2018 was…..

I don’t like to wish time away (my mum always tells me not to); but even so I won’t be too sorry to say goodbye to 2018. It has been filled with challenging times and this, combined with continuing to juggle all the different balls that adult life requires us to juggle, has made it particularly draining. The fact that I have found my children more challenging than normal this year is, I’m sure, no coincidence – my temper has been short and my patience thin. All in all, I have found 2018 more than a little overwhelming.

BUT there have been adventures, memorable days and huge achievements; and I know that when I look back on this year I will remember the highlights as well as much as the challenges. Christmas has been the perfect tonic to a tricky year, particularly our Christmas evening drive around our local streets admiring the lights and listening to Elvis Presley (more on that in Twin 1’s section) which I know I’ll always remember.

I can’t possibly sum up a year in one post but I do like to have a go…..so this is my attempt at a snapshot of 2018.

About you:

2018 was the year that football attempted to take over our house – I have struggled with this just a bit. The constant football chat, the attempts to recreate matches with whatever you can find to kick around the house; and the chanting combine to make me want to go and hide in a dark corner. ‘We do not live in a football stadium‘ is one of my most frequently repeated phrases – I am starting to bore myself. As the year draws to a close I feel we are reaching a reasonably happy compromise….the understanding is that there is no football chat at the table and that we balance out our football fun with other activities and interests; of which there are many. Football aside, 2018 was also the year that you discovered a love for Italian pop music, or for one Italian singer in particular. In 10 years time, when wondering why you have an extensive collection of Italian pop music, you will probably ask me how and why this happened. Well, whilst rummaging around for something to listen to in the car one day, you happened to find a very old CD of mine from the year I spent in Italy. You then started to request it on every car journey, over and over – we listened to it so often that it was driving me mad and I decided to buy another just for a bit of variety. Since then, an Eros Ramazzotti CD has started to become a feature of most birthday presents in our house. I see it as our own little family stand against Brexit – while the nonsense continues outside of our car, we will continue to drive around in our own little bubble of European music.

Eldest boy – for Christmas you got a wonderful selection of books, a cosy jumper; and a pedometer which is, you declared very earnestly on Christmas day, one of the best presents you have ever received. You now record your steps every day in your journal. Your new interest this year is Mythology – you bought me Stephen Fry’s Mythos for my birthday in an attempt 20180715_103715to help me keep up. I have read it, but haven’t quite retained all the stories and names as you’d hoped I would.  Maps are still a favourite activity – studying them or drawing your own – as is writing song lyrics and inventing your own languages. With the help of a course over the Easter holidays, 2018 was the year in which you finally got the hang of riding your bike. It still isn’t your favourite activity, but you mastered it and I could not have been more proud. You joined a football team at the beginning of September and this has easily been one of the highlights of your year. Whilst football inside the house is driving me mad, outside of the house I can see how it has helped you to gain in confidence and come out of your shell.

Twin 1 – 2018 has been a transformative year for you, as well as being the year you finally got the skateboard you’ve dreamt of since you were two. For Christmas you got plenty of Lego, a colour-by-numbers book and an Elvis Presley CD – Elvis has been a favourite for the last two years (I can’t recall how or why this came about) and you can now be heard singing ‘All Shook Up‘ as you potter about the house. You have a compulsive spinning habit and are still something of a whirlwind, as 20181103_145719anyone would be able to see if they looked at your handwriting; but over this last year you have got the hang of absorbing yourself in an activity. Board games and puzzles have been a real feature of 2018; and more recently you have even been sitting down to read a book. I’m not always sure how much you are understanding but the fact that you are choosing to pick up a book is the most enormous stride forwards. When you are not absorbed in an activity you are always on the go – you are lean as a bean, a whizz at Junior Park Run; and Saturday morning football training is absolutely the highlight of your week. You race around that pitch high-fiving the other children looking like you’re having the time of your life….. although you have been known to let goals in because you were too busy spinning.

