My Parenting Wins

(To be sung to the tune of ‘My Favourite Things’ from The Sound of Music) 

Spontaneous cuddles and whispered I love yous.
Unprompted pleases and nights when they sleep through.
Times when they’re playing and sharing their things.
These are a few of my parenting wins.

First stumbling footsteps whilst holding their brick cart.
Pictures of mummy drawn inside a red heart.
Infectious giggles and teeth-missing grins.
These are a few of my parenting wins.

Watching them sleeping and hearing their breathing.
A tooth popping out after three weeks of teething.
The joy in their faces when they’re on a swing.
These are a few of my parenting wins.

When they tantrum. When they won’t eat.
When they wake at five.
I simply remember my parenting wins
And then I know I’ll . . . survive.



One Day

One day I won’t remember the exhaustion of this morning.
Their night time trip to my bed which has left me tired and yawning.
Instead I will remember how they looked when fast asleep,
And how it felt to wake to their warm breath upon my cheek.

One day I will forget the mess of their latest glued creation.
Instead I will recall their smiles, their faces of elation.
I won’t bemoan that carrying them would leave my back a wreck,
But remember instead the gentle weight of their arms around my neck.

One day the sibling arguments will have escaped my mind.
And all I will remember are the times that they were kind.
I will forget the tantrums, the screaming and the tears,
And just recall the laughter, the giggles and the cheers.

One day I won’t recall the mess when their toys were everywhere,
Because I’ll feel a sadness that my lounge floor looks so bare.
And I won’t recall annoyance at hearing “Mummy!” on repeat,
Because I’ll wish to hear again, their lisping voice so sweet.

One day is coming quickly, in no time they’ll be grown.
Gone to live their own lives and leaving us alone.
One day I won’t remember they were difficult at all,
And that day I’ll wish for this day, when they were still so small.

Emma Robinson 2016

The five questions I ask every day

I am a schoolteacher, so questions are the tools of my trade. With my students, I think carefully about asking the right questions, aimed at the level of the child I am speaking to, so that I can get the appropriate response. The key part of this is that the questions are different every time so that I can gauge their understanding, support their ideas and extend their thinking.

As a parent, I ask the same five damn questions every flaming day.

1. Can you get dressed?

I’m probably not phrasing this question correctly to start with. Of course, they can get dressed. The issue is that they are not choosing to. When I have the energy, I try to make it into a game or a race. But there are many mornings when I am scrabbling around the fridge for ‘healthy’ packed lunch ingredients, trying to think up convincing book titles to write in their school reading journals and working out what to do with my hair which I haven’t had time to wash, and I just need them to get their blasted clothes on. The sight of them wandering aimlessly into the kitchen wearing only an inside out polo shirt and a pair of socks when we have five minutes until we leave the house has been known to cause me to rephrase this question by inserting the words ‘just’ and ‘bloody’ and raising the volume accordingly.

2. Will you eat your dinner? 

After half an hour of “I’m starving! When’s dinner going to be ready? Can I have a biscuit? But I’m starving!” I place dinner in front of my children, they eat a forkful or two and then . . . stop. For the next 20 minutes I am then asking the above question on repeat until we get to the bitter end. Dan doesn’t do this. If they aren’t eating their dinner, he reminds them once and then just takes it away and they get nothing else until the next meal. My issue with that is, thirty minutes later, the “I’m starving” mantra begins again and, although the rational side of me is fully aware that they will not waste away after missing just one meal, it pushes some primeval button in my mum-psyche and I just can’t bear it.

3. Have you flushed the toilet?

Really. How hard can it be? You do your business, wipe your bottom, flush the toilet and wash your hands. My six year old son can build an entire spacecraft following Lego instructions, but he can’t master that process. Sometimes we get two out of four, even three. But rarely are all four parts of the routine completed. I’m not sure what’s worse: going to the toilet and being greeted by a two-hours-old poo or knowing that they are wiping their germ infested hands around the living room.

4. Are you tired?

This one does not go down well at all. Usually provoked by a grizzling child who would clearly benefit from an early visit to bed, the suggestion that they are tired triggers an outraged response: “I am NOT tired!” Is it that they see an admission of weariness as a sign of weakness? Do they think we are going to start having the most tremendous fun as soon as they close their eyes? Is their ‘shut down’ function faulty in some way?

