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

 

 

 

 

 

Parenting small children – it’s like this

I am 5 years into being a mum. My husband and I have built a frenetic, chaotic, noisy life which is filled with laughter, tears, apologies, gratitude, squabbles, hugs, grazed knees, cut lips and permanent exhaustion.

You’d think we’d be well into the swing of it all by now really; that we’d be over the surprises and life should be settling down. To a certain extent it is. Our days have a familiar rhythm and routine mainly based around school drop offs and pick ups – days aren’t the blank canvas they used to be with a new baby. But that doesn’t meant that it’s all like I thought it would be.

It really isn’t. It’s like this……..

Goodbye personal space

“You’re standing on my foot!”

“Please stop shouting in my face!”

“No, you can’t lift up my top!”

“You’re actually sitting on my head.”

“No, I’d really rather you didn’t poke me in the eye.”

You get the picture. I say all of these things at least once a day. Often several times.

Children have absolutely no concept of personal space, and I had no idea how much I would crave it as a parent. There is always a child in my face, playing with my hair, climbing on my back, tugging at my jumper or hanging off my legs.

I beg my boys to give me a bit of space but they just don’t get it.

So instead of giving me space, they shout ‘Did you say you need SPACE, mummy?’ Right in my face, obviously.

It is NOISY

I always imagined a noisy, busy house. I grew up in a noisy, busy house. Noisy houses are often happy houses aren’t they?

Yes they are, if 80% of the noise isn’t directed at you.

The noise in my house drives me insane.

One thing after another, or three things all at the same time – screams over broken biscuits, tantrums over having to put socks on, crying because no-one is listening to you, crying just because everyone else is crying. Every statement needing to be confirmed and verified; two boys repeating a question they’ve just heard their brother ask – not because they haven’t heard the answer, just because they don’t want to be left out: ‘When can I go to the playground mummy?’, ‘And when can I  go to the playground, mummy?’, ‘AND WHEN CAN GO TO THE PLAYGROUND, MUMMY?’

It’s like living with a permanent and increasingly urgent echo. I know there will come a time far too soon when I will miss the noise. I will miss all the questions and I will miss my little boys being desperate for my answers.

But knowing I’ll miss it doesn’t make it easy to deal with.

Some days I just want to go and shut myself in a cupboard – sorry boys. Just for 5 minutes. Maybe 10.

It might be noisy, but no-one listens to you

A lot of the time, you feel like you might as well be talking to a wall.

“Take your shoes off!

Take your shoes off!

Take your shoes off!

Take your shoes off! I’m not saying it again (you say, knowing very well that you’ll say it at least another five times)………Take your shoes off!”

You will have to repeat everything you say at least once, often 5 times. Unless it’s about ice-cream, cake or chocolate. In which case you’ll definitely be heard the first time.

Few things are harder than getting out of the house

Getting out of the house seemed difficult back in the baby days – there’d always be a feed, or a change or something I’d forgotten. But now?!! Now that I can’t just put them in a pushchair or car seat and know that even if they’re crying at least they can’t escape? Now that getting out of the house requires actual co-operation from them?

Now it is a battle, a battle that I sometimes go through four or more times a day. A battle that involves me running and chasing boys the length of the house, fighting and scrabbling with boys to put shoes on, put coats on, do zips up, keep shoes on; and not start a wrestling match against the front door.

The most frustrating thing, and yet another thing that I did not appreciate pre-children, is that small children have no concept of time. Telling three year olds that the bell will be going in 5 minutes, or that gymnastics is about to start, or that Mummy has to start work right now, when all they want to do is play trains, is fairly fruitless.

Just leaving the house can easily take 20 minutes and uses a significant amount of my daily energy supply. And when it goes really badly, it can affect my mood for the rest of the day. Yes really – just walking out the front door.

Whatever isn’t a toy is fascinating

Dishwashers, washing machines, tumble dryers, light switches, doors, remote controls, drawers, cupboards, child-safety locks, keys (NOT the fake ones), oven dials, fridge-freezers, vending machines, lifts, plug sockets, vacuum cleaners, mops, parents’ shoes.

If it’s not a toy, they will LOVE it.

Everything is a process, and takes a very long time

‘Say bye bye to the snail.’

‘Say bye bye to the dustcart.’smoothie poster

‘Say bye bye to the giant poster of the smoothie-maker.’

‘We’ll watch three more cars drive past and then we’re going, ok’.

This is how you spend your life. Everything is a (very slow) process, a series of negotiations; and you don’t go anywhere at a normal pace.

You will never feel quite the same again

There’s the inevitable tiredness that comes with a new baby and broken nights, but what I didn’t know was that the tiredness would continue; that 5 years down the line I could still happily fall asleep anywhere and at any time. That I would always be exhausted, always feel a bit under the weather, that I would have dodgy knees and that I would wish I’d listened to all the well-meaning people who told me to do my pelvic floor exercises when I was pregnant.

(If you’re pregnant and reading this, do your pelvic floor exercises.)

You can’t be ill

You just don’t have time. Sorry.

And if you are unlucky enough to get ill, don’t expect anyone to treat you any differently.

Watching your children put on their own socks is excrutiating

Children do not automatically know how to put on socks, or shoes. Or how to do up buttons or zips. Clearly these are all things that they need to learn; but watching them struggle with the most basic tasks, and accepting that it is now going to take you even longer to get out of the house; is painful. Really painful.

You will wonder what has become of yourself

Pre-children you were probably a very competent, interesting person. Maybe you still are – in which case, well done. But post-children, it is fairly likely that your children’s toilet habits will be a pretty normal topic of conversation. Even with people you don’t know that well. This starts in the baby days, and then it continues throughout the pre-school years. I am wholeheartedly looking forward to the day when it doesn’t feature as part of my day-to-day chat.

But it’s not just toilet-related chat – I can converse on all the most boring topics. I bore myself sometimes when I hear myself talking. And the most mundane things now occupy my mind. I google the Topsy and Tim plotlines, and wonder whether Ben from CBeebies feels entirely comfortable sitting in his star onesie with his teddy bear on the Bedtime Hour, or whether he dreams of more.

You can be fairly sure that whatever you imagined parenting would be like, the real thing will bear little resemblance to it. It will be a sometimes joyful, sometimes tearful, frequently snotty mess. You will always need tissues, and a pack of plasters.

And whilst I wouldn’t change any of it, it’s also probably a good thing that I had very little clue what it would actually be like before I embarked on it.

boys at door