Twin 2 – Christmas present highlights for you were your George Ezra CD, a Watford FC football and a step-by-step drawing book. I feel you need a bit of encouragement to follow your own interests rather than feeling you always need to follow your twin, so right now I am all about bigging up your drawing skills. I call you our resident artist – if a20180421_140939 birthday card needs making, you are my go-to boy.  You also love your football training and are a little more focussed and less wayward than your twin; as well as much less likely to be spinning whilst in goal. You have always been an earnest little soul and your feelings are easily hurt. You come into your own when you have some undivided attention from an adult – you love a proper chat, and to help out….mopping the floor is a real, actual treat. When you’re in the mood you can be a bit of a performer – you love singing ‘I’ll be riding SHOTGUN‘ on repeat, and the first time I heard your Bruno Tonioli impression I had to double-check Bruno wasn’t actually in the house. ‘Oh my DARLING that was SPOT ON!‘…… and it really is spot on.

You watched….

Apart from Match of the Day, anything with numbers, scores and results has gone down well. The Eurovision Song Contest, the Winter Olympics, the European Championships – all were big hits. And once again, Strictly Come Dancing took over the house from September onwards, with you boys regularly attempting to recreate an American Smooth before school. Your main Christmas present from us was tickets for the Strictly Tour at the O2 – the excitement when we get there will be off the scale.

Weekend family viewing has become a thing, with Saturday Night Takeaway also being introduced this year (unfortunately also meaning that we had to explain what ‘Drink Driving’ meant) as well as Dr Who. And one rainy Sunday afternoon you eventually agreed to re-watch Paddington 2 with me – it is still a perfect film; and that was a perfect afternoon.

You read….

Eldest boy – well, having finished Harry Potter, we needed to find another series to keep your enthusiasm for reading going. The How to Train Your Dragon Series was a great one for you to jump straight into, and fortunately you then discovered the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan; which has fed your interest in mythology nicely. There have been other reading highlights for you this year – The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle was a wonderful read and The Phantom Tollbooth, Dragon Rider and The Explorer all went down a storm.

For you 6 year olds, this year has been about trying to move onto chapter books – I will not pretend it has been easy finding books that have engaged you; but finally we might be getting there (how is for another post). We battled through a few Beast Quests – the shiny covers went down well but nobody understood what was going on. The Daisy and the Trouble With books were usually well-received, and you will now sit and read The 13 Storey Treehouse series quite happily by yourselves – in fact, Twin 1 you are gobbling them up and I am just keeping my fingers crossed that this enthusiasm transfers onto other books.

Away from stories, we are all fans of The Week Junior which provides us with a good catch up on the week’s goings on (that includes me).

Out and about

We ticked two things off our family bucket list this year – one of which was Eurocamp and the other was getting the sleeper train all the way to Inverness, which I wrote about here. Both were real highlights of this year – I will never forget the excitement as we waited for that train to Scotland and Twin 1 telling me it was his ‘best life ever‘.

Aside from our bigger adventures, weekends are now mainly dominated by football but during school holidays we have continued to enjoy pottering about at National Trusts, with Grey’s Court being a new discovery this year. Bekonscot Model Village was established as a new favourite day out destination (turns out that children LOVE life in miniature), we are still big fans of Kew Gardens for a good runaround; and we made it up to the National Space Centre in Leicester which is amazing but very full-on – don’t even attempt to get round it all in one day……you get a return ticket included in the price so plan another visit instead.

My year

This year I have done a lot of staying in. I have been attempting to learn Spanish using Duolingo which I love and would highly recommend. And I have made some major changes including cutting down hugely on meat – I wouldn’t say I have quite gone veggie, but I have gone ‘flexi‘ and only eat meat very occasionally these days.

My book group continues to be one of the highlights of my life – not just for the books but also because it is hard to beat spending regular time with a group of friends you feel completely at ease with. Onto books though, one of the stand-out books of my reading year was To Obama: With Love, Joy, Hate and Despair – such an inspiring read all about the ten letters a day which Obama read while he was in office. I’d just recommend that you read the actual book rather than the Kindle version, on which the letters are…..well, really very difficult to read.  As well as Obama, I also loved Bookworm by Lucy Mangan, My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (the recent TV adaptation is also amazing); and enjoyed re-reading The Handmaid’s Tale for the first time since my teens.

