You can go now, mummy

You can you go now mummy”, one of you said, engrossed in your Lego construction.

I thought I had mis-heard, or misunderstood…..I must have done. This wasn’t the way we did things. I am always there until the bell goes and the bell wasn’t going for at least another 5 minutes. At least. I didn’t need to go; you don’t usually want me to go. What about sitting you down on the carpet like I normally do? What about the kisses and cuddles and then waving at the window?

“What do you mean?” I asked.

You can go,” they said…..almost as if they’d agreed this between themselves beforehand. Apparently Boy A’s mummy leaves before the bell, and so does Boy B’s daddy, and….. well, that meant that I was supposed to go too.

For a moment I felt a bit lost…. I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I was convinced that you would soon change your minds, so I aimlessly wandered around the classroom before realising that I looked like a bit of a spare part.

You barely even registered my bizarre behaviour.

I left the classroom feeling like I had left something behind. I peeked through the window but everything was as it should be – you didn’t even look up from your Lego.

Where did this come from, boys? It had felt like a normal morning……Well, mainly normal, but maybe a little bit different too. As we walked the short walk to your school, you shouted across the road to greet your friends – hi to this one, hi to that one. It doesn’t sound like a big thing, but I had never seen you do that before. As I dropped big brother off at his classroom, you both ran after a friend into the playground. You didn’t stand at my side as you normally do, giving shy stares to the other parents around us.

Then you were off again with another friend, racing towards your classroom. You were in the classroom and taking your coats off before I even got there.

There is a special drop-off arrangement for Reception children at your school – us parents can, if we wish, be in the classroom for the first 10 minutes of the day to help you get settled and organised. And so this is what we always did…..up until today, that is.

I always stayed up until the bell rang. I was always there to see where you sit on the carpet and who you sit next to (even though you sit in the same place and next to the same children every day). At least one of you would usually be hanging off my arms or legs; and often there would be a squabble over who got to show me their carpet place first. Once we were ready to say goodbye, I was required to give you several cuddles, kisses, a high-5; and finally wave and blow you kisses through the window.

You were never upset at being left, but this was your routine…..this was what you were used to and what you were happy with. We had done it this way since September. There was no sign, even yesterday, of you being ready for this to change. There was no sign that I was about to hear “you can go now, mummy”.

Is this it now, boys; or was this morning a one-off? Is this the start of your independence? No more hanging off my legs or begging for another cuddle. Are these the words I will hear every school drop off from now on?

“You can go now, mummy.”

I know it is a good thing. I know it is what we all want for our children and what we all need to happen at some point. And I feel proud of this huge step you have taken. Proud of the smiles you both gave me as you reassured me this was what you wanted. Proud of the simple, uncomplicated way you had decided that you wanted to try a new, more grown-up way of doing things.

But at the same time I feel slightly deflated and like I just don’t know what to do with myself for those extra 5 minutes you have just granted me.

And really….. a little bit desperate to feel you both tugging on my limbs just once more.

Adjusting collars

 

School holidays are made for bickering

This year’s Easter holiday was when you perfected the art of telling tales. You had been working on it for a while but this holiday gave you a good couple of weeks to really work on your skills.

He called me poo.”  

“He says he’s not my friend.”

“He called me a BUTLER…….Did you hear me, mummy? He called me a BUTLER and it is NOT funny…….No, I don’t know what a butler is, but he just said it AGAIN.”

“He just TOUCHED me on the HEAD!” 

“He said I don’t know how to do my SEATBELT!”

“He tried to eat my SHOULDER!”

Don’t get the wrong idea, boys – I love having a job which is term-time only. I love not having to worry about childcare over the holidays. I love not having to think about sticking to a timetable. I probably spend around 80% of my work days looking forward to the holidays; I really do. I have grand ideas of things we are going to do during during our long and leisurely days…..We are going to make a pizza from scratch. We are going to make Easter cakes and biscuits. We are going to grow cucumbers (HA!).

I suggest that you write a list of some of the things you’d like to do over the holidays. Not today, you say – you’ll do it tomorrow. The list never gets written…..obviously.

