Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Feeling Like A Terrible Mother

Now, before you jump in out of kindness, I know that I am not a terrible mother. I just feel like one at the moment. I know that E is loved. She also has food, shelter, warmth, so all her basic needs are met. As are many non-basic needs too. She has time in the garden, toys to play with, routines and boundaries, a reasobable diet, swimming lessons and gym classes, playdates, time at preschool, and numerous family members who adore her. I adore her. The problem is that I don't feel I am behaving like the sort of Mum I always hoped to be.

Lately there's been little playtime at home, with no imaginative play on my part (she does that on her own). No arts and crafts, no baking. Too much using the TV to keep her entertained. The house needs cleaning but I've no energy to do it. What's worse is that I find myself getting irritated by the smallest thing. You want me to build a train track? Find lost toy scissors? I just want to be left alone. Can't out sort yourself out?

I am TIRED. So very tired. I'm not even supposed to complain really, because I only have one child, not 2 or 3 or more. What makes me feel even worse is it's not even E's fault. Yes, she's in that annoying phase of the word "no" leading to meltdowns, yells of "it's not fair/I don't care" etc. She's 3, it's normal. She swings between moments of being utterly adorable or behaving like that annoying child you want to pretend isn't yours, for fear of being judged on your parenting technique. Again, normal. The fact is, she's lovely, she's ours and I love her.

I feel like a toy where everything has gone into slow motion or off kilter, my batteries are running out. I dream of going away to a cottage by the sea, all on my own for a week, to read and sleep. Then maybe having another week with my partner and E. And another where friends visit. After which, I might feel rested.

Work is stressful and having too much impact on my time with E. When I'm not at work I'm worrying about it or trying to do some when I should be taking time off with E. The "to do" list is stacking up with no end in sight. I've got an eye infection. The diet has gone out of the window along with the exercuse routine. And yes, I know exercising and eating right (as opposed to going for caffiene and sugar) would help. But I'm too tired to do the things that I know are good for me. I'm also sad. I miss my twin and feel strange without him being in the background of my life. I feel out of sorts. I am ever so grateful for the friend who helped me today by inviting E and I back to theirs for a playdate and tea. I was grumpy company and feeling no fun at all, and am pretty sure I'd have falen asleep on the sofa if we'd been at home. So it did me good to spend time with others.

We're visiting friends this weekend and looking forward to catching up. Plus we're going away on a family holiday in July. Seven adults and E in a Majorcan villa. I'm counting down the days. If I can just manage to keep mentally afloat, try to get on top of things at work, and get 6-8 hours shut-eye each night, then maybe I'll manage to be better company on holiday. I might even build sandcastles, play games and generally be a fun Mum for E. Once I've had some sleep.

Did I mention that I'm tired?

Sunday, 8 May 2016

A lesson in language.

While having her tea today, E looked at the vase of flowers on our dining table and asked me: "why do the penises change colour?!" She meant peonies (bought for me by her and Grandma last week).

It did make me laugh. Then I got her to practise saying "pee-oh-nies" just in case she sees some out in public.

FYI, I'm not sure why the blooms change colour so drastically. My pink flowers fadedfrom a deep dark pink, to pale pink, then turned white. Very pretty they are too.
The "penises".

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Breakfast & Being A Grump-A-Lumps.

So, this morning: *to be read in manner of Big Brother narrator*

It's 6.35am in the A____ B______ house. E is in the kitchen, making breakfast. 

Which is where I found her. There was a part of me that wanted to point out her Glo clock was not yellow, no sun was up, and so try to get her back to bed. Maybe I should have been more assertive but it would have been a failed attempt at getting her to lie in*.  I must say, there's something comical about having a 3 year old who's pretty much able to make her own breakast, while wearing a nappy so full it's practically down to her knees. I did feel proud though, watching her use a stool to get a bowl and the cereal, fill the bowl,  get a spoon, try to get the milk (too heavy). Once she got a hand with the milk, E was quite happy to take her bowl to the microwave, put it in, set the programme, wait for the ping, remove the bowl, stir her cereal, and then carry her bowl to the table to eat. (Yes dear reader, I'm sure you're bored by these details, your children have probably been able to make their own breakfast for years, and I'm being one of those stereotypical first-time Mums).

