I’m the lucky one 


To give a little context to this post, I’m not usually one for long winded ramblings about why kids are so great. Usually it’s pretty much the opposite. I’m also not one for indignant rants about the ignorance of other people because let’s face it, we all know that other people can be right bellends and you’re better off just sticking to the ones you know are pretty decent. That’s just the way it is. Yesterday I overheard a snippet of a conversation and have been mulling it over ever since. Maybe I didn’t hear the rest, maybe there was more. Maybe there wasn’t. Either way it got me thinking. 

So it starts out with Beast 1 having been under the weather for the last couple of days – sore throat, bit of a temperature, general clammy-ness. He insisted on coming with me to town to pick up my new glasses and promised he felt well enough. I did get around to choosing those new frames in the end; I have to say that Sally in specsavers looked pretty alarmed when we walked back in to collect them. 

Errands run, and dodging the twenty or so people loitering outside catching invisible Pokemon with their phones *wtf*, we made our way to Costa as Jasper had a pretty sore throat again so I’d promised an icy drink to make him feel a bit better. Now given how The Beasts usually behave in public, Jasper was being exceptionally good & was waiting patiently in line for our turn. Oscar was at home with daddy so all in all, nothing much to report. It was pretty busy and there weren’t that many staff in, so the line was slow going and usually this would be cause for panic, because if there’s one thing The Beasts definitely do not excel at, it’s behaving themselves in long queues surrounded by cake and hot beverages.

In Jasper’s hand was a chocolate lolly – you know the ones in the foil wrappers that are basically just slabs of chocolate on a stick, and he was allowed to choose this in M & S as a little treat because he wasn’t feeling too great. So anyway, he’s eating his lolly and every so often he pauses to look around, and when he does so, his arm moves automatically and the melted, sloppy top of the lolly gets closer and closer to the lady in front of us. 

Now the lady in front of us was really rather perfect; perfect hair, perfect clothes, perfect nails and general perfectness all round. Stark contast to The Beast and I, who look like we’ve been dragged through a hedge and then smeared in various foodstuffs at the end. Each time the lolly comes close, she glances down in disgust and flicks the (non existent) chocolate off her perfect jeans. This happens about four times. Now I completely understand that a stranger does not want chocolate smeared all over his or her clothes. That’s not what this about, before anyone gets upset. And I wasn’t just watching and letting him do it, as I do feel it’s important to teach children to be mindful & respectful of other people, so each time I reminded him to be careful where he waves his lolly & not to get it on the lady. 

Whilst this is all going on, Jasper’s jabbering away about my glasses, how poorly he’s been, why his drink is taking so long, whether he’s allowed a cake and a Lolly and an icy drink (he isn’t) and to be honest, as a fairly well established parent, some of it just filters out and you hear the main bits (enough to say no to cake, lolly and cooler at any rate) and just nod along to the rest. This clearly isn’t a skill miss perfect in front has mastered however, because it appeared as if Jasper’s chattering was literally and physically hurting her ears, and every few seconds she’d glare at him out of the corner of her eye, wince, then roll her eyes, and then rub her ear in a rather exaggerated fashion. I felt like saying to her: “look, I get it, not everyone loves listening to a small boy talk incessantly at midday on a Sunday while waiting (ages) for a coffee, but he’s really not doing any harm and actually, just cut him some slack – he’s five years old and has as much right as anyone else to stand in this queue and talk to his mother. And the lolly hasn’t touched you once, so calm down.”

But I didn’t. We waited, I manovered Jasper back a bit, and she eye rolled, and at one point I though she was going to break her neck where she was craning it round to check there was no smear of chocolate on her jeans (there wasn’t) and everyone got their drinks. As we slowly walked past on our way out, due to the general fannying around that was going on with getting bags hooked on the right arms and making sure the drink lids were on tight, to her companion I heard her say: “God that kid was getting chocolate all over me. And he was so annoying.” *shudders* to which her companion smirks and says “not a fan of children then, no?” She then replies “eurgh no: I’m lucky enough to be child free thanks.” 

Now this turn of phrase took me aback, as if having children is just a result of terrible bad luck and no one had any choice in the matter, like when you get cancer or run over by a bus or something. Certainly not like our children were carefully planned and very much wanted, and not like there’s thousands of people on this planet that are not lucky enough to be able to have children. And yes I get it that actually, some people just don’t want kids, and I completely respect that choice, but in any event, it is a choice. It’s not random luck. 

