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selective eating and my 7-yr-old

11 Jun

billyfood

My 7-yr-old is on the beige food diet.

I’ve tried to explain many times why it’s important to eat brightly coloured foods but we just spend hours arguing the toss over yellow.  Apparently cheese is bright yellow and therefore counts.  So now we talk about green and red foods.  He definitely doesn’t eat any of those, preferring the general brownness of the sausage, the bread and the potato.

He went through the typical fussy stage at 2 alongside all of his other preschoolers.  Us mums used to giggle around the lunch table as our little ones screamed and squawked and refused to eat, happy in solidarity. But then all his friends got through that stage and started to accept a small amount of broccoli on the side of their plate. Or worst case on a separate plate. But Big Milk wouldn’t so much as hear speak of broccoli.

We decided pretty early doors that we weren’t going to fight him over it. He clearly wasn’t budging and would rather forgo pudding of any kind than eat even a tiny mouthful of something he didn’t like. So I started hiding the vegetables anywhere I could find to put them. Whizzed up in tomato sauce which he’d eat in copious amounts with pasta. Then I’d use the leftovers on pizza bases; nutrition masquerading as fast food. Carrots were grated into bolognaise and peeled courgettes went undercover in homemade fish goujons.  He was none the wiser and in quiet triumph we rocked family meal times relatively stress-free.

But recently he’s declared war on all those foods he used to tolerate, favouring a much more militant beige-food-loving approach.  Out with the pasta sauce and the casseroles and the homemade fish pie. Down with potatoes if they dare to advance with their dirty bothersome jackets on. For the past few days at school he’s eaten bread and potatoes for lunch. So much for “Fresh fruit and salad offered daily”. Clearly he responds no better to their authority than he does to mine.

But worse than the worry and the frustration and the guilt you can’t help but feel as a parent, are those mums that stick their noses in the air and with a whiff declare “My kids wouldn’t get away with that. They’ll eat what they’re given!”. Mentally at this point I’m smashing their heads into the glass panel on my front door as I bare my teeth in a snarl loosely disguised as a smile.

You see, I don’t cram my child full of sweets and biscuits all day long and wonder why they won’t eat their dinner. I do not give in at the first whiff of an uprising by declaring “Oh Archie, just eat whatever you want and we’ll move straight onto pudding.” (Clearly my child’s not called Archie, but you get my meaning).  I am not a push-over-marshmallow-mum.  My child’s food issues go far beyond mere fusspotting; they are borderline phobic.

He doesn’t respond to an iron fist, shameful bribery or promises of a million pounds.  He doesn’t wave the white flag, exhausted after a 4 hour pea-stand-off.  His only response is retching and choking and sicking up into his own mouth.  In fact my child would be a pretty awesome hunger-strike activist if they’d allow such a thing.

The truth is,  if your children do what you say it’s not because you’re some kind of super youobeymeordie mum, it’s because your kids just aren’t that testing. You are blessed with the holy grail of childkind – compliant children – and sadly those are given out only randomly when the sperm greets the egg.

So for now I’ll re-establish my motherly zen and claw back perspective by evoking the wise words of my dear friend Steph  “Send A donation to Oxfam, for they have real feeding problems there.”

The Lovely Bones: the film and me

21 Dec

image courtesy of grahamowengallery.com

Christmas is rushing at me at a hundred miles an hour I hardly have time to breathe, let alone think. Except people keep reminding me of the significance. Telling me how sorry they are, how difficult it must be, how much I must miss her. Somewhere below the surface I sense the gaping hole, but I am being carried along by the momentum of childhood.

And thank God for that ceaseless wave of agitation that rolls up and down but is never one way for long.

I watched The Lovely Bones for the second time the other day and I can’t stop thinking about it. How dark and menacing the world can be, but how beautiful things can come out of that tragedy. New relationships can form, old ones strengthen, your focus crystallised on life’s brief flashes of wonderment.

You can’t keep looking backwards with regret and loss, you must look to the future and allow yourself to be swept along in the tide of life.

I’m not sure if that IS what the film was about, but it’s what I took from it. A sense of magic, mystery, hope sparking free amongst the ashes.

Yes Christmas will be difficult this year, I miss my mum every day with an aching that never dissipates and I am still incredulous as to how I got here and just how much I’ve lost.

But living in the here and now, treasuring the precious moments with my family and especially my beautiful boys – well, I have my own lovely bones right here.

Divorce house

3 Nov

Did I tell you we’re moving? Yeah, not content on changing careers and sorting out my mum’s estate, we’ve decide to haul arse and vacate the big smoke.  We’re moving to be near Mr Milk’s family and the ocean.

So it’s househunting time. Why is the prospect of househunting so exciting and the actuality a bloody pain in the arse?  You start off with the dream of that perfect house with the perfect aga and the perfect magnolia tree only to discover you’re having to wade through crap again to find a semi-polished stone.  And why are you always 50k short of what you want? Always.

