me, Me, ME!!!


This was M’s most used phrase aged 18 months. It’s been usurped a bit by “me now” and “me want that” but you get the drift.  No different to most toddlers I know (hope).

Recently my three year old T has been pioneering the phrase “You do it; it’s your job” when asked to tidy toys etc.  It’s bound to catch on – it’s so catchy.  My shock and horror doesn’t seem to have the desired effect.  Shock and horror rarely do I guess.

Well this morning I had what I hope it is an epiphany.  They learn most from copying but perhaps the copying isn’t always as you’d hope or expect.

Maybe they’re learning as much from my second class approach to my needs as they are from my kindness and consideration towards them.  Maybe I am in danger of martyr motherhood?  Am I carving out a niche I don’t want?  What’s cute aged 3 may really hack me off at 13???

As I pondered this I sat down and enjoyed my breakfast slowly.  Despite the mess. Despite the jobs. On the way back from playgroup I got myself some new makeup (rather than some different shaped pasta for them – for them to cry and scream at when I cook it obviously).  I told them I was having a treat.  Apparently they were too but there wasn’t one.  To be fair they didn’t push.  They were too gobsmacked.  What did Mummy need with a treat? I thought she was a machine?

And this afternoon I will try and use the phrase “Hang on a minute I am just enjoying talking to Jo” at least three times. Assuming Jo brings her little boy round as planned, otherwise it’ll just be weird.

T was really confused by the chilling with my breakfast thing.  So much so I thought I must do this every Thursday.  Every Thursday?!?  Get a grip.  We make sure our little ones’ needs are met every day and quite right too (as I type mine are munching their sandwiches / napping while I push them home post playgroup with their friends) but we must make time for us as well.  They need to see your needs are important and looking after yourself is probably the best way of showing them.

They’ll always be more mess, more noise…and of course more smiles and laughs.  So while it’s all going on make some time for you.  Don’t wait until they’re all in bed.  I’m a bit slow to catch on, sensible people probably already do this?  How many times a day I wonder?…is three the magic number?  Or should it be more…ooooh exciting and it is all for their emotional development and of course ME!


As easy as ABCD!


Or ABDC anyway…it’d be too easy if it was ABCD.  Read on for a way to avoid a meltdown.  Well it works sometimes….but in toddler world that means its worth a go right??

For every moment like the one I am about to describe there are ten others – the random pushing over of a random kid in playgroup (what was that about?), the meltdown in the supermarket, the screaming for me to “put the bogies back” when I wipe the same toddler’s nose.  Lets not dwell on this stuff though –  they’re meant to tantrum aren’t they?  My youngest has his 2.5 year check tomorrow and its one of the boxes that needs ticking apparently.  Anyways….I promised you something to try to avoid a meltdown….

I brought two beakers into the lounge and gave them over to my two and three year old.  I was taking a risk;  they had different coloured lids and beakers (I know, I know.  I just like to live on the edge sometimes.)

“Me want that beaker” says my two year old M with a voice that spoke volumes.  A voice that said no messing.

Are you ready for the ABDC bit….

A is for ACKNOWLEDGE…..”You do like pink don’t you.  You have a pink lid with your orange beaker. T has a blue lid and a pink beaker.”

Silence.  Golden.

B is for BUILD UP…..”Wasn’t T kind swapping drinks with you in the restaurant and weren’t you kind sharing your ball with T in the park.”

Still silent.

D is for DISTRACT…..”I like this programme, what are they doing?  Is that a dog? (Insert Father Christmas/flying unicorn etc as appropriate.)”

No reply.

C is for cross fingers.  The clock ticks.  Sanity balances on a precipice.  FREEZE.  M slowly takes a sip from the beaker.  I back out of the room.

Easy as ABCD.  Nearly.

I got lucky


I wasn’t sure why everyone was smiling so much at M as I pushed him around the supermarket. Obviously I think he is cute but people seemed instantly taken with him.

I wondered if I was getting sympathy smiles as I was really working the bedraggled look, having thrown a mac over an already brave outfit choice.  It was one of those ‘get out and get him to sleep now before he meltdowns’ rush exits.

