Posts Tagged ‘parenting’
Time Out: Noun: a pause from doing something (as work); “we took a 10-minute break”; “he took time out to recuperate,” respite, break, recess; pause – temporary inactivity.
If you follow me on Twitter you may or may not have noticed my unusual silence of late. I needed some time out, and from life not just Twitter.
I had recently read an article in Psychologies magazine about pleasure that got me thinking – and in it there was the following quote:
‘Our culture teaches a woman to over-give and she ends up depleted, lonely, cranky and victimised. Pleasure is something every woman requires.’
Now this article very much focused on sexual pleasure (don’t worry, we won’t be going there in this post) but it also mentions how pleasure also comes from discovering what brings you fun and joy in your spare time, and that if you do nothing and always wait for others to make you happy, chances are you’ll lead a miserable life.
Now I know that sounds a bit dramatic – and maybe it is – but recently, even though I think myself happier than I’ve ever been before, I am almost certainly not finding many things pleasurable, and have become increasingly downtrodden with the groundhogdayness of life that comes with looking after three small people. Clearing food repeatedly off the floor was becoming beyond boring; doing the laundry, endless loads of laundry, was almost unbearable to the point that there were piles and piles of clothes in my house and I had no idea if they were clean or not; my husband walking in after a hard day at work and casually asking me what was for dinner was increasingly making me want to rip of his man bits, fry them in a little oil and then ram them down his throat. Life had become so repetitive and familiar that I was locked in my own sweet hell, where everything was beginning to irritate me and I was morphing into a spiky ball of built up resentment and frustration.
We all know how hard parenting can be, we all support and listen to each other, yet when really faced with the really of its relentlessness are we truly honest? I know I’m terrible for plastering on my make-up (never seen without it, God forbid!) and casually throwing the phrase ‘I’m fine’ into everyday conversations, when inside I’m screaming ‘no, I’m bloody well not fine, I’ve just had to change the biggest, smelliest nappy with one hand whilst simultaneously emptying the dishwasher with the other and watching my umpteenth cup of coffee go cold. I’ve already had three people burst in on me whilst I’m trying to have a poo and have yet again been faced with the constant ‘why have you got a beard down there mummy?’ question whilst dipping under the shower for five minutes whilst hoping my youngest doesn’t flush himself, or my mobile phone down the toilet.’
Most days, most days I can laugh about all of the above, even when I’ve stupidly given the toddler a packet of Cheerios that he takes great pleasure on firing across the lounge. Or when I run to catch vomit in my hands for the gazillionth time, knowing damn well that it still manages to go absolutely everywhere and then makes my hands stink of sick for days. But last week it had all completely and utterly got on top of me and I was properly fed up. Fed up with feeling like dogsbody that was solely there to make everyone’s life easier, when no-one was making mine simple in any way shape or form – and so I quickly arranged for some time out. Four days in fact of total time out where I went away with my mum somewhere special…somewhere that we disappear to once a year…somewhere that is child and husband free.
I remember as a child how important time out had been for my parents – my dad would regularly go on fishing holidays (he was a keen fly fisherman, often having meetings with a Mr B. R. Owntrout on Friday afternoons!) and my mum would often go away with ‘the girls’ on Butlins fitness weekends. I clearly remember a time that my dad was left with us on one such weekend. He served up dinner, and it was stew…and it was grey…and yes, my brother and I refused to touch it. For years we teased and taunted him unbeknown to us that mum had actually cooked it (mushroom stew, hence the greyness!) and had left it for him to reheat! So I’ve grown up knowing time out is important and maybe that is why I am a firm believer in doing it myself, without any guilt whatsoever…honestly! And when I was away I fully indulged in activities I categorically can’t do with children. It was uplifting, refreshing and so very indulgent. Someone else cooked for me, another did the dishes for me and conversations with my mum were uninterrupted and always complete. I only got up when I needed something and chose to, my sleep was uninterrupted, my coffee was hot, and oh joy of joys I got to pee and shower on my own.
The time away gave me time to think. Having recently turned 37 I’ve been feeling a little uneasy…not a young ‘un anymore my life is very much set on its path, and yet I’ve not been ready for middle age-ness at all. I have very much been feeling feel torn in between two lives, unsure of which step to take next. When young your life is always segmented by different events – you work towards GCSEs, then A-Levels before further education if you so choose. Marriage and babies give you life-changing things to look forward to and your life is broken into different stages; however now I’m settled. My life doesn’t have a next stage as I am having no more children, which in turn means no more maternity leave, just unbroken work for the next few decades. It’s a strange time and one that honestly, hadn’t been sitting well with me. I’ve always been someone who gets bored relatively easily. I feel I need to achieve more than I have. I feel like I need to make every day count, every experience a memorable one and I’ve recently not been very good at living in the moment and being grateful for all I’ve got.
