Mother (Almost Never) Knows Best: October 2018

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Don't Speak: The Toddler Learns to Talk

My youngest is hitting that "good age", you know the one I mean; when their vocabulary extends beyond "Daddy" (accompanied by a wistful look and a clammy hand round his neck) and "No Mummy!" (two words that are never to be separated, clearly attributing blame for everything from third world poverty to why mud doesn't taste so good.) Now though, we are hearing those words being strung together into coherent sentences, so articulate (by the third attempt and with a firm grasp of the back story) and insightful ("triceratops DOES have a horn, my darling!") that no one can possibly dispute his superior intellect.

High brow conversationalist. 

His new found prowess with the spoken word just seems to have made life that little bit easier for all concerned. I (mostly) understand him and he understands me, despite deliberately choosing to disregard everything I say. He and his sister play so well together (now that he can follow orders and mimic feline behaviour upon demand) that I hope to soon be usurped as the lead in our impromptu (and yet critically acclaimed) household productions. The ability to reason with him is within touching distance (on a good day) and he is turning out to be quite the conversationalist.

They are forming an alliance. 

However, getting to this point (and I suspect moving beyond) has not been without its hurdles. There have been times when his mispronunciations have rendered us utterly bewildered,  convulsing with laughter and, on one occasion, absolutely toe- curlingly mortified when he started screaming "You can't!" at the top of his lungs but misemployed a "u" rather than an "a" in the second word.

Our much less offensive and therefore endearing mispronunciations to date include (but are not limited to) "poop-pets" when describing the toy he had created by donning his socks on his hands during a long car journey, "empehent" for the giant grey creature with tusks and a trunk and "ear-muffins" in reference to his sisters winter headgear. Whilst these examples still make me laugh on the inside I pity the fool who allows their lip curl upwards in his presence lest you forget that "it is NOT FUNNY!"

Just not funny... 

His frustrations do not stop there I am afraid. Should you fail to comprehend the information which he is desperately trying to impart, he will repeat the phrase a maximum of three times before raising his clenched fists, gritting his teeth and making a shrill, blood curdling scream thereby ensuring that you are fully aware that you have displeased him. I once had a rather protracted conversation with him about the number of ways in which I did not resemble the rotund, balding effigy of a medieval heroic figure to which he was directing my gaze whilst declaring "That's you! That's you, Mummy!" It was only upon dodging the flailing limbs and rupturing my left ear drum that I realised he had probably been pointing out a "Statue! Statue Mummy!" I should never have doubted him. Did I tell you that he is really clever?

Hopefully all these things will be in the past now that his vocabulary is expanding at a terrifying rate of knots. The one aspect of the toddler which I hadn't factored in, however, is their rather brutal honesty. My first child left the womb exuding empathy; she would cuddle you if you looked anything less than delighted and when her words arrived they were always thoughtful and considerate. My youngest has little time for that. He frequently keeps me updated on the squishiness of my stomach, the prevalence of my grey hairs and the number of wrinkles that adorn my tired face. 

Brutal honesty

Maybe I won't rush the arrival of the rest of his vocabulary.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Let It Go: The Subtle Art of Potty Training

This week has involved exponential loads of laundry, protracted periods spent on unforgivingly cold and hard tiled flooring and a multitude of poetic musings on the potential emotions that faecal matter may experience when finally reunited with their long lost family. For this week we have been potty training.
I will admit that I have been putting it off for a while. 

I have, in fact, previously denied my son access to a toilet having cruelly met his inaugural utterance of the phrase "POT POT!" with "Good boy for asking but you might just need to go in your nappy this time". In hindsight, a bit harsh but in my defence, we were on a motorway and I really don't like pulling over, or driving, or having urine stain my shoes. However, as he started to verbalise his preference for the porcelain over the junior Tena lady on a more regular basis the proverbial bullet had to be bitten.
The Holy Grail

The first step was to go underwear shopping for some "Big Boy Pants" that he couldn't possibly bear to part with should they become sullied by some rogue activity from his nether regions. Superheroes seemed to be his preferred theme but he was reminded that these gallant avengers were at his mercy. His poop was their nemesis.

