Rocking Horse

The waiting room is empty for once. The only sound is the piercing scream of an infant. It doesn’t matter, my baby girl will be chirping in soon enough when it’s her turn. I feel sorry for the doctor, really. He spends the day administering vital vaccinations and checking over children only to get screamed at.

For now, back here in the waiting room, all is peaceful. My baby is snoozing, the toys in the island are packed away, the books are neat, and the rocking horse and elephant are stored neatly under the coat rack.

Those rocking toys.

They are old, going by the wear on the wood. They lack any decoration and are simply designed. I always wonder how long they’ve been part of the wares provided to distract snotty and feverish kids waiting to see the physician. Probably a decade, at least. Plain and simple compared to the all singing, all dancing toys available, they’re extremely forgettable.

They have their place in my story, though.

It’s two and a half years since I first sat in this waiting room. I had the same bassinet with the same blanket, same wrap holding nappies and wipes. Then, though, it was my baby boy snuggled down in a hat carefully knitted by a friend, his eyes flickering under the green trim. (The flickering eyes of my daughter are so similar, the hat the same style, this time with a purple trim.)

I used to look at the rocking toys and apparently healthy kids swinging back and forth (I’ve since learned kids don’t typically look sick in the way adults do. They still run circles round you between sneezes.) and find it unbelievable that my son would be that kid riding a wooden horse and making clicking noises with his tongue.

Over the last 36 months, we’ve had a few routine trips to the doctor’s office. And each time my boy has engaged more with the rocking toys. Sitting, he was at constant risk of losing a finger as he insisted on pushing back and forth with one hand, the other in the danger zone.

From sitting came pulling himself up delightedly. Then asking to sit on them with enthusiasm, rocking gently as I made horsey noises. (My elephant impression still needed work back then.) Now he can stride over, mount the horse and inform me that he is off to see his auntie or his best buddies. This toy has been a marker of sorts, a way to see the remarkable things he learns as the months go by.

One day, the rocking toys will stop being interesting. They’ll be baby toys, reserved for his sister.

Because sitting here, 5 kilos of baby under a blanket, her chubby cheeks soft and her chest rising and falling slowly, I know I’ll see her growth in part through her interactions with a wooden rocking toy. All the weigh ins and supposed milestones are fine, but these toys have served me well in honing my appreciation for my child’s development. I don’t know or care at what age a child can typically ride on a rocking toy. I only know he couldn’t, then he could

And sitting here, having seen it once before, I can’t quite believe my baby girl will one day also be galloping into the sunset.

We can measure kids in all kinds of ways. We can keep charts and records, look at graphs and compare notes with friends. But providing they’re healthy, the growth that matters is the growth that I can’t believe will happen and that I can measure against a beat up swaying horse.

His, Hers, His, Hers

The spare sofa in our bedroom is the dumping ground for clean clothes. Usually vaguely folded and then ordered by owner/final storage destination, they can sit there for a day or so until someone gets around to putting them away.

And now there is a new pile. Next to my husband’s t-shirts, my socks, and my son’s dinosaur-print everything, there’s a stack of clothes so small they don’t need folding. Many of the items – the blue and grey zip up pyjamas, the elephant onesie, and the stripy vests – have been on these piles before. Only one pile to the left. When the big boy was still the little guy.

white and blue textiles
Photo by Chloe Amaya on

But now they are on a fresh pile, mixed in with some new clothes, sent by family members whose kids grew out of them long ago.

Four piles of laundry not three. It takes longer to sort, the reality of life now. Everything. take longer, we go slower. And it’s a pleasure.

Sorting out the washing is never much fun. But I am sure glad there is more of it these days.

A Kind of Lonely

My phone is full of contacts and my calendar fills up with coffee dates and lunches. My family are on the end of the line whenever I need them. My husband looks concerned every time I stand up and wince. I am enveloped by an army of loved ones, ready to mobilise at a moment’s notice. This baby and me, we are set. We are surrounded by a community ready to catch us and take care of us.

Bloody lucky, that’s what we are.

This does not change the fact that I am alone. Even though my body hasn’t been my own for almost nine months, it’s still me in control of the choices I make for me and my precious cargo. For the last four to five months, I’ve been beautifully aware of the acrobat inside of me. My body is shared but our decisions are all mine, only mine.

And thank goodness. Too many women still have to fight to make independent choices about their body. And thank goodness I have a support network.

It’s just it’s lonely sometimes.

When you wake up at 2 am and your brain starts whirling, you realise that only you can decide what drugs you’ll accept when the time comes. It’s just that, when the doctor says you might want to consider a C-Section because your baby is quite big, only you can decide if that’s the right decision. It’s just that, when you aren’t sure if that discomfort, that trickle, or that twinge is something normal or something more, only you can decide if you go to the doctor and check.

It’s lonely and the ultimate responsibility does not and can not lie with anyone else.

