It’s not you, it’s me.

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I heard myself defensively saying “we go to lots of playgroups, classes and play dates” before I could stop myself. It was only afterwards that I reflected and realised that the “preschool is good for them socially” wasn’t about my choices, it was about her’s. That a smile was enough. That she was nice. That just like me, she has worries in the back of her head about whether she has done / is doing the right thing.

I’m yet to meet a mum who doesn’t want to feel good about her choices or who doesn’t try to make them for all the right reasons.

I haven’t sent T to preschool because I wanted him to have what I had and because I am lucky enough to be in a position where it is possible. Because I feel I have been able to offer him everything he needs with what is on offer for preschoolers in my area. Because it felt like the right thing for him. Because it fits my skills set (most of the time…) and I enjoy it. And that’s fine.

And the lady I chatted too would have made her choice for different reasons; social reasons obviously and probably a whole host of other good reasons too. And that’s fine too.

And the relative/friend/neighbour who tells you how she got her children to sleep/behave/eat probably aren’t judging you either. Even if it feels like it. And even if they are, the overriding thing they’ll be doing is reassuring themselves. They need to feel that what they did/are doing was the right thing for their children. Because nothing is closer to their hearts than their children. Because they have never done anything before or since that matters as much.

So next time I will try and just smile…

 

 

 

 

Fraudster

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I felt like such a fraud at our music class this morning.  The feeling nagged at me, even though the boys were lovely and less clingy than usual.  We all enjoyed it but I still felt like a fraud.  I felt like I wasn’t the nice mummy that people perhaps thought I was.

I shouted “You idiot” at my eldest this morning when he dropped a heavy box on my foot and hurt me. It wasn’t deliberate on his part but it was reckless.  But shouting “Idiot” isn’t up there in my “strategies”.  And he cried 😦  I felt like I could and should have stopped myself, but for some reason I didn’t.
So I felt like a fraud for the entire class.  I reasoned that it is an experience that he will have in life – someone verbally lashing out when they’re hurt or upset.  I told myself that it was better that it was with me, someone who he trusted, someone who would ‘fess up and tell him it is not acceptable and that I was sorry.  He will know not to regularly take rubbish in the future.  Won’t he?  I added into that that children need to see how people say sorry.  He said sorry too for hurting my foot; his little brother (who was just a spectator) even managed to find something to say sorry for.
Finally (in a further attempt to make myself feel a little bit better) I decided that it is good that I don’t try to practice perfection.  Whilst it’s not a deliberate lifestyle choice, children probably need to see that people aren’t perfect.  Don’t they?  That being human means slipping up sometimes.  Being perfect isn’t realistic after all and it can’t be healthy to try.  After the physical and emotional safety of your children, the most important thing is surely that you’re good at trying and ready to hold your hands up and say “I’m so sorry, I love you” after making a mistake.  Isn’t it?
I think I worry that they will be as soft as my husband (whose girlfriends used to nick his lunch money at school!).  I want them to be kind and caring but with a strong sense of self-worth.  Maybe I think too much….
Anyway, I still felt like a fraud.  And I felt really bad.  Maybe because I would have kept my cool if he had dropped the box on my foot at the music class.
I felt like a fraud until later this afternoon when we made a mess of the kitchen together and made a couple of chocolate quinoa cakes to ‘practice’ for his birthday hedgehog cake.  Then I felt like a good mum again.  I felt a bit smug actually.  I think the fraudster mummy is probably a lot less annoying.
I still feel bad though and said sorry again at bedtime.  Tomorrow’s another day and I won’t let myself be defined by a slip up.  I’ll turn them on their head and get better from them (sorry, smug mum – and the wine – are taking over).  I am a good mum, I just make mistakes.

Be Kind to Yourself

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I can still remember the first time I got it back.

