There’s Something Missing

Since I joined Facebook in 2007 I’ve seen various family members, friends and colleagues do the same thing each September. They’ve all posted photographs of their children, often wearing super cute over-sized uniform about to begin their first ever day at big school! 

Each September I’ve also read poems, letters and memes all dedicated to the Mummy ‘losing’ their now grown up babies to the education system, the words providing comfort to those who are emotional and empowerment to those who are super proud of their offspring. 

But each September I’ve always had the same thought. Is it really that big a deal?  Your child is starting school. The likelihood is that they’ve been to nursery, they have socialised, played and are therefore probably emotionally mature enough to deal with a 9-3pm day in a classroom. 

Perhaps it was ignorance, but I just didn’t understand the need for such a song and dance about it. I didn’t ‘get’ the need for tears, it’s part of a child’s path (usually) after all and because I’m a huge supporter of education, I actually found myself looking forward to the school years my children would have! 

Yesterday that all changed. I called Gabriel’s school to speak to his new teacher from September and to arrange a look around the classroom and communal areas of the school. She informed me that the next day Gabriel had an inset day, so he needed to be at the school for 9am and that I’d be leaving him there to become familiar with his surroundings. I won’t lie, I was a little apprehensive- would Gabriel cope well with this transition? I hadn’t prepared for any attendance until September and neither had he. 

I raised the prospect as we ate last night. Gabriel seemed pretty keen and I was relieved. So this morning we ate a hearty breakfast and then chose his outfit together.  Then I took him to big school for the first time. 

Of course, an obligatory photograph was taken.. 

  
And of course, I uploaded it onto Facebook. 

I had become one of those Parents.

But, I do not care. 

I am super proud of Gabriel and all that he takes on board. He always wears that gorgeous smile across his face- he’s such a happy child. He makes me cry with laughter most days, and I just know that he will flourish at school and get along well with his new friends. 

After we dropped Gabriel off at school, Willow and I climbed back into the car. As I indicated out of the parking space to head into town Willow said, 

‘Mummy, there’s something missing’ 

I turned to face her and she pointed to Gabriel’s empty booster seat. 

She was right. There was something missing!  

My baby boy, my first born is at big school and it’s so bittersweet! From now on, days when I am not at work it will just be me and her for most of the day.  A new chapter in our lives is about to begin and with it comes restriction as well as freedom, development and fun! 

However, no memes, poems or letters required. But I may have had a little cry… 

Good luck little man! May your school years be awesome! 

  

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Mini Banksy

When I became a parent I knew that I would always make sure my children experience and appreciate the arts. Music, theatre, literature and dance are all so important to me and formed a huge part of my childhood so I’d like Gabriel and Willow to learn about creativity and enjoy considering their own! With this in mind, I make sure that they both have access to an array of paints, crayons and colouring pencils because I know that self-expression is important. After all, as toddlers I hope that Gabriel and Willow will be able to communicate their feelings about things that they see, do and want through drawing and art. I also hope that through learning to draw and colouring they will also both learn how to concentrate better too, which is an important skill for life!

However, I am not very artistic when it comes to drawing. Growing up I was always jealous of my brother Kev’s ability to draw pretty much anything with ease. It wasn’t that I didn’t try, I did. I just couldn’t (and still can’t) get the image I see in my head, on to the paper! Regardless of this issue I quite enjoyed Art lessons at school, even though I was terrible at it! I think the reason for this was that I always felt free to create what I pleased, no strict rules or barriers. It was also great form of personal expression, perfect for those teenage-angst-obsessing-about-Damon-Albarn years.

I also think it’s important that the kids have an outlet so I sometimes worry that colouring books could restrict their ability to be imaginative and perhaps be less experimenting with their ideas, so I rarely buy colouring books. I much prefer to give them paper and crayons and pencils and allow their creative independence to shine through. Of course this much depends on the child and their capability but it’s a method I will stick to for now because art is about experimenting, discovering and trying out new methods- being free to nourish the soul!

