Yummy Mummy dying swans

The parents are invited to watch the last ballet and tap class of every term. This usually involves us perching on teeny tiny chairs around the of the hall and giggling watching proudly as our darling daughters harrumph around a church hall in the name of dance.

Yesterday’s ‘Watch Day’ was a little different. We were invited to make a small contribution to charity and had to pay £2 to watch the class or £1 to take part. We all paid the £2 and settled down to watch…

…until the children were asked to find a partner for the tap side-step and G was left on her own in the middle of the floor. She looked over at me, mournfully (she’ll win an Oscar one day) and I had to go and help her out. She and I galloped up and down together like characters from a Jane Austen novel (I’m so going to be Mrs Bennett from Pride and Prejudice in a few years), only in skinny jeans and a scarf (me) and mad hair (G). When the sequence was over I sat down again, ignoring the smirks of our parent friends.

The children put their tap shoes away and got out the ballet shoes for the second half of the class. One of our mum friends leapt up and said ‘C’mon Jo’ as she motioned towards the dance floor. I muttered swear words (extremely) under my breath and joined the others. It was SO much fun. We did first position, plie, jete and skipping. One of our dad friends joined in and was greeted with hoots of laughter as he turned his toes out. His daughter looked mortified and ordered him to sit down immediately. He skulked off back to his seat as the rest of us tried gamely to balance on one leg.

We’re now thinking of setting up a legs-akimbo style dance troupe for elderly yummy mummies in order to extract maximum embarrassment from our daughters.

As I skipped around the hall, scarf flying behind me and hair all over the place, I passed Dh and hissed – loudly – next time it’s YOUR turn. He was too busy capturing the moment on his phone.

No I won’t be posting the photos – or videos – on here.

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Boy band heaven

The 4th birthday party we attended on Saturday (the 4th one of the year so far) had a disco. There was some B*eb*r, some Agadoo and then What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction came on. The girls, acting as if they had been hypnotised, climbed off the bouncy castle and launched into a choreographed dance routine.

Dh and I (once we’d recovered from the shock) asked where they had a. Heard the song (we’re always a bit dubious since the B*eb*r incident at nursery a year or so ago) and b. Learnt the moves. Apparently it’s one of the things they do in the tap element of their combined ballet and tap class.

I felt it was motherly duty to download the song so they could practice at home. I bought the song on my phone and when I played them the opening bars their eyes lit up. I then searched YouTube for the accompanying video but to no avail so I downloaded (i.e. BOUGHT) the video as well. I explained that the boys in the video sang the song (I haven’t tried them on MTV and the like since they were about 18 months old) and R asked me what the boys were called.

It would be easy for me to lie at this point and say I didn’t know so I had to Google the answer, but I didn’t. I knew all of the names off by heart thanks to my X-Factor habit and my frankly ludicrous recall of celebrity gossip. (Maths? Not so much. Celebrity trivia? I’d get an Olympic gold medal ).

G decided that Liam was very clever because he was able to sit on a fence. R asked why Harry was talking to ‘that girl like that’. I said they were very good friends. They’re 4 years old – that’s enough of an answer for now.

Dh took a video of the girls doing the dance but it’s really dark so I’ll have to try and capture it again. It’ll be great blackmail material for the inevitable moment that they decide to paint their bedroom black and become goths.

Coffee confessions

Every Saturday morning during term-time a small group of four or five people drop their daughters off at ballet and tap class and traipse round to someone’s house for coffee. The coffee sessions only last three-quarters of an hour but the people use the time to swap stories from the front line of parenting.

They even have a motto: ‘What gets said in this house stays within these four walls’.

Of course, I’m referring to Dh and I and a small gang of parents whose children attend the same dance class. They all attended the same nursery until last September when three of the girls went off to prep schools. R and G are the only ones left at nursery, so they started doing Baby Ballet last term as a way of keeping in touch with some of their oldest friends.

All five of the girls moved up to ‘Twinkle Toes’, the combined ballet and tap class for children aged 4-5 in January. The Baby Ballet class was only half an hour so we used to rush through our drinks and head back to the class, which, handily is held in a church hall at the end of our road. Twinkle Toes is slightly longer so we now get to sup our drinks in a relatively languorous manner.

The gang tends to meet at our house because Dh has a rather fancy coffee machine. It’s his third baby, basically. I don’t drink coffee (or tea) but his wonder machine also makes hot chocolate (and cappuccino, espresso and mocha) so that’s my drink of choice. With the exception of one of the Dads who only drinks tea, the other parents nurse their expertly-made coffees.