Sharing these concerns with a partner, a friend, your mama army, or your own mum certainly helps. Of course it does. It’s just they can not decide for you. They can only share their anecdotes, their experiences, their opinion. Each woman and baby has their own story and you can’t write yours based on someone else’s.

Hence, it’s lonely.

There’s a narrative that the world is getting smaller. We’ve got social media, blogs, and information at our finger tips. Some of us still even gather in real life to chat and to swap stories. This is all great, truly. However, it sometimes just isn’t enough. Supportive messages are lovely, sharing anecdotes and stories can relieve tension, the Internet has even been known to provide factual information on occasion. Still, at 2 am when your brain starts whirling, you know that there are decisions that will remain yours and yours alone.

That responsibility, that requirement weighs heavy sometimes. Other people help lighten the load, but they can never carry it for you.


The Slide

We love the slide, my son and me. He climbs up the stairs, grins at me, whizzes down saying weeeee, grins again, I grin, and repeat. It’s great. He likes it because it feels fast and exciting. I like it, because of a) how much he likes it and b) how I can sit and do nothing but watch and it feels like parenting. (Although really reason b) comes before a) in terms of how much I like it.)

The slide presents something of a dilemma, however. A dilemma that is representative of the luxury problems in my life as I know it: do I let my kid climb up the slide part? Do you? Because, almost every kid I have ever encountered at a playground wants to climb up the slide. Having mastered the steps and the sliding, it gets a bit boring. Being able to climb up the down bit is a new challenge, an adventure, and, let’s be honest, a chance to be a rebel. Damn, it has taken my son about three months of trying to make it up the slide at our nearest playground.

Don’t judge me yet, slide purists, I know this isn’t necessarily something to be proud of…

Actually, I was really proud today. Because I was tired, we were alone at the playground, my son was being a delight, making ice creams with me out of sand, pretending to drive us on holiday, and after taking his digger down the slide four or five times, he started working on getting back up the slide part. I sighed. A nagging part of me was saying stop him, tell him to go back up the stairs, while the other part was thinking go on, lad, keep trying, you’ve got this. And he did. It wasn’t a photo book-milestone moment,  but he kept trying and trying until he did what he wanted. And I liked that.

Of course, if anyone else had have been there, I would be been telling him to get down, to go up the steps, to do it “properly”, but not because I think it’s wrong to climb up a slide; I just think it’s a bloody stupid thing to do when others are trying to get down it, given that getting down is what it was originally designed for.

Hence the dilemma. The tiny dilemma, but one of hundreds presented in the daily negotiations that are living with a two year old. When is it okay just to say yes for an easy life, where do you draw your lines in the sand, when do you make decisions based on what you think (think!) other people would do?  At what point do you stop worrying about whether or not it is ‘right’ to let your kid climb up the slide and start cheering them on as they make it to the top, because in that moment, really, who cares?

I am not sure a two year old can handle the nuance of playground rules that apply when other people are there and when they aren’t, but I think I have to try. I spend way too much energy wondering about how other people handle their kids, about how other people view me handling mine, when really, kids are kids who want to climb up slides., and parents are just people who used to be kids climbing up slides.

And we do love the slide, my son and me. Whichever way we are climbing it. 20190803_172305

The Terrific Twos

Being two is amazing: people finally start to understand what you’re talking about, you are allowed chocolate, and your opinion counts for something (although apparently not everything when it comes to wanting the adult definition of too much chocolate – an arbitary figure determined by an unknown formula).

Two year olds are, however, often misunderstood. We are considered difficult, unpredictable, and prone to throwing ourselves on the floor. With a little more knowledge though, you will soon see the fabulousness of life with a toddler. So here’s my handy guide to ensure there is nothing terrible about your interactions with me.

Firstly, language. The following translations might come in handy:

  • don’t like it means don’t want it.
  • Tired means I know I am in the wrong but want you to let me off.
  • Shat means mummy sure is glad I can’t make the short i sound and wishes I wasn’t such a parrot.
  • Daddy? means mummy said said no.
  • More means more, lots, another one.
  • Not working means I can’t do it, so the only explanation is that it is broken.

Secondly, you need to understand the following:

  • I don’t walk anywhere. I run. On the occasions when I travel slower, it has nothing to do with the destination you have in mind, rather it’s connected to my need to inspect the sticks and rocks along the way.
  • A stick is never just a stick. It is an aeroplane, a giraffe, or a helicopter.
  • The only toy I wish to play with is the one that belongs to someone else.
  • I will test your patience regularly…
  • … but melt your heart almost minutely.
  • If it’s got wheels, I need to point it out to you. Bin truck! Bike! Car! The appropriate response is wow!
  • My talent for stalling at bedtime is remarkable. I will ask for milk or water, and it will always be the one you don’t have. I will want, then immediately not want, my teddy. I will be hungry, then thirsty, want blanket then be too hot. I will suddenly be able to sing songs all the way through at the top of my voice to distract you from how frustated you are that I am awake.
  • I will turn and look at you, drop a kiss on your cheek or grip your hand, and any memory of a tantrum will be erased.