I know I’m so very lucky, several years ago as a young single mother I’d never have dreamt of having a career, a husband and a wonderful family. I’m so blessed to have everything I do, I’ve just been totally determined for it to be perfect. Maybe my need for perfection stems from losing my father when he was just 48, and then a dear friend at the age of just 40 – I don’t take a single minute for granted, but in turn that means my aspirations are often unrealistically high and I strive to meet them, failing often.
However over the last few days I’ve been able to take a step back from my life…and am so much more appreciative for it. I’ve been able to look at things in more perspective and have relished the opportunity to regain my momentum and zest for life. I’ve recognised that bringing up three children is a huge achievement, as is maintaining a successful marriage – which is so very hard at times. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve written a book to support families living with post natal depression and am involved in some wonderfully exciting charity work in this area at the moment. I have an amazing group of friends who are so brilliantly supportive. I may not be going out as much as I used to and I may (definitely) have several more wrinkles than I did ten years ago, but these things now seem so unimportant.
These four days away have been magical, powerful and I feel revitalised. I came home to smiles and cuddles and a husband so exhausted from looking after the children that he fell asleep at half past seven last night. And today? Today I’m back in the swing of being a mum and a housewife. I’m no longer irritable and have an infectious grin across my face. Never has the phrase happy mum = happy family been more true – without doubt everyone is more settled and grounded because of it.
Now where did I leave that cup of coffee….
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Goalposts: The structure of a goal can vary widely from sport to sport. In sports where goals are the sole method of scoring, the goal is often a rectangular structure that is placed at each end of the playing surface. Each structure usually consists of two vertical posts, called the goal posts, supporting a horizontal crossbar.
Ah the joys of the pre teen. Last week I was sat, in my lounge, at home and alone with all three of my children whilst my husband was (still) at work.
Earlier in the evening my 12 year old daughter was upstairs in her room throwing everything she could find, firmly and loudly, after having left a trail of destruction and debris on her way there. The four year old was asking what was happening and the toddler was trying to fly by jumping off the sofa and laughing when I said ‘no!’ Oh, and I’d just discovered that I’d washed a nappy containing toddler poo with a load of clothes in my washing machine. The day was going well, I was kicking parenting’s ass.
Now I’ve mentioned my feisty daughter many times on my blog before, and have been very honest about the challenges parenting a pre-teen has brought me so far. About how at this age for me, it’s not easy letting go, letting her have more freedom and hoping that I’ve taught her to make ‘informed’ and ‘good’ decisions. My daughter has a lot of common sense, she is quick witted and has an inherent need for attention. She is stubborn, dramatic, emotional. She will argue that black is white, fiercely believing it to be if it means she can get something out of the debate; and she’s sadly growing up in a world where some people feel they are owed everything and that ‘I want’ should mean ‘I get.’ She thinks she’s invincible, she thinks she is wronged daily, misunderstood, and blamed for everything. She’s also beautiful, thoughtful, and caring. Talented, confident and determined. She is a blend of many magical and wonderful things, however sadly, at the moment, she is predominantly anger personified.
I’m not sure how many of my readers are aware that our family is a ‘blended’ one. My daughter has a different father to my sons, who I have had with my husband. She’s had a lot to deal with in her little life and has faced a lot of changes. First, and from the very beginning it was just the two of us, living in a beautiful flat in Bristol together for 6 years. We were surrounded by friends and tragically, when my daughter was 6 years old, a close friend of mine who we’d known for years and who used to look after my daughter one day a week after school, died from breast cancer. My daughter already knew about death as she understood that my father had passed away before she was born, but this was her first experience of it in person. And it wasn’t easy on any of us. Shortly after this we then moved just outside of Bristol with my now husband; another change. A different school, new friends and routines and a very different ethos to the inner city school she’d previously attended. Then my first son came along, my husband and I got married, her father had a baby, I had another baby, I got very ill with PND, her father got married. Change after change after change. Always honestly talked about with her, always addressed and never ignored or brushed over, but uncontrollable endless changes nevertheless.
I often wonder what impact all of this has had on her and whether it’s added to her anger and fuelled her indignation at so many things. Being twelve these days is by no means easy. As a girl, and a short ginger one at that, she’s subjected daily to teasing and p*** taking. Already she’s asked me what a ‘ginger fanny’ is and has been called a bitch in the dinner hall. The boys in her year reportedly describe her as ‘small but feisty.’ So it’s no wonder she’s always got her defences up. When you’re twelve you’re developing your identity, where you fit in the world, what your beliefs are and so much more, yet peer pressures and the latest trends and fads undoubtedly impact on this. Not to mention the delight of hormones which, at the ripe old age of 36, I still haven’t mastered myself yet. It’s a tough time and I wouldn’t want to be there again for love nor money. Yet what I do want is to be able to put myself in my daughter’s shoes and see things from her perspective. And I desperately want to help her manage her anger so a repeat of what happened the other day is not on the cards.
