The 2-Year-Old Survivor Guide, by Jen

Like many brave war heroes before me, I know that entering a war zone or battle requires much strategic planning and preparation. It’s every woman for herself, there can be only one winner. Make sure it’s you.

Yes, I’m talking about parenting a two year old. Oh, he might seem harmless, sitting there with his cute little button nose and big blue eyes gazing up at you saying ‘I uvv you Mama, huggie!’ BUT DON’T BE FOOLED! These creatures are deceptive little feckers. They rope you in and make you remember all the cute adorable things you love about them, and make you wonder how you made something so precious in the first place and just as all your stupid mushy related hormones are making you melt in a puddle of maternal pride and joy, they scream in your face and wipe their snot all over your clothes. You’ve been Toddlered.

No sir, they must not be underestimated.

People don’t give two-year-olds enough credit. They are highly intelligent and strategic. They can play you off against your Second In Command (Yes Gavin, I have appointed myself as Chief. Or whatever the head army person is called.) You must be on guard at all times.

Lets start with the basics. First tactic is Distraction. This is key – they’ll fire whinge after whinge, demand after demand. Be vigilant and stay focused! You must deploy the Distraction tactic at once. I suggest you point out an aeroplane flying overhead, doesn’t matter if there is one or not, they love aeroplanes and helicopters and pretty much anything in the sky. This should buy you enough time to think of a new topic or activity for them to do. This also works well if they’re on the verge of a tantrum – it is your responsibility, Soldier, to recognise the signs in your own toddlers. Sticks! They love sticks – find a stick, preferably near a puddle, their day is made, and you will have averted disaster. Sticks and puddles can save you.

Bribery. This is one of your best weapons. But use it wisely –  they’ll know when you’re bluffing. You need to be prepared to follow this one through. For example, ‘For the love of God stop that!! If you stop that we can go to the Playground later’.

Now unless you’re willing to go to that playground and move endlessly from Swings! Slides! Swings! Round-bout!  and socialise with other mini dictators, withhold the bribe. Basically you’ll never know peace again otherwise. They have memories like Elephants and that’s all there is to it. But beware with Bribery. It could put you on a slippery slope to Expectation. Bribery must only be used in extreme cases, or really you’re not doing yourself any favours, and even worse, they’ll essentially have taken away some of your best armour!

Choose Your Battles. This is a war, it consists of many many battles. Some you’ll win, some you’ll lose, but choose them wisely. Measure up the pros and cons. So what if he wants to paint his head green. Let him do it if it keeps him quiet and you get a chance to feed child number 2 in peace. But if he wants to skip his nap? Hell no, this one is yours! You will not deprive me of that hour of peace! Even offer help. Here’s a paintbrush for your other hand – why not throw a bit of yellow in for good measure. But overall, I suggest you make sure you’re winning more of the battles than you lose. Apart from anything else, I just don’t like losing anyway.

Reverse Psychology. This one takes a bit of practice. It’s all about outwitting and outlasting. You want them to eat the dinner you’ve just slaved over – BUT DO NOT LET THEM KNOW THIS. Approach it casually. Oh hey! I’m just going to leave this dinner over here. Talk a bit to yourself about how nice the dinner is. Child 2 comes in quite handy here – ask him does he want some. He can’t talk yet, so naturally you pretend  he will of course want some. Mr Potato Head LOVES this dinner. But hey if you don’t want it, no problem. They’ll look at you suspiciously, yes they’re probably onto you, but curiosity and fear of missing out usually – not always! – but usually wins out. Mission complete.

Patience. This is the hardest one. You’ll need A LOT of it. You’ll think you have none, you’ll feel the pressure…but hang on in there! You can do this! They are TWO! You are.. well there’s no need to get into specifics here, but you’re a lot older than two. You’ve a lifetime of wisdom to work from. They, on the other hand, think they can put their hands over their eyes and turn completely invisible to the human eye for God sake. Now I’m not going to pretend that I have this one mastered either. I lose the plot like the best of them.. but I still try and that’s the main thing, ok?! It’s a bit like doing that horrific plank move at the gym. At first you can only manage .2 of a second. But before you know it, after say 5 years or so, you can hold it for a good 10 seconds!! Oh, ok maybe that’s just me. Normal people get it a lot sooner than that, but you get my point.  Patience is the same, it comes with practise and for me it’s an ongoing project. But I didn’t get where I am today with no patience, so take heart!

