I am Stop Asking Silly Questions Mum

“I’m not your best fwend Mammy.  I’m Emily’s best fwend”…

And there it was. In one simple sentence, I’d been categorically dumped by my one of my daughters… AGAIN.  I’ve been through this before and yet, like all things parenty, it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve experienced something, with each child you have, it’s all new again.

When I had my first wee girl, my aunt told me that I’d been blessed with my very own best friend forever.  We see signs and cards and photo-frames everywhere, stating that a daughter is a friend for life etc.  And this is largely true.

In my own case, I’ve been blessed with a wonderful Mum who I can happily call my absolute, all time, unconditional BFF.  We had our moments while I was (am) growing up, but we typify that stereotypical Mother/Daughter relationship and I know how very lucky I am. Friends may come and go.  Let’s be honest, only a handful are reallythere for the long haul, but Mamma Bear is a constant. 🙂

As my girls pass through the baby stages and began to bloom into the pleasant-if-sometimes-terrifying little personalities that they are, I fully appreciate their roles as my besties.  We do everything together; we have fun, we fight and we laugh and we cry. We bake, we go shopping, we play and we are wonderful at doing absolutely nothing together.  We work.  (OK yes, sometimes we work like a chocolate teapot, but hey. No one is perfect are they?)

In a world where everyone is busy and where as parents, we can often find ourselves a little isolated and out of the social loop for whatever reason, our friendships with our toddlers become more important to us than we can ever give them credit for.

My girls are my wee companions and they will always be 100% on my side (except for when they’re not!).  I know they’ll have my back and I have to admit that this tie, with Princess, I once again fell into the false security that I did indeed have my very own, custom made best friend.

Until again, (three years after the first time I made this mistake), like Snow White’s stepmother I asked the stupid question.

How quickly we forget the lessons taught to us by previous children.  For the past few months,  I had allowed this to become a daily certainty; an ego boost for me even.

Every day, “Who’s Mammy’s best friend?” has been answered with “Meeeeeeeee!” and usually accompanied by a giant cuddle and slobbery kiss…until Friday.

Princess was in her car seat, engrossed in a Paw Patrol book.  We were driving to playschool and I was chattering about what we’d do that afternoon when I collected her.

I may as well have looked in the mirror and chanted “Baby, baby, in the chair, Who’s your bestest friend in the world?”  Without a second’s thought, she announced “I’m not your best fwend Mammy.  I’m Emily’s best fwend”... and with that, the mirrors and illusions of my assumed Disney-perfect Mother and Daughter world, shattered into a thousand pieces.

Initially I laughed.  What else do you do? (For the record, the little girl in question is a wonderfully perfect BFF for my precious one.)

She’s branching out.  She’s socially accepted, popular even.  She’s making her own friends and she’s growing up far too fast.  It’s wonderful and it’s terrifying all at once, because while we parents encourage our little ones to grow and bloom every day, realising that you’re not the only thing your child needs in life, is just horrid.

We might be smiling, but we don’t have to like it.

Instead, we treasure every second, count every milestone, and celebrate every chapter.  We capture special moments in our memories, (or on our phones if we can!) We post on social media with pride.  We entertain others with our cute kiddies and we get through each day as best we can.  But sometimes, we get an inevitable slap in the face from our little angels as they take their own uncertain little stumblings through the big dark forest of the world.

As time goes on, I’m probably going to assume the persona of the Wicked Witch in both of my daughter’s eyes, rather than the perfect loving Queen.  That seems to be inevitable, but what is also inevitable is the certainty that some day, they’ll realise that Mammy IS actually their best friend again.

And until then, I can keep on asking the question and hope that the odd day, I get the answer I like!

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So Hands Up Who’s Done Their Homework?

Homework…

As a teacher, I can never discredit the importance of homework. It compliments learning and encourages independent study and learning.

I do however have a strange attitude to homework, it seems.

The teacher in me says that it is necessary…essential even. It allows students to check that they understand what was covered in class. It promotes responsibility for learning and pride in their own work, and it allows the teacher to evaluate who, and how well, their students have been learning. It also lets parents see what their kids are doing and how they are getting on.