As it turns out I had forgotten I’d handed him a potato in the veg aisle and he was still holding/cuddling/being strangely fascinated by it.  Like he had never come so close to a vegetable before. This lasted for nearly the whole shopping trip (before the potato came to sad end but I’ll gloss over that).

Since having kids I have often thought how different you and your life must look over the course of any given day, all because toddlers swing so easily and readily from highs to lows. Sometimes my day seems to be in tatters moments after we’ve all been walking on sunshine and vice versa.

Today I got lucky and I treated myself – I walked like a woman who had it all sorted, who knew when to give her son a potato to keep him happy.  Who had positive parenting down to a fine art.  I was down with the kids.  I didn’t pay him to get in the buggy ten minutes ago.  And it certainly wasn’t me who only yesterday had a very similar looking child climb out of a very similar coloured buggy, covered in snot and scream “put my bogies back on” as I wiped his nose.

So today I got lucky.  And the next time I feel a bit crappy looking at a serene family scene (while mine shout “I want to bite all grown ups” or something similar) I’ll try not to feel too jealous/inadequate.  Afterall, who knows what was happening ten minutes ago.

You can go your own way


Apologies.  This post is way too obvious but I need reminding.  I started it whilst trying to distract myself from the fact that my sister was giving birth – how do people cope when their daughter is giving birth?  I was going out of my mind as it was!


I am basically giving myself a good talking to about being all “when I had my first baby…..” with my sis.  Which will be HARD – I want my sister to have as easy a time as possible.  I found having a baby for the first time SUPER HARD  but I need to remember that having an easy time is not built on people bombarding you with what they did, it’s about a confidence in your own choices. Finding your own right way.

Ultimately what works for you might not work for them anyway; sure it’s great to read books, blogs and talk to people but its not great to be told what is best.  I know I get a bit bossy in this blog sometimes but I do it in the mind that it’s easy to ignore the ramblings of a woman on the internet should you so choose (especially since my blog has only had one visitor as I write this!).  But its SO tough if it’s a friend or relative in your face, your all time most exhausted ever face.

An early memory of unwanted interference for me is my running in and out to the car with a grizzly baby in my baby bjorn – he was basically in need of a nap.  Our well meaning (?) neighbour offered to hold him; fine to offer obviously, but fine to follow up (to what was my best polite, friendly thanks but no thanks) with “when I had my baby I let everybody hold her all the time, it was good for her to be with lots of different people”??  A bit of a body blow when you are a few weeks into parenting and don’t know what you’re doing.  Challenging do-gooders (I’m joking….a bit)!  Just what you need with all those hormones and insecurities.

I could go on but I don’t want to offend or upset people that have probably meant me well when my blog becomes really famous (lollllll) plus I KNOW I have said some really stupid things myself and just not noticed.  Basically everyone wants to say something or offer something.  Because everyone finds it hard with a new baby and they want to share and help make it better.

So with this in mind I will try and stop ranting…..but….no….must stop…..because these memories aren’t really important or helpful as it is not really about other people; it is about you.  So whilst I need to control myself if I don’t want to be that person to other people; I also need to control myself to not let other people be that person to me.  Nod, smile, say “thanks for the tip” (and mean it) but go your own way.  Maybe you will take the tip when you get chance to think, maybe you won’t.  If advice is pressed explain your point if you think it beneficial, discuss if you think it is appropriate and interesting or simply tell them firmly.

And if the boot is on the other foot try and jump into their shoes and ask if they want to know what you did.

Having this confidence and strength to go your own way is tough after bringing a new person into the world.  But remember what people do is rarely rooted in their perception of your strengths and weaknesses, it’s about them wanting to help with their experiences and knowledge.  With parenting it is often about everyone wanting to believe that what they did or are doing was or is the right thing for their children (and thus believing it’s worth sharing).  And we are all exactly the same; it really does take one to know one (even when I think I’m not doing it I probably am!).

So back to my sister’s new baby…..I plan to (hopefully) be forever reigning myself in from interfering as I become that person who has ‘been there before’ in particular for my sister and hopefully future grandchildren.  I want to share in their joy, be there for them but keep a bit mum….unless I think it’s a real golden nugget…..or a health and safety thing……or too good not to share…..sorry everyone!