On reflection, if someone asked me the same question, offered to brush my teeth, put me in some warm PJs and read me a story I think I would also start weeping. With grateful happiness.

5. What did you do at school today?

I’ve tried all the tactics I can to find out what my children do for the six daylight hours we are apart. “Tell me something new you learned today!” or “Did anything funny happen?” or “Just tell me anything you did and I will give you a packet of Haribos.” William is the worst for divulging information. He always tells me “I did a little bit of everything” and assumes that should cover it. Scarlett is slightly more forthcoming but she gets halfway through and then forgets the vital bit of information. “I got a tickled pink sticker but I can’t remember what it was for.” It’s like reading a mystery novel with the last page ripped out.

Strangely enough, they will be much more likely to give me a fully developed answer, right down to what they had for lunch and which child had the humiliation of being on the red spot that day, when it is time for bed. Surprising, that.

In the morning

In the morning I will love you,
But now it’s for the best –
If, please, you could go just go to bed
So I can get some rest. 

You’ve had me up for hours,

And my head’s begun to throb. 
I want to lay it down
upon the floor and quietly sob. 

I’ve changed you and I’ve fed you,

Checked you’re not too hot or cold.
In fact, I’ve gone right through the list
of all that I’ve been told. 

But every time I lay you down,

Then quietly start to creep.
You yell for me pick you up. 
Why do you hate to sleep? 

It’s not that I don’t love you. 

I think that you’re terrific.
But if I can’t get just forty winks, 
Tomorrow will be horrific.

So baby, please just close those eyes, 

And wait for sleep to come. 
In the morning, if you let me rest,
I will be much more fun. 

Emma Robinson 2016

Can we make a cake?

There are few requests which fill me with as much dread as “Can we make cakes mummy?” I can usually fob them off for a while by telling them we don’t have the ingredients but sometimes the guilt gets to me. As I remember making cakes with my own mum, I feel duty bound to provide the same memories, albeit with slightly more under-the-breath swearing, for my own children. 

I am not a natural baker. Creaming, whisking, folding – it’s all just stirring to me. Therefore, after googling cake recipes with ‘easy’ in the title, I need time to read and understand each step of the process to be sure I’m not getting it wrong. Not as easy as it sounds when my children are more from the ‘chuck it all in’ school of bakery. 

Usually, it starts well enough. Seizing the opportunity to have something truthful to write in his reading log, I encourage William to read out the ingredients and we weigh and measure them out each into their own small bowl just like a TV cooking show. Apart from my cortisol levels steadily rising as Scarlett measures the raisins out one by one, we are doing well. Until we get to the flour. 

Whoever’s turn it is to measure, puts their spoon into the flour, then moves it precariously towards the mixing bowl. Slowly, slowly, so unbearably slowly the spoon travels the 14cm between the flour bag and the bowl.  Nearly there . . . nearly there . . . and it’s all over the table. 

Eggs are just as problematic. There seem to be only two modes of egg cracking. The first ineffectually soft, the second so heavy handed that it takes three separate attempts before we get a yolk that lands anywhere near the inside of the bowl. 

It’s also impossible to keep the children from licking their fingers, the spoon or anything else coated in cake mixture. I may as well add ‘saliva’ to the list of ingredients; there’s more of that in there than there is baking powder. 

I have learned from experience that when they are stirring the mixture (folding, beating, whatever) you need to keep an iron grip on that bowl if you don’t want to use the cake mixture as an alternative floor covering. Even when holding the bowl as if your life depended on it, you can’t avoid the slippage, flickage and drippage which ensues. Cue me barking out adverbs like a deranged English Language instructor: “Carefully!”, “Slowly!”, “Gently!” 

 Finally the mixture with added egg shell and child spit is ready to put into the oven and I am left to clean up the carnage of sticky bowls, spilt sugar and phlegmy egg traces whilst the miniature chefs retire to the sitting room, taking turns to appear at the kitchen door every 3 minutes to ask, “Is it ready yet?”

