Funny thing that happened

On Sunday evening, Mr Daddy and I had a row, something like this:

Me – You never appreciate how much I do with the children and the house! You get to just play with them, I do 90% of the hard stuff!
Him –  I do appreciate it, but it’s not easy for me either! I’m also tired! And I also do hard stuff!
Me – You get to go to an office! I’ve been to offices, they have private bathrooms! And you can drink hot beverages in peace! And no-one has tantrums!
Him – Can we not have this argument in front of the kids? You’re scaring them!
Me, full fledged theatrical rage – NO, you don’t get to silence me with that card! That’s it, I’m going to go have dinner at a restaurant by myself and you can put them both to bed and see what it’s LIKE!

And the little dude says “me dtome  too Mummy, me go resdauwant widt  Mummy, me gonna get me djacket”.

So I took the little dude to go get fish and chips.

The whole way in the car he happily repeats “me go resdauwant widt Mummy! Me say me go resdauwant widt Mummy and den me do go resdauwant widt Mummy!”

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This is three months

By golly this baby is a cute one. Oh me oh my he is such a cute one. He’s so cute I need to use twee phrases to convey how cute he is. I want to use words like “scrumptious”. He’s so cute I talk to him in superlatives, and feel disloyal to my memories of the little dude at the same age.

Could you be any cuter?! No, you could not, you are at maximum cuteness right now! Oh yes you are.

Three months, starting to laugh, laughing such lovely laughs. Open wide grin and a chuckle like uncorking a bottle of warmth. Peek-a-boo is a hit. Sometimes if he’s in his bouncy seat or if he’s being held by someone else he’ll try and catch my eye and smile at me or laugh at me. ‘Cause he’s the cutest.

He looks like me, this baby. The big one looks exactly like his dad, it’s kinda nice to have one who looks like me too.

At about 6am he wakes up and has a feed, and I do everything I can to get him back to sleep so that I can keep dozing, and he lies on my chest while I drum on his back. Sometimes he drifts off again and sometimes he lifts his chest up, looks right at me and gives an enormous smile.

I kiss his cheeks and kiss his neck, where it’s the softest, and I can see how old ladies might pinch baby cheeks, forever wanting to have one more brush with that soft soft skin, one more snuggle with the cosy bundle of a fresh bubba.

This is two and a half

At two and a half, he’s definitely not a baby and not even a toddler. Two and half is half way to school.

He tells me things, chatter chatter chatter chatter all day long. The invisible connection I feel when I’m around him used to be based on glances and now it’s based on words. “You alright my darling?”, I ask from the kitchen while he watches Peppa Pig on the couch. “Yeah Mummy, me fine” he replies without looking up. Later, I stand in the hallway, lips pursed, furrowed brow, trying to remember if I’ve got everything I need for leaving the house. He looks at me “Mummy, you aright Mummy?”

He surprises me with his knowledge of how things work, “Dat man not wearing his elmut! Need to wear elmut onna bike!”, and his memories, and what he picks up on in his environment. Today at the market he saw some yellow tomatoes and he said “yeyyow domadoes, yike at Mira’s party!” – six weeks ago, he saw yellow tomatoes and he remembered it.

There are new ways of being connected, snuggling in bed with him telling him stories, teasing him, joking, asking him to tell me things about his day, conversing. Me: “the wheels on the bus go… SWISH SWISH SWISH”. Him, laughing hysterically “no wheels go wound and wound, Mummy saying it wong!!”. Me “oh, sorry, the wipers on the bus go… BEEP BEEP BEEP”. He thinks I’m hilarious. Classic.

He wants me to tell him a story about when I was a little girl and I was naughty.

Ok kiddo.

One day when Mummy was a little girl Mummy was very very naughty. Uncle Liam was a baby, and Nana was giving him his milk, and Mummy went into the nappy room and took out all the nappies and threw them on the floor! It was so naughty. 

“Oh no Mummy dat so naughty! Mummy, you shouldn’t do dat Mummy!

His vocab is extensive, but he talks like a baby “me need a duddle and a diss”. He knows when he’s being cheeky and he has a particular laugh, impish impish, when he’s caught in the act. What are you doing? What are you doing scallywag? “Me djust open da fidge and me djust eating honey!”

He said “is it” when he means “it is”, which makes all his observations sound like questions.

When a picture book shows food, he says “me djust petending” and mimes the action of taking the food from the page and eating it (“and one bfor Mummy dtoo!”). He recognises the letter D and says “dat one me number! Dat one D for Davy!”

