…And Yesterday I Cried

“The obligation for working mothers is a very precise one: the feeling that one ought to work as if one did not have children, while raising one’s children as if one did not have a job.”

-Annabel Crabb, Policital Journalist

{Also features on The M Word }

I’m very sure there are lots of us for whom this quote resonates. Most of the time it’s a case of just getting on with it, stopping every so often and wishing things like, ‘if only they could sleep all night’ or ‘if only they could sleep past 6am’; most of my ‘if onlys’ definitely tend to revolve around sleep and the lack of it. For the most part we don’t do too badly, they are great at going to bed at 7pm, following the routine without any resistance, it’s usually smooth enough. Some nights they don’t wake up at all but other nights they’ll wake up for random reasons. But mainly I really cannot complain, they are really great kids.

But this week has really made me feel sorry for myself. This week, I can read that quote and it screams absolute relevance at me, this week has been a big lesson on trying to juggle and balance everything all at once. Thankfully, I’m not talking about major disasters, we’re all ok thankfully, but everything is relevant. I have found this week a big challenge of trying to keep all the plates spinning and I’m not ashamed to admit, this week has reduced me to tears.

It started last weekend when Alex suddenly went off his food and we realised he had caught a dose of Hand Foot & Mouth – a highly contagious virus, but very common viral infection that  most kids will pick up at crèche. It would mean he would need to stay home for the week. The risk of course was that Rian would likely catch it too – however instead, Rian caught a dose of tonsillitis so was also disqualified from crèche for a few days. This meant juggling around work options to be able to make sure they’d be minded, while also needing to get Rian seen to at the doctor.. and following an allergic reaction to the penicllin they prescribed late in the evening, and a very worrying hour as his body broke out in a frightening angry looking rash… things were getting stressful.

Thankfully, I’m extremely lucky to have an understanding manager who relieved a lot of that stress by letting me work from home, and Gavin has enough holidays to be able to look after the other half of the week. It was multi-tasking at a new level. Answering emails whilst wiping a face. Taking phone calls while cutting toast into triangles, and definitely not into squares. Dealing with work queries whilst dealing with various types of rashes that kept appearing on each child… essentially activating the two main parts of myself – the mother me and the work me – working each job in the same place at the same time. The feeling of being pulled in two opposite directions at exactly the same time.

And I’ll repeat – in the grand scheme of things, it’s just life. These things will happen, these types of weeks will come along. I’m thankful it wasn’t anything more serious of course. But that doesn’t mean I should just shrug it off and pretend I didn’t feel like I was really up against it, and really feeling under pressure.

Exhaustion, frustration, stress and worry were the main reasons behind the tears, but also the feeling that I’m inadequate in conflicting ways –

inadequate at being a mother because despite the boys having to be at home, I also had to work, and inadequate at my job because although I had to perform my duties, I also had to be their mother.

And it’s hard.

I think it’s important to acknowledge the fact that I’m allowed to find it hard. I’m allowed to take a moment and feel sorry for myself – more than that – I think it’s really important to do it, acknowledge it. Throw in the fact that we haven’t had  much sleep to speak of all week, the fact that I’m most certainly coming down with something myself now, the fact that the commute was extra crappy this week with a two hour delay getting home.. all these little things chipping away and any sense of control I have over things normally.

So yesterday I cried. But also… I did it. I eventually got home last night after that disastrous commute, I got inundated with cuddles and hugs from the boys and from Gavin too that almost made the long delays worth it! I tucked them into bed and I put my feet up and – although tempted by a nice cold glass of Guinness! – had a cup of tea instead and figured I deserved to treat myself to something nice. So I did.

Today, the week continues and we discovered that Rian has also managed to catch the Hand Foot & Mouth virus from his little brother – let’s face it, it was probably inevitable – and so it means a weekend ahead of being housebound. It’s the week that keeps on giving – yes it is hard, and we’ve no doubt another few sleepless nights ahead until they’re virus free – but it was the week that made me realise that yes, the obligation of that working mother is that I will have to work as if I don’t have children, and be their mother as if I don’t have a job.

But at least I’ve learned that I can do it.

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To Rian, who is F O U R!

{Part 2 of 2}

Monday 3 November, 2014

You were due on October 28th, which as we know now obviously is your little brother’s birthday. Incidentally, they originally wanted to deliver him on November 3rd – but I flat out refused and said that no, you can’t do it that day, that’s Rian’s birthday. The doctor looked at me funny, as if that shouldn’t be a reason not to deliver Alex that day, but I insisted: you should both have your own day to celebrate, and we should have our own days to celebrate each of you ourselves too.

