The One with the Parenting Alphabet Challenge
In a bid to become a proper blogger, I recently joined some blogging groups on social media so I could swan about within them and pretend like I knew what I was doing. In reality, I do not. I just like to write. And have done since I was a seven-year-old chubber.
Anyway, being a part of these groups means I get to find out about blogging challenges. And as anybody who read my 30 Days of Yoga or the Ramadan Kindness Calendar will tell you, I'm a girl who likes a challenge.
So I was chuffed when Mrs J at the Typical Mummy UK Family Blog summoned me to write my version of a Parenting A-Z. Originally started by Yule Times, I practically jumped at it, sensing it could have some honest-to-god comedic potential. As well as some cathartic prospects. Obvs.
So here goes . . .
A is for AFTER-BLOODY-SCHOOL-CLUBS
Once upon a time I swore I would not be one of those parents that filled their kids' every waking hour with activities. Hah. Famous last words. I am clearly a sucker for my Lads' need to play guitar and drums / swim / dick about in drama class / chase a football around a freezing cold field / learn every song from every musical EVER. On a weeknight I am literally a taxi driver. And a skint one at that.
B is for BOREDOM
Because of the entry for 'A', if my Lads do ever dare to utter the phrase 'I'm bored', I jump on it like a fly on shit. "Bored my darlings? Wonderful! Amazing things happen when you're bored! Agatha Christie wrote all her books because she was bored you know!" You can imagine how much they love me for this.
C is for CULTURE
My Turkish hubby and I not only continue to navigate our way through the already gruelling terrain that is parenthood, but we do it with our individual cultures twisted together in the most hap-hazard of ways. Not once have we had a clue what we are doing. But hopefully, in the end, our Lads not only get beautiful olive skin and swishy dark hair, but also amazing food, two languages, fascinating traditions and a way to develop their own rich and decent moral code.
D is for DECEPTION
We've all done it. We don't know what happened to the last custard cream. The Despicable Me DVD is lost forever. There is no money left to pay for ice cream. Carrots really do make you see in the dark. And the lies I have told my Lads about Santa have literally rolled off my tongue with alarming precision and grace. Where did I get this skill from? Oh wait, that would be my own parents, wouldn't it?
E is for EMBARRASSMENT
Once I left behind the earlier stage of parenting, I honestly thought I might stop wanting to crawl into a dark corner as a result of my children's behaviour. How wrong I was. Because, among other things, being told you have wiry hairs growing out of your chin whilst trying to enjoy a latte with other mums at soft play, is what we all want to hear, isn't it? (Don't worry, I have, like, a MILLION embarrassing photos of them for their 18th birthday parties)
F is for FORTNITE
Or 'Fucking Fortnite' as it is often called in a frustrated whisper by me and / or the hubby (particularly gratifying when said in unison - you've got to get your kicks where you can). Both of my Lads disappeared into a Fortnite fog for a while - becoming obsessed with new seasons and dodgy 'dance' moves and exclusive skins and bloody-buggery battle passes that cost ACTUAL MONEY. It seems they have finally emerged more or less unscathed and are now more interested in their millions of after-school clubs, thank god.
G is for GIGGLES
At the risk of sounding cliched, there is literally NOBODY on this planet who can make me giggle like my Lads can. It's all part of the miraculous gift of parenthood that one minute I want to forever shun them in an expletive-ridden-Jeremy-Kyle-type-way, and the next be rolling about on the floor because one of them said their Uncle's face was 'constipating'. NB: You had to be there.
H is for HOMEWORK
Oh the joys of homework. I will NEVER forget the paper boat shape Big Lad was charged with cutting out when he was six years old. Never have I wanted to grab a pair of scissors out of a child's hands more than on that awful, screaming, tear-sodden morning. So now, when I am supposed to gently support my children through sculpting Roman coins and fashioning parrot costumes and deciphering algebraic formulas, I just remember the paper boat and all is well. Ish.
I is for IDENTITY
Before I had kids I thought that having babies would complete me. This was, of course, utter shite. I did not feel complete. I felt tired, useless, inadequate and had no idea who I was anymore. I had to build my identity back up over a period of years (two bouts of post-natal depression didn't help). Luckily, I had two incredible young souls to show me the way - with giggles and tears and mystery and honesty, they have shown me that I am capable of so much more than I realised. And that I was complete all along.
J is for JUDGEMENT
Since becoming a parent I have learned that judgement gets flung at you from all angles. Whether it's tight-lipped pensioners in Asda, a stuck-up GP with too many opinions on dummies, or a haggle of online mums who really ought to know better - there will always be somebody to tell you you're doing it all wrong. My advice? Don't take it on board. And while we're on the subject, be careful of judging other parents too - most of us are in the 'doing-the-best-we-can' club.
K IS FOR KINDNESS
We all just want our kids to be kind, don't we? And on that note, my hubby came up with a cool idea a couple of years ago. During the Islamic month of Ramadan (when Muslims don't eat or drink from sun-up to sun-down), he suggested we make a kindness calendar where we fill each day with a kind act. This way, we can all experience the unquestionable sorcery of kindness and how it ripples out into the world.
