mummy is always tired

How many adults does it take to change a three year old?

If it is my three year old, then the answer is four. This is the scene that greeted me last week – the sight of four grown ups cajoling a three year old into some leggings. Meanwhile my three year old is doing what she does best – yelling, screaming, kicking and being an all round prima donna.

But let’s rewind for a moment. Why was I seeing this? Well, I received a phone call. Our youngest had a bit of a tizz and wet herself – she didn’t want to go for a wee in the toilets because there were boys in there. Clearly my child is a coy 19th century throwback and decorum is the buzz word du jour. So whilst she didn’t want to be seen ‘going to the toilet’ she decided it was less embarrassing to just piss herself in front of everyone.

And remember what happens when our youngest gets into a tizz? Yes – that’s right, she then throws up. And me being a bad mother had failed to refill her bag with a change of clothes. So, the phone call was a plea for more things because not a stitch was to be found in the whole of the nursery…that she would wear.

When I arrive she is like a cornered animal and any irritation I’d harboured for her diva antics just evaporated, there she was, having a meltdown with one legging leg flapping in the air as she’s trying desperately to kick the other leg off. If that wasn’t ridiculous enough, she’s doing it with no pants on. Pants. I’ve forgotten to bring her clean pants. And we don’t have time to stop off home and get some more as we have to pick up the older one from school. You’ll have to go commando I tell her. She looks at me as if I’m mad, of course she does, she has no idea what going commando means. But she agrees and off we go; pants problem solved.

So back at home I rifle through her bag, if there are no clothes in it why does it always seem so full I think. Ah. I see why. She has stuffed it with paper and stolen objects from nursery, pilfering is another of her favourite past times. The child has ASBO stamped on her somewhere, I just haven’t found it.

I dutifully fill up her bag and vow to myself I won’t be so slack in future.  I cram in four pairs of pants, tops and leggings. There. Wee and vomit your way through those in a day young lady. I dare you.

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The gremlin in our house

Every time I pick up our youngest from nursery, I am confused. I am confused because the behaviour of the child they sign out is not the one I remember signing in.

Each day I am told our youngest is ‘so helpful’ and ‘delightful’. Clearly something is happening between 4.30 and 5pm that turns this angel child into a monster. Perhaps it’s like the whole Mogwai thing where if you feed them after midnight they turn into gremlins.

I’m not suggesting for a minute that I stop feeding her (although I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or smack someone when I was told how tall our youngest was getting and how she was ‘thinning out’ – are you saying my child is fat? Are you?) But there’s clearly something happening in that half hour that brings out the gremlin in her.

The most annoying thing about the gremlin is the sudden inability to take itself to the toilet – because when you become a gremlin you lose the use of your hands and cannot put the light on/put the toilet seat up/down or get onto the seat by yourself. Bear in mind that this gremlin has been toilet trained for nearly a year and has had no problems up until now.

This has caused us problems – not least because I am stubborn. Sadly our youngest is also stubborn and when two stubborn heads collide, what do you get? In this case – a big puddle of wee.

There was one particularly trying day when after we both dug our heels in she just stood there and let the floodgates (literally) open and emptied the entire contents of her bladder. I’d had enough. I sought sanctuary in the kitchen leaving her in a puddle of pee.

Of course when you are three and you have wet yourself and no one is giving you the attention you think you deserve you get even angrier. And with great anger comes great crying. Crying leads to hysteria, hysteria leads to…vomiting – my favourite.

So not only do I have a urine soaked carpet and little footprints of wee trailing across the house, I now have great pools of sick to sort out. Great – was not the word that sprung to mind. To top it all off and due to a mighty error of judgement by the previous owners our downstairs loo is carpeted – of course – it had to be. So now our downstairs toilet now smells like a neglected public facility of dubious cleanliness.

I have no resolution, no trite little ending other than I don’t need to turn on all the lights and check all the cupboards or under the beds – I know we have a gremlin in our house and it’s monstrous.


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The School Gate

Our eldest has started ‘big school’ as she proudly calls it. To be honest we were dreading it – she is – and I mean this in the kindest possible way – socially awkward. She is the child that will blankly stare at you when you greet her even though you have known her since birth.

But, so far – so good. She bounds into school and has sworn that she will never be ‘on the grey cloud and definitely not the thunder cloud’ which I can only presume is the school equivalent of the naughty step. Every day she smugly announces those unfortunates that have been caught in the act and whose names have ended up on ‘the cloud’. I have mixed feelings about these announcements. On the one hand, I admire her vow to always be good but at the same time, this denouncing of her peers is, well, ever so slightly smug. Three words spring to mind – goody two shoes – and nobody likes a goody two shoes but I guess she is only four and she will learn.