Wanting to put myself in her shoes led to both of us digging out my old diaries this weekend.
Diaries that I started writing when I was just 11 years old and stopped, for no particular reason other than lack of time, when I was about 30. Written every year; covering my first period, my first kiss and oh so much more. We started reading my diary from 1989 together and couldn’t help but laugh at what I’d written (that’s a whole other blog post!) and what struck both of us immediately is how much younger than twelve I seem in the diary. I’m still enjoying building sandcastles on the beach and playing in the park. I’m not bothered by make-up or clothes or boys. There were no mobile phones, no internet or Facebook, and the tv had a measly four channels, none of which showing provocative singers parading around in their underwear. Children were undoubtedly able to be children, with very different expectations made of them. My homework at twelve, for example, was simply colouring in. Oh how different the goalposts were then, in many ways.
We all know that parenting certainly has it’s challenges, and for me it hasn’t got any easier the older my daughter has got, the challenges have simply changed. Parenting a pre-teen in this day and age isn’t straightforward, and neither it would seem, is actually being a pre-teen in 2013…and I think it’s something we’re going to have to work out together.
To be continued…
I’d just like to say that after reading this poem back, it could possibly sound like I’m a bit dissatisfied with my life at the moment, which couldn’t be further from the truth!! I guess I’m just very aware at times that even though I do different things everyday, my days are still very much centred around the same stuff I do as a mum….and I really do sometimes feel like I am forever on my hands and knees clearing food from the floor…just from lots of different floors!
Each day I wake, know what’s ahead,
Rub my eyes get out of bed.
Packed lunch to make, teeth to clean,
A few smiles and tantrums in between.
School run; walk come rain or shine.
Smile and wave, pretend I’m fine.
Home to put breakfast things away.
Change a nappy, out for the day.
Different people, same things we say.
Talking comes easily, brightens the day.
Home to make lunch, pick remains off the floor.
Nap time, me time, always need more.
Pick up from school, pop here and there;
Dentists, shopping, cutting of hair.
Home for dinner, cooking some more.
Again clearing remains up from the floor.
Bath time, bedtime; one, two then three.
Time for just my husband and me.
Exhausted and sleepy, weary from work,
Eyes start to close, limbs start to jerk.
Head hits the pillow, another day done,
A new one tomorrow, opportunity for fun.
Another play date, another game,
Each day different, yet somehow the same.
Parenting: Parenting (or child rearing) is the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. Parenting refers to the aspects of raising a child aside from the biological relationship.
I’ve written a few posts about trusting your instincts when parenting, however I’ve become aware that these posts are mainly about how important I think instincts are and how much I dislike parenting manuals. I thought maybe a post was in order where I write about what trusting your instincts means to me. Where I define it and put it into context. Where I show you how it’s helped me and how I learnt to trust mine.
Today I googled ‘instinctive mum,’ not because I wanted to revel in my own presence on the internet, but to see if there was anything like my blog out there. To see and read blogs by like minded people. Instead however, I found a blog that was completely the opposite. Where the whole premise behind it was about how we learn as parents, and that instincts very definitely do not exist; and those who say they do are doing others a disservice.
Understandably I was saddened by this, and frustrated. Now I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and boy do people have their own opinions when it comes to parenting, but I felt this was a very strong statement to make. I tweeted what I had read and many of you replied, outraged that someone should say such a thing. Dig a little deeper and you’d discover that the author of the post gave birth to a daughter who was in constant pain, and who, no matter how hard the author tried, was never comforted. Is it any wonder therefore, that the writer of the post doubted her maternal instinct? That she felt like her’s had left her and that she’d failed immediately as a mother?
I then asked the question to my followers on Twitter as to whether they believed parenting to be ‘learnt’ or ‘instinctive.’ The responses were thick and fast with many of you saying it’s a mixture of both. To which I agree. But what surprised me in the replies, and prompted this post, were the beliefs about what ‘instinctive parenting’ actually means. Does it mean knowing what each different cry from your baby means? Does it mean you always know exactly the right thing to do in every situation? Does it mean you are smug and have got this parenting malarkey sorted? Ha! No! Far from it!
