Surviving Toddlerhood

My little guy has only been a toddler for five months.  I saw him reach the bittersweet milestone with his first few steps.  Within a few days he was walking steadily on his pudgy little feet.  With his newfound independence came happiness, as he explored his surroundings.  Happiest in the backyard, he’d toddle around the plants and through the washing dangling from the line.  It seemed that with toddling also came his idea that he could do what he liked.  I usually let him do what he likes, but I make sure he’s safe, which of course has lead to tantrums when he can’t do what he wants.  I know tantrums are a natural part of growing up, but when they hit you don’t really expect it.

It was yesterday that I experienced our first public tantrum.  I’d been advised to make sure he’s safe and then ignore the behaviour until he’s calmed down, which is what I tried to do.  We were in our local hardware store, and my little boy was happily pushing a miniature shopping trolley through the aisles as I looked for fertiliser and lawn seed.  He was thrilled to have some items in his trolley and we made our way to the front of the store where the checkouts stood.  I helped my boy wheel his trolley into the trolley bay and took the items out to put onto the checkout conveyor belt.  Well, didn’t I make two mistakes within seconds of one another?

Apparently, the trolley didn’t need to go back and I should’ve left the lawn seed where it was.  Sigh.

THE CRYING BEGAN, AND SOON I HAD A WRITHING OCTOPUS OF A CHILD IN MY ARMS.

I wanted to try and console him, but he continued and wouldn’t settle.  He arched his back and threw his head back until I could see his top teeth through his tears.  I couldn’t support his weight while  he thrashed and tore at me.  I placed him carefully on the ground.  I felt terrible.  Everyone was watching me put my child on the floor while he was distressed.  “I am a good mother, I am a good mother”, I repeated to myself while I tried my best to ignore not only his behaviour but the staring, laughing, pointing and whispered comments.  It was time to move forward in the line.  My boy was laying on his back screaming at the ceiling.

I was never going to have a child who had tantrums.  My boy was going to be happy and understanding.  My friend told me that because she’d compromised on most of the things her son wanted in order to allow him to have what he wanted, within reason, he’d never really had a tantrum.  I thought I could do the same.  I don’t think my son is spoiled.  I think I’ve tried my best to raise him in his short life to learn boundaries… the best you can teach them at 17 months of course.  But I had no such luck, yesterday anyway.  I ended up carrying him horizontally to the car and strapping him into his seat, all the while he was still screaming.  After turning the music up and singing along to try and distract him he decided to calm down.  One second on, one second off. Happy, sad, within seconds.  Such is the life of a toddler.

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Night night, sleep tight

‘Come on little guy, time for a big sleep.’ I said, carrying Harrison from my lap on the couch where he’d have his final breastfeed for the day, to his cot that seems to be shrinking as he grows.  The room was a beautiful balmy temperature and the humidifier hissed away.  I would be happy sleeping in the room we’d set up for him.  Few stimulating wall stickers, very dark, warm, comfortable.  I placed him on his back and waited as he rolled on to his tummy and tucked his knees underneath him, as he always did.  I offered him his comfort toy, which he grabbed and pulled under his arm, half laying on it.  He was so sleepy, but never too tired to notice where his comforting donkey was.  He cuddled donkey, and his breathing lengthened, a slight snore began and it was time to take my leave.

‘Goodnight, sweetie, I love you.’ One last look and I crept from the room, quietly pulling the door shut behind me.  I went to sit in my spot on the couch and sipped tea that night.  It was autumn and the nights had started to cool to the point that I wanted an extra layer of clothing and a hot drink before bed.  The dog came up and rested his chin on my knee, jumping up at me at the slightest inclination that I might give him a cuddle.  He lost his place in the pecking order when Harrison came along and is still trying to cope with being at the bottom of a new chain.  I let him lay on my lap while I watched television and sipped my tea.

My heart caught in my chest.  I’d never heard him cry like that before.  Before I knew it, I was breaking my cardinal rule to leave him a minute when he cried before going in to him.  That was what had encouraged such poor sleeping in the first place.  Before I could even consider waiting, I was already on my feet, running to his door.  The dog found his place on the floor.  I held him, as he cried that unfamiliar cry and shook.  He gripped me and cried into my chest, like a clinging monkey, not wanting to let go.  I shooshed, patted and rocked.  Bounced and swayed.  Eventually he fell back to sleep and I could lay him back in his bed.  He rolled over with the big after-cry sigh that they all seem to emit.

