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Monday, 27 February 2012

Scared of passing on “list-making” to my child

I am delighted to post this marvellous guest blog from the beautiful Circus Queen.

She describes herself as "Writer, blogger, displaced Trinidadian, the creature's mother and wife of a good 'un. Blogging about the baby, boobs & 'issues' at Circus Queen."

She forgets to add that she is a bloody good mother, going above and beyond for her daughter. There is not much she has not tried and tested in her quest to be the best for Talitha.

She writes in a way which makes you feel like you are best friends with her already. Her frankness and dedication makes me want to try all the harder at this mothering-lark.

Anyway, enough from me. Here she is...

I'm an obsessive-compulsive list-maker. The notebooks in my bedside drawer are filled with lists of countries I want to visit, books I want to read, promises to myself that I will learn another language, skydive and knit a scarf some day.

I'm surprised I don't have a list knocking about that reads, “Get married, give birth, grow old, die”, with the last item to be ticked off by someone identified in my will.

At night, when I have trouble sleeping, I lie in bed between my husband and my daughter, making lists on my iPhone. I tap in blogging ideas, household chores, fun things to do with the baby.

I literally struggle to function without a list. Begin the day with a to-do list in hand and I'm likely to get something done.

The problem is that I also struggle to function with a list. Once I've written something down, it feels like it's something I have to do and I'm a massive commitment-phobe. Most of the items get left for dead. This translates my lists into little declarations of my failures on a daily basis.

I always thought that the trouble was procrastination. Recently, I've come to the conclusion that I am addicted to making promises to myself so that I can let myself down. It's a kind of self-sabotage, if you will.

This pathological behaviour turns my innocent-looking to-do list into a vindictive choice to kick my own self-esteem in the nuts. Over. And over.

So, of course I'm terrified of passing this on to my child. It's an entirely valid fear because this dependence on lists was passed on to me. It's a bonafide family trait.

I won't tell you who in my family I inherited it from because they sometimes follow my internetting and far be it from me to “out” a fellow list-maker.

I do wonder, though, if they feel the same way; that our lives are lived more on bits of paper strewn across rooms than in reality; that we write obsessively in order to disappoint ourselves.

Where has this bizarre behaviour come from? What place inside that person became the starting point? Was there someone else before them who was equally prone to these destructive lists? How did this snare become my own? How can I stop myself from passing it on to my own child?

If I think about it too much, it will just end up on a list of things not to pass on to her. So I won't.

Instead I open the drawer and look at lists of scripture and poetry to memorize, films to watch, a novel to write, a house to buy, recipes to try, a vocabulary to expand, one thousand and one things intended to make me, somehow, into a worthier person. Worthy of what exactly, I have no idea.

This is the antidote, though. This is what I need to teach her every day. I want my child to know that she is already worthy. As she is. No additives necessary. Worthy of everything.

Follow Circus Queen on Twitter at AdleleJK

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Things I will do to my kids when they are older....

1: When I go round to their houses, after taking my coat and shoes off and slinging them on the floor, (preferably so they trip over them) I will demand a drink IMMEDIATELY.

2: I will then refuse to drink out the cup I am offered, and the following three cups after that. I may also change my drink choice a couple of times too.

3: I will ask them for a lift, sit in the back of the car, kick their seat and ask if we are there yet, when, we are at the end of the road.

4: I will also shout "GO" loudly at traffic lights, so they move before the light goes green. This is in between making them stop repeatedly for a wees which I don't need.

5: I will ask them to make my favourite dinner, and then announce I no longer like it, once it's been placed in front of me.

6: I will ask for Dora the Explorer to be put on the telly, and demand they do the dance with me. If they refuse to, I will lay on the floor and howl, then kick them and pull their hair, then demand a cuddle and a cup of tea.

7: I will ring them up every twenty minutes all night long, just to make sure they are still there. I may moan my pillow is uncomfortable, my cover is itchy and ask if it's "the day" yet?

8: When we go out together, I will walk in front of them and keep stopping with no warning, and for no apparent reason. When I get tired of walking, I will sit on the floor and demand to be carried.

9: I will hide their sky remote.

10: And their car keys.

11: I will ask to play on their phone, erase all their numbers and drop it behind the sofa.

12: I will take all my clothes off just before we are due to go somewhere.

13: I will ask them to read me a book which I already know off by heart, repeatedly.

14: I will put apples in their washing machine and turn it on a long hot cycle.

15: I will put their clothes on for fun.

16: I will ask why, or why not? to everything they say to me.

17: I will shout "No, NEVER" when they ask me to pass them something.

18: I will tell them they did all these things to me when they were kids.

19: I will tell them they were the best days of my life.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Hooray for boobies... the breastfeeding meme

1: Why did you choose boob over bottle?

