Toddlers Are All The Same

toddler

I have come to the conclusion that ALL toddlers behave like little horrors. Not only that, but as soon as toddler-hood has passed, we tend to forget how dreadful it was.

I have hard proof that in actual fact all three of my lovely children have been terrors at the age of two (one of the many advantages of now having all my blog posts in one place).

The most amusing thing about this is that I was under the impression that DS2 (now 6) was a total joy and he never once had a tantrum of any kind, and that even DS1 (now 8) was not as bad as toddler F. Clearly I have forgotten it all.

DS1: All Day Nursery Equals Vengeful Toddler

DS2: Angry 2 Year Old

DD1: The Terrible Twos

At some point with each of them I have been utterly convinced that no other toddler could ever be so trying and that there must be something fundamentally wrong with either my parenting skills, or them, or both.

Nope.

It’s just toddlers.

The Sickness And Tiredness of Modern Life

Toddler F screamed at me four times overnight, for no reason I could discern, each time abruptly waking me from what felt like a bottomless pit of sleep that I can never get enough of. It is school holidays and the boys fight all day. They seem to be growing further and further apart, tormenting and teasing each other constantly in a way that distresses me so much. My oldest son is not happy. He is obsessed with weapons and fighting and war and everything bad in the world. He is clever, but starting to struggle at school because his handwriting is so poor. His teacher insists he isn’t trying, but I know his is. The problem is he can’t do it. He can be ungrateful, stubborn, and meaner than any adult I know. It breaks my heart because he is clearly so miserable, and angry and unhappy and I do not know what to do to fix it.

My brother has fought a 9 year battle with psychosis and is doing very badly again. His problems have never coincided with my mother’s problems, but for the first time both of them are now under daily visits from the mental health crisis team and only a step away from readmission, in different cities. I have toured the psychiatric wards in this country and they are all the same depressing hell-holes of wasted lives and lost opportunities.

My brother developed a heroin addiction as a teenager, and although he has been clean for years as far as I know, he ended up in A&E over the weekend after injecting and then calling 999 because he was feeling so unwell and frightened (bearing in mind his as-yet undiagnosed heart condition this was probably sensible on his part – although he has missed two doctors appointments in a row just because he couldn’t remember the right day). He is convinced someone is trying to kill him and can’t sleep. My mum answers the phone in a quiet, depressed voice and she never eats or sleeps.

I don’t sleep much either these days, and life hasn’t been a walk in the park for me, but for some reason (personally I attribute it to stubbornness), I don’t hallucinate, receive telepathic messages or think that I am being persecuted. And as much as I love them a part of me is annoyed at them for not being stronger. For not putting up with all the shit, like me, and just getting the fuck on with things.

Half of my childhood family is on its knees, heading towards a hole in the ground and I am powerless to save them or help them or stop them. I am going to lose my Mum and my brother – in many ways they are already lost to me – it breaks my heart. I blame my parents for my brother’s condition. I blame my grandparents for my mother. My grandmother’s parents were strict as hell, hailing from the East End of London, so I guess I can blame them for her issues. They once chased her boyfriend (later her husband), down the street with a knife. They married in secret and the legacy of our fucked up family continued.

I am afraid for my kids. I hope I am not passing on the mistakes of so many generations, but I am irritable, intolerant and critical sometimes. I suffer endless guilt for not being the happy smiling mother you see in cake commercials, baking with her kids and laughing with indulgent delight at the mess.

F is at nursery, so I took the boys to the cinema this morning and then we went for lunch. Lunch options in your average eating establishment are meat, sugar, gluten, and cheese. None of these things make me feel good or give me energy. My kids stuff down processed junk and love it, and I join in because it’s what everybody else in the UK eats. I feel sick afterwards, and ponder that it will just add to the weight I can’t shift and my dull, aggravated skin. I think about Michael Douglas in Falling Down and I wonder if anyone else feels like I do at the state of the world and the things that we all blindly do.

I scroll through social media and see hundreds of adverts and sponsored posts all vying for my attention, all wanting my money, all selling me happiness and success and contentment. Friends post luxurious holiday photos and lovely pictures of family walks. All of it makes me feel bad, as if what I do, and what I provide is not enough.

