One of those days

Let me tell you about my day. I had both boys today as Nanny and Grandad (C’s parents) are on holiday (they have Elliot normally) and I was super excited about having an extra day together with my little boys this week.

Determined that this would be a no-TV day, we spent the early morning playing jigsaws and sticker books (Elliot and me) and rolling around the living room (Alexander)

At about 10.30 we headed to Cogges Farm (about a 5 – 10 minute scoot away!) for some fun on their adventure playground and to feed the animals before lunch (and if I’m honest so I could have one of the café’s decaf lattes and chocolate cheesecake brownies – believe me these are to die for, literally my favourite thing!)

Anyway, the day was going amazingly well, we’d fed the guinea pigs, the goats and the pigs (if you call Elliot literally lobbing apple slices at them “feeding”)

Yup it was all going well until we happened upon the “soft play” area – a pretty cool model of the farmhouse, with a ball pool duck pond, a weeble wobble farmer, a couple of chicken costumes that kids other than Elliot can wear (he freaks out around dressing up stuff – bit like me to be honest!), and a bouncy tractor slide.

We arrived and there were three or four other kids playing in it, and Elliot took his shoes off, put them on a shelf and hopped into the ball pool, playing happily with the others.

Slowly the numbers dwindled until Elliot was there with just one other little girl who looked around 2 and a half.

It was then that THE worst thing that parents fear more than anything else when around others of their species happened. Well ok maybe not the absolute worst thing as that would probably involve some form of bodily fluid erupting from your child…but still, probably the second worst thing happened: BOTH KIDS WANTED TO PLAY ON THE EXACT SAME TOY.

Why do they do that?

Literally both kids wanted to be in the same half-metre squared as the other. The tractor slide was the chosen piece of equipment, and neither of them were budging, choosing instead to try to squeeze themselves into the same air that the other was occupying.

Urgh.

As the parent of the slightly older child, and despite the fact I was holding a hungry Alexander, I stood near the edge of the soft play and started the routine of gently saying “Elliot, can you let go?” and “The little girl was there first, my love, why not play in the ball pool pond?”

He’s not moving.

“Elliot, come on monkey, let’s go and see the pigs?”

Nope. Didn’t work.

“Elliot, you don’t want to make mummy cross do you? I can’t come in as I’m holding Alex, so you be a big boy and move away from the little girl and let her play”

Oh god. He’s not going to move.

I look at the other mum, who is clearly judging me and my parenting. I decide to pull out the big guns.
“Elliot, I’m going to count to three…”

“NOOOOOOO MUMMY!”

At this point the other mum turns to me and says “would you like me to have a go?” And she promptly goes over, and starts singing a song about a Big Red Tractor. Her little girl in enthralled. Elliot less so. But they’ve stopped pushing each other.

Damn it. How’d she do that?

I reluctantly join in the singing and calm is restored. Inside I’m feeling judged, and pretty rubbish.

Thanks a bunch Elliot!

Shortly after this, the “über” mum suggests that her little one might like to go and see the chickens, or something, and off they skip.

Feeling a bit rubbish, we stay in that soft play barn for another ten or so minutes later, then the boys and I go to the loo and then head towards the adventure playground.

And there she is, “über” mum with her little girl, heading towards us along the path, and Elliot is running ahead of me towards the slides. My face sets itself into a smile, and I’m ready with an anxious “ha ha” as she comes closer. I’m sure she thinks I’m a rubbish mum, and that Elliot is some unruly child who has no ability to self control….

Then I can barely believe my eyes at what happens next. My darling boy, my beautiful, well behaved, gentle darling, stops suddenly in his tracks. He turns to face me, comes to me with open arms and declares, out of nowhere and definitely audibly to those nearest to us (über mum included!), “I love you, mummy”, hugs my legs, then turns and skips off towards the slide waiting for him.

Über mum hears and I hear her “ahh” at the cuteness of it all. I carry on pushing the buggy, and my heart swells.

