Tears and frustration and broken hearts

Is this normal? It can’t be normal, surely? I ponder this a lot at the moment as I try, once again, to calm you whilst doing my best to stay calm myself.

I don’t want to do you a disservice with this post, because most of the time you are actually very reasonable. You are helpful and sensible – or as sensible as can be expected for a four year old – and love to talk through things. Why we should do this or shouldn’t do that. You love nothing more than being given some responsibility. You love it a bit too much in fact, and your bursts of rage are usually linked to one of two things:

  1. feeling you have missed out on something one of your brothers has just done. You MUST experience everything, no matter how mundane
  2. wanting to do adult jobs without any help

You NEED to carry the breakable china around John Lewis and to the till BY YOURSELF, you want to use the sharp knife to cut the pastry WITHOUT ANY HELP, you urgently need to carry the elephant bag that you had no interest in until your brother picked it up 10 seconds previously, you must re-sort the laundry that your brother has just been sorting out; you ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO take your unremarkable plain green top to the park to show your 4 year old friend just because it is new. No you don’t want to wear it, you want to wear your other new top; you just want to take this one IN A BAG! You don’t want to show it another day, you need to show it tomorrow with your haaaaaands.

It is all desperately unfair and mummy is surely the most unreasonable person on the planet. You do not cope well with being disappointed and….well, given the nature of your demands, you are disappointed a lot at the moment.

Unfortunately, my love, these are not two-minute meltdowns. Oh no – these go on and on and on. You do not want to be comforted or spoken to or reasoned with or touched – you just have to get it all out of your system. Watching you is draining and soul-destroying. It physically hurts. It leaves my brain addled and my heart bruised. It almost wipes the rest of a good day from my mind.

I think about other children of your age; I think about your friends, and somehow I can’t imagine this happening in their homes. Why is it that some days I feel like I have gone back to dealing with a toddler? Albeit a bigger one, and therefore much harder to manage. Why it is that sometimes I feel like we are getting there – that yes, it is hard work, but we are in control; we are managing. We’re happy and look…..we’re having fun most of the time too. And then within seconds everything seems to collapse and I feel like it is all slipping out of my control. Why are we still going from one extreme to the other like this?

I can sense when you are ready to be reasoned with. Your muscles loosen, you are ready to stop fighting….or all out of energy; one or the other. I can see when you are finally ready to give in and have a cuddle. And when you cuddle, your little arms hold me tight. You sit with me quietly and bury your head in my neck.

This is mummy’s privilege – the tightest cuddles, but the biggest tears too. And a broken heart to mend before the morning.

boy with trolley

Here you are, poppet, being reasonable and helpful at the garden centre.

 

 

 

Snapshot of a boy

You skipped out of school one day last week with yet another graze on your grubby little face. And as I examined your latest injury, I realised that I have never written a post just for you. I have written about you and your brothers. I have written about you and your twin. But you, my second born boy, my first born twin;  don’t have a post all of your own (neither does Twin 2 by the way).

I decided to put that right. And yes, Twin 2 – you will get one too.

Currently, Twin 1, you look very much like you’ve been in a pub brawl. You spend your days flinging yourself about with joyful abandon, until you topple over once again….. and then you put the same amount of energy into your sobs as you had put into your running, skipping and leaping just seconds previously.  Your speciality injury has always been falling flat on your face and cutting your lip, so we are used to the pub brawl look by now. And on top of the cuts, grazes and bruises, your little face is always grubby, whatever the activity.

You long for the day when you are old enough to have a skateboard – this has been your dream since the age of 2, when you came across a display of skateboards at a service station and were desperate to dismantle the display and have a go. You watch the youngsters at the skatepark with longing in your eyes. You dream of kneepads and elbow pads and flying up and down those ramps with the wind in your hair.

When you’re a proper grown up, you want to be Bert from Mary Poppins, dancing on the rooftops with all your pals. In your 4 year old mind, being a chimney sweep would enable you to have a grubby face all the time, no questions asked. It makes me happy that your actual dream in life is to be Bert…. and your joyful rendition of ‘Step in Time’ is one of the best things I have ever seen.

If your career as a chimney sweep doesn’t work out, you plan to travel the world with your big brother and be an official ‘potato tester’. When it comes to eating, you apply the following simple rule:

green and looking anything like a vegetable = bad

potatoes = good

One of your favourite games is to walk around on all fours pretending to be a dog, with your twin brother as your owner. There has always been something very puppy-like about you so this new favourite game seems apt. You need a good run-around every day, and to see you run free in open space is a joy. You are keen, eager, and your face swells with pride when you are praised. You have huge brown eyes and amazing long lashes – you know this, and attempt to use both to your advantage. You hate to miss out, or to be outdone – if your twin tells me I look ‘pretty’, you try to go one better by telling me I look ‘beautiful’.

