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Articles tagged with: Parenting

{The Ordinary Moments 14} #22 'Soft Play Hell.'

on Sunday, 01 June 2014.

Love it or loathe it, soft play outings are a very ordinary moment in our household.  Before I had my girls I only had a couple of friends who had children and one particular friend and I used to meet occasionally at the local soft play place.  I never used to think it was that bad, her kids were a little older and they would run off and play while we sat and had a chat.  There was diet coke there and cake, and quite honestly what more does one need?  I would see the other Mum's sat there with the latest copy of Grazia, or Marie Claire, while all the little ones ran around excitedly.   I thought it looked like a pleasant enough place to wile away an hour or so.

Oh how naive I was.  Soft play is the epitome of everything I dislike about being a parent.  It turns both my children and myself into stressed, intense, hyperactive versions of ourselves, where the slightest thing can set us over the edge.  First of all they all smell a little bit of wee and sweaty feet, and have you ever worn white socks there before?  Don't.  And even with the most clean ones, you are guaranteed to find a dirty plaster in the ball pool. Then there's the E numbers.  What is it about soft play that makes me lose my responsible side?  Sugary juice, unhealthy snacks and calorific treats are available in abundance and for some reason I find it acceptable to give my girls far more than I would ever give them at home.  Which in turn has them climbing off the walls.  Then there are the other children.  Most of them who are also dosed up on said E numbers, shouting, screaming and generally making far too much noise than is entirely neccessary.  There is always one 'devil' child who every parent tries to avoid, who seems hell bent on causing havoc, pushing, biting, hitting or worse.

Mads is just at the age where she is quite happy to go off with her little chums for a while, running back every now and again to grab a sugary snack or to let me know she is ok.  But now I have LL who no longer will be pacified with a biscuit on my lap or who even better used to snooze in her buggy.  Instead she wants to be in the thick of the action too, which means trying to have eyes at the back of my head so I can play with her while keep an eye out for Mads too.  

It's also no longer a 'cheap' activity for us, with me having to pay for both Mads and LL.  That, combined with the fact that most places get a little funny about you bringing your own food in, mean that I am paying almost £20 a time for this exciting privilege.

Yet even though I know all this and even though my blood pressure raises that little more each time we go, we still visit a soft play place at least once a week.  Why do I do it to myself?  Firstly because both my girls love it and secondly because when the weather is grey and wet there isn't really much you can do with at least three toddlers and their siblings too.  We see friends on a Wednesday and a Friday and now they are all a little bit big to do play dates in our houses, (I struggle enough letting my girls run riot in our home let alone their friends too!) so therefore there really isn't many other options.  It's not too bad, at least my friends are there and we can chat in between taking it in turns to go up and down the slide numerous times.

So for the considerable future, unless the weather starts to get nicer, soft play is definitely a very ordinary moment for us.

 And when it makes their little faces so happy like LL was last Friday, at least I can rest assured that my girls are having a nice time even if I am not.  And that all that licking of plastic balls coated in numerous germs is is totally helping build up a strong immune system.  At least that's what I will keep telling myself.

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Intense.

on Tuesday, 20 May 2014.

It's approximately ten past eight in the morning and there are big salty tears running down my three year old's rosy cheeks.  Her little face is screwed up in some form of anguish, her mouth is open wide and she is wailing.  Loudly.  I know that it is early, but I glance down at my watch and note the time regardless.  Ten past eight.  We have been up little less than an hour.  And already I am thinking 'This is going to be a long day.'

This particular meltdown was over the fact that she wanted to wear her leggings rather than her shorts, but to be honest it could have happened over anything really.  She is tired, I am tired and the day hasn't even really begun.  I feel defeated, like I am fighting a losing battle...that the day isn't going to go well, yet it hasn't even really started.

There's only one word to describe it.  Intense.  

Before you actually become a mother you don't really realise just how enormous it is going to be.  Of course, you know it will change your life, but you don't really factor in that intensity.  The exceptional highs and the exceptional lows.  And all the little bits in between.  

