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.

A Teeny Bit of Good News

My ultra-sensitive pregnancy test this morning was a snowy white negative.

Hurrah!

At least that part of things is now sorted out.

Also my mum came over today and looked after the boys while I had a bath. She watched them in the garden while I made lunch, even though they bickered and shouted. She then came to the supermarket with me and bought them both a toy while I got some food in. She was generally brilliant.

Those that know me will know how incredibly out of the ordinary this is.

But even weirder is how this suddenly happened, on a day when I needed it most, while I was slobbing around in my dressing gown, in a dirty house being a miserable, shouty, picky mum.

A couple of weeks ago I made a difficult, conscious choice to stop blaming my parents for my childhood and to just accept that they did the best they could at the time.

I have a half-written post about forgiveness, and my relationship with my parents, that I’ve been meaning to finish. It explains a lot more than I can write now.

I don’t know about karma, but today, to suddenly have a mum that looked out for me, has made more difference than she will probably ever realise.

Calling All Mums – How Do You Cope With The Stress?

Of parenting, I mean.

Note: I focus on the negative here because I am interested in whether or not it is like this for all mums. Obviously, among the wailing and naughtiness there are hugs and laughter. But most some days it seems like everything, everything is a battle.

People often say to me, having two boys close together, that my days must be busy/hard/tiring. No shit.

I actually think most people (both of our parents included) have no idea how hard it is.

I’ve been looking at my stress levels over the last two days (post to come about why, when I get a spare 2 mins), and I’ve pinpointed that most of my stress actually comes from trying to be (and often feeling like I am not) a decent mother.

Just this past Friday we ended up in A&E because DS2 slipped over while he was chasing DS1 upstairs, and he crashed his head into the bedpost in our bedroom. They had to glue him back together:

ds2

I walk around on red alert all the time because they seem hellbent on destruction – of themselves, each other and their environment.

They ride bikes looking backwards and laughing, they run looking sideways at each other, they pull each other over for fun. Did I mention the A&E trip after DS1 ate a dishwasher tablet? Or the time DS2 almost got run over while out with hubby? Or the times that DS1 thought it would be fun to stand on 6 month old DS2’s back when he was learning to crawl? Pushing each other off the bed? DS1 hauling DS2 out of his cot? DS1 leaning out of the upstairs window watching the cars go by?

They are 2.5 and 4.

What the hell will it be like in a year? Two years? 10 years?!

And have I mentioned the bickering and screaming? I haven’t??

Let me tell you about my day today.

Is this normal?

Because it’s damn well normal in this house, and I’m sure it’s driving me to an early grave.

7am.
I am woken by:
“Yes.”
“No.”
“Yes.”
“NO.”
“Yes.”
“NO!”
“Yes.”
“NOOOOO!!!! WAHHHHH!!!!!!”
from the boys shared room.

Lucky for me, I have a cardiologist appointment, so hubby does breakfast and holds the fort until I get home at 10:15am. Hubby goes off to work. I am alone.

I get the boys a snack and afterwards DS1 starts walking around burping loudly, and grinning. It’s his new thing, and it is horrible.

I make a cup of tea and we sit down to thread some beads on pipe cleaners and play with Play Doh. Unusual peace follows.

beads

At 11:15 the boys want to go outside and the sun is out, so we get out the bike and scooter. After 15 minutes DS1 is repeatedly telling DS2 “I’m gonna beat you,” which makes DS2 stop scootering each time and scream in protest (because he is smaller and slower).

bikes

After repeated requests I tell DS1 if he doesn’t stop that we will have to head home. DS1 does it again, DS2 screams, and we head home. DS1 shouts and drags his heels all the way back.

50 metres from our house, DS1 races ahead and DS2 is behind me. Both are out of reach. Suddenly they both teeter dangerously close to the curb just as two cars drive past. DS1’s wheels slips backwards down someone’s driveway into the road and I hesitate between the two of them for a split second with the impossible decision of which child to save from certain death. DS2 is at least not moving, so I run to DS1.

