When Did We Start Hating Our Children?

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In the last few weeks I’ve noticed a trend in the world of parent blogging.

Namecalling.

Not between bloggers, but bloggers calling their children names. An arsehole, a wanker, a shit. We have a new wave of parent blogs ‘keeping it real’ by being, in my opinion, kind of awful. Is it for the LOLs, is it for the page views or the controversy? I don’t know but I don’t like it.

I agree as much as the next truthful person that when it comes to blogging it’s important to tell a complete story. One of the biggest surprises to me shortly after giving birth was that motherhood wasn’t that rainbow-laced dream we’re sold by Hollywood. It took me literally months to get over the fact that, holy crap, this is hard. HARD. The hardest thing I’ve ever done and will ever do, for sure.

Which is why I’ve always thought it important to write about the parts of parenting I found a struggle; having a baby with a genetic disease, the repetitive punch in the face that is PND, splitting from my husband with a tiny baby and toddler, the sleep deprivation that never ends, how I felt I didn’t bond with my baby. This is life, this is motherhood, this ain’t easy.

But it’s also the best thing I’ve ever done. Nothing can ever describe how being a parent changes your life; it’s a core-shaker, an internal earthquake that leaves you empty of everything (including money, sorry to say). It also leaves you fuller than you’ve been before, overflowing with love and joy and everything that’s good in the world, and this really is the bit that Hollywood gets right.

I want the people who read my blog to know about ALL these parts of motherhood.

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I have a theory about the things we talk and write about in life. This theory has helped me recover from the awfulness that was simultaneous PND and divorce (YAY! it was a laugh a minute at my house for a couple of months there).

It’s a fake it until you make it kind of theory and goes a little bit like this; if you spend your days chomping on about how hard life is, how difficult it is to be a parent, how godawful your children are, then that’s the way your life will be. If you get to the end of the day and say, by god, that was a challenge. But I got through it with my two beautiful children, then boom! Appreciation and happiness central.

Negativity breeds negativity, versus she believed she could but she did. I believe I can, so I do, and I think only (OK, mostly) happy thoughts to be a happy person.

Every day I count my blessings and look at how many good things the universe has given me. My family has its struggles but we are so lucky; I’ve never lost a child like far too many women I know, I have the want and ability to work and support my family (which means in turn I can buy fun stuff like rugs and cushions for our lovely house), we are healthy (ish) and have so much love to give each other. My children are in no way perfect – Hux’s current favourite hobbies are pushing people and eating food off the floor – but he’s a toddler. I’m nearly 30 and I’m not perfect, either.

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I would die before I called my child a name. I am so aware that everything I write about them lives on the internet forever and I would never want them to read about how often mummy moaned I had shitty pants or that I cried all day at the park so was a little wanker. For my kids to believe I was thinking that about them would be heartbreaking.

I think thoughts I’m not proud of sometimes as I’m sure most or all mums do, but it’s these times I hide in the kitchen with a packet of hobnobs or a glass of wine and pull myself together to be the parent I want to be once again.

My children aren’t wankers or shits, they are 2 and 4 and behave in that way because they are looking for boundaries, love and guidance. I refuse to roll my eyes at my tantruming son who has been on the planet only 1000 days but will instead give him what he needs: to be made to feel loved and cherished. After a short spell on the naughty step, natch.

Who’s with me in the fight for realism vs sensationalism when it comes to parent blogging? Let’s keep it real but also remember how bloody lucky we are.

The days are long but the years are short. I’m off to give my two beautiful troublemakers a huge squeeze.

 

Counting My Motherhood Blessings

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I feel so very lucky to be a mother. It might not have happened in the ‘right’ way (at 24 I felt like a teenage mother) and I perhaps haven’t ended up in the ‘perfect’ family situation, however these two little people are my absolute world.

But I find that it’s so easy to get lost in the motherhood fug and forget how fortunate I am to be a parent. You know how it goes – you get up mega early with a toddler bogey or wet finger in your ear and you’re immediately wiping morning bums and sorting out pyjamas. Then it’s time to field breakfast requests; mine always want croissants or home baked bread with honey, they usually get slung dry Shreddies and a banana or porridge. After that it’s the serious discussion over why spaghetti strap dresses are inappropriate for winter, a debate on socks and – if you’re lucky – a 2 minute shower for you to a soundrack of “why don’t you have a willy, mummy?”.

Then you take off on the school run grasping for book bags/water bottles/PE kits, dropping your kids off at whichever location they’re supposed to be at (or not, as I’m constantly getting Nursery/Pre-school days muddled) before you can sit down at your desk, get to the gym or start the supermarket shop. The days are chock-full with work, meetings, domestic bits and bobs, finger painting, working again, negotiating (the UN has nothing on me).

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It baffles me how full I used to think my days were. This is what it’s like to have full days. Juggling two children, a job and Easter holidays has taught me what it’s like to be busy. It Does. Not. Stop.

EVER.

Until.

Until your children go away for six days with their dad – that’s when it stops, like, completely stops. And I didn’t like it.

