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Tuesday, 5 March 2013

One Week

The spectre of it loomed before me; the prospect of just one week had never seemed so daunting.  Half Term.  Just hearing the words made me feel anxious.  I couldn’t imagine coping with both Pip and a twelve week old for a whole week on my own. Why hadn't someone warned me that once they start pre-school they have holidays?

Since EB’s arrival, things have been a little tumultuous with Pip. After three and a half years of being an only child, sharing Mummy and Daddy’s attention with a little brother has taken some time for him to adjust to. The first few months of EB’s life seem to have coincided with a testosterone surge for my oldest son. Energy levels are constantly on high, gentle movements are few and far between; lunging, running, jumping, throwing are his favoured modes of physicality and woe betide those that may stand in his way.  There have been times at the end of a long day when I’ve breathed a silent sigh of relief that EB still has his head attached to his body, that he is such a sweet, tolerant little chap, who really doesn’t seem to mind constantly doing a nodding dog impression courtesy of his older brother.

At times, I’ve found mothering the two of them over this past few months very tough.  I’ve mourned for, and no doubt romanticised, the days Pip and I shared pre EB, when everything seemed so easy, when we rolled through each week happily with barely a cross word.  I’ve chastised myself for getting cross with him, when on some days, I’ve snapped after saying ‘BE GENTLE’ for the millionth time.  I’ve felt guilty because I haven’t had the time to sit down with him as often as I would have liked to give him my undivided attention, to focus on learning his letters, or to help him draw a face, which as far as I can tell, lots of his friends are now able to do, but despite my best attempts he has shown no interest in. I have felt that the sea that Pip and I navigated so calmly only three months ago, has become a surging swelling tide, buffeting us both, and I've been unsure of how to navigate through these uncharted waters.

Subconsciously aware I needed a metaphorical life buoy, in a heart to heart with my mother recently I quipped; ‘ I need to buy a parenting book’.  A week later, she turned up with one; tried and tested by her in the course of her work advising parents for thirty years. Of course, the irony is, if you’re struggling as a parent you probably don’t have time to sit down and calmly read a parenting book from cover to cover. As in my case, whereby I stuffed it down the arm of the sofa for a speed read at a later date.

Half term continued to loom large.  I decided the only way to deal with it was tackle it head on, to plan each day meticulously. We managed two very pleasant days in London; playing in the park, sipping babycinos at the coffee shop armed with Pip’s favourite books, baking chocolate and cranberry muffins and having a couple of play dates.  We even managed to wait in for six hours for the Virgin media man without anyone crying or banging their head against the wall.  Then, on the Wednesday I weakened, sent out an SOS call and decamped to my mother’s house for the rest of the week.

Taking oneself out of the day to day can give you a sense of clarity and perspective that you might not otherwise find in the humdrum of normal everyday life.  The cold weather meant that there was little more to do at my parent’s place than if we were in the capital. Twenty minutes shivering on a north Essex beach at one degree temperatures meant the rest of the week was confined to soft play venues or the warmth of my parents home. I wondered if we might get cabin fever.  Yet, it was spending time with my parents, and watching them with Pip that really opened my eyes. It was a parenting lesson in itself.

The huts were the most cheerful thing on this beach

I watched how my mother was able to engage Pip in the most simple of household tasks. Emptying the cutlery drawer from the dishwasher; sorting knifes, forks and spoons into the appropriate slots in her canteen case. Making bread each night for breakfast the next morning, assisting with the recycling. I watched as he helped Grandpa clean his greenhouse and then build a bonfire from the garden waste, and how he revelled in helping with the tasks he’d been given, enjoying the sense of purpose. As I watched, I wondered if I needed to re-evaluate how I approach things at home.

Housework is a task I try to complete when Pip is at pre-school or when he is in bed. It is rare that I try to engage him in day to day tasks around the home, preferring instead to plan trips out, activities and play dates.  But, now we have EB, this is more difficult, we do need to spend more time at home, and after watching his joy at helping with the most mundane of tasks, I decided a change of tack was needed.

When we returned home from my parents, Pip took charge of his new role in helping with the washing.  He’d clearly learnt something the week before as he held a rogue red sock up whilst sorting the white wash. ‘ Mummy, if you put this in, your washing will go pink’.  I was impressed.  I appointed him chief sock sorter, in charge of sorting his and his father’s vast collection of stripy socks into pairs, and we discovered that a game of ‘sock snap’ can be great fun.

