Mother to Mother

It’s surprising how often one or two words can spark a whole poem. In a workshop, I was encouraged to think about or research some wonderful words to do with the shore. It was actually the words “chert and flint” which sparked this poem – and no, they’re not a pair of 1970s detectives, they’re the materials found in pebbles such as these in Seatown, Dorset.

The resulting poem, “Mother to Mother” is told in the voice of that great mother, the sea. She is speaking to a human mother, who may or may not be me. 😉

Beach at Seatown, Dorset

Mother to Mother 

At my shore, where you are drawn to grow lighter,
I load my spring currents with new stones to shine.
I grab steely chert,
pale flint with pleasing speckles,
nuggets of crumby sea-wall.
They are mine. They are mine.

As you lift your teary son from his waterlogged wellies,
you smile at how weighted his jacket now is
with stripey-lined feldspar
and palm-ready axe-heads:
soothing jewels to line his bed with.
They are his, they are his.

Some days, I admit, I take swipes of red cliff-mud,
with or without a caravan thrown in.
But I am a caretaker,
a guardian of mixed treasures.
I smooth jagged edges.
We are kin, we are kin. 

This poem was first published by Reach Poetry (Indigo Dreams Publishing).

The workshop that inspired this poem was run by the very inspiring Anna Saunders.

Photo by me, at Seatown in 2021. One day later, the cliff you can see behind the rocks collapsed in an enormous landslip, hence the “swipes of red cliff-mud”. The boy on the rocks belongs to me 😉



You Don’t Have My Children

Every child is different – of course every child is different. But as parents to an autistic eight year old, and a headstrong four year old who doesn’t see why he should be treated differently to his brother, we have to play by slightly different parenting rules. And we have to get used to looks that say “Oh, just show him who’s boss!” “Make him join in!” “Don’t pander to him!”

But we can be headstrong too.

You Don’t Have My Children

To those who say
“Bundle them in! They’ll soon fit –
they’re kids! They’ll adapt in a bit!”
To those who say
“Make them conform to the norm –
it’s lonely outside of the swarm!”
To those who say
“Just tell them no if they throw
in a meltdown – and never give in!”
To those who say
“Stubborn persistence delivers
the payload of good discipline!”

I say, maybe your parenting skills outplay mine
and that’s fine…
but you don’t have my children.


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Growing Boy

In “George’s Marvellous Medicine”, eight year old George’s gruesome Grandma declares that growing is  “a nasty childish habit”.

Now as the one who has to fund the growth of an almost eight year old boy… well… let’s say she had a point.

Growing Boy

He is not even eight,
But he eats like a bear,
Pile it up on his plate –
In a blink, it’s not there!
So I hide all the snacks,
(He’d consume the whole pack),
But I cannot, I cannot keep up!

As his belly peeps out
Of his nearly-new tops,
And yet MORE ankle sprouts
From his trousers, I shop
Like a ninja on speed
For the clothes that he needs…
Yet I cannot, I cannot keep up!

And those telescope toes
Punching holes in each sock,
Mean I’ll pay through the nose
For more shoes… Should I lock
Up the fridge, nice and tight?
Feed him shrink-pills at night??
For I CANNOT, I cannot keep up!

© Nina Parmenter 2018

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Photo by Enrico Mantegazza on Unsplash

Perplexing Child

We know that part of the reason for our success as a race is our diversity. And yet, we still sometimes don’t know how to cope with difference. Especially amongst our children.

Faced with sensitive children, artistic children, gifted children, ADHD children, autistic children – we’re tempted to try to homogenise them, make them conform, quash what makes them brilliant. Because, as much as we desperately love them, what makes them brilliant can also make them a huge, perplexing challenge.

Perplexing Child 

My brave, perplexing child – you are unique,
You do not touch the world like others do.
The words we say, our rules, the things we seek,

They’re all a strange cacophony to you.

What does life feel like, there behind your eyes,
Your mouth, your nose, your fingertips, your ears?
If I could breathe your breath, what fresh surprise

would hide within your thoughts, your dreams, your fears?

You challenge life. You rail against the norm,
Within this world that needs us all compliant,
You’ll blossom, though, while they rush to conform,

You’ll grow in your own skin, become a giant.

One day you’ll burn magnificently bright,Until then, there’s a world we have to fight.


©️ Nina Parmenter 2018

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You cannot beat a stick

My children have some great toys so  I feel a mixture of delight and slight irritation when they abandon them all for sticks.

No trip to a woodland, romp round a stately home, or quick pee in a layby is complete for my children without harvesting a stick. Gun-shaped sticks are among the most prized, although fights regularly break out over a good “staff”.

I am totally without scruples when it comes to disposing of them – however a 2 minute run round my house revealed the booty shown in the photograph. Yes. The sticks are winning.

You cannot beat a stick

Toy companies are pretty sly,
Their flashy ads are slick,
But still they cannot fathom why,

Soft Play

For many Mums, a trip to soft play is a good excuse for a sit-down and a chat. Not for me. My three year old drags me round the teeny tiny assault course with all the energy of – well a three year old.

I am therefore massively grateful to Sarah McIntosh for requesting a soft play poem -Sarah, composing this literally kept me sane as I crawled round Little Urchins for an hour and a half this afternoon, so thank you!

Soft Play

Soft play will be nice,” I think,
I’ll sit and drink some tea,
But then I hear the words I fear,
“Mummy! play with me!”

Doesn’t this boy realise,
I’m not the size of Frodo?
I’ll come out, weeping, all scrunched up,
Like Mummy Quasimodo.

I can’t go down the bumpy slide,
My dodgy back can’t take it,
I can’t go down the tube slide,
Cos my arse just will not make it.

