Monday, 25 February 2008

I have a dream

The other night, I had a strange dream. It reminded me a bit of Amy Tan's book, Saving Fish from Drowning, which we 'did' in my book club Abroad. It was a huge great tome and pretty much as pointless as the title, but was chosen by a lovely person so we all held back from giving it the throttling it richly deserved. The main substance of the book was a horrible journey into the jungle, I can't remember where or why exactly (and thank God for that). So it was with a heavy heart that I embarked on a similar trek during my Friday night slumbers.

I really, really didn't want to go. I'm not mad keen on walking at the best of times (my Dulwich park power walks have now slowed to a snail's pace and everyone has completely given up the idea of getting me to jog. This morning, to take the pace down even further, I pretended I'd pulled a muscle doing my pilates DVD. As if!) but walking through a great curtain of rampant vegetation was the pits. The trouble was, I had to go, because my children were already at Base Camp and I had to go and protect them. Of course, when I'd slashed my way through a full garden centre's worth of foliage, I found them safe and well in a very nice tent and arguing about which shade of nail varnish went best with their camouflage fatigues. Plus ca change!

No sooner had they seen me, though, than they wanted to leap up and, most uncharacteristically, press on into the uncharted jungle. In real life, of course, they would have started bickering over whether to watch High School Musical 2, Little House on the Prairie or, more likely, something totally unsuitable with a 15 certificate, but this was a nightmare, so off we all went, even though I knew a band of guerillas, or similar menacing scary folk, was sure to be waiting for us in the next clearing.

I woke up, muzzy-headed and feeling very resentful. It didn't take much to work it out. As True Love has told me crushingly, I have very literal dreams. My children are off on the inexorable path towards adolescence, adulthood and freedom and, far from leading from the front in an Edmund Hilary, inspirational style, I am left dragging my feet at the rear, a reluctant sherpa moaning about the vast quantites of nail varnish I'm having to lug around. The moral of the story: perk up, or get left behind. Oh, all right then.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Growing Up

When I picked up Child One the other day, she had unusually pink cheeks. A bit of physical exercise? I doubted it, as she has inherited the full might of my sloth gene. No, it turned out they had been doing a new topic called Growing Up in science.

'We had to label Private Parts, Mummy. And we weren't even allowed to giggle!' she said, indignant. Well, I do think that's outrageous. If you can't snigger at Private Parts these days, what is there left to laugh at?

Back at home, she showed me her science book. 'And what do you think those are, Mummy?' I looked at the rather hair-raising diagram and pursed my lips. 'I think they could be testicles,' I ventured. 'Well, you seem to know an awful lot about all this, Mummy,' she said, in tones of great disapproval.

I suppose the surprise is that she doesn't know a bit more. After all, she started asking me where babies came from at the age of about two. I would explain, in mind-numbing detail, and all would go quiet in the back of the car. Then she would start asking about death instead.

I now realise that, like sex, sex education has many different levels. Child Two, for instance, is at quite a different stage. She asked why those particular body parts had to be involved. 'Couldn't the Mummy, for instance, just put her bosoms on the man's bottom and that could make a baby?' she suggested, as though you could pick any protuberance and it would do the job just as well. Child One, meanwhile, was getting more technical. She brandished the textbook picture of coitus at me. 'How long do you have to hold this position for?' she asked me. 'It's just that you told me once it only took five minutes, then another time you said it was more like half an hour. Which is it? And how many times did you and Daddy have to do it before you had me?'

Oh dear. I'm not sure I'm grown up enough for this.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Foreign Ways

I am becoming rather intrigued by the stunna momma from school. Particularly since I saw her running in the park the other morning.

She ran totally like a girl, you know, elbows out, feet splayed, a bit like a duck under pressure. But it wasn't that which caught my interest. It was the fact that she was running at all. You see, she belongs to the sort which decides, in its mid-twenties, whether all efforts will be going into salvaging the face or the figure. This is absolutely an either/or thing - everyone knows you can't keep both.

The theory is that losing weight, while asthetically more pleasing, will inevitably lead to wrinkles, whereas putting a brave face on things means, basically, sharing your old age with a big fat arse.

I had assumed she was going for the face, as she is freshly plucked and beautifully made up no matter how early the hour. Indeed, when the school misguidedly offered parents' morning meetings with the teachers instead of an old-fashioned parents' evening last term, she was the only one amongst us who managed to deploy her mascara in the 7am November darkness. I'm sure I did not imagine my youngest child's teacher's sudden intake of breath when I stuck my totally undecorated face round the door at the crack of a particularly horrible, grey dawn. No surprise, then, that we're back to evenings for the next round of meetings.

Anyway, discovering Stunna had actually gone for figure, not face, was a terrible shock. Another comrade lost to the horrors of the gym, or, in this case, the deep ridiculousness of pounding round Dulwich park clad in garments containing lycra. I feel a bit let down. And piqued. I have been enjoying other mummies' tales of Stunna's refreshing take on parenting, allowing children on playdates to get in touch with their inner homing pigeons by finding their way back from the park using only bits of string and the light of the moon, screening Kill Bill after tea and other gems. Now I find she's just a jogger like everyone else in Dulwich!

And how did I spy her running, I hear you ask? Well, I was in the park myself. But walking, you understand, just walking. I need my fat arse. I can't afford cushions any more.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Time waits for no woman

There is something wonderfully comforting about time. People have been telling me it's a great healer for months, if not years, and of course I've been completely ignoring them. But something I saw in the playground yesterday did drop that penny definitively.

It was one of the more glamorous Mummies (there are plenty of stunnas, as the Sun would have it, but she is definitely top of the pops), who as usual was shepherding a brood of tiny children with her while waiting for an older son who was still in school. Seeing her with a large group of tinies, I am always irresistibly reminded of a rather bored sheepdog, going through the motions. She looks at the children with a curiously apathetic stare. It's only her eyes which resemble a bored sheepdog, I should point out - the rest of her is drop-dead gorgeous, stick-thin, tall, toned, decked out in something incredibly form-fitting, often a camel-coloured trouser suit with real fur (yes, she's foreign and knows no shame) around the collar, a mane of gorgeous curly blonde hair cascading down her back, very shampoo ad, and with the whole outfit finished off with stratospheric heels. If one of the toddlers did make a run for it, there's no way she could chase them without breaking at least a leg. The poor toddlers seem to know, though , that if they did run away, they'd be on their own. She'd be shovelling the other children into her SUV as quickly as she could and would be off with a squeal of brakes and a whiff of burnt rubber, leaving them alone to fend for themselves in hedgerows. As a result, her children and the great shoals of other people's she drives around are all uncannily well-behaved, though inclined to be teary.

Looking at her, I was reminded of myself when my children were much, much younger. All right, I don't think I would ever have driven off and left them in a layby (and neither has she, I should point out in all fairness) but I do remember that sense of dislocation and, more importantly, exhaustion. I'm sure I didn't enjoy them as much as I should have. Now, of course, I really do have fun with mine - and just at the moment when they're starting to try to shake me off.

Ah, time. Well, if it can change all that, I'm sure it'll work its wonders on the rest. It's just the waiting that gets me down.