But all of these advantages ONLY work when children do their homework for themselves. And it seems to becoming more and more ‘normal’ that the homework being sent home is becoming the homework of the parents.

When we were at school 359 years ago, we did our homework and went to school, where the teacher commented on it. If it was incorrect or insufficient, she or he told us; marked where we went wrong and showed how to fix it. If we made mistakes, we realised them.

If we couldn’t do it, we asked our parents to help and show us. They didn’t have Google, so if they couldn’t help us, they told us to ‘ask your teacher’. We learned to ask for help if we needed. And we learned that needing something explained again was normal.

IF a child doesn’t get the little x or the comment or the example of how to improve from the teacher, how are they ever supposed to learn?

Homework can be viewed as an essential part of learning, but with the increase in pace of life and the massive timetables and routines in most homes nowadays, it can also be seen as a torture.

Me? Now, as a Mum to a dizzy seven year old, I am absolutely aware of the royal pain in the bum that homework is.

I would like to see less written work some evenings, especially for little ones. I like the idea of set homework days. So many of us spend evenings taking them to other classes or activities, all of which are important for their development and confidence too.

And in some houses, there is very limited time between home-time and bedtime, and family time is limited because it’s spent trying to get through hills of homework, never mind cooking and feeding them and trying to fit your whole day into a few hours.

I don’t know about your kids, but mine is knackered after a full day at school. She wants to play with her toys, or read her books, or go bounce on the trampoline, or sometimes just watch TV … and by Thursday, she’s as done in as I am.

I see more and more parents online and in groups stressing about their kids’ homework. I had this conversation with a few friends recently. One stated that she feels like the homework is testing HER, rather than her daughter. Another commented that he feels useless as he’s unable to understand the homework his 8 year old gets.

And another said that the homework was taking nearly 90 minutes in the evening. Her children are 4 and 5. I stood pretty quietly if I’m honest, the Mammy guilt creeping in, because I am one of those BAD parents it seems. Because Mini-Me’s homework is HER homework, not mine.

You see, in our house, SHE does the homework.

I check it and I sign the diary. If I see letters back to front or a very silly mistake, I’ll point it out in a question. ‘Do you think that’s long enough?’ ‘Is that 3 written right?’ and ‘Will teacher be happy with that?’ work.

If she thinks it’s fine, I won’t correct her, even if I know that it’s not good enough. I’m very aware of how she is getting on and what she is struggling with, but I don’t fight with her. Because to be honest, she won’t listen to me anyway. Me telling her something is wrong goes over her head. Teacher telling her something is wrong however, is GOSPEL. And I won’t have my children growing up thinking that their school work is my problem. It’s theirs.

Why? Am I cruel? Am I lazy? Should I not be sitting down and guiding her through the work every night so she can present perfect homework to Teacher every day? Because that is what many parents do. And the kids go to school with perfect work and get no red marks and every one is happy… until they do a test and it becomes apparent that actually, Nancy doesn’t get long division, or Jimmy doesn’t know his vowel sounds.

How she learns and grows is not going to be dependent on how well I understand her multiplication or Irish verbs. And when she gets to secondary school, she needs to be able to manage her time and to take criticism. (And trust me here, that is a skill that our kids need. Because the number of teenagers who are genuinely unable to take criticism of ANY kind is unbelievable.)

The New Junior Cycle is so full of home-based projects and self-evaluation, that if we don’t allow our young children to do their own work, take the comments on it, apply them and understand, we are simply setting OURSELVES up for a lot of work when they get to secondary school.

I asked my followers what they thought about homework during the week. Here are some of the replies:

71% feel that their kids get too much homework.

“I feel I am putting more pressure on my child after school is over.”

“Yes. My son is 7 and his concentration is gone by the time he gets home”

“Yes. It’s a struggle everyday, especially if they have activities or classes to go to too.”

“I stopped checking their homework in senior infants. 100% result not true. They need to see the x marks.”

