School Holiday Parenting

This is what happens in the Tate Modern... (ahem)

This is what happens in the Tate Modern… (ahem)

I’d like to say that the school holidays have commenced with much Enid Blyton style gusto and adventures. In truth I have sought sanctuary in going to work and doing the housework. Today is a rare day off and I sit trying to concentrate enough to read Judy Blume’s latest book. Around me the children have decided to change their appearance; one has pillar box red hair, the other blue, purple and pink stripes (thanks Pixie Lott) its like living in an all action comic book movie. Except with punch-ups over multigrain shapes and macaroni.

Fortunately the youngest has no interest in appearance and instead busy’s himself waking at the crack of dawn to watch The Big Bang Theory. This is a programme rated 11 years over his age much of which appears to go over the top of his head, apart from Sheldon’s stuff which he finds immensely amusing as its like watching his big brother on TV.

I don’t approve of any of these activities. I’d like my children to look like little angelic Lucy Mabel Attwell characters wearing vintage style clothing and the four year old to be playing with wooden toys. However, after nine years I am a broken woman and all I’d like to be able to do is read a book (notice i’m writing this unable to concentrate to read my book).

Parenting is not at all like how I imagined it to be. I’ve spent a lot of time pondering this. In a way i’m quite proud that I have managed to sire fairly independent children if they are somewhat eccentric, on the other hand I dream that we are one of those Instagram families or the parents you see having delightful picnics in park whilst their children gamble about. Our picnics always descend into a shouting match ‘watch out for dog poo… I HATE the outdoors…I don’t like jam sandwiches… well you shouldn’t have kicked the football into the lake if you wanted it…’

Are there parents out there that aren’t conned into spending hundreds of pounds in comic shops and bookshops for things that wont be read? Parents who can go out without fear of being fleeced for the sake of peace? Parents who can go to the beach without complaints about sand?

The biggest question of all remains; how do some parents sustain their picture perfect homes with cream carpet and cream sofas? I can only imagine that they go out, to places like the Tate Modern where their children gaze at artworks rather than actively engage with them (see photo).

Don’t get me wrong, I love the school summer holidays! Not least because I don’t have to deal with school mothers which are a special breed in our town perfectly capable of causing entire families to move towns. We are on early days here, i’m determined to finish this book this holiday (mustn’t set targets too high)- I wonder if I can hide in the loo?

The Fear and Growing Up

Two children whom on reflection were quite easy to control. although I didn't think so at the time...

Two children whom on reflection were quite easy to control. although I didn’t think so at the time…

I know this happens to every mother of boys at some point, its a special moment, but a scary one. I’m talking about that tipping point when they are bigger and stronger than you are. We are nearing that in our household and I am a little bit worried about how to deal with the temper tantrums and when the refusal to move/ budge happens. When they are four you can pick them up under your arm, once they near ten its not quite so simple.

With growing up also comes more and more independence. This is of course natural. However, this morning I was woken up to be asked where the bread knife was. Given that i’m frequently issued death threats (temper induced and hopefully without meaning!) it was a little bit unnerving for first thing on a Friday morning. Fortunately the eldest had decided he wanted to cut a slice of bread rather than use the loaf as a large roll, which I found surprising to be honest.

This growing up thing is proving interesting, I thought it would be all about sex education and when to allow them out to the shop. It seems there is more to it than that, its about working out family dynamics, clarifying the best psychological means to control your child and hoping and praying that they aren’t quite so hormonal that they consider using the bread knife for things other than bread…

How did you deal with this stage of parenting? Did you live in fear that a problem was going to happen and just avoid it or do you have a secret technique? I’d love to hear.

Spring!

boysFinally Spring is here and armed with walkie talkies i’ve been able to give the children a little bit more freedom than the confines of our house. They are now able to cycle up and down our cul-de-sac freely and create merry mayhem for the elderly of our estate.

There has been a bit of a sea change in our street recently as three households have moved out to be replaced by three new families. For the children this has been brilliant as they now have a new group of friends who are not related to school and who are freely about. In some ways this has created a slight problem as the eldest now appears to have a gang of small boys who all cycle up and down the pavements making noise. I’m waiting for the complaints. He gets exceptionally cross when asked to return home as he is having so much fun. I’m not sure how to deal with this.

We also have the issue of the four year old, who clearly wants to join in with is older siblings but is too small. It means that if I let him join in i’m effectively trapped by the window spying on them, sometimes for hours. This is not fun.

I’m sure these little things will sort themselves out in time and we will find an appropriate routine and boundaries for everyone.

In other news a friend of ours moved to a house where the garden fills with frogs and toads once a year when they lay eggs everywhere. This is a bit of a problem for them as there is frogspawn literally everywhere and its not sustainable. Its good news for us though because we managed to acquire a bucket full of frogspawn!

tadpolesGrowing frogs from frogspawn is something that every child needs to experience and this is the first time we have been able to facilitate this for our children. When I was little I loved watching the eggs develop into tadpoles and then see the little frogs emerge. Of course, it was sad when they had to be released but its all part of the journey. This morning the children were studiously looking at the eggs when they noticed some of them had changed, it wont be long before we have lots of little tadpoles! A sure sign that Spring is definitely here.

