Mother (Almost Never) Knows Best: 2017

Thursday, 28 December 2017

New Year, New Me, New Them

With the promising blank canvas of a New Year fast approaching I thought I would compile a list of things I am going to achieve through subtle changes in my parenting style in 2018. New Year, new me therefore new them. How can I possibly falter? These are my entirely realistic aims for 2018:

My 2 year old will lose the phrase “mine!” As his language develops I shall be able to reason with him about the importance of sharing and how much fun there is to be had merely by including others in your ball games. I am no fool and I realise that this will not happen overnight but I anticipate by his second birthday in March, he will be eagerly inviting his sister to discover the joys of his toys as if they belonged to the family as a whole and not as though he were the sole proprietor.
Sharing shall become second nature

My 4 year old will learn to pick up after herself
Gone will be the nights where our routine assessment of her continued survival, is rewarded by our failing miserably to pick a safe path through the utter carnage of our daughter’s bedroom, stifling expletives as poorly made plastic figurines become embedded in the soles of our feet. She will learn to respect and treasure her belongings, silently acknowledging that these have been gifted to her and that she is incredibly lucky child. When asked where her most treasured possessions are, she will respond immediately with their exact status and coordinates.
Carnage of the pre schooler


My 2 year old shall be potty trained Following on from his maturity in the world of sharing, my youngest will be keen to spare us from the arduous and often repugnant task of a toddler nappy change. Fetid excrement will no longer need to be extricated from the multitude of creases and crevasses of the boy toddler. He will treat the pot as his throne and undertake his responsibility as monarch in a dutiful fashion. He shall become accomplished in the world of toileting over a single weekend and our life will seamlessly change beyond recognition. Gone will be the days of heavy bags laden with a multitude of nappies, wipes and changes. We shall be light of foot and skip our way out into the world.
The joys of toilet training

My 4 year old will eat vegetables
After an initial period of bedding in, where I will expect a little reluctance on her part and a touch of gentle persuasion/bartering/threatening being administered on mine, she will be spontaneously requesting an assortment of plant based food adorn her plate. A positive rainbow of foodstuffs will be doled out of an evening and I shall feel satisfied in the knowledge that I am providing sustenance to optimise her health, energy levels and mental focus. Come Christmas 2018, she will be passing on the beige coloured potatoes and turkey so as not to waste any space on her plate for the plethora of sprouts, carrots and red cabbage.
Paltry portions of vegetables will be a thing of the past


My 2 year old will go to bed without debate
By the end of the first week in January, bedtime will be bedtime. Gone will be the evenings spent attempting to placate an irate, shrieking tot who was clearly cruelly abandoned in a former life. Nights will be reclaimed, lengthy discussions had and convoluted TV plots followed. We will no longer have to eat our dinner in relay form and rely on snatched, snippets of conversation to impart essential information. We shall have time as a couple, to chat, laugh and not discuss our offspring.
Bed sharing will be long gone

 Don’t think I can’t see you over there raising your eyebrows; doubt written all over your face. I hear the dubious tone in your voice; the “sure you will”, “aye right”’s being muttered under your breath. I sense your disbelief emanating through the internet. I am on to you.

 Little do you know, this is going to be the best year yet. It will be the year that I nail this parenting malarkey. People will be seeking me out from across the globe to advise them on how to mould their own children into perfect members of society. I will become the most sought after advisor on all things maternal, with my blog title requiring a swift change to a more positive outlook and page views going stratospheric as a consequence.

Or I might just teach a rhinoceros how to pirouette.


Do you have any (entirely realistic) New Year's resolutions? Please let me know in the comments!
My Random Musings

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Coming to Terms with the "Last"

It would appear that the stork (who seems to have been on some sort of sabbatical recently) has penciled in a visit to our extended family in the not too distant future. This has me utterly beholden to excitement, potentially more than it should, but I am a slave to those crinkly moles and I am living vicariously through the prospective parents.

Now here is the thing, I am horribly jealous, in fact I am intermittently consumed with it. I won't deny it. Just when I think I have come to terms with the fact that my family is complete at one fewer than we had originally planned, I foresee another "last" on the horizon; last positive pregnancy test, last birth, last breastfeed, last nap, last carry. So, being that I cannot stop the rest of the world from procreating I decided to investigate the real cause of my envy and this is what I have discovered:

1. I miss the sheer unknown of that first pregnancy

Even though my first child put us through the ringer during the incubation period, I definitely still remember periods of uninhibited joy which are so few and far between once you reach "adult" status. Your first child will change your life. They do this in ways you cannot even imagine as you sit, magical pee stick in hand, marvelling at those two blue lines that you had spent your misguided youth trying to avoid. Whilst we, as card carrying progenitors, find it easier to portray the more negative aspects of parenthood, the truth is a child will incomprehensibly alter you for the better. It's just not as funny to write about.

2. I miss the limitless possibility of the newborn

There is a whole person waiting to meet you. All those twinges, pops and bubbles emanating from your stomach are coming from a real human being; an individual who is actually part you and part him. Sure, they may come out a tad shrivelled, a little mole like and not too dissimilar to your great uncle Neville, but you will see them and feel your heart hurt with love. Utter, uncomplicated devotion. Their personality will start to take shape with each passing hour and you will be in awe. How did you, with all of your faults, make such a wonderful, magical, perfect little person?

