Mother (Almost Never) Knows Best

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Ice, Ice Baby: The Best Laid Plans...

Things I have learnt since my husband went away for 5 days:

1. 5 days is a long time
2. My husband does a lot of laundry
3. 5 days is a long time
4. Elsa's palace would have been warmer than our house with no central heating
5. 5 days is a really long time.

It was an ominous start when my first night, rather than being spent alone, was spent in the company of my rather willful son. Having taken a late nap with his designated childcare provider that afternoon, his usual bedtime came and went while he furiously pedalled his Scuttle Bug in laps around the room, leaving utter destruction in his wake and pausing only to issue a bark or a roar (with accompanying clawed hands pose) in my general direction. Books were pulled from where they had been neatly stowed for the evening, before being hurled around the room as he took part in his own personal shot-put competition; the noisiest toys were plucked from their hiding places and simultaneously activated creating an almighty cacophony which he then appeared to conduct like a symphony orchestra. It was mayhem.

Hand selected toys for the ultimate cacophony
The Thursday and Friday were to be much as normal with me having my working day sandwiched between nursery drop offs and pick ups leaving me hot, sweaty and disheveled before 9am and stressed, tired and wrangling two highly emotional toddlers after 5:30pm. Just to add an extra layer of excitement to my day, for some ungodly reason, this particular morning my youngest chose to kneel down in a puddle before throwing the muddy rain water above his head like he's Howard Donald in Take That's Back for Good video. I despaired; Gary was always my favourite.

Now, due to me being laden down like a pack mule with my work paraphernalia, the children's nursery "essential" extras and one wiley two year old with a taste for danger upon my shoulders when my four year old fell and grazed her knee on the walk home it was pretty much the worst thing that could have happened. She refused to walk, citing her scraped limb to be unable to bear weight and demanded (through the flood) to be carried home. Despite being able to see my front door from where we stood, it may as well have been light years away. I tried every possible combination; backpack on back, toddler on shoulders, paraphernalia across each arm with preschooler on hip; backpack on back, paraphernalia in hands of errant children and progeny on either hip; backpack on front, preschooler on back, paraphernalia on one arm and toddler like a rugby ball under the other. We were like a geriatric circus troupe trying to re-enact the routines of their youth. We managed to shuffle 20 yards in each position before they began to slip from my grasp with wails of displeasure being only momentarily appeased with promises of previously prohibited treats. Eventually, somehow, we crossed the threshold, a little bit older, a little bit broken and forever just that little bit changed.

So close and yet so far
While previously I had been known to count down the time to Husband's return, I entered the weekend with great optimism with my weekend of solo parenting having been planned with military precision. I genuinely love my children and have the best time when we are all together as a family but there are times when, having been consistently alone with them for an extended period of time, I struggle. I struggle hearing my voice utter the same commands again and again without being heard, I struggle to satisfy all the role play required to appease my eldest, I struggle with not having the freedom to toilet alone never mind exercise and I struggle to keep the fun alive. I want them to have the best time with me (and me them) but when you are lone parenting there is so much life admin to keep up with that there seems so little time for enjoyment.

So a plan was formed for the weekend; Saturday morning would involve a first-time trip to the cinema followed by a visit from the beloved Moomie (grandmother) then Sunday morning would be free play (check me, so relaxed) with a firm promise of a playdate at one of those friends' houses where you can just sit back, drink coffee and watch as the children play beautifully together. Before you ask, no I won't tell you where they live and no I do not wish to share them.

The first part went pretty well; the cinema trip could almost be classed as an unmitigated success. They were only terrified for an hour of the 80 minute film, they spoke at full decibels throughout and ate their bodyweight in E-number infested treats but no one had to leave and no one pooped. I would even go far as to say that I would do it again. It was all they could talk about for the rest of the day. I was a super star parent. I was maintaining the fun despite being on my own. I was winning at life.

The first cinematic experience was an unmitigated success.
Then the boiler broke.

Then it snowed.

Then they couldn't fix the boiler.

