Suddenly not in charge Mum

legs

Every mum has their own vivid memories of childbirth; some which bring little shivers of joy when we think of them; others which deserve to be put into a secret box and never brayed of tongue again.

For me, the arrival of my wee angel and the shock that she was not after all, a he, are obviously my favourite memories of the experience.  But there is one other moment that I often think of.  It makes me laugh out loud every time.

I still feel a trickle of mortification creep onto my cheeks when I think of it.  Because, that moment, just before my little one arrived, was the moment when I finally had to admit to myself, that I was not in charge…of anything.

I had to have a c-section. I was ready and prepared. Everything was calm and organized and exactly how I’d imagined it would be. (I grew up on a farm, so have witnessed dozens of MamaCows go through this procedure, so I knew the basic concept of what would happen! ;)) The doctors would perform surgery and Mini-Me would come out the sunroof, as opposed to out the door.

I’d never had surgery before, so of course I was nervous.  As I lay there, looking up at the bright spaceship lights on the ceiling, listening to the murmurs of the surgeons and anesthetist and nurses, aware of the beeping machines around me, I had a sudden recollection of the story of a woman who felt everything as the anesthetic hadn’t worked. In my calm, reasonable and logical mind, I realized that this would probably be what would happen to me.

I felt cold substance on my leg, which jerked me back from my reverie.

“1-10”

“Sorry?”

“On a scale of 1-10, how cold is this?”

“erm, 10”

Cripes, where the heck was my husband?

“1-10″

” still 10″

Ok, so now my fears were becoming a reality.

“Now?”

“8 I suppose”

Who should I tell that the anaesthetic isn’t working? They obviously need some sort of horse tranquilizer to knock my nerve endings out of action. I need to get my husband in so he can sort this…Hang on!  Who owns those legs?!

Two huge, gleaming white tree-trunk legs are floating in front of me, just above the blue divide that Mr. Surgeon has placed above my belly.  Two very strong women are holding one each and I’m suddenly aware that the legs are indeed, mine.  There’s a serious amount of maneuvering being done beyond the blue, but the top half of my torso is happily oblivious.

And so I began to laugh.  Not a subtle giggle of course. A proper crazy woman, high on an anaesthetic and other drugs that I assumed weren’t going to work.

And hence, my poor husband re-entered the room, just in time for the arrival of the Boss, to find his wife laughing like a bloody hyena.

Of course, the laughing turned quickly to tears of joy and all was right with the world again very soon afterwards.  I’d had my first ever surgery.  I’d had my first baby.  And I’d learned for the first time, that even though I thought I was in charge of things, I really and truly wasn’t.

I genuinely believe it was one of those precious moments of clarity and insight, It taught me one of the most important lessons I need to be a Mammy.  You might think you’re in charge.  You can pretend you’re in charge.  You might even convince others that you are in charge, but really, we never know when someone’s going to take control of your big white legs. And when they do, Laugh.

I am Suddenly not in charge Mum. 🙂

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I am Sweeties-Mum

tonguesweeties

“What do you want for breakfast?”

“Sveeeeeeeties!” she screams, sounding suspiciously like the Grand High Witch in Roald Dahl’s Witches.

“You can’t have sweeties for breakfast Silly Billy.  Would you like toast or Shreddies?”

“COCOPOPS!!”

“What about French Toast? You can crack the eggs for Mammy.”

“COOOCOOOOOPAAAAWPS!!!”

“Do you want to crack the eggs?”

“Meeee cwack the eggses!  I wub Fwench Toooast” – and just like that, I win. No row, just distraction. I’ve kicked the sugar craving in the arse.

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But where, oh where does it come from? At what point did I teach my little girl that sweeties and chocolate covered cereals are the ultimate prize? How is it that she knows what to say to wind Mammy up in the morning?

We’re a pretty healthy family.  We try not to eat overly processed foods.  We eat a varied and balanced diet of good food and tasty treats. Mini-me has been eating the healthier versions of cereal since starting on solids, and her favourite breakfast is in fact Shreddies.

She gets sweeties and ‘choc-choc’ as a treat.  We do reward good behaviour with a sugary treat…gasp!  But to her, a raw carrot or cheese and grapes is also a treat.

