Mother (Almost Never) Knows Best

Friday, 21 September 2018

Knowing Me, Knowing You: The Transition Period

So, we are now a whole month into school life and my eldest seems to have taken to her new institutionalised existence like a toddler takes to destruction. Sure, we had those first few teething moments where she was struggling to find her niche; her people; her crew. I had a week of nightmares envisioning her crestfallen face after she fought back the tears recounting the early days when walking back into the playground (following an untimely call of nature) like a fledgling adult into a networking drinks reception (not her comparison); she found that her new found "friends" had dispersed into the crowd and anxiously tried to identify an opening into which she might be able to insert herself.

Now, however, she skips through the front door to intermittent chants of her name from her fellow classmates. She appears to have befriended children across the class and age divisions and talks animatedly about her love of the various members of the teaching faculty without reticence or self-consciousness. She is delighted with her new found place in life. She belongs.

It is all about blazing a trail

On the other hand, the smaller one, has struggled somewhat with the transition. His struggle has led to him expanding his vocabulary extensively. New phrases include, but are not limited to:

“I want my Cha-lotte!”

“It’s not FUNNY Mummy!”

“I want my Daddy.”

This last phrase must be accompanied with a forlorn look and a lower lip, extended so far from his face that a family of small animals could take shelter from the recent inclement weather. He was initially unsure of how to make the best of his new found solitude.

"Where is Cha-lotte?" 

More recently, however, he has come to realise that on these days, he has the caregiver’s undivided attention in addition to the intrigue and affection being showered upon him at his sister’s new school particularly when he attends drop off in her pink, floral dresses or with his hair tied in a top knot and decorated with a glittery hairclip. In short, he has it made and he is revelling in it.

Babyccinos and new books

Meanwhile, I am spread about as thinly as the condiment on a Tesco value sandwich. I now seem to be constantly in the process of leaving for drop off or arriving at pick-up; making lunches or cleaning up the aftermath of a half finished yoghurt casually cast back into the lunchbox and don't get me started on ensuring that every element of the strictly dictated uniform is clean, ironed (mostly) and ready to be worn. My son may be flush with affection but he is, more often than not, dressed like a street urchin and I may as well be commuting from another solar system considering the frequency with which my work colleagues see me in the office.

So whilst I don't expect that you have been desperately scanning your inboxes, newsfeeds or stories eagerly anticipating the next installment of my daily battles with my offspring, I am afraid that something had to be sacrificed at the altar of parenthood and this is it. 

Now, I am not saying that I will never be back but it is just that I can't commit myself to seeing you every week. You have been nothing but awesome. Please don't think it is anything you have done or not done.

It really is not you, it's me.

Big love peeps x

Friday, 24 August 2018

Slipping Through My Fingers: Her First Day of School

Today it happened.

I knew that it was coming and, to be honest, more recently it has gone from being a vague August date pencilled in to the not too distant future, to a craved, crossing off the calendar- type, event. For today, my daughter has started school.

At four and a half, she is on the younger side of the permissable age range but I never really worried about her starting or contemplated deferring as she has always possessed an insatiable curiosity that in more recent times I was struggling to assuage. She has never shown anything less than emotional maturity but more recently she has been bedevilled by an effervescence of spirit that borders on insanity. 

It has been hell.

In my sensible parenting hat I realise that the volume and mania has all been due to nerves and the fear of the unknown with her school date hanging in the periphery. I know that she wants to love the experience of school as much as she is being told that she will. I am aware that she possesses a desperate need to please and will refuse to admit that there is anything less than unadulterated excitement coursing through her veins but that her anxieties also need an outlet. 

That outlet is cacophonic to the extreme.

When words fail her she moves to singing, tapping, banging, drumming, rattling and even devising her own language which she is willing to teach to any unsuspecting passerby as long as they are willing to swear allegiance to her totalitarian regime. She has been impossible. So, as the first day loomed I wasn't particularly emotional (despite pretending to be) as she had filled me with her own false confidence. This was what she needed; she was desperate for it. Her pre-school had served its purpose but was no longer challenging her in the way that it once had, her friends were making her feel inadequate as a person and she craved stimulation in every sense of the word. School would save us all.

