On Sometimes Not Liking Your Children (But Obviously Still Loving The Crap Out Of Them)

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After the week I’ve had (and it’s only Wednesday! Give me strength) I have to put this out there: sometimes when we’re having a really tough week, though I love them ‘to the moon and back’, I struggle to like my children.

I love them more than any amount I can put into words and this is a feeling that only mothers know: I would go to the ends of the earth to ensure their happiness, I’d walk over hot coals to make sure they were safe, I would (and do) sit in a hot stinking soft play for hours to keep them happy. But there is the odd occasion I struggle with how I feel at the consequences of their actions and behaviour.

Let me explain. I am experiencing the effects of three nights of sub-four hour sleeps. The first night Hux wouldn’t settle and wanted to be in bed with his mummy, which sounds lovely (and it really is gorgeous to cuddle up to that little munchbag) but when it’s 3am and you haven’t been to sleep yet thanks to the feet tap dancing up and down your back you start to yearn for your own space again.

Elfie has woken up three mornings in a row at 5.45am. FIVE FORTY FIVE. The first thing she does is pad into my room to wake me up and I immediately tell her it’s far too early to get up and that she needs to go back to her own bed. She usually reacts to this news with a high pitched whine and stomp back to her bedroom which then of course wakes her brother up. Who promptly removes his pyjamas and nappy, natch.

This morning I thought I’d invite her into my bed to see if she’d go back to sleep after a cuddle. She thanked me by wee’ing on my clean sheets (“oh, don’t worry mummy, it was just an accident”). All this after a night of unrest thanks to a bad dream about soft play: “I’m sad because they won’t let me in the door *sob sob*”. I therefore spent the early portion of the morning muttering under my breath as I shoved sheets in the washing machine.

Of course, the result of these massively early mornings are that, come 3pm, Elfie’s absolutely knackered. Hux still has a nap (long may this continue) but she doesn’t anymore so she’s taken to falling asleep on the floor doing a jigsaw, or on the sofa. I wake her up as soon as possible because I don’t want her getting into a routine of napping and then she is a horror for the rest of the afternoon. Her tantrums are few and far between but she likes to whine, and whine she does. And if she’s not whining she’s bursting into unreasonable tears because Hux looked at her or because I won’t let her have a snack 10 minutes before dinner time. The negotiations at this time are intricate and plentiful.

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While all this is happening I’m struggling on myself; if there’s one thing I’m bad at it’s coping on a small amount of sleep. Maybe for one day, yes, but not for three days on the trot. My cold and sore throat just won’t shift, I assume because I’m unable to get any sort of decent rest in, my skin is in a bad shape and I am craving carbs. Not sleeping as much as your body needs really buggers you up and I am feeling it keenly right now.

I’ve never had this much work on – and don’t get me wrong I’m loving it – but I wish I felt a bit more switched on to cope with it all. I swear my brain is working about 40% below capacity and eating cupcakes is not helping. Tiredness makes everything that bit harder; the house is messier, the washing basket is full, there’s no patience with slow movers in the supermarket and my patience is ridiculously tested. I find the arguments like “mummy, Hux isn’t doing the space rocket pancake race properly with my dollies” really hard to referee which leads to yet more wailing (from the kids AND me, turns out) and when an unnamed three year old coloured in my carpet yesterday (“oh don’t worry mummy, it was only an accident”) I had to take myself to the naughty step for a five minute time out. With wine.

These times, they are so testing. I usually have such a high tolerance for strops, arguments, work woes and sniffles but the added tiredness means I’m so much closer to cracking point. And yes, because this is a direct result of my children and their behaviour, I find myself not liking them very much at the moment.

If it makes you feel any better, this feeling leads to me not liking myself that much very much either! I don’t want to blame anything on my children, to bring every single bad feeling in my life back to the fact I’m a single mum now, but god I miss having someone to hand the children over to at 6pm so I can go and sit in a hot bath and stew until sanity returns and I am a happy mummy once more. Self-pity doesn’t help anyone, but at times like this I allow myself to feel that yeah, life is unfair right now. I didn’t ask to do this on my own and would never have chosen to, and having to be everything to everyone is bloody hard. Impossible, at times.

