Wasps, Screams and Coffee

 

We’ve just been camping with family, and experienced some of those screams.

I don’t mean the excited screams when they see their big cousins.

Or the offended sobs followed by a distraught cry of:  ‘Mummy Mummy!  Tiddler said I was naughty!‘  (Toddler is now 5 and easily offended).

Nor even the sounds that accompany knees hitting gritstone, gravel or tarmac, which seem to happen thirty times a day.

No:  I’m talking about real screams.   The ones that make your blood run cold because you know there’s actually something wrong.

The first wasn’t serious; Toddler had an encounter with a wasp.

Here’s the thing with wasps:  they aren’t actually out to sting people.  The don’t think to themselves: ‘Look!  There’s a little person down there eating a sandwich.  Well, as a wasp I must give them a sting to spoil their day.’

No.  Wasps are like everyone else:  out for what they can get.  Stinging a human doesn’t get them anything (other than maybe squashed).  The jam sandwich in the human’s hand, however…

The Thing is, just don’t wave your sandwich.  And when the wasps do notice it, don’t flap at them or make them feel threatened.  If they want to walk up your arm, let them walk up your arm.  They see a surface near the food for walking along, not a weak spot to sting out of malice.  Chris Packham, wildlife expert, told the Guardian that he used to smear jam around his kids’ mouths to teach them this lesson.

Anyway, Toddler listened to my wasp-talk like is was Gospel, didn’t she.  No hysteria for her; her calmness and collectedness were cool.  While other people were flapping their way through breakfast, she concentrated on more important things, like making sure she got her turn at pushing the plunger on Grandad’s cafetiere.

Then one of the little shits, completely unprovoked, flew down and put its stinger in her hand.

wasp

One of those screams.  Although, five minutes and a fascinating chat about the inflammatory process later and Toddler had almost forgotten.

I had not.  I even considered leaving a jelly out in the sun (a trick of my mothers:  the wasps stick to it, then it sets overnight; the following day, you top it up a bit with boiling water and repeat the process.  The dead wasps make neat layers.  Art.)

A few mornings later I was lying in, when I gathered from voices outside my tent that one of the cousins hadn’t been seen for a while.  Perhaps she’d Toddled to the toilet.  Someone went to check.  They returned:  she hadn’t.  At this point, I got the impression people were mounting a search so I mounted my own search for some clothes so I could go out and help.

Then there was the scream.  A pair of quick little feet scampered past the tent and the voice, still screaming, articulated: ‘Daddy!’

I would have run out of my tent completely naked then, but Hubby was clearly there.

‘Hot coffee from the cafetiere,’ he called.  With the adults distracted, Tiddler had spotted his chance to have a turn at pressing the plunger.

‘Shit. Cold water for ten minutes.’

I dressed and followed the screams up the campsite to the hose-pipe.

The thing about Consent is, if someone doesn’t want you to do something, then you should stop doing it.  Again, my kid had taken Mummy’s words to heart.

‘I don’t want you to, Daddy,’ he was screaming, while struggling, and kicking.   ‘MUMMY!  Mummy tell Daddy I don’t want to be wet!’

But when your child’s skin is blistering before your eyes, you just grab them and hold them still as you can for the hose-pipe.  He was beyond being reasoned with.  Then you remember to check that your missing niece has been located, wrap Tiddler in cling-film, cuddle him them all the way to minor injuries (it hurts too much to get him in the car-seat) and carry him in still screaming.

‘He’s got some very major minor burns.’

There followed a long, harrowing day.

By the time we left minor injuries, Tiddler was wearing a net to hold his dressings in place and had some pain relief on board.  He was quiet and cuddling a special teddy (importantly in his favourite colour) that he’s been very attached to since.

By the time we got to the Burns Unit, he was positively cheerful.  He spotted lots of toys in the waiting area and had to be told more than once not to ride the scooter into the other patients.

Then the nurse gave him more pain relief

‘What’s that?’

‘Morphine.’