That’s about it, the lowdown and language of me after 25 months on planet Earth. It sounds like hard work because it is, but mum and dad sure do smile a lot, so I figure I am doing okay.

Invisible Lines

Arriving in Paris, you can be on a metro and on the Pont d’Arcole before you can say un croissant s’il vous plait. From there, you are only a decent zoom away from a memory card full of pretty postcard pictures; the Louvre, l’Hôtel de Ville, and Notre Dame all lie within a gentle stroll.

Paris. Beautiful Paris, with its chalky white buildings and iron balconies, with its iconic bistros and brasseries, its tourists and its traffic. Jump on the metro on arrival and you’re in a Parisian love story in less than 15 minutes.

If, however, you have the time and the inclination, a stroll back to the Gare de l’Est, merely a case of walking in a straight line from the banks of the Seine, is entirely possible and extremely eye opening. Take the Boulevard Sebastapol then the Boulevard de Strasbourg and you’re back at the train station in a conservative 40 minutes.

In that short time, you cross more than just a few city blocks. You cross an invisible border. Somewhere around the Port St Denis, romantic Paris falls away. You cross the street, and the love story fades a little.

Gone are the designer home interior stores and high street names. Gone are the wealthy tourists sipping coffee and nibbling pastry. Gone even are the public toilets. Somewhere between one side of a zebra crossing and another, the city is other.

Less than a kilometre from proposal spots and selfie central is ordinary life. Suddenly, you are on the same street but not in the same place. The boulevards that stretch out to the east station lose their glamour somewhat. The stores have less sheen and less appeal. The pavements are grimier. There are boarded up restaurants and graffiti.

None of this is particularly problematic- unless you are looking for a 60 euro cushion or especially offended by graffiti – it’s just very different. And it gets different fast.

Within a ten minute walk, you can go from paying 7 euro for a Croque Monsieur to restaurants that look as if they haven’t served food in a decade.

The crowds and crowds of people, speaking a multitude of languages, discussing which sight “to do” next fade to background noise and up pop a range of more diverse shops and people going about their Sunday business- alll without a souvenir shop in sight. Presumably on a week day it is buzzing with locals interspersed with tourists staying in cheaper hotels or making the walk to the station.

This is pure observation. From the sights and sounds to the feeling that something has changed, Paris, like many a city, has it’s neighbourhoods that, despite all running into each other, are varying and diverse. It’s a pretty cool thing.

Cool and mysterious: it’s hard not to wonder, as you wander past shops packed to the rafters with groceries or selling off brand goods, who drew these lines, when, and what makes the contrast from neighbourhood to neighbourhood so stark. It’s hard also not to wonder if the lines will move and change, in which direction and to whose detriment.

Eventually the Boulevard ends, train station restaurants selling quick and tasteless food start to pop up, and homeless souls ask for money in front of the shiny station entrance. Inside, there’s a return to hoards of non-Parisians, chain stores and over priced fridge magnets. Another change. Another invisible line crossed.

No Things To No People

While there are plenty of things I do half-heartedly – cleaning,  paper work, pairing socks – being a mum, a partner, and an employee aren’t things I typically take lightly. Sure, everyone has an off day, off week perhaps, but most people I am lucky enough to know take the things that matter seriously and let go of the things that don’t. (Don’t, for example, look behind the neat files on my book shelf. You will find the odds and sods that didn’t  belong in any file.)

Of course, on any given day, despite anyone’s best efforts, some things have to slide. I send the odd email with one eye on my kid playing. I nod and make listening noises at my husband whilst doing a puzzle with my son. I put of marking for a day so that I can be home to cook dinner for my family. You can’t be everywhere and do everything.

This February, however, too much slid. Time, attention, focus, good habits. Tired, overwhelmed and never really present, the month skulked past in a haze of too much to do, too little time, too much worrying and rushing around, and far too little achieved given the energy spent.

And I hate that.

I hate slipping down that slope. That slope where I’m quick to temper, quick to presume the worse, quick to assume everyone is against me.  The bottom of that trickles out to a rut, and, with no momentum to slide back up, and one is simply stuck.

I really hate that.

I hate mis-prioritising, over prioritising and ricocheting from day to day without ever feeling alright but not doing alright by anyone else, either.

Last month, I was no things to no people.

Then the calendar ticked over, a mere coincidence really, but as the dust of a busy month settled and the appointments and deadlines thinned out, so a little clarity peeked through.

You can’t be all things to all people. Not ever. I was doing okay accepting there were times when my son didn’t have quite all my attention, when a few less important items slid down the to do list, when I was forgiving with myself.

How silly to lose sight of that. How human.

The breaks are on now, thankfully. My bod snapped and said enough was enough. There’s only one goal as a story March rolls in: the best I can be for the people close by. No more, no less.

lightning and tornado hitting village
Photo by Ralph W. lambrecht on