Detective Dot, my daughter’s new BFF

Detective Dot, my daughter’s new BFF

My eight-year-old is tech savvy. The Virgin Media ‘masters of entertainment’ advert is an accurate depiction of her – she literally rolls her eyes every time she watches me take what is apparently the “longest route possible” to find my favourite TV show. As someone from generation MSN-Messenger, I’m quite offended when she insinuates that I don’t know what I’m doing. Where was she when we were all making our own websites on Piczo, hey? But clearly, she knows a thing or two that I don’t, so I try to encourage this smart, tecchy side of her where I can.

I signed her up to Code Club, which was great but it was quite far away and just didn’t fit around our schedule so we had to give it up. I didn’t want to stop there though, so I spent a while looking for things to encourage this from home. We have a whole drawer full of spy watches, circuit boards, infrared glasses, the lot. But, of course, all of the boxes they came in all looked something like this:

Image result for engineering toys

Not very encouraging when you’re an eight-year-old black girl, I can assure you.

But all was not to be lost, I somehow managed to find Dr Jess Wade on Twitter who introduced my daughter and me to Detective Dot , a character created by a company who seemed to hear exactly what I had been screaming about since my daughter was old enough to play with toys.

In today’s kids’ cartoons + TV shows, 0% of princesses are coders, boys are twice as likely to take the lead, less than 3% of characters are people-of-colour and 92% of females are underweight? And not one superhero recycles.

Stories teach children what to think about themselves and the world around them. And kids are constantly bombarded with subtle and not-so-subtle messages – for up to eight hours a day. So in a world where silly cartoon princesses are the norm, we set out to create cool, bright, diverse characters that have interesting and challenging adventures across the world. And as we’re techies, we use technology to engage kids in fun, new ways.

detectivedot.org

Could Detective Dot be any more perfect? My daughter is an official member of the CIA – the Children’s Intelligence Agency. Don’t ask me for any more information on it as I’ve been told, in no uncertain terms, that the information is classified and not for grown-ups to hear. All I know is that Detective Dot rocked my eight-year-old’s world. She read the book within a day and has been on secret mission after secret mission since Dot’s arrival. She has been talking to me in algorithms so that nothing can go wrong when I look for my favourite TV shows.

Detective Dot gave my daughter the boost she needed. I can’t wait for the day that characters like her are the norm.

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Actually Adult Mum

Actually Adult Mum

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged. Almost four years in fact. In those (almost) four years, I’ve stopped being a “teen mum” and have fully stepped into the realm of Adult Parenting™. (Well, at least to most onlookers I have. Little do they know that I still time myself climbing the stairs on all fours, step over the cracks in the pavement and throw tantrums when my hair just won’t go right.) I’m twenty-five, I’m a teacher and I have added another cub to the clan. I even check how much items weigh in the supermarket to work out if I’m getting a good deal or not, so if that doesn’t make me an adult I don’t know what will.

Yet despite being the portrait of a grown-up, I still feel like a teenager. I remember my grandma, well into her eighties at the time, once saying to me “When you turn seventeen you’ll never feel any older,” and that is one of the truest things ever spoken. It’s funny that seventeen is the age that she used since that’s the age that I was when I first became a parent. The second time around I was twenty-five but I felt no different to the first. No more experienced (you forget a lot in seven years), no more mature and no more prepared than I was at seventeen. Yet I’ve been treated so differently this time around, both during my pregnancy and since.

The first thing that I noticed was the reactions to my pregnancy. When I first started telling people, I felt the same apprehension that I had done at seventeen. How are people going to react? Have I made the right decision? Will they expect me to fail? Of course, none of this happened and it was just my own demons coming back to haunt me. Everyone that I told was full of joy and I even heard the word “congratulations” several times. I was given a maternity massage, thrown a surprise baby shower and sent to the front of the queue in Primark. Being pregnant as an adult is great – who knew? I’d do it all again just for the love I was shown.