“Not every night, but my 9 year old is overwhelmed sometimes.”

“Life is too precious for homework, get out and explore!”

Then I had a few primary teachers reply:

One said that as a Mum, she hates it, but that as a teacher, she has to give it.

Two said that they hate to think they are putting pressure on parents but that it is a necessity for learning.

Another said “Under pressure to give it!”

One said that if she didn’t give homework “there are so many kids who would spend the whole evening in front of a screen,” and this of course is also true.

And a few reminded me that there are time guidelines that should be adhered to.

So it’s very much a double edged sword and I am the perfect example of the sword bearer.

The teacher in me gives it (although I limit it. I feel that if they’re engaged and attentive in my classroom, they don’t need daily home activities from me.) The parent in me hates it, but agrees that it is important too…

But ONLY if they are doing it themselves and it is functional and meaningful.

It’s her homework not mine. She needs to be able to take comments and criticism if necessary. She needs to learn the process of what she’s doing. If I do it for her, she’s learning that I’ll do it for her and that she can opt out.

But am I going to stand up in her exams and give a talk on how I created something? Am I going to sit her exams for her? Am I going to be there to explain to the teacher how I got an answer that she couldn’t do?

No.

But I will be there to smile at her when SHE gets 8/10 or to let her rant about being scolded. I will be there to cheer her on when SHE gets the best mark SHE can get. And I will be there to praise her when she finally figures out that maths thingy that she couldn’t do.

Because I’ve been to school. (I’m still there!) I’ve done my homework. I learned what I learned and I failed if I didn’t work. But NEVER, did my parents do any of it for me. And NEVER did they make excuses for me if I didn’t do it right or didn’t do it at all. And as much as I grumbled and complained about that as a teenager, I am now grateful for it.

There is no right or wrong here. Each house is different and every child has different strengths and abilities, and every parent knows what works for their kids.

But I’d love to know your general thoughts on homework.

Leaving Kids in the Car?

Right.

I am not a judgy parent.  I live by and promote the ideas of ‘each to their own’ and ‘whatever works for you’.  In fact I often call BS on Sanctimammies and their self righteousness.  You know that.

The only one issue that I will happily criticize is that of traveling in cars with kids who are not strapped in.  There is no excuse for that.  None.  Ever.

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However, this week I was faced with something else, another car issue actually,  that made me upset and angry and left me reeling with guilt if I’m honest.  I posted about it on my stories last night and it seems from the hundreds of Mums who voted on my polls, that most of us are on the same page when it comes to it.

On Monday afternoon, I was in Aldi-everything in Letterkenny.  I parked at the far end of the carpark as it was busy. As I left with my shopping, the car that was parked in the parent and child spot farthest from the door caught my eye.

There was movement in the back seat and as I passed, I realised it was a child.  Not an eight or 9 year old child.  I’d guess (and it is only a guess) that this little one was no more than 18 months old.

I looked around half expecting to see a Mum or Dad rushing back from returning a trolley, but there was no sign.  I went on to my car, unloaded my trolley and returned the trolley to the bay; which probably took about 4 minutes as I was at the opposite end of the carpark.

On my return, the baby was still alone in the car; granted quite calm and dry and not a bit distressed, but nonetheless alone and unsupervised and therefore, unsafe.

I asked my followers what I should have done.  The responses were mostly similar. Here are a few:

I’ve heard of people who take the child and go to find the parent, but that would distress the child more would it not? And technically, you’re lifting a child you don’t know…

I know some people who would ring the guards.  In fact so many have told me that’s exactly what I should have done, but I wasn’t sure if that was the right thing to do.  I also wasn’t able to hang around and wait for the guards to arrive as my own children were waiting for me to collect them and I couldn’t be late. So

I considered going in to try to find the parent, but let’s be honest, I had no idea who I’d be dealing with and while I’m not one to shy away from confrontation, I’m also not one to go looking for it.  And there’s a good chance that if that parent didn’t think it was a bad idea to leave their child alone in a busy carpark in the first place, they weren’t going to want to hear a lecture from me.