Children don't cope well with the cold but they also don't cope well with being told to don extra layers. It's not the best mix when your house is colder than an igloo's icebox. They were miserable; cold and miserable and with the good tradesmen of Edinburgh otherwise occupied for the weekend the countdown for Husband's return was on again.

Huddling for warmth

Friday, 16 March 2018

Nature vs Nurture: Are We Fighting a Losing Battle?

I keep getting told off. 

I have a habit of calling my son by an assortment of names which allude to his rather mischievous tendencies. These include, but are not limited to: monster, rascal, menace, terror and trouble. My husband tells me that, by using these particular terms of endearment, I am at risk of setting my youngest up with a self-fulfilling prophecy. Now, whilst I harbour my doubts that the outcome is solely dependent on my affectionate name-calling, I can appreciate that there is a risk that when put under pressure (and when his vocabulary extends beyond his sister's name, favourite CBeebies pooch and enquiries after my physical and emotional wellbeing) he may choose the easy, less noble option "knowing" that people already believe him to be wayward. So it has me thinking about that age old conundrum of nature versus nurture.

Looking for Trouble
My eldest child appears to have been born wielding her moral compass with its bearing set fast towards good and true; never to be led off the right path. A warning or reprimand is so rarely required that when it is uttered it's so foreign to her ears that an immediate deluge will erupt from her little crestfallen face. We used to just watch her; bathing in the warm glow of other people's compliments about her exemplary behaviour, congratulating ourselves on our parenting prowess. Check us! We are nailing this "raising an angelic child" thing. We should write a book! It can be littered with all of our handy hints and tips on how to win at this game we call parenting. This is as easy as incurring a hangover after the age of 30, I don't know what everyone has been complaining about, I mean they basically raise themselves. Any doubts or queries you may have regarding our credentials, we urge you to refer to exhibit A: the saintly sister.

Exhibit A: The Saintly Sister
We got cocky. Please refer to exhibit B: the scamp.
It's not that he is a bad child. Far from from it. He, like his sister exudes empathy and can often be found stroking someone's back if they have hurt themselves, mirroring his sister's tormented face when she is upset and silencing everyone when he happens upon a sleeping baby. It's just that he likes to "test his boundaries", exercise his "curiosity" and "find his own path". He lacks any awareness when it comes to danger and, given half the chance, would probably be found licking peanut butter out of the plug socket, having spooned it in there himself with a sharp metal implement. He routinely tries to touch passing cars, scale vertiginous heights and ride his scuttle bug off the top step all whilst brandishing a menacing grin. His "spirited nature" rejoices in the word "no" merely acting to flame the fire of his curiosity. Without faltering he will continue to perform whichever act you had requested that he desist, merely doing you the honour of sparing you a fleeting glance and a sly smile. Raise your voice and it will merely expedite the process. Move towards him and he shall relinquish his grasp on the offending item, jut out his bottom lip and emit an ear piercing shriek that threatens all glass objects within a five mile radius. 

Rascal Child
These two children were raised under the same roof, by the same parents with the same methods of disciplining (in case you are wondering; ask them nicely to stop, state firmly that they need to stop, raise the voice slightly and apply a warning tone, step towards the child while issuing a meaningful glare and if they still continue then extricate the relevant mutinous offspring from the offending article/location/sibling/small animal.) I don't believe we have pandered to one or been particularly unyielding with the other and yet we seem to have ended up with two wildly different species. 

He's the Yin to Her Yang
Therefore I must conclude that whilst nurturing definitely has its part to play, the underlying nature will never be tamed. 
But who would want to tame it anyway?
Atlantic Ocean? Sure, let's dive in!

Friday, 9 March 2018

Toddler Charades: A 90s Musical Tribute

My toddler remains on the cusp of being a conversationalist. He has mastered a few key phrases including, but not limited to:

"Pot pot"

"I don't like"

"Are you OK?"

"T-ank ooo"

" 'ey Duggee?"

