As a Mum to 5 and 8 year olds, I learned a few things along the way. I’m no expert on parenting, far from it, as you’ll know from previous blog posts I have more than my fair share of stresses, worries, doubts and parenting mistakes, but despite this, there are a couple of things that I learned along the way that I feel can benefit any parent, but in particular new parents, or about-to-be parents.
Giving advice when unasked for is one of my absolute pet hates and this starts the minute the world learns you are pregnant. People have opinions on what you should wear (seriously!), what you do, what you eat, pretty much everything. My first piece of advice is follow official guidelines and take advice from friends and family you trust, and always ask for advice when needed, but those people who just throw unsolicited advice at you willy nilly? Ignore. As a new parent you are plagued with doubts often enough without people throwing more spanners in the works, and sad to say, some of those people will be people close to you.
My second piece of advice is something I’d been told first time round. Listen to your instincts and don’t sweat it. In the first year of Chloe’s life I worried about everything. Obviously on reflection, we now have reasons as to why some of the problems we had were such problems, but worrying about them and trying to fix them made very little difference.
Take weaning for example, from six months old to a year old, Chloe refused all solid food, she either refused everything or threw everything up as soon as it went in her mouth. I spent six months worrying myself to death, repeatedly visiting health visitors (who just kept insisting “you must make her eat”, with no advice on how to actually do that), but thing is, she wasn’t losing weight, she wasn’t suffering and not long after she hit one, she started eating solids. All that worry, all that stress for nothing. When she was good and ready she did it. As an 8 year old, she doesn’t eat everything but she eats well and she’ll try anything and everything at least once and she LOVES food.
Obviously, when your baby won’t eat, you must see a professional, you must make sure they are not losing weight, its important, but don’t worry yourself endlessly, like I did.
Another example would be potty training. We tried potty training Chloe at 2 in earnest. It took months but she was starting nursery at 2 and a half, and they needed her to be potty trained, so we had to try. I read books, I tried everything. There’s a big thing about potty training, in that if you start it, you need to see it through, putting a child back into nappies sends mixed messages, so once you move to underpants, you have to stick with it…it’s all well and good until your child is so petrified of going to the toilet they just won’t go. Resulting in days of constipation, pain and huge amounts of distress. Again I consulted professionals, “oh have you tried reward charts?”… eventually, after a course of laxatives and deciding I wasn’t going to put her through this any more, I put her back in nappies. We tried potty training again when she hit 3. She got it straight away, no upset, no stress, no pain, no medication. Again, huge amounts of stress and worry and upset, for nothing. When my child was ready, she did.
Honestly there were a lot of things like this, things where I worried myself to death because we weren’t doing what I thought we should be doing (or OTHER people thought we should be doing), but things that all came good in the end.
Let me be clear, when things don’t work out as they should with small kids, it always pays to seek some professional advice (not least to rule out medical issues), but in my opinion, unless your child is suffering, then there’s no point worrying, in most cases, our children will reach targets when they are ready, we are all different after all!
When dear Lola came along, I didn’t really worry about anything, I learned the hard way… there’s no point!
I was going to blog today about the new Spring No7 collection, but you know I’m really not in the mood. I will aim to get that one up tomorrow instead, today I’m just not in the mood for talking about make up.
The day started pretty much as usual, except I didn’t get much sleep last night. The usual constant nagging for Lola to get dressed, repeatedly. The usual leaving the house a bit later than ideal thanks to the kids taking so long to do anything.
It went downhill from there. Lola took something to school with her. A toy from a Happy Meal, that she wanted to show her friends. She isn’t allowed to take toys to school but she promised me she’d give it to me to bring home.
She went into her classroom, hung up her coat, put away her book bag and then it became clear she expected me to wait for all her friends to arrive so she could show them the toy. I refused, took the toy off her. She burst into tears, everyone stared at me, I even saw a few people whispering. I tried to cuddle her. Her teacher intervened and told her to stop crying and give me a cuddle. I picked her up to cuddle. She carried on crying. I sat down on a seat to talk to her. A parent came over to try and help. She carried on crying. Another parent came over to try and help, by getting her involved in something, she not only carried on crying but she was rude to the other child too. I bit the bullet and walked out of the classroom.
I burst into tears as I walked away. Not just discrete tears, proper big soggy sniffly tears. I sat on a bench to try and calm myself so I wasn’t walking all the way back to the car sobbing. A parent came over to see if I was okay. I wasn’t okay. I was tired and fed up, I was also frustrated, upset and embarrassed. Another parent came over to see if I was okay and was lovely, and I managed to calm down and walk out of school. More embarrassed than ever. The first parent who had checked I was okay had gone over to their friend and they were stood watching me. Sympathetically I think, but still, just watching me.
I sat in the car and sobbed some more before deciding I’d go back into school and just ask reception if they could check Lola was okay. She was, she was working and laughing and perfectly fine. I cried some more until I was escorted away for a coffee.
The thing is this. Every day Lola takes a toy to school, half the time she hands it over to me when I leave with no problems. The other half of the time we play out similar versions of the above scene, albeit I don’t usually break down. It’s not just that, she’s not working well at school either. Often having to miss partial lunch breaks to catch up on the work she’s missed. Once even having to be removed from the class altogether.
Why do I let her take the toys in in the first place? Well sometimes she puts them in her pocket so I don’t know they are there, other times I know they are there and (stupidly) trust she’ll just hand it over when I leave the school, and then other times we are running late and I just can’t deal with the battle which will make us even later. It is my fault whatever way you look at it.
But why was I SO upset? I guess I’m just not happy right now. I carry the weight of everyone’s emotional well being on my shoulders, and my shoulders alone. Worrying about Chloe’s assessment, dealing with her moods and the constant battles between her and Lola, and the increasing anxiety attacks. Worrying about her rotting teeth, chasing specialist dentist appointments and fighting for help and assessments, fighting even just to talk to someone. I deal with Lola’s fiery character (she’s as happy and loving as she is feisty), worrying about the fact I’m called into talk to the teacher daily, worrying about how she feels when her sister is horrible to her so often, worrying about whether there’s a deeper issue at the heart of her behaviour, or if she’s fighting for attention, or copying her sisters behaviour, or a combination of all of the above. I arrange appointments to talk to people about her. I have to pick her up and drop her off at school daily, keeping my head held high, trying to not to worry about what people think of my parenting skills (or lack of), trying to look like I’m in charge. And I spend a huge amount of time thinking about how much I love them, and how I want their lives to be happy and full of love, and worrying that they don’t know how loved they are.
It’s not just the kids I worry about, I worry about my husband too. Which I’ll never discuss on here. And then there’s me, my chronic migraines that no one seems to be able to help me with and another medical issue I’m aware of thats gnawing away at me.
People say to me that I need to make time for me, but I’m a stay at home Mum, I’m home alone all day, five days a week. It’ never feels like enough. I don’t have the reserves in me to deal with any more battles, thats how it feels.
I went to the GP to ask about counselling a few months ago, I was told my only option was private or Group CBT. I can’t afford private and I absolutely do not want to do any group sessions.
Ultimately though, although today is a bad day, tomorrow I’ll get up and start nagging Lola to get ready faster, tell her she’s not allowed to take a toy to school and she’ll either comply or she won’t, and after school Chloe will either disappear to her room or she’ll choose to stay downstairs and snipe and pick at Lola until they are screaming at each other. And I’ll deal with it, like I always do, and I won’t cry, I’ll go to bed exhausted, I won’t sleep any earlier though, and I’ll wake up tired the next morning and do it all again. Because that’s what Mum’s do.