Back at the house, as my heartbeat slows back down to something approaching normal, we put the bike and scooter in the garage. DS2 then decides he wants to bring a dirty football from the garage into the house. I refuse and brace myself for meltdown. Amazingly, it doesn’t happen.

In the house I take off DS2’s shoes. DS1 asks me to take his shoes off as well (he is 4.5 years old). I tell him that it helps me when he takes his own shoes off. He asks three times and gets the same answer so eventually complies, but sulks by lying on the floor with his thumb in this mouth, kicking the xbox in the TV cabinet with his feet.

I read them some stories and then make lunch. I ask five times for them to put the beads on the table back into the bead pot and in the end they do it because I tell them I can’t give them their lunch until the table is clear.

We have lunch and I repeatedly have to tell both of them to stay in their seats while they are eating. DS2 gets a book from the bookshelf and brings it back to the table, “for teddy”. While I am talking to DS1, DS2 starts flicking through the book with ham and crumbs over his fingers. I ask him to leave the book to one side and DS1 burps loudly and smiles at me. I ask DS1 to say ‘excuse me’.

DS2 spits out a massive ball of chewed ham and I explain for the 100th time that small mouthfuls are easier to eat. DS2 burps again and smiles at me. I ask him to say ‘excuse me’.

I get them some yoghurt raisins and DS1 shouts “Yumayumayumayumayuma!!!” until DS2 screams at him to stop. I ignore this as they both settle down to eat the yoghurt raisins.

They get down from table and DS1 walks about burping and saying nothing. He is smiling. I know he’s trying hard to provoke a reaction, but I just repeat that he needs to say ‘excuse me’, which he does.

I stack the dishwasher, make some more tea, and read them a couple more stories. Then I tell them I am having 5 minutes to drink my hot tea. DS1 goes upstairs, takes off his clothes and puts his pyjamas on. He comes down to show me. He goes back up and puts another pair of pyjamas on. He knows that the husband doesn’t like him to keep getting clean clothes out. DS2 pushes his trousers half down and cries for me to take them off, which I do (because the alternative is screaming meltdown).

They start fighting over DS1’s jumper and who gets to use it as a cloak, tugging one end each and shouting. I am trying to decide what the hell to buy for dinner, and am reading a recipe book, but I can’t concentrate. DS2 is standing behind me and suddenly he screams because he’s now found another jumper and he can’t put it on by himself.

I jump at the shock of the scream and go upstairs for a self-imposed time-out to stop myself yelling at them. They come up and find me having a wee on the toilet.

I try to get them to return downstairs with me, but DS1 has turned out a drawer with a shoebox in it (that I’ve kept because it has a pair of shoes in it we will reuse) and DS2 wants to take the lid downstairs. I say no and put it back in the drawer. He starts screaming. I ignore him and start to walk downstairs but he protests even louder that I am leaving him behind. I stop and ask him if there is anything I can help him with. He says no and runs off to the bedroom. I go downstairs.

I go back to the recipe book. DS2 eventually comes down and then he starts taking cushions off the sofa and putting them on the stairs. I ask him to put them back on the sofa and he refuses. I am highly intolerant to dangerous things (like stuff on the stairs), and can feel the limits of my patience approaching. DS1 runs over and grabs the cushions from DS2 on the stairs, so he can put them back on the sofa. DS2 almost loses his balance and screams at DS1. I yell at both of them. DS2 starts crying.

I go back to the recipe book for the 3rd time because we need something for dinner.

Shopping list sorted, I get DS2 dressed for the second time. I tell DS1 he has to get himself dressed, since he chose to put his pyjamas on. He wails and moans and asks for help and cries, but eventually gets a top and trousers on.

We get in the car. DS2 stops halfway to the seat and tells me his zip is wrong. I ask if he wants it up or down. He says down. I unzip it. He screams he wants it up. I zip it back to where it was originally and grind my teeth together.

