Tag Archives: Parenting

FF – The Old Ones Are The Best

Photo copyright belongs to Lisa Fox

The Old Ones Are The Best

“What’s black and white and red all over?” Luke’s started riffing on the joke book, so I prepare my laughter.

“Don’t know. What is black, white and red all over?”

“A newspaper” shouts Matty. He’s read the book too.

“Ha. No!” Getting a point against your brother is always a joy. “I’ll give you a clue: cowboy movies.” He waits a beat, then announces in triumph, “A cowboy after he’s been shot!”

I can see Matty preparing to argue, but it’s actually funny… and for once I’m ready to deflect. “Good one! Let’s have Oreo ice cream with strawberry sauce.”


I occasionally take a photo with FF in mind but I always forget to send them; Rochelle’s call for pictures makes me think I must hunt some of them down.

My story this week took a lot of editing to fit the 100 word limit and has lost a bit of Mom’s internal monologue as a consequence, but I enjoy writing stories about this family, who are often a little like mine. I hope you enjoy them too – there are lots of other Luke and Matty stories on my blog, so if you are interested click on the tag or drop their names into the search box for more snippets about them.


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FF – At the Side of the Road

At the Side of the Road

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.”

A groan.

“I came to a fork in the road, so I picked it up!”

“Mom, seriously.”

“No poems, no jokes. How about interesting facts? French for Stop is Arret. It’s the root of our word arrest, like cardiac arrest, but we mostly…”

“No, Mom. No jokes, no facts, no silly word games.”

“So we’re just going to sit here and pretend your brother isn’t yakking on the verge outside the car?”


“Wales uses Stop signs but it’s not proper Welsh. Should be Stopiwch or Stopio.”

“I’m gonna go join the barfing.”


This one is totally clear to me in my head, but I don’t know whether it needs more exposition to be clear. I had in mind Mom and son waiting in the car while another son hurls his guts at the side of the road. Mom’s trying to distract herself and her son, but he’s not in the mood. Let me know if that’s what you saw – and don’t be afraid to critique if it’s not.

My youngest has all-but written off our car this week by NOT waiting until he got out and liberally decorating the inside. Luckily, it’s a Jeep Wrangler, so worst case scenario, I’ll take the roof off and drive it through a car wash. A highlight while attempting to clean it by hand was discovering that the floor has a drainage plug. Y’know, in case you flood the car. The designer probably didn’t envisage the flood being caused by me with a bottle of bleach and a hose!

In other news, here’s the Welsh Stop sign debate.


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FF – Like a Mother

Photo copyright belongs to our great leader, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Like A Mother

There’s a picture by my desk of me swimming: head down, 100% focussed. It’s impossible to think and swim, worry and swim, write, dream, even parent and swim.

It’s there to remind me what that feels like. Because here I can multitask like a mother. Field demands for snacks and calls for slide decks, while drafting an email about a spreadsheet I’m completing in another tab. The picture’s half-covered by a post-it reminder to book a PAP and any minute the washing machine will siren for attention.

But in the water, I’m pure and free and all the way in.


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FF – Forbidden Fruit

My 2 favourite boys writing their vacation journals about Disney, so a few moments to write up my favourite fictional girl’s view of a tale as old as time.

Forbidden Fruit

If Eve was tempted by an apple, how crap must Eden have been?  Like, she ditched mangos and pizza for a granny smith? Maybe it was a honeycrisp. Much nicer.

She got bored of mangos, I guess. Sarah’s Mum leaves a bowl of Celebrations out all the time. Her Mum told Dad it makes Sarah not want chocolate because she can get it all the time. At school, Sarah trades her chocolates with Luke because his Grandpa gives him bubble gum on Sundays.

Maybe Eve did a trade with the devil – mango for apple. He must’ve thought it was Christmas.


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The Brightest Light in the Darkest Night

Photo copyright Na’ama Yehuda

Trigger warnings: Early Parenthood, Loss

The Brightest Light in the Darkest Night

In the dream we’re falling. She’s a tiny bundle in my arms and we fall and fall until I don’t know whether I’m terrified or grateful that there’s no ground to hit.

Her cries pierce me awake and for a moment we’ve hit the ground but no, we’re in bed and she just wants a drink or a diaper, or maybe she was dreaming too. For that microsecond she’s all there is: even outside the dream there’s only her and me.

But then the world comes back, and there’s her, me, and the gaping hole where her mother should be.


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Friday Fiction – Learning On The Road

I write this with a fractious toddler sitting next to me, demanding I find the one picture of Jack the Digger in his 400 page book of Thomas pictures. Needles and haystacks are less frustrating. At least by the time I found the needle, I wouldn’t discover the seamstress had lost interest and wanted a thimble instead. But I digress.