3. Lastly, I long to...

I ache.

There is definitely a part of me that feels incomplete but who is to say that one more child would be the answer? I have two beautiful children who fought tooth and nail to be here today (my womb being as hospitable as a medieval torture chamber) so it would be unfair for me to put them, my husband or a prospective child through another pregnancy. I can live without another baby but I wouldn't want my babies to have to live without a mother. This I know. I just wish my head would tell my heart.
Shrivelled Mole meets Big Sister


Saturday, 16 December 2017

Christmas: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

It's the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids running riot
And everyone warning you "be of good cheer"
It's the most wonderful time of the year

It's the hap-happiest season of all
With the long whiney trudges and family grudges
When you come to call
It's the hap-happiest season of all

There'll be present construction
Then toddler destruction
And wine on the go
There'll be Joseph and Mary
The Sugar Plum Fairy
And tantrums on show

It's the most wonderful time of the year
There'll be lengthy list making
And questionable baking
Downed with liquid cheer
It's the most wonderful time of the year

There's competitive wrapping
Post gluttony napping
And heartburn for all
There's wet kisses from aunties
Being wiped off with hankies
Kids climbing the walls
It's the most wonderful time of the year


The rain will be pouring
Claims everything's "boring"
When Boxing Day's near

It's the most wonderful time
Yes the most wonderful time
Oh the most wonderful time
Of the year

PS In the purposes of full disclosure, I actually love Christmas and do, in fact, believe it to be the most wonderful time of the year...

Clearly The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

 

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Toddler Ballet: Cracking a Tough Nut

I won't lie. When my mother phoned me to ask if I fancied taking my all-things-pink-loving toddler to watch the Scottish Ballet's performance of The Nutcracker I was filled with a mixture of dread and self pity. I dreaded having to cajole, bribe, threaten and eventually manhandle my near 4 year old into what was bound to be an exorbitantly priced seat for the protracted performance. I pitied myself as I had absolutely no desire to go. Having been "actively encouraged" to attend ballet throughout my childhood years (there were hopes that it would improve, what remains to be, terrible posture) it was always painfully evident that I lacked any natural ability. When this was combined with my having been quite a tall and robust teenager who felt awkward and out of place, a love affair with the art form did not ensue. Plus, I could not learn to like the maudlin music.

So there I was, an interminable silence on the phone line, with an expectant and beloved maternal presence on the other end. There was no way to extricate myself with causing offence or, worse, disappointment. So I signed us up.

The funny thing was that my daughter was really excited. Like grab a brown paper bag, breathe deeply, head between the legs excited and you just can't immunise yourself against that sort of enthusiasm. She wanted to know the whole story and be able to hum the music before she took her seat. After the initial disappointment of learning the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy was already cast, she took to dressing up as the candied sprite at every opportunity and that included donning her ballet shoes in the most random of places. We bought a beautifully illustrated version of the story which had buttons to play a few bars of Tchaikovsky's score in the relevant places and both children were up and practicing their plies and pas de basques. I too seemed to recognise, and to my utter incredulity, enjoy the vast majority with the 90s Cadbury's "Everyone's a Fruit and Nut cake" aiding the appreciation.

When the day finally happened upon us I felt myself as giddy as my toddler. I was ready to enter the Land of Sweets and the Mouse King was in danger of receiving a swift thump from my left brogue. My apprehension had now shifted to my toddler's staying power. Would she go the distance? Would we make it through to the Sugar Plum Fairy or even my beloved Dance of the Reed Flutes/Fruit and Nut Cake? I packed my bribes high and started the psychological manipulation by telling her how much she was going to love it and how we knew that, as such a big girl, she would enjoy the WHOLE thing... Well she did. She was captivated for pretty much the duration. In all honesty, she found the Waltz of the Flowers a little drawn out but I will confess that I too may have found my attention waning a little during that particular number. Tchaikovsky take note, nobody can pen hits all the time.

I am not suggesting that we are now culture vultures who will be signing up to all the latest ballet performances and classical music recitals. All I know is that The Nutcracker worked on our level. For my toddler it was a story filled with magic, toys, sweets and dancing, all put to catchy music with no tricky adult conversations to follow. Whilst for me, it was exactly the same.

 The Christmas spirit is upon us....
Sugar Plum Fairy better watch her back

Friday, 8 December 2017

Husband: My Partner in Crime

To mark our six year's wed and your (gulp) 35th birthday, I have decided to surrender to your relentless lobbying and pen (or type) a little something about you. Now, don’t get too excited. I haven’t had a personality transplant overnight so there shall be no declarations of undying love or comparisons to boulder like masses (Steve Wright Sunday Love Song listeners please take heed.)

This is what I know:

1. We are in this together

There has not been a single moment since we stood in front of our friends and family, dressed in our finest threads, vowing to be a team for the ever after, when I have felt lonely or alone. Any decision to be made, battle to mount or achievement to be celebrated has been done together without conscious thought or deliberation. We are a team.

This collaboration extends beyond the landmark moments and seeps into the mundane tasks of daily life. Where nappies and disciplining are borne equally, you definitely pick up the slack in the housekeeping and cooking department whilst I perhaps take on the brunt of the night calls and toddler sick days. We definitely have a rhythm and manage to keep the beat, which is no mean feat when you recall our poor ballroom dance teacher declaring our rhythm keeping to be "terminal"!