But this morning one of my friends remarked what a happy and well-behaved little boy Hux was. “That’s all you, you know” she said, and you know what? I burst with pride when I heard this because it’s true. When Elfie singlehandedly wrote her own name on Monday? I almost spontaneously combusted. The hours of drawing dots for her to practice her writing were all so worth it.

These two perfect little people are a reflection of a life of love and happiness that I give them and that makes me prouder than anything. There will be weeks when their behaviour and sleep habits drive me to distraction but we’ll get over them. We’ll emerge out the other end a stronger little threesome because of them and we’ll grow up to be so proud of each other. We might be tired, grumpy and have short tempers, but our house is full of love and that never changes, no matter how many sleepless nights we have.

Now, if I can just work out how to stop all the ‘accidents’…

Hux, His Spoon, And Why I Will Never Label My Children

IMG_1098Hux is turning into a real character. At the grand old age of 1 year and 9 months he’s proving to be quite the cheeky little thing, always a smile and a wave for everyone. He’s been walking for about six weeks now and is still ever so proud of his little legs; staggering around like an old man who’s spent the day sinking whisky (but not smelling the same), taking off in pursuit of anything more exciting than his mum is his new favourite activity. You name it, he’s chased it.

He can talk now, no more than one and a half garbled words at once but hearing him make sense of the world around him is pretty awesome. His favourite words are: “CAKE!” (always shouted), “loola” (lolly), “Mama” (heart melt), “RaaRaa”, “‘poon” (spoon), “UP!” (cuddle time), “baby” and “pay” (boy loves his ca$h). He also does a great line in vehicles: tractor, bus, car, plane. And he can count to three! Boy’s obviously a borderline genius. I’m on the phone to Mensa as we speak.

IMG_1105One of Hux’s favourite games is to spend time with me in my bedroom when I get ready for the day. He’s a real magpie, loves adorning himself with my big blingy necklaces and bracelets and staggering about the bedroom with a handbag. He enjoys slinging things around his neck (supervised, obviously) and ‘getting dressed’ by wearing my bra as a necklace. He also has a real thing for hats and is never happier than when removing his socks to wear on his hands.

He’s also a real tomboy. Always banging into things, throwing himself around and enjoying as much rough and tumble as possible. He’s currently sporting two face bruises (door accidents) and a knee scrape (unknown origin). I love that he’s so fearless and enjoys being so physical: future rugby star in the making for sure.

IMG_1106He gets these little obsessions, too. He once carried my toothbrush around for two days straight, using it to clean the carpet, gag. Thanks Hux. He adores his RaaRaa book and we must read it at least six times a day. And most recently we’ve been obsessed with a spoon (or a ‘POON!).

It’s not a real spoon, but please don’t tell Hux that. It’s actually some kind of mirrored implement that came with the doctor’s kit I bought Elfie for Christmas this year. Huxley seems to have adopted this ‘poon as his dearest friend, his closest confidante, his security blanket. It’s with him from morning through to night; he uses it to eat his meals, it splashes water in the bath and is clutched in his tight little fists while he drifts off to sleep. 3df34e308be911e3ae7e124fce6320e0_8One of the reasons I love my children so much is for these wonderful little idiosyncrasies. I mean, I would love to know what Hux was thinking when he chose his spoon as his new best friend, or when he spent those couple of days with my toothbrush. I don’t remember Elfie going in for obsessions with such aplomb but how wonderful is it to see the differences between my two as they grow up? Like my mum said as I sent her the photograph of Hux sleeping with his ‘poon: these two, they’re like chalk and cheese. Yes I said, Hux is the chalk and Elfie’s the cheese :)

I posted one of many photographs of Hux and his spoon on Facebook this weekend. I was really sad when a friend of mine who has a son who is a year younger than Elfie messaged me: she said she was pleased to see me show Hux and his ‘POON because her son has shown similar traits when it comes to these little obsessions. What got to me was that she said because of this some friends have been questioning her about her son, asking her if she thinks there’s something wrong with him. Maybe he has Autism? they’ve said. My friend says that when she tells one of her son’s quirky stories she gets ‘that look’ from other mums (come on, we all know how it goes when you get ‘that look’) and questions about him being assessed.