As long as you do your best


Who was told this as a kid? Isn’t this something all motivated children aspire to at school? But should it be what we want for our children? Or is doing “your best” getting all skewed? It certainly seems to be getting more and more tunnel visioned. More and more intense. Doing your best as a child seems to now mean getting the best exam results you can, possibly at the expense of happiness. It seems to be without context. Without boundaries.

It might seem strange to challenge such a seemingly wholesome mantra, but how do we really want our kids to approach their future exams and assessments; that will start aged six or seven (seriously?). Do we really want a four/five year old stressing about exams; such is the pressure on schools that the preparation starts long before the exams.

As a parent I now completely get why some of my students used to say “these exams are testing you not us” as we prepared them for the year 9 SAT exams. Those students had wise parents! Sure we want our children to try, and try hard, but their ‘best’? Is ‘best’ a bit too intense, especially when aged six or seven? What does ‘best’ mean? ‘Best’ seems to be a word that can carry too much weight by itself, as it’s a word open to implied pressure and an individual’s interpretation. We naturally want to prove that our best is worthy of respect, here enters the worst sort of pressure – the kind we put on ourselves.

So the questions we might want to ask include “What is best for my child?” and “Does this conflict with them doing their best?”. If you do want to promote them doing their ‘best’ on exams from the outset “How do you want to define their best?”. Would their best involve revision and past paper practice aged six?

Obviously we all want our children in happy, fulfilled jobs and careers; not sat on the sofa not being stressed, but eventually and inevitably getting stressed by their situation. Some stress is good after all. Isn’t it? Stress gets us out of bed and makes us do stuff. Doesn’t it? Couldn’t something else do this though? Conscience? Commitment? Enjoyment? Obviously every good parent wants their children to be happy, hopefully from the inside out. Happiness tends to include fulfilment and success to some degree, hence an inevitable quandary for us all.

Media seems to suggest that students are getting more and more stressed about their exams and academic/professional futures. Teachers want the best for and out of their students, but not I would argue at the expense of them learning how to have a balanced, happy life. The best interests of the child is a phrase bandied around a lot. Really? Is this pressure really in their best interests? Best interests surely means happiest and healthiest now and in the future? Isn’t mental health at the centre of this? Closer to the core of us than career? It seems that it is better for the economy, society’s progress and our international competitiveness to keep trying to drive up results and standards, but for each individual child? Really? And the goalposts for some must seem to keep moving. Someone has to fail for others to succeed. Even if it works for some children; is this one size fits all exam factory in the best interests of everyone? How can it be?

We are all indebted to the superheroes of society – the doctors, pioneering scientists, men on the moon and other people at the ‘top of their game’ – all moving society forward, making discoveries, if not or as well as saving lives. If we don’t strive for the best in everyone, will we stop making so many heroes? Surely not. Surely we can still stretch and challenge within a healthier system. And surely we all need a balance? Clearly this balance is different for everyone and some people’s dedication is awe inspiring; but lets not forget one person’s happy balance could be another’s living nightmare. Furthermore dedication that grows and is balanced by an adult is very different to a pressure that is heaped on a child who hasn’t yet the skills to manage it.

Simply put with today’s pressures children need more help working out what their ‘best’ means. When you don’t know what pressure is being heaped on by themselves or by stressed teachers guidance from you such as “best with an hour/age appropriate/if appropriate amount of revision” or “best after we’ve gone for a walk and before we watch a comedy show together” could be crucial. Lets advocate trying – and trying hard. Lets help them look for their own happy balance, a skill which is so important in today’s pressurised world. (Can we also actively encourage a slight disdain for formal examinations at the age of six though? Please!) Lets not have our children feeling stressed, defined or limited by examination results.

If doing their best academically becomes something children want to pursue and dedicate more and more time to, lets talk to them about stress, happiness and all the different bits of the brain (I for one need to do some learning here first!) together. A best with nothing else to balance it out probably isn’t a best anyway, as its foundations will surely be too weak. Let them know that simply trying hard can be good enough and that it is okay for this trying to come with boundaries. These beliefs shouldn’t rule them out of being an amazing doctor (all doctors are amazing in my book!) or a pioneering scientist but it could make them a happier (and I’d argue more effective) one. Above all lets help them find the confidence and mindset needed to grow up to be happy and fulfilled adults, who can go on to add to the world as they are able to, in whichever way they choose.