‘But he’s not really painful n – Oh.  Is that because you’re going to change the bandages?’

She was.  And she pulled each blister away, too.

‘Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!’

I have to say that the care was excellent.  Tiddler had two relatively superficial burns, one one his inside wrist and the other on his abdomen.  There was a lot of waiting about, but that meant we were lucky: a burns’ unit is not the sort of place where I’d want to be at the top of a doctor’s priority list.  Tiddler is going to be fine.

Meanwhile, hubby had very soggy feet from the hose-pipe and I was suffering slightly from the disorientation of a short-sighted person who has left their tent with no glasses on.

By the time we got back to the campsite, Tiddler was asleep and it was natural to make a coffee.

But I didn’t quite have the heart.

stock-vector-french-press-sketch-hand-drawn-cartoon-coffee-or-tee-maker-icon-doodle-drawing-vector-357592157

 

 

Image

Kids, Weddings and the Tash

starwars

 

We’re driving to Scotland.

Snowflakes in the windscreen resemble the Star Wars titles.  The kids (thank goodness) have fallen asleep.  Radio 3 is featuring a jazz soloist ‘on electronics,’ which is the sort of soundscape a manatee might swim around to on a nature programme.

‘Do people listen to this stuff for pleasure?’ I ask hubby, ‘Or just so they can call themselves open-minded?’

‘Shhhh!’ says hubby.

The music wells.

‘Listen!  The manatee has seen a fish!’

‘Stop it,’ says hubby.

‘Oh shit,’ I say.

‘What?’

‘I forgot to pack any shoes.’

shoes

Last year we got a wedding invitation.

And another.

Then another.

And two more.

I won’t make bus-waiting analogies, but suddenly my family and friends were so busy nuping-up in different corners of the country that my car-tyres and my dress started to look worn.  In fact, I bought a second dress.

I know.

You’d think that having been a bride would make me critical of other couples’ weddings, but I’ve soppily adored them all.  I’m not one of those wedding-describers-and-comparers.  I’ve brought kids; I’m more worried about other people judging me.

Just because I’m paranoid, doesn’t mean nobody’s judging.  Plenty of loved-up thirty-somethings are transparently conscious that society expects them to sprog.  Such couples try to use your example to confirm to themselves that parenting would be amazing (or managable, or terrifying, or the end of their social lives as they know them – all of which are true).  And eveyone comments on your kids’ behaviour.

At weddings  you want to make your children and your parenting look idyllic.  Like Facebook in real life.

Damnit! –  I wasn’t even a perfectionist in the days when all I had to remember were a dress, some shoes and a present.

Nowadays it’s a military operation remembering:

  • my insulin and sweets
  • to disappear my moutache (it’s thick and curly thanks to sprogging hormones)
  • to wash the kids
  • ..and brush their hair
  • a ribbon matching my daughter’s dress (and keep her still enough to apply it)
  • my son’s trousers, shirt and matching socks
  • a spare set for after he vomits
  • nappies
  • food to bribe them with if the photographs take ages
  • wet-wipes for their fingers
  • and of course – when he joins us – cuff-links to put on hubby.

The cuff-links aren’t important; hubby can improvise them from things found around the hotel-room. Some people would cringe if their partner rocked lime-green pipe cleaners, but it’s a fabulous ice-breaker at wedding-breakfast.

Another good ice-breaker:  “it was my fault the bride was so late”.  One time the rain was pouring down, the motorways were slow and the map on my phone kept flipping upside-down and loosing its signal most unhelpfully.  The stupid roads had plenty of decision points but nowhere to pull in.  The kids kept asking ‘Are you lost, Mummy?’  and giggling like hyenas.

