Sticks & Stones and the Power of Words

Occasionally, I swear in front of my child. My husband hates it. My mum hates it. But I’m a swearer, that’s who I am.

I’m aware there are many parents that think I’m wrong to do this, and occasionally I do feel guilty about dropping an ‘f-bomb’ in ear-shot of the playroom. But after an encounter with a particularly unpleasant grandparent at the local soft play, I realised that the influence of language on young children goes way beyond basic semantics.

When I was flailing about in the ball pool with my daughter, I noticed a little girl who was mid-strop by the entrance. Nothing out of the ordinary, just your run-of-the-mill three year-old tantrum about putting shoes on. Her grandfather, who was overseeing this tantrum, managed to show her which foot goes into what shoe, and escort her out of the play area.

On their way back to their table, when the grandmother asked what all the fuss was about, he said wearily, ‘I’m going to beat her to within an inch of her life.’

Now I’m not one to judge anyone’s parenting techniques, and to save their embarrassment I usually don’t even acknowledge another toddler tantruming, but this comment was enough for me to stop what I was doing and look around at them in absolute horror.

He didn’t swear at her. He wasn’t angry. He said it in a calm, off-the-cuff way, whilst holding his granddaughter’s hand. And judging by the grandmother’s reaction – or lack thereof – this kind of comment was not out of the ordinary for him. The comment didn’t even register, and they all sat there happily eating their lunch.

What alarmed me most was that it was merely a throw-away comment for him. But to his granddaughter, what he said could be life-changing.

To grow up in a world where it’s normal for a man to say he’ll beat you, regardless of whether they actually beat you or not, is normalising brutal and devastating behaviour to an impressionable young child. It’s showing them that language like that is acceptable to hear, and acceptable to say. It tells them that a logical response to frustration is violent action – violence done to other people, or violence done to them. And in this instance, this language is far more damaging than the use of ‘swear words’.

There is a difference between the use of language as an exclamation, and the use of it to denote violent intent, or negative action. What he said to his granddaughter will have a far greater effect on her than my daughter hearing me shout ‘shit-waffle!’ when I can’t open the child lock on the kitchen cupboard.

But this horrible encounter has made me think more carefully about the type of language I use around my daughter, whether it’s swear words or not. You can have a monumental impact on your children without even uttering a swear word at them. Language is powerful, and all words have meaning. Apart from shit-waffle. I’m not sure that one does.

Gok Wan Fashion Brunch Club

Sponsored Post

Lordy, it’s been a looong week. The toddler is staunchly sticking to her ‘sleep is for wimps’ mantra at night, and she’s pushing boundaries and all of my buttons during the day. It’s weeks like this that I’m so grateful to have something to look forward to come Saturday, and this weekend, I’m extra buzzed by what I have planned.

After a mini (and much-needed) pamper-sesh, I’m heading to Gok Wan’s Fashion Brunch Club in at the Country House Hotel, Cardiff.

The one thing I’ve always thought that most fashion events miss is a bloody good brunch. My two loves are finally being united and I get to fill my boots in both respects this weekend. Country House Hotel catered my wedding, so I’m super excited to try their food again. As an added bonus, I’ve always loved Gok and Fashion Fix was a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine for ages. I still live by the mantra ‘zhoosh it up with a statement bag’. Plus he looks like he gives a really nice hug.

A morning of unadulterated fashion, frivolity and fun is just what the doctor ordered after being hit in the face with a Teletubby at least thirty times in the last week. Apparently, the event includes a catwalk show, a ‘dress for your body-type’ talk and a Q&A with Gok – which might be my chance to see if I can prove my theory that he’s a good hugger by asking him at this point. Either that or I’ll be politely escorted out of the building.

If, like me, you’ve had a tiring few weeks and you’re in need of some time away from the kids, this could be just the thing for you. Tickets are available here for Cardiff, Leeds, Worcester, Northumberland, Nottingham & Sheffield.

GUEST BLOG: Amy Powell

I’m thrilled to be able to launch the monthly Musing Mum ‘guest blog’ spot. I’ve been running the blog for nearly six months now and I’ve loved sharing my random ‘mum musings’ with you guys. Ever since launching, I have wanted to eventually use my little nook of the world-wide-web to help new parenting bloggers find their voice. It’s all about mamas supporting mamas in this store, baby!
So without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to gorgeous mama, Amy Powell, the first Musing Mum Guest Blogger.

