The Most Magical of Numbers

img_1741I bloody adore having a 3-year old. Yep, I really do. And the stupid thing is that, third time round, I’ve only just realised how great 3 can be.

Through the toughest of times with three kids all pretty close in age, I dreamed of the day when my youngest would turn 3. It was my target, my light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. I felt that, if I could just make it that far, it would all slot into place. What I didn’t know was just how well it would work. It seems that 3 really is the magic number I had dreamed of. I’m delighted to have been proved right for once.

You see, having a 3-year old when you also have a small baby latched on to you or kicking off is far from fun. In fact it royally sucks. 3-year old kids and babies are, unfortunately, two of the most incompatible things there are. With a first child, you can immerse yourself in their needs. Your world can revolve around their schedule and, whilst that can drag you down at times, the moment you have more than one you realise what an utter godsend that single focus was. Introduce another baby – and then another if you are stupid like me – and you are playing a whole different game, one where meeting the needs of one often means doing so at the expense of another. More than one kid to focus on basically means that things will never be the same again.

img_1752Your baby has to grow up fast when they are no longer the youngest. They have to share you and you are horribly torn between them and the newcomer. It can be a stressful and upsetting time for everyone involved. Getting you and however many kids are you trolling about with through the day is a major achievement in itself. There is certainly no time to smell the roses. Besides which, you are usually too bloody knackered to even notice there are any roses. Which basically means you miss a lot of the loveliness a 3-year old has to offer. It is an utterly adorable age it transpires, but I was never capable of seeing it before, so buried was I in baby.

Having a 3-year old without a baby in your arms is a wholely different experience. It is lighter, both physically (no massive bags of nappies and baby stuff) and mentally (no utter exhaustion and living on an emotional knife edge). My little boy is my sole focus for much of the time now and it is just wonderful. He is such a strong character, a funny, clever and unique little man who I actively enjoy hanging out with. He has his moments of course, as all 3-year olds do, but he is well beyond the entirely unreasonable phase of the terrible twos and can be coaxed out of most strops. Rare is the blind rage meltdown.

Friends with bigger age gaps or just one child have often said how much they like this age but I could never see it. It was such hard work with the first two and my memories of it are a blur of stress and sleep deprivation. But now I finally get it. And they were right. 3 can be really wonderful.

img_1751Having this particular 3-year old is especially good. No terrible threes here. T is an utterly gorgeous bundle of blonde fluff and cuddly round edges. He is sassy and pushes the boundaries but he does it with a cheeky smile. And, as I am no longer torn in twenty directions at the same time, I am far more patient with him. It is such a privilege to be able to spend this time with him without another kid coming up behind, draining my energy and my patience.  I can see him clearly for what he is, not just what he needs from me. And we can suit ourselves, without an annoying, bawling hanger-on dictating to us.

It also feels much more physically close this time round. Cuddles can be on demand, not awkwardly over a feeding baby’s head or on hold until I can put the baby down without it screaming blue murder. T is a naturally demonstrative lad and he is lucky enough to have cuddles on tap. One of the many advantages of being the baby of the family.

img_1737Another advantage is how very loved he is by his older siblings. They are protective, kind and utterly indulgent of him most of the time. They bicker but both the older ones are mostly very accommodating of his funny ways. He has been raised in the mob and nurtured by gentle siblings. Being third, with a second child buffer zone, he has never been exposed to that full-on jealously when a previously only child meets their first sibling. M was in the middle and has always had to share everything so she was nothing but kindness to her baby brother from day one. He honestly doesn’t know how lucky he is to have never known any different. And it makes him a happy, self-assured young man, surrounded by love and far more patient and confident parents than H and M had in their threenage years.