So it remained that the 3rd of November is our Rian’s day.

It’s hard to believe it’s only four years that we’ve known you because you’re so much a part of us now. And in other ways, it’s hard to believe how fast the last four years had gone. Having your first baby is such a massive change, it’s like living a whole other way of life overnight, everything is upside down! Although you feel like someone’s mother from the moment you’re pregnant (and I’ll tell you the story of how we won you another time– because you really are amazingly unique), the feeling of protecting  you and loving you so fiercely, is something I had never known before. There is absolutely nothing I wouldn’t do to make sure you were safe – and I knew that before I ever  met you. After a long, exhausting, and sometimes scary labour, at last you arrived by emergency section at 22.22 on a Monday night in early November. So beautifully perfect, our little Rian, here at last.

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Your first ever morning 

It’s an amazing thing to know someone since the very moment they existed, to feel them grow within you and to watch them change and learn new things, and especially when they’re a part of you, a mini version of yourself, mirrored back at you. To hear you repeating phrases we say, or imitate gestures we make. To see my own traits in you, and your Dad’s too, and lots of your own, you teach us just as much as we teach you.

Even thinking about you now as I write this and I can feel my heart swelling up, butterflies of happiness in my tummy and little pings of happy thoughts zip around my head at all the funny things you do, the sweet things that you say, the way you’re so kind towards your little brother. Other times of course you’re not so kind to him, especially when he wants a toy that you’re playing with! But I guess that’s normal!

You loved books from very early on. Before you could talk you used to drag your favourite books, which were almost as big as you were, over to me and indicate you wanted to sit on my lap and I’d read the books to you, over and over again. Stories about Snails going on adventures with Whales, Highway Rats terrorising other woodland animals for their food, dragons called Zog learning how to breathe fire, so many that you loved, but your absolute favourite of course was The Gruffalo, and the Gruffalo’s Child. Your eyes would widen at the mention of the Big Bad Mouse, and your little face would light up with wonder and excitement when Owl appeared. And so began your love and fascination with Owls…. when we brought you to meet some real ones during the summer, I honestly thought you might explode. Every time we go for a walk in the woods beside our house, we have to examine every single stick, carry half of them, and constantly check the ‘tree-top houses’ to see if Owl might be home.

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Magic

It’s amazing watching you grow and change, and finding out what you love and what you don’t. You love dinosaurs, and anything with wings. You love books, and you love dragons. You love Penguin who is actually a doorstop and weighs a tonne.. you saw him in the shop one day about a year ago, and refused to leave him behind. You can’t carry him because he’s too heavy so he sits on the shelf beside your bed. Your bedside shelf also includes a T Rex, two owls, a tiny plastic octopus, some owl lights, a skeletal crow (don’t ask!), your dinosaur light projector… but above all else, your best friend Sniffy.

As soon as you laid eyes on Sniffy, you loved him. You called him ‘Snissy’ at first, he was clean and fluffy and brand new. Now he’s hugged and squeezed, his hair is worn, much thinner and his colour is slightly duller, but he’s never looked better, very clearly loved. Sniffy is there with you when you wake up, scared of the dark, you talk to him and mind him so well, and he cuddles you back to sleep. One time when you were sick and poor Sniffy was in the wrong place at the wrong time, he had to go for a bath in the washing machine. You kept vigil beside him, watching him spinning round and round, by the door of the machine. Singing him songs and making sure he was ok – then when he had to lie on the radiator after his bath, you checked on  him every 20 seconds or so to see if he was dry yet, just to get a cuddle.

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Sniffy (with Penguin on the shelf!)

And when your baby brother arrived – the moment you met him is a moment I’ll remember my whole life. You peered in over his crib and put your two year old hand on his cheek and said in your babyish words ‘Hello baby!’ And right at that second a bond was formed and you’ve been adoring each other ever since. I hope that lasts your whole lives, you two are best friends already.

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Rian, you teach us things every day. You’ve taught me how to look at things like they’re new again, to see wonder and excitement in simple things I wouldn’t have even noticed before. You teach me how to be better in myself, and you’ve shown me how strong I can be. But above all else, you’ve taught who and what a Pachycephalosaurus was – and how to say it! (It’s pack-ee-sefa-lo-saur-us! You’re welcome!)

There just aren’t the words to tell you how much you are loved, not just by me and your Dad but by everyone who meet – your kindness and gentleness, your stubbornness and your determination shine through. I hope they stay with you, the strength of mind you already display. I hope you can keep your determination, to not be afraid to speak up for yourself, and for others who might not be able to do it for themselves. To have the courage and confidence to be whoever you want to be, no matter what anyone else thinks or says. To always be kind. And to show your little brother how to do the same, to be the best big brother you can be. And I promise I will always do my best for you both to help you with whatever you might need.