But still, list or no list, we begin the holidays optimistically.  You enjoy the simple things – having time to play in the garden and to re-acquaint yourselves with your toys and books. I am doing my very best Julie Andrews impression – it is exhausting, let me tell you.

By the end week one, I am ready to poke my eyes out.

Apparently you all need to talk at the same time, nobody is able to talk at a normal volume, and everything mummy says has to be repeated at least three times. I wonder how anyone possibly manages to home-school their children. Seriously…..how would you get ANYTHING done?

But at the same time, I know that in a few years you will be doing your own thing during the holidays and I will probably long for these days back again. I won’t long for the fights and the squabbles and the tale-telling; but those bits probably won’t stand out to me as much as the special times. The excitement on your faces when I tell you that we’re gong to stay with your grandparents for THREE WHOLE NIGHTS over Easter. The cuddles and the squeezes and the little hands holding onto mine. Easter crowns, sitting at the front of the bus, picnics at the park, running up and down hills, ice-cream moustaches; and you begging mummy to join you for a game of football.

I know that at some point in the not too distant future, the very idea of mummy playing football with you will be truly horrifying.

The excitement when you, eldest boy, lost one front tooth and then the other a few days later. That beautiful, gappy smile and your eyes twinkling with joy when you found your coin from the tooth fairy.

I know that these days won’t last forever. I know that us tired, flustered parents need to do our best to see through the bickering and the squabbling, and treasure the special moments. And I will treasure them, honestly I will.

But it would help enormously if you could just remember that you are NOT poo (even if a four year old says you are, you’re really not), that despite your squabbles over who gets to choose their cereal first, you are all friends; and that…..well, there are worse things in the world than being called a butler.

boys on the bus

 

 

 

 

 

A twin journey

“I think you need to look at the screen”, said the sonographer. So I finally looked up.

“There’s baby number 1”, she said. “….And there’s baby number 2.”

I hadn’t wanted to look up until then. Because the last time I’d been on that bed, there was an awful silence. One of those silences which is heavy with meaning. One of those silences which means there’s a problem.

And so when I was back on that bed, my head was very deliberately turned the other way.

Baby number 2? …….. Baby number 2?

It took a moment.

There were definitely tears…..tears of panic, really. I was thinking of giant buggies and new cars and the fact that since having baby #1 I had always looked at anyone with twins and thought ‘how on earth is that possible?’

“But we’ve already got one”, I said to the sonographer – as if that piece of information might change things. “What are we going to do?”

“First time is the hardest”, she said. “You’ll find it easier this time.”

That was about five years ago now. It almost feels like a different life.

Since then, I have thought I can’t do this more times than I can count; but also known that I don’t actually have a choice, because I have to do it.

I have felt bewildered, overwhelmed and at times totally inadequate.

I have watched crawling twins, climbing twins and walking twins gain in confidence as they worked out how to get to all the things which had been deliberately put out of their reach…….And I have felt like things were rapidly slipping out of my control.

I have eaten too many sweets, a lot of cake, and tripled my coffee intake.

I have accepted kind words from strangers and tried to stay strong when people have felt the need to be unkind.

I haven’t completed any of the baby journals or scrapbooks that I completed for my eldest boy. Instead there are hospital bands and locks of hair and scan photos strewn casually around the house. Sorry about that, little ones.

I have struggled my way through hundreds of painful, over-tired bedtimes.

I have cried. A lot. Tears of exhaustion, frustration, joy and everything in between.

I have despaired over squabbles about who gets to open the bedroom door first, who gets to go to the toilet first, who gets to wear the Spiderman pyjamas, who gets to choose their cereal first, who gets to wear the stripy hat, who gets to choose the music in the car, who gets to be the one to open the front door on the way out (this is the most coveted job of them all, and is always worth fighting over).

I have felt like the world’s worst referee.

I have spent nights being budged out of my own bed, nights lying on the floor next to small boys’ beds; and too many Sunday mornings trying to convince little ones that 5.30am is just not an acceptable time to start the day.