2019 is the year I’ll turn 40. 40!! I can’t really be doing with resolutions, but mainly I am hoping to spend more time on the things that make me happy and shed some of those things that have made this year a little overwhelming. All in all, I am looking forward to carrying a lighter load in 2019.

Cheers to that, and thank you for reading my blog and for all your lovely comments this year. Happy 2019! x

 

 

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Sounds of summer

The long, hot days of summer 2018; when no-one knew quite what to do with themselves. When no-one could sleep and the children came home from school with that grimy, sticky look that only being smeared with suncream can give you. When the country was in total chaos (still), when Trump came to town, and when routine went out the window at least a month before the end of term because of a) the World Cup and b) the fact that everyone was just too hot to even contemplate putting children to bed at a normal time. When mummy spent her afternoons asking her children to please be kind and gentle with each other and to please please please come in from the garden for their tea.

And absolutely no-one listened to her.

It is NOT tea time mummy. It is not. Just one more minute. One more minute, mummy!

But you’ve had one more minute“, says Mummy, with her gritted teeth voice. “And now it is time to come in.

YES! It’s a goal for Portugal. What A GOAL!” screams Twin 1 as he rolls around the garden.

Twin 2 is furious. “I’m telling, I’m TELLING, I’m telling RIGHT NOW! That is not a goal. Mummmmmyyyyyyy – that was NOT a goal!” he shrieks, wiping his tears and his nose and his grubby hands on Mummy’s top. “He says it’s a goal but it went over the post so it is definitely NOT A GOAL. Not-a-goal, not-a-goal, not-a-goal. Yellow card and free kick to me!

Mummy resorts to her screechy voice, and threatens to eat her children’s tea if they don’t come in in the next five seconds.

Mummy then hears quiet voices drifting over the fence from next door. Tea is being poured. The newspaper is being read. Mummy immediately regrets having resorted to her screechy voice. “Whoops!” says Twin 1. “The ball has gone over the fence mummy. It was an accident, Mummy. I’m sorry, Mummy.”

Twin 1 runs off to retrieve the ball, meanwhile Mummy wants to make a thousand apologies for disturbing the peace of the entire street; and then dig herself a hole and hide. The hardest thing about summer for Mummy is that family life now takes place in the back garden instead of in the confines of the house. Squabbling children, complete with a slightly shrieky mummy. Lucky neighbours.

After 15 minutes and a selection of increasingly random threats, Mummy’s children are finally inside. Mummy announces that there will be absolutely no more playing outside if her children can’t listen to what they’re being asked to do.

One by one, Mummy’s children announce that it is not their fault.

Mummy talks about the importance of taking responsibility for their actions, before then asking them to take a moment to think about their neighbours.

“Do you think the neighbours want to be listening to you shrieking while they’re trying to enjoy a sit down in their garden?” asks Mummy. “And do you think they want to get whacked on the head by a football as they’re trying to drink their tea?

Mummy’s children agree that this is probably not an ideal scenario for the neighbours, and then swiftly move on to a passionate argument over who has got the most Costa Rican players in their Panini World Cup sticker album.

Now boys“, says Mummy, “we are all very hot, and tired……”

I am NOT tired”, interjects Twin 1.

“OK, well we are all very hot and not-tired”, Mummy continues. “And when we’re hot we feel irritated.

I am NOT irritated!” says Twin 2, sounding more than a little irritated.

Well, irritated or not; in this hot weather, what we all really need to do is be gentle with each other. And kind…..

Mummy’s children start poking each other with their forks and searching for onions/peas/any unknown ingredients to pick out of their dinner.

As I was saying,” Mummy continues. “We need to be gentle and kind to each other. So can you please all think about what you are saying, and not say anything that is deliberately intended to upset anyone.”

The eldest boy tells Twin 1 what a bad goalie he is – he is absolutely, definitely not as good as the Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea. Twin 1’s sobs into his dinner and kicks his big brother under the table.

