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Because he’s worth it.

My toddler is in love with me (to be fair it’s reciprocated but I do seem to do all of the running…).

You know how in the early days when you love someone there are moments you just can’t believe they love you back so much?  Or you start worrying that you’ll do something silly to mess it all up?  Those concepts don’t apply in the toddler kingdom.  He has no doubt whatsoever that he is deserving of every ounce of love.  He is, of course, even though sometimes he makes it more difficult than others (we’re going through the ever so fun hitting and hair pulling phase).  He throws impressively elaborate melt-downs over the most unworthy reasons (not being allowed hit and told to stop pulling his sister’s hair) and then sobs for Ireland as he clings to me and I comfort him.  I marvel at his lack of any sense of personal responsibility as he hiccups while trying to catch his breath following his tantrum and curls up in my lap as if the world was against.  He owns me, I know it, he knows it and he knows I know it.

So this got me thinking about how once you are a mother your most consuming relationships are with your kids, your partner is still there of course but he also has a new relationship dynamic as the mini-me’s clamour for more time and attention.   We both joke about how our favourite person is no longer the other one, as the kids top the polls.

As I lay in bed (who am I kidding, as I hung on to the edge of the bed precariously and shivered as there wasn’t a square inch of duvet anywhere near me) I thought about how sharing a bed with a toddler is like those first few nights with a new partner.

  1. You wear something you imagine they will find attractive to bed, despite the fact that you might prefer a different nocturnal outfit yourself.  However, the sexy undies are banished and fluffy pyjamas that are perfect for little heads to snuggle up against are in.
  2. You are nervous trying to sneak out to use the bathroom during the night.  Not because you don’t want to remind them that you’re an actual person who does need to answer the call of nature, but because you are terrified that you will wake the sleeping monster.
  3. You sleep in positions that aren’t all that comfortable.  While in the early days of a relationship that might mean keeping up the pretence you like to spoon as you sleep (when in fact you need to have your backs to one another to avoid having someone breathe on you), with a little person in the bed you discover that having feet, a nappy-clad bottom etc. positioned in your face is the norm.  And you will put up with it if it means s/he stays asleep.
  4. You ideally want to wake before them and have a chance to get yourself “freshened up” before they see you for the first time that day.  These days this means managing to make it to the bathroom to drag a brush through your hair, scrub your teeth and lather on some cream which promises to make you look ten years younger all before the all-demanding tyrant wakes.
  5. You go to bed at the same time and try to fit into their sleep habits.  Gone are the nights of marathon book reading and not caring about having the light on.  You go to bed together and stay in bed together.  With a toddler this doesn’t have the romantic overtures but more to do with grabbing some shut eye when you can.  If the toddler will only sleep if I give in and go to bed with him, I will admit to often succumbing and having an earlier night than I had planned.  But hey, ultimately it means I get more sleep, as does he.  So win-win.  And maybe less of that expensive face cream is needed.

I will end by saying I was never a bed-sharing advocate.  My 5 year old daughter never slept in our bed, not even when she was sick and I wanted to keep an eye on her.  She just had no interest and was happier in her own space.  So bed-sharing wasn’t on my radar until the tiny tyrant burst onto the scene a year and a half ago and refused to sleep anywhere else.  He has it figured out and wants the company, warmth and security of me beside him.  And he has no qualms about demanding the best and objecting to all else.  Why should he?  He deserves it after all.

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Friendship – cheaper than therapy

Friendship – you can’t measure it but you sure as hell know when you’re missing it.  I heard about a speed-friendship service in Dublin and thought it was a fantastic idea.  It gets harder and harder to make new friends as we get older, finding someone with shared interests who you “click” with is no mean feat.  I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to move to a new city and find yourself friendless.  So kudos to the organisers and participants at Meet-Up for their initiative and smarts.

(See seemeetup.com/Speedfriending-Ireland for information)

I read recently that middle-aged married men are more likely to have no friends than to have even one close friend.  This saddened me (the photo associated with the article of a man sitting alone with what looked like a TV dinner had its desired effect); and I started running a mental check-list of my husband’s friends.  He’s not middle-aged yet but being married and male, it sounds like the friendship odds aren’t in his favour.  He didn’t do too badly and there are the same names steadfastly hanging in there, putting up with him as long as I have.  And reassuringly some newer buddies have joined the ranks over the years.

