Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Oh dear Mr Brewer.

Oh dear Colin Brewer...

Of course I could write to Colin Brewer and respond to everything he's said but I don't wish to indulge him. I cannot help but think that he is either desperately publicity seeking or actually insane or both. How a man such as this can actually be in public office is beyond my comprehension and if people actually voted for him I hope they feel suitably ashamed now. 

His disgusting words have hurt people and for that I cannot stay silent. As much as I would like him to be ignored, he has been given a platform and the danger is that other people will share that platform and although I am certain that it will only be a minority it is too dangerous for our children's futures to ignore.

But instead of writing about him I am going to write about myself and my son. I am going to show him how he can't take my positivity away from me, no matter how hard he tries, and he cannot stop my son from being an incredibly valuable member of our society despite the fact that he's only four. Actually far more valuable already in his short life than the likes of Colin Brewer, but that's the last time I shall mention his name.

My Xavier is an inspiration to me. He had a relatively late diagnosis of Down's Syndrome when he was two months old and it did affect me adversely in the beginning. But the mother in me reared its head and I realised that no matter what this diagnosis meant, he was still my son, the baby I had carried, given birth to and breastfed. Down's Syndrome or not he was still Xavier, and always would be. When my son looks at me I see him, the person not the label that he's been given.

My Xavier is my education, just as any child should be for their parents. He has a condition but he doesn't let that stop him from doing what he wants to do, or from doing what I don't want him to do. I am bringing him up to fulfil his full potential, whatever that might be, and he is thriving, flourishing and showing that he is capable of so much if only he is given the chance. ALL CHILDREN NO MATTER WHAT DESERVE A CHANCE.

I could carry on talking about Xavier all day, but here's the thing, all children are here to teach us, and those who perhaps have extra burdens to bear can teach us even more. As long as we are willing to learn. Because, we, as society need to open our eyes and ears and learn. I believe wholeheartedly that our society is a continually evolving society and in order to grow, develop and flourish, we need diversity just as we need air to breath. We need to celebrate differences, because if we are all the same then the world will stagnate. To me is it only the ignorant, uncreative and unintelligent people who would want this.

We must learn from the magic of our children, but we must also teach them, that is our dual role. We must teach each of our children, no matter what situation they are in that they do have an incredibly valuable place in this world, no one must ever think that they don't have a contribution to make. So -called disability's should not be defined merely as limitations. There may be things that you can't do so focus on what you can do. That applies to all of us. I still struggle to tell my left from my right and don't even try to give me a map. But, you bet your life that everyone on this planet has talents, and we owe it to our children to help to discover what they are and nurture them. That's how I am teaching my son, in response to every wonderful thing he is teaching me.