I often write about how we don’t know what a parent has been through on a given day.  So how could I, the preacher of this, be the one to chastise or challenge another Mum.

It doesn’t happen me often, but I genuinely had no idea what to do.

And so I went and sat in my car and watched, praying and willing the parent to come out and jump into the car.  I waited over 5 minutes and then I had to leave.  I’ve never felt so guilty leaving a carpark in my life.

I can still see that wee child in the back of the car.  I hope she wasn’t sitting much longer.  I have been racked with guilt that I should have done something since.

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So I put it to my followers on Instagram Stories and the reaction was interesting.  Hundreds of people voted and responded.  Here are the replies after 24 hours.

It seems that the general consensus is that it very much depends on a few factors: the age of the child(ren), the proximity of the shop and the length of time you’re away.

For example, most people agreed that to pull up to your local filling station/shop and run in to pay for fuel or grab bin labels or milk, was acceptable as long as you could still see the car.

Some said that sometimes, ‘if a child is sleeping or unwell or the rain is pelting down’, they’ll pop in but never for more than a minute.  And many of the mums who replied as

such said that they felt guilty about it and haven’t done it since.

Some said it depended on the age and number of kids. So leaving a young kid with older siblings is OK… for a few minutes.

ALL of them stressed that if they thought they’d be more than 2 minutes, the kids came in too.

ALL agreed that leaving your child unattended, 60 yards from the door, to go into a supermarket where let’s be honest, as fast as Jacinta-at-the-till is in Aldi-Everything, will ALWAYS take a minimum of 6 minutes even to run in for one item, was simply wrong.

I’m not judging Ladybelles.  I’m really not.  I have no idea what the circumstance was or who the parent was, but I do know that that child was alone in that car too long.  I have no idea how long she had already been there before I came out.

As parents, we are all too aware that it only takes a split second for something to go wrong or for something bad to happen. Or indeed for the wrong person to come along.  We might live in a lovely town, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ill-intentioned opportunists around, does it?

I just hope that the adult returned soon afterwards and that the little one wasn’t frightened.   And I hope that if they read this and know it was them, that maybe they might reconsider next time.

Because our children are our most valuable possessions and they should be kept safe to the very best of our abilities at all times.  That’s our job as parents.

Most of us wouldn’t leave our handbags in the car for the world to see; we hide it or take it with us, so I can’t understand why leaving a child is an option.

What’s your thoughts on this?

And please don’t be hateful towards the person.  This is not about bashing another parent, but it’s a conversation worth having.

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Some Things That No One Tells You Mum

Things that no one tells a soon to be Mamma.

Please be aware that this is a NHB (No holding back) post which may contain TMI for some readers! 😂😂

If you read this and wish you hadn’t, too bad really… But you can’t say you weren’t warned!

The Early Days

1. The first visitors to the hospital will be a blur. I was so out of it on adrenaline and whatever horse tranquilizers they’d given me that my first visitors still talk about how “great” I was… And yet I don’t remember a thing about the first day!

If you have other kids, manipulating the visitors so that your kids and then Grandparents are first in, is a military operation! Hopefully it will only be your nearest and dearest who come along initially.

Most people are good at knowing that it’s best to wait until Mamma is settled at home before they visit. There are no rules of course, but in my little rule book, only go to the hospital if it’s one of your closest friends or a close family member.

2. The interruptions: You’ll just have drifted off to snooze after finally getting your little one to nod off and the door of the ward shall swing open and in comes “The Beeper”.

The Beeper is the little Blood Pressure monitor and fancy trolley the lovely midwives push from ward to ward to make sure you and baby are doing OK. It looks like Johnny 5 and has a habit of appearing at the most inconvenient times.

Don’t get me wrong. The midwives have a schedule and have to do their rounds and it’s all in your best interest, but you will learn to loath the Beeper. But it’s only for a few days and it makes going home to your own bed all the sweeter.