‘Goodnight, darlin’, see you in the morning.’

Juxtaposed Life

Juxtapose verb: place or deal with close together for contrasting effect.

A great example is the recent trend of wearing your wedding or formal dress in the ocean or by the mangroves. The photos are amazing. This beautiful wild looking girl dressed to perfection, with mud drawing its way over her skirts. Or the one where the bride sets her dress on fire, just to have the best photo. Google it. It’s weird, but it’s also amazing.

Another great example is so many of us dealing with post-natal depression and or anxiety, or stress. I wanted to write this because it’s how my social worker described my situation – many times. It is her patient and kind reasoning behind why some people didn’t respond in the way I expected. Could it be that I pretended to manage so well that I convinced those closest to me? All is forgiven, now to forget.

I can’t quite pick my jaw up off the floor. I’m sitting here, wide-eyed at what I’ve just heard, wondering how on earth such an important, pivotal person in my life could not have known I was depressed. Sorry, what!? I should’ve told you? Could you not see it leaking out of my ears? My eyes pulled down in a constant state of melancholy. There’s an elephant residing in my head, it’s so heavy. The cotton wool stuffed in my brain stops me from feeling like I can function adequately. I resort to fatty food and caffeinated drinks to get me through the next minute, awake. God, I’ve never hated being awake so much. Hour after hour of awake. If I could sleep, I’m sure I would just pass out entirely. But no, anxiety takes care of that. See, between the constant waking screams of hunger and frustration my son brings me, anxiety brings me a whole host of other problems. Will he stay asleep? For how long? Is he too hot? Too cold? I need to sleep. What if he suffocates? He can’t suffocate, there’s nothing to suffocate on. A constant living battle inside my head. The angel and the devil are at war, fighting over all the illogical things any mother would think of, and usually dismiss. Not me.

My heart isn’t even in the right place anymore. It used to sit in my chest, beating its steady beat. Now, it’s lower, closer to my stomach, blackened and bruised, and constantly palpitating. Sometimes I wish it would just stop. It’s heavy, everything is heavy. I’m dragging my limp body around with my soul hanging out of me. I can count the days since I’ve thought of smiling, the weeks since I’ve actually done it. Knuckle dragging – that’s what it feels like, drugged even. Just simply unable to keep up with the world, arms heavy and limp, hair lacklustre and dull, eyes half-mast, shoulders drooping. Nothing will ever feel better.

Open the curtains, pick up the toys off the floor, put the vacuum on. Just pop to the shops to buy some bread and milk, oh and a cake mix. People are coming over! Feed the baby while preheating the oven. Hold the baby while you crack the egg with one hand, mix everything in together. Put the baby down, crying crying crying. Quickly pour the mixture into the pan to bake. Hold the baby, calm the baby. Clean up the kitchen table, empty the dishwasher. Wipe down the coffee table and put out some coasters. Light a scented candle. Done. Knock on the door. Hi! How’s it going? Would you like some cake?

No wonder they can’t see my angel, devil, drab, damp life. The only time I’m allowed to pretend to be me is when they’re here. The rest of the time it’s drowning. Constantly drowning under a beautiful sun-filled sky, just to prove to me what life should be like. If I at least look like I’m managing well, maybe I am. Liar. Hopeful. Wishful thinking. Queen of wishful thinking.

Top ten signs you’re sleep deprived

If I hear another person without a child, including my 14 year old step daughter who can sleep in until midday, say they’re just so tired, I might lose it altogether. I’m quite sympathetic to anyone who has their normal sleeping patterns disturbed. Let’s face it, even one night of interrupted sleep can put you out of whack. It’s amazing what sleep deprivation on a long term basis can do to one’s body though, let alone one’s life. So, the top ten signs you’re sleep deprived are listed for your viewing pleasure below:

1. You think the little amount of sleep a human actually needs to survive is amazing, sleep is overrated anyway
2. You’ve started eating in your sleep because it’s the only chance you get to have a hot meal uninterrupted…too bad you can’t remember eating it
3. You put salt on your weetbix instead of sugar
4. You use eye drops to make your eyes stay open… or tooth picks, whichever is closest and works best
5. You cat nap at red lights
6. You can sing ‘twinkle twinkle little star’ in your sleep so your little one thinks you are ‘just resting your eyes’
7. Your phone is in the fridge and the butter is in your bag
8. It takes you less than .5 of a second to fall asleep, even if it is with a dog on your feet, two miniature feet in your back and a snoring husband by your side
9. You don’t remember what day it is, where you are, who you are, how many children you have…Do you have children? Or whether you’re driving to or from the shops
10. You find yourself watching television, only to find you’ve fallen asleep during a dinner party and were having an amazing dream.

