Changing Phases

img_1653So, for those of you keen to know how the potty training is going (I’m sure you are all on the edge of your seats), we have had a major breakthrough. T is no longer crapping himself up to three times a day. He is, in fact, not crapping himself at all. He has finally got it.

You can imagine my delight when he started doing number twos on the potty. After months of him pooing in pants, saying I was over the moon is an understatement. No more dealing with the mess and no longer having to add small pants to the weekly shop. Joyous day!

The first few times he was successful tended to be rather epic affairs, getting on and off the potty for literally half a day before he managed to go. He sped up after a week or so and he now has it down to about an hour. So we have an hour of little trousers scooting up and down like yo-yos while he hops up and down on the loo or potty, does a tiny wee, washes hands, repeat to fade. Until, eventually, a small button of poo is produced. Whereupon I applaud and leap about like a deranged loon and reward him with Haribo. Then, in about an hour or so, the process starts again.

Now don’t get me wrong, this rigmarole is far preferable to dealing with dirty pants but, over the last couple of weeks, it has become a tad wearing. Especially as he seems to be able to produce about four or five micro poos a day. I am fully aware that this process is just his dear little head getting used to all the feelings and messages going on his body, but we seem to live in the toilet for the majority of most days. My hands are cracking up from helping him with endless handwashing and my mind is cracking up from the pure repetitive nature of it all.

img_1650And it isn’t just waiting for a poo that is taking up time. He has pretty good bladder capacity but, for some reason, he has become obsessed with the ritual of going for a wee. If we are home, he goes several times and hour, just for fun. When we are out he is far less bothered by it, because he is busy. Not that we haven’t been caught short out and about. We have. Plenty of times. I’m very grateful that he has already mastered the art of peeing standing up. There are few bushes we’ve not anointed on our travels.

Incredibly inconveniently, he always needs to pee at school pick up time, just as the kids are on their way out of the classrooms. We leg it to the loo and T does his 86th wee of the day, while I panic about the older two coming out and fretting over their absent Mother. Such a regular occurance has this school pee become that M’s teacher now just smiles and nods at me as we manically scamper past, reassuring me that she’ll keep hold of my girl for me until we get back from the wee run.

So, in under a month, we have gone from small, soiled pants to endless loo trips. And this change, from one pain the arse to another, has got me thinking about how nothing lasts for long. The phases of parenthood can be so brief, both the good and the bad. Not that they feel that way at the time, of course. One minute, you are ripping your hair out over something, desperate to know how to fix it, and then, almost overnight, that problem has completely evaporated and something new has cropped up to replace it. It might be better, it might be worse, but the main thing is that, just before you feel you are about to lose your mind, it is different. A change is as good as a rest, as they say, and the very fact that the shit you are dealing with (whether literal, as in our case, or metaphorical) is different shit, suddenly makes it bearable again.

I am a tad prone to melodrama in life, I’ll freely admit, but perhaps I’m taking this uncharacteristically grown up view on time passing because I have a new nephew who is just five months old. I’ve watched his rapid change from helpless newborn to entirely engaged little person recently with a sense of amazement. Can my own babies’ early months possibly have passed that quickly when every age, every tricky phase, seemed to last a lifetime?

img_0201With my first especially, my H, I remember each stage feeling endless. It was so difficult and stressful, I felt we had been enduring it for a decade by the time he reached three months. Looking back, I imagine him as a babe in arms, little red face screaming up at me, for painful years on end. But – in real time – that phase was only a matter of weeks. How can time play such tricks?

So, whilst I know I am unlikely to forget the hell of potty training both of my boys, I suspect the pain will seem longer than it actually was when I look back on it. (My girl was a doddle in comparison, by the way, apart from a particularly memorable flood in a little National Trust cafe).

Or perhaps time will mute the misery. You never know with memory. It is a funny thing, especially when it comes to the crazy world of childrearing. So many emotions flying about, so many battles, large and small, lost and won. All compacted down into hazy, vastly inaccurate little glimmers of how things were or might have been.

I’ve never been of the ‘enjoy every moment’ camp. Let’s be honest, there is much of parenting that only an idiot would relish. Does anyone enjoy flushing the contents of a potty and having splashback on their slippers? No, I didn’t think so. I’ll never, ever tell a new mum who looks like she is on the verge of tears while her baby kicks off that she should ‘enjoy every moment’. But I do think it is worth remembering – when you can see beyond the fog of whatever shit you are going through – that nothing lasts for long. With any luck, change will come just before you lose your mind. And you’ll soon be wondering what you were so stressed about.

