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.

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.