The Guilt Factor – Amy Powell

How on earth do the Instamum set manage it? Perfect hair and make-up, suitably stylish clothes sans baby puke, children dressed in fresh white linen and a perfectly clean and insta-friendly home. I’m sure there’s witchcraft at play, as I consider myself to be winning if I shower in the morning – usually with at least one child declaring their indignance. Loudly.

I am of the school of thought that life’s too short to live in an immaculate home. Couple that with a severely messy husband and two children and what you have is a perpetual shit-tip. Generally we’re fine with it; it’s a happy and loving home. That doesn’t mean there isn’t always an element of guilt and frustration at the mess though, especially when you can see the opposite every day flicking through Instagram.

And these mums also manage to blog, too. This is the bit that gets me – I have wanted to blog for a long time and am finally finding the courage to go for it. The big technical hitch? Time. How do you find guilt-free writing time? I’m jiggling the baby on my lap whilst typing this with one hand, there’s about a month’s worth of washing up to be done and the laundry pile is threatening to overtake all remaining floor space. And this is during maternity leave. Yikes.

The easy thing would be to not bother; there’s no reason for me to blog other than for my own enjoyment. So it feels like a selfish use of time to sit trying to work out the ins and outs of a website, and frustrating too as I never seem to make any real progress. Frustration feeds the guilt – shouldn’t time with the babies be enough right now? There’ll be plenty of me-time one day and I’m dreading that!

What’s struck me over the past few weeks, though, is how much happier Louis and Phoebe are when I’m happy. Seems pretty obvious but I guess it’s taken me a while to catch on with that one. I’m usually one for lazy days in PJ’s but I don’t find sitting around said shit tip with a velcro baby hampering progress on the chores enjoyable in the least at the moment. Louis has reached an age where he’ll ask whether I’m cross and really up the bad-parent anxiety levels. I know you can’t be smiley all the time, but it’s good to have a little reminder that you might actually being a bit unreasonably crabby.

So in an effort to not sit around the flat feeling glum we have explored new places and enjoyed fab days out instead. While this isn’t helping the mess, we’re all happier and it gets the blog ideas flowing every time. We live in a beautiful part of the country and I want to write about our adventures. This will mean more fun days out for the kids and in all honesty I don’t think they care whether I’m washing up or writing when I get a spare moment, so I can perhaps ease up on the guilt on that front.

So while it feels selfish to want a project of my own I think it’s actually quite important, otherwise it’s literally all nappies, washing, failing at housework and feeling inadequate. The kids definitely benefit from a happier mum with more energy when I’ve had time to focus on something for me, even for ten minutes. We all need something that’s just for us, whether it’s a hot bath – sometimes my butt barely hits the bottom before I have to get out but it can still turn my mood around – or a quick walk around the block when your partner gets in. Do something for you and don’t feel guilty, you’ll all feel the benefit.

Emily’s first Record Store Day

Emily got to partake in her very first Record Store Day today. I’m immensely proud of the great British tradition of independent records stores. Where I grew up in Yorkshire, the coolest place to buy your music was Jumbo Records in Leeds. Then, when I was in Wales during the school holidays, I’d ask my grandparents to take me to Spillers Records in Cardiff. My grandad was a huge musical influence on me. There wasn’t a thing he didn’t know about big band orchestras and swing musicians. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Matt Monroe we’re played constantly. Whenever I hear a band standard, I’m immediately transported back to my childhood.

Because there was always a musical backdrop to my upbringing, I’m keen for Emily to have the same. When I was pregnant – and my hormones were raging – I’d spend hours playing music to the ‘bump’. I became obsessed with the idea that after she was born, she would instantly recognise the soothing sounds of Kat Power, or the Eagles, and be overcome by a wave of serenity. Needless to say, after she born, I was so completely overwhelmed, stressed and way too busy to remember to play her anything most of the time, and when I did try it, it seemed to have little effect!

Now she’s a little older though, she really reacts to music. One of my favourite things to do with her is to jump around the kitchen dancing. She’s obsessed with singing ‘Love is an Open Door’ from Frozen, the struts her stuff to Beyonce and she head-bangs to Courtney Love!

With her newly-acquired interest in music, we headed to Spillers Records today to soak up some of the atmosphere and browse the rows of vinyls. She was so well-behaved! Wide-eyed and taking it all in, she even had a bit of a boogie to the DJ playing on the first floor.