2. We are stronger because of what we have been through

It has definitely not been all sunshine and rainbows, especially since we started assembling our little family (much like the Avengers). There were those days that felt like an age where we tried to come to terms with our “inevitable” miscarriage only to have our spirits raised that all would be well. Those hopes were then decimated when the phrases "structural defects",  “chromosomal abnormalities" and "genetic investigations" were bandied about. Our second pregnancy was no kinder to us, with weekly scans to check the blood supply to our treasured infant's brain. All in all our little brood were lucky to survive the gauntlet that is incubation in my womb.
I am not sure when you promised the "in sickness" part that you expected to be called into battle quite so frequently but you have stood tall (above average height) and taken it on as if you were receiving each diagnoses yourself.

3. There is no one else I would rather be in this with

As anyone in a long term relationship knows, the heat and passion that comes with a new relationship is intertwined with the unknown. There is so much to learn about the other person and, at the time, this is exciting. There is so much potential and the mystery just adds to the allure! 

However, mystery and the unknown do not rank very highly on your wish list for a partner in the child raising game. You want to know not only where you stand but that you are standing in the same general area and not having to use a carrier pigeon to get your point across.

Our surprises may be few, our passion more sporadic and our heat mostly flannel pyjama based but with you I know where I stand and I know upon whom I can rely.
Now I know you love a quote, and in the absence of Van Wilder or Ron Swanson having uttered an appropriately eloquent adage, I shall instead turn to the words of an underrated Children’s author, Anna Kemp:

“”You know, “[I said}, as [we] drank [our] tea,
“We’re a great team, you and me”
[Your non-existent] belly shook with laughter.
And [we] both lived happily ever after.”


Happy birthday my love! 

The Classic Family Photo

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Mothers: Working on the Guilt

As a mother, guilt pervades all we do to varying degrees but perhaps the most common focus is that of our employment status; the working versus stay-at-home mother conundrum.

Regardless of path chosen and whether it was done so out of choice or necessity, we self flagellate either publicly on social media, or behind closed doors. We fear having ruined our children by proving to be poor feminist role models if we relinquish the monthly pay check but then lambast ourselves if we return to the workplace; cruelly abandoning our beloved progeny to be raised by people who are paid to care about them.

Then there is the coveted middle ground: the much sought after "part time" work. What could be better? You get the best of both worlds. No need to compromise. Can life get any better? Well, yes. The unspoken truth is that part time work is a mine field. You feel stretched so thinly that where you were once a nice comforting naan bread you would now be more suited to wrapping up the Peking duck. The guilt gnaws away at you as you turn your back on their little doe eyed faces; knowing their gaze is following you across the room, beseeching you to stay just a little longer but then you also feel guilty for leaving your kids.

I think that there is a secret that no one has been telling us. I think that there is a simple truth needing to be acknowledged. I think that there is a fact that once considered can never be denied. There is no right answer. No one  has achieved the holy grail and been entirely liberated from their maternal guilt.

Guilt is as integral to parenting as poo, Mr. Tumble, soft play and bribery. Acknowledge it,  accept it and move on. No one is getting it right all of the time. No one has worked out the perfect balance where they attend every pre-school sports day, are their to kiss away every scraped knee but are also managing to dismantle that ceiling one glass pane at a time. It's time we gave ourselves, and everyone else a break. Guilt is just a side effect of loving them.

I have two friends (I actually have more, but for the purposes of this I shall keep it to my two relevant friends) where one is a full time working mum with multiple children, the other stays at home mum with her toddler. Both are taking over the world and bossing the parenting role in their very own way and I openly admit to envying them both for various reasons.

Let us take Mum A, the worker, she is highly regarded in her profession (and rewarded appropriately). When she discusses her work she exudes competence and capability. She is exceptionally smart in both intelligence and appearance and her children are charming and affectionate; clearly both happy and loved. I want to be like her when I grow up.

Next we have Mum B, the stay at home mum. She is insanely competent in all things homemaking. She can reupholster the couch while her homemade lasagne warms in the oven and her toddler works through an engaging messy play activity set up in her Tuff Tray; which will unwittingly teach her how to sort and reason. This mum makes me want to be a better mum.

These mums are getting it right. Both of them. They probably don't feel like it all of the time but they are. They are both nailing being strong role models and loving mothers. Strong female role models are not just the ones who go to work everyday and being a loving mother and being on the payroll are not mutually exclusive. So whichever path you (or circumstances) have chosen, cut yourself some slack. We are all just muddling through.
 
There Will Be No Miracles Here

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

We're Going to Family for Christmas: A Bear Hunt Parody

We're driving to family for Christmas
It's going to be a great one
What a magical time
We're not scared

Uh uh! Impromptu pee!
Stuck in a traffic jam, pee.
We can't skip over it.
We can't go around it.
Oh no!
We'll have to go through it!

Splash splosh!
Splash splosh!
Splash splosh!

We're driving to family for Christmas
It's going to be a great one
What a magical time

We're not scared

Uh uh! Vomit!
Projectile fruit pack vomit.
We can't skip over it.
We can't go around it.
Oh no!
We'll have to go through it!

Squelch squerch!
Squelch squerch!
Squelch squerch!