3. Your first toilet trip: With Mini-Me, I read all the books. ALL of them! My Darling mother happily answered my questions with brutal honesty. When I found out I’d be having her by section, my amazing friend told me all about hers in her colourful language.

Having grown up on a farm and having helped out, hands on I might add, with MANY C-Sections on Cows, I felt quite prepared. I put my faith, my trust and my vulnerable self in the care of the surgeons and all was right with the world.

But NO ONE prepared me for the first toilet trip…when you go for your first pee, apparently it’s normal to feel like you’re being sliced open again without anaesthetic this time! I swear to God, I thought I was going to die right there on the loo. It was not pretty. The pain almost made me puke.

And as if that wasn’t terrifying enough, the first poo is fecking horrendous! I have it on good authority that it is the same for Mummies who deliver vaginally. Again, I thought my entire insides were falling out.

I roared so loudly that The Him actually called for a midwife and she had to come in to convince me that no, I hadn’t just passed my bowel and no, my diaphragm wasn’t in the toilet and no, I wasn’t going to die.
But don’t tell anyone. How undignified and ridiculous right?

4. The Boobs: Now, for me, this was a big deal. And I mean Big in every sense of the word. As a woman of the Fried egg club, to wake up on day three with two bald heads in my bra, was quite the trauma. I swear to God I looked like Jordan. I’ve always wondered if I’d like to have boobs… No. No I wouldn’t . Thank you. No. Give me my fried eggs any day.

5. The journey home: My memory of this one still makes me laugh. The walk from the ward to the car with your lovely car seat is one of the most surreal experiences of your life. I hadn’t stepped more than 6 foot to the bathroom in 4 days.

Suddenly I had to waddle my way down corridors, into lifts (oooooh that bump takes on a whole new level of weirdness after a section!), through a lobby (carrying balloons to boot!) and out into the car. It was like running 20feet and then thinking you’re ready for a marathon the next day.

Daddy is grinning like a Cheshire cat while you shall be torn between scolding him for swinging the seat too much when he walks, and holding your ladybits in because they feel like they are about to fall the hell out of you with every step!

Getting into the car is a challenge and then there’s the drive home. I dare say The Him didn’t go above 40mph because of the precious cargo and of course because of my delicate state. We both give out about ‘Dooters’ on the road, but Oh my did he ‘dooter’ out the road that day!

6. The tears: Oh tears. Those unpredictable little feckers… They come in waves. You have NO control over them. They’ll arrive at the worst times. And you’ll possibly laugh at the same time because you will have no idea why the hell you’re crying! But let them flow. It’s completely normal! I’m still crying over anything and my Baby is 3!

7. The Visitors: While you’ll want nothing more than to see people and introduce your new bundle to your loved ones, bear in mind that your first day or two at home will be exhausting, emotional and terrifying.
If I had been able to pay the miracle midwives to come home with me, I would have.
I remember getting to the house with The Him and the Car seat and being soooooo frightened. There was no buzzer. There were no nurses down the hall. It was just us.
But do you know, we were fine. As you will be too.

8. Newborns are actually much more interesting than you ever thought they were. But here’s the key. YOUR newborn is interesting. To YOU and your partner . Don’t be offended if your visitors only stare at the baby for a few minutes. Yes of course they’re interested and of course they’ll think your baby is gorgeous, but while you can watch this little person doing NOTHING for hours on end, to others, it is exactly that…a little person doing nothing!

They don’t see the miraculous progression from yesterday, or that the baby is holding your focus for a few moments longer… or that her grip seems more purposeful. So don’t get offended that your friends seem to glance at your little cherub, declaring his cuteness or that she has your eyes, before moving promptly on to some other topic of conversation. It’s normal.

And be honest, you’ve probably done it yourself many times. Because other people’s babies are not that interesting are they?

9. Lasagne can make you cry: The gifts and parcels and flowers will come and be hugely appreciated. But the most welcomed and remembered offering to the home of the newborn…is food! And the best kind of food is something that can be portioned, reheated, frozen or even eaten cold from the casserole dish. Think curry. Think chilli. Think lasagne. You never realised how good lasagne tastes. It’ll make you so happy that may cry tears of joy.

