Festival Mum

Parent Dilemma. You want to go to a music festival. Should you take your small offspring? Is it still a proper festival experience if you might not see all the bands you want to and you don’t get slowly shit-faced?

This has been a tough one since I became a mum. It sounds amazing to integrate something you love from pre-parent days into family life. But is that realistic for us?

I have heard of many parents who throw a tent and wellies in the back of the car and head off for a mud and music filled adventure. I’m guessing that they are the types of families who love camping trips anyway. We are not. Or more specifically, I am not.

Since going camping with the Guides aged 12 I learned that it only takes two days for my curly hair to turn into a Medusa-like state without the aid of a power shower. I also like my own toilet.

So for the past few years I’ve just not bothered, instead choosing to watch ‘Live music’ on the TV red button, with a brew and my slippers on.

But now my Unbalanced Man plays guitar in a band that are getting invited to play at these festivals. So I want to go even more. Would 6 year old Joe enjoy watching Daddy play? Probably, for about 20 minutes from past experience. But, if you give him a choice between time at Granny’s where he can have bacon butties and ice-cream on tap, or being taken from tent to tent watching all the weird and wonderful artists perform songs that are NOT recognisable tunes from Disney and Pixar films, there’s no contest.

So that’s the answer then. Weekend at Granny’s, and off we go.

But uh-oh, here comes Mum Guilt. I absolutely hate sodding Mum Guilt.

“Going off having fun on your own are you?
Drinking are you?
Don’t think I’ve forgotten that you were away without him last weekend,
AND working away the week before that.
Look at THOSE parents who’ve brought their children.
Look how much fun the kids are having.
Joe would LOVE jumping on hay bails with them.
They are GOOD parents who REALLY love their kids.”

I tell you what Mum Guilt, you can absolutely fuck right off. Yes, perhaps Joe would have enjoyed BITS of the weekend, but probably not the whole of it. Instead, we’ve had an amazing weekend as a couple. Joe is back, more than happy and of course, full of ice cream. Next week Ste has another gig but I’m not going, and the week after we’re setting off on a family holiday. So everyone is happy. You might even say it’s all balanced as it should be.

I’ll admit that festival-ing as a mum wasn’t the same as pre-parent days. This time around we managed to stay up till the early hours on the first night, but didn’t get anywhere near shit faced, and on the second night we came home early and were in bed way before midnight.

So I’ll accept that I’m not a full-on Rock and Roll Mum, but I had a wonderful time. And, I’ll tell you a secret… I slept with* that guitar player!!

*Literally. We were knackered. 

Organised, disorganised or unbalanced

Celebrations like Fathers Day, offer a fantastic insight as to whether you are a naturally an ‘Organised person’ or a ‘Disorganised person’. Or it could be an opportunity to prove just how Unbalanced you are and have a total melt down.

My mum commented that she is fascinated that there were people in the supermarket in the afternoon of Fathers’ Day, flicking through whatever cards are still available on the shelves, even though they have known this celebratory day has been in the calendar all year. Clearly her disbelief proves that she is an organised person. Organised people don’t understand Disorganised people.

Organised people plan ahead for these days. They carefully choose just the right card, with an appropriate picture and oh-so-personal words that will evoke exactly the right sentiment, humour or abuse appropriate for their loved ones.

Organised people set aside time to consider a choice of gifts, and perhaps even compare prices while wandering round the shops on a day of shopping that has most certainly required A List.  Organised people always have A List. Or perhaps, the modern version of organised, where they peruse multiple websites, allowing plenty of time for their gift to be despatched and delivered ahead of the calendar-marked day.

Organised people will already have a choice of wrapping papers, cello-tape (in a handy dispenser), and if required, a packet of stamps in their purse or wallet.

Organised people are brilliant. I want to be one.

Then there are Disorganised people. I know quite a few of these, and I have to say as a sweeping generalisation, that many of them are men. Disorganised people don’t understand Organised people. They don’t see the point.

Disorganised people embrace, and often celebrate that cards and gifts are purchased at the last possible minute. An absolute maximum of celebration minus 48 hours, (more likely minus 2 hours).

Disorganised people buy a card and gift that is ‘exactly’ what the recipient wants. Even if in reality their choice of gift is something the recipient has vmnwver before clasped eyes on, or even knew existed, the Disorganised person will have convinced themselves at the point of purchase, that the fact the items are are a) in front of them, b) within an acceptable price bracket and c) gender appropriate or neutral, means they have chosen wisely and can move on with their day.

Disorganised people will usually remember to buy wrapping paper too. Even if they have 15 other half used rolls and sheets at home, it’s best to get some more.

Disorganised people are brilliant and worry free. I want to be one..

And then there are Unbalanced people. Me, of course.

It’s fair to say that I fluctuate between the organised and disorganised camps. I have a very strong desire to be organised. I even sometimes write A List. I rarely complete many of the activities on it, but I’m fine with that.