This afternoon we have lots of seeds to plant, after a little bit of a break last year to focus on growing flowers we are back to growing our own vegetables. I’ve bought pumpkins, runner beans, peas, tomatoes, broccoli and courgette. Now all I need to do is expand our vegetable beds a little to cope with the harvest.

I’m really looking forward to a bit of sunshine and the children being older. This is the first summer where I wont have to be burdened with nappy bags and the paraphernalia associated with babies. We can go for long walks in the countryside and open the windows and doors for some fresh air. Freedom all around then…

Spending Time Alone With Each Child

kidsOur family home is hectic, with three children, even when its quiet there are things going on; little minds whirring and worrying about secret dramas, walls to be scribbled on and so on. I must admit I generally treat the children like a herd of sheep, ferrying them backwards and forwards to places, making them eat dinner, snacks etc at the same time. If you take homework help out of the equation then I think I’d find that we spend hardly any time alone with each of the children. This is probably the case in your household as well and is such a shame.

I’m well aware of how much the children get out of spending time individually with either of us. That way they can tell us their hopes, fears, dreams and you get to find out a little bit more about your child. Its just finding that time!

I’ve been trying quite hard to think of things to do with each of them and it is tricky but one of the things which I am aiming to do is to try to slot activities in as and when they occur. Unfortunately for the boys this generally means that me and Fifi get the odd girly shopping trip. She enjoys shopping, I must admit I do find it a bit mind-numbingly boring spending half and hour in Claires Accessories. She clearly enjoys the chance to tell me all about her favourite soft toys and what she is doing at school and this is where the real joy comes.

For me, its quite hard to find opportunities to do things individually with the boys. Little Ned often has time to spend alone with me in the afternoons but he is tired and often cant manage to do a lot apart from watch tv and chill out. He simply isn’t all that interested in talking to me or doing very much at all. I’m trying to focus on things that he likes doing with me, that don’t involve leaving me to do them- soft play is not a good option for us if we want to spend time together. Suggestions welcomed.

With the eldest things have got desperate, he clearly wants to spend time with me and will use any means to do so. We’re currently sitting together and watching Mr Selfridge (very carefully edited) and talking about the costume, the first World War and anything and everything which crops up. I must admit, I’m really enjoying this time but I would prefer it if we could do this before bedtime. He needs a lot of support and I wonder if he would benefit from a weekend break away with either myself or his dad. Trouble is, when you have three children despite different needs you need to treat them all equally or it makes for a very difficult situation.

So, this brings a dilemma. What does one do? How do you spend time alone with each child when you have three with different needs to cater for? How to you prevent it appearing to the other children as favouritism when really you are simply doing your best for each child? I do hope they understand when they are older.

I’d appreciate any suggestions for things to do with each child- i’m looking for things which don’t cost a fortune but provide some great bonding opportunities.

How to Create a Brilliant Nursery on a Budget

Image courtesy of Tesco

Image courtesy of Tesco

I find it hard to believe that I’ve been a parent now for nearly 9 years. That means that it was 9 years ago when I first started planning and decorating for our first nursery. In those days people were not quite so reliant on the Internet and so in order to get design ideas you had to trail around the appropriate shops, look through magazines or pinch ideas off your friends and family. We’ve come a long way since then and I’ve had three children so I’ve had to design three different nurseries!

There are a few things which I would recommend:

Washable Paint: Those lovely nursery wallpapers are very tempting indeed, however from experience your little darling will just find temptation in peeling them off the wall. We also had a rather unfortunate poo experience when changing a nappy in the early days and lets say we wouldn’t have had to repaint the wall had we purchased washable paint. For simplicity and longevity just use white paint, you can brighten the room with accessories such as paintings and curtains and change them cheaply and easily as your little one grows.

Wooden Floor: In an ideal world and if I was renovating again I’d stick with a simple wood floor and then pick a cheap rug which I’d change once or twice a year. We learnt early on that sudacrem does not come out of carpet!

Cots and Cotbeds?: This is a tricky one as I can really see the temptation of a cot, in fact we bought a cot. However, we ended up using a travel cot for the first year as the baby kept getting his arms stuck in the cot bars. We then moved onto a proper bed for a few years and then ended up buying a mid sleeper! If we had just bought a cotbed in the first place we would have saved ourselves an awful lot of money. Cotbeds all the way I say!

Changing Mats: Many people opt for a change mat which is fixed to a surface, this is to make it more convenient whilst changing the baby. However, once you’ve had a child you wont look at this option again. Buy a cheap plastic padded change mat which you can slide under the bed and change your baby on the floor on it. This is much safer for baby once they start moving about as they cant fall off it and also you’ll save loads of space.

Budget, Budget, Budget: Remember, most of the stuff you buy at the start will be redundant within a couple of years and even if you have another child you’ll have to find space to store it. Think really carefully about everything you buy and stick to the bare minimum. If a friend offers to give you their old stuff take it, I know its tempting to want new stuff for your new addition but I found they grew out of clothes before they even wore them and I just had loads of redundant things.

Decorate it for you!: The baby wont actually know or appreciate anything about the room but you will find yourself spending night and day in the nursery. Make sure you have a comfortable chair, you can live with the décor and that there is a little table or space for a mug and a book. Adequate lighting will make a huge difference to your life and you’ll really appreciate a lack of clutter.