Death of the fairies.

My daughter has that look of Nanny McPhee at the moment.  In normal circumstances, if you can see past the attitude, which is almost a physical presence in itself, she’s all Rapunzel length blonde hair, broad grin and flashing Steve McQueen blue eyes.  At the moment though, all I can focus on is the one great big haggle tooth, going greyer by the day and hanging by a thread.  I am struggling to resist the urge to just reach over and give it a good hard tweak.  It’s a bit like that spot you shouldn’t pick at, but just can’t ignore.

When she sees that look come over my face, she bats me away and tells me to get off, in no uncertain terms. She knows quite well what I have in mind. I respond by telling her that the tooth fairy will be very slow to visit if she doesn’t get on with it.  She rolls her eyes and laughs. ‘Mum I am a bit OLD for that now you know.’ She’s 7 and I think I’ve managed to keep the fairies alive until very recently, but now they are definitely on their way out. I tell her that every time someone says they don’t believe, a fairy dies. I dramatise the death. The fairy’s light goes out, she gets paler and thinner, starving and in pain, clutching at her sides and groaning, she eventually collapses to the ground and fades into nothingness. And I tell her that everytime she says this, this will be all her fault.  Unfortunately she knows my sense of humour and just grins. I curse myself for not taking the opportunity to make the death gorier.

I love the fact that she has held on for this long.  Last year, her friends began to tease her for still believing in fairies. She was angry with me for keeping the myth alive and I didn’t know quite how to respond. Is it wrong to want to keep my little girl little for a bit longer? I dragged it out for a bit. On one occasion, she swallowed a tooth and was desperately upset that she wouldn’t get the cold hard cash that the fairy brings. Fortunately however, the tooth fairy is resourceful. She wrote a note explaining that one of her best friends the drain fairy had located the disappeared tooth after it had eventually made its way into the sewer, and had passed it on to her. It hadn’t been the most pleasant of jobs, but you know, friends do things for each other. When she found the note in the morning, C’s eyes lit up – and mine too.

She knows the truth – but we have reached an understanding now. She asks about the tooth fairy and about Father Christmas. A smile flickers over her face as I tease her with what is only ever a half answer.

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Photo of the Dan Baines Derbyshire ‘dead fairy’ from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/derbyshire/6545667.stm

 

To dye or not to dye – that is the question.

I was reading keepingitrealmom.com’s blog post the other day about whether or not a woman should have long hair after 40. It brought me back to to a conversation I had some weeks ago, with a small group of internet friends I have, all in their 30s and 40s, about what they were going to do when their hair went grey. It turns out that some have already ‘dealt with the situation’ and I just had no idea.  Even the ones who don’t wear make up have balked at letting any white hairs see the light of day.   I don’t know many women who go ‘au naturel’ at this age.  It got me wondering what I should do when I have to accept that there are more than a few twinklers threaded through the chestnut.

Grey hair, if you look at a single one on its own, is actually quite beautiful. It’s reminiscent of starlight. It glitters and sparkles. A whole head of grey though on a young (or youngish) woman, unless you can do a glamorous Vidal Sassoon bob, worn with elegance, confidence and expensive clothes, is hard to pull off. Throw curly hair into the mix (mine is) and what you have is a look that says less ‘attractive older woman ageing gracefully’ and more ‘wicked witch of the west’.  I really don’t want my children suggesting I lose my current wardrobe and replace it with the Halloween dressing up clothes – and I wouldn’t put it past them. They can be scarily blunt.

I found my first grey hair last Summer on the way back from a holiday with my family in France. I nearly choked on my croissant. I was not happy. I am not comfortable with the whole ageing process, inside, outside, in any kind of way. I am seeing the older generation in my family slowly fading out at the moment. My paternal grandmother is in her 90s, living in a nursing home, slowly becoming demented and already almost completely bedridden. She hasn’t liked people photographing her for a long time, her skin is paper thin, her hands claw like. She’s not giving up easily though, singing ‘Onward Christian Soliders’ at the top of her voice in the middle of the night, still retaining the upper class airs of someone who had has a less than average life, and demanding that she’s kept in an adequate supply of chocolate biscuits. Whilst I have to admire her spirit, she’s clinging on rather than enjoying life.  Grey hair, rather than wrinkles, seems to signifiy the start of a long road in that direction. And I plan to be the woman in the well known poem ‘Warning’,  http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/warning/, rather than taking old age lying down.

If I eventually dye my hair though, which I suspect I almost certainly will, am I not contributing to the ongoing beauty treadmill that women get on from their teenage years? Should I make a statement and try having my hair grey? Caryn Franklin of howtolookgood.com seems to have it right. Daphne Selfe at 83 looks pretty amazing. And Helen Mirren always looks like she is having a pretty good time. But unless anyone can prove me wrong, there are far less of the women more towards my end of the age spectrum who’ve bucked the trend and not reached for the hair dye.

My little sister (she’ll always be that) while holidaying in Milan in her twenties, sat in a square with her friend and later re-counted to me the number of ‘silver foxes’ walking past. She was not talking about the women. Growing silver (note, not grey) is fine for a man. It’s distinguished, it seems to emanate gravitas and a deeper understanding of life. It’s a little bit Sean Connery and it looks good with a dinner jacket. On women though? I’m not sure the world has moved on that far yet. I’m not ready to be put out to grass, for people to assume I can’t run a marathon, or that my brain doesn’t work just as well as someone twenty years younger. So I suspect the #634 chestnut honey creme gloss will be hitting my bathroom shelf at some point in the next few years. In the meantime though, I will be retaining the right to change my mind. After all it’s a woman’s prerogative. 

