Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Organisation......Or Lack Of It

My biggest boy, Toby, is extremely organised. So organised that at 10 years old, he does his own washing, packs his own bag for school, ensures he has all the uniform he needs for the next day and even sets himself homework if he wasn't set any! When he was younger, I had that wonderful misconception that his organisation skills were due to my excellent parenting of him. It was a blissful state to live in, knowing that my boy was so independent and loved order. I congratulated myself, as all parents do if they have first children who does something that other children haven't quite managed yet.

Then, bringing me right down from my Super-Mum cloud with a hefty thud, Max was born. Max, my inventive, creative boy who mostly seems to live on his own planet. Organisation to Max means waiting for someone else to do it. So much for my top notch parenting. I realised that my high expectations, which were met every time with Toby (and still are) needed to be slightly lowered for Max. Just ever so slightly.

Take this conversation I had with him last night as an example. Max is now 7 and I am desperately trying to teach him to put his dirty washing into the basket instead of littering it across the floor, usually from the bathroom to his bedroom, as he gets undressed.

Me: "You need to put your dirty clothes in the basket, Max."
Max: Silence
Me (trying another tack): "Which clothes are dirty and need to go in the basket?"
Max: "My jumper?"
(Now, call me a bad mother, but I attempt to make school jumpers last for at least 2 days...)
Me: "No, your jumper is fine. Which clothes can you not wear for more than one day?"
Max: "My tie?"
Tie?! Tie?!
Me (big sigh and an attempt at patience): "No, your tie is fine to wear another day. Which clothes have been right next to your skin and smelly bits all day?"
Max: "Ah! My pants and socks!"

At last! By that point I was ready to scoop up the clothes myself and put them in the basket, but I resisted.

And so my battle to teach Max to be organised continues to frustratingly rumble on. I don't expect him to ever be like Toby, because he is a different child altogether, but I would like to be able to get through breakfast without having to remind him to pick up his spoon and eat his porridge. One day, maybe.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Mealtime Moments (warning - not for the delicate)

Apart from the usual "lean over the table", "use your knife and fork", "sit on your chair properly", "that's enough ketchup, that's enough ketchup, THAT'S ENOUGH KETCHUP!" and "did you actually wash your hands?" comments over mealtimes, we now have a new difficulty to contend with.

If you have small boys, you will know that once they start to giggle about something rude, they find it extremely difficult to stop. It doesn't matter what I say, it can easily be transformed into something to giggle about. If they are like my boys, they will then go on and and on and on and on and on about that silly little thing. At that point, it isn't particularly funny anymore (if it ever was in the first place) and I begin to battle with their silliness. It's hard to put your finger on quite why this is unacceptable, but if you are a mum of boys aged between 5 and 12 (or perhaps older, but if that is the case I really don't wish to know) you will know what I am talking about.

Not only do I have to now watch my every word and action, but I have discovered that my boys have created a new code. Every body part (or at least all the rude and disgusting ones) have been assigned a fruit. For example pineapple is mouth, grapes are boys bits and coconut shells are..., well, use your imagination. So now I have to be careful even when I am talking about food because if I offer them guacamole on their tortilla, they will collapse under the table sniggering because in their code I will be asking them if they want bogeys with their meal.

After the meal, they show their appreciation Arabic style by belching as loud as they possibly can and applauding each other's efforts. If you can 'talk-burp', apparently you are highly skilled. Tonight one of my boys (who shall remain nameless), lay on the floor with his legs in the air, wafting his 'wind' (to put it politely) in everyone else's direction so they could appreciate the smell.

Why oh why oh why? Is it just my house that these awful atrocities occur? I sometimes wonder if they will ever learn manners. If they went to someone else's house would they act the same way? I don't understand why their funny things are so funny and I certainly can't comprehend why they have to spoil every meal (in my mind, in their minds the meal is probably enhanced with their 'humour').

And we wonder why families don't eat together anymore. I certainly know why and sometimes I am extremely tempted to give up and leave them in their mealtime pigsty. Tonight though, I will be eating with my husband when the boys are finally in bed. And he had better have some good manners.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

A Mother's Love

Isn't parenting a funny old thing? Swinging like a monkey in the treetops from one emotion to another, I muddle through each day, wondering how (or when, or if) it is going to end.

Take Monday evening, for example. Max was due to go to his piano lesson after tea. Except that after tea, he hit his brother, shouted at me and then told me he wasn't going to his lesson. He sat on the stairs, crying and wailing, with his "I am going to be stubborn about this" look on his face. I felt so irritated with him. He had (unusually) practiced his piece that week, and beforehand was really excited about showing his teacher what he had practiced. I asked him to put on his shoes (not in the most gentle voice, I admit). I asked him again, and then I asked him again. Eventually his shoes were put on. I told him to put on his coat. He refused. I told him it was -4 outside. He still refused. I decided not to fight that battle. If he had chosen not to put on his coat, then he would have to put up with the consequences. I told him this (still without that gentle and loving tone in my voice). When we stepped outside and I tried to gloat about how cold it was, he told me he wasn't cold.