But there is also this – the fact that you, Baby number 1 and Baby number 2, are now a proper team….. a unit. The fact that, as you get older, you are increasingly able to take comfort and confidence from each other. When I think about your play, your chatter, your day-to-day fun….well, I’m just not particularly important anymore. Apart from for logistics……and snacks, obviously. At four years old, you are now able to cooperate, share and take it in turns – of course you still have your moments, but who doesn’t? The skills are there, and you display them more frequently than you used to. You consult each other on which television programme you should watch next; you arrange to swap hats and trainers. You have got used to always taking someone else into account – sometimes this doesn’t suit you…… of course it doesn’t. But this is your life and you understand that. You are proud of yourselves when you manage to reach a compromise…… I am proud of you too. You organise your play meticulously: it always involves each other and only occasionally involves me – let’s play Fireman Sam and Elvis, let’s play doggy and his owner, let’s play daddy and baby, let’s play cow and farmer.

Frequently I feel like I am talking to myself – you are too busy in your own world to take much notice of me and…..well yes, that can be infuriating. But then when we’re not in a rush, I remind myself to take a moment to watch and listen to the way you talk to each other. The way you manage to work out a compromise. The way you adjust each other’s school uniform. Even just the way you use each other’s names. Because these are the things I know I’ll be desperate to hold onto as you get bigger and my window into your world gets smaller.

‘Impossible’ is what I used to say about having twins.

It isn’t impossible, as long as you adjust what you expect of yourself.

But the struggle to hear myself think, the feeling that nothing is being done quite as well as it should be, and the physical exertion required to get two small children of the same age through the most basic tasks…..well, somehow it all seems worth it when you see your twins manage to come to an agreement over who gets the top and who gets the bottom half of a hot cross bun.

Well done, boys – mummy is so proud x

arm-in-arm

I wrote this because February is TAMBA’s #lovemultiples month. Yes, I know I am sneaking in at the last minute on the very last day of February, but I feel like I’ve been chasing my tail all month so the fact that I’m a bit late to the party with this one too seemed fitting.

2016 was…….

I like to sum up the year for you, boys; but this year I really struggled with where to begin. When future history students come to study 2016, things will have been tidied up and put into context. Crucially, they will know what happened next; whereas right now, well we have no idea. We know what we think, but we don’t know whether that will put us on the right or wrong side of history.

This was the year that millions of people went off to bed feeling hopeful, and woke up completely stunned by the events they saw unfolding. Twice.

It was the year that we voted to leave the European Union, that the Prime Minister resigned, that the opposition fell to pieces; and that, whilst the whole premise behind leaving the EU was the prospect of ‘taking back control’, the country felt completely out of control. It was the year that people knew what you meant if you referred to yourself as one of the 48% or one of the 52%. It was the year that we realised the country was completely divided, and no-one had any ideas on how to move us forward.

It was the year that the USA voted in as President a man who, during his campaign, promised among other things to ban all Muslims from travelling to America.

It was the year that we saw more and more images of villages, towns and cities that had been totally annihilated. Pictures of desperate people of all ages just seeking a safe shelter. It was the year that we would remind ourselves to be grateful that we had safe shelter.

And then every few weeks (or so it seemed) another major cultural icon passed away. Singers, actors, funny people, wise people, interesting people. All gone, in this extraordinary year. As a backdrop to all of this, the Queen turned 90, England lost to Iceland in the Euros, Rio hosted the Olympics – all of those things seem like trivialities against everything else and are easy to forget.

Of course normal life went on too, although there were also major changes on our doorstep. Our normality consisted of school runs, swimming lessons, days out, after school meltdowns, ‘please get your shoes on‘ and ‘please keep your bottom on your chair‘. We managed our first holiday abroad as a family of 5 – it wasn’t without incident, but we did it; and we’d love to do it again….. if we can get any Euros for our pounds that is. Days out suddenly seemed much more manageable, and we could zip around London on the tube without having to battle with a giant twin pushchair. For us as a family, it was a big year.

