Tuesday 3 January 2017

Swear Free Version Of Advice For New Parents

Several people have asked recently what advice Mummy would give to new, or newish parents.  Obviously the most terrifying thing about this is that there are people out there who are under the impression that Mummy knows anything at all about parenting, and is in some way a responsible adulting type of person.  Mummy can hear the derisive laughter from pretty much everyone she knows at this notion.  But here goes anyway.

Obviously, if you are now a parent, it’s too late for the most useful piece of advice, which would be “Get a puppy instead.” Puppies are lovely, and a lot less annoying and expensive than children.  But, since you’ve decided to take the plunge and have a baby instead, you will have to make the best of it now.  And doing your best is really all anyone can ask.  There are vast swathes of conflicting advice out there, from the ‘cry it out’ camp at one end of the scale to the home schooling, anti vaxxing parents at the other.  Most parents, Mummy assumes, fall somewhere into the ‘muddling through, thinking what the devil have I done?’ group, somewhere between the two extremes.  As long as your baby is fed, clean, warm and loved, nothing else much really matters.

Mummy is quite glad really that her precious moppets were babies before the whole social media thing really took off, as new parents these days seem to be endlessly bombarded with articles telling them how to parent, as well as the photos of everyone else having a fabulous time with their clean and tractable offspring, for they are #soblessed, while you are still in your pyjamas at 3pm with sick in your hair (Mummy’s main foray into social media when the children were tiny was a Facebook group called ‘People Who Park In Parent and Child Spaces Without A Baby Should Be Shot’- it was a very good group and a sentiment Mummy still stands by as she spent a lot of time in supermarket car parks in those days shouting at inconsiderate drivers, and the group meant she could continue  with her self righteous rage at home).  It was bad enough when the Girl Child was a new-born and Mummy used to look up at the prams passing her basement flat each morning and wonder how on Earth anyone with a baby managed to leave the house before lunchtime (practice, and learning not to care about whether the house was tidy turned out to be the answer). 

With the benefit of hindsight though, Mummy has come to the conclusion that the best thing you can do for your baby is what feels right for you (except for vaccinations- GET YOUR BABY VACCINATED).  If you want to breastfeed, love breastfeeding and want to carry on until they are older- fabulous, do it!  If you hate it, or you find it really difficult and you just don’t think it’s working for you- then actually, the world won’t end if you put your baby onto formula.  They will be just fine.  A bottle fed baby with a happy mummy is much better than a breast fed baby with an exhausted, stressed out, miserable mummy.  Breast feeding is great, but if it’s not for you, that’s OK, and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.  Likewise, weaning- do what works for you.  If your OCD kicks in at the very thought of baby led weaning, then spoon the mush into them.  It’s not that big a deal.  Also, despite all the health professionals’ diktats on when to wean- all babies are different.  The Girl Child was almost seven months before she would even think about solids, but the Boy Child was ready at four months- luckily Mummy had a sensible health visitor who realised this. 

So, that’s the looking after the baby part- but what about looking after you?  Again, there is such pressure on mothers to be perfect, such expectation that this baby is now their entire life.  Personally, Mummy doesn’t think this school of thought is very helpful to mummies or babies.  Mummy would die for her children in a heartbeat, obviously, but that doesn’t mean they are her life.  Mummies are still the same people they were before children, only with less money and worse hair and more dubious stains.  Having a baby doesn’t mean you have to give up your personality and everything you were before.  For a few weeks, yes, everything centres around this smelly, squawking bundle of joy, but after that, when the baby is less physically dependent on you, it’s OK to be you again; to take time for yourself if you can; to do things that you enjoy.  This isn’t selfish, it’s sensible, because the happier you are, the happier your baby will be.  And if you really feel you aren’t coping, then get professional help as soon as you can- it’s OK not to be OK, but if you think there is a chance you might have post natal depression, then you don’t have to try and be brave, or strong, get the help you need, and get it sooner rather than later, if possible.