Happy fourth birthday Rian – you light up our lives. And as we say every single night before falling asleep :

‘We love  you more than all the twinkly stars. How many twinkly stars are there Rian?’

‘Too many to count them Mama’.

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To Alex, who is T W O!

{Part 1 of 2}

Over the last four, and last two years, these boys have brought so much happiness to us, the sheer joy they bring each and every day is beyond words. To hear them say the word ‘Mama’ and know it’s me they’re addressing is just the best sound in the world. I am so lucky.

So to celebrate them, and their birthdays, I’ve written each of them a post of their own. Also, as they change so fast and little things they do and like now will be gone in no time, I wrote it to help me remember years from now what they were like at two and four!

First up is our beautiful little Alex…Happy Birthday munchkin!

Friday, October 28, 2016

We all thought you were going to be a girl. People kept telling me, they could ‘feel’ it. That they could tell by looking at you as Bump – it was high/low/in the middle, so all those things meant you were going to be a girl apparently. We started to believe it, so much so we arrived to the hospital on the day you were scheduled to be born ( slightly early at 37 weeks – a story for another day), with two names on our shortlist, and neither of them meant for a baby boy.

Hospital bound to meet Alex!

At the Coombe hospital on the morning of the 28th of October, in the little room we waited in before the surgeon was ready for us, I was sitting in the hospital gown with your Dad. He picked up a paper to read and I looked down at you in Bump form, and put my hands on either side. I thought about how this was probably the last time I’d get to have a minute with you like this, before we met you in the flesh. When it was just you and me. Your pregnancy was different to Rian’s – already I could see some differences between you both. I watched my bump move as you moved around, maybe you knew it was time to wake up and that we were about to meet you soon. I closed my eyes and felt you move in my belly, and focused on it and tried to tell you how much you were loved already, and that hopefully the birth would all go well and I’d be able to hold you soon. I made a point of remembering the sounds around me, and the smells; an important moment in  my life was about to happen, a defining moment. My baby was about to be born, and my body was about to be my own again. Somewhere in those few minutes I decided that you’d be named Alex, I must have known you already that you weren’t going to be the girl everyone else was expecting. Alex Moran was a beautiful, good strong name I decided. I said it to your Dad – he liked it a lot but wondered if Sean or Ollie might be better suited. We decided we’d think about it in a while, you’d probably be a girl anyway.

Less than an hour later, the surgeon held you up and we saw you for the first time. Such a tiny little thing, so amazingly beautiful! You were ours. Your Dad leaned in and said, ‘he looks like an Alex’. There you were.

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Alex Peter Moran, born at 11.44am

Two years on, and the only things that haven’t changed about you are the beautiful little dimple in the corner of your cheek and the way your face beams when you smile. For six full months you just slept, and fed, and cuddled and slept again. We thought we had struck it lucky with a sleeping baby – but then just as we were almost smug about how easy  you were, at six months you woke up and that was the end of the quiet little Alex! Suddenly, we met the mischievous you – a twinkle appeared in your eye and your spirit of adventure arrived with a bang. You were fiercely independent, wanting to always catch up with your big brother Rian. No high chair for Alex, no help with being fed. You demanded to sit on a chair at the kitchen table; you were so small you couldn’t see over the top, all we saw were pudgy little hands feeling around for the food to shove into pudgy drooly little cheeks! No more cot for Alex, as soon as you saw Rian climbing into the top bunk of your new beds, that was the end of that. You launched yourself into your bottom bunk, looking so tiny in the big mass of your first duvet!

And now you’re turning two, and it’s as if we always had you. But who is our Alex, this amazing little person in our lives, who only two years ago, was yet to be known?

Your first word was ‘Cheers!’ except it sounds more like ‘sheeershh’ as you clink your sippy cup with our glass at dinner, delighted with yourself. One of the first thing you learned to do was a fist pump – cutesy baby waves are not your style!

You chase your brother around to tickle/torture/blow raspberries on his belly, before falling around laughing with the cheekiest little laugh like you know you’re up to no good. Sometimes you chase him around just to hug him too – already you two are a team.

