Moments

Stillness and awe

The other morning, Little R was keeping me company while I got ready. He was happily babbling away to himself and playing with some toys while I got dressed, and I tuned out for a bit, concentrating on what I was doing. Noticing that the noise had stopped, I tuned back in to see him sitting still by the window, gazing at the gusty day outside. The sight stopped me in my tracks. It mightn’t sound like a big deal, but when you’re used to an energetic dynamo of a 2-year old circling you constantly, these rare moments of stillness are a sight to behold.

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He was so peaceful, so enthralled. I could almost see the cogs turning in his head as he sat and watched.

I couldn’t resist sneaking out of the room to grab my phone and race back to get a few quick photos, which of course ended up disturbing his daydream. In hindsight I should have just stayed still, soaking up the moment, watching him just like he was watching the trees. I can’t remember another time when I’ve witnessed either Little R or his big sister just sit like that and watch the world as it goes by. Such a small thing, but so beautiful to me.

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I got down on the floor with Little R and we lay side by side on our tummies, looking out the window and talking about the wind and the leaves on the trees. Then he got up and jumped on to my back. I managed to wriggle him off me and get up to kneel, only to have him crawl underneath me, giggling. I nuzzled into his neck with my nose, making him laugh. And I thought “This. This is being a parent.”

The little things.

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Miscellany

The future is bright

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Sometimes I like to imagine what our family life will look like in 5, 10, 15 years time. Do you ever?

Even though I am holding on to Little R’s toddlerdom with all my might. Even though I am secretly cherishing those (now rare) moments when Moose mispronounces a word. Even though I am trying to permanently etch into my brain the vision and feeling of both of them holding my hands to cross the road, one on each side. Even though they are both making noise at the top of their lungs as I write this, and being too rough with each other…..I’m still looking at them in wonder and adoration of their smallness.

These days will be gone all too soon. And suddenly, I’ll be looking at photos of them when they were small, and wondering how that time got away from me, and mourning for the loss of these days.

But there is so much to look forward to. Think about it….

 

Family movie nights, with popcorn and everything, and not necessarily with animated movies.

Watching/listening to the news together, and discussing what is happening around us.

Helping with homework (although I imagine that one will lose its novelty quite fast) and encouraging them to simply do their best.

Watching them play sports, and reaping all the wonderful benefits that it can bring.

Neither of them requiring me to help them wash themselves.

Going to places together, like the shops or the library, and being able to go our seperate ways then meet up later.

Hopefully sharing some interests or hobbies that we can enjoy together.

Taking them to their first concert (hopefully, if they let me).

Letting them borrow my books and finding out what they think about them.

Having nights out together, and being able to go to whichever restaurant we like, see movies that have ratings higher than PG, and not have to worry about how late it’s getting. And not having to bring a nappy bag or pyjamas for them to change into later!

 

Yes. There is still so much to come.

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Miscellany

Life overtaking life

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Lately, there just seems to be no time. I can’t quite believe it’s August and I’ve been back at work for 3 months already.

I haven’t found the time to blog here as much lately as I have wanted to, although I have certainly had plenty of blogging ideas churning away so it’s not for lack of inspiration, just lack of being in a position to do something about it when the inspiration strikes.

Winter has been harsh this year, and for the most part we have tried to escape it whenever possible by hibernating. But it hasn’t escaped us. Like most families in Canberra at this time every year, we’ve been hit hard with various illnesses in our household. Poor Little R seems to have had a runny nose since about June, and his first few months in childcare have seen him pick up the obligatory smorgasbord of bugs. He’s had colds, a minor bout of conjunctivitis, and most recently a 24-hour tummy bug which he kindly shared with both his parents too (Moose managed to sidestep it somehow, although she did vomit on the bus on a school excursion in the same week, but I put that down to motion sickness). The rest of us have also each picked up a cold at some point this season.

We’ve had to cancel so many plans with friends and family over the past few months thanks to illness, as have others with us. It’s felt like we’ve been cut off from our circles, isolated out of necessity. The kids have been bored, I’ve run out of entertaining ideas, and nothing could be done about it.

Moose also had a run of back-to-back injuries at both preschool and childcare. Firstly, she tripped over her own feet while running on concrete, scratching the side of her face and biting the inside of her cheek. Then the next day, she had a slip on some play equipment and split her chin open, requiring a trip to the emergency room and thankfully no stitches, only glue.  For a while there, I was getting called from either preschool or childcare multiple times every week thanks to both illness and injury!