In the course of just one week, I started to feel that we recovered some of our old bond, which at times since EB’s birth, I felt had got lost in the ether.  Getting away from it all had allowed me some respite and reflection, and I returned with a renewed parenting perspective.  At the start of the following week,  sat at the kitchen table, Pip drew his first ever picture of a person; Mummy. With a proper face; eyes, nose, a mouth, red hair, and a big tummy (because she’d just had a baby). No sign of fiery volcanoes or spooky forests; the usual suspects emerging from his pencil, instead, recognisable and real; Mummy.  My heart ached with love for him as he proudly talked through his picture. We had found our groove again. What a difference one week makes.



It was my intention to link this post up last week to Older Mum in a Muddle’s wonderful series ‘One Week’.  Alas, life conspired against me and I ran out of time.  I did thoroughly enjoy reading the other posts though. You can check them out by clicking the badge below.


one week

30 comments:

  1. That's a really heartfelt and honest post. I remember feeling exactly this during times of change with my kids - hangering after the old days but realising that they probably weren't all that glamorous either! I don't deal well with change and lots of kids don't either. I expect that Pip is learning that things are different and that makes life difficult at times. Thank heavens for Grandparents eh?! x x PS If you weren't struggling a little, youwouldn't be normal. What was the book out of interest?

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    1. Thanks for commenting. I think you're right, it's easy to hanker after the old days. The book was 'Parenting Young Children - Systematic Training for Parents of Children Under Six'. It was very to easy to read and there was definitely some food for thought there.

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  2. Is your mum a health visitor, doctor or psychologist - that had me very intrigued. Lovely, and very honest post, and I admire your strength in being able to say ENOUGH and decamp to your parents. A new baby was bound to be a challenge for your relationship with Pip, and I guess he has been acting up to get your attention, what what a great discovery at your parent's house, that you are now getting back on track in time spent with Pip in involving him with the household chores. Sock snap - love it! X.

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    1. She was a Health Visitor (amongst other things!). Yes, we're definitely getting back on track, thankfully.

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  3. I love reading your posts.

    I'm so glad your relationship with Pip is getting back on track - it must be so difficult to share your time between two! xx

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  4. Oh I can really relate to this. I think its damn near impossible to keep it all ticking over smoothly when you have a new little one around. I feel like I rarely ever please either child, as my attention is nearly always split 2 ways. But it lovely now to watch them becoming friends. And how do grandparents do it? - that lovely way of engaging our children in ordinary stuff and making it almost magical. So pleased Pip drew you the picture, sometimes Mummy's need a bit of extra love too x

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    1. I'm looking forward to the time when mine can interact more and become friends too. You're so right, grandparents can make ordinary stuff almost magical. How do they do it? Will I be able to do that when I'm a grandparent? I hope so!

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  5. I could really understand your post and sympathise. I have 3 kids (3, 5 & 8) and between them and the house and work I feel like a ball in a pinball machine, just pinging back and forth and never getting the time to spend with each one that they deserve. And I too look back at the 2 and a half years I had with my eldest where we sat for hours doing play dough or jigsaws or baking and went to tumbletots and monkey music -they were such special times that I simply haven't had the time or energy to do with the others. In marches the mother guilt....

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    1. Ah yes, the mother guilt...does it ever go away?

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  6. I have been having feeling very similar to this, it's so hard balancing attention, housework and day to day activities. Alex too has been a bouncing ball of energy with a very stubborn and mischievousness streak-particularly when I'm feeding Sam!I have been meaning to write a similar blog post but have barely had two hands free for more than 5 minutes, and when I do the thought of put words together in a proper sentence seems too much effort! I am hoping it gets slightly better once they each get a bit bigger! x

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    1. I think lots of mums find that breast feeding tends to be the time when no 1 decides to play up. I'm with you on finding time to write the blog posts - and being able to string the words together in a proper sentence. I've found it a real effort recently! x

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  7. oh no, oh no, I am your Mother! TC loves! helping with the washing, tumble drying, emptying the dishwasher etc, loves to be engaged in purposeful activity, is it my age..oh no!! She really just followed me about and copied me (shows how much housework I do!), but she also makes me lie down with her on the floor and draw and jump about to Peppa Pig!! You're doing a fab job, but lucky you too having such a great mum, mine never thought to help me out xx

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    1. Hee hee! You're clearly just an excellent Mother! You're right, I am lucky to have such a lovely mum to help me out. x

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  8. I LOVE this post. I felt exactly the same this half-term myself and again this week as Curly Girl is sick and off school, but not sick enough not to want me to play with her all the time, when it's all I can do to stay awake and deal with the Little Man's demands. I really must engage CG in more house tasks, its a great idea and its true that Nana can turn any activity into a game much like Mary Poppins! x

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    1. Always good to know that I'm not alone. Thanks!

