Thursday, 18 August 2011

Extract from 'Woo' Alison Martin

Woo made hungry noises with his lips. He kneaded his

Mothers breast to encourage the milk flow.

It was past his bedtime, but he couldn’t settle.

It took a while for him to drop off.

A floorboard creaked beneath his mothers weight as she crept away, rough skin on the soles of her feet made scuffing sounds on the new carpet.

Woo heard her leaving his room, but he was too tired to fight sleep tonight. So sleep won.

It wasn’t long though, before he had his first visitor of the night.

‘ta ta ta’ was the noise on his window.

Woo woke up straight away because this was an unfamiliar sound.

He slid off his bed and toddled over to the window.

It was difficult, but he managed to climb onto a chair beneath the window.

He laid his tiny hands flat on the window sill and came face to face with two

little black eyes and a short beak, ta ta ta it went on the glass.

“Hello” said Woo, in a language grown-ups didn’t quite understand.

“Hello” said a little brown bird with red all down its front.

“What are you?” asked Woo.

“I’m a bird. What are you?” Asked the bird.

“I’m a baby,” said Woo. Then he asked the bird,

“What can you do?”

“ I can fly,” said the bird

Woo widened his enormous brown eyes, and blinked.

“What can you do?” asked the bird.

“I can walk,” said Woo proudly, and he padded up and down on the spot to demonstrate.

“What where you doing before?” asked the bird’

“I was having milk, from my mummy”


“Yes, she keeps it under her jumper”


“Yes, it keeps the milk warm”

“Warm. Yes I know about warm.” Said the bird.

“Why are you here?” asked Woo.

“I can’t sleep.” Said the bird.

“Are you afraid of something?” asked Woo

“Never!” Snapped the birds tiny beak


“Do you see my chest?” said the bird sticking it out. “There is a fire inside. A red hot fire that burns and burns and never goes out”

Indeed it did glow a fierce bright red as he spoke.

Interview about Motherhood - Karina Rodriguez

How do you feel your style of parenting compares with your own upbringing?

I don’t really know which my parenting style is. My daughter is only 3 months old; hence the only parenting I have done has been related to dealing with her wellbeing and not really with her conduct. It is funny, but I still find hard to see myself as a parent, as I consider myself more as a carer. In this role, I try to be as loving, assertive and give her as much freedom in order to get to know her. Saying that, I always thought that I will be quite an authoritarian parent, who will try to care for Liliana based on a defined routine and a set of rules. I was brought up that way – although this is when we were older than my daughter currently is – and consider certain aspects of it effective. As kids, we were indulged in many ways; however, we had to obey rules, routines and values which are established in my culture for different kinds of situations.

I guess that now that I am a mother, I realise that imposing limits might be more difficult than it sounds. For instance, I’ll have to know more about the personality of my daughter, what she likes and dislikes before being able to work out limits and boundaries. I still consider these important, but understand that they should not be set in stone as they are only there for her happiness and positive upbringing. In a way she becomes my own little project. I hope that I will be able to take the best of my upbringing and apply it with other things I learn along the way. I am finally starting to see that parenting is a learning process for both.

Do you seek advice on aspects of child-rearing?

I am always open minded and eager to learn on any aspects of child-rearing. I have the great advantage of knowing different cultures and being able to compare each other when it comes to dealing with my daughter. Of course this doesn’t mean that in practice I can address effectively day to day issues, such as sleeping, crying, etc. It just means that I am open to consider a variety of tools, techniques and perspectives. I can only hope that taking into account my daughter’s personality and my own instinct as a mother, all this knowledge will serve to find my way to give her a happy upbringing.

Describe any methods that you have tried relating to sleep, feeding, etc.

Liliana seems to like her simple but effective routine for sleeping at night. She usually gets a bath around 6 and feeds/settles until she falls asleep around 7.30 pm. Sometimes, she might have some problems for sleeping, but she will usually do so after following this routine. She usually wakes up when she likes (usually no later than 8 in the morning) and it will depend on when she has woken up during the night. After that we have a routine of changing her, which now she is happy to follow. I also feed her on demand throughout the day and night, so I let her dictate when she wants to do this and for how long.

