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selective eating and my 7-yr-old

11 Jun


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.”

Why my mum didn’t tell me she loved me

16 Nov

As we sat in traffic lights on the way back from my mum’s final radiotherapy session she turned to me and said “I’m scared I’ll die before I’ve told you how much I love you”.


Love isn’t telling somebody the fact. It isn’t giving a big present or making an inflated gesture.  It’s showing it.  Over and over, year upon year, bit by bit. It’s the small things, the things that go unnoticed at the time, but that make you know that someone is there.

It’s feeling it. Constantly and consistently. Despite the arguments and the harsh words and the differences in opinion. Like a warm blanket draped across your shoulders.


So as the traffic lights turned to green I touched my mums hand and reassured her that her job had been done a long time ago.

And when she passed and there were no final words, no declarations of love, no grand words or gestures, no tears, it didn’t matter.

I carried all I needed to know around with me in my heart.

That is love.


Supernanny: Bite me!

10 Nov

My first column is live today at In The Powder Room.

I’d be absolutely chuffed if you could come and have a read and leave me a comment.

Sod’s law they’ve put me alongside the Eddy Izzard of blogging which means the usual readers might be too busy changing their wet pants to get round to reading mine.

Milk retrospective: Alcoholic mother in training

10 Oct

One of my very first posts, just to tickle your fancy while I continue my unplanned break from writing anything new. Not that i’m fuzzy headed or incapacitated or anything…..


When I first saw these on bottles I had just given birth to my second son. Second time round it had been hard. I had found pregnancy pretty miserable – struggling 40 miles into work each day, coping with a demanding toddler, trying to stay balanced. Yes, I had enjoyed a couple of drinks here and there just to keep me feeling “normal”, less fed up about all the things i couldn’t or wasn’t allowed to do.

As far as i knew that wasn’t illegal… fact, I had pretty much followed the UK guidelines to the letter. (no more than one or two units a couple of times a week.) So when i saw this new labelling I was pretty annoyed. How patronising, condescending, sexist. Were women incapable of making their own informed, sensible decisions? Apparently not. Perhaps all those pregnancy hormones running around our bodies do turn previously well-adjusted, sensible women into irresponsible nutcases? In any case, surely it’s a question of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted? Presumably by the time women see this label they’ll have already purchased the bottle, and as they say, once purchased always consumed. (or is that what i say?)

As far as i know under 18s still can’t buy alchohol, and it’s definitely illegal to give any to the under 5s, so where are the symbols of small kids with a line through them? And what about the fat-arsed, beer- bellied men who regularly put themselves at risk of heart attacks? Perhaps they couldn’t fit those on the label.

Apparently staying at home can make mothers drink. According to Dr Toni Galardi we are most likely to turn to alchohol to cope with the demands of children if we have previously had a successful career. Weary, dejected, we turn to alcohol to dull the boredom. No hope for me then.

So perhaps this drinking lark during pregnancy is beneficial after all. It must be good practise to have a few just to get into the swing of things for what’s to come.

Click here for referenced article.

In all honesty it is a pretty interesting article, and probably quite truthful, if only we had the time or energy to put the wine glass down and read it.

Mummy’s dirty laundry: Day 7 from my favourite kiwi vixen

25 Sep

Out of all the bloggers I’ve met along the way, I feel like I know Vic the best. We’ve met ONCE. I think it’s the shared marketing background, that Kiwi connection, our similar outlook on life.

Apparently she sees me as a younger version of herself (she told me that once), and I’m just fine with that.

The Battle Hymn of the Vixen Mum

When Milk asked me to join in with this week long confessional about shit/real mothering, I jumped at the chance, but with one reservation. Which episode of slackness would I choose out of my 18 years’ worth of parenting?

Would I retell the tale of how I left my newborn son in the changing room at a local store and walked off down the road feeling surprisingly lighter? I did return of course, and I don’t think the separation anxiety that plagued him throughout his toddler-dom was at all related to this incident.

Would I confess how I rushed back from a meeting, dressed in corporate suit and heels, for the mummy’s coffee morning and after dutifully placing son on his rug on the floor, promptly stood on him as I jumped up to grab a coffee? Owww!

Or would I explain about that day when I was sick to death of Dark Princess (then aged 4) whining in the car? As she moaned incessantly, I fired a warning shot – “Be quiet or I will let you out and you’ll have to walk home.” She didn’t. I did. She walked (for a bit) sniffing back tears as I drove down the road without her.

Yeah, so many examples of slack parenting!

