There it is. There’s the wall. 

There it is. There’s the wall. 

I woke up this morning and there it was. The wall. I had finally hit it. 

I honestly didn’t think I could face another day of caring for those four little people I have created. Our eleven year old daughter is pubescent and hormonal. Our seven year old son has been unusually poorly this week with an unexplained virus resulting in some time in the Children’s Hospital. Our three year old’s needs seem to increase daily thanks to his partial sight and autism. Our eleven month old has taken to copying her brother’s meltdowns and decided sudden blood curdling screams are a good way to protest when she doesn’t get what she wants. Another day of dealing with all that just seemed impossible at 7am this morning. I mean, how long until the cracks in my sanity really gain some ground and I end up in a corner, rocking? I can feel them there; the cracks, splintering through the carefully cultured patience and calming defusing skills I have relentlessly taught myself these last few years. 

The three year old takes so much of my time and attention that the baby has to wait a lot more than she should (no doubt that’s why she started the screaming), the eleven year old has the freedom and independence of a much older child and the seven year old has a fully established case of middle child syndrome. My husband works his ass off all week then comes home to the chaos of four children all battling for his attention.

Me? I just long for an hour where no one wants to touch me, talk to me, or needs me. At all. No, more than that, an hour without my brain. An hour when I can shut off the relentless theories in my mind of how to help our three year old eat more than just beige foods, stay calm, and deal with everyday experiences without having a full scale meltdown. Stop searching my mental calendar for when I can squeeze in an hour to play video games with our seven year old because he’s been asking all week. Cease psychoanalysing our eleven year old and her overflowing hormones. Let go of the fear that the baby will mimic her autistic brother’s behaviour and become that kid in the supermarket with no actual issues except a penchant for dramatic screaming tantrums. 

You see I could grab an hour off here and there and go for a coffee, catch up with a friend, wander around the shops. But it’s all still there in my head. How do you turn it off? 

My husband left for work this morning and I just led there. The baby was trying to escape the bed, the three year old wanted his cartoons on downstairs. So up I got. Began the routine. 

Then something magical happened. All four children were sat together, nicely, in the lounge. I took a chance and went for a shower. Those beautiful little creatures not only played nicely but they took care of each other. No arguments, no screaming, no crying. 

I took my shower, dried my hair and got half dressed before the three year old appeared, wanting to watch his favourite cartoon on his iPad. It was amazing. Just what I needed right at that moment to get me through another day. 

There is hope. There is. I’ve got this. Keep going. Stay strong. Keep going. Keep. Going. 

Thanks kids. I love you.  

 

Fancy a bite of my plasticine?

Fancy a bite of my plasticine?

You’ve all seen the memes (I hate that word) that read ‘when I was a kid I played outside until the street lights came on, dug in the mud and played in the woods’ etc etc and such like. Most of us around the 30 mark and above can relate to it and fondly recall our childhood memories of minimal technology and imaginative play. 

These days however we live in a much more dangerous world; full of germs and bad people and injuries waiting to happen. As a result of this we cocoon our children in safety and risk assessments, striving to remove such hazards before our children have to even consider encountering them. Modern day children are safe and protected without even having to think for themselves. A click of a button tells you where your child is by tracking their smartphone, a pocket sized bottle of hand sanitiser removes all germs in one foul swoop. A detailed risk assessment that every child caring establishment is required to make covers all the broken branches, steps, trip hazards and possible exits so the children can play safely.

Now don’t get me wrong I totally track my eleven year old daughter’s smartphone when she doesn’t pick up my call after school and I recoil in horror at the thought of any of my children unsupervised in a public toilet (oh my gosh the germs and the other people’s pee and the grossness! I can’t cope). I really appreciate the risk assessments my childcare providers take time to complete so that my partially sighted son only hits his face/head/body a minimal number of times each day. Even so I have to question is it necessary to push our concerns and precautions to such extremes? 

