Tag Archives: parenting

On trying not to multitask

I have been making a conscious effort to be more ‘present’ with the kids recently, and to multitask a little less.

It bothers me that I have become really good at carrying on a conversation about the school day, at the same time as sending an email, checking the work twitter account, deleting spam from the shop facebook page, juggling money between accounts to avoid overdraft and checking what the weather will be like tomorrow. Admittedly all these things need to be done at some point, but probably not right now. My problem is that I’m very much a right now sort of person, and I do genuinely find it really difficult not to do something if I know it needs to be done. And smartphones – brilliant as they are – only make this tendency worse in me. So I’ve changed a few things – I’ve put my email on fetch rather than push; I’ve turned off @notifications beeps for the twitter accounts I am responsible for; I’ve taught the husband twitter too so he can deal with the shop account; but most of all I have tried to change this mental inability to switch off from work/shop life when I am at home.

Tonight, for instance. Tonight I was going to bang out a couple of emails while the youngest was watching the Night Garden, but I decided – no, I was going to leave the emails and watch it with him. So I put my phone to one side, out of temptation’s reach, and cuddled up with him on the sofa. Then suddenly up he jumps and runs to the other side of the room to bring me my phone.

‘No sweetheart, I don’t need my phone right now, I’m having some special time watching the Night Garden with you’.

I watch his little face, waiting for the beam of happiness that would surely come from having my undivided attention.

And I am indeed rewarded with a beam, a massive grin from ear to ear. A lovely warm feeling washes over me. Yes, I should definitely do this more often. Look how happy he is, just from having even a small amount of one to one Mummy time.

‘Really?’ he says, ‘Don’t you want to do Mummy’s work on Mummy’s phone?’

‘No, Mummy doesn’t need her phone now – Mummy can do her work later’.

An even bigger grin. Oh, how I am mentally polishing my mothering halo. And then, slowly, reality dawns as his grin gets bigger again…

‘Oh, good. That means I can play Angry Birds!’


On coming out of the tunnel

I’m sure there are lots of people who won’t be able to relate to the Tunnel, and if you’re one of them, please feel free to be relieved and/or smug that it wasn’t like that for you. Just don’t tell me about it because – you know what – though I’m out the other side, I’m not that far out yet and I CAN STILL FLIP. Yes, over the internet, and right IN YOUR FACE. You have been warned.

It goes a bit like this. You meet the bloke, get pissed for a few years, have some good holidays, buy a house and do it up, get married…oh, this is a bit easy, you think. I’m a bit bored of finishing a cup of tea while it’s still hot, or having a poo on my own, or being able to remember my own name, or of having sex, or being able to put a pair of jeans on without having to fold over the spare flap of stomach and tuck it in. I know, it must be time to Have a Baby. Mwahahahaha go the Tunnel Gods – another one heading our way…..

And so, the Baby arrives. And it is all amazing and wonderful and tearful. Quite tearful actually. The husband did say, at one point, ‘the book says you should have stopped crying by now – it’s been seven days, for fuckssakes’. For which he had Penelope bloody Preach thrown at his head. He didn’t say it again. Actually he did. At about four years. And then he remembered why he hadn’t said it again. Muppet.

At this stage, you don’t realise you’re in the Tunnel – it’s clever like that, see, it sucks you in. You just think ‘oh, I’m tired. I’m a bit down. Must be the hormones. It’ll all be fine when things settle down’. I was lucky enough, first time round, to have a baby that was a good sleeper, but I was still exhausted, useless and – of course – constantly comparing myself to those parents whose kids don’t ever sleep (well, according to them, anyway) and who STILL manage baby yoga and organic everything and stimulating play and ooze Yummy Mumminess from every pore. Interspersed with all this uselessness are of course moments of pure joy, of amazement, of love. But somehow these moments just serve to sharpen the knife edge of anxiety of how unfair it is that this poor defenceless thing has been born to me and doesn’t he deserve someone better and nobody told me it would be like this and I. Can’t. Cope. Oh, is it dark already? How weird, actually it seems to have been dark for a while. Hmm. Maybe it’s something to do with global warming, nobody else is mentioning it so I won’t either….