Thursday, 15 September 2011

Gene Karma

There are lots of differences between me and my little boy. I’ve already mentioned that’s he cool, and clever and most glaringly he doesn’t seem to like shoes. Whereas I don’t think there are enough days in the week to wear all the shoes I’d like to, Xavier tries to not wear shoes at all. He takes them off, he tries to lose them, and I’m pretty sure he hides them as well. Not like his mother at all.
And as much as I adore my child, there are times (I know this might come as a surprise to every parent out there), that he tries me somewhat. There are days when my patience, which isn’t great at the best of times, is severely tested, and although I feel guilty thinking it, let alone typing it, I long for bedtime (his and mine).
He is incredibly strong willed. If he really wants something then God help me. When I tell him off he either ignores me, throws a tantrum or looks at me as if I was the devil. Whichever it always serves to make me feel bad.
His tantrums are quite amusing sometimes. He literally throws himself on the floor, kicking his legs and making some kind of wailing noise which makes me wonder briefly if he is having a spiritual encounter. But no, it’s his way of trying to convince me of his utter distress. He’s such a drama queen.
And boy he is stubborn. For example, he will go to the fridge and take something out, I’ll put it back, he’ll go back and take it out, and so on. This game can run and run until someone breaks. Invariably it’s me. I’m getting no prizes for endurance. My toddler, however, could win a gold medal.
Sometimes, after his afternoon nap he often wakes up whinging. It’s such a horrible noise, normally only stopped by resorting to CBeebies, which then makes me want to whinge but of course I try to pacify him, because of the endurance thing again. Of course he’s not like this when he wakes at six in the morning or earlier, oh no then it’s all jazz hands and singing at the top of his voice, but his post nap grumps are something to behold.
Finally he is very good at using the word ‘no,’ but when I use it to him he has mastered a look of total miscomprehension. There are days when it feels like the only word I say is ‘no.’
Now before you think I’m having a big moan, I will say that most of the time I find my son totally adorable, and  most of my complaints are pretty standard among parents of toddlers I’m sure.
After a particularly difficult day, my mother phoned.
‘What was I like as a child?’ I asked her.
‘You were lovely,’ she replied.
‘So I didn’t give you much of a hard time?’ I was feeling a little smug.
‘Well you were strong-willed, and your tantrums were legendary and God help us if you didn’t get your own way.’
‘Not always lovely then?’
‘Oh and you were so stubborn. Impatient. And bossy-‘
‘OK Mum, I get the picture. Actually Xavier is like me then.’
‘Oh no, he’s much better behaved.’ Well Grandmothers are bound to say that aren’t they?
When I thought about it I realised that in many ways, my son was like me; and I couldn’t help but wonder if Gene Karma existed. I was difficult to my mother; my child difficult to me. Great. That should teach me to have been a delightful, pliable child. What worries me is that as far as my mother is concerned I might not have changed too much.
My child is far from a monster. He is pretty well behaved most of the time and a joy to be around but when he does play up you definitely know about it. Just like his mother. As I couldn’t go back in time and fix it I wondered how it would develop as he got older. Thankfully I was well behaved at school.
I decided to think about the good sides of genetic karma. We are also similar in many lovely ways. Xavier is very funny and I like to think I am funny sometimes. He is also very loving when he wants to be, he’s pretty smart he is just the most gorgeous child ever (ha, just like me).
However, it seemed that in my ponderings of gene karma I had unleashed a monster. My mother and everyone else who knew me as a child, now felt it appropriate to bring up all my childhood faults. How I would never sleep and there was no way of getting me to bed on time. How I had most of the family wrapped round my little finger because they didn’t want to have to endure my horrid and long running tantrums. How I was incredibly bossy and a little manipulator. The list went on and on and on.
After a long think about how my boy’s difficult behaviour was perhaps payback, I had to concede that it wasn’t. There was no way that genetic karma was in play here or my parental life would be much harder. I shudder to think about it.
In actual fact it seems that I’ve got off pretty lightly.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Holiday Romance

As we unpacked my entire house I felt incredibly excited. Not only at seeing my lovely friend and her family but also because Xavier and I were having a traditional seaside holiday. Which has a charm all of its own.
I know we lived by the sea but this was a different seaside. Scarborough makes me think of childhood seaside holidays. Not quite ‘kiss me quick’ hats but nearly, and I love that. Anyway, I’ve visited often; and even once years ago played bingo in one of the big neon lighted amusement arcades that are dotted along the seafront. I think I won a tin of Spam actually. But yes, I am a fan of going back to basics.
Because it reminds me of when I was young and I like the idea that in this age of technology (blah blah I’m showing my age), some things are almost the same.

Xavier had many firsts in our week away. He rode his first donkey (Samuel, and he cried when the ride finished). We took him to his first circus, one with no animals of course, and my little boy sat mesmerised for over two hours. He had his first glimpse of Morris Dancers in Whitby Bay, and have to say that he seemed to like them, which is good because I have a bit of a soft spot for Morris dancers, I think it’s the knee bells. He had his first Scarborough fish & chips, which he enjoyed although was a little blasé because we do get decent fish & chips here.
However the most significant first, for me anyway is that he had his first holiday romance. Honestly, my little ‘treat them mean, keep them keen’ fell in love with not one but with two older ladies.
My friend’s daughters were eight and ten years old. They are both beautiful girls and they both took a fancy to Xavier, carting him around wherever they went, carrying he when he would allow it, playing with him on their big trampoline and sitting with him when he ate, basically they hardly left his side.
And Xavier lapped up the attention and actually returned the affection. On one occasion, he was with the older girl in the playroom watching his bedtime programme. I walked in to find Xavier giving her the biggest hug. She explained to me that he’d given her hair a little tug (well that is the first way he ever flirted), and she had said ‘ow’ so he’d leant over and given her a big cuddle. With the younger girl he snuggled into her and kept giving her his foot so she could blow raspberries on it. Which she did again and again. Who said romance was dead?