Happy New Year, my friends! I hope you find more to make you think, laugh and feel among the pages of Elmowrites in the 2015.

Friday Fiction is hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields; today’s picture comes from Jean L. Hays. Your feedback is what drives me, please leave it honestly, and be constructive if you can.



Learning On The Road

“OK, listen,” Alice bent the guidebook back to read. “‘Route 66 has dwindled since the arrival of the interstate. The Main Street of America is now a side-road.’”

“Can we get lunch now, Mum?” Corbett whinged, uninterested.

“We just had breakfast,” said Lucy, sounding frighteningly like the voice Alice heard from herself sometimes: exasperated and impatient. It was hard to be enthusiastic with demanding children, to find excitement in the drudgery of motherhood.

’There are faster, more direct, easier to navigate ways from Chicago to LA, but none has the romance and wonder, twists and turns of The Mother Road.”


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Friday Fiction – The Fallen Hero

It’s happened again. The story I thought I was going to write isn’t the one that came out onto the page (screen). Still, the muse knows best. Perhaps she, like me, read this interesting article last week. Rochelle posted our prompt (John Nixon’s photo) a day early this week, but I decided to stick to the schedule and respond today.


The Fallen Hero

As a child, I ran through this forest with my brothers. I played in its branches, battling demons and spiders with only a wooden sword, made-up spells and what Grandfather called my ‘pluck’. I was hero and conqueror.

Now the wisdom of age has descended and I am the damsel in distress I never was then. I creep past the writhing trees, afraid of their shadows and my own. I fear the men who might lurk here, and their intentions. And I keep my own children on a leash: stay in sight, don’t wander off.

Where did the hero go?


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Inspiration Monday – Fork / Childhood Hero

Right. Here’s the thing. Over at bekindrewrite, Steph’s given us another crop of fantastic prompts, including the two in the title of this post. Between them, they prompted me to write this little snippet from Melanie’s story, but I hope it’s within the rules – neither prompt actually appears in the story as such. Fork almost did in the first line, but it didn’t feel like a word Mel would actually use.

I hope you’ll forgive me. And I hope you enjoy the story. For those who are interested, other snippet of Mel’s life can be found by putting her name in the search box.

Watershed Moment

“There comes a time when a girl grows up, Dad,” said Melanie, looking up from her knickerbocker glory, and emphasising that last word that she was suddenly far too old to end with a ‘y’. “You’ve got to learn to let go.”

I nodded. Even at seven, she was wiser than me. I was still clinging to her mother in the same way, desperate that Susan wouldn’t leave me to take care of our little sage alone.

But Melanie wasn’t finished with me yet. “I’m a big girl now. I go to big school and have homework and a briefcase…” It was more of a satchel, but I didn’t dare interrupt. “… and Miss Purley says she is going to make me the Door Monitor. What do you think about that?”

“Wow,” I said. “Door Monitor.”

“Are you being sardastic? You know Mummy doesn’t like it when you’re sardastic to me.”

“Sarcastic,” I corrected her, almost automatically. “But no, actually, I wasn’t. Door monitor sounds like a big responsibility. What does it involve?”

“Opening the door.” Her withering look was the exact replica of Susan’s. I had to look away.

“Wow. Big girl school, big girl responsibilities. Soon you’ll be learning to drive and leaving your old Dad to fend for himself.” I could already picture it: I just wasn’t sure where Susan was in the picture – standing beside me, hunched in a wheelchair, or only a memory in our minds.

Melanie was already out of her chair and tucked in beside me, nudging my arm out of the way so she could get in closer. She liked to feel my beating heart. “I won’t ever leave you,” she whispered. Then, because she knew I wanted it so much, she gave in. “Daddy.”


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On a personal note…

Amazingly, Sebastian is six months old. He’s already got two teeth, can sit up unassisted and has eaten his first ever non-milk food! I can’t believe how grown up our little boy is getting, and it’s only going one way.

So, although this isn’t a parenting blog, I have decided to allow myself an off-topic post just this once. To get a few things off my chest – for anyone involved with new parents.

Parenting Advice

If it’s not your baby, try to resist the temptation to give unsolicited advice. I know, sometimes the temptation is just unbearable, and occasionally your advice will even be helpful, but most of the time, it will upset the person you give it to. Either a) they’ve already tried that; b) they can’t do whatever you’re suggesting; c) they have already considered it and decided against it for reasons they don’t want to explain to you; or d) if they haven’t thought of it, your suggestion has just made them feel like a failure (this is a common feeling for a new parent, and completely disproportionate to anything, because they are tired, stressed and overwhelmed).

