Thursday, 20 November 2014
Parenting books. The bookshops are flooded with them. And I was an avid and naive reader of them until I realised one thing. They weren't about my child.
Here are the things parenting books don't tell you:
1. When you have tried the controlled crying, the 'shhh pat' method (yes, it really exists and yes, I really did try it), co-sleeping, rapid return, gradual withdrawal and all sorts of other ways of making your baby sleep at night and NONE of them work, you have not failed.
2. Sometimes ignoring a toddler's tantrum involves allowing them to follow you around the house screaming for hours on end. Wear ear plugs.
3. You cannot force a baby to open their mouth when you are trying to feed them mushed up, snot-looking puréed broccoli. It just goes all over their face instead and adds to the smeared bogey already on their cheek.
4. Some babies hate lying on their stomachs for 'tummy time'. They will still be able to sit, talk, walk and do their GCSE's.
5. I have never met a child who likes to stay still on the 'naughty step'. Instead the battle then becomes 'stay on the naughty step or you will have to sit on the naughty step'. What? Exactly.
6. Despite trying all the advice given to you, sometimes you will still feel like the worst mother in the world and you will want to run, screaming and flinging your arms around, out of the house. In those moments, lock yourself in the bathroom. If you haven't got a lock on your bathroom door for safety's sake, get one for your own safety.
7. When you leave your children to learn negotiation skills during an argument, expect to have to physically pull them apart seconds later when they are punching and kicking each other.
8. I'm all for consequences, but make sure the consequences you give aren't more of a punishment for you. Never, for example, ban screen time while you are making the tea.
9. Expect to be an expert on all alien body parts. You will need to know how to answer statements such as 'Mum, my penis is keeping me awake.'
10. Spending 'quality time' with your children is very important. But don't expect this to affect their behaviour. They will continue to moan and cry at you, despite the fact that you have spent hours following intricate Lego instructions with them.
11. Some days your parenting brainwaves will work, and some days they will not. All you can do is pick yourself up, dust off the insults hurled and the broken promises, and carry on.
And I've only done 13 years. After all this, the next 13 are going to be a breeze, surely?
Saturday, 15 November 2014
Since when was Christmas about sentimental adverts?
Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas. I enjoy spending time with family. I love the excited squeals as my boys open their presents. I enjoy the chocolate. And the rest of the food, of course.
But these adverts? They are a bizarre phenomenon to me. Sneaking their way into Christmas tradition with their clever marketing, they somehow have become part of our modern day advent. We all know Christmas is on the way when we see the soppy adverts populating our screens.
And do we really think that the big companies are just making these adverts so that we can enjoy Christmas more? Are they simply to add to the excitement of Christmas? Call me cynical, but they are out to make more money. They make these adverts to change the way we think about their products, so that we suddenly can't have Christmas without them despite the fact that we have managed pretty well without them for the rest of our lives.
We can all have a little smile and sigh at Monty the penguin, and we can feel nice on the inside about enemies playing football together, but I refuse to be sucked into their attempts to make themselves at home in my Christmas. They are what they are - adverts to encourage us to spend our money. No more, no less. And they may be sweetly perfumed, but to me they smell of the ugly whiff of consumerism which gobbles it's greedy way through our Christmases.
But that's just me.
Tuesday, 4 November 2014
Eleven years ago, around this time, we would have been meeting our very own little firework. Anticipated with excitement, this child was given to us and then, just as a firework disappears into a thin mist, was taken away again.
A cruel word that somehow denotes failure on the part of the mother. Did I carry the child wrongly? Did I make a mistake?
It's not a word that can ever convey the stomach punching, gasping for air shock when the sonographer looks at you over the top of her glasses and tells you that your baby has died.
It's not a word that explains the raw pain, like pouring vinegar on an open wound, as you come to terms with the fact that your child, safe and protected inside you is no longer safe.
It can never explain the sudden emptiness inside as you contemplate the fact that this life, once growing, has now gone.
This word cannot be weighted with the sadness that comes from knowing you will never hold your child, never rock them to sleep, never kiss the graze on their knee, never despair with their homework and never watch them grow taller than you.
It doesn't warn you of the sadness which lingers, years afterwards or of the confusion as you have other children and think of the 'what ifs'.
It doesn't tell of the empty space in your family, and it doesn't give you permission to include in your number of children another one you've never met.
The word doesn't alert you to the anxiety you will feel in subsequent pregnancies, obsessively checking to make sure this one is a keeper.
It doesn't allow you to grieve as you would for a child you had held, despite the fact that you already had given your heart in love to this tiny soul growing inside. Your private grief cannot be shared because no-one else loved your child yet.
This one word, used so often and sometimes so flippantly, will never sum up the devastating anguish which rips apart your world.
And yet, as time moves on in its frenetic way, the tenderness of the pain passes, becoming a sadness and then simply a hollowness. There is a space in our family and in my heart for this child, and I miss them.
And so, as I watch the fireworks I remember our other child, the one who is missing, and I am grateful. I'm thankful for all that has passed and for our boys, given to us in the here and now, for us to love, train and make happy memories with.