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.

Motherhood Challenge*

Firstly, it is not a dare.  A dare involves a degree of self-inflicted embarrassment  (e.g.) dressing as Aunt Polly Tumble** for a day or speaking only in CBeebies theme tune lyrics for an entire playdate without ever explaining yourself.  Or completing a whole transaction in a shop in the style of a Mister Maker “minute make”.  Posting a picture of your beautiful children is not a dare.  Or at least not a very good one.

Secondly, it is not a challenge. Motherhood poses a lot of challenges but posting a picture of your beautiful children is not one of them.  Day to day life with little children certainly provides challenge enough sometimes; but posting a picture of your beautiful children is not up there.

Women who have to battle with depression have a challenge.  Posting a picture of your beautiful children is not a challenge. Women who do a lot or all of the parenting alone have a challenge.  Women who can’t or who have trouble joining the “motherhood” club have a challenge.  Posting a picture of your beautiful children is not a challenge.

I guess the latter is why I personally take issue with the whole “motherhood” dare/challenge thing.  A picture of beautiful children with the words “Motherhood Challenge” would have left me so upset and annoyed five years ago.  It would have felt like the poster didn’t appreciate what they’d got.  I would have been so frustrated that they didn’t realise (or care?) how much it hurt to not be part of the “motherhood” club. I felt so left behind as the pictures of parties were slowly replaced with baby after baby picture.

I have been very lucky as I have two children, but it took nearly four years, miscarriages, an ectopic and ivf to get there and the whole dare and challenge thing quite frankly grates.  I can still remember the pain and feel sad for the people feeling it now.  I know there will be people facing infertility who may be happy to see these pictures with the words “Motherhood Challenge”, that are able to share in others’ barefaced joy when they’re hurting.  I genuinely admire these people and have come across a few.  I hold my hands up high and proud – I wasn’t one of them.  I would have hidden the lot of you from my newsfeed with tears in my eyes.

Essentially I am working on the logic that if you think, experience or do something, there are probably a fair few others in the same boat, even if it is one of the least talked about things. (Unless you are seriously considering the “minute make” dare, in which case you are just weird.)  With one in eight couples affected by infertility there must be a fair few people out there feeling how I did and feeling it right now.

So a facebook without baby pictures?  Is that the vision?  A ridiculous idea and not what I’m suggesting; life moves on and Facebook is about sharing and celebrating amongst other things.  But a bit of sensitivity would be lovely, a bit of thinking before you “speak”.  For me trying IVF was my moving on, deciding that we were having a family one way or another and accepting we just didn’t know which way yet was moving on.  But it was a tough challenge and this would have rubbed so much salt in the wounds.  Posting a picture of your beautiful children is not a challenge.

If you do post a “Motherhood Challenge” photo lets be honest with ourselves and others.  Let’s call a spade a spade – it is a baby brag and an insensitive one at that.  It is not a (decent) dare and it is not a challenge.  And please remember infertility really hurts so think about the others in the room.  Motherhood is a challenge many are desperate for and scared they’ll never have.

 

 

*I wrote this as its been flaring up in my newsfeed lately.  Since writing I have googled to see when it all started, seems there was a bit of an uproar back in February!  What can I say?  I was never the cool kid on the latest trend.  This rant is however all from my own hip/heart.

**I lack as much imagination as I do coolness and couldn’t think past CBeebies for dares.  If you are not in the UK or don’t rely on the CBeebies babysitting service I apologise.

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

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

Irish Twins

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“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.”

“Oooooooh.”

“Nobody must say ooooh.”

“Ooooooh.”

“Oooh. Ooh. Oooh. Ooooooooh.”

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

“Ooooooh.”

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

“Josie Jump is Mikey’s name.”

“WAAAAAAAHHH.”

 

 

 

 

Sweet enough already.