10. You suddenly won’t care who washes your knickers: Maybe this was just me. Before I had Mini-Me, the thought of someone else doing my washing would have driven me mad with shame. Not because there’s anything wrong with my smalls, No! But I could never have even entertained the thought of my Mum or Mother-in-Law washing them. And then I got over that VERY quickly. Because the first time I realised that the washing machine was going without me having started it, my initial panic was so overwhelmed by total gratitude that I even surprised myself. Now, I still don’t like the idea of someone washing my knickers, but for the first few weeks after birth, you really shouldn’t give a damn.

So now you’re home. And you could probably add 10 more things to this list.

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Add away Supermums

Stop Asking THAT Question

I’ve written about this before but it seems that it’s like non parents parking in mother and baby spots or people feeling the need to comment on how your baby is fed; it doesn’t go away!

STOP ASKING PEOPLE when they’re going to start a family or going to ‘go again’.

I know people don’t mean any harm when they insist on telling you that you should “be going again” or “getting a move on”, and yet often, these innocently thrown statements can stab a couple through the heart.

Firstly, why do people think it’s OK to assume that everyone wants to have more Babies? Or actually, even A baby for that matter.  Many people make the conscious decision that parenthood is not for them; that they are quite fulfilled and happy as they are.

Then there are the people who, no sooner have you popped out little Charlie or Nancy, but they’re telling you it’s time to get working on Jeremiah or Jezebel.  Why, oh WHY, do people think that it’s OK to ASK why a couple aren’t “going for number 3″… or 4, or 8?

And as for the people who tease a newly married couple, or indeed ANY childless couple, about ‘getting a move on’, well that is just a whole other level of silly beggar.

Here are 6 reasons to NOT comment on a couple’s NON pregnant state:
1. It’s none of your business.

2. You don’t know their situation. You don’t know if they’ve had a miscarriage recently. People don’t generally go around announcing that do they? In fact, we good Irish still fall into the trap of thinking that we aren’t allowed to tell anyone until the sacred 12 week mark, and so when things go wrong, couples often have no one to share their grief or help them through it.

3. 1 in 6 Irish couples currently struggle with fertility. How do you know if the person you are innocently teasing about “going for another one” or “filling that big house” isn’t one of those couples? You don’t know if they’re trying EVERYTHING and being constantly heartbroken. You don’t know if she’s injecting herself daily, undergoing physical and emotional and mental turmoil to try to help matters. You don’t know if he’s struggling with the fact that his sperm count is low. You don’t know if they’ve put every penny they have (and don’t have) into rounds of treatment, over and over again. You don’t know how deep your playful, well-intentioned words can cut.

4. Not EVERY couple WANTS to have a baby, or another Baby. For their own reasons. That they don’t have to explain to you.  And when a couple tells you that they’re all done or quite happy with their lot thank you, do not raise your eyebrow in a smug and all-knowing, “we’ll see” or tut at their ‘nonsense’.  You’re in murky waters now and you need to paddle back Dear.

5. Maybe that couple are in the process of adoption, or surrogacy. Maybe that couple are at breaking point, physically and emotionally and maybe…

6. …it’s NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!

Of course people mean no harm when we joke about “filling that big car” or “getting a wee brother for Nancy”, but like all things Parent related, innocent comments and harmless questions can cut through people like a bolt of lightning. We shouldn’t comment. End of.

So next time you find yourself about to joke or jest or ask someone about the state of their baby situation, consider this:  If they asked you about the state or your uterus, or indeed your sperm situation, how would you feel? Would you be comfortable if that person sighed and answered with “Well actually, we’re on our third round of IVF and we’re emotionally and physically exhausted and I’d love to tell you about it”?  Or if they said, “Well actually, we’ve had three miscarriages in the last 18 months” or “Well no, becuase we’re pretty sure we won’t be together this time next year.” If you would be able to deal with those answers, you possibly know the person well enough to know not to ask anyway.

If not, don’t ask and don’t comment.

Simples.