What is the Perfect Age Gap Between Having Children?

If you knew me and my husband you would know that we didn’t exactly meticulously plan out when we were going to have our children. If we had, we may be considerably better off financially (because of visas we were on and working arrangements at the time). At the age of 33, I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and given a rather gloomy prognosis from the specialist. He informed me that it could take as long as 10 years for someone with my condition to conceive and wellit might never happen.

I was devastated and left the clinic in tears. The one thing I’d always been absolute on was my desire to have a family.

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Why Waking A Sleeping Child Is A Little Bit Like Child Birth

Waking a sleeping child is a little bit like child birth. You know you have to do it, you know it’s going to hurt a bit and change the status quo but it will be worth it in the end!

My 2 girls have generally been good at going down for day sleeps. Usually, when they go…they are gone. Into a deep, peaceful, silent sleep. As much as I adore my 2 bundles of delicious cheeky chattering children – I also adore these day time sleeps and the peace and quiet this time offers me.

I often become like a woman possessed, running around desperately trying to get all of my jobs done as quickly as possible in the hope that I can have some precious and rare ‘me time’.  If I manage to achieve this, I sit down and either do some writing, enjoy some lunch without the children climbing on top of me and taking food off my plate or out of my mouth, chat to a friend or my husband on the phone without screaming children in the background or now and again I have been known to have a sneaky siesta.

I don’t mind admitting that I’m a little bit in love with day time sleeps!

The problem with daytime sleeps is that often my children would sleep all day if I allowed it (probably as a result of refusing to go to bed at a reasonable time or being up during the previous night). I have to confess there are certainly occasions when I have considered leaving them to sleep all day as I’m enjoying a snippet of relaxation in my usually chaotic and noisy life.  The reason this is a problem is that if they did sleep all day, as I’m sure every other parent is aware – there would not be a great deal of sleep happening for anyone that night.

Occasionally I have been known to let them sleep a little longer than the agreed time limits my husband and I have discussed (I don’t usually volunteer this information to him when he comes home later wondering why they don’t seem even slightly tired, running around like little grenades and climbing all over us, each other and the walls).

As the end of their day time sleep approaches I anxiously and continually glance at the time, wishing that (for today at least), it could just go a little slower than usual. I leave it to the absolute last-minute possible before accepting that my quiet time is over for the day. Once I’ve dragged myself up from the comfy couch, away from my laptop or even harder from my snuggly afternoon siesta,  I rather reluctantly begin my approach to wherever they are sleeping (my 3-year-old tends to have her day sleep on the sofa). Such a big part of me is desperate not to do what I am about to do.

IMG_3188.JPGI step away – for a second. As quickly as I step away I am reminded of the many nights when they have refused to go to bed and/or been up several times in the night. I know what it is I must do. I feel like I’m attempting to jump off a very high and slightly scary diving board. I will get there, I’m just taking a moment…to appreciate the calm before the storm.

I move back towards my sleeping child and this time I say their name a little louder, giving them a slightly more forceful stroke/shake. “Wake up baby, it’s time to get up now”. This tends to be met with a few grunts, as they retract and shrug me off them. My inner voice cranks up again, “This is so wrong, it feels wrong, they obviously need the sleep. She did have a bit of a cold earlier. Maybe she’s poorly and needs a bit longer today?” Hmmmm, pause. I look at the clock again. Already 10 minutes over the agreed time limit. Sh*t. Taking control of the situation I become a little more insistent/brutal. I draw the curtains back forcefully as I sing/shout out “time to get up girls, wakey wakey”.

Their eyes slowly open one by one as they sleepily rub them and start to move their little bodies around. Sometimes they just lie in the same position for a while with their eyes open, playing with the label on their teddy bear or sucking forcefully on a dummy. Each time I approach they recoil. They often cry – for the next half an hour. It’s very rare that I’m met with a big smile and look of “Hi mummy, thanks so much for waking us up – we really love you”. Nope, I generally feel like Cruella Deville which I find rather ironic considering I didn’t really want to wake them up in the first place.

I have to wait until they are ready before I can lift them out of the cot or from the sofa to give them a cuddle, the timeframe for this varies from day-to-day and child to child.

