Tape and Toddlers

Whoever coined the phrase ‘terrible twos’ weren’t fucking kidding were they. Little Miss A goes from sweetie-pie (“Oh thank you Mammy, that’s very kind of you Mammy”) to incandescent ball of rage kicking and screaming on the floor in nought to sixty. The last couple of days have brought tantrums and tears because I wouldn’t stop the car so she could pick a dandelion, because I wouldn’t “make the sunshine off”, because the curry was “too spiky”, I wouldn’t let her wee in the cat’s litter tray, along with the general having to move from one place to another within a specific time period. I’ll be honest, I have drunk a fair amount of wine recently.

It took three attempts to visit Tape. Tape is an art installation that’s been set up in Bute Park during August. It’s part of RSPB Cymru’s ‘Giving Nature a Home’ project, and involved sticky tape being wound around trees to resemble a giant spider’s web. It’s so big it can hold five people at a time.

As it’s such an intriguing prospect, it has been attracting a lot more than five people at a time. Which means queues. Queuing. With a toddler. Not my favourite prospect. The first time we went I just saw how many people were waiting, laughed, and left. There were not enough snacks in my bag. The second time we’d arranged to meet up with friends but they were having their own toddler tantrum problems so weren’t there yet. We lasted about five minutes in the queue, before Ari decided the queue didn’t apply to her and kept repeatedly trying to queue jump. So un-British of her. Attempts to explain queueing resulted in much kicking and screaming in the mud before I had to throw her over my shoulder and admit defeat. Luckily our friends turned up later, yay! Queuing is much easier with another adult to chase the little ones.

And so, eventually, we made it. It was so surreal. And so much fun!

 

DSC01957

You only get a few minutes in there, which is understandable when there’s a queue outside, but it’s enough time for slipping and sliding and thinking “Shit, this is all just sellotape”.

 

DSC01960  It’s apparently been funded by the levy on carrier bags, which makes me feel better for all the times I’ve managed to forget my bags-for-life. It’s going to be turned into bird houses when it’s finished.DSC01962

And I would have urged you to go see it before it does finish, but I think that’s Monday.

When our time was up, I even managed to get Ari out without any refusal. Although I may have had to bribe her with ice-cream…


					

A ramble about boobs

It was World Breastfeeding Week last week. A week in which to think about boobs more than usual (and indeed my Facebook feed seemed to consist of 50% breastfeeding, 45% Jeremy Corbyn and 5% the usual cats).

Considering breastfeeding stopped for us 8 months ago, I do still think a lot about boobs. Which I suppose is useful when you’re as breastfeeding peer supporter, which I’ve been for about a year and a half. I’m still not 100% sure why I trained when the opportunity arose. A lot of other peer supporters I’ve met had encountered difficulties with breastfeeding, which they’d overcome with support and they wanted to give something back. In some ways I feel a bit of a fraud as I was lucky enough not to really have any difficulties with it. Although maybe that’s not being fair to myself: I do remember a lot of tears, clenched teeth and desperate scrabbles for the Lansinoh in the middle of the night in those early days.

But then it got easier. And it suited me because, well, I’m lazy. And generally unprepared. And breastfeeding meant not having to remember things and sitting on my arse in front of Netflix for hours on end (the amount of Criminal Minds episodes we watched in those early days makes me worry what that small brain might have absorbed). It was easier, but not always easy. There was the time when I ventured out to get my hair cut for the first time, which was interrupted by my mum waving frantically through the window as they couldn’t get Ari to settle, so I had to haul myself home, hair dye still on (living a few doors down from the hairdressers has some benefits at least). And then there were the early days of breastfeeding in public when it felt like there were TOO MANY PEOPLE and they would all be LOOKING AT MY BOOBS. But I got over it once I’d fed in a Splott pub on a Saturday evening.