 However stressful the experience has been, I am left with a warm glow of wholesomeness that I have baked a cake with my children.  I have momentarily transformed myself into a traditional aproned mother-figure, spending quality time with her children. And, even better than that, every time we produce a cake, my guilt levels are reset and I can spend at least another month fobbing them off before we have to make another one. 


You want me to stick it where?

As my youngest child is now over four, it has been a while since I have perused the range of products available to pregnant women. This may explain my utter shock when I saw an advert for the Babypod Vaginal Speaker.

For those of you who are as yet unaware of its existence, this is a system which enables you to play music to your child in the womb by inserting a speaker inside of yourself. That’s right. Because giving up alcohol, subjecting ourselves to regular blood tests and getting haemorrhoids isn’t enough. Now they’re suggesting pregnant women stick a boom box up their front bottoms too.

I don’t think so.

Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to do everything I could to give my unborn child the best possible start in life. Before he was even conceived, I wouldn’t let my husband so much as raise an eyebrow at me suggestively until I’d taken my folic acid capsule. I didn’t eat anything from the banned food lists. No pâté. No blue cheese. No alcohol. I even got an earful from a waitress when I explained that my eggs were too runny and could she please cook them for longer. (She stomped off with my plate muttering how they didn’t have “all these funny ideas” in her day.)

Frequently I could be found singing to my bump, reading it stories and stroking it lovingly. I was almost late to work a couple of times because the baby was moving around and I didn’t want to stop its fun by getting out of bed. I was fortunate to have two pleasant pregnancies and I look back on those months with fond memories.

However, there are times during pregnancy when your body no longer feels like your own. Your skin is stretched so tightly it feels like shrink-wrap, your boobs are big and sore and the weight of your bump forces you to walk at a 45-degree angle. On top of that, you are getting undressed in front of more strangers that the staff at a brothel and, just like them, you begin to no longer care who is looking at your private parts.

But there has to come a time when we have to put up our hands and say, enough is enough. And surely that begins with the Babypod Vaginal Speaker.

For a start, I’d bet you a tube of Lasinoh nipple cream it was invented by a man. Quite a few pregnant women play music to their babies in the womb, but I doubt very much that any of them have ever thought, “I know where I’d like to put this speaker if I could.”

What will they ask of us next? Easy-to-swallow Lamaze toys to avoid baby getting bored in the amniotic sac? A rocking appliance to stick up our bottoms so that baby can be rocked gently whilst we watch TV? Milkshake powder dispensers to stick on our nipples so that baby can choose to take their breastmilk in chocolate or strawberry?

We need to stand together on this one and reclaim at least some control of our bodies and what we are expected to do with them. If these techno geeks want to put their brains to good use in order to help pregnant women, there are many other things I could suggest. Like a vitamin drink that tastes of Prosecco or a robot to help you roll yourself out of bed in the ninth month. As far as the Babypod goes, I can tell them exactly where they should think about sticking it.

My Parenting Resolutions 2016

According to a recent article in The Guardian, 43% of resolutions are broken within a month and 80% within three months. Lifestyle Gurus often warn against starting a new regime on Jan 1 because of its likelihood of failure. However, I like to make promises to myself at New Year and, even if I know deep down I won’t stick to my plan to juice and drink my 5-a-day for breakfast after completing 100 star jumps, I enjoy the sense of hopeful self-belief that I might. This year, as well as my own personal plans involving less of the things I like and more of the things I don’t, I am going to attempt the following. 

 1. Only say ‘hurry up’ when we are actually in a rush. 

 During the two week Christmas holiday, I have realised how often I say those two words to my children. I hurried them through their breakfast even when we were not going out, hurried them along during a walk through the forest even though we had nowhere to be; I even found myself telling them to hurry up brushing their teeth. I am so used to having a million things to do and places to be that I am rushing us when we could just slow down and take our time. Achieving nothing but a rise in my blood pressure, I am pledging to only hurry when completely necessary. At all other times, I will rival the Dalai Lama with my calm acceptance of the time it takes them to perform the most basic of functions or to fulfil my requests to get dressed, flush the toilet or tell me what they want for dinner. Which leads me neatly onto my second resolution.

