Tag Archives: toddler

Raising Children With A Sex Not A Gender

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

I’m raising my children to know their sex, not their gender.

To explain I’ll describe what I mean by each.  Their sex is what they are.  The girls have vaginas and XX chromosomes, the boy has a penis and XY chromosomes.  Obviously there are other physiological differences but that’s the basics.

Gender is something else.  Gender is what each sex is “supposed” to be interested in, “supposed” to like, think and feel.  It’s the boys like pirates, girls like princesses, and boys like football, girls like ballet, school of thought.

So, how do I raise them with one not the other?  And why?

They need to know their sex.  There are medical issues that could come into play for one thing; they need to know their body parts in order to describe any pain or discomfort.  They need to understand the changes that they’re going to experience on their bodies, things that will happen to them because of their sex.

Whilst I definitely believe we all need to know the physiology of the opposite sex, when it’s going to happen to your own body what you learn needs to be more intense.  I’ll be teaching the girls about periods; how to use tampons or pads, what pain relief works best.  I’ll be teaching the girls about yeast infections and what to look out for, what treatment to use.  The boy needs to learn about erections and testicular pain, about his voice dropping.  These are basic simple biological differences that will manifest as they grow and experience life.

But gender is unnecessary.  And in some cases it is harmful.

There’s a flow chart floating around social media that is spectacular at explaining why children do not need gender.

IS IT OPERATED WITH GENITALS?

/                                   \

YES                                             NO

/                                                              \

THIS ISN’T FOR CHILDREN                      YOUR CHILD CAN PLAY WITH IT

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series. Rose And Mum And More Blog, Parenting Blog, Mummy Blogger

Photo credit Cheryl Holt

Nothing that children play with, watch or wear is restricted to their sex.  Absolutely nothing.  There is absolutely no reason boys can’t play with My Little Ponies, Barbies or hair dressing sets.  There is absolutely no reason girls can’t play with dinosaurs, trucks and footballs.  And when we teach them that it’s not the case problems happen.

I recently had a conversation with someone one Twitter who’s raising her little boy as female now.  I assume that doesn’t include learning about the medical reasons he needs to know about his body, I don’t suppose she’ll be teaching him about period cramps and how to get blood stains out of knickers.  She’s raising him as socially female.

She tweeted that every birthday and Christmas he asked for dolls, and every year he cried when he was bought trucks.  I asked why she couldn’t just let him play with dolls?  Why not let the kid have what he wanted?  She said because he was teased for it, made fun of, laughed at for liking girl’s toys.

She taught him that the bullies were right.  She taught him that the bullies were right and he was wrong.  That something is wrong with him.  She changed him, not the bullies.

He is now on a path.  He’s being raised as a girl now.  He’s on a path that leads children into puberty blockers, a life time of medication, hormone therapy and, if he chooses to go down that path, surgery.  Or if he’s like high profile trans child Jazz Jennings who went on puberty blockers, he’ll find that his development is so damaged that not only is he unsuitable for surgery, but he’ll also not develop fully and he’ll grow older with an infant’s penis on an adult body, with nothing anybody can do to help.

Because he wanted a Barbie.

With other parents that could be my children.  Miss Rose is not a traditionally feminine girl in a lot of ways.  She likes her hair short, she loves football.  She plays with bricks and cars and super heroes.  With different parents she could easily have been taught that they are boys toys, that there’s something wrong with her wanting those things.  The more traditionally “girly” things she enjoys could have been hyped up, she could have been forced to grow her hair long and wear frilly pink dresses.  She’d be uncomfortable, she’d feel she was wrong.  She’d be told that only girls like these, only boys like those.  But she likes those.  You can see how their little brains make that leap without any slight concept of what they’re getting into.

Gender stereotypes being imposed on children starts them on their journey to adulthood in a way that is just not healthy.  Fifty years ago that meant little girls grew up to be housewives.  They were forced to play with make up sets, ironing boards, and dolls being groomed for a life of servitude, beauty and motherhood.  Little boys were forced to play with weapons, cars and blocks, preparing them for a life of adventure, money making and dominance.

Photo credit KlimKin

We started to leave that behind.  Movements like Let Toys Be Toys highlighted that any child can play with any toy.  We’re becoming accepting of little girls who like adventure and little boys who like domesticity.  We’re moving towards embracing both facets of our personalities, little girls like Miss Rose loving toy cars and My Little Ponies without any concept that she could be wrong in doing so.