So, until change comes to release me from this endless round of loo trips, I’m just going to have to grit my teeth, keep the Detttol to hand at all times and remember, nothing lasts forever. And if it feels like it does, then a very large glass of wine usually helps.

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Travel Trauma

imageWe just got back from our first foreign holiday with the kids, having opted for cheaper, easier (and wetter) holidays in the UK for many years. After a total washout holiday last year, we took the plunge and went to Corfu. And we had a really brilliant time. From hours on the beach in the sunshine to dolphin spotting on a fantastic boat trip, it was pretty ace, all in.

But you don’t want to hear a dull holiday report of everything going beautifully, do you? Let me instead tell you about our travel trauma on the way home. It was one of those days when, even as I was going though the worst of it, I knew that one day I would look back on it and laugh. So hopefully it will amuse you too. Just don’t read it while eating. You have been warned.

Before we even set off, our M was looking peaky. She had been very subdued and tired the night before and was looking rather washed out and pale, as if she was coming down with something. She refused any breakfast and tried to sleep whenever we sat her down anywhere. She was also car sick for the first time ever earlier in the week so the prospect of getting through a whole day of travel without incident wasn’t looking great.

imageLike a good, organised parent, I made damn sure I was fully prepared for possible spew ups in the coach transfer back to the airport. I packed a plastic bag – having first checked for holes – a whole pack of wipes, a spare t-shirt for M, a bottle of water and lots of tissues. I then congratulated myself for being so clever and forward thinking.

We got on the coach, which was already pretty full. I wanted M to be near the front and my little limpet boy T wanted to be near me, natch. So I sat M next to the window in the first free seats, with me beside her and her T just across the aisle, next to a woman who looked less than pleased about having to endure a coach trip with a snotty toddler. Little did she know what she had coming. But more on that later. My husband and H had to sit half way down the coach in the next available seats.

Well, as expected, we were about half way through our coach journey and my poor little girl was looking awful. I was on standby with my pre-tested carrier bag. Chirpy T was being very good across the aisle, yelling about all the other buses he could spot, making the woman beside him wince at the volume.

imageM started to throw up and, despite me having an open bag on her lap, a good deal of it missed the target because she clamped her hand over her mouth and vomit squirted out between her fingers at crazy angles. It was all over her, on my hands and on her beloved Bear. Sick bag fail. After a very brief moment of panic, I rallied well and dug into my bag, nicely spreading the vom around inside it from the back of my hand. I retrieved the wipes and used about half a bag to clean us up pretty well.

The vom bag was a right off with spew dripping down the sides and, from the look on M’s face, more was clearly on the way. I frantically searched in vain for another bag in my rucksack but only found about 50 nappy sacks, which were clearly not up to the job. So I did a stage whisper down the coach to my husband, who dug out and lobbed down a beaten up old plastic bag with multiple holes in the bottom. It would have to do.

imageOriginal spew covered bag inserted into hole-filled bag, along with handfuls of used wipes, and we were ready for round two, which didn’t take long to arrive. Throughout the whole process, dear little M was remarkably calm and a total trooper. No crying or yelling. She just quietly threw her guts up, whilst I tried to deal with the fallout in as inconspicuous a way as possible. The smell may have given us away a tad but I thought, given the circumstances, things were just about under control.

It was at this point that T started moaning from across the aisle. And I don’t mean a bit of background, bored griping. I mean serious whining. I was still balancing the bag of doom on M’s lap when this moaning ramped up and suddenly, out of absolutely bloody nowhere, he projectile vomitted up his toast and jam. This from a kid who has never been travel sick in his life and, unlike M, had showed no signs of illness previously.

It was one of those moments when you are literally frozen in panic. I had spew on both sides and I had no idea what to do next. I wanted a hole in the bottom of the coach to swallow me up. My husband clocked that something was afoot but had no idea what until I turned to him and simply mouthed “Help!”

He was there in a flash and, thankfully, got the clean up started as I was still reeling and frozen in horror. It was one of his most epic moments, for which I will be eternally grateful. T was stripped, the remainder of the pack of wipes was used up and vom was picked out of hair. About 40 of our 50 nappy sacks were employed to bag up various items of clothing and regurgitated matter. And let’s not forget that T was sat next to some poor random woman who did her very best to stare out the window and ignore the whole drama, whilst surreptitiously dodging bits of flying spew.

We finally pulled into the airport and I could have wept with relief. I apologised profusely to the woman and bundled our nappy clad toddler and vom girl off the bus, followed by H who was loudly saying “So, has everyone been sick?!”

Multiple bags of vom dumped, full body changes and lots of washing of hands and hair in the grimy toilets and we were sorted. We had no wipes left but hey, we were at an airport, so there was bound to be a chemist here, right?