Although there is every chance you will (justifiably) want to kill your partner, try not to do that; not least because it is illegal and you will go to prison.  Despite the seething, gnawing resentment burning deep inside of you that they get to leave the house, alone, in clean clothes and spend the day talking to people whose primary goal is not to smear them with as many different bodily fluids as possible (unless they work in a very niche sector), try and make some time for each other.  If you can get a baby sitter, and you can afford it, in the unlikely event the baby is not draining your bank account faster than a Nigerian general trying to pass on your unexpected inheritance, go out.  If you can’t go out, try and do something nice together in the house occasionally.  At the very least, agree that you will have one night a week where you don’t refer to each other as Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig.

And partners, since the mother of your beloved child has so graciously agreed not to stab you through the heart, try not to be a pain.  Don’t play the competitive tiredness game- yes, you may well have just worked a long shift, but she has had a whole other PERSON extracted from her body by one unpleasant means or another, her bits will likely never be the same again, and nor will her boobs and she is also chronically sleep deprived to boot.  Telling her how tired you are is likely to result in her attempting to pulverise your testicles with the Contented Little Baby Book, because the wretched thing might as well be useful for something.  Daddy only retains a working set of equipment because he wisely made this remark to Mummy down the telephone from several hundred miles away, so he got off lightly with a perforated ear drum after she screeched “I’ll give you ******* tired, you ******!” down the phone at him. 

Finally, the baby groups.  Go to them.  Yes, you will endure the worst coffee you have ever tasted in your life.  Yes, there will be an awful lot of smug annoying people there, who practically have #soveryblessed tattooed on their foreheads and will be dying to tell you how much better their revolting baby is than yours.  Yes, there is a high chance you might be licked by someone else’s child (top tip- apparently it is frowned upon to visibly retch when this happens).  Yes, you will almost certainly have to sit in a circle and sing irritating songs while your indifferent offspring find something more interesting to do, like trying to eat a chair leg.  But there will be kindred spirits lurking in there somewhere, and once you have found them, everything will become much, much easier, once you know you’re not the only one who thinks that certain children’s presenters look like paedophiles (you know which one), and that your baby is not the only one who enjoys drinking his own soapy bathwater, and that there are other parents who also subscribe to the theory that blowing on a dropped dummy or toy is pretty much the same thing as sterilising it, and who also sometimes wonder why they didn’t listen to that mad woman off the internet and just get a puppy instead. 

And allegedly, one day, your precious moppets will actually grow up and have children of their own, and then oh, how you can laugh.  So Mummy is told anyway. 

Saturday 5 November 2016

Peter and Jane and the Fireworks Display

Today it is Guy Fawkes Night.

Peter and Jane are very excited about Guy Fawkes Night.

Mummy and Daddy are taking Peter and Jane to a fireworks display at the park, because Mummy doesn't let Daddy play with fireworks anymore because she says Daddy is a fucking pyromaniac.

Mummy says the fireworks display is going to be magical.  This is because Mummy is a gin addled optimist.

Mummy is getting Peter and Jane ready for the fireworks display.  

"Put on your warm coats and boots and gloves and hats, and some nice thick socks too." says Mummy.

"We don't need warm clothes!" say Peter and Jane.

"Yes, you fucking do." says Mummy "You are going to stand in a sea of mud, in the dark, in November.  Put your fucking coats and gloves on."

Twenty minutes later, Mummy is still attempting to strong arm Peter and Jane into their coats and boots.

Daddy is ready.  Daddy has told Mummy approximately 47 times that he is ready, and now he is standing by the door, jangling his keys, and repeatedly asking Mummy why she is not ready.

Mummy has murder in her heart.

Mummy and Daddy and Peter and Jane are at the fireworks display.  It is dark.  It is cold.  

"My hands are cold" says Jane "I want my gloves."

