Category Archives: Motherhood

For my beautiful boy…

To my beautiful boy,

The other day, you asked if you could wear your Frozen dress to the supermarket.

Yes, you have a Princess Anna dress. We went shopping with your birthday money and the second you saw it, your eyes lit up. It was the ONLY thing you wanted; you were going to BE Princess Anna! You proudly brought it over to the till and it made me happy to see you so excited.

You’ve been Princess Anna a lot since that day.

But when you asked to wear it to the supermarket, I hesitated. And then I talked you out of it.

I’m sorry.

It wasn’t because I’m ashamed of you. Far from it. I will never stop being proud of you. It was because I was terrified that someone might say something nasty to upset you and quash the make-believe out of your soul.

Part of my role as your mummy is to protect you. Like any parent, I worry about the little things that might single you out for bullying, or name-calling, or ostracising. It pains me to think someone will hurt you one day.

But you know what? I’ve realised that alongside keeping you safe, it’s also vital for me to support you in your choices, rather than fear the consequences of them.

So if, while we’re picking up fish fingers from the frozen aisle, you want to pretend to be a feisty, fearless, kick-ass character who saves the day – and who happens to be female – then that’s fine with me. You are being a normal, playful three-year-old, who has a limitless imagination, and a wonderful sense of creativity and play. There are no boundaries in your world. You don’t realise you are breaking the mould.

Toys are toys. Clothes are clothes – that’s all.

So be yourself.

I will stand up for you. Because I am your mummy and I will have your back. Always.

Lego

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Muddling through

I have spent most of my time as a parent feeling like I’m muddling through. From the early days with Baby Number One (when I constantly wondered why he did not seem to do anything the baby books said he ‘should’), through to now (a few weeks before Baby Number Two’s first birthday), our days seem to be a pick-n-mix bag of ‘let’s just try it and see how it goes’.

Sometimes, muddling through can bring unexpected joy. Like when your kids just WILL NOT go to bed at night (but it doesn’t really matter, because it results in cosy cuddles on the sofa).

Sofa cuddles

9pm and counting…

Other times, muddling through means watching in bewilderment as your toddler goes apeshit about what you can only assume is some major catastrophic life event.

Leafgate

His friend picked up a leaf

It’s easy to feel like you’re the only one muddling through – that everyone else knows what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. So it always surprises me when, while chatting to other parents – those who seem to have routines and plans and well-behaved children who never have a meltdown over a broken cream cracker – they say, ‘Oh, you know, we’re just muddling through.’

Huh.

But you know what? This makes sense. Because when it comes to parenting that first tiny newborn, none of us have done it before. It’s a whole new world of responsibility, sleep deprivation, unexplained crying, and sleepsuits with roughly 3,000 poppers that never seem to line up properly. Then later, if a second baby comes along? Well, we’ve never had to entertain a fully-grown child while coping with all the above, either.

It turns out that, as parents, often none of us knows what the bloody hell we’re doing. We really are all just muddling through.

When muddling through goes well, it can leave you feeling like you’re clutching a winning lottery ticket on a blustery day: by some miracle everyone is smiling… but you know not to get too cocky, because the wind could change any second, whipping the ticket out of your hand and the smiles off everyone’s faces. This is called a Good Day.

And when it goes wrong? You can feel perplexed and unsure. You constantly doubt yourself. It can make you question whether you’re a good parent; question whether you’re good enough at all. It can leave you exhausted, frustrated and sometimes even in tears. This is called Never Mind, Tomorrow Is Another Day.

Now, I’m not normally one for imparting advice (because, clearly, I’m no expert), but in my three-and-a-bit years of muddling through, I’ve learned a couple of little tricks that seem to keep the peace, which I thought I’d share…

1 No matter how dire things seem, the addition of breadsticks will improve almost any ‘child meltdown’ situation by approximately 97%.

2 Fresh air, fresh air and more fresh air! It’s amazing how running around a green space releases tension. For everyone. (Some days we spend so much time outside, my kids think we live in the woods.)

outside

…and breathe!

3 Bring a tub of Play Doh/paper and crayons/playing cards/some Lego everywhere. Seriously, everywhere. Cuddly toys get boring fast, but an activity can keep them entertained for, oh, at least five minutes. Result.

But do you want to know the most important thing I’ve learned? The only thing that really matters is that you love your kids. If you do, then you’re absolutely nailing this parenting shit.

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‘Let’s play sleeping’

Last night, both of my children slept for 12 blissful hours, I had an unbroken night and I now feel refreshed and rejuvenated.

Ha ha ha ha!

Forgive me – my mind momentarily wandered into the realm of fantasy.

Of course they didn’t. And of course I don’t.