I was looking for a house to pick up an eBay purchase from – a baby paraphernalia bargain.  I couldn’t find the property and kept driving round the same loop.  A bit frustrated I said “I am so rubbish with directions, it is ridiculous.”  Up pipes a little voice in the back “Don’t worry Mummy, sometimes I can’t do everything first time.  Sometimes you just have to try again.” Tears filled my eyes, he was only three and a half.
I can still remember the first time I consciously tried it.
We had pretty much just pulled up outside playgroup.  Me, my two year old and six month old.  Without my baby bjorn it would have been impossible.  My number one rule for the first four years, with two children 18 months apart has been at least one must be restrained when out and about.  I had forgotten the baby bjorn; I had to go home and get it.  I had recently read about the importance of being kind to yourself, as mirroring is one of the many (I reckon biggest?) ways that little people learn.  So on the drive home I said to myself out loud, on a bit of a loop, “Don’t worry Mummy, everyone forgets things sometimes, it’s no big deal, you can pop back and get it.”
There have been many more times in between.  I have many opportunities to practice being kind to myself – broken jars, forgotten wallets, lost keys, the list goes on…..and on…….
So he has got the be kind to me bit, he has copied it and is (sometimes) kind to me.  It just needs to be ingrained so that he is automatically kind to himself as he learns and faces the inevitable challenges life brings.
And being kind to myself works for me too.  Although I need some strategies as constantly rooting around in my bag / looking for my keys etc is a bit draining!

Cuddles

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This is a post celebrating the power of the cuddle in terms of improving behaviour. It is so hard to find the time to cuddle up with a book / TV show and your little one(s) (until they’re bored) but so worth it for me this weekend. I would advocate trying this when behaviour seems to be going downhill. Here is how it worked for me…

Saturday offered a pretty poor start to the weekend with moods and behaviour in our house. We wanted to take the boys out in the buggy to a big play area for a picnic; we were loading their little bikes up on it so they could cycle along a nice off-road path when we got nearer. They were really up for this trip out but could we move them along and do the sorting that needs doing first – sandwiches, Friday night’s dishes, basic hygiene, etc….(nope we couldn’t).

The whinging noise was awful and probably something that could only be achieved by two under 4. (Please don’t correct me on this. I need to believe we are nearly out of the high octane whinging.) What made it more upsetting was that they weren’t being kind to each other; T in particular was picking on M. Anyway we got out a lot later than planned but we did at least have a lovely day. But why the painful start?

T has seemed a bit meaner towards M lately; winding him up verbally as well as pushing him and pinching him when he gets the opportunity. He is loving with him too but seems to feel the need to upset him more often than normal. I don’t know if its anxiety about starting school (wherever we go people seem to be asking and talking about it) and/or a bit of jealously – M is 18 months younger but will start school two years later.   I think being the eldest brings with it a few pressures and he had to give up being the baby so much younger than M (T still calls him his ‘baby brother’ but he is now 2.5).

Anyway, I moved him away, I asked him how he would feel, I threatened to cancel his birthday party (I know, not a great thing to say – you know when you just hear the words come out??). T is super sensitive and would have no doubt felt strongly that I was annoyed and frustrated with him. Whenever he is told off he asks if I still love him, obviously I always reassure him and explain its what he is doing that is the problem but at three I’m not sure he understands the distinction.

Sunday morning came and started to go the same way. Luckily something made me think of something that I have previously read, about how children very rarely get to end cuddles or chats as its the parents that normally go off to do jobs, etc*. The suggestion being that they might not get the reassurance and feeling of safety that they’re after. Without thinking much more I picked T up and told him I thought that he needed some cuddles and I plonked us both down on the sofa.  T is a very cuddly boy and was happy with this, obviously it wouldn’t work if he wasn’t, although love bombing is a technique worth exploring and appears in the first book listed below. I bet with some children just being there and sharing the television programme or book is enough. So we sat and watched television together for about an hour and a half then he got up to play. He seemed so refreshed, happy and content. And so much kinder to M.

Sometimes it feels like you haven’t got the time. And sometimes you simply haven’t. We did actually get out the house about two hours earlier on Sunday as it turned out; the boys were happy and we could sort ourselves out for the day without sorting out the commotion every two minutes. I guess I will never know the reason – sore throat, growth spurt, needing more sleep, anxiety about school – but it seems the cuddles helped all round.

*Divas and Dictators by Charlie Taylor; Siblings no Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

Feeling lucid.

