Tuesday 1 August 2006

Mummy on the Edge - Families NW Magazine July/ August 2006

Families Jul-August
Mummy on the Edge

Angelina Melwani on successful imperfection and simple summer pleasures.

What is it with four year olds and dawdling before school? Mini-Me goes off for a mid-breakfast loo-trip which should take her 2 minutes. 10 minutes later, she is still there on her throne expounding in loud sing-song voice on life, the universe and everything. So then I send her upstairs to undress in preparation for ablutions, a simple job which should take 60 seconds. Five minutes later I find her in meditative state on her bedroom floor drawing triangles in the shag pile with her finger. No sense of urgency whatsoever, unless ice cream or the park is mentioned. Surely, it’s nothing that one of these omnipotent TV child behaviourists couldn’t cure with a sticker chart. I did actually try that and designed a particularly wizzy version on the computer however I’m rubbish at filling it in and can’t remember where I’ve put the stickers.

In any case, I can’t blame Mini-Me when she obviously takes after her mother. I have to have a dozen things on the go at one time and inevitably some things take longer than they should. Indeed, sometimes interest wanes and I start something else, not making time to clear the mess of what I started first. I think I may have mild ADHD but BFFB (best friend, the fashion buyer) tells me I’m like this because I am so creative and my mind is always thinking of the next project. I have to say I like the latter explanation far better. Anyway, recently I have re-discovered a website that offers help to SHEs (Sidetracked Home Executives) who may be suffering from CHAOS (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome).

It is flylady.net and FLY stands for “finally loving yourself”, which does sound like an awful, saccharin American notion but it is packed with practical, non-patronising ideas on how to run your household indeed, your life with minimum effort and maximum efficiency. Daily e-mails help you keep up with bite size 15-minute chores. One of the main principles is that you can do anything for 15 minutes. This is a refreshing concept for those with hours of mess to clear up but little time or inclination to do so. Perfectionism and fear of failure is to blame. You see, we wait till we have time to do things perfectly and we never have time, so they never get done. The answer? Strive for imperfection of course, and you’ll always succeed!

I heard a superb line from a Jamie Cullam song, “Life is full of overrated pleasures and underrated treasures”. Watching your kids play in the garden definitely falls into the latter category but if the garden you’re planning on using is your own and you can’t afford a gardener, it necessitates some bloomin’ hard work. Mine had got to the point where all I could see was Mini-Me’s disembodied head bouncing around in the grass so, while she stood watching with her hands over her ears, I did what was necessary, also taking the time to trim the hedge that flanks our entrance (as BFFB was decidedly unimpressed with the complimentary re-style she received at her last visit…). As for the rest, arms still juddering from the Bushey Hedge Trimmer Massacre, I looked to Mini-Me for guidance on what to pull out and what to leave in, but all she could offer was a smiley, sympathetic shrug and some bubbles.

So summer is finally here and the priority (aside from keeping afloat as a newly single mother!) is keeping Mini-Me busy and happy. In the past month there have been numerous trips with varying degrees of success. We took the tube to the Science Museum where I briefly considered kidnapping one of staff (dressed as they were in orange t-shirts emblazoned with “EXPLAINER”); she’s enjoyed the traditional and magical street-side atmosphere of Pinner Fair; a trip to Henley with the grandparents; and last Sunday we spent the whole day at the wonderful Peter Pan-themed Diana Memorial Park in Kensington Gardens, complete with pirate ship, sand pits and sunken crocodile shaped rocks. This is big, exciting stuff compared to what I got up to when I was little – watching Mork and Mindy and waiting forever for household supplies to run out so I could fashion the empty tubes and containers into unidentifiable tat.

One day, I asked Mini-Me what her favourite had been. She tilted her head and looked pensive for a few seconds, then looked at me, smiled and said, “ I liked Casiobury Park in Watford with Megan and Kieran”. Which just goes to show you, it’s the simple things in life that make the greatest impact; a bouncy castle, a chug on an open-top steam train, a £2.50 kids lunch at CafĂ© Cha Cha Cha, unlimited swinging and sliding, ice cream and, most importantly, good friends to share it with.
Angelina runs Sing and Sign baby signing courses in Harrow, Bushey, Stanmore and Rickmansworth. More info at www.singandsign.com