Now and again they wake up of their own accord. Is it wrong to admit that my heart does sink a little bit as I hear them cry out “Mummy, Mummy, Mummy”? I reluctantly accept that my precious and rare ‘me time’ has come to an abrupt end (this is especially disappointing if they haven’t met their full sleep quota – on these occasions I feel a tad cheated).

Once I have accepted that quiet time is over for the day and all the grumpy sleepiness has evaporated, the day begins again as it did that morning. With fun, laughter, cuddles, tears, tantrums, noise and so much love…..I soon forget my need for solace as I embrace the joy my children give me and remind myself…….there’s always tomorrow!

 

 

Risky Business

I often find myself performing a quick risk assessment when my children appear to be happily amusing themselves. The fact that they are amusing themselves is rare. Aware that it may offer me 5 minutes peace and quiet or the ability to do some cooking or speak on the phone without them hanging off me, has meant that occasionally whilst I’ve noticed that what they are doing or playing with would not exactly be my ideal choice, I’ve been prepared to let it go.

An example of this is a few months ago.  I was in the shower, my now 19 month old daughter, pulled all of the contents of the usually child locked bathroom cabinet out and sat happily playing with a box of tampons. At first I was somewhat horrified that she was playing with something so inappropriate. Although they were of course all still in their wrappers I had the sudden thought my head often gets filled with of ‘what if?’.’ What if she puts one in her mouth, the plastic comes off, she swallows it and then it expands inside her?’ Of course, I’m fairly sure the chance of this actually happening is less than zero, however the thought still weirdly found a moment of time in my head.

I rationalised my concerns, accepting that it was highly unlikely and if it did happen I would be able to see and could step in quickly. I concluded my risk assessment with the acceptance that whilst tampons wouldn’t exactly be my first choice of toy for her, she was happy and it bought me an extra few minutes shower time. These precious extra minutes enabled me the luxury of shaving my legs – a treat usually saved for weekends only when daddy is around.

In my head there are many things that I thought I’d have not allowed my girls to do:

  • Eat food off the floor when out and about
  • Walk on walls
  • Eat food in the pram, car seat, on the sofa
  • Eat food such as bolognaise without being bibbed up and chained down
  • Play with the box of condoms they found in the drawer next to the bed
  • Put shoes in their mouths
  • Eat sand
  • Wipe their own bottoms
  • Eldest daughter feed/shove food into her baby sisters mouth (something that made them both roar with laughter)
  • Eat all of that chocolate
  • Eat all of that chocolate whilst wearing that beautiful dress
  • Scribble in our brand new notebook which is now 400 pages of squiggles
  • Play my biro instead of their washable pens whilst I was on the phone so they and every item of furniture is covered in pen.
  • Play with my phone whilst I was on the toilet which they have now dropped on the hard toilet floor
  • Unroll all of the toilet roll whilst I was on the toilet
  • Pour water everywhere whilst I was cooking in the kitchen (but they did sound like they were having so much fun)
  • Eat all of those hot chips that were covered in salt – with red sauce
  • Bang the remote control on the table
  • Both stand on precariously wobbly children’s toys so that they can both reach the sink and brush their teeth at the exact same time
  • Play hide and seek together in the curtains which does often result in a few head bumps but provides them with hours of entertainment and giggles.

The daily risk assessment list is endless.

image

I remember a couple of instances in particular where my risk assessment failed:

The first one was when my youngest was about 8 months old.  I’d decided to give her some nappy off time. She had just done a poo, therefore my risk assessment concluded it was safe. I was enjoying a moment of freedom, cooking in the kitchen with both hands and no children on my feet. I looked over my shoulder regularly to check she was ok and whilst I couldn’t see her face I could hear her contentedly gurgling away. I continued to enjoy the time to complete whatever it was I was doing, relaxed in the knowledge that she was safe and happy. When I’d completed my cooking I walked over to her to give her some attention. As I approached her I was horrified to see what it was that she was playing with was actually s***t! I got there just in time as she had her hand raised and headed in the direction of her grinning mouth.

