Wicked Wednesday!

I almost forgot about Wicked Wednesday this week! Easter was a bit of a non-event for us, really. We did some of the mandatory egg hunting on Sunday, but on Monday nobody could be bothered to go anywhere by the time the rain stopped. We ended up driving to Morrisons (we are Sainsbury’s shoppers, but sometimes we get bored and go looking for more variety) and buying salad and beer while the threenager stropped and the smallest tried to escape the stroller.

F also ended up with this impressive shiner when O decided to push him over into the side of the shoe cupboard in a fit of boredom-induced rage.

 

Perfectly matches the one his daddy got at a similar age!

 
Aren’t Bank Holidays fun?

I hope you all have a lovely [injury-free] week!

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The imperfect mother

Do you know what really, really winds me up about motherhood? The other mothers who want to tell you that you’re not as good as them because you’re doing things differently. The women who never struggled with breastfeeding and want you to know that your child is going to suffer forever for your failure. The mothers whose unassisted home births were the epitome of wondrous perfection, while your “fearful”, “clinical” [fucking painful] birth experience was “unnatural”. The fact that there’s always somebody somewhere, sitting on a soapbox and waiting to tell you that everything you are doing for your children is WRONG.

It must be wonderful to be perfect, to never lose your shit with your kids for crayoning on the wall AGAIN or upending the cat food all over the floor for the gazillionth time or having a screaming tantrum over fucking breakfast cereal every sodding morning. But you know what? I’m okay with my imperfect children and my imperfect life. My kids weren’t EBF for the first six months of their lives and they weren’t weaned on organic spinach and minted pea purée. I did the best I could, and I really doubt that they’ll grow up to be serial killers or those really annoying people who get “you’re” and “your” mixed up all the time.

Do they look unhappy to you?

These mothers are all over the place, and while they present the Earth Mother facade, they can be alarmingly hostile if you don’t share their ideology. We get it; you gave birth to your child in a summer meadow beside a babbling brook while the birds in the trees around you sang an ode to your greatness. That’s lovely for you. And you’re going to breastfeed your offspring until they start school and maybe even beyond. I’m happy for you. I really, really am. But you don’t speak for me. You don’t get to tell me how I should have experienced birth or the “right” way to raise my children.

What I’d love to know is what qualifies these women (and I’m sorry to say this, but it’s usually women) to judge anyone else on anything they do. Is it because they want everyone else to feel inferior to them? To want to be them? To feel like, by comparison, they will never, ever be good enough? Is it because – and I’m going to say this really quietly because I think it’s supposed to be a secret… but could it possibly be that they’re just a teeny, tiny bit insecure?

These are the women who never post a blog or a tweet about their shit day/week/month. They never admit to yelling at their kids or bingeing on chocolate or using CBeebies as bribery. They only ever tell us about the things that make us feel small and crappy. And while I don’t actually believe that ownership of a uterus creates any kind of “sisterhood” or whatever, it really wouldn’t hurt for us to be supportive of one another, especially during the shitty times. Because I don’t know about you, but when I’m sitting on the sofa at 8pm, staring vacantly at the wall and wondering why my three year-old occasionally very closely resembles a gnome with bi-polar disorder, the last thing I need to see is a tweet from a woman who wants to tell me that I’m fucking up his life in one way or another. Guess what? I didn’t ask for your opinion.

I’ve said this before and I will say it again; this is hard. It’s hard trying to figure out what the right thing for your children is when there’s so much conflicting advice out there. It’s hard trying to be patient when you’ve had a rubbish day and you’re tired or battling with a stress headache. It’s really fucking hard to not feel like an absolute failure when something goes wrong, whether it’s a small thing like an upside down bowl of purée on the carpet (which can often feel like the biggest thing in the world), or something fundamentally important to you like deciding it’s time to stop breastfeeding. Having someone point out the flaws in your parenting doesn’t make it any easier; it just makes the harder days even harder.