Enjoying this last year of a preschooler makes me deeply happy. And optimistic for the future of our little family unit too. I’ve not yet reached a milestone when I have wished myself back a phase. I don’t
want to do the baby bit again. I don’t want to do toddlers or teething, the heart-in-your-mouth clumsiness of first steps or the tantrums of the twos. Things are easier now, at long last, more balanced and less stressful as we are stepping away for the deeply physically draining stage into something new. Something exciting. Challenging, sure, in different ways. But moving forwards and changing in a great way.

Don’t quote me on this as I may well find I want these days back after T starts school next year and I’m left with a T-shaped hole in my days. But I don’t think I will. At least not for long. I am all about looking forward right now, not back. The future looks good and so does the present.

img_1749

And talking of looking forward, I have a feeling this may be our best Christmas yet as a fivesome. T gets it this year and is very excited. He isn’t quite there as he still wants to open more than one advent calendar window per day and is convinced Christmas is tomorrow pretty much every evening. But he gets the concept now. And he loves it. He gazes in wonder at crappy Christmas trees in the supermarket and loudly shouts “Mummy! A Christmas doughnut!” whenever he spots a wreath. The pretty basic lights in town fill him with utter joy.

This will also be the first Christmas since we finally got some sleep. I have very happy memories of previous years but all through a cloud of exhaustion. It’s gonna be just joyous having a few festive drinks knowing that we won’t be up at the crack of dawn or several times during the night. Bring that the hell on.

I’m feeling pretty full of love for my festive little brood right now. I’m really enjoying all three of them and their crazy Christmas hype as it builds. And I think so much of that is down to not having a baby any more. The fog has lifted and behind it are three little beaming faces, all still believers, their eyes wide in wonder. If that’s not what it should all be about then I don’t know what is.

Yes, 3 kids aged 3 and up is as wonderful as I’d hoped it would be. Who needs babies when you have all that?

img_1746

Advertisements

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.

img_1651

The Winds of Change

imageBack to school is over. We are well into our first half term now. I’ve watched all the little Reception kids starting school over the last couple of weeks and I’ve felt a weird mixture of emotions.

Partly, I feel somewhat abandoned and a bit jealous as I’ve watched friends wave their last babies off and begin a life of relative freedom. I’ve also felt great anticipation. We’re next. So begins my final year with a pre-schooler at home. Before long we’ll receive our letter about application to school for our little Baby T. I’m yet to decide whether I feel jubilant and free at the light at the end of the tunnel or scared and nervous about the end of an era.

By the time T starts school – as the baby of the pack at the tender age of just four and one month – I will have had at least one small person at home with me for nine and a half years. In that time, my life has changed beyond measure. I’m not sure who that young, carefree person was. It can’t have been me, can it? Beyond a vague physical similarity (getting more vague by the day), I can find little to connect us. How did she fill her time? Where was her career heading? What were her goals and ambitions? All of that is long since buried under piles of kids.

OK, so I know the kids all being at school isn’t going to propel me back to those days of childless liberty. I’ll be tied to the school run, same as I am now. But something fundamental is changing and I can hear a strangely familiar but long forgotten voice calling me. It isn’t freedom exactly. It is a memory of life beyond small people.

So, this time next year, I’ll have all three at school. That sounds pretty exciting, right? I will have more time, more freedom to do something more productive with my life beyond childcare, perhaps revisit that dusty old career, which has been floating along quietly in second gear for years.

Exciting, perhaps, but also faintly terrifying. Kids may be a hinderance to achievement but they are also a convenient excuse for failing to reach your ambitions. That can be handy to hide behind when you feel entirely out of the loop with the world outside your own little bubble. When the kids have released you to a certain extent – for six hours a day at least – it is only your own apathy stopping you from doing all those things you always said you’d do if you didn’t have kids tying you down, right? The pressure to fulfil on those airy promises to yourself suddenly comes into play.

imagePlus, I’m turning forty next year, which doesn’t help with all this soul searching crap. I’m not particularly fussed about it, to be honest. It is only a number and a good excuse for a party but, it is also a time to reflect, whether you like it or not. This landmark coming along at the same time as my baby heads off to school feels like a bit of a double whammy for messing with my head.