My return to work has condensed what little time is available for everything else that comes with running a household. We’re finding that by the time we leave work at the end of the day, pick up the kids, come home, make dinner, eat dinner, have baths and read stories, the kids are usually not getting to bed until 8.30pm. We have to get up at 6am in the mornings to allow enough time to get everyone ready and out the door on time, so most nights Big R and I have to choose between only having around an hour of free time to ourselves to relax and enjoy our own interests before it’s time for sleep, or staying up late so we get more time to ourselves and being exhausted the next day. It’s a tough call. That free time at night is also the only time I have available now to tend to things like emails, bills, the shopping list and ordering the groceries, exercising….sometimes I’ll go days without a shred of time to pause and take time for myself.  This might just be business as usual for some people, but not me. I crave solo time, I need it regularly to keep me energised and feeling positive.

Yes, winter has been harsh this year. The house has suffered. The garden has suffered. The dogs have suffered. The kids and Big R have suffered. My mind, body and soul have all suffered.

Like I said, there’s just not enough time. Lately I have felt like I am always racing, racing, and just hanging on by a bare thread. I feel like if I am late or something unexpected happens, this whole bundle I am precariously trying to balance will be knocked over and will flatten me. My whole outlook from the previous year of “slow, simple and mindful” has been left by the wayside.

What I wouldn’t give for some warming sunshine, a lengthy catch-up with friends, and an assured few hours of alone time every week!

 How are you feeling at this time of the year – restful and chilled or completely run ragged?

Linking up with IBOT at Essentially Jess and The Weekend Rewind with Maxabella Loves and friends

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Miscellany

8 simple cues to calm

Recently, we went through a bit of a rough patch here.  It felt like storm clouds were forever shadowing Moose, Big R and myself (Little R escaped, he’s too little to cause havoc yet!). Tensions were tight, tempers were quick to rise, and the mood was miserable.  Every day there would be a battle – Moose wouldn’t listen to instructions, or she would ignore or deflect them, she would repeatedly do the same wrong things over and over, and then voices would raise in all corners until eventually there was a blowout.  As parents, we were feeling too exhausted and fed up to even attempt to analyse the situation and figure out a solution.

I’d had enough of the guilt that was eating me up, and I felt lost as to what I could do to change things.  Any ideas I came up with were either things we’d tried before with no success, or methods we didn’t agree with.  I knew that we needed to agree on a consistent mode of discipline, and Big R and I also needed some suggestions of ways to rein in our frustration and anger when things seemed to be spiralling out of control.  We were seeing first-hand evidence right in front of our eyes that the more we yelled, the more our children our bound to yell back at us.  I reached out to friends on my personal Facebook page, and thankfully, was sent a bundle of tips and advice. At the same time, I went back over articles and blog posts I’d read previously on the topics of discipline and maintaining calm.  I collected a bunch of simple and quick mantras and reminders that resonated with me, and committed to making a conscious effort to keeping them at the forefront of my mind each day.  Since then, I do feel like there has been a change in the air around here, and I’ve found it easier to pull back at times when I’ve noticed that my blood is starting to boil.  There has been the occasional snap at each other, but we haven’t had any major outbursts here for about two weeks now.  So far so good.

I thought I would share here the cues that are really working for me right now, which I have gathered from a variety of sources and through just generally speaking to people.  They might work for someone else too, or if nothing else, it will be a place I can come back to when I need reminders of how I can stay calm and resist yelling:

  • S.T.O.P.

I found this at Creative With Kids, there are some great posts there about dealing with anger.  Click on the link above for more detail about this little practice, but in very basic terms the acronym is broken down like this-

S stands for “stop, just stop”. As in, put the brakes on right this minute, don’t say or do anything.

T is for Time out – calm yourself, breath.

O = Organise. Gather your thoughts, think about the situation and why this is happening.

P is for Plan. Afterwards, think about what happened and the best way you could deal with it if it happens again.

  • The 3 second pause

This one comes from Hands Free Mama, she has a way of weaving her messages in to stories about herself and her daughters, in a way that really helps you see just how powerful they can be when put to good use.  The 3 second pause is all about taking those 3 seconds to pause before responding.  All it takes is 3 seconds, but it can change everything.  I have employed this myself and it has helped me turn my reactions around, and like Rachel’s example in her post, I have also been surprised by how pausing can sometimes show that what I had assumed about a situation can be entirely untrue.  It not only gives me time, but gives my daughter time to rectify things herself before I jump in with my temper.