I also noticed that no health care professionals asked if my pregnancy was planned or not. When I was pregnant with my daughter at seventeen, I had become so accustomed to answering this question at every appointment that I thought it was just standard procedure. I was never sure why it was relevant, but just answered anyway so to not cause a fuss. It always felt quite intrusive and I was never sure what the “right” answer was – if I said “yes” would I be seen as a fool for planning a family at such a young age? If I said “no” would they think I was reckless and stupid? I couldn’t win. This time around I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed that I didn’t have the opportunity to say that I had planned my second child. I’m an adult with a career, no room for judgement here! How ridiculous is that? Me, someone who has spent the last eight years standing up and demanding respect for young mothers, seeking the approval of someone that I don’t even know for choosing what to do with my own body and my own family. I might as well have asked them “do you think it’s ok for me to have another baby?”

giphy

I also haven’t been patronised this time around like I was last time. Rather than telling me to go to “stop smoking” groups (despite being a non-smoker), I have been asked if I’m a smoker or not before the leaflet is shoved in my face. Instead of being lectured on why I mustn’t give up breastfeeding, I have been directed towards breastfeeding support groups (I still gave up within three weeks, age has had no bearing on that.) And, on top of all of that, not one single person has asked if my son “still sees daddy much”! It seems that present fathers are an over-25s exclusive, guys.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still twelve years younger than the perceived “ideal” age for first time mothers in London (according to this Evening Standard article) and three years younger than the 2014 national average for first time mothers, so am still seen as a “young mum” (especially as I’m on child number two) and my entire experience hasn’t gone without people noticing this, but their attitude towards me hasn’t been the same. Less judgement, same amount of surprise.

All of this has made me realise just how much young mothers need support. Of course, having experienced it first hand, I already knew this, but seeing some of the other side of the page has given me something to compare my own experiences to. It is worse than I realised and belittling young mothers does nothing but make them feel ashamed and isolated. Just treat all mothers the same. Please and thank you.

 

My Cheeky Child

My Cheeky Child

I got through the screaming nights of the newborn, the “grabbiness” of the one-year-old and the tantrums of the two-year-old. Three has been a nice age. She’s old enough to know right from wrong, and young enough to be fun and cute.

Three-and-a-half-but-I’m-nearly-four is becoming a new age all together. My child is rude. What sets other people off in giggles (usually family and friends without children, may I add), makes me want to scream into a pillow and lock my daughter in a Rapunzel-style tower until she has learnt some manners.

It’s probably my fault, I admit. The first time my daughter made a cheeky remark, I giggled too! I said “no, you don’t talk to Mummy like that” through a tittering red face and watering eyes. It was funny, I couldn’t help it. But my oh my, do I regret it.

I’m told “Watch the television, not me”, “Am I talking to you? No.”, and “Fine then, I won’t eat my dinner.” I’m seriously considering putting a few boarding schools on my 2013 primary starter application form.

Now, I know there are a few factors that are contributing to my madam’s diva attitude. The first being my inadvertent encouragement of diva-like behaviour during the early stages. I wish I had realised how much my laughing at her was affecting her ego… Another contributing factor is my inability to not nag. She hears me nagging at, well… everyone, and thinks that it’s acceptable. It’s my fault. I know! Another problem is her nursery is absolutely full of children just as cheeky as her. She’s there full time, there’s just no getting away from it.

I’ve tried many approaches to nipping this attitude in the bud. I’ve scorned her. I’ve ignored it. I’ve told her in my “nice voice” that that’s not the way we speak. I’ve put her on the “naughty step”. I’ve confiscated toys. I’ve sent her to her room. I’ve banned Peppa Pig. I’ve tried everything. All of which have worked instantly. And all of which have had lasting effects of about one hour.