We survived didn’t we? I know a couple of my friends broke bones and one or two must have picked up a bug here and there from our outdoor antics but we survived? Quite well might I add! Our experiences surely contributed to the well balanced common sense we all use to make sensible, reasonable decisions when it comes to our own children’s care. 

What concerns me is that we are too obsessed in modern times with sheltering our children from the horrors of life that many of them will not grow to have the same standard of common sense as their elders. A friend recently pointed out that we already have a generation of graduates with an inflated opinion of entitlement and deflated ability in common sense. What will this next generation of kids be like? Too scared to experience life in case they catch a cold? Incapable of making decisions that should be second nature to an intelligent species like us? 

My husband travelled to Eastern Europe with his band a year or two ago. He was amazed by the low hanging, head height barbed wire and open manholes he saw as he walked around. He asked his guide why there were no signs warning people of the dangers and clearly very little health and safety considerations. The guide’s reply was quite simple; he looked at my husband with some confusion and said “if you’re stupid enough to not look where you’re going and you fall in a hole then it’s your own fault, no one else’s!” This is both obvious and true. In modern society we are all too quick to blame others and immediately stake claims of damages, negligence or fault. Health and safety has definitely reached extremes in our society. Do we want to pass on this mentality to our children? Or would we prefer that they develop to be the intelligent, observant and sensible species that we are designed to be? We are after all the most intelligent species on our planet, right? We are also the only species who requires a sign to tell us the floor may be wet by a water fountain or that there’s a gaping hole in the floor. I mean we obviously wouldn’t see the hole if it wasn’t for the sign so we’d all take no precautions and totally fall in it. We are not using our brains, we are just waiting for someone else to tell us how to do everything. Our children are learning this same behaviour from so young that they accept it without question.

It’s a scary prospect but most of the time if you allow children to have the relevant information they usually make good choices. Granted, once in a while they may choose to play in the rain with no coat or eat chocolate cake for breakfast but what harm would it do, really? They’d soon make a better choice the next time once they are cold and shivering or nauseous and tired from the post chocolate cake sugar crash. They would learn to make the link between a cold, wet day and a warm, dry coat or a delicious piece of toast and jam and not needing a nap by 10am instead of just learning that someone tells them to so they must, without understanding the reasoning. 

Then again, what do I know. I played in the mud and the rain, fell off a great many things and tried to eat plasticine as a kid so my brain is probably fried. 

Patience and Potty Training

Patience and Potty Training

Our third child will be three in just thirteen days. He was very ill as a baby, suffering Bacterial Meningitis and Encephalitis at just nine weeks old which nearly cost him his life but thankfully only cost him the sight in his left eye and some problems with fixing and focussing. Our beautiful boy was also late eating and late speaking but he has made up for it in leaps and bounds.

I was told a few months ago that our son should not be wearing nappies at his age and that the new owners of his preschool may not be too pleased to have him return in September in nappies, as apparently nappy changing takes staff away from an otherwise strict ratio of staff:children. I have also heard other stories from friends and fellow mums of other parents and childcare workers criticising those who allow their children to remain in nappies past two years old. I have even heard tales of parents attempting to potty train children as young as one year old.

In my humble but somewhat experienced opinion this whole sense of ‘the earlier the better’ when it comes to our children’s milestones is ridiculous. I believe it places unnecessary pressure on everyone involved with caring for the child, especially impressionable first time parents.

Why does it have to be a race? What are we, as parents, racing towards? Where is the finish line? School age? Teenage? Or adulthood? And what the hell is the prize? Rushing through your child’s delicate and amazing development, pausing only briefly to celebrate each achievement with a quick Facebook post and obligatory picture before commencing training for the next milestone? The stupidity of this astounds me and genuinely makes me sad.

So, in demonstration of my views I would like to share the following experience with you; our son has worn nappies both day and night since birth. We have not attempted to ‘train’ him to use the toilet. We have explained the toilet and allowed him to witness his parents and older siblings using the facilities in a hygienic and explanatory way. We have explained that big boys and girls wear pants and not nappies. We have allowed him to wear pants each time he has asked, less than a handful of times over the last year, but each time has been unsuccessful very quickly and he has simply not been able to identify the need to ‘go’ until it is already in motion. Each time he has cried his little heart out and asked for a nappy. We obliged.