I was like, WTF? People have actually said that to you?

2c6bc2468b7111e390c0125d7a642baf_8I was outraged on her behalf. Firstly, I will never understand why other mothers think that just because they had a child extracted from their body it gives them the right to pass judgement on others’ parenting. I’m tarring a large group with the same brush here but it’s something we’ve all experienced and such judgement is one reason I can be a little wary of forming friendships with other mothers. Secondly, what should it matter? Unless there is something developmentally wrong with my son I see nothing wrong with he fact he spends his days clutching a big ‘poon.  He likes it, OK? As long as he’s happy, loved and healthy that should be all that matters. If he’s autistic, artistic or green in colour I don’t really care. All I care about is that he enjoys being a toddler and gets to do what makes him smile, and if that is walking around with a spoon in hand that is fine with me.

I tell you, if anyone dared to suggest that I should take my son to be assessed because of a couple of little quirks then they’d know about it (although they probably wouldn’t, what with me being British and having a stiff upper lip and all). Hey, you know what else? Maybe he’ll be gay because I let him dress up in my jewellery and clothes? That’s another label for you, society.

119dd2948b8311e3aa7612f19fca3f6f_8In all seriousness though, it seems to be a must in this modern life for us to label the world around us and the people in it. Stay at home mum, work at home mum, single mum (raises hand). It’s sad that we can’t just get on with life without these labels; it’s as if putting us all in different boxes brings comfort to others. It’s sad to me that we can’t be more accepting of others and the way they want to live their lives without having to define what they are. We’re all humans, that should be enough definition for anyone.

Hux could grow up to BE a spoon for all it matters to me. I don’t want him to ever think I’m defining who or what he is because of the pressure from society: his and Elflie’s happiness, that’s really all that matters.  And ‘My Son The Spoon’? That’d make a great blog post.

 

In Which I Go Gooey Over My Little Man

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The relationships we have with our children, they are complex and frightening things. Even moreso than the relationships we have with other adults (and I’m speaking as someone who spilt apple pie over her divorce petition last night, so yeah… complex).

I feel quite different about the relationship I have with Hux than the one I have with Elfie. I’m not a girly girl and don’t have tons of girl friends (but the ones I do have are meticulously chosen and loved to bits), my non-PC sense of humour and love of straight-talking has always meant I’ve found it easier to get along with blokes. So is this why I am closer to Hux than I was to Elf at this age? Or is it because I breastfed him for so much longer? Co-slept? Was so more relaxed because he was the second child? Or is this just the different relationship mothers have with sons?

I don’t love Elfie any less, no siree. But our time together is just more… fiery. There are more ups and downs, more “I not love you, mummy!!”, more hands-on-hips, stompy strops and frayed tempers (her and me). She definitely takes after me, the lovely little madam.

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I seem to be a bit more tolerant of little Hux. He’s now one month away from one and a half and couldn’t be lovelier. It seems silly to say but this little man has developed quite the sense of humour and knows how to use it. When people meet him they comment on 1) how smiley he is, 2) how funny he is and 3) how handsome he is. I agree on all three counts. When we were on our cruise last week he spent time each evening in the night nursery where babies were strictly only allowed in if they were asleep. Hux? Nah. They liked it if he was awake because he would flirt and play peekaboo with them.

He can talk! Well, ish. He can say nana as he always has been able to but has added mama, dada, milk, no no no no and yeah yeah yeah yeah to his repertoire. He knows who his grannie and grandpa are but calls them both ‘papa’. He says bath, ball, pool and there and can’t get enough of spending time in the water. He’ll go swimming til his lips turn blue and he starts to shake but even then he’ll wail like a banshee when you remove him from the water.

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Hux likes buttons, mostly on electrical items. Buttons on tv remotes, buttons on phones, buttons on calculators. Anything with buttons he will hold to his ear and say “yah yah yah yah?” like he’s come straight off the set off Ab Fab. He also likes bras and mostly hangs the strap around his neck and then holds his arms out as if to say, “ta-dahhh!”. Ditto pants on head, he is always so proud to put Elfie’s pants on his head. I’m pretty confident this is just a stage and he isn’t going to grow up a deviant.

