Thursday, 1 December 2011
The frustrating thing about soft plays is that they cost a fortune and are almost always pish - but it would be so easy to make them more bearable. How about some nice lighting? A bar? Some chairs that don't remind you of the interrogation rooms in Red Riding? While you're at it, why not employ staff that don't treat you like a curly dog turd? Yes, it would be simple.
So while I sit there on my plastic Peter Sutcliffe chair, nursing my £5 crappucino and watching my kid helplessly dangling off a 300ft padded ledge, I like to let my mind wander. What would my dream soft play be like? Here are some of my personal fantasy favourites:
CHEEKY MONKEY'S RETRO DISCO BOOZE BARN
Picture this. A large warehouse, just like any other. One side is a fully supervised mega play cage. But the other has a neon sign saying: 'DISCO'. Go behind the velvet curtain and boom - you're in Studio 54 in 1978. Bianca Jagger is riding a white stallion, Salvador Dali is balancing a tangerine on his head, and Andy Warhol looks on, bored to tears. You enter the VIP section, where fashion designer Halston dresses you in a bespoke playsuit with directional shoulders. Cue an afternoon of fabulous excess and hedonism - first one to have a whitey has to get off with
Pay to have your child safely and temporarily 'put to sleep' for 2 hours while you read the papers, catch up on your Poirrot box set or sit in a Windsor chair doing a 500 piece jigsaw of a cottage. Occasionally someone will bring you a cup of tea and adjust your cushions, asking 'do you need anything else?' in a soft, soothing voice.
BILLY BABOONS FLOATATION WORLD
Sometimes the sounds of shrieking kids continually asking if they can have a Ben 10 watch and a Super Mario DS game and the moon on a stick with extra marshmallows can grind you down. At Billy Baboons, your children will be entertained while you indulge in a bit of well-earned sensory deprivation. Go back to the womb in a floatation tank and forget all about the endless responsibility marathon that is now your everyday life. When you get out, you will be wrapped in a fluffy towel and someone will read you a nice story about rabbits.
ROUGH AND FUMBLE
Rough and Fumble does what it says on the tin. It is staffed entirely by attractive men, who will happily offer their services to stressed out mums without even the merest hint of suppressed horror. Not even a massive expanse of bum crack appearing from the waistband of a pair of Asda jeans can dampen their ardour. You can opt for a relaxing shoulder massage if you're not really in the mood, or go all out for a happy finish. They won't even mind if you cry with gratitude afterwards.
So Duncan Bannatyne, are you up for this? I will need ONE MILLION POUNDS. Call me.
Thursday, 24 November 2011
I don't want to get all Liz Jones on yo ass, but last weekend I had what could only be described as bit of 'rough and tumble' with my husband. Not in front of the children, all very above board, nothing wrong with that. Except beforehand, while I was out, some barman had convinced me to sample a whisky called Glenkinchie, which tasted like it had been strained through the seat covers of the Glasgow to Aberdeen megabus. I don't tend to drink whisky, on account that I cannot fucking stand it, but it had the effect of making our conjugal relations slightly more enthusiastic than normal - (normal being 'lying on back thinking about getting a new table lamp'.)
Now I don't know whether it was the shock of this unaccustomed nocturnal activity or just the fact that I was drunk and pushing 4o, but in the night I took a turn. Being the best mother ever (or so I imagined), I stumbled to the kitchen at 3 am to get my coughing child some Calpol, but then started to feel pretty weird and fainted. I came to underneath my husband's bike with a massive streak of oil and a tyre mark across my belly. Somewhere far away, I could hear Lance Armstrong tutting. My husband hauled me into the bed, checked my pulse, asked me my name, and satisfied that I was still alive, let me go to sleep.
'Mummy, why did you fall down in the night?' my innocent boy asked in the morning. 'Mummy got up too quickly,' said Mummy, cursing the Laird of Glenkinchie and his evil minions. But I knew the truth. 'I am a lush,' I said to myself. 'I am no better than a randy Hogarthian crone begging for change outside the gin palace. I need to get my shit together and do something boring with my life, like yoga.'