I do that thing that mums do, talking to the baby, and the little dude looks up at me and says with weary patience “Mummy. Ben dan’t dalk. Ben a baby.”

If he sees a dog, he’s scared sometimes but not other times. I have no idea what system he uses to categorise. Some of the scary ones seem small and fluffy, and yesterday a large German Shepherd was labelled a fendly doddie.

He’s so bloody bossy my kid. Today at the playground “dat big boy come back here and go down dis slide!” Uh, that big boy will do whatever he wants actually.

Two and a half is off out the door with his dad on a creche day, puffer jacket and backpack, waving at me “bye mum! Me donna run so me don’t miss da bus yike Pedro Pony!”

He can open a car door and climb into his carseat, but he still sometimes likes to wind me up by taking his arms out of the seat straps. He is very careful with traffic and roads – “no dat car boom me! Me donna be soooo dareful, me donna walk on da footpath, and me donna hold Mummy hand”.

Two and a half is half way between baby and big kid and every glimpse of baby makes me want to scoop him up in a cuddle and every glimpse of big kid makes me want to hold him tight tight tight when I do.

 

 

More achievable goals

That achievable goals thing I blogged about a few weeks back has been good by the way. It’s such a cheesy but brilliant idea. Choose something easy enough to become a habit. Once it’s a habit, choose a new thing to add in. So – new goals to add:

For me and Mr Daddy: eat our dinner before the kids go to bed. When we do this, it is soooooo much better, ’cause if one of them is difficult to get down, at least we’ve had sustenance already. Also means we get to bed earlier ourselves.

For bub: spend at least 10 minutes in each of his wake up periods playing with him. Just ’cause he’s immobile doesn’t mean we should ignore him!

For the little dude: I’ve been reading about positive discipline stuff, and one thing I read sounded pretty sensible and I want to try and make it a habit. It goes like this: when they are about to engage in problematic behaviours, or while they’re already doing it, use a four step response:

  1. Reminder with explanation and suggested alternative (“we don’t throw library books, that might break the book and might hit someone! Let’s sit here and read them instead, you choose which one you want to read”).
  2. Reminder with communication of consequence (“those books are meant to be for reading, if you keep throwing the books we have to leave”).
  3. Reminder with encouragement of alternative AND communication of consequence (“that’s a book, not a ball! Do you want to read these stories with Mummy or do we need to go home?”).
  4. Finally if they persist, the consequence (“ok, we’re going home now”).

I like it because it means they know what to expect, and also it gives the adult enough time to get things ready to execute the consequence, and you don’t get stuck in that pattern of trying to get them to comply ineffectively and finally imposing a poorly-thought-out consequence after a long battle. And lots of the positive/gentle discipline stuff doesn’t give any info about what to do with a kid who seems to have an impressive resistance to being thwarted in his fun attempt to destroy things. As you do the first step, you can think of the consequence, so that you can choose one which you’re happy to impose. For example today at Capital E, I used this approach and chose the consequence of stopping playing with the thing he was playing with, and going to a different thing a couple of metres away.

Snappy version:

First reminder – explain and redirect
Second reminder – present consequence
Third reminder – reiterate
Final step – execute consequence

Yep so that’s my list.

 

Poor unfortunate oldest child

Conventional wisdom has it that the second child is to be pitied, missing out on the parents’ full attention, getting hand me downs, having to be dragged along to whatever the oldest is doing.

On the other hand, the second child has parents who know what the hell they’re doing. The second child might be left grizzling longer, but only because the parents can tell the difference between a “bored” cry and a “fallen out of my seat” cry.

Pity the older child! Parents who are making it up, winging it, trying to google how to deal with an issue several months after they should have noticed it, parents who are stressing out about every little thing. Then, insult to injury, having to be shunted aside when a second one comes.

I was so inept with the little dude compared to now with bub! And in two years when bub is a big kid, I’ll be way more calm and confident with his toddler needs too.

My husband and I are both oldest children, so when I feel bad about how the little dude misses out on the calm expertise we have with bub, I tell myself that long term he’ll probably just become a lawyer.

Fuck.

Making gingerbread

This afternoon, Mr Daddy took bub for a walk in the buggy and I had some one-on-one time with the little dude. He loves the Maisy video where Maisy makes gingerbread, and we’d recently acquired a gingerbread cutter from the mother in law. “Should we make gingerbread?!”, I ask. “Yeah! Yeah! Me gonna be Maisy and make dingeabed!”