At the supermarket they run around like crazy, pretending to be sharks or crocodiles, while I pick up a handful of items. They narrowly avoid smashing their heads on other people’s trolleys and baskets. Fellow shoppers look either terrified, amused or annoyed. DS2 falls over at least three times, but seems unhurt. They need new toothbrushes so I show them a selection of four colours to choose from that are for ages 3-5. DS1 picks up Every. Other. Toothbrush on the entire shelf. I repeat at least four times that they have to choose from the ones I have shown them. DS1 eventually picks blue, DS2 picks green. They are happy for 10 minutes. After we have paid, DS2 has screaming meltdown because he realises he actually wanted a blue toothbrush. He wails “I want blue!!” 352 times between the car park and home and all the other shoppers look at me and think what a terrible mum I am.

At home DS2 wants to hold DS1’s blue toothbrush. I tell him DS1 won’t be happy if DS2 has the blue toothbrush so DS2 cries some more. I wonder what it must be like to spend a day without listening to the sound of your own children crying.

It’s 15:50, so I cave in early and put CBeebies telly on. I sit down to write this post, consume a disgusting amount of plain orange chocolate and then make the boys tea.

After tea, I sit with them at the table while they play with dinosaurs and we chat a little.

Bathtime. Not too bad today. DS1 pushes DS2 once and DS2 slaps DS1 on the back. I rate that as a success.

I get them out of the bath and while I am rinsing away the water they have a naked, screaming fight over DS1’s backpack, tugging a strap each.

They come downstairs with me while I get milk, stories and bedtime stuff. While I gather things together they wrestle on the floor and DS2 pushes DS1 into a toy box. There is a loud bang as DS1’s head hits the plastic, followed by lots of tears.

After comforting DS1 we all head back upstairs. DS1 chases DS2 into our bedroom (exactly how we ended up in A&E on Friday), and I walk in to find DS1 sitting on DS2, holding him down.

I separate them and send DS1 downstairs so I can do DS2’s bedtime in peace.

After stories and cuddles DS2 goes down OK, and as soon as I get downstairs the door goes (someone collecting an ebay item), I can’t find my keys and spill the contents of a kitchen shelf on the floor trying to get the spare key from behind a cup.

I smile and wave off the eBayer, acting as though I am a perfectly organised and composed mum of two.

I sit and give DS1 a cuddle for a few minutes (possibly more because I need it than him).

I survey the devastation in the house and kitchen, but decide dinner is more important. I cook chilli while DS1 chats to me, do a whirlwind tidy-up of the lounge and we are sat at the table calmly when the hubby walks in at 7:30pm.

Today was a reasonably good day.

Honestly. It can be much, much worse.

Questions:

  1. Is this what parenting is/was like for you?
  2. How the hell do you stop yourself losing your sanity on a daily basis?

We do not have parental help, so it’s just me, all day, every day.

And some days… well. You can imagine, right?

End note: Please do not ask me why on earth I want another baby. There are some things that cannot be explained, and as much as I find the chaos overwhelming, I love it and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

boys

 

Angry 2 Year Old

My youngest is now 2 years and 5 months. He is a smiley, charming, sociable, happy boy:

toddler

At least, he was.

Of late, he tends to be more like this:

toddler

I remember going through this with DS1 at the exact same age and it was equally stressful.

There seem to be two triggers to angry-toddler syndrome:

  1. Dropping the last daytime nap [shudder].
  2. The realisation that their ability has extensive limitations.

It seems to turn once-content toddlers into miniature teenagers with a serious attitude problem.

Some of today’s parenting challenges so far:

Morning time

Right, what would you both like for breakfast?
Ummmm… [DS2 runs off to play with something].
DS2? Do you want some breakfast?
[Silence from conservatory]
DS2? Would you like me to get you some Shreddies?
More silence. I get DS1 his breakfast and sit down with my bowl. The peace is suddenly shattered by high pitched screeching.
NOOOOO!!!! I DON WANNA YOU HAVE BREAKFAST, WAHHHH!!!!!

Getting out of the car

[I unbuckle the harness]
NO!! I wanna do it!!!
Sensing imminent meltdown, I “fix” the buckle so he can do it. He takes ages to undo the buckle. I offer to lift him down.
NO!! I do it.
I offer to help him out of the car. He doesn’t move.
I wanna go in drive Mummy. I wanna drive.
It’s raining. I’m getting soaked. I tell him I’m sorry, but he can’t drive today.
I WANNA GO IN DRIVE, WAHHHH!!!!!!!
After several more futile attempts to encourage him out the car, I end up carrying him screaming and writhing into the house.