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In praise of the fishfinger sandwich.

I’ve been parenting solo this week. This will be the second week this month. As my husband would say ‘we’ve had a bad run of it’. This is the nature of his job and I’ve had to get used to it. As the children have got older, it has got easier; they don’t wake up in the night, they don’t cry themselves to sleep because daddy isn’t there and they are confident he will come home again.  As another local mother whose husband is often only there at weekends once said to me, ‘you get into a routine’. And you do.  I try to keep things as ‘same as usual’ as I can, making sure they still get  to football training, brownies, cubs and swimming. Even more so than normal, as in an average month I do allow myself to drop the ball occasionally. We don’t speak about dad much while he’s away. There’s a huge elephant in the room – but we’re ignoring it.

What I’m not great at though on these occasions, is looking after myself. I love food and I’m fussy about restaurants. But when I’ve just spent the last half an hour making three packed lunches, I can’t be bothered to whip up a gourmet meal for one.

Packed lunches – I hate them. I made my own lunch every day from when I was 14 years old.  Opening my lunchbox at school, I always wished I would find something other than a badly made door step sandwich (mum didn’t do sliced bread), oily with peanut butter, slightly squashed and sweating under the clingfilm.  I don’t know what I was expecting but somehow I always hoped that the packed lunch fairy might have been and furnished me with something slightly more interesting, having utilised better presentation skills.  Whipped goats cheese with sun dried tomato and a few rocket leaves maybe?

So when there are two of us at home, I make an effort. I don’t eat meat so the traditional (and easier) meat and two veg are out.  Mr N once ate guinea pig in Peru, I’m pretty sure he’s tried haggis and we’ve shared deep fried chilli crickets in Mexico so he’s not afraid of a few lentils and an experimental beetroot risotto.  But when you’re by yourself, it’s late and you’re tired, this kind of meal just isn’t going to cut it. There have to be some advantages of being by yourself.  Green and Blacks white chocolate and wine for dinner probably being one of them. Sometimes I just go to the fridge and gather together what is in there. It is picnicking in your own home and normally it wouldn’t be allowed. When I want something a little more nutritionally balanced though, I don’t think you can beat the fishfinger sandwich.  It’s the only time I ever eat ketchup but it’s delicious, reminds me of my student days and is somehow comforting. Go on, you know you want to.

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The end of parks.

There’s been a change in our house recently. We a are nappyless, buggyless and beakerless household.  In fact, if I admit it to myself, we have been for a while. After resisting it for so long, a couple of months ago I let go of the giant heap of scuffed plastic toys that cluttered up the playroom, collected dust and got in the way of the hoover.  The ones my children loved the most were often the largest, ugliest and brightest. They have always tended to leave the tasteful wooden toys well alone. So it’s not for the that reason I haven’t been able to eject them.

My youngest is growing up faster than the other two. He’s already left Thomas the Tank engines behind and loves the marketing genius that is Skylanders. He is only four, but already CBeebies is ‘so last season’ and he prefers the Japanese fighting cartoons his brother watches. He is small and slight for his age, babied by the older girls at school, but at home he is is clear that he can ride his likeabike as fast as a 6 year old thank you very much. I want to say to him ‘stop!’ as he misses out a whole chunk of childhood that my other two didn’t.

I have always worked since having children, part time at least, for a reason. I know that when you’re in it, those days at the park, sometimes completely empty except the two of you, felt like they would never end. But now I’m looking back wistfully at the small pleasures of feeding the ducks,  having a plausible reason to shout ‘fire engine’ as another one nee naws its way past and the long ago sharing in the excitement of the bin lorry arriving at the house, my crowd of little faces amusing the dustmen as they pressed themselves to the window for the weekly event.  Even now I still have to resist the urge to yell ‘coach full of old ladies’ when a bus load of cauliflower perms passes by. It wouldn’t go down well when at the garden centre.

Don’t get me wrong. When they were all little it was knackering -as in worn to the bone, dead on your feet, mind numbingly tiring. And sometimes, read often, pretty boring, especially on days when there were no other mothers (or fathers) to share it with. After the two hundred and eighth time you’ve helped put together that Dora the Explorer jigsaw, you could quite happily put it through the shredder.

But – I can feel the older two pulling away. I didn’t expect my daughter, aged seven,to start  to harass me for earrings, bikinis, or high heels, when at this age I was still content to climb trees and run about in polo neck and dungarees (well it was the 70s). She still does want to climb trees (thankfully) but the other stuff and what comes with it – the hip hands, the eye rolling, the attitude of a fifteen year old – where did that come from?

My oldest already wants to be out as much as humanly possible. Permanently attached to a ball (cricket, rugby, football – he’s not fussy), a ball and a friend are all that are required for entertainment. Parents not needed. He comes back when he’s hungry or when his watch alarm goes off, unless he is actually requested to spend time with the rest of us.

Don’t get me wrong, the retrospectoscope is a wonderful thing. And combined with the rose tinted glasses, you’re on to a winner.

But suddenly I feel like like Sleeping Beauty waking up after the 100 year sleep.  The children still – all – regularly cause me to smile and post their comments to Facebook. But I wonder how much longer I will get away with it.