So it’s now time for the LAST EVER “Interview With a Parent”!
I would like to thank every one who has answered questions, read, liked, commented on any of the posts so far – it’s meant a lot. It’s been fun to do but I think now it’s time to move onto something else!
I finish things off with my catch up with @AndSmelly; a supporter of the blog and all-round lovely lady who told me about her life as a parent. Enjoy!
First things first (obviously), tell me a little about your kids?
So we have large boy who is 8 and a half. He was born 36 weeks 6 days and 6 hours so he was technically premature by 18 hours, not that you’d notice even when he was tiny. He’s funny, kind, sometimes deeply serious, a loyal friend and very thoughtful. He loves reading and storms through almost anything, he’s a great mathematician and so hard to challenge. He claims to be “an inside boy” and revels in being “unusual”, but is just as happy mooching through forests and getting thoroughly filthy on the rugby pitch. He’s totally dedicated to his little brother, small boy who just turned 5. Small boy is a mischief, adventurous, independent and honest with his emotions. He was a terrible sleeper as a baby but now loves his bed, his fleece blanket and three million teddies. I have to mention boy 3 too, he was our child as well. We’ll never know who he would have been, but I do know that his brothers would have loved him just as fiercely as they love each other.
What has been the biggest change in your life since having them?
When large boy was almost 8 months old I went back to work full time, 25 miles from our home in a tiny village. I had to totally change my relationships with colleagues so that I could work effectively and spend any time with him at all. The coffee breaks, lunch time yoga or walks and lovely gossips disappeared immediately – to get to nursery and home in time to spend quality time before bedtime, I needed to leave work at 5pm. Back then (how old do I sound?!) we didn’t have What’s App or Facebook messenger, so I lost touch with the maternity leave mums very quickly too – dinner once in 3 months hardly counts. I became isolated and very lonely, I hardly saw large boy, didn’t see my work friends and barely talked to my mummy friends. I didn’t know if large boy was doing “normal” baby things and I had no one to talk to. My mum (who is amazing) was my saviour, we spoke at least 3 or 4 times a week and she kept me grounded.
After small boy was born we moved and I got sent on a first time mum’s course by the health visitor in our new town. Saviour number two, those mums from that course and the breastfeeding drop in group and still my closest friends today.
So the biggest change for me has been a social one – finding that parenthood has filtered who my real old friends are and brought me some marvellous new ones.
How would you describe your own parenting “style”?
We try to take a middle road – we’re not super strict but we do set boundaries and expectations of behaviour, manners and respect. At the same time, we’re pretty gentle with the boys – we’d never smack them for sure, but we also don’t tell them “no” without explanation. We respect their ability to understand and give them the opportunity to show us they can be responsible. We’re not helicopter parents but we aren’t totally laid back either. We don’t lie to direct questions – no the tooth fairy is not real – but we maintain the myth of Santa. Above all we want to teach them kindness, respect and inclusivity. I don’t think you could label our “style”, we just react to each situation however we think is suitable in the moment.
Where do you stand on the “screen time” debate?
Ha! We love screen time! Himself and I set the example with Xbox (him) and Lego games (me), so we would be total hypocrites if we didn’t let the boys have their time too. It’s not unlimited, though they get a lot more since lockdown. We pay attention to what they’re playing, large boy has recently been allowed to play Roblox with three friends and he’s been responsible in not accepting requests from anyone else. We’ve used Netflix parental controls to hide some of the worst absolute junk from them though. I don’t believe it’s damaging unless children spend all their time on screens, we certainly notice that sometimes the boys get overloaded and their behaviour gets worse so we ban screens for a few days so they reset – the results are remarkable. I think not letting kids have any screen time could put them at a disadvantage in today’s world – understanding how to navigate apps and eventually to code them could well be key skills in the future.
Do you have any embarrassing parenting moments?
There’s one that springs to mind immediately. When large boy was 6 months old we went on holiday to France for my parents’ 60th birthday, with them and my brother and his wife. One rainy day we decided to have a drive out to see some WWII memorials, we got to a seaside town at lunchtime and found a little creperie. In that part of France, they’re practically fast food restaurants. We sat down and had our order taken when himself asked “how have you got mustard on you? we haven’t eaten yet”. Well, large boy was breastfed and had just started a bit of baby porridge. It was not mustard. He’d had a full on explosive poo. I took him to the only toilet in the restaurant – nice and big as it was the disabled loo too – only to discover that there was no changing table. Did I mention it was rainy and a seaside town? The floor of the toilet was all muddy wet footprints. I gritted my teeth and used half a pack of wipes, cleaned him up and changed him. Carrying the no longer mustard-looking baby back out to our table, I said to himself “where shall we go after lunch”. His response: “back to the house, look at your clothes!” Large boy’s mustardy poo had escaped and I had bright yellow smudges all down my jeans and hoodie.
Is there anything that worries you about the world our kids are growing up in?
We’re very privileged, there’s no denying it. We’re white, well educated and English speaking. I don’t have to worry much about how the world will treat our boys. I worry though that they will be isolated from reality in their privileged bubble, that they won’t be able to relate to others’ struggles or truly sympathise with those less fortunate than themselves. The world they face is divided and that division seems to be growing – the academic achievement gaps between deprived and privileged children are increasing, income inequality is growing, racial divides involve huge tensions. I don’t want them to grow up in a world where you aren’t valued for who you are rather than where you come from, and where your opportunities are determined by your background. We’re doing our best to teach them about the importance of variety and to embrace differences, to celebrate everyone’s skills, but I worry it’ll be a long time before they understand how very lucky they are.
Finally let’s move onto you! Tell me about your hobbies and interests outside of being a parent?
I think this would have been much harder to answer before lockdown – then all my free time was consumed by the kids’ activities: swimming, rugby, cubs and so on. I love reading and enjoy challenging myself to read in French when I have the mental energy. I speak French fluently and get to use it in my job, which is great after many years’ hiatus. Making and preserving stuff in the kitchen is one of my favourite pastimes – jam, marmalade, chutney, and flavoured gins are my specialities. They all make great gifts for family and teachers alike, as well as keeping my cocktail cabinet stocked.
And there we have it – all done! Thank you very much Smelly (still haven’t coaxed any other names out of you and this one kind of sticks!) for your answers, especially another amusing poo-centred anecdote!
You can catch her blog here for a fantastic range of posts about all things parenting and life!