Friday, 21 July 2017

Ten Things I Have Learned in My First Year as a School Mum

1. Schools still smell the same as they did in the 90s. Like PVA glue mixed with cabbage. 

2. It doesn’t matter how nice they are, teachers make you feel like you are ten. You'll want to impress them and, despite being a fully-functioning adult who left primary school decades ago, you will find yourself at parents’ evening sitting on Borrower-sized chairs worrying that you’re about to get told off. Yes, Miss.

3. Your level of parental organisation will have a direct correlation with where you are in the school year. For the first few weeks, when you are as keen as mustard, a crisp uniform will be lovingly laid out the night before, books will be read dutifully in the evening and you’ll arrive at the classroom on time. By July, your child will be dragged out of the door wearing something resembling a uniform (including odd socks and a greying polo shirt you had to sniff) as you bust a bollock trying not to be late, again. 

4. Phonics seems like the most cock-arsed way of doing things until you realise your child has developed the tools to start reading themselves. Which, after a year, is pretty marvellous. (Just don’t attempt reading when either of you are tired – I nearly had a breakdown in the first term over Tim’s Din). 

5. Schools can’t get enough of Comic Sans, a font which most of us thought had died out at the turn of the century. I think they must use it because it makes the letters in the book bag seem friendly.*

6. Extracting info from your child about what they have been up to requires a snack bribe and/or Chinese water torture. It might as well be classified info. What the chuff do they do all day? The only information freely offered relates to school dinners - I can confirm that Henry has consumed upwards of 150 jacket potatoes since September. Oh and ‘school roast dinners are nicer than Mummy’s!’ Super.

7. There is no pride quite like the pride of watching your child in their first Nativity play or end of term dance performance.

8. There is also no guilt quite like missing Sports Day (sorry H-Bomb, Mummy had to work).

9. On the very last day of term your child will look like a giant compared to how they looked on day one. They will also have developed an attitude, a sassy eye-roll and quite possibly knowledge of 'naughty words'. ('Please don't call your brother a 'penis butt crack.')

10. Teachers have a bloody hard job and don't get enough credit. I will be forever grateful to the reception team in Henry’s class for taking care of him when he cried every morning and then, when he found his feet, for putting up with his daily renditions of Despacito. Respect of the highest order. 

If you are worried about your little one heading into school for the first time in September, please know that it will all be okay. You can see how emotionally charged I was the day before Henry started school and we have lived to tell the tale.  

*MY MIND HAS BEEN BLOWN by the response to this question! It seems Comic Sans is widely used by schools because it has the right form of letters e.g. the 'a' kids learn when reading and writing. So there you go. I promise not to wince at it in future ;-)

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Dear Anna: a Response to that Daily Mail 'Article'

Dear Anna May Mangan,

I would usually start a letter with some textbook niceties, perhaps 'I hope this finds you well' or something about the weather, but I am just about to stick some fish fingers in the oven and crack open another bottle of Sauv Blanc, so I'll cut to the chase. 

When I woke up this morning I discovered I had an unusually high number of social media notifications alongside several 'Have you seen the Mail Online, yet?' messages. A couple of years ago, this early morning flurry of online activity would almost certainly have thrown me into a sicky panic but this morning there was no such fear as I clicked through to your article. I already knew what it would say. 

In fact, if I had put money on it, I would have been on the lookout for a five-point attack:

Something about being slummy. Check. 
Something about swearing. Check.
Something about alcohol. Check.
Something about fish fingers. Check.
An overarching message about how mums should cherish every single moment. Check. 

I do think it's a bit of a shame that you felt the need to attack a group of mum bloggers and authors but I completely understand why you did. We are terrible parents, or at the very least we are all masquerading as terrible parents simply for likes and shares. That's not how us mums should behave, I can see that now. It would be so much healthier for the maternal nation if we all swept our bad days under the carpet and captioned every photo with #blessed. I promise I will try harder.

The thing is, if you had actually taken the time to properly read any of my stuff you would have come across the many heartfelt chapters I've dedicated to my boys, and indeed my own mother, who died of cancer when I was young. You would have known that I regularly beat myself up for not cherishing every sodding second but that on balance, I have decided that sharing the good, the bad and the ugly is more important. Potty training is ugly. Fact. 

You say that you, 'appreciate how this 'honesty' could make new mums feel less isolated and more reassured' but I couldn't help but mutter 'bullshit' when I read that token paragraph, particularly noting that you also say, 'these arrogant women shouldn't forget that, as well as being hard, a new baby is a gift.' 

That was the point at which I knew I had to say something. For all the mums out there who, like me (and Katie, Clemmie, Steph, Helen and Ellie - all good pals of mine, actually, we like to have Slummy Mummy Squad meetings), might read your bile and feel bad for having the odd moan. 

These were for me. The kids have theirs raw.
Admitting to serving up beige frozen goods ('freezer tapas' we like to call it, we're very middle class), confessing to the odd hangover and occasionally ranting about the inability to go to the toilet without a small person trying to unwrap our sanitary items is not boasting, Anna. It's just real life. Whether or not you choose to believe that what we are documenting is in fact our real lives is not really any concern of mine. I shan't lose any sleep over a lack of endorsement from the Mail. The point of this post is simply to say shame on you for failing to recognise the wider importance of this so called 'slummy mummy movement.' 