One thing I had not prepared myself for was the playground ‘chat’. Drop off and pick up takes place in the playground and there is usually some hanging around whilst the doors open/close, inevitably this means some form of idle conversation.

Now, part of reaching the grand old age of 35 is that you know your strengths and weaknesses. I am sad to say, idle chatter is not one of my strengths – ask me anything about sworn enemies of Starfleet, warp speed and the Klingons and I could give you a sermon. But chat about the weather, where I’ve been on holiday and what’s for tea, my mind panics and I break out into a sweat.

I never quite know how to time idle chatter – do I jump in and run the risk of interrupting and come across as that shouty woman that never lets anyone finish their sentences or do I wait and then become known as mental mum who just stands and hovers, completely mute. It’s a game of strategy and one that sadly I haven’t yet mastered.

I know it’s really quite ridiculous – after all who cares? Whether I have anything to say or not isn’t going to alter the state of the universe. But it’s that old playground insecurity of being left out or being the odd one or even worse, the weird one that no one wants to stand next to, let alone speak to.

Looking around I also feel slightly inadequate, I mean so many of these mums have three children, all of which have been dressed, fed and some even have their hair beautifully plaited. This is a problem for me because when I got home from the school run (bear in mind I’d had a conversation with the teaching assistant and went on to see the doctor) I realised that I’d forgotten to put in my second earring. Had they been discreet studs it might not have mattered, but I like big, dangly ones and so it was probably pretty obvious I’d woken up and failed miserably to dress myself. I could pretend it was some grand fashion statement but looking at the rest of me, it’d be clear that it wasn’t. Great.

So our fears for our socially awkward eldest have evaporated only to be replaced by fears for her socially awkward mother…I always wondered where she got it from…

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Viva La Diva

No this isn’t about Eurovision classics. It’s a description of our youngest. Aged two and a half her motto is ‘why do something for yourself when someone else can do it for you.’ She is – put quite simply – a demanding little madam.

Yes I agree ‘it’s the parents fault.’ As the youngest she has been indulged but to counter the nature vs nurture debate, can I just say that she does have an innate manipulative streak – and I mean that in the kindest possible way.

She knows when she does wrong but she is a master manipulator. She has a skill which I can only liken to Puss in Boots in Shrek – the cat that makes his eyes as wide as saucers to entrance his enemies before annihilating them. Our little bird, the tiny well behaved, passive baby now rules not only our roost but nursery’s too.

You see, our youngest has not only managed to turn household situations to her advantage but she also has managed to engineer it so that life at nursery is one long joyride – literally. Nursery have what look like deckchairs on wheels and our youngest always manages to convince someone to wheel her around, usually whilst la diva reads a book or admires some shiny new plaything she’s discovered.

She is also a drama queen of epic proportions. She has perfected the art of mimicry and will happily shadow an entire telephone conversation, tilting her head, nodding, uh-huh-ing and ah-ha-ing in all the right places.

She adores being in the limelight, the latest scenario involved much protesting when a thunder fly smaller than tomato seed landed on her leg. There was much hand waving and then the lifting of the skirt with the leg out, tilted forward, toes pointing – the girl is a natural at live performance.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s hilarious, other times it’s a pain in the backside. Especially at the supermarket when she HAS to hold the same cheese as her sister, or she HAS to help load the conveyor belt or in town when she HAS to have that tantrum in the street, lying face down, hands and feet banging on the ground. Oh yes – that family is us – they aren’t stereotypes for no reason.

But she’s our diva and very entertaining she is to, one day when she’s collecting that Oscar, it’ll all be worth it…won’t it?

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An attempt at ‘doing exercises’

I’ve discovered I’m a really slow swimmer. I know this because for every one lap I do, everyone around me manages two. I’ve made this discovery because of my new fitness regime which has been devised in an attempt to resolve ‘mummy’s wobbly tummy’ issue.

You see, not only does mummy have two children to thank for her wobbly tummy, mummy is lucky enough to have two children who have yet to discover the art of tact. Mummy’s tummy (also fondly known as ‘jelly belly’ which is quite obviously a hilarious phrase my eldest and her sidekick have learnt from daddy) has had much bashing – literally. The children have enjoyed slapping it – no doubt to hear and see the reverberations ripple across it.

