Toilet Training Blues

 

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This is the tiny lady’s potty. It has a sad air of neglect to it. It sits unused and unloved since the day it was purchased. There was an initial burst of enthusiasm after said purchase. It required some assembly (which mama didn’t realise at the time). It took about an hour and a few cross words between mama and dada to get it right. Our little lady helped by grabbing screws just when they were needed and jamming them in places they weren’t supposed to go. She was thrilled. We were less so. But one very sweaty hour later we had a potty. She sat on it a few times before completely losing interest.

So everyday when I am about to tackle her through yet another nappy change I ask would she like to use her potty. The answer is always a resounding ‘NO!’.

Knowing my daughter as I do I don’t push. A great way to get her to not do something is to make her think it’s something you really want. She will just dig her heels in and refuse to bend. I like the fact she has such a strong sense of self; I just wish she would give me a break once in a while.

This morning I asked myself why am I pushing this toilet training thing so much? She only turned two last month. There’s no rush. Yet, like many parents, the minute her second birthday party was over I was pressuring us both to get her out of nappies. I think we all just buy into the myth that when a child turns two they are ready to begin toilet training. And some children are. But many children are not. And our rush to get them there may even lead to future complications such as constipation and bed-wetting.

While researching the whole toilet training dilemma I came across Janet Lansbury’s website who emphasises the importance of a less rigid approach. Allow your child access to the potty or toilet. Ask if they would like to go. If they say no just move on don’t push it. To me this seems like a pretty awesome way to go about something which can cause such heartache for parents and children.

Having worked with many toilet training children over the years I noted that quite often the slightly older children took to it more easily than the younger ones. I do remember promising myself I would wait until my tiny lady was at least two and a half before I started…why didn’t I remember this before now? Well she takes to new ideas quickly and she is also very independent (sometimes unbearably so). I figured she would embrace her potty whole-heartedly. However, after some intensive googling I found that no correlation between intelligence and early potty training has been found. A relief to those of us who struggle with the more reluctant trainers.

If you go online (like I did) you will find proponents of both sides; some will say earlier is better and some advocate a later start. The real clue I think is to wait until your child is really really ready. Don’t feel pressure just because you think your child ‘should’ be ready. They will do it in their own time and at their own pace. Don’t worry they won’t be wearing nappies in college and you might save yourself a lot of stress just by waiting it out.

So our potty will sit unloved for another while at least. Some day the tiny lady will be  ready but that day isn’t today and that’s okay by me.

Toy Story 3 – oh the tears…

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This morning I made the mistake of watching the end of Toy Story 3 with my daughter (yes we allow her watch TV in the mornings – bad parents). I say mistake as it was a dull, wet Monday morning and I had a serious case of PMS. I was crying over the smallest of things. Needless to say the heart-wrenching scene where Andy leaves his best friend Woody behind had me in floods of tears. I literally couldn’t hold in the emotion. My husband looked on bemused as my little girl (who was sitting on my lap) studied me intently; why was mama crying? Obviously she could not comprehend why mama was having a full on meltdown. There was so much hitting me right that I just managed to sob out ‘mama’s being silly’ before running for a box of tissues.

Woody, Buzz and the gang are almost like stand-ins for us parents in this film; watching as their once tiny children begin to out-grow their space in the family unit and need to forge their own path (for a little while at least). I watched my tiny lady wave as the end credits rolled up and felt so very thankful not to be Andy’s mum. I had years ahead yet before I was consigned to the sidelines of my daughter’s life. But there will come a period of time when she will be so focused on her own life and her own path that I may well be relegated to the attic as it where while she figures things out on her own. I’m not too worried. This is all a natural part of growing up and as heartbreaking as it can be our children know we are never far if they need us. And if we have done our job right they will come back to us; loving the security of family and home while they figure out their place in the world.

I felt as if I was watching Toy Story from both the perspective of parent and child. The child in me still remembers packing up for college….and hating every second of it. I was not like Andy. I didn’t want to leave my cosy family nest. I was homesick for months. I would never have given away my toys (one of which still resides in my now adult room upstairs – and he won’t be leaving until I do). I longed to put the challenges and perplexities of adulthood away for another year. I wasn’t ready for that step and it took me a long time to feel at ‘home’ away from my family. In fact it’s only since I got married and had my own child that I felt a sense of home again. I do still cry when leaving my parents (at the grand old age of 34) but I also look forward to getting back to my own space, my own nest. It’s taken a long time to get here but like all late bloomers I found my place in the end.