In that moment, there was nothing to be gained from stopping and asking her what she meant, not least because the sugar bomb from the chocolate pop was due to detonate and I didn’t want to reinforce her belief any further with a hyper little gerbil hanging off my leg, so I didn’t, but to that lady, there’s some things I could have said. 

I could have said: 

Lucky is having two healthy children.

Lucky is having no problem conceiving those children, having decided that we were ready to bring them into the world.

Lucky is having few problems growing those children. 

Lucky is delivering those children in a hospital, with midwives and doctors and modern medicine, and the NHS. 

Lucky is having enough food to feed those children and having clean water for them to drink. 

Lucky is having decent schools and doctors and dentists and everything you need to keep those children safe, well, educated and (eventually / hopefully) turn them into productive members of society. 

Lucky is having bright, enthusiastic little Beasts who bring light into our lives and surprise us every day. Who make us smile and laugh (and yes, cry into our wine at night sometimes but hey ho, at least I can afford wine – lucky.) Little people who make me question how I see the world and make me consider how I can make the world a better place for them to grow up in. The conversations about whether snails are important and where bubbles come from, does the Gruffalo really live in the Deep Dark Wood and why boys have different bits to girls. What are clouds made out of (cotton wool, obviously) and if bees make honey then do wasps make jam? (No, wasps do nothing for anything and exist only to ruin picnics and fall in your sweet drinks like the bastards they are.)

Being able to get out of boring social events early by looking at your *perfectly awake* children, shaking your head, ruffling their hair and saying “best get you home to bed, SUCH a shame we can’t stay.” Or having an excuse to pile onto the sofa with a bowl (massive bag) of popcorn and the duvet to watch The Little Mermaid. (No, you can’t swap your legs for a fishtail and live with the fishies Jasper.) Reading all the books you used to love from childhood to your own children and falling in love with them all over again – seriously how great was Roald Dahl? And seeing your children fall in love with them too. Sprinkling porridge oats mixed with glitter onto your lawn on Christmas Eve (for the reindeer) and seeing their eyes alight with magic. I think that’s lucky. 

I think lucky is knowing how lucky you are. 

Other than the odd bout of gastroenteritis, which to be fair, is hideous – I can’t say that there’s anything particularly unlucky about the life we have with our children and was surprised at how flippant she was about being lucky to not have kids. Maybe it was just an offhand comment. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism because she’s being trying to conceive for years and been unsuccessful. Maybe she just hates kids. I don’t know. But I wanted to say to her: I see you, and your perfect exterior, and you see me, with my (not) perfect exterior, and you judge me for creating life. You judge me for doing the best I can and giving my child a chocolate pop when he feels unwell. You judge me for having the children that you don’t have and you judge me for allowing my child to irritate you in a queue of people in a shop. And I judge you, for how perfect you are, and how great you look, and how quiet your Sunday’s probably going to be.

It’s a question I’ve asked many times, but where has the solidarity gone? And the tolerance? Children are expected to behave like adults and to be seen and not heard, before they’ve even had the chance to understand what that means. And if you’re carting round a couple (or more) kids and looking frizzy and exhausted on a Sunday afternoon, you’re unlucky, you poor sod. Look at you, you really lucked out there with those accidental children that just appeared out of nowhere. 

Sure. Sometimes they are hard work. Sometimes you wonder if you made the right choices and whether you’re any good at this parenting lark. But sometimes I also sit and wonder if I’ve made the right sandwich for lunch & whether I should have made a different one. I’m still pretty lucky to have a sandwich at all. 

Absolutely sometimes it’s easy to be envious of those people that aren’t woken up a twat o’clock every morning with a poke in the eye and a pat on the head, and sure, sometimes you want to cry when you’ve finally managed to make yourself look presentable in something you don’t feel like ten tonne tessie in, only for one of your kids to vomit all over it or flick yoghurt at you. Yes that’s shit. But there’s so much of it that isn’t shit and that’s what never gets remembered. So to you miss perfect, I should have said, actually I’m the lucky one, not you.

Oh and I also hope that your cake was dry and that you didn’t realise your coffee had gone stone cold before you took a massive slurp. Just because you called my child annoying. Only i’m allowed to do that – because I made him. So there. 

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Should (not) have gone to Specsavers: the Beastly eye tests

I suggest you brace yourself, readers, and buckle up, because this is going to be a bit of a ride. The next time I mention that I’m going to take The Beasts for any kind of appointment single handedly, you have my permission to give me a good slap and ask WTF is wrong with me. I won’t slap you back I promise.

