Eat Your Greens – Oh Wait You’re A Toddler

img_2387The current trend for eating dinner in my house involves either plain rice, mashed potato (if we’re lucky) or pasta with sauce. The tiny lady will also concede to eating fish fingers or chicken goujons. Anything even remotely resembling a vegetable is considered completely unacceptable. I have been trying all the tricks:

Make interesting shapes out of veg:

I nearly leaped with joy when I discovered a box of spiral-shaped carrots in our local supermarket. I made a big thing of putting them in the trolley. Toddler agreed they looked very interesting and actually talked about eating them. Then they arrived on her plate. ‘I no like that.’ It didn’t stop her playing with them but God forbid they go near her mouth!
We also tried broccoli trees — these made it into her mouth but were spat out again within seconds.

Hide veg underneath sauces, mash etc.

Firstly tiny lady won’t eat any sauce expect plain tomato sauce — or mayonnaise — so this is out. Secondly we did hide various veg in her mashed potato. It was promptly located and spat back out. In fact it may have put her off mashed potato!

Cover veg in grated cheese:

This should have worked brilliantly as toddler loves cheese (even more than I do which is really saying something) but she just picked all the cheese she could off said veg then asked for more. There were then tears and histrionics when no more cheese was forthcoming. Needless to say no veg was consumed either.

Be a good role model:

I have spent all week stuffing my face with various greens watched, slightly pityingly, by my toddler. Despite being a big fan of sharing mummy’s food she has absolutely no interest in being fooled into trying peppers or sweetcorn or cauliflower!

The only thing that keeps me going is that this seems to be a very common phase amongst the toddler set. Perhaps they have secret meetings when they turn two about how to drive their parents nuts — rule 1 there is no toddler club, rule 2 — you must never, ever eat vegetables — this will lead to immediate excommunication.

I think it is to do with their burgeoning sense of independence. They can’t control much in their little world and quite often have to do various things they would rather not — get dressed, go into car-seats, go to the shop etc. (the list is endless). So they decide to instigate a food strike of sorts. Of course this strike only seems to apply to healthy foods — you won’t often catch a toddler refusing chips or a bar of chocolate (see evidence above). No they are far too clever for that.

I have decided to just keep offering veg every day in the hope that one day I will finally wear her down. She may take pity on me and try. Or decide she suddenly loves veg. Either way I’m assuming the strike will end once she hits the teenage years and embarks on the traditional ‘I’m becoming a vegetarian’ phase. Until then more broccoli for me!

Nostalgia & Gold Earrings

Today I am wearing a pair of gold earrings that once belonged to my mother. They are small, golden swans and they were my heart’s desire when I was a small girl. I still remember looking into my mother’s jewellery box; a treasure trove of necklaces, rings and bracelets. But nothing could compare, in my eyes anyway, to those golden swans. How my little heart ached for them. But they could only be worn in pierced ears! My parents would not allow their eight year old daughter to pierce her ears. So I sighed with longing every time I spied those two swans, certain my life would be complete if they could only be mine.

Time passed and I became a teenager. The day arrived when my mother took me to the local jewellers to have two holes punched in my ears. Oh the pain! But the sparkly ear lobes more than made up for it. By this time I had forgotten about the golden swans and by the time I remembered them I was heavily into silver hoops which were all the rage in the mid to late 90s. I thought I was the height of cool one day when I wore ripped jeans, a faded plaid shirt and two silver hoops in my ears. Rock on sister! Definitely glad there was no Facebook back then. My fashion mistakes only exist in my memories!

It was only in my late twenties that I finally fell back in love with the swans. But my mother was not ready to part with them and so another five years passed before they became mine. I don’t think my mother realised the joy I got when they came into my possession. They are such a symbol of my childhood, a relic from a time when being a grown up meant simply gold earrings and lipstick. My eight year old self didn’t know about mortgages, job stress or the joyous pain of being a parent but she did know a pair of gold earrings can make even the rainiest of days that bit brighter. So today I wear my swans in memory of that little girl. Maybe my own little lady will one day fall in love with them herself.