Mummy knows that any more words from her about being kind and gentle are pointless, and that she will be saying more or less the same thing to her children tomorrow anyway. And so she leaves them to their arguments about how their goalkeeping skills compare to David de Gea’s, and goes to raid the treat tin. Because, in this hot weather, it is very important that Mummy makes the effort to be kind to herself.

three boys summer.jpg

A turning point

I have seen a few posts recently about the challenges of parenting pre-school aged multiples. We are a couple of years on from that now, but I’ve been thinking back to when I was navigating my way through that very tricky territory.

I remember those days so clearly.  When your little ones suddenly have language and are able to express themselves…. which you would think might make things less frustrating, not more; but of course it doesn’t because they don’t yet understand what is and what isn’t reasonable (and, of course, you are attempting to reason with two at a time). When it feels like one twin is always upset over something and you’re not sure how much energy you have left to reason with children who have not yet mastered the art of reasoning. When one minute it feels perfect but the next you are rocking in a corner, questioning everything and just wishing you were a different sort of mum and able to give your precious little people the time and attention that they deserve.

I don’t have any magical advice for this very tricky stage, but if I could go back and have a chat with myself two years ago, I think I would tell myself the following:

  • Stand back every so often and let them resolve some things for themselves. Tell them you’re not getting involved, and go over the top with praise when they manage to resolve whatever they’ve been squabbling over.
  • Realise when you are just adding to the noise – this is the hardest thing because when it’s all going crazy, well sometimes you just can’t help but join and in and let rip yourself…..but when they’re in the moment, squabbling over who gets to wear the tractor socks or who gets to use the special purple cup; they absolutely WILL NOT LISTEN TO YOU.  You can try, you can reason; but most likely……well, it will just be more noise. I still have to remind myself of this one all the time.
  • Have a safe spot/safe toy/special cushion…..something they associate with calming down. We only started this one in the last year or so – my boys will now calm down with a fidget spinner, a favourite cuddly; or if they’re feeling really really angry and just need to go and hit something I encourage them to go and hit a cushion rather than lashing out at a sibling.
  • A lovely doctor we saw a few months ago suggested this next one – let each child take it in turns to be ‘in charge of the day‘. Being in charge of the day means that you get to make all the big decisions…..you know, all the really big decisions like who gets to use the yellow spoon with the lion on it, who gets to open the front door, who gets to turn the television on. All the things that cause proper angst and heartache. And then at the end of the day, whoever is in charge gets 10 minutes of ‘mummy / daddy time’ – doing a drawing, playing a game or whatever. In theory, no-one can complain that it’s unfair because everyone will get their turn. It is not flawless and it can cause a few problems of its own, but it does help eliminate a lot of the bickering.
  • When you can, change the dynamic. It is hard to emphasise enough how valuable one-on-one time is (I wrote another post about this), particularly for multiples. It removes so many of the elements that makes parenting so draining and achieves the exact opposite – a bit of one on one time with my boys usually reminds me how much I enjoy their company, and makes me better equipped to deal with the more challenging moments. It’s not easy to schedule time for, but if you can arrange a trip to grandparents/friends/an aunt or uncle for one without the other, it changes everything.
  • DO NOT EVER compare yourself to other parents. Ever. Don’t look at pictures of your friends and their children on big days out and feel bad because you’re not doing the same. Don’t look at other children going from football to yoga to French and think that your children are missing out. Keep it simple, because there is plenty of time for #makingmemories and for adventures……I know we all feel the pressure to make every moment magical, especially these days; but with more than one at the same stage it can’t always be like that. And there is plenty of time for making memories when they’re old enough a) to enjoy them properly and b) to actually remember them. So just hang on a little while, because there is good news coming……..

It. Does. Get. Easier.

Or many of the things above do, anyway.

