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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Empower Them With Choices ‘They’ Said…

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.

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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.

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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

What’s Mine Is Mine And What’s Yours Is MINE!

 

 

 

Today I bought my youngest child (16 months), a brand new pair of shoes. This is very special for two reasons. Firstly – they are the first pair of shoes that I have bought for her, she’s been waddling around in her older sister’s scuffed cast offs since she started walking. Secondly – because they are too small for her older sister (nearly 3), so there is absolutely no way that she can claim them as hers.

When I discovered I was having another girl I was delighted. I hoped that one day these sisters would be best friends as I am with mine. However I can’t deny that some of that delight was due to the practicalities of having 2 girls. I had cupboards bursting with girl’s clothes. Having a second child required a lot less preparation too. We already had all the equipment and toys we needed, even if they were a little stained, worn or broken – they’d do!

I have moments of guilt when I realise the extent to which I sterilised and cleaned everything for my first born. With my second child it’s more a case of lick and spit and off she goes. I actually went and bought a heap of batteries a few months ago when I realised most of the developmental flashing and talking toys she was playing with were no longer functioning as intended.

At Christmas the presents ‘Father Christmas’ bought my eldest were fun and, on the whole, things she’d requested. Whilst my youngest received more practical gifts such as beach towels, lunch boxes and a ladybird icepack to put in the freezer in case of an emergency. Despite the practicality (and rather boring nature) of these gifts, the octopus hooded beach towel with the red fish on it, only stayed in her possession long enough for her to rip off the wrapping paper. It was immediately claimed by her sister in exchange for her older, tattier and very well used purple princess one – all this performed under the guise of kindness when it was nothing more than blatant stealing.

Meanwhile, the giant rabbit teddy with pink hands and feet that my eldest so specifically requested from Father Christmas, has not received anywhere near the same level of love and attention as the towel. In fact, said bunny teddy sits rather depressingly hunched over in the corner of her bedroom, neglected and unloved.

Almost every other gift my youngest received for Christmas or her birthday from friends and relatives has been stolen or swapped with the older, worn or used versions of her sister’s.

When giving them food, I am careful to distribute  everything evenly. However, the minute my back is turned my eldest is on the prowl. Grabbing her sister’s food out of her hands or directly from her mouth, if it looks appealing enough. If they are sitting down to eat at the table, she is usually to be found leaning across the table with her fingers wriggling around in her sisters bowl; busily picking out the items that take her fancy and, (if she’s feeling generous) exchanging them for her rejects. Occasionally my youngest squawks at her, grabbing hold of her bowl or toy and wrapping her arms around it as though her life depended on it. On these occasions my eldest will use all of her might to extract the item from her sister’s tight clutches. If this proves unsuccessful she starts chanting ”sharing’s caring” – a rather one dimensional view on sharing. However, more often than not my youngest  gives in, resigned to the fact that her sister will usually win.

I have learnt that literally whatever the youngest has, her sister will always want – at that precise second. There is no negotiation. Even when I try to step in, in an effort to teach her about sharing or inform her that it’s not actually hers, she has no interest in what I’m saying. Somehow she always manages to walk away the winner with a rather smug satisfied smile on her little face.

On the couple of days a week when the eldest goes to kindy, I love watching my youngest enjoying the freedom of playing with each and every toy (especially the ones that are 100% her sister’s that she never usually gets to lay a finger on). You’d think she would be so happy to not be bossed and pushed around by her elder sibling, however I sense that she  misses her.  As soon as they are reunited, her face lights up like a ray of sunshine and she squeals in delight.

Since returning from the shops this morning and waking from her day sleep my youngest pulled her new shoes from the cupboard and brought them to me. Insisting that I put them on her feet immediately, she sat down and held one chubby little foot up in the air, eagerly waiting for her new shoes to be placed on her feet. I wonder if she somehow knows that these are HERS?

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Eagerly holding her feet out to wear ‘her very own’ brand spanking new shoes