School ready

So, on the 23rd of August the uniform hung in her room like the gown of a young bride; a promise of the amazing life changing day she was about to relish. She would look at it adoringly savouring it's textures and distinct tartan that would identify her as a member of a community; a posse, a clan. She would belong. Breakfast was the same as always with encouragement required to desist from incessant, nonsensical chatter to consume even the meanest morsel. Donning the garments which she had been yearning for followed with only three separate attempts by her parental unit at tying a tie being required. She was ready.

Poised and ready

There was then a 1.5mile journey to contend with; on a scooter. We made it with only minutes to spare. She told us how excited she was and how much she was looking forward to her day. We were dismissed with a distracted wave of the hand as, with tongue poking out of the corner of her mouth, she started furiously colouring a picture of three children skipping through the school gates with wild abandon. 

No tears, from anybody. We had aced this. She was ready, prepared and made for this. School was going to be her domain; her haven. 

Pick up did nothing to dispel our beliefs. Whilst waiting outside the classroom amidst the other anxious faces we could hear her voice ringing out. Despite exchanging rueful glances, my husband and I were secretly delighted that she had clearly retained her joyful enthusiasm for life and everything that school had to offer. Her constant chatter continued throughout the afternoon and evening with any query about her day being met with nothing but unadulterated zeal. 

"I love school!"
"Best day ever Mummy!"
"I am going to love school even more than you did Mummy!"

Well that was an odd comment but I initially dismissed it until her eyes filled with tears.

"There was this one thing though Mummy. At lunch I was in the playground and I couldn't find anyone. The girl I was meant to stay with kept running away from me. I missed you then Mummy." She sniffed. "It was just that one thing though Mummy."

My heart broke.

I put her to bed. I told her how awesome she was as a human being and how lucky the friends, whom she is yet to discover, will be to have her in their lives.

Then I took myself off and wept. 

No one warns you about the second day of school.

She is awesome.

Monday, 13 August 2018

I Dreamed A Dream: The Things I Miss Since Becoming A Parent (Part One)

I have been in the situation of parenthood for four and half years now and there are a few things I am beginning to note by their absence. That is to say: i miss them a lot. Of course, I love my children, they are "my world", I am such a "better person for having had them", "a world without them is one I could (and would) never wish to fathom", etc. However, was there never to have been this husband, these children and this life there are a few things that I would immediately stop taking for granted:

1. Music

Now, I have never been, what anyone would deem, a discerning listener and my idea of a good tune is one which I can belt out in my own private concert on any given motorway. If it has a strong melody and lyrics to which I can somehow relate I am ALL there. The driver's seat is my bar stool and the open road, my stage. 

However, it would appear that my bringing life into this world has coincided with a complete exodus of opportunity to choose the music being listened to at any given time. The soundtrack to my life is now a mash up of the Disney Princess back catalogue interspersed with some classic nursery rhyme anthems. 

I now jump at the chance to drive to the local supermarket for any last minute errands or to undertake the more arduous of meal preparations just so that I can slip in five or six hits from days gone by. It would also appear that my most recent song purchases  were from a time when Miley was dealing with her break up from Liam (the first time around) in a rather destructive fashion, One Direction were not only together but were actually a quintet and Avicii was promising to Wake Me Up when my music drought was all over. 

I would have liked to have been able to have held him to that.

Headphones used to fit better

2. Reading

I was a prolific reader in my pre-child life. I would devour novel after novel with my holiday luggage (because I also had them back in the day) consisting mostly of pages populated with characters, situations and plot twists that I could lose myself in for hours on end. It was bliss. 

I planned, rather optimistically, that my first maternity leave would be spent with baby on breast and my face buried in stories being ticked from my bucket list of "must reads". I would return to work having expanded my mind rather than have let it go to the same consistency of mush that I was spoon feeding my baby. 