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know it’s a bit of a bandwagon but I really want to cut the amount of sugar myself and my family have. I am toying with having a week off squash with my boys….they seem to get through a silly amount of Ribena, despite trying to make it weaker and weaker.
Dipped my toe in yesterday, thought giving them their new water bottles in the car might be a winner. Pictured boys gazing out of the window and sipping their water distractedly. Instead I had to pull over as they started singing pitter patter raindrops on loop. Yes they were. And yes, drenched.
I am also wondering if the meltdowns in Dunelm Mill later that afternoon were at least partly due to them not being as hydrated as they could have been. Yes, children will drink enough to survive but enough not to be grumpy….not sure they see the link. As it was I found myself in a situation. I used to think “How could you?” when I saw random items abandoned in random places around a shop. I didn’t know. Sorry. And sorry for the plates that I put on a random shelf when they had to be upgraded to bright red, spotty ones and also for the big pink lampshades abandoned when they’d finished wearing them as some sort of dog flea collar.
Also sorry to my boys for any lasting psychological damage caused by my pretending that a REALLY bad thunderstorm was on the way when trying to get them into the car.  They were both screaming at the trauma of twenty minutes spent in a home store (“Where are the toys?” – them. “There are some furry cushions.” – me.) and couldn’t be reasoned with.  I was seconds away from complete anarchy and escapees.  It really was the only way I could see to get them into the car.  I hope they don’t develop any irrational fear of storms.
And thanks to the lady who said “bless you”, it was nice to know you were rooting for me. Sorry I didn’t have anything free to smile, wave or nod with.
Hideous afternoon but I’ve not given up yet. Yet. And I probably can’t put all (any?) of it down to one too few Ribenas.  Although I still think a sweet, hydrated child is better than a savoury, grumpy one, if only for all of our emotional developments.
Anyway, I’m off to research good sugar and sweetener free drinks for children.  An aside being that I trust sweeteners even less than I trust sugar.  I can’t help but think that the government’s green light / thumbs up for them is based on what is likely to cost the NHS less per year rather than what is best for my individual children.  How a lot of the decisions we are encouraged to make are based on blanket advice, rooted firmly in Economics is probably a rant for another day.  I’ve bought some lemons and I will investigate. I might buy some different drinking cups as well….running water bottles (like Daddy’s) have helped at bedtime just not in the car. Tea cups were bought yesterday for a (hopefully more successful) warm milky tea time drink. It’s all in the planning I hope.  And stealing Ella Woodward’s advice I probably should try and add different drinks to their experiences rather than replace, at first at least. I will be in touch….wish me luck!

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.

 

The power of the positive.

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Today may not be the best day for me to write a post with the title “The Power of Positive”, given that it started with my two year old biting my three year old and ended with the same two year old dancing in the three year old’s wee (having emptied the potty’s entire contents on the lounge rug). I am going to stick with it though as I need the positive energy and because there was no poo. Also as our happiest moments come out of the positive, if I am going to start my ramblings anywhere it has got to be with the positive. And what is usually my pursuit as opposed to mastery of it.

I am not going to ramble too much about those times when it’s easy to be positive, when it happens without you noticing. You know. Like every….so often. The first afternoon of the year spent pottering in a warm back garden. The spontaneous laughter of little friends/siblings sharing a joke. The random relaxed days when everything just clicks into place. Instead I want to strengthen my positive resolve for when my offspring dance in each other’s wee. For the I won’t eat my cereal because you didn’t let me pour 4 pints of milk on it “by myself” moments. Or the, I am going to take thirty minutes to get into this car seat and there is nothing you can do about it scenario. (And there’s no point trying as I will Houdini myself out of it even if you briefly manage it moments.)

So here I am chasing down the positive. Often failing, normally laughing, sometimes crying. Here is my list so far….

(1) Never put a child down

One of the best bits of advice I have had was in 2000 during my first year of teaching. “Never put a child down”. Thanks Pat! Pat was no mug. Kids behaved for Pat. Whilst keeping their self esteem intact. No mean feat.

(2) Close the windows of opportunity

Another gem from an old head of department. I guess with regards to a toddler it might be moving an object out of sight or emptying the potty pronto.

(3) 5 to 1 praise ratio – at least!

I regularly have to remind myself (and my husband – I don’t know how he puts up with my constant feedback on rearing our offspring) to think about how things seem from their viewpoint. I tell myself to think about how hacked off I would be with an email in my inbox (or a colleague in my face) that asks for this and that, but doesn’t seem to appreciate or thank me for what I have done. A cliche but “catch them being good”.

(4) Empathy

How hard must it be to have your whole day dictated and planned out for you with constant instructions. And to be so dependent. I would be vile if the boot was on the other foot. Bet I was. Sorry Mum. No wonder my two year old, who is mastering more and more words, is trying to own me the whole time! Charlie Taylor in his book “Dictators and Divas” advocated letting them be the boss in play sometimes to give them an outlet for this frustration. Sometimes I try this. Sometimes I “like” to take it further and “let” them be the boss in real life.