 

The reality behind those picture perfect moments

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We look happy right? A mother and daughter having a lovely family day out. Moments after my husband snapped this photo we were in the midst of an epic meltdown. The cause? Well naturally I have no idea. When you are two you don’t really need a reason now do you? It might be because mama packed away the sandwich you said you ‘no like’ then suddenly decided that you liked very much? It might have been because there was a speck of juice on your shorts. It might even be because the sky was blue and your favourite colour right now is yellow. The list of possibilities is endless.

A few weeks ago I felt like my daughter and I had found our groove. She seemed to have hit the ‘terrible twos’ early so I was hopeful she was moving out of them early too. I thought the storm had passed. I was wrong. Very very wrong. It was simply the eye of the storm, the calm before the thunders of two became stronger than ever.

My tiny lady currently likes to do everything herself. If you offer assistance, even the slightest form of help, you will instantly regret it. There will be a wail, followed by a loud ‘NO’ and you will be treated to the most filthiest of looks. It now takes between five and ten minutes for her to climb into her car-seat and position herself just so. She wants to put on her shoes by herself though she hasn’t yet learned how. Last week she even burst into tears when I patiently tried to explain to her that she was too small to actually drive the car.

As a former Montessori Teacher I know all the theories and all the reasons why we must allow children to take their time and develop these skills at their own rate. Most of the time I have no problem with this. However, when you are late for an appointment and your toddler insists on doing everything (and I mean everything) by her ownself you would need the patience of a saint not to intervene. Theories are all very well but sometimes reality does not allow us to be the ‘best’ mothers we can be am I right? Sometimes it’s okay to just flunk the motherhood exam; put those shoes on yourself and strap that stubborn bundle of cute into her car-seat. Everybody has days like this.

So the next time you see me caught in a picture perfect moment and feel a moment of despair as you battle your toddler to put on his coat/shoes/clothes in general; fear not this moment is merely one tiny part of the day when we are not engaged in a battle of wills. If you stick around you are sure to witness an explosion. Be strong toddler mommies, this too shall pass.

 

Choice & Respect: words we have forgotten in the mummy-shaming wars

I found an interesting article yesterday on the Huffington Post about how hospitals in America have to ascribe to a certain set of guidelines in order to be registered as Baby-Friendly. One of these guidelines was a rooming-in policy; mothers and babies stay in the same room from birth. This is to promote bonding and increase the levels of breastfeeding in the country. All very positive you would think but then you read on. The real life experiences of mothers were less than ‘friendly’ with some women having to beg to be allowed a few hours of sleep. Nurses now have to ask why the baby is being brought to the nursery and then record the mother’s answers. They are also required to then tell the mother about the benefits of rooming-in. I am not debating a system that encourages bonding and mother/child time but I would very much question a system that does not take into account a mother’s need to rest and recharge after the demands of labour or surgery.

I, once again, made the mistake of reading the three hundred plus comments; not all of them – I don’t have that much time on my hands – but a selection. Some were quite moderate, spoke of their own experiences and said they believed it should be a matter of choice. Most women appreciated time with their child but would have liked the option of sleep (free from new mum anxiety) just to help with recovery. Then came the shamers. Why, oh why, are there always women out there who seek to shame the choices made by other women? They didn’t believe that a woman should be allowed the option of a rest, after all as the mother of a newborn they wouldn’t get much sleep at home would they?

The problem with their argument is that a hospital does not represent a realistic home environment. Your baby isn’t sleeping in a plastic cot for one thing. You are not attached to monitors. You have friends, family and a partner around you to help. You can sleep while someone else watches the baby. One particularly scathing woman wrote that women need to adjust to bringing their newborns everywhere – settle them and then go have your shower. This woman does not take into account the levels of anxiety many new mums feel when leaving their infant. She clearly expects us all just to get up and get on with it – pull up your bootstraps new mums, you have a job to do! Ignore that new anxiety weaving its way through your stomach and just put on a brave face.

Some mothers may find it easy to adjust, some women cope better with pain and with a lack of sleep. But some mothers don’t. That is why we need to be given a choice. It is neither fair nor realistic to judge each other by our own experiences. I had a fairly easy elective section; should I then judge another woman who found her elective section tough? No because that was her experience; just because we went through a similar procedure it does not mean that we will cope with it in the same way. Our bodies are different, our mentalities are different and our life histories are different. All of these combine to make our overall experience of the same event poles apart.