Rian showed you one day how to take off your own nappy, which you particularly love doing at 6am on a Sunday morning before making us run after you to catch you before you need to ‘go’ all over something. You carry two toy cows around with you sometimes, although most of the time they stand quietly on the shelf beside your bed, just keeping a quiet eye on you! But you seem happier when they’re there so we won’t argue. Woody is your favourite toy.  Sometimes when you’re asleep you accidentally pull on the string and we hear ‘WHERE’S MY TRUSTY STEED BULLSEYE?!’ bellowing from your bedroom in the middle of the night, almost giving us heart failure. That’s always fun! Doug is your best friend to snuggle into at night, a pink turtle with big eyes that once belonged to your Auntie Linda.

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Doug the turtle, Woody and a Cow – Alex’s bedtime friends

Your favourite song for ages was ‘You’re Welcome’ from Moana, always prompting  you to have a little dance around the kitchen whenever you heard it. Then you loved ‘Remember Me’ from Coco, and every so often when I sing it to you at night time, you sing along before tucking Doug under your arm and rolling over, blond wispy curls sticking up at various angles only highlighted by the chink of light coming into your room from the landing, before drifting off to sleep.

You’re a little man with a big appetite! You love broccoli- long may that last! – and sometimes when you’re having your dinner you store food in your big pudgy cheeks like a beaver, and munch away on it long after the meal has ended. So far we haven’t really discovered any food you don’t like. Just like your Daddy!

Your favourite books are What the Ladybird Heard and The Baby Monster which has a purple fluffy toy attached that you hug and kiss as the story progresses! You’re extremely cute.

Hearing you giggle from the teepee in your bedroom with your hands over your eyes as you think we can’t see you is the funniest thing! It’s your favourite game, and I think it might be mine too.

Alex we can’t wait to see what the next year will bring, to see all the things you’ll learn and all the things you’ll teach us too. You make us happier than we ever thought possible – we love you!

Alex with his favourites

The Guilt Factor

Each morning, Monday to Friday, for the last 10 minutes of my commute to work just before I walk into the office building, I try and FaceTime the boys for a chat, especially on mornings where they are asleep when I’m leaving the house and I haven’t seen them yet. Alex usually blows me kisses and babbles very important things at me. Rian, more often than not doesn’t want to talk. This morning though, when I was having chats with Alex, in the background he said: ‘ I don’t want to talk to Mama on the phone, I want to talk to her here!’.

For a moment I considered turning around and going straight back home again, giving him a hug and telling him I’ll never leave him. But I can’t, because I have to go to work – and I want to go to work too – and at the end of the day, the bills need to get paid. So I felt the usual pang of guilt that I usually feel a few times a day, except a bit worse than usual because he had said that, and finished my gurgley chat with Alex and headed towards my desk, feeling pretty crap about myself as a mother.

If I had the freedom to choose, I don’t think I would choose to be a full time stay at home mother, I just know it wouldn’t be for me. Part time would be my ideal option, because at same time, I want to be with them all the time too. It’s that very tricky, ever elusive, perfect balance.

Guilt is something I became familiar with very early on, in fact, since the start of my first pregnancy. We are IVF parents, very very lucky ones at that, our treatment worked. So it was a bit of a surprise to me that I didn’t particularly enjoy being pregnant – extremely grateful yes, of course, but pregnancy for me was months of nausea, vomiting, swollen feet, extreme heartburn… ok my hair got a bit thicker and softer and my skin looked nice and almost glowy (possibly from the hot flushes!) for a while but even that catches up with you after the baby is born and your hair falls out and you’re left with these mad sticky outy bits all over your head while it grows back to normal again…!! Aaand breathe…! So no, if I’m honest, I didn’t enjoy being pregnant for the most part. Appreciative, yes, and lots of it I did love and cherish – the feeling of Bump moving around or kicking, but not really any of the rest of it.

Anyway back to the point… so I didn’t enjoy pregnancy, it was tough. I felt guilty about that because of our IVF and I thought of all the women who would swap places with me in a heartbeat because I used to be that woman too. And of course the moment they’re born you’re guilty all the time, am I doing this right, did I do that wrong?

When I went back to work after Rian’s maternity leave, the guilt was immense. How could I leave him every day, why was I working for a major chunk of my wages to pay someone else to see all of his ‘firsts’? And it only got worse, after I had Alex I thought I would be prepared for how it would feel to go back to work, but in fact it was worse again because what I wasn’t prepared for was Rian being old enough now to ask me, after a year of being home, ‘Mama, where are you going? Why won’t you stay here with me?’

It was very hard. I questioned myself a lot at the return to work last year. Why am I doing this?? Oh yes, then I remembered, I just don’t have the choice.

So why do we do this to ourselves? Is there a way to come to terms with this guilt or are we just destined to never be happy whatever the situation is – whether we give up work and stay at home, or if we choose not to stay at home?

