There is nothing quite like the fall of dusk to trigger a full on inquisition from a preschooler. First is a reasonable statement upon the announcement of bedtime “No it’s not, it’s not dark!”. At which I have to explain that the sun goes to bed later in the summer (as explaining seasonal clock changes in a way my three year old can understand is beyond even me, the mummy who uses ballpit play balls to explain how static shocks occur to the bewildered looking imp – well she did ask!). This prompts its own question. “But why does it go to bed late in summer?” I think for a bit and tell her the sun works hard in summer, shining lots to help make things grow before winter comes and everything grows more slowly, and so it shines for a bit longer. “But why can’t things grow faster in the winter as well?” “Because it’s cold and lots of things don’t like the cold”. “Mummy, can I have another story please?” “No, it’s late now sweetheart.” “But mummy I have been working hard like the sun today so I should get extra play time too”. “Maybe tomorrow, it’s late now”. Turn over to sleep, edge out of the room. “Mummy, is it school tomorrow?”. “Yes baby.” “And Jane’s (childminder)?”. “No baby, it’s school and then you and me and Poppy time tomorrow”. “Oh good, I like our little holidays.” “Good, night night sweetie”. “Mummy, is daddy at work tomorrow?” “Yes but then it’s the weekend” “Oh good… mummy?” (Sighing a bit haughtily) “Yes Izzy?”. “I love you, you’re the best mummy in the world”. (I feel guilty for being haughty and melt into a puddle of maternal happiness at this matter of fact compliment) “Oh thank you sweetheart, what a lovely thing to say! I love you too, you are a beautiful and amazingly kind little girl”. Kisses and cuddles ensue. I go to leave. “Mummy? I have a sore throat. I need calpol and chocolate milk”. It’s half past ten. We have had colds and I had a sore throat yesterday so rather than argue I grant her a small dose and a little drink and get her back into bed. “Oops, I need a wee”. Down she gets and goes to the bathroom. Ten minutes later “Izzy are you done yet?” “No, I am doing a poo”. Lovely. Another ten minutes. “Are you ok in there? Izzy? Izzy?” Open the door and there she is playing with bath toys in the sink. Finally at 11pm she goes to sleep.
And Poppy wakes for a feed.
It’s no good, if I put it on facebook it sounds too much like bragging but this has to be said, I make truly gorgeous babies ! 🙂 xxxx ♥
There are rules in life for everything – brush your teeth twice a day, always say please and thank you, no wine before 3pm… 2pm? Ok, 1pm but that’s my final offer…
The point is that some of the rules we know and love to live by have solid foundations in the world. “Always look both ways before crossing the street” – great as not many of us wish to be floored by a moving vehicle. Some are made up to keep us in check (see the wine rule) and others… well what are THEY for? “Kids should be in bed by… (insert time here)”. Agreed that bed by 1am is a bit over the top rebellious and not great for their health or your relationships (with your husband or your wine), but more and more I see friends who insist their child is in bed by 7pm (I myself used to have to be tucked up by the first doof’s of the East Enders theme tune) and I wonder to myself “why?”.
If I get home from work at 5:30pm I then must spend half an hour cooking. The next half an hour is spent sitting together answering the most important questions in the world (to my kids) over dinner: “why do I have to eat my veg’ables?”, “why can’t I watch my programmes?” and “mummy, why can’t I have chocolate for dinner?” (I will come to the “chocolate rule” shortly).
That leaves me with half an hour to enjoy my children – although those who subscribe to the bath, book and bed routine have even less than that (we learned long ago that bath is simply a wet playground for our little mermaids -to bath them before bed means certain doom for any feelings of sleepiness… in fact I am fairly sure my girls are in fact mogwai’s, those adorable fluffy creatures that turn into gremlins when they hit water!). In any case bedtime is largely irrelevent if those in bed are still singing/reading/getting up to ask another question before being taken back to bed. In fairness to my children, I am not a sleeper either. I remember many nights as a child where I would be marauding the house and climbing onto chairs for crackers or biscuits long after my parents were in bed (I couldn’t tell the time yet – that’s how small I was) accompanied by my slightly younger brother who also couldn’t sleep. Moving on a few years to when we rented a flat together, the same brother got a job in a nightclub becaus he was “up anyway” and I would finally get out of bed when I heard him come home so we could have a couple of hours sing song before dawn (it all sounds a bit twee but to recover our street cred my bro would be strumming Metallica, Green Day etc. for me to sing along with – I actually walked down the aisle to him playing Green Day’s time of your life on his beloved guitar). Nowadays if my beloved family is asleep I will still prowl, listening for noises that don’t belong or signs that a child may be on the verge of waking with questions or the urge to feed or simply just enjoying the quiet. I needn’t be lonely though as chances are my mum or any of my four brothers would be awake if I chanced a cheeky text. Yet for the most part (barring anaemia related exhaustion) I have been fit, healthy and able to function at normal capacity throughout the day. It is this that I keep in mind when my little fox cubs find fresh energy after having an evening snooze, proceeding to keep us on our toes until we go to bed and in the ensuing silence they join us in the land of nod.