So, I’m just going to say this, from one struggling, imperfect mother to another; all you can do is your best, and that is enough for your children. Please, please don’t let anybody make you feel like it isn’t.

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12 things to do on a rainy Bank Holiday 

1. Shout at your kids about not sharing. Punctuate this monotony by occasionally exiling one/both of them to their bedroom.

2. Vaguely consider a baking project before realising that the tub of Stork at the back of the fridge is wildly out of date and there’s only one egg left in the box.

3. Suggest reading stories. Spend 20 minutes trying to read whilst simultaneously fending off the errant blows of your offspring as they attempt to fight with one another across your lap.

4. Start a craft project you saw on a blog/Pinterest/Instagram. Fail miserably.

5. Spend an hour cleaning up the mess from the failed craft project, muttering expletives and promising yourself “never again”.

6. Put some laundry in the washing machine. You might as well.

7. Go through the mandatory list of indoor activities (soft play, aquarium, etc) with your partner and veto all of them with “but everywhere will be packed because it’s pissing it down!”

8. Suggest family nap time to alleviate the boredom for half an hour. Navigate a tantrum thrown by your threenager as a direct result of this erroneous idea.

9. Put on a painfully cheerful movie (Disney or Dreamworks) and pray that it keeps the kids quiet for an hour while you drink coffee and mutter crossly about “fucking shitty Bank Holiday weather”.

10. Pile everyone into the car and go for a drive just to get out of the house. For added fun, throw in some guilt about unnecessary carbon emissions and your contribution to global warming.

11. Think about having a quietly desperate weep.

12. Console yourself with the fact that the kids don’t really know what a Bank Holiday is and that they’re not likely to remember how shitty this one is anyway. And that they’ve got a lifetime of this to live through, probably with kids of their own someday…

 

Egg hunting and beach running

We’ve never really bothered to do anything for Easter, which is probably largely due to not having made a big deal out of it during my childhood. But, rather like dorky Christmas jumpers, Easter has kind of become A Thing over the last few years. I mean, is it just me? Did everyone else make a big thing out of it and we just didn’t? When I was growing up, it was mostly about the eggs with a small nod to the religious aspect and that was about it for us, but now there are decorations and cards and chicks and bunnies popping up everywhere you go for at least a month beforehand. And, of course, there are the organised egg hunts.

Egg hunts have been a talking point with O for a few weeks now, so I obviously needed to put my thinking mummy pants on and figure something out to avoid one of those frankly fucking awful threenager meltdowns we’ve been battling with for the last forever. We are very lucky in that only a two minute drive from our house is the countryside. Proper countryside. Rugged, middle-of-nowhere countryside. And about ten minutes away is a lovely little village (which is actually more of a hamlet) called Harwood Dale, which is where we ended up for our egg hunt at a brilliant farm/tea room/guesthouse called The Grainary  (if you’re planning a trip to North Yorkshire this summer, I would highly recommend checking out their website and reviews on Trip Advisor).

When we arrived just before 1pm, a herd of excited children were gathered around, waiting to be allowed through a temporary gate (strategically positioned to stop over-eager egg hunters from pilfering the spoils), where they were gently reminded of the “one egg per child” policy of the hunt. For obvious reasons, hiding chocolate eggs around a working farm would be a particularly terrible idea, so the haphazard gaggle of treat-seekers clamouring at the gate were told that they would be looking for plastic eggs which could be exchanged for sweets. After a countdown from 10, the gate was removed and O promptly disappeared into the excitable throng on a single-minded mission to snag himself an egg. Upon spying one under the slide, he grabbed it and sprinted back the way he’d come, manic with the promise of sugar. I think he probably would have benefitted from being held back a little so he might have had a harder time finding an egg, but it’s never really a great idea to throw oneself in the path of stampeding children at the best of times, not least when there is chocolate involved.