I found the hotel.  The staff directed me through the rain to my room without offering to help with my two giant suitcases or two small, trailing children, but I chilled out when I saw my huge, golf-course-view suite.  Said suite was quickly strewn with clothes, disguarded sandwiches, crumbs and dirty nappies while I sorted us all out and packed us back into the car in record time.  We drew up outside the church just as the bride’s father came out to see if the coast was clear for their arrival.  He kindly held things up to let me get the family into position.

wedding2

Sitting in the service is the most risky part of the day and I’ve learned (the hard way) to sit near an exit.  It’s amazing how much blushing you can do between your pew and the church door.

Years ago, a priest stopped a wedding service I was attending:  ‘everybody.  Listen to that.  A crying baby.  What a beautiful sound.  Now then, who’s going to jiggle him while we say a prayer for crying babies parents….’

At the time I was one of the afore-mentioned thirty-somethings.  Now I look back and wonder how those parents managed to restrain themselves from hugging the guy.

Wedding-breakfasts are great.  Children hate sitting still once they’ve finished throwing food everywhere, so a little club of parents meets in the corridor outside.  They pretend to drink responsibly, selectively listen to the speeches and coo privately over the gorgeous sight of their little ones toddling around.

The fewer Toddlers there are the less sociable the corridor, but also the more you stand out.  Walk anywhere and someone will say:  ‘He went that way.  And isn’t he gorgeous!’

Toddlers are like dogs for getting you into conversations with admiring stangers.  But should the conversation become interesting, it’s hard to stay in one place to see it through.

Who cares?  I’ve had a super time chasing my kids round weddings.  We’ve visited hotels and beaches.  Danced to jazz-bands, discos and ceilidhs.  My daughter had one whole dance-floor doing ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ to Abba.  Couples and guests alike have been wonderfully welcoming of our offspring.

 

wedding3

 

Of course, not every invitation has extended to our kids and I’m pleased about that too, especially since these weddings have been in Scotland where I have willling in-laws. I’d forgotten what it was like to sit still for dinner, and be able to dance and drink too much and to introduce myself to a stanger who doesn’t instantly label me ‘mother’.

The night with the Star-Wars snowflakes, we were due to arrive at the in-laws’ around two am and set off early next day.  I thought I’d save time by waxing my moutache and eyebrows in the car.

The following morning, replacing the forgotten shoes in Edinburgh was easy.  What I couldn’t replace, sadly, were my eyebrows:  they’d completely disappeared.  And there was a big, ugly flesh-crater waxed out of my upper lip, too.

The point is that one can’t always blame one’s kids for one’s social inadequacies.

Perhaps I ‘ll blame the manatee-Jazz.

 

manatee-1812056

 

Clipart from:  http://www.clipartsheep.com/manatee-clipart-1812056.html.   Also:  http://www.cutecliparts.com and Nate Krien (title picture) @ twitter.com

About Kindness

Kindness is an old-fashioned virtue.

Alexander McCall-Smith characters muse about things like kindness.

My Grannie was a character and she talked about kindness a lot.  She wasn’t from Edinburgh or Botswana, but perhaps Alexander McCall-Smith met her once.

* * *

Anyway, I did an Internet personality test the other day and encountered the question

‘Would you prefer your children to grow up kind or smart?’

The version of Grannie that lives inside my head took it to mean ‘Would you rather your children were kind or formally dressed?’

I mentally explained that ‘smart’ means ‘clever’ nowadays.

‘Frightful Americansim,’ complained Grannie. ‘And awful grammar, too.’

She would have answered ‘kind’ though.  I ticked ‘smart;’ didn’t give it another thought.

* * *

‘You DID?’ Asks my friend Kai Lai, looking startled.  ‘Smart?  Why are we friends again?’

There is an awkward pause.

‘But hey!  Opposites attract,’ she adds cheerfully..  ‘That’s why we’re friends.’

* * *

I always loved June: days that go on forever, evenings you can climb a few V-diffs in (even if you worked til 7pm) and bats flickering across dusky skies.

But then kids happened.  Opportunities to appreciate bats and climbing are limited when lone-parenting.  Long days play havoc with sleepy-time.

‘It can’t be, Mummy.  The sky’s still light.  Why do I need to go to sleep when they sky’s so bright?’