So the day started badly with a 5.22am wake up and general bad tempered-ness from Beast 2. If ever the phrase ‘got out of bed the wrong side’ was relevant, it was today. Two meltdowns before breakfast because 1: I wiped poo off his bum and 2: put his weetabix in the wrong bowl. But I pushed on, thinking, a bit of breakfast and a trip in the car, along with the snacks and bribes I have lined up, and he’ll be fine. Totally. Yep.

He was not fine. I first had an ominous shiver of foreboding when I had to wrestle him into his car seat. Sticking all limbs out like a starfish and going stiff as a board to boot, it took a fair amount of force to man-handle him in there and do up the buckle. He was comparable to one of those display starfish in the sealife centres that are long dead and hard as rock. That is, if dead starfish looked you straight in the eye and screamed in your face the whole time. Beast 1, while this drama was unfolding, was busy perching in his seat and yelling ‘I’M A GOOD BOY AREN’T I MUMMY, HMMM, HMMM’ over and over again.

Finally, beast contained and still snarling like a feral skunk (because he was so angry the involuntary farts just kept coming), we set off – narrowly avoiding reversing over the stupid cat who was sitting underneath the car.

The journey there at least was uneventful, other than the general hysteria that we might have squashed windmill (the cat, and I knew we hadn’t) and in we go to the opticians. Being first thing in the morning, there weren’t many customers and all of the staff had not much to do but stand around and watch us. This proved uncomfortable when meltdown no 3 occurred because Beast 2 wasn’t allowed to press the buttons on the keyboard while wearing the designer glasses on display, and had been unceremoniously strapped into his buggy. Which he hates. Beast 1 at this point is declaring to anyone who will listen (which was everyone, whether they wanted to or not) that he’s a BIG BOY and is allowed out of school to have his eyes tested. A BIG BOY don’t you know.

Forms filled out and my patience already waning, off we go to the machine thing that blows puffs in your eye and has pictures of balloons. I’ve never felt so relieved as when the lady announced that neither of The Beasts needed the puff in the eye (thank god) but that Jasper would need to look at a balloon through some binoculars. Fine – I thought. He can do this. What could go wrong? As it happens, a five year old finds it tricky to follow instructions and despite being asked near on 100 times to put his chin on the chin rest and his forehead against forehead rest, suddenly he seemed to have no neck muscles at all and couldn’t possibly hold up his own head. As well as marveling in wonder at the removable paper hygeine strips on the chin rest. ‘Oh don’t worry’ said the lady, ‘we got one eye and I’m sure the other one is  fine’ *laughs limply*.

Then it’s my turn and I do need the puffs, at which point Oscar decides that actually, he’s not going to remain sitting in the buggy so nimbly climbs out, making a mockery of the whole system by shimmying easily out of the straps, and goes to make a hasty exit. With lightning fast reflexes (if I do say so myself) my arm shoots out and I’m able to grab his wrist and (barely) restrain him. So just to set the scene, what’s happening now is that someone is blowing puffs of air at my eyeballs whilst octopus boy, because suddenly he appears to have enough appendages to beat my arm with his fist, give his brother a shove and smack the floor all at the same time, is trying to wriggle out of my grip. So that was fun – and we haven’t even got to the actual tests yet.

So moving swiftly on, we are ushered  upstairs. Having bought the buggy, mostly to secure beast 2, *scoffs* and laden with coats and bags and drinks, I have to abandon it at the bottom of the stairs, so there goes my (only) plan. We’re called promptly in by a rather unenthusiastic optician who appears to be less than thrilled at the prospect of checking four Beastly eyes along with the woman who’s dragging them around, (unsuccessfully) trying to contain them, and barely holding on to her shit. I think it was doomed from the beginning to be honest.