Both Gabriel and Willow seem keen to draw and genuinely appear happy whilst drawing. They’ve learned colours, shapes and also how to hold the pencil correctly, definite fine motor skills building! Whilst both kids enjoy to draw, it is Willow in particular who has wanted to express herself of late and so I thought I would share with you a few of her recent pieces.

Introducing.. The Wall

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And my personal favourite.. The Scary Doll

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As you can see, Willow has certainly released her creativity. I asked her why she had drawn on the wall, rather than be cross- because as annoying as it was, I found it quite amusing really! She replied that it was not her,in fact, absolute denial! I like to think that this is because she wants to showcase her work under a pseudonym, perhaps Mini Banksy? Rather than a blatant lie to avoid being in trouble..

The doll was a different story, Willow just appeared with it from the playroom and handed it to me saying ‘Dolly got make up on Mummy’ All I could do was laugh, perhaps all the times she has sat and watched me apply my make up influenced the incident! But in all seriousness, as adults we don’t know what our children’s intentions are. I think it is a good idea to talk about what your child is drawing and where they are drawing because it shows interest, not everything that they want to express can sometimes be said in words or actions! So I will just take the hit on this one, I have painted over the damage and moved on. The doll unfortunately I feel may never move on after her ‘makeover’! I won’t be removing crayons or paint from Willow’s reach though- after all, a spiral of colours likely means she is happy, even if they are all over a scary looking doll’s face.

So let your child grab a crayon or a pen whenever they please, just make sure you give them stacks of paper..

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Date Day With My Boy

The last two weeks have been hectic and seemed ridiculously busy compared to when I was at Bluestone I miss the tranquility and relaxation so much!

But I know that life isn’t like that all the time. I have to try my best to relax and deal with stress and basically just have to get on with it! The last week has been particularly stressful too. Then, on top of everything else, on Wednesday Gabriel told me that he misses me when I’m at work. Upon hearing that, I felt my heart break a little bit, and I cried.

I work because I want to, and because I have to. I want to have a career and I’ve also worked very hard to get where I am work-wise. I really love my job, and I knew becoming a Mum wouldn’t change that, although I also knew that my priorities would change.

My children come first, before work and before anything else. But working pays the bills and also means we can have a nice life. Hearing Gabriel saying he misses me hurts, because I do feel guilty leaving him to work- but this is why I condensed my hours. I have two days a week at home and weekends, so I know that we have a good chunk of time together. We do fun, education and creative activities together on those days and I know we all enjoy them. But lately, for the last few weeks, I have had to work on some of my days off. I have been so busy I had to catch up and it is obvious now that Gabriel has noticed.

Hearing Gabriel say he misses me is also nice because I miss both him and Willow too, so it’s good that it is reciprocated. I also know it’s good to miss people and like happiness, to appreciate the good I suppose you have to experience the not so good. But ultimately, hearing your child saying they miss you is hard to deal with and it creates waves of guilt right inside your soul.

Gabriel has been quiet this week. He has been missing nursery too, So I decided to act on it. I decided to take him on a Mummy date-day. Gabriel has recently become interested in Paddington and he really enjoyed the cinema the last coups of times we have been, so I decided to take him to see the film and then for some lunch afterwards. Just me and Gabriel, no distractions, just a fun day for him to have my attention.

When I asked Gabriel if he wanted to go, he jumped up and down with excitement so I knew it was a good idea! We went to the cinema this morning, on the drive we sang songs and chatted and then at the cinema Gabriel sat on my knee and cuddled me for the whole film.

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He absolutely loved Paddington (it is a great film!) and it was so touching to see, at the end of the film that Gabriel cried at the happy ending. It melted my heart and I may have shed a tear myself. My little boy had been so happy to see Paddington happy that he cried. So so adorable!

After a huge cuddle, I asked Gabriel what he’d like to eat. I wanted to make him feel special and like a grown up being able to choose! We were surrounded by a variety of places, but He said he wanted McDonalds! So off we went and found one where we purchased a Happy Meal along with a chocolate milkshake, as requested!