Right now, school is about sand, water, role-play and building bricks. Soon this will change, and I worry about how you’ll cope. How ridiculous that I’m worrying about your ability to cope with school when you’re not yet 5, but I know what Year 1 is these days and I’m not sure that it is you. I don’t share these worries with you, of course I don’t. But the thought of your joy and energy being contained as you push your little brain to understand things which, right now are totally beyond you….well that makes me want to weep. Having said that, the reading and writing side of school is starting to click and your reading books are, although still painful, not quite such a battle to get through as they were a couple of months ago (when you would sound out ‘p-i-g’ and put it together to make ‘goat’)….. Although I am confident you would find your reading books less challenging if you weren’t attempting to read them while standing on your head.

Your emotions bubble close to the surface; and when you need mummy, you really do need mummy. Your world crumples and those huge eyes fill with tears. When you’re feeling tired and cuddly, you like me to wrap you in your hooded bath towel like a baby and sing. Two songs in particular – He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands, and Rock-a-bye-Baby. Yes, I am going to remind you of this when you’re 15.

When things are really really bad, for example when mummy breaks the news that we’re turning off Paw Patrol, you put your hand over your mouth as you sob – like you’ve just experienced the biggest and worst shock imaginable.

If anyone is up in the night, it is most likely to be you: you can’t find one of your special cuddlies; your duvet has ‘done something’…..which means it is not quite straight. I try to tell you that the reason your duvet is not straight is because you have just turned it back to get out of bed. As a toddler you used to get up and clamber into bed with us. You need people and have never liked being on your own. Although seemingly more outgoing than your twin, you are more confident when you have him by your side.

You love fancy dress, you love wearing your bow-tie and you take a hankie to school every day. You say ‘wewy’ for ‘very’, ‘incept’ for ‘except’; and ‘ownly’ for ‘lonely’.

This is a little snapshot of you, my grubby-faced boy, at 4 years and 7 months – an energetic, joyful, sensitive, loyal, sometimes shy, sometimes outgoing bundle of fun who dreams of dancing on rooftops ….preferably with a skateboard.

wannabe skateboarder

Keeping up with life

You know those times when everything just feels too much? Too many emails, too many dates, too many things you’re worried about forgetting, too many things you realise you have already forgotten. Chasing your tail, feeling permanently behind. Well that is me this week. It was also me last week. Evening events at the children’s school, costumes to prepare, slips to complete and return, parents’ evening appointments to make, parents’ evening appointments to turn up for. Violins, swimming lessons, reading books, library books. Doctor’s appointments, the food shopping; and of course that soul-destroying basket full of laundry just waiting to be folded and put away…..that basket which you know will be full again within seconds of you having emptied it.

Those times when you’re so tired that even an early night is beyond you. Somehow scrolling through the Facebook photos of someone you haven’t seen for 20+ years while at the same time half-heartedly searching online for boys’ astro boots is vastly more appealing than going through the ridiculously lengthy process of getting ready for bed.

I used to be reasonably efficient. Birthday cards were always on time. Late cards were a pet-hate. Now, I’m the one who sends the apology text…..I’m so sorry, your card is on its way. Couldn’t quite get my act together. Hope you have a lovely day. Now I’m the one who opens my handbag to find an un-posted card, now weeks late and possibly not even worth posting at all.

Why? Why is is that such simple things are frequently beyond me? Why is it that the normal, everyday tasks needed to get through life sometimes feel impossible to keep up with? Keeping house, measuring up for new blinds, painting the lounge, renewing insurance, putting away the washing, doing the food shop, making the beds, watering the plants……even planting any plants in the first place.

Why am I struggling when I have so many things to help me? When I have a washing machine, a dishwasher, a tumble dryer, a slow-cooker, a computer, and a phone that does so much more than make phone calls? How did people manage in the days before all of these things, not to mention in the days before we had online grocery shopping and Amazon Prime? And what about people who hold down jobs that are far more demanding than mine? People with long commutes, people who get home late, people who have to work in the evenings and at weekends. How do they all seem to manage it? Yes, my life is busy; but I can’t really pretend I don’t have the time to keep up with basic jobs given that many of my evenings are spent sitting on a sofa eating Kettle Chips and talking about how tired I am.

Unfortunately I don’t have any answers – I am just writing it down because sometimes it helps.