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My 5 year old daughter loves her friends, and even at her young age has two or three little pals that have maintained close bonds with since she was 1.  I also heard that the friends you make before the age of 7 aren’t lasting friendships, while I agree that some friends will come and go at a young age I don’t think this is a hard and fast rule.  I can see some of these little girls sticking around for the long haul.   Newer friends have been added since she started school but she is quite diplomatic about listing “best friends” and basically including everyone.

So it was time to think about my friends.  I don’t have one big gang of girls who are all close friends with each other too.  I have a fantastic network of amazing women who I have met from different places over the years, some stretching back as far as primary school.  Everyone brings something unique and special to the friendship table.  And I love that I am still making new friends when the right friendship spark is ignited.

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I would be lost without my friends.  I have different friends for different situations and purposes (that sounds quite calculating but you know what I mean, there’s the friend who also loves the Gilmore Girls so gets the references, the one who also has a small baby up all night too for those late night texts, the one from work etc.).  I might not see them all regularly, but regular contact is maintained whether that is on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.  We touch base and feel happy that the lines of communication are left open and all is well in the world.

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So to all my wonderful friends, thank you.  Thank you for being there and for allowing me to be me.  I only hope I give as much back to you as you give me.  I know friendship is a two way street but at times the traffic in one direction is busier than the other, but it all evens out.

Life without good friends would be a very desolate place indeed so reach out and contact that friend you feel you’re losing touch with.  We can never have too many good friends so don’t let one slip away!

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This is not baby yoga.

Most parents (well mothers anyway) are aware of baby-yoga classes.  Generally, a nice relaxed setting with some gentle stretches and exercises for Mum and baby.  It brings to mind feelings of relaxation, contentment and calm.

A friend shared this terrifying video on Facebook today.  It shows a “guru” aggressively swinging a tiny baby around by their limbs and she practises it under the guise of ‘The Charkovsky method.’  Lena Fokina has parents lining up to have their babies flung around like teddy bears, all while crying or vomiting.

Even the photos in the article linked above have me on edge.  I remember the sheer terror that a small baby might slip off your lap, what could possibly possess parents to hand their precious babies over for such treatment?  I am aware that babies are a lot more resilient that we suspect, and that they are little fighters when it comes to it, but this is too much.

Her mentor, “Dr” (inverted commas are deliberate here) Charkovsky is the same medic who has done research into the calming effects of dolphins on a labouring mother.  That explains how I spotted Flipper being wheeled into a delivery room in the maternity hospital… He also practises “water rebirthing” which involves babies being dunked in water.  Now I know that the article above is from the Daily Mail, and I am not silly enough to believe everything they feed me verbatim, but the video and images are enough to make me hold my breath.

I’m sure there are lots of modern day parenting practices that would seem bizarre and unthinkable just a short while ago.  But am I alone in thinking this one is still a bit extreme?  Do the supposed benefits sound realistic?  Would you try it?  Personally, I’ll roll out the yoga mat and do a bit of baby massage while singing some nice nursery rhymes.  He might not be an Olympic parachuter (like one of Fokina’s children) but I am willing to take that risk.

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I’m a working mother, and happy about it!

The other morning as I scrolled through my news-feed I saw a post about a working mother reaching out to a stay at home mother.  This caught my attention; I’m all about the reaching out posts, and less about the mommy wars.  None of us are getting out of this alive and we’re all doing the best we can with what we have, so being supportive of one another and encouraging of differing choices is commendable in my opinion.

So I took the time to click through and read more.  My bubble was burst a little.  More like a slow puncture than a burst bubble really.  The air slowly started to leak out as I read on.  Yes, overall the post was in support of the choices that other mother had made, but it was still written in a way that somehow down-played her own decisions.