(5) Collecting rewards

Another Charlie golden nugget – collecting pebbles in a jar, although I tend to use ball pool balls in a jug. They don’t hurt if you throw them. Close that window. He advises just focussing on one behaviour that you want to change – for me it was kindness between siblings. The idea is that every time they do the positive behaviour they get a ball and put it in the jug and when the jar/jug is full they get a treat (for us it’s normally letting them wash up or pretend to drive the car). You aren’t meant to take balls away (although my husband likes to) but maybe take a break from collecting the balls / awarding rewards if things go awry. This method works SO well as it focuses you and them – you are looking for the positive and as a result see more of it. Can’t recommend it enough. It has given us happy days. Even if the kindness was saccharin sweet and hideously exaggerated.

(6) The little things

He also promotes the use of little rewards. ONE chocolate button for a tidy table after a meal. In our house it would have to include floor, walls, head and me but you get the idea. I NEED to buy a tidy tube of chocolate buttons; this idea of his worked an absolute treat a couple of years ago on my then nearly two year old. Second children definitely get it easier as I am currently just waiting for number 2 to grow out of it. Going to buy that tube.

(7) Celebrate!

I think sometimes you just need one fun thing like balls in a jug to set the tone for your day. After all children love to hear about how good they’ve been so relive it and repeat it. Let them overhear you telling your other half or Grandma about it. Repeat, repeat, repeat! Celebrate! My three year old loves it when I tell him he has made my nose go all tingly as he was so kind / gentle / thoughtful to his brother.

(8) Descriptive Praise

I LOVE “How to talk so kids will listen, and listen so kids will talk” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. A fantastic read and potentially life changing book on how to get the best out of children. I especially love their take on descriptive praise, which is basically you running a commentary on the positive behaviour displayed, describing what you like.  The idea is that the indirect praise feels more genuine as they know what it’s for, which also might make them more likely to repeat the good behaviour.  It can also be used subtlety so children copy each other rather than feel put out that they’re not getting the “well done”.

(9) Let them problem solve

Adele and Elaine’s book “Siblings no Rivalry” is another book well worth some time and I often draw on their idea that you don’t have to resolve all their conflicts for them. Obviously you want and need to keep them safe, but who gets the car they both want can be a problem that you help them solve.  Ask them to solve.  Over-acting definitely helps. “Oh no, you both want this car, there is only one car, what will we do?”

They make the point well that negotiation and getting along with each other are life skills that need to be taught and we don’t need to wade in as the judge; we can instead help them to build the life skills needed to resolve conflict.

A truly great book, worth reading for the odd gem that is bound to ring true for you.

(10) Re-direction

Before we all go off to do something else a big shout out for re-direction.  Don’t give the behaviour you don’t like much air time.  Children, especially little ones, seem to hear everything as an instruction.  You may feel you have to say what you don’t like once, but move swiftly on; tell them what you want them to do. And repeat this as many times as you need, perhaps with some re-phrasing. Act as though this is what is about to happen, is happening, carry them along in the moment! If you can make re-direction happen even before the event has taken place, it can be even more positive and powerful. I was surprised at how well my three year old responded to being told that rather than push his little brother he should ask me for a cuddle as I loved cuddling him, but when he pushes his brother over I have to instead comfort him.  I just need to remind him of this when I see things brewing, which is not always easy to spot in the changeable world of a little person!

I think I’ve almost finished my first ever blog post. I hope that it helps someone somewhere. It has at least helped me gather my thoughts and any ideas to add into the pot would be gratefully received! You can’t have too many tricks up your sleeves in this game.

The thing with bringing up children is that you aren’t going to know if you’ve done a good job for a fair few years. Even then you won’t know what caused what. What if this doesn’t pay off? What if you don’t do it well enough? The best bit of advice probably in both books is not to give yourself a hard time, when the resolve weakens or you make a mistake, accept you are human, move on and try again. As both of the above authors allude to; children benefit from seeing you being kind to yourself and forgiving your own mistakes. Being kind to yourself is being kind to their future selves. They are modelling themselves on you so treat yourself how you want them to treat their future, grown up selves. So if you were looking for an excuse for putting your feet up with that magazine or taking that nice, warm bath….