Now, back to the rules surrounding chocolate. East provided us with the usual parental conundrum. When may the first child start on their first egg, how much is too much and when do we fit in meals??? I take my lead from my parents. There were two days in all the year that we termed a chocolate free for all. Boxing day and Easter Sunday. And so yesterday involved many wet wipes as clean up after clean up took place. I don’t know if it was sugar crash but actually both girls slept without disturbance (as I watched a murder mystery series on box set and nibbled chocolate with a glass of water – you can’t beat thick gooey chocolate followed by thin cold water in my book!) And then, when I finally fell asleep, so did I! Then we woke up this morning and realised the conundrum wasn’t actually over. There are still piles of chocolate eggs and chicks and ducks to be eaten but now we have two girls who are operating on Easter rules expecting to sustain themselves primarily on their favourite food stuff! So I ask you… What’s the rule for Easter Monday (and who wrote it???)!?
Well we made it through Izzy’s terrible two’s and the onslaught of fresh terror that age three brought with it (read http://dadoralive.com/2013/04/terrible-twos-easy-like-sunday-morning/ and apply it to my life and basically that’s it lol!). And just as there was light at the end of that very long and dark tunnel soI found myself ducking as a Scooby Doo figure came hurtling past my head, accompanied by a frustrated and extremely inarticulate shriek… what the f… Poppy?! Your first taster tantrum at the tender age of 15 months?! Batten down the hatches coz Poppy has always been the placid, laid back one and we know what they say about the quiet ones! Sure enough a few hours later hurricane force temper tantrums destroyed rooms and sent the dog running for cover. I grabbed my mental armour and prepared myself for battle, reminding myself that this wasn’t like dealing with an overtired three year old, this was back to basics. I could ask what was wrong and reason all I liked but when a child is too young to talk all you can really do is make soothing ahh, shh, ooh noises and approach with caution. Think antelope in a lions den. Think elephant on a rope bridge. Think chav on Jeremy Kyle. You know something bad is going to happen it’s just a matter of when. Make a sudden move to escape and it’s going to end badly. Sure enough legs kicked, arms flailed, backs arched (hers as she flung herself backwards in the time honoured tradition of angry toddlers and mine as I desperately tried not to drop her). Right, screw gently gently “Oi, Poppy, enough! Enough now!” Dog barks thinking I am bring mean to his friend. “Buster shh!” Izzy tugging at my top for attention “Um, mummy I think Poppy’s in a bad mood!” Y’think? What gave it away? “Um, mummy, she’s giving me a headache!!!” I nearly laughed atthis. Izzy had colic from two weeks old through to four months old. Her terrible two’s began at 18months and as previously mentioned she became an all out warrior aged three. My headache has been pretty permanent since she blessed me with her presence on 3rd July 2010 and here we are about to do it all over again with her little sister.
Eventually bad mummy reached for the bribery. Actually I say eventually, it was only about twenty minutes into it because Izzy was starting to make noises and with my parents-in-law living in the adjoining bungalow I am always worried they are going to think I’m killing one of their sweet, innocent granddaughters if the noise lasts too long. All I can say is thank God Poppy’s still on the boob because it works better than any chocolate bar ever did! So for now peace is restored and I sit here a wiser mummy. Because unlike last time, now I know the storm is coming and this time I know it’s not just a phase, that implies a slightly inconvenient and brief problem to be resolved with simple psychology. War is what this is. Parents versus toddlers, survival of the fittest, winner takes all. Chocolate is our friend. The boob is our friend. Tiredness is their weapon of choice and they have a three year head start. The game’s afoot; follow your spirit and upon this charge, cry “God for Harry, England and St George!”.