Over the last 6 months or so, I have noticed some BIG changes with my lively pair (who will be 6 in the summer); and I have realised that we have definitely entered a new era. What signalled the start of this new era was being able to read, and once that clicked, so many other things seem to have clicked too. Learning to read means so much more than just plodding through Biff, Chip and Kipper books after school. Learning to read is everything and feels like the proper start of independence. You see, as well as now being able to pick up a book and attempt to tackle it themselves, they can also now play proper sit-down games together; with minimal input from me. I first noticed it a few months ago when I watched them playing Top Trumps after school – they were happily playing by themselves, with no need for an adult hovering over their shoulders. Now games are a regular feature, and they have even been known to keep themselves amused with a few games first thing on a Saturday and Sunday morning.

Activity books are also achievable and, if my boys are feeling co-operative, something that they can do while I’m preparing the dinner. They can follow the instructions, attempt the puzzles and read where the stickers are supposed to go……which is excellent if, like me, you struggle to cope if the stickers that are supposed to ‘complete the scene’ on page 16 are stuck willy-nilly all over page 12 instead.

Something else that seems to have clicked over the last 12 months or so is the ability and desire to sit down and do some drawing or colouring – and not just furious scribbles on a page but trying to draw actual things. This was almost unknown two years ago. They still need to get outside regularly and run off some energy; but there are now so many more options for sitting down activities when I need them. Having mastered some basic life-skills, they just seem so much less frustrated with life.

And because of all of this this, the really good news is that it is so much easier to go out and have adventures. We can do bigger days out (I won’t pretend they’re not still exhausting), we can do train journeys, we can handle later nights. They can sit on a train and read a book or do some puzzles. When we’re out and about they can walk further, keep going for longer and there is less kit for us to carry around. So much so, that I am now desperate to book up more adventures – now that they are old enough to appreciate them but young enough to still want to have them.

The age my boys are at now does not come without its own challenges, obviously – that is for a separate post of its own. But in terms of the pre-school years – well, hang on in there ……because just like all the other phases, this too shall pass. And a new stage awaits.

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School holidays and the things we learn

Every school holiday I learn something. Like that October half term when I thought that what we all needed was some chill-out time at home, and so I planned practically nothing. I’m not sure what I was thinking really – I think I had visions of cosy days full of baking and games and crafts; but by the end of the week we were all in tears and I was ready to poke my eyes out. I made a mental note to fill future school holidays with plans; to remember that days at home with all three children are very rarely either relaxing or productive. Now I approach each school holiday knowing that plenty of plans are very necessary in order to stay sane; and this tends to work.

The school holidays also remind me that providing three meals a day every day for all of my children is so much harder than I ever remember it being before they started school. Nothing I produce can ever compare to what the school cooks manage to rustle up and therefore is, very often, a disappointment. I am running out of ideas……and generally apologising for not being the school cook.

But this holiday, aside from trying to keep busy and struggling to keep up with the never-ending meals, I have learnt a couple of other things too.

Number 1 is that incorporating some named, timetabled elements into the day is, apparently, a good thing.

At the start of this holiday, I decided that every day we would have 15 minutes quiet reading time. There are always books around the house and my boys can often be found with one, but the difference with Quiet Reading Time (notice the capitals – it is now a thing) is that it would apply to everyone in the house at the same time, and we would all sit together for 15 minutes. It’s amazing the difference that simply giving something a name makes. Hundreds of times a day I ask my children to calm down, to stop shouting, to go and do something rather than poking a sibling with a pencil or sliding around on the stairs; but saying to them, ‘Right then, now it’s Quiet Reading Time‘ actually means something to them. They know what to do; and believe it or not, they all do it – at the same time. There is usually one boy (the same boy) Quiet reading timewho spends a couple of minutes insisting that he is off to do something else; but in the end he appears with a book looking sheepish. The youngest two usually also ask me a never-ending string of questions about what they’re reading and why Batman is chasing X and whether this guy is a good guy or a bad guy; but essentially, we all sit down with some reading material. Occasionally, if the books are going well, quiet reading time lasts for longer than 15 minutes – it is bliss.

When I think about it, I suppose it’s not surprising that my children prefer to have us all sitting down doing something at the same time rather than listening to me telling them all to calm down as I attempt to cook the dinner, clean the kitchen and nag a child about handwriting and spellings. Quiet Reading Time has helped calm the fractious moments and helped me to realise that sometimes, I need to do less yelling and more sitting.