I’m getting way ahead of myself, I do know that. I’ve still got a whole year at home with the Terrible T-Monster. Some days that feels like it is going to be a lifetime. Others, I can’t bear to imagine the end.

I spoke to a friend today whose little one started school this month and she said how lonely she feels home alone without him. After three kids and over nine years, I don’t think I will feel that way, but I’m really not certain. And I feel the need to insure against it by lining up busy things to fill the void. I have become a mayhem addict. I thrive on it. I fill every gap. What happens when those gaps get too big to fill?

You see, much as I moan about them and much as they drive me insane, I have loved the hectic nature of life with pre-schoolers. And I know I will miss it. I will also rejoice that it has ended. It will be a painful, delightful, terrible and wonderful time. I will embrace it with open arms and I will cry buckets. I already want to cry at the thought of it, even as I wish it away.

We’re still potty training here (yes, still) and as I dealt with another pair of shit-filled pants in the park today, September 2017 couldn’t come soon enough. Even when each day feels like a lifetime, I know I will look back this time next year and wonder where the time went. It is a slippery little sucker, that Time.

imageBut enough of this navel gazing nonsense. Back to the reality of life. My eldest has taken to chewing his school shirts and has destroyed two in the three weeks since school started. M has turned into a screaming banshee as she adapts to the big step up from Reception to Year 1 and is utterly exhausted. And T? Well, T shits himself daily. So, there is plenty of reality to keep me busy and away from too much reflection about my final year with a pre-schooler.

So, as this era slowly draws to a close, I guess I should try to ‘enjoy every moment’ as people tend to say to Mum’s of young kids – generally people who have either never had their own kids or have conveniently forgotten how shit so much of parenting can be. All I can promise to do is enjoy as much as I can, do my best not to wish it away and then try not regret it passing when it has gone.

And to try to promise not to pressure myself with my own expectations. Maybe it will be time for a change soon, when the era finally does end and change blows in. But maybe that change should just be watching daytime TV and drinking tea in peace – at least in the short term.

Yep, the winds of change are beginning to blow but only as a whisper for now. Plenty of time to see which way they are blowing. Only Time, that slippery old bastard, will tell.

image

The Measure of Success

imageToday we did something I’ve been wanting to be able do for years: we went to the cinema as a family. All five of us. It was T’s first time and I had no idea how well he would cope with the dark and the whole sitting still for a couple of hours thing. He rarely sits to watch more than a couple of Chuggington episodes at home. However, I do know how much he loves popcorn, so I was quietly optimistic.

T turns three at the end of the month, something I’ve been looking ahead to pretty much since the day he was born. It is a landmark age that I stuck a pin in and said to myself – and to my long-suffering husband, who I had to talk into having a third kid at all – that by this time, things would be very much easier. We would be able to do things like go bowling and on trips to the cinema. Dinner out would be a breeze and we could even leave the house without a buggy and a changing bag (still working on that last one). Oh, just think of the freedom and joy of it all!

“Just wait till he turns three! Think how easy our lives will be!” is something I often sang, somewhat manically, in a frantic attempt to convince the fella, and myself, that all would be fine and dandy just around the corner. This mantra was to be heard regularly during our darker times. I spouted it almost daily when we hit our lowest ebb, with three kids aged five and under and next to no sleep. I feel slightly wobbly thinking about that time actually. So, let’s move on.

Well, the corner has arrived and here we are, about to go around it. And is everything so much easier and carefree? Sort of, yes. I think I can safely say it is the easiest it has been since number three joined the gang. But still harder than two, without a doubt. There is definitely something in the old adage, usually said by annoying smart-arses, that we were supposed to only have two kids because we only have two hands to hold onto them with. With three, one is always a loose canon. I like to think this is character building for them, to build their independence. It can also be plain terrifying as a parent in a busy car park. But I digress.