You imagine life to be a little bit like something out of glossy baby magazine, you walking round in trendy clothes with a full face of make up and an immaculately clean, pristine baby cooing happily in their buggy.  You imagine the trips to the seaside, the cute little baby clothes and the euphoric feeling of bringing a little person into the world that is part of you and the person you love most.  There's the thought process of plenty picture perfect moments of delightful scenes of motherhood.

Which of course there is.  There are those 'pinch me' moments where life is exactly how you want it to be.  Where you feel like you are walking round in a dream and this is all you ever wanted.  Where you can't quite believe that you are lucky enough to be known to these two little people as 'Mummy'. There's the cuddles, the kisses, the lying together and reading a bedtime story...the little ordinary moments that are everything you wanted and more.  Motherhood is powerful, extraordinary and a complete and utter blessing.  

There's also the other side that you don't read about in the magazines or learn about in the baby books.  Of course, there is the raw intensity of loving someone so deeply it actually hurts a little.  Of being afraid of the 'what if's?'  The fear of something bursting the little bubble of family life that you are so happy to be a part of.  Or being constantly anxious or worried that you are indeed doing a good job as a mother.  That you are getting it right. Those are the big emotions, the ones that can knock you sideways and take your breath away in a second.

But there's also the other intenseness, less fierce than those large emotions but powerful all the same.  And that's the intensity of day to day life.  Of being the person they shout for in the morning the second that they wake up.  Of being responsible.  Totally and utterly responsible for shaping these two innocent little people into who they were meant to be.  Making meals, reading stories, putting them in their car seats, teaching them, guiding them, wiping way their tears, caring for them, loving them...the list goes on.  It's all consuming.  It's exhilarting but it is exhausting.  It's incredible but it can be frustrating.  It's the best thing ever but it can push us to the limits.

It's intense. 

And just like there are days when you feel you have it all under control, there are those days where you feel like you don't have it figured out at all.

Sometimes you need to wipe away those tears at ten past eight in the morning, plaster on a smile and think that today will not become 'one of those days'.  Sometimes you need to go out and just let off some steam.  Blow away the cobwebs and the negative thoughts.

Sometimes it just really doesn't matter if you all eat far too many chocolate digestives and then they don't want to eat their lunch.  It doesn't matter if you then all have an ice cream on top of that as well.  A big Cornetto, not even a child friendly Mini Milk.   It doesn't matter if they get mud all over their new shoes as they really want to jump in that dirty puddle.

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Sometimes the only option is just to embrace it all and laugh.  As if you don't then you may cry.  And laughing totally is the better option.

And then that laughing becomes genuine as you see little faces enjoying the most simple moments together, the pure and innocent smiles plastered across their rosy cheeks.  The way the swings make their little curls blow in the wind and they get breathless from a combination of excitement and giggling.  

And that intensity comes back again, but this time it takes on an entirely different form.

Intense happiness.  

And that feeling that even though it can be the hardest job in the world at times, motherhood is most definitely 100% worth it.

 

{The Ordinary Moments 14} #18 'The Other Side Of Parenting.'

on Sunday, 04 May 2014.

realparenting

Being a parent is by far the best thing I have ever done.  It is incredible, amazing, utterly life changing and my girls make me smile and laugh every single day.  But whilst being a mother brings such joy and makes the simple and ordinary things in life even better, it also is exceptionally challenging.

There are amazing days, there are good days and there are downright crappy days.  Days where you question yourself and your abilities as a parent.  Days where you feel like you are failing and where you breathe a sigh of relief when they go to sleep in the evening.

But there are also just ordinary days.  And those are the days that they don't tell you about when you are pregnant.  You get told about the life changing moments or the moments where you want to hide under the covers and have a good cry.  But no one mentions the ordinary days.  The days where nothing remarkable happens, but where you have two small human beings to think about from the second you wake up until the second you go to sleep.  There is no where I would rather be but while it is incredible, it is exhausting. 

Being a parent is about learning to be selfless.  About putting your children's needs before your own. About letting go of the life you had before.  And often you don't realise just how much you have changed until you are faced with a faint glimmer of the old times.