‘Because you’re tired.’

Tears.  ‘But I’m not tired.’

‘Big Sprog. Just go to bloody sleep can’t you.  I need five minutes to myself before my bed-time.’

I’d like to pretend I don’t say things like that to my children.  I’d also like to pretend that I didn’t try to fob her off with stories about doing your best growing in your sleep (she now thinks that Auntie Kai Lai, who isn’t very tall, suffered from childhood insomnia).

And I’d particularly like to pretend that I haven’t tried to bellow her into submission.  But for the record, shouting ‘Go to SLEEP!’  doesn’t work either.

Tiddler is worse.  With Tiddler my only tactic is to exercise him until he’s knackered, timing it so that he falls over with exhaustion somewhere around 8pm.  If he drops too early or naps in the car driving home, I’ve had it.

Anyway, he wakes up early too, like a computer-game zombie that refuses to stay down.  ‘Hewwo, Mummy!’

I open my mouth to say ‘Hewwo, Tiddler,’ but other words have a nasty habit of slipping out.

This was the state of affairs before the heat-wave.  Add extreme heat, heat-rash, Mummy fear of sun-burn, child fear of sun-cream.  And imagine.  The only way I could get a smile out of Tiddler was to sit him in a bucket of water. Tiddler sat in a bucketful of water in the garden for the best part of two days.

When it got too hot even for that, we had some lively one-sided discussions about why he couldn’t bring the bucket of water into my living room where it was cooler.

* * *

Anyway: compassion fatigue happens.  It’s alarming how bored you get when they fall over for the hundredth time that day and start to bawl their eyes out through sheer exhaustion, hotness and frustration.

And of course, it’s not just them getting wound up.

‘Toddler!-‘

‘I mean, Big Sprog.  Or whatever it is you want to be called these days *sigh*

‘Have you got your shoes on?

‘Put your shoes on.

‘What?  You’ve taken your socks off?  But I just put them on you.

‘Oh, for – OK get your socks on then.  Hurry up.

‘Oh for heaven’s sake come over here and I’ll do it for you.

‘NO!  Face me, Big Sprog.  TURN AROUND!

‘Look!  I’m helping you so you need to help me.  FACE ME!

‘Keep your FEET STILL!  Just behave yourself!

”Tod – Big Sprog.  Look down and PUT YOUR FOOT IN YOUR SOCK PLEASE!’

‘Right. Where are your shoes…..

‘What are you doing?  I thought you were looking for your shoes!   Stop pretending to be an aeroplane and PUT YOUR SHOES ON!’

And that’s straight after morning coffee, when I was about as fresh as it got.

* * *

That day it was fractionally cooler, so we went out.  We’d just got to the playpark when the sky went black and the clouds started to flicker.

No coats.  I put Big Sprog in the buggy with Tiddler on her knee and started to push them both home.  They were still smiling at this point.

But not for long.  I was just crossing the road, trying to pop the front wheels up onto the kerb, when I I realised the load was too heavy to lever up.  Shit!  The driver of the car that had stopped for us looked pissed off, but a nice man passing by lifted the front of the buggy up the kerb to help me out.  The buggy instantly buckled under the weight of two kids and the frame bent irreparably in half, spilling the children onto the pavement.

And then the rain arrived.

The passer-by should have bolted.

Instead, he offered to make a detour and carried one of my kids up the hill.

And waited while I rifled through the wreck of my buggy to find my keys.

And then waited while I admitted I’d lost my keys and broke into my house through quite a high window.

By the time I’d managed to open the door from the inside, the rain had stopped and the kids and bloke were standing, sopping wet, in the sun.  He politely declined a cup of tea.

I put the kids into a warm bath.  But the little one wanted to go outside in his bucket.  The first time I shouted was about that.  What made me shout even louder was when they argued over a shampoo bottle.