So, enough was enough and I joined a gym, where I was dutifully weighed and measured and told I was 22% fat. Which apparently is the upper most tier of fatness for my height. I politely thanked the gym instructor for that motivating fact whilst inwardly cursing that gold Lindt bunny I had consumed over Easter.

But I am not the only one ‘doing exercises’ as my eldest calls it. She has also started to do PE at preschool. From what I can gather, PE is mainly made up of star jumps, balancing things on heads and a vague attempt at juggling cups (although I suspect she made that one last one up).

However, one exercise clearly stood out as ‘the one to do’. I caught her doing a bizarre contortion of downward dog with her arms then criss crossing followed by that peculiar sideways roll action that ham actors do when escaping something life threatening in a bad movie. This, she announced was a roly poly. “Well don’t do that, you’ll break your neck” I said to which she replied “if I break my neck mummy, I’ll just be a head”.

Hmmm, I didn’t have an answer for that retort, but I guess at least she’s trying however cack-handed the attempt. A bit like my swimming – I’m trying and I’ll get there – just maybe a little slower.

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The night before Christmas……

‘It’ll get easier’. That’s what people say to me all the time about having small children. I know it will – after all it can’t get any harder surely, because that would just be unfair. Although, I’m not sure if ‘easier’ is really true. It’s just a different set of issues. The issues become less of the soiled and stained variety and more of the type of thing you actually have to do something about. One of the things that has developed is my eldest’s understanding of actions and their consequences.

So, just before Christmas my eldest came home from nursery having proudly made ‘reindeer food’ (a concoction of porridge oats and glitter) to leave out with instructions to: “sprinkle on the lawn at night so the reindeer have a path in sight” or words to that effect. The food was carefully placed to one side in preparation for Christmas Eve. That day she had also met Father Christmas who gave her a gift. This was placed under the tree.

Sadly, porridge oats delight not only reindeer. It seems dogs are partial to them too. Especially it seems when they are mixed with glitter and wrapped in cellophane with a bow. I came home from work early the following day to a scene of utter destruction. The reindeer food had gone. The cellophane ripped open and just a few lonely grains of oats lay scattered on the floor. I had one thought: the dog.

The dog was in his bed, looking as innocent as he possibly good, slowly wagging his tail. Just a little bow jauntily discarded, giving away his dreadful deed.

Now, if it were just the issue of the reindeer food that would be one thing. But no. Part of the crime scene involved nursery Father Christmas’ present. This too lay ripped open, but clearly of no edible value this lay (thankfully) intact and rather forlornly on the floor.

What do I do?! Shout at the dog, wrap up the present or re make the reindeer food? Too many options, I decided to just collect the children and break the news to my eldest.

The reaction was exactly as I expected. Otis, I explained, had found the reindeer food and decided to eat it and then open the present from Father Christmas. The reaction was instant. Tears. Lots of them and wailing. Wailing of such epic proportions it was like the world had ended.

Now, I’m not heartless but the sheer ridiculousness of it suddenly hit me and I could feel that dreadful rumble of laughter wanting to erupt out of me. I tried, I really tried but I couldn’t hold it in. I started laughing. Laughing so hard tears were rolling down my face.

The effect was instantaneous. My eldest stopped wailing and looked at me, confused. Was I laughing or crying at the shared upset of the dog having consumed the reindeer food and opening her present? With tears still making their way down my cheek I explained that the consequence of leaving the reindeer food and present at dog height was simply too irresistible an offer for a greedy Labrador.

Otis has since been regarded with deep suspicion, with all food and favourite toys being safely tucked away. I also found an interesting consequence of Otis’ consumption of the reindeer food – a very colourful, glitter laced dog poo shimmering on the lawn. A reminder that every action has a consequence and to always be prepared.

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No one likes a cry baby

So, just read an article about a mother who received a letter through her door saying: ‘You may be able to ignore your baby crying but we are tired of listening to him crying non-stop all day’. My gut instinct was to sympathise with this mother and as I read the comments of other readers on the page, my sympathy only grew.

Babies cry. It is a fact of life, all I can say is thank god we only have one neighbour and that we don’t like them very much. If everyone close to where we live posted us letters about children crying we probably wouldn’t be able to find the front door again.

Our eldest cried for what felt like ten months straight, 24 hours a day. I learnt how to peel potatoes, load laundry and pee with a baby strapped to my chest – it was the only way to peace.

In the fog of what was new parenthood I was amazed at how an otherwise, helpless being could also calculate when I was sitting as opposed to standing. Standing was good. Standing meant happiness and quiet. Sitting meant screaming and hysteria (inevitably mine). I would spend ages shimmying in front of MTV in a bid for quiet.