But the more tolerant we become of celebrating differences, the more intolerant we become of those who are different.

Now it’s more tolerant to believe a little boy who likes Barbie is really a girl.  It’s more tolerant to think a little girl who likes her hair short and doesn’t wear pink is really a boy.

Gender stereotyping is getting a resurgence in popularity but under a new name, and instead of those who are against gender stereotyping being the progressives, it’s those who will strictly conform to it to the point of medicating their children who are applauded.

My children will be raised to know their sex.  To know their bodies, to understand what they do and how they work, how they’ll change and what to do to be healthy.  They’ll be taught to love their bodies, respect their bodies, nurture their bodies.

My children will not be taught their gender.  They’ll never hear from us “that’s a girl’s toy” or “only boy’s wear that”, and if they hear it from others they’ll swiftly be reassured that it’s nonsense, that they’re perfect they way they are.  If they’re teased for their differences I’ll never side with their bullies.  Ever.

Femininity and masculinity are both fine.  Women and men are both fine.  Girls and boys are both fine.  It’s okay to be anywhere on the feminine to masculine scale regardless of what sex you were born.

I’m raising my children to know their sex, but not give a flying f*ck about their gender.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

Don’t Believe Me Just Watch

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Everyone comments on the similarities my daughters share with other blood relatives (and in some cases none blood relatives).  My youngest daughter looks just like her father, and smiles like her uncle Chris.  My oldest daughter looks a lot like my brother and has a generosity of spirit like my mum.  They have attributes like lots of people around them, but the one thing they both share with me is a pig headed, dogged, stubborn determination.  If they want to do something they will do it.

This morning Miss Rose wanted to write Grandma.  She has been practicing her writing, her pen grip, forming her letters, and because her Grandma was coming to visit she wanted to write it perfectly as a gift.  So we started.

The first effort her G went a little bit loopy.  The second she got the D the wrong way around.  A few had the A go a bit wiggly and sometimes it simply was too long for the page.  She wouldn’t stop.

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, Rose And Mum And More Blog, The Lilly Prospero Series, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Photo credit Greyer Baby

“Again” she’d say.

Time and time again she wrote it out.  Page after page of practice letters, errors, mistakes.  She wrote it and wrote it and wrote it until finally she had written grandma in her very best letters and she was thrilled.  She had done it and she had done it to the best of her ability and she had worked tirelessly until she achieved it.  Failing didn’t put her off.  Mistakes didn’t stop her.

At the same time, Baby Boo was forcing herself to climb a chair over and over again.  She wanted to stand and she was grabbing the chair, dragging herself to her feet, then letting go and tumbling backwards.  She landed on her bottom repeatedly; she landed heavily and cried, then she got back up.  She landed with a roll, flipped herself back over and headed straight for the chair.

Miss Rose walked and talked early because the dogged determination she shows with her writing is what she showed for her baby skills.  “You can’t understand me?  I’m going to make new noises until I learn which ones communicate.”  She wanted to walk because she knew she’d reach things and places more successfully if she wasn’t on her knees, so she did it time and time again until she got there.

I had this theory that because younger siblings get their older siblings to do everything for them that they don’t need to push themselves.  Certainly I’ve seen this a lot, they get there but don’t push because they don’t need to.  Baby Boo is bucking that trend hard.  Hold her hands and she walks, let her go and she’ll stand for as long as she can then falls then tries again.  She is nine months and she’s well on her way.

This pig headed stubbornness is what lead me to work so hard on Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit.   I wrote it, it was wrong.  I wrote it again, it was still wrong.  I knew what I wanted to do, I knew what I wanted to achieve, and when I didn’t manage it I just did it again.  I kept standing up every time I landed with a bump.  I kept writing it every time a letter went a bit too loopy.  Write, edit, write, edit, rewrite, re-edit.

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit, Lilly Prospero

Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit by J.J. Barne

That said, if it’s something I’m not interested in I don’t.  I wouldn’t have pushed and pushed myself to become a physicist or mathematician, I wouldn’t have worked so tirelessly to be a doctor or nurse or artist or dancer.  I will give up if it’s something I don’t believe in, something I don’t want.

Being a novelist is what I wanted.  Standing and walking is what Boo wants.  Writing is what Rose wants.  And tells us we can’t do it?  Sorry, but no.