Down here in Brighton, breast is the Tina Turner of milk. Time and time again I was told it's "simply the best". When I started to struggle at four months with my first daughter, I was even offered a wet nurse! (link to my blog post)
I never even considered bottle feeding. I felt, and still feel, that my body makes bespoke milk for my babies, which formula can never replicate. **

2. How long did you breastfeed or are you planning to breastfeed?

I nursed my first daughter till she was nine months old, and then she stopped being interested (sob!) My second daughter stopped being interested at about eight months. I think that was because I was pregnant again with my third daughter, who I am still breastfeeding now at almost five months, and plan to do so for as long as she wants (but not like the lady still breastfeeding her eight-year old).

3. What is the best thing about breastfeeding?

How instinctive it feels. The convenience. The way it always comforts, soothes, quietens. The way it makes me feel like I am semi good at this mothering lark. I love seeing my babies put on weight, all down to me. It's empowering.

4: Did you have to overcome challenges on your breastfeeding journey?

Yes. Emotional and physical. After a hideous encounter when I was a teenager, I have never liked anyone going near my breasts. Even the thought of it made me gag. One of my biggest worries before I first breastfed was if I'd be able to handle the sensation.

The sensation turned out to be bloody painful, which was my second battle. I didn't latch my first daughter on properly and ended up with bleeding nipples. She used to come away from a feed with blood running down her chin, like a baby vampire. I remember curling my toes in agony, and dreading the next feed.

I never considered stopping at this stage though. No midwife or health care visitor suggested it either. I forgot bottles were even an option, and just stuck with it till it got easier.

5. Who supported you the most with breastfeeding?

A dear friend, who bought me Lansinoh and shared her own painful experiences. My husband, who bought cabbage leaves to put in my bra and ran hot baths for my to dangle myself over, and the health care team who reassured me that bleeding cracked nips were normal and would pass.

6. How did you feel when you first breastfed in public?

The first time I breastfed in public was a bit scary. I used to hide in disabled loos for ages, but then I mastered the two tops technique (a vest pulled down under a top pulled up) and realised I could be discreet enough for no one to notice. I have small breasts though, so it's pretty easy for me to hide what we are up to.
Third time round I don't really care if people catch a flash of breast, but I would never "wop it out" for the world to see.

8. Have you been questioned for breastfeeding?

My mother-in-law was amazed I was able to breastfeed as I have "such small breasts". I remember her bragging she could have breastfed the whole street from hers, but then, they were much larger than mine.

She openly fretted that my babies were not getting enough milk from said small breasts and commented "If you bottle feed you will be able to see how much they've had" or "You are too skinny to be making any decent quality milk" and most recently she told me my milk must have dried up because I got my period back (it hasn't).

9. Has breastfeeding made you feel different about your body?

Breastfeeding has made me stop hating my breasts, but I've been pregnant or nursing for so long now, it's hard to see my body as anything other than a babies house or food supply. Three (almost) 9lb babies in 3.5 years has taken it's toll on me, and it shows. While I am proud of myself for a good job done, I find it very hard to feel attractive in my (saggy) skin. My breasts belong to my baby, not me and deffo not my husband ;)

9. What do you wish you had known before making the decision to breastfeed your baby?

How much it might hurt and what to do about it before it got too bad.

** I would like to state that I have been very lucky as a breastfeeder. I have never suffered from low milk supply, or any other problems. I wholeheartedly believe Breast is NOT best if it's causing tears and stress.

Monday, 13 February 2012

How to talk so your kids will listen...

I recently purchased "How to talk so your kids will listen, and listen so your kids will talk" I bought it to stop me shouting at four.

I don't ever mean to shout at four. I never start by shouting at four, but somehow, I always end up with peter pointer aimed at her screeching "FOUR! LISTEN TO ME" or "GET OFF YOUR SISTER" or my husband's personal favourite "DON'T SHOUT AT ME!"

Shouting at my kids makes me feel all kinds of crap. Their scared faces. Their watery-eyed silences. Their wobbly said sorries. Their instant forgiveness when I say sorry. It reminds me that my heart no longer lives inside me. It's split three ways and beats inside them.

My husband is very bored of me unloading my poor parenting on him each night. I am no Catholic but I feel an overwhelming need to confess my motherly sins and hear I am forgiven. Instead of hail marys however, I hand out haribo and turn on The Disney Channel.

Anyway, in a "Be the change you want to see" type manner, I bought the book. So far I've read chapter one. I am not allowed to read the next chapter till I've mastered the art of the first one, so the book says. I don't like being told what to do by a book. It's like the book has it's very own peter pointer aimed at me. Well it can't tell me what to do. PISS OFF BOOK. Oh look, I'm shouting again. Chapter one did not go well.

It was all about approaches. Rather than saying "no", it told me to fabricate an alternative world and "wish" the answer could be different. Make the word no fun!

Sounds great doesn't it?