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By the end of our ‘date day’ both Gabriel and I were smiling away. It was great to take some time-out together and just enjoy each other’s company. I read so much on social media about ‘date nights’ etc, but today made me realise something. It’s not just with a partner you need to cross out some ‘special’ time in your diary once in a while. Our children appreciate treats and uninterrupted one to one time too. So from now on, once a month I shall be spending time with each of my children doing something fun and that they choose each month, Mummy date days are here to stay!

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The ‘Oh Shit!’ Zone

Today I drove to Pembrokeshire with my two children. All alone with them, in the car for six hours. When I think about it I wonder what on earth I was thinking- but it was either that, or miss out on a much needed holiday and break from work! My job is stressful and I know I do not always acknowledge this or relax anywhere enough, so I took the opportunity.

Holidays are amazing. I love being away from home! I love being at home too, but I really think holidays refresh the soul. I’m hoping that Bluestone Wales does this for me this coming week. Prior to having children I would holiday a LOT. Caribbean, all inclusive.. you name it. My sun tan was a given most of the year and it was a great life. I rarely felt stressed! But now I look down at my pale (but still olive) skin tone, and I see the black rings around my eyes from the lack of sleep in the last few months, I recognise I needed a break. Bluestone came to my rescue! A few months ago, I was offered the chance to holiday at this wonderful resort in exchange for a review. I jumped at the chance, I’d always wanted to visit Pembrokeshire, so why not I thought?!

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So here I am. Sat in my wonderful lodge within the beautiful National Park of Pembrokeshire, and whilst I am feeling a little nervous about holidaying alone with two toddlers, I feel liberated! I drove myself here, I planned, packed and unpacked our things myself and I will ensure we have a good time. I’m out of my comfort zone- in fact I’m in the ‘Oh shit’ zone. But, ultimately what can go wrong?

The ‘Oh Shit’ zone is a concept that I first heard about at a conference a few years back, and I loved it instantly. The theory is, that to live your life to the maximum, and to better yourself or learn/adapt you have to enter the ‘Oh shit’ zone once in a while. Of course, everyone’s ‘Oh shit’ zones will differ. For some, public speaking would terrify them, and so setting themselves a challenge or being asked to speak would most probably as an end result make them feel great. It can be anything- but basically something that makes you feel initially uncomfortable!

Holidaying alone at a family-orientated resort, is my ‘Oh shit!’ zone. Ultimately, I think my main issue was the journey and the dread of it being difficult! But, it wasn’t. At times (particularly the forth play of the Frozen soundtrack) it was frustrating, but it really was fine, and hearing Willow singing her heart out along with the music was so very cute! But now I’m here, I’m starting to feel the stress of making all the decisions. I had to unload the car and move it back to the carpark, with the kids and then walk in the dark to try locate the lodge (again). Also, when Willow vomited in the car whilst I was negotiating the M6 toll, it was hard to calm her and clean her up as quickly as I’d have liked. But, we can only do what we can do, as parents I suppose!

I think as a family, you take this kind of stuff for granted! Life is tough for a parent alone on holiday with toddlers. Take it from me! But, luckily people have been lovely and friendly. And, helpful! There are also lots of other bloggers here at Bluestone this week, I feel less lonely knowing that- even if we do not meet up! Gabriel and Willow will keep me on my toes and busy during the day, and in the evening I shall sit and enjoy the ‘Me’ time. Tonight I’ve read my book, had a fabulous bath and drank wine. It’s been therapeutic, and lovely. Also, may I add, Bluestone really do have the best baths ever! Just what I needed after the long drive. Perfect.

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Watch this space to see how I get on, coping in the ‘Oh shit!’ zone this week. Wish me luck.

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Do You Spend Quality Time With Your Children?

‘Spend quality time with your children’ I hear this term banded about a lot. But what does it actually MEAN? I spend a lot of time with both my children, we read books, watching television together, dance and sing, bake cakes or craft and we also act silly at home.