So anyway. Mr ‘would rather be anywhere than right here’ optician – we’ll call him Phil – starts with Beast 1. ‘Come on’, he says, ‘sit down then.’ Beast 1 hangs back a bit, and says ‘I’m a bit scared’ while I elaborate – ‘he’s just a bit nervous.’ Now I know not everyone knows how to talk to children, me included, but he’s five. So a little empathy would go a long way. Instead, Phil says ‘nervous? Well are you not a big boy then?’ Beast 1 looks slightly abashed and sits down while I bristle in the corner but decide to let it slide because moments later, they are getting on with Jasper’s test & he’s doing marvelously. Beast 2, meanwhile, still fuming from being restrained earlier but making the most of his freedom now, has discovered the stack of maom sweets and the bag of snacks and is munching his way through while declaring, very loudly, that he wants a ‘NEW FIREMAN SAM ON THE KINDLE MUMMY’. Clearly I should have done my research before bringing the kindle out, because as it happens, you can’t watch Amazon prime unless you’re connected to wifi. And I knew nothing of the ‘offline mode’ my husband has just now, helpfully informed me, does exist. At that point I didn’t know this, and we weren’t connected to wifi, So unfortunately fireman Sam was a no go. To an already irritated small beast, this went down like a lead-bastard-balloon and he spent the next five minutes rolling around on the floor yelling for Sam. Nothing would appease him. Not my Fitbit, or my phone, nothing. Nothing other than Fireman twatting Sam. He was only distracted enough to snap out of it when Phil turned the lights off to bark some more orders at an increasingly fed up Beast 1 whilst muttering that he didn’t usually work in this (clearly godforsaken) office and didn’t know where anything was. Here’s a tip for you Phil – maybe get all your shit together before you see patients in a new office. I later discovered he was a locum optician. Finally Beast 1 was finished and good old Phil looked like he’d really had enough of us. So it’s ‘his turn now yes?’ I asked, pointing at Oscar.’Oh no,’ Phil says. ‘I can’t test him here, he’s too young.’

‘….er…oh, well I had Jasper tested here two years ago at exactly the same age so….why can’t you test him?’

‘Well I haven’t got the right equipment in this room’

‘Erm- well could we move to another room? I really would like to get his eyes checked and to be honest, no one mentioned this would be a problem when I booked the appointment – and they took his date of birth.’

‘No we can’t move to another room.’

*eyeballs me while both beasts turf out the contents of our bag in the corner.*

‘Why can’t we move to another room?’

‘Well listen’ (impatiently) ‘is there anything wrong with his eyes?’

I stare at him, mouth agape…..WTF is happening? ‘I don’t know Phil, i’m pretty sure it’s your job to tell me that, seeing as how you’re an optician?’

At this point I’m really starting to struggle with holding it together. I’m down to my last nerve and phil’s doing a bloody jig on it.

‘Well look at him’ *gesticulates towards mini beast* ‘he’s not going to cooperate is he? Does he even know the alphabet? Have you taken him to the GP?’

Somewhere in the distance I fancy that I can feel the warm sun on my face and hear waves crashing against a lovely sandy beach, until I realise that it’s actually just my temperature increasing by about 10 degrees and there’s a dull rushing in my ears where I’m about to go batshit crazy.

‘Look Phil, I’m sorry but your bedside manner could really use some work and you’re actually being really unhelpful. Of course he doesn’t know the alphabet but when Jasper was tested in this office two years ago when he was exactly the same age, they just showed him pictures of ducks and aeroplanes and bloody houses so I  don’t understand why you’re telling me you won’t attempt to test my child’s eyes and why you’re suggesting I waste the time of our GP when I’m sat I front of an *deep breath so you don’t swear* optician. So I’d like to see someone else please. Right now.’

‘Oh. Well have I done something wrong?’

I feel like a hideous monster by this point. All I want is to get this done because I work nearly full time & today is the day that was planned for eye tests. And having plenty of experience working in a customer facing role myself, I can appreciate how horrible it is when someone doesn’t  want to talk to you anymore and it’s worth noting at this stage that I’m not usually that woman. I’m generally pretty easy going and I certainly didn’t enjoy ruining Phil’s morning by demanding to see someone else, and what with being terribly British, still feel pretty dreadful about it now; but goddammit I’d driven 12 miles, paid a fiver for parking, taken beast 1 out of school and used up half of my ‘day off’ – although calling it a day off is a bit strong to be honest – to get both sets of eyes tested, so he was having his eyes tested. 

And double whammy on the guilt here now because it’s quite clear, what with the coughing and general snottiness going on upstairs that Beast 2 actually doesn’t feel very well, which would go some way to explaining his temper today. Terrible mother alert that I didn’t realise earlier.

‘Phil. Could you just go and get someone else please.’

So off Phil goes to find someone else in a different room, and lo and behold, this new optician (we’ll call him Bob) is able to check Oscar. Bob is actually really helpful and we liked Bob a lot. Bob was also pretty hot – and what woman doesn’t like a hunky optician staring into her eyes when she looks like an actual crazy bag lady and has just caused a massive scene?

