My Mummy Nemesis

I have a nemesis. Every time I see her I know she will do everything in her power to make my life painful. When you think of a nemesis certain images come to mind. You think of Professor Moriarty to Sherlock Holmes, Darth Vader to Luke Skywalker, or a Krispy Kreme donut shop next to a Weight Watchers. You don’t tend to think of suburban mothers going about their business. Enemies yes. Enemies in mummy circles are far more common. You know the types, well to do mothers who somehow manage to roll out of bed already looking refreshed and perfect. Their children never have a piece of clothing out of place. They breastfeed proudly, use cloth nappies, and make all of their children’s food from scratch. These things in themselves are not bad. Hey, it’s fantastic if you manage to do any of these things. But it’s the way that some of these mothers will look down their noses at us other less than worthy creatures. The ones who haven’t been bothered to do the dishes, or pack the laundry away in a week, or think it’s perfectly acceptable to put a jacket over their pyjamas when heading out to the shops.

No, what I’m talking about here is much greater than that. I see her once a week, at the local library’s toddler time where we sing songs and nursery rhymes. Every week it is the same. I see her and she sees me. We sit at opposite ends of the room from each other. Most of the time spent there is pleasant. Everyone is happy, cooing along to the music and revelling in the sound of their baby’s excited burbling. At first I loved coming. But recently it’s been more than a little trying, now that Stormaggedon wants to explore the bags and belongings of all the other people there. While everyone else is happily sitting with their children in their laps clapping along to the music, I am instead playing a wrestling game with my son exasperatingly explaining to him “No darling, that’s not your water bottle!” for the fiftieth time. The wrestling isn’t so much the problem, as the constant screaming after the fact. So by the end I’m exhausted. And then it happens. The lovely volunteer library worker says it, “Have we forgotten to sing anything today, or does someone have a favourite song that we’ve missed?” My nemesis and I lock eyes. I can see the evil snake like smile slowly spread across her face. She quickly drops the mask of evil, and turns innocently to the library worker, who she’s conveniently sat herself next to and sweetly chirps, “We haven’t sung Doctor Knickerbocker yet”.

If my eyes could throw daggers this lady would be pinned to the back wall. It all started off innocently enough. The first week we were there together, the question was asked, she responded and I rolled my eyes and declared very loudly indeed how Doctor Knickerbocker was an awful song and we should definitely not sing it. I may have then shouted “Death to the Wiggles” and threw a smoke bomb as I leapt from an open window, but that’s beside the point. From then on this woman took offence to my over the top dislike to the song, and clearly decided to make my life a living hell from then on.

Seriously, who in their right mind likes Doctor Knickerbocker?! It’s a terrible, repetitive, ear worm of a song. I bet you all hate me now for the number of times I’ve said it already. You’re probably singing it in your heads right now. Want to bash your head up against a brick wall don’t you? Think how I feel, I’m the one writing the article!!!

I can very clearly remember hating this song when I was in kindergarten. Obviously I was a smart kid, with excellent tastes. But then again, I was quite spoilt. My father used to put me to sleep by blaring a decent amount of Pink Floyd. Give me the Division Bell any day. 

Though frankly I have always wondered why children don’t get upset at these clearly annoying and repetitive songs. Is it to do with the structure? Or because it’s dependable and reliable, that they know how it goes and it won’t ever change? That it’s easy perhaps? Whatever the reason, it shouldn’t necessarily mean that all children are going to like these kinds of songs. Nor should they be forced to because other parents think that these are just the norm for a certain age bracket. Because you know what I discovered? Until your child is old enough to tell you what their tastes and desires are, YOU have all the power to control what they listen to and play with. When they’re a baby, you’re the one going out buying the toys, and the clothes, and if you so choose, what TV they watch. I’ll never understand when I hear a parent of a 6 month old complain how their child is obsessed with Peppa Pig, or Dora the Explorer or Bananas in Pyjamas. How exactly did they become obsessed exactly, except through adult influence? And that’s where we need to remember the great responsibility we have when introducing television and music and toys and clothes to our children for the first time. This also includes opinions, beliefs, attitudes, manners, integrity and etiquette. What we believe in, what we like and what we hate is genially what our children will believe, like and hate as well until they’re old enough to develop their own opinions. I know I’m currently guilty of my son’s current obsession with Doctor Who. Today I caught him on video actually saying “Doctor” over and over again, whilst pointing to his Dalek doll, his Matt Smith Doctor doll, his squeeze toy TARDIS, and my giant cookie jar TARDIS that makes the whoop whoop noise when the lid is opened and closed. He’s obsessed because I’m obsessed. And it’s frankly hilarious. And I will always admit that his obesession is completely and utterly my doing.

Back at the library I just resorted to leaving early rather than having to sit there and listen to yet another rendition of Doctor Knickerbocker. Stormy is at least still young enough that I can choose when we leave rather than having to contend with a “No, no, not yet!” Tantrum. Though not for much longer, because he’s already started doing this in other circumstances. At this stage I don’t know of any other way to deal with my nemesis. Then again, I could always fight fire with fire.  I hear Peter Combe’s back catalogue is quite the favourite amoungst children….  