And remember Solider – we’re all in this together at the end of the day! We are all chiefs  (or whatever the correct term is!) of our own little army – all fighting the same battles, and winning and losing the same ones in the process. But at the end of a long day, when those little arms are around your neck and those mushy hormones are rushing back in…..well let them. Why else do we do this after all?!

 

This Jen’s Survival Guide. Fight the good fight. Learn it. Print it. Stick it on your fridge. Most of all, STAY STRONG!

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A Day in Our Life

I published my last post a few weeks ago now, and it got a lovely response! I have to say it is one of my favourite posts. I also got a lot of compliments about the photos in it, and I just adore them, so I figured why not post a post about them too and how they came about!

A few months ago, an opportunity arose to do some writing for a friend of mine, and in return, he offered to document our family in a ‘day in the life’ style photography shoot. Naturally, I jumped at the chance. I have 7,953 photos on my phone (I just checked) and about 99% of them feature one or both of the babies. Of that, I’d say maybe 10 have me in them where I didn’t take the photo myself in an effort to prove that I did exist in photographic form when they’re older and looking back at their own childhood photos. Let’s just say photography is not one of Gavin’s fortes! I don’t think it even dawns on him half the time to take a photo of something like Alex eating his first spoonful of food, or take a little video of Rian singing ‘You’ve Got a Friend In Me’. And that’s ok, but I’m just the opposite!

I adore photos. Some might think I overdo it – well ok I probably do. My Instagram account probably proves that. Some people might say, ‘You should live in the moment more’. I do live in the moment, and I love the moments so much that I don’t want to ever forget a single one. The time just goes so very fast – Alex is over 6 months already! He’s closer to 7 months actually. Every single day he is different, as is Rian. And what’s more, this time I have at home with them is fast running out so yes, I take a lot of photos. But I’m rarely actually in any of them.

So when this opportunity came up, as I said, I jumped at it. It wasn’t going to be a fancy, get my hair done especially type of thing. It was going to be a snapshot of just one normal day, no special occasion, no fancy outfit. Barely even any makeup (the tired circles under my eyes don’t necessarily need to be preserved in photos forever). Just me with my husband and our sons, doing our thing.

Why? Because aren’t they the best kind of days? Yes, sometimes there’s shouting, and crying, and really really bad nappies, and tantrums. And every day there’s fun and laughter, cuteness and absolute joy. And that’s our life right now! It will never be like this, the way they are now, ever again. And I love it. I was so thrilled to think that for a change I would be on the other side of the camera, when they held my hand, or hugged me, or I gave them a swing, I’d have a photo to capture that moment and treasure it. I didn’t care too much whether my hair looked perfect, whether my skin looked red or blotchy…this is how I am now, and most importantly, this is who I am to the boys. The last time I was going to a wedding I got my hair and makeup done – oh god that was so nice! – but when Rian saw me he actually squinted his eyes, put his face close to mine and tried to touch my eyes and said ‘Mama, what’s that on eye?’….!! So clearly, the makeup-ed me is not one he’s too familiar with at all.

So we settled on a day, and Johannes arrived early on a Sunday morning. We chose a Sunday, to do our normal Sunday routine which consists of nothing out of the ordinary. Within minutes he was taking pictures. At first it’s a bit strange having someone take photos of you doing normal every day stuff. But after a few minutes – no offence Johan! – I kind of forgot he was there. I had wondered what Rian would make of it, but you’d swear it was the most normal thing in the world for him to have his personal photographer document his every move!

We usually try to do something as a family on a Sunday, as it’s usually the only day of the week that the four of us can spend the day together without work or other commitments getting in the way. So we chose to go to the Japanese Gardens and National Stud in Kildare, which is not far from where we live. When we got home, it was naptime, so we read about Gruffalos and foxes and rabbits hopping to the moon and back as two-year-olds insist on doing before a snooze. Later on, we did some baking and played with some playdoh. We bathed the kids. Then we got changed into our pj’s and snuggled on the couch under a blanket and watched some Toy Story for the 4578th time. All normal things. But the thing that surprised both Gavin and I, on a normal Sunday we don’t really pay too much attention to those things, we’re just busy doing them. But because Johannes was there, it sort of made us focus on why he was there, it made us really live in the moment and appreciate it all the more. Even the non glamorous nappy times! It made us realise the other aspect of nappy times. The funny conversations that take place on the changing table. The cute little kissable baby toes. All the little normal things that make up our normal day, but full of magical moments which we now have recorded to look back on forever.

Huge huge thank you to our friend and seriously talented Johannes for the opportunity! I’ve a feeling we’ll be back for more during another chapter of our parenting adventures.

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