And I’m not unthoughtful. I THINK about the presents I want to buy for even longer than organised people spend shopping. I just might not make that essential purchase until the last minute.

My Fathers Day experience this year…
My mum’s birthday is two weeks before Fathers’ Day, so in a fit of ‘watch how organised I can be!’ I ordered personalised Funky Pigeon cards for my husband and my dad, 3 weeks in advance. Yep, 3 whole weeks. Someone should have given me a Well Done sticker. 

Suitably proud of myself I set about the long-term present choosing thought process. I even somehow managed to make a decision, go to the right shops and have gifts in my hands with 72 hours to spare.

I didn’t seek out wrapping paper because I remembered that only a few weeks before I had bought suitable paper and there was enough left over for the size of presents just bought.

Smug smile, I am (for once) Little Miss Organised. Seriously, why do people not make stickers for that?

Until the day comes to go visit my Dad. Now, where did I put those cards? Seriously, where the fuck did I put those cards?

You know when perspective goes out of the window? That happened. I had a total melt down. I turned the house upside down. I looked in the same places at least 20 times. I made my husband and child look in all those places, while I followed them round watching them do it. No amount of my husband saying ‘just get another one’ would stop me. In my head this was a symbol of everything that is wrong with my Unbalanced life. I just HAD to find them.

And the end of the story is that I didn’t find them. I still have absolutely no idea where they are. So I had to join the Disorganised people in Tesco, to panic-buy any card on the way to visit my Dad. But I took with me an utter frustration and self-loathing that I had qualified for the Organised person Olympics, in the run up to the race, and then fell flat on my face just before the finish line.

So there we have it. Whether you are an Organised or Disorganised person, this Unbalanced person is jealous of you. Because whether you bought a card two weeks or two hours in advance, you know where your fucking card is.

Will I turn into my mother?

They say it’s inevitable that a girl will turn into her mother. Good God that’s scary.

If it’s true then I’d better get my finger out, because I’ve got work to do.

If it’s true, then I’ll become the most loving, thoughtful and generous woman I know.

  • I’ll be able to mend clothes, bake great cakes and get any stain out of anything.
    (Seriously, she can do that!)
  • I’ll know the best treatment for every childhood illness.
  • I’ll be a wise but humble woman and a fiercely loyal friend.
  • I’ll remember birthdays, anniversaries and all those little things that are important to others.
  • I’ll be fun to be with but also happy to be on my own, in my garden, with a book.
  • Oh and I’ll be an amazing gardener who knows the names of plants and trees and birds (the proper names, not just ‘that one with the red leaves’)
  • I’ll be polite enough to meet the queen, but those close to me will hear me prove I know all the rude words too.
  • I’ll be a spelling and punctuation nazi, and even pull a pen out of my bag to correct graffiti on a public toilet door.
  • I’ll be an amazing grandma, and my grandchildren will look forward to seeing me, especially as I’ll always have a freezer full of the best ice-cream known to man.
  • And I’ll always, ALWAYS, drop everything the second my (grown up) baby needs me.

Fuck, that’s a lot to live up to! If I ever manage to get close to being as wonderful as my mum, my son should feel very lucky indeed.

#UnbalancedRoleModel

Slow down?

There’s a song and video doing the rounds called ‘Slow Down’. Everyone gushing how they sobbed when they watched. But I didn’t. I’m clearly a cold-hearted freak. Am I missing an essential mothering gene? 

Apparently Mothers around the world are hailing it the best song ever made. Accompanied by a compilation of videos of children playing, smiling with their parents and siblings and showing beautiful memories of everything in a perfect childhood.

The message is clear, “time with your children moves so fast”. 

I get the message – there are plenty of ‘blink and you miss it’ phases of raising a child. I’m just not feeling the sentiment with quite the same emotion, for two reasons:

 The stages the singer wants to Slow Down weren’t that fucking picture-perfect in reality

My experience so far tells me that actually it just gets better. So bring on the future! 

I can honestly say that every age my Ginger Boy has been so far, has been my favourite. When he was a new born baby, I remember people saying that babies are boring until they start to talk and show some personality. I was absolutely outraged! Had they not met MY baby? My completely gorgeous, expressive baby whose gurning face made me laugh every single day? 

But of course, as he grew in size and expression, I have to admit, babies are pretty damn boring compared to what comes next. And while I cherish all those memories of me bursting with love as his tiny fingers wrapped around mine, they are also entwined with memories of a period of no sleep, a mini breakdown and phoning friends asking how long this period of crying through the night (him and me) would last. 

 I most certainly did not want that time to Slow Down!

Last week my friend made a sad face because her youngest is now potty trained. I was amazed that this was not a celebratory event. She explained that it signifies he’s growing up and he’s not a baby anymore. Apparently many people feel the same way when their kids hit a significant milestone. 