I read about six pages. I also read them twice, only realising in the last paragraph that I may have been here before.

I have since turned to audio books and whilst this allows me to lose myself in another person's story for an hour or so whilst I plod the pavements, it is not the same. Enjoyable yes, but not the same.

I used to read in the sun, now I parent.

3. Post work drinks

My social life could potentially have been put on the list in its entirety but that would be unfair to all of the friends whom I get to see in my parenting role. However, outside of these groups, my social life is largely based in my workplace as these are the people my maternal guilt will not prevent me from seeing. These are the people whom I get to speak to uninterrupted with requests to "GO WEE WEE!" or "you be the baby Mummy" or "SNACK!" These are the people with whom I get to be an adult and not a parent. That is until the invitation for an after work drink is issued, then I am most definitely the parent again.

"You won't be able to come will you?"
"I take it you are having to run off?"
"Not even time for one?"

I'd be disgruntled about their assumption except, more often than not, it's true.

I'll be off then...

Obviously my children have given more to my life than they have taken away and I can happily say that I have never actually missed the freedom of choice I no longer have more than I have delighted in the joy that they have brought but if they would just stop making me Let It Go and just allow me to Kiss the Rain from time to time, I would be a lot happier.

If you too suffer from withdrawal from your pre- parenthood lifestyle, do not suffer alone. Talk to someone. Lament together.  

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Big Green Country: An Irish Holiday

Dear Papa

I just wanted to thank you for having us to stay at your farm. Ireland has a lot more sheep and tractors than I anticipated but they seemed to keep my little brother happy so I definitely wasn't disappointed. 

Mummy had warned me in the weeks running up to our visit that I should soak up the sunshine in Scotland (not something anyone has ever heard before) as it was likely to rain so I was well prepared for the daily downpour but to be honest I barely noticed as I tended to be wet from other activities and it merely gave me a chance to test the integrity of my wellies. Note of warning, I would shop Primark for style, not substance. 

The Green, green grass of your home

If I were to cover a few highlights of my week they would include (but not be limited to):

1. Culdaff Beach
Daddy said something about blue flags but I didn't see any. What I did see was our kites flying higher than anyone elses. I know Little Brother's stayed in the sky for longer but I really enjoyed when Mummy was in charge of my unicorn and she pretended to lose control and nearly take Moomie out. That was hilarious. Moomie's face was a picture. 

I also enjoyed the water. Daddy kept complaining about the temperature and mentioned something about the "Atlantic" and icebergs but I wasn't really listening, I was too busy chasing the waves and Little Brother was putting the sand back in the sea. He really was quite worried that there wouldn't be enough in there. 

I have always wanted to go to New York and Mummy said I was nearly there at one point, I grant you she didn't look too happy about it but I think that was because she stupidly waded in fully dressed to hold my hand. Next time!

Next stop: New York.

2. Horse Riding at Tullagh Bay 
I know that I said I wanted to ride a horse but I will let you into a secret: I was terrified! I couldn't understand why my parents would think someone who cannot sit through The Gruffalo would be contented sitting astride a mammal four times her size. They really are silly. The thing is though I actually loved it! My pony, Sally, was handpicked for me and had the loveliest temperament (until another horse sniffed her bottom, which is entirely understandable, I think.) Even Little Brother got a ride, which I was told he shouldn't have as he was so small but his petted lip was so prominent that they couldn't say no. That boy has skills!
That boy has skills

3. Beaver Spotting with Moomie
My Moomie is insane. Maybe that is why we called her something different. I swear she is three shades of crazy. She travelled in the back seat between my little brother and I ALL of the time and told us that we had to shout "Beaver!" everytime that we saw the first horse of the journey. In hindsight, I am not sure that Little Brother really understood as he seemed to shout it an awful lot at what Mummy said was "inappropriate" times. I thought it was hilarious! The priest didn't seem quite so amused. 