Napping during the day is usually a problem; and I currently keep trying different methods. For instance, taking her for a walk usually works, but it is quite demanding on my side and I would not like her to get used to do this in order to sleep. Other methods I have tried are rocking her, settling her by lying with her in bed, giving a massage, tapping on her tummy or offering her a dummy. I tried once letting her cry but I felt so bad I promised I’ll never do it again. Hopefully, as I try different things and she becomes older, we’ll find the best methods for her day routine.

Your birth story

The birth of my daughter Liliana happened very much as planned. We had a homebirth which started around 1:30 am on the Saturday 14th of August. My partner Laurens got ready the room that I had planned to give birth with all our preparations. He also helped me breathing through the contractions up the moment our midwife arrived at 7 in the morning. There is not much more to tell really, Liliana was born at 8:43 in the morning and we were really delighted to meet her.

How have you changed since becoming a mother?

I don’t think I have changed but became a bit richer. I have new reasons to wake up in the morning and look forward to the future. I have learnt to be more patient, more positive and more caring. Apart from that, I keep having the same hopes, goals and motivations than before I became a mother.

What are your hopes and fears?

In the short term, my hope is that our lives will stabilise again; where me and my partner can regain a bit our sleep and a sensible routine for the day. In the longer term, I hope I will be a good, fair and fun mother to my daughter. My fear is that I am unable to do this; hence, becoming frustrated by my inabilities as a mother.

Describe a pivotal moment when you realised you were a mother?

I think the pivotal moment has to be when she was born and I realised I was bringing to life a human being.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Trades Description Act

Having kids is bad for your health. That is the crux of Emma Kennedy’s recent piece in the Family section of The Guardian about the joys of child-free holidays. On learning that I have two young children, it would be fair to assume that the annoyance this article engendered was because my feathers were ruffled; that I couldn’t take criticism of my little darlings; that a woman without children was selfish or not quite complete or any other of the various accusations filling the Comments section of the Guardian online after publication of this piece.

It’s true I would probably have paid the article scant attention if I didn’t have children, in the same way I skip over pieces about cars, plants or knitting. Some commenters objected to the humour – the suggestion that kids are tied to a tree or ‘lost’ in a department store to enable the parents to run wild. That wasn’t a problem, it’s supposed to be a funny piece. And like the curate’s egg, it is in parts. Closer to the knuckle the idea that parents farm their offspring out to potential adopters to take on holiday. I’ve not been through the adoption process, but I imagine someone who had would find that remark in poor taste. Those sections aside, I greatly enjoyed her tales of her woeful family camping trips and see why she was keen to leave them behind.

My main objection to the piece was its glib, casual assumptions. The fact that anyone (and by anyone, the four friends she asked) who said they enjoyed spending time with their children was lying, deluded or had ‘staff’ to do the dirty work. I’ve had brilliant and less than brilliant holidays with and without children. If the Guardian had wanted someone to write about child-free holidays, why didn’t they ask someone who had kids to take a trip without the little tykes and then report back? I fully admit children can be noisy, demanding, messy, whinging and selfish. Even my own, who I love dearly. Do you know what? So are some adults. Me included, probably.

It didn’t stop at the holiday issue however. Apparently, parents have ‘no life’. They never see their former friends again. If they do, they make crass remarks about childless people being barren. They can’t stay out past 9.30 in case they turn into stretch-mark riddled pumpkins, spouting milk from their saggy breasts and horrific tales of childbirth from their unpainted mouths. Yeah right. Perhaps she needs to get some new friends. Apart from the first year or so of their child’s life, most parents I know are delighted to get dressed up and go out, talk animatedly to people about a range of topics and stay out late drinking far too much.

Children do take up vast quantities of your time and money, limit your opportunities (in the short-term at least), cause you anxiety and do not come with a guarantee to look after you in your old age. They also cause you to feel great depths of joy and love. I don’t believe that parenthood completes a person, and in our overcrowded world it’s good not everyone takes this path, but I do believe it behoves us as a society to take an interest in and responsibility for all our members. Who will look after us in hospital, deliver our groceries or mend our leaky taps except the hideous small folk grown up? The ‘us and them’ mentality does nobody any favours.

Lastly, you may be puzzled as to the title of this piece. Emma Kennedy spends a whole paragraph congratulating herself on her youthful appearance due to her childless state. Yes, this is bitchy, (but hey, my entire existence has been rubbished), but judging by the photo of her accompanying the article, if you claim you look ten years younger than you are, you’d best make damn sure the facts match the claim.