This morning was the first day of spring, the day began (early as usual) but full of birdsong and promise and 1 hour later, the sun was shining. Having recently started a job in the city 2 days a week, I was looking forward to spending a fun morning with my girls – the beach was calling and we had a playdate with new friends (Anna of Mummymuckups). FUN, FUN, FUN!
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 well…it 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.
So it’s dinner time. My 3.5 year old and 2 year old are sitting at their table whilst I wash up the pile of dishes that has mounted throughout the day in the kitchen. But the truth is, they aren’t actually sitting at the table…not really…there are several get-ups to dance to the wiggles, lots of chair rocking which has already resulted in tears for one of them when she landed on her ‘bum-bum’ on the floor and the constant visits back and forth to the kitchen requesting hands to be wiped despite telling me they haven’t finished eating.
I have read somewhere amongst the minefield of psychological information available online, that in order to get the little people in our lives to do what we want them to, we should offer them choices. ‘They’ (as in the online world who I lean on regularly for advice and guidance) say that by giving children choices (out of a few carefully selected options), they feel empowered. We get what we want, they get what they want – everyone’s a winner.
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.
I 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!
Two days a week, whilst my 3 year old is in kindergarten, I have the pleasure of spending time alone with my 18 month old daughter. Yesterday was one of these days.
You can read all of this article here at Parent.Co
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.
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!