4. Learning to Swim
The intermittent inclement weather merely gave me time to focus on my water sports. Mummy and Daddy had been molly- coddling me for too long. Two minutes with my Moomie and I was thrashing about like no one's business. Arm bands are for losers. Sure, Mummy thought I was drowning being that there was little coordination and more splash that Pavarotti doing a belly flop but I was on the move. Frankly Papa, I nailed it. Mummy now calls me Becky but says it is hyphenated? Adlington, that's it!

5. Driving Papa's Car
I know my brother's enthusiasm may have been exponentially more evident being that he spent most of his time on the farm being resident in your car, experimenting with the various knobs and buttons that you may not have known existed but I too loved every moment of driving through the fields. I am glad that the sheep remain in fine fettle as I was a tad concerned about the one who tried to leap head first through the fence on my approach. There was plenty of room, I swear! Survival of the fittest I say.

Toddler Driving: Sheep Beware!

All in all we had the best time and I will be telling all my friends about it. My Mummy says it is perfect for toddlers as they don't seem to notice frizzing of the hair? I don't know what she means, it seemed to work wonders for my curls!

Till next time Pappy

Lots of love

Bear x
3 Little Buttons

Saturday, 21 July 2018

You Win Again: The Battle for the Third Baby

I appear to be surrounded. I am not exactly sure when it started but I am aware of it now. Everywhere I turn, there they lurk. I cannot seem to escape them. I am talking about pregnant women but not just any pregnant women, I am talking about the ones who are “going again”. 

I see them absent mindedly rubbing their swollen midriffs whilst gazing lovingly at the animated toddler who pulls excitedly at their hand while they wait for the lights to change at the crossing. I hear them chatting to the other mothers about how they don’t know what came over them; about how they just don’t know what they were thinking; about how their families had just not felt complete before laughing about how they are planning to march their other halves straight to the vasectomy clinic after this one comes along.

I don’t believe them. I mean I wouldn’t feel confident enough in their deceit to suggest that any male reader should put his knapsack on the line by playing the double bluff but I believe that they are sticking to “the plan”. "The plan" would have been formulated in their childhood, likely long before they ever met their significant others and probably influenced by their own number of siblings, whether positively or negatively and potentially by the number of siblings whom they actually like.* Sometimes another one is just one too far.

I myself was one of 3.
"Best till last" sort of situation.

It's no secret that, were the circumstances different, I would go again in a heartbeat. Husband, on the other hand, believes that I recall the entire pregnancy business through rose tinted glasses and am merely a slave the basic human instinct to want what I cannot have but then he is always fun like that. We see the prospect of another child entirely differently and on further probing (of the questioning variety) here is where I think we differ:

Me: If I were to be pregnant again I would know that this would be the last time so I would cherish every single moment. I would delight in the warm fuzzy glow that I would undoubtedly feel on seeing the glimmer of a blue line on the first positive pregnancy test, incredulous that it has actually happened to me. I would be reassured by the waves of nausea overwhelming me in the first trimester, safe in the knowledge that this is just a sign that the pregnancy was progressing as it should. I would wonder at my body's transformation as my tummy swells and my flat chest blooms in answer to its call to action; one final time into the fray dear friends. I would lovingly caress the bump; charting its movements and marvelling at how it manages to express its personality from within the confines of my womb.

I would not miss the things that I could not have or could not do. The soft cheeses, rare meat, wine and exercise would merely be things to look forward to in nine months’ time. They would wait. After all, it’s not forever. Just this one last time.

"That" feeling comes second only to meeting the baby.

Him: If you were to be pregnant again it would be a bloody nightmare. Sure, we would be delighted at the prospect of another child to add to the brood and that feeling would last approximately 24 seconds before you started reeling off the number of things that could possibly go wrong. Your face would go that green way whenever I suggested anything beyond toast for dinner and you would have to instigate “lying down games” with the other two who would politely ignore your requests not to be used as a climbing frame. When the activity and nausea took their combined effect the current offspring would then follow you to the toilet, refusing to allow you to hurl your guts up in the privacy of a locked bathroom, viewing it to be something of a spectators sport.