We thought we were doing it right. We thought that we were teaching her to love healthy food and to see Sweeties as occasional treats.  When I offer her diluted juice, she prefers water or milk.  She won’t drink fizzy drinks; her choice.  She loves fruit and breadsticks etc.  We’re doing ok.

So how is it, that when she feels mischievous, she knows to ask for chocolate covered cereal which she knows we don’t buy?

Well, probably because she had them once while on a sleepover, and loved them,  What child wouldn’t? It’s chocolate in a bowl…for breakfast!?

She also had great pleasure in throwing poor Granny under the proverbial bus one day “Granny gave me cocopops” she announced as we pulled into Granny’s driveway.

“Did she now? And did you like them?”

“I wub Cocopops”

Of course she does!

Listen, I get that people are happy to let their kids eat chocolaty breakfast cereals.  I have no problem with that.  It’s none of my business what other parents feed their little darlings.

We just choose not to give them to ours. That’s our prerogative as her parents.  We know we can’t control what she eats all the time, especially when she’s with other people, but we can influence what she perceives as good food or as a treat as she grows up.

People don’t agree with us. Sure there’s no harm in them.  My kids ate them and they didn’t do them any harm etc... Yes. Ok.

But we just don’t want to give them to her as an option.

Breakfast is one of the few chances we get to ensure that our little darlings leave the house ready for their day.  If we want to make sure that they are fueled with goodness, rather than with sugar, that’s OK too.

I can smell the sweetie irony though.  By offering sweeties as a reward for good behaviour, we’ve actually taught her that the sweeties are something precious and special.

So it’s absolutely my own fault now that she expects them as a reward for good behaviour.  It’s absolutely my own fault that she sees sugary treats as the holy grail and would chose the chocolate bar over the plain biscuit.

Of course it is.  But sure I would too.

As an adult, I have my own relationship with food.  I love it.  Eating is one of my favourite things to do. I love a bit of chocolate.  I love the odd sweetie. I eat well and I’m active, so these devilish treats are fine.  As is everything in moderation.

And that’s the key.  Moderation.

sweeties

She likes sweeties.  She likes chocolate.  So what? Who doesn’t.

She likes her good behaviour to be verified with a treat, so, I’m making an effort to replace these “rewards” with non-sweets from time to time.  Her craft box full of feathers and glue is now offered as a reward for being a good girl. Or I let her watch Minions (again!).

And sometimes, I’ll just reward/bribe her chocolate. Sometimes I’ll offer her sweeties. Sometimes, I’ll share the sweeties with her, (but never with Daddy!), just because I can.

And yes, sometimes I’ll give her sweeties when she asks for them…but not for bloody breakfast!

I am Sweetie-Mum 🙂

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I am Swearing-Mum

Last night, my Mini-Me said her first proper swear word.

Jeeeeeesus anyway,” she announced as she sat on the toilet.

Now, I know that children will copy what they hear, and I’m quite able to admit that I am no stranger to the odd expletive, but as a family, we do try not to use bad language in front of the kiddies.

Obviously, at some point, we’ve failed.

swearing kid

Not only did she pronounce “Jesus” quite beautifully; She used it in the same context that a grown up might.  She was frustrated (still no poopoo!). She was trying hard and getting nowhere.  She was exasperated and she knew exactly how to express it!

She also knew that it wouldn’t be acceptable, because those pretty blue eyes immediately darted to my face to see how I would react.  She was challenging Mammy.

We’ve been here before.  The first time she ventured into Bad-word-land was with “Shup-up”.  My reaction to that was an automatic scold.  “No!  We do not say Shut-up to Mammy.  That is not nice!”

The result? “Shuppy-up” is what she now reverts to if she wants to push Mummy’s patience.

This time, I was armed and ready. I did what any clever parent would do. I did the opposite of last time. I pretended it hadn’t happened and continued talking about Mr. Poopoo needing to go for a swim.

Not getting the reaction she wanted, she said it again…this time, more slowly and dramatic. (A born actress I tell you.)

Jeeeeeeeeesush.”

This time, I decided to take the bait, but on my terms.

Yes Honey! You saw Baby Jesus in the crib at Christmas! Aren’t you a clever girl?

