Monday, 30 April 2012

Sticks and Stones....

....will break my bones but names will never hurt me.


As far as I can tell, the hurt that names bring is the kind of hurt that lingers for years and years like a dark cloud hovering over your shoulder just waiting to rain on you again.

We live in an ugly world in which I am discovering our children are becoming more and more anaesthetised to name calling. I am astounded by the names that are bandied about which are apparently 'normal' and 'everyone does it'. Does that make it right?

Perhaps I am struck by 'first time mother syndrome' and when Jonah reaches the grand old age of 10 I will also think those names are 'normal', but when Toby comes home and tells me the names he has been called that day I find every maternal, protective bone in my body crying out for justice, revenge and solutions to the problem.

"Leave it Mum", I'm told by my 10 year old. "It's fine. Everyone does it. They're not bullying me."

There is a fine line between calling someone a name and bullying. But I have to take a deep breath and be led by my boy, who knows his world far better than I do and knows the consequences of Mummy coming to the rescue. Despite wanting to march down to the school and demand why my boy is being called these names, I need to walk the difficult tightrope of allowing him the time and space to sort some things out for himself but as soon as I am needed I will be there.

Sticks and stones are preferable. Bones are easier and quicker to mend than hearts.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Snip, snip, snip....

The umbilical cord has been snipped again this weekend with Max's first overnight trip away with his school. Watching him sitting on the coach, face flushed with excitement, I feel proud and terrified all at the same time.

Proud that my boy is confident. Proud that is he capable. Proud that he has a huge smile on his face and has not even noticed the fact that I am standing in a deluge of rain, waving at him and blowing embarrassing mummy kisses. Proud that he is full of adventure and excitement. Proud that he is growing in his decision making. Proud that I can (just about) trust him to behave well and do as he is told.

Terrified that he is sitting on a coach and I cannot tell the driver to drive carefully because my precious boy is in his hands. Terrified that I will not know who he will be sharing a room with. Terrified that I will not know what he will be eating for his tea. Terrified that I will not know what he is doing, every moment of his time away. Terrified that I may not have prepared him for decision making adequately. Terrified that he might not know exactly how much I love him.

And so another step in the letting go process occurs. While my heart is being torn once again, his heart is experiencing a new freedom. I let my baby go, and he grows up that little bit more. Ouch.

The Sweetie Aisle Trauma

What a week this has been! My lovely Max turned 8 and now "feels so much taller". He has loved his birthday - particularly the food element. It is not difficult to work out that Max's love language is good food, and lots of it (even if he can't manage to actually eat it all). Thankfully he is, so far, still hugely appreciative of my cooking and doesn't even mind when my cakes don't rise properly or my lasagne plops onto his plate like a cow pat. He just loves food, and I love loving him with food.

The day before his birthday was a tricky one though. The school tradition is for the birthday child to bring in sweets to share with their class, so without thinking of the disastrous possibilities, I took Jonah to the supermarket to choose some sweets for Max and his class. Why on earth I did not realise how much of a stupid idea this was, I will never know. In naive optimism, I genuinely thought that Jonah would ENJOY buying sweets for Max to take into school. How very, very wrong I was. Standing in the sweetie aisle, Jonah picked up a handful of sweets.

Jonah: "I'll have these ones."
Me (realising my mistake, but still hoping it could be rectified): "Oh no! We're not buying for you today, these are for Max to give to his friends."
Jonah: (mouth wobbling, eyes filling with tears) "But I want these."
Me: (breathing deeply, realising this is not going to be fixed easily): "No. I am not buying for you today. Come with me please."
Jonah (dropping to the floor with a dramatic wail): "BUT I WANT SOME!"
Me: (preparing for battle): "Stand up, take my hand and come with me."
Jonah: "NOOOOOO!"

Much to the horror of the old ladies in the vicinity (I'm sure their children never did that!) I held onto his hand and, with the determination of an athlete in their final sprint, dragged him around the supermarket on his knees while I finished my shopping. I gave him plenty of opportunities to stand and walk. He refused every time. I heard tuts (can't be sure whether they were for me or for him) and Jonah even had a lecture from an old man about Father Christmas not coming if he wasn't a good boy. Nothing worked. I was the mother with the screaming child. Oh how our children humble us.

Max was pleased with the sweets though, so perhaps it was worth it.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Invasion of the Hormones

Oh my. I thought two year old tantrums were hard. Imagine the full force of the two year old (and my two year olds were particularly forceful) combined with the bodily strength of a ten year old. And then you might understand my predicament. What makes it even more daunting is that these Hormones are only just beginning their locust-like ravages of my little boy's body. (Ok, so he's not actually 'little' anymore. In fact, he is almost as tall as me. But he is still my little boy.) We may well have another 8 years of this. And it may well become alot worse. Oh.

