My stepsons eat slowly. While desperate not to give them issues over food, the husband and I also recognise aspects as being a control method. Some time ago I realised the eldest seemed to relish his father’s attention telling him to eat up and stop messing about. My solution was the introduction of half an hour of time that is just for the two of them after the youngest has gone to bed. I’m tough on bad behaviour but am determined never to punish sad behaviour. This boost of one to one time has seen a lot of naughty for attention actions (by my interpretation) disappear.

A recent initiative is two small alarm clocks minus batteries. They start the weekend with 30 minutes and can earn additional minutes by eating their tea within 30 minutes, tidying their rooms etc. The time earned is spent on the computer or Xbox. It’s early days but seems to be working. It takes the husband and I out of the equation to a large degree as the boys can choose to eat sensibly or not, earn computer/Xbox time or not.

Today the youngest managed it and the husband took him off to watch TV while I cleared up. The eldest took another 25 minutes. We had a brief talk where I said he didn’t have to eat absolutely everything but we had to make him eat something. I reminded him that I have always said that if he has requests then I’ll cook what he’d like but that our meal this evening wasn’t something new; it was something he’d eaten before and liked.

He didn’t contradict me. He just sat there thinking and pushing rice and peas around his plate.

“I think it’s just luck.”

“What?”

“I think it’s just luck what I’ll decide I want to eat.”

“That doesn’t help me plan does it sweetheart?”

“No Kay.”

And he speared the last piece of bacon and put it in his mouth.


 
“Argh, F...IDDLESTICKS”

Well that’s a new word. I honestly don’t think I have ever uttered it before and am certain that’s the first time I’ve typed it.

I’m rather proud of myself and am taking it as my win for the day. I’m exhausted and in rather a lot of discomfort. I got up from the sofa to be hit with a new wave of pelvic pain yet gripping the mantelpiece did not swear in front of the kids.

I fear what constitutes an achievement is diminishing by the day. And on that note, this will suffice for this week’s column.

 
To clarify, I don’t foresee him getting busy any time soon but I’ve seen a lot of horror films and my suspicions have been raised.

I’m the first to admit I’m not great with technology. So when the screen in the living room that I refer to as a TV* challenges me I generally let it go (with the exception of the time I smashed the remote control). Oh I rant and rave but generally concede that it is evil, the husband uses voodoo and don’t get involved.

But the boiler is not complex. Yesterday the button that makes you switch between the options for on, off and timed wouldn’t move. When he got in, the husband suggested it may be that I needed to adjust the thermostat. So today I did just that and got nothing. I turned the boiler off and then on again then got cross. The husband (there is no escape – I send cross angry texts when he has the audacity to be out of the house) was sympathetic but said there was nothing he could do. Understandably.

Then I hit upon an idea.

What annoys me is that these things never happen to him. He’ll walk in through the door, press the button and the options will scroll. He has learnt not to speak at this point as I’m liable to start screaming.

But what if I could prove I do the exact same things he does? So I grabbed my phone and turned the video on. Filming myself I pressed the button...

...and it worked!

The house will not concede that it acts one way for me and another way for him. I’m happy as not only is the heating now set to ‘on’ but I feel like I’ve discovered a magical loophole to things not working for me when I use the exact same method as the husband.

So why do I think he might kill me?

It’s not because I’m driving him mad. It’s because the realisation that my house is sentient and doesn’t like me is very rarely a good thing.

Our house doesn’t look evil like the Amityville house and it doesn’t feel evil (especially not in the way “the house of unmitigated evil” did**) but it’s not good. In the Amityville Horror the wife repeatedly voices her concerns but her husband is too involved, set on a path towards her and the children’s ultimate murder.

The husband merely raised an eyebrow when I told him my possessions were causing me suspicion but there’s no proof. I pointed out that if he tolerated this then the children would be next but he just laughed. Upon reflection Crowded House and Manic Street Preachers lyrics may not be the best way to make ones point.

I’m not sure what the best course of action is.

* It is not a TV but a third screen for the computer system that runs the house’s media. Similarly we don’t have stereos but squeezeboxes that play simultaneously across all three floors of the house. This explains why I have a husband that doesn’t fish, play golf, watch sport (other than motorsport and that doesn’t seem to consume people in the way football or rugby does) or go out drinking with the lads.