We're driving to family for Christmas
It's going to be a great one
What a magical time

We're not scared

Uh uh! Tantrum!
Unwelcome, unwarranted tantrum.
We can't skip over it.
We can't go around it.
Oh no!
We'll have to go through it!

Hoooo woooo!
Hoooo woooo!
Hoooo woooo!

We're driving to family for Christmas
It's going to be a great one
What a magical time

We're not scared

Uh uh! Need to be Santa!
Magical, nocturnal Santa.
We can't skip over it.
We can't go around it.
Oh no!
We'll have to go through it!

Stumble trip!
Stumble trip!
Stumble trip!

We're driving to family for Christmas
It's going to be a great one
What a magical time

We're not scared

Uh uh! Politics!
Ingrained family politics.
We can't skip over it.
We can't go around it.
Oh no!
We'll have to go through it!

Tiptoe!
Tiptoe!
Tiptoe!

What's that?

One paralyzing hangover!
Two over-hyped sugar- filled toddlers!
Two shrieking instruments of torture!
IT'S A FAMILY CHRISTMAS!!!!

Quick! Back through the family politics! Tiptoe! Tiptoe! Tiptoe!

Back through the Santa gifts! Stumble trip! Stumble trip! Stumble trip!

Back through the tantrums! Hoooo wooooo! Hoooo wooooo!

Back through the travel sickness! Squelch squerch! Squelch squerch!

Back through the roadside pees! Splash splosh! Splash splosh! Splash splosh!

Get to our front door.
Open the door.
Up the stairs.
Oh no!
We forgot to shut the door.
Back downstairs.

Shut the door. 

Back upstairs.
Into the bedroom.
Into bed.
Under the covers.

We're not going for a family Christmas again!
Toddler Christmas

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Terrific Toddler Books

I used to be a reader. I would even go as far as to say that I was a voracious reader. I would devour novel after novel, never limiting myself to a single genre. I would delight in the historical courting dilemmas of Austen and the Brontë sisters, immerse myself in the dark, crime-filled streets of Rankin's Edinburgh and delve into the sobering real life accounts of Oliver Sacks.

Then I had children.

Having spent the first two weeks of maternity leave, unencumbered by the usual desire of pregnant ladies to nest, I consumed tome after tome. Upon the arrival of my newborn, the books were cast aside. In the fug of sleep deprivation, I lacked the focus and energy, turning, instead to vacuous television programs readily available. The books were left to collect dust and act as coasters for empty glasses, guzzled down in the peak of overnight feeds.

Whilst the absence of novels went on for some time I started to revel in the writing and morals in some of the children's books that I was now narrating to my daughter: a lover of a story.

These are my current top 3:

1. The Worst Princess by Anna Kemp
Despite the fact that my daughter is a self taught devotee of all things pink, girly, glittery and Disney, the tale of The Worst Princess turns the usual princess-waiting-to-be-rescued tale on its head. It's a feminist's dream, beautifully illustrated and hilarious to boot! (I find reading the heroine with a strong Scottish accent adds a little something extra -my husband wholeheartedly disagrees!)


The Worst Princess - by Anna Kemp & Sara Ogilvie

2. The Odd Dog Out by Rob Biddulph
This is a classic tale of being your own person, beautifully summarised by the final line of "Blaze a trail, be who you are"... Need I say more? I love Rob Biddulph and his "Grrrr" story about how winning isn't everything very nearly made my top 3. Fred and Boris the bears are frequently referenced in our house when the inevitable toddler meltdown ensues following any form of activity which could loosely be interpreted as competitive.
Odd Dog Out by Rob Biddulph

3. The Shrew That Flew by Julia Copus
This tale is one of three stories featuring Harry the Hog and his best friend Candy Striped Lil 
and whilst my 3 year old daughter would definitely favour "The Hog, the Shrew and the Hullabaloo" where Harry fears a noise in the dark only to discover that it is his nocturnal friends going about their day, I love the Shrew That Flew. It is all about trying, failing, picking yourself up and trying again. The repetitive uttering of "Never say never!" serves as a mantra for all!
The Shrew that Flew by Julia Copus and Eunyoung Seo


If you are looking for books for your toddlers this Christmas look no further! Husband, if you read this I think we have learned that I need an adult book....


Terrific Toddler Books


Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Return of the Threenager

So today I just had one of those days. Having delighted in the impeccable behaviour of my two cherubic children whilst on holiday, I was perplexed and not just a little crushed to find that when the wheels of that Boeing 7(insert number here)7 hit the grey tarmac of Scotland those cherubs changed to demons as quickly as Gremlins in a tidal wave. I barely recognise them. The past 48hours has left me repeatedly questioning, often aloud in the direction of others (some related, some not, some I just chance upon in the street) “is it me?”

 
I feel myself quick to temper and I can hear the repetitive “No!” sound being emitted from my lips with every breath. I am boring myself and yet it would appear that my children have been rendered deaf from the flight. They swing between amorous expressions of sibling affection to attempts on one another’s lives that would not be out of place in a Shakespearean tragedy.
 
My youngest has perfected an ear splitting scream akin to a medieval warrior having his organs laid out before him. Initially I rushed to sweep him up in my arms, smother him with affection and quietly assess which limb had been amputated when I did eventually manage to decipher his anguished cries it would appear to translate loosely as “may I have some peanut butter please?”

