Mind the gap…

Once upon a time, back in my staffer days, I remember writing a feature about the best age gap to leave between having children. I vaguely recall one of the experts I interviewed postulating that the best gaps are either less than 18 months (eek!) or over three years. These gaps, the expert said, were the most likely to lead to harmonious sibling relationships, unburdened by jealousy and rivalry.

With my five and a quarter year gap, I should, then, be onto a winner. And indeed, for the first, what, 14 months of The Baby’s life, the relationship between my children was pretty much perfect. Yes, there was the occasional wail of, ‘Stop her eating my Lego!’ but in general, brother and sister were the best of friends.  Continue reading


The Gallery: Hands

They were so tiny, once. So precious.

I so clearly remember taking my babies to have their hand and footprints taken in John Lewis when they were just a few weeks old. I remember having second thoughts about the expense, especially when The Boy was newborn and I hadn’t got my head around my future work plans and where – if anywhere – the money would come from. The Boy slept through his imprinting, even when we took his sock off and shoved it into the cold clay; The Baby, however, screamed, writhed and clenched her fists. It was stressful. I was convinced her prints would be a write-off, but they turned out fine. Continue reading

Summer loving

I always know it’s going to be a good day when I wake up in the morning and open the curtains to blue skies. Because everything is easier on a sunny day.

Getting out of bed at 6.15am – the default time at which my little 16-month-old alarm clock goes off – is easier. In the winter months, when it’s still pitch black, it feels like that wake-up call is coming in the dead of night. While I never relish the thought of being dragged from my sleep, it’s less painful in summer, when the sky is light and the birds are singing. Continue reading

New shoes


I was so excited (and disbelieving) when I found out at 24 weeks that I was expecting a baby girl. I love my son to bits, but after five years of trains, tractors and mud, I couldn’t wait to have a house full of pink. I was a very girlie girl myself, growing up. Okay, I did go through a (long) Goth phase in my teens, but up to that point, I was all about dolls, ballet and pretty things. I was still playing with my Barbies when I started secondary school, for goodness sake.

I was so looking forward to indulging my love of all things girlie with my daughter, but what I didn’t consider was that she’d be a proper little tomboy. Whether it’s the big brother influence or just in her nature, who knows, but it’s blindingly obvious that she’s much happier playing with cars, balls and Lego than dolls.

She does, however, have one concession to girliness – and that’s shoes.

I vaguely remember The Boy going through a phase where he was obsessed with shoes, but that was with chewing them, not wearing them. The Baby, in contrast, just loves shoes. Her favourite pastime is sitting beside the shoe rack, trying on a selection of footwear belonging to other members of the family. If she’s barefoot, she’ll often go and find a pair of her own shoes and try to put them on. She even tries to put the laundry liquid dispenser pots on her feet.

Unsurprisingly, then, this morning’s trip to get The Baby’s feet measured was a big success. It probably ranks up there as one of the best experiences of her 16-month life so far. When she was first fitted with shoes, two months ago, she measured up as a dinky size two, and so it was cruisers or nothing. But now that she’s walking confidently (including backwards), I wanted to get her some proper walkers.

We’d already been to Boots for eye drops for The Boy, John Lewis to browse the sale, and Primark to pick up some vests and socks before we hit the shoe shop, and The Baby was beginning to get grumpy. But as we entered Shoe Mecca, her face lit up. ‘Shooooooe!’ she cried, straining at the straps of her pushchair. ‘Shooooooooooooe!’

For the next half-hour, The Baby was in her element. She tried on pair after pair of shoes. She ran up and down the shop. She sat down and admired each style option, and gazed at herself in the mirror. She methodically took every pair off the lower shelf of the sale rack and lined them up on the floor. All while squealing, ‘shoooooooe!’

But despite her evident delight at being surrounded by such objects of beauty, shoe-shopping with The Baby was no mean feat (excuse the pun). Because she’s inherited her mummy’s tiny feet. My childhood was blighted by small, narrow and shallow feet that meant I always had to have boring, fitted, near-orthopaedic styles, while my normal-footed friends got to wear those pretty Mary-Janes with the strap that you could slide back over the heel to convert them to slip-ons; remember those? And after visiting two shoe shops, and pushing our car parking ticket into the third hour, we’d discovered that proper walking shoes are hard to come by if you’re a teeny tiny size three. Most styles, it transpires, start at a four.

But all was not lost. After exhausting our options in the big high street chain stores, we had a last-resort look in the expensive independent shoe shop. It yielded two possibilities; both white (*sigh*), but one more robust-looking than the other.

Of course, The Baby didn’t want the sturdy, sensible shoes. Oh no. She shoved them out of the way in favour of the white pearlescent Italian designer leather pair with glittery red hearts. So scuffable. So impractical. So expensive, at £25 in the half-price sale.

But her luck was in. The more practical pair gaped when she walked, while the designer efforts fit like the proverbial glove. And with them adorning her minuscule feet, The Baby was *not* taking them off again. I left the shop £25 lighter, with The Baby positively beaming about her pretty new ‘shoooooooes.’

They do look pretty. And my inner girlie-girl is secretly pleased that my little tomboy does have a feminine side. But I’m not entirely sure how her beautiful designer shoes are going to stand up to playing football in the mud…

The Gallery: Family

Even though we spent five years feeling perfectly satisfied with having an only child – and, in fact, for at least four of those, thought we’d stick with just the one – there was one thing that always rankled. And that was the way that other people seemed to consider us ‘less of a family’ than those with two or more children.

No one ever said it outright, but it was implicit in people’s attitudes. I felt they didn’t consider me a sufficiently experienced mum because I was raising a single child rather than a brood. I often felt we were expected to go further out of our way for get-togethers and outings than other families, because it was theoretically easier for us to get up and go. I found myself giving endless lifts to parties and playdates just because there was more space in our car, and no younger sibling to make alternative arrangements for.  Continue reading

Not enough hours…


I’m pretty sure that just about every mother on the face of this earth would bite your hand off for an extra three hours in the day. I know I would. But at the moment, I think I’d probably need more like another 12 to get through everything I have to do.

That photo up there is what my desk looks like right now. And the only thing I like on it is the glass of wine. It also features a BlackBerry flashing away to alert me to my unanswered emails (186 in my inbox at this precise moment), a pad full of shorthand notes yet to be transcribed, another pad with details of my year-end accounts which *really* need sorting out, my passport, which needs renewing (by August 9th; no pressure), the booking form for the school table-top sale, where I intend to try to shift our outgrown baby gear, and, and, and… Continue reading

Diagnosis: paranoid mummy

Today, I have experienced a parenting rite of passage. For the first time in six and a half years of motherhood (which must be some sort of record), I took one of my children to A&E.

The Boy has suffered from hayfever for several years now, so when I got a phone call from school this morning saying that he’d been rubbing his eye all morning and it was swollen almost shut, I assumed he was just having a bad allergies day, and trundled down to school with a bottle of Piriton in my pocket, planning to dose him up and leave him there.

I wasn’t expecting him to come out of the classroom with his eye purple and swollen to the size of a golf ball. On closer inspection – look away now if you’re squeamish – his actual eyeball was swollen, and appeared to have some sort of fluid under the membrane. It was horrible. It was also blatantly clear that I wasn’t going to be able to dose and go. Continue reading