  • “If you are patient in a moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.”

Remembering this Chinese proverb usually helps stop me in my tracks.

  • Only love today

This sentiment was coined by Rachel at Hands Free Mama, and it comes up a lot on her blog.  The philosophy is simple, to think of these three words whenever you feel yourself itching to criticise, or to get angry, or to rush.  Treat your loved ones this way – with only love today.

  • Let it go.

Not only is the Frozen song catchy (and singing a catchy tune when I’m feeling like I’m going to crack can often break the tension for me), but its title can be fitting in this situation.  Is it really worth getting in to a fight about?  No?  Pick your battles.  Let it go.

  • Share your frustration

If you can learn to notice when your blood is starting to boil (this takes practice), tell your child what’s happening.  “I’m feeling angry/frustrated/stressed and I need to take some quiet, deep breaths. Will you help me?”.  This gives your child a heads-up that you are starting to lose it (maybe they’ll take the hint and cut you some slack?), gives you a way to vent your emotions in a non-threatening way, and demonstrates to your child a positive way of dealing with anger while letting them practice it with you and see the result.

  • Remember, they are sponges

Sometimes I catch myself doing or saying something, and I have totally forgotten that my kids are watching and are soaking in my every move, and I shudder to think that they might copy what I’ve just done! Or Moose will behave in a certain way that’s really not acceptable and I’m stumped as to why she’s doing it.  Then I remember….because I do it.  Kids are mirrors.  They will copy you.

  • Do something else

In our house, I find that usually when tempers are running high, it’s at times when Moose is walking around aimlessly with no direction.  Yes, she does have to learn to occupy herself without me organising her every move for her, but when anger is mounting, that’s probably not the time to insist she learn that skill.  Give a simple direction to change what the child is doing at that moment.  It doesn’t have to be too involved or require too much thought.  Tidy up a room/space together.  Cook something together.  Watch a bit of TV together.  Read a book.  Fold washing.  Ask them to draw you a picture of a rainbow/a party/under the sea.  Go outside to see if you can spot any new flowers that have cropped up, or cut a few to make a bouquet.  Go for a walk.

  • Have a hug

It might be the last thing you feel like doing when you are furious, or when your kid has gone off the rails, but this one hasn’t failed me yet.  A hug usually makes everyone feel better, and lets you start fresh.

Lastly, there are many resources I have found that I have gone back to again and again when I need to reset my headspace about keeping the calm.  In general, both Picklebums and Hands Free Mama have a tonne of posts about parenting, dealing with emotions and encouraging the happy in families.  Some specific posts I’ve come across recently that have been really helpful to me are:

Evolution of a Mama tantrum – and how to STOP one (Creative With Kids)

Resources – To deal with anger (Creative With Kids)

Nuts and bolts of dealing with parenting rage (Creative With Kids)

9 ways to help your toddler work through anger (Babble)

72 ways to have better times with our kids (Play Activities)

Do you struggle with anger/yelling too?

I’m linking up with The Weekend Rewind with Maxabella Loves and crew.

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Miscellany

Insomnia and small children don’t mix

Things that I fretted about while I lay awake during the early hours tonight:

Childcare arrangements.

Cost of childcare arrangements.

Return to work arrangements.

Balancing returning to work with family time, activities, keeping the house and garden under control, getting food on the table at a reasonable time each night….

How stupid it is that we will fork out tens of thousands of dollars over the course of the childcare years, just so I can work. Not to do anything enjoyable, to WORK. I am paying to work!! I don’t even like it, why do I have to pay to do it?!

How annoying it is that on the nights Little R sleeps through (tonight), Moose will wake up and on the nights Moose sleeps through, Little R will wake up. They never sync up. Because life’s just like that, isn’t it?

Will I ever sleep through ever again? Why can’t I get back to sleep once I’m awake?

How bad it must be for my body and mind to constantly be yo-yo-ing between varying levels of sleep from night to night with no consistency.

What would I worry about, and what issues would I have if I didn’t have children?

Whose idea was this whole having-kids thing anyway?!!

Oh look, I have to get up in half an hour to get Moose ready for her first day of preschool.

Another day ahead on 4 hours sleep….