I get it (I think), but again I was left thinking that I must have a heart of stone. When we reached that stage there was absolutely no mourning period. All I felt was a joyous realisation in a garden centre that when Ginger Boy told me he needed a poo, I was no longer required to perform the obligatory shit-sniff before taking my toddler into a disabled toilet, lay him out on a plastic tray, stinky end nearest my face, and hold his windmill-propelled legs away from my head with one elbow, to stop me being hit in the face by a shoe, a wet wipe or, let’s get real… actual shit. It never EVER occurred to me that I might look back on that phase with anything more than a vague fondness for the comedy shit related memories. I certainly don’t ‘miss it’!

And that’s how I feel about life, not just motherhood. Life phases are amazing. I don’t mourn for any of them or want them to Slow Down because there’s always something else ahead to look forward to. 

 For example:

‘School days are the best of your life’. Yes they are but…. I couldn’t wait to grow up and be old enough to go to the pub

The butterflies in your tummy for a first kiss are fantastic. But… Look at what comes later (sex obvs!) – a long term intimacy that’s well worth moving on from those butterflies

My single, party days were amazing. But…. then I got to meet my husband. 

Does my practical attitude mean I’m cold? Maybe. Should I take the video’s advice and Slow Down? Perhaps. The good phases and the bad phases and everything in between, all move fast. Thankfully I have a good memory and about 1000 photos to help me remember the good bits (I never took any photos of the poo windmill in action, so maybe I’ll forget those bits. Maybe that’s not a bad thing). 

I guess in summary….  I’m thankful for where we’ve been so far, happy with where we are now, and excited about where we might go to tomorrow. I don’t want to slow down OR speed up. I’m just grateful to be on this roller coaster of a parenthood ride. 

I love you, but do I like you?

When I first meet someone, a new friend, partner, work colleague, whatever, I ponder ‘do I like them?’. I assess their characteristics: Are they a nice person? Do they make me laugh? Do I enjoy their company? Do we have things in common? And so on.

But when they have been part of my life for a while, like a few years or decades, I stop thinking about it. By then I assume I must just love them – love them enough to keep them in my life rather than just let them drift away.

So I’ve been thinking… If you’ve loved someone for years, or you are family, does love replace like?  And is that OK? Whether that’s your partner, your sibling or your best friend, do you ever stop to think ‘do I still like them?’ or even perhaps, ‘do they still like me?’!

When we love someone do we take for granted the things that we once noticed as good characteristics? I think that just possibly, as time goes on, we are more prone to notice and acknowledge their faults and the things that niggle us. I’m pretty sure that if a made a tally chart of the times me and my husband comment on each others’ flaws, vs the times we point out each others brilliance, the flaws list would be just a touch longer. I doubt we’d need a recount to be sure.

This week me and my Unbalanced Man went on a date. Just us. It’s a rare thing. Usually the need to get a babysitter means we’ve been driven by a specific reason – an invitation to a party or night out with others. Very rarely do we make a conscious decision to spend sociable time out of the house with each other. Only each other.

And let’s be totally honest, on a normal night – mid week or weekend – when we reach that special time where it’s just the two of us, we don’t set the table, light a candle, pour a glass of wine and debate the deep and meaningful topics of life. Don’t be ridiculous. We plop a plate on a tray table (you know those ones with the bean bag thing underneath), choose something to watch on TV and act like we’re on Gogglebox.

Other than comments about our chosen TV programme, the sum our our conversation post kid bedtime is not much more than three questions and answers:
1. Q: How was your day?
A: Busy.
2. Q: What shall we watch?
A: Whatever, you choose.
3. Q: Are you making a brew or what?
A: Sigh… Yep

So do we actually still like each-other? I know I love him, I know I appreciate lots of the things he does and I know that we’re a good partnership. But, that’s all a bit grown up and a bit practical.

Then…. date night. Suddenly I become acutely aware that our conversation will probably need to run past the usual 20 or so words (Yes, I did just count them).

I found myself getting giddy on the train into town, telling stories from my day and talking about plans for the weekend and I actually paused and thought, ‘slow down crazy girl, we’ve got all night to talk. Don’t say everything now or we might run out of things to say later.’

Is that bad? I was actually sort of nervous. I know that’s ridiculous, but in a weird way it was also exciting because it turns out that we did have plenty to talk about. And before you get suspicious, it wasn’t all about planning the practical stuff we need to do next week, or the typical parent cliche of talking about our kid all night. We just talked. Not about anything in particular, just about stuff. And that’s when I remembered how much I LIKE him. Truth be told, I’ve never even stopped liking him, I just forgot to think about it for a while. Perhaps that’s a good, comfortable, natural progression, or perhaps it’s a little sad.

We came out of the restaurant to find a bar with a live band playing and immediately knew that was what we both wanted to do. Because we have things in common! There it was. Just like being on a first date, I was assessing him all over again and I LIKED him. We find it easy to talk, to make each other laugh, to be nice to each-other.

do i like you.jpeg

Even better…… later, I got lucky!
We might even go on another date soon.