Ultimately the working mother was inspired by the SAHM to reduce her working hours to be at home with her own kids more.  That’s good, if that’s what she wanted all along and this was just the motivating kick up the ass to do it.  What’s not so good is if the sight of another mother walking her kids to school each day inspired guilt and made her feel like a lesser parent.

I work 4 days a week.  I love my week-day off where I get to walk my 5 year old to school and collect her afterwards.  I could wax lyrical about all the amazing Pinterest worthy crafts I whip up for my 16 month old to destroy but I’m more into honesty amongst parents.  Telling you we bake kale chips and do yoga together while chanting inspirational mantras isn’t going to help anyone.  First of all, that is not my idea of fun but secondly it’s far from the truth.  I love my kids, so much so it threatens to overwhelm me at times.  I love spending time with them.  But I have a limit.  At some point I can’t take another “Mama, what can I do next?”, “Mama, where is..”, “Mama”, “Mama”, “Mama” all while the toddler does his damn best to crawl under my skin to take up permanent residence in my body.  I’ve become very accomplished at doing everything single handedly with a hair-pulling toddler on my hip.

This is all well and good.  And the reason I can enjoy my Fridays (which involve grocery shopping, laundry and cleaning too) is because I know it’s precious.  If my days at home with the kids were infinite, I would lose my marbles.  I can appreciate it because it isn’t everyday.  On Monday I know I will be able to sit at my desk, feel more mentally productive, enjoy a hot beverage while it is still hot, eat a muffin without having to share the best bit and talk to other adults.  And I can appreciate all of this because I know my children are safe and happy in a child care setting we carefully selected.

Seeing other mothers take their kids to school every day doesn’t make me feel jealous.  Yes, I think I might prefer to work 3 days if I could but I also know I’m lucky to have the flexibility to work 4 and finish at 16:30 on the days I am in the office.  So hats off to the mothers that do stay at home with their children day in day out.  I only hope they are doing it because it is their choice, and not because the choice was taken from them.

We are lucky enough to live in a time where women do have choices.  Nobody is a better or worse parent for deciding to do what is best for them and their family.  We’re all different.  Embrace it.

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Sleep. The (day) dream.

My son has no respect whatsoever for sleep.  His own, mine, his sister’s or father’s.  He will happily reign supreme all during the wee hours only to contentedly conk out just in time for my daughter (and by default me or Daddy too) to get up.

He kept us up all night last night, screeching at the injustice of eye-teeth.  He wanted everything and nothing by means of comfort.  I rocked, shushed, cuddled, paced, sang, patted, returned the favoured soother repeatedly……… no one “trick” worked for more than a few moments.

To put it mildly, I am tired.  The last few nights have been getting progressively worse.  An ear infection added insult to injury and medication was prescribed and my empathy levels upped a notch.

I wandered bleary-eyed to my desk in work, facing a day of keeping my eyelids propped open.  I just know he is most  likely happily slumbering away now in a marathon length nap in the crèche.

I’ve read every article that I can find about how to help you baby sleep, dealing with sleep deprivation, avoiding bad habits (that ship has sailed I’m afraid), I’ve bought the books, the white noise CDs, the slumber-bears and all other gadgets pedalled to desperate parents.   I won’t leave him to cry, it’s just not right for him or I.  I need to find something that works for us.

The tiny tyrant will object to sleep in his cot at night, until he is nestled in bed beside me he objects most vociferously.  I have to admire his tenacity.  He knows exactly what he wants, and will settle for no less.  He has no doubt that he is entitled to what he views as the best possible service and will wail until he gets his own way.

Even I have forgotten by now what my point is.  But you get the drift.  I would dream about sleep, if I could get some sleep.  In fact I did conk out on the bed around 11am over the weekend (when I was meant to be changing the bed clothes), my husband was under no illusions that household chores were being tended to and left me to doze.  When I did wake up 1.5 hours later, I realised I had been dreaming about being tired.  So even when I got the sleep I (day)dream about, I was even tired in the land of nod!

So please, anyone out there.  Tell me your success stories about how at 18 months your toddler decided to opt in to the notion of sleep.  Or else just sympathise with me and discuss what bottles of wine are on special offer…