The irrationality is what tips me off first; I begin to resent every other human being on earth for silly things such as bumping into me accidentally in the street or daring to smile at me as I cross the road. I seethe furiously inside before realising what time of the month it is; that’s right it’s PMS week. PMS is even harder when you are a mother because you do not have the ability to just hide away in your room stuffing your face with chocolate while watching the Gilmore Girls on repeat. No you have a child now so you have to remain (somewhat) patient, covertly nabbing chocolate from the fridge and being forced to watch reruns of Peppa Pig. This means that your partner will, inevitably, have to take the fall for you containing your temper during the day. The minute he arrives home you will lose all hope of being rational and calm; his arrival will signal a deluge of emotion. Tears, shouting, passive-aggressive comments about how long it took him to get home and on it goes. If he has any sense he will remain silent instead of fighting back, knowing it will end in apologies and tearful hugs.
Periods are no fun at all when you are a mum. In the old days I kinda enjoyed having the excuse to eat too much cheese and consume buckets of coco cola. I would throw myself on the couch after work to watch trashy TV and load up on glossy magazines. Now it’s a whole different ball-game. For one thing I don’t usually get to sit down and if the TV is on you can bet we won’t be watching ‘my’ shows. I can’t slob about the house as I’m too busy catching up on my endless to do list while trying to figure out if it’s possible to actually get eyes put in the back of my head. My toddler has zero sympathy for her mama and can’t understand why mummy doesn’t enjoy her usual rough and tumble games.
The worst part, though, is the mood swings. I can go from deliriously happy to raging bull in a matter of minutes. And I can’t vent on a little 22 month old (no matter how annoying she gets) so I have to ball everything up inside and scream into a pillow when it gets too much. Everything becomes so much harder as even a trip to the park becomes riddled with potential meltdown opportunities…and I don’t mean for my daughter. I once had to leave a shopping trip to Kilkenny as people touching off me was causing too much hormone overload. So every outing we make during PMS week is fraught with explosive possibilities.
And wouldn’t you know it the little maggot seems to sense when mummy is at her most vulnerable- this is the week she has the most tantrums, she fails to nap properly and doesn’t sleep through the night. It’s like she is in tune with me at the worst possible moment. I can only imagine that when puberty hits my husband will have to emigrate one week out of every month. I’m sure we won’t be a joy to be around.
For now I take my little breaks at nap-time (when there is actually a nap-time), squeezing in as much chocolate and crap TV as I can before she wakes up. Speaking of which…I better get back to it!
5.00 am – I expected to be a little worse for wear this morning, perhaps even a little hungover. I had planned to attend a close friend’s birthday dinner and although I was only planning on staying for the dinner it doesn’t take much for me to get tipsy since I became a mum. Instead I am writing this with what feels like a steel claw gouging out my insides. I have barely slept and already suspect I won’t be able to sleep again for the rest of the day. The reason – I have a toddler and I’m fairly certain she will use her tiny bat-like senses to ascertain that mama is now awake so the day should begin.
Yesterday afternoon my friendly monthly visitor arrived and she was much, much worse than usual. This was all wrong; I had planned to be heading out and staying out past seven o’clock (a rarity in this mama’s life). Instead I found myself thrown on the couch in my p.j.s by half six clutching a hot water jar and wanting to die. So you better believe this mama was not in a good mood. By the time my daughter went to bed all I wanted was carbs covered in cheese and lots of sugar. I felt an immense relief when she finally fell asleep. This was quickly followed by that old b**** guilt who loves to attack when I’m at my most vulnerable! What kind of a mother am I who longs for her child to just go to bed?
It turns out I’m the normal kind. We all have days where our child’s bedtime becomes a fantasy on par with winning the lotto. Those days when every second is a minute and every minute at least an hour and you don’t know how you manage to keep on your feet. There isn’t enough coffee in the world and your patience is frayed and it’s only lunchtime.
5.15 pm – My daughter and I have been awake all day. Yes All Day. No nap instead just lots and lots of tears (both mine and hers). I tried to rock her to sleep at nap-time and then made the fatal mistake of attempting to place her in her cot. Her eyes immediately flew open and she screamed. So I sat with her for another eternity on the bed just holding her. She fell asleep but then woke five minutes later. The day spiralled out of control from there. My husband is now minding the tiny lady while I attempt to type the post I started over twelve hours earlier. Guilt and tiredness wrestle for domination in my brain – have I been a bad mama this weekend? Why didn’t she sleep? When is it bedtime again?
Motherhood – it can be a right pain in the butt at times.
The other day the tiny lady begged to go to the park. We were due at our weekly Gymboree class (which she normally loves) so I asked if she would like to go dance and sing instead. I was greeted to a very determined no and lots of ‘park’, ‘park’!! As it was so sunny- and in Ireland this is such a rare thing- I gave in and off to the park we went. It was full of other little people which didn’t please my little lady one bit. You mean I actually have to share the slide?? She wasn’t too impressed when she noticed a mother and her little girl on the swing we usually occupy. In her world this swing (like me, her pooh bear and beep beeps) belongs very much to her. But, surprisingly, she didn’t get as bothered as she could have been. She found other things to amuse herself.