Then the “thickening” would start. You remember don’t you? Just before you actually look pregnant but you just lose the definition around the waist and you feel bloated and spotty. You'll tell me how "fat" you feel and remind me about the lecturer who described a human foetus as "the most efficient parasite known to man". You will shoot daggers at me when I mention exercise in which I may have partaken and want to discuss, at length, the statistical chance of actually infecting the unborn with Listeria from ingesting any of the foods on the NHS naughty list before deciding that you would never forgive yourself if you did and would therefore go without. You will then get annoyed with me for eating or imbibing anything on the pregnancy blacklist before muttering something about “solidarity” under your breath.

You will blossom, that is for sure and you will look great but you will not believe me when I tell you. You will, however, believe every non-medically trained stranger who tells you that your bump is “big” or “small” setting off a cascade of worry about how there is something wrong with the baby and demand that I check the size of your bump with a measuring tape from our non-existent sewing kit. But yes, "magical" is how I would describe it too.

So he may have a point(s) but they are still really cute.

Who wouldn't be tempted?!

*I do realise that not everyone bases their number of children on their own family and some base their decisions on far more practical things like cars, holidays, risk of multiples, houses, ability to cope with vTech for another 3years etc.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Come Together: Selling the Idea of Group Parenting

Now I don't want to make anyone nervous or fear that I am trying to indoctrinate you into some sort of cult which requires the sacrifice of a first born at every new moon but I have recently been thinking about the advantages of communal living. Bear with me.

We have been staying at my in law's house with my sister-in-law, her husband and their newborn daughter. Now, a hyperactive 4 year old, a somewhat impassioned 2 year old and an infant who is trying to come to terms with not being physically cocooned within her mother being couped up in the one house may seem, from the outside, chaotic or perhaps even a tad stressful. Honestly though, it wasn't. In this situation the adults far outnumbered the children and there were six pairs of hands to three demanding bodies which meant that adult ablutions could be done in private, hot drinks could be consumed whilst still above room temperature and role play could be evenly distributed thereby reducing any one person's suffering to tolerable levels. 

Many hands make less role play

Communal living meant that my husband and I could run together for an hour everyday. Now I realise that this might not be everyone's chosen activity when given a hour to one's self so replace "run" with "soak in the bath", "reading a book" or "catching up on the side bar of shame" if that's your bag, but it gave us the chance to chat, shoot the breeze, wax lyrically about our amazing children like we actually loved them and not through gritted teeth. Living with other people gives you the ability to do these things. Every single day! 

It also allowed me to take the edge off my ever present craving to "go again" by inhaling the newborn's scent and stroking their tiny, hairy limbs whilst they slept in a frog like position on my chest. I had all the joys of an infant without the torturous sleep deprivation, swampy feeling around the chesticles, drenching night sweats and tender undercarriage of days gone by. The new parents also got the opportunity to savour naps during the day, safe in the knowledge that, should their beloved progeny stir, there would be a number of loving bodies vying for the position of Chief Cuddler until they awoke from their slumber.

Just taking a big whiff...

The children seemed to thrive too. They soaked up the various sources of attention as efficiently as my socks soak up the errant urine around the toilet bowl whilst my son potty trains. In other circumstances when we have lived with other parents whose children are of similar ages and temperaments there have even been brief periods where we have been left to, hold on to your hats people, chat. 

The negatives (and we always knew there had to be some) would be rather vigorous selection process that would be involved. Your parenting prowess would need to be on par as you couldn't have Nigel and Bev from NCT consistently showing you up with their prodigy who has slept 10 hours a night since conception, gifts his finest cuddly toys to the local dog shelter as a matter of principle and is a self taught concert pianist by the age of 4. You need to find yourselves some parenting kindred spirits. 