Today he got up and while choosing his clothes for the day announced that he did not want to wear a nappy and instead wanted to wear his digger pants (they have a cute graphic of a digger on the front). We of course said yes, as always, but explained that there was no need for jeans under the guise that we were not planning on going out, but in truth because no jeans makes for easier clean ups!

It’s now just after ten o’clock in the evening and our little man has been safely tucked up asleep in bed for two hours now, albeit in a nighttime pull-up. Today’s score? Just one small accident early on, two pairs of pants and every single wee for the rest of the day successfully requested by him and done on the toilet (the real one, not a potty) with no panics or tears and even time to spare. After two years, eleven months, two weeks and one day the penny dropped, the switch flicked and our little boy gained control of his bladder. All by himself.

Today’s lesson? They all get there in the end but none of them before they are ready. Anyone that tells you otherwise has simply honed the skill of reading their child’s involuntary body language and chasing their child with a potty. Take your sweet-ass time and enjoy your child, they come with enough stress without adding make-believe milestone deadlines to your load. Give them the information and opportunities and they’ll let you know when they are ready.

It may not be rock and roll, but hey, it’s where it counts the most. 

It may not be rock and roll, but hey, it’s where it counts the most. 

I moan. Who doesn’t? I’m a mum with a busy life, a hardworking husband gone for eighty percent of the week and four crazy little people – two of me, two of him – running riot. I think it’s human nature to seek out the occasional negative. It helps to make the good times shine bright right? A friend once enlightened me to an old Jewish saying that goes something like; “Without the darkness you cannot appreciate the light.” I think that just about sums it up right there.

However, it is all too easy, as a busy mum with a busy life, a hardworking husband gone for eighty percent of the week and four crazy little people – two of me, two of him – running riot, to forget about all the light sometimes and only see the dark. In these moments I moan. In my head mainly but also to my closest friends. This post is to serve as a reminder to future moaning me that I do not in fact, have it bad at all. Not by any means. 

It’s officially day two of the summer holidays and I took our four minions out to an adventure and wildlife park for the day today with a couple of my lovely friends and their minions. It was a brilliant, fun yet long and exhausting day. We have another such day planned for tomorrow. 

We got home tired and dirty, I unpacked all our luggage from the day and put tea on. Then I ran a bath for the smallest two. My husband walked through the door shortly after, conveniently as the oven timer announced his chicken burgers were ready. Without even stopping he dished up his dinner then sat down to eat with our freshly bathed fifteen week old baby so I could continue with other chores. After that he got the two year old out of the bath, dried and dressed him, put him to bed along with our older two and then brought the baby back downstairs. He then insisted that I sit down and relax with the baby while he went to the supermarket to do our big shop, a task that I had mentioned I didn’t have time to do in the coming days due to our plans for various day trips and adventures so I was intending to go tonight instead. As I type he has just walked through the door with all the shopping and put the kettle on. He’s now putting the shopping away. 

I said ‘You’re my hero’. His reply? “Nah babe, I’m just an average man trying.” I grinned and he added “Oh and I’ve changed the music in your van, it’s like your previous choice but even better, you’re going to love it.”

This man rocks my world. It may not be rock and roll, but hey, it’s where it matters the most. The next time I moan, someone please slap this blog post in front of my face? 

  

Eau de Vomit, Screaming and Bubble Wrap

Eau de Vomit, Screaming and Bubble Wrap

My hair smells of baby vomit, it sounds like there is a small scale riot taking place in my lounge and my laundry piles resemble the New York skyline.