Plodding along


I’m having a plodding along kind of a day.  This morning I did not get my normal pleasure from catching up on last night’s dishes (I normally take way too much pleasure from this, especially if it is someone else who has done the catching up).  Today my smiles at my boys’ constant stream of hilarity is a bit painted on to be honest and the little challenges of the day seem that little bit daunting.

I’m trying to suck up some of the advice that I have dished out to some of the girls that I have taught over the years.  The occasional girl who might have come close to tears over something very little, especially if I’ve noticed that she seems to have had regular teary (and sometimes testy – or both!) times.   For every girl like this there are probably ten or more who are better at hiding it.   What I tend to say is “Write down how you feel and when you feel it, as you might see a pattern, and if you do you can plan for it and be extra kind to yourself.”  Obviously I check they are getting some decent help too if needed, my knowledge tends to get quite patchy once I leave Pythagoras and numbers.

Anyway I’m pushing forty, and plodding along days do (luckily I guess) follow a pattern for me and I don’t have the same fear of the feelings that you do aged fourteen or sixteen or even twenty.  I’ve gotten kind of good at piling on that kindness…today I’ve let myself play on my phone behind a cushion while the boys are watching TV for that little bit longer….I have managed to squeeze in a bath before my husband left for work..I’ve snuck a few extra bits of dark chocolate (dark chocolate doesn’t count right?)……I’ve basically focussed a bit more on me and a bit less on the little two (and I don’t think they’ve even noticed!) and I’m plodding along. One foot in front of the other at all times (nearly), just keeping the little things going….food, fresh air and now TV!

I think I’m probably lucky not to get many plodding days and touch wood not too bad a plodding day.  I can afterall still plod.  It seems to be a bit of a lottery – we are a bunch of hormones and chemicals and mine are pretty kind to me.  So I’ll embrace the plod, won’t pile on the pressure (for this read messy house, messy hair, freezer tea) and I’ll let stuff go.  But these two won’t put up with this for much longer so I best go and set up the trains!   Be kind to yourself and plod and as an old housemate used to say “let the bus go” (think I know what she meant).



Ain’t no dummy


Before my first arrived I had already thrown out all the dummies that came free with breast pumps and baby paraphernalia.  Never in the world would I use a dummy, it was a complete no-brainer for me. If this is you and you’re expecting or thinking about having a baby, read on…it might just save your sanity.

T was born after three years of bad luck, periods of nothing happening at all and one successful IVF treatment. I didn’t really read much about having a baby and what to do with a baby; I was simply too shocked at being pregnant. Not that anything can prepare you anyway. We went to some antenatal classes, tentatively packed a bag for hospital and then he arrived. Or at least that’s what it feels like looking back.  All my ideas were ideas I just had from playing with dolls (as a girl!), my own childhood and random thoughts you have when you see other people with their children. To me dummies were something that were shoved in to quieten a baby or toddler when you couldn’t be bothered to sort out the real problem. Sucking reflex? Never heard of it.

How quickly you, your thoughts and life change when the little bundle arrives. T just wouldn’t settle after feeds, he didn’t want more milk although the offer was always there (he was breastfed on demand until he was one). He just would not settle. He hated lying flat in his pram so pram walks weren’t an option and it felt like weeks passed before he reached the minimum baby carrier weight. Getting him to sleep was tough. He burped easily so wind didn’t seem to be the issue. Whatever caused him to be unsettled one thing is for sure – his crying had a big effect on me. It made me feel like a failure and I felt so embarrassed as in my mind I couldn’t meet his needs. As a result I felt tied to the house and like I was making him miserable somehow. Luckily I had made an amazing baby friend from the antenatal group who breezily told me that she was using a dummy with her baby and that some babies had stronger sucking reflexes than others. I owe her so much for the happiness and calm she gave me and T – sounds cheesy I know. I waited until a few days short of the recommended six weeks; by which point I was happy to see that he was growing slightly above his birth weight percentile, as well feeling confident myself that breastfeeding was fully established.