The other occasion that springs to mind when she was around 5-6 months and not yet crawling. I was at the playground with her and my 2 year old. I placed her on the soft padded ground by the climbing frame. I performed my usual risk assessment, scanning the area to check there were no small parts she could put in her mouth. Clear. Risk assessment passed. The risk assessment for my 2 year old highlighted a few more potential hazards so I focussed my attention on her. When I looked back at my baby I noticed something small and brown on the ground beside her. That’s strange, I was certain there wasn’t anything there before. As I approached the small brown thing I was horrified to see it was part of a dead cockroach. PART OF ONE!! What had happened to the rest of it? I looked at my beautiful baby, sitting there so innocently, and thought I might be sick. No! Had she eaten the other part of it? I will never know.

Risk assessments play a big part of my daily life with 2 such young children. I will of course always do my utmost to keep them safe from harm. However I’m sure there will be many more moments where what they are doing is far from appropriate or ideal yet if it makes them happy and gives me a break for 5 minute the repercussions are probably worth it!

 

 

The Gift Of A Sister

Being one of 3 girls, I know what it’s like to have sisters. Growing up there were the obligatory fights and sibling rivalry however there were also hours spent happily together playing princesses, producing theatrical shows for our parents to watch and plotting our escape in order to run away together. As the youngest of the three, I tended to keep out of some of the heavier disagreements that ensued as my elder siblings went through their teenage years of angst and insecurity together. It wasn’t a conscious decision not to hang out with them much during that time, I was younger and not able to do many of the things they did, but I do remember witnessing some of the fights they had about clothes swapping/stealing and boys and was relieved not to be involved.

Regardless of what disagreements have taken place between the 3 of us over the years there is one fact that remains constant – we love each other and would protect and stand up for each other no matter what. Throughout our adult years we have shown solidarity towards each other at times of need and I have come to realise that one of the best presents my parents ever gave me was sisters.

When I found out that I was having another girl only 18 months apart from her older sister, I was ecstatic. To be able to give my first born the gift of a sister felt wonderful. I’m not saying a brother wouldn’t have been equally wonderful but I have no understanding of that. I hoped (and still do hope), that they will be best friends and show each other the same loyalty through times of need as I’ve experienced.

My eldest was 18 months when her sister was born, still pretty much a baby herself she didn’t really know what was going on. Now that she is three I have really started to see the bond between them developing and its heart melting stuff.

When the eldest has to be woken from sleep, it’s not a pretty sight. She grunts and groans, moans and sometimes screams. However, if I send her sister in to wake her up, she’s a different child. Squealing with joy and delight as her sister swipes her over the head with her chubby toddler arms. It seems she can get away with behaving in a way that no other being on the planet could do. When one is crying the other will rush to comfort them. Often it’s more of a rugby tackle to the ground and sometimes it will result in tears but the sentiment is there.

The youngest insists on doing everything her older sister does no matter how ridiculous, inappropriate or dangerous it is. Every day she attempts to put her sisters knickers on over her nappy, climb up on the sofa or high walls (much to my distress) and brush her teeth at the exact same time as her sister whilst both trying to fit precariously on a small activity table in order to reach the sink. As she is too young for toothpaste I perform the same ritual each day, pretending to put some of her sister’s toothpaste on her toothbrush.

It’s not just the youngest who looks up to and worships her sister. This love and adoration is reciprocated by the eldest and she too likes to copy her sister. She tells me at least 20 times every day “I love my sister, so much mummy”, “my little sister’s my best friend mummy” and although she does tell me that Daddy and myself are her best friends too, if she has lost favour with us the label is quick to be withdrawn. To date it’s never been withdrawn about her sister even though she takes her toys, food and often hurts her as she whacks her with a doll, pushes her off a wall giggling or pulls her hair. When the eldest goes to bed she needs to know which way her sister’s head is facing so that she can be the same.

We’ve been lucky to have our in-laws visit us in Australia from the UK for 5 weeks over the Christmas period. There were quite a few days they took my eldest for a few hours which meant some quality time for me and the youngest. As much as I appreciated the break with only one toddler to look after, I could see how much she missed her older sister. Often she would cry when her sister left then toddle around the house looking lost. She kind of got over it when she realised she could play with every single toy in the house and it would remain in her possession for as long as she wished it to. However, I sensed that this revelation was short-lived and didn’t compensate for the companionship and fun of being with her sister. The minute they were re-united they couldn’t have looked happier; the snatching toys and food, over-zealous cuddling, copying each other and giggling immediately returned.