Izzy has been going to preschool for four whole months. She is loving the social and learning experiences and I am finally taking a leaf out of her book. Naturally cautious about situations involving lots of women, I have spent the past few months getting the measure of my fellow mums and I am glad that I have. I have had a few mornings out with a lovely woman who I now feel I can call a friend – she has an easy way about her and we have found ourselves talking about the same kinds of random topics that I discuss with my oldest and closest friends. Here is a woman I can relate to! A second woman seems as shy as I am around large groups of people but gradually we have found ourselves talking about work, children and recipes (oh the domesticity of it all!). Most recently I have been approached by the matriarch of the preschool – the mum that all mums know, the hub of all activity at the coatpegs and the glue that seems to hold all the other mums together. I knew I’d been accepted when today she ran after me and shouted “Nikki, I think she has left her hand socks in the cloakroom”. Gasp – she knows my name!!! (Hand socks, by the way, are the socks you grab to keep your kids hands warm on bitterly cold days when mittens and gloves have gone walkabout!). Slightly starstruck I thanked her, had a chuckle with her as her son ran over to say goodbye and bid her a friendly “see you tomorrow”.
This is the extent of my social interaction with the other mums after four months – one friend and two acquaintances. Why have I not thrown myself into the fold like so many of the other mummies at the playground gates?
I will tell you, the benefit of watching and listening for four months has taught me a very important lesson. The cloakroom is a place of truce and harrassed mums united in cries of “Have you got your coat darling?”, “Do you need a wee? Then why are you dancing like that?”, “Where’s your other welly?”… Similarly the playground is for eyerolling and shouts of “Don’t run off without me!”… The playground gate, however, is where the gloves come off. Having run the mutual gauntlet of child collecting and waved goodbye to the mum who brought the car, is going in another direction or wants to pop into the office (probably to see if the other welly has been handed in to lost and found) the remaining mummies can begin the ritual sacrifice – the time honoured character assassination enjoyed by girls and women across the world. Like sharks around their injured comrade they circle, the smell of blood has reached them and they can hold back no more… “Did you see the state of little Junior* today? And when did she last wash her hair?!”. Unpleasant comments usually either preceeded or followed by the phrase “Not being bitchy or anything” or the justification that “I worry that she’s not coping with the new baby – what do you think?” (Which I fear is roughly translated as “I invite you to join me in this bitch session so that I cannot be talked about as a bitch behind my own back at a later date…). Oh but ladies how the tables will turn next week, for the bitch will become the bitch-ee. Beware the afternoon that you need to rush off to the doctors and so can’t take your place at the playground gate – for then it will be your turn to feel the sharp end of a tongue and if you feel your ears burning you can rest assured that karma is, like you… a bit of a bitch actually! 🙂
It doesn’t matter which way you phrase it the sentiment is the same and either way they are wise words – they didn’t become well beloved cliches for no reason. For several years I have been obsessed with the idea of getting a dog. I had fond memories of my family’s beautiful and slightly dizzy gold labrador and equally fond visions of my own little family getting a loyal and faithful four legged companion. Last week the dream came true and the reality is that sadly it is a bit of a nightmare… so young was I when our beautiful lab Sabre entered our lives that my memories of the sleepless nights due to howling and yapping, the stench of doggie doodles done in inappropriate places and tripping over high pitched squeaky toys have been much diminished as fourteen years worth of memories of a truly wonderful gentle giant ensued. I am sure that the sun will come out tomorrow and our sweet little lhasa ‘yap-so’ will soon enough become a similarly beloved family member, but between the cold-ridden toddler, constipated pre-schooler and noisy nocturnal pooch I am saddened to say this exciting time in our lives is proving to be less ‘Little House on the Prairie’ and more ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’!
He is still a little cutie though :).
Sitting here in my living room I have the distinct feeling that it has somehow… shrunk.
I suspect many parents have experienced this phenomenon of late so I shall run through the symptoms. Suddenly no matter how much you tidy there is always something brightly coloured that doesn’t look like it fits in the room comfortably, the shelf unit is no longer just a storage space for toys and books but also provides a prop to lean additional toys and books up against, every other dvd that a cheeky monkey slings across the room as she helpfully rearranges them is still in its wrapper and suddenly the harmony in your living room is broken every five minutes by a burst of loud obnoxious music emitted by that ONE toy you haven’t yet figured out how to turn the @$!# off!
Yes it’s January, the glorious time of year where you are as overstuffed as a turkey and trying desperately hard to fit into old things. But I refer, in this instance, not to the annual wrestling match with old jeans but actually the wrestling match required to make all the presents delivered by a well meaning Father Christmas fit into the space that was already full!
It has to be said though, as well as shrunken rooms and sackfulls of presents, Father Christmas also left two very excited, very happy and very grateful little girls – so I think this year we’ll forgive him! 🙂