Yet, am I really so different from everyone else? In a world of helicopter parents and Tiger Moms, I’ve had to learn my own style of parenting. I did the research when I was pregnant, reading all that ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ and ‘The first nine months’ had to offer. Then I had my son, and the next day I threw the books out the window. My practical examination in parenting, has lasted eighteen years so far, and it’s been the hardest vocational test I’ve ever undertaken.

At times I’ve struggled with the rules and my inner rebel has railed against the ‘done thing’. Why should all children have to get their first tooth before they’re two? Will he one day walk down the aisle with his bride, toothless? Why do all Mums have to be completely selfless, espousing a ferocious martyrdom not seen since Joan of Arc? If your little toe-rag is mean to you, shouldn’t you tell them that was mean? Shouldn’t you explain that Mum’s have feelings, the Mums hurt sometimes, that Mums have to say sorry sometimes too?

Over the years I’ve developed my own style of parenting. It’s not the live-through-your-children style of the Tiger Mom, nor is it the anxiety disordered style of the helicopter parent. Nope, I call it the Vixen Mum style of parenting. And this is the Battle Hymn of the Vixen Mum:

1/There are no words more powerful in the English language than ‘I love you’. Use them with care and meaning.
2/Sorry is a hard word to say, but a remarkable life-changing word to hear.
3/Never stop learning. Life is the only journey you’ll ever take where the destination is not as important as the journey.
4/You can tell a great deal about someone by how they treat animals.
5/Be kind to yourself. Forgiving, and understanding. Remember that loving yourself is not conceit, it’s preservation.

More advice on parenting:

Advice for my daughters
What Kind of Mother are you

Mummy’s dirty laundry: Day 4 with a dash of guilt

22 Sep

Well this wouldn’t be a week of guest posts by mothers if the guilt didn’t creep in somewhere would it? So here we have it. A big dose of mummy guilt from the lovely Kirrily at Sunny Side Up .

I’ve admired this woman since the first day I read her blog.  We’d bonded over a loss and the feeling of sitting in a cupboard of grief looking outside at a world busying itself around us.


I feel guilty about feeling guilty

 There was once a time when I could feel guilty unabated. That was before I started writing my guilts out on my blog, where people would cajole and tell me it was okay, that they felt like that too sometimes.

Now, I tend to feel guilty in private. I pre-empt the things that I know instinctively should be causing the guilt and do them anyway.   It’s inherent, inbuilt. It’s over things like letting my child watch 2 or 3 hours of television some days when, hell… I just can’t contribute any more to her life right now, so CBeeBees/ABC for Kids can be the entertainment for an afternoon. The joy on her face when she’s granted this is something I cannot deny – who am I to say no to something that she loves that much?

Who are “they”? The “they” I kept looking over my shoulder for as a new mum? “They” tell me that TV, for instance, is not good for my child. But they leave out the “okay in moderation” and the “it also won’t make your child grow two heads” part, so for the first two years I went into conniptions any time I just had to give myself a break by way of her watching an age-appropriate show on the telly. I ask you… what is more unhealthy?

I don’t even care who “they” are any more. That stopped when I began to hit my stride as a mum when my little LGBB (Lolly Gobble Bliss Bomb)… if you’re not familiar, it’s a delectable Aussie honey-caramel-coated popcorn-nutty thang) – began to show signs of being a really good sort, well raised, kind, caring… and prove that all the hard yakka, basically, was going to pay off. I could see it in how she conducted herself. I hadn’t broken her with my bouts of banshee-like screaming or letting her watch television. She had blossomed anyway, in spite of my stressed-out antics but also because of them.

Why are we, as a modern day species, so caught up on blaming and shaming (ourselves and/or each other)? Do we ever get that blame-shame pointy finger and turn it on ourselves, shining the light on the parenting things we think are surely too embarrassing to admit to? Are we satisfied being blissfully unaware that every judgement and generalisation we make on another’s lifestyle or way of parenting is detrimental to ALL of us?

You know what I did this evening just before the LGBB’s father was due home? I left her, merrily watching the tv, to duck up to the local shops (literally a 25 second drive, but still far enough to make me bristle with terror that “they” would find out) and buy some wine I felt deserving of today. I had spent the entire day bending to the whim of my five year-old darling, someone who makes my heart utterly SING (without her, I would be truly lost….. read my bio to find out why). We baked gingerbread ponies and we watched an episode of the very respectable BBC show, Lost Gardens together. We played Junior Scrabble. We hugged countless times during the course of the day. She cared less if I was home or not as she sat glued to Mr Maker, and she literally pushed me out the door when I said, “Mummy needs to go to the shop” (I left out the ‘bottle’ part, granted).

I had nothing to feel guilty about today. I brought it on myself. Perhaps once we stop being so hard on ourselves and refrain from judging others, “they” might pale into insignificance as a force in our parenting lives.