However, the vast majority of his utterings remain a nonsensical babble which is mostly directed at his beloved sister and which is always accompanied by the most earnest of expressions etched on his rather beautiful face (not biased in anyway.) His sister has the patience of a saint; engaging her skills as a thespian by pretending to understand, utilising her "active listening" body language and responding with generic phrases like:

"Oh really?!"

"That is interesting!"

"Tell me more"

Always There to Lend an Ear

But there are times when these platitudes will not appease him and he desperately craves understanding. He is clearly demanding something that is imperative to his continued survival but, for the life of me, I cannot decipher what. The resultant routine, which we have down to a fine art, can be summarised in a number of 90s classic hits. Why? 

Because [I] Want To!

"Why d'you always say what's on your mind? Because we want to! Because we want to! "
(Think Billie Piper in a crop top, baggy trousers and a classic 90s up-do. Got it? You are welcome.)

Stage One: Say My Name by Destiny's Child

"Say my name, say my name
If no one is around you"

The first thing that will happen is that my name will be emitted like a siren, with the toddler barely drawing breath in between anguished cries of:

"Mum-my, Mum-my, Mum-my..." (repeat until hoarse.)

On hearing his summons, I will abandon whatever I am, undoubtedly, in the middle of doing and present myself at his service. Did I mention that he is my baby? Anyhoo, he will continue to call my name upon my arrival despite my multiple, varied and exuberant gesticulations until I acknowledge his call verbally: "Yes, Sire?"

"Mum-my, Mum-my, Muuuuuuum-myyyyyyy"

Stage Two: You Oughta Know by Alanis Morissette

"It's not fair, to deny me
Of the cross I bear that you gave to me
You, you, you oughta know"

At this point, he shall look at me with a quizzical expression. Upon realising that we are not able to communicate telepathically, he shall roll his eyes thereby placing the blame firmly at my door, exhale loudly and mutter:

"Blah bloo blaboo blah bloo blah. Blah bloo?"

Upon hearing him trying to converse with me, my expression will lift into one of maniacal joy. He is trying to tell me something! He is so clever! No one has ever been this clever in the history of clever people. We shouldn't gloat, no one likes those parents who boast about their toddlers. Just look at that Deborah from playgroup. She is always banging on about Jack's self potty training over a two day period and his ability to catch a ball while standing on one leg, with his hands tied behind his back. No one likes Deborah. No, we shall keep this one to ourselves and just bask in the happy glow of knowing that our toddler is going to change the world.

"Come on, Mother.... focus"

Wait. Why is he looking at me like that?


Oh! He wants me to respond?


Stage Three: I Want It That Way by The Backstreet Boys

 "But I want it that way

Tell me why
Ain't nothin' but a heartache
Tell me why
Ain't nothin' but a mistake
Tell me why"

The next stage involves me haring around the room like a rabbit on Ritalin whilst he repeats his indecipherable command at crescendoing volumes. I will try to follow the general direction of his wild, thrusting points which he casts around the room with reckless abandonment, becoming increasingly frustrated at my apparent incompetence as his primary caregiver and swearing never to partner me in any future games of charades.

"That! No, not that. That!"
When I proffer what I think he has been longing for he wails in anguish. How could I do this to him? How could I hurt him in this way? Am I doing this on purpose? I throw the offending object over my shoulder and start again.

Stage Four: Killing In the Name Of by Rage Against the Machine

"F@&! you, [you] won't do what [I tell you]
 F@&! you, [you] won't do what [I tell you]
F@&! you, [you] won't do what [I tell you]
F@&! you, [you] won't do what [I tell you]
F@&! you, [you] won't do what [I tell you]
F@&! you, [you] won't do what [I tell you]
F@&! you, [you] won't do what [I tell you]
F@&! you, [you] won't do what [I tell you]
F@&! you, [you] won't do what [I tell you]!
F@&! you, [you] won't do what [I tell you]!
F@&! you, [you] won't do what [I tell you]!
F@&! you, [you] won't do what [I tell you]!
F@&! you, [you] won't do what [I tell you]!
F@&! you, [you] won't do what [I tell you]!
F@&! you, [you] won't do what [I tell you]!
F@&! you, [you] won't do what [I tell you]!