For me trusting my instincts is not about having parenting sussed. It does not mean I know everything, that I am the perfect mum and always make the right decisions. I’m not and I don’t. I’ve made mistakes and I’ve doubted myself. I’ve always been useless when it comes to telling my babies’ different cries from each other and often discover the root of the problem through trial and error; if the nappy isn’t full then it’s milk time! Just because I trust my instincts does not mean I find parenting easy. Parenting is not easy, in any way shape or form. Instinctive parenting is in no way meant to be intimidating, or like a gift some of us have and others don’t. And I’d be horrified if it was added to the already over analysed list of the way we parent, as if it’s a fad or some new technique to try.
Instincts are not a wonder drug, they cannot prevent cot death or cure a sick child. They do not offer all of the answers, but they can tell us when we need to ask for help and seek advice. They are there in the middle of the night when your baby has a temperature and you need to help them. (and yes not knowing what to do and ringing the doctor is also trusting your instincts in knowing when you need a professional!) They are there when your baby cries inconsolably and you can’t comfort them and you need to ask for support and advice. They are there when your baby is adjusting their nap times, or isn’t ready to sleep alone or is showing signs of being ready to start potty training.
I agree with many of you who believe that parenting is a combination of many things and that it is an inherent blend of instincts and learning. Many parents believe instincts can tell them when something is or isn’t right for their child, and then they look for the answers, try something new and learn little more. Others say instinct relies heavily on a bond between you and your baby, yet for me I found the opposite to be true; when I was ill with PND I had difficulty bonding with my youngest and relied on my instincts more than ever to listen to his needs, as loving him didn’t seem to be enough.
Many people feel the need to seek acknowledgement or approval before they learn to listen to and trusting their instincts. Others think instincts are primeval and enable you to fundamentally look after your children whilst being influenced by other factors; and some believe that parenting is learnt from our parents and instinctively reproduced. And me, well you all know that I believe in listening to what my instincts are telling me before anything else and going with what I feel is right. I observe, ask myself many different questions, and listen to the answers my instincts are offering. And when no answers are offered I know I need to look elsewhere.
Parenting is about team work between you and your child; it’s about learning together. Undoubtedly the more time you spend together, the more you will learn about your baby and all of their beautifully individual characteristics; but I’d say instincts will definitely have played a part in building this powerful knowledge. They certainly don’t exclude learning, and can work in harmony with it. Instincts are invaluable in helping you have the confidence to trust what you’ve learnt combined with what you know deep down. You can ask for and listen to advice from others (and they’ll often give it whether you’ve asked for it or not) but only you can instinctively know which advice to follow. Only your instincts, if you listen, will let you know which advice is best for your children and your family. It takes time, it takes practice…and it’s priceless.
Do you think parenting is instinctive, learnt or a combination of both?
Instincts: Any behaviour is instinctive if it is performed without being based upon prior experience (that is, in the absence of learning), and is therefore an expression of innate biological factors. Sea turtles, newly hatched on a beach, will automatically move toward the ocean. A joey climbs into its mother’s pouch upon being born.
Manual: Manual may mean: Instructions. User guide. Owner’s manual. Instruction manual (gaming) Online help.
This morning I sat down to write a post. A post which I had been meaning to write for sometime, but had never quite plucked up the courage. For this post might just be a little bit controversial. Now, if you are a regular reader of my blog you will know that I always try to be fair and balanced, but the name of my blog itself implies where my loyalties lie in this particular piece…however I will, as always, try to look at it from every possible angle! And before we get started I’d just like to say that I am not saying don’t ask for advice. I think asking for advice and support is brilliant…I just think you should ask for it from the best possible places.
I wanted to write a post about books. Namely manuals and books all about babies. The kind of books you buy when you are pregnant with your first and then promptly ditch or use as a coaster with your second or third. You may have put your feet up on maternity leave, read these books and thought you had it sorted, that this parenting malarkey was going to be a doddle because you knew what was coming and were going to be in control. That these mums whose babies didn’t sleep through the night, were fussy eaters or had tantrums were bad parents and had done something wrong. The manuals made it all sound so easy, so simple, so straightforward.
Or were you a new parent, overwhelmed and completely sleep deprived searching for answers, seeking much needed help? Were you desperately trying to find some way of making your baby sleep because you were led to believe that a baby that doesn’t sleep is indicative of a bad parent? Were you sat on your bed in the middle of the night scouring these books to find a solution, and then did you try a gazillion different things suggested these books,that didn’t work? Whilst all the time not even looking at your baby to see what it was they actually wanted?
Now, I might have angered a few of you already. Have I made judgements? Assumed things? Or would it surprise you to know that in both of the cases above the person I have been taking about is me? I’m not ashamed to say that with my daughter, twelve years ago, even though my instincts were screaming many things and me (as was she!) I still attempted to follow the rules and listen to advice which told me what she should and ought to be doing. I still read the (often conflicting, one size fits all approach) books and believed that sleeping through the night was something that had to be achieved and then I could become part of an exclusive club. I know we all like sleep, but surely the needs of our babies are more important?