I decided that we really ought to put this whole turning the corner thing to the test. So, I declared that we should go to the cinema, as a family, just to prove to ourselves that we now can. This suggestion was met with a raised eyebrow and a deep breath from my husband, but swiftly followed by wary agreement, so I think he did pretty well at hiding the fear.

imageWe picked one of those Sunday morning cheap tickets things which got all five of us in for under a tenner. Best not to spend much when we had no idea whether T would sit through it or not. We watched Zootropolis. If you’ve not seen it, I highly recommend it, for both kids and adults. It is great story and very funny. The references to Breaking Bad made me snort with laughter. And I found myself lusting after an animated fox. Is that wrong? Well, it isn’t the first time. I had the hots for Disney’s Robin Hood as a kid. But moving on….

We got there and collected tickets, popcorn and booster seats for the little two. You know what I said about having one loose canon kid when you have three of them? Well, at the cinema, when you have to carry a changing bag, booster seats and three bags of popcorn between two of you, all kids become loose canons. They were marauding about at high speed in their excitement, running under people’s legs and disappearing behind the popcorn counter. As if we weren’t making enough to of a spectacle of ourselves at this point, a little yelling from me in a vain attempt to bring them to heel pretty much guaranteed that I grabbed the attention of the entire foyer.

Then we had the escalator to negotiate. This is where their small town upbringing shows. An escalator is big news for country kids. The older two seemed to need to psych themselves up before attempting it, in the style of competitors in Gladiators running up the travelator. They both gripped the handrail for dear life but managed it without assistant. But the bub was entirely thrown by it. I managed to wedge one of the booster seats under my chin so that I could hold his hand while he lept on like a frightened gazelle. He then stuffed his little frowning face into my leg for the duration, only emerging again when prompted to leap off the other end.

We made it into Screen 14, found our seats and H promptly threw half a bag of popcorn all over himself and the floor. Standard. The contents of the remaining two bags were divvied up and we all settled down to watch. T loved the ads and trailers but had a bit of a wobble when the surround sound boom went off and the lights went dark. He rallied quickly though and stuffed his little face with popcorn throughout the film. He laughed at the funny bits and jumped at the (mildly) scary bits without losing his shit. He did develop ants in his pants for the last half hour and ended up squirming about on my lap but, as a first effort for a not-quite-three-year-old, it was pretty impressive.

We bundled out, the older two high on sugar and buzzing, chattering away about the film. T was pretty happy too but mostly talked about not wanting to use the wobbly stairs (escalator) again on the way out. We took the regular stairs down, which he approved of.

imageBack in the car, everyone was sharing their best bits of the film but T was unusually quiet. “Did you have fun at the cinema T?” we asked. He furrowed his little brow, thought about it and said a firm “No”. When quizzed, he insisted he didn’t like the film. He didn’t like the big television. He didn’t like the animals on screen. He did, however, concede to liking the popcorn.

So, just as I was thinking what a success the morning had been, T quite firmly disagreed with me. Despite looking perfectly happy throughout, he insists he didn’t enjoy it at all. Perhaps my measure of success is slightly out of whack with his. Or perhaps he just knows we want him to say he enjoyed it, so is being a bloody-minded little git. I suspect the latter.

Regardless of how well T thinks it went, we did it. And four out of five of us at least had a good time. That said, I don’t think I’ll be attempting it without another adult yet. That might be a bridge too far just now. And bowling may be more of a four-year-old thing, after all.

Bring on the little changes though, I say. Our world is changing, one tiny step at a time, as we leave the baby days behind. And I for one am more than ready for that.

image

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.

image

Dropping the Ball

imageThe last couple of weeks have been a bit of a rollercoaster. But not the fun kind. The kind you have bad dreams about not being able to get off while it veers dangerously on two wheels round tight bends. It has all felt rather stressful and incredibly busy. Life with three kids is never quiet, I know, and I don’t think it has actually been any more hectic than usual of late, but I’ve been struggling to keep up more than I normally do because things have been a bit full on and emotional just outside of my little family unit.