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.

Milk retrospective: In praise of my mum

11 Feb

Originally posted May 6th 2010.

I never realised until I had my boys.

Just what you put in. Every day. Every night.

How hard you worked.

What you sacrificed.

Children always dwell on the things you didn’t get quite right.

The things they think you shouldn’t have said.

How much calmer/fairer/more understanding you could have been.

What the “perfect” parent would have done.

Only now that I am that parent do i start to comprehend. You weren’t so short of perfection after all.

Near, yet far away enough to be a friend.

How much you achieved.

How much I have to learn from you.

What we can now share.

It’s so long overdue.

Thank you.

A parent or a friend?

4 Dec

“I’m so going to smoke pot with my children when i’m older”. How many times did i hear that when i was a teenager? The coolest kids in school had parents who’d sit around smoking pot with them and all their mates, sometimes even buying them the odd can of watery lager from the local cash and carry. I still hear similar stuff from time to time, but now it’s more along the lines of “If they’re gonna do it, i’d rather know about it” or “I’d rather they got the stuff from me, at least i’d know where it came from”. To be honest, i’d rather not know. Or at least i’d rather not see it. Of course my children are going to experiment. To be honest, i’d be more worried if they didn’t. It’s a part of adolescence, a time of experimenting and risk taking, an evolution-supported rite of passage into adulthood. But surely you experiment with your friends not with your parents?

Here’s what i believe:

My kids are going to do a lot of this stuff anyway. Alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, meaningless, fumbling sex, sleeping in holly bushes outside school because you’ve said you’re staying at eachother’s houses (hmm, ok so that one was me). But I want them to have the right morals so that when it really comes to it, they make the right decisions. Fumble about in the back of a car and try and cop a feel under a girl’s bra when she’s not looking, but know to stop when she tells you to. Eat a few space cakes and giggle childishly with your mates, but know it’s time to stop and take care of them when they’re getting weepily paranoid. Tut at your drunken friend in the corner eating faces with a man a few too many years older, but insist you’re going too if she decides a party back at their place is too good an opportunity to miss. I want them to have enough ambition and self belief to mean that all this experimentation and risk taking is a phase and that ultimately they will want more.

My husband believes passionately that choosing the right friends is probably the most important choice any teenager will make. He always uses the example of Euan Blair. Left on his own in Trafalgar Square by his so-called-mates, too drunk to get himself home, prey to sniggering onlookers and passing journalists. Any friends worth their salt would have walked him the 5 miles home, on their backs and being intermittently puked on if they really had to.

As a parent I don’t need to be part of all this. I don’t want to the one they talk to after a night out and tell all the gory details to. Let them do that in a hushed phonecall while whining “Mum, can you stop listening, am i not allowed ANY p-r-i-v-a-c-y”.

I do believe that there is a line between parents and children. An unwritten code. Children learn appropriate behaviour this way. They just need a secure enough framework to know that when a bit of experimentation goes wrong their family WILL be there to pick them up when noone else can. If they’ve popped a pill and their useless friends have left them on their own with no way of getting home, then I absolutely want it to be me they call, but I want them calling with their tail firmly between their legs. I want them to be expecting a bit of tutting on the way home, tediously repetitive pleading with them “to grow up and stop acting so selfishly for a change”. But despite all that they’ll call because they know they’re loved unconditionally, and no amount of foolish behaviour is going to change that.

I don’t want to be their friend. I want to be their mum. A hip, stylish, wise and super hot mum, but a mum all the same.


17 Nov

Neither of my children had a dummy. I didn’t really like the look of them. Substituting something natural for something unnatural, just because you couldn’t hack the noise. Babies make noise. Plus it looked cheap.

My eldest (4) still has a muslin he calls a Yah. His favourite is the “crispy yah” – an old, well chewed muslin square where the saliva has hardened on a corner, probably mixed with a bit of chewed up food. He likes to play with the crispy bit and tickle the end of his nose with it.

He complains when i try to give him a clean, fresh one because (you’ve guessed it) it’s not crispy.

At night he shoves about half of the muslin in his mouth and massages it with the muscles at the back of this throat producing a very loud clicking noise. I know this because if he ever sleeps in our bed it keeps me awake.

I find these Yahs everywhere. Discarded on the floor, down the side of the sofa, under his pillow, in the car. Disposing of them involves handling a soggy, smelly piece of cloth which makes me wince. Recently he has taken to having many Yahs all at once. I found this out when removing one from his mouth in the middle of the night (as I try to do every night) only to find 3 more under the duvet and one under the bed.

It is an obsession with hygiene implications. A dependancy way worse than any dummy, and tolerated only because we can’t face the consequences of taking them away.

In my face.