After standing in no less that six different queues, we were through security and went in search of a chemist. Hmmm. No chemist. But surely one of these random tat shops would sell some basic essentials like baby wipes, wouldn’t they? No, they wouldn’t. If we’d been after olive oil or Greek tourist crap though, we’d have been sorted.

So, we were stuck in the limbo world between passport control the aeroplanes, with a two-hour wait and a three-hour flight ahead of us, with three kids, one of whom still wears nappies and was definitely due a crap.

imageI stocked up on napkins from the snack bar and a large bottle of water as my makeshift wipes kit and prayed.

Our flight was eventually called and we were in our final queue to board, with T happily watching the planes out the window. He ran over to tell me all about them and the whiff hit me. He had done a massive shit. Excellent timing, son.

On to the plane we went and my first question to the smiling air steward was “Are there sick bags in the seat pockets and can I use the toilet right now? This one has done a big poo”.

I won’t go into details but I hope you never have the experience of having to change the nappy of a gangly toddler in a tiny aeroplane toilet with nothing but napkins, hand-towels and water at your disposal.

The rest of the journey was thankfully uneventful. As uneventful as flying with three kids can be anyway. Until we got to Gatwick and realised one of our bags had gone AWOL en route. Marvellous.

Given how straightforward our journey to Corfu was, and how horrendous the trip home was, I think we’ve seen the full gamut of what travel with kids can be during our first foray into foreign holidays. We saw the highs with the total joy on the faces of kids flying for the first time, and we definitely saw the lows.

If I can take any positives from the lows, I guess I at least have a good story to embarrass the little two with when they are older. Oh, and I now know that it is a good idea to take travel sickness tablets for kids with you on holiday, even if you don’t think you’ll need them.

And wipes. Definitely take more wipes.

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(In in case you were wondering, Bear has been washed on a delicate cycle, smells sweet again and is recovering well from his ordeal).

When to Admit Defeat

imageKids really are gross. As I may have mentioned once or twice, I really, really hate potty training. It is, in my eyes, quite possibly the worst, most disgusting parenting experience to date. Which is saying something.

Let’s be honest, kids are pretty foul from day one. They wipe their snot all over your clothes, do explosive poos, even throw up in your hair. But there is something so gross and soul destroying about dealing with poo-filled pants on a daily basis. I think it trumps all the other things hands down. It is the pure, shitty relentlessness of it.

We embarked on our third and final potty training journey about two months ago. It started well and T nailed getting wee on target immediately. OK, so he was still pooing in his pants but it was early days. I even proudly announced that he was the best so far and was sure that my clever boy would work out number twos soon enough.

Days and then weeks passed with daily turds in kecks. We had a couple of memorable craps to deal with: one down the trouser leg and one he tried to clean up himself, mostly by rubbing his arse on the wall.

Still I persevered. After all, my eldest did poos in his pants for about three months before he finally worked it out. T would get it soon, surely. And I didn’t have a little baby to manage as well this time round, so how hard could it be? I just had to endure it for a bit longer and he would hit a turning point and work it out. So, I bought more cheap pants and braced myself for yet more shit.

imageOne thing I didn’t want to do was go backwards. I have always believed that mixing up nappies and pants during potty training just leads to confusion, so the best option seemed like sticking with it.  Besides, I really wanted him out of nappies in time for our holiday at the end of August and time was ticking.

But the strain of dealing with the accidents has really been getting me down. It is one thing coping with it at home but out and about is something else altogether. I no longer carry nappies everywhere, as I have done for over eight years now. Instead I have the Shit Kit, a bag full of numerous pairs of pants and trousers, poo bags and wipes. If anything, it is more cumbersome than the changing bag used to be.

Plus there is the feeling of dread when away from home. A trip to soft play is positively terrifying. What if he has a crap in the ball pit? Wherever you go, you invariably end up trolling about with a bag of poo-smeared trousers stuffed into your bag. And dealing with the fall out in a park or a grubby public loo is just foul. Half a bag of wipes to clean legs, bum and hands later and you still feel like you are both grubby.

I can’t help but get annoyed with T after the third accident of the day and he is now refusing to even try to do it on target, opting for hiding behind the sofa instead and not telling me he has done a poo, leading to dried on disasters to deal with.

I keep beating myself up for not knowing the solution to this. I mean, third time round, I should be able to work this out, right? And I feel really annoyed with T for not even trying to figure it out. I have gone from being really proud of him to really pissed off. He must be confused and he is clearly worried by failing. So I am being horribly unfair but it is just impossible to smile through it sometimes. I do my best to hide my frustration but sometimes it shows.

imageWe are both getting more and more stressed about crap. So I decided to forget my own rule about not going backwards. After all, I made the rule up and, as I have clearly demonstrated three times now, I am in no way an expert on potty training. So the rule is no more.