* * *

Then I remembered Bea Marshall ( http://www.beamarshall.com/yesparenting/ ) saying that actually, it’s all about kindness:  being kind to your partner, your children and yourself.

So I phoned ‘Auntie’ Kai Lai and told her I needed help.  She turned up still in her work uniform with a takeaway and gossip.  She played with the kids for me til bedtime and an hour later I was feeling much better.

I’ve been working on kindness to myself since then.  I’ve never been another week without Ninja training, no matter how hot it’s been.  In an evening I sometimes do my core yoga even if I’m supposed to be doing another job.  And when I went to see the in-laws for a scheduled break, or drove them to Cornwall for a wedding, I let other people do a lot of the work.  My family are very kind.

And do you know?  Kindness pays off.  Because I am beginning to find the mental energy to be kind again. To calm down and hug them instead of shouting so much.  And often that’s all they want actually, and then they’ll co-operate and go find their shoes.

Of course we’re getting used to light nights and the weather’s a lot cooler now anyway.  Unless there’s another heat-wave, there’s no real ‘before’ and ‘after’ comparison to be made and it’s all guesswork.

But I know now that Kai Lai, Bea Marshall, Grannie and (I suspect) Alexander McCall-Smith are all going to turn out to be right.

Kindness is important after all.

Extreme Positivity

Or:  How is Positivity like Ironing?

iron1

My friend Becky says I was hard on myself last week when I discussed my own parenting.  To put it into perspective, Tiddler and Toddler are generally happy-enough little buggers so we’re probably doing OK.

When I criticise the slack, wobbly aspects of my body there is often someone who says that I ought to be kinder to myself about that, too.

But I know that I would undoubtedly feel, look and perform better if I ate a lower-fat, lower-carb diet and if I did my core exercises.  And my kids would undoubtedly be happier and more confident if I was more positive.

Still.  It’s been a long day, I’m tired and stressed and at the supermarket. It turns out that cream-cakes are on special.  Naturally, I am thinking, ‘Ah Well. I’ll eat sensibly tomorrow.’

And that same supermarket trip, Toddler is whining.  It’s as though she hasn’t noticed the cream-cakes in the trolly.  She’s hungry, she wants to buy jelly and Tiddler is poking her.  But remember:  I’m stressed and busy and also cross with myself about the cream-cakes.  So I tell her to be quiet.

And now I am stressed, busy, cross with myself about the cream-cakes and about snapping at my child.  I swear to do better tomorrow, when I’m less stressed.  Honestly, I will…..

And before I know it, tomorrow has arrived.  And have positive parenting, exercise and healthy eating got any easier while I was asleep?

…. How can i say this positively? ….

Perhaps they will do tomorrow.

I answered an advert for a free 30-minute try-out with Bea Marshall, a parenting coach (www.beamarshall.com/blog).  I think this woman is super.  Apparently, she doesn’t ever say ‘no’ to her kids – and we’re talking in a ‘guide-the-children-positively-to-make-confident-effective-decisions-for-themselves’ sort of a way, rather than a ‘letting-them-walk-all-over-you’ sort of a one.

It’s not a policy I can see myself adopting, but I do find her inspirational.  Not so much her lack of negativity with her children or even her articulate speaking on the subject (U-tube), but the fact that she didn’t say anything negative to me.  We had maybe five interactions.  During this time I inarticulately criticised her blog, took a coaching session, admitted that it was extremely helpful, wavered a lot, found what I perceived to be a problem with the booking form on her website, questioned her prices and then announced that I was not prepared to pay them.

(Yes, I know that you can’t put a price on improving interactions with your children, but everyone has a budget).

What did she say to that?  Of course, she thanked me for my feedback, said that she ‘honoured’ my decision and added:-

I also deeply admire and appreciate your honesty ….. that honesty and ability to ‘own’ your choice is powerful. Thank you.

So.  Bea says everything that the buisness communication books would reccommend.  And she says it with genuine warmth.  It is the very skill that I’d like to get better at.