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The older child

It’s 1am, and I can’t sleep.  I’m not even close.  I’m thinking about my daughter, and how lately our relationship seems to have fallen apart, and I’m quietly berating myself for not being able to be the mother I really want to be for her.

There’s something I’ve already learnt about the older child, 7 months in to having more than one.  And that is how much added pressure you can suddenly and unintentionally find yourself placing on their little shoulders.  The pressure to find something to happily amuse themselves with.  The pressure to instinctively know right from wrong.  The pressure to be able to read you, when you are feeling stressed, busy or at wits end.  The pressure to just grow up.  She’s 4. So much pressure for a little one.

My daughter is a star, she shines so bright.  She is affectionate, caring and concerned, smart, funny, inquisitive, bubbly and loud, with never-ending energy and enthusiasm, and a good heart.  She loves unconditionally.  She is so beautiful that she takes my breath away.  She wants to do everything – all day long she constantly asks me, what are we doing next Mumma? Will you do something with me?  I want to do something with you.

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But she hears no a lot.  No I can’t do something with you right now,  I have to [insert meaningless chore or task, or responsibility revolving around younger child, here].  No, don’t do that.  No, don’t touch that.  No you can’t.  No no no.  Some days I feel like I’m a hammer, banging away at that nail, until eventually it’s pushed all the way through and there’s no more banging to be done.  I’m scared of breaking her spirit.  Isn’t it strange that you can be saying words and yet knowing you shouldn’t be saying them, both in the same moment?  How do you learn to put yourself in between that, to pry it apart enough so that you have time to take action?

She’s 4.  She now has a younger sibling that she’s waited such a long time for, but he still can’t play with her yet.  She has been through so much change in the past year, we all have, and she has coped with it amazingly well.  We have asked a lot of this little girl already, and she hasn’t complained.  She is such a wonderful person, everything I could have wished for in my child.

But right now, I am everything I never thought I would be as a mother.  In fact, I despise my mother self.  I don’t want my daughter to remember me as this mother.  I want her memories of me to be of a  mother who was always there for her when she needed it, who would encourage her, who was interested in her, who was fun and would play.  And I am those things, all of the time on the inside, just not consistently on the outside.

I feel like I’ve been sitting around waiting for more energy, more motivation, more patience, to magically appear from somewhere.  But it doesn’t.  I desperately want to feel charged, full of life, ready for adventure and seeking opportunities to connect and laugh.  But I am so tired.  There are two of them now, and their demands and needs are constant, and every day is a marathon I’m running just to keep moderately on top of things, because if I stop for a moment then it will just resemble a 24-car pile up – the first car stops and the rest just continue smashing up in to each other.

I don’t know if this is post-natal depression.  I suffered with it for the year after Moose was born, but is it possible for it to come back in fits and starts, with 3 years in between, with the birth of another child in between?  It’s not like this all of the time, we have ebbs and flows.  But in these dark days, it permeates the very walls like a disease.

She’s 4.  I’m 32.  I’m the one who needs to change this scenario, I’m the one who needs to be the bigger person, I’m the one who needs to man up and throw everything I’ve got in to this relationship.  Because my daughter is a beautiful miracle, and she is worth whatever it takes, at the expense of anything.

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Miscellany

Life with two – July

 

Little R is 9 weeks old now, and our family is learning all about life with two kids.  I’m very lucky to have had Big R home with me for that whole 9 weeks, he goes back to work at the beginning of next week.  I’m not going to lie – I’m scared.  It’s the little things that are puzzling, like “What happens if you’re in the shower, and I’m feeding Little R, and then Moose needs help on the toilet at the same time?”, or “Once you go back to work, how will I be able to get dinner prepared if Little R cries whenever I’m not holding him, and Moose needs me to facilitate every activity for her?”.  I can’t even begin to fathom how this all works once I have to go back to work too!  Let’s not think about that….

So far I’ve found it to definitely be true that “the second one is easier”.  The worry about the small things seems to be gone, ie. should I wake the baby to feed?  Is he/she too hot/cold? etc.  Little R is more settled and chilled than Moose was as a baby, but I have to wonder, is that just his nature or does that have anything to do with our raised confidence the second time around?  Or is our confidence due to the fact that he’s a more settled baby?  Hmmm.  Maybe both factors feed off each other.

