Elf on The Shelf – Thanks, But No.

{Also published on The M Word }

People who know me, know that I love Christmas. Actually, it’s the run up to Christmas that I particularly love – the planning, the choosing of gifts, the atmosphere and the excitement. I even have a ‘wrapping theme’ every year where I’ll carefully choose what paper and accessories I use to wrap my presents! Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous but I love it. Once all the shopping is done, I’ll pick an evening and put on a Christmas movie and sit on the floor in the sitting room and happy wrap and stick and accessorise with ribbons and bits of holly etc – according to the theme of course!

And it’s even better now with our two boys, Rian has just turned four and this is the first year where he’s really getting a good concept of Santa, and the excitement of it all, it already feels magical. Seeing it through their eyes again is as good as seeing it new myself, all the memories of my own childhood Christmasses. When I look back at them, for the most part I don’t really even remember what the toys were, I just remember the magic of it all. Being so sure we could hear Rudolph landing on the roof, holding up the half chewed carrot the next morning in wonder that THE Rudolph and really ACTUALLY TOUCHED this carrot!! Amazing!

Why am I telling you all this? Well, to illustrate that this is the sort of Christmas person I am – a certified Christmas fanatic. So with that in mind, I even surprise myself a bit by not buying into the whole idea of the Elf on the Shelf.

Why? Well, for a couple of reasons.

First up – he just looks creepy. There’s nothing appealing about it to me at all – he looks like a doll you’d see in a horror movie. The way he’s kind of looking to the side with that odd little smile… it’s unnerving! I don’t like the look of him. He doesn’t evoke a cutesy image of a typical Santa elf, elves are usually more cuddly looking or something aren’t they? Kind of like Doc from the seven dwarfs…? Anyone…?! No, just me then…! Regardless, this fella definitely looks like he’s up to no good.

Which brings me to my second reason. That’s probably the whole point, looking like he’s up to no good. The idea is that he gets moved around each night, and gets up to mischief, so the kids will wake up and find him somewhere new, and of course I can see how that’s exciting and magical for them, of course I do.

But the effort!

I’m all about Christmas magic and excitement but the thought of having to come up with 24 different imaginative things for this elf to do,and then on top of all the other jobs we have already to have to remember each night to carry it out… it just isn’t something that screams fun to me.

My third reason, is that I really don’t need to spend all of December, whenever I open Facebook, to have to scroll through all the elves who have spent their nights throwing breakfast cereal all over the kitchen floor,or rubbing toothpaste all over the bathroom mirror – or getting stuck in toilet bowls or whatever hilarious situation he might find himself in!

However, for me, the main reason I don’t like it is that some kids are told that the whole purpose of the elf is that he keeps an eye on things, and can report back to Santa if behaviour isn’t up to scratch. Similar to the ‘Santa Cam’ CCTV setup, it basically tells the kids that they’re being watched constantly, and if they put one step out of line, Santa will hear about it.

That whole concept just doesn’t sit well with me – I don’t want the boys associating Santa with any form of anxiety for any reason whatsoever. I don’t want to essentially threaten them that if they’re not good boys then Santa won’t arrive. I don’t like the idea that they couldn’t be their normal selves at home for fear of an elf watching them…!

Of course I’m fully aware that Santa himself allegedly watches you… ‘ he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake’, as the song happily tells us each year. But I stand by my opinion of the elf –there’s something more final or concrete, or just basically more certain with an actual physical elf (albeit inanimate!) sitting on a shelf, watching you and reporting you, with his weird sideways beady little eyes looking off knowingly as if to say, ‘ I just saw that, and I’m gonna tell on you!’

No thanks.

So there’ll be no elf on our shelves this year, or any other year. Bah Humbug? Maybe… maybe I’m not all about Christmas as much as I like to think! But one thing I know is I’ll be glad when I’m falling into bed at the end of a long day, and won’t be having a last minute panic about having forgotten to move some creepy looking elf into some non-hilarious magical position of mischief!

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…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.

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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Parenting: Outwit, Outlast, Outplay

As a Mother every so often I get all deep and philosophical and wonder.. What IS Parenting? What does it MEAN to be a mother? What is that sticky thing on my jumper?!

I’ll never know how things stay so constantly sticky (although I’ve learned to accept it), but I think I have figured out what it is to be a parent. The meaning of Motherhood. What I strive to achieve each day of their glorious little lives.