This wasn’t what she’d anticipated in her brilliant toddler mind, but it seemed to work.  She began to talk about Christmas and Santa and her pretty dress and her Christmas Tree.  And so, I thought I’d won.

cursing

I thought that I’d done well.  I thought I was clever. I thought I’d distracted her and had taught her how to use the word properly. I’d turned the word back into what it is, rather than allowing it the status of swear-word.

That ‘Supernanny‘ doll should move into my house to see how it’s done.  I have it.  I’m in charge.

Smug and quite delighted with myself, I carried on with my evening. Husband would be so proud of how I dealt with the situation.  I’d be admired by friends with toddlers when I told them how to deal with their little Darling’s attempts to use bad words.  I might even win a prize of some sort.  I’d start giving lectures to parents on “Expletives and Toddlers: how to survive.”

Then I woke up.

Princess was throwing a strop.  She pulled off her Elsa dress and was screaming about her Tinkerbell Dress.  Whatever she wanted, I obviously wasn’t doing it.  It was one of those tantrums that began over virtually nothing and resulted in fire-alarm pitch screaming and stomping. She stormed into the hall…and suddenly, all of my smugness dissappeared…

BAAAABY JEEEEESUS ANYWAY!”

So, not only had I NOT dealt with this situation properly, I had given the little genius a way out.  A safe pass.  A golden ticket.  At only three years old, she had manipulated me and my words. What I’d actually done, was teach her how to use it, without getting into trouble.

I was gunked.  My jaw actually hit the floor.  I listened to hear if she’d say anything else.  She didn’t. She was waiting to hear my reaction.  She’s still waiting, because although I actually snorted with laughter, she didn’t hear me.  A few minutes later, she popped her pretty head around the corner. I carried on as if nothing had happened.

I know some people will be disgusted.  I know I shouldn’t have laughed.  I know it’s terrible that a child is able to use language like this.  But I also know, that sometimes, laughing is all we can do.

I’m not a psychologist.  I’m not a child specialist.  I’m not a genius.

I’m a mum.   I’m a mum who, once upon a time, thought smugly that my little girl would NEVER behave like that.  I’m a mum who is learning every single day. I’m a mum who will sometimes just laugh, because really, what other option do I have?

On a positive note, she’s learning. She’s testing boundaries.  She’s experimenting with language.  She’s establishing her little self in the grand scheme of things. And every day, I “Thank Jesus” that she can!

I am Swearing-Mum x

expletive

I am Silly Mum

imagineSilly Mammy!” I hear this daily. Sometimes it’s true.

I have found that since Mini-me suddenly turned from baby to toddler, that my inhibitions have pretty much diminished.  I went from thinking I didn’t care what people thought of me, to actually not giving a toss what people think of me.  It’s changed my life for the better and I owe it all to her.

I’ve always been a performer.  I’ve dressed up. I’ve worn ridiculous costumes.  I’ve danced ridiculous dances.  I’ve even stripped to my undies…but always in the safety of the stage.  My local theatre stage has allowed me to be dozens of different characters; the Liesl, the lady, the bitch, the hooker – and more times than enough, the blonde bimbo.

But no stage equates to the characters a Mummy can assume when raising a toddler!

At present, Mini-Me often assigns my character to me.  “Look Elsa!”  or “No Anna. I have to find Sven“.  Games that require the adoption of instant imaginary persona, are even coming more naturally to my Husband, who more often than not has to break into sporadic song, (whether he likes it or not!).

I’ve been every Disney Princess imaginable.  I’ve been an elephant.  I’ve been a spaceship.  I’ve been a mouse and I’ve been a scary monster. Whatever she wants me to be really.

greenwig

Today, I am Tinkerbell (apparently) as I am donning a green bobbed wig and am dressed from head to toe in green for our St. Patrick’s Day celebration at school.  I look ridiculous.  A part of me feels ridiculous.  I wouldn’t have dreamed of dropping her to childcare and driving to school like this a few years ago. I nearly didn’t this morning!

I can’t do this…can I?” was my first though when I looked in the mirror. Then, she bounced around the corner and her wee face said it all.  She grinned and announced “Oh Mummy! Your gween hair is boooootiful! SilleeeeMammeeeee!”…and so, feck it, it stayed on.