What gets me though, is she doesn’t behave like this with anyone but those living in our household. When I speak to her nursery nurses about it, I get “Really? No! We’ve been really impressed by her manners actually.” When I visit my grandparents, I’m told “Isn’t she well behaved! All the children in our family have good manners, don’t they?” (Erm.. Yes Grandma, I’m sure they do…) And when I ask her aunties how she’s behaved when they’ve babysat, I get “she’s been very good, until you got here and the cheekiness started!” I would really, really love to delve into her mind and find out why this is.

I’m probably painting a terrible picture of both my child’s persona and my parenting skills, especially if you who are reading this doesn’t have any children of your own (“but I have loads of nieces and nephews” doesn’t count! They behave differently, to all of you backseat drivers out there…) She’s not an awful child, nor am I an awful parent. What she is is bloody cheeky and what I am is bloody stressed!

I hope it’s all a phase. And I hope the phase passes before she turns into a little prima donna forever…

I Feel Guilty

I Feel Guilty

As a young parent, I’m always questioning myself as to whether I’m doing the “right thing” or not. I’m sure that’s the same for parents of all ages, but I can only speak for us youngsters out there, and we also have the eyes of the world on us – can you say “pressure”?!

As I’ve said before, my daughter is now three (“and a-half”, as she keeps reminding me). So that means that it has taken me three (and a-half) years to realise that everything I do is done to prove a point. I took a year out of studies after I had her to prove a point (“OMG are you leaving her in nursery already? She’s only a few months old!”). I spent a year reminding everyone that I was going to university in September, to prove a point (“So now you just stay at home all day?” “Well yeah… But I’m starting uni in September!”). I then stressed over uni to prove a point (“Ahh, you only got a 2:2 on that assignment? I suppose you would have done better if you didn’t have a kid.” “…Wanker.”) And now, I’m working full time to prove a point.

Quite frankly, I’m sick of it. And I know there’s no one else to blame but myself. I really should not give a damn what others think or how they look at me. But the truth is, I do. And now I’ve got myself in a situation where I really don’t know what’s best for my daughter or what I even want anymore. And I’m starting to feel like I’ve made the wrong choices.

Since starting work, I’ve been leaving home at 7.30am – sometimes before my daughter’s even awake, and getting home at about 6.30. This means that my Mr takes her to and from nursery before going about his daily business. It also means that I only get about one-two hours with her between sleeps, Monday-Friday. It’s shit. Really shit. I feel like one of those parents you always hear about – the ones that are never actually there for their kids because they’re too busy working. Again, it’s shit. (Let me stress that, before you all judge me).

But, by the same token, when I wasn’t working, I felt like a lazy-layabout teen mum that you always hear about too. Even though I was just on summer break from uni, that’s still how I felt. And I also like the fact that I’m working. I can save money for my family’s future and also treat us all now and again.

It’s been getting to me a bit. A lot. I really don’t know what the right thing to do is anymore. I’m worried that my bond with my daughter will be ruined. I’m also worried that I won’t be a bad mum if I don’t do anything with my days. But what I worry about more is that I may be putting all this stress on myself and my family for the sake of appearances.

Aside

The Perfect Mother

Before I start on this post, I’d like to state one rule. Each time you read the words “perfect mother”, please imagine it to be said with as much venom as possible. Because she is our enemy.

Look at her, with her perfect smile, her happy, well behaved children, and her perky little boobs and ironing board stomach. The Perfect Mother: She. Is. Evil.

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So, if she’s so evil, why do we all try so hard to be her? You don’t? Oh, I think you do! Put yourself back here: you’re just getting used to motherhood, your child is about five months old, and has been up all night for four nights in a row. You’re shattered, but you know you need nappies so you rush out to the shop with your hair in a state. As much as you know that this is perfectly normal, (after all, you’re a mum now), you still hope you don’t bump into anyone. You don’t want them to say “well she’s really let herself go since she had a baby!” But, typical, you do. An old “friend” who you’ve barely spoken to since you were preggo. She asks “How’s motherhood?” And what is your response? YES! You said something along the lines of “Oh, I’m loving it”, or “it’s amazing!”, didn’t you? I knew it. You put aside the fact that you were on the verge of tears, or even already in tears, last night because you were just so bloody shattered, didn’t you?

