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!)

 

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Before I Ever Met You

When I discovered I was going to be a mother, I sat and wondered about lots of things. Practical things like what things do we need to buy? What should we name you? HOW WILL I GET YOU OUT?!

But more than just the practical things. What would you be like? What kind of person would you be? Who would you look like?

What can I teach you?

But I never expected for it to work the other way around. What would I be like?

What do you teach me?

Before I ever met you, there was so much I didn’t know, things I didn’t know existed. Like the pure strength of the love I have for both of you. Imagine how it’s possible that you can love someone before you even meet them? You can sense and feel their life begin, and with it this amazing bond begins, with someone you’ve never even set eyes on. And then you both arrived bringing this amazing, new type of love, so strong it almost scares you in case someone takes it away. And when you both arrived, I evolved into something else.

Someone else.

Someone, who before they ever met you, never knew they could actually survive on so little sleep. Night after night, sitting up, cuddling you, rocking you back to sleep. Getting up again, battling away imaginary monsters from your curtains, soothing pains in tummies, sore gums….. kissing away the things that wake you from your sleep. But I did.

Someone, who before they ever met you, used to think I’d never be able to do lots of things. I could never manage to get out of the house with one baby in tow… two babies in tow. I could never feed a baby in one hand and make a hasty sandwich for myself with the other. I could never keep one baby entertained, whilst soothing the other off to sleep for a much needed nap. And the ultimate goal, I could never achieve the all time achievement – dual naps. A thing of sheer beauty! But I did.

Someone, who before they ever met you, never really knew too well the pure sense of pride. The feeling may have come now and then at different points in time, if I achieved certain things in life; when I got my first paycheck.. when I took a great photograph. When I married your Dad. And eventually you both arrived. We fought hard to get you, now you’re both here, all I need to do is think of you. I just think of you, and feel overwhelming feelings of pride, as if my heart could burst with it. When it happens, I turn to whoever happens to be near me, and tell them of you. Something you did, something you said. A look you gave, an example of your amazing little personalities. I tell the stories of you, and feel immense pride. I just think of you, and it’s there. I never knew I could do anything so amazing to feel all this pride. But I did.

Someone, who before I ever met you, never really knew fear. Fear of all the things I immediately knew I had to protect you from, and of all the things I know I’ll never be able to shield you from. The hurts and disappointments that are bound to eventually find you. The absolute fear at the thought of you not being my babies anymore and having to send you out into the big scary world – it seems a world away from us at the moment but I’m learning at a rapid pace just how quick this journey is going to fly past. I can still call you my babies now – always – but one day you’ll be brave enough to do things without having to hold my hand. I just hope I can teach you to be strong enough and wise enough for each step of the way. I never knew fear could be this strong at the sheer thought of something. It makes me feel stronger, to know I will do whatever it may take to protect you from as much as I can. I never thought I could take that fear and use it to strengthen my love for you. But I did.

Someone, who before I ever met you, never really knew patience. Ok, honestly, I’m not going to be winning any awards for my levels of patience any time soon. But you have both taught me how to be more patient than I ever knew I could be. You keep us up all night, night after night. You throw tantrums for the most random, ridiculous reasons. You make us try and figure new things out every single day.  You change the rules constantly and consistently, lulling us into a false sense of security feeling like we finally might know what the hell we’re doing, before changing things all over again. You make us watch the same film a million times, or listen to the same song on repeat every hour and somehow we manage to keep our sanity. You bring us right to the edge of that sanity, and yet somehow, at the end of it all, you make us love you even more. I never knew I could display such levels of patience. But I do.

Someone, who before I ever met you, never really knew what hard work was. Hard in the physical sense sometimes, but absolutely hard in the mental sense of the word. Holding it all together, keeping everything going. Working together as a team, learning new things every day and learning new ways to figure things out every single day. I never knew I could work this hard without ever having a day or even an hour off duty. And what’s more, I never knew I could work this hard without ever wanting a day off from it, never wanting a day away from you. But now I do.

All these things you have taught me about myself, all these things I didn’t know I already knew.

Before I ever met you, I never knew I could be this person, so proud of you both, I will carry you always, learn from you always, love you ‘more than all the twinkly stars’…. always.

Who will I be, who have I become?

A Mama.

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Happy Mother’s Day to all of us!

In particular, to my sister Katie and my sister in law Joanne, who both celebrate their first Mother’s Day tomorrow after Joanne gave birth to my gorgeous niece Emma on the 15th of July 2017, and my little sister Katie gave birth to my beautiful nephew Liam on 26th February 2018. Welcome to the world Emma & Liam! I can’t wait to learn new things from each of you too as an Auntie. No doubt your cousins Rian & Alex will be on hand to teach you both the tricks of the trade in torturing… I mean teaching…your parents of all the adventures waiting for them.