Our second was totally different. She slept for hours and hours only waking to feed then falling asleep, drunk on milk. It was bliss. Slightly unnerving, but we weren’t going to complain, there’s only 21 months between them and we were grateful for the rest.

Now, however our second is showing signs of definite prima Donna-isms. She wails at every – what she perceives – injustice. Namely, if she’s not allowed ‘more gwapes’ (grapes) or ‘more cheese’ or ‘more cakker’ (crackers)….you get the idea.

She cries when she’s not allowed to play tiddly winks with the cat food, she cries when she told off for cleaning the 12 ft trampoline with wet wipes. She likes to get her own way. Sadly, she has parents who like to get their own way too and so for a lot of things she gets told ‘no’ and cries.

So, I sympathise with the ‘mum who lets her child cry all day’ (which I’m sure it’s not, there must be meal breaks after all). Sometimes being a parent is about making unpopular decisions. My advice to those neighbours? Buy some ear plugs.

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To shop or not?

Is it a good idea to take your child food shopping? Discuss. I’ve just read an article debating this and I am very much in the ‘no’ camp. So imagine how much my eyes rolled when I read about one mum’s delight at taking their child supermarket shopping.

Apparently, it’s really enjoyable to teach your child about where your food has come from – yes that’s right, because all food originates in a windowless box uniformly stacked on shelves in tins and plastic wrapping. It’s important apparently for children to realise that someone has chosen their food and learn that it doesn’t just appear on the table. Indeed, someone has carefully chosen your food, a buyer in a smart office even before it’s arrived in said windowless box.

Apparently it’s fun to turn food shopping into a game and have your child select tins from the shelf and tick them off your list as you go along. Really? Who is this child? Whoever they belong to, do you want to swap?

I’ve taken my two supermarket shopping and each time I’ve vowed never to do it again. If my youngest isn’t demanding to get in the trolley, then out of it and then in again she’s probably being helpful in other ways. Like licking the shopping list so my beautifully annotated notes disappear in a soggy blur. Or my eldest announcing to no one but everyone that that she needs a wee and quite possibly ‘needs to do a poo as well’ halfway through the shop.

My children would not carefully gather tins from the shelf. They would storm the aisles, touching EVERYTHING in their path. My eldest will suddenly decide is cold in the chiller aisle (she doesn’t ‘do’ coats under any circumstances, except when we went skiing she relented and wore a fleece) and want to go home – now. Or they both insist on holding the same thing, which inevitably leads to a meltdown of epic proportions. Or we make the fatal mistake of venturing out on pension day and getting in the way of someone old and irritable.

Then there’s the checkout. This is its very own nightmare scenario. I have a 3 year old on one side and a 2 year old on the other, each wanting to put things on the conveyor belt (which they are too short to reach). I have a queue of impatient (despite having all the time in the world, or perhaps not?) elderly people behind me and a checkout assistant who is processing the trolley contents so fast she could be propelling them into space. By this time I could quite easily forget I have two children and walk straight out. So, is it a good idea to take your child food shopping? Absolutely. Definitely. Not.

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Nursery rules – ok!

There are some ground rules at nursery that our eldest has informed us of: “no running, no shouting, no biting and no opening the sandwiches!”

The first 2 rules didn’t take us much by surprise. But the ‘no biting’ and ‘no opening the sandwiches’ certainly made us do a double take. Although we were aware of the biting it’s clearly a bigger problem at nursery than we thought, especially if it warrants its own catchphrase.

We’ve had personal experience of ‘the biters’ or at least our 3 year old has. She has been bitten a few times and one bite mark took several months and a tan from a Spanish holiday to erase. The ‘no opening the sandwiches’ is an odd one and,  as we have learned, aimed at one particular child who likes to separate the sandwiches prior to selecting one to eat. Sensible perhaps? after all, we are constantly being told we can ‘try before we buy’ so some would say he is simply exercising his consumer rights.

But the most recent nursery rules have come about because our youngest has been ‘visiting’ the upper end of the nursery. Up until now they they have been separated at nursery by classrooms and fences. Now that our youngest is moving up she will now share ‘the biggie garden’ as it is called. No more baby toys and padded mats for her.

We were told at one pick up how our eldest had had a ‘moment’ when she clocked her younger sister in the same garden as her. Perhaps ‘moment’ doesn’t do it justice, it was one of those frighteningly silent episodes of sheer fury. That type of anger that rages so fiercely internally that there are no ways of communicating it to the outside world. I can understand this as this is usually how I deal with ‘situations.’ But to realise my 3 year old has inherited this trait, is slightly disturbing.