The Hormones, it seems, have well and truly arrived. Complete with mood swings, door slamming, huffing and sighing, comments about how uncool and embarrassing I am and aggression that has reached a new level. And he's only ten years old!

I do feel for Toby. Every stage he reaches that is new to him, is also new to us. Every boundary that he questions, we also have to question. Every tentative step he takes forward into the world on his own, is taken with my breath being held until his foot has landed safely back on the ground. Every change shocks me, as though the ground underneath is trembling and moving. Why does he cover up with a towel now? I'm his mummy, I changed his nappies! Why does he close his bedroom door and expect me to knock if I want to go in? Why does he suddenly seem to be hungry all the time? Why does he laugh at the scenes in films that I didn't think he understood? Why, suddenly, is a particular t shirt not acceptable to wear? Why does he want time alone, when for the last ten years I have been trying to teach him, unsuccessfuly, that it's ok to be on his own? All these things that I took for granted, are beginning to change.

And so, yet again the ground shifts and with it the boundaries move further. We need to recognise our boy is beginning, only beginning, his long journey from little boy to manhood. Is there any way I can prepare myself for the onslaught of the Hormones? I don't think so. Just as you can't prepare yourself for the sleep deprivation and the utterly exhilarating exhaustion of a newborn baby, I don't think I can prepare myself for the thrilling ride of the teenage years ahead. But they will come. And they will transform my boy into a man. Oh my.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Morning Madness

Sometimes I wonder if I wasn't there to direct proceedings whether my boys would actually make it out of the house or not in the mornings. Clearly there are far more important and immediate needs than the boring old dressing, cleaning teeth and breakfasting. This morning is an excellent example of this fact.

The apparent joy of eating weetabix for breakfast is that you can stir it and mix it up into a pulp. This can last for at least 5 minutes before you actually put any in your mouth. Max mixed with full force this morning then, once pulped, he left it in front of him for another 5 minutes whilst trying to clasp his hands together 'inside out'. Once these important tasks had been completed, he was then able to begin eating.

After breakfast I had one of those highly successful pep talks with Toby. The kind of pep talk where they look above you, to the side of you and everywhere else but in your eyes. I asked Toby to try really hard not to distract Max from getting ready for school. Max has been trying so hard this week to be organised (except the breakfast pulping routine) without any reminders from me. Just when he worked out that maybe he needs to clean his teeth and entered the bathroom, Toby crept up behind him and roared loudly. So much for my pep talk. In the excitement of the moment, Max forgot what he was supposed to be doing and so we had to start all over again.

Jonah was dispatched upstairs to get dressed. This does not need to be a difficult task. His clothes are laid out for him. All he has to do is take off his pyjamas and put on his clothes. Simple. This 'simple' task proves far too boring and instead I hear non-getting-dressed shrieks and loud thuds as all three boys race around the upstairs of the house. It seems that Jonah has removed his bedtime pull-up (heavy and sodden) and is nakedly chasing the other two around, swinging it in their faces. He races down the stairs with a look of triumph on his face. He has now discovered a weapon that will beat his two big brothers.

Quickly disposing of the pull-up, I remind him that he is supposed to be getting dressed. Before putting on his clothes, however, there is another more interesting activity for him. Parading around the kitchen completely starkers, he chants "Look at my deadly 60 nipples!" over and over again. (Deadly 60, for those of you who are not aware, is a programme on CBBC about deadly animals and insects - my boys love it). By this point I am beginning to lose hope. I ignore his deadly 60 nipples and remind him yet again that he needs to get dressed. Eventually, when Toby goes outside to feed the chickens and leaves the back door wide open, Jonah whimpers about being cold and gets dressed.

There is nothing exceptional about this morning. That goal of leaving on time hangs in the air, until eventually when we do leave (after the shoes and coat putting on extravanganza - "Max, put your shoes on. Max, put your shoes on. Max, PUT YOUR SHOES ON!" and "No Jonah, you are a big boy now and I will not put your shoes on for you. No, I'm not going to because I know you can do it yourself. Oh, ok, I'll do one and you do one. Ok, I'll just do both.") the sigh of relief that exits my body must surely be audible by the whole town.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Charts, Lists and Smug Mummy

Yesterday I came across a list on facebook of 50 things children should have done before they are aged 12. It was full of fun outdoor, but simple, activities like skimming stones, building a den, climbing a tree and rolling down a hill. And it made me feel oh so good! My boys have done most of those activities already and I could feel that "Smug Mummy, I've got it right" feeling creeping up on me. You know, the kind of feeling that lurks if yours is the baby that sleeps all night or you have children who eat everything put in front of them. Thankfully my boys keep me humble most of the time though, and before Smug Mummy could take up residence in my brain, they were punching each other and screaming nasty insults to each other.