 
My eldest, normally the light of my life and the shining example of my parenting prowess; a girl who exudes empathy and who possesses such a natural affinity for doing the right thing that I have previously found myself questioning whether she will find herself peacekeeping in the middle east, preaching to the Dalai Lama or taking herself off to a nunnery, she has turned. Once again the threenager is knocking at my door (or more accurately speaking, demanding that I knock on hers). I have seen into my future and I am terrified.
 

I have started grappling for reasons that might have caused such a transformation to occur: is it the assault of all things Christmas on our return to old Blighty leading to excessive and poorly managed toddler excitement? Are they feeling unsettled following our trip abroad and subsequent journey home? Are we particularly jaded following ten solid days of parenting (don’t judge me) and they are picking up on it like dogs on weakness?

 
I can honestly say that I have no answers. Best I can do is hunker down and wait for the storm to pass.
 
(But if you see them, don’t tell them I am hiding in the bathroom.)

 
The Terrifying Toddler aka Threenager Returns

Monday, 20 November 2017

A Message in a Bottle: Why Blog?

I have started thinking about why I have started to blog. During these ruminations I have concluded that there may be a small part in all of us (some more than others) which craves external validation and positive attention,  however, I would like to believe that my motivation is not solely limited to this self serving ideal (which is just as well as my comments section is somewhat sparsely populated!) And whilst I doubt there are many of us who would turn down the success that the Unmumsy Mum has enjoyed since documenting her thoughts regarding parenting on the internet, I fear us mere mortals cannot expect to enjoy such accolades nor income from our postulations on potty training!
No, putting these aspirations to one side, I have realised that I blog for three reasons:

1. Me- I use it as a teenager in the 80s would have used a floral diary and a scented pen but unfortunately mine is less "He is so dreamy! How long before he notices me?" and more "His nappy is so smelly! How long before everyone notices the stench?" It allows me to document how I feel as I feel it and reflect on the good, the bad and the farcical.

2. Them - There are parts of my blog which aren't as happy or funny as others. We had two rather tricky pregnancies and our daughter will be living with the consequences of that for the rest of her life. I want them to see how hard they were fought for and how proud I am of them, even from before the time they knew they had to please me in order to go to the "cool" party at the weekend... I want to be able to show them that in their darkest hours of pregnancy and parenthood, I too found it hard, I understand. So please, feel what you feel and don't beat yourself up about it.

3. You - Not as in "you are bloody blessed to be exposed to my witty ponderings and don't you forget it!" But more, if you are out there and feeling a little lost: maybe you too are not enjoying the dream pregnancy that you expected; maybe you too have a child (or the prospect of one) with physical differences who you fear may suffer emotionally as a consequence or maybe you too worry that you are not a good enough mother or role model to equip them with the confidence they need to be happy. Perhaps reading an account of someone like you will help you feel less alone and give you some hope that you can and will find your way through the gauntlet that is parenting.
The Lesser Spotted Blogger


Motherhood The Real Deal

Thursday, 16 November 2017

The Secret Life of Toddlers

As you may have gathered we are currently on holiday and we have chosen to holiday with some very good friends who have children exactly 6 months younger than ours. The two eldest are both girls whose interests include pink, purple, Elsa and fairies; and the two youngest are boys whose interests include carnage, damage and destruction. A match made in heaven, right? In all honesty the children are individually delightful and I truly believe that this is a perfect match but it also highlights quite how emotionally draining it is to be a toddler even at the best of times. The swing from best friends to arch nemesis can occur within a fraction of a second and then returns to its original status before you can say "is that how we treat our frie... Oh, right. As you were" ... It is exhausting.

I have always thought that I quite fancied a "nanny cam" situation at nursery so I could see my daughter interact with her peers. There were even brief periods where I flirted with the idea of applying for "The Secret Life of 4 year olds" so I could have a professional tell me about all the hidden aspects of her personality, "knowing" that I would be proud; that she could do no wrong.

To be honest, the vast majority of the time I have been immensely proud of her behaviour. I can see her wrangling with being swept away by the group mentality (predominantly with her brother as ring leader) and doing what she knows is right and this seems to win out most of them time.  However having spent the last seven days in a similar situation to that of "The Secret Life..." (minus the professional, that would be weird) I have learnt that I am too soft. I lack the resilience of a toddler.

They do not say things with the cruel edge with which we as grown ups interpret them. They do not have the nasty side that we as adults fear in others (and ourselves.) They do not take things to heart the way we do. They accept that they are friends who sometimes just don't get along. I think we can all learn something from a toddler.


Be more resilient. Be more toddler.
Be More Toddler!!



Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Holiday: It Would Be So Nice...

Top of the list for logistical nightmares must be going on holiday with toddlers. I swear there are military manoeuvres that take less organisation and negotiation skills than mobilising a family of four off this island. The obstacles to overcome include (but are by no means limited to):

1. Heat
To the average singleton, a destination that is warm equates to less of pretty much everything: less clothing, less beauty paraphernalia, less hassle. To a family with young children heat means more. More clothing, more creams and more apparatus as a consequence of heat based activities (read "swimming"). We have parasols, muslins and a variety of hats in the vain hope that one shall be tolerated and save that fresh, translucent skin from almost certain scorching.