We didn’t have any ginger so we used cinnamon, but it’s all just “spedcial powder” to him.

He was so into it! He dragged a chair to the bench, climbed up on it, ready and willing to help. Well, ready and willing to direct me as his assistant. He stirred up the sugar and egg yolk. He practically knows the video off by heart so he said “and we add da fouuuuwer, and we stir stir stir stir it all up and den we gonna roll it!” I love baking so I’m super chuffed at his interest. It’s quite lovely doing something with him that we both enjoy, the edging over of the toddler into a small child, where this whole world of activities opens up, things to genuinely do together. Even a month ago he would have just been throwing flour on the floor, and now he is putting his hands over mine on the rolling pin, concentrating hard. The gingerbread people were varying thicknesses, because he was eager to cut them out before the rolling had finished. There was rolling and re-rolling and scraping and “widgle widgle da cuddter make dem all nice and shapey”. He wiggled the cutter sooooo carefully, except when he decided to stamp it down on top of one that was already cut out, creating two-headed monsters. The gingerbread stuck to the bench so I got a fish slice out and the little dude said “me dgonna scoop em all up!” which caused several casualties.

Aimless time is so precious now, I don’t get much of that with the little dude anymore. Time to hang out with him, no need to worry about something else getting done. It didn’t matter if they came out all wrong and wonky, we could do it until he got bored, we could go at his pace.

He was so patient too, he got that the aim was to pick them up and transfer them to the baking sheet whole. When a bit broke off as he was lifting them with the fish slice, he said “dat one a yiddle bit boken”, and when I got a whole one transferred he said “yay! dat one not boken!”

We put the first tray in the oven with only four gingerbread folk on it, so that he could start to eat them by the time we finished making the rest. Later, he didn’t want his dinner, even though it was meatballs. Spoiling his appetite: the measure of some successful baking.

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Sheesh, but it’s hard and stuff

Today the little dude is at creche and I’m hanging out with possibly the cutest baby ever, who basically doesn’t cry unless he’s ignored, and he’s asleep on me, and things feel all good.

Yesterday was a bit of a different story.

Nothing like having a toddler to make a baby seem easy.

Nothing like having two at once to make one seem easy.

Eeesh, when they’re both crying, or when their needs are incompatible, y’know? The constant sense of bouncing around from an urgent kid thing to an urgent baby thing. The way the toddler spends too much time watching videos on youtube and the baby spends too much time lying on a mat or in a bouncy seat, and then they’re both grizzling, and the baby is crying and the toddler is whining. And you serve the toddler the lunch you were prepping while they were being ignored and he doesn’t want it, but he is hungry, he’s just decided suddenly that he doesn’t like baked beans, and since when does he not like baked beans, he loves baked beans! And then the baby is full on screaming by now, and the baked beans are on the floor, and you have a low point when you say in exasperation “eat the fucking banana then and stop whinging for one second!” And then you’re like oh my god I just swore at my 2 year old. But at least he doesn’t know about swearing and isn’t perturbed but it, and he just says “and me gonna cut me beenana widt me yiddle knife!” and then tries to hack at it like he’s splitting kindling. Whatever kid, that’s not going to work but I understand you do not want my assistance.

Part of me knows that all parents must have these moments. Part of me says to myself, look, it’s good for him to see that mummy and daddy aren’t perfect, although, probably not so good for him to be sworn at. I remember my parents having these moments, and I didn’t especially like it, but I never really thought less of them.

Another part of me hauls myself up for the failures to make things go smoothly, failures to respond better, etc. This morning I realised that he doesn’t have an expression for “I don’t feel like that right now”, and that’s what he meant when he said he “didn’t like” baked beans. He meant he didn’t like them right then. Of course!

All of us have conditions under which we function better. I’m irritable when I haven’t eaten properly and have had a rough night sleep. Yesterday started with the discovery that bub had leaked through his nappy overnight and his sleeping bag was wet and the bedding was wet and ugh, not a great start to the day. When I say that’s when the day started – well – the day maybe started at 6am when I fed bub then spent half an hour getting him back to sleep so I could stay in bed for a little longer. Or maybe it was the 2am feed. They roll together.

The little dude is more whiny when he hasn’t had enough attention, and more destructive when he hasn’t had enough run around time.

The baby  cries when he is ignored.

The husband tunes out and drifts into his own world when he hasn’t had any time to himself to unwind.

I get snappy and prickly when I’ve spent too much time with the kids.