All my bristles were rubbed up the wrong way. Inside, I was seething. All I wanted was for him to go to bed early and stay away from me before a major incident occured and the neighbours called Social Services. Sometimes, (shock, horror - is it right for a mother to admit this?)I really dislike my children.

Arriving at his piano lesson, he suddenly transformed into a different boy. Smiling, pleasant, making little jokes. Who was this child? He certainly wasn't the one I had left the house with. He sat down and began to play his piece. Suddenly, the angry, resentful (and let's be honest, childishly indulgent)and irritated feelings were replaced by joy, pride and love. He played so well and I was so proud of the hard work he had put into practising. When we left the lesson, I was feeling so full of love and tenderness towards him. Early bedtime? I could have kept him up all night listening to him!(Well, that is a small exaggeration, but another half hour would have done the trick).

How do our children do this to us? Perhaps it is just me who swings from being ready to lock myself away in a padded room to wanting to embrace my boys and let them clamber all over me, kissing them and cuddling them for eternity. Love is fiercely passionate. I love my boys with an almost primitive, ferocious passion. Yet sometimes (like now for example, when I am sorting out the "Muuuum, Max is putting his feet on me!" argument), they exasperate me.

And how does the day end? Once the irritation-inducing teatime, reading books, bathtime, sorting out clothes, bags and lunches for the next day and bedtime battles are all over, the house is beautifully peaceful. Before going to bed, I check on them. Their sleeping faces are so innocent, so peaceful, so full of promise. The day's battles are forgiven. My love is restored once again. Until the morning comes.... and then we begin all over again....

Friday, 3 February 2012

Afternoons with the 4 year old Commander

We walk through the door after Jonah's morning at nursery and he gives me his orders:

"You can chop up my apple, make me a cracker and a drink and I will see if the chickens have laid any eggs."

Sometimes it's like living with a dictator in the house. Of course, I follow his orders to the letter. After a morning at work chasing toddlers around the last thing I want is for him to drop dramatically to the floor, wailing because I have not done everything perfectly. I know this doesn't help matters, but sometimes we do anything for an easy life (or is that just me?).

I position him with said snack in front of the television, change my clothes and attempt to be quiet so that he does not bark any more commands at me. I succeed for about 20 minutes - quite good going really. Sometimes I manage a whole half hour if I am quiet enough and he is engrossed in his programme, sometimes I make the mistake of walking past the door too slowly and he sees me.

The next request was to play on my computer. I don't mind this too much. I can convince myself that Cbeebies is an educational website. What I do mind is that he cannot wait for anything to load.

Jonah: "I want to play Charlie and Lola."
Me: "Ok, well you have to wait a few seconds for it to come up."
Jonah: "I want to play Charlie and Lola."
Me: "Yes, I know, but you have to wait a minute."
Me: (biting my tongue before I ask him whether he is deaf or just choosing not to listen to me) "It is coming, you just have to wait."

Thankfully and seemingly more slowly than usual the game eventually loads onto the screen and after I have shown him which buttons to press, and then shown him again when he presses the wrong ones (but pushes my hand away because he, of course, is right. How dare I suggest otherwise?)we are settled again for another few minutes.

I escape off again, only to be recalled a few minutes later when he suddenly starts loading Adobe Reader, Flash player or something else onto my computer.

After a while of computer bashing, I decide to play the good mother and turn the screen off. Scary, I know. Sometimes I try. Often it backfires but at least I have tried.

We empty out the duplo box and find a Baddie, a little boy and a 'King'. We also need some sheep, but because we don't have any sheep, a dragon does the job perfectly. With our duplo we act out David and Goliath, several times over. By the third repeat, the story seemed amazingly to skip very quickly to the part where David chops off Goliath's head. Goliath was not called Goliath though. Oh no, he was called Gladiator. Sometimes it's better not to argue - the story is going in and that's the best I can manage!

Once Gladiator is dead for the third time, the duplo and the dragon-sheep are all put away in the box and my least favourite toy is dragged into the lounge. The pop up tent. Ugh. I hate it. It is never used as a tent. Why use something for the purpose it was made for when you can imagine all kinds of other purposes? I blame myself of course. If I had not encouraged imagination then they might actually play with toys properly. Instead, we get tents that are used like hamster wheels, dragons that are sheep and rolled up pieces of paper scattered all over the house which are telescopes, swords, guns and other such like.

Often I find myself longing for September when Jonah begins school. Often I try everything I can to make him play on his own without me. Occasionally I realise that my little boy is going in September. These are my last few months with him. I should treasure these moments of orders being barked, of Gladiator's heads being chopped off and of duplo towers that are bigger than me. I should make the most of his little hand in mine (rare even now - most of the time he wrestles it back out again). Instead of inwardly sighing when he asks to play the matching cards game for the 5th time in 2 days, I should smile and attempt to enjoy those moments. They will soon be gone. My last little boy is growing up, and soon he will be lost in the school system. It is taking all my will power and determination, but despite the barked orders, the whinging sound of "I don't know what to doooooo" and my boredom of playing the same things over and over again, I am going to make the most of these last few months. I have so much to give to my little Commander before he is swallowed up by the system and commanded by someone else.