“Playing” with DS1

DS1 looks at DS2
NO YOU GO WAY!! BAHHHHHH!!!!!! [blood curdling, whites-of-eyes showing, banshee scream]

Helping him with a toy

Ok, where do you want me to put the bridge?
Der.
I put the bridge exactly where he indicates.
NO!!!!!! WAHHHHH!!!!
Ok! Sorry sweetie, where did you want it?
Der.
I try again.
NOOO!!! BAHHHHHHH!!!!! [grabs bridge and hits me with it]
I remove bridge and tell him not hit.
BAHHHHHHHH!!!!! [scratches me instead].
I walk away, to avoid further injury.
WAHHHHHH!!!!!! [he chases me trying to grab enough flesh to pinch].
DS1 tries to tell him not to hurt Mummy.
BAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! [right in DS1’s face].
DS1 cries.

And that is all before 10am.

At least his behaviour is keeping me suitably distracted from the phone call about my scan date.

Happiness is a Choice

This is a very long and rambling post, with no intention at all other than to empty my head of thoughts before the end of the year.

Skip to the end if you just want the low-down without the waffle 😉

Happiness?

Happiness has been sorely missing from my life for a large part of the last four years. I think I have maybe been suffering from undiagnosed post-natal depression. That’s not to say that I haven’t been happy at times. I would say that in the last four years I have often been painfully, crushingly, aware of how lucky I have been and how lucky I am to have what I have. But it has been the kind of happiness that hurts – it hurts because it arrives as a rainbow out of the blue amid a rain storm that I have been unable to escape from.

At this point in time I am concerned that my thoughts have become trained to endlessly run along the same grooves of despair.

I am doing much, much better than I was in August. The one year anniversary of my miscarriage (the big one, as opposed to the other ones), was a black pit of pain. But I am not really OK yet.

Since I always get reflective at New Year, and I do love to start the year on a positive note, let’s go back and take a look at the things that have thrown me completely off-track. Let’s run through the things that have defined the last four years of my life.

The day I gave birth to my first son

If I could pinpoint the beginning of this emotional journey it would be this event. As joyous and miraculous as birth is, the absolute trauma of a long and difficult childbirth isn’t easy to forget. Mainly because what is demanded of you afterwards leaves you no time to recover, to regroup, to heal. You have to do these things in the background, while you care for a new living person who needs you almost constantly, 24 hours a day.

I came home as a physical wreck. Blood transfusion, near hysterectomy, second degree tear and bruised nipples from the midwife’s degrading and dismissive attempts to ‘help’ me extract milk.

I suffered agonising constipation which was mistaken for a womb infection. I had antibiotics on top of the myriad painkillers and was terrified about breastfeeding and giving my baby antibiotics.

The exhaustion was unbearable. I couldn’t breastfeed after the first 11 days because I was in so much pain. My nipples were bleeding, crusted-up, and my entire chest was sore. My mother-in-law said she didn’t know why I was struggling when I could just formula feed. Parents came to visit and sat on the sofa waiting for cups of tea while we wandered around like sleep-deprived torture victims. People called me on the telephone and I had no recollection of speaking to them.

The first time I actually laughed, at something on the TV just before Christmas, I was astonished at the sensation and I realised I had barely smiled since the night I had gone into labour, six weeks previously.

Let’s just say I didn’t take to motherhood like a duck to water.

Failing to breastfeed

Breastfeeding was SO important to me, but the physical state I was in left me with no staying power to get through the first few weeks. My own parents also formula fed. I had no real support and didn’t know where to look for it. So I gave up.

For 19 months, every single time I gave DS1 a bottle, I felt the sting of failure. Statistics say that most women do not breastfeed, but I must live in a statistical anomaly because out of the 20-30 new mums I have met over the last four years, I only know two that didn’t. I was the failure, the one who stood out. The one who gave her baby a substandard start in life.