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You know how you’re meant to take in the world and share wonder with your kids? I tried that last Tuesday when I saw a large silver car with three doors on each side drive by. Feeling all parenty I turned my boys’ (who love their toy car collection) buggy to the road, bent down to be on their eye level (I was doing it all right. I was unstoppable.) and said “Look, that is a bit like your party cars”.   They agreed and we watched with interest as the car pulled up onto a funeral company’s drive. A funeral company’s drive. ‘Party car.’ The cringe was physical. I scuttled off hoping nobody heard/saw me.

My day to day social affliction continued into the Wednesday when I went to the doctors’ and alerted reception to their lift being broken. I felt vindicated when the helpful lady rolled her eyes at them only having been out to fix it the day before. Vindicated until it became apparent it was “not moving” because I was pressing the number of the floor that we were already on.

But it is okay as today I have been feeling lucid. I have to admit my feeling lucid has made me uneasy in equal measure. After all I felt all lucid and at one with parenting last Tuesday. I felt all useful and lucid while reporting the ‘broken’ lift.

Turns out I was right to feel uneasy; tonight we had a knock on our door just after tea from a neighbour carrying a balloon in a box. How nice? “Happy Birthday Grandad!” I will spare you the details of what I thought was (at least in part) an unrelated trail of paypal, postage and online order confusion. Suffice to say the company had tried to deliver the balloon I ordered for my father-in-law’s birthday (they’d even tried to pick it back up) and I had got the address right. Mostly. If you ever wondered, postcodes matter. I used our postcode so it went down the road. To rub salt in my wounds my two year old completely melted down as there was only one balloon and one box.

So can I ever trust my brain while the kids are small? Can I even blame this on having small kids? I have previous but I am sure it was never so thick, so fast and so bad. It feels related to the sleep deprivation and the busy brain that goes with juggling children, work and life in general. But maybe I’m kidding myself….

Meltdown mindset

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I’ve got a new mindset to try and jump into when I’m having a tough five minutes (or so….) whilst in the company of my kids.  It could do with a catchier name but for now it is my “Let me show you” meltdown mindset.

This is how it went today when I found myself in a Post Office at 12pm (what idiot does that pre lunch?).  Anyway…..M starts having a complete meltdown; let me show you how to be compassionate, kind and patient.  He wants two toy magazines; let me show you how to be gently assertive, quietly persistent and patient.  He is really asserting himself back now; let me show you how to give him space.  People can’t get in the Post Office to post their letters; let me show you how to deal with embarrassment and bum shuffle with a two year old under your arm.  He is really losing his rag (insert your own); let me show you real patience.  He is getting quite animated (again please do insert your own); let me show you how long you have to be &£;!&£@ patient for sometimes.  He says he’ll be happy if we go to a playarea; let me show you what relief looks like and how to admit defeat (we will call it compromise).  And so we ate our lunch in a cold playarea because I said we would (let me show you how to keep your word).  Let me £&@£@@£ show you.  I don’t say the “Let me show you” bit btw.

Joking apart it did help and it does help me regularly.  I think I go a bit out of body, maybe even a bit professional.  I don’t feel professional but you know what I mean.  They get me back when they calm down.  And I guess they want me back because the let me show you woman is alright, but she doesn’t half grate after a while.

To help our children deal with the world I have come to accept a bit of adversity is needed.  They need to see you working hard at being patient; they need to know that it is hard and it feels hard, but that there are benefits.  That it is worth it. That things recover quicker and people may never say thank you but do appreciate and benefit from it.  That its the right thing.  That it can make you calmer and happier.  The firmness that goes with the patience can be quiet, kind and almost hiding.

The kindness is so important but make sure that it includes you; they’re modelling themselves on you afterall and you want their future self to be kind to themselves and happy.  And you want to be happy!  I think they benefit from hearing you say something kind to yourself outloud – sounds strange I know.  Let them hear you going easy on yourself when you make a questionable choice or forget something.  And just as importantly be kind to yourself when patience escapes you – like it does us all.  At least I assume it does.

Your children will probably find their own way of dealing with the sunshine and happy side of things quite easily.  Although having said that, it is perhaps not instinctive to share, be graceful and grateful.  I can do sharing but am only just growing out of my competitive streak, so I am not sure where they’ll get the grace from.  Dad I expect.  (Although he does run by them at ‘park run’ shouting “Yes I’m winning” when he is not even winning.  Never mind gracefully winning.  We may have to outsource grace.)

