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Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Packed Lunches

So, before I get to the main business of complaining, something that I notice us English do with aplomb, I thought it pertinent to mention that I was married on the 6th of May. I now have a husband, my children are legitimate in the eyes of most things and everything after a wedding is a blissful anti climax. My children looked amazing, my, now, husband and I were polished like turds and everything after that was comparatively excellent. I loved my wedding day and intend to do it every year for the rest of my life, even, and it most certainly does mean, if it means bankruptcy.

More importantly, lunch boxes.

So, how we arrived here is fairly convoluted, as most things are with children, but it goes a little something like this.

My eldest, it usually is, second child complains less, is far more robust and if she feels she wants something she usually gets on with it, regardless of the consequences. Back to the eldest. For a while we had been having a bit of a nightmare getting her to go to school, it would start in the morning when she would greet us at Oh Christ hundred am, whingeing about the fact that she didn't want to go to school. Never mind if it wasn't a school day, every day's the same for little people, it would seem (children, not midgets, I know far less about the vertically challenged!) she would let us know before we'd even opened our eyes that she was not happy with us bundling her into the car and leaving her in the care of her nursery.

I shall take this moment to let you all know at this point that her nursery is filled with some of the most lovely people the world has ever known. There is a lady, teacher, in her nursery who calls everyone endearments, even when restraining someone who wants to paint someone else's eyeballs with a chainsaw. True story. There are lambs and sheep, goats, horses, donkeys, chickens, turkeys, peacocks, play grounds, sand pits, woods, rabbits and all sorts of other stuff based at her nursery, the like of which I dream about, let alone other children dream about. My husband (eeeek) and I take it in turns to do pick up and drop off and listen to the hand overs and sneak in at weird times to make sure that they aren't being beaten in secret dungeons whilst we're not there. I know it's not happening. Her nursery is the stuff dreams are made of. How many of us would say "day at nursery you say? No, no, I'd much rather commute, make myself and other people do what they don't want to do in a horrible stark place and then commute home thanks."? It's not going to happen, she has it easy but she doesn't know.

Anyway, despite this resounding logic I decided to probe. I have a rule, ask said child at least three times what the problem is, at various different times and if the answer is the same, more often than not, then I have my answer. I duly followed this logic and back would come the answer "I don't like my hot lunch", "my hot lunch is not nice Mummy", "I like a packed lunch Mummy, jam sandwiches are nicer than hot lunch." I was despondent, I couldn't believe that their a la carte menu was the issue. A couple of weeks passed and it was still the same.

Now, I complain bitterly about my children, but like most, I love the little blighters and I don't want to see them sad or hear them upset, but at the same time, having hot lunches provided by the school and paid for by us was convenient. They were getting a good, healthy and well balanced lunch at least 3 times a week. This meant that we were all happy. But now my little bubble was bursting, my convenient happiness was my eldest's unhappiness, so much so that she didn't give a hoot what Old Macdonald had on his farm, nursery was rubbish and she didn't want to go. So, we arrived at the packed lunch.

It sounds so simple, packed lunch... images of lunch boxes and sandwiches and lovely little drinks and bits and pieces all gathered up in a lovely little lunch box type wrapping. But it's just not that simple. Cooking with various different ingredients in a timely and succinct fashion produces a whole, balanced, nutritious meal of food. You have a cornucopia of balance, nutrition and delicious at your finger tips in your kitchen. You can hide secret carrots and leeks and etc in a cottage pie, broccoli can be disguised as dinosaur trees next to macaroni cheese, as a parent you are in charge and as covert as you need to be in your kitchen preparing food for your unsuspecting offspring. With a packed lunch though, sandwiches disguise nothing, vegetables are vegetables and last night's vegetable laden cottage pie does not travel well or do such amazing things cold, especially when "hot lunches" at school have been vetoed.

Every night, before the girls go to nursery, on the days they go, I wander around my kitchen thinking about new and improved ways to get things into my children. My youngest doesn't like the common or garden sandwich so I have to make deconstructed sandwiches wrapped up as individual offerings. The eldest sees little point in raw vegetables so cucumber is shaped into things that I don't even know existed, we're on our second week and I haven't yet got to carrots, but Peppa Pig, I have it on good authority, cuts a dash in carrot form? Yoghurts and cheese are administered liberally and I scour the supermarket shelves for anything organic and healthy that looks like a sweet. It makes me sweat, shopping takes a decade and I try and put it off until I am literally left looking at a cupboard with nothing but chocolate spread and Haribo in it. They'd judge me, I'd be relegated, they'd know I was an existent parent as opposed to my carefully manufactured Excellent Parent.