I don’t know if it’s just Hux or if this is more of a general boy thing but he has a great affinity with the toilet. Particularly the toilet brush. If he could he would spend all day with the toilet brush and let’s stop talking about this because I do my best to keep him out the bathroom and it’s completely gross.

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He’s also completely independent. He’s not walking yet but cruises along anything he can. He refuses to be fed which can make dinner time tricky but today managed to spoon feed a whole portion of mashed potato to himself, the little genius. His independence mean he’s quite happy to entertain himself for half an hour or so, though when left to his own devices I usually find him in some precarious position trying to get something forbidden off a shelf, or scaling a sofa as if it’s mount Everest.

Hux loves his sister, so so much. They light up when they’re together and although I promised myself I’d never be the sort of mummy who says soppy things it really is beautiful to see them delight in each others company so much. Mostly, anyway. Elfie is always wailing because Hux has taken some toy or another off her and although I try to tell her that she’s bigger than him and so doesn’t have to let him take her toys she is a big softie. They cuddle and communicate in giggles and pokes. It’s awesome.

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Hux is definitely a mummy’s boy but is only cuddly on some occassions. He knows exactly what I mean when I ask him for a cuddle and usually says “no no no” then laughs in my face, the heartbreaker, but sometimes he will oblige and bury his face in my neck. Which is always divine. On holiday last week there was one night when his temperature climbed to 39.5 and all he wanted to do was snuggle in my arms and have his back tickled. I pretended to be cross as it was 3am and I’d been up with him for three hours but I secretly loved every second. I know it won’t last forever and I treasure the moments I get to cuddle my baby boy before he starts smelling of cheesy feet, farts and Lynx.

A Collection of Cute

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Sometimes – I guess at least once a day which makes it often, really – my breath catches in my chest when I catch a glimpse of my kids and I realise just how brilliant they are. You know that lovely Roald Dahl quote about sunbeams shining out of faces? That’s what my children are like. I don’t know if it’s the innocence of being young but they radiate happiness, peace and fun. They have sunbeams shining out of their faces and when they look at me they make me feel happy.

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Even on those nights when Elfie refuses to go to bed because she is 3 going on 16 and she wants to stay up late watching Mummy’s programmes (Come Dine With Me, The Real Housewives…) and the mealtimes when Hux gets so distracted by anything but his food and then is so overstimulated (A BALLOOOOON! OMG OMG) that his head near enough implodes, they’re still the best children I’ve ever met.

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a39efe44074311e3820422000a1f97b5_7 0913cd78071611e3a7ab22000a1f97eb_7 637cca30f96511e29c2822000a1fbe4c_7Elfie has this new trick: she’s learned that it’s possible for her to wake up at any point during the night and rather than just wailing for her mummy she know knows that she can get up out of bed and leave the room. Magical. Of course this means that more often than not I wake up at 5am with a sticky toddler hand in my face or a foot in my back, but any attempt to order her back to her own bed is met with “oh mummy, I missed you, I want to cuddle you”.

Oh go on then, you little sleep disturber :)

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Hux has always been the most brilliant baby (he slept til 9am the other day. 9AM!!!) so any obtuse behaviour coming from him feels very odd. I always make an effort to not get too cross when he has a little off day as he did yesterday, he’s so perfect most of the time that a little whinging won’t kill me (no matter how much it felt like it did). Words this clever clogs says beautifully now include: Mama, Peppa (yep, blame his sister for that one), Nose, Papa, Dada, Nana and Balloon.

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Oh, the cuteness of these two. Please don’t grow up.

OK, please do. But only because I could really do with those extra hours of sleep a night.

Lizzie, Jamie and Their Flower Girl

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Attending a wedding alone as a recently separated single parent was never going to be easy. There’s the struggle of trying not to joke about divorce (I didn’t – hoorah!) and the worry that actually, are you going to be hugely cynical about weddings now and look at the day with a weary sense of ‘been there, done that, got the divorce’?