Yes, people are laughing at me.  I made quite a few students giggle and snort as I flounced to my classroom. I’ve had colleagues shake their heads, baffled…but people are smiling.  I decided to teach my first years Ceilí dancing instead of Poetry. They loved it. So did I. They think I’m silly (or crazy as one of them happily told me!).  So do I!

But I’m having fun and if nothing else, I might just be teaching some of them that standing out and being different is harmless. If they think it’s silly, good! If they think it’s fun, even better! If they don’t like the wig, they can ignore it. Some people will always be uncomfortable with fun.  There’s not really much we can do about that is there?

Mini-me has taught me how to play again. She’s teaching me that it’s OK to be silly.  It’s much more fun than being serious all the time.  I adore how she’s happy to wear her Elsa dress into town.  I admire how she smiles happily when people tell her she’s beautiful.  I love how she spins around when someone tells her that they love her dress.  My response to that is “Penneys best!”, automatically dismissing the compliment.

We don’t take compliments very well.  We don’t usually put ourselves in the spotlight… well, off the stage anyhow.  We dress as fashion allows, so as not to stand out too much.  We’ve forgotten how to be silly.

But we should be silly.  We should wear what we want.  We should sing at the top of our voices, even if it’s awful.  We should wear green wigs if the occasion presents itself. We should teach our kids to be who they want to be, how they want to be, and not to worry too much what people think of them.

She’s teaching me to be silly.  I’ll happily oblige!  It’s liberating.  It’s free and it’s fun!

And while, I’ll be teaching Shakespeare in about 20 minutes time and being very serious, I’ll also be wearing a green wig.  What my LC class make of that, is completely up to them.

Because today, I am indeed Silly-Mum! x

dress up

Seething Mum

Symbols are simple.  The reason we use symbols is to avoid misunderstanding. They transcend languages and general capabilities, allowing for easy communication.  Universally, red means stop and green means go.  We know which toilet to use because of the shape of the symbol on the door.  We can understand symbols on road signs, on advertisements, on everything.  But there is a verrrrrry special breed of person who has great difficulty in understanding a certain symbol…the parent and baby parking symbol.

why-do-non-parents-use-allocated-child-parking

This one seems to cause great confusion.

Yesterday, I witnessed a seemingly fit and healthy 20-something male, bounce from his car and pop into a local supermarket.  There were plenty parking spaces in the massive car park.  The weather was perfect for a little amble from car to shop door.

He had absolutely no sign of child in his well kept VW Golf and he wasn’t pregnant, as far as I could tell anyway.  And yet, he felt the need to park in the space.

Now, maybe he wasn’t taught symbolism very well in school.  Or, maybe he was taught it too well by one of those wonderfully talented teachers who taught him how to see hidden meaning and to think outside the box.  In  this case, the box is the very clearly lined parking space, and his metaphorical musings probably allowed him to interpret the blatant symbol as “a space for people who hope to one day have sex and make a baby in the future, so save your energy for the action and don’t walk unless you have to.”  

Or maybe, he’s just a plank.

Either way, I followed him, tutting disapproval and shaking my head.  He saw me.  He carried on, probably wondering why the crazy lady was glowering at him. I was angry. I was furious and I was quite happy to let him know it.

But, I didn’t.

He upped his speed and moved away from my disapproving glares as fast as his non swollen ankles could carry him. And I carried on into the shop, getting over the episode by the time I reached the meat section.

Then, I returned to my car.  Non-pregnant man’s car was still in the parking space. Another car had just parked in the one beside it and out popped a middle aged lady and probably her daughter.  Now, granted these spaces are reserved for Parent and Child, but when your child is in her late teens, you’re taking it a bit too far!

As I reached my own car, I saw a young mum.  Younger than me.  She had a  toddler hanging onto her leg as she tried to get her young baby out of its car-seat.  She was flustered.  She was soothing baby and agreeing with toddler, all in one breath.  She was trying to balance children and handbag. And she was a good 500 yards from the trolley bay.  I finished putting my groceries into my boot and pushed my trolley towards her.