But when I thought about it, I started to worry.  Is such studied warm communication healthy?  How would I ever know if someone like Bea liked me or not?  And if I was so disarmingly nice to everyone myself, how would I be myself?  How would I distinguish my friends?  By insulting them (even) more?

And then I realised:  I am having these thoughts under the assumption that Bea is a negative person hiding beneath a mask of postivie speaking.  Maybe this doesn’t have to be.

Maybe Bea is actually genuinely always positive; maybe it’s not a mask.  I’m not saying that she got my e-mail and her very first thought was:  ‘Wow!  Look at Liz; see how she’s owning that decision!’

But I certainly believe that she would walk around the supermarket thinking not ‘how tired and hungry I am’ but something like: ‘I can’t wait to get home and enjoy all this food.’

And not ‘What a horrid noise my Toddler is making’ but ‘How good it is that my children are communicating their needs to me!’

Perhaps she’d discover which of her children’s needs were most pressing and find time to deal with one or two.  I’ll bet you she would have found a way to make the cream-cakes on a offer a good thing, without eating too many.

Do you know, I think extreme positivity might be a little bit like the anceint craze of extreme ironing.  It seems faintly ridiculous from the outside but when you start doing it, perhaps it makes you happier; leads to great things; makes you stand out.

In fact, I’m going to try.

I have a good relationship with my children and my post was just me being strong enough to identify where this needs to be improved.  I would also like to bring my diet into balance and obtain a stronger core…..

But most of all, this week I am going to try to be positive for a week.

I’m sure that I have the potential to be excellent.

iron2

My Unpositive Parenting

parenting

Bank holiday was one of those dark, dark parenting days.

The ones I pretend don’t exist, when they drag their feet and scream and whine.  And I drag my feet and scream and whine, and control them with threats and bribes.  On those days, or in those mornings (I was never a morning person) I have a little theory about parenting.

The theory is that it takes a certain person to be the parent I’m trying to be.  A positive, glowy sort of person.

You know those poeple who say ‘hello’ to you in such a warm tone of voice that you automatically ‘know’ that they like and accept you?

Like them.

Who say to children ‘tell me about it’ and are fascinated by the answer, not secretly wishing that the kid would go away and read a bloody book by themselves for ten minutes?

Like them.

Someone is down on their knees doing some kind of task, when a child lands heavily on their back.  Instead of their natural reaction being ‘I’m busy!  Git Orf!’ they turn around and laugh.  And they go ahead and complete that task with a child on their back, while doing their best impression of a donkey.

*Sigh* exactly like them.

And you know the infant walking down the street as though considering overtaking a glacier?  And you know that some parents don’t whine at them to ‘hurry up‘ or bribe them to go faster, but shout:  ‘Look!  There’s a dinosaur!  Let’s catch it!’

(and of course, they’ve succeeded in raising the kind of kid who goes ‘Yeah!  Let’s!  I love catching dinosaurs!’ and not the sort who says, ‘Don’t be silly Mummy.  That’s not a dinosaur.’)

Yeah.  Well.  Like them.

And in my dark, dark parenting moments, the truth is that I am not one of those people.  I am a jaundiced, snappy parent.

On Bank Holiday Monday, I woke up at 7.00am feeling irritable.  Tiddler was shouting.  I let him shout for a couple of minutes because hubby was not in bed next to me, so I assumed he was already up and about and completely ignoring Tiddler out of pure laziness.

Then I remembered I’d given hubby a long overdue day off and that he would, by now, probably be dangling from a rock somewhere on a rope.  (I exaggerate.  But he’d probably made it as far as the motorway).  So I swore and got out of bed.  Going round the corner, I met Toddler coming the other way.

‘Mummy.  Tiddler’s Crying.’

And I know that some glowy-positive parent would have put her arm around her, wished her a good morning and the two of them would have cheered up Tiddler together.  Let’s just say that’s not the response she got.

The day continued in this vein.

7.05:  Daddy hasn’t got any cereal in.