2. Be realistic about how much time it takes to do things. 

Currently I ask the children to put on their costs and shoes five minutes before we leave the house. This is because it only takes five minutes to put on a coat and shoes. Except it doesn’t.  Five minutes does not allow for the time it takes to argue about appropriate footwear (the girl), find ANY footwear (the boy), agree how many toys can be taken on the outing (both), realise someone needs the toilet, remember someone wanted a drink, find the car keys, sob how you used to be able to leave the house in five minutes (me) and fight about who got to the car first. Result: we are late, I am stressed, kids have a screaming harpy for a mother. From now on I will estimate how long it will take us to do something and multiply by four. 

3. Focusing on the moment 

So often, I find myself reluctantly playing a game with the children whilst mentally planning dinner, moving stuff into piles so it looks tidier and thumbing through my FB page. If I’m really honest, children’s games bore me senseless and seem to take an infinity of time, which is why I do something else simultaneously to alleviate my pain. Deep down, I know that their desire to play kittens with me as the mummy cat has a limited shelf life and one day I will be giving myself a Chinese burn because I didn’t make the most of it. Thus I pledge to give their game of Spies and Ninja Princesses my full attention for at least 15 minutes before begging for a reprieve. 

4. Not attempting activities which I know will end in disaster

Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. With this is mind, I plan to decline well-meant invitations for activities which always become the polar opposite of ‘fun’. I’m sure you know the kind of thing I mean. Lunch with families containing the world’s best behaved children, playdates at show homes, large noisy parties where the children have access to Coca-Cola or anything which involves sitting quietly still for more than 15 minutes. For the last six years, I have attempted to attend everything we have been invited to, even when my husband shakes his head from side to side in piteous disbelief. But no more. If I think it will end in tears (theirs, mine, our host’s) I will politely decline and stay home practising my lines as the chief Ninja Princess Spy.

And that is it. There are many other areas I could have added. I could commit to making homemade cakes for school fetes, to feed the kids Fish Fingers a maximum of once a week or to always give a full explanation of my reasons rather than screaming “because I’m your mother!” But even my love of hopefulness has a realistic side. I am going to keep these resolutions short and achievable in the hope that they will have a more lasting impact than those in The Guardian’s poll.

 And while I may not manage more than ten minutes pretending to lick my kitten children before surreptitiously checking my email and I may not leave enough time to walk to school and therefore be seen dragging two half-dressed children to the gates, I will know at least that I tried and, as my children will be able to recite to you, all you can do is try your best.


The Star

She didn’t have a speaking part
Because the words were tricky.
(Though was glad she wasn’t Mary
Because Joseph’s hands were sticky.)


She’d hoped to be an angel
Because angels point their toes. 
But they’d offered her a shepherd
And she didn’t like the clothes. 

Now all the parts were given out 
And she was just ‘the crowd.’
As she faced the sea of mums and dads,
Her little head was bowed.

Until she saw, right up the back,
Her mummy’s loving glance.
That found her and stayed fixed on her
Through every song and dance.

Whilst one king whacked the others,

With his golden box of myrrh.
Her mummy never peeped at them;
Those eyes stayed fixed on her.

And even though poor Jesus fell,
When the manger somehow tipped.

And Gabriel danced a solo
That wasn’t in the script.

Her mummy just looked straight at her

Like no one else was there.
It made her feel so wonderful
And she no longer cared.

That she didn’t have a ‘proper’ part

Which everybody ‘ahhed.’
Because, looking through her mummy’s eyes,
She would always be the star.

 Emma Robinson 2015


In Defence of Slacker Mums

The word ‘slacker’ is misleading. Slacker mums are NOT lazy. On the contrary, Slacker mums are trying to be everything and do everything. We had a life once; a life we liked. Trying to keep that life going at the same time as being the best mum we can makes for a pretty busy schedule.

 Often we are juggling home and work. And feeling like we’re not doing a particularly good job at either. Bolting out the door of the office as the clock ticks to 5.00 so that we can get home in time to deliver our child to Dance Club/Swimming/Beavers and then having to apologise again because we have forgotten their shoes/swimming cap/woggle. 

Rushed is our middle name. There are school mornings when we have to make a split second decision on whose hair will be brushed because there’s not enough time for all of us. Trips to the supermarket are against the clock as we throw food into a trolley into which we have trapped our iPhone watching children. At parties we have to accept the ‘late again’ jibes from the Smug Mothers even though we think they should be grateful that we turned up at all.  