Incandescent rage.

He is overcome with frustration; he locks his elbows, clenches his dimpled hands into immoveable fists and proceeds to bang his head on whichever surface is closest and hardest. This is it. He must end it all. Inflicting pain on himself is the only possible answer. Nobody will ever understand him.

"Don't look at me..."

Stage Five: Enter Sandman by Metallica

 "Exit, light
Enter, night
Take my hand
We're off to never-never land"

I go to retrieve him, hopefully  in time to prevent any serious concussions and he instantly becomes compliant; moulding himself around me and snuggling in, his body limp with sheer exhaustion. 

He looks up; the realisation dawning that he now has reach and leans his body in the direction that he wants me to go. At my height he can reach the fridge door which he then beckons me to open. 


It's always milk.

...and relax...
Lucy At Home
3 Little Buttons

Monday, 5 March 2018

Now You are 2: An Open Letter To My Son

So, my baby, now you are two.

I can honestly say I do not know where the time has gone as it feels like only yesterday that I was cradling my stomach in the high dependency ward as you wreaked havoc inside the womb.  But perhaps I am being unfair, you see, you actually did nothing wrong; you survived the belly of the beast, managing against all odds to make your home in a rather inhospitable environment. The doctors worried needlessly.  They fretted that you were struggling to survive, arranging weekly scans and bi-weekly checks to assess your health, when actually you were thriving.

Their concern led to you being evicted at the earliest opportunity and you did not disappoint; bursting on to the scene with the vigour and enthusiasm of a toddler in a toy shop and our lives were never the same again.

From the day you met, your devoted big sister has lavished attention upon you and you bask in the warmth of her affection and tendency to relent over toys, TV shows, food and even clothes.

Despite mostly getting your own way, your spirit animal would likely be the Honey Badger as your adorable little face, which automatically induces complimentary attentions from strangers in the street, belies a fiery temper when frustrated or crossed.

Never take this as a criticism.

We love your spirit and, in between short lived outbursts of anger, you are the sweetest, most affectionate little boy. Your mother delights in this as your sister, whilst empathic and caring, is not one for physical affection, routinely requesting that she not be "squeezed too tightly" whereas you would be held from dawn until dusk.

Your speech is taking shape with words being added to your vocabulary on a daily basis. Currently, your sister is the focus of most of your nonsensical babble as she has perfected the art of pretending to understand, muttering responses such as:

"Oh really!"
"That is amazing!"
"Tell me more!"

When you do make sense you favourite phrase is "are you OK?" Which you ask every member of the family multiple times throughout the day, whenever their expression falls short of anything other than deliriously happy. Other essential vocabulary includes "Blue", "Dinka", "Anana" and "Dog" referring to your snowsuit, drink, banana and well, dog respectively.

Speaking of Dog, he, Fox and Dennis appear to be in some sort of polyamorous relationship which you disrupt on a nightly basis by favouring Dog over all others despite the fact that he is a little worn and not particularly soft. By the way, it was your father who tumble dried Dog after he survived a night of the norovirus. He is now a little rough around the edges and won't talk about what he went through other than to refer to it as his "'nam" (Dog, not your father).

We, like Dog, love you very much.
Motherhood The Real Deal

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Dark Times: Maternal Mental Health

Now, I am not sure whether it was having recently read that whilst at the first Royal Foundation Forum, during a panel for the Mental Health charity Heads Together, Meghan Markle was quoted as saying that "we don't need help in finding our voices- we just need to feel strong enough to use them" or whether it has been the dark, looming clouds overhead, heavy with snow which have been weighing on my mind but I have been feeling just more than a little hopeless of late. As in, devoid of hope, not ditzy; I can always be considered hopeless in its latter context.

