Tag Archives: Day care

A shocking lack of perfection

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My plan for my kids was that, number one, they would be fantastic people. I of course would be an amazing mum, who would humbly refuse to take credit for their fantasticness, but I’d be quietly yet smugly thinking how freakin awesome a mum I am. I’ll admit that it was gratifying to hear people, day care teachers, extended family, random strangers, tell me again and again how lovely polite gentle smart creative well behaved my first and oldest is/was. I’ll admit that I thought he was better than most kids I knew. Yes, better, I said. I’ll admit that I, at times, basked in the warm pool of smug self congratulation.

So imagine my shock when I found out one of my twins is in fact a scamp. He is the sand throwing, toy chucking, face slapping, ear drum popping, troublesome one at day care. He is the one around whom the day’s activities are often planned, so that we can manage him. Well, when I say found out, it’s not like I didn’t know. I just didn’t know he was as bad at day care as he is at home. I want to fall into a sink hole, but I paste my smile on. The young day care teacher is nervous. Nervous! Her usual, more experienced partner is absent for the day and management of my boy will fall to her on this day. I want to rewind to the part where I was a great parent. My stomach simmers with a fear that this is all my fault.

I’m terrified that this is not normal behaviour. Somewhere in my head there is a voice saying hey, he’s not yet 3, he will grow out of it. But what if he doesn’t? What if I have in fact, wrecked him? What if all my great strategies actually don’t work? What then? I want him and love him just as he is (and he is fantastic), but I want others to approve of him also. I was devastated recently when someone referred to him as a nightmare. My boy? My little boy?

My children have stripped me bare. I don’t know how to measure success of anything anymore. I don’t know anything about anything. Least of all parenting. Great parenting can’t be as shallow as simply having a well behaved nice kid. Can it? It can’t be intellect, emotional maturity, happiness. Can it? Surely I can hope for more than just raising a kid who can behave? It’s an ugly mess this job. It reduces me to a fool, a bumbling side act in a bad slapstick routine. It takes away any measure of self efficacy I may have, takes my confidence, drags me kicking and screaming out of that nice warm pool.

Annus mirabilis

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I won’t be sorry to see the back end of 2012. Every mother has heard the well meaning comment ‘it all goes by so quickly’. I thought it myself the other day when I saw a twin mother-in-arms who I hadn’t seen for a while and marvelled at the miraculous growth of her two treasures. She rolled her eyes at me and I qualified: when it’s someone else’s babies it goes fast, when it’s your own it’s like grain by grain of sand through the hourglass. For my own experience, it does not go by fast at all. Growth is in millimetres, progress is incremental, life is dilatory.

I feel like celebrating while at the same time I feel like I have been flattened by a steamroller. Cots are gone. High chairs are gone. Pram is almost gone. They are feeding themselves. They sleep 11 uninterrupted hours per night. No bottles, no dummies, no bibs. We can walk from the car to the door of day care without an exploratory sprint though the suburb. They talk. They ask to use the toilet (although we don’t do much when we are there, at least we are interested). I looked at year old photos yesterday and was struck by the babyness of them 12 months ago. I have no babies now (HOORAY!). I am on the cusp of turning my little toddlers into little boys. I can look a year ahead and know that this will be the last Christmas where I have to gate doorways, monitor windows, check the oven for teddies before I turn it on, wipe yoghurt off the walls after breakfast and generate my own body weight in nappy landfill on a daily basis. Oh sweet underpants, surely you will soon be mine.

But what a cost. I’m getting to be a better mother, but it’s been no easy ride. My mental health, physical health, relationship health and budget health have taken big hits over the past few years. 2013 is our year of recovery. It’s our year to get the hell out of the house, kids and all, screw the hassle. It’s our year for weekends away with and without the kids. It’s our year to have conversations with each other, be just a family, not a family struggling to raise baby twins. 2013 is the year when we become a little more normal, one grain of sand at a time.

Check out ABC Radio 612 on Tuesday the 18th of December at 10am (QLD time), I’ll be chatting with some other Mums about Mum stuff.

Winning, working and worrying

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The cliche about life being a roller coaster could not be more true for me this year. One week I am black as black in my head, crying whilst reading bedtime stories to my boys, laying awake at night sleepless, imagining running away forever, even imagining what it would feel like to scratch myself up (at the darkest moments). The next week, that would be this week, I am seriously considering nominating myself for mother of the year (Delusions of grandeur see? Bipolar Disorder! See Mental Illness and Parenting). I can’t explain it, maybe it is that cycle of life stuff, hopefully nothing more sinister.