2. Lack of NHS
This is not something the average young traveller really thinks about but when you have small children the nearest healthcare provider is at the top of the list of things to research. Gone are the Google searches for "cool things to do in Ecuador" or "nightclubs in Bucharest" and here to stay are "English speaking healthcare providers in Tenerife"... Ho hum.

3. Baby paraphernalia
Travel cots, baby monitors, prams, car seats, bottles, sippy cups, favoured formula, seat adaptors for eating out, nappy cream, travel potties, blankets, calpol... Need I go on?

4. "Essential" toddler items
Also high on the list, but not to be confused with potentially useful and necessary baby items are the "essential" toddler items. Those which they cannot live without. The things that absolutely define their being... Until you leave the house. At this point the plethora of plastic pieces, assemblage of assorted animals and the formation of furry friends will immediately be forgotten about. Left cruelly discarded in the bag in which they traversed miles across land and oceans only to see daylight upon their return to the homestead.

5. In flight entertainment
I defy anyone to have come up with the exact array of accoutrements that will entertain a child of preschool age for the duration of a European flight, never mind a long haul journey. This particularly item of hand luggage will be weighed down with small toys, iPads, headphones, snap cards, magazines, comforters and above all, snacks for bribery purposes. It shall be adorned with a popular swine based character or Disney Princess and shall be a violent neon colour. Expect to carry it.

6. The "last minute contributor"
This mantle falls to my husband who considers himself to be very organised and to the most part I would agree. However, with 5 minutes to go before departure you will find him throwing everything bar the items glued to the building into the bag "just in case" as "you never know"...
Well, I tell you what, I do know. I know we'll be paying for excess baggage. 
Oh look! We'll be trapped on that for 5hours together! Huzzah!

Saturday, 4 November 2017

The Forgotten Child....

I am beginning to realise that so far it reads as though I only have one child. Normally, being forgotten about falls to the first born; the initial pancake that is inevitably tossed to one side (or, in this house, bestowed upon the mother). But no, this mantle falls to my second child. The one who needs no medical intervention, who has been gifted with ten fingers and ten toes and whose limbs are symmetrical and equal in each way.

We eventually worked up the courage to "go again". The horror of the genetic investigations and the torment of the first pregnancy and all its uncertainties must have faded enough to allow a seed of optimism and hope to take root.

This time, we were armed. I now had a definitive diagnosis of type 1 diabetes (which was under control), I was on high dose folic acid and I was living the sort of ascetic lifestyle that would have made Gwyneth Paltrow proud. What could go wrong?

Nothing.

Nothing ACTUALLY went wrong but everyone (doctors included) were on such tenter hooks that I was scanned so often I could have picked my unborn baby out of a police line up. Although I suspect most people would be able to pick and unborn baby out of a police line up...

When my diabetes didn't behave as they were expecting I was admitted for "close observation" and spent half of my last trimester under the watchful eye of a suspicious medical team who were trying to decide whether my baby's blood supply was failing or whether I was injecting excess insulin between my toes.

At 37 weeks they called it quits and kick-started labour themselves. Aside from an initial dodgy trace and an epidural which set in just in time for the tea and toast (the universally recognised reward for bringing life into the world) the delivery was as positive an experience as pooping a cannonball can be.


This was my boy. My beautiful boy and I was besotted... 


Friday, 28 July 2017

This Mum Runs...

I run almost every day. This is not a brag or a challenge to others but merely a statement of fact.

Running has been my go to exercise ever since I was an awkward teenager trying to battle the weight gain that the new found freedom to choose my own lunch had inflicted, but it was always a battle to get myself out the front door and meet the 'three times a week' target that I had imposed upon myself.

However, since having my second child, running has ceased to be a chore and has morphed into something of a love affair. It enables me to take time out of my hectic and all-consuming life (which I love) as a working mother and centre myself. It allows me to reflect on everything that has happened, everything that is currently being endured and everything great that is still to come. It enables me to breathe which is ironic because often I physically cannot. .

I was recently asked by a friend to give my reasons for running in a three word story for the purposes of Instagram and it was something I had never really dwelled upon before but on reflection I think I narrowed it down to the most important three reasons:

1. For me
Since being diagnosed as a type 1 (insulin dependent) diabetic I have struggled with the lack of control that I have over my own health and all the problems that the future may present for both myself and my family. Running has given me both an outlet for my anxious energy and a way to increase my body's sensitivity to insulin thereby reducing the likelihood of damaging high blood sugars. What is not to like?

2. For him

My husband is a natural runner and could easily leave me behind in a competitive race but we regularly book the babysitter and take a few hours to plan the future while we plod our way through a scenic few miles. So many life decisions have been made in our running shoes.

3. For them

Apart from keeping me fit and energised I think that having my children see me being committed to doing something that is hard; something that I am not the best at but something that I love and makes me feel better is good. My daughter can often be found telling her nursery friends to run around more as her "Mummy loves it and it is sooooo good for you!" I sometimes think it is a shame she doesn't recognise that attribute in vegetables, but i'll take it.  
The Ultimate Running Partner (and the toddler) 


Thursday, 20 July 2017

The Road Less Travelled...