"My feet are cold." says Peter "I want warm socks."

Mummy snarls "I told you so" and wonders if there is a bar.

There is not a bar.  Instead, there is a dubious looking van selling sausages and burgers.

"We want sausages!" shout Peter and Jane.

"Are you sure?" says Mummy "You only like one sort of sausages, you say all the others are the 'wrong' sort, even if they are the same fucking sort but from a different shop!"

"We want sausages!" shout Peter and Jane.

"Well, do you promise that you will eat them then?" says Mummy.

"YES!" shout Peter and Jane "We want sausages!!!!"

Daddy pays the unhygienic looking man in the van an unbelievably enormous amount of money for four greasy sausages in stale bread rolls.

"Yuck," say Peter and Jane "These are the wrong sort of sausages.  We are not eating them."

"You little bastards." says Daddy.

"LOOK!" shouts Jane "Sparklers!"

"OOOOH!  Sparklers!" shouts Peter.

"We want sparklers, please buy us sparklers, we must have sparklers!"

"You will have to be very careful with the sparklers" says Mummy "Sparklers are very hot and they can burn you."

"We will be careful" promise Peter and Jane.

Daddy pays the sparkler man another unbelievably enormous sum of money for two sparklers.


Peter shouts "She tried to set me on fire!"

Mummy wishes she had brought a fucking hip flask.

The fireworks are starting.  The fireworks are magical.  

Daddy is complaining because there are people.

Peter and Jane are still complaining because they are cold.

Mummy thinks about running away under the cover of darkness and never coming home again.

Mummy and Daddy and Peter and Jane are home from the firework display.

The evening has cost Mummy and Daddy in the region of £57.80.  Mummy and Daddy are still painfully sober and Peter and Jane are claiming they have frostbite.

Mummy opens the gin.

After a moment's reflection, Mummy throws the lid away.

"FML" says Mummy.