I have come to the realisation that most of my parenting day is trying to find ways of outwitting mini humans. Two little people, one who thinks if he covers his eyes I can’t see him, and the other who thinks farting in the bath is the funniest thing since time began . . yes, I spend my day trying to outwit them.

And what’s worse, is that I feel smug about it when I pull it off. I’m 37 years old! Rian is almost FOUR! I think things like ‘Bahahahahahahaha HA you lose!’ when I successfully manage to distract one from something I didn’t want him to do. Or when I manage to eat a biscuit in the same building as them without them noticing. I’m surprised nobody has taken either of them off to some lab somewhere for extensive research into their supersonic hearing capabilites – these two can hear a wrapper opening from 100 paces. Not only that, but their supersonic travel capabilities upon hearing said wrapper, appearing at your side at alarming speed DEMANDING to know what is it? What’s in your mouth? What’s in your hand?  ‘What you have, Mama?’

Nothing sweetheart it’s nothing, just a bit of…. broccoli! For ages I thought I deserved the honour of becoming Outwitting Champ of the World when I told Rian that all of the things I didn’t want him eating were spicy, because he doesn’t like spicy food. So for a while it was so liberating – I could eat whatever I wanted and look at him regretfully and tell him it was spicy. No questions asked – he looked at me through squinted eyes now and then, as if suspicious that his loving trusting mother would lie to him, but he moved on and went about his daily business making things generally sticky around the house. However, sometime over the last couple of months, something has changed. I don’t know where he’s getting his information from, maybe we have a mole living in our midst, but now he has started to question me. ‘Oh no no Rian you wouldn’t like this horrible Jaffa Cake. It’s very very spicy’. Squinty eyes. ‘It’s spicy eh? LET ME TRY SOME AND SEE MAMA’. Game over.

The problem is, I’ve now met my best match, twice. It’s basically me, trying to outwit smaller versions of me! They’ve inherited all my best moves, I’ve passed on all my shiniest pearls of wisdom. They know what I’m up to, sometimes before I even know myself! Arguing with Rian one day in some restaurant about something I can’t remember now, but 5 full minutes into intense negotiations with him and I suddenly couldn’t help laughing as it dawned on me, I’m negotiating with a mini male version of myself. What hope have I got?!

So the Outwit, Outlast war rages on. Like any good stealth combat type soldier I will always try and stay one step ahead, always stay focused, don’t let them see my weaknesses! Always remembering though, you win some, you lose some. And I have to admit, on the days I lose, at least I can look myself in the eye and say to myself, I taught them well.

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Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash

I Found My Diary…1995 We Meet Again

{Also embarrassingly features on The M Word}

Picture the scene. It’s 1995 and a 14-year-old me sits in her room, listening to Oasis and Blur battle it out in the charts. I’m trying to tame my fuzz of red hair into something somewhat presentable because GHD’s hadn’t been invented yet.

I’d probably just finished watching the new episode of Friends, after arguing with my parents about why I wasn’t allowed go to a disco, while screaming at my sisters yet again to stay out of my room and stop robbing my stuff.

I would have phoned my friends Margaret and Lisa (after waiting for years for everyone else to get the hell off the landline) to catch up on all the latest gossip after seeing them two hours previously at school. My bedroom walls are plastered with images of my hero Andre Agassi  (shut up, ok?! He was gorgeous!) and instead of doing my Irish homework I was pouring my heart out into my diary as any dramatic teenage girl should do!

It was all very important and very real at the time of course – but when I found my trusty beloved diary again recently, well, let’s just say I’d had a healthy dose of cringey mortification served cold!

Does anyone else use that app Timehop and look back on Facebook status updates circa 2008 when it prompted you to speak about yourself in the third person? And you think to yourself, why on earth was I such an absolute plank?! Reading over this diary is like that except about a million times worse, but also, to me at least, absolutely hilarious. I was beyond a plank. I can only hope I am getting less plank-y as the years go on. Will this very blog post mortify the life out of me someday?

Well I won’t have to wait until someday, this post is mortifying me as I type. So without further ado, let us take a look back at 1995 and the things I deemed important enough to write into….

My Diary –

D1

 

2nd Sept. 95. Sat.

Well, a lot has happened over the past few days.

Except it seems I didn’t deem any of it important enough to actually write about!

Yesterday we had to go back to school. I sit beside Lisa. On the 31st August (Thur) Lisa’s parents took me, Lisa + Margaret to Tramore. It was brilliant! Mam and Dad said they have to have a ‘discussion’ about me. If they think it’s going to change me, they’ve got another thing coming. Lisa’s staying over tonight.

