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

 

 

 

 

 

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

As you turn 6 and 4

Today, Eldest Boy, is what I call your Birthday Eve. Tomorrow, you turn 6. Two days later, your brothers turn 4. August is always full-on and slightly overwhelming, but this year it is even more full-on than usual. For the first time ever, we are away for your birthdays; and we have a packed schedule. Over 6 nights we are staying in 3 places, attending 1 wedding and of course celebrating one turning 6 and two turning 4. Daddy also has Best Man duties to perform and a speech to perfect. Our car is packed to the brim as it always is when we go away; but this time there are also wedding outfits, mummy’s new shoes, birthday cards and presents.

So as we continue our little road trip; here you are, boys, as you turn 6 and 4.

Eldest boy

You are: 

Growing in confidence, gentle, your own boy, innocent, imaginative, inquisitive, brave, impatient, a bookworm, on a mission to protect the world’s endangered species.

You love: 

Books, maps, animals of the world, structure, school, nature, lists, problems to solve, answers to questions, a hearty meal, dates, times, football scores, custard, flags, days at home surrounded by your books.

You can often be found: 

Sitting on your bedroom floor with a selection of atlases, drawing maps, compiling lists, reading, writing out imaginary football scores, swotting up on animals and their habitats.

Likely to say: 

‘I really love learning the Cyrillic alphabet, mummy. In fact, I wish we were Cyrillic. Or Russian, I mean.’

‘I would love to be a brown rat because brown rats eat anything they find.’

Special skill: 

Retaining and recalling information – the diet of an Arctic fox, the preferred habitat of a ring-tailed lemur. You read it and somehow it stays there.

Nightmare scenario: 

Being hurried when engrossed in a book.

Eldest boy note

Twin 1

You are: 

Joyful, sensitive, headstrong, eager, jaunty, impatient, adventurous, sociable, shy, cuddly, a whirlwind, the first to wake up every morning.

You love: 

Running, climbing, performing, leaping, racing, wrestling, scooting, making friends, being praised, cake, ice-cream in a cone, one more sweetie.

Can often be found: 

Forcing your way to the front door determined to open it first.

Likely to say: 

‘Stop saying those RUDE things, mummy’

(Anything you don’t want to hear is, apparently, a ‘rude thing’.)

Special skill: 

Winning people over with your big brown eyes. And they are big.

Nightmare scenarios: 

Ambiguous answers. Unfortunately, the answer is sometimes ‘maybe’, and you don’t like that at all.

Your scooter blowing away, a bag being put on the ground, your brother running on ahead of you. You have quite a few nightmare scenarios at the moment my lovely, you are going through a bit of an anxious phase.

Twin 1

Twin 2

You are:  

Observant, defiant, unsure, shy, master of voices, growing so fast that I can’t buy new clothes quickly enough, sometimes earnest, sometimes jokey, often moody; never in any rush.

You love:

Creepy crawlies, flamboyant accessories, funny faces, taking your time over meals, crackers, silly voices, ice lollies, fancy dress, finding feathers, playing make-believe.

Can often be found: 

At the table, still finishing a meal.

Watching snails. Or ants.

Playing mummies and daddies and babies.

Likely to say: 

‘I can see a dead woodlouse.’

‘You know mummy, yesterday a few weeks ago I found a smelly sock on the way home from school…… And a glove.’

‘I need a cuddle.’

Special skill: 

The ability to spot ants, snails, slugs, feathers and abandoned socks and gloves from a great distance.

Nightmare scenario: 

A stepped-on snail.

No more snacks.

Twin 2 fancy dress2

New adventures

As you turn 6 and 4, the year to come is a big one for us all – this time next month I will have three little schoolboys.

Yes, you are still hard work. The days are still relentless, getting us all out of the house saps me of all of my energy, and the thought of a glass of wine carries me through bathtime and bedtime. But boys, you are magnificent and along with the chaos you bring us bucket loads of laughter and fun. Long may that continue.

Happy birthday xxx

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

On giving up beating myself up

Today I realised something.

I realised that I am the one who is making life difficult for myself. As of today, I have had enough of beating myself up over trivialities, of going over things in my head time and time again trying to work out what I should or could have done in certain situations. I have realised that I’ll always be able to tell myself that, on any particular day, I was too strict, not strict enough, too quick to lose my temper, unable to give enough time to my children; that I should have done more crafts, should have got the paddling pool out, shouldn’t have got so annoyed that someone spilt their juice again….. You get the picture.