I had never seen Xav quite so keen on any children before, but he went off happily with them wherever they would take him and before the week was out there were a lot more cuddles and hugs bestowed. He allowed himself to be totally manhandled and I couldn’t help but think that he had already developed a preference for blondes.
What I came away with was a desire for an older child. Of course I’m not promoting child labour, I don’t think, but for the first time ever with Xavier I had this freedom of knowing that he was alright (it took a bit of getting used to), as the girls took him to play. Not only that but he was enjoying himself. If I needed to take a shower, or prepare tea for him they would come and play with him and well we both felt pretty indulged at the end of the week.
I did think about taking one of the girls home with me but let’s face it, there was no room in the car.

While Xavier was having his holiday romance I was struggling with my limited holiday wardrobe. I had packed for every eventuality for Xavier but hadn’t been quite so sensible for me. Apparently I thought it would be hot in Yorkshire in August and had taken clothes accordingly. I’d got jeans with me but only one cardigan and no coat. I mean who needs a coat in August?
I had only one pair of shoes without open toes and they were ballet shoes so I couldn’t really wear socks with them. Basically my feet were frozen for a week. I had bought some socks in case it was cold in bed (really I am an old lady), and so in the evening I could be found wandering around in those, but they were too thick to cram inside my dainty ballet shoes. Let’s not even think about the way that would have looked.
On the one day we went to the beach the sun was shining so I came downstairs in my sun dress, and flip flops. My friend did give me an odd look but I ignored it. However later, sat on the beach wrapped in both a towel and a beach blanket, with my feet buried in the sand trying to warm them I understood. I underestimated the biting wind.
On the bright side it did remind me of a typical English summer beach scene, even if I looked like Grumpy Great Auntie Edna. So for the rest of the week, although it was sunny it was cold and my feet were suffering. I kept asking my friend if I could go and buy some boots but she said that was a waste of money, instead she came up witha a solution.
‘Oh, one of the girls’ friends left some trainers here and I think they’re a size 4,’ she declared and I felt hope rise within me. Lucy went to get them. My hope turned to horror as I looked at them.
‘They’re Heelys,’ I said, recognising the trainers with wheels. My friend started laughing hysterically. The girls and Xavier joined in (he didn’t understand but he would laugh when the girls laughed, that’s how much he adored them).  Yet another lesson learnt; cold feet are preferable to a broken neck.

After a day of being back at home Xavier woke up very upset, crying and looking miserable. I did all the usual things, taking his temperature etc but there was nothing obvious.
‘I think he’s love sick,’ I concluded.
My baby was missing his two older ladies, and I just hoped that this wasn’t a sign of things to come.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Jam Making for Beginners: Road Trip.

Jam Making for Beginners: Road Trip.: It was time for our summer holiday. Were we going to a lovely sunny resort, flying off on a jet plane? No, we were going to Scarborough to s...

Road Trip.

It was time for our summer holiday. Were we going to a lovely sunny resort, flying off on a jet plane? No, we were going to Scarborough to see one of my favourite people, or peoples. From Devon seaside to Yorkshire seaside.

I’ve been to Scarborough often, and I took Xavier when he was a baby. We got the train then; the whole journey took 7 hours in total. Xavier and I were a bit crazy by the time we arrived and the entire train staff needed to be engaged to help with the ridiculous amount of stuff I’d packed. So this time I decided that I would drive; there was no way that Xavier would sit still on a train anymore.
According to an internet route planner it would take about six and a half hours to drive there. Who in their right mind would do that with a 2 ½ yr old? Well no one ever accuses me of being in her right mind. At first I thought I would stop off on the way and stay overnight, but when I looked into it, it would mean staying in a hotel attached to a motorway services somewhere like Tamworth and that didn’t sound like fun. After a bit of soul searching I decided to just do it all in one go. Our first proper road trip.
I was more worried about Xavier than I was doing the driving. It didn’t seem fair for him to be sat in a car seat for that long. My mother suggested (insisted) we get him a DVD to attach to the headrest. I’m not a huge fan of encouraging my child to watch TV but he loves it, (remember Girls of the Playboy Mansion), so as it would be just the two of us I though this indulgence would be best all round. After a bit of coercion from my mother.
And at least I haven’t got him a mobile phone or a games consol yet.

