Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Ways We Cope

We've had a rough few days here.  A lot of tanting, wailing, crying, fighting, food-refusal, bedtime shenanigans and other things that will be familiar to parents of toddlers.

People often comment on what a handful the boys must be and say that they don't know how I do it, and usually I wave them away with a 'pshaw' and some comment about how it's not as hard as you'd think.  But some days, if I'm honest, it's exactly as hard as you'd think!

Whatever any of my married friends say light-heartedly (I hope!) about the level of involvement (or lack of it) of their other halves, I remain convinced that just the knowledge that eventually another adult will walk through the door gives some comfort that the single parent doesn't have.  It's tiring when it's all on you - not just the household things and the kids, but the DIY, the bills, the garden, car maintenance, being the provider, and making all of the decisions, decisions, decisions without even a sounding board! 

And so the last few days have got me to thinking about the strategies I use to cope with crazy days, and I've come to the realisation (again!) that I'm so blessed and fortunate to have friends (thank you all!), a support network and the ability and money to build in a variety of coping strategies that wouldn't be available to some single mums.

This week alone I have diffused the tension by going to a friend's house at short notice to let my kids play with hers, by visiting a local play centre, and by simply going out somewhere (anywhere!) in the car.  We have a wide variety of toys in the house, so I can rotate them when the boys are getting bored, and if the weather is ever nice, we have a garden complete with a nifty slide.

So many of these kindnesses and conveniences are taken for granted.  If I imagine myself as a young, inexperienced single mother, unable to drive and living on benefits in a small flat, I wonder how I would manage to get through the days.  Chances are that all my friends would be living it up, I'd be short of cash to pay for play centres, toys and other amusements and with no car I'd be reduced to walking them in the pram in the rain.  No garden to play in, no tumble dryer to get the washing dry and every time I need to pick up a few groceries it would be a major operation on public transport.

It's no wonder that without a supportive family, some mums struggle to cope.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


Last night I decided to treat myself to an early night.  By 9.20 I was all tucked up in bed with HIGNFY livening up my bedroom TV and prepared for a lovely long night's sleep.  What was I thinking?

Of course it began to pour torrentially, but I did manage to overcome the sound of the wind lashing the rain against the window to eventually fall asleep.  That wasn't my problem.

My problem was that both of the boys seem to have an uncanny ability to know exactly what would be the worst and most inconvenient thing to do and then to do that with such skill that it's as though they have been practising for ages!

So, early night?  Must be an opportunity for OB to decide that 3.30am is getting-up time then.

He's been struggling at bedtime for a few nights now.  He clings onto me when I put him into his cot as though I'm abandoning him in the lion's den.  When I leave the room, he's standing up, reaching out for me and crying hysterically. 

Since he's outgrown his onesies and his growbags I've been putting him to bed just in his pyjamas which means that since the summer weather has deserted us, he gets cold in bed.  He does have a lovely quilt and blanket but he doesn't know how to use them, so he lies at one end of the cot and they lie at the other. Usually I sneak in about an hour after he's gone to bed and cover him with the quilt but last night, drunk with desire for my own bed, I forgot :(

Consequently, he was wide awake at 3.30 and no amount of cuddling, soothing, rocking or reasoning could persuade him to settle down and get back in his cot to go to sleep.  It took me until 5.30 to finally coax a snooze out of him and then he woke again at 6am all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed just as if he'd had a full and satisfying night's sleep!  I have to say that I wasn't in the same condition!

So I wasted an evening when I could have been doing one of the many jobs that are piling up in my to-do list and didn't even get the sleep bonus I had promised myself.

And yet you might be thinking that it could have been worse.  I could have gone to bed two hours later and still have got up at 3.30 and then I would have been even more tired. But I have a sneaking feeling that if I hadn't tried for the early night, it wouldn't have happened.  Every time I go to bed really early, something seems to flick a "we don't need any sleep!" switch in one of the boys' heads.  It's uncanny.

This has started me thinking about all the other things that are uncanny.  For instance, it's uncanny how often both the boys manage to simultaneously and catastrophically fill their nappies just after I've got their shoes and coats on ready to go out.

It's uncanny how they are able to take a simple meal consisting of mostly dry items and spread it lavishly all over their clothes just when I need them to look decent.

It's uncanny how they seem to know when I've put particular effort into making them a really nice meal with all fresh ingredients and all they can do in response is to look at the food, shake their heads and stubbornly close their mouths!  (Actually, that's only NB - OB approaches all food with the enthusiasm of a particularly effective vacuum cleaner!).

Going out is an event that often triggers uncanny events.  I've already mentioned the nappy-filling, but there's also the tendency to suddenly empty the contents of every toy box all over the floor just as we're about to leave so that we are either made late by the tidying up, or we just leave it and come back to a bomb site later.

I wonder if they learn these skills as they go along or if they are born with them?!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Potty Predicament!

We went on a very special shopping trip today.  Yes, despite my recent vociferous protestations that NB wouldn't be ready to start anything remotely resembling toilet training for months yet, I have relented and bought a nifty little Mickey Mouse potty.

It has already caused a riot in the house - should definitely have bought two!

I must admit I'm dreading the whole toilet training thing and was very much hoping that NB would be moved on somewhere before we got to it.  From what I've seen other people go through it doesn't look like a fun time for the family, and all of this will be compounded for us since NB's lack of speech makes it pretty difficult for him to communicate what he wants, and equally difficult for me to be certain that he's understood what I've been saying to him.

So why the change of heart?  Well I've been doing the "Is your child ready for toilet training?" checklists and feeling pretty certain that NB was nowhere near ready, until suddenly, in the last couple of days, he's started to show a quite acute awareness of the state of his nappy. 

Quite often, NB does a poo in the bath - evidence as far as I was concerned that toilet training was not yet on the cards.  But the other evening, he stood in the bath as if he wanted to do a poo, but shouting and pointing to his bottom without doing anything.  I asked him if he needed a poo and he said yes, so I put him on the toilet but he didn't do anything.  So I asked him if he wanted a nappy on and he said yes and let me put one on, but still didn't do anything. 

Now, here is a good example of my problem.  Did I interpret his behaviour in the bath properly?  Did he understand my questions?  He didn't do a poo at the time or even later, so it's possible that the whole episode was nothing to do with that!  NB has a habit of saying yes to everything.  Here's a good example:

ME: Can you say drink?
NB: Yes.
ME: You say drink.
NB: Yes.
ME: You say it.
NB: Yes.
ME: Drink, drink!
NB: Yes.

So, if it had just been that one moment in the bathroom, I would have thought no more about it but then, yesterday, he twice asked me to take his nappy off - once when he had done a poo and once when it was pretty wet and full.  This is what tipped me over the edge towards the momentous decision of buying our first potty.

So, we are embarking on uncharted territory as far as we are concerned anyway.  Any contributions of personal experiences (good, bad and humorous!) would be much appreciated!