I will always be able to convince myself that my best just isn’t good enough, but by giving myself a hard time I am just using up valuable energy and making myself a bit miserable. So I am admitting that yes, there are days when I don’t really enjoy being a mum. No, of course I wouldn’t change it, but there are mornings, evenings, sometimes entire days when I hate it. Boys – if you are reading this somewhere down the line, that is not at all a reflection on you. What I hate is the fact that I am responsible for you but feel like I don’t really have the skills, capacity or patience to make a good job of it. I hate not having a clue how to handle the challenges. And anyone who has had children knows that there are plenty of those.

I owe a thank you to the friend who texted me yesterday and said ‘I often think I hate being a mother at the moment, do you?‘ It reminded me that it’s ok to feel like that sometimes; because children are unreasonable, unpredictable, take all their frustrations out on you and, by the end of the day, leave you feeling like a shadow of your normal self. But my little boys get three meals a day, get cuddles at bedtime, go out to new places and have parents that yes, get frustrated, but couldn’t love them any more than they do. So hopefully, even when mummy’s sitting in the corner with her head in her hands having a little cry and quietly wishing all the noise would just stop, they will be fine.

Us mums give ourselves a hard time. We give ourselves a hard time over keeping house, cooking the tea, being there for everyone who needs us, remembering all upcoming events and trying to remain calm when we are actually losing our heads. We look things up on parenting forums to try and work out what we’re doing wrong and how we can be better…..and there is always someone there telling us a better way of doing things. But, if you’re a perfectionist mum you’ll drive yourself mad. You’ll drive yourself mad thinking about all the things you could have done differently and, what’s worse, how these things might affect your children for the rest of their lives.

So I’m going to stop driving myself mad. I am accepting that I love my children, I do my best, but occasionally they do my head in. And that’s normal. I deal with it in the best way I can at the time, which often isn’t the actual best way but motherhood doesn’t give you the luxury of time to think things through.

We sometimes have bad mornings, we sometimes have bad bedtimes. Sometimes we have a whole bad day. We are not perfect, but we are mainly ok. And from now on, I’m going to try and content myself with that.

boy under a blanket

This isn’t me. But it is often how I feel.

Hands up if you love 5

I love 5.

When I look back on this period of parenting little ones, I have a feeling that 5 will be the age that I’ll wish we could have made last a little longer. The enjoyment factor now definitely outweighs the slog factor, which is a huge relief.

At 5, mum/dad are still at the centre of everything (and they’re AMAZING!), but you’re big enough to get yourself dressed and take yourself to the toilet. My 5 year old still wants me to stay at birthday parties, still wants 5 cuddles when I drop him off at school (apparently this will continue until he’s 16, when it will be 16 cuddles, obviously), and still counts how many kisses I give him when we say goodnight. I know these things will change, but I’m not ready for them to yet.

At 5, not only is everything exciting but everything is possible. My 5 year old is apparently going to be a teacher. Specifically, he is going to teach children about countries and animals. He’s going to live with his brothers, who will both be doctors. In his lovely 5 year old’s world, there is no reason why life would get in the way of this plan.

At 5, you can be left unsupervised and trusted not to destroy your room. This is a blessing if you have two three year olds who can’t be trusted for two minutes.

At 5, no-one has any real reason not to be your friend. My boy is, compared to his peers, a slightly eccentric little soul; but at 5 that doesn’t matter does it? No-one cares if he spends all his time pouring over maps and reading about the Eurasian lynx and snowshoe hare.boy with globe And part of me just wants to keep him in that lovely 5 year old bubble in which everyone is his friend. He doesn’t really like football and that’s ok, because at playtime he can just go and play with the hoops instead. There might be little friendship groups, but it’s the age before proper cliques have emerged. I watched my boy at a recent birthday party as he launched into a lengthy speech about where jelly would sit on his league table of desserts. It wasn’t particularly interesting to anyone apart from him. His friends on either side switched off and started new conversations, but it didn’t bother him…..he just continued, undeterred. Totally happy to be himself – what a lovely way to be.

5 is loving learning and having a head full of questions. School, despite all the targets, is fun; and at 5, they suddenly seem to have the stamina to deal with it.

5 is being big enough to appreciate the special treats, but small enough to still take pleasure in the little things.