After the eggshilaration (sorry) of the hunt, we decided to go visit some of the animals and have a walk down to the lake. O ran ahead, squashing molehills and leaping over cowpats, then wanted to be chased through the woodland around the lake. Of course, he fell on his face about a thousand times and ended up covered in mud and leaves and other stuff I probably shouldn’t give too much thought to, but he had a great time. Meanwhile, I realised how woefully unfit I am. But that’s a story for another day.

There’s also a pretty huge play area with loads of stuff to climb and a big sandpit, so I pretty much just stood back and let O run loose in there since he had absolutely no desire to have anything to do with me in the presence of other children. Go figure. I’m sure I can expect plenty more of that in the future. After 20 minutes of running around, I persuaded him to consider heading inside for a drink and he decided he was hungry. Whenever I take O out, I never really know whether or not I’m going to be able to get him to eat anything because he is alarmingly picky, and I don’t have much chance of eating myself if he doesn’t want to since he won’t fucking sit still for more than 20 seconds at a time. But, since he actually wanted to eat for a change, I ordered myself a nut roast from the Easter menu and WOW. As a vegetarian, I’ve come to realise that nut roast is either done really well or really badly and there is no in between. This nut roast was amazing. I can’t even… there are just no words.

This nut roast will become legend

After we were done eating, O was ready for home and I was hoping we could pick up F and go do something else for the afternoon. But O was tired and throwing myriad tantrums and it became one of those you-must-learn-a-lesson-from-this situations, so I left him at home with his daddy and took F out without him.

We decided to go to the beach, which seemed like a really great idea until we were walking along the sand, struggling into the wind while F whinged in the pushchair. I mean, he had fun walking about and playing chase and stuff, but then the wind got so strong that he got blown around and fell over. And, of course, he didn’t want to go back into the pushchair because they never fucking do, so there was a screaming/planking incident and everybody ended up with sand in their eyes, which just made the screaming worse. But it was fine. I don’t think he will remember it as being The Worst Day Ever or anything. It just probably won’t be one of the best either.

The thing is, with children there’s this huge pressure to make any kind of “holiday” period memorable. So you try to find fun activities to do and second-guess what your kids might like – even though half the time they end up moaning “I want to go hoooooome!” like they’re having a really horrible time – and everybody ends up feeling kind of flat and exhausted by the end of it. I was guilty today of thinking that I should take O out for the day when, in reality, hunting for eggs and rambling around The Grainary was more than enough for him to handle. After I left with F this afternoon, my husband pretty much just left O to his own devices in the back garden while he cut the grass, and he was perfectly happy apparently. Which makes me think that maybe it’s just not worth driving myself crazy trying to think of ways to occupy either of my children when they’d probably be content with digging holes in the garden and fighting over whose turn it is to go on the trampoline.

Many thanks to everyone at The Grainary for having us. We had a great time and we will see you again soon!

Wicked Wednesday!

It’s Wicked Wednesday and this week it’s all about F’s face. Specifically, the face he pulls whenever I stop him from doing something insanely dangerous, like climbing my wall unit or using a sit-and-ride car as a stepladder to get onto the coffee table.

 

“Why won’t you let me gravely jnjure myself?!”

This kid is a mountain goat. At 17 months, he can already climb the vertical ladder into his brother’s cabin bed. However, unlike a mountain goat, sometimes he falls off stuff and this week he fell off something at the playground and bit right through his tongue.

The worry is aging me. I can feel it.

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Happy Easter, everyone! Chocolate comas for all!

Dear Jamie Oliver

I can’t let the week pass without writing a post about the Jamie Oliver breastfeeding debacle (article here)*. Obviously I have something to say about it. Not least that Jamie Oliver isn’t, in fact, a mother – or even a woman, come to that – and so has absolutely no right to comment on how easy breastfeeding is and how baffling he finds it that more mothers aren’t doing it. But that’s not why I simply have to write about this. It has nothing to do with feminism and I have no agenda; I just want to tell the truth.