At home the endless bickering turns into physical violence, so I put the television on because sometimes it’s the only way to break the vicious circle of anger and antagonistic behaviour between my kids. And I cry silent tears in my room because this life seems to be so wrong. It isn’t making us healthy or happy. It doesn’t feed our souls or nourish our bodies. I fantasise about taking the kids away to Africa, or Vietnam, and living in a small village and helping other people, making a difference. I want to make something right in the world when everything feels so wrong, so excessive, so gluttonous, so obsessed with shit celebrities.

But I can’t really do that. So I dream of chucking out the TV, ditching social media, finding other families who are less connected to the grid. Insisting we stay out of food halls, and feed ourselves real food. But I am afraid. I am afraid of my kids hating me for being the Mum that gave them a weird childhood and making them the odd ones out at school. I carry the weight of responsibility of their future so heavily. How do my parents deal with the fact that their son, their baby boy, has grown into a psychotic ex-herion addict? They must feel to blame in some way – how can they live with it? It would kill me.

And I am afraid of other families that have rejected modern life. Ironically maybe, I am scared they are weird, even though it’s what I think about all the time.

What is the answer? I really don’t know. I’ve always had this deep, niggling feeling that the way we live our lives is not right, even from when I was a child. I don’t know the right way though. I can’t see the path. I don’t know where to go other than in the footsteps of the crowd.

So I follow. And I do what all other families do and what all other women do and what all other mums do. But inside I am sad. But I am also afraid that different is not going to make me happy either. Maybe I am just scared of living, because I see how easy it is to lose everything you love.

Invisalign Checkup and Not Running

I went to the dentist/ortho for my first checkup. The brown staining I had was superficial and easily cleaned off. She told me some people just get more than others, but it’s not permanent and we’ll keep an eye on it. Back in two weeks time.

I’ve lost two attachments (out of 20 – I miscounted at the start and thought I only had 18), so they need to be put back. Otherwise everything is looking fine and my gums are also okay (phew). I’m more in the swing of it now and they no longer feel so huge in my mouth.

Everything Else

Toddler F has chickenpox.

I haven’t slept more than a two hour stretch in three nights. Today the spots are not as red, so I think (I hope), we are over the worst. She hasn’t had it too bad really. Most of the spots are on her body and most of them are small. We all slept in this morning until 07:50 so getting the boys to school was a rush as Ls bus leaves at 08:27 and we have to drive to the school bus stop. We made it although both boys are tired and C has had a dreadful cough for a week. School holidays start on Thursday, and we all need the break.

So, because of the pox I am housebound and have not run since last Thursday. I’m also exhausted, so need to catch up on sleep (again). I’m feeling really down about it because I was running so well last year and I hate the beginning stages, but here I am all over again. I feel like I can never stick at anything properly and I’m moping around with the feeling of how much work I have to do to get fit again. It’s the winter, I never run through it and it lasts so long here.

Sigh. Moan moan.

My Mum has been readmitted to the psych ward. She’s been in a week now and no indication of when she’s coming out. I was laying awake at 4am stressing about this. Back in 2005, 13 years ago, I was driving a six hour round trip every weekend (and working long hours in the week), to go and clean up the dog shit and mess in my mums house. She had two dogs but was in the psych ward in Peterborough. Her mother and brother lived down the road, but they couldn’t “cope”, so I was doing it. The dogs cried all week and my Nan (her mum) did a bit, but they still asked me to sort it out. I got her out of hosp, helped sell her house, moved her to be near me, got her in the medical system here.

She got a bit better. But she hated the flat we got her, and complained about all of it. I got her moved into a really nice social housing block, run privately and miles above the social housing alternatives. She was okay at first, but now she hates that too. It’s too small, the people spy on her, the warden is a bully.

And she hates being in the hospital. She says the showers don’t work, there’s nothing to do, she wants to go home. Home where she never eats anything and sleeps all day and stays awake all night long and makes herself ill.

I just don’t know what to do with her. I hate exposing the kids to this, but she’s on the phone at the weekend panicking that her rent is due. I have to leave the two youngest with Steve, drive down, pick her up, take her home so we can sort out the rent cheque (she’s allowed out with supervision).