Writing a book is a long shot.  Most people want to, few manage.  Those who do manage rarely manage to be read and their books sit on their laptops being ignored by the world.  Don’t bother working for that when it’s not going to achieve anything was the recommendation of many.  You won’t get there.  It won’t be you.

Don’t believe me?  Just watch.

Boo will be walking.  Rose will be writing.  I recognise that grit in their teeth, that look in their eyes.

My girls are stubborn like me, and it’s a trait that can make us hard to live with and impossible to argue with.  But dammit it makes us tireless in our pursuits.  We can’t be convinced not to do something we believe we can do.  We fail time and time again and we keep going.  All three of us have goals and that stubbornness is coming into it’s own.

We will achieve it.  We will get there.  We’ll be walking, writing and succeeding before you know it.

Don’t believe me?  Just watch.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

Look Mummy, No Hands!

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

My little girl is growing up fast.  Too fast.  In her four and a half years she has learned more than I have in the past decade, she is excelling in nursery school, and has friends and interests that don’t depend on me.  I am immeasurably proud of her in so many ways… but how desperately I want her to slow down.

This morning I watched a video of her at three months old.  She was clutching her cuddly toy Sheep, pristine, white and nearly the size of her, and making cooing burbling sounds whilst I  talked to her.  At the same time, the four and a half year old Miss Rose was holding the exact same toy Sheep, now a greyish cream and somewhat matted, and charging around as Sheep bobbed at her side, not even the length of her thigh.

I want to hold her close and beg her to stay little.  Come September she’ll be off to full time school and my days with this precious child will be increasingly numbered.  Stay little, I want to beg.  Stay with mummy.  Don’t grow up.

But I know I can’t.  I can’t keep her small, I can’t keep her with me.  Even if I tried it would do more harm than good as she needs to grow and learn and flourish in the world as she grows into the astounding woman she’s going to become, and it’s my duty to held her along the way.

I am encouraging her to grow.  To have responsibilities and challenges.  I am watching my baby learn to fly the nest.

J..J. Barnes, Siren Stories, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit,

Photo credit Jill111

Her latest big girl change has been when crossing the road.

I am neurotically careful about road crossing.  We look left, right, left again.  We listen carefully, point out cars, choose a safe spot.  We hold hands, and keep looking as we cross the road.  I have allowed her to take on a new responsibility and she is thrilled.  I let her cross the road without holding my hand.  She has strict instructions.  All the same steps must be completed; looking, listening waiting.  She takes it very seriously, a look of immense reverence on her face.  And then we cross.   When we reach the pavement at the other side she looks at me with glee in her eyes and announces “I did it!”

Yes, she did.  She did it.  She crossed the road without holding hands.

My baby girl is growing up and I can’t stop it.  I can help or hinder it, but it’s happening whether I want it to or not.  And I don’t want to get in her way.  I don’t want to baby her and hold her back.  She’s learning so much and growing into such a wonderful person that I want to celebrate her, encourage her, take huge pride as she spreads her wings and takes off in the world.  I want to let go of her hand.

In four short years she has gone from the fragile, vulnerable child barely bigger than a fluffy toy, to a little lady who crosses the road and is well on the path to adulthood.

Parenting a little child is hard.  She is dramatic and stroppy, she is exhausting.  But she is growing.  Our days are numbered.  Our time is almost up.  One day she’ll be grown and gone and she won’t pine for the days of her childhood in the way I will.  She won’t miss the days when she crept into my bed in the night and clung to my legs when she was scared.  She won’t remember the feel of my huge hand wrapped around her tiny one.  She won’t remember the pride in her eyes as she reached the pavement without her hand being in mine.  But I will.  I will remember.  I will remember.

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, Rose And Mum And More, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More Blog, Parenting Blog, Mummy Blogger

Photo Credit Profile 31

I want to encourage her, admire her, watch her fly.  I want to hold her close, never let her go, keep her my baby.

I’m letting her fly.  But it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

She doesn’t need to hold my hand anymore.  And how I will miss that tiny hand in mine.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

Triggered By My Children

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

People like to joke about the word “triggered”.  It’s a big laugh about lefty liberals being mentally weak and unable to take criticism, unable to take a joke.  It’s used as a criticism.  To mock people.

It is not a joke.