My daughter is 3 and a half years old. As anyone who has been or who is currently delighting in being the parent of a toddler that ‘half’ is very important and should never be forgotten. Now I will admit that my 3-and-a-half year old is rather on the small side and works hard to mount the 2nd centile on the world recognised growth chart following a rather cruel start in life, but in every other respect she is holding her own. She will count to twenty, hold conversations with adults where they genuinely feel engaged, remember conversations you had six months ago, hop on either foot and reel off all the colours and numbers in Spanish (which is awkward as my Spanish is limited to “una cerveza por favor" and still can be caught pronouncing “chorizo” as cho-ree-sio.) As it stands, I am one proud mother.

But here is the thing: when trying to dress herself the other day the “label to the back/label to the side” conundrum had her stumped and her reaction was to say that she is “rubbish at everything”. On more probing, it came to light that her nursery friends had commented that she wasn’t very good at running races. This is something I suspect may be true and could be due to the fact that she is not the tallest or could be because the vast majority of her friends are at least a year older and whilst I am sure the children meant nothing by it (other than the speaking the brutal truth that children are so often prone to do) this negative comment has seeped into her entire self belief, leaving her feeling defeated and inept.

This is the one thing I never wanted for my children. I am a slave to my insecurities. They have led to make questionable decisions as a burgeoning adult, chased me out of the medical profession and plague me on a daily basis should I be relied upon for anything (and by anything I literally mean anything from a deliverable at work to making a cup of tea for someone else.) This is the one thing I did not want my children to inherit (well that and the diabetes). Like a feral dog I am constantly sniffing out the next way to secure external validation and prove (albeit briefly) that I am an satisfactory human being who errs on the side of competence.
This has led to numerous post graduate professional qualifications, psychological evaluations and daily checks with my long suffering spouse that I am not a bad wife/mother/friend/daughter/person and yet I still am no further forward.

How can I save them from this blighted existence? How do you instil confidence in your children when you cannot monitor every comment that will be uttered about them or how they will interpret them? How do you show them just how incredible they are and why they should love being themselves? How do you stop them being you?

All anyone wants for their children is for them to be happy but how do you navigate that path when you fell off the precipice yourself?

Friday, 28 April 2017

Schooled


Since our oldest child turned three we have been somewhat preoccupied with the thought of schooling and how best to go about it. When I say preoccupied, there are times when it has consumed my thoughts upon waking and drifting to sleep.

I have an almighty fear of getting it wrong and ruining my children forever. Which I am sure with the gift of hindsight will be laughable but it doesn’t feel very amusing right now.

The worst part of all is that the distress is due to a very middle-class quandary (which I do realise I am extremely fortunate to even be able to consider) for I am trying to decide between state and private schooling.

You see, my husband was private schooled and I, state. Academically we are probably on par but where he is filled with an innate confidence and comfort in who he is, I am racked with insecurity and would gratefully morph into (any) another human being altogether. I see he and his friends and they just seem more at ease with who they are and their lot in life. For some reason, I put this, at least in part, down to schooling. I do realise that I am probably entirely mistaken, however, it is the one thing I can do something about. I want my children to have the confidence (not arrogance) to enjoy their lives to the fullest. So while there is certainly nothing I can do about the genetic make-up that I have passed down, what I can do is obsess on schools; private schools, state schools, grammar schools, mixed schools and everything in between.

What I would like to make very clear is that I don’t think private schooling makes you a better individual and I do see that in some cases it can do quite the opposite. I do believe that the quality of the teaching staff is identical but the class sizes and resources they enjoy are not and if we can afford it then surely we should lavish those bouquets of pencils upon them! But I then realise that we are merely on the cusp of being able to afford it and would I be short changing them elsewhere? Would they end up enduring school at the bottom of the social heap like a Cinderella who has been discovered half way through the first dance?  

With jobs that can be easily moved, we regularly play the “Right Move” game where we pick an area and look up the available schools in the area ( I should point out that this can involve plonking our baby on the map and seeing where he crawls). Although currently Scotland based, England (as well as the weather) has the attractive offer of grammar schools as while we do not struggle to meet the mortgage repayments, we would certainly be stretching ourselves by enrolling two children in private school but then is anything more important that your children’s education? And again, I come full circle.
That’s it. I’m home schooling
The "Right Move Game" Toddler Style

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The Pregnancy: My Imperfectly Perfect Baby


So, to cut a long story short we did actually have a baby...

It was a miscarriage that never was but a threat that loitered menacingly for the duration of the pregnancy. My lovely, green "low risk" sticker was obliterated by an angry, red "high risk" stamp as further complications ensued: gestational diabetes, gestational thrombocytopaenia (no platelets and therefore an inability to clot) and "measuring small for dates".

At nineteen weeks we had our anomaly scan. This was booked early as, although undiscussed, there was a palpable expectation from the medical team that an abnormality would be discovered. Our previous conversations held in the scan department cloaked us in pessimism and the phrases uttered a mere two months ago rang clear:

"There is no fluid..."

"We usually find that this is not compatible with a viable pregnancy..."

"... normally due to a chromosomal abnormality..." 

And sure enough they found an anomaly.

Our baby had a "unilateral talipes". What this actually means is that one of their feet had developed in such a way that it turned in on its self. Historically the affliction had the rather attractive name of “club foot”. The good news was that it was entirely treatable to the point that the vast majority of those born with it actually go unnoticed. They can expect their feet to be different sizes, their calf muscles to be a little under developed on the affected side and they may need to rethink any aspirations to be a professional footballer or ballet dancer but they will run; they will jump; they will play. It takes five solid years of a parental commitment to physiotherapy but it is fixable.