I believe (or I would like to believe) that the impetus behind the Baby Friendly policies in America has to do with empowering women in their new roles as mothers (I will ignore, for now, the fact that the rooming-in policy does help with staff shortages). However, if we are to feel empowered this can only come about through choice. Choice to make the right decision for ourselves and our child. And that choice should not be ridiculed or criticised or shamed. Nobody is a bad mother for needing some time to adjust to life as a new parent and nobody has a right to shame you for needing this.Respecting others choices is surely the best way of empowering women.

Respect and choice: two words that seem to have been forgotten in this new era of mummy-shaming. Let’s try to put them back where they belong.

Parent Hangover – enough said

I have been absent from the blog-sphere for the past while as I have been recovering from one of the more hideous afflictions of parenthood – the parent hangover. I haven’t been struck down by one of these in about a year so it took a few days to actually feel somewhat human again. Recovery wasn’t helped by a bouncing toddler who refused to sleep past 6am and the need to constantly make sure she was (somewhat) safe. Yesterday was spent shamelessly giving into her demands and bribing her when I wanted her to do something without making a fuss. I figured the only way to live through it was to take the path of least resistance…and this meant agreeing with everything my toddler had to say.

The morning after the night before, it came screaming back to me why I now, very rarely, drink. It just does not pay when you have to deal with a small child on very little sleep and a headache that would make you wish for death. They don’t understand why you don’t want to play cars or colour pictures or why you keep running to the toilet every five minutes. They don’t get why you need nap time more than they do. And they especially don’t get why having a temper tantrum in a public place could result in tears (yours not theirs)…though if they did it probably wouldn’t stop them.

The reason for the intensity of this hangover was that my husband and I were out on a date night. These are like precious jewels to us now. Even more thrilling was the fact that we were staying over-night in a hotel. We hadn’t done this in about a year and, as we wouldn’t be going away this summer, this would double nicely as a mini holiday as well. We were like two small children let loose in a sweet shop albeit one with bottles of wine and glasses of beer. We started early and finished late. We even chanced going to a local nightclub. We sobered up a little at the sight of those black stamps on our hands and I admit we left after about five minutes. Sometimes you have to realise you just aren’t into that scene anymore…and we were big players on the old nightclub scene back in the day. We even met in one.

I don’t remember much after the club…though I have a hazy recollection of wanting more drink. Thankfully the hotel bar was closed by the time we reached it and so to bed. Waking up the next day was not pretty and indeed I wasn’t much better the next couple of days either. Today I was overjoyed to wake up feeling back to normal again. I have vowed to go easy on the next date night maybe just dinner and a movie…a glass of wine with dinner rather than for dinner!

The Sweet Art of Imitation

This week a mother shared a sweet photo of her daughter pretending to breastfeed her doll. Her mother breastfed her and as well all know toddlers love to copy their parents. I often catch sight of my tiny lady carefully watching me out of the corner of her eye while I have my dinner then she takes a bite in the exact same way. It is adorable. I’m sure the mother who shared this photo thought it was just as adorable. And it was. However, what I’m sure she didn’t expect was the ‘shock and horror’ brigade who descended to label this child’s pretend play as “weird” and that her mother should be “punched in the face”. Seriously who writes these vile comments? How can anyone call a child imitating her mother “some of the nastiest sh*t of my life”? I was quite taken aback.

Regular readers will know that I am big on encouraging and supporting bottle-feeding mothers. But this is due to the fact that I think it’s an area we fall down in and a lot of mothers feel guilty for making that choice. However, I believe every mama has the right to feed her baby as she so wishes and that mothers who breastfeed deserve our support and respect too. This nasty outburst at a photo of a child who is just copying a very normal and natural act is reprehensible. As a number of commenters pointed out there would have been no uproar if the child had been using a bottle.

What strikes me as kind of amusing here (amusing in a bad way though) is that women are nearly afraid to put up photographs of themselves bottle-feeding their babies. They fear the onslaught of questions and judgement. Yet a photo of a child using a toy bottle is fine. On the other side of it we have a woman who posted an image of a child pretending to breastfeed and there is a rush of negativity while a woman pictured breastfeeding her own child at a wedding was met with (mainly) applause. WTF? What is with the hypocrisy? Either you support breastfeeding or you don’t and if you do then what is so shocking about a child pretending to do it? It’s like a child pretending to give her/his dolls a bath or put them to bed. It’s preparing them to be good parents.