They are young and I’m very aware that as the grow up together there will be many ups and downs in their relationship as they try to establish themselves and find their way in the world. They will no doubt experience many of the emotions me and my sisters have done through the years such as jealousy, anger, love and sometimes even hate. I’d love them to be best friends but I know that I can’t force that to happen, I will just have to step back and observe (perhaps attempting to steer sometimes) as their relationship develops over the coming years.

 

 

 

Pink Pear Bear

An appreciation of routines and rules

I always thought I would be a relaxed Mum. Not too bound and restricted by routines and rules, allowing my children to grow and develop into their own little personalities. Well I got half of that right, they certainly have their own personalities.  I’ve learnt, and am reminded daily, that my children like and need routines and consistency. The minute their routine is messed with, we give in to their demands or there are significant changes to their environment, all hell breaks loose.

Our eldest (2.5 years old) daughter has always been good at going to bed. One night we decided to put her in the room with her baby sister, this is our dream, to have as a permanent arrangement. She was excited super excited, she refers to this room as “the holiday bedroom” as we have the travel cot in there.

Well, we won’t be trying that again for a while/ever!

The baby woke up screaming at 1am. This caused our eldest to wake up not long after looking petrified, she then proceeded to join in the screamathon. Consequently instead of having one screaming child to contend with throughout the night we had two. Eventually we were able to calm both girls down and by about 4am they were both asleep in separate bedrooms. Despite this rather distressing night she still asks daily if she can sleep in “the holiday bedroom”, at least my response is consistent.

There are many times she will insist on doing something that we know she is physically unable to do. However no amount of explanation will make a determined and stubborn 2.5 year old see sense. Yesterday she demanded to push the double pram uphill with the baby in it. When I said no, for obvious reasons, she performed a terrifying tantrum that would have you quaking in your boots. In the end I thought maybe allowing her to try may help her realise herself that she couldn’t do it (without the pram rolling backwards and mowing her over). Ensuring I was stood closely behind to prevent any squashed children or damaged cars, I let her try. She leant all her weight on the pram, as expected it started to roll backwards. I put my hand out to help but it was instantly pushed away with a slap and cries of,

“Noooooooo. I wanna do it, I wanna do it”

Surprisingly she did manage to hold it in place, preventing it running her over, but no matter how hard she pushed her little legs bent as low as they could go, she couldn’t get it to budge. After a few minutes watching her struggle I suggested,

“You are doing ever such a good job sweetheart, it is a very heavy pram after all. How about we do it together now?”

If looks could kill! Never before has an offer of help been met with such utter disgust.

“I wanna do it, I wanna do it, get off now” she screamed at me, tears pouring down her face.

The more she tried, the more frustrated she got and the more she screamed.

After about 10 minutes of this game I decided enough was enough, I’d like to get home this side of Christmas and quite honestly this was a totally ridiculous situation. I went to pick her up, resulting in a wrestling match. This was not the first time, and I know it won’t be the last time, I was forced to carry her home under my arm. Her little legs and arms flapping around, screaming at the top of her lungs whilst I’m trying to navigate pushing the double pram uphill.

This particular tantrum continued when we arrived home for at least 20 minutes, no amount of me doing silly faces or dancing around the lounge like a horsey was going to put an end to it. Only one thing for it, thank goodness for Frozen.

What’s worse about this story is today the exact same thing happened, this time with the single pram. I had the baby in the carrier. She began peppering me with the usual demands,

”I wanna push the pram, I wanna push the pram”

Feeling rather frazzled and worn down from it all I relented. Allowing her to try it as it was a flat surface and single pram so I thought may be easier (when will I learn, once you let them try something they want to do it every time?).  All was going swimmingly until we got to the hill. A repeat of yesterday’s performance ensued. No matter how hard she pushed, it wasn’t budging. As soon as I offered help I was met with the same look of disgust, screaming and tears. Today I was in no real hurry so decided to park my bum on the pavement next to her and wait until the tantrum had ended and she had calmed down. At this point she hid underneath the pram.