Our two year old son is marching back and forth across the lounge, intermittently pausing to join his seven year old brother in a wonderful game of jumping up and down on the large sheet of bubble wrap laid out on the floor. Our ten year old daughter is sprawled out on the sofa, headphones on, oblivious to the ruckus happening around her. Our nine week old daughter is quietly regurgitating possets of milk onto my shoulder while I’m desperately trying to complete the obligatory end of day kitchen clean and general tidy up. I feel a little like I live in some kind of modern day asylum where all the residents go about their day like it’s just normal, real, every day life but from an outside perspective they are all acting crazy.

My husband is due to walk through the door at any minute, laden with takeaway fish and chips in place of the home cooked meal I didn’t find time – or enough child free limbs – to make. You know what?
I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I have four children and a very hard working husband. The latter means that I spend a lot of time alone with our children. Some days I am an outstanding, almost OCD level cleaner, other days I am a parenting magazine-worthy nurturing mother or a Michelin starred chef and occasionally, when the planets mysteriously align, I am all of the above all on the same day. More often than not however, I am the frazzled, scatterbrained asylum patient who lives under the illusion that she is in fact not a patient at all, but a Nurse in charge of the other patients. That is fine by me.

My children are happy, healthy and free, my home is beautiful but lived in and my marriage is solid and full of love. These days I hear far too much talk of competition between mothers, criticism being carelessly delivered to the most vulnerable of parents and ridiculous standards demonstrated through rose tinted representations on social media. Screw that.

Time flies, children grow in the blink of an eye and you look in the mirror one day to see you’ve aged ten years when your mind has barely aged one.

Enjoy it, appreciate it, embrace it. Every sick-covered, noisy, insane second.

Sweet night, sweet serenity. 

Sweet night, sweet serenity. 

So here I sit. 4:04am. Those big blue eyes stare up at me in wonderment. My eight week old daughter is in my arms, writhing and wriggling as she struggles to digest her extra thick anti-reflux milk. It seems hard for her little body to deal with the eagerly ingested five ounce feed. She is beautiful.

Last night she woke at 1:30am, just an hour after I had managed to fall asleep  myself. We were both still awake at 4:30am. A hard night yes, but nonetheless I wouldn’t swap it for the world. Luckily it’s half term so there was no 7am wake up call or school run to do meaning I could at least salvage a couple of hours rest this morning.

I find it’s these times, when our busy chaotic household is sleeping and the conversations, laughter and tears have all faded into sighs of slumber, when I snatch a little quiet time with my thoughts. It’s a valuable thing to have moments of peace of mind, especially when you have four crazy young children and a creative whirlwind of a husband.

I find clarity comes at night. When all the background noise dulls to nothing more than birdsong and the soft breathing from my littlest and biggest loves either side of me, I process the day’s events, remembering the hilarious moments afforded to me by our very own bunch of mini comedians. Revisiting the tears and the tantrums when they inevitably clash with each other. Reminiscing about the cuddles and I love yous.

I assess my parenting; how did I do today? Did I handle that tantrum ok? Did I make it worse by not being as patient as I could have been? Did I respond to each of the extraordinary stories they tell with enough enthusiasm? Did I feed them well enough? Did I teach them valuable lessons and allow them to embrace the world as children should? Did I give each member of my little universe, including my husband, sufficient attention? The answers are not always yes.

When our daughter was new I struggled with this. The extra demands on my time and energy were near impossible to take in my stride. For those first few weeks we all suffered in different ways while our family unit adjusted it’s balance and found its new axis. I went through a period of beating myself up about this. I felt like I was failing. Failing as a parent, a wife and even as a person.

As the weeks have moved on so has my mental state. Now as I sit here watching those big blue eyes and tiny fingers exploring as she feeds, I find myself feeling a rather proud sense of achievement. I kept four mini versions of my husband and I fed, watered, safe and happy today. I took them outside into the world and gave them opportunities to discover and explore. I laughed with them and played with them. I encouraged discipline when their behaviour was inappropriate. I talked with them. I cuddled them. I helped to each one of them to grow just a little bit more today.