Number 2 is that sometimes, you need to recognise when it is time to outsource. That sometimes, you can’t do it all yourself; and that’s ok. This holiday, I realised we needed to outsource the ‘learning-to-ride-a-bike’ thing for the biggest boy. I had been putting off the outsourcing, because I felt like riding a bike was the sort of thing that we should be able to teach him ourselves. I felt like we were letting him down, like this was an important part of parenting that we really should be able to do. But he just was not interested, and on top of that he was frustrated. So frustrated. Having always struggled with co-ordination, just learning how to use pedals had proved to be enough of a challenge. He was frustrated with himself and frustrated with us, and in the end he lost the will to even practise.

Thankfully, I came to my senses and realised that we needed an outsider to intervene, and so I booked him onto a Learn to Ride course over Easter. The first day, he absolutely categorically did not want to go – he ‘loathed’ cycling, so he said. He never wanted to be able to ride a bike……apparently he would walk everywhere, or run. That morning, he woke up and cried, and my heart broke as I dropped him off. But predictably, when I picked him up a smiling face appeared – he ‘loved’ it, he felt ‘confident’…..and he hasn’t looked back. It has taken him longer than most but who cares? I am ridiculously proud.

It takes a village -that’s what they say. Not many of us tend to have a village these days; but trying to take it all on ourselves isn’t always the best way forward. If outsourcing is what it takes then occasionally outsourcing is the thing to do. And in this case, it was one of the best decisions we ever made.

So here’s to Quiet Reading Time, or whatever your activity of choice might be, and to thinking about outsourcing some of those things which just aren’t quite working. And to keeping busy and staying sane for the last remaining days of the holiday…… which, incidentally, feels like it’s been going on for months. It’s not that I’m not enjoying it, but it does feel like Easter weekend was about 3 months ago.

How many more meals to go??

Boy on his bike

Yippeeeeeeeeee!

 

The many faces of mum

The tears are great, huge puddles. Those tears you can see when they land. You can’t look at them, or you’ll start crying them too.

It is 7.45am and you know this mood – this mood that starts shortly after your child gets out of bed. This mood that nothing can calm until it decides it’s ready to calm itself. It might come before a big event – the first day back at school after the holidays, for example. Or, like today, the morning of a sharing assembly.

This morning, everything is wrong. Your already teary child misses his chance to lay the table because he is too busy crying over this morning’s choice of cereal. Then his brothers dare to get their own spoons out even though it is HIS turn to get everyone’s spoons. Then he is the last to get the fruit to go with his cereal, because he has been too busy crying over the spoon situation. Then there aren’t enough raisins in the bowl full of raisins. Then he realises that he won’t have time to play after breakfast because he has spent all of breakfast time and more crying over everything and nothing.

You try your hardest to stay calm – you are marginally better at this in the mornings than you are in the evenings. You try to be calm and firm and sympathetic all at once. You take him away from the situation but he won’t have it – he is wriggling and sobbing and fighting to escape as you try to give him a cuddle. And you sit at the bottom of the stairs struggling with a 5 year old, hoping that your other children will just sort themselves out and wondering whether this will be the morning that you have to phone the school and say I’m sorry, but I am actually incapable of getting my children out of the door.

You give up the struggle and he calms down a fraction, until it starts again over something else. And you try to find out whether there is something worrying him, but he says there’s NOT; it is just MUMMY making everything go wrong with his BREAKFAST. It is just all MUMMY’S fault.

Of course. At least now you know what the problem is.

And you need to get ready for work but you feel like you have done at least a day’s work already and no-one has even gone anywhere yet.

You would love to curl up and get back into bed. But everyone’s got to get to school and there’s the assembly to watch, and then it’s straight to work for you so there is no giving up and definitely no going back to bed.

The upset child drives some toy cars around and calms himself down – once his moment is over he is relatively quick to recover. It’s just that the moment itself lasts quite a long time.