This week I have handled all tantrums with a) humour, b) tactical ignoring or c) mindfulness. I parented like a BOSS. I didn’t shout once. I didn’t worry about them not eating. I didn’t worry about mess. I feel like that elusive kind of mother I keep trying to be. I’ve touched, stroked, patted, snuggled and cuddled as often as I could. I’ve made a real effort to be there, when I am there. My husband and I took a night, turned off the TV, lay on the couch and just talked for a couple of hours. It was truly refreshing. My rejuvenation may also have had something to do with the fact that I did actually escape for two nights to Sydney with a girlfriend last week.  We shopped, drank wine, talked and generally just enjoyed going out with one small handbag and no kids.

I also started working full time this term. That’s up from 4 days per week all of this year. Of course this brings up the mother guilt that we females often have to deal with but males never seem to. It’s not ever really considered whether my husband should or should not work, but for some reason there is always a question as to whether I should. My husband is encouraging and proud of my work, but he did admit that there was a part of him that wanted me to want to stay at home more. He gives and takes as much as I do when it comes to getting kids ready and to and from day care during the working week. In every respect we are equal partners in chaos. But that question always comes up, possibly more in my mind than his even. People very frequently say to me that they don’t know how I do it, that is, work and raise twins plus one. My response is usually that I couldn’t (do it) if I didn’t work. I worry every single day and half the hours of the day that my kids need me and I am not there. I worry about the number of hours I am way from them in the day. I worry that I’ll regret working. Of course I worry.

At almost 40, I know myself very well. I know what I need to keep my life balanced and I know when it is tipping off in one direction. Work is an important part of my mental health. It gives me so much satisfaction, I can’t imagine not doing it. Getting away is also so important. Giving ourselves those little treats and refusing to entertain guilty thoughts such as I am putting my own needs before those of my kids. Well of course. What my kids need first and foremost, is a stable base. That means firstly, that their mother and father are healthy and whole individuals. Secondly it means that their mother and father are a secure unit together. If those two things are on shaky ground, then everything’s on shaky ground. Taking time to put myself first, taking time to put my relationship with my husband first has a very direct benefit to my kids.

Is it supposed to be this hard?

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I’m in a different headspace to the one I was 3 or 4 months ago. One of the main reasons I know is because of the questionnaires the GP gets you to do when you get a mental health care plan. A couple of the questions ask if you look forward to things or have hope for the future. There was a period where I would have answered nope but now, despite staring down the barrel of a possible 18 month custodial sentence of toddler-two-year-old-kinda-crazy, I very much look forward to the future. I think it’s because I have the best 4.5 year old in the universe to guide me. His very presence reminds me that the twins will not always scream as their preferred mode of communication. They will not always poo in their pants, the bath and once on the lounge room floor. They will not always plank when I need them to bend in order to get into the car seat. They will one day put food into their mouths, not the dump truck, the sand pit, the bookshelf, the window sill or my handbag. One day, as modelled by Mr 4.5, they will play without cracking each other’s skulls with die cast cars or playing tug of war with whatever the other one has. Mr 4.5 reminds me that one day I’ll actually be able to take them out. Maybe even without a pram. The possibilities are endless. I really, really look forward to it. And yes, I know I’m not supposed to wish it away. I just want to wish away the next little bit. The bit with no emotional regulation, no logic, no continence, no patience and no impulse control.

I am finishing this post 24 hours later, and it is funny the difference  day makes. Yesterday, full of optimism, today, everything hurts. Did someone say parenting was a roller coaster? I know this is not something mothers are supposed to say but what the hell do we do this for?? I mean, really? Today, what a nightmare. I had two heading for meltdown before I even got in the car at day care. One sat in the middle of the car park for crying out loud and refused to get in the car. Getting them home and heading into my usual high octane dinner prep was made worse by the fact that I had screaming from downstairs, something about to burn on the stove and a full on 4.5 year old tanty in the bedroom. And I failed, failed, failed. Yelled, again. Said sorry, again. Felt awful, again. I feel like a boxer, ducking and weaving, dancing on my toes and defending myself twenty four seven. It’s exhausting, and on days like this, it is all give, no take. It’s a day when I don’t have a good answer to the question why did I have children? This is a day when parenting isn’t worth it, is not fun, not rewarding and that’s the blunt truth. Too harsh?