Sleep is a fairly contentious subject when broached in the presence of a parent of small children. Because, chances are, they aren’t getting enough.

As a runner, I’m well aware the golden rule when upping your mileage is to ensure you’re getting enough quality shut-eye, in order to aid recovery – yet another reason why I now breathe a monumental sigh of relief that I decided to pull out of this spring’s marathon. Because let’s face it, I could do all the training I like, but these days, when it comes to gently resting my head on a pillow every night, closing my eyes and switching off – well, it’s kind of out of my hands, isn’t it? My nights are now very much dictated by the two little sleep thieves I have created.

When it comes to night-time, they’re not bad bad. They’re just… well, not exactly brilliant.

The current routine includes the three year old needing to get up for a wee at some point in the early hours, with an occasional nightmare that requires cuddles and gentle reassurance to help him drift back to sleep. Pretty standard stuff.

The baby? Well. She is developing a far more creative bedtime schedule. She sleeps in our bed with us – a deliberate choice that we made from the start and are sticking with for now. Having her close feels right (although I’m aware this isn’t for everyone) and ensures she sleeps peacefully (she’s a bit like a cute hot water bottle), waking only to feed several times before settling down once more.

This, at least, is the theory. And in all honesty, for the most part it’s how it goes.

Apart from those nights when, for no clear reason, she wakes when it is still blatantly the middle of the night and starts making sweet ‘wake up Mummy it’s morning’ gurgles (at least, they would be sweet if it wasn’t THREE O’CLOCK IN THE SODDING MORNING! GO BACK TO SLEEP!).

Apart from those nights when she misjudges a midnight kiss on the cheek and head butts me instead, resulting in a rude awakening and a fat lip for Mummy.

Apart from those nights when she simply has to sleep in the shape of a starfish, slap bang in the middle of the bed, leaving me and my husband clinging to the edges like something out of Cliffhanger.

Apart from those nights when she decides to creep slowly up the pillow and do her Darth Vader impression directly into my ear, scaring the sh*t out of me.

As you can see, co-sleeping has its pitfalls.

So it was last week when, after a particularly bad night (three night wakings from the boy; five night wakings from the baby) I felt – how shall I put this? – f*cking shattered. I’d valiantly battled through a morning of painting and Play-Doh, supported heavily by my sponsors, Caffeine and Sugar. But by mid-afternoon, I was fading.

‘What’s wrong Mummy,’ my son asked.

‘Mummy’s very tired,’ I replied, stifling a yawn.

‘Poor Mummy. I know! Let’s play sleeping!’

Now don’t get me wrong, I never once believed any actual sleep would take place during the course of this game, but the opportunity to shut my eyes – even for just 20 seconds – was too appealing to pass up.

‘Good idea,’ I replied. ‘I’ll sleep here [positioning myself horizontally on the sofa]. Night night.’ And I closed my eyes.

‘No Mummy! NOOOOO! Get OFF! This is MY bed! You need to sleep on the floor. Like bunk beds!’

Okaaaay, not ideal, but hell, if it still involved some kind of closed-eye situation, I’d take it.

I dutifully slunk onto the floor (leaving my pride on the sofa). The baby started hammering a xylophone with a piece of Duplo. Not perfect, admittedly, but once I closed my eyes it was a good enough approximation.

Silence. For five seconds.

‘And now Mummy,’ a little voice declared loudly, ‘I’ll jump on you.’

‘Oka… wait? What?’

I should be thankful, I suppose. He did warn me.

Sleep

She’ll sleep well anywhere. Apart from in bed.

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2015: not a write-off

This time last year, as 2014 was drawing to a close, I did not have high hopes for 2015. In fact, I distinctly remember telling several people I had already written it off. The reason? I was expecting a baby.

I know, I know. I should have been brimming with excitement at the anticipation of such a wonderful, joyous occasion… but here’s the catch. I’d been there before. Two years and four months before. That first time around – expecting my son – I was so excited, so happy, so desperate to hold my baby in my arms… but once he was finally born, the reality of the post-birth healing, sleep deprivation, constant feeding and loss of my old life slammed me in the face and threatened to floor me. Then there was the crying. Oh God, the endless crying. My baby boy suffered so terribly from colic that he would scream for hours on end. It was draining; I felt like a bad mother – that I wasn’t good enough. I was to-the-bones tired and yet had to carry on – day and night – when all I wanted to do was curl up under a 10-tog duvet and close my eyes.

Don’t get me wrong – I was so very grateful and relieved my baby boy had been born safely and that he was healthy. But the actual parenting bit? It was so much harder than I’d expected.

Second time round? Well. I decided to expect the worst and if there were any rays of sunshine through the sleep-deprived fog, it would be a nice, balmy little bonus.

And a strange thing happened.