LOLLING so hard at the thought of what the ‘discussion’ entailed. At least I was sticking to my guns anyway and wasn’t about to change myself for anyone! Go girl.

I also quite like my reference to the particular day of the week, it would have killed me to wonder what day of the week it was when we went to Tramore.

D2

 

Sun 10 September 1995

I’m totally in love with Andre Agassi. I swear, he is so gorgeous. I just can’t get him out of my head.

Ahead of my time here with that line – I wonder if Kylie was thinking of Andre too?

He won the US Open Semi Finals against Boris Becker yesterday. Right at this very moment he is playing tennis (finals) against Pete Sampras. It is 10.35 here, so in New York it is 25 to 6.

It is important to know at all times, which time zone your one true love is working in.

Sigh.

Cringe-induced Facepalm.

Me and Lisa had a fight. I found out from Margaret that Lisa has been keeping all sorts of

Frustratingly, right at the juicy moment – something must have happened and I never finished that sentence. No doubt it was highly incriminating teenage angst-y stuff anyway, whatever it was she was hiding. BUT – not to worry –

D3Aa

 

Mon 11 September 1995

Well, me + Lisa made up, but things are still a bit weird.

Awkward! Just what was it Lisa was keeping loads of?! Never mind, on to more important matters –

Margaret gave me a sticker of Andre Agassi today. Oh my God. I love him.

I did love him. Stupid Brooke Shields keeping him from me!

I’ve a load of Irish to learn – I’m dead. Till tomorrow.

Sometimes it’s best to just bullet point your worries and not go into them too much.

18 September 1995. Mon

Sorry for not writing!

Sorry to who?! An inanimate piece of paper? I don’t think it minds!

Last weekend I stayed the night weekend in Lisa’s house. It was a laugh. Lisa’s brother Gusie took us out on the tractor. It was so funny.

!! How wild were Lisa and I?!

On Friday when we were walking home from

D3b

Science class.. went out to the bog. Oisin gave me a HUGE pair of wellies. We looked hilarious. Margaret had her camera. I fell into a hole.

I FELL INTO A HOLE.

Then me + Lisa had to walk around town in our wellies! It was so funny + embarrassing. Finally, we went back to the school and got changed. Lisa Gordon gave me more pictures of Andre Agassi! Lisa says he’s folicaly challenged (bald), but he’s not!

HOW DARE SHE!

He broke up with Brooke Shiels. (YESSSSSSS!)

Yes Jen. Because now at last he can be yours! There is absolutely nothing stopping you now!

D6

 

In Pennys I got a purple-woolly top, a white thing for underneath, and platso’s (black)

I think I mean ‘Palazzo’ trousers? Anyone?? Wide legged things? Clearly fashion is NOT my thing.

for xmas. When I got home me + Mam watched “Muriels Wedding”. It was good.

In fairness that is a CLASSIC!

Today me + Margaret went to a kids xmas play

But why?? Whose kids were in it? No idea.

It was funny. In school we’re in the choir – we missed History today! X-Cell-ent!

Suddenly clear why I failed junior cert History. Also – CRINGE at my teenage-mutant -ninja-turtle influenced use of English there.

But behold my favourite line so far:

Yesterday I got a chain letter in the post – from Fiona Richardson from Dundalk – I’ll kill her. C ya.

Shout out to Fiona, a lifelong friend since childhood. Thankfully I didn’t actually kill her. But why would she do such a thing? A chain letter!!!! Maybe it’s her fault what happened to me next for breaking that chain and millennia worth of bad luck fell on me..?!

D4

 

27 September 95. Wednesday

Yesterday (Tue 26th)

Thank God again for my reference to the weekday cos otherwise we’d never have known that the day before Wednesday is Tuesday.

Anyway, hold on tight because things are about to get emotional:

I went to the dentist. I HAVE BRACES. My life is over. I can’t even talk, or eat. Tomorrow I have to go and get TRAIN TRACKS. Goodbye, life, it was nice knowing you.

And in a break from the life ending disaster:

It was Nana’s birthday on Friday. I think she was 78/79. I love her. Even though she’s fussy! I have thurs + friday off.

But back to the doom:

I’M DEAD IN IRISH! I HATE MS NOLAN!!