The more I read in the media and on social media the more upset and frustrated I become. I fear that parents are becoming less empowered to trust their instincts. That so called ‘experts’ are making parents believe that they are not doing the things right, and are sucking the natural parenting instincts and confidence out of new parents through feeding off their anxieties. These ‘experts’ are now, thanks to the wonder of social media, more available than ever and can even come into your house and make you believe the only reason your baby is now sleeping is because of them, and what they told you to do. That if you didn’t follow their often very strict advice and guidelines, then you’d be in a mess because you are not an expert. That if you don’t do 100% of what it says in the book that you and your baby are doomed for life. How does a mother then feel when left on their own or when what is said in the books just doesn’t happen…possibly worse than they did before?
Many of the authors of these books are not parents themselves, however, I would also argue that even if they are they would still not be the experts on my children or indeed any children but their own. They might be an expert on mixing formula, or creating a nutritious meal, but not about all of the intricacies of a baby that only a mother knows. Now I’m not saying that these manuals are the reasons for all doubt, for all anxiety and all loss of trust in our instincts, but I am saying they undoubtedly don’t help. So what would help?
I know a lot of mums I have spoken to tell me that when their baby was born they felt they had no instincts. That they didn’t know what to do. That they couldn’t read their baby who cried all of the time. And it got me thinking (yes again, sorry!) about what I could do to help. Is there a market for a book about trusting your instincts? A book that empowers parents to trust theirs? And if there were then what could I write in that book that would help, comfort, and reassure mums? (yes I do appreciate the irony of a mother who has just written a blog post about her avid dislike for baby books wanting to write one, but this book wouldn’t be a manual ok?!) It would be honest and tell of real accounts of life with babies, possibly elaborating on my previous blog posts like the one on sleep and potty training. And instead of pages and pages of instructions on what you must do it could have questions at the end of every chapter to help you read your baby and learn to trust your instincts? Your baby, your instincts, your choice.
Yes parenting is hard, yes at times it is draining, debilitating and more frustrating than anything in the whole world, but it’s still a journey I believe you and your children should undertake together. You’re not always going to get it right, but if you have the confidence to trust your instincts you’re never going to be far off the mark.
So let me know, what do you think would help mums trust their instincts more?
I wrote this post for myself and my blog, but have agreed for it to be shared on What to Expect.
Release: 1. To set free from confinement, restraint, or bondage: released the prisoners. 2. To free from something that binds, fastens, or holds back; let go: released the balloons; released a flood of questions. 3. To dismiss, as from a job.
So, it’s Wednesday again and time for a quote from me for my #wednesdaywords. And this Wednesday is indeed a very special one. For today, my middle child started school. Well, I say started…he actually only went in for two hours as the school has a ridiculously long settling in period, but nevertheless it was the first day he would wear his uniform and cross the threshold of the school building independently. A building where he will spend the next 7 years of his life and come out an entirely different person, shaped and moulded by many different experiences.
The first drop off thankfully went very smoothly. There were no battles about putting the uniform on, no tears about us leaving; just a gentle apprehension about what would happen next. The boy is so confident in so many ways and yet so shy and stilted in others. New experiences gently shake him and new people cause him to become mute and often hide behind my legs. I was worried about him starting school, worried as to whether he’d actually talk to any of the adults there. However this morning he embraced the change; the new; the unknown. He seemed a little nervous, but mostly excited about what was coming. And when he came out he was buzzing with talk of everything he’d done. He surprised me and I felt so proud. I’m a firm believer in bringing my children up to be confident and independent and his independence today made me smile. Even though he wasn’t 100% confident, he had the courage to do something new, like all of the other wonderful children in his class.
Interestingly this morning it was actually my husband who was the emotional one; he says he can never explain exactly why he is emotional (men!) but today he felt like he was giving our son over to a new part of his life. He said he hadn’t felt that emotional since the birth of our youngest. That it was the uniform, the formality. The emotion, my husband says, came completely out of the blue as he’d mostly been very excited about seeing our son off to school. And then leaving him and seeing him all alone in the classroom hit him hard. This made me feel a bit guilty, for I’d spent so many weeks preparing the boy for school that I’d forgotten all about Daddy…who was a mess!
And me. Ah where to start. Surprisingly given everything I’ve blogged about in the past I was actually very strong today. I’ve become very good at compartmentalising things; for example when I’m at work I am focused on work and don’t think about home, and vice versa when I am at home. Today I knew my role was to be happy and confident and show my son that school was nothing to fear, that it was something to enjoy and be excited about. I knew I couldn’t cry or hang around and pander to his apprehension or that would make it worse for him. I guess the primary school teacher in me came out a little bit as well. I knew being strong would help my son and would help his teachers. (And maybe, dare I say it, help me too?!)