Yesterday morning T crapped himself and I made the decision that it would be the last pair of binned underpants for a while. The pull ups are back. And do you know what? We both had a lovely day. There was no pressure on T and he behaved like a dream, which for my naughty little lad is a very rare thing indeed. I didn’t even pester him to wee on the loo and he absolutely loved it. He happily reverted to babydom without a backward glance.

So, have we just wasted the last two months of misery by going backwards? Am I just giving up when the going gets tough? Possibly. But I hope not. I hope he remembers what he has learnt and can pick it all up again when we are both in a better place for dealing with it.

imageI do feel a bit annoyed with myself for not allowing T as long as I gave H when he was struggling to poo on target, for running out of patience with it. But my boys are very different creatures and what is right for one isn’t necessarily right for the other. Besides, I only had H and his baby sister to worry about back then. I was on maternity leave and yes, dealing with it when there was a three month old baby in the house was no kind of fun but, on reflection, it was probably easier than it is this time round, with three kids, work, school and various other commitments to juggle.

Even if we are back to square one when we restart in a couple of months, at least we will both have had a break. And boy, do we need a break. Two months is a long time in the life of a not-quite-three year old. Who knows how my funny boy will have developed and changed by then? So I am hopeful. There is no point in being any other way.

For now though, we are both going to chill out and relax about it all. T can merrily crap himself without guilt and I can stop feeling like I am banging my head against a wall of turds. If he is still in nappies by our holiday, so be it. Shit happens. He can happily crap while the sun shines as I drink cocktails without having to run back and forth to the loo with him every five minutes. And we won’t have to worry about a poo in pants on the aeroplane either. Every cloud, and all that.

I dare say I’ll let you know how we get on next time, if you can stand reading any more about shit, that is.

As I said, kids are gross.

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A Trip to the Dentist

imageI’m not a great believer in the Terribe Twos. I mean, I know they can be awful but I’m not sure they are much worse than the Ones or Threes for the most part. Also, when you have one nicknamed Terrible T, I think you would be wise to expect trouble at every age.

Well, two-year old Terrible T has been well and truly living up to both his name and age this week. It has been meltdown central around these parts. He is at nursery today and I have had a blessed and very rare day off from both kids and work, but between him waking up and me handing him over at the nursery door he managed to have scream ups about all of the following:

  • having his nose wiped
  • having his nappy changed
  • having lost Luigi in bed (a little plastic figure that is his current toy obsession)
  • getting milk on his PJs
  • not being allowed more Shreddies – whilst sitting in front of a bowl full of Shreddies
  • not having Marmite on his toast – having just requested honey
  • not being allowed to use his sister’s toothbrush
  • having his teeth brushed at all – I ended up sitting on him
  • putting his jumper on to leave
  • not being allowed to wear Crocs to nursery
  • not being allowed to sit in his sister’s seat in the car.

And this was all in just one hour. On the occasions when he has been with me all day this week, I’ve been in bits by about 2pm and counting down til Wine o’Clock. I know he has a bit of a cold, which probably isn’t helping his mood, but I really don’t think that is an excuse to be evil personified. Almost everywhere we have been this week, we have eventually had to leave with him bundled under my arm,  screaming his bright red little face off.

So, you can imagine my joy when I got a text on Monday reminding me that we had a dentist appointment for all the kids on Wednesday, which I had entirely forgotten to add to the calendar. Going to the dentist is often quite an experience with my mob even without devil-child T’s foul temper so I admit I had a wave of weakness and contemplated postponing it. But I have been a bit worried about one of H’s teeth for a while so I thought I’d better bite the bullet and face up to it.

The appointment was early, so getting out the house on time was a trial in itself, but we made it. I then had to quickly fill in loads of forms stating that none of my children were heavy drinkers, pregnant or smokers (why do they make you do that every time?) So I was nicely distracted for a few minutes, allowing the mob to run amok, climbing all over chairs at high-speed, around a poor fellow patient who looked less than delighted to have T’s snotty, grinning face thrust at him from standing on the next chair. H, being the oldest and vaguely responsible one, was very loudly shhhhh-ing the other two and saying “We have to be quiet! There is a MAN!”, which was somehow more embarrassing than the climbing and giggling.

imageLuckily our lovely dentist took pity and called us all in before anything got broken. When asked who wants to go first, T shouted “Me me me!” and was full of smiles as he climbed onto the chair and took a slow ride backwards. I literally couldn’t believe my luck, having been fully expecting him to kick off over it. He was good as gold in the chair and, apart from thinking the little mirror was a spoon and trying to eat it – which the other two roared with laughter over – he was a model patient.