Mexican stand-off
Mexican stand-off

The next second the pram fell over and the Mexican stand-off was over. The shock making her weirdly calmer and in need of Mummy again.  Does this now mean she has learnt that pushing big prams is dangerous for little people? I suspect not but at least it put an end to the drama for today.

This last week her tantrums have been particularly horrendous. There have been three main periods in her life when she has had these ear piercingly terrifying tantrums:

  •  Just after her baby sister was born. My husband had returned to work. She’d gone from receiving our devoted attention pre-baby, to all of my husbands and her grandparents who were visiting’s attention to  just me and having to share me with her sister. One occasion she had fallen and hurt herself at the playground, I tried to console her, resulting in her running away screaming “Nooooooooooooooooooooo” at the top of her lungs. I swear it looked as though I was trying to kidnap her.
  • A few months ago when I was rushed into hospital for an emergency operation, staying away for a few nights and then away again the following week at sleep school with her sister. Apparently she performed an epic 45 minute tantrum when her Dad tried to get her out of the bath. Preferring to sit in an empty bath in the freezing cold (middle of winter) for the duration of the tantrum.
  • My husband had recently been around more for 3 months whilst setting up a business. Now he is leaving the house every day again she is stuck sharing Mummy again.

All 3 of these occasions are when there has been a considerable amount of stress or change happening in our family.

At Christmas we took a trip back to the UK with, shock horror, ‘2 under 2’. It was meant to be a holiday but felt more like an endurance test. It was the hardest few weeks I can remember. On the one hand it was of course wonderful to be reunited with our families and friends. For months we had looked forward to spending our first Christmas in 4 years back home. I was full of romantic notions of a white, cold Christmas, drinking mulled wine and chatting around log fires whilst our children played with their cousins and grandparents.

Unfortunately the first hurdle was a 27 hour flight with 2 kids under 2. My husband definitely drew the short straw as he was left to deal with the toddler (I’m breastfeeding so it was only right I had the baby – of course).

Basically we took a 3 month old baby and a 23 month old toddler out of their usual routines, into a confined space, with no seat for the toddler, for 27 hours. Mmmmmm, so many things wrong with that scenario.

Every time the seatbelt sign flashed on the flight attendant instructed me to lift the baby out of the bassinet. This consequently woke her up several times after I’d  just managed to get to sleep. So frustrating.

Meanwhile my husband was wrestling our eldest, attempting to pin her down on his lap. She thought this was a great game as she climbed over seats, under people’s  legs and down the aisle into business class to escape. I could see my husband’s patience dwindling as the air stewardess came over to U.S. again, a forced smile on her face,

“Sir, please could I ask you to put your daughter on your lap with her seatbelt on”.

The fourth time she said it, all his restraint gone, he sarcastically suggested

“Perhaps you’d like to try?”

She didn’t bother us again after that.

On arriving in the UK we had a week of jet lag to deal with. Our eldest, usually a wonderful sleeper, was waking throughout the night ready to start the day. First time midnight then 1am, 2am, 3am etc. It took 5 nights before it started to be a more acceptable 5am. The only way we could get her to stay calm and not run around waking everyone else up at my in-laws house was playing Peppa Pig on repeat.

I swear if I hear ‘da, da, da, da, daaaa, da, da da da da da’ or ‘Peppa and George are off to see Dr Elephant” one more time, I might actually shoot myself.

After the week of jet lag, we all got sick. Just as we were starting to feel better, getting back in the swing of things, it was time to leave. We had to deal with the journey and jet lag all over again, minus the family help.

These situations have given me an appreciation and new found respect for routines and rules when it comes to toddlers. They are a winner for all involved. Our little ones can’t actually cope with too much change in their daily lives. If we falter from the norm they get confused and often feel unsettled. They expect that every time, not understanding why it can’t be so and creating havoc when their demands aren’t met.

 

 

What goes in must come out

No blog involving children would be complete without some discussion around toilet habits. From the beginning of their tiny lives there is so much to learn and so much mess and work involved around this subject.

When my first child was born one of my initial learnings as a new mother was that their very first poo was black and sticky like tar, something that came as rather a surprise. Then comes the yellow, sweet-smelling, seedy, mustard like breast milk poo. Initially this yellow poo filled me with an enormous amount of pride. As I watched her grow, the more yellow mustard there was the more I could see how I was responsible for that. I even liked the smell of it, perhaps blinded by love as my husband didn’t exactly share this sentiment with me.