** I wondered why a pretty double-fronted detached seven bed house was in our budget. It was because we wouldn’t have stayed a night in that house if you’d given it to us for free. I swear, the walls in the basement looked like they were bleeding. I lightly said “that’s paint right?” and the estate agent said “almost certainly” (he wasn’t a fan of the place either).


 
Once upon a time nine dead babies was the kind of thing I’d have noted a passing sadness for the parents of. Last Friday it became deeply personal as it became apparent that a number of pregnant women were going to have a fight on their hands.

There has been a rise in the number of reported cases of Whooping cough, so far in 2012 there have been three times the cases of the entirety of 2011. Children in the UK get vaccinated at two months old meaning there is a window of time where newborn babies are incredibly vulnerable. Whooping cough can be pretty nasty for adults and older children but as nine sets of parents have learnt so far this year, it kills babies.

The good news is that on Monday, vaccines started being rolled out for women between 28 and 38 weeks pregnant. Given to expectant mothers (whether they’ve previously been immunised or not), the resultant antibodies we produce get passed onto our unborn children fortifying their defences for those vulnerable first eight weeks. Of course, there are plenty of women angry that it has taken so long. I cannot imagine the impotent fury of those with newborns or whose labour is imminent as this has hardly come out of the blue.

The stories started slowly on Mumsnet; GP surgeries that hadn’t seen the news (or read their emails) and who weren’t giving appointments for jabs. While I’ve read positive reports of GPs calling their pregnant patients to offer them the vaccine, plenty of us have had to fight.

I called on Tuesday and was told they weren’t doing them yet. I’m 34 weeks pregnant today (which according to some reports is the best time to have the jab) and fortunately had read the story of a woman who knew the NHS from the inside. I politely explained that I required a service that was government policy and that I’d be getting it somewhere. If they couldn’t provide the care I required could they please give me a contact number so I could book with another surgery. The receptionist said she’d check again and amazingly it turned out I could have the vaccine and would I like an appointment for the same afternoon as I was booked to see my midwife?

I think the worst argument I’ve read was the woman who managed to speak to a manager who was deciding between allowing her the vaccine that was earmarked for the booster jabs of school children. The plan was to treat the school children and give the pregnant women the delivery due in a fortnight. The manager asked the pregnant women whether she wanted to deny children the vaccine. Of course she did! Two weeks would make no difference to the children already immunised and with relatively developed immune systems but she was already 36 weeks pregnant and every day she was producing antibodies, the better for her baby. She got the vaccine.

I’m not objective, I recognise that. This is a clear indicator of how I’m starting to take policy and its enactment deeply personally.

That’s not to say I’m not new to fighting. I successfully got a GPs appointment (as opposed to a nurses’) at the family planning clinic when I had my coil fitted. It was a second attempt and I wanted anaesthetic gel. But it was different. In that case I saw my request as exactly that, a request. While I believe women should have choice regarding their treatment but fair enough if that means waiting longer or having to travel further.

With demanding my vaccine I was defending my child. I wasn’t prepared to wait until it was convenient for the surgery to help him, I’m his mother and it’s my job to take care of him.

My midwife asked whether I’d considered having the flu jab at my appointment and I said I was about to have it. She smiled and made a note on my record. I added that I was having the Whooping cough jab at the same time. “I didn’t think we were offering it yet” she said. “That wasn’t going to stop me” I replied with a smile. She laughed despite herself in a way that clearly demonstrated approval.

It has to be a tough job and I imagine midwives are having a frustrating time as they are the ones that deal with the majority of the fears and concerns of the hormonally unhinged section of society that I currently enjoy membership of.

I feel a bit like a pin cushion having had a jab in either arm and like previous times I’ve had the flu jab I’m starting to feel like I’m coming down with a cold. But I can at least comfort myself with the knowledge that every bit of neck ache and extra tiredness is for him.

This new subjectivity serves a purpose. By losing my ability to prioritise anything over my child, my body ensures that he never slips far from my thoughts. Frustrating as baby brain is, I remember every antenatal appointment and class. It’s comforting as for several months now I’ve felt somewhat dreamily that I’ve suffered an invasion of the body snatchers. If it achieves something then I can live with that.

Still, the slippery slope starts here I fear...