But not very practical when it's 8.55am, we are late to get out the house already, and four appears at the top of the stairs announcing she will be going to nursery naked save for a crown.

Creating an alternative universe where I "wish you could go to nursery naked too, but a magic jumping bean might shoot up your bottom and turn you into a tree so tall your head is in giant land, and we don't want that do we, ho ho ho" is a little long winded.... One of the other children is taking her shoes off, another is crying for a feed and there will be no parking spaces. I just need four to "PUT SOME CLOTHES ON, RIGHT THIS MINUTE, AND GET IN THE BLOODY CAR"


Ten minutes later in the car, I pass a fried-egg-shaped haribo to a snivelling four who explains "I only wanted to be like the Emperor in his new clothes mummy" Feeling more rational, on schedule and slightly wired from a few fried-egg haribos myself, I start to understand her logic.

"Sorry pops" I tell her "The morning lost it's legs."

"That's OK mummy. Shall we share a fizzy cola bottle?"

Why not?

The book lives under the bed, where I tossed it, in a mood. Maybe I will ingest the rest of the chapters by some imaginative form of osmosis. If not, who cares?

I can be a snappy crocodile at times, but shouting in my house come with explanations and sorries. So maybe I don't always remember to sugar coat my requests, but I do my apologies.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Eight great ways to get your kids to sleep....honest

After three weeks of being up all night with one of the girls, I asked my coffee-morning mums for tips. The conversation that followed was so hilariously absurd it could have been a dream. But then I remembered that in order to dream, I'd need to be asleep... Chance would be a fine thing.

1: One friend had a thick sleepsuit for her son. A magic sleepsuit. She claimed the heavy material made him sweat so much it tired him out, and even made him wear it in the summer, and cut the feet off when he grew too big for it (aged seven).

2: Another friend swears by a complicated rocking/bum-patting/whispering technique. She showed me how, but when I tried, I got it wrong. It's all in the knees apparently. I never was good at aerobics - and much like the Scissor Sisters say "I don't feel like dancing" (especially at 2am).

3: Another friend's mum used to give her son a lamb bone to gnaw on and drive him round for hours. Yes I did just say lamb bone.

4: My dear friend M swears by white noise. Her son sleeps if the hoover and hairdryer are on. If she turns them off, he wakes up, if she leaves them on, she can't sleep. Her husband can't sleep either way as he is so worried about huge electricity bills and house fires.

5: My Russian friend (Using an ancient Russian technique) tucks her kids in so tightly that they physically can't get out bed. They lay pinned to their mattresses till morning - asleep or not.

6: My husband used to recite all the capital cities to our first daughter to get her to sleep. He often bored himself off to the land of nod first, and she would wake him up by hitting him smartly over the head with her bottle.

7: I read the most boring books I can find in my most boring voice... Enid Blighton's Famous Five are good for this. Nothing very exciting ever really happens (but good luck saying "Slow down Dick" or "Hurry up fanny" without snorting).

8: Another friend of mine speaks to her baby via the intercom, so she can remain downstairs watching TV. The secret to this is to make sure the room is pitch black apparently, otherwise it just freaks them out.

Techniques tried which definitely do NOT work

Begging: My four month old baby is still surprised and delighted by her own hands on a daily basis. Trying to explain what a busy day I had and how much I need sleep does not seem to sink in very well.

Shouting "Just go to bloody sleep" - in a loud voice. It only seems to make them more awake, and teaches them the word bloody.

Letting them stay up till they fall asleep of their own accord. They never do.

So there you go. Eight sure fire ways to get a good nights sleep... After you've dressed up, danced with, fed bones to, been for a drive and cleaned the house with, then pinned down, recited, and read to your little ones.. they'll be off to sleep in no time.

Night all

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Why I had children

I remember a friend having a baby when we were about 16. I remember holding him (badly) as she shrieked and he chain-smoked (or maybe the other way round) and thinking "Rather you than me love"...

A few years later I found my Prince Charming. Proper big grown up love stuff. The kind people sing about. Suddenly it was not enough to just be with him, I needed to imprint him on me (not in a weird Twilight way for all you fans out there) I began to physically ache inside with an insatiable need to entwine mine and thine.

I started to imagine a mini version of my man. Cue looking at old baby photos of him, digging out his old hand knitted romper suits and secretly reading Zita West's guide to fertility.

The husband was a bit less keen (surprise surprise) he talked of mortgages and savings and not rushing. My ache grew, my pleading too and finally my pill ceased.

Five weeks later a girl I worked with announced she was pregnant. My jealousy was so raw I wanted to deface her 12 week scan photo.

Luckily there was no need. Sudden sore boobs***, a secret hope and three pregnancy tests later, I had my own scan photo awaiting me.

Four years and three daughters later, a mini-man is still just an image in my mind, but the experience of creating life with my best friend is as real and as magical as I could ever have wished for.

***On this, how did you know, or guess you might be pregnant?