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On Being Boring

I moved from London to Brussels with my husband nearly 10 years ago. When I told people we were moving, the news was greeted with bemusement: why did we want to move to a city that was possibly the most boring place on earth? Ten years later and I can honestly say that I've had more fun here than I ever did living in London. It might not be the most exciting city in the world but it is a fantastic place to live. It is full of hidden treasures that you probably never get to see as a tourist: wonderful shops, amazing food, great museums and galleries, beautiful architecture, a forest (yes, a whole forest), and so much more... And if that doesn't convince you, well, get on a train and you could be in Paris, Amsterdam, Cologne or, yes, London in no more than a couple of hours... Which other city can you say that about?

Bad Mother

When my children aren’t being wonderful, they’re being wonderfully insane. And if they’re not being either of those, then… Well then they’re probably trying to drive you crazy. This weekend, Hanno went away. It’s the first time he’s been away on his own and the first time I’ve been left for any significant amount of time on my own with the children. And when I say “alone”, what I mean is “not alone at all”. Before he had even stepped out of the flat, I had realised that I probably wasn’t up to the challenge and had asked the wonderful, patient, calm and wonderful (did I mention that already?) Amanda to come and look after us. My excuse was that I was still recovering from my operation. In fact, I had originally asked Amanda to come over just to reassure Han who was threatening to cancel his trip to look after me. And I’m so glad she was with us. It turns out, I’m a terrible, terrible mother. Charlie was manic all weekend, running around, falling over, bumping into things, throwing things around, refusing to sleep and then being grumpy and screamy. It probably didn’t help that I couldn’t take him out for a long exhausting walk because of the after-effects of the operation (and then, when I started feeling better, because of the DAMN RAIN. Will it never stop??!). Amélie was mostly good (though she did have extended periods of intentional deafness, running around getting Charlie hyped up and refusing to hear my pleas for calm. But she really was mostly good). Unfortunately, I ended up shouting at her quite a lot. Shouting at her because Charlie was screaming and I just wanted him to stop so I would shout “stop doing that Amélie”, “help him Amélie”, “move Amélie”, “let him have it Amélie”… Essentially “let Charlie have his own way, even though that is nowhere near to fair or right, please, just so he stops screaming”. So he stops screaming and doesn’t get angry. Because when he gets angry, he throws himself on the floor and hits his head. And he was already sporting the most almighty bruise on his forehead after tripping and falling head-first into a sharp corner of the bedroom wall… It was horrible. Amanda described it as “a mountain”. It was. A mountain range down one side of his forehead. And the thought of any more knocks… Of hearing that “thud” once more… It had me on edge. I had to follow him around like a bleeding shadow for the rest of the weekend and can I tell you something? The boy does not sit still. Ever. So I followed him, exhausted, and he screamed and I shouted… My objective for the weekend became just getting both of my children through it alive. That both of them would still be in one piece by the time Hanno got back. I was no longer wanting to prove that I was a super-mum. I was no longer wanting to do craft projects and play games and go for long walks. I just wanted to get to the end of the weekend with both children intact. I had wanted Han to come home to a tidy house, happy children, a cooked meal and a relaxed wife. I wanted him to know that he could go away again whenever he wanted and that we would be just fine. Instead, when he walked in the door (and Charlie started running round in circles and pumping his fists in the air, screeching with glee, so happy was he to have his capable parent back at last), I just burst into tears and wailed “I don’t want you to ever go away again!”. So it’s official. I failed. Miserably. And I dread to think how bad it could have been, without Amanda. By the time Hanno got back, we’d probably have been crawling around in our own dirt. We wouldn’t have eaten since he left on Friday. Charlie would probably have had severe concussion and a couple of broken bones, Amélie would probably have started muttering to herself and crying, swaying gently back and forth. None of the furniture would have been the right way up. I would probably have been only partially dressed, in someone else’s clothes… It would have been a disaster. It doesn’t bare thinking about. But maybe it’s because I wasn’t all that well… Maybe if I hadn’t just had an operation it would have been better. And maybe Charlie is just going through a phase… the terrible twos… And maybe if the weather had been better, we’d have been able to get out a bit more, burnt off some energy… Maybe. But maybe it’s not worth taking the risk of finding out. Han, I’m sorry to tell you: that was your one and only chance – we’re not letting you out of our sights ever again. We literally can’t survive without you.

9 July 2012 - 7:55 AM amanda - Love that photo. We all feel like that at times but sorry you did this weekend. I thought your babies were wonderfully behaved and totally adorable and charming and you are an absolutely brilliant mummy. xoxox

9 July 2012 - 11:57 AM WSM - We had occasional weekends like that - my solution, in wet, cold, damp London with three kids under 6 was to settle everyone down to write letters to themselves, or each other. Then wrap up warm, find a new letter box (not the nearest one), then post all the letters. On one occasion we came past a friend's house and she gathered us up, plied the children (who'd disappeared to play with her kids) with high-tea and me with gin and tonic. (Thanks John and Vernice) We got home in a lovely, socialised, well-fed glow and managed a good end to the weekend. Next time he has to go away - invite us - we'll try to help .... xxx

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