This was the first time I was spending such a large amount of time without them at home so I made plenty of plans for when they were away. I wanted to see three special friends and vowed to empty my inbox. I was re-igniting my green diet, remembering how good it feels to go to the gym, socialising, shopping, enjoying life.

In reality I drank a bit too much wine, spent a long time catching up on sleep (no such thing as too long, NO SUCH THING), online shopped for bras that now all need to be returned because they’re the wrong size, watched almost an entire boxset (GIRLS!) and caught up on The Good Wife, woke up one morning spooning a greasy Dominos box, you know, the standard.

Day one and two were great – I needed to stop after the not sleeping and full-on whirlwind that was Jan/Feb/March. But then it just started feeling very quiet, very quiet and very strange.

Living alone is by and large for me a success. I enjoy my independence, my freedom, my taste in decorating. Having lived with a man for 8 years I really enjoy my own space and the fact I don’t have to deal with anyone else’s toenail clippings. I like being in charge of the remote, the fridge and everything I do. But this week, for the first time, actually felt lonely. I can’t remember the last time I had the space to feel lonely. It was sad.

I missed the children ever so much. I missed their wit, their cuddles, their intelligence, their giggles, their smell, their chitter chatter, their singing. I even missed them crawling into bed with me in the middle of the night. My empty arms ached for my children to dive back into them – I felt empty and rudderless. Without them I had nothing, just bumping around from work to gym to home.

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Their homecoming was the most special thing ever. I can’t describe the absolute joy you feel upon seeing your children’s faces for the first time in six days. Pure and utter joy.

They’re less than ecstatic at the reunion, obvs because they’re cooler than you and are more concerned about how Buzz Lightyear has fared in their absence, but post-reunion there’s definitely been an increase in cuddles for us all. Hux told me “it’s lovely to have you back, mummy” and Elfie said “I love you even more than the planets”. BEAMING.

I’ll remember this feeling of appreciation for my children forever. The next time there’s a meltdown in IKEA, a 6 night run of no sleep, a bout of chicken pox (holla to ma chicken pox people! We’re suffering over here), a squabble over a Peppa Pig mobile phone… I’ll remember this.

I am so lucky to be a mum.

 

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’…

A Love Letter To Elfie

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Apparently I’m unable to write about how much I love my little boy without going in to spasms of guilt that I haven’t done the same with Elfie. It’s true what they say, you know: you really never love one of your kids more than the other. You might like the one that doesn’t wake you up at 5.30am a little bit more sometimes (hey Hux, you were definitely my favourite this morning) but when your number one child punches you in the face you’ll soon switch your allegiance.

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Elfie’s at a funny stage. She’s working out that she’s her own little person with wants, needs and decision making abilities, and this has meant that she’s realised she can say NO. NO MUMMY I DON’T WANT TO. Why, Elfie? BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO. Oh, ok. She’s headstrong, I’ll give her that, she knows her own mind and isn’t afraid to assert herself. That’s my girl.

She quite a lot of these wobbles, doesn’t want to go to see her dad, come home from her grannie’s house or get down from the shopping trolley. Refuses to eat her sweet potato chips that she very politely asked to accompany her sausages and her mother slaved over. She has a huge ‘thing’ about fireworks, can’t stand the sight or sound of them which made November 5th and the surrounding weeks a lot of fun. The tantrums that follow these wobbles can be catastrophic and I know my mum worries they are an after-effect of the divorce. Really though, I think they’re all an after-affect of being three and a half and a bit of a drama queen.

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Elfie and I, we have our moments where we clash. I’m convinced it’s because we’re just too similar; she’s a talker like me and will rabbit on for ages and ages and ages, chat chat chatty chat. About anything and everything, her friends at pre-school (Oliver, Ralph and William are her favourites), making sense of what she’s learned that day (“Mummy, where was I when Jesus was born?”), snitching on her brother (“MUMMY! Huxley’s DOING SOMETHING!”) or wanting to know in minute detail exactly what I’m doing. Whether I’m on the loo or cooking, she needs to know. Poo or wee? Flour or sugar? She’s a real bright spark though and has such an inquisitive nature, I’d rather her be this way and slightly irritating come 5pm than not care about what’s going on around her. Her need to question why I’m asking her to do stuff – whether it’s why she has to get strapped into her car seat or why she has to go to bed – is when we argue the most. Sometimes I run out of answers (or patience) and she simply won’t accept the fact that I don’t know. Which, now I think about it, is kind of cool. My daughter thinks I know everything… awesome.

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She also insisted on being a cat for three whole days over Halloween and I lost my rag (and whisker painting abilities) by the end of that period. There are only so many times I can wash black eyeliner out of pillowcases and not be annoyed.

Elfie adores pre-school and I’m delighted it’s suiting her so well. I made the decision to send her to a small village school three miles away and I’m really glad I did; her class is tiny and the key-workers are wonderful. They’re always off doing activities like digging up potatoes and cooking them for their snack (then making pictures with their muddy roots!), making lanterns or learning about what’s going on in the world. The knowledge she comes home with astounds me, whether it’s a new song she’s learned, a shape, or new words. Watching her learning is incredible and seeing how her education is already shaping her as a person is wonderful to see.