She was just sitting down to drive a wooden car when another toddler descended on her. He tried to push her out of the seat and I tried (as nicely as possible) to explain that it wasn’t his turn. Inside I was praying his parent would appear soon. I don’t like having to correct other peoples’ children as I would be mortified if someone had to correct mine. I know this is the subject of some online debate and naturally if I saw a child doing something totally out of line I would intervene. But what to do with a toddler who just doesn’t get the concept of sharing? I couldn’t pull him gently but firmly off the car. Dilemma! Thankfully – I am such a chicken – my tiny lady had had enough of his antics and got up herself to do something else. But that wasn’t to be the last we saw of him. He followed us. He followed us to the swing. To the slide. To the swing again. In his defence he mostly just wanted to play but my lady was having none of it.
Finally when I tried to explain (for the tenth time ) that I was okay to push the swing by myself his harassed looking mother appeared. I waved away her apologies as she tried to frantically pull him off us. But every time she turned her back, to tend to her new baby, he would bounce back over. I attempted to reassure her that all toddlers had these days (or weeks in my case) but she had entered The Zone; as a fellow fully-paid up member of The Zone I could only sympathise. You enter The Zone when your child has pushed you to your outer limits and you have been publicly humiliated over and over again. You feel as if every other parent is judging you and your parenting skills. Trust me they aren’t; like me they are probably just delighted it’s not happening to them again.
It is tough parenting a toddler and I imagine it is especially tough when you have a new baby along for the ride. I am blessed to only have one to tend to right now and my heart went out to that mother as she tried to reason with her tot. We are so hard on ourselves especially in vulnerable situations like parks where other parents seem to have it all sorted and yours in the only child screaming the place down. But nobody else really has it figured out either, you are just seeing them during the one calm moment of their day. So next time your child melts down in public remind yourself that it happens to everyone and that the majority of parents feel your pain. This is easier said than done and I’m still working on it. But I’m hopeful someday I’ll pick up my screaming toddler, throw her casually over my shoulder, smile brightly and continue on with my day. Wish me luck!
Today I discovered that Tulsa (the Irish Child and Family Agency) have announced that lidded beakers are no longer allowed for children once they reach the age of 12 months. Any service found to be offering lidded beakers to toddlers aged one and up will be found to be non-compliant. My first thought was – seriously?? With all the issues facing the childcare sector and childcare professionals Tulsa is choosing to focus on this? What’s next? Services will be considered non-compliant for offering bibs to one year olds? This is ignorance at it’s very best! Let’s ignore the real problems here and get rid of those dangerous lidded beakers. Obviously these are having such a detrimental effect on children’s development!
To my mind what is having a worse effect on children’s development is having inspectors who are blind to the real problems faced by childcare staff. The staff who work in these services are under-paid, under-resourced and under-valued. Yet, everyday, they don their uniforms and do their very best for the children in their care. They put themselves under enormous pressure creating exciting yet educational curriculums, introducing new activities and teaching children basic social skills like toilet-training and making friends. They do so much more than their job descriptions would have us believe. Why exactly are Tulsa focusing on lidded beakers while ignoring the very real problems of staff?
Perhaps because they are not really bothered to find a solution? Childcare staff do not have a strong powerful union like Siptu in their corner so their problems can easily be overlooked without too much uproar. Parents are struggling to find money to pay for childcare but staff are struggling to survive on the low wages they are paid. This cannot be allowed to continue. I fear, though, until a strong union of childcare workers is formed things will remain much the same and Tulsa will continue to care more about beakers than staff.
On a less serious but no less important note it is surely parents who decide what type of beaker they want their child to drink from. It is not Tulsa’s place to tell us what type of cup our child should be using. As the parent of a wobbly toddler I would not approve of her using a lidless beaker – my laundry hamper is full enough than you very much! If a Tulsa inspector would like to do my extra laundry for me work away but this announcement has made me very grateful my daughter is attending a childminder once a week and not a crèche. I can only hope parents who do have children in creches do not feel obligated or forced to comply with this ridiculous new rule.