I packed up. It took me about 3 days and I ended up with most of my house in the car. Actually it was almost like moving house. I had every eventuality covered for Xav. His clothes (all of them), his toys (most of them), food, chair, travel cot, pushchair, books, everything I could fit in went in.
And despite having printed out the route I also put the address in the Sat Nav.
A word about Sat Navs. I don’t trust them. When I lived in London me and my girlfriends booked a cab to go to a party and the driver insisted on using his Sat NAv. It a Porn-star voice and despite my friends’ vociferous objections he followed her breathy instructions to the letter. Porn Sat Nav woman took us to a council estate in Tottenham, which clearly wasn’t our destination. And if you remember when I took mum on the Orient Express mine took me to a roundabout instead of the train station. But I decided to use it with my route planner as back up.
 My Sat Nav has school teacher voice, not porn, if you ignore her, even if you know she’s wrong you expect her to give you a detention. However the good news was that according to my Sat Nav the journey would only take 5 ½ hours which was an hour less than the planner.

So with a car full of all our belongings, a very happy child watching a DVD, and my school teacher Sat Nav directing us we set off on our holiday. Almost immediately school teacher woman got a bit ticked off with me because we have this new bridge (I think it’s been there for more than 5yrs), and the Sat Nav thinks you’re driving into the river; then I had to stop for petrol which annoyed my woman no end. So much so that when we set off after that she kept telling me to turn round, and when I looked it said we had only ten minutes left of our journey. Seeing as we’d only been going for ten minutes I think she’d given up and tried to go home. So I had to stop again to reset her. Then we set off yet again.
It wasn’t until I joined the motorway that I realised my passenger wing mirror was in. Either I hadn’t noticed and set off like that (surely not), or it had been knocked in when I stopped for petrol. It made motorway driving was dangerous as I couldn’t see to my left. So I pulled off to the first services to sort it. Sat nav woman didn’t like that either. Honestly did she need to be so stern? I’ve never felt so chastised in my life.
Anyway, after three stops before we’d even driven for an hour we were properly on our way. We stopped off for lunch after a couple of hours. The motorway service place was packed. Frighteningly so. We queued for over half an hour to get something to eat. Xav spent the whole time trying to run off, and I had my huge handbag (no one can accuse me of travelling light) and him to juggle. It was a little stressful but we managed and were fed and ready to continue our journey.
This time there was no DVD as it was time for Xav to have a nap. So I put his story CD on (quite weird story about a magic porridge bowl and a greedy woman who manages to flood her entire village with porridge), which sent Xav to sleep but not me or my Sat nav friend.
Before I knew it we had reached the end of our motorway driving and were on an ‘A’ road toward York. We were nearly there. Xavier woke up and I thought I ought to warn my friend we were close so I pulled into a lay-by and called her. I also set up the DVD for the last leg of the journey.

Within an hour we were there. The Sat Nav actually got us to the door this time.
As you know I often fell a bit pleased with myself when I do something that I never really thought I would but in just over five hours, (not counting stoppages), I had driven from Devon to Scarborough which was pretty good. My boy had been a dream passenger and not complained once. It all worked out brilliantly.
My friend and her two daughters greeted us excitedly. Then they all looked at the car.
‘How long are you staying Auntie Faith?’ one of the girls asked. My friend looked a little scared.
‘Yeah because it looks like you might be moving in,’ the other added before I could reply.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Self-sufficient single mum

I like to think of myself as pretty self-sufficient. I’ve shared my domestic ambitions with you already although we’re all still waiting for my first jar of home made jam. But being a single mum means that I can’t just swan about the kitchen in my heels, and little frilly apron with perfect hair. No, I also need to do practical jobs too.

