Slummy Single Mummy

Jo Middleton is a freelance writer and mother of two girls, aged 17 and 10, who enjoy relentlessly winding each other up in high-pitched voices. Jo writes the award-winning blog Slummy Single Mummy and likes to escape from real life with wine, biscuits and TV reruns of Miss Marple mysteries.

The highs and lows of muffins and motherhood

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on Monday, 29 October 2012
Shopping in Debenhams at the weekend, I witnessed one of those classic parenting moments – the sort of incident that makes every nearby mum smile knowingly, and makes me in particular very glad that my children are now of the age where they can be easily bribed with a nice sit down and a chocolate muffin in Starbucks.

“Stop it,” one harassed looking mother was saying to her small son, “you’re being a real pain today.”

“NO I’M NOT!” he shouted, clearly aghast at being accused of such a thing. “NO I’M NOT! NO I’M NOT!”

The mother sighed heavily, as her tiny, furious son glared indignantly. “You’re doing it right now,” she said.

“I’M NOT I’M NOT I’M NOT!!” he yelled, running around in increasingly large concentric circles, arms outstretched, primed to knock off the assortment of olive oils and miniature bottles of Jack Daniels, overly packaged and covered in bells, ready for Christmas.

“Well you are,” she said.

“I’M NOT!!” he screamed, ricocheting off a display of suitcases and into a large box of cushions.

My days of having to deal with toddler tantrums are thankfully far behind me. Although at times the cutting sarcasm and teenage ‘we’re all going to die anyway so what’s the point’ attitude can be a tad wearing, it will never provoke that same sense of pure helplessness and frustration that makes you want to bury your toddler under the cushions, grab the festive miniatures, and hide in a suitcase.

A cause for celebration I think. Chocolate muffin anyone?

Patience is a virtue?

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on Monday, 22 October 2012
I am not a patient person.

Sometimes I wonder if we’re born with a finite amount of patience, or if perhaps we are allocated a certain amount along with the birth of each child, and that I have simply used mine all up. “Congratulations,” the midwife says, placing the sticky, bloody bundle of joy on your loose, scarred stomach, “it’s a girl! You have 1,824 hours of joy and 2,782 hours of patience. Use them wisely.”

If your child is an adorable angel who sleeps through the night and shuns sweets in favour of raw carrot sticks and hummus dip, then you’re fine. You may even find them tolerable into their teenage years. If you have a more ‘sensitive’ baby though, then beware, 2,782 hours isn’t much.

When Belle was a baby, she hated being in the car and screamed at the mere sight of the car seat. The only way to soothe her was to sing the chorus from Agadoo.

“Agadoo-doo-doo, push pineapple shake the tree…”

You know the one.

It’s annoying enough just thinking about it isn’t it? Imagine singing it over and over and over again, accompanied only by grizzly baby noises. It’s a little wearing to put it mildly. Then imagine that when you go to bed that night, that you are woken up every hour by a wriggling baby, rooting incessantly, quiet only when they are chomping on your boob.

2,782 hours really doesn’t stretch that far.

Which is more than can be said for my boob.

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Playing to your strengths

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on Tuesday, 16 October 2012
“What would you say is your best talent?” Belle asked me a few months ago. “Singing, dancing or pastels?” She appeared to be compiling some sort of survey about me.

“Singing?” I suggested, hopefully.

She grimaced.

“Dancing then?” Her eyebrows shot up and her eyes widened.

“I’ll put you down for pastels…” she said.

This weekend though, even my creative skills were called into question. It’s Saturday, and we are spending a wholesome afternoon painting pottery. I am attempting to create a fearsome dragon with an aged bronze look, and Belle is painting a pair of ducks in a shade of pink not normally associated with wildfowl. My dragon isn’t doing so well. Every extra layer of mossy green I dab on just seems to bring him closer to death.

“It’s certainly eye-catching,” says Belle. “It will make people stop and think ‘I wonder what the artist was trying to do here?’”

“That’s true,” I say, looking sad. “You’d definitely notice it.”

“It’s not that bad,” she says, trying to sound positive. “I’d happily have it in my room.” She turns away and mutters quietly under her breath, “behind the bookcase.”

“Hmmm,” I say, dabbing on the few final, fatal splotches, “I’m not sure it’s wonderful exactly.”

Belle gives me one of those looks you give a child who has tried really hard at something, pats my arm and barely conceals a wicked smile as she offers words of comfort.

“Perhaps you’d better stick to pastels.”

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10-year-old rage

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on Monday, 08 October 2012
“Fine,” my ten year old daughter Belle spits at me, “I’ll just starve then shall I? Will you be happy then?”

I physically recoil; the venom in her voice is so powerful.

“Dinner is going to be in ten minutes,” I say, in my most soothing voice – the sort you might use if trapped in a small downstairs bathroom with a bear that had just been poked with a very pointy stick, “so I don’t think you’re going to waste away without a packet of hula hoops. Now go and wash your hands.”

She makes a sort of guttural growling noise and stomps off upstairs, trying hard to make her tiny feet as loud as possible on the stairs.

“And don’t stamp!” I call after her, knowing it’s like giving the bear another poke, but unable to control the frustration that’s tightening my shoulders and bubbling in my chest.

“I’m only walking,” she says, her voice dripping with sarcasm, “like you told me to remember?”

It’s at moments like this that I despair. I am literally speechless, with nothing to say to this normally sweet, thoughtful girl who for just a few minutes, at intervals throughout the day, turns into a tinier, slightly more vicious version of Hannah Montana.

What is it that happens to our children for these brief moments? What makes them so angry with the world?

I decide to blame nature rather than nurture on this occasion, head back to the kitchen, and reach for the hula hoops. It is ten minutes till dinner after all. You don’t want me to starve do you?

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