Next was H, who is an old hand at these things and was very good. However, T now realised that his role had switched from ‘centre of attention’ to ‘waiting patiently’ and was, as a result, getting rather stroppy. He started asking for Luigi, who had been left at home, and the moaning was gradually ramping up, with a full-blown meltdown on the not-so-distant horizon. I was trying to keep him calm with whatever I could find in my bag, whilst also listening to the dentist telling me about H’s problem tooth and a not unexpected orthodontist referral coming our way soon, complete with possible tooth extraction. Ugh.

I hit on the idea of giving T some paper and the pen and clipboard I’d used to fill in the forms, which miraculously worked for a short while and kept him distracted while I dealt with M. My girl has white coat syndrome, after a couple of very traumatic A&E trips, so she is always tricky at the doctor or dentist.

imageWell, having been happily giggling while the boys were in the chair, she decided to kick off when it came to her turn. I finally persuaded her onto the chair by sitting down on it myself and lying her on top of me, which has worked in the past. But she is now a leggy five-year old who was kicking and squirming to get away. I can tell you, lying on your back with a bright light in your eyes, trying to hold a kid of that size who doesn’t want to be there, whilst conversing with a toddler about his picture of an octopus and attempting to listen to instructions about how to deal with weak enamel teeth is not any kind of easy.

The thing that really did M in was having some protective paint put on her weak teeth. She started screaming that it was disgusting, thrusting both hands into her mouth attempting to scrape it out and biting her cardigan sleeves, which came out covered in white goo.

Whilst M yelled and made dramatic fake retching noises, I said thanks to the dentist (who was beyond lovely and understanding, thank God) and attempted to get T to return the clipboard and pen to the receptionist. Well, I expect you can imagine how well that went down. Suffice to say, we left with T under my arm, beetroot faced and so angry his screams had gone super-sonic, and M crying and shouting “I am going to be sick!” whilst clawing at her tongue. Poor H had his hands locked over his ears and a look of dread on his face about the potential tooth extraction.

So, a jolly morning was had by all! I know all toddlers can be awful but, when he gets into one of these phases, T has the power to make the challenging almost impossible. A trip to the shop to buy milk becomes a mountain to climb and a trauma to be endured.

Hopefully cute, cuddly, happy T will be back soon. Sure, the cute version is naughty and far from pliable but he is also fun and funny. Terrible Tantrum T is no fun at all. Even if he does still manage to look cute from time to time, when he pauses for breath between screams.

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Raising a Rule-Breaker

imageThere is something about third children. Most of the thirds I know are somewhat rebellious, to put it politely. You could also call them ‘little shits’ if you were feeling less generous. Opinionated, strong-willed and challenging. Thirds don’t take any crap but they give plenty.

My third, my Terrible T, is just so wilfully naughty. He is challenging us in ways the the older two never did and just recently he seems to be really ramping it up. It might be because I’ve been ill this week with a monster of a cold that it has been getting to me more than usual, but I don’t think it is just that. T is starting to push really hard against the boundaries to see what he can get away with. And, my goodness, it is exhausting.

You see, T is over two-and-a-half now and he is a bright little button so he is fully aware of what is considered to be acceptable behaviour. He totally knows the rules. He just chooses to believe that the rules do not apply to him. The older two were little monkeys as toddlers and very naughty at times but they are, deep down, rather law abiding citizens. They like the stability of rules. I think it makes they feel safe and happy to know what the boundaries are and, for the most part, they have stayed within those boundaries.

The same cannot be said for T. He is first of our children to draw on the walls. Repeatedly. He is the first to have eaten soap. The first to have wedged magnets into the radiator grill, to have broken the door off the dolls house and to have rubbed Vicks all over the carpet. After having two kids, you feel pretty well prepared to deal with whatever a third one can throw at you. Well, T seems to have come into the world determined to shake that sense of security that we once had to it’s very core.

imageNothing is safe with T around. I found him in our bedroom earlier this week, squirting decongestant nasal spray all over his head. He was soaked with the stuff. And just yesterday morning I got back from taking the older two to their swimming lessons to find that T had taken advantage of Daddy being busy with the noisy vacuum clearer to squeeze an entire tube of very thick hand cream all over the Happyland house. I had started to clean it up – which was no mean feat as the cream was so gloopy and had been smeared into every little crevice – when I heard a cry of horror from upstairs. T had found the only non-washable pens in the house, in M’s Tinkerbell pencil case (which had been hidden in the bedroom, apparently away from her marauding little brother). He then decided to customise the kid’s bedroom carpet with them. He has basically ruined it.