Then she’s on the phone Monday. She needs to feed the fish or they’ll die (she says). So I’ve got to drive down again tomorrow, even though I’m knackered and F has chickenpox and I hate even driving into the car park with any of my children in the car because patients are allowed out (it’s not a secure ward) and I am afraid. Afraid that my sweet two year old girl or my lovely two boys might be a lure or curiosity to someone who might suddenly become aggressive or violent. I know I would kill anyone that tried to harm them, but I am still afraid. Like last time – the man who said he’d buy my daughter for £2 because he wanted a pet. I told him where to go, but then I was scared. I know that you shouldn’t provoke mental patients. They don’t think like we do.

I hate how psych wards smell of boiled food and self-loathing.

And most of all I hate that 13 years on I am still dealing with this.

My mum – it is a miracle that she had me and my brother and didn’t beat us. She was so badly beaten by her mother (with a dog lead, a broken table leg, a hairbrush, whatever was to hand), and I doubt she was ever really shown any affection. Why didn’t she do the same? I don’t know. Apart from a rare smack now and again, she never touched us.

But she never touched us affectionately either, really. My brother carries on the family tragedy, he did terribly at school. My parents couldn’t handle him as a child. They kind of gave up on both of us and left us to our own devices. I finally figured out (after a wobbly period where it could have gone either way), that university was an escape and I worked like mad to get there. My brother turned to hard drugs at 16.

So, the point of this is that I hate that I am still doing this, but at the same time I know that my mother’s childhood was so awful she deserves some kindness. So I have no real choice.

I don’t think she will ever have any peace from her demons. I wish there was something I could do to make it better, but I can’t take away what happened to her.

Somehow, as people get older they seem to get more hung up on the past. I see it in myself also. It’s not healthy and I think we need to stay vigilant, to look forward, to keep learning and exploring and enjoying life. In later life, if you stop and turn around for too long, the past can get a hold of you and never let you go.

Getting Better

F woke up every single hour from 9pm to 4am last night. I kept an eye on her temperature and got very little sleep. She woke up and asked for water every time until 4am. Then she puked everywhere.

Oh man. She was in the bed with me, so it wasn’t even contained within her cot. After a major clear up job, I think we both finally slept between 5:30 and 7.

At 7:30, as the boys were asking for breakfast she puked all over the sofa with the water I’d given her (she was crying for a drink).

Then L dropped his breakfast bowl on the floor and it smashed to pieces. I finally got everyone out the door and drove up to the school and to the bus stop. I asked a mum from each school to see each of the boys in and took F home. Thankfully no sick in the car.

She wanted to go back to bed, so I did also, only to be woken by the shopping delivery coming 40 minutes earlier than the allotted timeslot. Sigh!

But F woke up then and seemed a bit brighter and her headache had gone. She lasted until 2 and slept again til 4.

Steve took the boys swimming and she’s in bed now (7:30pm). No sick for 11.5 hours, so hopefully the worst is over. She is a lot happier than she was yesterday. I am SO relieved, and my stress levels have gone right back down, which I am very grateful for.

The Raw Food Diet

Long, long ago, one of the things I started blogging about was the raw food diet and trying to eat a greater proportion of raw food. Somehow amid the craziness of the last few years my raw food quest has gotten lost. Although it was never forgotten. While all raw is a bit extreme, I would definitely like to be eating way more salads and fresh juices and smoothies.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently, especially since I’m on an enforced 3 solid meals a day regime with my Invisalign. We’ve been a vegetarian household for a while now (not sure of the last meat we all ate, but sometime in January). I have also been aware that sometimes I eat a vegan meal inadvertently, which I am pleased about. However, sugar and alcohol have always been my achilles heel(s), and I could just never see a way to get really fit and healthy until I cracked both of these things.

Well, it seems the alcohol has finally (mostly) run its course and just doesn’t hold the appeal it once did. And the sugar habit has been forcefully smashed to pieces by my braces.

My energy levels are more stable than they have been for ages, and I can now go 5 or 6 hours without eating without having a physical or emotional meltdown. Sugar makes me hungry, cranky, and is a major contributor to the last of the babyweight I’m carrying around.

Eating three meals a day, so difficult in the first few days now seems so much easier and simpler. I actually like preparing all the things I’m going to eat and then sitting down to a proper meal. Then I don’t have to give food a second thought for hours! And because I’m not on the sugar high-low rollercoaster, I just slowly get hungrier for my next meal without any angst or dizziness or weakness or wobblyness I am used to. I was spending every waking minute thinking about what to eat next, so it’s been a real revelation.