But is this quality time? Or does quality time have to be something that is planned, uninterrupted and organised? For example, if you have a tuft spot and fill it with fake snow a la Pinterest does this make you a wonderful, dutiful parent? Will it mean your children are happiest, or ensure they gain a first class honours degree in Medicine? Or, like the rest of society, are you encouraging toddlers to eat their toast, shoved in front of Peppa Pig whilst you hurriedly attempt to look at least half decent for work?

Before I became a parent I remember a fellow pregnant friend declaring to me mid conversation about becoming a Mum, ‘The baby will fit around me- I’m not going to be one of those parents who changes their whole life and talks of nothing else’

I thought long and hard about this.

Surely making the decision to become a parent means that (usually) we are sacrificing selfishness and prioritising our children? But on the flip side, I knew my friend was right- living a life filled with just nappies and CBeebies may fill our lives temporarily but for me personally, I knew it would leave me without fulfilment, or purpose later on.

A family member reminisced to me recently, ‘.. Yes well when the Health Visitor came round after X was born, we just had Bob Dylan playing loudly- she was shocked but we just told her, ‘this is what we do’ as we wanted, in a sense to have to baby growing up listening to great music..’ Whilst I’m not sure having music blaring out whilst a health professional visits, I fully understood the concept. The decisions we make as parents are based around our interests, of course they are. I take my children to festivals and the theatre, because that’s that I enjoy doing and I want to share the enjoyment and create memories they will cherish. I cook food that I like to
eat and hope they will like it too and I buy them gifts that I would like them to play with or enjoy.

All this questioning in my mind has stemmed from good old parent guilt. You know, the feeling that makes you feel like the crappest parent in the world. You are so tired and feeling fed up that setting up the world’s craziest train track, or reading the same story ten times to a bunch of rag dolls just seems like it will tip you over the edge! You long for ten minutes peace, then the pangs of guilt hit you like a brick. You head to social media for solace, escapism or even just a giggle- but what are you greeted with? Photographs, blogs and tweets of wonderful family moments, spectacular festive craft projects and beaming smiles from children that HAVEN’T been sat in their pyjamas all day, or HAVEN’T been dragged around town on a number of essential, but very boring errands.

Of course, people share what they want to share. I know this. Photographs of little Jimmy stood in a queue at Natwest would hardly entertain likes or be deemed a worthwhile share. Baby Sarah sat screaming after being plonked in the trolley at Morrisons is probably having much more of a laugh than her Mum or Dad who simply *must* ensure the weekly shop is completed in order to gain the £25 Christmas bonus, but no one wants to see, or read about this stressful episode on their Facebook feed, do they?

The point is that actually as exaggerated as those scenarios are, those moments aren’t pointless. Actually, they’re just life. Changing your whole life, focusing on JUST the kids doesn’t in the long run teach our children reality. Children need to see that we have to cook, grocery shop and clean. They should learn the value of hard work and know that people go to work, to earn money, and gain satisfaction from doing so.

But of course, as with anything it is about balance. I’m certainly not advocating demanding our children to
sweep the chimney in preparation for Santa’s imminent arrival, nor am I considering that visits to the Supermarket should become part of a daily-educational routine. But put simply, life is life and do what you need to do. You can make pretty much any job fun after all, learning colours, counting along the way etc.

But remember, there is always time for play AND work. There are going to be times when actually our children are bored, and that’s fine because as adults this is something we have to learn to deal with! Overall, we all know that time is precious, however you spend it. Anytime with our children, is quality time as far as I’m concerned. As long as children feel loved, wanted, worthy and enter the adult world with self-confidence as a result of this, then you’ve done your job! Just don’t waste time feeling guilty, it may interrupt the quality time you need to have with yourself.

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What a Dummy!