I was listening to Brendan O’Connor on the radio this morning. The discussion was the lack of fresh air that children of today get. Apparently their access to fresh air is more limited than those who live in our state prisons. Of course the inevitable happened. On came a caller who announced to O’Connor (and the rest of the country) that her three children (all girls; six and four-year old twins) literally never watch television. They come in, take their coats off and go upstairs to colour and play. Note she never said they went outside, I was quick to catch this but her point seemed to be that it’s easy to go down this route. Her children never ask for the tv because guess what lazy parents it never even occurred to her to make television a part of their day. I mean she just never considered it an option! You could tell from his tone O’Connor was not impressed but he let her hang herself. She was careful to point out to us mere mortals that she wasn’t judging anyone, no she didn’t mind if others let their children watch five hours or more a day. Let me tell you the judgement undercut every word; you could hear it in her voice. She was dying for a pat on the back from O’Connor but he wasn’t biting. Instead he asked her if she had ever gone on a long journey (five hours for example) with her children. When she replied no, he insinuated that she didn’t know hell until she had done this and said there were times he wanted to kiss Steve Jobs’ feet! She played along but you knew she was really thinking; feck off Brendan I’d be playing spot the red car and singing jolly songs with my kids on a long journey.
Of course every so often she would reassure us that she wasn’t preaching, oh no we could do whatever worked for us. It’s the children she is concerned with. Parents introduce their children to TV then give out when that’s all they want to do. Oh parents would you not just think of the children? You are to blame. So in case you were listening to the show during the five minutes of the day when you felt like a good parent; fear not Lisa from South Dublin is here to remind you that you are not. Did you not know that children aren’t born knowing what a TV is? It’s all your fault, you bad little parent you!
Excuse my sarcasm but Lisa made me want to punch something. Most parents feel they are failing their children probably 95% of the time do we really want to start a war over whose child watches more TV? Why people like Lisa enjoy speaking down to the rest of us is anyone’s guess. Insecurity? Superiority complex? The high one gets from being absolutely smug while pretending not to be? Who knows? But I’m sure, once her interview ended, she sat expecting texts of praise and thanks for showing us crappy parents The Way! I didn’t get to hear anymore but I’ve a feeling Lisa will be waiting a while.
Fear not your child will not become an addict if you allow access to TV during the day. In fact they will probably grow up just like my generation whose own parents didn’t realise that watching The Den after school would have such deletrious effects. How could they have been so careless? I mean really! The point is we grew up watching TV and we turned out okay (mostly). Yes screens are more prevalent today and yes we do need to acknowledge this and try to set some sort of limits. But don’t feel bad if your child extends the time limits now and again (or you are feeling too tired to impose them). It happens. Repeat after me – you are not a bad parent, you are not a bad parent, you are not a bad parent! Ignore Lisa and anybody who else who tries to tell you how to parent. Do your own thing. You’ll be grand.
Shopping Assistants – rant part 2
Yesterday my friend and I went shopping for clothes. We were accompanied by our tiny ladies. My friend is lucky; her tiny lady doesn’t mind cruising around in her buggy and better still actually loves clothes (in fact she wailed upon finding out a certain dress was intended for mammy not for her). My tiny lady, on the other hand, does not like her buggy, she hates shops and has zero interest in…
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Having woken up at 4.30 am and tossed and turned for an eternity, I finally got up at 6 am to do some writing (and down the obligatory giant coffee). It was gymboree morning and I was in absolutely no form for it. I was just too tired and too cranky. I couldn’t face the songs, the loudness, other children…you name it I wasn’t up for it. I almost turned the car around when the tiny lady, realising where we were going, demanded to be brought home. Oh how I longed to cave in and just turn around to the warm haven of home (and more coffee) but I sensed that if I gave in this time, there might well be a shift in the balance of power…and it wouldn’t be in my favour.
So we found a (very tight and awkward) parking spot and I dragged myself through the door. The tiny lady had cheered up at this point and was delighted to see everybody. My head ached and this was before any songs were sung. I don’t know how I got through it. There was one amusing incident though that made my efforts to keep awake worth while. Towards the end of the session we played a game using a parachute to bounce the ball around the group. Suddenly it seemed we had a competition going over who could throw the ball the highest – fear not I was in no way involved. It was mainly the only dad amongst us who was perhaps determined to impress with his footie skills.
Gymboree finally ended and I longed for nap time. I could get some more coffee and five minutes to myself. When we came home my sleep deprived self ended up using the tiny lady’s toy farmer to serenade his lego girlfriend – my daughter ignored me, clearly realising that her mother had now finally lost it. Those five minutes had fast become more a necessity than a luxury.
But alas it was not to be. My daughter had no intention of sleeping. So I tried my trick of taking her back up, having an early lunch then trying again. But no, she threw out her teddy, she threw out her soother. I gave up! Five minutes later a familiar smell wafted through the sitting room. Nappy changed in a speedy frenzy I deposited her back in her cot to a chorus of shrieks.
Ah but now peace. I am drinking coke in a vain attempt to keep going so I can get some work done. Who knows how long the nap will last – pray for me!
Some thoughts on a father’s battle for his son
The Sunday Independent’s Life magazine contained an article this weekend sure to enrage anybody with a heart. The story of Tom Clonan and his son Eoghan, a boy who the government have left stuck in a too-small wheelchair due to ‘budget cuts’ . Eoghan has Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease (PMD), a life long condition which attacks the central nervous system. However, intellectually speaking, Eoghan is…
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