5 is being brilliant company (most of the time, at least). Sometimes my 5 year old gets a bit swallowed up in the general chaos of life with two little siblings – I seem to spend 3/4 of my time cleaning up spills, taking boys to the toilet and kissing hurt knees better: it often feels like he doesn’t get much of a look in. But when I get him on his own he is wonderful, interesting, enthusiastic company. We can go out and it feels remarkably easy. I don’t need to take whole bags full of equipment with me. He might get tired, he might sometimes get whiney, but he is unlikely to throw a wobbly and lay himself down on the pavement just because he’s fed up.

5 is being able to reason, sometimes even being reasonable, but still coming out with questions, observations and comments that parents never want to forget.

5 year olds are, of course, still demanding; but these are not the intense, non-stop demands of 3 year olds. Meltdowns still happen but, thankfully, they are no longer a daily occurrence.  The constant questions, which need to be answered urgently and immediately, can be draining and, when you genuinely don’t know the answers, make you feel just a bit inadequate. My 5 year old has no concept of personal space, and shouts even when he’s standing right next to me. And 5 year olds are definitely not beyond a good bit of whining – in fact, I’d say this is the 5 year old’s special skill.

But generally, 5 is a joy. It’s the age when it feels like everything is starting to come together.

At least it does when I have time to stand back and appreciate it.

Trafalgar Square

Yes I have 3 boys, and yes I love it

A friend once said to me that little boys are like puppies, and it has always stayed with me. I don’t think being puppy-like is a bad thing – I love puppies, and I obviously love my boys. But there are definitely more than a few similarities:

  • boys need to get out for a good runaround every day. When they’ve been cooped up for too long, they start to get silly – you might find one climbing up a bookcase or chasing himself round and round in a circle. When they realise that the time to go out is approaching, they hover and leap around by the door, frequently crashing against it in a feverish state of excitement.
  • they are loyal little creatures, often following their parent or carer around with an ‘I just want to be loved’ look.
  • they are mainly interested in food – if you were to pop a meal on the floor for them, I am pretty confident that they would eat it up quite happily. They are quick to hunt out anyone who might be attempting to eat some food in secret – once they’ve found you, they will tilt their heads and stare with huge eyes. They might drool.
  • your house will never look quite the same again.
  • they are eager to please, desperately seeking praise for the simplest of things such as managing to put trousers on without help…… even if said trousers end up on back to front or with two legs through the same hole.
  • as babies they dribble and drool all over you and their clothes; as preschoolers they give spontaneous cuddles and kisses, and, if you’re lucky blow slobbery raspberries on your face.

They are high energy, but they have relatively simple needs: running off some energy, eating, or having a cuddle.

I have three of these little puppies, two of whom are slightly more puppy like than the other. I wouldn’t have it any other way. There is an assumption in our culture isn’t there that the ‘perfect’ family means one boy and one girl – ‘one of each – perfect‘, people like to say. There is also an assumption that if you don’t have one of each, you must be yearning for what you don’t have. And that it’s perfectly ok to ask someone if they’re planning on ‘trying for a boy‘ or ‘trying for a girl‘; as if that’s even how it works anyway. People love to stop you for a chat when you’ve got small children, and most people are lovely; but I’ve had my fair share of comments like ‘oh dear, 3 boys?’, and ‘all boys? You poor thing’. I know most people probably mean nothing at all by comments like this – it’s just something to say, but is it any harder to say ‘3 boys, how lovely!’? And I definitely didn’t appreciate the man who even went to the trouble of slowing his car down and winding down the window just to tell me how unlucky he thought I was. Because the thing is, I have three healthy, lovable and excitable little boys and don’t consider myself unlucky at all. Occasionally I wish I had a reason to buy funky tights, but there are plenty of other little girls I can buy those for instead.

I don’t think most of us parents could imagine anything other than what we have, and I know I would feel exactly the same if I had a house full of girls. My house is loud and chaotic and, quite frankly, a mess. My boys don’t draw lovely pictures of rainbows or people or sunshine or anything really; they scribble furiously then quickly announce they’ve had enough. Nor do they sit nicely and smile for photos. There is a lot of running, chasing, emptying out toy boxes, and scrabbling around on the floor (or sometimes in the bins) for food. There is wrestling, there is screaming, there are scraped knees and cut lips, there is plenty of fun and laughter, there is climbing up to sit on mummy’s knee, there are cuddles and slobbery kisses.

There is a sensitive, bookish one; a mischievous one, and a sometimes-mischievous-sometimes-shy one. This is my house of boys – it may not be the ‘perfect’ family other people imagine, but it is my family, those slobbery kisses are for me, and honestly, I am not a ‘poor thing‘ at all.

boys on bench

My boys x