It is especially not a joke when the person doing the triggering is your own child.  Your child who you love and adore, value over all others, and who even at their most angry has no comprehension of the fireworks bashing around on the inside of your brain when they’re doing something triggering.  They don’t mean to, and even if they did, the can’t comprehend what it is anyway.  And the whole time you’re being mentally broken by the fireworks of panic, you have to maintain at least some degree of composure because there are little human lives depending on you to parent them.

I have, at various points, been triggered by all three of my children in different ways.

It doesn’t happen all the time.  If I’m feeling at my most strong and my most healthy I can ride through most things they throw at me.  But if I’m feeling bogged down by the weight of life already, if I’m already struggling to process a stress or anxiety that is really pushing into me, what they add to that load can be incredibly difficult to carry.

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, Rose And Mum And More, Lilly Prospero, Mummy Blogger

Photo credit Counselling

Miss Rose will, when fully enraged (which thankfully is rare) stamp her foot with huge force.  It shakes the floor.  The rage in her beautifully little face, the impact of the foot on the floor,  I feel it.  It hits hard at my chest and catches my breath.  So much of me feels that stamping is a great way for her to externalise her anger without harming anyone or breaking anything.  It’s also a classic child tantrum manoeuvre.  There probably isn’t a child in history who hasn’t stamped at their mother when angry about some perceived injustice.  But I beg her not to do it.  I have, at times of weakness, broken down in tears because of her stamping at me and I cannot tell you how pathetic I feel when that happens.  When I cry it immediately calms her and she comes to me, holds me, and tells me she’s sorry.  The pain of others is something she instinctively needs to fix, and then I feel like an emotional blackmailer and hate myself even more.

Her other move that I struggle with is when she’s being clingy.  I feel her pressing against me where I sit, her arms snaking around me, her fingers pulling at my clothes, her breath wafting against me.  I feel suffocated.  I can’t breathe.  Sometimes it’s fine and I cuddle her back, I know she’s feeling insecure or vulnerable, maybe poorly or sad, and all I want to do is give her the physical comfort she needs.  But sometimes I can’t handle it.  I feel intruded upon, like ownership and control of my body is being taken from me.  I need space.  I have to get away from her.  And how terrible I feel when that happens I cannot express.  Moving away slows my heart rate and usually I am able to come back and give her the cuddle she needs, but in the moment I betray that and I hate myself for it.

In a similar way Baby Boo has triggered me by being so permanently attached to me that I feel out of control of my body.  Violated.  Owned.  I hate it.  I have to put her down, or in the arms of another, and take a break.  When she’s crying and clawing at me I feel my head fog coming and I have to escape.  She’s a tiny baby who knows nothing except her need for comfort from mummy and I run away.  I run away.

My step son triggers me because, in the words of Jonathan McKinney, I cannot show him that I’m the baboon with the biggest, reddest ass.  When he gets angry he will sometimes hit out.  I have taken fists to the face, the arms, the head.  I was kicked in the belly whilst I was pregnant.  I panic.  I cannot handle it.  I’ve been broken to tears and a shaking wreck because the moment those tiny, male fists land on me I just cannot handle it.  I know he’s a little boy not a grown man.  I know I am bigger and stronger.  I know I’m the parent.  But I just break.  I panic.  I am afraid.  The swirling , exploding, fog of fear in my head won’t let me see my own power and strength and instead breaks me into a cowering, woman below the anger of a dominant male.  There are no words for how much I hate myself for that.  I have taken to backing away from him should anger flare up, avoiding the confrontation, and in so doing that I am failing him.  I am failing to parent a child who needs me.  A child I love and am responsible for.

Being triggered is not a joke.  It stops you living your life normally.  When your own child is the one doing the triggering, you take them down with you.

My children aren’t harmed or neglected through this struggle, but they are negatively impacted.  Made to feel that they’re doing something worse than they are, because if I was not being triggered I would be able to handle it so much more successfully and parent them through it.

JJ. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly PRospero Series, Rose And Mum And More,, The Lilly Prospero Series, Mummy Blogger

Photo Credit Greyer Baby

But hitting walls and stamping feet has been a precursor to pain.  Fists to the face have carried genuine weight and power.  Snaking hands and breath on my neck has been followed by violations of my body and self that haunt me.  I wish it were different.

I am not a snowflake.  I am dealing as best as I can with something I can only assume those who joke about triggers have no comprehension of.  And I’m pleased for them.  I wouldn’t wish these triggers on a soul.  I wouldn’t wish panic attacks on anyone.  I wouldn’t wish anyone’s child to be carrying the burden of seeing their mother in that state.