So what’s the deal people? If we are to help normalise breastfeeding in our society (which would go a long way towards helping mothers feel comfortable doing it) then a child imitating what she sees on a daily basis should be praised. As a former early years teacher I saw this happen quite frequently with children whose mothers were breastfeeding. We never made a big deal out of it; why would we? I know that some of the parents were a little embarrassed but only because they feared they (and their child) would be judged as this child was. I was always quick to assure them that it was perfectly normal for children to imitate what they see at home and there was absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about. Let’s move on and recognise this picture for what it is; a sweet moment of child imitating life.

This Girl’s Life

One minute you are young, remarkably wrinkle free and sailing through life on a breeze of blissful irresponsibility. Then you decide to become a parent. How hard can it be you chuckle as the two lines appear on the supermarket pregnancy test (carelessly thrown in with a bottle of wine, soft cheese and some extra strong espresso – what are the chances after all that it will happen so quickly). You partner seems oddly silent but gamely tries to show no fear (the sweat on his forehead is a dead giveaway). He will later drink the wine himself and devour the soft cheese while you watch jealously drinking your decaf tea. This will be just the beginning of the many sacrifices of motherhood.

As the months fall by (and that date on the calendar looms closer to reality than ever before) you begin to realise that life will truly never be the same again. It’s not just that you can no longer sleep or that you count your cups of coffee or that the stairs has now taken on Everest proportions…it’s that feeling that you are no longer really alone in your own mind. Every thought is overshadowed by The Baby. Will this help The Baby? Will this harm The Baby? What is the best thing to do?

It is no longer just your own life you are living; it as if you are living (not just eating) for two. Your body holds two people; two hearts beat in that body and two brains work away at keeping everything ticking over as it should be (one of these brains is very tiny and underdeveloped but then the same could be said for your brain some days). It is a great responsibility to live two lives at once, sometimes you don’t feel up to the challenge and consume a vast amount of calories as food is now a substitute for everything you are denied (wine, sex – too uncomfortable – and a decent night’s sleep).The months drag by, your feet ache, your back has given up the ghost and people joke that you must be carrying twins.

Then the day dawns when this girl’s life becomes this mother’s life and the world as you know it morphs into an alien landscape, a sparkling riot of colours; love has never felt this deep or scary before. A soft smelling bundle of warmth is placed in your arms and life will never be quite as free or as easy again but with your price of freedom comes a love you have never known before. There will be struggles ahead and sleepless nights and days when you just want to cry but…you will be rewarded with sticky kisses, warm cuddles and a life rich in meaning. You will still carry that girl in your heart, she will never be left behind but the joys and sorrows of motherhood will strengthen her; they will mould her into a woman and this life will be something totally unexpected but very much worth every ounce of pain.

Nevermind Beyonce; you are rocking it too!

This morning I read an article by Marissa Lawton on HuffPost Parents UK about how mothers are always complaining about a lack of time. Time has become a more precious commodity than sleep as quite often we use some of that time to catch up on the sleep we missed for various reasons (teething toddler, nursing infant or too much coffee). Life as a mother is tough. Some days it’s really, really tough. Time just seems to fly through our fingers and those moments of the day where you manage to carve out a bit of me-time are few and far between. I know that if I want to achieve anything for myself during the day I have to multi-task like crazy when the tiny lady is up and then work like a demon writing, writing, writing when (if) she takes a nap. I know I could sure use some tips to help find extra minutes in the day.

Ms. Lawton’s article suggested various solutions to help mothers glean back some of much needed time. The point of this article was to help not patronise but unfortunately Ms. Lawton chose to use celebrities as examples of mothers who manage to balance a successful career with motherhood. Beyoncé was put forward as a mother who is able to manage a successful career, a strong marriage and her life as a mother. Well yeah of course she manages all this she has a team of nannies, chefs, assistants etc to help her achieve all of this. Now yes she did start off without this team but then again she started out as a young single woman so we can’t really use her achievements to compare against our own can we? It is not helpful or realistic to do this. Okay maybe we all should have worked our butts off from the minute we turned 16 but then again not many of us wanted world-wide domination. For myself I’ve always been a late bloomer; late to get a boyfriend, late to marry, late to find my path in life. I don’t like to compare myself with celebrities as their way of living is so far removed from my own that I can’t even imagine what would work for them would work for me.