Anyway, I say all of that because I’m thinking about getting back to juices and green smoothies and a lighter, more nutritionally dense way of eating. Just thinking about it. Maybe I’ll start something in April – that will be a month in my braces and a good 31 days of better eating as a good foundation. We’ll see.

The Trouble With Mother’s Day

The trouble with Mother’s Day is that I don’t really like it very much.

Today started out amazingly. My two boys – completely of their own accord – snuck downstairs and made me a bowl of homemade muesli (oats, cashews, raisins – they mixed it themselves), and then brought it up for my breakfast. I was half-awake and heard them go down, but I assumed that they were going to secretly eat the cake that we brought home from a party on Saturday. How wrong was I? Steve had helped them with cards and presents, but the breakfast idea was all theirs and I was so happy about it!

Even Francesca, this morning, as the boys came into my room to give me my breakfast, rolled over and said,

No! Mummy’s sleeping!

So the day really did start wonderfully and my little trio were awesome.

Then we went to visit my mum.

When we arrived, we buzzed but Mum didn’t answer for ages. This always means that she has taken sleeping pills and hasn’t woken up yet, and today was no exception. She was in her pyjamas and had clearly only gotten up to let us in. I said happy Mother’s Day and handed her a little flower in a pot I had bought for her. She took it off me and said nothing. She wandered into the kitchen, put it down somewhere out there and then came out and shut the door behind her. No “thank you,” or any other comment.

I gave her the card and she did at least like this. She said thank you and commented on it with approval, so I got that bit right.

I asked if she was sleeping okay and she explained she’d taken some sleeping tablets she’d bought off the internet (don’t ask – I have no control over what she does, honestly). She stumbled around for a bit and then started getting things out that she had bought the children.

Mum is always buying stuff for them – not just a little bit here and there, but two or three things every time they see her. I know she wants to treat them, but she is confusing love with STUFF. And the worst thing of all is she buys them totally unsuitable stuff that she finds in charity shops. She is obsessed with antiques and is always buying them 20 year old toys and models. Last time it was two sets of CB radios from the 80s and two cap gun sets from the 1950s (I looked them up – they were selling for £60 on ebay). Today is was colouring books and crayons (which are actually quite cool), a microscope from the 1970s, model planes, and two fidget spinners.

She buys compulsively all the time. And it drives me crazy. Firstly we live in an 840sq/ft house and we have no space for the inflow of things from her. Secondly, I hate material stuff. Thirdly it teaches the children to be excited about presents rather than about seeing Granny – they always say I wonder what Granny has got for us this time! Fourthly, that money would be SO much better spent on clothing for the three of them. Or to help me out with the weekly food bill. Or to cover school trips, or maybe to save up for a weekend away. She wastes it all on stuff that ends up broken and either in the bin, or in the charity shop bag at our house because there is no room for it. Fifthly, she sometimes buys totally random shit because she doesn’t really look properly at what it is. Example: a few months back she bought Lucas a tin of football boot studs.

hate her obsession with buying crap.

And then, she sits down and tells me she’s sorted out Eric.

My uncle died last year and she had his ashes stored in the cupboard at her house. We were going to wait until it was a sunny day in the spring and then take them to the pier, where he wanted them to be scattered – as requested in his will.

Unbeknownst to me, Mum was getting antsy about the ashes being in her flat. She didn’t want them there. She apparently asked my brother for help, but he said he wouldn’t be down for a few months, so she took it upon herself to deal with it.

She took them on the bus to the pier and tried to scatter them, but she was approached by a couple who told her she couldn’t scatter them into the sea without permission (if I’d been there I would have told these interfering arseholes where to go for so callously poking their noses into a 68 year old’s grieving time). So she got back on the bus and instead of taking them home and calling me, she just scattered them in the park across the road from her flat.

Now, I was upset about this. I was upset, because my mum runs her life by the motto “it’ll do”. She uses it as an excuse for her behaviour and always has. When she doesn’t want to put the effort into something (which is a lot of the time), she just does a half-arsed job and says “Oh, that’ll do.”

When my uncle died, she turned up at his funeral wearing an ancient old jumper and scruffy trousers. I was upset about it because you make an effort at a funeral. You dress to show respect to the person who passed away, and to show respect to yourself. I told my Dad afterwards that if I die before her he needs to insist that she makes the effort to dress properly when I’m gone.

