Monthly Archives: July 2014

Keep that nurse away from me!

My youngest daughter has developed a phobia of medical professionals. It doesn’t matter how many in depth conversations we have with her about the fact that they are they to help people, her mind has been made up: they are out to hurt her.

I know exactly where this stems from. I remember the moment well: her preschool jabs. Much as we all hate the idea of taking our tiny babies to have their injections at 8, 12 and 16 weeks, in our case at least, this ultimately proved to be a reasonably painless affair. A brief temperature spike maybe, but nothing that a bit of Calpol wouldn’t solve. Crucially, babies at this age (again, maybe just mine) have the memory of a goldfish and are rarely emotionally scarred by the experience. Not so for 3 year olds.

3 year olds are move savvy. In Faith’s case, her preschool jabs went like this:

Go to doctors.

Wait to see the nurse.

Listen to her comforting chatter and her reassurance that it won’t hurt because it’s ‘just a scratch’.

Be jolted into righteous indignation on being injected and discovering that yes, it did hurt (albeit momentarily) and therefore, this nurse just conned you.

Never forget and never forgive.

I am not sure when and how Faith came to put such importance on other people’s honesty (it certainly it doesn’t appear to go the other way and she is more than happy to con, manipulate and tell little white lies herself), but she does not take kindly to feeling like she has been misled. If you tell her, for example, that it is supposed to be sunny in the morning and she probably can wear the summer dress she has picked out, then woe betide you if the rain falls the next day. This change of circumstance will be a source of considerable irritation to Faith, leading to aggrieved complaints that you have ‘tricked’ her followed by a sulky silence in protest at your dishonesty.

If we now re-visit the preschool jabs incident, it may be a little clearer why this event proved such a game changer in Faith’s mind. From her perspective, the nurse had intentionally lulled her into a false sense of security before callously stabbing her in the arm. No amount of friendly chatter after the event, or even compensatory chocolate buttons provided by yours truly was going to make up for this blatant deception. The medical profession had duped her once, but Faith would not let them do so again.

And so began years of ‘doctor phobia’ where the merest hint of injury would instigate panicked cries of “Don’t take me to the doctors!”

When Faith started school and began attending her new child-minder, I could only be grateful that she was not the first of my children to be in her care given that Faith’s frantic cries of “don’t tell Mummy!” when she fell, bumped into things, or hurt herself in some way would otherwise have surely led to a quick referral to Social Services!

Aware that this situation would cause considerable problems if Faith ever had real need of medical attention, I decided to implement a plan of action to convince her that doctors and nurses are actually very nice people. One week, as I pondered how best to do this, I had a light bulb moment. My brilliant plan, based on 11 years of Psychology teaching, was to take Faith to watch me give blood, thereby curing her of her phobia of doctors (particularly those wielding needles that they might stab in her arm). Genius!

It wasn’t long into our 40 minute wait at 7.30pm in a busy church hall that I started to wonder if this really had been my best idea yet. Faith was tired after a day at school and tiredness, in this particular child, seems to induce mania. She bounced around, asking odd, incoherent questions of anyone who would listen and when we finally made it to the blood donation beds, produced her pièce de résistance. As the nurse instructed me to lay down on the bed, Faith piped up and declared ‘Don’t worry, Mummy. You just have to close your eyes and think about Jesus’ at which the lady putting the needle in my arm collapsed in giggles and I tried to look as far from being a Christian fundamentalist as possible!

After this adventure, things did appear calmer, but when doctors are mentioned, Faith’s old mistrust still surfaces even now 3 years on from ‘jab-gate’. I can only hope that, with time, this resentment will slip from her memory and the medical profession will attain their proper place in the mind of my youngest daughter as a group of people who are there to help in times of need.

If not, well, she can always close her eyes and call on higher powers….she’s not called Faith for nothing you know!


Loom bands: a surprisingly perilous hobby.

As I tried to avoid hoovering up a loom band s-clip this morning, I was forced to ponder the relative strengths and weaknesses of this ubiquitous new craze. If you are a parent of children aged 5 and above and you have yet to come across loom bands, then seriously, get with the programme!

In our household we came fairly late to loom bands; the girls never mentioned them and I eventually started them on the loom band path myself when I noticed friends on facebook commenting on how they had brought harmony to previously fractious sibling relationships. ‘I’m having some of this magic formula’ I thought and went straight onto Amazon to purchase a box. A box of 300 bands and a ‘loom’ duly arrived and we were off….

Now, as I mentioned, this craze is not without its merits. I admire the skill and dexterity with which my children ‘knit’ together the bands, and the speed with which they have both mastered various complex techniques makes me wonder if I should perhaps, be putting my children to work in some more useful capacity within the family home (sewing on the ever growing pile of Brownie badges for example).

It is also true that, at times, sibling rivalry is subsumed underneath a tranquil wave of calm as both children sit quietly in rapt concentration creating an ever growing chain of bands…..but….