THANKS A LOT FIONA, DAMN YOU AND YOUR CHAIN LETTER!!

Til tomorrow.

So as we can see, my 14 year old life was full of ups and downs, friends keeping mysterious things from me, falling out, making up, falling into bog holes, life-threatening chain letters, and above all else, Andre Agassi.

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SIGH

So let’s end on a nice entry about a puppy almost called Artho, and the unfairness of life in being the eldest.

D5

 

A couple of weeks ago we got a little puppy. She’s a collie and we called him her Kim. First, dad said she looked like a pint of Guinness so we should call her ‘Artho’. Then he decided ‘Stout’!! We talked him out of it, though!

Mam and Dad want me to move in to their room so they can have my room for their built-in wardrobes. Why can’t they move Sandra?

WHY indeed, Diary, why indeed.

/END_MORTIFICATION

Let’s Talk About Emotions

{Also published on The M Word }

I’ll be clear from the start: Most of the time, I’ve NO IDEA how to handle this situation.

But now that we’ve established our three-year-olds are essentially walking bundles of emotional confusion, what can we do to help them – and ourselves – get through it? Well, here’s what I’ve discovered on my quest to find out.

Last summer, when Rian was two and that all important half, I started seeing that he was randomly slapping other kids, for no apparent reason other than, ‘they’re toddlers, sometimes they just do that’, as people explained when I asked about it, and what I could do about it. It was quite stressful, if he did it to kids we knew, or kids we didn’t know, all I could do was apologise and try and make it clear to Rian in that moment that we do not slap people..however, during some research into it and how to handle it properly, I came across a recommendation for a book called The Colour Monster. Sold.

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Sniffy & The Colour Monster

The Colour Monster by Anna Llenas is a book about identifying emotions for children.

Any research I did about the slapping incidents, or major meltdowns in general which were starting to become more frequent, all told me what we already know – they don’t call them the Terrible Twos or Threenagers etc for nothing. Toddlers don’t know what the emotions they’re feeling are, or how to manage them.

To be fair, and perfectly honest, a lot of the time I find it hard to control MY emotions (specifically, impatience and temper), so how can I expect a two or three year old to be able to do it?

My research also explained how emotional intelligence is something that ideally should be taught from a very young age so that we can learn to control and understand how we feel in lots of situations, not just as kids, but as adults too. So I figured it was worth a shot.

When the book arrived, we started reading it for our bedtime stories. It’s a quick book, a line or two per page with really lovely illustrations. It takes you through five emotions: Happiness, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Calm. It assigns a colour to each emotion and explains that sometimes you can feel lots of things at once, when all your ‘colours’ feel all mixed up.

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After a few reads, Rian knew all the words. The slapping continued every now and then, and all I could really do was intervene each time and firmly explain why we don’t slap other people. Of course it was still stressful and I went through all the usual worry of, am I doing this wrong?

Tantrums are par for the course and so they continued, and still happen – in fact we just had one about an hour ago (side note, he’ll be four soon enough… they stop at four, right??!!). But what started to change was that he was identifying how he felt… and I’m no expert, but I think this is the important bit.

For example, just the other night, Alex merely sat on my lap to read a book, so naturally by his three-year-old logic, this was deemed as a valid reason for Rian to have a big meltdown. At the height of a tantrum, (on the days I manage to keep myself calm too – let’s be completely honest; it’s not easy), I just weather the storm and wait for it to pass. Once it does, I ask does he want to cuddle for a minute. Sometimes he does, and other times, its as if nothing had ever happened… like a switch flicking from complete chaos to complete calm..!

But on the days where he takes up my offer of a cuddle, I talk to him about it. This is where The Colour Monster comes into it and where I’ve found it an amazing help.

I started noticing that he’d tell me he was feeling like ‘The Red Colour Monster’ when he was angry. Another day he came over to me, and out of nowhere just asked for a cuddle because he felt ‘like the Blue Colour Monster’. Another time he asked me if I was happy ‘like the Yellow Colour Monster?’… and so I knew that he was at least learning to identify each emotion with a label, to recognise each one and differentiate between them.

Now I’m no expert, maybe this would have happened anyway as he got over each stage of development, I don’t know. But the book most certainly helped us talk about it in a way he could easily understand and picture in his mind. So back to the other night when he had a tantrum over Alex sitting on my lap, without me even asking him he walked over, got the book, opened it on the Red page and told me ‘This is how I feel Mama!’

