- To paraphrase a blogger who is far more glamorous than me, like London needs another working mum blogging about her life. But hey, sometimes when you have a laptop on your knees in between serving oven chips and leftovers and starting bedtime you wonder how you became that woman, why you did and how you feel about it. Sometimes I even probe further - who is THAT woman, and did I ever aspire to be her? Do I like her? Could I learn to? Which is why I've started this blog...
Thursday, 9 May 2013
My favourite parenting nightmare is when a simple conversation with a toddler is revealed later to have a different, often diametrically opposite meaning to each participant. Or indeed when many conversations appear to have been at cross purposes. Such as in February when we realised the toddler thought that the word for the ladder on his brother's bunk bed was 'NOCLIMBING'.
Having sagely discussed the 'no climbing' policy for two weeks we were both happy and confident of our chats. Me thinking we'd finally established a house rule he understood, the tiny dictator mildly amused that I kept showing him how to heave himself into his brother's forbidden top bunk, even giving him a nice new word for the means of getting there.
We had an arty weekend, one of fun and learning. My strongest learning was you can only do so much stuff with kids on a bank holiday, something I know really but always fail to heed in my attempts to make any family time jam packed with fun. That, and that buying a load of cheap canvasses and throwing paint around the garden a la Jackson Pollock is more cool than almost anything else you can do with your best friends.
In preparation for our action painting we went to the TATE to see some real life pictures on walls. That husband and I split, he taking the eldest to see Roy Lichtenstein (Spider-boy liked the explosions and the nudes) and me schlepping younger round Ellen Gallagher's exhibition AxME. He liked her pictures and collages, especially the ones which involved playdough, pictures cut out of magazines, face doodles and lots of yellow paint: these are his mixed media of choice too.
Mostly though, he wanted to touch them. I can't blame him, not least because most adults get a glint in their eye near the really massive pictures which look so rough, and huge and kind of touchable. You can tell if no one was looking most people would cop a feel of the Mona Lisa.
He's faster than roadrunner and as bossy as Napoleon though, so I had my work cut out. I began a tortured Joyce Grenfell monologue about standing back, looking, pointing, appreciating, liking, talking about but NOT TOUCHING, and a physical routine of manoeuvring and scooping up out of the way. He was unimpressed and grabby.
He clarified in case I didn't understand his requests: 'LOOK mummy, play dough! I touch?' I point at a guard rail and say 'Look, the wire is there to stop us touching the pictures'. Son inspects the small wire frame protecting the sacred foot of floor beneath the biggest most touchable ones. A problem he can solve: 'I noclimb over it?' he offers.
I have him up in my arms before both hands have gripped the wire but an assistant has seen us. Son and I freeze, already chastened. I explain I wouldn't let my son touch the actual picture or win the argument, and that I'm hoping this painful display will pave the way for easier gallery visits in the future.
The assistant looks slightly suspicious of me but tries his best children's TV presenter voice for the child. 'We don't touch these' he says.
Toddler narrowed his eyes. 'Not that one?' he says, pointing at the one furthest from us. 'No' says the assistant with great clarity. 'No touch that little one?' bargains the kid gesturing nonchalantly at the least impressive. Negative agrees the assistant. Son nods to himself and points out some more, 6 more in fact in the same request/denial mode. He pauses, isolating the biggest picture without a cordon: 'This one?' he suggests. 'None of the pictures' says the guard, with authority.
Bloody hell I think. I'll invite this guy over for tea. He can teach them to wash their hands and not throw their cereal. Son breaks into a broad grin and then with perfectly clipped, loud sarcasm sighs at the guard:
'My touch your chair?' he asks and then shakes his head and strides out of the room laughing. His conviction the guy is a lunatic who can't share his toys is as clear as his rueful giggle. I grab his hand and we walk into the next room, with a 40 foot installation of what looks like a climbing frame and no assistant visible. 'Mummy' he says, knowing we're on the same page: 'We touch this one'.
Sunday, 24 April 2011
Above is an 'instagram' photo. A snap my husband took (and made?) with his i-phone app which allows you to play with the saturation of your digital photos, and give them a particular dated look. Smarter media analysts and philosophers of the everyday than I can debate how this speaks to a current oxymoron obsession with instantaneous nostalgia in the proper hifaluting terms.
But even I can see some of the reasons the glowing play of lights on these digital shots particularly appeals to my generation. For us, who remember using phone boxes and taking our holiday snaps to Boots to be developed, see in this look a familiarity, the familiarity associated with snaps which sat in perspex frames, on top of our parents' (remote-less) television sets, getting tinged and singed and faded by the afternoon sun, for many years. And because of this visual echo the pictures and the associated memory seem immediately transformed and given 'treasured' status.
'Instagram' adds years to the informal and easy moments captured on our phones. It brings our past into our present and reimages our digital records into artworks of fragile fadedness, replicants of family shots taken on cheap Kodak cameras with a wind on film and a four use flash bulb. The aesthetic appeal is emotional. The best of our childhood pictures and those of the generation before were somehow more special as there was such a huge element of luck in their creation. Family photos were such a lottery then. Sometimes months would pass before you knew what had been captured beautifully and what posed joke, group shot or gorgeous view was reduced to a smeared mass of nothing, a blinky mess or a never reachable image forever obscured by your Mum's thumb.
Is it a good thing? Imbuing what has just happened with the status of something loved for a long time? I'm not sure. There's definitely something in the craze for this sort of photographic trickery which links in with a need for immediate gratification, and reflects the strangeness of our socially networked over plugged in world which searches for an elusive 'authentic' and sees it only when the real is enhanced.
But we can be over serious about things which make us happy. And I like the snap up there. Parenting has taught me that life hurtles along very fast. Depression is powerful because it blurs and fucks around with time, leaving those in the pits hankering after time which has not only gone but is marching on rhythmically, without them. In this blog I've tried to explore the first year of Newborn's life, and learn what I can from thinking about that alongside my previous path of motherhood which was clouded by serious depression. Immediately I found myself preoccupied with clutching at memories and hoping enough of them will stick.
I hope I'll always remember the joy of chilling today when we read and ate and laughed and got chocolatey this Easter Sunday, a family of four, three lads and one girl still in our pyjamas, laughing on the lawn until early in the afternoon. And because I already feel nostalgic about it, I like to hope that this likeness of my boys larking around with hats under canvas in a little green tent at the end of my garden will be floating around in my memory somewhere anyway, whatever colour way or resolution is used to record or tamper with it. I'm old and wise enough to know though, that sometimes memories drift away or are replaced, so it is nice to have a reminder. Especially one where my boys look so very similar and adorable.
People keep saying to me that any minute now we'll lose the sun. These brighter than bright, washing drying, baby dazzling days will not last and we'll be left with a sodden, dimly lit Summer - miserable and chilly rather than gloriously chilled out.
I'm no weather woman, and have no affinity with the earth or the elements: my flowers only grow by luck; my lawn is a disgrace despite affectionate grooming. I hope they are wrong though. But even if they are right? This super bright Spring will surely not fade too much in my memory.