Monday, 23 November 2015

The Gruffalo and Other Parenting Disappointments

Before I became a parent, I had very idealistic ideas about how I would spend my days with my children.

If you type into Google Images 'Mother baking with children', 'mother at the park' and 'mother shopping with kids', you will see all these ideas in their full, unapologetic naivety.

In short, our days would be filled with bread making, painting and dancing around the living room like the family at the end of the Disney film Enchanted (if you haven't seen it, the fact that it's a Disney film should give you some idea. As a brief synopsis; no magnetic trains strewn across the floor or playdough trodden into the carpet. No Bing on the TV. Both parents look the opposite of tired and stressed out. The daughter is twirling and dancing about and definitely not saying things like “come and look at my big poo” (a genuine request of my husband, from our eldest, yesterday)).

Anyway I digress.

Apart from the fact that I never realised parenthood would involve invites to stare down the toilet at my children's excrement, there have been some huge disappointments for me in this whole parenting lark:

1. The Gruffalo. Now it's not The Gruffalo himself who is the disappointment. But, as a teacher, and really, a human, I adore the story of The Gruffalo. And having taught it and read it for years to the point where I can recite it off the top of my head, I have never met a child who doesn't like it.
Enter child number one. Who hates The Gruffalo. Who is scared of the Gruffalo. Who will happily read all the other pages of the book, except the ones on which there is an illustration of The Gruffalo. Who, therefore, will not entertain notions of The Gruffalo's Child. Grrrrrrr.

2. Baking. Now perhaps it is just my child. But we have only just got to the point, at three years old, where baking lasts more than ten minutes and the boy shows enthusiasm for more than just the eating part. Previous to, pretty much this week, baking had involved the following steps:

a) Me saying “shall we bake biscuits?”

b) R hearing 'biscuits' and saying a very enthusiastic “yes”

c) Me gathering all ingredients and weighing them out whilst...

d) R plays with the biscuit cutters and asks “how many minutes?”

e) R pouring ingredients into bowl, spilling a lot on the floor/ worktop/ himself/ me

f) R asking “how many minutes?”

g) R stirring ingredients around bowl, spilling a lot on the floor/ worktop/ himself/ me

h) Me stirring and bringing the dough together whilst...

i) R dips his finger in the bowl and tastes the dough repeatedly

j) Me shaking flour onto the worktop

k) R spreading flour all over the worktop/ floor/ himself/ me.......

And so on. He used to get ridiculously bored after flicking flour all over the kitchen. Then I cleaned it all up. Then he ate the biscuits.

3. Crafts. Specifically painting. I always envisaged that this would take up a good hour of our (sometimes seemingly never ending) days. In reality it takes more time to get all the sodding stuff out than it does to actually produce the painting. To add to the joy of crafts with a toddler, I'm a Virgo which means I'm a bit of a perfectionist. So when R is painting and chooses to dip the paintbrush in every colour before applying the greying-browny mess to the paper, or mixes the playdough colours (*gasp*) I have to stamp all over my inner OCD goddess and remind myself that he's only three and he's just exploring. But still. It is not the mother, son painting extravanganzas I see on Google Images.

4. Soft Play. If you read my recent soft play post, you'll know how much I enjoy (ahem) soft play. The main issue with my parenting expectation versus parenting reality of soft play is actually me. My parenting expectation was that I would be positively thrilled and beside myself with glee, running through the too-small foam tunnels and diving into too-shallow ball pits. The reality is that I'm effing tired and the whole reason I go to soft play is for the big padded maze to entertain my children whilst I try not to fall asleep over my latte because the baby is teething and is a bit anti-sleep at the moment.

Thankfully there is one hugely important aspect of parenting which has not disappointed me and has more than made up for the fact that I do not look like a sultry-but-cute Nigella Lawson when cooking with my kids:

My kids.

They make me tired. They make me frustrated. They make me yearn for a wee in peace and for the Tweenies to retire.

But they also make me smile. They make me happy. They make me proud.

And maybe, one day, they might even like the Gruffalo.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Why I'll Let My Children Cry

The other evening, my three year old screamed and screamed at me. He refused to move from the pile of washing I was trying to put into the washing machine.

I asked him nicely.

Then I gave him a reminder.

Then I gave him a warning.

And finally I got out.......THE TIMER!

Now, just to clarify, 'the timer' is a rubbishy little wooden thing that you'd use for cooking. We don't sit our three year old in a particular place to endure the timer, but we do ignore him for the duration of the whole three minutes.

But, for some reason (probably the fact we ignore him and don't give him any attention), he detests the timer. We have had it out on only three occasions and each time he kicks it, pushes it over and cries until it runs out.

But then?

We stop ignoring him. We cuddle him and we explain why we are sad. We hug him so so tight.

And guess what he does?

He says sorry. He acknowledges that he didn't do as he was asked.

Would it matter if he didn't move from my pile of washing? Of course not. But if he doesn't learn to do as we ask when we want him to move off the washing, will he learn to listen when we ask him to stop running into the road on our next trip to the shop? Will he learn to do as we ask when we ask him to stop jumping innocently on his brother who, at nine months, is unable to hold up his own body weight, let alone anyone else's?

We are not trying to make him submissive (if we are, we are failing miserably because he is a feisty little thing who makes demands of us daily like “fetch me some ice water” - actual words which have left his mouth).

But we are trying to teach him boundaries. And these are mostly a) for his safety and b) to make him a nice person who thinks about his actions affect others.

We have a wonderfully stubborn little boy (don't know where he gets that from....ahem....Daddy) and he is very much 'give an inch, take a mile'. So we have to be strict with ourselves too.