My daughter was born in March and my little family had the most wonderful year.

Newborn

Oh, hello!

Yes, it has been hard. Yes, I am tired. Yes, sometimes I feel like banging my head against the wall when I’ve had to say ‘Be gentle’ to my son for the 76th time that day. Yes, I am fed up of scraping bits of broccoli off the floor and discovering that I’ve knelt in a splatter of Weetabix/porridge/avocado again (bloody weaning). Yes, sometimes I’d love a weekend off.

But wow, the joy in our house. The love and the laughter and the noise. Just wow.

It helps that, as a second-time mum, I am so much more relaxed. I now have the confidence to raise my baby my way, as opposed to worrying I’m doing it wrong according to this or that book.

It also helps that my baby girl was a peaceful newborn and remains, for the most part, happy. Oh yes. She is smiley and calm and utterly chilled out with the world and her place in it.

But it is also down to someone else.

My funny, clever, sensitive little boy has simply shone in his role of Big Bro.

The baby cries? He hands over his favourite toy. She coughs? He pats her back. He has helped teach her to wave, clap and blow raspberries. I feared he would never stop bouncing up and down with excitement when she started to crawl. He has one-way conversations with her, and she smiles and laughs along with him as if she understands every word. He tells her he loves her. All the time.

Seesaw

Sibling love

OK, OK… so every now and then many times a day I’ll leave her happily playing with her toys and, on returning 20 seconds later, she will have been shoved over, a bewildered look on her face, with no toy in sight. But he’s only three. We’ll get there.

One other amazing thing has happened this year – so incredible it should technically class as a miracle: I have managed to carve out a little time for me.

Weird, yes?

I started running again. I started writing this blog. I have crossed the finish line of two 10K races in not-too-shabby times.

WR_Brock.PK_A_127low res

I’ve been beating myself up a bit recently for my lack of running, but you know what? I have realised I need to feel proud of everything I have achieved in my running shoes this year.

After all… 2015?

It was supposed to be a write-off.

ChristmasDay

Happy New Year!

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Reasons not to run

My name is Claire and I’m a runner.

Except…

It’s been 31 days since my last run.

So I’m not sure I can legitimately class myself as a runner right now. In fact, I’m seriously considering changing the name of my blog to Keep Eating Chocolate Digestives Mummy. This would currently be more factually accurate.

There’s a catalogue of reasons for the lack of exercise (isn’t there always)…

The baby contracted gastroenteritis; my son had a bad cough; the baby had a bad cough; I had a bad cough. The baby still hasn’t quite grasped the all-important concept that night time is for sleeping. There is, instead, still a considerable amount of feeding going on. Which is fine – she’s only nine months old. In fact, this is very normal baby behaviour. But all things considered, it’s left me a tad exhausted.

Then there’s the latest development… the baby is on the move.

Yes, in an unprecedented development, my baby girl set off at a decent-paced crawl at the ripe old age of eight months. Considering my son didn’t make his move until almost 10 months, I thought I’d have more time to prepare for this.

I know what you’re thinking: how is she possibly blaming her lack of running on the baby’s crawling? But bear with me.

It comes down to that whole exhaustion thing again. These children of mine are pretty active little movers and shakers. But do they ever both move and shake in the same direction? Do they hell. Generally, it goes like this…

The baby heads into the kitchen, in an attempt to partake in her favourite activity (licking the bin), at exactly the same time my son shouts, ‘Mummy I’ve got my crayons, I don’t want paper’; I grab the baby under one arm and dash to rescue my walls; the baby decides to rearrange the DVDs (while casually popping a piece of crayon into her mouth) just as my son races upstairs to find a toy; he slides down the stairs on his stomach, hurtling at an alarming pace, at the exact moment the baby decides to attempt her first ascent; and just when I get a moment to try to engage my son in a puzzle, I hear the baby thundering off (she’s small, but she sounds like a medium-sized herd of wildebeest) towards the bathroom for her second-favourite activity (trying to wedge herself behind the toilet).

DVDs

Just finding her favourites

Honestly? It’s like I’ve been charged with caring for a couple of hyperactive lemmings.

The result: I don’t think I sit down. At all. For the whole day. Apart from perhaps lunchtime, when I momentarily park my arse on the sofa, in between requests for yogurts/new spoons/breadsticks/drinks.

This is motherhood. And it’s wonderful, and all-consuming, and vital, and rewarding, and frustrating, and awe-inspiring all rolled into one.

But it is tiring.

So something has had to give.

For the moment, that thing is running. Hopefully not for too long, or else my sanity might make a dash for it out the back door one day while I’m not looking. I’m hoping that over Christmas, while my husband is around a bit more to look after our little lemmings, I will get back into something of a running routine again. Slowly; steadily.