Tea, coffee, or a hot meal

Today, I just wanted a cup of tea to start. Bleary eyed from waking late, hair fluffy and shrugging against the cold of one of the first winter mornings, tea. You with your other ideas though… squinting from the kitchen light because the sun hasn’t dared to raise its head, burying your face into my shoulder and crying for your breakfast.

Tea, kettle is boiling, breakfast is had and you’re dressed ready to leave the house. I’ll just have a cup before we go for a walk. The dog talking at me in a howl reserved for pre-walk excitement. Pack the baby bag, grab the keys, shoes, out we go. Find the dog lead, and we’re off. I describe your surroundings to you. They say it helps with language development. A beautiful green tree, taller than the school fence. Listen to the birds, tweeting as we walk by. Stop at the lights and press the button, waiting for the walk man to turn green. The dog sits and waits, huffing. Across we go, a pack of three according to the dog, who thinks he’s the leader. You sit up so straight in your pram, the perfect posture that hardly any of us keep. Looking, watching, taking everything in, waving to the people coming towards us and pointing at the bobcat working on the road.

It’s not long and we’re back home, you’re in your bed for your morning nap. Washing, dusting, ironing, sorting, folding, cry… hello Harrison! Did you have a big sleep? Let’s get lunch ready and go to the park… God I’d love a cup of tea…what happened to having one this morning?

We meet our friends in the park. Four beautiful babies, blonde haired, blue eyed, brothers and sisters almost. You all play, and eat, fight over the same toy even though there are plenty. Us mums chat and laugh. Faces are wiped, nappies are changed, food is cleared and we’re ready to go home.

On the car ride home you play peak a boo with your toy. Holding it over your sweet little face while I say ‘where’s Harrison?’. You drop it down, smiling with four beautiful white teeth gleaming. Your perfect little sprite face with the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. You’re so happy. I laugh and say you’re a funny boy as we make our turns left and right to head home.

The dog’s waiting expectantly for us when we arrive home. Tail wagging so fiercely his whole backside sways side to side. We go inside and run a bath. Hot water with bubbles fills the bath and steam fills our nostrils. We breathe a little easier as you splash and play. ‘Wash your dirty feet, wash your dirty feet’, for each part of your tiny little body. Skin so smooth and soft.

I prepare dinner while you play on the floor, but you’re tired and rubbing your eyes. Cooking never was my strong point, let alone one handed. Cuddles for you on one side while you take in the smells of spices, the sound of meat sizzling in the pan. Pop you into your high chair and you’re covered in food almost immediately. Carrot in your hair, what little there is of it. Sauce around your little mouth, beautiful smile on your face as you have your yoghurt for dessert.

Sitting in bed, in a darkened room, you’re all cuddled up to me as I feed you. Eyes half mast while you suckle for milk. One hand on my earrings that intrigue you, the other hand tickling my side. You become quieter, more still, no more milk and you relax. You’re heavy in my arms as I carry you to your cot, making sure you have your comfort toy donkey. How many animals did we go through before we realised it wasn’t a giraffe or a rabbit, but a donkey?

Goodnight, Harrison, I love you. Have a big sleep.

Kettle on, boiling, finally. Sit down, cup of tea. His gorgeous smiles make up for lost cups of tea, cold cups full, microwaved seven times throughout the day. Hastily drunk cups that burn my mouth and drinking the dregs just to feel like I’ve had more than one cup. Goodnight Harrison, hello tea!

Hi Ho, Hi Ho

It’s a pretty daunting venture for any parent to just hop, skip and jump straight back into the workplace.  The primary carer of a child has spent weeks, if not months, waking up early, going to bed late, cooking, serving and feeding the growing bub, changing nappies, toilet training, wiping the nose four hundred thousand times, playing, kissing, cuddling and just generally being there.  The chance to actually go to the bathroom uninterrupted has finally come and said carer is ready to return to the workplace.  Whether you’re going back part time or full time, there are some fairly universal experiences that occur to both parent and bub.