I’m touching wood as I write this, as we all do I guess when we are feeling lucky.  I feel very very lucky that tough today was literally spilt milk, not having enough layers on at the park (me that is – brrrrrr) and a meltdown in the post office (that was M the two year old, meanwhile T the three year old – and me – enjoyed being all reasonable).  I also feel lucky that my mind although tired, is today a happy and upbeat one.

I am grateful for having an easy “Let me show you” day but hopeful that it helped the boys learn some hard to master skills.  Skills I am still working on.  I mean really. Ffs.

If it makes you happy…

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The pictures of the books are there to show that I really care about doing the right thing by my kids. I am not saying that you need to read books to care and/or do right by your kids. I guess my thinking is that most people who read parenting books are trying to do right by their kids, but obviously not all people that are trying to do right by their kids read parenting books. Phew.

This isn’t even what I’m trying to blog about today. Bear with me. Basically I think I might sound trivial so I want you to ‘get me’ a bit first. Essentially – despite what my two year old says – I am not a “doker”.

Aaaarggh. I digress, I digress, I digress. What I want to blog about is the importance of metaphorically throwing out the books and finding you and your connection to your kids.

I am lucky to have worked and to work with some awesome teachers. One quite recently said how he made sure that every lesson had something that he was looking forward to in it. Selfish? Maybe. Beneficial? Definitely. He is a Chemistry teacher so the something can be pretty cool and literally explosive. But more importantly it means the students get to see him happy, engaged, enthusiastic and relaxed; doing something that he loves. I don’t want to go down the teacher blog route and you can probably see where I am heading with this. Stopping parenting and doing something you love with them (ignoring the extra mess, noise and chaos essential) can let them know you that bit better, make everyone happier and help some of the day to day stresses melt away.

The thing ‘you love’ can be a big day out or a quick dance to a favourite song. Small things can have big effects. My two boys trash the place prove this every day in an amazingly small space of time.

I have read some amazing books* and taken something from each one but I can’t believe the authors are/were rigid parents. Surely they couldn’t have written such great books if they were?? You need to freestyle a bit to discover right? More importantly you need to freestyle for your sanity. I think we should be brave and not worry that everything will turn into a dreadful habit. I spent my early parenting months worrying that everything would become a habit. Now I just think sod it, I’ll adapt this solution when it stops working.

I would argue that it is okay to have ice cream for breakfast once in a while (we’ve only done this once…so far), abandon tea and let them have toast (it was minging experimental) or let them safely run amok. Indulging every now and then in an ‘end of term’ spirit is sometimes the best thing to do. Letting the bus go rather than chasing after it can give you an amazing feeling of calm control.

If something makes you happy (and stops you tearing your hair out) it has to be a good thing all round surely??

I just want to check the following with you as I think I’m being a bit naughty….

My two year old has this great thing at the moment where he asks me to “put his bogies back” when I wipe his nose. Its brilliant. Basically I get to have another go and another go and another while “putting them back”.   Meanwhile my three year old will only apologise if “someone else says sorry first” which means I get to air my frustrations with phrases like “I am sorry we have to go through this facade every time you need to apologise”. He looks as pleased as punch and my irritation regarding whatever he has just done to his brother evaporates so much quicker.

Basically I’m quite confident up to the bogies and apologies bit. This is okay isn’t it? I genuinely worry (a bit) that they may somehow be scarred if they work out (on some level) that I’m laughing at them. Is this bonkers or is there no place for infantile behaviour when you’re a parent?

What I tell myself is that a happy mum is so important and rightly or wrongly I thrive on this low level humour. Its born out of love and me wanting to keep my patience. But is low level humour ever an acceptable activity for the thing ‘I love’ for the day??

UPDATE** At tea tonight my two year old wanted me to pick out ALL the YUCKY BITS (basil) from his pasta sauce. Instead I covered it with cheese and told him it had gone. To quote my three year old again “I just can’t stop being naughty”.

 

 

Small Print

*I’ve not read them all yet!

**In my defence I was at work today so I am very zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

me, Me, ME!!!

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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!

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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

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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.