Watching E being so independent yet still so small and in need of support, I felt disappointed in myself for being a grumpy cow yesterday. I work part time in the NHS and lately have found myself having to take work home with me. Not something I plan to continue with on the whole. I don't mind doing some personal development and reading at home but I resent having to write contact notes/letters in my own time. Oh the joys of administration.

I never wanted to work full time after becoming a Mum. I've nothing against people choosing to do so (not that everyone has the luxury of choice in the matter).  In my case, we need the money, I need to earn some sort of pension for my old age, and a career gives me personal development, adult conversation, and is part of my identity. I just never planned to find myself putting work before E. She's more important by far.

But yesterday afternoon I found myself being short with E for repeatedly disrupting my attempts to work, by asking me to read stories or play with her. I felt irritable and unable to focus. She bore the brunt of my grumpiness, when really, I was the one being unfair. It wasn't her fault I've got work to catch up on, or that I was trying to cram too much into the afternoon so as to avoid doing it in the evening.

When E is in a grump I sometimes tickle her and call her a "grump-a-lumps" to get her out of it. So over her beautifully made breakfast this morning,  I spoke to her about yesterday. She said I had been "cross" and a "grump-a-lumps". When asked why she thought that, E said it was because I didn't play with her and because she hadn't done things when asked (which was true, when she was a real monkey at bedtime). E told me that she'd been "a grump-a-lumps too" because she hadn't wanted to tidy her toys. I said "I'm sorry" for being grumpy, and she said "me too" (she usually avoids saying any form of "sorry"). We both agreed to a fresh start today.

I looked at her adorable little face, complete with cornflake & milk moustache, and thought, "I so love you", and made a little promise to myself to try harder next time.

*(Take note E, if you're reading this as a teenager. You used to view being sent back to bed as a bad thing. Strange child! Clearly not taking after either of your parents there. Must be an Uncle P gene.)

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Coming Back Online

It's been a long time since I last wrote this blog. There's been a good reason for that.

The short version of the story is this: On the 14th January 2016, E's Uncle P (my twin brother) missed work for the 3rd day that week. Concerned by his absence without any explanation, his employers reported him missing to the police. The police searched for him, and found him dead in his bedroom at home. The postmortem report, weeks later, showed that he died from epilepsy. He must have had a seizure and suffered heart failure. He was only in his thirties at the time.

Telling E that she'd lost her uncle was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. He was her playmate, willing slave, and climbing frame. Only a week before his death she had pointed out to her Grandma that the seat next to her in the back of Grandma's car belonged to Uncle P, and noone else was allowed to sit there

Prior to starting preschool last September,  E would see her Uncle P every Wednesday at Grandma's flat whilst I was at work.  P would volunteer at an Oxfam charity shop in the morning then go to Mum's flat and spend the afternoon playing with E, or the three of them would go out. I'd join them in time for dinner, after which Mum would leave to play bridge with her friends, I'd give E her bath, P would clear up, and we'd do the goodnight routine. He always got a bedtime cuddle and kiss from his little niece. Invariably once she was in bed, the two of us would watch TV together, except I would be watching the programme and he tended to fall asleep on the sofa instead. Around 9pm he'd stir, say he felt tired and had to be up early for work. and would head home. Simple evenings but nice all the same.

We drew on The Lion King to tell E that her Uncle had died. Her Dad and I sat her down together to explain why Daddy had suddenly had time off work at home with her, and I'd been away visiting Grandma. We told her that we had sad news, that Uncle P had died just like Mufasa did in The Lion King. Her response was to burst into tears and run to her bedroom. She let us follow her in but wouldn't let us cuddle or comfort her, instead she sat on her windowsill and hid behind the curtains. She asked questions such as "Why did he die?" (we don't know), "Does he still love me?" (He has always loved you and always will) and said, "I don't want him to be dead" (us too). Gradually she became less distressed and later on she let me cuddle her.

Most young children faced with death are mourning a pet the first time they experience such loss. Well, we've not got any pets, but E had watched Topsy & Tim on TV. That evening she asked: "Mummy, on Topsy & Tim when Grandma's dog Mossy dies, she gets another dog. Will I get another Uncle P?". I explained why that wouldn't happen and she accepted it.