As a result, I have been always just behind the curve. Like I’m running to keep up with my life, with my kids, and never quite making it. I’m not on top of things and I breathe a sign of relief when by some small miracle I manage to get everyone where they are supposed to be, on time, with everything they are supposed to have.

This is what happens when your mind isn’t fully on the job – the job being parenthood. It is only when other stuff gets in the way and makes you drop some of the balls you are juggling that you realise how many sodding balls there are.

imageWhen things are running well, when I am in the flow, getting things done throughout the week feels almost like a ballet, moving swiftly and precisely from one thing to the next in a pleasing and smooth motion, just about hitting the right timings. Work, school, clubs – they all slot together. It can be exhausting but I can do it and do it well. The flow of washing from basket to machine to cupboard is a satisfying cycle, with clothes flitting around almost by themselves, it is so swiftly slotted into the gaps of the day. The kids are shepherded from one place to another, from one meal to another, and it all feels natural and right at the very best of times. Not always, mind, but when I am on top of things, it works. It is multitasking at its best and I am bloody good at it.

As long as I don’t stop. Don’t ever bloody stop. Not to reconsider a small parenting choice.  Not to ponder a possible alternative agenda for the day. Not to be distracted by things going on elsewhere that suck your attention and emotion. If you stop, if you drop just one ball, the chain reaction it sets off is a total disaster. Once you drop the first ball, you realise how precarious the others are. Your flow is fucked. Your natural smooth progress through the week falls apart the moment you look at it and realise just how many bloody things are involved. And once you start analysing it, seeing that each of those tiny things you have to achieve and maintain add up into one massive and never-ending  list, you are doomed.

And then, when you are looking at all the balls on the floor, bouncing off in all directions and rolling under the sofa, you suddenly find you have absolutely no idea which one to pick up first.  The kids, sensing that your mind is in turmoil, go nuts and draw on the walls or climb the curtains while you are distracted. They step up the naughty behaviour because they know you won’t notice. Because they are a bunch of chancers and arseholes. The little one has ramped things up to such a level this week that he seems to think climbing on tables and creating chaos is actually expected of him these days.

imageSo, for some reason, I chose this time, when my brain is addled mush and the balls are all goners, to start potty training the toddler. Possible not my greatest decision but, in for a penny and all that, so we are now full speed ahead. How bad can it be? I’ve always done it with a small baby latched onto my boob in the past so this time should be a piece of piss by comparison, right? Well, there is certainly a good deal of piss involved anyway.

After a couple of days of mixing it up with pants and pull-ups, we’ve gone cold turkey and it is pants all the way. I figured that, since I am in a mess anyway, I may as well throw myself in deeper. Besides, after 8 years, the nirvana of a nappy-free world is calling me and I simply couldn’t resist. Plus the pressing need to wash small, wee-soaked pants has at least put me back on track with the washing mountain.

I won’t say I’d forgotten how hideous potty training is. I really haven’t. It will be etched on my memory forever. But I had forgotten how boring it is. All those endless trips to the loo, all that wee mopping. And worse. What I had hoped is that, third time round, I would know exactly what I was doing and T would nail it in 24 hours.  He is doing pretty well, at least on the wee front, but it is still wearing. And messy.

As with all things, T is doing it his own way, not following the same pattern as his older siblings. I really must learn to remember that T is so much his own man, that when presented with two options, he will always surprise me by taking a third path that I didn’t even know was there.

I’m hopeful that by this time next week I’ll have my mojo back, that the juggle will be back at full, seamless speed. And that my clever little T will have sussed out the whole pants things and be happily toddling to and from the loo. We are bypassing the evil potty. It is too gross for words and neither of us is keen.

So, until things are back to full throttle round here, T and I will both have to roll about in our own mess for a while. But I’m hoping neither of us is going to let it get us down too much.

After all, shit happens, right?

image

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.

image