7.07:  Or many nappies. Yikes.

7.09:   Yes, Toddler, I know there’s porridge in the cupboard, but I don’t like making porridge….

7.11:    Luckily it’s instant porridge with instructions on the side.

8.00:    Daddy’s accidently driven away with the buggy in his car.

8.05:    I can’t get this bloody Toddler-sling on…..

8.45:    I know you think it’s funny, Tiddler, but I STILL can’t get this bloody sling on.

8.50:    (Hurls sling to floor)  BLOODY SLING!

8.55:     Hang on, the old buggy’s still in the garage

9.00:     Oh shit but the garage door is still off its hinges…..

9.01:     Toddler, stop smiling and make sure Tiddler is safe for a minute while I break into  the garage.

9.03:     Hate spiders.  Wound it be ethical to send Toddler crawling through this gap under the garage door instead, do you reckon….?  And pass the buggy out?  S’pose not…..

9.08:     Look!  A buggy!  In you get, Tiddler

9.13:     For F**ks sake I’m covered in oil now.  Stupid door.  I’m not going out looking like this!  Back into the house, everybody…..

….and then i had to laugh, because while I was shouting and stomping like a two-year-old, blaming poor Daddy for everything that happened to go wrong, the kids had been having a lovely morning.  They were now sitting on the doorstep waving to passing cars while Mummy waved her arms about.  But they were soaking up Mummy’s display of stress-management like little sponges, no doubt.  Ready for future use.

(Unsurprisingly, Toddler is ‘going though a phase’.  She complains about every little bump and hurt.  She says ‘no’ to me a lot.

‘Sorry Mummy,’ she said to me the other day, ‘but I’m too busy trying to concentrate on this.’

I wonder where she’s heard that before?

Oh bugger.  Mummy fail).

But do you know?  Mummy’s Bank holiday got better.  Because once we got the ricketty ancient buggy into Sheffield City centre, I decided to be positive.  That is, to say ‘yes’ when they wanted to play in the fountains.  And chase pigeons. And choose some street food.  And on the way back home, I forgot to get frustrated again.  The kids and I kept the whole tram amused with our rendition of ‘Heads, Shoulders Knees and Toes’ and – to cap it all – Toddler said, ‘where are we, Mummy?’

-and I said, ‘Look!  There’s a sign.  Can you read it yourself?’ –

and Tiddler said, ‘W-e-st St-r-ee-t.  West Street, Mummy.’

and the whole tram looked extremely impressed.

At least, in my head they did.

And on sunny, bright parenting afternoons like that, I have a little theory about parenting.

That being positive is a choice, like being confident:  not something we are all naturally good at but something we can all practise.

After all, nobody is naturally always pleased to be interrupted by a Toddler when they are doing something.  Nobody has a natural predisposition to pretend to be a donkey every time a child lands on their back when they are trying to weed the garden.

No.  An innate predisposition to responding perfecty and positively to your kids is probably a fantasy.  But it is still a choice available for us to make.

Just – anyone else find it cripplingly difficult?

From Tiddlerhood to Toddlerhood

hands

Every parent of a Tiddler is growing a Toddler.

Delightful as Tiddlerdom may be, Toddlerdom is something that Tiddler parents look forward to, with thoughts that go a bit like this:

One day, you’ll be able to tell me what you want, instead of screaming maniacally while I try and figure it out.  There’ll be none of that indecision about whether to offer you boob or check your nappy or move you into different positions to get a burp out or change your clothes or rock you to sleep.

Yes!  One day they’ll tell you why they’re crying.  They will!  But what you don’t realise is, that ‘what they want’ won’t be something you can give them.

It will be to stay awake, when they’re so tired they can’t even talk without crying.

To ‘take shoes off’ and walk in the snow.

To ‘go that way!’ when the bus driver is following a route that goes the other.

It will be followed by a tantrum so violent and public that nostalgia will soon set in for a time when you could entertain a slither of hope that just jiggling them until they burped might actually solve something.