I love you too Elliot. Maybe I’m doing ok after all.

xxx

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Being a mum of two, or how to develop a stretchy heart

Going from one to two children is a big step for most parents. Certainly during my pregnancy with Alexander people seemed to like to tell me horror stories of their lives with two children and how difficult/stressful/tiring it is. Some even looked at my growing bump and said “ooh, you’ll wish you’d stuck with one!”

We had been so lucky with Elliot, he was a relatively easy baby, and slept, ate and grew well, seemed to hit all development milestones pretty much when he was meant to (though was late walking, and don’t even ask about potty training!) He is now an easy going toddler, and is (mostly!) a joy to be around.

As we got closer to Alexander’s birth, I did start to wonder about whether we had made the right decision. Elliot was going through a really cute phase of coming in to our room in the mornings, to climb in to the middle of the bed and cuddle/play with the iPad. It was a lovely way to wake up and I just knew that was going to be difficult with a newborn.

I worried about how I would cope with the two of them on the days I’d have both on my own. Elliot had developed the three year old whine (for the uninitiated this is a very specific, monotone whine, which seems to go on for ages prompted by the smallest of incidents!) and I couldn’t fathom how I’d be able to rationally persuade him to stop whilst keeping a newborn asleep. How would I occupy a three year old during those long feeds that a newborn needs? And more importantly, how could I ever love another child as much as I loved my firstborn?

It turns out, like with many things, there was no need to worry at all. It really hasn’t been that difficult. We’re 11 weeks in, that’s nearly 3 months, and I can’t think of a single incident where we’ve felt like it’s all too much *touches wood*

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What I’ve realised is to a large extent newborns are rather dull. Ours is anyway (sorry Alexander!) Until recently his routine tended to follow the sleep, feed, poo, sleep circle. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve had more awake time, where he loves playing on his playmat, watching Elliot/whoever is around or staring at his hands!

Newborns can be left waiting (within reason) which is something that first time mums rarely attempt. Alexander often has to wait if we’re trying to get Elliot to finish his tea, or if Elliot wants to have help with building a “fantastic track”, and do you know what, he really doesn’t seem to mind. I tend to vocalise this to Elliot “Alexander has to wait while mummy helps you Elliot, isn’t he doing well?” so that he realises that Alexander isn’t taking first priority all the time.

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We’ve had no tantrums from Elliot relating to Alexander, he genuinely seems to like him, and though the whining is still there and occasionally gets pretty loud and high pitched, Alexander seems to have been born with an ability to sleep through anything (again something that as a first time mum I don’t think I realised!) and I don’t get as cross as I had imagined I would.

I’ve also learnt that I am able to survive on less sleep than I thought possible. There are many nights where, between them, the boys wake us every hour or two, but this doesn’t seem too difficult. Certainly not as tough as the first few weeks with Elliot. (That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the weekend lie in when it comes!)

The main difference I’ve found is a lack of “me time”, I used to enjoy a few minutes peace while Chris bathed Elliot, but I’m now occupied with putting Alexander to bed. We’re also honing our super-organised skills to make sure we have everything that both children need whenever we go out.

Of course I really needn’t have worried at all about how I would find space in my heart to love another baby. Literally the moment Alexander was placed in my arms my heart stretched to fit him in, and to my delight I found that somewhere in there resides a whole other pot of love dedicated to him. This doesn’t detract from the love I have for Elliot, if anything I love my amazing three year old even more as he’s coped so well with being a big brother. My heart swells when I see him playing with Alexander. Being a mum to two is not a walk in the park, but it really is the most amazing thing.

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The reading bug

The reading bug

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I heard a comment on the radio today that said that a third of children under the age of 7 never have a bed time story read to them, and of the ones that do have stories read to them, only 13% have them read to them every night. On further investigation there are several articles on this of which this one in The Guardian is one.