Despite all this, I’ve learned something very necessary over the past month: I need to give myself a break. Running used to be a top priority for me. And it’s still up there. But something else has taken its place.

Two little things, in fact.

Sofa cuddles

My whole world, snuggled on the sofa

And that’s just fine.

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Sam’s story

Today, I spent the afternoon at my friend Sam’s house. We talked; our children played (and fought).

There is nothing unusual about this – we usually get together for an afternoon each week.

The difference at this time of year is that I become painfully aware that there are two people missing from the scene.

Nothing is different for Sam… she is always aware that two people are missing, no matter what time of year it is.

Sam and her husband Jim lost their twin baby boys at the beginning of October, four years ago. October also marks Baby Loss Awareness Week, the last day of which is today.

I am not about to try to tell her story. She has done that, here.

If you can, please click on the link above to read it – to help spread awareness of baby loss and, if you’d like, to help support Tamba’s research appeal, to try to help save more babies’ lives in future.

This blog post is for my amazing friend – a courageous, strong and wonderful mother of four.

J and I

My son and Sam’s eldest daughter. Best of friends. Mostly.

Not perfect? That’s perfectly fine…

The other evening, I sat down for dinner with my children. It looked like this: the two-year-old was eating a waffle and fish fingers. With lots of ketchup. The baby was being spoon fed straight from a jar of puree. We were sitting on the sofa in front of the telly. We weren’t even watching some sort of educational CBeebies offering… we were glued to Dragons: Riders Of Berk.

I’ll be honest – this wasn’t quite how I’d pictured mealtimes, back in the days when I was enthusiastically whizzing up a homemade puree out of an organic butternut squash.

A few years ago, I would have been mortified at the current scene (which admittedly is not every mealtime, but is regular enough that I couldn’t legitimately call it a ‘rare occurrence’). But you know what? Something has changed.

I’ve dropped the guilt.

This wasn’t even a conscious decision. It happened when my daughter was born. It happened because, frankly, running around after two children instead of just the one – and once more being on call during the night as well as the day – I simply don’t have time to worry any more. I don’t have time to worry whether the TV has been on for an hour more than it ‘should’ have been; whether all meals have been made from scratch; whether not taking my youngest to baby yoga/baby ballet/baby sign language/baby sensory classes is going to somehow stunt her development; and I certainly don’t have time to worry about how everyone else is raising their children – and how I compare. Ultimately, however parents get through the day, we are all doing the best we can for our children. And if that means a ‘from the freezer’ meal while glued to The Bedtime Hour to avoid meltdowns every so often most evenings, then that works for me. After all, tummies are getting filled and my children are happy. So now, rather than beating myself up about it, I’m happy, too.

There have also been a few actual parent fails this week…

I had 10 minutes to clean the house the other day and, on leaving the front room to locate a broom, returned to find the baby had discarded her toys in favour of the vacuum cleaner’s electrical cord and was cheerily using it as a teething toy.

Cable teether

‘Baby toys? No thanks Mummy, I’ve found this’

Then yesterday, while cleaning the splash mat after my daughter’s enthusiastic baby-led lunch, the toddler swiped the Dettol (which I’d left lying on the floor) and casually gave his little sister’s head a spritz.

BLW lunch

I’ll admit she needed a clean. Just not like that

In days gone by, both the above would have left me feeling like such a bad mother I’d have needed a 12-week course of therapy. These days? We simply rectify the situation and get on with things. Happily. No guilt.

It’s a revelation.

There’s been one other major change that has led to me feeling so much more relaxed and happy as a second-time-round parent: not only do I no longer have time to worry, but I have also not had a chance to open a single baby book.

Not one.

They have remained closed, on the shelf.

Which has resulted in all those ‘shoulds’ remaining on the shelf as well. Gathering dust. Where they belong.

Instead, I have been parenting by instinct. If it feels right to me, then it probably is. It’s liberating not to feel judged by a few hundred pages written by an author who does not know me, or my children. Not to be made to feel that I am somehow ‘spoiling’ my baby by cuddling her to sleep [check], bed-sharing [check] and baby wearing [check] (incidentally, I’m not saying any of this is the ‘right’ way to parent. It’s simply right for us).

Snuggles2

Sleepy cuddles to go. Nothing better

Ironically, this newfound ‘no-book’ attitude led me to an interaction on Twitter, which saw me recently attend a book launch. The Confident Mother by Sherry Bevan is a parenting book – but not as you know it. Comprising interviews with some truly inspiring mothers and experts, it doesn’t tell you how to parent: it simply helps you trust yourself. Its message is simple and brilliantly empowering – being good enough is good enough. Really.

I am not the perfect mother.

But I love my children with a love I never knew existed until they were here.

And that’s good enough for me.

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