I am currently working on an article about how, as mothers, we tend to compare ourselves unfavourably both with each other and with celebrities. We look at other mothers and think ‘how does she do that?’. We look at celebrities like Beyoncé and think ‘how does she keep it all together?’. The truth is it’s not really useful to compare yourself to anyone else. Beyonce, as stated above, has a team of assistants. That perfectly dressed mother who passed you in Tesco probably just had a shouting match with her toddler a minute before you saw her. That neighbour holding down a full-time job, a marriage and three kids probably has moments of complete and utter panic. The truth is that we all have our ups and downs; those moments of sheer mayhem and chaos. In general, however, the chaos is locked up tight at home and we put on a smile to the outside world.

Mothers we all have our own ways of living. We all have our own paths to follow. Sometimes it may seem like everyone else is doing better than we are but that most definitely isn’t the reality. Even the much-lauded Beyoncé has bad days. She may not speak very openly about them but Lemonade didn’t sound to me like the musings of a very happy lady. Do yourself a favour and forget Beyonce, forget Tina Fey, forget every celebrity you ever met and forget about your neighbourhood moms. You are doing the best you can with the time you have and this phase of motherhood, of busy days and sleepless nights, won’t last forever.

Toddlers & Bra Fittings

It was that time of year again. My bras were beginning to let the team down and showing serious signs of wear and tear. So I bravely faced the Annual Bra Fitting. I decided to wait until I was visiting my parents as I could rope in my own mother to help mind the tiny lady. She has been quite calm these days (for a toddler) and I didn’t really expect any bother but still it would be foolish not to plan ahead for contingencies (toddler meltdown caused by tiredness, hunger, general just-being-a-toddler).

Typically she did not nap that day and was hyper as only a toddler on very little sleep can be. There were no tears, however, just a lot of high-pitched shouting and giggles. Then we walked into the shop. The change was immediate and loud! Two of my mother’s friends came over to see her…oh she is the image of you….suddenly the smiles disappeared, the whimpers turned into wails and the women were quick to make their excuses and disappear. The small body strained against the straps of her buggy angrily. We let her out. She made straight for the escalator. The sight of this magical, moving stair-case cheered her right up and the tears dried on her cheeks. She was enchanted…not enchanted enough to actually step on to it herself, however, I had to carry her. The problem arose when we got off and again, again, again! Suddenly the stairs was ‘broken’ (yes I do frequently – far too frequently – lie to my toddler), there were some tears but she was soon distracted by a mirror (a source of endless fascination for your average toddler).

This left me facing my own mirror along with my inner demons. The sales assistant had advised me to take off my top and wait in a fitting room. The sweats began. I really, really can’t explain the levels of anxiety this whole fitting debacle induces in me. It seems I would have been far more comfortable in the Jane Austen era of modesty than our current era where even lingerie has been revived as outerwear. I tried hard to ignore my slightly wobbly belly in the mirror facing me as I waited for the fitting to actually begin. This is often the worst part; faced with a body you generally don’t spend too long gazing at in the harsh light of a fitting room. Then my assistant appeared, measuring tape in hand. She appeared unconcerned; she probably does this at least ten times a day. I immediately tensed up. This fitting business involves far too much close contact for my liking. On second thoughts the actual measurement is probably the worst part. Then comes the actual trying on of bras – black, white, multicoloured, under-wired, padded; the choices are endless and far too many. I try to narrow it down as quickly as I can. There are only so many times I can stand there in my bra and jeans discussing the merits of each piece of underwear. I am just struggling into choice number two when it happens. The tiny lady saves me.

Up until now she had been perfectly content to peep into empty fitting rooms and wave at herself in the mirror. Then she discovered mama was behind one such door and there was no pleasing her until she was up in my arms. Feigning an annoyance I was far from feeling I threw my top back on, grabbed two bras and suggested I return another day. The assistant was sympathetic and suggested I leave the tags on and return them if they were unsuitable. Relief! I could try them on at home.

But, unfortunately, the story doesn’t quite end there. I’d had a niggling feeling all along that she had measured me incorrectly. So when I got home naturally the bras were not a good fit. So now I have to return to go through the whole rigamarole again. Who knows what will happen this time but I’ll be making sure to bring my toddler along for an easy escape should it prove necessary. Toddlers; sometimes they can actually be quite useful!