The dummy. Whether you are supportive of children using them or not, it is proven by their global popularity that many children like using them. Before I was pregnant with Gabriel, I have to admit that I wasn’t hugely keen on seeing a child who looked over the age of one, with a dummy shoved in their mouth. I’d thought (and maybe correctly so) that it looked just a bit.. wrong. After all, dummies are for mimicking a nipple, to soothe a baby into sleep or for comfort, they aren’t a fashion accessory or toy for a toddler. Blinged up, comedy slogan or moustache-type dummies just seemed to me to be unnecessary and would perhaps result in delayed speech too. I wondered, how COULD a toddler talk if there’s a huge piece of plastic getting in the way?

Of course, once I had children of my own, as it does with most child-related opinions my mind changed. (although NOT with the bling..) Both Gabriel and Willow were given and have used dummies, they helped them self-soothe in the night or during naps and this meant that I was used less, well as a dummy. I breastfed both my children and it became quickly apparent that sometimes babies just need a gentle suckle. Meaning Mummy on occasion got a rest, a dummy sometimes took that role.

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The question is, when does the dummy need to be taken away? I’ve noticed from family, friends, social media and talking to other parents that using a dummy seems to become ‘socially unacceptable’ from the age of around 12-18 months. Is this because Tommee Tippee print on their dummies the final age they are suitable for? Is it because the dentist, nursery and our peers are telling us ‘a dummy is bad for toddlers teeth’ or is it simply, that we all believe that a toddler doesn’t really *need* a dummy.

Gabriel was around eighteen months when I became aware of the ‘dummy brigade’ comments made out and about, nursery staff talking to him about how he is now a ‘big boy’ and doesn’t need the dummy and of course the dummies we owned, suddenly seemed too small for his all new toddler-sized mouth. Dave and I decided that perhaps he *was* too old for a dummy, but we could see he liked to use it. So we made a decision that until he was two years old, as long as it wasn’t affecting his teeth or talking that he was to use the dummy at night-time only. This seemed a common decision amongst our friends, and it was one we were happy with.

Gabriel’s second Birthday came and went…then arrived potty-training. He sailed through this area without a hiccup and without me noticing, our little toddler had become, indeed a ‘big boy’. But there was still an issue. There was a dummy in his bed, how much he used it, we were not sure, but what we did know was that he was precious about it. I fully admit now, that actually I was nervous. Gabriel was heading for three years old and still using a dummy a night. He was capable of conversation, understanding and most worryingly, holding attachment.

I’d read about dummy fairies, tough love, bribery with gifts or perhaps just ignoring the issue until
the child decides to not want it anymore on forums, blogs and social media. But nothing really sat right with me, dummies would still be around the house as Willow uses them, it seemed unfair to take Gabriel’s away without explanation or discussion, so we decided to talk to him.

The first couple of conversations didn’t go exactly to plan. Gabriel just wasn’t interested in talking about giving his dummy up; he wasn’t ready. I left the issue a few months and tried again. This time, I focused on how grown up he is, and we listed together his heroes, who he likes and then, whether or not they had dummies. I watched carefully as Gabriel processed his thoughts. ‘I don’t need a dummy!’ He declared. Brilliant! It had worked. Or had it? I have enough experience as a Mummy to know the first rule of parenting club- Do NOT get cocky.

So that night we didn’t offer Gabriel a dummy and after around five minutes of sulking over not having it, he settled in bed and went to sleep. Gabriel hasn’t asked for his dummy since. No fairies, bribery or reward charts necessary. Just simple communication.

Sometimes as parents it’s easy to get bogged down in rituals, peer pressure and being told what we should be doing. Threats of ‘they may use their thumb’ or, ‘..it will be hell for you to take that away if they get too old’ etc just aren’t important. YOU know your child, and therefore, you know best. If you want to give your child a dummy, do it, but please don’t stress too much about having to take it away. After all, you don’t see many adults wandering the streets with a dummy in their mouths, and unless there are thousands of us at home hiding their use as adults, it seems that eventually we all decide we are too grown up for a dummy.

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Condensed Hours

Although this difficult for me to admit, for the last few months I have really been struggling with my work-life balance. If you read this blog regularly or follow me on social media you may have picked up on this through my moaning!