But if you aren’t triggered don’t mock those who are.  Respect what they’re going through.  Because it’s not an easy weight to bare.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

 

The Mum In The Corner With Wine

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

The idea of a children’s birthday party fills me with horror.  The idea of a soft play centre on a busy Saturday makes my teeth hurt.  The idea of socialising with school gate mums who, quite frankly, terrify me is traumatic.

On Saturday we took Miss Rose and Z to a children’s birthday party for a nursery school child at a local soft play centre.

Not only was the traffic horrific but we had to threaten the children repeatedly with not going to the party at all if they didn’t stop being naughty.  Eventually, after some shouting from the boy and some sulking from the girl, we reached an accord, and in slightly irritated tension we arrived.

Inside we were greeted by the smiling mother of the birthday girl, who gratefully accepted the spangly slippers I’d wrapped from Miss Rose and the sparkly headband I’d wrapped from Z, and then the kids vanished into the soft play centre.

“Drink?” asked Jonathan.

Glancing around I observed assorted school gate mums clutching their smoothies and costa coffee cups, chatting amiably as their children screamed maniacally.

“Wine,” I said, for this was one of those soft play centres that is truly the holy grail of children’s birthday parties.  It was attached to a pub.

J.J. Barnes, Rose And Mum And More, Siren Stories, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Photo credit SassySanoe

When Z’s mother arrived, she too opted for a glass of wine, and together the three of us huddled in the corner, drinking our booze and eating crisps.

Little girls in flowery dresses and lacy ankle socks with ribbonned braids ran past us with Miss Rose in her jeans, t-shirt and scruffy short mop of hair in tow.  Little boys jumped and crashed with Z roaring”DIE!” at various hanging foam strips as he beat them to death with his fists.  Baby Boo watched everything suspiciously, scrambled over to a foam mounted mirror, and proceeded to snog her reflection.

We sat in the corner, drinking wine, and eating crisps.

When the meal time came Miss Rose announced that she loves carrots but doesn’t like the cooked ones.  Z was fuming that baked bean juice had contaminated his chips and tried to insist his mum or Jonathan sucked his food clean.  They refused.  And drank more.

I had moved on to coca cola, but guzzled it enthusiastically, aiming for a suitable caffeine buzz.

Overall the party was a resounding success.  Tantrums over wanting to be bought toys from the grabber machines, and howling wails of despair at having to leave aside, it went well.  We survived it.  The kids had fun, the birthday girl was happy, the parents I did interact with were pleasant.  Indeed, I managed to get into a conversation with a lost looking father about how one of the four year olds in the world now is the next Mark Zuckerbourg so we should try and be nice to our kids in case it’s them.  No other reason, obvs.

So far I’ve avoided all children’s birthday parties, and I am not keen to repeat the experience.  However, it was doable.  It was survivable.  And it made our children happy, and what really is better than that.

I’m hoping Miss Rose’s birthday requests continue to be going out for curry, however, because that is far more my idea of a good time.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

8 Things I Learned From My Book Party

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

I attended my very first book release party on Tuesday.  Not just any book release party, the book release party for my own book.

As well as food and drink, laughter and fun, books being signed and photos being taken, there are things that I learned.

1. Getting glammed up is fun.

J.J. Barnes, Sirens Launch, Siren Stories, Rose And Mum And More, Lilly Prospero And The Magic RabbitI work from home as I write for a living.  I don’t go out much because I’m a tired mum.  When I do go out it’s usually for a curry.  Getting glamorous isn’t my natural state, at least not anymore.  When I was younger it was, but those days are long gone.

At 4PM, Miss Rose and I had appointments at the salon to get our hair done for the party so we could be at our most glamorous.

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, Sirens Launch, Rose And Mum And More, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit

Miss Rose had requested Rainbow Hair so we went armed with a box of hair chalks and my goodness she looked incredible.

For me I simply said “I’m not glamorous… but I want to be!”

My head is not used to be primped at and pulled around so it was an odd experience but one that resulted in some gorgeous hair full of golden butterflies that Lilly Prospero herself would be proud of.J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, Sirens Launch, Rose and Mum And More, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit

When I got home and did my make up, got the girls into their new dresses and me into mine, I actually felt pretty fabulous.  I admired myself.  I looked nice.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to start making all this effort normally, leggings and slippers is something I am very comfortable with as a fashion choice, but every so often it’s fun to feel glamorous.