There were literally millions of nappy changes in those early days when they have  zero control over their bodily functions. Many resulted in us getting a splattering, quite often a hat-trick of wee, poo and sick. Initially I felt like all I was doing was feeding and nappy changes, well that actually was pretty much all I was doing. My pride in the amount of yellow poo my first baby did rapidly dwindling as it felt like a battle I was never going to win. This was exacerbated when more often than not it would seep out around the edges of the nappy, onto the brand new outfit I’d just spent half an hour dressing her in. It would then inevitably end up leaving a wet yellow patch on whatever I was wearing too.

One day whilst sitting in Bondi breastfeeding my second daughter the usual explosion  happened. I never forget the look of shock on my friends face (she doesn’t have children yet), horrified she exclaimed;

‘Oh my god, is that normal? Is it meant to be that colour?”

I was also totally ignorant of this fact until I had the girls.

On finishing the feed I cleaned and changed the baby. Of course despite bringing 5000 outfits for her and everything else I may or may not need in the event of a crisis, I hadn’t packed any spare clothes for myself. I then spent the remainder of the day walking around Bondi covered in yellow s***t. Not that this was a particularly unusual phenomenon. I don’t wish to sound like a martyr but in order to leave the house all my energy is spent getting the girls ready and packing for their needs. Just yesterday I walked out of the house forgetting to put my shoes on.

Since becoming a Mum (particularly now I’m a Mum of 2), I have realised that it’s often a choice between brushing my teeth or my hair in the morning and more often than not neither of those things happen. Gone are the days of washing and blow drying my hair every day and as for wearing make-up, well that’s saved for very special occasions.

Just as the volume of dirty nappies that required changing finally began to decline, along came the seriously bad ass ones, once the girls started eating solids. Then it’s usually a process of bribery and negotiation between myself and my husband as to who’s turn it should be.

Another thing I was not aware of pre-babies is the fact that their poo changes so much in consistency, colour and smell when they are teething. As if it weren’t already pretty vile to deal with, it gets even worse when they start teething and this can continue on and off for several months. Not a particularly pleasant experience for anyone involved.

With only 18 months between the girls, after the first few months of my youngest’s life and thousands of nappies later, I made a concerted effort to embark on potty training asap with the eldest. Lots of my friends commented how impressed they were at me cracking on with it so soon, with her being so young. To be honest it was purely selfish, I’d quite literally had my ‘fill’ of nappy changing.

Once my first daughter was able to crawl she became a creature of habit when it came to number 2’s. Generally seeking solace under a table or chair or in a quiet corner. We now have a potty in one of the corners in our lounge that she used to frequent as she’s finally out of nappies (hoorah). I find her potty time quite interesting. She has certain things she likes to take with her to the potty and if she forgets to take them she will demand we deliver them to her. We are then, in no uncertain terms, instructed to ‘go away’, leaving her playing, chatting and letting out the occasional grunt or straining noise. This is slightly distracting and a little awkward when we have friends over.

Potty Time
Potty Time

On the whole my first experience of potty training has gone ok (although I have nothing to benchmark it against). That said, there have certainly been accidents and consequently heaps of lessons I’ve learnt along the way.

Apparently in order for children not to get a complex about going to the toilet you aren’t supposed to get cross with them when they have an accident or show any kind of negative reaction about the smell or look of their poo regardless of how colourful or foul-smelling they may be. This can prove somewhat challenging to say the least. The other day my toddler stood up from her potty and did her usual routine of bending over, bare bum in air, shouting;

”you need to get a wipe  Mummy”

Mid-wipe, as I glanced over her shoulder into the potty I was shocked to see the contents of the potty were bright green, I’m talking luminous bright green.

”Wow”, I blurted out before I could stop myself.

Her eyes darted towards the potty and as soon as she saw the contents she burst into tears looking confused and panic-stricken.  I guess this is why they say not to react. I soon realised what the culprit was. A wonderful Lego rainbow birthday cake with bright green icing that she’d been devouring the day before at a friend’s son’s birthday party. Phew, one less trip to the Dr’s this month.

