If there’s one thing I have quite a few of, it’s kids! Four of the little buggers to be exact.
I first became a mum at the tender age of 22, which in hindsight was far far too young. I was woefully unprepared in practically every way. Poor Georgia was my crash test baby, having to put up with my terrible cooking, questionable baby dress-sense, complete lack of organisation and inability to do anything other than wonky pigtails in her beautiful thick hair.
(Georgia pre You Tube)
Thankfully things have changed a bit since then. I’ve had to grow up, and I have my kids to thank for teaching me how to do quite lot of the things I’m now able to. Here’s a rundown of some of the most important teachings:
- GROOMING. Pre kids, my grooming skills were non-existent. As a child you were much more likely to find me brushing the hair of the pony I used to look after than my own, and I’ve never really been that bothered about it all. Even that time in the 90’s when I asked the hairdresser to give me a ‘Rachel’ cut, thinking I’d end up looking like Jennifer Aniston, but in fact ended up looking more like Rod Stewart didn’t really phase me. ‘It’s just hair’ I thought ‘It’ll grow back’ (this attitude stood me in good stead for chemo!) Having three daughters quickly changed all this. Once they started school, gone were the days of wonky pig tails – the girls got demanding and I got a bit competitive. Spying all the pretty little plaits and well groomed yummy mummies at the school gates motivated me to Google a few tutorials and stumbled across Cute Girls Hairstyles. Thanks to Mindy and her gorgeous bunch of kids (she has even more than me) pretty soon I was able to dutch braid and fishtail like Vidal Sassoon. Now…how to do boys hair!
- FINANCES. I’ve learned that no matter how money much you have, it will never quite be enough. Oh, I know all the clichés like money can’t buy happiness blah blah blah but when you have kids, happiness unfortunately doesn’t buy the contents of Top Shop, everything in Boots, or any of the 447 toilet rolls that we seem to get through each week. Apparently the average cost of raising a child in the UK is £230,000 – well I think we’ve probably spent that in make-up for the teens this year alone!
- NEGOTIATION SKILLS. ‘Can I have some sweets?’ ‘Can I have a sleepover?’ ‘Can I go to the park on my own?’ ‘Can I have a new pair of trainers?’ ‘Can I have a pet dinosaur?’…These are just some of the questions I’m asked on an hourly basis, usually by more than one child at a time. In addition to learning to zone out (i.e. completely ignore them) Dodging, avoiding and placating recalcitrant toddlers and whingey tweenagers has given me the finely honed skills of a hostage negotiator.
- PATIENCE. Anyone who’s tried to get anywhere in a hurry with a 2 or 3 year old who’s insisted on walking rather than going in their pushchair like you wanted them to, will know all about the art of patience. Their walking speed will be that of a ninety year old with gout, and they’ll stop and examine in immense detail every single stick, worm, snail, blade of grass and speck of dust on their journey. A two minute walk will take you at least forty. When you try to pick them up they’ll hold their arms up and slither through your hands like a piece of spaghetti. The only time they’ll move quickly is when you reach your desired destination and want them to stand still for 5 seconds. At that point they’ll develop the running speed of Usain Bolt.
- Quiet House = Not Good. One afternoon when Georgia was around two, I put her upstairs in her room for some quiet play whilst I got on with a few jobs. After months and months of hearing her incessant chatter, the house suddenly went eerily quiet. ‘Oh this is lovely’ I stupidly thought to myself ‘Georgia’s playing so nicely in her bedroom’. Big BIG mistake. After around half an hour of ‘quiet play’ I ventured upstairs, expecting to be greeted by a contented little girl playing make believe with her dollies. Instead I was greeted by her bedroom door gate laying uselessly on the floor (she had somehow managed to undo the bolts) and with what I can only liken to a scene from the tsunami blockbuster ‘The Impossible’. There was water. There was bubbles. There was lipstick smeared over every surface. There was an array of fat water filled tampons stuck on walls. There was hideously deformed dolls with hacked off hair and missing limbs floating on the bathroom floor. Lesson learned.
I could go on to tell you about my lesson in always remembering to check work clothes before entering v.important meeting in case the back of your smart dress is covered in Peppa Pig stickers. Or the lesson in sharing every single item of expensive clothing and make-up you own, leaving you with only a pair of leggings with a hole in the crutch and a washed out bra with the strap missing. However, I feel this is unfair and may de-rail your own lessons with your children.
Instead I’ll leave you with the most important lesson of all, which is how to love with your entire being, unconditionally and forever more.
‘Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body’ – Elizabeth Stone.