Anywho, only two minutes after we get in there, after kicking up such a fuss, Oscar’s hollering for a wee and is now drunk on sugar, having worked his way through every snack in the bag. Hurriedly we’re ushered into the staff toilets where, as he’s a bit hot and bothered by this point, his willy is squashed against his little boy bits so when he wees, instead of going in the in the toilet, it goes all over his leg and the floor. To which he then responds by yelling (exceptionally loudly) ‘MY WEE! MY WEE! HOLD MY WILLY MUMMY! HOLD IT!’ So after desperately mopping up the floor with loo roll, which disintegrates as soon as it touches something wet, I turn to Beast 1 who’s managed to find a box of Biros (of course) and has taken the lid off every single one. Sorry specsavers.

Back in the room I say ‘ok Oscar your turn now.’

‘No.’

Well the man just needs to look at your eyes so come on please’

‘No.’

What about being a good boy for mummy?’

‘No. I want to wash my hands in that sink’ <points to sink in corner> and then proceeds to have a massive tantrum, number 5 if I remember rightly, until allowed to wash his hands, even though he just washed them in the toilet.

Now this is awkward after the kerfuffle I’ve caused and Bob is eyeing me beadily.

‘Perhaps it’s better to just do mine first then he’ll see it’s ok.’

Bob looks dubious but agrees and we begin. Half way through my test, Beast 1 of course decides that he absolutely needs a wee now and I feel what’s left of my sanity shrivel up and die. So another quick jaunt to the bathroom later, my eye test finished, and Oscar finally lets Bob start looking at his eyes. He did pretty well considering how long we’d been there and how fed up he was, particularly as we were way past nap time by this point. But every time he was asked to look straight ahead he looked everywhere except straight ahead and every time he was asked to look at the picture in the mirror he craned his neck round to look a the screen projecting into the mirror, thus proving good old Phil (partially) right in that he wouldn’t cooperate. So although Bob got enough done to know that he probably, possibly, maybe, needs some kind of prescription, he can’t be sure so we have to go back next week. FFS. And hats off to Bob for doing all this while being constantly offered soggy pecans by Beast 1. And of course, Beast 2 might not need anything at all because it could be a false result and his eyes might be fine. Which they probably are.

‘Well Bob, could we see you again next week? I’m free Monday and Wednesday?’

‘Oh’ *chuckles nervously* ‘I’m only working Fridays here from next week so you’ll have to see someone else.’ He struggled to keep the relief out of his voice if we’re honest.

Finally, an hour and a half later we trot downstairs, having left a trail of soggy apricots, crushed pecans and sweet wrappers, and I’m apologizing to anyone that wil listen on the off chance they find a chewed up apricot squished in any of their expensive equipment. Because let’s face it, that’s probably happened.

The helpful lady downstairs (we’ll call her Sally)  says ‘Would you er….I mean do you want to try and choose your new glasses now? I mean, what with….’ Waves arm in direction of the little monsters who by this point can only be described as Feral. That capital F was intentional, by the way. Sally’s clearly aghast at what appear to now be delirious little chipmunks full of sugar, running round the expensive designer frames. Which if we’re honest, I can’t afford.

‘No Sally. No Thank You. I don’t think I will choose my frames now. I’ll come back. ON MY OWN.’ *glares at offspring who are now hanging off my legs whilst considering whether to flip the finger to the old man staring at us in disgust. Decide against it as I’ve caused enough trouble already. And, I am a lady *holds head aloof.*

Having been significantly longer than planned and having run out of food, The Beasts need lunch. We’re not going to make it back to school in time for Beast 1 to have his school dinner there, so I need to find some food. Anyone who has a kid with a dietary restriction (like dairy) will know that being in the middle of town with no lunch planned or packed, with a hungry toddler who can’t have most of the food on offer, is less fun than the least fun thing you can imagine – let’s go with a smear test. It’s even less fun than that. So we hotfoot it to Costa because at least I know the gingerbread is dairy free and I can shut them up with a fruity cooler split between two cups. Karma finally chucked me a bone when I looked at the ingredients of the egg sammidge to see that it is in fact, dairy free. Halle-bloody-lueja.

Exhausted, we stagger back to the car so I can return Beast 1 to school, get Beast 2 home and in bed, and at least try and get a few of my other errands done with the time I have left in the day.

I’m pretty sure there’s going to be some kind of warning note attached to our records when I take Beast 2 back on Monday and I’ll have become that customer everyone can remember who couldn’t control her children and left a trail of destruction, offended staff, and squashed, sticky apricots. I’ll be surprised if they let us back in at all to be honest. 👓😱🤔

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