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.

Mummy Love: It’s Complicated

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When I was pregnant for the first time I wasn’t sure of much. I was completely confused at what childbirth would be like, I didn’t know if I would breast or bottle feed, or even if I wanted to be a stay at home mum or not. But there was thing I was sure of: the love I would feel for them in that hospital room.

I knew as soon as that baby was placed on my chest (or, as I had C sections, near my face) I would feel that immense, all-consuming rush of happiness and god-I-would-die-for-this-person. I know this because I’d read about it in magazines, seen it on the tv and heard about it each time my mum described my own birth.

So imagine my shock and surprise when it didn’t happen for me.

My pregnancy with Elfie was fairly straightforward. A few hiccups here and there but mostly happy and peaceful. That doesn’t mean it was easy though; I never relaxed having seen too many friends go through hearbreaking experiences with their pregnancies. I knew that falling in love with the person in my belly and then losing her would crush me so I was a bit scared to.

As I remember, Elfie’s birth, a c section, went like this. Bridge over troubled water on the radio, husband in scrubs. I could see the reflection of the operation in his glasses (GROSS!). A wriggly purple thing was pulled from me and thrust to my face. My first thought was: “that could NOT have come from me”. My second, “what’s all that gross white stuff?”. I think I then thought something along the lines of “erm, what do I do with this then?”.

We were moved back to our room, did the breastfeeding thing. She got pinker and angrier as newborns do and then slept a lot. I was still in total shock that I was going to have to look after this teeny tiny being, and in awe of her small fingers and toes. I think that’s a good word to describe my feelings in those early days: awe, and a little bit of shock too.

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Elfie came home and the worry set in where the mummy love should have been. She became very ill, and I again became scared of losing someone who could be so in control of my heart. Though I know I did everything I could have done at that time to get her seen and it was really a string of failings between our GP and Health Visitor that did not pick up her illness quicker I still feel horribly guilty.

This isn’t to say I didn’t love her then, not at all. She is my child and I have always loved her. But I did miss that feeling of loving so much you feel like you might vomit up your own heart.

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But then – surprise! It came right before I got pregnant again, the mummy love arrived just after her first birthday. I can’t remember what we were doing but my heart suddenly felt like it grew 100%. There it was. A year late, but it had arrived. That rush of love didn’t happen when she was a wrinkly angry baby, but as she became a toddler. It felt as good as everyone said.

It has never left and now I love her even more than that day. I don’t know how to describe what she is to me: my best friend, my confidante, my cuddly little champion. She says these things to me in her little voice (“I love you mummy, you best friend”) and I swear it makes me swoon and my heart thump out of my chest. It’s beautiful and so difficult to describe. When you have that love for your kid, you know. It’s like nothing else on earth.

Hux was a similar story. I spent the whole pregnancy so worried about having two children and splitting this new love that I’d recently found for Elfie and when he arrived that rush of love didn’t come. Instead I thought “oh good, he’s not as gunky as Elfie”. And then “what on earth do I do with this teeny tiny willy when it pees on me?!” (FYI I still don’t know).

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But again the mummy love arrived, a bit sooner this time, when he was about three days old. And now? Well, he’s my boy. I think it’s clear to anyone how much I love him. Sometimes so much that I worry I will put him on the BBQ and gobble him up with a side of coleslaw, he’s that delicious (not really. Maybe). He’s simply amazing and I can’t imagine ever meeting a man better than him (he is the best bits of my Dad and Will, after all).

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Does this make me a bad mum? I don’t think so. I just think it took my emotions a while to get over a few hurdles and catch up with my head. One thing I do know is that I would die for my children. And the fact that sometimes doesn’t happen immediately ain’t something they teach you in your NCT classes. It’s nothing you need to worry about either.  If, like me, you didn’t feel it straight away: hang in there. You too will soon want to vomit up your heart.

My friend Katie had a bit of a different experience to me: go and read her lovely account of when her girls were born.

Top 10 Proposal Videos

As someone who is a bit of an open book with her emotions, having children has had a crazy effect on me. It’s like someone has taken my feelings, multiplied them by eight, shone a big maginifying glass on them and now pushes my weepy buttons EVERY SINGLE DAY. I cry at ridiculous times and feel a giddy happiness at simple moments that most wouldn’t even blink at.

So last Saturday evening when I was missing a few hours of sleep and the company of my husband I sat down with my iPad and a glass of red. Me and my emotions sat and watched hours and hours of YouTube proposal videos: we laughed, gasped, and mostly cried. Here are our favourites:

1. The Car Lip-Dub: The first time my sister-in-law showed me this video I cried. In a restaurant. It’s lovely and I can’t listen to Bruno Mars anymore without wanting to dance like the Am Dram gal in the red dress.

2. The Cinema: What do you do when you have a love of film, a girlfriend you’d like to propose to and waaaaay too much time on your hands? THIS!

3. The Beach at Sunset: This one is completely twee but totally lovely. If you don’t cry then there’s no hope for you, sorry. Plus ONE DIRECTION!

4. The Blue Tshirts: One of my long-term favourites.

5. The Live Weather Girl: When I was a kid all I ever wanted to do was be a Weather girl. That’s why I love this video.

6. The 19:57 From Euston: The only British video in my top 10. Are we a nation of unromantics? I love that this happened on the commute, usually the worst part of the day.

7. The Kid Dance: I have no idea how this guy got so many cute kids to dance, but hats off to him.

8. The Disneyland: Disneyland? Jazz hands? Megaphone? YES!

9. The Six Year Plan: Again, this is completely cheesey. But what a great surprise!

10. The Live-On-Ellen: I just had to add this one to the list because it’s Ellen. I love Ellen!

 

You can get your diamond ring at wpdiamonds.com.