Welcome to the jungle

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The twins have entered a new phase. This might be the worst one so far. Worse than night feeding, worse than Trouble’s screeching, possibly even worse than toilet training, but I reserve the right to review that statement in 8-12 months. Yes folks, it’s the terrible twos. We have hit it and we have hit it hard. Times two. Oh mother of mary, buckle up.

We have had probably two months of respite between phases which has been just lovely, rejuvenating and happy. I guess we are due for our next instalment of I’m a toddler, get me out of here! Here’s how we roll at the moment. We want something, we don’t get it, we freak out. We had something, someone took it off us, we freak out. We are hungry, food does not materialise within 1.5 seconds, WE FREAK OUT. We think we may or may not be hungry, may or may not want that bike, or that car, or a cuddle, or to be left alone, or to play with the bin, or to climb on the table, or to kick our brothers, or to cuddle our brothers, WE FREAKING FREAK THE FREAK OUT!!!

Twin 1 has a very special brand of the freak out. I know he’s hungry and so I present him with food. Reasonable enough I would have thought. He runs, screaming, in the opposite direction and throws himself on the ground in a fit. He does the same thing when I pick him up at the end of the day at day care. So excited to see me that he freaks out and runs around literally like a headless chook. I can’t imagine what the day care teachers are thinking. The other day he wanted to go in the pool at his grandparents’ house. So he freaked out. We got him ready as fast as we could, swim nappy, sunscreen etc, but he was in such a state that he was about to drown himself so we had to take him out. Freak out. It went on for over an hour and he could hardly breathe he was so emotional. It is literally an emotional short circuit.

So here we go. I look forward to the post that observes in hindsight that we seem to have made it through the phase of the terrible twos. In the mean time, maybe I’ll have some war stores to share.

An imperfect child

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You know how you think your child is just that little bit gifted? You secretly think yeah, my kid is just so much better than other kids. Such advanced social intelligence, such unparalleled powers of imagination, such incredible vocabulary….just perfect he is. Yeah. I must be rocking it as a parent. Ahh the warm glow of parental smugness.

Until you go to pick them up at daycare one day and the day care teacher says, I need to talk to you about something he did today. Oh. My child the school yard bully. My child, that one, the one who just told this other little boy that…wait for it…he was going to poke him in the eye with a nail. And burn the world down. Okaaaay. Now I’m that parent. Where would he have gotten such ideas from? How does a 4 year old even think of such things? Subtext: the parents.

I spent the whole day feeling terrible. And confounded. I know that he has seen nothing above a G rating in his life. Ever. I know that we do not engage in that sort of talk at home. He does not do gaming of any kind (although I do strongly suspect our babysitter of introducing Fruit Ninja, surely a very mild and very rare pleasure). He has no access to the internet or TV without a parent present. Damn it, I thought we were doing well!

I called a meeting with the day care teacher. I needed to know what context this happened in. Was it during an imaginative but perhaps slightly inappropriate game? Or was he actually threatening someone? Was there intention to hurt here? Is this an ongoing thing? I know that most children’s brains will not develop the parts they need to have empathy and cause and effect thinking until later in life (around 5-7 years old usually), so I know it is reasonable to think that he would not have thought of the consequences, emotional or otherwise of his actions. But on some level I know he knows right and wrong, he does know kind and gentle because it has been our family language for a long time.

His teacher, thankfully, had some wonderful things to say about my boy. Yes he does have an incredible, runaway imagination and I think, in this case, it has gotten the better of him. Combined with the fact that he is one of the oldest and physically biggest, we have a little bit of an alpha male situation. It’s kind of what I thought might have happened, but I didn’t want to be blind. This combination he has of confidence, imagination and leadership qualities can be a double edged sword. He could learn to be a compassionate leader or a selfish one. I will never accept bullying or unkind behaviour of any kind from my boys, but I will always, always be the one who loves them no matter what they’ve done. My job is to be their unwavering, life long, number one fan, but with my eyes wide open.

Children: A great moral challenge of our time

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Food.

Wait, before I start on food let me start on the carbon footprint of a child. Holy landfill batman, it’s unreal.