Today My Child Hates Me

My son hates me. I know he does. There is no other explanation for it.

I call my son’s name. He ignores me, wrapped up in the world of his own imagining (I assume). I call it again. Over and over again. He continues to ignore me. I walk over to him. I tell him to come to me. He turns away and wonders to the other side of the room. I am dejected.

My son hates me. I know he does. There is no other explanation for it.

My son has hurt himself. He is crying. Mummy’s hugs and kisses surely make it better. Don’t they always? They are magical. I attempt to comfort him. He continues to cry. Harder. He struggles. He pushes me away. I attempt to stroke his head and face, cooing that Mummy’s here and it’s alright. He throws himself to the ground, crying harder still. I am saddened.

I remember when he was a newborn. He suffered from Colic. He would scream for hours. Why did my hugs and touch never work? I am a bad mother.

My son hates me. I know he does. There is no other explanation for it.

 I accidentally read an article involving the death of a 20 day old boy at the hands of his own father. There isn’t enough evidence to charge him with the death. He only receives 2 and a half years for assault on the infant. He’s already out of jail. He looks like he doesn’t care, and would do it again. I am angry and upset. I want to hug my son. I need to hug my son. I have to tell him I love him. He is quietly playing again, engrossed in his books and toys, whatever it is that has caught his attention. I attempt to embrace him. He pushes me away. He’s not interested in physical contact today. I am heart broken.

My son hates me. I know he does. There is no other explanation for it. 

My son a grizzly and moody. He is clingy and begging to be picked up. I do as he asks, but he wiggles and wriggles and pushes at my chest. He doesn’t want to be in my arms. I put him down. He cries harder. I attempt to distract him with toys, or a book, or the TV. He still cries. I don’t know what he wants. I try to give him a snack or a drink. He throws them to the ground. I don’t know what he wants. I am exhausted.

My son hates me. I know he does. There is no other explanation for it.

My brother’s girlfriend is coming to look after my son today. When he sees her he is so happy. He is laughing and running around. He’s waving and going crazy. It’s adorable to watch. He never does that for me. He lets her put on his shoes, and hat, and wash his hair. It’s the end of the universe if I attempt to do any of these things. I ask him for “Cuddles for Mummy” as I’m going out. He runs to my brother’s girlfriend instead. She makes Mary Poppins look like an abusive child hater. I love her so much, not only for being a wonderful person, but because she is so good with my son. However, I am jealous.

My son hates me. I know he does. There is no other explanation for it.

I’m lucky enough that I don’t have to rely on child care, I pay my mum instead to take care of my son whilst I’m at work. I ask how her day was. She always replies that he was good. I ask, “Did he cry at all? Was he grumpy? Was he grizzly? Did he throw any tantrums?” Her answer is always no. No, he’s always so good and never gets upset. Apparently he saves these feelings up especially for me. I feel like I’m constantly heading off a meltdown. I am tired and annoyed.

My son is defiant. My son is strong willed. My son is argumentative. My son is self-sufficient. My son is impatient. My son is single minded. My son doesn’t need me. My son doesn’t love me. My son…my son…my son…

My son is climbing up onto the couch next to me. My son is snuggling into my side. My son is grabbing my arms and hugging them vehemently. My son is laughing and pointing and having a conversation with me, although I don’t know what he says. My son is nuzzling his head in my lap. My son is sitting up and kissing me. My son is waving to me when I say hello or goodbye. My son is making me read ALL the books to him. My son is sharing his toys with me to play with. My son is making imaginary cups of tea for me to drink. My son is beckoning to me to pretend to drive in a car next to him. My son is giving me his percussion instruments to play with him. My son is pointing to me when my husband asks him “Where’s Mummy?”

Of course I’m a good mum. Of course I’m being ridiculous. Of course I’m exaggerating. Of course my son loves me. Some days are harder than others to remind myself of this fact. But I know at the end of the day, when I tuck him up in bed he feels that he is loved back. 

The Importance of Ghibli in Your Child’s Life

On January 5 this year it was Hayao Miyazaki’s 75th birthday. Happy birthday Miyazaki San! Before we go any further I suggest that you click on the below link and play the audio whilst reading. Trust me on this one.

For those of you asking “Who is this Miyazaki?” I can only say where have you been?! Miyazaki is the legendary film maker, and founder of anime film company Studio Ghibli, who wrote and directed many classic films such as the Academy award winning Spirited Away, Laputa: Castle in the Sky (where the above audio is from), the hauntingly beautiful Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds, the film adaptation of Howl’s Moving Castle, the exquisite Princess Mononoke, and the ever popular family favourite (and my personal favourite) My Neighbour Totoro. But what has this to do with parenting I hear you ask. I can think of nothing better to get your kids to watch when introducing films to them for the first time. Here’s why:

1. The art work. From the underwater sequences in Ponyo, to the meticulous detail of the walking house in Howl’s Moving Castle, Miyazaki has an eye for beauty and the ability to create a sprawling world full of wonderful landscapes that put even the best of artists to shame, and makes Disney look like some two bit colouring in book company. Studio Ghibli produces films that not only make you believe that these magical places exist, but you’d actually give up your right arm to go visit there. If you want your child to start appreciating the world of art, then trust me when I say Miyazaki is going to open up an entire world for them.