Fabulous rainbow birthday cake
Fabulous rainbow birthday cake

When I started potty training I naively failed to consider that once they are no longer in nappies the urge for the toilet can occur at any given moment. At the age of 2 they don’t have self-control as we do (or did pre-giving birth). When they say they need to go it’s not usually imminent, it’s IMMEDIATE. This sounds obvious now I think about it. At the time, with a 3 month old and 2-year-old in tow, I was literally drowning in nappies. I didn’t consider the inconvenience of having to find a toilet at a moments notice. At home she had got used to taking herself off to her corner and sitting on the potty when the need arose. However when we were out and about, with no potty in sight,  she often (and usually at the most inopportune moment) would halt to a stop, look up at me and utter the words ‘wee wee’. No matter how stealth like I was in getting to her, it was usually too late. Nothing I could do except to look on in dismay as the dampness seeped out, spreading through her clothes and trickling down her legs. I no longer make the mistake of leaving the house without spare clothes for her and ALWAYS insist on a toilet visit before leaving the house no matter how much she protests.

One of the battles I had with her was trying to explain that when we were out and about, if we were unable to locate a toilet quickly enough, it was ok to go behind a tree or in the bushes. I can see how this was terribly confusing for her given she was constantly being reminded that she should only go to the toilet in the potty or on the toilet. Fearing we weren’t going to make it to the toilet in time I would often run with her kicking and screaming to a nearby bush. As soon as I pulled her pants down, like clockwork her need for the toilet magically disappeared.  Giving up the battle we would return to the playground. 5 minutes later she’d wet herself.

One day it became abundantly clear that she had got over the issue of going to the toilet outside. We were at the local playground when she ground to a halt, pulled her pants down and proudly announced ‘poo poo’. Mortified and looking around to see if anyone had noticed, I yanked my poor baby from my boob where she’d been happily sucking away resulting in hysterical screaming from her, and legged it to where my toddler was crouching. Attempting, rather unsuccessfully I’m sure, to hide her from view until she’d completed her deed and then desperately tried to clear it away as discretely as possible.

Now she does about 80% of her toilet visits on the potty, 10% on the ‘big toilet’ and 10% in her pants. I’m ok with that. I am certainly looking forward to moving completely off the potty to avoid the continual emptying and cleaning (and also stopping her baby sister from trying to climb in it and suck on it). I’m not entirely sure how to finally make a complete transition as whilst she is now happy to use toilets whilst out and about, she still prefers the comfort of her own potty when at home.

Family outings – the reality

I was recently asked to be Godmother for my friend’s beautiful baby boy. The christening was taking place about a 40 minute drive from our house. It was to start at midday and the celebration was to continue on afterwards at one of their friend’s houses.

After an extremely snot filled and sleepless few weeks, I’d pre-warned my friend that some, or worst case scenario – all of us, may not be able to make it.  I would of course do my upmost to be there given I was to be Godmother.

When the kids are sick I’m always conscious not to be the family everyone is trying desperately trying to avoid, keeping their kids well away, something I have been guilty of doing too. We decided to see how the night went and how sick they were in the morning before committing.

In the morning, the baby (who we’d been most concerned about), seemed considerably better so we decided to ‘brave it’. I know this may sound like we weren’t looking forward to the day ahead and if I’m honest there is probably an element of truth to this. The idea of a family day trip, getting dressed up, being a Godmother, seeing our friends and catching up for a party afterwards sounds delightful. Unfortunately we have been involved in too many day trips, where the children’s sleep schedule is destroyed resulting in a whole manner of tears, tantrums and stress. The reality can be so different to the idea we have in our heads of what it could be like, we generally approach such outings with a certain amount of fear and trepidation

We meticulously planned the trip (as we always do) around the kids, in order to facilitate the maximum amount of sleep possible in the hope of reducing the chance (or at least number of), explosive situations.

The plan:

  • The girls will look gorgeous in their party frocks and pretty hair bands.
  • I will have lots of time to get ready and hopefully scrub up ok as I will paint my nails, blow dry my hair and shave my legs (my husband won’t recognise me).
  • We must leave no later than 9.30am so the baby should get her morning sleep in the car.
  • We will arrive earlier than required but have time to spend a fun-filled morning with the girls at the aquarium.
  • We will bring the baby carrier and single pram so we can take turns to have the baby in the carrier and then as soon as the 2.5 year old looks like she’s flagging we can chuck her in the pram for her kip.
  • We will sit down as a family and enjoy the service in the church.
  • I will perform my part of accepting the responsibility of being a Godmother gracefully.
  • As long as we leave the party to return home no later than 2pm, both children will sleep and the drive home will be calm and peaceful.