Oh, I want this to be flippant. I want it to follow the same path of DGAF as the majority of my posts… But that’s not how I feel about it, and it never will be. And I promised to be honest. I breastfed both of my children. O was exclusively – and easily – breastfed for 12 weeks. After that, I wasn’t making a huge amount of milk (we bought a new house when I was heavily pregnant and I spent the final weeks of my pregnancy and the first two months of O’s life trying to sort the place out and make it habitable) and, although it broke my heart, I had to introduce some formula. I still breastfed him every day until my milk finally dried up when he was five months old. It was a very sad day, but I knew I had done my best for him and I managed to find peace with it.

I had the best intentions when F was born. I was going to breastfeed him for at least six months, I was going to be braver about feeding in public, it was all going to be perfect. But it wasn’t. He latched and he fed… for a week. After that he latched and fed on one side, then screamed and screamed with hunger (and, I later found out, pain) until I gave up and offered him expressed milk instead. Night feeds took hours. In the corner of our bedroom, we kept a cool bag of expressed milk, two sterilised bottles and a bottle warmer. When F woke for a feed, I tried to latch him on as quickly as possible before he got too fussy and wouldn’t feed at all, then I warmed a bottle and fed him expressed milk while I faffed with the breast pump.

This went on for nine weeks. I can’t tell you how many times I cried over my repeated failures in those nine weeks. I went to some dark, dark places during those night feeds. And every-fucking-where I looked were the posters and the adverts and the leaflets: BREAST IS BEST. And so I kept trying. I kept trying because I loved my baby and because I felt like those words were directed at me, telling me not to give up. That if I did, I would be letting my baby down. I kept trying because I couldn’t bear the idea that someone might tell me that I hadn’t tried hard enough.

The last actual breastfeed I ever had with F was lovely and I will remember it forever. He was dozing in my lap and I thought “why not try just one more time?” He latched perfectly, fed peacefully and then fell asleep. I cried. I’m crying now as I write this. Because it was a wonderful end to a terrible journey, but it was also a snapshot of what we could have had. What we should have had. What I have felt robbed of ever since.

A feed from the early days with F

Tell me it doesn’t matter. Tell me my youngest son is obviously fine and healthy and not fundamentally damaged by it. Tell me that sometimes, even with the best will in the world, things just don’t work out. Tell me all of those things and know that I know you are right. But it won’t change how desperately I wish things could have been different for us. I didn’t mind waking up in a puddle of milk in the middle of the night or feeling like my nipple was being put through a meat grinder or the disapproving tutting of old men who wanted to tell me that “women in my day never fed the baby outside of the house”. None of it mattered; I just wanted to feed my baby.

I couldn’t.

Don’t ever, ever let anyone tell you that breastfeeding is “easy” or make you feel like you failed because you couldn’t do it or just didn’t fucking want to.

If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

*I do not read The Daily Mail; this was the easiest article to find.

In their shoes

The only way to actually understand children is to accept that you don’t understand them at all. Not really. Think back to all of the weird shit you used to say and do and believe when you were a kid. Does it make sense to you now? No. Of course it doesn’t. You believed in the tooth fairy, didn’t you? An entity whose sole purpose in life is to collect teeth from beneath the pillows of sleeping children and… do exactly what with them? Make a necklace? When you think about it, the concept of the tooth fairy is really fucking weird and creepy. But when you were a kid it wasn’t, and usually she/he left you money, so who cares?

At the moment, O believes that when he is very naughty his cuddly rabbit, Bab Bab, runs away from home because he is sad. He also believes that if he is very, very good for the rest of the day, Bab Bab will return at bed time and let himself in through a window using a special key. What really happens to Bab Bab is that he is hidden somewhere in the house and I spend the whole day hoping I can remember where I’ve put him. If I was O, I would want to know where Bab Bab goes and who looks after him and how come he has a key which fits every door and window lock in the house when nobody else does. I’d be very puzzled by the idea that Bab Bab’s floppy little legs are capable of running away in the first place, never mind how he made it back home when we “left” him in B&Q car park after a car seat related shit fit (He was in the glove compartment the whole time. Obviously). But O doesn’t care; as long as his friend comes home, he has no interest in where he has been or how he got back, no matter how implausible the concept might be.