2. I am not a natural party animal.

In the build up to the party I was frantically busy.  Media had to be alerted, food had to be chosen, decorations organised.  There were meetings to meet at, interviews to conduct, invitations to send.  The build up I felt quite natural at, I felt quite confident.  Even on the day I felt alright, getting ready to leave was fun.  But then it was actually time to go.

Driving my children and Jonathan McKinney to The Swan Hotel in Stafford, where the event was being held, was one of the worst driving experiences of my life.  I was physically shaking.  I felt sick.  My eyes hurt, my head hurt.  My hairdo felt too tight, my dress felt too restrictive, I struggled to breathe.  I wanted to go home.

Most people headed to the most important party of their lives that they’ve been working so hard towards would feel like Jonathan McKinney felt; excited and happy.  Me?  No.  I felt like I was dying.

Jon was calming and gentle.  Focus on one thing at a time, he said.  All I had to do at that moment was drive us to The Swan.  It’s a drive I’d done loads of times, a drive I know really well.  That was all that I was doing.  Just focus on that.

3.  Our products are bloody brilliant!

It’s easy to get anxious about what it is you’re offering the world when it’s about to be presented on such a grand scale.  What if the books are rubbish?  What if the merchandise is crap?J.J. Barnes, Jonathan McKinney, Siren Stories, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit, Emily The Master Enchantress

As we posed in front of our book covers, smiling as people snapped various pictures of us, I realised that actually these books are fantastic!  People there were fans, people who’d read one or both books, and loved them enough to come and celebrate them with us and tell newbies all about them.

It was an odd surge in confidence.  One I greatly needed.  I smiled and I actually felt quite confident for the first time that evening!J.J. Barnes. Jonathan McKinney, Sirens Launch, Siren Stories, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit, Emily The Master Enchantress

Our books looked good on the shelves around the room, the posters celebrating our books and quotes from inside looked brilliant.  The Siren Stories mugs put out as gifts for the guests looked beautiful and the whole room was looking ready to do it’s job.

4. Our family are so very proud.

My parents, his parents, my grandparents, and his brother all came.  Family showed up from miles away to support us.J.J. BArnes, Siren Stories, Rose And Mum And More, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit  They were genuinely proud.

Jonathan McKinney and I both come from successful families.  Our brothers are all in careers where people are able to go “wow” and “ooh” when our parents talk about their accomplishments.  Until now we have been unpublished struggling writers, and none of that gives the required “ooh”.

It hasn’t stopped our families being proud, indeed my mum and dad have found reasons to brag about me my entire life, even when I’ve seen nothing there worth bragging about, they have always found something.  And I’m a major screw up so they’ve had to be damn determined at times.  But bless them, no matter what, they’ve always succeeded.

At this party I finally felt that their pride was justified.  That my mum’s smiling face as she posed for photos with me was deserved.  Sure, we’re not hugely successful yet and our debut novels are mostly unknown, but they’re there.  We’ve achieved something huge.  My mum can hold her head high now when people ask how I’m doing, and she can brag about more than my ability to eat an entire 15″ pizza alone in one sitting.

Our parents have published authors for children.  They can be proud of us.  And they are.

5. High heels are the invention of the devil.

I used to go out dancing in high heels until 4 in the morning.  I used to wear high heels to work in an office.  I used to wear high heels just for the fun of it because they’re so pretty.  I own a collection of high heels so beautiful and sky scraping that Carrie Bradshaw would be proud.

I wore some comparatively low high heels to the party.  Black, sparkly, gorgeous.  They went perfectly with my dress.

One blister, one agonising ingrowing toenail, and one twisted ankle later I furiously removed the stupid things and stuffed them under a chair.  Evil.

6. Working Mums are always on mum duty.

Miss Rose is usually asleep between 6 and 6.30 every night.  She gets tired and she asks for bed.  She thrives on routine and structure, her stories and sleep being an essential part of the day she looks forward to.  She never asks to stay up late.

Adrenaline carried her far.  We arrived at 6, the party started at 7.  As things were set up she and Z charged around excitedly, posed for family photos, and played with the toys they had brought.  As people arrived she was admired by strangers, cuddled by friends and family.  She had been looking forward to this party for weeks, telling everyone she knew about it, and thrilled to finally be there.