And then, after 18 months, Ari decided she was ready to finish. I felt somewhat cheated that it was such an easy end after learning about the different techniques women have had to use to dissuade a milk-crazy little one – Bovril nipples, lemon juice and, my favourite, painting scary faces on their boobs. I wanted to paint faces on my boobs! It also, again, made me feel something of a fraud to be supporting other women when it felt like my own breastfeeding journey didn’t last for very long. One thing I have learnt from being a mother is that there’s always someone to compare yourself to.

Velma breastfeeding a pumpkin

Breastfeeding group has finished for the summer now – not by choice but because when we turned up on Monday we were told they’d be closed for refurbishing for the month. (“Oh, we didn’t think you’d be here over the summer.” Babies don’t stop being born for the school holidays!) But there are bigger challenges than flaky venues for breastfeeding support. Like idiot talk show hosts ranting about “fat chavvy women” breastfeeding on the bus. Breastfeeding is ‘unnatural’ apparently. I just missed the Showstopper round on GBBO (don’t get between me and Bake Off!) emailing a complaint about Alex Dyke of BBC Radio Solent’s ridiculous rant.

I have become one of those people.

Carnival Time

It’ll be Cardiff Carnival this Saturday. The streets will be a riot of colourful costumes, sequins and feathers, dancing and drumming. The Carnival is in its 26th year, but I’ve only managed to catch the one, two years ago. Arianwen was about two months old.

Cardiff Carnival

It feels both like five minutes ago and forever ago. It’s a day that still sticks in my mind as being one when new motherhood felt completely overwhelming and I wondered what we’d let ourselves in for. A simple trip into town seemed so complicated and I wasn’t sure that life would ever feel ‘normal’ again.

Distracted by the parade going by, I made the mistake of missing some of the little one’s hunger cues. No worries, I thought. I’ll leave Andy in town with friends and I’ll take Arianwen home on the bus and feed her at home.

Except getting the bus is not that easy with a tank-like pushchair and a howling baby. Everyone was staring at me. Every last eye was on me (this is probably untrue but by God it felt like it at the time). I lasted all of one stop before I got off again.

Cardiff Carnival

Ok, I’ll stop off at the baby feeding room in the shopping centre I thought. Except the parade was still taking place, and a merry band of carnivallers blocked the route to my destination, all the while Arianwen screamed louder and louder for boob. I remember hopping there impatiently, waiting for a break in the crowd, before dashing in front of a brass band.

Finally I got to the dingy feeding room and started to feed. And got all of a few minutes in before some impatient knocking on the door. “Um, I won’t be long” I called, willing Ari to hurry up, knowing it didn’t really work like that. More knocking. And some more. Then someone unlocked the door and barged in. “Oh, I was just checking you weren’t a young couple having sex. They do that in here you know”, said the security guard and off she went.

Cardiff Carnival

Wriggly distraught baby was not up for latching on by this point. So I gave up and headed for home on foot, both of us crying by this point. I was willing everyone who passed us to make some sort of comment that “baby was hungry” just so I could let them know how I felt.

That day and those feelings still feel so clear to me. I wasn’t sure how things could ever be normal again if I couldn’t handle a trip into town. This baby seemed to be speaking a completely different language to me and I wasn’t sure if it was something I’d ever comprehend. But of course we worked it out together, and it’s amazing how different things feel two years on. We’re still working things out together of course, and I definitely still have days where the simple tasks of getting dressed and out the house on time seem to be beyond my grasp, but I don’t feel so raw and vulnerable any more. Like any big life change, it was all about finding that’new’ normal.

Cardiff Carnival

One thing I do remember from that day is how much fun it looked like to be in the parade, and I decided I would make it my mission to be in next year’s. I didn’t make it last year but all being well I should be parading tomorrow! Last summer I joined the dancers of our local community samba band and it’s been so much fun. You can see Ari watching them, looking somewhat unimpressed, below.

Cardiff Carnival

These days she enjoys watching the “bam-bams” a bit more luckily, as she’s had to spend a fair few weekends doing so!