Now, I’m most certainly not claiming that we are super parents. We definitely take shortcuts, or easy routes, on so many things – from letting Elliot watch episode upon episode of Thomas, or giving up too soon each time we try to get him to eat any recognisable vegetable, and giving in too often when he asks for a new engine, or an ice cream. But, one thing we do do, religiously, is read to him EVERY night, pretty much without fail. We’ve done this since he was about 3 or 4 months old.

I see it as one of the most important things any parent can do. It is a wonderful thing to see a child interested in and gripped by a story – Elliot definitely has his favourites, and these change frequently. We’re currently reading quite a few books about new babies, and becoming a big brother (for obvious reasons!) He is able to recognise many words by sight, and can recount many books himself – especially ones like The Gruffalo!

I can’t imagine a childhood without books. I remember the joy of reading, and devouring book after book once i could read by myself. Maybe its this that makes me certain that spending time reading to Elliot should be at the top of our priority list each evening rather than tidying/hoovering/watching TV. it really saddens me that so many children don’t experience this.

Imagination is so important to a growing child, as is having the ability to empathise with others – these are two things that reading teaches without us having to really get involved.

The other reason I think reading every day is a good idea is that much debated subject among mummy-types: the routine. Having a set bedtime routine since Elliot was very tiny, regardless of the highs and lows of the day, has meant that we have had a child that 99% of the time sleeps right through and wakes happy and excited to start his day. Again, I don’t claim to be any sort of expert, but for us it seemed common sense that if our little man had the same bedtime cues each evening – bath, milk, stories, bed – that he’d soon realise what these meant and we’d have a child that went to bed easily. Ok so it doesn’t always work, and we do occasionally have tears and tantrums, but he knows the routine, and we just follow it through regardless of any tantrums and we end up with a child in bed, mostly before 8, and then an evening to ourselves. I really do think that reading every night has helped with that.

Elliot now happily sits and “reads” by himself, and some of his favourite trips are to the library or the book shop to choose new books to bring home.

Secretly I’m hoping that the Pirate Pete Potty Book, and Charlie and Lola: I Will Not Ever Never Eat A Tomato, will go some way to helping us with our current challenges in other areas of parenting – after all, books are magic!

Watch this space…

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“I do not believe in the terrible twos” she said, back when her child was one

I have always (read before having a child) thought that “the terrible twos” label was just an excuse for letting small children get away with having tantrums in supermarkets or hitting/biting their fellow two year olds.

Well, in hindsight, what I can now say is that I’m sorry to all other parents for mistakenly judging you in the past. Parents of two year olds should be given enormous amounts of chocolate, hugs and gin as it sure isn’t easy!

Elliot turned two in December – so we’ve only just started in this minefield and already at times we genuinely feel like we’re walking on egg shells….always scared of the next seemingly normal situation thats actually going to tip him over the edge from beautiful, funny, clever Elliot into “the monster”?

These are just a few things we’ve had crying fits about this week (and its only Wednesday!):

  • Daddy put socks on him (how cruel!)
  • He wanted milk in a different cup
  • The Thomas and Friends we were watching was wrong (this happens frequently!)
  • He couldn’t tell us which book he wanted
  • He didn’t want a bath, and when in the bath he didn’t want to get out
  • He wanted yoghurt before his lunch
  • He wanted a drink, in the car, stuck in traffic, on the way home from nursery (emergency drinks have now been squirrelled away in the car for this purpose)
  • He wanted a “mummy cuddle”, again while in the car (I do yoga but am not quite that bendy – anyone know where Inspector Gadget got those arms??)

So you see, I’m starting to (shh…don’t tell anyone…) believe that there’s something in the labeling of terrible twos. At least it gives us mums and dads some hope that in 12 months it will be over??

So next time you see a mum or dad gazing anxiously around while their little darling demonstrates his/her frustration in a public place, smile nicely and don’t judge. We’re doing our best, honestly!

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Angel

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Monster