I will start by making clear that I genuinely love my job. I’m a Probation Officer and it’s a role that is throughly demanding and harrowing at times but, it is ultimately rewarding and therefore I gain a LOT of job satisfaction. Of course, there are days I want to scream or cry, and perhaps days I question if I am in the right job, but mostly, I like working. It’s become part of who I am, and the thought of not working in a job where I can help people change their lives, makes me quite sad!

I returned to work on a full-time basis last September having had pretty much two years straight away, due to two maternity leaves almost back to back. I won’t lie and say I was devastated to return, because I wasn’t. I was ready and I know in my heart, as much as I adore my children; that being a full time stay at home Mummy isn’t for me. The full time hours weren’t ideal, Willow was only ten months old and I was still breastfeeding her, and having had two years away from work meant the law and a lot of procedures had obviously changed. But, at least being thrown in at the deep end made those issues quickly disappear! Dave was made redundant at that exact time, and so having him at home to be with the children really helped too. It meant I could work what hours suited, and there was no pressure with childcare or costs. It was a great opportunity for him to experience being a stay at home Daddy for nine months too, but because it wasn’t a long term plan, eventually things had to change.

I finished my studying in May and Dave returned to work. That’s when the stress began. Two children under three years old and two parents attempting to work full time, commute to different cities and also pay ridiculous nursery fees. (And may I take this opportunity to highlight my absolute disgust at the £1800 a month fees that we paid to the nursery!!!)

Anyway, we both became tired and stressed. Then with the continued pressured tight deadlines, rising workloads and difficult cases to deal with, things became too much. Finally, to top it all off, Willow had not settled at nursery, and this just added to the stress of everything! It broke out hearts to see her begging not to go to nursery, crying and telling us not to go to work.

I was being a crap Mum.

I was trying to do my best, but juggling everything became too much and I became ill. I began suffering with anxiety and feeling tearful constantly. Work pressures built up and so did my emotions.

I HAD to change my work hours.

So I applied for a reduction in hours. I spoke to my manager and hoped that my application would be accepted. Unfortunately I had to wait longer than usual because of organisational changes within the Probation Service but eventually, my new hours were agreed.

Hurrah!

This week was the beginning of my new beginning. Twenty-nine hours to be worked over three days. Condensed hours they call it. (GENIUS I call it..)

It is going well. Really well! I feel for the first time in ages, less stressed! And it’s so brilliant that I get two days at home to catch up with chores, shopping, writing and also of course playing with the kids. I think come payday, I may be a little sad, but ultimately I think it’s worthwhile because nursery fees have reduced too. Bonus! Perhaps we could have done without week one involving chicken pox but you know, that’s life with toddlers isn’t it!

Would I recommend applying to work condensed hours? Yes, but prepare to be tired. In effect you’re squeezing in an extra days work and of course this is going to be tiring. I think this will take some getting used to, but I am aware of this now and attempting to rest where possible. (I even had a nap on Saturday afternoon!) No more burning the candle at both ends, this new regime means more fun with the kids, and a more relaxed me. It also means I get to keep my hand in at work, by not losing experience and skills too, which is really important to me. So, until Gabriel starts school next September, condensed hours it is.

Wish me luck!

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Two of EVERYTHING

On Friday I took the day off work. Dave was busy working and so I took the tiny two out for the afternoon. We needed groceries, and so I bargained with them that if we went to Morrisons, I would buy them lunch out and we’d go to the park afterwards. They seemed pretty pleased with the idea and so off we went.

We went and had a nice lunch and then headed to Morrisons to buy supplies for the week. For the last years I have been working full-time I have mostly been shopping online and just nipping into the various supermarkets after work, but I’d been so busy and a little unorganised this week! Whilst I was on Maternity Leave, I spent a lot of time in supermarkets. It was a way of getting out of the house on those long Winter days, and it was also a way of speaking to an adult when I had two children under eighteen months!

But now, supermarkets are a pain. Taking two toddlers who refuse to sit in the trolley and insist on touching every packet of cheese, or throwing every packet of biscuits from the shelf onto the floor.. can be a little bit stressful.