So no, I haven’t cried yet. Maybe I’m not allowing myself to comprehend the enormity of today. But maybe it’s not the actual starting school bit I’m sad about. For he’s not the only one staring school today; there are hundreds and thousands of small children starting this week just like there were last year and will be again next year. No, it’s not that he’s starting school that makes me sad, it’s the loss of our time together. It’s that my little boy will spend most of his days away from me; changing, learning, and growing with someone else guiding him. As teachers we are ‘in loco parentis.’ We are their parents when they are at school and I’m emotional about having to share my son with so many other people. People who may hear him read his first word, or answer his first sum. People who will be as proud of his achievements as I am. People that aren’t me.
I’ve blogged about releasing children before. About how they are slowly released from us over time and that we have to let them go, confident that they will be safe in the care of others and will learn to trust their instincts and make the right decisions in the future, but I am always surprised about how hard I actually find it. My Twitter and Facebook timelines are full of mums and dads anxious and emotional about their children starting school. Parents who are pushed out of their comfort zones and are having to do something that they find difficult in learning to release their children a little bit. I know I’m not the only one. Can I offer advice? Wisdom? Can I reassure these parents that it gets easier with each child? Ummm no, sadly I don’t think I can…because for me it hasn’t. And I imagine that when my youngest goes to school in three years time, I may not be as composed as I have been today. For me it seems, releasing my children is proving to be be more difficult with each child.
Based on all of this the quote I have chosen for today’s #wednesdaywords is this….
Because today in this family, we’ve all had to do something that scares us a little bit. Be it starting school…or letting go.
Another week, another Wednesday and another instinctive quote from me! The quote I have chosen this week was actually stolen from Facebook this morning, (yes I do occasionally drop over to the dark side lol!) It isn’t so much a quote about instincts, but an important quote that encourages us to remember that parenting is different for each and everyone of us and our babies are all beautifully unique. Instincts and love are natural and powerful things which help us travel along the wonderful, yet challenging journey that is motherhood!
Release: 1. To set free from confinement, restraint, or bondage: released the prisoners. 2. To free from something that binds, fastens, or holds back; let go: released the balloons; released a flood of questions. 3. To dismiss, as from a job.
Before you read this post I would just like to start it by saying that it is not as polished as my posts normally are. It was written when I was very upset and from the heart. Apologies if there are errors!
As many of you who read my blog or follow me on Twitter will know, this weekend I went away, all myself. It was an amazing weekend, but this post is not about Britmums Live (that one is still yet to be written!) This post is about leaving your children, and that because of something terrifying which happened to my 12 year old daughter whilst I was away, it has got me thinking about releasing them. About how they cannot stay close beside us forever, and that one day they will be out there on their own, knowing that home is always a safe environment to which they can return.
I have left my children before, many a time. I think it’s a wonderful thing for them to know that they can be looked after and loved by many different people. (Obviously these people are family, or a very close friend and not complete and utter strangers!) This weekend, however, leaving my children was a bit different. My mum came up on Friday to look after the boys and my daughter whilst my husband was at work, and then on Saturday they tagged teamed it and supported each other. Finally, later on Saturday afternoon, my daughter wasn’t going to be a home at all. She had been invited to a sleepover for a school friend’s 12th birthday party and would be away from home herself, in a house I have never been to, with a parent I have only met briefly on a couple of occasions.
I imagine many of you out there with brand new babies or very young children are now sat reading this horrified, as I would’ve been many years ago. We are so used to our children being right by our sides, or on our hips, always close. We are used to being in control of who they see, what they eat, where they go. We forever scan rooms, pathways, parks, play areas for potential risks and danger…catching them when they fall, warning them not to stray too far, telling them where the danger is and how to avoid it. They trust that the world is a safe place, never aware of risks because we spend our lives as parents protecting them from them. However, as children grow up…we need to release them. We need to start helping them to make their own decisions, weigh up the risks and decide what to do and which path to take. They physically become further away from us…at pre-school, at primary school, secondary school. We cannot be around to protect them every single minute of every single day as we so desperately want to and we have to trust that they have listened to years of advice and draw on their experiences in life to make their own choices.
But this weekend my daughter had a choice made for her by another person. And it was the wrong choice. It wasn’t life changing or life threatening. It wasn’t hurtful or dangerous. But it wasn’t her choice, and if it had been it would not have been one she would have made. At the sleepover, whilst I was over a hundred miles away in London unable to help or protect, she was made to watch a film. A film intended to only be watched by persons of 15 years or older. A thriller that scared her more than anything has ever scared her before. I didn’t know this had happened until I awoke this morning to find a text from her on my phone. It had been sent at 4am and simply read…
I want it go home. I watched a scary movie it was a 15 and I can’t go to sleep. I feel sick because I am worried that someone is going to hurt me.