So if you feel like you’re drowning, then know that I am too. If the emails, the post, the texts are all piling up and need attending to, well that is true over here as well. If you suddenly realised that your car’s MOT was overdue and had to re-plan your entire week to enable you to get your car to the garage…..the car that you rely on to get to work and to get your children to all their activities – well yes, that is also me.

That is me, attempting to muddle through but currently failing because, even with all the equipment and gadgets which are supposed to help us modern parents, sometimes life just gets on top of us.

And unfortunately, as yummy as they are, Kettle Chips don’t really help.

 

boys-on-sofa-2

When life starts getting on top of these three, they snuggle up and watch Mary Poppins. You can do that when you’re 6 and 4.

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.

This is where the time went

There is one question that I’ve noticed crops up a lot on my Facebook feed at the moment, and it is this –

Where did the time go?

I see it at birthdays and big milestones and especially now, at the start of the school year.

I know what people mean when they ask where the time has gone. They mean ‘how has my helpless baby developed into a real, functioning little person who can actually do things?‘ They mean ‘how is it possible for someone to grow and learn so much when day to day I have barely notice a change?‘ They mean ‘what a shame it isn’t possible to bottle and keep the nice bits of the baby days, because they’re never coming back.’

That (I think) is what people mean. We don’t actually mean ‘where did the time go?‘; because we all know where it went, don’t we?

It went on feeding and winding and changing nappies; on changing sleepsuits because this one’s been sicked on and….oh dear, now that one’s been poo-d on.

It went on tummy time and activity mat time and ‘let’s give you a go in your bouncer‘ time.

It went on baby books and nursery rhymes and lullabies.

It went on rocking, comforting, soothing, cuddling; and on evenings spent lying next to a cot when a baby wouldn’t settle.

It went on coffee mornings, on baby signing, on baby music and on I’m-so-tired-I-don’t-even-know-what-this-group-is-but-I’m-out-of-the-house-so-I’ll-stay-anyway groups.

It went on doing the laundry and folding it up and putting it away and despairing because the laundry basket is overflowing.

It went on applying teething gel and giving calpol and wishing a cuddle could just take away all that horrible teething pain.

It went on making a tea then forgetting it about it and reheating it an hour later.

It went on walking the streets with a pushchair trying to get a cranky baby to sleep.

It went on pureeing veg and providing breadsticks; on toddler-proofing the kitchen, and on mopping up spills.

It went on trying to teach small people to share and co-operate and listen.

It went on ‘oh no, you musn’t touch this‘ and ‘please don’t touch that‘; on kneeling down to play trains or stack cups or build towers.

It went on cleaning up cut knees; on applying plasters and wiping away tears.

It went on nights comforting crying babies and early mornings with cranky toddlers.

It went on sitting in the doctor’s waiting room and on trips to out of hours.

It went on bedtime stories and tucking in and ‘let’s get you back to your own bed shall we?’ at 2am.

It went on games of Snap, on Spot the Difference, on trying to teach children how to hold a pencil properly; on episodes of In the Night Garden and Peter Rabbit and Peppa Pig.

It went on pushing the swings and helping toddlers to negotiate the climbing frames.

It went on dealing with tantrums and sorting out arguments and teaching the concept of taking it in turns.

It went on disastrous trips to the shops, on rides on the bus, on making packed lunches and on ‘why don’t you just eat that last bit of cucumber?‘.

It went on ‘let’s do some colouring‘ and ‘let’s do some painting‘ and ‘ooh why don’t we make something?‘. And then clearing up the mess.

It went on fun days out and ‘oh dear that one went a bit wrong‘ days out.

It went on ice-creams, on rainy day trips to the library; on birthday parties and soft play.

It went on snatching a few seconds to cry in a corner, on frequently feeling out of my depth, on wondering why others always looked calmer than me, on raiding the snack box, on pulling funny faces, on doing silly dances and on planning birthday parties.

That is where the time went – on all of that and so much more. It’s been pretty busy hasn’t it?

 

 

What mummy spends her mornings saying

Mummy: “Why are you sitting on him? Can you get OFF him please…..we do NOT sit on each other, do we? You’re too heavy – if you hurt him, we’d all have to go to the hospital.

Yes, you can have some art straws for your puppet show. I’ll go and get them for you in a minute. You shouldn’t be sitting on the table though. Now, have you been to the toilet?

No, you can’t have the green train at the moment, you’ll have to wait for your brother to finish with it. No, we do not snatch. No, I am not going to snatch it for you. Get off him, get OFF…..we do not fight. You’ll have to just take it in turns to play with the green train. Shall I set the stopwatch? Right, I’ll set the stopwatch.

Art straws? Yes, hold on I just need to set the stopwatch for the boys.