This weekend I was a bridesmaid at one of my best friend's weddings.  Our stay 'up North' involved three different hotels in three different nights.  Three check in's, lugging suitcases, buggies, two small children and other paraphernalia up the stairs.  Three check out's carrying the same things down again just twelve hours later.  Three nights of sleeping on top of each other in cramped hotel rooms, dealing with disrupted routines, no naps and late bedtimes.

At the wedding there was not much time to sit and socialise, not much time to sip champagne and reminisce about the old times.  There were our girls to feed, to watch, to play with.  Girls who have a bedtime of 7pm and who by 9pm were tired and wanted to go to sleep.  Mr E went back to the room with them while I carried on having a few drinks and a dance with my friends.  But as I danced with my childless couple friends and a couple of my single friends too, it was a real reminder of just how different life is now.

If you had told me three and a half years ago that I would be sat on the toilet of a Premier Inn bathroom at 9pm, eating McDonalds chicken nuggets whispering to Mr E so as not to wake up our little ladies sleeping behind the closed door, I would never have been able to imagine it. (Classy!)   

But these are our ordinary moments now we are parents.  This is real life parenting at it's very best.  It's not always plain sailing, it's not always easy and it certainly isn't always picture perfect memories of happy smiling families grinning cheesily at the camera.  

It's about learning as you go along and about relishing and laughing about those funny little moments that make you contemplate just how different your life has become.

And that make you realise that even though things aren't always easy there is absolutely no where else you would rather be.

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{The Ordinary Moments 14} #14 The End Of A Journey...

on Sunday, 06 April 2014.

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I became a Mummy thirty-nine (ish) months ago.  And for almost twenty-four of those months I have shared a very special journey with my two little girls.  That journey is breastfeeding.  

I had no idea whether I wanted to breastfeed before Mads came along, but after doing NCT classes I decided that I may as well give it a go.  Those first few days were horrendous and I had bottles of formula sitting there waiting for me to use, but after a short stay in hospital and a scare from Mads, I became determined to breastfeed my newborn baby.  I think I was exhausted, scared and some how thought in my head that breastfeeding would help protect her from germs and illness.  (You can read about all that here)  Luckily after a couple of weeks it got easier and I ended up feeding Mads for 11 months before stopping.

This time around with LL it hurt like hell again for the first week, but I had the benefit of hindsight on my side and I knew it would get easier.  So I perservered and I have really enjoyed my breastfeeding journey with her.  It got to 12 months and I told everyone, including myself, that I was going to stop, but here we are at nearly 14 months and I am still feeding her a morning and evening feed.  

The thing is, I deep down don't know if I am ready to stop, I am still clinging on to the fact that she is most likely our last baby and that I will never share this bond again.  It isn't hurting us continuing, she only feeds for about five minutes and then it's over.  But I have to stop at some point, and so this weekend is the time. I am in Bath for a hen do and I have decided that I will feed her before I leave and then as she is with Mr E for a couple of days it will be a perfect time to stop.  I will come back after two nights away and then we will just have to try and distract her from the idea when I am home.  

It has been the most wonderful journey with my babies.  Those early days, when it was just us against the world in the middle of the night snuggled close together.  The way they both used to play with my hair, and gently stroke my skin.  Those snatched moments of eye contact and the way they used to stare up at me with such love in their eyes.  The times they would fall asleep on me and I would sit for ages just marvelling at how I managed to have a part in creating these amazing little people.  It's a bittersweet memory of those newborn days, a constant reminder about just how quickly the time goes and how each and every moment is so fleeting.

I recently wrote an article for The Motherhood about breastfeeding and how I really don't have an opinion on how other people choose to feed their babies.  If I hadn't been able to breastfeed or hadn't wanted to then I know I would be sat here writing the same thing about weaning my babies off a bottle.  It's more just the fact that it is the end of an era, and it's about letting go of that last little bit of babyhood.  Of milk being the thing they need to grow and thrive the most.  

That said, breastfeeding has been a huge part of my life as a Mummy and I asked Mr E to take a photo of my little LL and I sharing what potentially was our second to last feed together.  It's a grainy iPhone image but it is hugely sentimental for me.  

It's been a very ordinary moment for the last 13 and a half months.  But it's been an extraordinary story I will never ever forget.  

My little ladies are growing up so damn quickly.  And it is oh so bittersweet.

 

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