Friday 9 September 2016

Post Natal Depression

This week is Pre & Post Natal Depression Awareness Week. Every week is something ‘awareness’ week of course.
Pre & Post Natal Depression Awareness Week is important though, because pre and post natal depression isn’t something people talk about enough. Everyone knows it exists, whether you think it is just ‘the baby blues’ or whether you know it for the black hole of darkness it is, but no one talks about it. Which is a tragedy, because it's 2016 and women are still taking their own lives due to a treatable illness, and talking about PND is probably one of the best things people can do to encourage women suffering from it to seek help and support.
PND is possibly one of cruellest jokes played by nature and society. When you are at your most vulnerable; sleep deprived; physically drained by pregnancy and/or child birth; nipples cracking and bits sagging; already terrified of the responsibility of keeping this tiny monster alive, when everywhere you look there are new and alarming ways for it to try and die on you if you just do one little thing wrong- that’s when Mother Nature says “Ha ha, girl! You think this is bad? I’m going to mess with your hormones even more than I already have, and we’ll see how you like them apples”. At the same time society keeps telling you how happy you should be; how grateful you should be for your healthy baby; that you have now fulfilled your prime function as a woman and you need to get on with it, ideally with a smile on your face, you miserable cow, because don’t you know there are lots of women who aren’t as lucky as you, and look how shiny and jolly other mothers are, in their white sparkly t-shirts without baby sick on them, so clearly you are the one messing up if you don’t feel like that.
Pre and post-natal mental illness, usually in the form of depression, anxiety or psychosis affects one in five mothers in the UK. That’s 20% of us. If you’re sitting at a Mother and Baby group with twenty women, that means at least four women there are suffering (and you really suffer) from some form, as well as enduring terrible coffee and wondering how many grubby children have put that toy in their mouth before your baby picked it up.
And yet nobody talks about it. Women talk about almost everything else, especially after childbirth. It is not unusual to describe intimate details of your labour to someone you have known for about five minutes: you describe if you tore or were episiotomied, and how many stitches you got in your bits, but no one feels they can say “I feel so wretched alone. I don’t know if I can do this.” And it is this silence which allows PND to perpetuate its vicious circle- like many mental illnesses, it makes you feel alone and isolated. The more alone and isolated you feel, the more depressed you become, so the more isolated you feel. You’re not alone though. You currently have a horrible illness, but you are not alone.
The months spent in the grip of PND are hazy here now. Time does that. Amongst the blur of despair and darkness and tears, some memories still stand out though. Walking the streets at 2am in tears, pushing the pram, trying to get the baby to sleep before being stopped by two kindly police officers, concerned about what a woman and baby were doing out at that time and frantically wiping away the tears to smile brightly at them while proclaiming cheerily “It’s OK, I’m not a prostitute or a burglar you know, just trying to get the baby to sleep!” was a particularly unfortunate night. The worst memory though is the loneliness; the inability to tell anyone what it felt like; the conviction that no one else could possibly feel like this, because no one else was such a horrible person as to feel so utterly wretched when they had this beautiful baby. And then finally meeting a literal life saver in the form of a sympathetic and understanding health visitor, who immediately realised what the problem was and organised help and support. She is amazing. If she ever reads this, hopefully she will know who she is, and know what she meant to one very broken mummy.
If you think you have PND, there is help there and you can get through this. Start by talking to someone, be it a partner, or a health visitor or GP, or a friend. Tell them how you feel, and tell them honestly. If your GP gives you a PND questionnaire at your six week check, be honest when you fill it in (lying on it to prove how well you are coping was not the smartest idea). If you have no one to talk to, or you’d rather talk to someone more detached, an organisation called PANDAS (http://www.pandasfoundation.org.uk) offers telephone and online help and support. Their fabulous motto is ‘It’s OK not to be OK’. If nothing else, remember that.
Get out the house; go for a walk; go to the grim Mother and Baby groups. If your PND is mild, the endorphins from the gentle exercise, and the vitamin D from being outside might be enough for you to start to feel a little better. The M&B groups are daunting, but you can also meet amazing people there. And if everyone else in the room seems to be coping better with life and babies and everything else than you, keep repeating that ‘1 in 5 women suffer a post-natal mental illness’ statistic- you might feel like you are the only one there who is struggling, but there will be at least one other woman there who feels the same, and is probably looking at you and wishing she was coping as well as you are. Also, grab a handful of the Good Biscuits as soon as they appear, because there is always one mother who thinks her special snowflake should absolutely be entitled to eat as many Good Biscuits as he likes, instead of making do with the Rich Teas like the other toddlers. Don’t make friends with that mother. You have enough problems; you don’t need women who don’t respect biscuits in your life. You’ll probably find the woman who looks aghast and is muttering under her breath about the biscuit thief is a kindred spirit though.
If your GP thinks you need anti depressants- take them if you want to. Equally, if you want to try other things first- go for it, but don't rule them out. Just because not all women need anti depressants to get over PND doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take all the help that you can get, if you need it, and if you do take them and some judgy woman claims she cured her PND with yoga, give her a wedgy with her LuluLemons. That’s nice for her and all, but everyone is different and there is no one cure fits all- some people get over a cold with honey and lemon drinks; some people’s colds turn into chest infections and they need antibiotics to get better. It’s exactly the same. Also, if your GP or health visitor wants to refer you to a specialist or a support group, listen to them. They didn’t spend all that money on medical school for nothing.
Try and get a break. Yeah, OK, ha ha ha. That’s one of those helpful parenting tips like ‘When the baby sleeps, go for a nap’, that make no mention of what you are supposed to do if your baby never sleeps EVER! Try and look after yourself though. Eat something. And if someone offers you practical help- take it. If you don’t want to leave the baby with them, ask them if they could help with the endless laundry; or maybe make some food for the freezer, so you can still eat when you are too exhausted to cook. Don’t feel you are failing- if someone has offered to help, it’s because they want to help you, so let them.
If you think your partner or sister or friend or daughter might have PND, you can help them too. Ask her to tell you honestly how she feels, and then let her talk. Really listen to what she has to say, don’t offer platitudes or suggestions, that’s not what she needs. If she hasn’t already seen her GP about this, when she has finished talking and crying, gently try and encourage her to get some professional support. Don’t ask her how you can make her feel better- ask her what you can do to give her a break. Let her know that you care about her, even if she doesn’t care about herself very much right now, and keep telling her the PANDA motto ‘It’s OK not to be OK’ and reminding her that SHE IS NOT ALONE.
And keep talking about it. PND is never going to go away, but if we keep talking about it, maybe by the time our daughters are pushing 8lb beachballs out their bits, if they are affected by it, they will always know they are not alone, and they will know it is OK not to be OK. And here’s a glass of Pink Sunshine Wine to all those mummies who have been through that dark place, and all those who are still there- remember, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. #PNDAW16