Why are you still not dressed? ……. Well I’m sorry but those are your pants for today, your digger ones are in the wash. No, I don’t have any more digger ones, it really doesn’t matter whether you have stripy pants or digger pants. Yes, they really are in the wash. Ok, have a look if you must….Right, just go and have a sit and calm down in the other room. This is totally unnecessary over a pair of pants. Could you put that back please? No, put it back….we’re not having snacks right now. I said no, you’ve only just had breakfast. Please put it back.

Yes, yes, I did get those straws for you. I need to find where I’ve put them……No, I’m really sorry sweetheart but I can’t find them right at this moment. I am trying to pack the picnic and get us ready to go out as well you see poppet. You need a curtain? Right, well I’m sure we could make a little curtain or something for you. Go and practise your puppet show and then I’ll come and watch. Yes, I will come and watch in 5 minutes I just can’t come right now.

What is going on up there? Give him his puppet back please. No, get your hands off him and give him his puppet back. This is HIS puppet show. No, you can do your puppet show afterwards, let’s watch this one first. Stop screaming please, just calm yourself down and watch the puppet show. OK, well go and do yours over there then but I’m watching this one.

Why are you STILL not dressed? Well when I say it’s time to go, it will be time to go whether you’re dressed or not, ok?

Now, I need to go and finish getting our things packed up. Do you think you can play nicely for 5 minutes please so that we can actually go out?

What’s happened now? Well I’m sorry he’s nearly finished the puzzle without you. Let him finish it off and then you can do it. No, I can’t play Buckaroo right now, we’re about to go out. Do you actually want to go out? Well why are you still in your pants then? Have you been to the toilet? Oh dear, I’m sorry your willy is hurting – go and do a wee then it’ll probably feel better.

I’m going to hang up this washing and then I need everyone to be ready please. Could you put those pegs down, please. They’re not for playing with. Thank you. No……I’ve told you before, NO water pistols in the house.

Come on then everyone, let’s get our shoes on please and stand by the door.”

Boy (hysterical): “BUT I’VE STILL ONLY GOT MY PANTS ON!!!

And this is why a) we are always late and b) mummy always looks slightly hysterical once she has finally managed to get herself and three little boys out of the house.

boys at window

Onwards and upwards

So that’s another year done of school runs, chats at the school gates, reply slips, cake bakes, school trips, show & tells, playdates, violin lessons, assemblies, reading books, spelling lists, birthday parties and everything else that the school year brings.

It doesn’t take much to make me tearful, and the end of the school year always feels like an emotional time. I imagine it will always feel like this – coming to the end of one school year and getting ready for the next is yet another of those moments that make you aware of the passage of time. I have a feeling that whatever the age of your child, each year will be remembered for something – for my eldest one, Reception was all about getting to grips with the school timetable, learning to read, and memorising the school menu. Year 1 has been the year that he has gained in confidence, made his first proper little circle of friends and discovered the joy of chapter books. As he moves up and through the years I know that there will be other milestones I will remember – the year he no longer slips his little hand into mine as we walk to school, the year ‘mummy’ becomes ‘mum’, the year he starts walking to school on his own. Small but significant steps towards independence.

Parenting is a whole series of milestones, but the significance of the end of a school year feels even more marked because their whole little tribe is going through it together. Unlike a birthday which, quite rightly, is your child’s special day; the end of the school year is a huge moment for the whole school community. Whether or not your own child is involved, you can’t help but be aware of leavers’ assemblies, transition days and then, as they get older, leavers’ balls (or ‘proms’, as they have become); and realise what milestones these are for all of the families who are part of your community.

All of these children and young people moving on and up to the next stage.

I love these early years of school – the increased pressures on young children aside, this is such a special a time when friendships are made and learning is a whole world of discovery. At some point, I know this will change. At some point, I know these children will no longer run into school squealing with delight while they cartwheel in the playground. Of course I hope my boys will always love learning, but at some point school is likely to become associated with exams and worry. Those days are not here yet; and for the moment I am grateful that our school experience so far has been a happy one.

And so here we are – the end of term for my eldest boy’s little tribe was today, and that is Year 1 done and dusted for all of them. Out they trotted this afternoon – sweaty little red faces, eyes shining with excitement and t-shirts covered in toffee ice-cream. Some getting ready to go off on exciting holidays and others just full of excitement at the thought of six weeks of freedom.

It will be a new chapter for all of them in September; but in the meantime here’s hoping that the summer holidays are just the right mix of rest, pottering and adventure. With minimal whining. That always helps.

Happy summer holidays folks x

boy with bag.jpg