Thankfully, the slapping phase is over, can’t say I’m looking forward too much to Alex getting to this stage, with any luck he’ll skip it altogether… yeah I won’t hold my breath! But if you’re reading this and are nodding along knowingly, in the same boat, then I can’t recommend this book enough. There’s a similar one too by Dr Seuss called My Many Coloured Days – we came across this one a while after The Colour Monster, and I really liked it too but we had already gotten to know The Colour Monster so I just stuck with that one.

I don’t think there’s a ‘too early’ stage, Rian was two and a half when I bought it – if they’re sitting long enough to look at books for any length of time, then give it a go. Go forth and unravel that little bundle of confusion!

Anyway, don’t forget, the very second you happen to figure out one confusing phase, they’ll leave you behind,  move on to the next one and you can start all over again…

Our Great Embryo Debate

{Also featured on The M Word }

Every so often I get asked ‘ So… are you going to try again for a girl now that you have two boys?’

What an odd question. Or am I the odd one? Why would people assume I have a need to have a daughter over another son? We have no plans to try again for any more babies, but if I did, given we have to do fertility treatment I would be over the moon with either sex, but if I’m honest, another boy would probably be a lot handier and more practical seeing as I already have mountains of boys clothes…!

So, no I say, I don’t feel I need to try again for a daughter.. as if my sons aren’t fulfilling enough for me! It really is an odd question, to me at least. Do men get asked if they want to try again for a son if their children are all girls? I dunno, probably. Odd!

However, the question does get me thinking about our little embryos. Every so often something will remind me of them – well, pretty much any time I hear of someone doing IVF or if I see a new baby, I think of them. It might sound ridiculous to some people, but I think of those little embryos like pre-born babies. They exist because of us, they are lives created by us. Ok, ‘lives’ may not be the correct word scientifically, but it’s hard to think of another word to accurately describe them, because ‘bundle of cells’ just doesn’t cover what it is they mean to us, and how important they are.

When you do IVF, you quickly learn that getting to the stage of embryos even existing from the treatment is very far down the line of ‘Things That Need To Go Right.’ It’s not just a case of rocking up to the clinic, producing the ingredients and job done, there are loads of things that have to go to plan first.

And I’m no scientist but it seems to me that a large majority of that is down to luck. Or fate, or whatever it is you happen to believe in. Science only seems to account for some of it, and the rest is ‘let’s just hope’.

We were unbelievably lucky to end up with seven Grade 1 embryos after our IVF treatment – at the time I didn’t really understand just how lucky we were to get those numbers, but they are fantastic results. Thankfully, out of three FETs (Frozen Embryo Transfers), two were successful and are currently almost four and almost two years old… essentially they’re twins just born two years apart! Sadly we had one failure in between the two boys, so that leaves us with our four little ‘frosties’.

And so the question remains.. what to do with them? Currently we pay for their storage at the clinic each year. They’re sitting in a huge freezer in tiny little tubes a bit like the inside of a biro – so tiny you can’t really see them with your own eyes. Four potential PEOPLE – to think of it too deeply just blows my mind a bit.

I wonder about how close they came to existing. When the embryologist opened the freezer on the morning of each transfer, liquid nitrogen spilling out over the sides of the big drum like something out of a science fiction movie, and looked at our little collection of embryos, what made her pick the ones she did? Those embryos she chose eventually turned into Rian and Alex. So I wonder, who didn’t get the chance to turn into people? And how close we came to not meeting Rian and Alex…?

The sheer effort required in even getting those embryos in the first place… how could I ever decide to let them go, or let them ‘expire’? I’m so emotionally attached to them and invested in them, I’ll never forget how hard it was to get them and what we went through, the emotional and physical rollercoaster of it, that I think I’ll still be paying for their storage when I’m 90. To think of not keeping them makes my heart skip a beat with sadness… does that make me sound a bit mad?!

 

I don’t know what the future holds.. at the moment we have two beautiful, precious little boys. Two boys we never dared to dream we’d have, the day we were told we’d need IVF to have any hope of becoming parents.

Part of me thinks am I being greedy to even consider more when the odds were already so stacked against us. We are so happy as a family of four, I don’t feel any pull or need to try for another one… until I think of those embryos and wonder, what if? Or maybe more appropriately… who if?

So I’ll tuck those thoughts away for now and pay the clinic for another year of storage, think about it tomorrow and be so forever grateful for the two little embryos I can tuck into bed and kiss goodnight.