Since then, there have been other depressing indicators of my moral and physical decay. My teeth look knackered. My hair is dry. My hormones are doing a horrible dance around the kitchen. My legs are dim, my nose is knackered etc. Everything is falling apart and with it comes an anxious realisation that I am getting old and will one day DIE. I either need a trip to A&E or one hell of a Groupon spa deal.
Then the other day, my child came back from the dentist and was told not to have any juice, or jam or anything children like EVER because he had some decay forming on his teeth. So not only am I sliding into decay, but he is too. More guilt! More self loathing! Since then I've been hovering over him with toothpaste, snatching biscuits out of his hand and trying to keep him away from Haribo. I'm a bad mother! I'm a drunk and my wean's teeth are like toffee! The shame! The shame!
God, it's so stressful. In fact, it's enough to drive you to drink.
Thursday, 3 November 2011
For that reason I admit I use the TV or computers quite a lot when a) I'm making dinner b) drinking wine with other harrassed mothers and c) hiding in a corner suffering from exhaustion. It helps me to do important things, like not go mental. So when you're with my child for any length of time, he may sing the theme tune to Hotel Trubble, or exhort you to visit 'www.bbc.co.uk forward slash cBeebies.' He's like a little animated TV channel in his own right. LOUIS TV (Sky digital 6715) is a singing, dancing loony station that shows Tweety Pie/Snoopy/Gigglebiz mash ups, interspersed with him trying to describe what happened in Deadly 60 and then having a giant tantrum at 2pm.
I can't pretend I'm completely OK with this. According to the great accepted wisdom of parenting, (ie the Daily Mail) too much screen time is deemed bad. It delays speech, it does something to their neural pathways, it makes them think that Mr Tumble is their Dad - that sort of thing. You hear about iPhone obsessed babies who swipe their parent's faces with a little finger, hoping to change their Mum's miserable chops for a picture of a zebra or something. Instead, kids should be outside, experiencing nature and making forts from cardboard boxes, right? Even though I didn't enjoy doing any of those things as a child, MY child should be doing that, RIGHT?
Now Louis is old enough to play his friend's Super Mario Kart racing game, the amount of time he spends staring at screens is becoming one of my biggest neuroses. Of course, I forget that looking at screens is all everyone does. I check my phone 879 million times a day with my gob hanging open. I'm staring at my laptop now. I watch TV in the evenings, while live tweeting and ebaying and texting. Screens are everywhere! (Charlie Brooker once a very funny article about that here.)
And while being outside and playing with pebbles is OK, a 4 year old is awake for about 13 hours a day with no nap. So they're going to have to be magic fucking glowing pebbles with the voice of Michael Gambon if they're going to entertain them all day. Anyway, mothers can't always be doing imaginative play and swimming lessons and making faces out of peas and mashed potato. Life is boring sometimes. Let them relax, let them veg out, leave them to it. Let's face it, YOU wouldn't want some berk with a timer coming in and yelling 'COME ON! TIME TO SWITCH OFF THE X-FACTOR AND MAKE A CHARMING ROBOT OUT OF EGG BOXES!'
So I'm trying not to worry about it or feel guilty if I feel like cranking up the cBeebies website or sticking on the telly. He's not going to grow up to be an emotionally disconnected, unfeeling potato whose best friend is Pippin from Come Outside, is he? No.
Mind you, at my Nana's funeral the other week, he did look at me with big eyes and say 'Mummy? Can I play Angry Birds?'
Thursday, 4 August 2011
When it comes to demanding, unreasonable behaviour, it's a truth universally acknowledged that children are worse than any rock star. They want this colour plate, they want that colour grand piano, they won't perform (ie. put their socks on) unless the room is 21ºC and filled with Diptyque candles. My friend, who works for an events company, recently met Beyonce, whose entourage consisted of her Mum, bodyguards, and a person who went by the title 'Ambience Coordinator.' This person's job was presumably to ensure flattering lighting, plug in the odd Ambi-Pur and make sure nobody drops a stinky 'Sacha Fierce' in her vicinity, which when you're a billionaire megastar is probably par for the course.
