It’s nearly birthday time for Little E. Next month he’ll be 3 years old and I’m being reminded once again that time becomes a very different beast once you have children. It’s mind-blowing, and wonderful and just a little terrifying how much love and fun and growing has been squished into the last 3 years, and we are all such different people because of it. December will be typically manic with birthdays, Christmas and work, so now feels like a good time to reflect on what he’s been up to. There have been definite themes to the last few months…
I’ve been quiet on the blogging front recently for a couple of reasons. I’ve been busy with the working mummy juggle and I’ve been feeling pretty gloomy, hence the melodrama and (bad) paraphrasing of Dickens in the title. In fact *deep breath* I had a bit of a breakdown. If I say “a bit” it makes it sound significantly less frightening than it was. I don’t know that I can talk about it here, it’s still very raw. To be honest at the moment I’m struggling with blogging full stop because the little gremlins who tell me I’m self obsessed and arrogant for airing my life so publicly are back. Ah, the ‘joy’ of anxiety induced paranoia. What is clear is that the last few weeks have been hard on E, and I’ve seen him get increasingly upset and angry because of my stress.
Like any parent I want to ensure my children don’t hurt, or worry, or feel confused and vulnerable. But recently I’ve been incapable of protecting the boys from these things. I’ve been sad and distant and when it got really bad I packed up and left them with a shell of a mummy. I felt like I was just existing, hidden away in the tiniest little corner of my mind. And all I could do was watch as E became confused and angry. It was pretty horrible. Thankfully I was forced to rest. I took time out from my job and from everything apart from being with E, Bean and J. I still have a lot of work to do to keep my demons at bay but the break did a world of good.
The last few weeks have been as much about E shaking off my sadness as me and some of this update will reflect that. We’ve seen him get angrier than usual and at times he found it very difficult to articulate his upset. Also he’s been struggling with sleep (for the record: I HATE 4AM). All these challenges have made me think a lot about my responsibility with regards to his emotional well-being.
I think boys have a difficult enough time navigating their emotions without the added pressure of family stresses. Mostly society still demands that they be strong, aggressive and brave. But at other times they’re expected to be sensitive, emotionally astute and gentle. They are pushed and pulled by a world that doesn’t know how it wants its men to behave. And it makes me worry. Too often boys reach adolescence with a skewed understanding of how they are ‘meant’ to feel, and too often men struggle through life terrified of emotion. The last few weeks have taught me that suppressed anxieties and upset will always out and so it’s become even more important to me that I teach my boys not to be frightened or ashamed of their emotions. For as long as he’s been able to talk I’ve encouraged E to discuss his feelings and now he tells me when his ‘tummy’ feels angry or sad. At the moment it’s very much a reflective process, so I tend to hear about the angry tummy after he’s bopped Bean over the head, snatched away toys, stomped up and down, or growled at me! But I still think the fact that he can articulate his feelings is brilliant, and I hope he continues to acknowledge his emotions, rather than sweep them under the carpet, as he gets older.
That being said we still have bad days when I don’t have my wits about me and I confront his anger head on. If I’m exhausted or overwhelmed I plead or shout and it never achieves anything – not once have I managed to stop a tantrum with more anger or upset. Staying calm is the only way. I just wish it came easier some days. Another thing I’m trying hard not to do is make a joke of his rage. There’s something pretty hilarious about a hopping mad 2 year old but I’ve learnt that scoffing at him is like poking his inner gremlins. His anger is a real, valid feeling that needs to be dealt with before he can move on and it’s no good me expecting him to flick on a happy switch just because I can’t be arsed with resolving his upset the proper way. Eeesh, it’s a learning curve, and some days I feel sooo drained by it all, but I’m hoping that if I acknowledge these issues now it might encourage him to be an (even more) emotionally intelligent soul later on in life.