I want to go on and on about this hell that I find myself in. My children do understand that the moment they stop eating their nutritious delicious packed lunches, they'll be back on hot lunches before they can blink, even if I have to go to school and whip them up myself! But, ladies and gents, dare I ask, am I just succumbing to the competitive parent in me? Is Nutella on Haribo occasionally such a bad thing? I don't know, I can't answer any of this I have packed lunches to construct, don't I!? 

Thursday, 3 May 2012

How do I deal with other peoples dreadful children?

It is important to remember, when reading this, that what I am saying in this blurb about other people's children, comes very much from the parameters of this quote from Ronnie's mother in the film Role Models.

"I am a lioness.  A black sheba.  I am a lioness, and this is my cub.  If you mess with my cub, I will claw your ass up until you shit sideways.”

I am less of a lioness and more of a sloth/grizzly bear at rest hybrid. I am also not black, so saying that in my white upper/middle class accent would make me sound less sincere and frightening more wigger with issues. But the sentiment is very much there. As I think is the case with most parents, our children are our pride and joy and any slight visited on them is slam dunked straight into the "oh shit" archives that I think we all harbour (not just me?) and hope we can keep at bay with protocol and that which society dictates, to a lesser or greater extent. For example, you aren't going to punch someone in the face for telling you that your child isn't as amazing as you undoubtedly (at certain times) think they are. Children that get on your nerves aren't going to be bound and gagged as soon as their parents backs are turned for long enough, no matter how you much you feel like this is the only course. Perhaps you are, but it won't be long before things spiral and you find yourself in a whole lot of inconvenience with people like the law.

This particular rant begins with my eldest who has come home from nursery on several occasions speaking about one of her "best good" friends in a light and breezy way, telling me through fake almost laughter, that "sometimes X plays tricks on me and tells me that I am her friend and that I am not her friend!" I from the front of the car have to loosen the collar of the article of clothing that is now strangling me and breathe deeply to stop my blood from cooking me (see Anger Management). The first time I heard this I simply delved into standard parent manual response and said that "that wasn't very nice and we should be friends with everyone and dee dah dee dah dee dah" text book. They're young and this really means very little, ha ha. The second and third time however, and god forbid there should be a forth, I no longer probe about the little friend in question, I saw a little flash of red and said, against much, much better judgement, that she should
"tell X that she isn't her friend anymore and that her behavior is mean and not very nice and really you should spend a lot more time nurturing your friendship with Y" to which the response was
"but A (the teacher) says that we should all be friends and play nicely together?" to which I responded "and A is totally right, you should be friends with everyone and play nicely, but if X says that again, you have to tell A and me and we can see if we can make sure that you are all playing together nicely!" This would be the dreaded fourth time...

But it's too late for this sloth/grizzly bear at rest hybrid, she wants to know how such a seemingly angelic child can be so search and destroy at such a young age? This is not a "trick" this manipulative evil that is directed at my cub, manipulative evil that I am not happy with at all, and to my mind, manipulative evil that can only be rivaled by Mine Fuhrer and the Third Reich!

I have met the mother of X and I have had X round at our house. Both X and her mother are wouldn't hurt a fly, sit in the corner, say very little but wow the company with humility and good manners, if not a little wet, type beings. But rather wet than tear your house down rudeness. They are pleasant and personable and seemingly good people. I am no human lie detector, but when it comes to my cub, there's no rationale, not dissimilar to Robert de Niro in Meet the Parents. I want to have this out, whilst they are strapped to a lie detector and a chair in a bunker under our house should they ever come round. I'll offer them drinks, and then as I proffer the biscuits I'll lure them down the stairs to my prepped room... Plan needs work.

Through my head, when I think about our next meeting, go images of me short arm jabbing bodies to the belly with a knee raise to the face, aggressive questioning through gritted teeth. But I am not Lara Croft and this is not Grand Theft Auto. This is law abiding Wiltshire, nursery school rantings from my eldest and a lioness who is way too idealistic about how things should go. This truly is not the end of the world and I know that I am verging on psycho. But psycho is more fun than text book.

X, although not as lovely as I had fist imagined, is really probably quite sweet and harmless and her mother may or may not be the she devil that I have emblazoned on the back of my eyeballs. In my mind now, she's a dreadful child, but maybe my eldest does see it as "a trick," and maybe X sees it as "a trick" too. So, unless I become a human lie detector and a Black Sheba/Lara Croft, I have to realise that I can't fight all their battles or choose their friends. In the same way that my father couldn't ACTUALLY shoot the first boy he caught in my room, despite waving a shotgun in his face! Is there any other way to deal with other peoples dreadful children, and really, just how dreadful are other peoples children?