spoiled fruits of empire

tales of hyperbolic parenting

Tag: Poppy

How to enjoy two hours of your life

A few days ago, I posted an account of our hellish flight to New York with Poppy, the over-active toddler.  Thanks, oh alumni of wretched travelers, for the sympathy, advice and private messages about what we should do.

It appears that decent people with admirably-decent-children-of-their-own have all suggested the same thing:  to drug that child.  And because Walter and I always do what our friends tell us, we followed the advice. Read the rest of this entry »

How not to enjoy four hours of your life

This weekend, Walter and I boarded a plane with our toddler and flew to New York.  I would like to smugly state that traveling with a toddler is as easy as traveling with a squishy newborn.  But of course, the latter is not easy and therefore, neither is the former.

Yet, Walter and I were not mentally prepared for just how un-fun this journey was going to be.  Being stuck in a cramped space with someone driven by a raw compulsion to move is, as it turns out, really hard work.  Why did nobody warn us? Read the rest of this entry »

The gift that keeps on giving

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I woke up to a very special gift from my daughter.

Was it the fact that she let me sleep an hour later than I normally do, allowing me to greet Sunday morning with a sun unfamiliarly high in the sky?

No, it wasn’t.  Though that certainly was nice.

Was it the fact that she had convinced her father to make me coffee, rendering him unfamiliarly active as he tinkered with kettles and cafetieres as if he were somebody’s wife? Read the rest of this entry »

Raising Miss Manners

Sadly, it is not considered polite to toss a bagel down someone’s cleavage.  One cannot, though one might wish, use a fist to repulse an oncoming kiss.  The social recovery after having your skirt tuck itself into your knickers is long, and by no means guaranteed.

Unless you are a one-year-old.  In which case, standard protocols of politeness need not apply. Read the rest of this entry »

Babies I don’t care about

One of the great things about being an adult is that we can toggle between many different levels of reality without having to acknowledge any but the most polite.

Here’s an example:

Level 1 (sub-conscious):  What an ugly baby!
Level 2 (conscious): I hope that baby grows into its nose
Level 3 (polite, private): Sweet baby, though not a patch on mine
Level 4 (polite, public): What a CUTE baby!!

Our functioning society skims perfectly well atop all four layers.  As long as we don’t know what people really think, we can navigate public spaces without needing to carry an axe in the diaper bag. Read the rest of this entry »

The lovely strangers

After having driven one thousand miles across America, two nice-looking strangers with flashing smiles presented themselves on our front porch.  In the foreground, and partially obstructing his face, the larger of the two held aloft a giant box of diapers.  In the background, the smaller one offered cookies.

Poppy sat comfortably on my hip and reviewed these lovely strangers with a mild smile.  Her expectation, based on previous experience, was that I would politely take delivery of their parcels and then seal the door in their face.

Her posture bore the confidence of someone who knows how things work.

But being one year old is nothing if not confusing.  For I upended the universe by letting these strangers into her home, and then exchanging her, like a lower-value commodity, for the tin of cookies. Read the rest of this entry »

Poppy’s first trip around the sun

On Saturday, the planet completed one full rotation around the sun and Poppy woke up as a one-year-old.   The thought made me blink with astonishment for I hadn’t noticed time scudding past.

Somehow, four different seasons had peeked through the nursery window and each had kept vigil over my baby growing bigger in her crib.

And, despite my distraction, the earth had remained on its axis and the stars still blinked in the sky.  They had done this without me having to tell any of them what to do, or to worry that the celestial bodies had had enough to eat. Read the rest of this entry »

The confessions of a jealous parent

In the past twelve months, I’ve carried out a rigorous study of what parents say to each other in the park.  My research finds the most common phrase to be: “How old is s/he?”

Nine times out of ten, the question is asked with flinty eyes and a mouth-only smile.

This is because politeness is not the real reason for asking about the age of a stranger’s child.  Rather, based on the confessions of one study subject (me), I claim that the real purpose of the question is to gauge the competition. Read the rest of this entry »

Poppy, the part-time performing seal

Whilst every phase of having a baby has been rewarding*, I would like to announce that we have formally entered the golden age of parenting Poppy.

This is because she has finally learned that, to fully embed herself in her father’s affections, she must amuse him.   But only on a part-time basis. Read the rest of this entry »

The siren call of stuff

Yesterday, when Poppy and I went to the supermarket, I mistakenly wandered into an unexplored section of the store.  It was the ‘seasonal’ aisle and it was packed, to the rafters, with any small bagatelle that might conceivably have an Easter theme.