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Luckily I didn’t, I had just the same appreciation of weddings as I’ve always had (and that’s not just the free booze talking). Even more appreciation perhaps, as despite mine and Will’s relationship coming to an end after a great 10 years I still believe in everlasting love, happy ever afters and saying ‘I do’.

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This wedding was always going to be very special as Lizzie was not only marrying the love of her life – who she met on match.com, there’s hope for me yet! – but Elfie was to be a flower girl with her second cousin Emily. We had been practicing for weeks in the dress, learning how to dance and twirl.

She was absolutely brilliant, somehow knowing to whisper in the church, asking “is this the party now mummy?” as we sang the hymns, delighted in having her photograph taken and generally looked her lovely beautiful self. I was very very proud of her.

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Hux was a dapper little thing in his bowtie, too. He refused to sleep all day so got a little fraught towards the end but just look at his face – you can forgive him anything! He spent most of the reception trying desperately to escape out the marquee doors.

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And as for me, well I drank too much wine, danced with my dad (who also drank too much wine… it’s genetic you see), took hundreds of photographs and had a thoroughly brilliant time.

Here’s to true love, to Lizzie and Jamie, to happy ever after and the two little loves of my life.

Hux’s Adventures In Weaning

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WEANING. A loaded word if I ever heard one.

With your first child you’re desperate for them to take that next step in to gloopy gluey baby rice and are chomping at the bit to get started from month 4. With your second child you dread moving on to inconvenient solids and wonder if you can stretch a milk diet out til month 7… this was my experience at least.

When Elfie started on solids I was a lean weanin’ machine. I ordered organic veg boxes and steamed squash, courgette and carrot until all the windows in my house were covered in condensation. I devoured anything written by Annabel Karmel and as per her instructions made special little lasagnes and pies for my angel. Weaning was a full-time job.

IMG_1707Elfie in 2011. The cute!

When Hux came along it was a different story. I had two kids, I was working and had a house to run: I didn’t have time to steam the crap out of every vegetable under the sun. And so after some research I decided to go the baby-led weaning route, it would fit in brilliantly with our busy lifestyle, Hux could sit up and eat with us and Elfie at the table and there wouldn’t be mountains of ice cube-shaped purées in my freezer. The carpet would become FILTHY despite me putting a mat under his highchair, but hey, hindsight is a wonderful thing and who puts carpet in a kitchen anyway?!

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For the most part baby-led weaning has worked brilliantly for Hux. He’s had quite a complex diet from day one; I fed him the usual finger-shaped vegetables (carrots, purple sprouting broccoli, French beans for example) but he also eats lasagne, vegetable pasta, sandwiches, meats, beans, pie… anything you can think of using his hands. The stress involved in introducing him to solids has been incomparable to the stress of weaning Elfie. There’s simply none involved, he just eats what we eat but in his little finger-sized portions. Easy!

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The one struggle I’ve found has been with getting fruit into him. I religiously give him a ‘na-na’ after breakfast (he loves them, it was his first word) but he’s otherwise not too keen on the texture of other fruits. This sort of food is really important for him in particular as he does have a tendency to get, erm, ‘blocked up’, so I like to try and get at least his five portions into him daily.

We were recently sent these new Cow & Gate fruit pouches: 6 varieties of 100% fruit which contain 1 whole portion of fruit per pouch. He has one of these for pudding and BOOM! He’s as regular as clockwork again, bless his little bottom. It’s a bit like my early days of religious steaming but without the faff of the steamer.

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Fruit pouches and yoghurts are the only things the little man eats with a spoon, everything else is finger food. Baked beans, spaghetti bolognese, rice pudding… the messier the better. He also enjoys torn up tortilla wraps, marmite on toast, sticks of avocado, pieces of absolutely any meat you put in front of him, ice cubes, twirly pasta, popcorn, rice cakes, smoked salmon; he loves his food. This means his hand-eye co-ordination is pretty brilliant (he throws a ball like a BOSS) and I’m sure he’s slightly further on cognitively than Elfie was at this stage.

I know baby-led weaning isn’t for everyone but it’s definitely been the best way for us to wean, ruined carpet or not.

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