1. Nappies. I gave reusable nappies a valiant go, however, the copious, liquid, high frequency nature of the faecal matter that is our lot made me throw my ecological values down the toilet and go disposable. I intend to atone for my environmental sins in future years by making my three children ride bikes (into adulthood) and not exhale too much.

2. Packaging. Anyone who has spent a Christmas or birthday morning with a child under 8 knows. Not only do you need an entire toolkit to get some of those suckers out of the boxes, you also need a trailer to haul away the packaging (oh, and shares in Duracell). I actually filled my wheelie bin on my son’s 3rd birthday. And a week later, all the stuff that broke, ran out, doesn’t work or had completely lost favour ends up in there too. It makes me ill. Last year I decided to give all the nieces and nephews plants for their birthdays. Can you even begin to imagine how that went down? My status as ‘cool aunt’ has slipped. I don’t think my polling figures can recover. But gosh, didn’t I feel good about myself?

3. The car. I was deadset against the Big Family Car. I was deadset against a car. I thought we could be like pioneers. YES! You CAN have kids and no car. But then I got a job 45 minutes drive away, or well over an hour on the train away. And driving was part of my job (but not reflected in my contract). Not only did we get a car, we only had it for a year before we changed it for a bigger one! The things we do for peace. Again, once my boys flee the nest, I will think of some noble way I can make up for this transgression.

4. OK food. If I gathered it all together, the stuff that gets thrown out, not only would I have a huge pile of stinking, rotten food, I could feed the world’s guinea pigs to boot! The title of this blog applies to the eating habits of my children perhaps more than any other thing. It used to drive me totally nuts and upset my sensibilities as a mother that I’d ever send my child to bed without having eaten a damn thing. But in the end I had to accept that there was nothing I could do about it and fighting would achieve absolutely nothing. There have been days (thankfully few of them) that my oldest has eaten nothing more than half a banana all day and every bit of lovingly prepared food has ended up on the floor, walls or in the bin. The twins are OK with food, but still love to throw it, mush it and do face masks with it. Anything other than eat it. It is a battle that I refuse to fight nowadays. If you don’t eat, OK, but don’t ask for ice cream. I love it that every second day they get a hot meal at day care and on those days I have no qualms about opening up a can of baked beans for dinner. Although this tends to balance itself out on point number one. Can’t win.

Thanks to my friend Bec for the LOL inducing FB chat tonight that insporied this blog. I’m going to have to state that the spelling error is just for you RH.

Leaving the house

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I remember being childless and single. And I relished it.

Around the time I was doing uni and freedom, a lot of my friends were having kids. I clearly recall arriving at dinners, BBQs, parks etc and it took me no longer than 5-6 seconds to get out of the car. Turn car off, grab handbag, out. If I ever (and I often did) arrived at the exact same time as a friend with kids, I’d be inside and half way through my first glass of wine before they were even crossing the driveway. Oh how you may laugh now.

We used to live in China, near Shanghai and would do weekends in Shangers with nary a suitcase. Little backpack, book, go. I still remember our first weekend trip with our first child. I was embarrassed at the amount of stuff we had to take. Made worse in China because you could never guarantee that you could find a forgotten item at the shops. Dummies, bottles, baby food, even nappies were not a given so you had to go prepared for EVERYTHING. Things have eased up just a little now, given the twins are 18 months. If we forget something, it isn’t likely to be an extreme emergency the likes of not having a bottle or 8 spare nappies for a 6 month old. Plus our day care centre does food, which is like an hour of my day I get back.

Leaving the house in the mornings though, my giddy aunt. It is a circus. Imagine being in a really loud nightclub. It’s so crowded you can’t move freely and you are trying to get through with three backpacks, your lap top bag, your work compendium holding a zillion loose bits of paper, your lunch and your thermos coffee cup. Now add two toddlers clinging to your legs. Now add the talented Mr 4 continuing his list of requirements for the farm in his room. Now you have to let your husband know that there’s a really important appointment at 3 that you can’t miss and you need him to get out of work early to pick up the kids, oh and you also are totally out of milk and if someone doesn’t get some today the twins are going to go postal tonight. Your work phone rings. Can’t find your shoes.

You finally get to work, which is like a peaceful, air conditioned, adult nirvana and someone says something like…I don’t know how you manage to handle working with three young children. I don’t know how I’d manage not working with three young kids.