Guilt has been a major theme since Little R came home though.  But not related to him.  His sister rather.  I don’t know whether it’s a result of his arrival, or simply that it’s more noticeable now that he’s here, but Moose’s “toddler-ness” seems to have ramped up.  Her voice is louder, her footsteps heavier, her questions more incessant, her movements more rough.  Our days are probably 1/3 content/happy/polite with each other, and for the other 2/3 of the time it’s a depressing cycle of “Ssssh Moose! Keep it down!“, and “No jumping/running on the couch/down the corridor/near the baby’s head!”, and “Go to Time Out!”, and “Listen to what you’re told!”.  I’m sick of the sound of my own voice.  I feel so on edge sometimes, while I’m trying my best to stay calm.  I’ll be feeding Little R, and he’ll be hopping on and off the boob and fussing about, while Moose hops around in front of my feet, constantly making some kind of noise, her hair completely messed up and frizzy, writhing around on the dusty floor.  Scenes like this just niggle at me, slowly, slowly.  I can feel my temper warming up and reaching boiling point inside, and it takes every ounce of reason to stop it from letting loose, something I can’t stop half the time.  And with each reprimand I feel more guilt being added on to my shoulders, and I feel like I’m crushing her spirit a little bit each time.

It’s so, so hard to find the balance between letting things slide and knowing when we’re justified in calling her out.  I have to keep reminding myself (and Big R) to pick our battles with her, and to speak with love and understanding.  My biggest downfall as a parent is my inability to pause before I react, and it’s so much harder to take that moment to consider your next move when there are TWO little people both vying for your attention.  Once it’s said out loud, it can’t be taken back.  I need to check myself before I wreck myself.  I have this fear that the result of our impatience and actions at this point in time will be a stain on her early memories, that to her she’ll always think of this time as one of loneliness, feeling bullied and not up to scratch.  That she’ll think of me as not-fun.  That’s all very dramatic and my mind is running away with me, it’s not always a battle-field at our place.  There are of course happy times, special moments, times when we do treat each other kindly and respectfully.  But I’d say that at the moment, tension does boil over at least a few times every day.  It’s too often.  This issue is constantly being debated in my mind, and it’s driving me a little bonkers.  But I’m hopeful that things will get easier, as they always seem to do with time.

I feel like I’m in demand all. the. time.  Scrap that – I AM in demand all. the. time.  I announced about eight weeks ago that I wouldn’t mind having a day nap.  That still hasn’t happened.  I have tried to prioritise going for walks with the dogs as something I need to do for myself (and them), but that’s not all restful.  Especially the times when I come back to a screaming baby who needs my urgent attention.  Moose’s bedtime is 8pm and she’ll usually go to sleep without a fuss.  But that seems to be the time that Little R decides he’s going to fuss about, and both Big R and I are usually juggling him between us until maybe 10.30/11pm.  At which point I’m so desperate for some “me” time that I’m not interested in going to sleep anymore.  So of course I wake up absolutely wrecked from going to bed too late!

I also seem to have this creativity urge right now.  I just want to write, and read, and knit, and learn, and watch, and record.  I have all of these little projects in my head, just things I’ve been meaning to get done.  Like get my photo files in order, put all my recipes together in a folder, revisit half-written first novel drafts I’ve started, things like that.  I’m yearning to get stuck in to these things, but I just know I will only be able to devote maybe 10 minutes at a time to them before I’m interrupted by someone needing my attention for something.  That sounds a little resentful doesn’t it.  I’m not resentful, but I am restless and a bit frustrated.  And I feel like if I don’t get to do something with this creativity urge soon, I’ll lose it and not get it back.  This recent post by Veggie Mama mirrors a lot of my thoughts about creativity right now.

I’m formulating a plan in my mind of how I’d like to spend my days once Big R goes back to work, to make sure I’m finding a good balance between getting the necessities out of the way (housework, cooking, etc.), tending to the kids’ needs, and also having some time spare for my own interests.  Time will tell whether I can stick to it and make it work.  Keeping life simple, and my expectations  low, are key to this.

Having been through parental babyhood before, I know (most of) what to expect in the coming months and years, and that it flies by very quickly.  This insight is a wonderful thing to have the second time around.  I’m looking at Little R in a different way to how I looked at Moose, still with the same wonder, but also trying my hardest to memorise every little thing about him at this age.  And I can appreciate how slow and calm and simple life can be with a baby.  This is the time when it’s ok to just sit with your new little babe, in the still and quiet, and simply let the world go on by while you marvel at them.  For all its less-than-desirable side effects, life with a newborn is pretty special.

 

 

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