Sleep deprivation is hideous. Fact.
tricky truly horrendous issue we’ve been tackling is a horrid battle with sleep. E was always my angel sleeper. He’s slept 7-7 for as long as I can remember and even then he’d often wake and play quietly in his cot until we collected him. Then we took the sides off the cot, I went back to work and life as we knew it changed. For some reason 4am became the new wake up time and he just wouldn’t go back to bed. It was as though his body clock had changed over night. I was exhausted from the combination of Beans night feeds and Es 4am starts so I took to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to beg for help. I figured there had to be something I was doing wrong. I gathered lots of suggestions and fantastic advice and what followed was an arduous process of trying to get the boy to sleep past 4am using the following methods:
1. The gentle approach
2. The shouty approach
3. The get in my bed and go to sleep, purleeeease! approach
4. The gro clock approach, which did bugger all. He thinks it’s pretty cool to look at but he couldn’t give a toss that the stars are still up or that mr sunshine is asleep.
5. The wake to sleep approach. This is the technique of waking your early riser an hour before his godawful early start. That would be 3am in our case. You are met with a groggy, delirious, confused face. You then allow him to go back to sleep in an attempt to rejig his body clock. He continues to wake at 4am. You cry.
6. The star chart approach. Despite my attempts to make stars seem like THE MOST EXCITING THING EVER! E just wasn’t fussed. As far as he was concerned getting stars was alright and not getting stars was ‘meh. Whatever’.
After a month of failing to remedy the 4am starts and looking, feeling and behaving like a broken woman I realised I only had one option left: to put the stair-gate up on his bedroom door. I felt awful, like I was imprisoning him in his bedroom, and I wondered if it would be like taking a huge step backwards.
Guess what? It only bloody worked! It’s taken a week but E is now sleeping until 6am! It’s a bit distressing that I’ve reached a stage in life when anything past 5am is classified as a lay in, but still, 6am! Woohoo! Apart from trapping him in his room there are a couple of other changes we made that seem to have cracked our sleep nightmare:
We kept the naps. He may be almost 3 but E SO needs his naps. A lot of people thought he was too old to be napping and that 1 and a half to 2 hours sleep was too long, so we went cold turkey for a few days. It was bloody horrible. Not only did it make no difference to the 4am wake ups but he also became an absolute horror from about 2pm onwards because he was so exhausted. He was literally begging to go to sleep in between sobs so I realised there was no point and the naps came back. Relief all round.
He goes to bed a smidge later. We used to settle both boys at the same time – between 6.30-7, after their bath. Bean still has this routine but E now has half an hour of daddy time before bedtime. He loves this quiet half hour, in fact I think it may be his favourite time of day. They sit and chat and watch a programme of Es choosing and then I take him upstairs for a story and bed.
When he wakes before 6am I walk him back to bed, kiss him goodnight and walk out again and *crosses EVERYTHING crossable* right now we seem to be making huge progress. It’s a week in and his body clock is shifting, plus he’s willing to be put back to bed when he wakes up too early. Fingers crossed we might even get him to sleep in past 7am again. Now that would be heaven.
Autumn joy and the lovely bits
October hasn’t been all stressful. Autumn is so much fun, I love it! Although I tend to say that whenever a new season rolls in. I do love a new season. I’m finding Autumn especially fun with kids. I love wrapping up warm, going for walks, watching fireworks, snuggling up in front of a cheesy film, and carving pumpkins. And I love it even more now that I have a little boy and a baby to share the experience with. E has adored every minute of it so far – giving sweets to the trick or treaters, helping carve the pumpkin, making decorations, collecting leaves to create
glue mountains beautiful works of art, squealing with delight as J set off fireworks. It’s been a lot of fun. And every so often he’ll screech “IT’S NEARLY CHRISTMAS TIME!”. His excitement is pretty contagious!