Eldest boy – you are 6, and 2016 was the year that you……

  • continued to develop your love of lists, maps, figures and information.
  • found your group of friends. For the first time you would come home from school having played with the same children most days.
  • gained a ‘best friend’. You watch her doing handstands and cartwheels; she listens to you talking about clouded leopards and imaginary cities. It works well.
  • finally discovered football, thanks to the Euros. You have a go at playing, but putting your foot to the ball isn’t your greatest skill. You have, though, discovered that with football come all sorts of facts and stats. Players’ heights, their dates of birth, club locations which can then be cross-referenced with maps – you happily spend hours poring over such information.
  • continued your discovery of the world, thanks largely to your wonderful Lonely Planet Travel book. In particular, you developed a real interest in life expectancies – not the most obvious interest for a 6 year old, but you love to work out how long various members of the family would have left if we all happened to move to Monaco.
  • asked with tears in your eyes why we were leaving the EU – it just didn’t tally with the way you saw the world.
  • made your way through a phenomenal number of chapter books – Humphrey the Hamster, Mr Gum and the Treehouse series are all current favourites. I listen to you giggling away, and I love it.
  • decided that Maths is your favourite subject. Your love of maths manifested itself with your new interest in dates, years, and particularly working out someone’s year of birth based on their age or vice-versa.
  • discovered the computer – looking at Google Maps, plotting bar charts of life expectancies, writing your own school newsletter. You find joy in the most unexpected things.
  • pored over train timetables, and planned your own extensive train routes. Corby, Kettering, Carlisle and Leighton Buzzard all have excellent new services planned; timetables and all.

4 year olds, 2016 was the year that you……..

  • continued to develop your role play skills: ‘Mummies, Daddies and babies‘, ‘doggy and man‘, ‘Station Officer Steele and Elvis‘. Every day sees you taking on different parts. Sometimes we get parts too. It is brilliant to watch, and exhausting to be part of.
  • embraced fancy dress, which enhanced the above.
  • developed the concentration to sit through a film, play a game, or do a puzzle. Not all the time, but you are getting there.
  • started to draw actual things rather than furious scribbles. You were the first, Twin 1 – my level of excitement was totally disproportionate when you drew your first ever person.
  • started school and surprised me by taking it all in your stride. The opposite to your big brother, school for you is a social whirl – I can’t keep up with all the names you mention. You come home grubby and usually too exhausted to be pleasant to me…. I can just about deal with it, and am ridiculously proud of how you have embraced your new routine.
  • began to hold your pens properly and learnt how to write your names. This has taken some doing.
  • realised that children’s television does not begin and end with CBeebies and Peppa Pig. CBeebies is now of limited interest, and we have all but said goodbye to Peppa. Snort. 2016 was all about Fireman Sam, Paw Patrol, Thomas, Minions and Wallace & Gromit.
  • embraced the superhero culture in which big brother never showed any interest. Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man, Spiderman are all now very much part of your lives.
  • Twin 1 you continued to put 100% into absolutely everything – your cuddles, your laughter, your running, and your rages. You go at everything full throttle. Your dream is to visit Portugal. And to be a chimney sweep.
  • Twin 2 you are stubborn, affectionate, and eager to please. When you’re feeling co-operative you love being helpful, particularly in the kitchen. Shy, but at the same time a little performer – I keep wondering whether you might enjoy drama classes. Your dream is to visit China. Obviously.

This time last year, I couldn’t have imagined what 2016 would bring us. But this year has taught me that there are many things which may be hugely important to us but over which we have very limited control. As we move into 2017, what I want to say to you boys is this – be kind, have the confidence to be yourselves, and hold onto your wonderful curiosity about the world and everything in it.

Happy New Year, and here’s hoping that 2017’s summary will be a bit more straightforward x

frosty-walk

 

A festive scene

Let me set the scene.

It is the last day of term, and mummy’s three little boys finished school at 2.15pm. Mummy has seen enough of her boys over the last few weeks to know that it would be foolish of her to have high hopes for this afternoon.