Now, it’s not that motherhood isn’t “amazing” or that we’re not “loving it”, but, let’s be honest, it is hard work. And that hard work often overshadows the fun parts. And that’s the harsh reality.

So why do we do so much to try and prove ourselves to be like… Her? We pretend like everything is fine, when it’s not. We avoid asking for help, because we don’t want people to say “I told you so!” And, in general, we try to do too much. 

Let’s kick the Perfect Mother to the curb. If we love, our kids, do our best for them and put them first, is that not enough to make us better than her?

She’s not real!

Am I a Stereotype?

Am I a Stereotype?

It’s all good and well me sitting here on my laptop saying “let’s break the stereotype”, but, for all you know, I could be that stereotype. And for all I know, I could be too! Simply in denial… I mean, I did grow up on a council estate, the teenage pregnancy rates where I live are astonishingly high, and, on those very rare occasions that I do get to go out and party with my friends, I tend to get rather shitfaced. So, to the stranger’s eye, I probably am. But those details don’t even scratch the surface on who I am or what I do. So let me tell you a bit about my story and you can decide for yourself.

Seventeen years old, sitting in my bedroom looking at a pregnancy test. As the test was given as a freebie from some sort of teen sexual health organisation, there were no instructions, no nothing. I hadn’t even considered taking it, as of course there was no way that I could be pregnant. The stick is showing me two lines. I’m pretty sure that that means I’m pregnant, but can’t be certain; like I said – no instructions. But I must have it wrong, it must be one line that means positive and two that means negative. I phone my best friend, to check. I don’t really want to, but this is before the days that iPhones are as popular as television sets and I don’t have good old Google to hand. Riiiiing riiiiing! Riiiiing riiiiing! “Your call has been forwarded to the T-Mobile voicemail for…” Shit. By now I’m panicking. There’s only one other friend who may know for sure, and we hadn’t spoken properly for a while. She was a good friend though, right? I could ask her in confidence. So I did, and she said: “Sorayah, you’re pregnant love.”

And that was that. I was pregnant. I didn’t cry, didn’t laugh, didn’t even react for a moment. I just said “Okay, thanks…” and hung up. I phoned my boyfriend. His reaction was the exact same as mine. “Er, oh. Er, okay… Um… I’ll be round in a minute.” I could hear all his friends laughing and joking in the background, as normal teenagers do. Whilst him and I sat on the phone realising we were about to have to become adults. Like, real, proper, actual adults.

My first worry was finishing my A-levels, going to uni. I had been doing well at sixth form, I was receiving my grades for my AS-levels soon and was expecting them to be good. I was expecting to be able to get As overall, even if I had to work extra hard to bump them up next year. I was expecting to go to a decent uni, study English Language and Literature and become a genius of some sort. (Okay, slight exaggeration, but you catch my drift). Right now it was July. The summer holidays. I had no idea how far gone I was, but it was pretty obvious that some time during my second year of sixth form I would be pushing out a baby. And then, even if I did somehow manage to squeeze in my A-levels, I wouldn’t be able to go to uni with a baby! For one, I’m sure we don’t have ‘family units’ at university campuses over here like they do in the US, and I had never even considered going to one of the local universities. And, let’s say I did go to one of the local unis, how on Earth would I find the balance between writing my theories on post-1940 literature and flying aeroplanes of mashed up banana into the toothless landing point?

And then there were the worries of telling my family, of losing my youth, and, of course, actually being a mum. Could I really look after a child? My room looked like a World War II bomb scene, and I was going to have a baby living in it too? (To be fair, to this day my room still looks like a World War II bomb scene. That aspect of my life was unchanged by motherhood.)

I also have a chronic illness called Crohn’s disease (you may have heard of it. If you haven’t, don’t Google it, it’s gross). While when I’m well I’m perfectly fine, there are times when I literally can’t get out of bed for all the pain I’m in, and the lack of energy I have, and sometimes that can last for months. How could I look after a baby during those periods?