L is for LOVE
I know, I know, totally predictable for 'L', right? But how could I not? Parenting my two terrifying children never fails to impress upon me the spectacular way in which I can swing from REALLY disliking them to loving them to the point of obsession. Even the wiry chin-hair comment or the paper-boat-cutting scenario did nothing to abate my never-ending love for these two shaggy-haired creatures. There. Is. No. Hope.
M is for MINDFULNESS
I discovered mindfulness not long after Little Lad was born. And thank the lord for that. With some full-on open-mindedness and even fuller-on practice, I eventually learned that meditation is not just for hippies and that yes, I can welcome a raging child in the same way I can welcome a smiling one. This transformed things for me and - parent or not - I would wholeheartedly recommend it as a way of being in life.
N is for NEGOTIATION
Gone are the days I could stuff my Lads into a buggy and go walking wherever the hell I liked. Now my water-tight strategy has to be meticulously planned and pressed upon my children in advance. The impressive benefits of a full-food-shop at Tesco. The awesome experience of picking up the car from the garage. The stupendous advantages of attending the well-woman clinic with their mother. You get the picture.
O is for OPTIONS
Giving my kids options has perhaps been the BEST parenting tool I have employed. Questions like, "Do you want to have your bath before or after we tidy those toys up?" are absolute bloody genius in that they get stuff done whilst maintaining the illusion that the kids have some say in the matter. Even now, my Lads are 10 and 7, and they have yet to figure out this psychological trickery.
P is for PERIOD
Right from the start, I have been adamant that my two growing boys should know all about my periods. I mean, it's the miracle of life, isn't it? And I don't want them smirking behind their hands the minute a woman in their life announces she is bleeding. I want them to be kind, supportive, understanding and, well, in awe of this amazing process. Even if they do announce loudly to the lady who does my lashes, "We're not doing ANYTHING fun today because our mum has her PERIOD".
Q is for QUIRKY
I have heard the word 'Quirky' so many times by people who are looking for a way to describe their first encounter with my Lads. And thank god for it. I dread to think what word they might use instead to allude to the barrage of loud and random facts about Freddie Mercury / the tendency to scream "FBI, OPEN UP!" upon entering a room / the likelihood of pointing at large boobs / and the extreme possibility of burping the alphabet on command. Like I said. Quirky.
R is for READING
I don't care how cyber-like our lives are becoming, I will ALWAYS encourage my Lads to read. Yes, they love Netflix as much as the next person (probably more, actually), but I have read to my two since they were teeny. And the fact that they regularly choose to pick up a book or a comic really does give me hope that they will always have reading to turn to.
S is for SELF CARE
I'm a big advocate for Self Care. And I'm not talking about full-on trips to the spa or weekends in Ibiza (although yes please to both). I'm talking about finding those little opportunities within the parenting fog, where you can slip self-care in. A huge mug of hot tea before doing the packed lunches, a few fresh, conscious breaths before you taxi them to the next after-school club, an exquisite bar of chocolate after solving the mystery of the missing fidget spinner (in Little Lad's welly, in case you were wondering).
T is for TRIBE
As somebody who has lived in three different countries since giving birth, I can honestly say the most important thing I have done for myself, is to find my tribe each time. For me, that has been other mums who have made me feel great just by being in their presence. A two-way exchange of love, support, laughter, stories, advice, trust and cheer. My tribe has come in all shapes and sizes but they have all been essential to my parenting journey. Long story short: get out there and meet people.
U is for UNCLE
There are few things as brilliant as watching my Lads with my brother, their cool Uncle Matty. And he really does personify cool to them. An Actor. Lives in fancy London Town. Plays guitar. Frowns like James Dean. And sarcasm is his super power. When Matty and I were little kids making each other laugh at the breakfast table to the point of Coco Pops jetting out of our nostrils, I had no idea how history would repeat itself with my own future offspring.
V is for VEGETARIAN
As a proud vegetarian from the age of thirteen, I always imagined that as my Lads saw me swanning around the kitchen with green smoothies, opting for salads in restaurants and scoffing fruit like there's no tomorrow, they would follow suit. Yet another example of how wrong I can be. As I sway further and further towards veganism, my Lads live more and more each day for meat. Hmph.
W is for WINGING IT
Now I've been parenting for over a decade, I have finally begun to shed the idea that I should know what I'm doing. Instead, as I learn to love and know myself more, I parent as intuitively as I can - whether it's to deal with You Tube politics or gently encourage the consumption of the aforementioned vegetables. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't but it's always illuminating and it always teaches us something.
X is for XENOPHOBIA
My boys are Muslim and half Turkish, which generally doesn't make a jot of difference to anybody. However, quietly opting out of certain activities at school, sometimes jetting off to far-flung homelands and having a dad who looks like he could have stepped out of the pages of 'Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves', means that occasionally others view them cautiously. So once, when Big Lad was called a 'Terrorist' by a friend at school, we knew it had come from a place of sweet ignorance. Moving forward into their futures, we just hope that the patience and tolerance we have tried to teach them is reflected back at them by the many, many types of people they are going to meet.
Y is for YOU TUBE
Oh the double-edged sword of You Tube. On the one hand it keeps my the Lads entertained for aeons of sweet, delicious time. On the other hand I have no idea what their little minds might soak up. What to do? Well, my #wingingit parenting approach is to let them watch it within easy reach of me so I can casually and continuously glance over their shoulders at what's going on. It's verging on stalker parent but on this occasion I think I am justified.