My brother’s psychosis

When DS1 was 6 weeks old, just as I was starting to claw my way back to a more normal daily routine, my father called me and told me that my brother was in the psychiatric ward at a hospital 20 miles from me. It didn’t matter a fuck that I was still struggling to cope with getting dressed in the morning, suddenly I needed to be the strong one yet again (I won’t go into my family history here). Could I visit? Would that be OK? I called my mother. Could I take her too? Could I pick her up and drop her off?

Snow was falling, roads were lethal, the weather was below freezing. And I was driving an almost 60 mile round trip to collect my mother, visit my brother, drop off my mother and return home, with a 6 week old baby in the back of my car. In my total sleep-deprived and naive new-mother state I actually tried to take DS1 into the secure mental ward with me the first time I visited, and I was called back as everyone panicked about a baby going in. I had to leave DS1 with my mother and we took turns seeing my brother. When I was inside I could see why. These people were all male, all drugged-up to the nines, and some of them were batshit crazy. Seriously. My mother waited in the corridor with DS1 in a pram while the men that were on a lower security level walked past, freely eyeballing my newborn.

Looking back of course, it is completely clear what I should have done in this situation. But the fact is, my family thought it was appropriate to ask and I have never been very good at saying no.

I did several other visits, on icy roads, leaving DS1 at home with hubby. I was so tired I could barely drive properly and in the depth of winter it was dark at 3:30pm. When I was there, my brother barely spoke to me. He was too busy listening to the voices in his head.

The reality of my family

Having children has meant that I have had to face up to the reality of my family. I had ignored this issue for so many years that it has been a real shock and disappointment to me to realise how little support I have from my direct relations. It’s not that they don’t love me, because they do. But they do not have the capacity to help me. I have always been the strong, reliable, responsible one. The one to fix things, help them out, sort things out. Suddenly, for the first time in my life I was the one who needed support. I need emotional support, I needed physical support. Babysitting would have been a gift. But when both your mother and brother take anti-psychotics and your father is emotionally distant and busy with his own life… well, you get the idea.

Nothing made that whole situation more painfully obvious than the new mums I was friends with. They all had parents popping in and out, helping them out, cooking, cleaning, taking care of the baby so they could sleep, you name it. I was the odd one out again.

The reality of my childhood

Ghosts in the nursery have haunted me so terribly. They have kept me awake at night, left me in tears and sprung a burning rage. Being a parent has harshly shown me the reality of my own parents’ failings. They didn’t abuse me, but they didn’t really do anything else either. No haircuts, dentist appointments, no attendance at parent’s evenings, no interest in my friends, no lifts, no real involvement in my life at all.

They were distant, distracted, and heavily consumed by their own problems.

I looked for much-needed love and approval in inappropriate places, sleeping with people who treated me badly, when I was too young to be doing anything of the sort. I had no respect for myself because my parents never gave my place in their lives any value.

I could cry and cry for the girl I was, for the desperate need for love and affection I had that no one gave me.

Yes, I sorted myself out in the end. I got myself into and through university. I built a career, earned money, did all the right things. I even met and married a wonderful man.

When I had children, the fierceness of my love for them and the fact that I would do anything for them, made me realise how utterly empty my own childhood had been.

Family life makes me so sad, because I didn’t even know that I missed out on that love until I became a mother.

My mother

I have lost two grandparents in the last four years – my maternal and paternal grandmother. My paternal grandmother died when DS2 was 3.5 months old, just before Christmas 2011. My maternal grandmother just over a year later – Feb 2012.

Over Christmas 2012, as my maternal grandmother was rapidly losing ground to lung cancer, my mother became very stressed, unwell and distressed. My mother has been on some form of medication as long as I can remember. She suffers from anxiety, psychosis, panic-attacks and depression.

We have never argued. When you have an emotionally rocky mother, you do not rock the boat.

Until Christmas 2012.

Now, I know that she was under so much strain, losing her own mother, who was a cruel and abusive parent (force-feeding, beatings, verbal and physical abuse to all of four of her kids from when they were born to when they left home), but we had a row over Christmas because she told me she was moving back to the town my Nan lived in so she could care for her.