The boys are balanced precariously on their chairs, half-heartedly eating their tea. Boy 2 (aged 4) is attempting to scrape ‘yucky bits’ off his pasta. Boy 1 (aged 6), and Boy 3 (aged 4) have requested half a piece of chocolate cake and half a piece of banana cake each. Boy 2 has requested a whole piece of chocolate cake to himself. Boy 2 quickly decides he is being hard done by. Boy 2 will not accept that there is no more banana cake; and is finding it difficult to understand that two halves make one whole. Mummy is frustrated, but also knows that it is probably a bit much to expect her 4 year old to get his head around fractions on the last day of term.

Boy 2 is hysterical, and finally falls off his chair; smashing his mouth on the table on his way down. Boy 2 has blood pouring from his mouth.

That is where we join the festive scene.

Boy 2: I am bleeeeeeding mummy; and because I am bleeding I need two cakes mummy. Did you hear me, mummy? I said I am BLEEDING! And I neeeeeed two cakes! 

Boy 1: Mummy, what is three quarters of 20?

Boy 2: Listen to me mummy, listen; it is not fair that I don’t have two cakes mummy. I don’t have two cakes, AND I am bleeeding, mummy.

Boy 3: Once at school mummy, when I was standing in my fire drill line, my bottom started tickling. It really did mummy. It was so funny, mummy. Did you know that? 

Boy 2: I want to go to bed mummy. I want bed because I’ve been bleeeeeeding, mummy. But I don’t want to go in MY bed, mummy. I need to go to YOUR bed, mummy. 

Mummy: No, you’re not sleeping in my bed I’m afraid.

Boy 2: But I WANT TO, MUMMY! Just for tonight. I’m not going in my bed mummy, I need a different bed. 

Mummy: Well I’m afraid I don’t have any different beds, sweetheart. Not until we have a bigger house.

Boy 1: In my pretend world mummy, I am 58. I have two children who are 28 and 26. They live near Leighton Buzzard mummy but they don’t often go there. More often they go to Tring. Or Cheddington. The furthest north they’ve ever been is Carlisle. What do you think of that? 

Boy 2: When will that be, mummy? When will our house grow? I need another bed, mummy. I’M NOT GOING IN MY BED! I had bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeding, mummy. 

Boy 1: I’m going to sing my Christmas songs now, mummy. Is that ok?

Boy 3: Can I hold that pot of Vaseline please, mummy? It’s got a good lid.

Boy 1: “Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum”

Boy 2: I need a go with that Vaseline lid. You’ve had it for a long time, it’s my turn. 

Boy 3: Can I have it back now please? I just want one more play with the lid.

Boy 2: But you’ve had MORE TURNS THAN MEEEEEE!

Boy 1: “And all the angels sang for Him, the bells of heaven raaaaaaang for Him”

Mummy: I think it’s time to say night night to the Vaseline now, please.

Boy 3 (kisses tub of Vaseline)*: Night night, Vaseline. Love you.

Boy 1: Did you enjoy my singing, mummy? I did them in a different order to normal. You probably noticed. 

Of course I did, poppet.

 

*Not even joking – he really did kiss the Vaseline.

decorating-tree

Don’t worry, I re-arranged that tinsel.

Thank you so much for reading and for all your lovely comments over this year. I have loved sharing stories and so often have felt reassured to know I am not alone! Merry Christmas x

 

Giving advice, taking advice

You develop many skills when you become a mum, and one of these is giving reassuring advice to mum friends who are having a bad day/week/month.

‘Don’t worry’, you say, ‘it’s completely normal.’

‘Don’t beat yourself up. It’s hard. We all have days like that.’

‘He’s tired, he knows how to push your buttons. You get the worst of it because you’re his mum. He’ll have forgotten all about it by now.’

‘Yes, there are days when I hate it too. It’s perfectly normal to want to hide away in a cupboard for a few hours where no-one can find you.’

It’s easy to have perspective when it applies to someone else. When it’s someone else’s child who just can’t hold it together after school. When it’s someone else’s child who refuses to co-operate in the mornings. When it’s someone else’s child who is a jolly, happy, functioning 4 year old until the second he sees his mummy, and then every last ounce of upset, frustration and exhaustion comes spilling out. When it’s someone else’s child who hurls his tea all over the floor in a fit of rage.