Yards of chocolate, customized egg-cartons, shell paint, candy-collecting baskets made of meta-materials not found in nature, any product that might justifiably host an image of a chick, bunny or crucifix … the merchandising opportunities were endless.

As I trembled at the mouth of this Aladdin’s cave, my emotions were threefold: Read the rest of this entry »

Hell is other people’s children

I’ve heard many times that being a parent is like having your heart walk around outside your body.   Now, I can confirm that it’s true.  Because yesterday, that poor old heart of mine got a thorough kicking from a four-year-old at the playground.

This is what happened.  Read the rest of this entry »

Come home, Professor Pixel

My husband did the thing that he has been threatening to do all year.  He left me.

For a conference in the mountains that breaks, unscientifically, at noon so that the scientists can go snow-boarding.  Generally when Walter is away, he softens the blow of his absence by beaming his face into our house via Skype.   But this time, the company on the slopes is so select that even a decent internet connection was not invited.

Thus, every day without fail, Walter’s image freezes on the computer screen in weird pixelated renditions Read the rest of this entry »

The house of science

This weekend I learned something that made my husband look good.

The New York Times reported on a recent study relating to men, women, wailing babies and sleep.  The research – Study A – found that women are three times more likely than men to wake up at night in order to care for others. This imbalance remained, whether the woman stayed at home or worked full time.

Figure 1: Study A demonstrated in real life

So far, so familiar.  If our household’s sleep were a graph, Walter’s performance would remain a constant along the zzzzz axis (see Figure 1).

The reporter went on to discuss another study – Study B – that found that a baby’s cry is the sound most likely to rouse a sleeping woman.  For men, the most sleep-disturbing sounds were Read the rest of this entry »


In America, and particularly in Texas, everything is big.   This is never more clear than when I’m motoring down the highway in my European hatchback and I have to look up to see what mean mama is hustling me out of my lane.  For invariably, these highway javelinas are women.  And the defining characteristic of their species is that they all drive cars designed to tow big fishing boats to big Texan lakes. Read the rest of this entry »

The jig is up

Someone has blundered.  And unfortunately, that someone is me.

This Saturday, I ventured from the house after dark and had a riotously good time without Walter.   While my husband stayed home to guard the baby, I spent the evening with some seriously fun girls who play poker.  Naturally, I was dealt a bad hand on every round and lost all my chips to the card sharks at my table.  But this was not the blunder. Read the rest of this entry »

Children of the revolution

The power of the stay-at-home-mother is insidious and very very dangerous.

For this tiny slice of time in my daughter’s life, I am the magician who names things, thereby making them real.  Before I gave her the word for ‘cat’, she might not have known that this hair-ball was distinct from squirrels or my neighbor’s winter hat.   Similarly, a ‘flower‘ is distinct from a ‘leaf‘ which in turn is different to the sinister shapes in our garden that try to pass themselves off as trees. Read the rest of this entry »

The dreariness of childhood

Yesterday, in a spasm of guilt about being so boring, I took Poppy to one of those kid-centric places that promise to edutain your child.  With hope in my heart, I parked my flimsy pram next to a fleet of strollers and headed for the baby kraal.

This enclosure was demarcated by a miniature picket fence, the chief virtue of which lay in protecting us from the screeching three-year-olds who seemed to have wrested control of the establishment.  Read the rest of this entry »

How to be tough in Texas

I live in a state where the mosquitos are so tough that they can suck your blood through your jeans.  Hot sauce comes as either ‘mild’, which makes you cry for mama, or ‘spicy’, which could give you a permanent lisp.  Forklift operators wear Stetsons instead of hard hats.  Librarians drive monster trucks to work.

Yet I have learned that there is one thing that can reduce a Texan to my size.  Snow. Read the rest of this entry »


There’s a word from the German language meaning ‘stupid’, that has crept into  Zimbabwean-English patois.  “She’s a bit doof, hey?” you might whisper behind an imbecile’s back.  I haven’t uttered this word in about twenty years but I think it’s time for a come-back.  For, ten months of sleep-deprivation plus nine months of low-quality sleep before that, means that general dim-wittedness is the order of the day. Read the rest of this entry »

Daddy Time Is The Best Time



Scene 1

(POPPY and her adoring mother, CJ, are in the nursery playing with blocks.  CJ patiently builds towers for Poppy while the baby pulls listlessly at her mother’s hair.  Footsteps are heard on the staircase.  Poppy turns her face to the door and listens quizzically as the feet approach the nursery door, pause, then grow faint. Seconds pass.  CJ watches Poppy.  Poppy watches the door.  The footsteps return to the door, pause, and then slowly, Read the rest of this entry »


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