When asking about the backround to one particular property recently the young (holy christ these agents are young these days, they look like they’ve dressed up in daddy’s suit) estate agent told me the vendors were getting divorced and were really keen to sell. My stomach dropped.

Me and Mr Milk have been here before. We lived in Manchester for 11 years and bought property there. Once we were shown around a fairly typical, fairly faceless 1930s semi on a corner plot. (more concrete out front than the average terraced). It was being sold on due to a very acrimonious divorce by partners who were still being forced to inhabit the same house (and god forbid, probably the same bed).

We were met at the door by the estate agent (stereotypical) and the vendor (clearly having had a very bad time of it lately). The vendor proceeded to walk us around the property (which was truly awful) picking out the worst of its features to describe in length. A bit like the test they give salespeople at interview – how to sell a pencil  – except he sucked on the rotten egg of sales patter. The mobile bar (think hostess trolley for booze), the beige bathroom suite, the multi-speed 1980s ceiling fan (all speeds were carefully demonstrated). So this whole viewing thing took time, a lot of time, and it was really really painful.

At the end Mr Milk and myself were cornered in the sitting room by both the vendor (ashen grey and sweating) and the estate agent (smug, clearly having made promises involving cats and bags) who proceeded to ask us then and there (as a choking fog of desparation billowed around us) whether we were going to put in an offer.

That experience has stayed with us.  Haunted us in fact. So when I found out we were going to view another “divorce house” I knew I couldn’t go through with it.

So I asked the agent to update our criteria:-  “No recent divorcees, or otherwise acriminuous couples trapped in in a house of misery and shit, and absolutely no motorised fan enthusiasts.”

I’m probably discounting a lot of properties this way, but I find it’s always better to be up front about these things.

Clearly aforementioned vendor’s twin. Scary.

Happy Birthday Mum

25 Oct

Today is my mother’s birthday. She would have been 72.

I remember vividly her birthday last year. She, me and all the Milks, my sister, her husband and their girls, and a special day out at London Zoo. I’d just had my fringe cut and, as always, was nervous what my mum would think.  At 33, her opinion was still the most important to me. A daughter dancing for her mother’s attention.

We had taken a picnic. A trademark affair. Couscous and roasted vegetable salad, an assortment of sandwiches, delicious rye bread from the deli. We sat on a rounded bench encircling a dwarf maple, our feast of delights spread out around us, carefully placed among the splattering of pigeon droppings.  Later, we sang happy birthday as my mother pretended to hide under the hood of her jacket, much to the delight of the children, as we tucked into the most delicious coffee cake I’ve ever eaten. (made by my clever sis). And I remember thinking fleetingly – “Could this be the last time we all celebrate together like this?”.

I don’t know why this thought came into my head that day. Perhaps holding something perfect in your hands makes you fear the loss of it.

2 months later as we all sat together on my mother’s old red velvet sofa and posed for a photograph the same thought came into my head. “What if this is the last picture we have all together like this?”

2 months later came the diagnosis, and 4 months later my mother passed away.

I don’t know why, and I don’t know how, but I knew what was to come. Instinct wrought from intimacy.

I miss you mummy, every day.

Brahm’s lullaby – played at her funeral.

30-something orphan

17 Sep

Original sketch by Doodlemum

Today marks the 4th anniversary of my father’s death. It is also 5 months exactly since I lost my mum.  Two journeys, both with many more miles to tred.

*********

This week I locked myself out of the house.  Returning from a hard day’s work – forlorn, within an inch of my patience. Two tired children yelping and jumping at my knees like impatient, rivalrous puppies vying for  attention.  A childminder desparate to reclaim her family home, a husband tied up in another meeting, neighbours immersed in their own bedtime squabbles. My desparate calls unanswered – two, three, four times.

And as I stood on my own doorstep I have never felt so alone.

When you lose your parents, you cease to be someone’s child.  An obvious point, but in that subtle twist of perception is something more significant. The moment you are orphaned you lose the people whose primary role is to protect you.  Unconditional, instinctive, tribal. This is no comment on my loyal husband who I love dearly, or my sister who is truly exceptional.  Yet as peers, the needs of our own families must come first.  The selfless, unquestioning devotion is focussed on the children whose lives we have been entrusted to protect, nurture, bring to fruition.

And the truth is, my parent’s job was done.

Yet the vulnerable needy child in you is always there.  The infant yearning to be wrapped in its mother’s arms, safe from the loom of the bogeyman. We still crave to hear those words  “Don’t worry darling, I’ll sort it all out for you”, to hide under the duvet and to let someone else carry the burden.

But the truth is, the buck now stops with you.  There won’t always be someone else to come to the rescue.  And that can be a lonely thought.

Sad

29 Jul

I want to be a child again, running around without a care in the world. My mum there next to me, cooking dinner with her pinstripe apron, smirking at our antics. What i wouldn’t do to be back there, 8 years old, snoopy jumper, ankle socks. The snowman is playing on the small, white plastic tv, and my family house like a cocoon around me. What I wouldn’t do to be back there, happy, content, safe.