You put on your ‘Morning! Yes we’re fine thanks‘ face as you leave the house; even though you feel like you’ve been put through a spin cycle and hung out to dry. But your children have got their coats, hats, book bags and water bottles; and they are happily walking to school. They are fine, you know that. But you also know that this slightly knotted up feeling right there, in the pit of your stomach, will be with you all day.

And your little ones give you the biggest hugs and say ‘See you at assembly, mummy‘. You see – everything is fine. No-one would even know about the heartache and the upset over a bowl of raisins and not having laid out the spoons.

Then you go into assembly and wear your proud but also slightly teary face, because you are convinced that this is what it was all about. It wasn’t about the raisins at all. And the assembly is joyful and brilliant and your children say their little lines and you just want to wrap them up in the biggest hug.

Then you get in the car and drive to work; and you allow yourself a little cry. Because so far today you’ve worn the I’m-doing-my-best-to-stay-calm face, the sympathetic face, the firm face, the ‘Morning! Yes, we’re fine thanks‘ face; and the proud-mum face and sometimes it just feels like too many faces.

Because you remember those big puddle tears and those angry little limbs.

Because you’ve got 5 minutes to yourself, and you can.

And then you get a tissue, dry the tears; and put on your work face. And you start the day again.

school run boys

Mummy away / Mummy at home – a tale in two parts

Part 1 – Away

Mummy is lucky enough to be having a weekend away. No husband, no children……just mummy and some friends.

Mummy sits down on the train and thinks about the fact that she has two whole days ahead of her which will not require her to be a human vending machine, or to attempt to answer three questions at once, or to repeatedly ask boys to blow their nose.

Mummy considers the fact that her bags contain her things, and her things only.

Mummy considers the fact that she will be able to talk freely and finish conversations.

Mummy considers the fact that her friends are unlikely to feel the need to pull on her arms or shout her name over and over if they want to get her attention.

Mummy considers the fact that she might even be able to read more than half a paragraph of her book in one go.

Mummy’s head isn’t spinning.

Mummy revels in the freedom, but also sends her husband numerous messages to check that he is doing things more or less exactly as she would do them. Mummy has been known to get irritated with daddy for not using his initiative; however, if daddy chooses to use his initiative but then does things in a way that mummy doesn’t approve of, mummy reserves the right to be furious.

Mummy acknowledges that daddy has a difficult task ahead of him this weekend.*

Mummy and her friends agree that they would like to spend some time pottering round the shops, because they absolutely never do this in their normal lives. Six hours later, the carefree foursome are still happily pottering. They have tried on things they don’t need, spent time examining things they are never going to buy; and marvelled at the joy of wandering unhurried around the shops, without the fear of anyone attempting to dismantle the displays.

Mummy is oblivious to the Saturday crowds. Saturday crowds mean nothing when you are used to having three small children hanging off your arm and clamouring to be heard.

Mummy feels a bit like she is 15 again……at the shops, with her friends.

Having eaten too much, shopped too much, wandered leisurely around a museum and finished more conversations than she can remember having finished in the last seven years, mummy gets the train home. Mummy has coffee and a mince pie, nobody on her lap and, in the space of an hour, reads more of her book than she is likely to read for the next two weeks.

Part 2 – Home

Mummy walks through the door. Mummy’s children are happy, noisy and excited; and the smallest ones are overjoyed that mummy happened to pick up the Go Jetters magazine complete with a Grandmaster Glitch figure.

Mummy has been away for two whole nights which means that right now, mummy is a novelty. Three boys are eager to tell mummy every single thing that comes into their heads, all at once and in no particular order. They watched Star Wars with Jar Jar Binx and Qui-Gon / they watched some fruit fall off the minions’ heads / Strictly was in BLACKPOOL / Claudia had a seagull on her head / Blackpool is really huge / they played Strictly with their great-grandma / they scored 17 goals at football.

Mummy is quite enjoying being a novelty and being surrounded by children who don’t appear to be cross with her.