I can’t tell you. I can feel the relief now nearly four years later. The first time he had a dummy felt amazing, he was instantly so content and so settled. I hated seeing the plastic in his mouth though and it felt like such a guilty pleasure. Over the coming weeks and months he continued to develop, pile on the weight and feed on demand but when he had had enough milk, he had his dummy. He would move towards his dummy and it wasn’t long before he would grab for his dummy. It was his chosen form of comfort once he had a full belly. Furthermore when I was out with him I could give him a dummy as he approached feeding time, I could keep him happy as I walked briskly with him in the baby bjorn to somewhere where I could feed him. It was fab! Why then did I feel so embarrassed and ashamed? Like such a failure? Why was I on my guard – pretty much ready to whip it out of his mouth and hide it should anyone I know approach (seriously!)? I think I am probably a bit sensitive but I do think there is a stigma. I think there are a lot of people who don’t know or see the benefit of a dummy. Like I’ve said before “it takes one to know one” and I knew what my thoughts used to be. Relatives and friends who made the odd veiled and unveiled comment compounded my anxieties and it took me a long time to get to where I am now with regards to dummies – which is wanting to shout their benefits from the rooftops! I think dummies are bloody brilliant and I don’t care who knows (or more to the point, doesn’t know) it!  I am so glad I found out, so chuffed when I think of all the times his happy brain pathways were lit up as a baby/toddler rather than his anxious/teary ones. So glad that I was able to enjoy those early baby months and confidently get out and about.

As the weeks and months passed the advantages of using a dummy kept on presenting themselves. At baby groups I sometimes used it to stop him putting everything (lots of which had just been chewed by other babies) into his mouth as he would happily suck on it instead. As he got older still, the dummy got him through the afternoons when I was at work without melting down (where should that comma go? It was him at risk of melting down not me!).  Fast forward around two years and I used it to help him stop him biting his brother when he was tired and irritated. A fall at a playarea and he had it for comfort; yes they need to feel and learn about pain sadly but being able to provide comfort can’t be a bad thing in my book. At bedtime he would settle easily holding one dummy and sucking another. And when he was so tired/hungry that all he could do was cry the dummy would get him to bed/nap time or his next meal with far fewer tears. If only he could have it until he was 18….the odd occasion when I had a suck (e.g. if I dropped it when out and had no way of cleaning it) means I can vouch for it being very relaxing! I was kind of dreading saying goodbye but in the end it wasn’t that bad, perhaps because I was in no rush to say goodbye and waited until he was 12 (joking).

Anyway when T got to around three and a quarter somethings seemed to start to fall into place for him (e.g.) potty training (for wees anyway, poos another story, a blog post on the way!). Suddenly it seemed to be time to try and say bye to the dummy. We had sort of tried before but the trauma it would have caused was clearly going to be too great. He now seemed ready to try so we made him a sticker chart with space for three stickers and the aim was to go through the night with no dummy in exchange for a sticker. We talked about how he might cry at bedtime for his dummy and in the night when he woke up, but also about how proud he’d be in the morning. Three stickers and he could have the bin lorry toy he had already chosen. And he did it! He did cry but he didn’t cry for it, instead he told himself he could do it as he blubbed. After three nights and three stickers on his dummy chart he was without dummy and we the parents were probably the saddest as bedtime now took longer! A couple of times he would cry “dummy” out of habit as he fell over or tried to get to sleep but that was it, never for any length of time and it was not a traumatic farewell by any stretch.

Happily he has always been a REAL chatterbox (through his dummy if necessary – he didn’t always have it hanging out his mouth although at times I know that’s what it felt like!) so the relative who enquired about my worrying about his speech being damaged by a dummy when he was a little baby has long been silenced. But even if this wasn’t the case I don’t think I’d blame it on the dummy. Kids will generally make sure they can have milk, food and communicate I reckon! But they are all different so obviously you need to keep an eye out for your own child and their development.

Whilst talking about how different they are I have to mention how his brother M came along and pretty much hated the dummy at first sight! I didn’t want to not give him the opportunity to have one. Afterall his brother had had one and it had given him so much calm and peace but he simply wasn’t interested and the whole experience has been very different with him. I couldn’t believe it when I saw him just fall to sleep just with the motion of the pram or baby bjorn, not needing a dummy. And I guess this is why I shouldn’t stay too annoyed with the friends and relatives who just don’t get it because if I had two like M I wouldn’t get it either. I thought people were lying when they said they’d tried a dummy but their baby wouldn’t take it; I couldn’t get my head round how different they all are. At the very least I thought they hadn’t given it at the right time, as T wouldn’t take it if he had got too upset at first. But it turns out they all really are amazingly, amazingly different and what works for one might not work for another.