Finally, if you want to do more to support help for PND, then 35 brave ladies are doing a Super Obstacle Race, to raise much needed funds for PANDAS’ work:

Monday 29 August 2016

Peter And Jane Get The Pox

Today, Peter and Jane are ill.

"FML" says Mummy.  "You can't be sick!  I have just lived through the longest summer holidays ever, sustained only the distant beacon of hope that eventually you would go back to school.  Oh and gin."

"I think we have chicken pox." says Jane.

"Don't be silly," says Mummy "Of course you haven't got chicken pox.  That is just a viral rash or something.  Probably"

Peter and Jane have chicken pox.  

At Jane's insistence, Mummy Googled the symptoms and rash.  

"FUUUUUUUUCK!" says Mummy.  "Infectious for five to six days?  There is not enough gin in the world."

Daddy is very worried by Peter and Jane's chicken pox.

"I could get shingles!" says Daddy.

"You are not getting shingles." says Mummy.

Daddy has been on Google too.

"I am too busy and important to get shingles!" says Daddy.

"You don't have fucking shingles!" says Mummy.

"Do you think that is a shingles rash?" he asks Mummy, pointing a small freckle.

Mummy's thoughts turn again to that shallow grave in the woods.

Peter has inherited his father's hypochondria, and is shuffling round the house, coughing feebly.  

"FFS, Peter, coughing isn't even a symptom of chicken pox!" says Mummy.

Mummy tries to go to the toilet.
"Poor me, Mummy" says Peter, through the bathroom door "Could you take my temperature again?  Are you sure it is only chicken pox and not small pox, Mummy?  Perhaps I have the Consumption too, Mummy.  I feel so ill, Mummy.  Will you miss me when I am gone, Mummy?"

"Have you been watching Little Women again?" says Mummy 

"Perhaps you could just bring me a cup of cool water, to sooth my parched lips, Mummy?" croaks Peter "And can I have a hug?"

Peter looks quite repulsive.  Mummy pats him gingerly "There there..." she says.

Jane is made of sterner stuff.  "I'll just put on my own fucking calamine lotion, Peter, while you lie there like a dying duck!" she shouts.

Peter rallies from his death bed for long enough to try and twat Jane.  

There is now calamine lotion everywhere.

"Five more days of this?" thinks Mummy, and orders a case of gin online.

Mummy has now been at home with Peter and Jane for eternity.

Mummy and Peter and Jane cannot leave the house because Peter and Jane look like foul medieval lepers, and people recoil and throw rotten fruit at them.

Their new fun game is to flick their own scabs at each other and then scream about it.

Mummy can no longer use her words, she can only rock in the corner and sob.

Daddy comes home from work.

"I really don't feel very well" says Daddy "I have a bit of a headache, I am sure it is shingles.  Can you check my rash again?"