This is not the first time I have felt like this and I am well aware that is unlikely to be the last. Where Churchill had his black dog, I seem to have a black, heavy blanket loitering never too far away, desperate to cloak me in darkness whenever I show the slightest weakness in spirit. I, like many others, have learned to live with it, accepting that this is my burden to bear. It is like having arthritis of the brain. No matter how often you take your painkillers, how frequently you do your exercises and how mobile you keep your joints there will still be days when you ache. Days when the pain is almost too much to bear and you cannot see a way out. Days when you forget what it is like to be "normal".

When it comes to my mental health, I can be doing everything right; exercising, eating the right things, not drinking too much of the wrong things, socialising, being gainfully employed and yet still it finds me, still it darkens my door and seeps into my, otherwise beautiful, life.

This week, it has done just that. Having initially welcomed the unseasonal weather with child like excitement at the thought of snowmen construction, sledging and snowball fights, my enthusiasm soon waned as the hours spent indoors dragged on and the sunshine failed to penetrate the threatening skies. With childcare routines disrupted, it was left to me to pick up the slack as my husband's medical practice kept it doors open for anyone who might need their help in the harsh conditions. I am always happy to do this and to be honest normally I would be more than a little miffed if the primary carer role was taken away from me but this particular situation felt different. My children were well and more than a little frustrated at being held captive and therefore not being able to burn off their excess energy,  so I was left feeling guilty for abandoning my team at work and daunted by the sheer numbers of hours I was going to have to fill within the confines of my four walls with two children under five.

I could feel the darkness creeping into my waking hours and wrapping itself around me until I was enveloped. Upon waking, and realising that I would have to care for my two children independently, I would sense the underlying terror crescendoing inside of me. Their happy voices serenading me from their bedrooms as they burst into the new day fuelled with relentless vigour and enthusiasm, would do little to relieve my desolation. I worried about failing them; about them noticing that I was utterly dispirited, leaving them scared and unsettled. I wanted to run away. I wanted to pause my life and everyone in it; take myself away and await the time when the darkness would lift.

What I actually did was employ the digital babysitter and hope against hope that it would distract them whilst I waited for the clouds to pass.

I won't say that I am quite back on form yet and the inclement weather seems to be lingering somewhat more than normal but today Husband is home; today I have bought a month's pass to the gym in the hope that I stumble upon some endorphins along the way and today I am beginning to see a glimmer at the end of the tunnel.

This too, shall pass.
Rhyming with Wine

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Oh Brother: The Art of the Sibling Relationship

Most people have them, some people like them, a few people resent them but no one gets to pick them; I am, of course, referring to siblings.

Brothers from the same Mother (and Father)

I, myself, am one of three. As the youngest and only girl, my relationship with my brothers has taken various forms over the past thirty odd years. There were many times in my childhood when I felt decidedly left out purely by virtue of not being a boy, a fact that as a toddler I was somewhat ignorant; I was known to take a wide stance facing the toilet, squeeze my belly button with both hands, aim resolutely at the back of the bowl and drench the floor when the call of nature was upon me.

However, upon graduating to the pre- school years and having come to terms with our anatomical differences, I adopted and alternated between two clear strategies:

1.  Taking advantage of the idea of my "weak" girl like status

This involved preying on the more susceptible of the two brothers and convincing him that he should allow me to sleep in their shared room rather than abandon me to spend the night in solitary confinement. On one occasion, having been granted admission I casually suggested leaving the bedroom door slightly ajar thereby admitting a shaft of light and appeasing the deep seated terror of being left in the dark and was informed that it must be closed fast to halt any flames that may be in the process of incinerating the rest of the house while we slept. Brotherly love.

We are all friends until someone mentions being consumed by flames in their sleep 

2. Attempting to be seen as "one of the boys"

This method took various forms throughout my childhood but the memory that holds fast is that which led to my first, and only, nickname: "The Crayon Cracker". Upon identifying my forehead to be slightly bigger than the average brow (or a "fivehead" as acutely described by my friend) my brothers deduced that it would be the perfect structure upon which to fracture our childhood drawing implements. This discovery resulted in a series of hard blows to the skull which I bore enthusiastically; numbed by the sheer joy of feeling that I had impressed them and dismissing any concerns with a shake of my, rather concussed, head.