It wasn't the abnormality that they found which caused the concern but the increasing possibility that there would be something more fundamentally wrong with our baby. Any sort of structural anomaly increases the likelihood that there is some underlying chromosomal irregularity but there was no way to know for sure. This was a worry that we would just need to live with and we did.

When she came she was beautiful, there was no denying that. She was tiny, which was fine, as she cried and fed without any fuss but when they passed her on to my tummy I saw it straight away. It didn’t fill me with dread or panic me to the core. She was here. She was never meant to make it this far and she did. There was little that could take away from that. She was my miracle. The miscarriage that never was. A proper human. With nine fingers and ten toes.

They tell me, with the aid of hindsight, that the attempted miscarriage was probably due to the membranes popping in early pregnancy but she had put her arm through the whole and sealed that cocoon up good and tight (my little dutch girl!). The tight seal around her arm restricted the blood flow and prevented it from developing properly leaving her with a slightly smaller right hand and only four functioning fingers. The lack of fluid meant that her legs and feet did not have the freedom of movement to develop correctly which led to her left sided talipes but there were no other abnormalities to find. She was imperfectly perfect.

The above summary is a beautiful thing to be able to write as it now feels like it has always been that way but the certainty I felt when I cradled her for the first time wavered in those first few weeks. You see, we weren’t told those reassuring explanations to begin with. They had to rule out some pretty nasty things first. We needed genetic testing and this couldn’t happen for another six weeks.

It takes its toll on a marriage that: genetic testing. You think you have found the one; your companion into old age. You agree on the fundamentals and you like most of the things about them (let’s not lie, there is always something). You have been through some pretty tough times together and come out stronger at the other end, but then there is a possibility that you do not match in the most important of ways. There is a possibility that in bringing a child into the world you cannot give it the simplest of things: health. It takes a while to navigate your way around that.

I am not sure we enjoyed her until we knew for certain. I am not saying we wouldn’t have enjoyed her if it had worked out differently but there is something to be said for knowing. Once you know for sure you start to cope. You readjust your expectations and move on.

Looking at her now I sometimes forget how amazing she truly is. She is a bright, chatty, happy three year old who runs, jumps and skips. She draws, uses cutlery and picks things up using both hands almost interchangeably. She has the most amazing team of plastic surgeons who have recreated her hand to make it function like a normal hand (apparently opposable thumbs can be built from other fingers) and if you didn’t know, it would definitely take you a while to notice.

I do sometimes feel sad that she might not enjoy a good manicure or may prefer not to draw attention to her hands by wearing the jewellery that most women enjoy. I do worry about bullying and people saying cruel things or shying away from her touch because her hand doesn’t look like it should. But mostly I feel proud. I feel proud that she was strong enough to get here. I feel proud that she is as amazing as she is turning out to be. I feel proud that even though she may not feel it at times, she is a fighter. I am one proud mother.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Toddler Rejection: The Threenager...

"Mummy, I don't like the way you talk to me. I want Daddy!"

"Mummy, I wish I had a Mummy like your Mummy."

"Mummy, you are so mean. You are not my best friend anymore! You are mean!" (sung to an indiscriminate nursery rhyme tune)

"I don't love you anymore."

As I write these phrases down I realise that this is a right of passage. A lesser known milestone. There's smiling, cooing, clapping, crawling, walking, talking and then wounding. I had been warned that this would happen from a variety of sources on a multitude of occasions. I just don't think I believed it. I could not fathom that my beautiful, kind, empathic girl would turn into a surly monster who channels all of her inner angst in my direction as the "primary care giver" (read "sitting duck".)

The thing is, I know that it shouldn't bother me.

I am aware that there are people all over the postcode, country and world who are receiving exactly the same treatment from their offspring on a tri-daily basis merely for deigning to parent. A toddler lacks a filter and will communicate every feeling exactly as it is felt. I know this.

I wanted to believe that my disappointment in this turn of events was because my daughter was different. I wanted to believe that she was intrinsically angelic in nature; advanced in her years for her unfaltering empathy and incapable of thinking, never mind uttering, such hurtful remarks.

The truth is, it's me. I am the one who cannot take rejection in any form. I am the one who is analysing the words of a three year old. I am the one who, upon hearing the criticism, critiques my parenting abilities and finds them coming up short.

She is three. She is mad because I won't let her dress up as Elsa for the twelfth day in a row. She is livid because I used the wrong colour of plate at tea time. She is enraged because I have been the one to greet her when she wakes in the morning. She is incensed because I won't let her waterboard her little brother in the bath. She is the perfect toddler in that she is acting just as a toddler should.

She has no concept of me being a good, bad or mediocre parent. To her, I am the one who is always there. I am the one who is writing the ever expanding rule book which she cannot comprehend and which causes her limitless frustration. I am also the one who is comforting her when she is sick, reassuring here when she is uncertain and re-enacting each and every Disney princess storyline with her upon demand. I am her constant and the one upon whom she depends.

That is just a little bit harder to articulate when you are three...

Everything Changes: Working Out the "Working Mother" Bit

It's been a big week this week and, no, we haven't sold our house. In fact, it is no longer even on the market which was both a hea...