I don’t know what it is, but since having kids, there has been a distinct shift in things I find acceptable and things that just make me cringe with uneasiness. Totally random and often completely unexpected, there are certain words, people or situations that I encounter as part of the mental world of motherhood just really go through me. Like, you know that feeling you get when they do the group performance on X Factor? Or when James Martin attempts to read from an autocue on Saturday Kitchen? Or how I imagine the phrase ‘bifidus culture’ makes Jamie Theakston feel on the Activia advert* (watch his face next time it’s on. He’s troubled by those words. There’s something amiss and he knows it). Some stuff just makes me feel uncomfortable…:
• When people say ‘fractious’. Victorian costume dramas aside, this is not a word I’d ever heard in regular use until I had a baby, then all of a sudden BOOM, a baby yells and they’re ‘fractious’. There is just something about the understatement of this fluffy euphemism that really puts me on edge. If I was God, after giving myself a washboard stomach and restoring my pelvic floor muscles to a state where I didn’t wet my trackie bottoms when on the trampoline with the kids, I’d quite like to implant some kind of auto-correct in the minds of mums so that when they go to say ‘fractious’ what actually comes out is ‘pissy and loud’ because, let’s face it, that’s what we all mean.
• The tits-and-teeth woman who runs my kids’ singalong group. I find her enthusiasm disconcerting. Her permanent smile freaks me out. How can anyone be that happy? She very much reminds me of this local newsreader we have who, no matter what she’s reporting on, does it with a grin. I’m not kidding, she tells you about a train crash, she’s beaming. House fire? Practically chuckling. Sometimes I think it’s all she can do to stop herself winking and chucking in a bit of jazz hands aswell. So yeah – newsreader and the woman from Jolly Jingles? Not. Right.
• The very concept of parents joining in with the singing at said groups. Give me a babysitter, a bottle of pink wine and a couple of hours to drink myself out of my tone-deafness and I’ll give you the best rendition of Copacabana anyone’s ever heard this side of Vegas. Take away the booze and plonk me in a starkly lit church hall with 30 women I’ve never met and a song about sizzling sausages crackling out from the 80s-style tape player and I struggle
• Parents telling a story about something their kid has said and adopting a cutesy (read: FREAKY) baby voice. For example:
SMUG MUM: You know, Jack was asking if ‘Fwed can come and pway’
SM: Fwed. Does he want to come and pway? Wiv wickle Jack?
ME: (pause) Are you alright?
• When I overhear Mums at the library reading their kids stories. It’s no great revelation to anyone that motherhood is rife with rivalry and nowhere is this more obvious than when you get two women embroiled in an unspoken competition for best storyteller. Seriously, step foot into the kids’ section at any library and it’s like Overactors’ Anonymous. These women get in the zone. They do voices, they do accents, they sing, they improvise. Shit, I’m sure I saw one mother cart in a box of costumes and a spotlight. Imagine Jackanory on speed – that is what it’s like and, quite frankly, it unsettles me
• ‘Playdates’. AAAARGH. Never has a word been so misleading. For one, my kids don’t play, they fight. Two, Date? If my experiences are anything to go by, this word suggests a) men and b) enough alcohol to render any sense of adult responsibility useless. Neither of these things have ever cropped up in any playdate I’ve been on. In short, playdates are liars.
*I’m a little obsessed with the Activia advert. There are times when I want to reach into the telly and rescue Jamie Theakston from a life of plugging pouring yoghurt and bumming rides off milkmen. Come on Jamie, you did Top Of The Pops. You did Live and Kicking. Yes, you also did The Priory, that didn’t rate terribly well but still, what are you doing? You don’t need the Danone dollar. You’re better than this, Theakston