But Beyonce is a breeze compared to any child under 5. They don't just want an ambience coordinator. They want a PR, a manager, a bodyguard, a photographer and an intimate wiper. Someone to carry their stuff, someone to clean up after them, someone to fix their stabilizers, someone to pay for the bouncy castle and someone to read them a story after a day of unforgivable excess and frankly embarrassing behaviour at a family fun day. They demand pink milk like Charlie and Lola, then leave it festering by the telly. They treat you like crap and hit you and stick their hands up your skirt. They even bother you in the night, coughing and spluttering, demanding room service and Calpol cocktails and asking you to leave the light on. ANIMALS.
The other day I read an interview with a woman called Julie Cafritz, who in the late 80s was a member of seminal New York punk band Pussy Galore. This is a woman who has seen it all, then gave it up to bring up her kids. Here's what she had to say:
'One of the things I could never fathom is why anyone would be a roadie. The pay was no good, and you spent your time doing other people's shit. With children, it's like a lifetime of being a roadie. Sippie cups. If you don't have that shit, they yell at you. And you don't get paid. And you try to plan for every variable in as small a package as you can. I got everything in this little bag, and if you don't have something, it's trouble. In between being a roadie for my kid, real work--being a real person--becomes hidden. Because your children have no interest.'
Spot on, Julie. That's what I am. That's what we all are. Whether we're rock stars or rocket scientists in our own lives, to our kids we will forever be humble roadies. Right down to the over-dependence on alcohol and exposed bum cracks.
Anyway, I'd better go. Beyonce - I mean, Louis - needs his baked potato carved into the shape of a swan.
Sunday, 15 May 2011
A few weeks ago Tina Fey's Prayer for My Daughter was all over the internet. This elegantly conceived wish list echoed the hopes and fears parents have for their children. In fact, it struck such a universal chord that it's probably being turned into a fridge magnet right now.
So here's my heartfelt version for sons, which may, if it's lucky, manage one re-tweet from @Gazbot23 of Slough. Enjoy.
A PRAYER FOR MY SON, AGED 4
May a tattoo of Tweety Pie smoking a joint never grace his drinking arm.
Lord, may he never snap after playing Grand Theft Auto 247 and shoot a prostitute outside an off-licence.
When he is asked if he wants to buzz deodorant/graze magic mushrooms in a park in Paisley/ smoke a bifter with cocaine in it on the way to school, may he look upon his father, who has a brain like Swiss cheese, and say no.
Guide him and protect him and lead him away from being a sex pest. Please let him grow out of sticking his hand down my cleavage and smelling it because he thinks it’s like a bum. And, also, stop him from trying to molest shop dummies in New Look, for it embarrasses his mother when she is shopping for £3.99 espadrilles.
Let him get a job which doesn’t include any of the following: fire juggler, painter of Celtic-themed pavement art, accountant, bomb disposal expert, aerobics instructor, roofer, Farmfoods ambient replenisher, bounty hunter, tabard-wearing charity representative, lion tamer, didgeridoo player, unsuccessful writer of ‘funny’ articles.
If he decides to join a band, may he be the sober(ish), shy, self-effacing bass player and not the twatty lead singer with the warty genitals and coke bogeys.
When he gets a girlfriend, please let her be a nice sensible type, and not a thick-as-mince 25 stone McFlurry-scoffing VD-riddled skank with a neon thong and a penchant for wild unprotected sex in car parks.
If he is gay, may he take his Mama out all night, get her jacked up on cheap champagne and show her what it's all about.
Please Lord, if he is successful, lead him not into the temptation to say the phrases 'going forward', 'PDF that to me' and 'get that to me for close of play.'
If he does get his skanky girlfriend pregnant, let him not choose the names Maldives, Ibrox or Aldi.