Here you are love.  Take mines,” I said.

She paused,  looked at me and then at the trolley, and the relief washed over her face as she realized that this would instantly make her life a whole lot easier.

“Are you sure?” she asked.

Of course I am.  Here, take it.  It’ll save me walking back over with it anyway!” I sang.

Hang on til I get you the euro” – cue panic to find the zip of the handbag and frantic rummaging for the purse.

It’s ok Missus.  Honestly, just take the trolley!”

She stopped in her tracks.

Oh my God, you’re so kind!” she said, almost as a question. She seemed pretty baffled, maybe even suspicious. What kind of crazy lady would just give her a trolley, with no catch? One who’s been there.  That’s who.

“Thank you” she said, as toddler settled into the trolley, shouting “Push Mammeeeeee, puuuuush!”

You’re welcome! See ya” I smiled back.

I got into my car, feeling all good and nice.  Being nice is nice.  It feels nice.  It costs nothing…well, OK, in this case €1. But to that Supermum, it was worth a whole lot more than that.

And Karma works in mysterious ways.  To Mr. NOT PREGNANT and to all the other metaphorical symbol interpreters who see those parking spots as free for all, Karma is always watching. I hope that when it bites you on the ass, it leaves a big red bite-mark.

karma

So I was Seething-mum; seething that some people can be so inconsiderate and so self-involved.  But afterwards, I was also Smug-mum.  Because I chose to be nice and that’s enough for me.

S-Mum x

Still-no-poopoo-mum

potty

I did a poo tomorrow!” she screams at me. In the mind of 3 year old Mini Me, this makes perfect sense and should be sufficient in getting mummy to leave her alone and stop asking her to “pleeeeeeeeeeeease do a poo in the toilet”.

If only.

We’re potty training.  Actually, no.  She’s been potty trained since Christmas. And I’m a very proud Mum as it really only took a fortnight and 3 wee accidents to get to no nappies/no pull-ups territory.  It’s wonderful.  We can leave the house without a suitcase of paraphernalia.  A spare pair of Peppa Pig pants and a pair of leggings are now popped into my handbag, and off we go!

While I am of course, enjoying the utter joy of carrying my grown up handbags again, (in place of her baby bag/Minnie Mouse backpacks which have served as Mummy’s handbag for the past 3 years), I’m still terrified.

What if she forgets to tell me she needs to pee?  The ball-pool is after all, just too much fun to think of such banal bodily functions

What if she announces that she has to pee while we’re in that bloody retail park in town that doesn’t have a public toilet?

What if she pees herself when she’s away from me, and someone scolds her for not telling them she needed to go?

What if she poops?

Because, my little darling, while “potty trained” for the number 1s, is refusing, point blank, to poo in the toilet.  She promises me every day that she’ll “do my poooooos in da toiiiiilet cos I’ms a big gurl” She proudly announces to Daddy at bedtime that she “dood a poo in the toilet yesterday.” (Her lack of time awareness is quite cute and utterly comical really!)

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The reality is that she holds it in for days on end, resulting in a sore tummy, spotty blemishes on her porcelain skin and huge tennis-ball-esque poops protruding from her little toochie as she comes out from her playhouse or from behind the sofa.

She announces innocently that she needs the toilet, then, when she hears the plop of said tennis-ball hitting the water, she beams her sparkly smile, gasps and announces “I dooood it!  I pooed in the toiiiiilet!!”  (usually followed by “I need a Kinder egg” – thanks Granny!)

How do I tell her proud little self that actually, no. You did a poop that an adult would struggle to produce, in your pants, and the toilet/my hands/your little legs are now covered in it. In fact, sometimes, the offending poop looks ironically like a bloody kinder egg! (or in her own words…”It’s only Playdough Granny!”)

I’m living in a playdough nightmare.

I am quite literally. in. the. shit.  And I don’t have a clue what to do.

Everyone is offering advice.  I am taking it all gratefully and have tried everything from blowing bubbles while on the toilet, having whistling competitions to encourage the muscles to move, scolding, blackmailing and crying.  (me, not her!)

pottypublic

I explain to her patiently that Mummy put the poopoo into the toilet, after she did it in her pants, and that she’s a big girl and should tell Mammy next time.  I’ve turned the poos into little crocodiles who want to go for a swim in the toilet with the peepees.  I’ve tried the “You can show Baby Cousin how to do poops in the toilet“… I’ve tried everything.