Birthday Musings

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A week ago yesterday my husband and I headed out to celebrate my 35th birthday. Our little girl was safe and snug in nana and granddad’s house so we had the whole night ahead of us to let go and just relax. A night of pizza, prosecco and partying awaited. We ended up in bed by half eleven.

This wasn’t our intention. But rather it was the by-product of parenthood; the accumulation of numerous sleepless nights means that you burn out far quicker than in your pre-parent days. We were doing quite well at the beginning of the night, all shiny and clean in our dressy clothes. I had treated myself to a top that couldn’t be used for general mum wear; this was a big step for me. Normally I don’t buy anything that can’t be re-used for around the house or doing the grocery run. I don’t get out enough to justify good money on ‘going out’ clothes. But it was my birthday so I took a leap. I disguised the bags under my eyes with layers of concealer and thought I might just pass muster. Thankfully no photos of the night exist and in my memories (glazed by prosecco) I look sparkling!

So there we were; a mini bottle of prosecco for me and a fancy ale for my husband. We ate pizza and sipped our drinks; revelling in the fact that our clothes would not soon be covered in sauce, our conversation wouldn’t soon be interrupted by a scream and our night would not soon be cut short. We ordered another drink instead of dessert. We then left to find a cosy corner in a pub where we could pretend to be ten years younger. This is where the night started to take a turn. We couldn’t decide on a pub; this one was too scruffy, this one too snooty, this one too grim…and on it went. Finally we ended up in a somewhat decent location. I noticed a devilish gleam in my husband’s eye.

‘Do you fancy a shot?’

Oooh it had been a long time since I’ve had a shot. I should be clear though that I don’t have a good history with shots. Tequila usually ends with me legless and talking nonsense. My one encounter with a Baby Guinness warranted a swift trip to the toilet and a promise never to hold commerce with Mr. Guinness or any of his babies again…As for vodka shots enough said. So I had to give this decision serious consideration. While I mulled over my choice the pub closed (it was a Monday night and practically dead in town) so we ended up in a hotel bar.

‘I’ll just have a Bailey’s.’ I said somewhat shamefully.

My husband returned with two Baileys and a packet of crisps.

On the walk home we came to the conclusion that while our mad, crazy, youthful days are far behind us there’s nothing wrong with a Baileys and a packet of Tayto to see in a new year.

 

The human face behind the debate

I had a little epiphany while we were at the zoo the other day (and not just about how important mama instincts are). As we were taking a quiet moment in a shady part of the zoo, watching some birds hanging out in the sun, another family joined us and sat a little way away. After a few minutes we decided to keep on trekking. As we passed this little family of four I noticed the mother was breastfeeding. She looked completely relaxed and at peace with the world. It was a lovely sight. I gave her a smile as I went by and she smiled back; two mothers just acknowledging each other. But it made me stop and think. A great way to encourage other mothers, especially those who may feel uncomfortable about public breastfeeding, is to just offer a simple smile. That may be all it takes to relax somebody and put at them at ease in a sometimes challenging world. The mother breastfeeding for the first time. The mother whose children are killing each other in the breakfast aisle. The mother with the loud toddler. The mother whose baby won’t stop crying. A smile can really help. I realised that the best way we can show our support to other mothers is just showing we get it. We either have been there or we can understand what they are feeling.

I read an interesting article in Empire magazine this morning about a new film coming out called ‘Loving’. It deals with interracial marriage in 1950s America. The director, Jeff Nichols, made an intriguing point. He said “I don’t like things that preach. I don’t think that’s how you further the conversation. You further the issue through showing people the humanity at the base of the issues – which we so often forget.” This statement really had an impact on me. Perhaps this is what has happened with infant feeding. It has become a highly charged debate with everyone from politicians to celebrities weighing in on both sides and we can sometimes forget that behind every decision is an actual human being making a choice out of love; whatever that choice may be. So what can we do? Well as mothers we can take a step back, stop and think. Why do we fuel the Mummy Wars? We all keep adding energy to these heated debates; infant feeding, early potty training, ideal age to start school. I’ve judged (and been judged I’m sure) but I am now trying my best to see the bigger picture and not just leap to assumptions (they make an ass out of you and me, don’t ya know). We can start by showing other mothers some solidarity. So the next time you see a woman struggling with a toddler who is having the mother (pardon the pun) of all tantrums, catch her eye and share a little sympathy. It might just make her day a lot easier…and it will definitely make you feel great.