15 minutes have now passed and mummy is no longer a novelty. Mummy was actually surprised that her novelty status lasted for as long as it did. Mummy is required to answer a series of quickfire questions that are in no way linked to anything that has just been discussed…..such as what colour is petrol, and if you’re invisible can you see melted ice-cream.  Out of nowhere, Boy 3 is sobbing because both his brothers got to ‘speak to Tess’ when he didn’t; and Boy 2 is shouting something about his brother having stolen Grandmaster Glitch’s wheel…..turns out Grandmaster Glitch didn’t even have a wheel.

Mummy has ‘Go go, go go, Go Jetters‘ going round and round her head, and threatens to confiscate Grandmaster Glitch whilst wiping away Boy 3’s tears and promising that he’ll be able to speak to Tess next week.

Mummy is home. And her head is spinning once more.

Mummy away

What a peaceful scene

 

*Turns out, daddy uses his initiative pretty well.

Our new happy hour – weekly one-to-ones

Banana ice-cream was what you wanted. ‘Isn’t it a bit cold for ice-cream?’ I asked. But apparently not. You were adamant – chilly day or not, you would absolutely love an ice-cream.

You declared it the best ice-cream you had ever had. I’m not sure it was really, but perhaps the happy circumstances made it seem that way.

You were out with mummy. Just you. No big brother and no twin. No-one influencing your choices. No-one telling you not to interrupt or asking you to wait your turn.

Just you and mummy on a cold day in the park cafe. A good tempered, calm mummy for once, because she hadn’t gone through the trauma of getting three boys out of the door.

We have realised, perhaps a little late, that regular one-to-one time has become very necessary…..for you twin boys in particular. It is important for your big brother too, but he tends to get this naturally as a result of being a different age, having different friends and taking part in different activities. It’s not that there aren’t huge advantages to being a twin. I often look at the two of you and think how lucky you are to have each other – a buddy who is there with you at every milestone. But equally, I know that being a twin brings challenges and that there are things you miss out on as a result of being one of two……mainly, attention.

If you read anything about parenting multiples, the standard advice is to separate them every so often; but for us it just wasn’t a priority in the early days. Perhaps we were wrong, but it just didn’t really occur to us at weekends to schedule time to split everyone up. You boys were generally happy together, so we were happy to let you be together.

And then we realised that regular time on your own was something you desperately needed, and that we needed to ensure you got. Time to be yourselves. To remember that you are important individually and not simply as a unit. Space to make your own choices. To be listened to properly rather than by a parent who also has an eye and ear on what the other two are up to. It wouldn’t be anything grand, just time. And I really mean nothing grand – for Twin 2’s outing, we went to Tesco. I know. We chose Halloween hats and had a coffee/smoothie and a pain au raisin. It was such a treat (it really was).

And then last weekend, Twin 1 and I went to the park. It seemed strange seeing you racing around on your own; but I don’t think it occurred to you to be lonely. Mummy wasn’t distracted. You climbed and mummy watched. You spoke and no-one interrupted.

I wasn’t surprised you were sad when I said it was time to go home. But then the joy on your twin’s face when we got home made the brief separation worth it too. It was as though you’d been apart for days. And, surveying the calm atmosphere at home, it occurred to me that actually, this is special time for everyone……not just for the boy who is taken out. Taking one out of the equation means those left at home also get more attention. There are fewer siblings available for a squabble. There is less noise. The parent left at home is less stressed. It is a win-win situation.

It feels like we have had a hard few weeks, but being out with just one boy helps me to remember the things I love about being a mum. It has made me realise that around 90% of what I do when I’m in charge of three children is crowd-control, only about 10% is actual parenting. Please don’t do that. Please get off him. Why have you taken that off him? Is that a kind thing to do? Why are you poking him? If you get your hands off him, then he won’t get irritated.  And I know all about the benefits of having siblings; but still, sometimes children need a reminder that who they are and what they have to say is important. They need to choose their own ice-cream without a sibling’s input. They need to see a parent enjoying their company; without being distracted by cries of ‘He is talking to me in a MEAN way‘ and ‘He stood on me‘ and ‘I’ve lost Spiderman’s head AGAIN, mummy‘.

It’s only for an hour or so. But what a happy hour it is.

boy in leaves