But, on Friday. I realised something. Now the toddlers can talk, I can reason with them. I can bargain with them and I can explain my reasoning to them. So, I did.

‘You two can sit in the trolley next to each other because I need two very special people to drive it around the supermarket’ I lied.

They jumped around with glee and climbed in. I was more than pleased with myself at this point. Not once in the last twelve months have they agreed to SIT IN A TROLLEY!!!!!

‘We’re driving! We’re driving! Brum!’ They shouted. Gabriel even donned a fake steering wheel using a sweet potato, bless him.

I pushed the trolled around and grabbed what we needed. But my smug feeling was short-lived.

As I placed some tofu into the trolley, Gabriel told me ‘We need TWO of everything Mummy, because there is TWO of us. We need one each’

‘Erm.. no Gabey we don’t.. you can take it in turns to put items in the trolley for me’ I said, hoping that he would accept what I was saying.

‘NO NO NO!’ he screamed and then Willow piped up ‘TWO Mummy..TWO!’ They started chanting and shouting, loudly. I laughed which probably didn’t help. They were not backing down. I tried, believe me I tried, but nope. They wanted two of every item.

I pondered for a moment. The shop was busy. I needed probably only ten more items, would it really hurt if we got two of everything? I couldn’t believe that I was agreeing, but I’d weighed it up-it was worth it to keep the peace.

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So we did. We bought two of most things. (I did manage to sneak a few items back to the shelves!)

But essentially, I gave in. However the kids were happy and I suppose that’s the most important thing. Plus, all the vegetables and fruit we bought will get eaten!

Though this is something I’ve learnt. Sometimes as a Mummy, it’s just best to give in. (and not take two toddlers grocery shopping..)

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Imitation IS the Biggest Form of Flattery

They say imitation is the biggest form of flattery and whilst I agree with the ‘taking something good’ sentiment from someone copying you, it has in the past irritated me, especially when it was something I had put a lot of work into.

However recently I have the opportunity to think about the phrase on a more personal level. In the last few weeks I have noticed something. I have a new fan! This particular fan is dedicated to the core, and willing to sometimes risk breaking their neck in order to get close to me, or even touch whatever I am touching.

My new fan is my daughter.

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Willow is twenty months old. She is my baby girl. My youngest child, and the one who needs her Mummy the most. I hold her hand, I help her cut up her food and I cuddle her when she becomes frustrated that she cannot reach something. Willow is a determined soul. An independent child, and perhaps this is why these change in her behaviour has come as a surprise!

It all started when she became obsessed with my handbag. Sneaking off to drag it about, going through the contents, playing with my make up, keys and phone. She will sit for hours, happily touching the contents of my bags and belongings!

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I took Willow shopping a few weeks back and bought her her first handbag. She lost it in the Trafford Centre within ten minutes, but that’s beside the point- she became so excited that she had her VERY OWN BAG! I couldn’t believe just how excited; she was just like her Mummy.

I felt mean when I realised Willow had lost her bag so I bought her another. Her very first Cath Kidston number in fact. So far so good, she hasn’t misplaced it yet anyway. The bag now goes most places with her, which I’m surprised about as she’s not what you would call a ‘girly girl’ but, I suppose there are no rules when it comes to handbags!

Next came the obsession with my glasses and wanting to sit wherever I am sitting. Sobbing if I didn’t move, or let her wear my glasses, despite her clearly not being able to see through them and them being too large for her little face.

Willow wants to eat what I eat and drink what I drink. She knows that I like chocolate digestive biscuits and so loves nothing more than wandering around eating them!

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Then, I noticed she wanted to follow me about. ‘Go with Mummy’ has become a regular sentence in our house and car. She also likes at the moment for me to carry her everywhere, especially if we are in a shop, an cries if I try to put her down. I think it’s because she like to feel we are ‘shopping together’ and looking at items with me, probably seems exciting to her. It’s really, really sweet.