When we got home, we danced again, this time to my new copy of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’, bought on her first Record Store Day visit. It might not have been a song I played to her when she was in the womb, but we’ll certainly dance to this one over and over for a long time to come.

Dude, where’s my drive?

It’s been a strange few days. I’ve lost motivation with my writing and a few blog opportunities that would have been huge for me, have fallen flat. It’s left me feeling really de-motivated. Blogging and writing as your primary occupation can be tough. There’s often little to no pay, you rely solely on your drive and your ability to be self-starting, and on top of that I have a house and a demented toddler to take care of.

I sat in front of my laptop last week and cried. I have always loved writing and for the first time I couldn’t bring myself to touch the keyboard. I just didn’t want to stare at the screen for another second.

The problem with being in a funk when you’re writing is that the more you stress about it, the more of an issue it becomes. I started questioning everything. Why am I doing this? Why the hell did I give up my 9-5? I’m plugging away at this for nothing etc. etc.

The best remedy? I shut the laptop lid and walked away. As hard as it was initially, I tried not to give it a second thought. I started a new TV show (Big Little Lies is, BTW, insanely awesome), and I read. A lot. I hung out with my family and friends and I recharged by brain-batteries, or rather, let them soak in gin to revive them.

Eventually, new ideas and new creative avenues began to open up in my mind, and I began to miss tap-tapping away on my laptop. This morning, after the Easter holiday and a real break from anything work or blog-related, I came back to my desk (in a local café. Their coffee is WAY better than the shite at mine), and felt refreshed and ready to slay some copy and boss some words.

Time away is like a big, sugary spoon of work-funk medicine. Yes, some of my issues are unresolved, but I now feel like I have the brain-power and the determination to face them head-on.

The flat-white has started to kick in. So bring it, I’m ready.

Baby / Blogger Insomnia – A New Online Epidemic For The Digital Age?

Our household is in a bit of a sleep-funk. Emily was always a fantastic sleeper as a baby, she’d generally sleep 12 hours a night all the way until she was nearly 12 months old. Since then, the last six months have been hit and miss. Copious winter viruses and the adjustment to part-time nursery seem to have scared away the Sandman and have punctured our full night’s sleep with endless pacing up and down on the landing corridor.

The last couple of weeks though, have seen us enter a whole new level of insomnia. She hasn’t slept through the night once. Aside from a bit of a runny nose, she’s not sick, she’s happy through the day and she’s eating well. But every night without fail, for almost three weeks now, she’s standing in her cot crying at least once in the middle of the night, and needs to be soothed back to sleep.

She settles to bed without any problems; I put her in her cot as usual around 7pm and she gets herself to sleep without so much as a whine or a whimper. I’ve read about the elusive ‘18 month sleep regression’, but I’ve always just felt that labelling any sleep issues as a ‘sleep regression’ is sometimes a way to help parents justify why their baby inexplicably won’t sleep. And I totally get why, when you’re so tired that you find yourself hunched on the sofa dribbling down your own cleavage at 2pm, you’d want to search for any reason as to why your baby won’t just go the fuck to sleep. I’m almost getting there myself. But I just think some kids are good sleepers, some aren’t, and most go through little phases or experience sleep ‘speed-bumps’ as they grow up. It’s just finally getting to me that these ‘speed bumps’ are turning into nightly catastrophic debris blockades on the road to sleep.

My husband seems to be able to settle her quickly, but whenever I try to do it, she never wants me to put her down. We can be up for hours until she finally settles. This has given me a nifty get out of sleepless jail free-card for the past few weeks, as Daddy seems to do the trick and we can all quickly get back to sleep.

All of my chickens have come home to roost in a major way this week though, as Super-Sleep-Dad is away all week with work. And last night was brutal. I think I managed five hours’ broken sleep after what felt like decades sat in the rocking chair trying to settle a sleep-phobic toddler. What seems to make matters so much worse is that even when I do finally settle her back down, I’m so wired and awake, that it takes me around another hour to finally get back to sleep. When your wake-up time with a toddler is inevitably before 7am, that leaves very little time for restorative sleep. In fact, that’s barely time for a disco-nap or even 40 winks.