We’re all going to the zoo…

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Last Saturday my husband and I decided to brave the zoo with our tiny lady. It’s a wonder we have never gone before but then I didn’t really feel it was worth the hassle involved until our daughter was actually old enough to appreciate that yes that’s an actual elephant! I am not the type to put myself through unnecessary hardships and I like to have some kind of pay-off in the end…you know like an actual reaction from the child! If I sound slightly bitter it’s because last year we ventured to an animal park with the grandparents in tow and she slept the whole way through it. She was awake to see the ducks…and that was it!

I planned the outing like a military excursion. There were two bags. One with extra snacks, pull-ups, clothes etc. I had another to carry with me, just the essentials (or so I thought). I was quite smug at how organised I was. This smugness was not to last. I should have known. Since the poor child’s birth I have been forgetting things; I once went out when she was teeny, tiny and forgot to bring a blanket. I had a whole heap of mama guilt after that outing; how could I forget a blanket?? The poor cold child.

But I digress. The zoo. We booked our tickets online thinking we could beat the queue. However, when we arrived the queue for online tickets was nearly as long as the one for people who hadn’t booked in advance. My smugness took a small hit here I’ll admit. However, I was pleased to note that the zoo was only pleasantly busy. There was room at picnic benches and lots of space to actually see the animals. We stopped for a quick sugar hit – hey you have to have treats on days out then my husband made up a brilliant name for the tiny lady’s buggy; he called it her zoo car. The backstory to this is our lady hates being in her buggy, she wants to walk. But the reality is a toddler is not going to last very long walking around a zoo and we were worried she would tire herself out before seeing anything. So the genius idea of a zoo car was invented. She clambered in and for about an hour all was well.

Then 12 o’clock hit. This is usually her nap-time. Spirits began to flag. She wanted to walk. So we let her out. That’s when I discovered she was soaked through. Her pull-up had leaked (and it never leaks!). I then had to confess I had left all the spare clothes in the other bag…back in the car! My husband ran the ten minute walk to the carpark and back. I stripped her down and got her nice and dry….five minutes later she pooped. Naturally. I was already becoming far too familiar with the changing room (kudos to Dublin Zoo it’s lovely and clean).

This change required two parents because guess what? The tiny lady was beginning to turn into a mini-beast and she refused to lie on the mat. Of course there was another couple next to us quietly and calmly changing a small baby. Meanwhile our little terror screamed and kicked while sweat ran down our faces and we fake laughed at her, ourselves and the whole situation though inside I felt like crying.

We decided lunch was the best thing to do next. After that well…we should have left. But we didn’t. My mama instincts were yelling to get the hell out of there but my husband wanted to show our daughter the giraffes. This involved a ten minute walk with a child who definitely didn’t want her zoo car anymore. It was also becoming hotter and more crowded with every step we took. The final straw was my girl kicking off her shoes then refusing to put them back on while simultaneously trying to walk on the grit laden floor. I grabbed her, signalled to hubbie we were done and literally pushed my way back out of the African Planes. That’s when B**** Ann-Marie took over.

B**** Ann-Marie made her first appearance on one long ago summer when I lived in London with a boyfriend (now ex) for two whole months. I learned quite quickly that in order to survive I would need to toughen up. Getting around on the Tube was a necessity and it absolutely terrified me at first. But after a few weeks I was an old hand at it. So much so that I would look pityingly at the tourists nervously moving their way around on the carriages and clutching their bags ever so tightly. The following year I returned with my mother for a visit. It was as if I had never been away. I think I may have scared my mother slightly with my hardened Londoner edge.

So London Ann-Marie came to the fore as I battled the crowds at London Zoo. I have never been so glad to see an exit sign! We still had one stop to make before we could head home. The shop, ever so cleverly placed next to the exit. A visit to the zoo wouldn’t be complete without a furry animal to take home so a little elephant was bought and promptly named Dumbo.

What a day. I can only imagine how people cope with little tots while on actual vacations. As we were driving away I noticed a couple with their six children (including what looked like toddler twins – yikes). All I could think was they must have better organisational skills than me.

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.