Yesterday, it was one of those days where it got off on a bad note and try as I might, it just kept snowballing into something worse. Mr Daddy overslept (he was on the couch again, ’cause baby), and baby needed urgent changing, so the little dude was very hungry by the time breakfast was ready, and then also I wasn’t anywhere near organised to leave the house by the time bub needed his first nap, but he doesn’t nap in his cot yet and we’ve given up for now. So I pushed bub up and down in the buggy in our front garden, looking in through the lounge window the whole time to check on the little dude, who was watching Peppa Pig on the couch, and then I went back in to try and get him ready to go out, but he just wanted to keep watching videos. I finally got him ready just as bub stated to stir and I thought, well that’s ok, he’ll resettle once the pushchair is moving. But he didn’t. Next thing I know, I’m at the supermarket trying to jiggle the baby back asleep in the buggy while he screams and screams and in the split second I’m not watching, the little dude starts wrecking well-meaning havoc with the bulk bins (“yook Mummy me did some shopping bor some ahhmonds!”).

Later, he dragged the step ladder over to the book shelf and started merrily throwing all the books down because he’d seen us put coins up there, and he knows coins are used to make the ride-in car in the supermarket plaza go, and he was “going on a money hunt on da stzelf!”. And he got ink on the carpet when playing with some stamps. Also, he deliberately tipped his water bottle on the rug. This was the forth time in two days he’d tipped it out. He got sent to time out for that one, and when I went in having cleaned the floor and fed the bub, he said through tears “me dgot me drowerdis wedt me need new ones!!!”. Ah, shit, I hadn’t realised he’d got himself wet too, poor thing alone in his room with sopping wet trousers all uncomfy.

It was just one of those days. The baby cried a lot. The little dude did a lot of challenging things. I was not onto it.

Thing is, even when you’re not onto it, even on a day when you swear at the 2 year old, there’s a lot that you need to get on with. The baseline parenting, the bare minimum of feeding and changing and getting them to bed and keeping them warm and cleaning up after them, can fill a day.

The previous day, Wednesday, had been fairly good. We’d left the house early, as soon as bub was ready for his first nap. We went to a cafe and he slept in the buggy and the little dude and I shared a raspberry muffin. It was lovely, seeing the little due look at me with great pleasure and say “is djam in it!!” Then, with bub still asleep, we went to the playground, and that was fun too. The little dude had a good time and bossed me about cutely, telling me how to help him play on the equipment.

I had a moment yesterday when I thought, if only the baby would go to sleep in his cot by himself easily; if only the two year old would play independently for decent periods without wrecking things. Then I realised I was basically thinking “if only they weren’t a baby and a toddler”, and also “if only they didn’t need to be parented all the time”. Which, well, they are and they do.

I’ll never reach the ideal parenting self, and that’s ok, but I also want to try and do things better after a bad day. I want to think of how I could have pre-empted situations that make things start to skid; and think of how I can keep myself in check better when it’s all going haywire. Good intentions aren’t enough, telling myself I’ll try better to be patient isn’t really going to change anything. There’s a level of impatience that is kinda inevitable when you’ve had very little sleep, just like there’s a level of toddler havoc that is kinda inevitable when they’ve been cooped up inside most of the day and the parent has been attending to the baby instead of playing with them.

Most of the underlying things are related to this particular stage of baby + toddler, so also there’s no point dwelling on it. But I have given it some thought, and here’s a few things I’ll try and remember.

Pre-empt

  • Remember that done is better than perfect. Ultimate parenting motto. Deliberate “good enough” compromises are better than meltdown. Give the toddler a box of crackers before you change the baby, it’s not a great breakfast but it’s better than expecting him to wait for too long.

Calm down

  • Try and be less emotionally invested in the situation. I know this sounds a bit odd, they’re your kids, of course you are emotionally invested. But when you start to feel the pressure building, detachment can help. How would you respond if they weren’t  your kids, if you didn’t have to do this every day?

Express your feelings to the toddler

  • It’s ok to say “Mummy is really tired today”, and it’s definitely good to say “Mummy is sorry for talking to you in a grumpy voice”.

Circuit breaker

  • Have some rainy day tricks, like an emergency kinder surprise in the pantry.

Burn off the negative vibes and the toddler energy

  • Dancing to loud music, etc. Run in the garden. Let him jump on the couch.

Keep trying to redeem the day

  • My perception was that yesterday was just one bloody thing after another until bedtime, but I think from the toddler’s point of view, it was not too bad, and that makes me feel a bit better.