While writing this tonight our two year old had a nightmare. Apparently he doesn’t like the wolf and said wolf is incredibly frightening. He clung to me desperately and sobbed while I reassured him that there really was no wolf and that he was in fact safe and warm in his bed. His little voice in my ear and tiny arms wrapping tightly around my neck tell me all I need to know about my parenting. He is safe and loved in my arms. No big scary dream-wolf can harm him there.

Therein lies the answer to all of my questions and critiquing; today my family knew I loved them. I find my peace and shut my eyes, ready to do it all over again in just a few hours time.

Socially Unacceptable

Socially Unacceptable

This weekend I had my eyes violently opened to the underlying horrors of social media.  I discovered in the cruelest fashion how easily these virtual bubbles we exist in online are burst.

Someone stole what we thought were private photos of our son.  Not only did they steal them but they spent well over a year creating a whole online life for themselves where our son was in fact their son.  They created a birthdate, labour story and name for him.  They posted regular updates and pictures including photos of our son receiving treatment in hospital while fighting for his life against meningitis and encephalitis.  They commented how brave he was, how scared they were, how blessed they were that he had beaten it.  It made me sick.

We discovered the photos on Instagram at first after a friend recognised our boy in a picture which referred to him with the wrong name.  This friend contacted me to query it.  From this we discovered two Facebook profiles posing as a couple, going by the names Laney Wilson and Ryan Clarke who claimed to be our son’s parents.  There were several photos of our son, even a photo with part of my face in and one with my husband’s heavily tattooed and very recognisable arm!

From here we discovered that the profiles’ friends were also using photos of four of our friends’ children in the same way.  One profile by the name of Carla Clarke had memorial photos of a child we know is alive and well as he attends our son and daughter’s primary school.  These photos were captioned ‘sleep tight little angel’ and included birth and death dates. All the children were around the same age in the photos and all were blond, pale and blue eyed.

We immediately reported it to the police but unfortunately there is no crime in what they have done.  We have reported it to Facebook and Instagram and the profiles have all vanished.  We do not know if Facebook and Instagram removed them or if the person(s) behind the profiles discovered they had been caught out and deleted them.  Sadly, I suspect the latter to be true.  This means the photos of our children are still in their possession.  This chills me to the bone.

We have circulated this story as much as possible online and as a result we have discovered that the adults in the photos on the profiles are also victims of identity theft and not the people named on the profiles.  These poor innocent people are equally as shocked and horrified as us and now run the risk of being recognised as these sickos.  We also discovered we are all linked through our local pub indicating the distinct possibility that the instigator could be someone we know.

To rub salt in the wound, I felt it necessary to delete some of the posts I had shared on various public groups as I began to receive abusive comments from strangers implying that I was simply seeking attention and looking to sell my story for financial gain.  I also received comments calling for compassion for the person behind the profile, with the reasoning perhaps they had lost a child themselves.  Anyone sane who has gone through the trauma of a seriously ill child as we did, would never even dream of stealing someone else’s experience and pretending to suffer it themselves.  Through their actions they have brought the worst time of my entire life freshly back to the surface of my mind and made light of it.  Made the pain less valid, the emotions that I keep in such a tightly locked box seem exposed and somehow made our experience feel fraudulent.  They have exploited our disabled and partially blind son.  This is something I can never hold compassion for or even consider forgiving.  As a result of these comments and with the stress of the situation I felt I was only succeeding in making all of us involved vulnerable, instead of raising awareness as I had intended.

After tucking our three older children into bed last night I spent the entirety of yesterday evening with my four week old baby girl snuggled in my arms and my laptop in hand, adjusting the privacy settings on all my social media photos from ‘friends only’ to ‘only me’ in an attempt to prevent this happening again.  As someone who loves to share my family adventures with my friends and family online I am deeply saddened to say my confidence is shattered and I no longer feel safe sharing our precious moments with our loved ones in this way.

The moral of the story?  The horror stories and rumours are true; social media allows the weirdos of the world to be dishonest to extremes of their desires and no matter how disciplined you are with your privacy settings, nothing online is ever truly private.