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.