"There is nothing to fear but fear itself" AND poop. Obvs. 

We were timid at first, choosing to loiter around the house with The Boy roaming trouser free and flaunting his pants to any passing visitor/delivery man while we punctuated each sentence with "Do you need to go pot- pot?“ and" Remember that Batman will need to go in the bin if the poop gets him" - a lesser known fact applicable to all masked avengers. We would hear his strained vocals, witness his straight legged stance and immediately enquire as to whether he needed a vessel into which his imminent deposit could be made. When he would immediately answer in the negative, we would play on his love for his novel wardrobe addition by decreeing them to be lost forever should they fall victim to his bodily excretion. An assessment that would induce him to instantly reabsorb any faecal matter which maybe making its way towards the light.

After 48 hours or so we became emboldened by the lack of reverse banana hammocks and started to reintroduce more layers on the bottom half. This bolstered us with false confidence as we played loose and free with the olfactory nerves; lifting the toddler in the air and taking deep, almost meditative, inhalations to assess the situation on a regular basis. Sure, we were accident free but we had had to imprint a map of public toilets, anonymous department stores and friendly establishments whom we could access at a moments notice should the need arise, and it did. With a disturbing and relentless frequency.

At least he dressed for easy access... 

As my work days approached and the baton of childcare was about to be passed to the Mother ship, The Boy's stomach had started to bloat to the point that he resembled an off season Santa who was prone to overindulgence and was yet to don his whiskers for the winter season. Yet, still that turtle refused to emerge from its hiding place. We were all on tenter hooks.

We were all living on the edge

In the end it took a communal visit to the bathroom with his beloved mentor/sister and the decision to coach one another through the birthing process. When it finally happened, he frightened himself by turning to look at what had been lurking within and was startled to find the potty straining to contain what must have constituted half his bodyweight not five minutes earlier. Party poppers were discharged with wild abandon, anthemic songs were chanted and everyone hugged amid slaps on the back and tears of pride being wiped from their smiling faces. We had done it. I felt like lighting a cigar.

I returned to work with a spring in my step and when I received a phone call the next day from my mother to relay the magical story of how The Boy had reenacted the event that very morning, I was beaming with a pride so overwhelming that I had to relay the news to my unsuspecting work colleagues. An act I immediately regretted as I witnessed their faces adopt what can only be described as a mixture of dismay and disgust. My mother's pride was so palpable that she later confused my enquiry into how their day was going with a request for a more detailed assessment of his faecal matter. A request that she happily and rather illustratively attended to as a matter of priority.

Communications took a dark turn

We are now four days into no accidents and two poos down. Whilst I would be cavalier to declare Gotham to be safe from imminent harm I do believe that the masked avenger is definitely getting his strut back.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Get Back Up Again: When Parenthood Doesn't Go To Plan

Now I know I said I was going away for a while and you may be thinking that that initial declaration was somewhat insincere being that I am now here again a mere two weeks later but, much like an aged rocker answering the call to play his greatest hits, I am back but this time on request from one of my favourite people on the planet. You see, as a family we have been dealt a rather cruel hand of late and whilst the details of this particular person's predicament are not mine to tell they have occupied my thoughts and tainted my daily experiences to such a degree that my tales of merely surviving parenthood seemed to fade into a banal triviality. There seemed little point and an overriding sense of self indulgence in sitting down to write about my toddler's unwillingness to reunite his poo with its long lost family who reside in the sewars of Edinburgh (we'll get to that) when I could have been spending my time worrying (with its proven innate protective powers), consoling, falsely reassuring or researching the many methods in which to restore this person to her previous salubrity.

Superhero he may be... 

However, this weekend I took an enforced leave (by my husband) from parenting my own children and went to see her hoping to assuage my own concerns and dole out some intense, medicinal hugs. We talked, we laughed (probably harder than our pelvic floors were prepared for), we ate (a lot of superfood based meals) and we identified at least sixty two examples of her three month old's intellectual prowess. Parental leave well spent.