Of course, the minute you start to get a handle on it all, you’re up the duff again. Wheeeee! Down some more!  Oh! And again! I mean, really, how does this HAPPEN? First time round it was all headstands and ovulation charts and doctors and drugs and every-other-day-or-the-sperm-gets-stale and no booze – for about a hundred years. Second and third time, well, I think he might have looked at me across a crowded junkyard of a playroom. Who knows. Wheeeeeeeeeeee! Down some more! And some more again for good measure! My, we really did break the climate didn’t we if it’s dark ALL THE TIME…how weird that nobody else is talking about it…best just smile and wave…

And so it continues. Guilt and exhaustion and purees and sick and guilt and tantrums and tears and crappy plastic toys that sever your toe if you step on them, and more guilt because the toys are crappy and plastic in the first place, and MORE guilt because your severed toe led to you stamping on the bastard toy, and shouting like a banshee and constant ringing in your ears and panic attacks and guilt and becoming obsessed with sleep and waking up and calculating how many hours before you can slip back into sleep and oblivion, and guilt, always the guilt. And it becomes the new normal, so you forget that life was ever any different. And of course there is happiness too, and laughter, and fun, and love – it’s not all terrible by any means. Just a bit, well, dark still. But we’re kind of used to that now.

At some point though, and so slowly that you don’t even realise it’s happening, things start to feel ever so slightly different. One day you wake up and decide not to wear a hoody and maternity jeans, as you have every day for the past six years. Of course, you’ll probably have to, because you have long since sold all your nice clothes on eBay to pay for more crappy plastic toys, but still, the thought crossed your mind. And one day, the lady in the Co-op DOESN’T tell you that you look tired! Then you start noticing its a bit lighter all around. Phew, maybe we haven’t broken the climate after all. But hang on – global warming shouldn’t affect the light levels, should it? And then the thought is gone, as quickly as it came, But it doesn’t matter, because it was A RATIONAL THOUGHT!  Next thing – you start noticing how haggard and exhausted and generally unfit you are. This sounds like it’s a bad thing. Nope, it’s not. It’s a sign that the light levels are increasing, that you’re finally coming to the end of the Tunnel. And then one day your kids say to you “You used to be so shouty and grumpy all the time. Now you’re fun, sometimes.” At which point it might be wise to remind them that the shouty ogre is NEVER FAR AWAY so when I say go to bed, I mean go to bed NOWWWWWWW before I completely lose the fricking plot…Oh, er, or you could take them in your arms and promise never to be grumpy again. Your call.

It’s not until you are completely out of the tunnel that you realise you were ever in it. So this is a message of hope for those of you still stuck underground somewhere – there is light! Life will return! The darkness isn’t climate change! Of course, the downside of coming out is that you’ll realise that  you’ve been living in something approaching squalor, and your beautifully done up house needs doing up again, due to things like THIS  that seem to have appeared on every wall. In permanent frigging marker. But hey, you’re out of the Tunnel – welcome to the world!


On small steps with my biggest boy


One of my clearest memories from having my firstborn was how utterly perplexed he seemed to be with the world in which he found himself.

Completely exhausted from labour, and terrified that I would fall asleep and suffocate him, I had put him in the little crib thing next to me and held my breath, expecting a roar of protest. Well the roar never came – and in fact, he continued to be the most placid baby I’d ever come across. But in place of the roar, was a little face looking around so confused, so worried almost, that I wished I could have popped him safely back inside me for a few more weeks till he felt ready to face us all.

That sense of not being in the right place has stayed with my biggest boy. Even in his happiest moments, he has never been completely carefree. He worries about all sorts of things – most of all about whether anyone likes him. Achingly like me as a child, he is desperate to fit in and be one of the gang, but doesn’t really know how to do it. When I watch him on the school yard in the mornings, I have sometimes felt physical pain in my gut for him as I see him approach groups only to be ignored – and then to start acting the fool to get attention, and of course isolating himself further. In the past I’ve been pretty pro-active about organising playdates for him, but over the last year or so – at his request – these have tapered off.

But just these last few weeks it feels as if there is a small, but significant change in the air. He seems more confident in himself, and his thoughts and feelings. He is definitely playing more with a wider group of friends in the playground, and in the last 2 weeks has had playdates with 2 different friends – at his instigation! – and has invited another friend to sleep over on the last day of term. He’s stayed off the ‘concern list’ all year at school, and his teacher said again at parents evening how far he has come this year.

None of that really matters to me – I would slay dragons for him as he is, however he is. But seeing him grow into himself a little, and become more comfortable in his own skin, is a lovely way to start the Spring, for all of us – but most of all for him. Looking forward to more small steps, my biggest boy! x

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