We can’t do craft. Oh, we do our best. We spend our overdraft in Hobbycraft, Google “easy craft no glitter” and try to pretend that we’re enjoying ourselves. But it’s hard to shrug off the utter pointlessness of a task which involves spending an hour of our life creating a random monstrosity which will be littering various places in our living room or kitchen until the children have forgotten it and we can scoot it into the bin. (All the while trying not to think that that piece of crap probably cost £7 in tissue paper and stickers.) 

Some of us are a little disorganised. We may be found fishing yesterday’s school uniform out of the washing basket (if it made it that far) and wiping it clean with a wet wipe. We are sometimes haranguing our children with felt tips and coloured paper at 7:30 in the morning because we’ve just found a crumpled homework sheet at the bottom of a school bag. We often meet each other frantically searching in Tesco for a superhero costume/Christmas jumper/Pudsey bear T-shirt at 11pm the night before a school dressing up day. 

But when we do see another Slacker Mum, the relief is immense. Meeting one another’s eyes in a café where at least one of our children is under the table and raising our mug in solidarity. Confessing in whispers that our child’s lunchbox includes a sandwich containing only ketchup because we didn’t have the energy to fight that morning. When we recognise one of our own, we nod and smile the smile that says, “Me too, sister.”

Because Slacker mums don’t judge. We don’t even treat the Perfect Mothers with disdain. No, we admire them with their immaculate school run hair and tidy “drop by any time” houses. Sometimes, for three consecutive days, we actually manage to BE them. But, hey, we’re Slackers: it never lasts. 

 If we’re honest, we can’t always blame motherhood for these characteristics. We were probably not renowned for our tidiness, punctuality and organisation before having children. It was just a lot easier to hide when we only had ourselves to look after. Slacker mums are actually trying very hard: it is because we have spent 20 minutes working out beautifully coordinated outfits for our children that we ourselves leave the house looking like we’ve just been electrocuted.

And it definitely doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy being a mum. Our lives are busy and stressful and disorganised but they are also full of moments of joy when we look at our family laughing, playing and enjoying each other and feel a contentment that makes everything else completely worthwhile. We Slacker Mums love our children so much we could eat them. It’s just that, sometimes, we wish we had. 

Begin a Slacker Mum means never quite feeling like you have this motherhood thing nailed. Sometimes we try to do everything, but end up feeling that we’ve achieved nothing. Sometimes we measure ourselves against the Perfect Mothers and find ourselves wanting. Sometimes we berate ourselves because we’re not the best cook, housekeeper or creator of creatures from egg boxes and loo rolls.

But always we love our children, we do our best and we try to support the other Slacker Mums around us. And we know that, ultimately, that is all that really matters.


To My Second Child

You’re not my first; that much is true.
I loved another before loving you.
I’m a different mother this time around.
More calm and confident I’ve found.

With your brother, everything was new.
I was focused on his every move.
Each tiny smile was photographed.
I changed my ringtone to his laugh. 

Since you came, there’s a new dimension.
Two children now want my attention.
And sometimes you’re left in your chair,
Whilst I play with your brother over there.

 I cannot watch your every move.
Or, when you cry out, jump to soothe.
I don’t panic every time you sneeze,
And dash you off to A & E.

Your rattles and teds are hand-me-downs,
(And some toys may have lost their sounds.)
There’s less concern if your blanket’s scratchy,
And your baby book is a little patchy. 

I know what the next months have in store.
And each phase you reach, I’ve seen before.
This doesn’t mean I love you less.
This time the feeling’s more complex. 

I’m pleased to see you learn and grow,
But it also pulls my heartstrings so.
I was so excited first time ‘round.
This time I want to slow things down. 

Your ‘firsts’ will all be ‘lasts’ for me.
Last crawl and last to ride my knee.
Last nappy, breastfeed, spoon of mush.
Last rock-to-sleep, last cry to hush.

 You were not my firstborn this is true,
But the last child I will have is you.
You’re the last lullaby I’ll ever sing.
And ‘lasts’ are a special kind of thing.