I thought a lot last year about whether I wanted to give up work, assuming we could afford it and I could stay at home. It would be tight, but I think if we cut back enough we could probably get by on one wage. And is it even fair to assume that it would be me who stays home, what if their Dad wanted to stay home? I admit that thought didn’t even occur to me at the start. But even if I did stay home, I think the guilt would still find me anyway, and make me think about other things – can we afford to save for their college fund? Can we afford to give them all the things we want to?

And the other thought is – really the main reason I don’t want to give up my job – what will I do when they’re older and not as dependent on me? What if I want to go back to work then, when they’re off to school, and I have a five or six year gap on my CV – it’s hard enough going back after maternity leave,  your confidence is shaken a lot, or at least mine was. So a big gap, for me, would be very intimidating. So is it selfish of me to not want to be in that situation, to not want to sacrifice my career? Does that mean I’m a bad mother? And the guilt factor starts again.

Being a working mother, it sneaks up on you on a regular basis. When a work commitment clashes with an event at their creche or playschool, and we’re faced with missing it. Guilt. At Rian’s playschool Sport’s Day back in June, I took the day off work. Within the first ten minutes, three other mothers had mentioned to me that they hadn’t realised that our childminder, who they see every day dropping off and collecting Rian, wasn’t in fact his mother. Ouch.

Recently, our childcare situation  changed, and I was forced again to consider all of these points. I really struggle to come to some sense of peace with the fact that I’m gone all day from them. Today was their first day in a creche – Alex in particular has never been minded outside his own home until today – and I wasn’t there to drop them off. Guilty. They’re fine of course – the staff are amazing and sent me little updates and photos of them happily playing away, but my guilty mind goes into overdrive and I wonder what will they think of these decisions I’m making now when they’re all grown up? Will they think I’m selfish? Will they resent the fact that I ‘chose’ to leave them with someone other than me while I ‘chose’ not to give up my career? Ultimately, I suppose I’m thinking – how will they judge me? Am I ruining their childhood?!

I don’t know how to make the guilt go away, but I have decided to make some rules for myself.

  • I am not a bad mother. I am doing my best, along with everyone else. Yes, I go to work for myself because I enjoy it, but also of course so that I can give them everything I possibly can not just now but later in life too. I’m doing my best, and I have to tell myself that my best IS good enough.
  • Don’t focus on the negatives – instead I will focus on the times I am there. Their little faces when they see me coming through the door each evening, and the fun we can have all weekend. It makes me more grateful and appreciative of those times.
  • Most importantly of all: I make it my mission that they know they are loved. I know they know. And once they know that, I know I’m not failing completely.

Whatever way I look at it, mother guilt is here to stay, no matter what type of mother you are. There’s no point in questioning why we beat ourselves up over it, but in the end all I can suggest is that we get off our own backs, get off our own cases, and make the most of whatever situation we’re in. Guilt is not a choice, but how we deal with it certainly is.

My 21st Century Boys

{Also features on The M Word}

There was a video doing the rounds online last year where these kids were handed a cassette tape and had no idea what it was. It got me thinking, and wondering what other things my boys will grow up not knowing. Not just things either, but experiences.

Take Spotify as an example. In December Spotify happily told me that my yearly stats were in and it proudly presented me with my most popular track listings for 2017. Top of the list was ‘You’ve Got A Friend In Me’ by Randy Newman. Toy Story. Next up was ‘ Hakuna Matata’ and ‘ I Just Can’t Wait to be King’. The Lion King. Now I won’t pretend to have a supercool taste in music myself, but still. These kids are ruining my street cred. Or online cred anyway, if that is actually a thing!

But anyway, it’s more than just them corrupting my cool playlists, it got me thinking about the vast differences already between their childhood and my own. If you think about it, they have access to millions of songs under one roof in Spotify, available to them at any time without any waiting. There’ll be no saving up their pocket money to buy a single or an album, and listening to that album to the death because it was all that would fit in your walkman at any one time anyway. No waiting for the DJ to stop talking to press record when your favourite song came on ( Atlantic 252!) and hoping the end of the song wouldn’t get interrputed by them either. Nothing worse! So by default then, it’s unlikely that they’ll sit and listen to whole albums at all, unless it’s by someone they happen to really like. But do you see what I mean? You could go deeper and question whether as a whole piece of art, is the art of albums as they were, dying? Will people appreciate them as a whole piece of work the way they used to anymore?