I was in.

Basking in the heat of a 90s British summer

As we have grown up, left home, found significant others, actively encouraged each other to lose those significant others and found new significant others, our trio's bonds have varied in strength (perhaps never quite rivalling that of when I was being physically assaulted) and now each individual relationship is unique in its own way. We may not be the best of friends all of the time but sometimes we really are and the loyalty of one sibling to another is never in question.

The Trio

Where I was one of three and could choose a particular ally befitting my mood or activity, my children will only ever have each other and I can recognise that this has both its merits and its disadvantages. I watch them as they forge, what I hope to be, a life long friendship and I like to think they are well matched. Whilst I recognise that there are periods, when their relationship resembles that of the Gallagher brothers (the younger being Liam, obviously) and I fear a fight to the death for ownership of the toy pram, I feel that more often than not they replicate a Scout and Jem Finch dynamic; happily alternating between squabbles and intense love affairs with an unshakeable bond of friendship holding strong.

No matter how often she has to concede on her favourite toy.

They love each other really

3 Little Buttons
Lucy At Home

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Mamas Day Out: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Well my friends, it is happening. I have the husband locked down, the hairdryer looked out and the hangover booked in; for I am going out.

My oldest friends and I have children of roughly the same age and we live within 50 miles of each other which is lovely. We have done the playdates at our respective houses where we lovingly watch our children form (what we hope to be) lifelong bonds whilst we referee squabbles over who gets to be Elsa this week or who is in charge of the suddenly prized possession which has, up until this point, been resolutely ignored since it's purchase six months ago.

A Dynamic Duo

We have done the farm visitsvisits we try to endear ourselves to the other's offspring with animated questions about life in the nursery yard, while one of us dashes to rescue their youngest who finds themselves inexplicably taunting some unwitting livestock.

Offspring become interchangeable

We have done the outings to parks in the bitter, and often brutal, Scottish weather where we stand, hands firmly in pockets, scarfs up to the eyeballs, tracking our respective progeny whilst exchanging snatches of key inquiries and information that we tick off our to do list like the efficient mothers we aim to be, onky stopping to intermittently bark reprimands for the toddlers' utter inability to sense danger.

Burning Rubber

Well enough is enough. We are mounting a revolt. We are meeting up child free.

This will not be the first time we have broken free from the shackles of motherhood and returned to the frivolous girls of our youth but the strategic planning and extensive negotiations required to make it happen means that we can only cobble together enough time to secure two lunches six months apart. Still, on the plus side, the novelty means that the frission of excitement is currently building up like a toddler's emotions on Christmas Eve, although hopefully with fewer tears and less pant wetting.

The taste of freedom

I adore my children, I really do. I frequently worry that I will be consumed with so much love one day that I might actually squeeze them until they pop (although knowing my son, it would more than likely end in a poop) but the mere sniff of a few hours of just being me the person, not the mother, with some of those who know me best is really quite intoxicating. I imagine sipping colourful cocktails as we reminisce about wilder times and acquaintances of old, before the conversation naturally moves on to animated discussions about our proposed new adventures. The delightful mix of fun, excitement and alcohol will render jubilant but merely on the edge of giddiness.

Wild eyed

What will actually happen is that we will meet harassed from our morning of parenting, likely having to have literally shaken a small child from our person as we battled to get out of the door in time for our train. We shall hug and greet each other like it has been six months since we saw each other last, sit down and discuss our children at length whilst downing prosecco like we are going to be called to help the toddler toilet at any given moment. Then we shall realise that we do not have the capacity we once did for alcohol, find ourselves horribly drunk and realise that we still have to parent in the morning.

It doesn't take much

Still, at least it'll be six months until the next hangover.
Mum Muddling Through
Lucy At Home

Ice, Ice Baby: The Best Laid Plans...

Things I have learnt since my husband went away for 5 days: 1. 5 days is a long time 2. My husband does a lot of laundry 3. 5 days is a ...