 

 

Beautiful Boy
John Lennon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Too Shall Pass

I remember during one particularly tough phase of Rian’s first few months when he had colic, someone said to me ‘This too shall pass’ – and of course it does. I see it quite often in parenting groups; someone will ask for advice on dealing with some tricky new hurdle and usually all we can say is, hang in there, it’s just a phase, this too shall pass!

But do we ever stop to remember that the good things too shall pass? The little stages we love, their little quirks, the new thing they’ve discovered they can do…they change so fast because life is busy passing and we’re constantly just trying to catch up with ourselves. All of the little things they do that may seem inconsequential at the time, you might not even notice them. But I’ve only been a parent now for two years and already I want it to slow down. I want to remember all the little things about them that make me cry with laughter, or cry with frustration.  The things that make my heart want to jump out of my chest with pride and love. All of it.

Recently I was asked by a friend of mine to help put into words a way to describe his new venture in photography – a documentary style ‘day in the life’. While doing it, it made me focus on my own life with my two boys. And it made me realise I seem to be in a constant state of waiting for things to pass. Waiting for Rian’s colic to pass, waiting for his tantrum to calm, waiting for Alex to settle for the night so I might get a few hours sleep myself. I don’t mean to sound like I don’t enjoy all this – of course I do. But I realised that I hardly ever stop to actually look around me, to appreciate fully and more often just what it is we have been given. Especially since there was a time when we thought we’d never have any of this at all when we were told we’d need IVF. It’s always thinking of what job needs to get done next, what dinner needs to be cooked, what day the next round of vaccinations need to be given, the next time one is due a feed and one is due a dinner.

So I decided to stop and look, and started writing. When they’re all grown up, what will I want to remember?

How things feel. The softness of Alex’s little baby cheek, like a soft downy feather. The little grip of his whole hand clutching my thumb. Those little razorblade fingernails that seem to grow at a rate of knots and terrify me in trying to get them cut! The feel of Rian’s little arms wrapped around my neck giving me a ‘huggy’,  the drool that falls on my chest when he falls asleep cuddled into me. His little curls against my face when we snuggle in under the blanket to read a book, and the sticky little hands that chase me hysterically when they’re covered in the residue of his favourite snack of grapes and yoghurt.

 

 

How things sound. The gentle little sucky noise of Alex’s soother as he drifts off for a snooze. The sound of Rian singing at 6am about Gruffalos and trains and having adventures with Woody and Buzz. ‘To finnty…and bond!’ ‘There’s a sake in a b-oot!’ The sound Rian makes when I know he’s working up to a tantrum, and the swift noise I make in an effort to distract him from getting there! The sound of his little feet hopping out of bed when he’s supposed to be asleep and pattering across the hall. And best of all, the sound of Alex’s gurgly little giggles and warbly chats, and the beautiful sound of Rian’s belly laugh, so hard that tears run down his red little cheeks.

How things smell. The gorgeous new baby smell that still just about lingers from Alex. The milky drooly smell that comes from him after a feed. I could breathe that in all day. The lovely smell from Rian’s baby shampoo, and the smell of his bubble bath that he loves splashing around in. That unmistakable whiff that you knew was inevitable when he wolfed in all that fruit for lunch… ok ok maybe this isn’t something I’ll miss too much of when it’s over! And yet somehow, yes, I think I will because it’s part and parcel of who they are now, and I know it won’t always be this way.

One of Rian’s favourite things in life at the moment is Toy Story, and in particular, the third one. At the end of the movie Andy is heading off to college and is getting ready to leave. His mother walks into his empty room, all packed up, and gets emotional. She hugs him and says, ‘I just wish I could be with you always.’

And that’s my wish too, so much! It’s hard now to imagine them both old enough to be going to college, and I’m sure in some ways I’ll be only too delighted to get two smelly teenagers out of my hair, but obviously the day will come when they’ll be old enough to not need me anymore. Well, I hope they’ll always need me in some ways! Hopefully if I do this job right, they’ll want to keep me in their lives just as much as I’ll want them in mine.

 

 

I want to be able to look back, and still feel all those things, and the things still yet to come. To remember how things are, how they were, and how they will be. To be ever thankful that we were given the chance we thought we’d never have, to be their parents, and cherish them always, because as I’ve realised to be true, This Too Shall Pass.

 

*Huge thank you to Johannes for the amazing, and much treasured photographs of our little family; a day in our life.