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.

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!

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

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.

Blogging is a state of mind.

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It has to be.  Sometimes there are sparks everywhere and you have ideas shooting across your mind; sprinkling stars, fairy dust and the imaginary yet audible giggles and snorts of strangers.

Then the day ends, you sit down, you make that cup of tea, put up your feet, turn on that laptop. You’re ready.  There is nothing.
My theory is this; a few things in your head have to be aligned.  The emotion has to be intense or at least clear.  Happy or sad, amused or annoyed.  The brain has to feel it.  Or feel a certain mischief.  Secondly whether your post is inspired by the positive or otherwise there has to be a certain skip/bounce that makes you able to and want to communicate.  Basically verbal parts of the brain have to be lively – is there a vitamin for this?? And all of these things, the emotions, the desire to communicate flow around your personality that then pops out on to the page in your words.  There is a fluidity and clarity in your brain.  You feel what you write, even if nobody else does!  Emotion, communication and personality all together and flowing around.
What can I do to bring my Sunday sparks back?  I had SO many ideas on Sunday, like I swear I could have had a month’s blogs written ready, if I only could have sat down.  But all I can remember from the pot of fizzing blog posts of futuredom is the phrase “bloggercise”.   I decided I would blog all my thoughts walking home Tuesday.  I can walk a nice off road route with the buggy by the canal back from toddler music.  I would blog while I exercised and they napped.  I’d done it before but this was planned; this was bloggercise.  And this was the tip of the iceberg.  Wtf.  Anyway Tuesday came; I had slept twice and been to work since Sunday and there was nothing.
What did I eat on Sunday?  Did I rest well Saturday night?  What did I do?  What is the secret recipe?  Next time I will have a pen and paper ready….until next time I leave you.  For those of you in the zone I’m well jell.

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

Dear grumpy mum,

 

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I wasn’t that miffed about you blocking me from the softplay exit today; not until you assumed that I was miffed. The moment you pointedly started telling your buggied up one year old how patient he was, was the moment I got miffed. Before then it was just my vacant face. I hadn’t even said anything rude in my head. Promise.

You see the thing is…

….I had an appointment to get to and I could see that if you put your older child’s shoes on just a bum shuffle away, I could get by your buggy. I didn’t say anything because I could see that whilst you were super jolly with your kids, you were perhaps feeling harassed on the inside….

….I had to go and pick my friend up from the station. I really don’t want to be late for her, she’s not got kids and I always seem to be saying “Sorry, I’m late T hit M with a toy hammer/pooed his pants” etc, etc….

….I had just given my two boys snacks and told them that they could ride back to the car without their buggy straps on.  I had the time it takes for them to eat said snacks to get them out of softplay, into the carpark and back into their carseats. And they eat fast. I was living on the edge…..

Insert from the above whatever works, I’m sure you get the drift. Basically I had stuff going on as well.  I know what it’s like to be so tired that you feel like you have used up all your nice, positive energy on your kids.  When all your brain power is spent just getting them from A to B.  But play fair, throw me a smile or a knowing eye roll at least, parenting toddlers is best played as a team game after all and I was batting for your side.

You can probably tell that I can do grumpy mum too.  So while I’m on a roll – one year olds don’t do patience, my money was on a dirty nappy.