Our girls were all born between December 2007 and April 2008, so we compare stories and swap parenting tips. We’ve all sat head in hands despairing about the tantrums our strong-willed, larger than life, forces-of-nature daughters continue to have well after the supposed ‘Terrible Twos’. We’ve swapped stories of depression, tablets and CBT therapies. We laugh at the funny things the girls say and compare notes on different education settings. We also weave grown-up topics into the discussion: this morning we discussed sporting allegiances and feisty parents, for example. The other week we talked about Apartheid. Sometimes we discuss rare nights out and the after-effects. It all depends on what we want – or need – to talk about.

I find the coffee chats incredibly reassuring. Dh and I have really been tearing our hair out over G for the last few months (I’ll say more on that in the next few days) and wondered what on earth we were doing wrong. The coffee confessions have revealed that we’re not alone in feeling helpless and that actually some of G’s more outlandish behaviour is pretty normal for a four year old girl (well, that or there’s something in the water round here that makes the girls super-feisty). As a parent, one of the best sentences you can hear is ‘We’re going through that too’. It instantly normalises a situation in which you thought you were totally alone, which is incredibly helpful.

At 10.10am we gather up the empty cups and trot back to the church hall where five little girls, all red-faced and excited, greet us with news of new tap moves, reward stickers and jelly sweets. Sometimes we pop round to the other houses to play for a bit. Sometimes they come to ours. Sometimes we all go our separate ways, but I think that all of the parents carry on with their day safe in the knowledge that their confessions won’t be shared outside the group. Whatever happens that week, they know they can let it all out at the coffee confession session the following Saturday.

Half-full

I can finally cast off my mourning garb and uncover the table legs*. I’m officially ‘over’ my sadness at not ever having any more children. Having (nearly) four year olds is (almost) brilliant**.

My father-in-law had a 65th birthday party at the weekend. A year or two ago I would have been planning a. Babysitters*** or b. A strategic exit from the party when one or both girls reached inevitable meltdown at 8pm. This time I was confident that the girls could see most of the evening through. Dh was convinced that we would be in bed by 10pm. I told him to have a little faith. I had a plan. We travelled to the Fens after lunch, the point in the day at which the girls are most likely to be content and a tad sleepy. It kind-of worked when we turned off my driving tunes and Classic FM did its usual trick of putting the girls into a coma.

The girls were on the dance floor until 11pm when Dh and I staged an intervention and took them back to the hotel. This was their first ever late night and they coped admirably. G is a proper little dancing queen, although the beat in her head is clearly different to the one the rest of us can hear as she dances a bit like Phoebe from Friends. R spent most of the time following her cousin P (6) around. P is the Chloe Pig to R’s Peppa. She worships her. Dh was told on several occasions that the girls were ‘The best behaved children we’ve ever seen’. These people were only a teensy bit drunk (i.e. still able to stand) so I’m totally taking the compliment.

We have finally redecorated the girls’ bedroom. When we moved here two years ago their room was yellow with a teddy bear border and they were young enough at 20 months to warrant keeping the décor the same. Over the last year it became increasingly apparent that the room looked too babyish for their swiftly evolving tastes. It took me a while to persuade Dh but I finally wore him down and earlier in the week we painted their room pale pink (it looked worryingly like seafood sauce initially but has calmed down now) and decorated it with Peppa Pig wall stickers. I have also – finally – hung my cross-stitch alphabet up. It looks LOVELY.

I wanted to buy the girls proper beds but Dh has vetoed that for the time being because (brace yourselves) the girls aren’t dry at night yet….

<I’m now going to give you a moment to digest that. I’m getting a hot chocolate while you revel in our crapness by leaping around the room, air-punching, whooping with joy, whatever>

All done now? Good.

….so there’s no point moving them out of their current beds (their cotbeds with the sides off) until they’re in knickers. We’re dangling that (along with promises of bunk beds, Hello Kitty and Minnie Mouse bedding) as a carrot to ‘encourage’ them out of night-time pull-ups but they’re having none of it.

So, we’re not quite where I’d like to be, but we’re getting there. Plus, we don’t have to go through this again with other children so my glass is (for a change) half-full. All hail the 4 year olds!****

*I don’t actually think the Victorians did this.

**Apart from when they do something so naughty and/or stupid that I want to fall to my knees and weep at my parenting failures. This happens approximately once a day.

***Ha ha ha. I’m joking of course.

****Except when they make you cry.