It started a train of thoughts in my mind though about those kinds of lists. Sometimes they make you feel like the best mother in the world, but sometimes they leave a nasty taste in your mouth and you have to resist the temptation to google all those milestones your child has not achieved and what syndrome they might consequently have. I know that I have given into that temptation far too many times and have convinced myself that my boys have all kinds of ridiculous syndromes. Surely I'm not the only one... I have slowly learnt to avoid those lists.

Every child is unique. Every child is beautiful in his or her own way. There is no such thing as a 'textbook' baby or child. Usually we say 'textbook' when we mean 'easy'. Does that mean the more difficult children are not 'textbook', 'normal' or acceptable? Does it mean that our child is deficient in some way if a chart says he should be able to tie his own shoelaces by the age of 7? Does it mean our child is abnormal if they are still in nappies at 3 when all their friends were potty trained by 18 months (and I have to say I CANNOT stand the potty training race)? What does it say about our parenting? Are we not pushy enough? Too pushy?

These lists and charts are not for our beautiful children. Our children develop in their own time. They have character traits, skills and idiosyncracies that are not even recognised by the milestone charts.

Our children are not for boxing up. They don't fit the perfect shape the world wants them to be. They are who they are. We should be celebrating their differences not trying to squeeze them all into the same hole.

As for Smug Mummy, she doesn't make much of an appearance these days thanks to the muddy footprints on the carpet, the throwing of food, the rude words, the fighting over the same spot on the sofa, the tweenage strops and the two-second teeth cleaning attempts. I muddle through and hope that one day I might be able to be Smug Grandma....

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Bad Mother Day

Oh yes, the Bad Mother Day has reared it's ugly head yet again. Don't be fooled into thinking that I haven't had one since the last post. Some are worse than others, and some are so bad that one day I think I will look back and laugh at them. One day. Not today though. Today has been full of cold, sleety rain, high winds (and not just inside the house) and miserable grey skies. Not a good day for getting them out and about. So here are some of my bad mother moments from today.

1. When the day began, my positive attitude was still in tact and I suggested we make a lego "Easter Story" to take photographs of and write out the story. Unfortunately, I attempted to persuade them to do it without me. The first mistake. Jonah kept stealing the required lego pieces. Max kept losing the required lego pieces and Toby kept shouting at them both for said stealing and losing. Instead of intervening, I left them to it. Needless to say, it ended without much of the story having been photographed.

2. I am continuing my school holiday rule of no screens between 10am and 4pm. Today, I regretted it and was sorely tempted (but did not give in.... I must not give in, I must not give in, I must not give in...). Sometimes I wonder why I make up such ridiculous rules.

3. While Toby went to a party, I decided to make Easter 'nest' cakes with Max and Jonah. You see, the creative thoughts are all there, it's just the putting them into practice that proves a little tricky. It was all going swimmingly until the shredded wheats became too shredded and Jonah decided to litter the floor with them. Then in the process of sorting out the shredded wheats, I burnt the melted chocolate. We tried, we failed, but they enjoyed it. The nests resembled spiky hedgehogs with mini eggs stuck on top, but the boys were pleased with them.

4. By the time lunch arrived, I was beyond caring. I served hot cross buns with nest cakes for pudding. No salad. No vegetables. No fruit. 5 a day?! Ha! We laugh in the face of 5 a day! (Actually we don't, I have been known to obsessively count their "5" but sometimes, on days like today, it just can't be done.)

5. The afternoon was spent happily chatting to my sister, whilst being interrupted every few minutes by boys with lightsabres and darth vader helmets. The car journey on the way home proved more difficult with pens and paper being thrown all over the car and silly arguing taking place. I shouted. Loudly. It only took one word though "SILENCE!" We continued home in blissful silence.

6. For tea, I did actually give them 2 of their 5. Two is better than nothing, I thought to myself. Maybe I'm not having such a bad mother day after all. It all went wrong though when they asked what was for pudding. I brought out those awful nest cakes and they happily munched their way through one each. Then, they asked if they could have more. My reply? I shrugged my shoulders at them and said "Have as many as you like!" Jared sniggered to himself and the boys shouted with glee, "What, can we eat all of them?" "If you can eat all of them", I replied and left the table so I couldn't see the fruits (or non-fruits) of my bad parenting. With huge grins, they set themselves the challenge of the 'all you can eat nest cakes competition'. As far as I am aware, Toby and Max managed 5 and Jonah managed 4. The sick bowls will be on stand by this evening.

I am very much hoping that tomorrow it will not be so cold and miserable outside so we can go for a good fresh air trip somewhere. They need to run off energy. Especially after eating all those cakes.