I have laid in bed for hours before giving in to temptation and checking my phone out of sheer boredom. When your active mind won’t shut down you can’t help but be curious about the strangest things that pop into your head. My most recent 3am Google searches have included:

  • How can I make my eyelashes grow faster?
  • Why is my dishwasher making so much noise?
  • How to fold a fitted bedsheet
  • Bloom married?
  • What is a baby cheetah called?
  • Alexander Skarsgard shirtless pics

And when you’re a blogger who has a major narcissistic social media obsession, the temptation to while away hours on your phone, or even the iPad or laptop, is often just too great. Sometimes I find myself thinking, ‘I wonder if anyone has unfollowed me on Instagram since I went to bed? I’ll just quickly check the app’, or ‘I wonder if I could just quickly photoshop my crows-feet out of that picture of me I want to post tomorrow…’. Before I know it, I have spent 45 minutes writing a post on the notes app on my phone, about something that could only be written by a victim of sleep torture, like ‘why my baby reminds me of Baby Sinclair from the 90s Show ‘Dinosaurs’’. Needless to say, none of these posts have been remotely coherent in the cold light of day, and have only cut-short my valuable sleep time.

Given how many parent bloggers there are out there, surely this inability to literally ‘switch-off’ after settling the baby must be a common phenomenon? I can’t be the only person that insta-stalks a mum-crush at 2.30am whilst simultaneously co-ordinating a blog site re-design when I should be trying to get back to sleep? Does anyone else experience this?

I’m trying to make a promise to myself that after settling the baby tonight if / when she wakes, I’ll leave my phone in the hallway so that I don’t feel the temptation to scroll through social media when I can’t get back to sleep. Given how shockingly tired I am today, I’m going to have to try to stick to this promise so that I don’t look like an extra in The Walking Dead tomorrow. I’m literally amazed that I got through this post without falling aslee…………….

My Daily Dose of Reality Courtesy of My Toddler

You can always rely on your toddler to keep it real and tell you exactly how it is. Recently, Emily has been fascinated by watching me put on make-up. This is a fascination that hasn’t in the least been dampened by the fact she once bit off a chunk of lipstick and spat it out with a grimace.

The other day, I finished up with the final touches of mascara, turned to her and said, ‘what do you think?’. Emily, in all her 17 month-old glory and with a limited vocabulary of just a few words, glanced at me for a few seconds before saying, ‘more’.

Looks like the under-eye bags and crows-feet have not escaped her notice. Tough love, kid. Tough love.

#DressDownFriday Competition with The Green Flamingo, Co.!

The #DressDownFriday campaign has been running for 10 weeks now, and I’m so thrilled that it’s struck a chord with so many parents, all around the world.

After a successful first competition with Zac & Bella, I’m really excited that The Green Flamingo, Co. will be offering a prize for another lucky ‘Friday Fashionista’.

The Green Flamingo, Co. specialise in cool, gender-neutral designs and colours for their t-shirts and onesies. Over the next month, anyone who posts a picture in support of #DressDownFriday will be entered into the draw (just make sure you like both of our pages on either Facebook or Instagram).

The winner will get their choice of size and colour of this super-fun shirt, below. Not a bad deal for simply helping to tackle gender stereotypes, eh!?!

The Green Flamingo, Co. was set up by Jenilee & Jessica, two enterprising mamas, originally from Massachusetts. I’m always keen to support and champion innovative and impressive mothers, so I asked co-owner Jessica a few questions about how they went from friends to parents to business-owners.

Where did you two meet?

Jennilee and I have been best friends for over 20 years. We grew up in the same town in Massachusetts.  In addition to our friendship, we also were cheerleaders together through middle school, high school, and some of college. We have been friends through all of life’s ups and downs, marriage, children, moves, joy and sorrow.  We feel very lucky to know we have each other’s backs, always.

Tell us about your families…

Jennilee and her husband have two boys, Lyndon is almost six years old and Sawyer is almost four. My husband and I have four kiddos, Alexis is fourteen, Ally is twelve, Jax is four, and Makena is two. We currently live in Austin, Texas.

What made you two want to set up a kids’ clothing brand with an emphasis on gender-neutrality?

While on our yearly weekend getaway to Martha’s Vineyard (off the coast of Cape Cod) last year, Jennilee and I went searching for a flamingo t-shirt for her son Lyndon’s birthday gift.  Flamingos were and still are Lyndon’s favourite animal.  We could not find a single one made for a boy.  And although Jennilee has no issue with putting her son in pink, the shirts were specifically geared towards girls, with ruffles and glitter.

