…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 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

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…

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.

How To Survive.. The Toddler Vomiting Bug

Also features on The M Word

There’s loads of things nobody warns you about when you’re waddling around with your Bump all glowy and dreamy and planning your perfect white Pinterest worthy nursery.
Put down that white fluffy rug with the matching white fluffy cushion for your nursing chair, Mama. Seriously, put them back. Don’t mind that sales girl, IT WILL NOT STAY WHITE. Or fluffy. Why?
Well, because it will get Babied and Toddlered, but also, because it is inevitable, at some point, the vomiting bug will find your toddler.
It will not be pretty. But you can do this! You turned that Bump into a Baby didn’t you, if you can do that, you can do anything!

Day 1
You wake up, all seems fine. Toddler or mini human in question decides today is the day they are going to happily eat EVERYTHING you put in front of them, and more. More scrambled egg, darling? Sure! I’ll even slather extra buttery butter on some toast for you too. A glass of milk, my precious? Of course, here, have two. What could possibly go wrong?

All continues to seem fine as they wolf down food as if they haven’t been fed for a week, the more dairy based, gloopy, puke inducing the better. It’s as if they know. I’m convinced they do but that’s a story for another day… crafty little feckers that they are.

Not long later though, you start to notice something is amiss. Maybe they are less energetic than normal…maybe they want more cuddles than usual… or for me, maybe they start producing nappies from the pit of hell in rapid succession. Looking back, I realise now I should have known what was heading my way, in fairness, he’s my second child so I’ve met the vomiting bug a handful of times now. Let’s hope my kids are faster learners than I seem to be.

So anyway, a handful of horrific nappies later, I’m already traumatised and fearful for the next 12-24 hours of parenthood and what lurks ahead, so I decide to issue a house-wide Orange Alert. This is the stage you might want to change out of your nice top, put away your nice cushions, roll up that nice white fluffy rug you ended up buying anyway because of pregnancy nesting hormones.

Keep a beady eye on your toddler and watch out for a change in temperament. Keep a suitable vessel nearby at all times just in case your worst fears are confirmed – I find the basin from the toy Ikea kitchen very useful – he’s familiar with it so it won’t make him think anything is wrong, it’s just a cool game with.. a basin… what’s suspicious about that, basins are cool… but also it is excellent for catching any sudden pukage.
Sometimes you can start to hear the rumblings before any fluids appear – and suddenly, just as I was wondering if that rumble was him or me (dear God am I getting it too?!!), there it was. Projectile. Vomit. Everywhere.
Upgrade monitoring system to Red Alert! It’s happening. In fairness, he got about a third of it into the basin. Could do better, but at least you weren’t wearing your nice top so that’s something.
Sob.

So here we are. The first projectile pukage has subsided for now. Poor little munchkin is just as shocked as you are – first things first, cuddle and reassure them that it’s all going to be ok. After while you wonder who you’re trying to convince more, him or yourself, but nevertheless it helps calm everyone down so just keep repeating it, it will all be ok! Depending on level of carnage, assess the crime scene and decide what needs to be cleaned first. There’s no pretty way around it. It’s everywhere. Into the bath he goes.

Now if you ask me, herein lies a gap in the Vomiting Bug market. Someone needs to invent colour coded puke. Hear me out…. imagine how handy it would be if it was colour coded so you know immediately just what it is you’re tackling here?
Are we talking a once-off puke? A 12 hour thing? A 24 hour one? An ‘I’ll puke today and then stop for a while to make you think you’re in the clear, but then start all over again’ sort of bug?? It’s the unknown that’s the worst part. Are you gonna be up all night changing sheets? Should you completely fast them? What if they get dehydrated? What if we all get it?? It’s a minefield of confusing times.

However, for now, it’s a case of battening down the hatches, get that puke cleaned up, and spend the rest of the day sorely regretting your choice of eggs and buttery butter and milk for breakfast.

Day 2

I was going to start with, ‘Wake up’, but in fact, have you even been asleep? It’s hard to tell really. What was real, and what bits were a dream?
What a night you put in. Who’d have guessed, back in the days of Pinterest Nursery Planning, that there’d be nights when you would just put them on towels to sleep on, never mind perfectly matching bedsets!! LOL at your pregnant self!

So, how are you holding up? You’re a bit on edge really, obviously tired because of the lack of sleep, if you weren’t mopping up puke and emptying the minute fraction of it that made it to the Ikea toy kitchen basin, you were lying there with one ear cocked in fearful anticipation of the now familiar noises that emerge right before the flow of vomit so you can pretend that you’ll make it there in time to catch it all in the basin.
Your hands are raw because you’ve scrubbed them clean a million times, anti-bacterial-gelled them a hundred times, along with frantically disinfecting every inch of surface in the desperation that it doesn’t spread to the other kid or kids or to yourself!

However, he hasn’t puked in a while now and God love him but he must be starving since you fasted him almost a whole day ago. Should you let him nibble on some dry toast? Look at his little face, those eyes, they’re gazing up at you begging for a bit of food… what to do, what to do. Is the bug still lurking, waiting for me to feed it so it can laugh at me while I clean up yet another round?! Seeing as nobody has yet to install the colour coded puke mode, I guess there’s only one way to find out.
Slowly and gradually and with your new best friend Basin close by, attempt re-introduction to food. Dry food. Assess situation closely. It’s a bit of a lottery really, you’ll either end up back at square one, or, maybe the end is nigh, and the light is finally at the end of that long pukey tunnel!

Rejoice.

So you made it through! Reduce alert down to Yellow status – commence boil wash of every stitch of cloth anywhere near anything, but still, be vigilant.

Sanitise everything from yourself to Basin to light switches and door handles. Get some chocolate into you, be nice to yourself, after all you’ve been through a traumatic and trying life experience! And most importantly, maybe keep that white fluffy rug all safely rolled up until, I dunno, until they move out?!

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Alex & Basin

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 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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