Mother (Almost Never) Knows Best: December 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

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