We decided right then that we should make one for him!  We thought it was so unfair that this little guy couldn’t wear his favourite animal simply because mainstream clothing companies thought that it was “girly”.

From here, The Green Flamingo, Co. was born!  Providing children and adults with designs that either gender can wear proudly and without judgment has become our mission.

What is your design process?

We both hand draw our designs and then digitize the images. They are then printed just for the customer who ordered it.  We offer many sizes and a rainbow of colours so that ANY child and/or adult can find exactly what they like.  There is no pink just for girls or blue just for boys at The Green Flamingo, Co.  We create designs that encourage each and every person to express themselves exactly as they see fit.

Why have you chosen to support the #DressDownFriday campaign?

When we came across the #DressDownFriday campaign we were thrilled! Not only because this is exactly what our company is about but also because it is taking a step forward to get the word out about how limiting and ridged, gender stereotypes can be.  Bringing attention to the fact that children should be children, not just boys, and girls, is vitally important to them growing up with respect and non-judgment for one another. Differences between the genders starts young and in our opinion, starts with their clothes. We are overjoyed to be a part of a mission to tackle this!

In Defence of the Mamas Enjoying a Bit of Tom Hardy

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about Cbeebies’ Bedtime Story reader and all-round bad-boy-beefcake, Tom Hardy.

HOLLYWOOD – OCTOBER 30: Actor Tom Hardy attends “Variety’s 10 Actors To Watch” event at The Roosevelt Hotel on October 30, 2009 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by David Livingston/WireImage)

Loads of parents are thrilled at what they perceive to be an inspired choice by the BBC for Tom to lend his dulcet tones to a children’s classic. Others have criticised the ovary-exploding mass-hysteria, saying it represents a double standard in society where it’s socially acceptable for women to gawp at men, but it’s frowned upon when it’s the other way around.

People with this latter point of view, in my opinion, are kind of missing the point.

The CBeebies producers didn’t ask Tom to dress provocatively, or lounge on a bed, or nonchalantly step out of a shower soaking wet. They have asked an A-list Hollywood actor with mass-appeal to sit on a chair and read a bedtime story.

Of course, the producers rightly knew Tom Hardy would likely strike a chord with mum viewers, but the reaction mums have had to the choice of reader has been entirely their own decision. In a way isn’t that the definition of female empowerment? Surely denying mums their reaction to seeing Tom Hardy on TV after they’ve spent all day scraping Weetabix off the radiators whilst trying to placate a perennially screaming infant, is being a little bit harsh?

At the end of the day, (well, at 6.50pm to be precise), it’s a bit of fun, it’s tongue in cheek, and it’s harmless. As far as I’m aware, Tom Hardy didn’t run from the studio crying that he’d been degraded and abused.

To react negatively to all the ‘Hardy furore’ suggests these people are taking the humorous responses from mums literally. Are they genuinely concerned that mums are ‘putting their kids to bed early to watch Bedtime Story alone’? Does this mean they are suggesting that CBeebies is turning the Bedtime Hour into Channel 5 soft porn??? In my opinion, this is just another one of those societal double-standards where it’s OK for guys to joke about ‘the spank bank’, but it’s met with disgust when women joke about the same thing.

And let’s face it, how many times every day are women the victims in the ever-present, daily bombardment of female scrutiny? Can’t we let the mums have Tom Hardy? After a day of running around after a crazy toddler with no adult interaction to keep you sane, is that too much to ask? I think not.

Pre-baby / Post-Baby – A Poem of Comparison for Mother’s Day

Gin & Tonic / Nightly colic

Designer bags / under-eye bags

Drink nothing under 40 proof / Every room is Baby-proof

Travel the world / Join Slimming World

Stay up late / Stay up ‘til 8

Lazing in the sun / Frantic school-run

All night rave / No time to shave

Socialising / Sterilising

Foreplay / Soft play

Moisturise / Poked in the eyes

Express manicure / Express breastmilk

Spontaneity / Upsy Daisy

Beauty regimen / Baby Calprofen

Festivals in the rain / Staying home to potty train

Working on my core / Working on my pelvic floor

Boyfriend troubles / Mummy cuddles

Housemates from Hell / That new baby smell

Miniskirts and frocks / Tiny baby socks

Having a flatter tummy / Biggest smiles for Mummy

The daily commuter shove / Unconditional love