If you must suggest something – and really, in most cases, that’s not how it is – the safest way to do it is to couch it in empathetic terms. For example, new parent is finding it impossible to get baby to sleep. You think they could try X.

DON’T SAY: Why don’t you try X?

DO SAY: Oh, isn’t it terrible when they won’t sleep? Is there anything I can do? When [my son / daughter / my sister’s brat / whoever] couldn’t sleep, we/she tried everything. Finally, we did X and it seemed to help a bit.

Strong Opinions

Oh the fashions of parenting. When I was a child, babies couldn’t be put to sleep on their backs for fear of choking, swaddling was frowned upon because it “restricted growth” and formula milk was a perfect substitute for breastfeeding. Now, the only way for babies to sleep is on their backs (to avoid SIDS), swaddling is a great way to calm your baby and anyone who doesn’t breastfeed is a terrible mother (please see below for my actual opinions on this). It’s a wonder any of today’s parents survived.

The truth is, you can find evidence on both sides of almost any parenting question. Everyone who has an opinion is adamant that their way is right and the other way is insane. As a new parent, the only way I got through was to take all such advice on board, consider it, and then do what worked for us. If you have a strong opinion about parenting, leave it with your advice – locked up inside.


Worthy of a whole post, if not a whole blog, of its own. These days breastfeeding is IN. To the extent that if you don’t, you get guilt-tripped by healthcare professionals, really nasty comments from strangers, and generally bullied by society. But there are a few things noone admits about breastfeeding, and therefore new mothers discovering these things can feel isolated and can really struggle. So, I’m going to admit them:

It hurts, sometimes. Not just when you’re doing it wrong, but even when you’re doing it right. And then, when you’re well and truly settled into it being luxuriant (and that does come), baby starts teething, and it hurts again.

It’s hard. Babies and Mums aren’t born with an in-built knowledge of how to do this, it takes time and practice and perseverance, at just the period when Mum’s at her weakest and most overwhelmed, just after the birth.

It invites people you barely know to discuss your breasts. And that’s just not cool. As I once ranted about pregnancy – if a topic was off-limits before, it’s still off-limits now.

Some people can’t. Some women’s milk never comes in, or doesn’t come in sufficiently to feed without supplementing. Some babies just never get the hang of it. There are ways and means to help those struggling, but sometimes it’s just not going to happen.

Some people don’t want to (and that’s fine too). Breastfeeding means Mum has to do EVERY feed for the first several months. She can’t take a break because she’s exhausted, overwhelmed or has broken her arm, and that really means she can’t go out for more than an hour or two without taking baby along. It also restricts Dad’s relationship with the baby, and a couple might decide that’s not worth it.

*** An aside – before I had Sebastian, I bought a nursing cover from this company. It’s one of the best baby-things I own. Not only it is a great nursing cover, it has also served as a blanket for Sebastian to wriggle on when we’re out and about, a sun shade for him to hide under when we took him boating, a distraction remover when he went through his “distracted feeding” phase, a burp cloth… It’s brilliant! ***


You can’t go far wrong giving gifts for a baby. Something you’ve found useful (whilst understanding it might not work for this family), clothes (if in doubt, go big, babies never shrink but they sure as sure do grow), money / giftcards (have you seen how much nappies cost?!), something you’ve made will be treasured (if that’s your bag)… we’ve been so fortunate to have many wonderful gifts for Sebastian and we are genuinely grateful for them all.

Enjoying Every Minute

Remember that saying “school days are the best of your life?” and how, during your school days you hated being told it, because school days don’t feel that great at all when you’re there? Well, parenting is similar. If one more person tells me to “enjoy every minute” or “treasure these moments” or “you’re going to miss this” or anything else along these lines, I’m liable to give them a black eye.

Parenting (of any age, I imagine, but certainly of a baby) is not easy. We’ve got one of the calmest, most chilled, happiest babies I know. He slept through the night from 2 months (whisper that, friends of mine hate us for it), he only cries when something is really wrong, and he’s avoided most of colic, cradle cap etc trials of infanthood (so far). BUT it’s still be hard. You’ll probably have noticed the repeated use of the word “overwhelming” in this post, and that’s the best way to describe it. We love Sebastian as much as any parent could, but sometimes parenting him feels overwhelming.

So I will not enjoy every minute, or even try to. I enjoy many many of the minutes, but there’s nothing wrong with me just because I have minutes I don’t enjoy, and the same goes for every other parent I know.



Luckily, the latest fashion in breastfeeding advice says there’s nothing wrong with a few drinks. So, as Sebastian will tell you, we can occasionally hit the bottle!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


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