Amazingly (and despite everything I've read which suggested children under age 6 don't fully understand the concept of death), our smart little girl got it. She understood that P was gone and not coming back. She talked to family and her key worker at preschool about how she felt sad because she wanted to see him again and play. She spoke of wanting to do puzzles with him again.

E did not go to the funeral. It's tough for anyone who goes......but for a 3.5 year old? Too many loved ones upset, too many routines shot to pieces. Instead E stayed with her paternal grandparents and had a lovely time. She brought us home paintings that she did "for the funeral" on the morning of the service; even explaining to her Grandparents (if I remember correctly) that it was a bit late for the pictures as the funeral was already happening! She even made playdoh into shapes representing his being buried.

The funeral was.....how can I put it?.....as nice a funeral as I've ever been to. A real celebration of P's life, and it showed how he touched the lives of those around him. Always smiling, cheerful, friendly. That's what people said. So many whom I'd never met came and spoke to me about how fond he was of E, how much he spoke of her. One lady said,"He always asked after my Grandchildren because he knew I'd then ask him about her and he'd get to talk about her". People told me how he was excited about our wedding (happening next year), and being an usher. How he was looking forward to our family holiday in the summer. He is so missed.

We aren't a religious family. Someone at preschool told E that her Uncle would look down on her from above and always be in her heart. I explained that what they meant was that he will always be remembered,  and that she can use her brain to think of him and see him anytime, as that's where she thinks her thoughts. All she has to do is close her eyes. She knows she can talk to him. She knows we still feel sad and that being sad is ok. Yet small children are resilient too and very matter of fact.

Shortly after P died, E and I were talking about her age because she reached 3.5. We talked about how she will be 4 at her next birthday, then 5, then 6 and so on. E turned to me and said ,"When it's your birthday, it will just be your birthday because you're not a twin anymore". See, I did say she's pretty smart!

P is buried in a Woodland Burial site. Later this year we will go and plant a cherry tree on his grave. When the blossom comes next Spring I will take E to see it. In the meantime, I know she won't forget him or how much he loved her, and neither will we.

E having a cuddle with Uncle P, on the day they first met.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Christmas (Aged 3).

We're now into January 2016, the decorations are down, the OH and I are back at work, and E is back at Preschool. So how was our Christmas?

Well, fun but hectic. We had 2 parties to go to before the main event, so our social life was full on from the 18th December onwards!

Christmas Eve we had a lovely pub lunch out, just the 3 of us, and then travelled to the next county for a walk on the beach, on what was practically the only sunny afternoon of the whole fortnight. So far, so good. That evening, a family dinner with my Mum & siblings at a local Chinese restaurant was slightly less successful, when a certain child was overtired/overexcited and mucked about so much that her Dad and I took it in turns to sit with her in the car for periods of time, so that other diners didn't get their meals disturbed. Monkey! She was just so exhausted. Luckily that meant she zonked out at bedtime, woohoo!

The magic of Father Christmas was so much fun. Christmas Day morning I woke up first, then waited for E to wake and see her stocking presents. She was thrilled! She kept telling us all about how she squeezed her eyes tightly shut when Father Christmas came into the bedroom, so she didn't see him. The whole day was pretty relaxed and enjoyable. We followed it with a few days staying with my OH's family, and visiting more of his side of the family in London. E had a lovely time catching up with her Grandparents and Auntie's and Uncles and we enjoyed ourselves too. Lots of good food, wine, chat, presents, and Christmas TV. We even managed to squeeze in reading a book or two!

New Year was slightly more stressful. A planned sleepover with friends didn't work quite so well. The two children either played nicely together or drove all the parents a bit nuts (there were a fair few moments of adults looking at each other and mouthing "WTF?!"). When both children were finally asleep the grown-us could relax and catch up. Unfortunately, midnight fireworks woke E up, and poor thing, she was terrified. The noise of the explosions made her physically shake in fear. After that it took a couple of hours to get her back to sleep and we spent New Years Day exhausted. We've decided to stay home next year!