The reality:

  • My eldest daughter point blank refused the wear the dress I’d carefully selected for her. She proceeded to scream the house down and then do her usual trick of running away to hide in one of the tiny spaces you wouldn’t think a mouse could fit into, on this occasion behind the chalk board.
  • After several attempts asking her patiently and calmly to put the dress on I employed my usual tactic of bribery, negotiation and possibly a white lie or two. I told her that Elsa from Frozen had sent the party dress especially for her to wear (ok so this is a blatant lie but how’s she ever going to find out?), I then told her that we were going to a birthday party (tiny white lie?) and that if she wore everything I would let her eat as much cake as she liked (bribery and negotiation). These are not new skills I have developed, I have been utilising them increasingly since my 2.5 year old has been old enough to understand. She finally succumbed agreeing to wear the dress and cardigan. Unfortunately no amount of bribery would get her to let me put anything in her currently dreadlocked hair (Combing hair is not a battle I can quite honestly be a****d to fight at the moment on top of all the other daily battles).
  • I had about five minutes to get ready, smudged my nail polish and had to apply my makeup hurriedly and awkwardly leaning over one child with the baby hanging off my leg.
  • We left 20 minutes later than planned
  • The baby was ‘overtired’ (isn’t she always?) and consequently screamed for the majority of the journey.
  • Whilst my husband was driving and getting more stressed with the sound of the baby screaming,  I had no choice but to climb over the seats into the back of the car, flashing my arse at all the passing cars, in a bid to calm her down. The remainder of the journey whilst slightly  quieter, was considerably more uncomfortable for me as my bum was jammed in between the two car seats.
  • The baby fell asleep thirty seconds prior to reaching the destination.
  • My husband and eldest daughter enjoyed the aquarium together whilst I was left stuck in the car. On the one hand willing the baby to wake up as I needed to pee but also aware that she needed to sleep as long as possible to provide the best chance for a calmer second part of the day (I live in hope!).
  • When she did wake up I hurriedly put her in the carrier as my urge to pee had increased tenfold. At this point she did her usual trick of chucking her dummy on the floor. This time it landed underneath the car. Of course this would be the day I was wearing a rather short dress so once again , bearing all,  I began grappling around on my hands and knees under the car (still with baby attached) attempting to locate the dummy. Luckily a kind passer-by took pity on me and came to my assistance (maybe he’d seen quite enough of my behind).
  • On arriving at the aquarium I found myself unable to get hold of my husband on his mobile as ‘apparently’ there is no signal in there. Wicked!
  • I begged and pleaded with the entry staff who took pity on me and allowed me in – hoorah!
  • At the christening our children behaved like caged animals who’d just been let out for the first time in their lives. Running and crawling around the church throughout the ceremony climbing on anything and everything. This of course resulted in us missing most of the service as we were slightly distracted trying to restrain them.

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  • The party afterwards was in a beautiful house not conducive for a crawling one year old who will not be restrained, has no concept of danger and likes to share her food with the furniture. She certainly left a little reminder of our visit, to the tune of a nice red strawberry juice mark, on the immaculately sparkly white cushions.
  • Enjoying the party (and the wine), I did my usual trick of pleading with my husband to break the rules.  ‘Shall we just try to get the girls to sleep here instead of in the car like we planned?’. It’s amazing how easily I falter when I’ve had a glass of wine. When will I learn- do not deviate from the plan?
  • We finally left at 4.30 pm, hitting peak traffic. The youngest who refuses to be restrained unless she is asleep, screamed for the entire journey. Basically a re-enactment of the journey there.

All that chaos aside, we did have a lovely day. In the midst of all of that craziness, there are always heaps of wonderful and comical moments with the girls. It was great to catch up with friends and the people who hosted the party after the service couldn’t have been better hosts. They were certainly kind and understanding considering our invasion.