If taking snaps of fish fingers, cursing the bastard stray Lego impaling my feet in the middle of the night and offering a virtual hug to mums who are having a shitty day is wrong then shoot me down, because I don't want to be right.

I would like to conclude by saying a massive thank you for sending an extra thousand or so followers my way just this morning, and pushing both my books back up the chart (I'm guessing that probably wasn't your intention but I am ever so grateful, thank you). I couldn't help but think your mention of our bestselling books smacked of jealousy, which I can't for the life of me understand because your own parenting manual, The Pushy Mother's Guide, sounds like an absolute classic. 

Have a lovely day, I know I will.

Yours sincerely,

Sarah Turner
A boastful slummy mummy from Devon. 

Monday, 23 January 2017

Chaos Theory

This morning, when I got back from doing the school run, I unlocked the door, awkwardly shimmied past Jude’s pram and Henry’s scooter - both of which appear to be permanently wedged in our hallway (a standoff over who should clean the mud-encrusted wheels) – and then, in a slapstick Tom & Jerry style move, I trod on PC Selby’s police car (one of several Postman Pat toys young Jude received in his stocking from the big FC) and I went flying, travelling at least a metre towards the stairs with my arms flailing. Had it not been for the pram, which I grabbed hold of on my way to the floor, I think I might have broken something. Or died. Imagine that! Death by treading on PC Arthur Selby’s police car would be such a tragic tale, would it not? Anyway, the pram came to the rescue so I felt bad for having cursed the 'twatting obstacle course' on my way out.

I must have looked all kinds of ridiculous taking flight with one foot on a toy vehicle and both arms windmilling, and, after an initial chuckle to myself, I had to have a little sit down on the sofa to recompose myself, a bit like old people do when they've ‘had a fall.’ As I assessed the state of the living-room - which looks a lot like we’ve been burgled with all the contents of the drawers and cupboards spilling out onto the floor - I realised that the toy explosion in front of me was evidence of the morning we’d had before the school run. 

It told a story, and as I sat for a moment I allowed my mind to piece it all back together: ‘Baby Richard’ the dolly, discarded to one side because Jude had got bored ‘feeding’ him so had plonked him down and moved on to take a call from Miss Rabbit on his phone. The plastic toy tub, upturned, because Henry had been wearing it on his head, shouting, ‘I am a Dalek!’ The stacking cubes arranged in an unconventional top-heavy tower alongside a pole which started its life as a mast for a toy ship before the ship fell foul of rough play and ended up in the ‘Bye-bye box’ in the loft (absolutely not at the dump if Henry asks because we are not allowed to take broken things to the dump or put them in the bin, not even broken pen lids). 

To the side of the boxes lay a collection of Nerf bullets which, I realised, had been forming the basis of a ‘trap’ – Henry is very much into making traps these days and although none of them actually work we must pretend they do, which is all well and good until you’re trying to cook dinner and get called away from the hob to theatrically act out being caught in his non-existent deadly webs. PC Selby’s police car was positioned as a death-trap in the hallway because prior to us all having trudged out into the cold it had been PC Selby’s mission to save a Sylvanian rabbit from ‘the witch’ who appears to be everywhere both inside and outside of our house at the moment, despite being invisible. 

I have lost count of the number of times since becoming a parent that I have cursed the state of the house, muttering under my breath about the ‘piles of plastic crap’ and sighing at having to contort myself into a size zero to get past that pram which has left the already-narrow hallway so snug I pretty much had intercourse with the electrician as I showed him out the other day. But this morning, as I sat in a quiet house, staring at the usual trail of destruction, I saw things differently. 

I reviewed the evidence. 

And for once, I wasn’t looking at it like it was the evidence from a crime scene, nor was I rushing to stuff all the toys back into their boxes while wondering aloud why I bloody bother tidying up in the first place. Because, I realised, the chaos is what makes our house a home.

The toothbrush on the side reminds me of the daily battle to get my two-year-old to let me brush his teeth, which usually results in him trying to bite me and somebody crying. 

The mud-encrusted pram reminds me of the walk we went on where we argued about the suitability of the terrain for a pram (I feel I have made my point). 

The washing draped over radiators and chairs reminds me that I haven’t been on top of the washing situation for the last four years because life is busy and kids are messy.

The dishes on the table remind me that there were two boys sloppily shovelling Weetos into their mouths while singing ‘Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg’ and laughing so hard that milk came out of their noses.

All of it, the total pandemonium, is what reminds me that there are children living here. It’s not a showhome, it’s a family home - it's messy and lived-in and loved. 

Yes, I will continue to curse the pram as I bash into it with my hip and I will continue to nag my children to put a few things away so it looks slightly less like a tornado has hit. But just for a moment this morning I imagined photoshopping all the chaos out of the picture and I didn't much like it. 

One day, the time will come when the dining table is clear, the cupboards are tidy and all the washing is up to date. Perhaps it will be when my children have grown up and moved out, when I have started grilling them about their relationship statuses to assess my chances of becoming a grandmother. 

One day, I reckon I will have the sanctuary of calm I so desperately longed for only it won't feel much like a sanctuary at all. 

I will miss the chaos.

So thank you, PC Arthur Selby in your tiny police car, for being kind enough to trip me up and remind me of that. 

I would like to apologise to anybody who has clicked on this blog post hoping for something mathematical about deterministic dynamics or some clever commentary about the 'butterfly effect'. I'm afraid this post doesn't really explore Chaos Theory at all.