 

Reading – February

Ok, so February is a short month but my reading has been shockingly slow. I need to become one of those clever people who can read while walking to work. So this month I have pretty much only read:

California – Edan Lepucki – My second post-apocalyptic novel of the year. Well, more mid-apocalyptic maybe. Follows a couple who’ve left the destruction of LA to live alone in the wilderness. Focuses on how people are surviving, rather than the why. I didn’t find it massively compelling, which is probably why it took me so long to read, although I do like a bit of commune-based fiction. The fact I’d read Margaret Atwood’s Maddadam so recently probably didn’t do it any favours.

Escape from Childhood – John Holt – Related to my recent rambling post, this book by the unschooling pioneer looks at the rights of children in society. He proposes that “the rights, privileges, duties of adult citizens be made available to any young person, of whatever age, who wants to make use of them”. I’ve not finished this yet, but so far it’s definitely thought-provoking, challenging and a probably a bit extreme for me generally, a bit ranty, lots of his observations seem based on brief random encounters with children at airports. “If we gave up our vested interest in children’s dependency and incompetence – would they not much more quickly become independent and competent? We ought to give it a try.”

Back again

So my run of posting a photo of Arianwen every week didn’t last very long did it? I started to have doubts, both about the general safety aspects of posting so many photos of her online (how will I persuade her to be ‘Share Aware’ in the future if I’ve not 100% thought through the implications of sharing photos myself). But it also started to feel uncomfortable as it felt like it implied that she was some sort of project to me, rather than the actual photos being the project, if that makes any sense at all.

I’ve been having vague thoughts about how we treat children and view childhood as a society. I wish I was articulate enough to, you know, articulate them. It boils down to a balance being wrong somewhere. By seeing children as ‘other’, and making such a big deal of childhood, does this make it harder for us to ensure that children have the rights they’re entitled to as human beings? Which is not to say that children should be treated as mini adults, as of course they do have different physiological and developmental needs.

So much energy seems to be spent on making childhood ‘magical’. I admit I’ve been drawn in by the shiny ideas on Pinterest and made rainbow spaghetti (which Arianwen ate rather than played with, then the cat ate it and got sick, and then the patio was covered in tiny spaghetti worms for weeks). But does all this emphasis on ‘sensory play’ make it so that normal life isn’t seen as enough? I actually saw a mum say on a Facebook group that her baby ‘hadn’t done anything sensory yet’, as if because she hadn’t spent time making cloud dough that her baby wouldn’t have experienced anything yet. It just seems another way of cutting off a child’s world from adult society. It doesn’t feel quite right to me how children are banded together in groups of the same age for so much of the time, rather than having the chance to interact and learn from older and younger people.

Oops, this hasn’t really gone anywhere. My thoughts aren’t really defined enough to go anywhere yet. I have no idea if this makes any sense. If anyone can articulate it for me that would be great! Or if anyone’s read anything that could shed some light on my thoughts? I guess it’s about how it makes sense that as a society we push children towards independence (wow, she sleeps all night in her own cot, what a good baby!) while also surrounding them in this big fluffy cloud of magical childhood rather than just, well, letting them get on with it with a bot of guidance. (By writing this I am no way saying I have any sort of balance right, in case you’re wondering).

This vague rant was brought to you by too much coffee, and a rare hour on my own.

Reading – January

At the end of last year, on a Facebook book group, Lisa asked what everyone’s favourite books were of the year. I could not for the life of me remember what I’d read. I don’t read as much as I’d like. Andy and I went away for one night last weekend, and one of the things I was most excited about was uninterrupted reading time.

This is so I remember at the end of this year, with somewhat arbitrary scoring, and my ever so insightful reviews:

MaddAddam – Margaret Atwood ****

Enjoyed this. Not as much as Oryx and Crake. Was very glad of the recap at the beginning. This should happen more often.

Eleanor and Park – Rainbow Rowell **

I wasn’t in to this. But then, I’m not 14. It’s not really for me, although I really enjoyed Fangirl.

Yes Please – Amy Poehler ***

I’m just finishing this off. I’m not massively in to this either. Bit of a mish mash, lots about people I don’t know or really care about, although I would like to be friends with her. Would prefer to read Leslie Knope’s memoir.