So, tell me.  What have I not done? And more importantly, what can I do?  Because I know that “it’s just a phase”, “that they all go through it,” and “that she’ll be grand”, but as Mummy, I need to know how to avoid scarring her for life and leaving her afraid of the toilet! And yes, I know I’ll look back on this and laugh.  Yes, I’ll be well prepared for next time and it’ll be a breeeeeeze.

Yes, maybe she’ll just decide suddenly that the fear she has is gone.  Maybe, I’ll have another 3 months of poops in the pants.  Maybe one of my aunties or friends will untap the secret for me.  Maybe I’ll find something that works for us.  Or maybe she’s actually a psychic child and she will “did a poo tomorrow!”

Whatever.  While we wait, I am indeed “Still-no-poopoo-Mum.

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I am Step-mum

“Will you marry us?”

stepmum

Not exactly your typical proposal is it? But it’s how many proposals should now be phrased, because let’s face it, for most of us now, marriage is not just between the traditional two people. Sometimes, there’s the ex.  Sometimes there’s a dog who thinks he owns the bed.  Sometimes, there’s a child.  Sometimes, there’s the children.  Regardless, there’s the reality.

As a child, I did the “Monica“; marching through an aisle of appreciative teddy bears, wearing a pillow case as a veil, happily telling Ken that “I do,” while my sister practiced being bridesmaid.

I’m a Disney girl, so I’ve always been pretty sure that someday my Prince Charming would appear on horse back to my castle, to whisk me off into my happily ever after. And appear he did, (after a loooooong string of kissed frogs), admittedly however, not on horse back.  He arrived in a taxi to a house party, but he did indeed sweep me off my glittery stilettos and we’re doing a mighty fine job of the happy ever after!

But when I dreamed about my wedding and my future husband, at no point did I dream of marrying two men.  But that I did.

It wasn’t in my plan.  I’m pretty sure it isn’t in anybody’s plan.  When a couple are expecting a baby, it surely doesn’t come into their thoughts that someday, another woman or another man, will be parent to that child.  Of course it doesn’t.  But then, sometimes, our plans don’t quite work out the way we dream they will.

Families are complicated.  When you marry the man, or woman, of your dreams, the “us” you dreamed of can suddenly include a whole lot of people you never imagined having to deal with:  The child.  The other parent.  The parent’s partner.  The other baby. The mother’s family.  More often than not, things get messy, but if you’re in it for the long haul, you’ll quickly realize that the fighting has to just end in order for anyone to get on with things.

Of course every circumstance is different.  I’m one of the lucky ones I suppose.  My husband came with a perfectly wonderful mini-him.  I’ve had the pleasure of being mini-him’s wicked stepmother since he was only a wee toot of a four year old.  He doesn’t know anything else except Daddy and Me. And he is his Mammy’s own Prince Charming.

He’s wonderful with our own Mini-me.  He knows he’s part of a wonderfully functional dysfunctional little unit.  He knows that there’s been the obvious  difficulties in the past, but he also knows that he has a whole lot of love directed at him, from many different angles.

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I had friends at the start who thought I was crazy taking on another woman’s child.  I’m sure some of them still think it.  But, what some of them didn’t realize was that watching my manfriend be the best father in the world to his little person, was one of the reasons I loved him so immediately.  He would go to the ends of the earth for him.  He did actually, and you can’t buy that level of love and commitment. So as I stood on the altar and promised to love him, “and all the children we’d be blessed with“, forever, I was making that vow to not one, but two, men…And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m also blessed that his mother knows that I love him and has allowed me the pleasure of helping to raise her precious one.    Granted, I’m sure that I was never in her plans.  I know she was never in mines. But guess what? The universe threw our happy ever afters together whether we liked it or not.  We’re not in charge.  Even in my own self-righteousness, I’ve never underestimated how difficult it must be to allow a step-mum into your child’s life…I’m not sure I could do it. That takes guts. That takes a supermum. 🙂