Anyway, let me move on a bit. After going to the doctors, I found out that I was three months pregnant. How the hell had I managed to miss an entire trimester without even noticing? I hadn’t had periods, so really there was no excuse. I guess it was a mixture of having irregular periods anyway, and being completely and utterly in denial. No excuse really though. I also found out that I wasn’t going to be able to take that year out between AS and A-levels as the spec was changing, so my AS-level wouldn’t fit with the following year’s A2’s. So I continued going to sixth form throughout pregnancy, gave birth in February, worked on my coursework at home for a few weeks, then went back in two days a week, working at home the rest. My boyfriend and I had worked out a system where he could go to work and do his studies some days, while I done mine the others. It was hard, but it worked out. We also stayed living with my mum. There was no reason not to, as my daughter could have her own room when she got a bit bigger and we could save a hell of a lot of money that way too.

I finished my A-levels, I didn’t do as well as I had hoped, but still good considering I had had a baby half way through the year with B-C grades. I then took a gap year before starting uni, as I wasn’t ready to send the little one to nursery being so tiny.

That gap year was pretty hard. Things weren’t great at home and my relationship with my mum was falling apart. The best thing at the time seemed to be to move into a place of our own. That was quite possibly the worst thing. For one, it was expensive. To say money was tight would be an understatement. And the worst thing was, we moved into quite an inconvenient place. Living in London, I can hardly call it ‘the sticks’, but it was right on the outskirts and there was no Underground station anywhere nearby, which, to any Londoner, might as well be the sticks. I didn’t have many friends come to visit me, and I didn’t often visit them either. I didn’t know anyone nearby, and felt uncomfortable going to the baby groups because I was so much younger than the other mums there. No one seemed to talk to me. My boyfriend worked nights so would sleep in the day, so the majority of the time it was just me and my daughter alone. I became really lonely and depressed.

As soon as I started uni the following October, things changed. My daughter was at nursery, socialising with other kids, and I was able to socialise with other people my own age. Not only that, but it felt good to be doing something for myself. Even though I hadn’t chosen to study English Language and Literature like I had always wanted, I chose a subject that I felt I would be able to balance with motherhood easier, and it was still based around language and literature so it didn’t matter. (Although now I regret choosing it. I would have even regretted choosing Lang and Lit, what I should have done was Journalism! Never mind… Another rant for another day.)

We moved back in to mums before I started my second year at uni for money saving reasons, and now things are much better. I’m closer to family and friends, and there are actually tube stations nearby. I’m home!

Now, my little miss is three, I’m due to start my final year of uni in October, and we’re all happy. I’m working through the summer, and I’m also considering taking another year out of education so that I can save some money and gain work experience that lasts longer than three months, like all my other jobs have. Who wants to graduate with no money and no job? But that’s another blog post in itself. (Advise would be appreciated on that matter).

So, I’m not saying I’m perfect. I’m not saying young mums who don’t stick at education are stereotypes either. What I’m saying is don’t look at the small details that do fit the person into that stereotype; look at their story first.

Totally Teen Mum – like, OMG!

Totally Teen Mum – like, OMG!

Like totally, right? Or, since this is Totally Teen Mum, and not Totally Teen Mom, the stereotype would be something more like: “Teen mum innit. Pass me my fags.”

Either way, they’re stereotypes. Teen parents in today’s Western society are constantly stereotyped, whether you’re a teen mum, a teen mom, or a teen dad! Trust me, I know. But the truth is there are so many of us out there that don’t fit these stereotypes, the wider public just don’t seem to know about us! Let’s fix that.

Vicky Pollard, does she look anything like you?
(Image taken from: http://tinyurl.com/6vxxsxx)

Teen mums totally rock! (That sounds so cheesy. I promise I would never, ever say something like that out loud. Honest.)