What kind of mother?

23 Jun

As I find myself running down the street, book bag in one hand, drink, drawings and dirty socks in the other, desparately trying to keep up with my two sons on scooters as they career down the road with brick wall on one side and bustling traffic on the other, all I can think over and over is “What am I doing? What kind of mother lets her sons do this?”

Am I in control? Only just.

When I catch sight of their mud splattered hands as they eat chips and beans with their fingers, delightedly licking the grimy ketchup from the tips. When I see my littlest disappearing into the shed in his bare feet, or the eldest poking at the toaster to free his “just can’t wait any longer” crumpet. What I’m thinking is “This is dangerous. Just what kind of mother allows this?”

Is there enough discipline in this house? Rarely.

But the truth is, I’m a normal mum; far too honest probably, clinging onto acceptable motherhood with my knickers on inside out, and frequently falling short of my own expectations. But totally unexceptional nonetheless.

For my sister

17 Jun

I couldn’t do any of this without you.

You are my strength, my support, my courage. You hold me up when I am weak, inspire me when I am faltering,  gather me when I am lost.

With you holding my hand, I know I will be just fine.

My sister, my best friend, my heart.

I am grateful

9 Jun

There has been some anger. Intermittently. Less than I expected. And yet, as I described in The natural order of things, there is nothing so grossly unnatural or twisted about losing my mum now.  Losing her is devastating of course, unfair, paralysing, and the rollercoaster hurtles through panic, fear, inconsolation, desparation, anxiety and more. I shouldn’t be an orphan at 34. And yet, despite how quickly and harshly the progression of the last few months, despite 71 being no age to go, despite 2 months not being in any way long enough to say goodbye, despite all this, there is an awful lot I am grateful for.

I am grateful that I had a mum so utterly dedicated to her children. A mum with a natural instinct to love and protect.

I am grateful that we had 34 years – rich, memory-filled years full of poignant, sometime magical moments.

I am grateful that my mum was here to welcome both my boys into this world. I am grateful for the tears she shed, and the cuddles she gave and received.

I am grateful that my mum saw me married. Watched as my family was built on love and trust, and that she was reassured at the end, that I was in good hands.

I am grateful for the precious few months we had before she went. The time to talk, to tell eachother all the things we needed to, to express our love in moments of enforced clarity.

I am grateful that I was there at the end. That I got to hold her hand as she passed away. That the moment was peaceful, without pain or fear, that she was surrounded by two proud, loving daughters, the air filled with the music that she loved.

I am grateful for that music. That when I listen to it I can feel connected to her in a way that is indescribably perfect,incomparable to any physical thing, spiritual even. A truly wondrous gift.

I am grateful for her strength, pride and devotion; for the lessons she taught me, and the person I was able to become.

I am grateful for all these gifts, and more.

Many people don’t have half of what I have. Some much less. What a lucky girl I am.

More than a house

5 Jun

My mum’s house will soon be on the market.  My family home. The house we moved into in 1980, when I was 3. A house built on clay and memories.

This is the hardest part so far.

And my thoughts are becoming more and more consumed with these pictures from the past. Reruns played over and over;  stop – rewind – play,  stop – rewind – play.

My 3 yr old self, raw from the recent divorce, padding in to my mother’s room and standing by the side of the bed, head bowed, eyes on my feet.  “Can I come in?” whispered with an eager heart.  Climbing in sheepishly next to her and lying bum to bum,  warmth so familiar, so reassuring.

A young child returning early from a school trip with swollen eyes, weepy from fresh cut grass.  Childish excitement deflated like a limp balloon.  And my mother laying me gently on the bed in my childhood room,  and tending my eyes lovingly with damp flannels.

My rebellious, secretive teenage self lying prone in the early hours of the morning, wide-eyed from narcotic experimentation, lamenting the worms that still wriggle from the carpet. Watching guiltily as my mother pads around excitedly, preparing for her youngest’s birthday.

My young adult self, suffering from my first and worst bout of depression and lying in a bath that my mother has run. Her sitting patiently on the toilet as she reads to me from Alison in Wonderland, hoping that the words will comfort with the innocenct simplicity of childhood.

My recently married self – foolishly but deliriously drunk and lying on the grass with my new husband, sister and brother-in-law, like starfish watching a flight of swallows in glorious fomation soaring back and forth across the sky.

And my mum, in every room – laughing,  reassuring, scolding.  Kind, proud, determined. Her music, her cooking, her love.

And somehow I have to say goodbye to all this. Let someone else strip out the worn, dated kitchen – my mother’s kitchen – to replace it with stylish, cold granite.  Flush away all of my family memories and reinvent their own.  And I want to scream and barricade the doors and picket at the fence. No entry here.  But Mr Cameron is eager for his pound of gold, and the clock is ticking.