However, the big news of the New Year was that E's first ever cousin (and our first niece/nephew) was born on New Year's Eve!!! Baby Bee is finally here! E is very excited about his arrival, as are we. We can't wait to meet him.  E has decided that she is going to "Teach him how to play!" and is eager to get started. I'm looking forward to cuddles too.

All in all, we had some quality family time, which was what we were hoping for over the holidays. It had its up and down moments, but that's pretty much guaranteed with small children.

Happy New Year everyone. Who knows what 2016 will bring?
The 3 of us on the beach, Christmas Eve 2015.

Thursday, 24 December 2015


This morning with E:

"Mummy you're too hairy, you need to shave."
"Oh do I? Where am I too hairy?" (Thought she'd say on my head as she was stroking my hair at the time...)
"Under you arm!"

Charming! I'll have you know, I was wearing a t-shirt at the time, so she couldn't even see my armpit!

Monday, 21 December 2015

Imagination & Playtime

Yesterday, I heard E playing in her room by herself. She was both pretend crying, and playing the role of comforter to that character by pretending to be a different one. I was curious, so I peeked in on her. The upset character was a dragon........made of a sheet of paper and two hairbands! I did smile to myself at the big drama she was enacting with effectively bits of nothing. It just shows that children don't always need to be entertained. If she got her way she'd probably have been watching TV instead, but actually she plays in a very creative way when her options are limited to toys not technology. That's why we let her watch some TV each day, but not all day.

E watches age appropriate programmes - current favourites are Mr Bloom Here And There/Mr Bloom's Nursery, Teletubbies, Bagpuss, In The Night Garden, Hey Duggie, Thomas the Tank Engine, Peppa Pig, and Topsy & Tim. She gets involved in the stories and sings and dances to the music. At times she's inspired enough to want to act out storylines or ask to make things she has seen on the programmes. We always say we won't allow more than 45 minutes a day, but it's not uncommon for it to be more like 1 hr 15 mins or maybe more (I feel sightly ashamed to admit this). I know I'm guilty of using the TV to occupy her after she'd had her breakfast so I can have mine in peace, with a cup of coffee. Or sometimes if I want a sit down when we come back from an outing.  So when I find her playing happily by doing some cutting of paper (a current favourite thing to do), or making up stories with her toys, I feel like she's getting some kind of balance - and I do love eavesdropping on her play! Some of the re-enacted stories are pretty funny.

In the car today E had a soft toy bunny, and was telling me all about how the other bunnies were at home resting, but this bunny was coming in the car for an adventure. She talked about how the bunny gets scared when things are "too noisy" and how she makes the bunny feel safe by giving her lots of cuddles to feel better. She spoke of how sometimes bunny likes to play with friends and sometimes by herself. I definitely got a sense that E was talking about herself through bunny. She also says she likes to play by herself, gets shy in large groups of children, and likes a bit of peace sometimes.

At a recent bouncy castle party, my heart broke a little watching E reluctantly join in, and even then only once I'd worked at it, despite the fact she loves all soft play. Once going she had a brilliant time bouncing......on her own. E played by herself, not with the other children, doing her own thing around them as they played together. She does this a lot in group situations, if there are more than about 4-6 children present. Something about it makes me feel so sad for E, even if she's having fun on her own. I suppose I worry she's missing out on building friendships with the other children, and am fearful that she might be lonely when she's older. I think this is partly because when we've been out with friends before, and E's ignored them, she'll decide she wants to play with them when it's too late, and then feels sad and upset because they didn't get to play together (no matter how much I try to pre-empt this with her beforehand). Having said that, we went to another birthday party this afternoon with some of her friends, and in the car on the way home she proudly told me "I played with my friends today, I wasn't shy this time!". She was so pleased with herself, bless her. Result!

I'm sure E will be fine, that she'll go on to forge friendships in her own way, albeit more slowly than some children might. I also know that I am much more anxious about this than she is, and that's due to my own experiences through the teenage years. At the end of the day, as her parents, the OH & I will make sure she has social skills of some kind, and plenty of opportunities to play with other children, so I know that will be good enough. Not everyone is an extrovert, and that's ok. Whoever she turns out to be, she will be loved for who she is.*

*Bratty behaviour will neither be loved, nor tolerated. We will always love E, but over the years we may not always love the way she behaves!