When it came to bath time that evening, my eldest decided she ‘wanted to do talking.’ She has developed a love for ‘doing talking’ from her father who ‘likes to discuss things.’ I, on the other hand, do not do talking. I, prefer to lock thoughts away in a box, only to be opened at your peril.

So the ‘mummy can we do talking’ filled me with a sudden anxiety. It transpired she wanted to discuss the discovery of her sister on ‘her turf.’ The root cause of her upset was basically that she felt her little sister was cramping her style.

Even at 3 she understands the subtleties of credibility and how hers was being crushed by the antics of her baby sister and all her baby friends. Made extra cringe worthy from her point of view by her little sister demanding cuddles every so often.

Now despite being chalk and cheese they play well at home together. At home we have nicknamed them ‘Brains and Brawn,’ eldest in age she may be but it’s definitely her smaller, younger sidekick who is in charge. Nevertheless, our eldest declares almost everyday how her little sister is her ‘best friend.’

I reminded our eldest of this ‘best friend’ statement and therefore shouldn’t she enjoy having her little sister there to play with? ‘No mummy’ she said with fierce head shaking, ‘she is only my best friend at home!’ And so there it is, the nursery rules regarding even the most ballsy of little sisters: to be seen and ignored until such time that they too can earn their nursery cred.

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A confession – of the shouty kind

I have a confession.  I am Shouty Mum.  That terrible mother that is always yelling at her kids in the car.  That dreadful mother screaming ‘don’t do that’ at the top of her voice.  That awful mother who yanks her children by the arm, dragging them away to be berated in (semi) privacy.  That is me.  It’s definitely got worse in the last few weeks, my eldest is almost three and a half and I think it is the start of what I hope will be a short phase in awkwardness, of pushing the boundaries, of her sheer bloody mindedness.   Our youngest can be equally testing, I’d like to say she is testing in smaller doses but the bottom line is that she isn’t.

Sometimes it starts first thing in the morning – at about 6.30am.  Some mornings are great and I can get up and get ready for work without any input from the little people.  Sometimes though it’s an early wakeup call of heavy breathing, sadly it’s not heavy breathing of the exciting kind.  It’s the heavy breathing of a small child who is otherwise silently staring at you whilst you are sleeping (or trying to).  Most of the time I am aware of her not so quietly coming into the bedroom, creeping over to my side of the bed and then standing next to me whilst I am intently trying to keep my eyes shut in the hope she will get bored and go away.  Unfortunately there are some days when I am not aware of how she gets into the room I am only aware that she has suddenly appeared by my side like in a badly made horror movie – being shocked out of slumber is not a good way to start the day – believe me.

The other week they were both awake….early… which meant I was not going to get my 20 minutes of getting ready in peace and quiet. It’s hard getting changed and sorted for the day ahead with two small people milling around one of which asks questions every 30 seconds.  I wouldn’t mind except our eldest never listens to the answer (where does she get that from? Clue: it’s not me) so the same question gets asked over and over and over and over again.  Not good first thing.  So there they are jabbering away about nothing I am interested in at 6.40am, the youngest one is grabbing my leg demanding duddles (cuddles) while the eldest one is screaming because I’m not answering her questions and because she too would rather like a cuddle, but it’s never just a cuddle is it? It has to be a cuddle right now – like RIGHT NOW. NOW! And so I finally lose it.  I have never shouted so loudly in my life, even I was a little aghast at the volume and level of terryfyingness I could reach.  I just wanted to be left alone.  Is it so much to ask to be able to go to the toilet/wash my face/brush my teeth without either a blow by blow account of my actions or a constant stream of demands?

Other times it is the end of the day, when everyone is tired and tempers are (even) shorter.  The last thing I need after dealing with adults behaving like 3 year olds all day (this is a whole other story which I may tell one day), is an actual three year old and her smaller, younger, but not less irritating sidekick.  I really try and be patient but sometimes it’s just too hard.  Is it just me that gets to the end of their tether? Surely other children are just as trying or are mine a special breed?  I’ve seen those decorative plaques with the sentence: “now remember, to the outside world, we’re a nice, normal family” this always makes me smile because I can totally identify with it. Although I’m sure if we were to have a sign on the door it would read something like: “Beware of the Shouty Mum” or as my eldest once gleefully said to me: “Don’t go in there, there’s a monster in there called mummy.”

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