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  9. What a beautiful journey and a lovely post. I hope you enjoy your new found equilibrium.

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  10. I think it's great it's taken such a short time to find your new groove with Pip, tbh. In the absence of their father and any other family locally, I still struggle with my eldest. Only recently have I felt we might be as reconnected as we used to be and the baby is now almost four years old! I think you should give yourself less of a hard time! And planning things meticulously? That has never occurred to me - me wing it most days and, perhaps, that's where I've been going wrong! Bless you for having such love in your life and giving it to your kids xx

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    1. Thanks OSM. I am glad you feel you've reconnected with your eldest- that's lovely. And yes, perhaps I should stop giving myself a hard time. x

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  11. Yay, for grandparents and helping you find your way a little more. My toddler cannot rest EVER so I've had to involve him in chores for a while now or I get nothing done - sorting the laundry, putting it in the washing machine, putting clothes away, making beds, emptying the dishwasher ... he loves to help with everything. And I've learnt to relax and opt for assistance rather than speed :-)

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    1. Yes, slow and steady wins the race in this case I think!

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  12. What a brilliant post. You're absolutely right that getting them engaged in something that they can have ownership of keeps them happy and out of trouble. Grandparents are great at that - my mum can get the boy dusting, stirring, washing and so on. I'm too prone to think toys/books/drawing when actually there are more simple things that would do just as well. x

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    1. Agree. I need to think less in terms of 'activities' and engage him more in tasks around the home. It's so simple, and he loves it!

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  13. Funny how our perspective can change in such a short time. Lovely story. So glad you have found some peace and equilibrium with your new situation. It didn't seem to take long, although it probably didn't seem that way to you! Great how everything is coming together.

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    1. Thanks Polly. Some days are better than others, but I think we are getting there. :0)

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  14. Oh, it is/was the same in the mammasaver household - I feel a constant guilt that I can't always give our little boy the focussed attention that he used to get before his little sister came along.

    Quiet, cuddly time is now scarce, but all the more special when it comes.

    To manage with the household stuff, our little boy is in charge of unloading the washing machine, pressing its buttons and helping load and unload the dishwasher.

    It seems to make him feel important and grown up, which at the tender age of 2 just breaks my heart.

    Yesterday, he cleared his lunch things from the table without being asked, and without breaking or spilling anything!

    I too miss the days when it was just the two of us, but these new baby days seem to bring with them a whole new role for our little boy which he really seems to be enjoying.



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    1. So glad that things are going well in the Mammasaver household! Your boy sounds wonderful. x

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  15. Completely relate. Sounds like you had a nice break. Its good to let the grandparents take over occassionally. I am not sure I could be a stay at home mum like you. I go a little bit mental just after a weekend spent at home with my kids - that's not to say that I don't love them!!!

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    1. I'll be honest, sometimes I think 'Where's my tube pass, I'm off to work!'. But, then it passes and everything isn't quite so mental. I am sure working and having two children to plan everything for is just as hard! Thanks for commenting. x

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  16. I remember that first day I was on my own with my two babies, Harry a newborn and Leila only 17m and wondered 'how on earth...' How was I supposed to put two, completely dependent children into a car by myself? How was I supposed to do dinner and bed? Harry is now 9m and we have it. Yes, some days are busier/more manic/tougher but on the whole, we've got it cracked. Yes, I expect a lot of a 2yo-she can now take off her shoes and socks or put on her coat while I get her brother ready, but she is happy to have these tasks and they make my life easier.

    So glad that you had that week with your family to work it all out. Both my parents and in-laws have retired abroad and it is tough being completely alone.

    Beautiful blog-so glad I found it. Fellow blogger at www.samandasha2.blogspot.com

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