Mummy, in a fit of extraordinary self restraint, does not beat Daddy to death with a bottle of calamine lotion, but instead pours herself All The Gin and tells Daddy to fuck right off with his fucking shingles, if he mentions it one more time, she will shove his fucking laptop up his fucking arsehole, and laugh while he tries to consult Dr Google about how to extract it.

Daddy looks hurt by this threat. "I cannot help it if I am getting shingles!" says Daddy.

Mummy brandishes the calamine bottle threateningly.  Daddy decides to check for his own shingles rash.

Mummy thinks about her youth, and that boy that wasn't Daddy.  That boy would not have been such a malingering twat.  Mummy should have married that boy instead.  Later she will look him up on Facebook, and be annoyed by all the motivational memes he posts, and will have to refrain from drunkenly commenting under a post about making your own destiny with a wanky picture of a sunset, that fucking chicken pox is no respecter of your destiny.  Actually, she will probably not refrain and then will have to quickly delete it in the morning.  

Mummy really really needs to leave the house soon.

Sunday 24 July 2016

Peter and Jane Go On An Aeroplane.

Today, Peter and Jane are going on holiday to Abroad, with Mummy and Daddy.

Mummy has spent the last week cleaning the house, washing all the holiday clothes for everybody and packing for Peter and Jane and herself.

Daddy says "Why are you bothering to clean everything before we go away?  It will all still be here when we get back."

Mummy says "That is the fucking point, you twat."

Daddy has looked for his sunhat, failed to find it, asked Mummy to find it, complained there is no need for Mummy to be like that and put some shorts and t-shirts in a suitcase.

Peter and Jane are at the airport.  Daddy is checking everyone in because he is busy and important.

Mummy is trying to stay awake because she has been up since 4am.

Peter and Jane are crazed with excitement about their holiday.

Peter and Jane are demonstrating how excited they are by repeatedly ramming their Trunkis into the ankles of other passengers.

Mummy hates those fucking Trunkis.  They seemed like such a good idea when she first saw them, but they are evil weapons of mass destruction.

Peter and Jane are waiting in a very long queue to get through security.

Daddy insists they change queues every five minutes because he is convinced that by doing so, he is somehow beating the system.  At least this gives Peter and Jane a new set of people to attack with the Trunkis.

After security, Daddy consents to a brief stop in Duty Free to buy holiday gin.  

Mummy loves Duty Free, it is a Glittering Wonderland of Hope and Joy. 

Daddy has grabbed the holiday gin and is trying to stop Peter and Jane from charging a tower of Toblerones with the Trunkis, while Mummy has been distracted by perfume samples and shiny make up.

Mummy tries on all the free perfumes and then feels a bit sick.

Mummy wonders if her life would be different if she had one of those little travel boxes of make up that they only sell in Duty Free.

Daddy drags Mummy away from the Lovely Things, because he is very anxious about Finding The Gate.

Peter and Jane have tired of their Trunkis and given them to Mummy to carry.

Daddy cannot carry the Trunkis because he has the boarding passes and passports and he is also Finding The Gate.  Only Daddy can Find The Gate.

"The gate is that way." says Mummy.

Daddy ignores her, for Mummy is not the Gate Finder.

"The gate is that way." says Daddy.

"That is what I said, you knob." says Mummy.

Peter and Jane are on the aeroplane.

Mummy is not speaking to Daddy and has threatened to stab him more than once.

The only reason Mummy has not made good on this threat is because airport security measures prevent her from having anything to stab him with.

Mummy swears if he makes one more patronising comment to her though, she is going to drink the holiday gin and bottle him with the empty.

"Did you manage to find my sunhat?" asks Daddy.

"We are bored, Mummy.  What can we do?  When will we be there?" ask Peter and Jane for the twenty seventh time, as they relentlessly kick the seats in front of them.

Mummy cannot fucking wait for the nice lady to come round with the trolley full of booze.