We have began, due to this new interest of hers spending time together as Mummy and Daughter, and I love it! We are now able to go for coffee (me) and cake (Willow) and what’s amazing is that she genuinely seems happy just to hang about with me, there’s no need for an agenda.

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Of course, all of this was bound to happen. I know little girls like to spend time with their parents and will be likely to have a special bond with their Mummies. I remember when I was younger I wanted to be like my Mum so much that I attempted (when she wasn’t in her bedroom) to wear her contact lenses..

But, I suppose I had never imagined how it might feel, to be the one that Willow WANTS to be like. It’s a really lovely feeling, someone else loves you so much unconditionally that they want to imitate you, they look up to you and find everything that you have and do exciting.

But sometimes it makes me feel a bit sad. Because sometimes, I have to say no. I can’t take Willow on the ‘choo choo train’ to work in the morning, she cannot drink my wine, and it isn’t safe for her to hold my cup of coffee.

It doesn’t stop me feeling guilty though, because she cries and is quite clearly hurt. Her little face when I have to say no breaks my heart. But, when that happens I just think about all the fun we will have as she grows up, and it’s exciting!

Another aspect of the situation is also the ‘pressure’ I suppose to BE that good role model. Willow is copying me because she wants to be just like me. Obviously, I want her to be her own person, but if she were to have similarities to me, I don’t think it would be a bad thing (in SOME ways anyway!)

The point is, that I have realised that someone is watching me. Someone is learning from me, and whilst Gabriel is doing this too, he is much more interested in copying his Daddy! It’s a huge responsibility, and perhaps I think, the hardest part of parenting.

When life get hard, you’re stressed at work and there’s jobs to be done sometimes it all gets too much. I’m busy, and I have a stressful job; those things won’t change. However how I cope with these problems isn’t more important than ever now! I want the best for my little girl, for her to learn how to deal with problems and cope with difficult situations. Everyday at work I interview people that do not have this skill set and I think it’s more important than ever to be able to look after our own wellbeing and to also acknowledge to our Children that life is not always easy.

So from now on I am in full role model Mummy mode. Those little eyes are watching after all..

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The End of My Stay at Home Daddy Experience!

They think it’s all over…. It is now. My time as a stay at home dad has come to an end after almost a year. I’ve been offered a job and I’m returning to work. The job is essentially the same one that I left last year in the office practically next door.

I’m returning to work nervous and excited but also with a sense of purpose. My last job had been my place of work through my 20s and most of my 30s. I’m now coming to work as a Father and a Husband rather than a wannabe student. I’m looking for different things now from the workplace. I feel refreshed and full of ideas and idealism.

I also return to work after a fantastic period of my life. I can’t in this blog ever give justice to the good times that I’ve had with the kids. But it has been a privilege to spend so much time with them. They’ve grown up so much in that time and it’s been amazing to see that happen. We now have chats and jokes. We do singing and dancing. We play with the kid’s friends.

When I started all this Willow was only a baby! Now she walks, talks and is potty training!

Personally I’ve grown as a person. I understand kids more and feel I have developed an empathy with them. I’m confident in talking to and playing with other people’s children; even girls!

Going to playgroup was my biggest fear and I have felt accepted there now, especially since the turn of the year. I know people locally and stop and chat to other parents that I now know. This is a positive in a town where I don’t know many people outside my immediate circle!

But time is now moving on. Michelle has finished her studying, Gabriel is now three and awaiting his free place in education and Willow is a confident little girl who needs to do something other than hang round with Daddy every day. I’m starting to feel redundant at playgroup as the kids need me less and less and I’m becoming a referee at home to break up squabbles.

If anyone reading this is thinking of becoming a stay at home Dad or your family is considering reversing traditional roles. I say do it.

It’s hard.

It can be lonely.

It can be frustrating but ultimately it’s worth it!

I know my kids better than I ever imagined I would and I hope that we have created a special bond that will last forever, even if the kids don’t remember Daddy being at home for a year.

Sadly though, it’s time to be ‘normal’ again.

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