I don’t believe in gender stereotypes (not that I’m going to admit to anyway), but in my last relationship my ex would do anything practical. He would get very masculine about certain jobs, and of course I would play the helpless princess, which I happened to be very good at. We did have a wobble when our new flat needed painting and he expected me to help, so after an hour I developed an allergy to paint, and hung up my paintbrush.
However now, the house, the car, the shopping and everything else in my life I am solely in charge of.  And until Xavier is old enough (when can a child cook me dinner and make me coffee?), I will continue to do so. I even have to deal with spiders and I’m so terrified of them that I look at them, and ask them nicely to leave. They generally do so actually.

I think I have adjusted to this role quite well. I have a tool box, and my own screwdrivers, (I know he difference between a Phillips head and a flat), and so on. I built furniture, I painted furniture, (funny how I am no longer allergic), I put up pictures almost straight, and although I don’t yet own a drill I harbour ambitions of not only owning one but knowing how to use it. I am also wondering if Vivienne Westwood designs a tool belt.
Since having Xavier I have done many things that I thought I never would and things that in the past I would have pretended I couldn’t; but the thing about being a single mum is that you have to get on with it, and when you (I) want to be dramatic about it there is no one but an unsympathetic child to listen to you. So instead of moaning (oh I love a good moan), I get on with it. Or more accurately I do get on with it but I moan a lot afterwards.

This week I had a lot of tasks to do. In fact so many that I’m wasn’t sure there would be any energy left to complain afterwards.
The pushchair had a squeaky wheel; no problem I got out my DW40 and fixed it. I built a house for Xavier. OK, so it was a playhouse for the garden but it needed lots of screwdrivering and I got calluses and a broken nail as a result. But I was ever so pleased with myself when Xav went in it and it didn’t fall down.  I also cleaned out the shed, and organised for a friend to take the rubbish to the tip (but only because my car wasn’t big enough).
I painted a vintage child’s chair a lovely bright blue for Xavier’s room, (something I’d been meaning to do for ages), and bought some wire wool so I could rub down an old metal trunk ready for painting.  
And with every task I completed the more smug I became. See how (nearly) self-sufficient I was.
But my work was not done. Oh no. I had to do stuff with the car. We’re going on a long journey next week so I needed to fill up the screen wash, check the tyre pressure, and clean it inside and out. No problem for someone as capable as me.
I filled up the screen wash, easy. I cleaned the inside, easy. But then I needed to take it to the carwash. I’m a tiny bit scared of car washes. Not quite on the same scale as escalators or spiders but I have a slight fear of getting stuck in one with those vicious looking brush things blocking out the light and crushing me to death. I could have used a jet wash but they look like hard work so I took a deep breath and decided to bite the bullet.
I bought my ticket from the garage and proceeded. I can’t really remember the last time I’d been in a carwash but I put my fears aside and when the display told me to move forward I did. When it told me to stop I did. Then the vicious washing began. I took many deep breaths, it was soon over. Then it told me to move forward, I did. Then it told me to stop, I did.
There seemed to be a few more things going on and then the brushes lifted, but the display was still on STOP. So I sat there. I turned up the radio, I decicded  the carwash was doing an invisible drying thing or something.  I wondered if it would wax my car. Would the wheels be nice and shiny? After a while I saw a man staring at me. He came over and I put down the window, worried that he might get injured in the scary carwash.
‘Have you broken down?’ He asked.
‘I’m in a carwash.’
‘I know but it’s washed your car,’ he laughed.
‘Yes it has but it says ‘stop’ so I stopped.’ He laughed at me again, not unkindly, and said he’d seen me sitting here for ages and was a bit concerned. Apparently (he explained very slowly), once your car was washed that was it. The invisible magic I was expecting didn’t exist.
I thanked him for his help, feeling less smug, less self-sufficient and much more like an idiot. I drove off, resolving to find another garage to check my tyres in once I’d recovered from the humiliation. And next time I’ll use the jet wash. It might take more work but I’m never going in a car wash again.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Treat them mean, keep them keen

Babies and small children can be fascinating. They can also be highly irritating but let’s save that for a later date. For now let’s just say that I think watching their characters develop can be endlessly enjoyable if you pay close attention. I believe that Xavier began developing his character pretty much from day one and what a character it  is.
I remember when he was tiny and we were trying to encourage him to crawl (why? Why? Why?), and I would put his toys at the opposite side of the play blanket to him. Instead of moving he would pick the blanket up and pull the toys to him. This ‘lazy’ trend has continued, for example to feeding. He’ll eat one spoonful all by himself before giving the spoon to me and opening his mouth. And of course I told you about ‘flamingo foot’ last week.
There are many similarities between me and my boy, he’s definitely his mother’s son, but again I’m saving that for a later blog, because today I want to concentrate on the differences between us. Or to be specific the one glaring difference.
It seems that my son is cool.