Another aspect is the patience. They don’t have to wait for anything, it’s all just there at the tap of a screen. Recently I recorded a Disney movie that was on one of the tv channels (even that in itself feels retro now with the Netflix lifestyle), and while Rian was watching it, the ads came on. He didn’t know what they were or where his movie was gone. He went looking for the remote control to hand it to me to put the movie back on. At first I went to fast forward the ads but then I thought, no! You can sit and wait and watch them, just like I had to! In fact you’re still doing better than I did in the 80s – we didn’t get movies until they were released about 2 years later on VHS, so be glad! And so he did watch the ads. Which resulted in him asking me about 3 different toys, so I still lose in this scenario, but still. It’s the  principle of the matter! And they’ll never have to worry what time something will be on at. It will all just magically be there waiting for them whenever they are ready to watch it.

So I wonder is this the 21st century version of the whole ‘Back in my day we went to school barefoot’ type stuff that my parents used to come out with? (Not that they actually went barefoot but you know what I mean). How have I become my parents already?! And on a more serious note, what effect will this lifestyle of no waiting actually have on shaping them as people? Very deep, maybe, but very apt too I think.

Another thing is your basic memory. Kids will never need to have to remember a list of different phone numbers the way we did, everything will be stored for them. And on that note, will they even ring people when they’re old enough to have phones ( which will be 18 if I have my way!)? Nowadays it’s all texts. Do teenagers ring eachother at all anymore? I’m aware I sound 90 even asking that question. When we had no internet to keep us occupied, we would ring our best friend from school and chat away on the phone about all the important teenagery things in our lives. Ugh didn’t you hate when you rang your friend and someone else in their family used to answer the phone? Or even worse, if someone else in your house was already on the phone and you had to wait until they were finished.

I wonder is there any other generation before us where such changes were so vast between parents and their children’s childhood? I’m not sure. Maybe every generation thinks this type of thing – well it’s even a cliche isn’t it, ‘you don’t know you’re born’ type of comeback your parents used to throw at you if you complained about anything.

It’s kind of frightening too. I genuinely worry at the thought of my two as teenagers, living a life so vastly different to how mine was. Will I be able to relate to them at all? Will I be able to understand any problems they might have growing up in certain situations, online social aspects that I have no experience of? Even Facebook is a dying breed, as far as I can tell no self respecting teenager is seen dead in there any more. It frightens me to think of potential dangers that might lurk that not only I can’t protect them from, but that I don’t even know to look out for them in the first place.

It’s not all bad of course, there are plenty of aspects of technology that makes parenting so much easier, from ‘HOW DO I DO THIS?!’ type frantic Google searching, with instant answers, to apps and online support groups for, well, support but also for fun too. But in lots of ways, I can’t help thinking that despite the advances of technologies, my sons will miss out on lots more than I had growing up – using our own imagination, anticipation – having to actually wait for things….real life fun! So in an effort to replicate part of my own childhood for them I have made it my business to regularly expose them to 80s and 90s music. I’ll be damned if my kids don’t grow up knowing all the right cheese! They’ll thank me for it I’m sure…. won’t they….?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Threenage Years

Let me start by saying, I feel slightly betrayed by my parenting predecessors. I got warned about things like sleepless nights, explosive nappies, teething, and the start of the tantrums, right up to the Terrible Twos. So you could forgive me for assuming that once we cleared those murky waters that it would be more or less plain sailing til the teenage hormones kick in.

NOT SO.

Let me introduce the Threenager. For those of you with first children under 3, or those of you lucky enough to be given children of relatively sound and logical reasoning minds, a Threenager is your worst nightmare of emotions all bundled up in one big knot lodged in the already unstable mind of a developing child. This recipe makes for very confusing times for everyone involved.

The most surprising thing about becoming a parent was just how much I have learned about myself. I used to wonder what sort of a mother I would be, promising myself I would definitely do this, and I definitely wouldn’t do that. What I wasn’t expecting was to be confronted with aspects of my own personality that I didn’t know about – and, honestly – that I don’t really like!

First up – turns out, I am not a patient person.

There is nothing, NOTHING more frustrating than trying to get a three year old to eat his dinner. It is a form of mental torture. ‘Eat your dinner….. yes haha I can see your snot; eat your dinner. No, I don’t know what kind of dinosaur that is or why he is purple, but eat your dinner. Stop licking things please, just eat your dinner. Yes, you do like it, you’ve eaten this dinner a million times, happily. EAT. YOUR. DINNER!’ … …..breathe. Repeat.

I’m sure this torturous experience must surely have been used on prisoners of war to try and break them. ‘Tell us what you know, or we’ll force you to convince this here Threenager to eat his carefully made, lovingly prepared nutritious meal.’ Ten minutes max would have done the trick. I’d have cracked anyway, in a matter of seconds! Just don’t make me try and reason with a three year old, anything but that!