Friday 8 July 2016

Peter and Jane and The End Of Term

Today is the end of the summer term, and Peter and Jane have many, many weeks of holidays to look forward to.

Mummy is not looking forward to the holidays.

Mummy's bank account is not looking forward to the holidays.

Mummy's liver is not looking forward to the holidays.

At the end of term, the children give presents to the teachers, to say "Thank You For Attempting To Instill Some Knowledge And Wisdom Into Our Tiny Brains And Thank You For Not Throwing Heavy Objects At Us In The Process, Even Though You Were Quite Tempted To'.  

There are two options for Teacher Presents.

Option one is to hope that the Nicest Mummy In The Class will crack and organise a collection between the other mummies, so that the teachers can have a good present, such as Marks and Spencers vouchers that they can spend on useful things that they want, like posh sausage rolls, wine and pants.  

The other option is to hurl random tat at the teachers inscribed with 'Best Teacher In The World' in lurid glitter paint.  

Even the 'Best Teacher In The World' does not really want 33 cheap candles bearing this legend.

Mummy has also been told by teacher friends that if the teacher has been a good teacher, it is a lovely idea to write a letter to them, to show appreciation for putting up with your little twatbags for a year without resorting to drinking in the workplace.

Mummy has learned through bitter experience that you should not write these letters after you have been drinking gin, as the teachers are slightly non plussed to receive a six page, tear stained epistle, musing on the relentless yet ephemeral nature of time.

A pretty card, simply saying "Thank you so much." is sufficient.

This year, the Nicest Mummies In The Class have agreed to organise collections for Peter and Jane's teachers again, which makes Mummy happy.

Mummy is baffled by the endless streams of emails this apparently simple process produces from some of the other mummies though, who seem inclined to over think things.  

Mummy is astounded at the patience of the Nicest Mummies In The Class at dealing with this bloody nonsense.  

This is why Mummy is never going to be the Nicest Mummy In The Class.

After the 376th group email from a hand wringing Boden Mummy lands in Mummy's inbox, Mummy types "FFS, just give the Nicest Mummy a fiver for vouchers and fuck off with your agonising over how maybe it might be more personal to buy the teacher a Guatemalan orphan with the proceeds of the collection.  The teacher will be more than happy with a month's supply of Thai Green Curry and Pinot Grigio."

Oh fuck, Mummy did not mean to press send.

On the last day of term, Peter and Jane turn to Mummy and demand to know where their teacher presents are.

Mummy explains everyone is giving the teachers a joint present from the whole class.

Peter and Jane explain that that is no longer enough, that the Boden Mummies also send in a 'little something extra' and Peter and Jane must also provide or be judged.

"Bollocky arse", thinks Mummy, rifling through the cupboards.

Eventually Mummy realises there is nothing else to hand and reluctantly gives Peter and Jane a bottle of wine each for the teachers.

It is not that Mummy grudges the teachers the wine (well, she does a bit), it's just the summer holidays are very long and Mummy needs all the help she can get.  Mummy feels somewhat alone now.

At the end of school, Peter and Jane stagger out, buckling under the weight of a year's worth of 'art works' and exercise books.

"Look, Mummy, look!" cry Peter and Jane.

"It is lovely..." mumbles Mummy.

"LOOK AT IT ALL, MUMMY!" order Peter and Jane.

"I am, darlings, I am!"  says Mummy.

"Maybe you could sort through it and decide what to keep?" suggests Mummy hopefully.

"We must keep IT ALL!" howl Peter and Jane indignantly  "Do not throw away our childhood, you monster!"

"Couldn't I just throw away a bit?" pleads Mummy "Look, Peter, you have eaten half of this exercise book, perhaps we don't need to keep the other half?  And Jane, you have six identical half coloured in photocopies of a panda bear.  Maybe we could just keep one?"

Peter and Jane growl at Mummy menacingly, and Mummy fills another box of dog eared memories to stow in the attic and be forgotten.