I imagined my daughter, my only just turned 12 daughter, my daughter who is still very much a child, sat terrified all alone. Alone in a house she had never been to before. Alone in a room with some other 12 year olds she didn’t know, and only a few she did. Alone and terrified that someone was coming to get her, to hurt her. She is, as I have described in previous posts, sometimes a handful, sometimes verbally challenging and rule bending, but she is my little girl. She isn’t wise beyond her years, she isn’t ‘street-wise’ and ahead of the game, she hasn’t even begun to go through puberty herself. She is my baby and someone has made a decision that has rocked her safe and secure world.
It’s been a difficult day since then. Obviously I have wanted to race around there and pick her up immediately whilst shouting very loudly at the parent who allowed this to happen whilst she was in her care, but I’m not entirely sure my daughter would appreciate that! So she is still there now, shopping with them on the high street, not fearing the film in the safety of daylight. I’m not sure bedtime or the middle of the night will be so fearless for her later.
And me. Well I have spent the day thinking once again about parenting. I said to my mum on Friday that my instincts were uncomfortable about the sleepover, that I knew something would happen even though I wasn’t sure what. I’d met the girl whose birthday it was, and her mother, and many of the other children that would also be there and thought I was just being over-protective, being a parent who didn’t want to let their child have the independence they so desperately need at this age. What happened to her has made me think about the future and how in a few years time I will not always know where she is, or who she is with or what she is doing. It has made me realised that soon many decisions will be solely hers and I will have no control over that. That one day she will move out and be released into the big wide world…where someone might come along and make bad choices for her, hurt her, terrify her.
It was only a film I hear some of you cry, it’s not like someone really did come and hurt her and you are absolutely right. That film still terrified her and she cannot un-see what she saw, she cannot forget what she heard, and I’m angry that she didn’t get a choice in the matter. Whether or not she watched that film was not someone else’s choice to make, it shouldn’t have been their decision to let my daughter watch a film totally unsuitable for her, not least because she is three years younger than the film’s rating. I’m upset because it made me realise that she’s slowly being released already…slowly having to learn to make decisions herself and learn to be brave enough to walk away from the wrong ones. I know she won’t always make the right choices, or take the best path in life, hell I’ve made some shite choices in my time, but I hope I’ve brought her up to think things through, to make informed decisions…and more importantly than anything…to trust her instincts.
Philosopher: A philosopher is a person with an extensive knowledge of philosophy who uses this knowledge in their work, typically to solve philosophical problems. Philosophy is concerned with studying the subject matter of fields such as aesthetics, ethics, epistemology, logic, metaphysics, as well as social philosophy and political philosophy.
Today’s #wednesdaywords is a quote, unsurprisingly about listening to and trusting your instincts! 😉 It is from a lady called Harriet Beecher Stowe. She was an American abolitionist and author. Her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a depiction of life for African-Americans under slavery. The quote is simply this…
Recently my instincts have been at the forefront of my everyday life, and they were recently challenged by someone, who implied that parents cannot survive on instinct alone. Trusting your instincts is hard, but is something I am so passionate about. So today, I thought I’d share with you how mine have helped me, and my family recently.
They have helped my four year old son, who has coughed for as long as I can remember; dismissed as asthma by the doctors my instincts told me it was something more, something digestive and sure enough it turns out that it looks like it is something more.We don’t know what yet, possibly Coeliacs, and blood tests and x-rays await us at a hospital appointment. I’m not one for visiting the doctor unnecessarily, but in this case my instincts kept me going back to ask for help….and I was right to listen to them.
My one year old has also been testing my instincts recently too. He’s never slept through the night (three chest infections in three months haven’t helped) and when you tell people he still has a feed in the night they are horrified, and pretty much always suggest training him out of it. But my instincts tell me he needs it. That it is not for comfort. That it is a full feed. It’s often sleep and feeding issues that can test a mother’s instinct (no one likes sleep deprivation!) and this may be when some might reach for those books to look for suggestions about how to make your baby ‘sleep through.’ Stories of how babies slept for twelve hours a night from ten weeks and how they eat more than you do don’t help, and can make you feel like you are doing something wrong. But, much as I’d like a full eight hours of sleep, as you all know I read my baby, and right now, he’s telling me he needs that feed. So that feed he will have.
My instincts have also been there recently about me. About how I am with my PND. The tablets may be gone, and I’m so much better than I was, but it’s still there. It still lingers on. Most days are amazing and I’m happier than I have ever been, but sometimes things can upset and distress me more than they should. And I need to listen to my instincts about how I am feeling, trust them, and ask for help and support on the days where I’m not in control of my brain. On the days where my brain tells me disaster is imminent and I am worthless and cannot cope.