Another factor in the Patience department is the sheer repetitiveness of the questions firing at you like bullets. Anything from your standard ‘Why?’ on repeat to questioning your driving skills. If we are stopped in traffic, for example ‘ Why are we stopped, why are you not driving, drive please, where are we going, why are we not driving, why are we stopped? ‘  All the way to ‘ Ok, who is driving, Mam are you driving? ‘ (he is still rear facing so can’t see which particular chauffeur is on duty ) – honestly it’s a constant interrogation designed to break you down. IT WORKS.

Temper.

It used to be easy enough to predict the temper tantrums, (not that you’ll ever understand them, LOL, silly you) –  but you can learn to predict what might kick them off. Like if you cut toast the wrong way, or if you peeled a banana the wrong way, or even if you just peeled the banana. Even if you only peeled it because they asked you to. Don’t waste your time thinking how unfair and unjust it is, just try and learn to go with it. Expect some random outbursts – once you learn to expect them that’s half the battle. Eventually you figure out the triggers of the tantrums, you even start to feel a bit smug about the fact you figured out what starts them. But then they go and change the rules again.

Sometimes all it takes is for you to walk into the room. ‘NO MAMA DON’T DO THAT OK?!’ ….’Ehhhhhh ookkkk’… and he’s off. Melt down.

Then approximately 4.2 seconds later they’re skipping up to you, hugging you telling you they love you and asking can they have chocolate for dinner. To be fair, I would love chocolate for my dinner too.

WTF you might wonder? Beats the hell out of me I’m afraid. I’m sure I wasn’t this bad when I was three; they must get it from their Dad…

Moving on – Ok, I’m just going to come out and say it: 3 year olds can be proper A**HOLES.

The main difference here between your Threenager and your Terrible-Two year old, is that the fear is gone. They don’t care what way you try and bribe them, or what you threaten to not give them. They just don’t care. In fact they’ll almost encourage you to challenge them just so that they can say it. NO!

The fear is gone and they don’t give a sh*t. It becomes a battle of wills. The worst bit is when they do it in a public place so the only weapon of armour you have is to glare forcefully at them and hope they comply. They don’t. (Side note, I’m not promoting fear as a parenting tool. I’m not for a minute suggesting anyone uses that to try and control behaviour! I just mean, they just do not care what toy they will no longer have, or what treat they will no longer earn for good behaviour. No fear!)

 

So yet again I find myself in a battle of wits with someone half my size. And half the time I seem to lose as well. To be fair, half the time I admire his tenacity, his unwillingness to just accept a situation, and I hope he fights what he perceives as unfairness with this level of passion throughout his life! But while he’s in Threenage mode, and while it’s me he’s fighting… it’s just so mentally draining!

Having a Threenager is often like carrying a mirror around, one that reflects not only a physical mini version of yourself or your other half, but one that reflects how you act, your mannerisms, things you say. I’ve asked myself ‘Where does he get that from?!’ when I hear a frustrated ‘Come ON, I don’t have time for this!’ directed at his 19 month old baby brother. Or when his Playschool teacher apparently told him ‘ We don’t shout “Jesus Christ!”‘, or my favourite, ‘Mama says it’s important to share’ when he sees anyone anywhere opening a bar of chocolate or a packet of sweets. Chancer.

So I find myself in a constant state of utter confusion, frustration and admiration all rolled into one, being around my Threenager.

However, I have come to the conclusion that it all comes down to picking your battles. This is as much a learning experience for me as it is for them. Don’t try and fight it, after much experimentation I find just to let them get on with it is the best method of defense in the almighty battle of wills. If they don’t want to eat their dinner, fine. If they want to wear some ridiculous combination of clothes, like a big woolly jumper on a hot day, fine. You know eventually they’ll eat when they’re hungry, and they’ll want to take off the big jumper when they get ‘too warmy’ as my Threenager says. The main mistake I keep making is treating them like I would treat a grown adult with developed sense of reasoning! They have none. They don’t know what these emotions are or how to use them. With this in mind, I highly recommend a read of this article which gives a nice insight to what is really going on in that three year old bundle of confusion!

And in the meantime, I shall continue on my quest of understanding my little Threenager and focus on the funny side of how his little mind works, the questions he comes out with and the little stories he tells and things he does. ‘Is that a deal?’ as he regularly asks after he has dictated to me how a situation will play out! Four isn’t too far away, there’s no cutesy little ‘Fournager’ type phrase to give me any sort of heads up about what lies ahead, is there…?

 

3yrold

 

(Thank you to my lovely friend Joanne for her brush lettering skills with this very apt quote I found online!)