160 miles away.

I moved her out of this town and down to where I live 8 years ago because she was so ill she was living in the mental hospital and neither her mother, nor her two brothers were doing anything to help her. Since she has been here she has gained independence, become emotionally stable, started driving again, and living a more-or-less normal life.

When I asked why she was moving, she said:

“Because I have nothing here Rose!”

Things got dredged up. I ended up referring to her walking out on me and my brother (he was 9, I was 15). Leaving her kids.

“Oh so we’re back to that are we” [Um, I haven’t ever mentioned it in 22 years, but yes, I guess so]

She started to cry.

“I gave you everything…”

She stopped after this. She didn’t elaborate. She spent most of my childhood depressed and asleep on the sofa, so I am unsure what she was trying to say. Maybe she knew this because she changed her approach:

“You wouldn’t have come with me anyway, you were too busy off with your mates.” she spat out the word mates.

“You’ve never liked me!”

“You and your middle class friends, I was never good enough for you.”

She criticised my husband, threw more insults about my opinion of her, talked about her hurt feelings on half a dozen occasions that I had been totally oblivious to, including the day DS1 was born.

Then she hung up.

I tried to call back. She hung up again.

Several days later, she called. She eventually, reluctantly, said sorry.

And she never did move.

When I asked her about it two months later (when my Nan passed away), she sort of laughed.

She laughed a dry laugh, like it wasn’t funny at all, and said:

“I think you’ve figured out I’m not moving Rose.”

As someone who has never, ever had a cross word with her mother, I can’t forget this. I have never seen this side of her before. There was such nastiness in her. Such anger.

I can’t stop thinking about all the things she said. All the times I have apparently offended her.

Whenever we see each other now, I feel nothing but apprehension. Am I offending her? Saying the wrong thing?

If I am honest, I no longer want to see her. I still love her, but I do not like her.

But for the boys’ sakes, I pretend everything is OK. Because I don’t want to deny them their grandmother.

My Third Baby

I’ve talked a lot about TTC on this blog, so I don’t need to go into it here.

It’s enough to say that this has been in the background of all the above (or maybe in the foreground), since we first started trying in April 2012.

And now?

This brings us to 2014. The future.

If you are still reading, my god, good on you. You deserve a round of applause for sitting through the contents of my head for this long.

When I lie awake at night, these are the things I think about. My family, my childhood, my miscarriages.

I want to lay them to rest.

I want to bring peace with me into 2014.

So to summarise, I choose happiness.

And this is how.

1) The day I gave birth to my first son

I had a beautiful, healthy baby boy. It took me a while to recover. I did the absolute best job I could do given the support and knowledge I had at the time. Through it all there was nothing but love for my baby boy. My own love for him is the strength that carried me through.

2) Failing to breastfeed

I didn’t know how to get support. I didn’t have any family support. I did the best job I could. My boys are beautiful, healthy, and never had asthma, eczema or ear-infections. I did the best job I could do, given my circumstances at the time. Not being able to breastfeed did not and does not in any way diminish my love for them.

3) My brother’s psychosis

I put my family first now. My first priority is my family. No exceptions. I had to ease myself into that position after being the responsible one for so long in my childhood family. It was a transition I had to make, and I had to see it for what it was.

4) The reality of my family

Before I had kids, I did everything without help from my family. I am not going to resent the lack of support now, when it has never been there in the first place. I can’t rely on them. I can rely on my husband, and if necessary, we can rely on paid childminders. I chose to have children. I do not expect anyone else to look after them.

5) The reality of my childhood

It is what is it. I can’t change it. I only need to let the love I feel for my boys be the salve in the wounds of my own upbringing. My love for them is enough for all of us.

6) My mother

I must accept that this will always be a difficult relationship. I can’t change it and I can’t change my mother. The boys love seeing her and she loves seeing them. As long as that is true, so be it.

7) My Third Baby

I can’t say if this is a possibility or not. But I can stay positive. I can remain relaxed and always remember to be grateful…

…that I already have so very much.

 

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