At half past 8 she crashed and she crashed hard.

Grandma was deployed to step into the breach and get her home for a Grandma sleepover.  But getting her out to the car involved her screaming hysterically, begging not leave me, and being carried out of the party so I could hold her in my lap and calm her down as she desperately sobbed and begged me to go with her.

Then there was Baby Boo.  Throughout the evening I was stopping to give her cuddles and the occasional breastfeed, but she was, for the most part, remarkably contented being handed between her nanny and her grandma and various family and friends.  She had photos, ate spring rolls, and generally loved every moment.

Then we went live on Facebook to announce the winner of a signed copy of Emily The Master Enchantress.

Then she started to scream.

If you check out the Siren Stories page and watch our video, you’ll hear Boo in the background, then witness me disappear as soon as Jonathan starts signing to book, and return moments later with a newly calmed Boo in my arms.

I spent most of the rest of the party sitting down, cradling her and feeding her.  She had reached her limits too but, unlike Miss Rose, couldn’t be whisked away by Grandma.

7. Despite my fear, the party was a success.

As I looked around the room and snapped photos for social media, I realised something.  Everyone was smiling.

JJ. Barnes, Jonathan McKinney, Siren Stories, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit, Emily The Master EnchantressJonathan chatted to fans and friends with his trademark amiable smile, easy and engaging conversation, and generosity of spirit.  Everywhere I looked there were smiles and enthusiasm.

The food was good, and it was eaten enthusiastically.  The waiters carrying around drinks were friendly and charming, the drinks were delicious.

Everywhere I went people greeted me warmly, asked me to sign books and pose for photos.  Nobody looked bored or like they wished they hadn’t come.J.J. Barnes, Jonathan McKinney, Siren Stories, Rose and Mum And More, Lilly PRospero And The Magic Rabbit, Emily The MasterEnchantress

Proof reader Zoe was laughing her head off with her friends and taking selfies.  Illustrator Sarah had managed to get there despite recent knee surgery and was drinking and chatting with a huge smile on her face.  Friends were meeting for the first time and sharing thoughts on our books, bits that they liked most, parts that brought them to tears.

Despite my greatest fears, despite my head being full of fireworks of panic I was desperately trying to ignore, the party was a success.

8. I’m going to have to do it all again.

The releases of Lilly Prospero And The Mermaid’s Curse by me, and The Fundamental Miri Mnene by Jonathan McKinney will coincide again, and so forth will come another release party.

Will I be so nervous next time?

Probabably.

Let’s be honest, the likelihood is I’ll never get full used to this.  My natural habitat is that of a hermit, locked up quietly in a room with a laptop, some jazz music playing quietly in the background, and a steaming cup of coffee at my side.

But perhaps somewhere beneath the fear of impending vomit will be the memory of the success of this party.  The memory that fans, old and new, have wanted to gather to celebrate this occasion.  The knowledge that the positivity we received has not gone away.

Next time will be another fabulous dress, another spread of delicious food, and another party full of books to be signed.

But for now I’ll ride high on the experience of last time, and put the fact I’ve got to go through it all again out of my mind.  Because it was brilliant.  And it’s not every day you get to attend a party celebrating your first novel.

I’ll never get a first book party again, I’ll never write a first novel again.  So I’m glad this one happened with such a lovely evening to commemorate it.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!

Nanny The Weekend Dad

J.J. Barnes, Siren Stories, The Lilly Prospero Series, Rose And Mum And More, Mummy Blogger, Parenting Blog

Click to visit the Siren Stories website and read more work by J.J. Barnes and check out her latest novels.

Grandparents can be incredibly important and special people in the lives of children.  They love you as much as your parents do, but they don’t have to do all the telling off and rule making.  Their cuddles are just as good and they come with sweets before dinner.

That said, for my two bigs, my daughter Miss Rose and my step son Z, their grandmothers have become something even more than a traditional grandparent role.

Since he was 7 months old Z has spent weekdays with his grandma as both his parents work full time.  She did his naps, his meals, his bath times.  She took him to playgroups and taught him to ride a bike.  Whilst she would never replace his parents in his heart, she very much became a third parental figure in his life.  Not a grandma for naughty treats and visits, but a consistent and depended on parent figure to do disciplining and raising as well.

In Z’s life, where he is bumped from his mother’s home to his father’s home to his grandmother’s home, it is a positive.  Knowing he sees every home he spends time in as a place here a parent he depends on is, it gives him security everywhere and doesn’t leave him pining for something that is missing.