I’m not totally un-cool I don’t think, I hope I’m not anyway, and I wouldn’t say that I’m a complete people pleaser but growing up it was important to me to fit in (my mother reminds me of this constantly). Therefore although I wasn’t unpopular I was more of a follower than a leader. Now I think I’m pretty much my own person, and I have quite a strong personality but I’m still following. Only this time I’m following my child.
My son, at the grand old age of two and a half is definitely a leader. He has mastered the skill I would love to have; he doesn’t seem to care what other people think or what they’re doing. He treats other children with a kind of aloofness that I can only dream of.
At nursery he walks in and children stop what they’re doing to see what Xavier will do. He surveys the room, and takes his time before deciding which toy to play with, and when he does some of the other children come back to life and join him. They all greet him with a chorus of ‘Xavier’s’ and he looks at them calmly before deciding whether he has time to say ‘hello.’ (Often he does not).
When he wakes up from his afternoon nap he’s normally in a terrible mood. At home I try to bribe him into cheering up with food, or CBeebies, or whatever, and at nursery the other children try to cheer him up by bringing him toys. And Xavier swats them all away like flies, but still they persevere. He has already mastered the art of treating them mean and keeping them keen.

Not that he’s mean, I’m not saying that he’s going to turn into a bully, (actually he definitely won’t turn into a bully) but he seems to have mastered this disinterest in other children which they can’t get enough of. I was worried that he didn’t play with anyone but he does apparently, but only if they’re doing something he likes the look of. And if anyone wants to join him in playing he lets them, on his terms of course. And he has a particular friend he likes to get up to mischief with. However sometimes he just looks at people as if they were invisible, and this has made my child popular already, (he gets invited to far more parties than I do).
He’s especially popular with the little ladies. There are quite a number that talk about him at home according to their parents, and they flock around him at nursery too. I have a friend who has a girl his age who we’ve hung out with from since the children were tiny. She always wanted to engage with him but he would ignore her, giving her his brilliant ‘you’re invisible’ look (I wish I could bottle that look, I’d make a fortune), anyway, when they were both about one she tried to kiss him. He put his hand up and pushed her face away (a move that he uses still to this day). This just made her want to kiss him more and as her mother and I laughed at the exchange she kept trying. Finally, she managed to catch Xavier in a weak movement and she licked his face. He burst into tears.

You see I marvel at his coolness because I certainly don’t possess it with the opposite sex. Especially if I find them attractive (luckily doesn’t happen often). Instead of treating them as if they didn’t exist, I usually drink too much, flirt really badly and then throw myself at them. If I’m being especially classy I might also fall over.  Oh my God, I’m the grown up version of the face licker. 
I think I need to lie down.
Before I go for said lie down, I don’t want you to think my child is cold. He’s very affectionate (when he wants to be), he smiles and laughs a lot and he does have friends that he sometimes will even play with. He still won’t let them kiss him if he can help it. He’s like it with adults too I guess. He can shower me with cuddles but at times he even pushes me away. Of course it only makes me, as his mum, even more keen too.
I went to pick him up from nursery yesterday. The children flocked round to tell me that Xavier had been playing football. He would kick the ball then stop and look at everyone expecting a round of applause. Although he’s hardly David Beckham they all obliged. He does this a lot, apparently.
Before we went his lovely nursery lady stopped me.
‘He gave me lots of cuddles today,’ she said. See my boy isn’t cold at all.
‘Oh how lovely,’ I said, as I picked my little boy up ready to tell him what a good boy he was.
‘The thing is that he only did it when I told him off.’

Yes, it seems that my son is not only cooler than me but he’s smarter than me too.