I know it can be heard to listen to what your gut is telling you, and to have the confidence and trust to go with it. So much advice is conflicting; co-sleep/don’t co-sleep; form a strict routine/be baby-led…it’s endless and it can be overwhelming, making it hard to know where to start. And whilst you all know I think advice is invaluable and sounding out ideas is fantastic, it’s far better from and with trusted sources. Many mums worry when their children don’t do things ‘by the book’ or how have been made to believe they ‘should’ do things, but if you listen carefully and look at your baby you’ll know if what’s happening is ok and meant to be…or not.
Each baby different. Each situation different. Each instinct different. Listen.
Training: Training is the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and competencies as a result of the teaching of vocational or practical skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies. Training has specific goals of improving one’s capability, capacity, and performance.
Hello! Who out there is thinking about potty training their little one? Are you dreading it? Or are you looking forward to finally being free from those endless nappy changes?
For me, hearing the term ‘potty training’ makes me want to shout out loud to EVERY parent thinking of doing it and say….STOP…it should be called ‘potty when they’re ready!’ They can’t be trained!! And indeed why should they?
I have three children, a daughter and two sons, two of which are fully ‘trained.’ (Third is only 10 months, think that’s a bit early!) When my daughter was just two, several of our friends in the local play group were already talking about training their little ones to go to the toilet. Whenever we were out and about together I swear they spent more time in the toilets than actually with anyone else. Every time the words ‘Mummy I need wee’ were uttered off they’d dash, scared of an accident and fearful of the child feeling like they’d failed, that they’d done something wrong by having an accident. The mums all had massive bags too, filled with sweets and chocolate as a reward for success, and about fifty million changes of clothes for those inevitable accidents. They bought books, Gina Ford’s guide to potty training was one, and read them whilst we were out to check they were training their little ones correctly. And I guess there was a kind of peer pressure. If they were all doing it, training their tiny people, then should I be? Did I need to go out and buy a giant sized suitcase so I could carry my daughters entire wardrobe around with me in case she had an accident? Did I need a portable potty so that she could feel free to go whenever and wherever she liked? It all seemed like an awful lot of hassle. Whilst they were all running to and from the bathroom and changing their children, wiping away the tears, I was playing with my daughter. Enjoying time with her, be it at the park or a friends house or indeed wherever we were. She wasn’t showing any interest in using a potty, and she was only just two. I kept thinking to myself, how many grown ups aren’t potty trained? How many children go to school still in nappies? (In my 13 years teaching experience I’ve only ever known of one) And I made the decision then to trust my instincts, I knew she wasn’t ready and I’d be damned if I was going to force her to do something that could potentially cause her more upset than good.
So, we waited. And waited. And 6 months later I spied her in the bathroom, sat on one of our potties (yes I had bought some just in case she was ready!) and her favourite teddy bear was sat on another. And they were having a lovely little chat together. She didn’t actually do a wee that time, but not long afterwards she did. And barely ever had an accident. I hadn’t need to train her, I’d waited until she was ready and she had done it all by herself. She knew when she needed to go. And go she did. There were no giant bags of spare clothes, no dashing off and spending hours in public toilets. It was easy. There was no stress involved at all!
Nighttime dryness was the same. As soon as her nappies had been dry for a week or so I took them off. And left a potty in the room if she needed it. Which she did occasionally. But we never had a nighttime accident. Because when those nappies had finally been removed, her body and her brain were ready for it. They’d made the connection. They knew when it was time to go, and could wait when it wasn’t.
It was a similar story with my 3 year old son. Yet for him to be ready we had to wait until he was three and a half. He would happily sit on the potty, and enjoyed watching his Gruffalo do ‘wees’ on the potty (Which was actually me sneakily pouring water in whilst he wasn’t looking!) But his body wasn’t ready for him to do it himself for a long time later. And whilst everyone else at pre-school ditched the nappies, my little boy remained in his. It didn’t bother him. It didn’t bother me. I knew he’d get there in the end. When he was ready. And he did. At night time too. And we’ve had just one accident.
So I guess what I am trying to say with all of these lovely potty anecdotes, is that in my opinion children shouldn’t be trained. Their bodies are complex little things and only when the connections are made in their brains are they ready to use the toilet. It happens at different times for each different child. It’s such an easier and happier experience for everyone involved if you have the courage to wait until they are ready. To not feel the pressure of everyone else waffling on about how their child was trained at 6 months. (Bet these were the children that slept through the night from 6 weeks as well!) Take your time, they all get there in the end.