Time spent squeezing babies is always time well spent

Now whilst I cannot begin to compare any experience that we may have had as parents to what she is currently going through there are elements of her current situation which bring rather unsettling memories to the fore.

Feeling Short Changed by Life
When we learned of the complications of our first pregnancy and the ensuing differences that my daughter was going to have to live with for the rest of her life, I distinctly remember feeling like we were incredibly hard done by. We had done everything right. We had waited for (almost) the right time financially, we had been living a healthy lifestyle at the time of conception (although maybe not by Gwyneth Paltrow's standards) and we had a strong track record of robust health on our side. 

Complications in pregnancy were minimal in the family tree and there was certainly nothing beyond the point of getting those two pesky precursors to unite so with that first blue line in the all important window there was part of me that felt we were home free.

So when it all began to unravel I felt cheated. I felt angry. I felt like we were undeserving of such a cruel turn of events. Why us? What had we ever done to deserve this?

The harsh truth of the matter is nothing. We had done nothing wrong. It wasn't right, it wasn't fair and we definitely didn't deserve it but life doesn't dole out your allotment based on what is right or what is fair. As it turned out, we were merely asking the wrong question of the universe. Rather than asking why it was us we should have been asking why not us?

Everything Will Be Alright

The Lost Maternity Leave
After my daughter hurled herself from the womb two weeks early, undersized and brandishing her nine fingers and ten toes in our general direction we were immediately treated differently. We were whisked into a side room and striked from the list of routine post delivery checks to be performed by the junior doctor and etched onto the much shorter list for the consultant paediatrician to perform where the assessment would be carried out in the most painstaking and methodical manner.

All the plans for baby classes and mummy groups were instantly discarded and replaced with doctors appointments and dates with scanners. Development milestones loomed in the distance with an aching desperation, not for her to excel but for her to merely attain within an acceptable window of time. Baby clothes were not purchased based on their aesthetics (except by my mother) but for their ability to provide easy access to her various bandages and equipment. Sleep was lost, not solely based on her partiality for nocturnal activities but due to the terrorising worries that would pervade my mind in the small hours of the morning.

It was only when the date for my return to work appeared on the calendar that I realised my maternity leave had ended before it had even begun.

Back to Work 

The Cruelty of Genetic Testing
When the first mutterings were made that there may be a possible genetic cause for my daughter's differences, we were struck dumb. To learn that the essence of your being, the part of you that made you who you are before you were even a person, may have been predestined to sabotage you and those you love in one of the worst ways imaginable is a horror that I would not inflict on my worst enemy.

Although we learned (when our daughter was 3 months old) that there was no obvious genetic cause for her individual handprint the intervening period was quite possibly the greatest test our marriage will ever have. My husband and I recently discussed this time in our lives and found our experiences to have been significantly different. Where a positive (in the worst way possible) result would likely lead to our daughter either having profoundly increased needs or a dramatically shortened lifespan my husband envisioned us remaining a stoical family of three; standing strong together and enjoying the time that we had to the best of our ability. In stark contrast, I couldn't envision how we could possibly stay together in the knowledge that our genetic make up had come together to punish our daughter in such a cruel fashion. What would we do if it happened, albeit accidentally, again? 

I can honestly say that I have always loved my husband but I seriously contemplated divorce at this juncture. I don't think either of us was right or wrong and neither of us are more invested in this marriage than they other it was just an instinctive reaction to an unprecedented turn of events.

Hey ho, it was negative. So married we stay.

Marriage: The Ultimate Test

The Test of Friendship
No one should ever feel tested as a friend but unfortunately there are occasions in life when friendships will be truly tested and, hopefully, forever cemented by the shared experience of something truly awful happening to one party and I choose to find something rather heartwarming in this. When the worst happens the nature of the human condition is to expose their true self and act on their gut instinct. People either prove themselves to be the best of friends, surprise you with a devotion that you didn't know they felt or leave you feeling a little disappointed in their lack of understanding or empathy.

Sometimes the worst times of our lives bring out the best people we never truly knew we had and whilst I would never chose to have gone through what we did I do appreciate everyone who helped us on the way.

Every cloud and all that

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...