The guilt trip is a common one – experienced by the parent, upon leaving the child in what seems to be an oversized cage called a crèche, child care or family day care.  Rest assured, your child will adjust to the experience of being left in such an institution and might even make some friends.  Pandora Tip 1:  try and ease your child into care by taking them beforehand and spending time there with them.  It may even take a few weeks, so be prepared!  The first few times, parents can stay or only leave the child for an hour or so.  Gradually increase the time the child spends in care.

The “don’t leave me” goodbyes – bub senses you’re off!  He’s looking at you through his beautiful big teary eyes, with pouted lip and chubby cheeks thinking “oh, you’re not going anywhere!!”  Some babies don’t cry at all, and others take a small amount of time to adjust.  Usually though, there is a day when you need to leave because you’re already late for the train after leaving the house late because you forgot your baby’s bag, left your lunch on the kitchen bench, and in your haste to get out the door locked your keys in the house.  Nevermind.  You’re late, you need to leave, bub turns on the waterworks.  Pandora Tip 2:  research shows that saying goodbye and telling your child you will be returning soon is really important to give them a sense of security.  While it may lead to tears and you having to turn around brave-faced, heart breaking, and leave, it really is the best way to teach your child that you always come back.  The oldschool method was to leave when they were distracted… not a great idea.  The child will turn around, expecting to see you, and you’re gone.  There’s no sense of security in knowing that if you decide to play your most important person might disappear.  Pandora Tip 3:  Try and keep a smile on your dial when you say goodbye and say it in the same way every time.  You’re allowed to break down in tears and eat three packets of Tim Tams when you’re in the car.  Try not to cry or be overly stressed in front of your child though, because they sense it or see it and are more likely to feel scared.

The no-food-/only-(insert favourite food here)-at daycare – but they usually eat so well.  It’s just a fact that when humans feel insecure, they’re more likely to feel anxious, and anxiety can be paired with a lack of appetite.  Pandora Tip 4:  Send the food anyway.  Yes, I know it feels futile to send food you’re almost sure bub isn’t going to eat, and sometimes it does come home.  However, if it’s there and bub starts to feel better, at least they have the chance to eat it.  I’ve been surprised more than once when Mr Fussington Bailey eats the food I pack.

So, you’ve dropped bub off and you’ve had your cry (or yelled ‘hooray!’, whichever you feel more comfortable with), it’s time to head off to work.  It’s probably fair to say you’ve not really had to leave the house looking ‘respectable’ in a work sense for a while right?  Like, you’ve been dressed when you’ve left the house, and you’ve maybe even had a touch of makeup here or there, but not to the professional style that all the other girls will have at work.  Pandora Tip 5:  Be prepared!  Have everything you need to get dressed into out the night before, so you save time in the morning.  Once you’re dressed put a dressing gown over the type for crying out loud!  Yes, you look smashing!  No, you don’t want toast mashed into your stockings.  This is the way of the mum.  Pandora Tip 6:  If you know you won’t have time to put on a full face of makeup in the morning before leaving the house, try to just put on your base foundation (yes they’ll think you look weird at the daycare, but whatever, you’re on a tight schedule girlfriend!).  Take your lippy, mascara, eye liner, brushes and whatever else you feel the need to apply in a small pencil case in your bag and apply on the way or once you’ve reached work.  If you genuinely don’t have time to put on a full face, lipstick and eyeliner work wonders on their own – promise!  Oh, and pull your hair back.  A neat ponytail is quick and easy.  Having a full face of makeup and being dressed perfectly will never make up for looking like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards because you didn’t fix your hair.

You’re there, you’ve arrived.  You’ve sorted out the new parking/train/bus payment scheme and you’re finally on your way to your office/clinic/surgery/daycare/coffee shop (mmm coffee… more about that in a minute)/wherever you work.  You can expect most people to look upon you kindly for the first few days.  There will be lots of questions about how you’re coping at home, how bub is coping in care, and how you’re feeling about being back at work.  Pandora Tip 7:  Expect these questions and if you think you might be upset, have a quick answer and a reason to leave.  There will always be a person who is asking because they think they’re making it easier for you.  Seeing you in distress may not stop their flow of questions.  So, the best way to thwart such creatures is to have a short, quick answer and a reason to walk away, turn back to your screen, or sink into the middle of the earth.  Example:  “I’m not sure about this change we’re all experiencing, but I have to just check my emails I’m sure to have 1000 of them!”/ “Yes it’s interesting times!  Must just duck to the loo.”/ “I think he’s going to be ok, but I’m just going to call the daycare and check, catch you later!” – or never… catch you never… stop asking me questions.  After the first week or so though, you’ll only get the odd question here or there about how you’re all going and you’ll probably feel like you’re coping much better by that time.