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She’s incredibly kind-hearted and is a big softie. Elf and I, as much as we get cross with each other we cuddle lots more. She likes to be snuggled when she’s feeling scared, unsure or tired and I’m always happy to oblige. I recently started mummy and Elfie’s special time so now she’s that bit older she goes to bed half an hour later than Hux. We spend the time on the sofa chatting about her day, reading books, watching Come Dine With Me and drinking milk. She’s been known to sneak into my bed once or twice (ahem) in the middle of the night which in theory sounds lovely but in practice means teeny toddler feet crawling up my back all night. And the 5.30am wakeups? UGH. As soon as this particular stage is over I’m convinced I’ll regain some sanity.

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We look out for each other. She asks me, mummy, will you always look after me? – yes Elfie, forever and ever and ever – and when she caught me snivveling over hormonal single parent guilt a couple of weeks ago she put her arm around me and said she’d always look after me too. Then she asked me if I was sad because I was all alone, which didn’t help so much, so thanks for that kiddo. It gave me a laugh all the same. If I do request a bit of privacy on the loo (very rare these days) she will stand outside the closed door shouting, “mummy, I’m here if you need me! Do you want a hand?”. It’s nice to feel looked after, even if it’s by a three year old.

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Elfreda Daphne (soon-to-be) Talbot-Harold you are the brightest little star and you don’t even know it. I hope when you grow up to be old (like you think your mum is) and read this you will know how much I love you.

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.

Ramblings On Love For My Children

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It’s no secret that I spent a lot of my pregnancy with Hux worrying about… well… my life with Hux. I was terrified, TERRIFIED, about being a mother of two. So much so that I didn’t enjoy the pregnancy as much as I should have done, regardless of that 6 month ill-fest I endured.

I remember not only being knee-quakingly worried about looking after two children under two at once but also very hesitant about how my heart would fare. I love Elfie so much, I wondered how on earth there would be room for more love. These worries were probably in part down to how long it had taken me to get that thunderbolt of love with Elf, though luckily it happened much sooner with Hux. Despite not being thrilled at the idea of having a boy I fell in love with him HARD.

After Hux came home I felt such a relief; he’s always been a good baby so my worries about juggling two kids went out the window. Though now he is an enthusiastic army crawler with a penchant for putting dirty potties on his head life is a bit tougher, but hey, I’m not breastfeeding any more so wine is a viable relaxation tool.

Hux has fully established himself in the lives of not just me, but his dad, his grandparents and sister. We have our routines, our nicknames, our games. We all rub along together very nicely and it’s only now that I’m starting to think about the relationships we all share. And it’s funny that, although I used to worry that when Hux came along I might not be able to love him as much as Elfie, I never used to think about what would come next. Once I was no longer worried about making room for him in my heart I didn’t think about our evolving relationships 6 months or a year down the line.

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Because the truth is that the relationship I have with my children is quite different. I love them both til the ends of the earth but the love I feel for one is not the same as the one I feel for the other.

When Elfie was younger I was a bit scared of her. We went through so much with her illness and diagnosis… I feel like I backed off a bit when she was so poorly. I didn’t want to lose her, I didn’t want to be heartbroken.

Hux has always been different. He’s a total mummy’s boy, happiest in my arms, being toted around on my hip, with my nose on his. He loves anything I do and thinks I am absolutely hilarious (that makes one person). Each time I pick him up he does this little wriggle and chuckle of happiness and snuggles onto my shoulder and I swear it makes my heart sing. It’s divine.

On the other hand my relationship with Elfie is slightly trickier. I love her no less than Hux but she is very headstrong, more volatile with her emotions. I had the happiest hour yesterday on the sofa talking and reading with her, spending most of the time sniffing the top of her head (childless people: there is nothing like the smell of your kid’s head), but she’s a difficult one. If she spends a long amount of time with her daddy she will return home to me and be 100% her Daddy’s girl. Daddy has to do EVERYTHING. Ditto with Grannie. Fine with me when there is poo involved but in other situations it does make me a little sad. For example, one lazy morning in our bed she hugged Will and said “I love daddy” and I asked if she loved mummy too. She said “no, me just love daddy”. Waaah!

But then this morning she snuggled up under my armpit, totally unprompted and said “Mummy, I love you soooooooo much”.

See? Totally fickle.

I get it, she’s a girl, we have complex emotions. God knows I’m as fickle as they come. But faced with the undying, unconditional love I get from Huxley, it is sometimes hard that she pushes me away.

But then we walk hand-in hand for a bit and I give her head a good old sniff and all is forgotten. No matter how much she tells me she would rather not eat my slaved-over spaghetti or she wants a hug only from her grandma and not from mummy my feelings don’t change. I love her just as much as my mummy’s boy.

Having kids has taught me so much but one of the most important lessons has been about love. Pure, wonderful, unconditional love that you have only for your children; the love for your husband that grows and evolves as he becomes a father; the love for your own parents and the family you married in to. It’s a lovely, scary, humbling, heartwarming lesson.