opportunity, just to see those initial signs that your child sees you as a little more than a demonic food-providing overlord. Singing? Check. Dancing? Yup. Embarrassing facial contortions?

You got it!

One thing to remember, though: it’s a risky game. Because babies love nothing more than to guzzle down just enough of an excess of milk that they have a little extra kept back. Preferably to deposit on you at the most moment-spoiling of times.

So when you’re locking eyes with your little gurgling bundle of joy, talking in that high-pitched stupid voice that apparently is sooo good for their development, do me a favour. Have a muslin handy. Because awwww-BLEURGH!

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You can thank me later.

4. Love Notes

As much as I love the tiny vomiting goblins that are newborns, there’s something amazing about watching your children grow up. Little Girl has just learned to read and write, and she just can’t stop herself from doing anything else.

Unless she’s making gravity-defying Lego structures that inevitably fall down to shrieks of futile rage, that is.

Now in some ways, learning to read is not so great. As mentioned in a long ago post somewhere, I seem to spend half of my time ushering Little Girl away from various pieces of graffiti on the way to school. Not to forget hiding my screen from her as I type.

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How lucky that the word ‘fuck’ is so easy to read for an almost 5 year old. Yay!

But it’s really cute watching her lean intently over a page, sounding out words and triumphantly shouting them when she’s figured them out. A whole new world has opened up for her.

And a new part of that world is the writing of love notes. More specifically, very very small love notes that must, of course, be snipped ever so carefully with her new bumblebee scissors.

Now last night I wasn’t lucky enough to get words. Instead I received three pinky-red blobs that of course were hearts for God’s sake, and I apparently did not show enough appreciation for.

Oops.

Evidently, though, sometimes I do deserve something a little more effusive. Like this, for example:

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D’awwww! This was one of the first things Little Girl ever wrote for me, and I have treasured it so much that it took me ten minutes to find it on my computer.

Double oops.

But how cute! It definitely makes up for the 3am nosebleeds, the vomiting, the nightmares… It does!

And so what if you occasionally get something like this:

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Coke. It says Coke. Goddamn phonics!

5. The Kiss-Lick

This is the advanced version of the Grin-Vom. You’ve got to have developed a fairly strong streak of mischief to properly appreciate it.

We’re a fairly kissy family. I don’t spend a lot of time without at least one small body snuggled up against me, chubby face upturned and lips puckered. I love it!

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Sometimes, they use this against me.

If I had to pick the person who uses this most, I’d have to say Squeak. She is one sneaky little monster. And she’s well versed in the arts of delayed gratification. She’ll kiss me tens of times before she swoops, just to lull me into a false sense of security.

And then, SLUUUURRRP! A big, soggy lick right up the side of my face.

Ick.

But she’s not doing it maliciously! Oh no, of course she isn’t. She’s a cat.

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Duh!

6. The Play

Anyone who has an older girl may get what I’m talking about. Sometimes the only, and I mean the absolute only way to show your mum that you love her is to act out an elaborate play.

You know, the kind that has seventeen characters who have no names or distinguishing features, all played by the same person. Yes Big Girl, I’m looking at you.

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The kind of play that lasts at least three hours, at least two of which are spent making mistakes and giving unnecessarily long explanations of what’s going to happen next. And farting.

And if you’re really super lucky, you might get lines. Which are inevitably written in a barely legible scrawl on a minute piece of paper, chopped by (yes, you guessed it!) the beloved bumblebee scissors.

Fucking bumblebees.

Be careful not to make a mistake, mind. Despite those two hours of errors and nonsensical plot changes, all hell with rain down on you if you fuck your bit up.

Get your rictus grins at the ready! Oh, and don’t forget to applaud extremely hard at the end. Otherwise she might start all over again.

7. The Cuddles

Just a regular cynical post from me, as usual! But fret not. I’m not completely dead inside.

Yet.

Because when they’re taking a break from strangling and hissing at each other, there’s a bit of this:

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And this:

cuddle2

And a touch of this:

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Aah, that’s better.

Happy fucking Valentine’s Day, folks!

How To Soothe A Crying Baby – A Step by Step Guide

We’ve all been there. Just as you finally start to feel like you’re getting the hang of this parenting a tiny hairless monkey thing, it happens.

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The screaming.

I’ve been there. With bells on. There were nights with Little Girl when I’d feel lucky if I’d grabbed 90 minutes sleep. I tried maybe 6758 things to try and get her to stop.

You can guess how many worked.

With that in mind, I like to that that I’ve developed a few special skills in natal hysteria prevention. I’m not saying I’m an expert or anything, but come on! I’ve done this three times. Surely I’ve learned something by now.

Yeah, well. Ask my eye bags if I’ve learned anything!

Anyway, read on my friends. Prepare to be enlightened…

1. Feed her. Ok, so I’m starting with the basics. But you know, it’s the easiest one!

2. Feed her again.

3. And again. Hmmm.

4. Say something suitably pointless, like, “Aww baby, what’s the matter?” Because you know, she doesn’t even know what a fucking foot is but she’ll tell you that no problem.

5. Stand up and do somekind of exaggerated rocking… thing. You know, the one that always works like a charm!

6. Huh, seems like the charm has worn off. You knew that confidence was misplaced!

7. Check for poop. Carefully now. Nothing, nothing, nothing, URGH!

8. While you’re there, strip you and the baby off for some skin to skin time. The magical solution, this has gotta be it. No small baby can resist warm snuggles with mama.

9. Wipe the vomit out of your cleavage. And crotch. Consider changing your trousers.

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10. Nah!

11. Get dressed again. Duh, it’s fucking February!

12. Google it one-handed while perching on the edge of the couch.

13. Check the baby’s clothes for irritating threads and labels. (Thanks for the inspiration, random baby-raising website!)

14. Change the baby.

15. Change the baby again.

16. Oh my God who made these clothes??

17. Weep. Copiously.

18. Lie down. Stand up. Sit down. Lie down again.

19. Recall that course you did on baby massage. Find your zen (and the oil). You’re not sure how relaxing this will be to the tune of 70 yowling cats in heat but hey, whoever said parenting was supposed to be easy?

20. Give up. Engage in precarious oily juggling match with a seriously slipping and fragile new baby. Gah!

21. Play some relaxing music. Switch to something perkier. Switch to Metallica. Turn it up. Like, all the way up.

22. Call someone. Anyone.

23. Call back when you can do something other than howl. Like, anything.

24. Walk in circles around the room. More. More. Whoa, too much!

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Head rush!

25. Call NHS direct.

26. Answer a bunch of inane questions.

27. Get told to expect a callback in 4 hours.

28. Cry more.

29. Eat cake. Messily. Pick crumbs out of your baby’s many neck folds.

30. You know the ones.

31. Go for a walk. Go for a drive. Go… swimming. Who gives a fuck, just GO GO GO!

32. Contemplate performing an impromptu exorcism.

33. Just kidding.

34. But…

Eeeeevil!

Eeeeevil!

35. Give up. Collapse, sprawling and dejected on the couch where all of this began.

36. Stare wide-eyed as your tiny, red-faced beast falls fast asleep on your chest.

37. Resolve not to move again for at least 12 hours.

38. Uh oh, nature calls!

 

So, how did I do? Yeah, I know. I’d like to tell you that I started out trying to be genuinely helpful…

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But nope! I was just fucking with you.

Of course if all else fails, just hand them off to me. Apparently I’m really good with babies. As long as they didn’t come out of my vagina, that is.