..there is indeed, a ‘but’, or a few in fact…

1) They won’t do it properly and it drives me mad!

Now you may, rightly, feel that I shouldn’t actually care what my children do with their own toys, but as a person with an irrational adherence to rules and convention, I can’t help but be frustrated that my children are so disregarding of the friendship bracelet concept that is at the core of the loom band craze. They rarely make bracelets, preferring instead to create a chain as long as possible, suggesting that it is the process of creating, rather than the desire for any kind of useful finished product, that they enjoy. I know….that’s fair enough, right? But I want a bracelet that my child has made me…is that really too much to ask?!!

2) It creates another source of division and manipulation:

My children are masters in the art of using any means available to them to be top dog and get others to do their bidding and the loom bands are just another weapon in their armoury. Faith, in particular, has attempted to employ her loom band supply as a means of bribing her sister and peers to ‘be her friend’ i.e. to play the games she chooses and let her go first at everything. This is not always a successful strategy. You may remember in my earlier jail post ( that Faith was brought in from the garden for incessant screeching; this was the result of a failed attempt at loom band bribery when she discovered that the others were more interested in bouncing on the trampoline than in any contraband deals she had to offer.

3) It has furnished me with new ways to reveal my seriously deficient parenting:

So sometimes we say stuff without thinking, right? That’s not just me, I am sure and that’s understandable and forgivable. But other times I say things which, in the back of my mind I realise have serious bad parenting potential….but I say them anyway.

I was forced to face the consequences of my contemptible actions recently when my husband came downstairs to reprimand me about one such poorly executed comment (actually, he didn’t reprimand me at all, what he actually said was ‘ I think I have some material for your blog.’ showing that he is as callous as I am and our children have no chance!).

Anyway, the problem had come when Faith called out to say she couldn’t sleep. Upon further investigation, Mike discovered that she was worried that her fingers might fall off in the night because ‘Mummy told me a story about a girl who fell asleep with a loom band on her finger and her finger fell off.’ Ana then piped up from her room to inform her that ‘Mummy told me the fingers had only gone blue and didn’t actually fall off’ thereby revealing two unavoidable truths: firstly, that I knowingly attempted to scare both of my children on separate occasions with loom band horror stories (read on the internet so they must be true) and secondly, that I was unashamedly prepared to exaggerate the consequences when retelling the story to Faith for even greater effect.

Shame on me, you may say, and I would agree, but just remember Larkin’s poem ‘They **** you up, your mum and dad’ and you’ll realise I am only doing my job…..

…and I did stay at the start that loom bands have some surprising perils….

And you may ask yourself…how did I get here?

I write this post after a day spent at my children’s school for the end of year certificate presentations. Whenever I attend an event like this, or more specifically, any time I am forced to view my children from a slightly distant perspective, I find myself thinking of the Talking Heads song ‘Once in a lifetime’. You know the one…’and you may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful house, this is not my beautiful wife…’ where the narrator appears to have suddenly realised that they are in a life that kind of crept up on them bit by bit. I have much the same thoughts at these times… ‘these are not my growing children! How can they be? How did I get here?’

They goes past quickly, our children’s childhoods. We all know this. We know we have to grasp the precious moments and savour each milestone. But it’s hard. In the rush and chaos of everyday life we barely have a chance to catch a breath, let alone savour anything!

But see your child in a group of other children; away from the family nest; out in the world and suddenly you are jolted to a stop and you notice just how much has changed.

From that slightly distant perspective, I see my children with new eyes. I see them, just in that moment, as other people must see them: as little people in their own right; growing and changing and becoming themselves. Becoming other. In this moment I recognise that I tend to see my children as an extension of myself. I assume I know them completely; they are mine as much as I am me. But as they grow, I realise this is no longer true. They are becoming separate; unconsciously tearing themselves away from my grasp; making their own, unique way in the world.

And I don’t know them completely.

Granted I probably know them better than anyone else, and as I look at them standing on the stage, my heart softens with love that is born of recognition. My children. I claim them.

I watch my youngest daughter grinning on the stage, suddenly much taller than I thought she was, looking over to me and swelling with pride, and for a moment I don’t recognise her. For a fleeting instant, I ask myself if this girl on the stage is really my daughter; the child I have nurtured, fed, clothed, scolded and loved from her very first hours in the world. Because in this brief moment, I see she is more than that. She is herself. And I know in my heart that every passing day will make her more so and will pull her that bit further away from me.

And one day they will both be fully grown and I will ask myself…how did I get here?

Families magazine article

I wanted to post a link to this on my side-bar, but my poor tech skills have shown me to be incapable of achieving this simple task! I will have to make do with a link on a blog post instead.
Basically, I have started a weekly post which will appear every Thursday on the Families Solent East magazine website. Take a look at the first one and visit again next Thursday!

Cheers. Helena x

Beware the cry: ‘Let’s do something nice for Mummy.’

