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…

 

 

 

 

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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.

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!

I was sleep trained and it has done me no harm; coping with sleep deprivation.

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Sleep.  Obsession.  Google.  The need for answers.  For hope.  For something that would work.  That was pretty much how it was for me with my first.  I had heard things got easier at six weeks.  I had heard it wrong.

At a couple of months the night feeds became regular with a 7pm, 1am, 3am and 5am pattern.  Surely the hardest bit was done now?  I started singing “Things can only get better” without realising in the shower.  Then the half hourly wake ups kicked in at 6 months.  No evening time anymore either.  I know there are far worse things in the world but it hit hard.  Sleep deprivation is hard.  No time out is hard.

The methods detailed on the internet and in the books I had panicked bought promised success if you could just see things through.  The friends with babies that ‘slept through’ proved it could and should be done.  The idea that I had failed as I had fed him to sleep so he would never ever be able to do it alone.  Well at least not until he was 40.  I dabbled with sleep training, really just dipped my toe in.  The crying would start on the monitor and if it wasn’t me it was my husband running upstairs after a brief pause, shared eye roll and sigh.  Our baby’s upset seemingly inevitably escalated. He self settled rarely. But no we didn’t leave him for any length of time so who knows.  It never felt like what we wanted to do. I never had that conviction that I would be doing the right thing for me or for him.

The epiphany came at around six or seven months.  He just wanted to hold my arm.  He didn’t even want milk.  He just wanted to hold my arm.  I could let him hold my arm.  I could let him sleep all night holding my arm with the covers kept well clear of him.  I could sleep.  With just me and him on the spare double bed I could be as safe a co-sleeper as possible.  I reasoned that there were a lot of things I was doing unsafely as I was so tired; I figured I was probably safer and my baby was probably safer if I got some sleep.

So that was it, the co-sleeping started. Number two arrived and the theme continued. The eldest co-sleeping with his Dad and still often holding an arm and the youngest with me. Who knows what would have happened if number 2 had been number 1. If the tone hadn’t been set by those half hourly wake ups which number 2 never bothered with!

They start in their own beds (after I lie with them to get them to sleep and transfer them from my bed to theirs) and then they waddle to us in the early hours.  It’s almost seemless and we all generally get a good rest.  I don’t dream about sleep how it used to be anymore; I know that it will return one day.  I do dream about a bed big enough for us all to slumber in, as well as having space for our’s and our children’s bedrooms.  Quite a dream.n Me and my husband tend to get most evenings and the early part of the night together and then we get the most sleep we can.  I never imagined I’d be happy with this, what can I say, sleep training really works.  I’m just not the trainer.

That’s probably enough about how we found something that sort of works for us.  I guess the main point I want to make is find something that works for you.  Given the chance I’d tell my former self not to worry if your right way takes a while to find. And please don’t feel embarrassed or like you’ve failed if it involves compromise and co-sleeping (which are feelings I still sometimes have to shake off).  Equally don’t feel bad if it’s a sleep training style that works for you; I have good friends and a sister whose children took to this style remarkably quickly.  And other friends who had children that took to it after a couple of weeks in a way that the parents were happy with.  Do I think their children will be forever scarred by it?  Probably not.  Do I think your children can tell if you’re happy and confident in whatever method you choose?  Yes.  Is this important?  I think so.

In the early days when I was forever reading books, trawling the internet and going to weekly weigh-ins (baby ones!) to gleam answers from baby gurus and health visitors, my mum suggested that I just do what I thought was right.  She even seemed to query whether people should try and tell you what to do with your own child.  Outrageous.  I didn’t have time to listen as I was too busy googling green poo, whether I should use a dummy and how to get your baby to sleep through the night.  Essentially I didn’t have my own ‘right’; I was clueless and overwhelmed.  Now I do have a right for me and for our family.  And the fact that it’s not everyone else’s right makes perfect sense in a world where we are all different.