Little E has grown up so much the past few weeks and his language has come on in leaps and bounds. He loves to ask ‘why’ about everything. At the moment it’s still a cute novelty but I’m guessing it’ll wear thin pretty fast He’s a dab hand at selective hearing and avoidance – “E, would you pick that rubbish up, please?” “Ummm, maybe tomorrow” – and he just loves to conjure up scary/gross possibilities. According to him the baby is always about to do a “big smelly poo” and animals are always “snap, snap, bite heads off”, even when they’re not. Life is big and fast and the best things are ferocious, exciting and a little bit scary, like dinosaurs, which leads me on to…
Dinosaurs and dragons
E is OBSESSED with dinosaurs and dragons. He’d happily watch How to Tame Your Dragon on repeat for days and he has so many toy dinosaurs I’ve lost count. He goes to bed with the jabby things as if they were cuddly toys. And recently he’s started role-playing. It happens all of a sudden, one minute he’s Little E and the next he IS a dinosaur. He clambers down on to all 4s, slowly moves his head side to side and glares, his arms retract into teeny T-Rex arms poking out the front of his chest and he does an odd scrambling motion as though he’s trying to open a door but can’t quite reach. And of course he roars. Loudly. When he’s in dinosaur mode you can talk to him until you’re blue in the face but he won’t respond with anything but a roar (he takes his art very seriously). And when he’s not being a dinosaur he likes to be a dragon or a dog. He completely ignores me unless I acknowledge him in character and do things like stroke his head and throw toys for him to ‘fetch’. I do love watching his imaginative play but I have to say I’m not keen on him morphing into dinosaur boy seconds before we need to pile out of the house for nursery.
If I had to sum up the boys relationship in one word it would be: passionate. They are passionately in love and E becomes passionately irritated by Bean at the drop of a hat. Everything is just hunky-dory as long as Bean maintains a good distance from E’s toys. Also E is a big fan of personal space, he likes time to play alone whereas Bean thinks his brother is so wonderful that he wants to copy him, touch him, laugh at him and play with him all the time. Cue the screaming. E is protective and territorial over his brother when we’re out (he’s totally perfected the death stare for anyone who feels it’s appropriate to fawn over and touch his baby brother when we’re out) and I’m told that when they’re at nursery he loves to show Bean off and shower him with love and toys. Sometimes I feel like I’m floundering when they start wailing like banshee’s and doing the tug of war over yet another toy. E may well be good at nursery, but I’d love him to share his toys a little more freely at home. I’m very much feeling my way with the whole sibling thing at the moment but hopefully I’ll find a magic trick to decrease the screaming and increase the sharing very soon. I can hope
Christmas Bean to little boy
^^ Our little Christmas Bean ^^
Now that my baby is about to become another year older I’m finding it very hard not to reel out the clichés. It feels like E has been with us forever and yet it’s been such a short while. I look back at his newborn photos and I can’t believe he was the tiny Christmas bundle who sat for hours quietly transfixed by the fairy lights. He is a feisty, confident little boy who is full of love and determination and every day he does something that makes me appreciate life a little more. Some of the most special moments with E come when I’m watching from a distance. I love seeing him connect with J and his brother and I often peer into his room at nursery before I collect him so I get to watch him just ‘being’ in his world. Recently as we were headed to the park from the supermarket I looked back to see him skip out of the automatic doors in his usual, chaotic way – he’s fast on his feet and he haphazardly winds in and out of a crowd. He narrowly missed a man who was suited and booted and obviously in a rush from work. The guy was probably a bit peeved initially, irritating children getting in the way and all that. But after almost careering into the man E stopped in his tracks, looked up, beamed his gorgeous cheeky smile and said “oh, I’m sorry!” and then ran on to catch me up. There was no prompting from me, he didn’t even realise I was watching. Such a simple thing but it was the moment I realised my son is an autonomous little person in the world, already capable of impacting on other people’s lives. And in that split second, all by himself, he made a good choice. And bloody hell, if this is how I feel now can you imagine what I’m going to be like come sports day/his first day at school/his first play etc? God help me!
Despite the challenges of the last month or so E continues to blossom. Every day he teaches me to be a better mummy and a more grateful person. I’m so blessed to have this boy in my life.
^^ Ooh, he’s a handsome sausage ^^