I don’t get why kids fight sleep when they’re tired. Why don’t they just give in? Sleep is awesome. I don’t understand why F will happily snack on cat food, yet he turns his nose up at 80% of the finger foods I offer him. Especially when he’s just seen me eat the same thing and should know that it is not poisoned. I cannot get my head around why both of my kids repeatedly do insanely dangerous shit when I have told them a million times to stop climbing stuff and trying to run off in the middle of every car park. Seriously. How hard is it really?

Well, pretty much everything is insanely hard when you’re a kid. Remember when you couldn’t tie your shoelaces or brush your teeth or figure out how to use a knife and a fork at the same time? That’s the thing; it’s actually really hard to recall a time when all of the things you can do now seemed literally impossible. That’s why being a parent is so unbearably frustrating sometimes. I have days – usually when I am tired – when it’s all I can do not to mutter “just put your fucking shoes on” after O has asked me for the gazillionth time which one goes on which foot. Sometimes I forget that it’s not easy for him because he’s only three. And sometimes it doesn’t occur to me that he’s only being an asshole because he’s tired or hungry or frustrated.

Sometimes, it’s really easy for me to beat myself up about not immediately understanding why some things are so difficult for my kids. I get irritated with myself for snapping at them about stupid things they do, even though I know that it’s only because I love them so much. And I know that sounds cliche, but it’s true; I don’t want them to hurt themselves or be hurt by anything else. But kids are kids. They don’t see the world the way adults do. For a child, the world isn’t fraught with danger; it’s new and exciting and full of stuff to do and see and explore. Sleeping means missing out on stuff and sitting down to eat means having to stop playing. We can’t see the world the way our children do a lot of the time because we couldn’t keep them safe if we did. And I think that’s probably okay, as long as we can do that while still helping them to develop their imaginations and get excited about life and the world around them. I think that’s a huge part of our job as parents.

As for me, I probably need to find a little more patience every now and again and remind myself of the limitations of my childrens’ abilities. I may not be able to stand in their shoes, but at least I can help them put them on so we can just leave the bloody house already.

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Coat struggles!

 

The Liebster Award

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The Liebster Award is a bit like a chain letter given to newbie bloggers (under 1000 followers) to help spread the word about new blogs.

So the rules are:
1. Answer the questions given by the blogger who nominated you
2. Write your own 11 questions
3. Nominate 11 other newbie bloggers to answer your questions
4. Create your part of the chain and mention and link the blog of the person who nominated you
5. Grab the badge if you want, to display on your post

Easy, right? So here are my answers to the questions given by So This Is Me Mrs T

1. Would you prefer a night out at a comedy club or a night club?
I’ve never been much of a “clubber”, so definitely a comedy club.
2. What’s been your biggest challenge?
Motherhood. As cliché as that sounds, I promise you it is 100% the truth.
3. What was your favourite subject at school?
English. I had the best teacher ever who encouraged my creativity endlessly and helped me to discover that I was actually pretty good at writing.
4. Where was your last holiday?
My last proper holiday was in Rome on my honeymoon back in 2011. I have no words to describe how amazing that trip was.
5. What’s your favourite snack?
It changes regularly, but at the moment I am addicted to Chedds. Painfully juvenile, I know.
6. What’s the best concert or show you have been to?
Anberlin at The Cockpit in Leeds back in 2009.
7. If you could live in a different 1900’s era what would it be?
I’ve always said I should have been born in the 1940’s, so I will go with that.
8. What makes you happiest?
Kisses and cuddles with my kids, a walk with my husband or a football match with my mom. Oh, and sleep. I love sleep.
9. Spring, summer, autumn or winter?
Autumn. Always. Taking a walk through the woods when all the trees are changing is just about the most magical thing ever.
10. Who would be your dream date?
My husband.
11. Cats or dogs?
Cats. I love dogs – and pretty much any and every other animal -, but there’s a special place in my heart reserved only for moggies.