imageThe most infuriating thing about our smart little lad is that not only does he know he has done wrong but when you tell him off he doesn’t seem to give a damn. He looks at you, sometimes even smiles sweetly and says “oh dear” or “sorry”, and then goes off on his merry way to cause yet more mayhem. The biggest indication that he is fully aware of how naughty he is being is that he has started shutting doors to hide his misdeeds. He takes himself off in search of something to fuck up, closes the door and gets to it, causing as much trouble as he possibly can before he is discovered. He has also started hiding when he knows he has done something terrible. Like all 2-year olds, he is pretty crap at hiding.

T demonstrates a level of mischief making and destruction that we simply haven’t encountered with the older two and I have to say it makes us a tad nervous about the future. He can be so incredibly naughty, doing things he knows are wrong just because he wants to, and it is very hard to control his naughty whims. So what the hell will he be like as a teenager? I foresee a total rebel, trying out anything banned just because you have told him not to. That kind of kid could easily come a cropper. Hell, he is already pushing the limits of our control and he is just a tiny tot. Who knows what a 15-year-old T will be getting up? It gives me the fear.

imageT has been playing with the Happyland house again today (he has also been drawing on the bedroom wall, which I’ve just finished attempting to clean off, turning it into a blurry, grey mess in the process – but we won’t talk about that). As he played, he was chattering away with the little people, putting them to bed, giving them a bath, and every now pointing at the little house and saying “no cream on it, cream naughty”. You would almost think he has learnt his lesson, listening to him. However, I know for certain that if he had access to another tube of hand cream right now, he would be happily dousing the house in it all over again. Just because he can. And, I suspect, mostly because he knows he shouldn’t.

So, what should we do? I don’t think there is a lot we can do, other than keep rewarding the good and chastising the bad. The boy appears to be a natural born rebel so all we can do is encourage him to behave well, to not always opt for the forbidden option. And we can give him approved outlets for his messy experiments and boundless energy that don’t involve wrecking our house. Beyond that, I’m stumped.

T is nothing like his rule-following siblings, but then why should he be? He has to be loud and to stand his ground with two older ones to compete with. So he is fierce and strong willed, wonderful and infuriating. He has charisma by the bucket-load and people tend to love him on first contact because he is charming and confident, both great qualities to have in life. He is already an expert at winning people over and uses his charm to deflect from whatever terrible deed he is involved in at the time.

But he has a look in his eye that worries me because he just gets such an obvious kick out of acting the rebel, out of choosing to break the rules. He is going to be one we need to keep a very, very close eye on.

Yep, third kids are seriously tricky. And none more so than my little firebrand. My rebel. My terrible Terrible T.

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Naughtiness is a Boy Called T

imageToddlers are sent to try us. I’m on my third now so I know the drill. They are little buggers and it often feels like their primary goal in life is to make your day harder. Out of my three, I thought the first would be unbeaten in his terrible reign. He was the red-faced Tantrum King. My second gave about the standard level of bad behaviour so was a walk in the park in comparison.

But my final toddler, my Baby T, is taking it to a new level. He is just so incredibly naughty. He certainly knows how to throw in the odd scream-up but that isn’t his forté. He is just so wantonly cheeky, so deliberately defiant. He is a professional piss-taker.

Perhaps it is experience or just indulging the baby but I don’t often get upset or embarrassed by T’s behaviour these days. More often than not it makes me laugh to see this tiny blonde bombshell taking on towering adults with such ferocity, such bare-faced cheek.

We went for a sleepover at the weekend. OK, so four kids aged eight and under in one bedroom was never going to make for a quiet evening but, as the older three were settling down nicely, T was making merry mayhem. He was up and down out of bed, clambering about on top of his big brother, throwing bedding down the stairs and generally taking the micky for hours.

When my girl started school last September, I was looking forward to having time with just one pre-schooler at home, thinking how easy it would be to get things done, to nip into the shops for milk for example, with just one in tow. But T was only just beginning to step it up then. It is almost as if he waited for M to be out of the way at school before unleashing his full onslaught of pure naughtiness.

A trip to the supermarket with T is incredibly daunting. I do it when I have to but I go out of my way to avoid it. I needed to buy three things in Friday. Just three. Easy, right? Wrong. T never agrees to sit in a trolley, of course, and he insisted on bombing about at speed, tripping up pensioners and taking things off shelves. One poor woman had to swerve her trolley into a shelf full of wine bottles to avoid him as he pelted out in front of her.