It’s fair if you feel like crying, if you feel anxious, or if you just feel generally uncomfortable.  Some workplaces will treat you like a newcomer – simply because so much has changed.  Others will treat you like a member of an overgrown family – because nothing has changed.  And others still will have forgotten you even existed.  In fact, mine accidentally fired me instead of putting me on leave, which made for an interesting first day back.  Regardless of how your work (and I say ‘work’ here, not ‘work colleagues’) makes you feel, rest assured you will be a valued employee again.  I know some of you are thinking ‘hardly, I wasn’t really valued before’… best to think that this is at the very least a stepping stone to help you gain some cash (and perhaps sanity) until you make it in your dream job.  Pandora Tip 8:  it’s ok to feel out of place.  It’s also ok to go and cry in the bathroom… just get through the first day and I promise it gets better.

Now, we all know that your baby is the cutest, most adorable, most clever, amazing little human ever in the world!  BUT, that’s what all the mums think.  It’s not a race, and it’s not a competition.  Pandora Tip 9:  Don’t be fooled.  When you come back, all the mums will want to share their mum stories too, and all the grandmums will share their grandbabies’ stories!  However, there is always a section of the workforce who do not understand!!  Namely, those of have not had children, some fathers, rarely some mothers, and some who have step children or cats.  They don’t understand what it’s like for you, and they don’t really care.  They may ask the odd question just to show you that they care about you but they don’t want to hear about your baby.  Pandora Tip 10:  Gauge the conversation and don’t overshare.  Make sure you also ask about other people and be honest when you meet someone new: tell them you’re a mum now so you have no memory and won’t remember their name.  But seriously, the strange guy from IT is just setting up your computer and when he asks about your new arrival he’s just being nice.  At the second his eyes glaze over, or he looks to the side, or his head starts to loll as he nods off, he’s ready to move on with the conversation.  You’re in charge.  Be brave, change the subject to his baby – the computer.

Good luck hard working parents!

~ Melissa

Ps.  You thought I’d forgotten about the coffee didn’t you?  I didn’t… make sure you enjoy one that is hot, because you can’t do that at home 🙂

Just one comment

Day one and we’re pregnant nature’s kicked in

Breast milk is the best milk that’s what I’ll feed him

 

Welcome, you’re here and I’m already stressed out

Less than minutes old and I’m already in doubt

I panic and cry that you won’t latch or feed

The midwives all calm me, ‘he’ll take what he needs’

 

Two weeks in, it’s hard doing this right

Cover his head and he just starts to cry

I read somewhere that eye contact’s a must

When he can’t see me and feed, he throws up a fuss

 

A couple of months and I don’t care anymore

I feel less afraid and just walk out the door

Leaving the cover and walking out free

Until I see women chatting about me

 

Put it on, pull it off, there’s not a thing I can do

Every time it’s on he rips it off and then stops feeding too

 

It’s not long before I feel I’m starting to fall

It’s not long before he won’t feed at all

He kick and he bucks and scratches and cries

And I sit at home with tears in my eyes

 

He might be allergic to something you’re eating

They say I’m poisoning my baby with my own milk, I’m beating

Myself up over him and his feeding

 

‘Give him formula’, ‘just a top up’

‘He’s hungry’, ‘he’s thin’

But my gut tells me no, he’s mine,

Just stop the din

 

Turns out, the nurse says, that my stress is the key

He’s not feeding, not thriving and it’s all because of me

 

Months come and go and we all work together

He settles down and it starts to get better

Out I venture, trying to be strong

Soon, I rebel, ‘cause feeding my baby’s not wrong

 

We feed in park, in shops, on a bench by the sea

And one day a guy stops dead and he’s looking at me

I’m ready for a fight, feel my blood start to boil

No one understands what I’ve been through, this turmoil

 

‘Good on you, Lass’

He says and continues on his way

Leaving me in tears of relief

And how that made my day!

 

Just one comment, not everyone’s chatter

Because one year on, it’s the only one that matters.