I can’t go through the rollers,
Man, they really hurt my boobs,
I can’t go up the zig zag steps,
(Well, not without some lube).

I can’t go in the playhouse,
As I’m over three foot two,
And also I might suffocate,
Cos someone’s done a poo.

The ball pit is a dangerous place,
I’m really much too big,
At best, I’ll flatten all the balls,
At worst, somebody’s kid.

“Why don’t you play with Jack?” I beg,
“Your bestest friend from nursery?”
“No, Mummy, I want YOU”, he pouts,
My boy shows me no mercy.

So on I go, across the bridge,
And up the cargo net,
Let’s face it, it’s the only
exercise I ever get.


©️ Nina Parmenter 2018

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Nothing makes me mutter more than clutter

I hate clutter. That may surprise anyone who has ever visited my house. But what’s important to realise is that there is a difference between wanting a tidy house and being able to achieve it.

I have friends with grown up, tidy houses. Friends with grown up, tidy houses AND KIDS. I’m at a loss as to how this is achieved. I’m guessing the crucial ingredients are a domestic goddess mother, and a well-trained, or at least trainable family. Here, we have neither.

So it seems that I am doomed to wake up each day, vow to have A BIG TIDY UP, sometimes even achieve a middle-sized tidy up, and then go to bed wondering which house it was that I tidied earlier.

This poem,  if you’d be so kind, is to be read with a hint of insanity in the voice. Thank you so much.

Nothing makes me mutter more than clutter

Nothing makes me mutter more than clutter,
It’s the very ruination of my day,
My family, no doubt, really LOVE to get stuff out,

But I think they think it puts itself away.

I tell you, I’m not blessed with being domestic –
For tidiness, I’d give myself a six,
But my precious family would each earn themselves a three,

Which all adds up to a house which makes me twitch.

There are ninety-seven items in the kitchen,
Which are not where I intended them to be,
In the lounge there’s fifty-four, in the dining room there’s more,

In the playroom, there’s two hundred, maybe three.

There are pens and bills and helmets on the table,
There are bricks and cups and spanners on the drawers,
And upon the window sill, there’s a pile of stuff that will

Have to stay there til I work out what it’s for.

In the bedroom, there is very little legroom,
In the hallway there is very little hope,
In the bathroom, so much stuff, there is barely room to guff,

And I don’t know how much longer I can cope.

So I’ve tidied and I’ve picked up and I’ve kicked up,
I’ve ranted til I’m purple in the face,
But as soon as somewhere’s clear, there’s just one sound I will hear…

The clatter as more clutter takes its place.


By the way – if you were thrown by the word “guff”, do let me know – I’m not sure if this delightful term for a fart is only understood by those who were around seven years old in 1984. Could even be a Somerset thing, I’m not sure!

I do have in my pocket the alternative line “There is barely any fart-room in the bathroom – which I quite like – but I was swayed by the opportunity to say “guff” for the first time in around twenty years!


©️ Nina Parmenter 2018

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Let’s talk about schadmin

Schadmin… school related admin. Yet another thing they don’t tell you before you have children.

Aside from eating, breathing and sleeping (and of course, writing silly poetry), I could spend every minute of the day complying with the endless rounds of homework, reply slips, charity requests, baking, and last minute laundry which comes with having a school-age child. I also find it essential to schedule in some time for looking bewildered, shaking my head quietly in a corner, or simply wondering to myself where it all went wrong.

Oh, and by the way, this rhyme doesn’t even mention “creative homework”. THAT little baby deserves a rhyme all of its own…

Let’s talk about schadmin

Let’s talk about schadmin, the admin that comes,
Not for the schoolkids but for their poor mums,
Who some  years ago, once exclaimed (the poor fools),

“Won’t life be easier once they’re at school?”

Let’s start with the homework – now that should be fine,
But hang on, what’s this? Got to do it online?
You can’t start your router, you’ve crashed your computer,
Smile Mummy! This is the digital future!
So while you untangle yourself from the cables,
You practise the reading, the spelling, times tables,
Oh yes, and tonight you must also produce,
A piece of research about Robert the Bruce,
The human anatomy labelled in braille,
A knitted giraffe (for the PTA sale),
And favourite of all, just found in the drawers is:

“Write fifteen lines with subordinate clauses”!

But it’s done. They’re in bed, and you start to feel better,
Best check the bags though. Hey presto! Six letters.
It seems that next week you’ve been asked to provide,
A “green” picnic lunch with no wrappers inside,
A world book day costume which celebrates Dickens,
(You’ve got a hen costume – did Dickens have chickens?)
Ten pounds for a school trip and warm outdoor clothes,
With waterproof trousers (whoever has THOSE?)
A tray full of cupcakes, all nice and enticing,
(“Why not let the children help out with the icing?”)
A pound for the book sale, a pound for the fair,

And a pound cos some teacher is shaving their hair.

Well after all that, you say “that’s it for me!”
“I’m off to my bed.” – but what’s THIS that you see?
A stinking PE kit thrown down in the hall,
It’s needed tomorrow – yes, washed, dried and all,
(There was once a spare kit but “Mummy, I lost it.”
– it’s probably still in the hedge where they tossed it.)
Some shoes and a coat which are utterly caked
(from commando crawls over the field at break)
And a jumper with mystery holes in the cuff,
Wasn’t the massive school dinner enough??
So as you load washing, and sew, half asleep,

You’re starting to babble and quietly weep.

Let’s talk about schadmin, the admin that comes,
Not for the schoolkids but for the poor mums,
Who are now fast asleep, with signs that say “Please,
Wake me up after the GCSEs.”


©️ Nina Parmenter 2017

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