In our case we are looking for a couple who rate fun and kindness over etiquette and tidiness. We need a couple who can appease an irate toddler while teaching a preschooler about evolution, gravity and breast feeding (she has some questions.) In return we can offer some strong voices during story time, a relaxed approach to feeding time and methods and a love of an early night, thereby freeing our alternates up for some nanights on the tiles whilst we hold down the communal fort.

We have even kept an eye out
for nearby properties

Nigel and Bev need not apply.
Mum Muddling Through
Lucy At Home UK parenting blogger

Friday, 6 July 2018

Summer In The City: A Mini-Break to London

This week we are on holiday. Now, all burglars take note. Please, have a rummage and help yourselves to as many luridly coloured plastic toys as you can fit into your swag bag. I would personally recommend anything by vtech: they seem to have set their volume levels at that of a Slipknot concert but with less musical content. A must in every house.

Anyway, I digress, going back to the holiday with having been to France only a month ago in the company of a heavily expectant member of the family (who thankfully made it back to British soil with baby still in situ), we had booked a week off after the due date in order to make the pilgrimage south and welcome the newest member of the family. We had planned to spend the majority of the week with the grandparents in rural Shropshire, introducing our city children to the concept of country walks, wildlife and village fetes but with a brief foray into the big smoke to visit cousins new and old(er).

Country chic...

The first leg of country living was a success with unprecedented good weather and access to a garden sprinkler. Minutes of entertainment. The second leg involved an arduous journey into the bustling metropolis of London town where success was brief, intermittent and cruelly interspersed with prolonged periods in a car with no air conditioning that reached temperatures hotter than the sun.

The audience with the new babe as she wriggled, sighed and mewled to perfection (as only those days into their lives can do) captivated the toddlers' attention for at least 45 seconds before they were back to rough housing their, somewhat fatigued, uncle who had been weakened by the nocturnal demands of his progeny.

Minutes of entertainment...

Our next "adventure" took us across town to the Natural History Museum where the Big One was desperate to introduce the Little One to her "best friend" Butterfly- The T- Rex. There was much anticipation as we boarded novel mode of transport after novel form of transport; there was an actual Big Red Bus followed by a "Choo Choo" that went under the ground before boarding another that travelled above the houses. They were living their best lives.
When we finally arrived they ran straight in pointing to all the signs adorned with pictorial representations of the giant reptiles with cries from the Little One of "Mummy! Mummy! Dine-e-saw!" He trotted after his beloved big sister with complete trust that she was leading him to see something that would change his life forever. "Mummy! Mummy! Come! Come!" As we entered the darkened enclosure where "Butterfly" lived and she emitted a deep, prolonged roar he hurled himself between my legs gripping so tightly that I feared the sensation would never return. With pleading eyes raised he muttered "I a bit scared. No like dine-e-saw". We tried and failed to reassure him explaining that she was no more real than his toy Dog Dog, perhaps delivering two cruels blows in one day so we admitted defeat and went to buy ice cream.

Just terrified

Next on the agenda was a visit to the Queen's house, an absolute must in the book of the pre-schooler who has made the decision that an actor's life is for her, being that she hears this is the way to become a Princess. The toddler was easily swayed with images of Julia Donaldson's Ladybird on Holiday so back on the various forms of transport we went.

Four flights of stairs, three toddler tantrums, two cramped trains and one busy change later we were there. As I pointed in the direction of the gold embellished palace with the flourish of a magician's assistant I was greeted with a look of disdain: "Urgh, can we go home yet?"

So over it...

So back into our mobile oven we went just in time to sit in gridlock traffic before extending our journey by several miles in an attempt to rock the raging toddler into sleep, all to the musical accompaniment of "It's a Small World" on repeat, for 3 hours. 

Oh, if only it was.

Knowing Me, Knowing You: The Transition Period

So, we are now a whole month into school life and my eldest seems to have taken to her new institutionalised existence like a toddler takes ...