Here are my questions:

1. What is your favourite book and why?
2. If you won the lottery, what’s the first thing you would do?
3. Tea or Coffee?
4. Do you have a pet and if so, what is it?
5. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
6. What is your earliest memory?
7. A night in with Netflix or a cinema date?
8. Do you sing in the shower?
9. What is your favourite TV show?
10. Do you believe in love at first sight?
11. If you could have a chat with any person, living or dead, who would it be?

My nominees are:

1.Shoebox of Memories
2.Like Real Life
3.Bad Dadu
4.Moving On ABC
5.Mimi Rose And Me
6.Simple Man’s Survival Guide
7.Sacraparental
8.Ellamental Mama
9.Back With A Bump
10.A Reluctant Mummy
11.A Mum Track Mind

Special thanks to So This Is Me Mrs T for the nomination. Go take a peek at her blog!

Everything is shit

Today life has thrown me another curveball. When I actually think about it, I’ve been fielding curveballs for my entire adult life. The discovery that the basket I had put all of my eggs into at 18 was a failing relationship that could never provide me with happiness. The various jobs that weren’t enough hours or didn’t pay enough or could never promise to be permanent. The rented flats that suddenly became too hard to fund or too expensive to leave. The many, many times that I genuinely believed I had found something real, only to discover that I had been kidding myself all along. Over a decade of my life has passed like this, always wondering where the next seismic circumstantial shift is coming from, how I will get through it and if I will ever, EVER just fucking be “enough”.

At the start of every year, I aspire to this one thing: TO BE HAPPY. I choose this thing because it is ambiguous. It doesn’t subscribe to a certain set of rules or to depriving myself of anything I like. It’s a reminder to myself that happiness is fluid and it comes in many forms. Until today, I had managed to be happy for quite some time. The pain and trauma of F’s illness and the Almost-Divorce had faded. I had a stable job and felt purposeful and appreciated and worthwhile. I felt as close to being “somebody” as I will ever be. Because the more that I want for myself is not possible, and I had accepted that. I was okay with myself and my place in this life.

Today, my place has shifted. To be honest with you, my place is flat on my face with the rug ripped out from under my feet. And I know what will happen when I post this, because it fucking always does; someone will tweet me or text me or reply to this post saying “things could be worse.” And you know what? Things could be worse. I could be struggling to escape a warzone. I could be living on the streets. I could be dying. I know. I know. But right now, relative to how this feels, this is as bad as I have ever felt. This is as desperately worried as I have been so many times before in my life. This is where I wake up in the night and I think too much for too long and I cry a little bit and I can’t get back to sleep. This is where I wonder how I’m going to make this work and get back to a point where everything feels okay again.

When I’m struggling, I repeat this mantra to myself: IT’S GOING TO BE ALRIGHT. It doesn’t sound like much, but I actually got it from a movie, Now Is Good. It’s what Tessa says to herself when she’s sitting alone at the table in her dad’s kitchen, trying to come to terms with the fact that she is in the final few days of her life. It reminds me that I am lucky, that I have so much to be thankful for, and that I will be okay in the end. I know that my husband will help me through this because he has done it before. I know that he will be there when I can’t sleep and that he will listen patiently to my angry ranting. I know that my kids will distract me, that they will bring me their favourite toys, stroke my hair, give me kisses and tell me that I am beautiful, because they are empathetic little humans and I have raised them to be kind. And I know that my friends will show me love and be outraged on my behalf, because I know that they love me as fiercely as I do them.

Today, everything feels shit. Everything is shit. In a week or a month or a year… However long it takes, it will be okay again. Nothing can feel shit forever.

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Wicked Wednesday!

It’s Wicked Wednesday!

My contribution this week is F testing out the cat cage. At least now I know where to put him when he’s getting into everything and I need to get shit done!

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How to keep your kids out of EVERYTHING

Have a great week everybody!

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