And because Eric’s clothes were cleared out of his flat long before his body was released for cremation, Mum got him a charity top t-shirt and a pair of HER old jeans and knickers to dress him in. I spoke to the funeral director and then managed to convince her that he could go in just the funeral gown, which they provided. Can you imagine if he was alive, what he would have thought about going to the crematorium in his sister’s jeans and knickers??? 

My mum once left Eric waiting for her in the middle of town as they wanted to look in separate shops, but on the way back she decided to go and get her hair cut. After nearly an hour Eric thought she was lost, so he went to security and they put a message out over the shopping centre tannoy. She honestly couldn’t see what she’d done wrong.

There are billions of example throughout my lifetime I can use, but I’ll be writing all night if I carry on. I was upset about the ashes because Eric requested they be scattered over the sea. It was a denial of his last wish, because it was too much effort to take them home and wait for me to accompany her so we could do what he asked. Because she needed them gone, and the park would do. She told me not to get upset, and that they spent a lot of time over there, and she can walk past him all the time, which I admit is true, but I was upset anyway. I was upset that she had to face two dickheads telling her she couldn’t put ashes in the sea because I wasn’t with her. I was upset she hadn’t said to me that she wanted to get rid of the ashes sooner rather than later – that she’d even asked my brother, rather than come to me.

She told me I was so busy, and my life is so full, but that isn’t a problem when she gets my brother to ring me at 5pm, in the middle of cooking dinner for the three children, so he can ask me to drive over to the psychiatric hospital and pick her and take her home because she’s been released and she’s waiting out the front for me.

My Mum loves me, I’m sure, but her way of loving is not like other mothers. She never had a decent mother figure to learn from (hers was an abusive woman who beat all four of her kids and hated them for tying her down), so I know she has done the best she knew how to do.

But I have to admit that sometimes I just wish she was more of a mother to me than I’ve had.

And today, as every year, I have to avoid facebook. I posted early this morning and then stayed away. Away from the countless status updates tagging mothers and talking about how they are the best mum in the world.

Sigh. I love Mother’s Day for my kids, but for my own mum it always feels like a forced affection, and that makes me so sad.

And then this evening I ended up taking F to A&E. She was poorly yesterday, but today she has been complaining of head pain. Obviously headaches immediately make you think meningitis, and she has been particularly distressed. By 4pm she was crying so much and holding her head that I took her to the hospital -she’d already had calpol and I was so scared something wasn’t right. I am so afraid of losing her or the boys. My miscarriages have left a scar that bleeds whenever any of them are sick and it leaves me panicked and unable to think clearly.

A&E was heaving. Adults were puking in the main waiting area and there were loads of screaming kids in the children’s area. Pretty quickly a nurse looked F over, did the usual O2 sat/resp rate/temp thing and then gave her a big dose of ibuprofen to make her more comfortable.

Thirty minutes later, F was a different child. The ibuprofen had kicked in (I’m sure they give them a bigger dose at the hospital because my oldest son had one once and he was happy as Larry for about 5 hours afterwards), and she was wandering around, playing with all the toys, chatting away, just like normal.

We waited for two hours with no sign of a doctor, so I asked the nurse if I could take her home. She said that was fine. I was so tired and pissed off and hungry so we went home and F went to bed and went to sleep.

Now I am super paranoid that she really is sick, but the painkiller masked the problem. It just doesn’t seem normal for a 2 year old to have severe head pain to me. The nurse tried to say that a lot of toddlers point to their head when they mean their throat, but she hasn’t met F. F is articulate and smart and knows damn well it’s her head that’s hurting, and she’s had no trouble swallowing. The pain is worse when she’s upright, and it just seems meningococcal to me. I’ve had viral meningitis before and the head pain is no joke. She has no other symptoms – no vomiting, only a low grade fever, no rash, no stiffness, no sensitivity to light.

All I can do is wait until she either gets better, or gets worse enough that someone at the hospital will see her over and above all the other vomiting, sick kids in A&E.

I’ve had a crappy day really, and I’m feeling pretty low and down in the dumps anyway (I’m still coming off sugar I guess – 11 days into the braces and I remember from when I’ve done this before than my mood doesn’t really stabilise until about 2 weeks in).

The best part of my day was my happy morning with my beautiful kids, so I’m just going to focus on that and go to bed and check on F and hope that the morning brings us some peace and wellness.

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