For Miss Rose her relationship with her nanny, my mother, is something different again.  Last night is struck us exactly what it is.

As Miss Rose sat on the stairs, clutching a photograph of her nanny to her chest, and sobbing huge tears of sadness, we realised something.

Nanny is her weekend dad.

When her biological father left, my mum stepped in to become something he had taken with him.  Whilst I was on the verge of a mental breakdown, struggling not only with the collapse of my marriage, the vanishing of my husband and the sudden thrust into single parenthood, but also existing mental health issues, my mum became her dad.  When I needed help my mum was it.  When I was struggling to pay for things, my mum paid.  When I needed a break my mum cared for her.  When I needed to make a parenting decision, it was my mum I made it with.

In Miss Rose’s world, where her real father disappeared, my mother stepped in.  Where my mother stepped in she became daddy number 2.  She didn’t fill the void left by her father, but she came close.

Photo Credit Hannah Pirnie

Photo Credit Hannah Pirnie

My mum was depended on in a way more than a grandmother for visits.  Much like Z and his grandma, nanny became one of Miss Rose’s parents.

Then I met The Boy.

When The Boy came into her life he didn’t take the daddy role immediately.  He was a stranger and my mother was already there.  Indeed, he’s spoken about how he often felt he had to be conscious of not treading on her parenting toes with Rose, far more than he felt it about mine.  He couldn’t overstep his mark because my mum was the protective parent, and he was the newbie.

However, over time The Boy became Daddy.  He is now depended on as much as any biological father would be.  He does the fun, the games, the discipline and the worry.  He loves her, cares for her, raises her.  It’s he who steps in when I need help.  It’s he who I discuss my parenting concerns with.  He is daddy.

But that means my mother and I had to break up.  My mum had to stop being the father figure to allow The Boy to take that job.  My mum became the weekend dad.

When her biological father used to visit, sporadically though it was, Miss Rose would immediately have a breakdown as soon as he left.  She would scream and cry and tantrum, she would break her heart and take out her frustration and confusion about his leaving on me.  Now when my mother leaves it’s the same deal.

Nanny does everything a weekend dad does, both good and bad.  Nanny spoils her, taking her for trips and buying her ice cream.  Nanny helps financially paying for things she needs.  Nanny comforts her, gives her someone to depend on.  It’s Nanny she cries for when Mummy and Daddy have thwarted her.  Nanny loves her fiercely, is loyal to a fault, and puts Rose’s needs in the forefront of her mind like any good parent would.  But sometimes Nanny promises to show up and has to cancel.  Nanny makes decisions that I, as the mother, have to over rule and become the bad guy in.  Nanny disagrees with parenting choices I make and has to be shot down because I’m the one who would deal with the consequences.  Nanny comes and goes.

Nanny and I broke up as parents of Rose, and it’s Rose who’s living with the consequences.  Nothing about her grandmothering would be out of place in a regular grandmother, but in the light of her stepping in as a daddy role, it leaves Miss Rose grieving for the absent father who is still in her life;my mother.  She is left with an open wound from her biological father, and now a constant scratching from her second father.

Her third father and I promise her we love her, promise her we’re here for her, and give her the consistency and stability she needs and craves.  She is better for us being together and, over time, my mother will morph from daddy number two into just a grandmother.  Over time she’ll be able to wave goodbye to my mum with a smile and a cuddle, and not break into little pieces because her heart is being ripped out by the absence.  She is only four years old and my mother was who she depended on second only to me for a huge portion of her life and it’s still very fresh.  Over time it will ease.

Photo credit PeziBear

Photo credit PeziBear

But until then we have to try to understand what she’s going through.  When she reacted like this to her biological father’s absence, when he expressed his opinions on her raising and we disagreed, it was a given.  We understood it, we expected it.  We hadn’t fully taken into account that it is the same emotions raging through Miss Rose where my mum is concerned and it’s something we need to respect.

I am so very grateful to my mum for being so essential in Rose’s life and caring for her as much as she does, she is and always has been an incredible parent, to both me and Miss Rose.  I am so grateful that The Boy has stepped in to become the father she truly needs and deserves.  And together we are all muddling through trying to raise a little girl to be happy, and dealing with the complexities of a patchwork family that so many of us are facing in our own unique ways.

You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.

Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!