One thing I now know for sure; an open mind to dummies might just find you the calm you and your little one needs. But it might not – such is life! I will definitely remain so grateful to my friend and also a little bit proud of myself. Afterall I managed to work through my embarrassment and to be honest my dummy snobbery, making a choice that gave us both happier months and perhaps years. Even though this was because I was desperate I will still let myself be a tinsy winsy bit proud! Feel the dummy love! X x x x

Irish Twins


“Josie Jump is Mikey’s name.”

“Me not Josie Jump.”

“Jumping up and down is Mikey’s game.”

“Me not Josie Jump. Me not lady.”

While this goes on in loop at least I have got them into their car seats without any aggy….

“Mikey’s in my seat. I want to sit there.”

“You can’t. Me sit here.” (Perks up).

“I’m in your seat then.”

(Unmoved. He’s learning.) “No, me in YOUR seat.”

Cries. “Josie Jump is Mikey’s name…” (fail safe)

Cries. “No me not Josie Jump.”

A lady on the checkout asked if they were twins recently. When I said not she laughed and said Irish twins then, which I assume (as well as being a bit rude) was some reference to us opting to have them close together. They are eighteen months apart.  He must have been an easy baby she says nodding to the eldest. “No he just took three years to make. The second one three minutes.” The last bit was voiced only in my head. I smiled instead opting to reinforce the easy baby myth.  It is  myth right??

They love each other so much and it’s so nice when they pick the same odd socks so “people know we’re brothers” or when they tell each other they love each other or hoot hysterically at each other’s jokes, especially the classic “bum, poo, wee” joke. That is the joke btw. But wow can they wind each other up. The skills the two year old is already mastering leave me almost proud…I heard the classic “Can you see now?”, “Can you see now?”, “Can you see now?” routine from the kitchen yesterday, when the little ‘un was clearly slowly and deliberately visually editing his brother’s favourite Peter Rabbit programme with bizarre moves in front of the television.  I’m sure I was still wheeling out that classic on housemates as an undergraduate.

I remember googling and reading about an 18 month gap when I first knew it was a situation that was hopefully on its way.  “Like twins, but where one can hurt the other” being the description that I remember most clearly and which has rang the most true. Normally through exuberance. Sometimes through blind copying. Sometimes through ferrel biting.

And its true, you should always worry when they’re quiet.  With my two it generally equates to building a “captain stinker”, which basically means putting everything that moves into a pile and jumping on it or most recently managing to open the front door (and get no further – thank goodness they went so quiet when on the brink of such excitement).  At what age do they start bluffing….yikes …

The best bit about a small age gap to date is definitely what great buddies they seem to become.  Then there is how much they learn from each other and this is a two way exchange already. It’s been lovely to see, especially the moment when the eldest relaxed instantly (from being very prickly!) when the youngest just threw his head back and laughed as an elder boy joined in their game.  I so so hope their special bond lasts and that they look out for each other as they grow up.  And when they tell each other that their favourite toys are in a dirty river I have so many happy times to remind them of (once I’ve stifled a laugh / pulled out my hair / cried into a cushion – depending on the day).

If you’re facing a similar age gap; it’s tough but what situation involving one or more child isn’t?!  Its especially hard when you have essentially two babies in the first few months.  I remember both of them crying at the same time, and then my mum starting up at the sight of two babies who both wanted their mum!  In those early months – it was intense. But it’s so very worth it and on the days when you can laugh (not every day by any stretch) so very funny.

Overheard at Christmas.  “I will open this present as long as nobody says ooooh.”


“Nobody must say ooooh.”


“Oooh. Ooh. Oooh. Ooooooooh.”

NOBODY must say ooooh.  Mum, Mikey’s saying oooohhh.”  Cries.


And repeat many times.  Before.  The classic.  What we are all waiting for….

“Josie Jump is Mikey’s name.”