 

The Chair

The Chair arrived before either of you did. I remember the day we picked it out, the day we went to do the Baby Shopping – the same day we had our 20 week scan with you, Rian, and found out to our immense relief that you were growing perfectly. We left the hospital clutching the miraculous scan picture of you, something we never thought we’d ever be able to hold at one time, and arrived at the baby shop almost giddy with disbelief that the seemingly  un-achievable,  impossible dream of parenthood was actually happening for us. Little did we know it would actually happen twice for us. Our frozen twins.

I sat in The Chair, at first just to get a bit of a rest while we waited for a shop assistant to become available. It’s tiring work growing a baby. Of course, the minute I sat in it, I was able to imagine hours of gently rocking you to sleep, and feeding you in it when the rest of the world was fast alseep.

‘We’ll take it.’

As soon as it arrived it became a little spot of peace and calm in the corner of your room. I used to sit there, with you in Bump form, and wonder what you might look like and who you might be. Would  you have hair and would you look like me? A boy or a girl? Tall like your Daddy? Wondering of what adventures lay ahead.

I sat in The Chair as I watched your Dad put together your cot. Laying out all the pieces on one side and the toolbox on the other. I read from the instructions with what bit goes where, with one hand on The Bump and felt you kick in agreement when we figured it out.

And one after the other, you both arrived. From the start, The Chair was where we sat, you and I, you and your Dad. Gently rocking away the sobs and cries from colic. Gently rocking, persuading sleepy little eyes to close and nod off. And gently rocking while we stared at your miraculous, perfect little faces and wondered, what do babies dream about? Breathing in the beautiful soft, sleepy, milky baby smell and wondering, how did you get here? Just how on earth did we get so lucky, twice?

How many nights have we sat in that chair together? Sometimes it felt like endless hours. Please go to sleep…please don’t cry…. please, please just sleep, even just for a little while! Some nights felt never ending, some weeks felt like decades. Sitting rocking in that chair, trying to figure you out. Wishing the teeth would hurry up and come, rocking, shushing, patting your back gently. Wondering would we ever see sleep again?  Feeling like surely  you were the only person awake in the whole world at that time, willing sleep to come.

Thinking about the early baby days and hours rocking in The Chair, and how they changed into less and less hours there. I imagine it like a video collage in time-lapse mode in my mind of us all moving in super fast motion in and out of the room, up and down from The Chair, the time whizzing by yet slowly passing at the same time. The video in my mind shows each of you starting off tiny, slowly growing bigger. Sitting in that chair at the start, resting on my shoulder with your head nestled into my neck and your tiny little legs only long enough to reach my chest. Whizz on a bit and your legs stretch all the way to my lap. Whizz on some more and your face still nuzzles into my neck, your little arms wrapped around me, but you’re almost sitting sideways now as there is nowhere else for your legs to go. You’ve grown so quickly.

I wonder now, the sleepless nights long enough ago now,  exactly why did I wish away those endless nights? All those beautiful baby snuggles, rocking together in the chair as I stared at your eyelashes and wondered at how they were so long. The two perfect little button noses, and those drooly little mouths twisting in various ways depending on what little dream you were having and what amount of wind you had in your pudgy little bellies after a feed. I could close my eyes right now and draw each little face perfectly, I have memorised them so well, all those hours of sitting and rocking in The Chair.

And only in the last week, for the first time in almost 4 years,  a change arrived. The Chair was made redundant, nobody needing to be rocked gently in order to fall asleep for the night. I sat on the other side of the room and looked at The Chair, and realised: I’ll never need to sit there again. I remember reading something a couple of  years ago about not realising when the last time you do something, is the last time you’ll do it. I didn’t know that my last time rocking a baby to sleep in The Chair would be the last time I did it. What would I have done differently?

I probably would have stayed there all night.

I’m that mother who feels a bit emotional packing away the baby clothes that don’t fit anymore, holding them up and wondering how either of you ever fit into them in the first place. Were you really that small? But there’s something different about saying goodbye to The Chair. It’s more of a permanent goodbye. It’s saying goodbye to an era, not just to a small section of time where you used to fit into a particular babygrow. It’s saying goodbye to a section of my life, a section that was longed for so hard. A section of our lives that we wondered if we’d ever get to experience, and we did. And it just whizzed by so fast.

The Chair was there for it all, from before we even met you both. It rocked us through the rocky parts of becoming new parents, and rocked us calmly through the most peaceful parts too.

I know when it’s not sitting in the corner anymore, that space will remind me that I no longer have two little babies, but will remind me of you both, our two amazing little boys.

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