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.

The practical side of parenting

Since my daughter’s birth nearly two years ago (TWO yikes!) I have been constantly confronted by the notion that I am completely unprepared as a mother. It started in the hospital. I arrived with 0 to 3 month clothes having been convinced she wouldn’t fit into the teeny newborn items. In my defence at my last scan she had measured 7.5. This was a few days before the birth so I figured she would have grown a little by the time she actually arrived. But wouldn’t you know it she was a tiddler. So she spent her first day swimming around in the outfit I had spent ages picking out for her. Pink and perfect and much too big. Relatives were duly dispatched to nearby shops. Oh and could you also bring some cot sheets, more blankets, mittens and chocolate (that last was for me – not a fan of hospital food). Thanks so much! I was woefully unprepared despite the two bags I’d lugged into the hospital that first day.

Since then things have pretty much been the same. In my first few weeks as a new mother I was constantly forgetting some must need item from the nappy bag from actual nappies to muslins to bibs. Each time it happened I vowed to make a ‘nappy bag list’. This list was never written .

I’d like to tell you things have changed since those early weeks…but that would be a big fat lie. Only the other week out for a shopping trip with a friend I forgot to pack a spare pair of clothes for my daughter. Obviously the tiny lady then had to go and spill juice all over herself. “But she rarely needs a change!” I wailed! My friend wisely said nothing.

Only a few weeks before this fateful trip my husband and I had brought the tiny lady out for a picnic…and forgot to pack a nappy. She did the biggest poop ever….then went down a slide and mushed it all up her back. That was one long stinky drive home!

Today the long promised heat wave hit. What was my daughter wearing? A long sleeved vest, long sleeved top, a skirt and tights! Yes tights! I realised her summer wardrobe consists of two t shirts and both were in the wash. One frantic trip to tesco later and there she was in shorts and a sleeveless t shirt (for a wonder we actually did have short sleeve vests).

As we drove home I thought about how utterly useless I am at the practical side of parenting. I just don’t seem to be clued into it at all. She can go at least a week without me remembering to cut her nails and don’t get me started on the onerous task of ear cleaning! I can’t even excuse myself on the grounds that I hate these tasks I just genuinely don’t think of them! What does that say about me??

All I can hope is that she knows she is very much loved despite my devil may care attitude to the more practical side of life!

The Zone – Where Parents Fear to Tread

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!