Children, like the rest of us, are generally well-intentioned. They set out on grand schemes to do something nice…and that something nice is often for Mummy (naturally).

So far, so good, you may say.

But, like the rest of us, the good intentions of children do not always pan out quite as expected and I was reminded of this fact one afternoon recently as my daughter vehemently berated me for failing to provide her with the right kind of card to make a birthday card. The irony of the situation – that it was MY birthday card she wanted to make – apparently escaped her as she stormed off in a huff when my card provision failed her yet again.

Of course this is not the first time I have been struck by the irony of my children being at their most objectionable, demanding and generally irritating when they are ostensibly trying to do something nice. In fact, the more noble their plans, the more likely the chance the whole scheme will crash and burn in a flame of disappointment and a flood of tears (possibly mine).

Take the first morning of half-term as exhibit (a) when I awoke to be told that it was ‘Mummy’s special day’ and therefore, the rest of the household would apparently ensure that jobs were done and I would have a happy and restful time. As I lay back in my warm bed bewildered and slightly surprised, it was hastily pointed out that this new event would be part of a rolling programme where each member of the household would take it in turns to have a ‘special day’ and that therefore, after I had enjoyed my day, I would need to be prepared to make a bit of extra effort to ensure the special days of the remaining three members of the family were also perfect.

To be honest, they lost me at this point. I was all for Mummy’s special day, but reasonably sure it wasn’t worth the extra demands that it would place on me in the ensuing days. Better to cut my losses and go back to normal I figured..…
….except I wasn’t in charge on this one. Ana was. And Ana favours a military style of management. Faith, conversely, does not respond well to military orders (or actually any orders really) and so I did not have high expectations of the possible success of this mission.

I lay in bed and listened as Ana laid out the plans: they would make breakfast and then tidy their rooms without complaining. ‘Brilliant’, I thought. ‘Maybe we can make it to lunchtime with this actually working out.’ But my foolish optimism was, once again, misplaced and approximately 10 minutes in, Faith was not playing ball. She had refused to follow Ana’s directions and had incurred her wrath – twice. Ana, in turn, was now hysterical, wailing that she (by being angry and shouting at Faith) had ‘ruined Mummy’s special day’. Her anguished self-reproach, reminiscent of Dobby the house-elf in Harry Potter, proved the game changer of the morning and as if by magic, my role in the whole sorry fiasco switched from ‘enjoy the day’ to ‘reassure Ana repeatedly that she hadn’t ruined my special day.’

And, just like that, we were back to reality.

Special days…..pah!….never liked them much anyway.

Musical Youth (or: my children WILL NOT like One Direction).

When I hear parents talk about playing ‘children’s CDs’ in their car (sometimes begrudgingly and sometimes with pleasure), I react in much the same way as when I hear people say that they iron their bedding or their tea towels: ‘What?’, I think to myself, ‘You’re really supposed to do that?’.

Am I really expected to spend 10 years listening to music in my car that I don’t even like? I don’t remember signing up to that!

So I get it. Children need to go through a stage of shocking musical taste: bobbing to S Club equivalents; staring dreamily at posters of boy band lotharios; and warbling along to the strains of bland X Factor winners. All this they need to do as part of their ‘pupa’ stage before emerging as beautiful, discerning, music-loving butterflies. I know this. I DID this. I have vivid memories of sitting in my bedroom aged approximately 14, repeatedly playing my Michael Bolton tape (note: CDs had not made the big time at this stage). And I also know that this stage is crucial; that it can’t be by-passed; that you cannot enforce your idea of good musical taste onto your children: they need to discover for themselves.

But hey, I can certainly try my best to shape my children’s musical taste because ultimately that’s what parents do isn’t it? Try to pass on their own values, expectations and even tastes to their children? Or is that just me?

One of my proudest moments of the year was when my 8 year old had to take her favourite CD to Brownies and she chose my Vampire Weekend album. ‘Mission music-taste conversion well and truly in progress’, I thought smugly. I am winning the battle (for the moment at least).

I am aware that my victory may be short-lived. The joy of my daughter’s voice drifting from another room singing ‘Secret Meeting’ by The National, is sometimes replaced by the strains of that darned song from Frozen or the John Lewis Christmas advert….and that’s OK really. I know I will have to face the reality of losing my hold on the musical experiences of my children. Family trips to the Greenman Festival and constant immersion in the Kraftwerk back catalogue (husband responsible for that one) will eventually fail to hold back the tide of tweeny pop. But for the time being, I am content in the knowledge that my 6 year old daughter will often burst spontaneously into a chorus of ‘Hang the DJ, hang the DJ.’

For now at least, my work here is done.



I feel compelled to add a footnote here in deference to the people who know me and who will see the glaring omissions in this post.  I admit, here on a public forum, that I am more than a little partial to listening to the Glee soundtrack; S Club’s finest hits and (my top favourite) ‘Moves like Jagger’ when the mood takes me.  It’s not a crime.  I just didn’t mention it because I am trying to look cool.  OK?