Image

One day, you’ll be able to walk for yourself.

Oh yes, they will.  But de-per-ate-ly slowly, unless it’s in the direction of something dangerous, when they go like greased lightening.

 

And you’ll learn to dress yourself, too!

Indeed, they’ll insist upon it.  Whenever you are in a hurry.  In whatever is the most inappropraite thing to wear.  Dear Lord, as the prayer goes, Give me Patience.  But PLEASE, give me bloody patience QUICKLY!

ImageThere is good news, however.  For anybody who gets embarrassed when the adults get in a circle to sing something about dingling dangling scarecrows at the end of babygroup:  this experience does improve.  One day, the babies start to pay attention; another day, they join in.  When they do, nobody is more pleased than those of us who can’t hold a tune.

But that very day, they start to tell you off for getting the words wrong and – worse – they develop a Favourite.  Which they like to sing a LOT.

Toddler’s new favourite is the alphabet.  When I smugly taught her A to Zee, it was probably only because I didn’t realise how annoying the alphabet, on loop, with the middle bit a little bit fudgey still, can be.

We have real arguments these days.

‘It’s Sleepytime, Toddler.’

‘No Mummy!  It’s WAKEY time!  Sun shining!’

Someone saying the exact opposite of your opinion sounds easy to cope with, but there are limits.  Let alone when that someone could poo at any time – a moving little feacal cluster bomb – but always denies needing to go when asked.

I was going to end this article by saying don’t worry: they grow up eventually.  In fact once they turn three, there are only fifteen years left to go before you get your brain-cell back.

But my friend read it and said I make it sound as though I don’t like my children.

So I best make sure that you know: – I have all the gooey feelings towards Tiddler and Toddler all the time; feelings that make you feel nicer than a person in a perfect warm bath.  I even tell them so.  If I don’t shout about such feelings very much to you, it’s because they are emcompassed by somewhat plastic words such as ‘love’ and, coming from my cynical, blogging gob at least, words like that sound like icing with too much sugar.

I just hope that the fact that I love my child is something that I can assume you’ll take for granted when I talk about the stress that can be induced by parenting.

Because I am a great believer that being stressed by one’s children is as normal as loving them; that the ‘perfect, selfless parent’ stereotype is a difficult one to live up to and that the more that people talk about the imperfect bits (hopefully without whining too much), then the less alienated other imperfect parents will feel.  So here it is: Toddlers are difficult, okay?

But there are good things about Todder parenthood, too. Toddlers are cute.  Excuse me for such willful use of the c- word, but there is no better word to describe watching a child Toddle for the first time.  And then…. they grow….

>

<

If it wasn’t for Toddler, how else would I have noticed that the knot-holes on our table look like a set of eyes and a nose?  Spent an hour in the garden building sandcastles and another hour digging up worms?  Would my life really be complete had I not become proficient in the ‘Swashbuckle Cheer?’  (Arrrrrrr!)

There is inner peace to be found in finally accepting that you will never understand about the shifting size of the Ninky-Nonk on Night-Garden.  Something delightful about knowing whole books of Julia Donaldson’s off by heart.  A real satisfaction in teaching someone else to be an open, intelligent sort of person….

Toddler already shares my interest in gender roles, which is interesting.

‘Mummy!  Why Mummy wears pretty pants and Daddy wears plain pants?’

Mummy!  I saw a man in a dress!’

‘Don’t worry Tiddler.  You grow boobs when you bigger.’

And, on a rare occasion when I was about to leave the house with heels on:-

‘Mummy!  Look at your shoes.  I think maybe a Lady gave them to you.’

At times like these, I am thankful that I have another fifteen years before sending Toddler off into the world.

I’m almost certainly going to need them.

 

 

(other images www.guildfordbaptist.org (hands),  http://www.pinterest.com/ParentingSmarts/toddler-independence/ (toddler dressing), http://o5.com/what-to-do-when-your-toddler-screams/ (toddler screaming) )