It’s easy to put all of that into perspective when it doesn’t apply to your child. It’s easy to nod and give advice and offer an arm and say, truthfully, that we’ve all been there; we all know what it’s like. That trying your very hardest to raise decent and kind human beings whilst also wanting their childhood to be full of warm and happy memories does sometimes take its toll.

The hardest thing? The very hardest thing of all is taking your own advice. Because when it applies to you, when it’s your child who can’t keep things together, when it’s you who feels like everything is spinning out of control; it is just so much easier to tell yourself that you are not doing a good enough job. That you should have done this and you shouldn’t have done that. To analyse and over-analyse and convince yourself that you could and you should have done things better. To tell yourself that you’re not up to it, that your children deserve better than you’re giving them. To think about how much better things might have turned out if only you’d made a different decision in that split second when all of your children were making competing demands of you.

It’s easy to say ‘don’t beat yourself up’ to someone else.

It’s also very easy to beat yourself up.

And so, as a mum, my resolution for 2017 has to be this: listen to your own advice. Sometimes children are horrible and cruel. Sometimes it is difficult to think straight when you feel like you always have a small person hanging off your cardi. Sometimes, you probably don’t do things in quite the way the parenting manuals suggest. That’s ok.

Make a cuppa, move on; and save your energy for the next challenge. Because you know that won’t be far away.

boys-at-bridge

After school is…….

I keep seeing smiley, happy photos of children doing things after school. You know…..making things or learning things or even going out to places. Sometimes just having fun. And it  bothers me, seeing these photos; because after school in my house does not even vaguely resemble these beautiful scenes. Nope, not one tiny bit.

There is very little constructive activity going on in my house after school.

After school is “Please take your shoes off…….No, I said shoes off, didn’t I? What are you doing with your shoes still on?? Just take them off please. Before you go upstairs. I said before you go upstairs. Yes now please. We don’t need to lie on the floor and complain about it do we? We just need to TAKE OUR SHOES OFF like we do every single day.”

After school is no we’re not having more snacks now. Why??? Because you’ve had apple wedges, three crackers, half a banana and a cup of milk and we’re about to have tea. What do you mean you don’t want tea……You just told me you’re hungry.”

After school is wondering how anyone has the time for spellings and sounds and everything else that gets sent home in the book bag. Because all you do for four hours from the moment you get home until they go to bed is troubleshoot.

After school is hating yourself for just wanting to get them into bed. But you can’t help it. You just want to get them into bed. 

After school is “it’s not nice to keep poking him with that pen, is it?” and “please stop fighting over a pair of scissors” and “you really mustn’t hit him with that spoon” and “No no no! Get that fork away from your eyes please.”

After school is battling to get children upstairs to get ready for bed because honestly they are NOT TIRED. They’re really not. Just look at them, flopped on the sofa rubbing their little eyes. Not tired at all.

After school is when there is always at least one child crying. And whoever is not crying, well they just need to get on with amusing themselves because your hands are very full.

After school is feeling like you can’t do anything right for anyone.

After school is being cried on, being screamed at; or having a snotty nose wiped across your shoulder.

After school is sitting having a cuddle in a dark quiet room because you know that this little one is all done in for the day.

After school is knowing that you’re needed, but at the same time knowing that most of the things you do or say are wrong. Very wrong indeed. Look, there you are making the wrong thing for tea. And now you’re trying to help a little person brush his teeth when he’s made is so clear that HE DOESN’T NEED HELP. And what are you doing now, daring to suggest that your children might like to wear pyjamas!

After school is wondering why the hours between 3 and 7pm in your house never look like they do in other people’s photos.

After school is mainly ugly, sometimes just about do-able but very rarely fun. After school is not “It’s so lovely to see you mummy, let’s sit down and do some crafts”.

After school in my house is very much a work in progress. And it doesn’t make pretty photos.

One day, hopefully, we will get there. But we’re definitely not there yet.

sofa-boys