  In Disney’s The Little Mermaid, they went on and on about drawing in those individual bubbles. Yeah, you keep trying guys.
2. The storylines. Your average Miyazaki film will never be over complicated or bogged down with Inception style writing. The stories are simple and easy for children to follow. That’s not to say that they are shallow or dumb. On the contrary. I’ve never really experienced a film with stories as rich, and full of beauty and emotion as Miyazaki’s movies. My Neighbour Totoro for example follows the lives of two young sisters. The story revolves around their move to a new city, and what it’s like being sisters on a day to day basis, all the while coping with their mother being sick in hospital. You never know what illness the mother suffers from. Nor do you need to know, because that’s not what the story is about. The love the sisters share for each other and their parents, thrown together with the introduction of the mythical Totoro and his forest spirits makes for a magical and wonderful film that can be enjoyed by all (and yes, there will be tears at the end. But tears of joy, I assure you).

  And yes, for Stormy’s first Christmas, I did buy him a plush Totoro doll that was the same size as him.
3. They’re a gateway to literature. Quite a number of Miyazaki’s films, and Studio Ghibli films, are adaptations from novels or traditional stories. Howl’s Moving Castle and Tales of Earthsea are both rather famous fantasy novels. Ponyo is a unique and adorable adaptation of The Little Mermaid. Nausicaa is based off a very successful manga series. And Ghibli’s latest production Princess Kaguya is taken from The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, a 10th century Japanese folk tale. What better way to introduce an interest in writing and literature to children than by coupling them with incredibly well created films. And I would have to say that out of every book to film adaptation I have ever seen, Howl’s Moving Castle is still the only film that I infinitely prefer to the book. That’s how create a story teller Miyazaki is.

   The book verses…
 …the movie.

4. Strong female characters galore. I see a trend appearing on the Internet in recent times, and that’s feminists decrying Hollywood for their lack of strong female characters in films. Or even female characters in general. Well look no further than Miyazaki’s films. Out of the 13 films I have on my shelf, 8 of those films the main protagonist is female, and 2 further films the female protagonist shares the same amount of screen time and importance as the male protagonist. And these female characters are nothing like your Trinity Syndrome Hollywoodesque female characters (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then I suggest reading this article: They are solid, rich, three dimensional, independent, emotionally varied, and nothing at all alike to each other. They are generous, passionate kind leaders of their people like the character Nausicaa from Valley of the Winds. They are healers (and a positive portrayal of witches) like Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service. They are sisters who love each other for who they are like Mei and Satsuki from My Neighbour Totoro (Frozen eat your heart out). They are San from Princess Mononoke, a warrior princess, who let’s just say you won’t find on any Diseny mug or colouring book any time soon. Of Princess Mononoke, Miyazaki himself stated this in relation to the very Unhollywood lack of romance in the film between the two main characters: “I’ve become skeptical of the unwritten rule that just because a boy and girl appear in the same feature, a romance must ensue. Rather, I want to portray a slightly different relationship, one where the two mutually inspire each other to live – if I’m able to, then perhaps I’ll be closer to portraying a true expression of love.” How awesome is that! So if you want your children to be watching films that have more positive female role models in them I can’t recommend Miyazaki enough.

  Hey Disney, Mononoke called. She wants to know where’s her line of Princess dolls?

5. Think cartoons are just for kids? Dread the school holidays when you know you’ll be dragged against your will to the cinema to watch train wrecks such as Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip, or that recent really low budget computer animated version of Blinky Bill (shudder)? Trust me when I say that Miyazaki films are for you. No, there’s no double entendres snuck in for your amusement like in Shrek. These films are made specifically to be loved by everyone of all ages. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll marvel at the wonder of it all. Death is spoken about sometimes, but it gently guides you along these issues. Not explode them in your face and feels they way Disney does with let’s say, the Lion King or the Good Dinosaur (whoops, sorry, spoiler alert. Though do you really care?). These films are there for you to watch alone, or to share the experience with your children. For the little ones, I recommend My Neighbour Totoro, Ponyo, Arrietty, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Laputa. For the older ones I recommend Nausicaa, Tales of Earthsea, Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, and Pocco Rosso. For the teenagers to adults I recommend Princess Mononoke, The Wind Rises and From Up on Poppy Hill.

Watching a Ghibli film together as a family will make you as happy as these guys…actually don’t watch this one. This one is just weird.
If I haven’t said it enough already, and if you haven’t experienced it already, you NEED to get Miyazaki into your life now. I give you my word he will change it, and give you joy forever. I for one cannot wait until Stormageddon is old enough to watch these films with me, and appreciate them as much as I do.