His favourite thing about supermarkets is being able to run his trains up and down the grills on the inside of the fridges in the chilled aisles, because they make a delightful clattering noise. He then left his train in a fridge and kicked off until we located it, sat on top of a block of Red Leicester. All this was punctuated by frequently losing him down various aisles, although he was usually easy to find if I followed the near continuous yelling about how he wanted a biscuit from the café.

You can see why I avoid it.

Today I took him to get his passport photos done. This is something I’ve been dreading but I was feeling strong so bit the bullet. The only local place that does kid passport photos is a little independent pharmacy, staffed by an incredibly bad-tempered and impatient woman. Always a helpful attitude when dealing with a toddler.

So, the white backdrop was pulled down in readiness and a footstool was produced for T to stand on. Not a bloody chance. He refused to put his feet down and started yelling his head off when I lifted him up. So we went for Option B and I put my foot on the stool, knee up, for T to sit on. Well, that was apparently abhorrent too, cue more screaming and squirming.

Our friendly photographer took a picture of the top of T’s head and tutted loudly, saying it was no good. She took another three or four over the next few minutes, as I attempted to pin him to my knee and calm him down. She eventually got one with him looking at the camera and showed me this shot of a blurred grimace. I think I laughed at how terrible it was, which she seemed to take as confirmation that I was happy with it. She was reaching the point of saying anything to get shot of us and said the passport people “might let a blurry one pass as he is only two”.  Hmmm. I’m not sure ‘might’ is good enough for a passport application so I asked her as nicely as I could to try again.

imageIt was time for the big guns. Lollypop bribery. I grabbed a lolly from the counter and waved it in front of T. He screamed louder and grabbed for it, knocking it out of my hand and sending it skidding across the shop floor under a lady’s wheelchair. I put T down, apologised to the lady and crawled about under her wheelchair to retrieve it. T spotted his chance and legged it out of the shop, carrying a can of deodorant in each fist, swiped from the nearest low shelf.

Skipping on through the next few minutes of mayhem and we were back in position, boy squirming and yelling on my knee, lollypop retrieved and unwrapped, photographer with a face like thunder. I tried holding him with one hand, waving the lolly about in front of him with the other. He was now beetroot and covered in snot from all the yelling, so not exactly photo ready, but I didn’t have a free hand to wipe him with. We had attracted quite a crowd by now and an elderly couple were standing behind our happy photographer waving and cooing to get T to look in the right direction. The screaming and wiggling went on.

I gave him the lolly, out of desperation, to see if the sugar hit would make him shut his face for a moment. It worked, the yelling stopped. But now we had the problem of getting a photo without a lollypop in shot. The Happy Snapper went for another few shots. One was T’s grumpy profile, one had his little pink tongue sticking out reaching for the lolly, and one was perfect apart from him having his eyes shut.

I was on the verge of giving up when my friends, the elderly coo-ing couple, made an inspired last-ditch attempt and started waving rubber ducks they’d grabbed off the shelves behind them. T looked up, I dropped the lollypop out of shot and Happy Snapper clicked at just the right moment. Success! Of sorts. You wouldn’t frame it but the passport people would approve. The coo-ing couple and other onlookers actually started applauding.

I put T down and gave him his lolly. He grinned and started happily chatting to his assembled audience, the entire apparent trauma immediately forgotten. He was all cute smiles for everyone, telling them how having his photo taken was “lots of fun”. Speak for yourself, mate.

One thing I forgot to mention about my third and naughtiest toddler is that he can be incredibly cute when he wants to be. Which works entirely to his advantage, of course. He is as manipulative as they come and could charm the birds out of the trees. Cheeky little git.

Although he didn’t win our photographer over with his post photoshoot smiles. Her parting scowl rivalled his worst angry pouts.

And we forgot to pay for the bloody lollypop.

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School Run Horror

imageThe school run with three kids is never exactly easy but this morning really was something else. I actually had one of those weird out-of-body moments of looking down upon my frazzled self and my feral brood and wondering what the fuck had become of my life.

It was raining. I’m sure it is raining for about 80% of all school runs. After running late a few times recently, I was determined to make it on time today so got all kids to start the seemingly endless task of putting on shoes, jumpers and coats a whole five minutes early.

We’re currently leaving five minutes earlier than we used to anyway, to accommodate a very determined two-year old who wants to walk (whilst I push an empty pushchair, on stand-by to pin him into during any screaming tantrums he throws). It is only a five-minute walk, or ten minutes at T’s pace, so I don’t really mind him walking most of the time, although he refuses to hold my hand so it can be a bit hairy.