And sometimes, this means we have to let him cry and scream round Aldi because they have only got Haribo mix bags and not huge packs of just Haribo cola bottles. How dare they?!

So, if our babies are hurt or sad or need us for whatever reason, we will be there to dry their tears.

But if our babies are crying because we have refused to buy them six iced buns to eat round Sainsbury? Unfortunately, we will let them cry.

Because we are teaching them boundaries.

And sometimes they don't like that.

We all know how they feel. I hate people telling me what to do. But it is a fact of life that I constantly follow rules. I follow rules at work. I follow the laws of society.

Though it still totally sucks when someone wont let you have six iced buns.

A Bit Of Everything

Mummy Guilt: Let It Go

The other day, I had a visit from a friend who had a month old baby. As she left, I told her to take care of herself and sleep when she could.

She replied “I'll try. And I'll try to stop feeling so guilty that the eldest is watching so much iPad”.

I remember texting another friend almost exactly the same after the birth of my second.

And there it is; constant Mummy guilt.

We feel guilty about everything.

About not spending as much time with the eldest when the second baby arrives.

About not spending as much one on one time with the youngest as we were able to with the eldest.

About going back to work.

About not going back to work and not contributing financially to the household.

About leaving the kids in front of the TV for an hour so we can make a lasagne from scratch.

About giving them McDonalds for dinner again.

About letting them watch too much 'crazy-lady-opening-Kinder-eggs' on YouTube.

About finding the eldest dancing on the dining table whilst the youngest naps, because we've nodded off on the sofa through sleep deprivation. (This is actually not my story but my Mother's. The 'eldest' is me at three years old. In her defence, she only had four TV channels, none of which were showing kids programmes. YouTube wasn't even a 'thing', so no chance of having 'crazy-lady-opening-Kinder-eggs' babysit whilst she closed her eyes. Parents now - we don't know we're born).

But you know what we should do?

In the words of Elsa.......


Seriously. I am not scarred for life because, as a three year old, I tapped out a dance routine on the dining table whilst no one paid me the slightest bit of attention. My eldest does not appear emotionally damaged because I returned to work when he was ten months old.

Children need love and affection, boundaries and cuddles. Life is about balance. If your child has worn pyjamas for two weeks and has been fed KFC for every meal then maybe stand back and take stock. Ask for help.

But if you've spent the baby's nap time snuggling on the sofa with the eldest, watching Ice Age again instead of painting up a storm or making playdough; THAT'S OK. You are doing a fantastic job and your child is enjoying cuddles and love and affection.

So, about that guilt?

Let it go.
My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows

Who Do I Love Most?

As I sit here on a weekend break with my husband, kissing like teenagers (not literally as I type!), enjoying each other's company and remembering why we had our children in the first place, I'm reminded of an article I read just after having our first child.

You see, I'm also missing our children. Really missing them. Totally enjoying the hot tub, not watching cBeebies and looking forward to the full night's sleep. But missing them.

And I remember reading an article a few months after the birth of our first child, written by a woman who was wondering whether she was suffering with postnatal depression. And one of the motivations for her wondering this, was that she felt she loved her husband more than her newborn baby.

And so I sit here, sipping Cava and snacking on olives, child free and tired at 6pm, wondering......

Who do I love more?

My husband came first. Without Mr H there would be no children. The love I feel for him was the catalyst for having children. After three weeks of seeing him, I told one of my best friends; “I'm going to marry him.”

But it took less than three seconds to know I'd die for my children.

Does this mean I love them more? Because I felt love more quickly for them? Because I carried them inside me? Because they are literally a part of me?

Well, no.

Does it mean that I should love my husband more because he 'got there first'? Because I loved him more than I'd ever loved anyone before?

Well, no.

Because what I've realised is that it's perfectly natural and normal to love in different ways.

My relationship with my husband is based on mutual love, understanding, lust (sorry Mum!) and the fact that we are individual souls, consciously entering into this union. We didn't choose to fall in love but we did choose to maintain independence, interests and friendships exclusive of our relationship.

But with my children? They are totally dependent on me. They rely on me entirely and, without me, they would fail to thrive. I have to provide for them; physically and emotionally. When I gave birth to them it became my job to give them everything they need.

And it is the best job in the world. It is frustrating, tiring and challenging. But rewarding and wonderful all at the some time.

My relationship with my children is one of responsibility (mine), dependency (theirs) and love (both).

My relationship with my husband is one of co-responsibility (both), co-dependency ( both) and love (both).

Who do I love more?

No contest.

It's a different kind of love. But its always from the bottom of my heart, with every fibre of my being.

Husband, baby one, baby two; I love you all equally, in totally differently wonderful ways.

Because you are all equal.

All different.

All wonderful.

Pink Pear Bear

Run Jump Scrap!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Making Waves

I want my children to know they can do anything. So I wrote this for them:

Cuddle Fairy

To My Children, After Paris

Sometimes, my darling children, things will happen in this world
Things which make us terrified and sad
It's not my job to shield you from these horrifying truths
But to show you good will ALWAYS conquer bad.

For sometimes small minorities will choose to do great wrong
And when they do brave innocents will fall
But watch the vast majority when all these things occur,
You'll see the world is standing strong and tall.

For in the aftermath of bad, when evil's left its mark
And hopes to grow and spread and breed contempt,
You'll hear the personal stories of the people who survived
Tales of life and love not hate and death.

Sometimes people lose their lives through evil circumstance
But rest assured their deaths are not in vain
This world will always stand up and unite against the bad
And kindness, love and goodness WILL prevail.