This morning we were ready to leave a good 15 minutes before school starts. I was feeling kinda smug that all three kids were outside the door and looking vaguely ready. OK, so T was refusing to wear a coat and M was struggling with her zip still but apart from that, we were in pretty good shape.

I wrangled the pushchair out of the garage, loaded up the bags, forced the coat onto the angry toddler and off we set. But we didn’t even make it off the drive before M started sobbing, stamping her foot and whingeing something unintelligible through snotty tears. I guessed it was her zip that was upsetting her and bent down to help but then she totally lost it.

I calmed her down enough to be able to explain what it was all about. She said that the Teaching Assistant in her class said she needs a new coat because her zip is useless, so she can’t wear this one today. This all seemed rather unlikely and I said that she must have got it wrong. Plus, I know that she has been lusting after her best mate’s gorgeous, puffy Frozen coat so suspected that she was just making something up as part of her ploy to talk me into getting her a new one. At this point she went a deep shade of red and started actually screaming. No words, just jumping up and down and screaming.

You know those terrible moments when you falter as a parent? You waver over what the hell you should do to best manage the situation and, because of that slight pause, that moment of indecision, you make things infinitely worse? Well, this was one of those moments. I knew I had to get the older two to school and I had no idea how to do it, with a screaming banshee and a rampaging toddler.

I looked away from my ballistic missile of a daughter and at her coat lying in a puddle, where it had been lobbed. I saw it from her point of view and suddenly realised that yes, it is a pretty shabby piece of red jumble sale tat. Sure, it is warm enough but it looks crappy and the zip isn’t exactly broken but it is a bit frayed at the bottom, making it tricky for tiny fingers. This was what was going though my mind in my split second, fatal pause: a good helping of motherhood guilt for making my child wear such tat.

I caved. I weighed up the options and thought maybe I had a quick fix that would stop the screaming and set us on our way. Instructing H to keep an eye on T, I ran upstairs and retrieved another second-hand coat I had on standby. Thinner and less waterproof but a bit less battered. Surely this would sort things out.

I presented M with this coat (it was pink, so I was sure I was onto a winner) but then made the ridiculous error of telling her that it didn’t have her name in yet but that I would sew a label in tonight. Well, that was a huge mistake. More intense screaming, more stamping.

imageSo, I had made a bad situation worse. And, worse than that, I’d shown weakness and a crack in the authority. Now they would all smell blood and I’d be doomed.

I paused again, looking down at the situation from above and trying to figure out a solution. T was running off down the road, M was refusing to move. Time to attempt to undo some of the damage done by being all soft and indecisive.

There are few things I hate more as a parent than having to physically force your kid to do something but I had little choice. I grabbed the baby and stuffed him, kicking and screaming into the pushchair, using the old knee in the midriff technique. Then I bunged both coats into the bottom of the buggy, grabbed M by the hand and started dragging her up the hill to school, watched by pretty much the whole village.

I know how bloody awful it must have looked, dragging one screamer, pushing another. I am sure in my pre-kid days I would have been outraged to see a mother treating her kids like that. I honestly don’t know how else I could have better handled the situation, although I am sure there are many more adept parents than me out there who would have had much better tactics. I was stressed, desperate and out of ideas.

We eventually made it to school with both still screaming. H hurriedly grabbed his bag and legged it off to class, delighted I’m sure to be shot of his horrific family for a few hours. I spotted M’s Teaching Assistant in the classroom and dragged M in, still yelling and coatless. Mrs. TA was not my favourite person at this point, I can tell you. It turns out she did say something the day before about maybe needing a new coat but there was a good dose of four-year old misinterpretation in there. I knew M would listen to Mrs TA more than she would to me so I let her explain that M had the wrong end of the stick. It did the trick and the screaming stopped at last.

So, M eventually went in with the thin, pink coat. I actually wanted to sit down on the playground train and sob at this point, perhaps setting fire to the red coat beside me to keep myself warm.

But I didn’t. I rounded up Terrible T, who was pushing his train and crawling through puddles, and headed back out of the playground, a shadow of my former self, trying not to make eye contact with all the infinitely better parents.

You get a bit of a false sense of security as a seasoned parent of multiple kids sometimes, a feeling that you can handle anything the little shits throw at you. Then you have a morning like that and remember that you are still totally winging it, entirely at the mercy of their moods. That you don’t know how to do it now, you just guess right more often than you used to. It is a grounding experience. One that I plan to drown with a large glass of wine this evening.

Anyone want a puffy red coat with a dodgy zip? I have one going begging.

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