Loud ‘n Proud: Independence is Messy

mummy's shoesTheoretically, this whole business of bringing up children is all about teaching them to be independent.

Is it bad that I kind of like them being dependent? Or rather, I would love them to be independent, but I severely dislike all the hassle of getting them there.

The other day I was at a friend’s house, and we fell silent when her nearly 3 year old wandered into where we were chatting, carrying a cup of milk.

“Did you get that yourself?” my friend asked him.

“Yeah,” he told her (to rhyme with “Duh”), sipping his milk.

When we had both finished having retrospective heart attacks, my friend told me that her sons do this more and more often now: they open the fridge, rummage around and pour themselves drinks.

Mine don’t, I thought. I squash that kind of initiative as soon as I see the thought developing in the Boy’s mind. I picture a lake of milk on the kitchen floor that I will need to clean up – and I hate cleaning. Carrying food or drinks around the house? No way, too much opportunity for spillage and breakage. Getting things out of cupboards? Nope. My cupboards are messy and precariously stacked – pulling the wrong item out in the wrong way will cause an avalanche. Let Mummy do it.

The more I thought about it, the more I realised that my children moving from stage to stage, gaining independence, doing things for themselves terrifies me. I get used to the status quo, fit my life around it, and then they go and change things up and mess up my systems. This goes for the Boy at pre-school age, and doubly so for my little girl, who is nearly two.

I like carrying the Girl up and down the stairs, strapping her into her booster seat at the table, putting her in a corner with her Mannies and letting her

Please. Just sit here and play.

Please. Just sit here and play.

play while I work. I like it when she drinks out of sippy cups and eats everything I put in front of her. I like dressing and undressing her, scooping her up and plonking her in the car so we can leave the house ten minutes before we need to collect the Boy from pre-school. I like her sleeping in her cot.

But the time for these things is fading.

Lopen! [walk]” she insists and wriggles out of my arms. She wants to walk herself.

“Stairs!” she shouts, and I am not even allowed to hold the doll or the big book she wants to carry down with her as she takes step by reckless step.

Klimmen! [climb]” she shrieks, and I have to put her down next to the car and tear my hair out as she first winds down her window, then painfully slowly, slipping and getting a better grip, she clambers into her car seat herself and we tear down country lanes and arrive breathlessly at pre-school, catching the teacher with the phone in her hand ready to call and find out where I am.

“Open! Juicy!” she commands, climbing onto the little stool that she has carried into the kitchen herself, plonking the sippy cup angrily onto the work surface. She keeps a close eye on me as I take the lid off, fill it with a dash of juice and plenty of water, and offer it to her, lid off, on one condition: “Sit down! Sit down to drink!” I tell her. She yanks the cup out of my hands again and drains it, standing up on the stool.

She can do it. She’s nearly two.

Tonight, it was like she offered me a choice.

She pooed in the bath.

“Oh! Poo!” she said, surprised.

“No! Poo! Quick, get out!” the Boy shrieked hysterically and climbed out of the bath.

While I cleared up the mess, I offered the Girl the potty to sit on. “Haha! Potty!” she exclaimed in glee. She stood up and sat back down several times. When I had contained the problem and cleaned the most urgent things I was ready to shoo her off the potty and get her back into a nappy.

“No! Potty!” she insisted and walked back and sat on it again. I let her and helped the Boy dry his hair. Then we heard a sound.

“She’s doing a wee!” The Boy exclaimed in delight.

We both hugged and praised the Girl for being so clever. She got to flush the wee down the toilet herself and as a special treat, got to wash her hands standing on the step by the wash basin.

I considered this little vignette she had presented me with: what do you want mother? Do you want to scoop poo out of the bath forever, or shall I grow up and learn to take care of myself, step by messy step?

Of course, like always in parenting, it wasn’t a real choice. She is going to become independent, whether I like it or not. So I will embrace it, and offer her the opportunities to learn and grow that she is so desperate for.

I put her nappy on, and tucked her up in her cot with Pop & her million other favourite cuddlies.

“Tomorrow,” I sighed. “Independence can begin tomorrow.”

klimmen

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Growing in the sunshine

IMG_2763Perhaps you noticed that the sandpit was a little quiet over the Easter holidays

We were away – catching some unseasonal summery weather in a lovely holiday home with a pool. We’d booked very last minute and had been hesitating between several options, studying pictures and descriptions. In the end we chose a villa that had a long list of rave reviews from previous visitors, and we weren’t disappointed.

When we arrived, we discovered that the pictures had really not done the villa justice. It had a vast garden, an orchard, a bird house, a separate pool house with a little fridge and a bar and – there was a children’s play house. With a fence around it. And toys inside. And a tricycle. It was absolutely perfect and we all fell in love as soon as we set foot in the grounds.

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Every morning as soon as she woke up, the Girl ran to the back door, pressed her nose against the glass and said hopefully: “Housh?” The Boy christened it “the tree house”, and found some peculiar but apparently very absorbing Boy-activities there that he loved (they involved making a mole hill out of gravel…) There was so much to do: the Girl force-fed the dolls orange juice, the Boy rode the tricycle, he wanted me to read the sign next to the little dog house every day, I was commissioned to Do Writing on the blackboard, we read Richard Scarry books in Spanish, we (I) did puzzles and played with the toy microwave oven.

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The Boy and the Girl also had heart-meltingly lovely times when they played together. The cutest was when they sat together on the gravelly ground, the Girl scooping up handfuls of “stones” and handing them to her brother, who piled them high into one of his mole hills while singing a jolly song. They did this for about ten minutes, and all that time the Girl had a little hand resting on The Boy’s leg. When she lost interest and toddled off, the Boy lay down sadly on the ground and muttered disconsolately: “I want to play with you, A.” She just ignored him and tried to make the dollies IMG_2748sit on little stools.

The last time we went on holiday it was in an apartment and the Girl had only just learned to walk. This time, things were very different and she toddled about with great glee, enjoying a bit of freedom to run around. It wasn’t easy, though. Everything was at an angle, or had steps. There was gravel instead of grass, and there were tiles instead of carpets. I was a little worried about whether she’d cope, but in actual fact, the Girl took to the challenge with infectious enthusiasm. As the days went by, she learned how to navigate the unfamiliar terrain. She remembered where all the steps were and would find something to hold on to as she went down them, saying “step, step, step” as she came down. She scrambled and slid up the steep gravelly slopes on all fours at first, but by day four she was walking up them upright, compensating for the angle by leaning forwards and taking smaller steps.

Maybe, I thought, this was just what she needed. Challenges, and opportunities to learn. She certainly got more steady on her feet.

We went to the beach, where she exclaimed in delight over the sand, but expressed some distress at it getting in her favourite strawberry shoes. The Boy took his bucket and spade and continued his mole hill project, getting very annoyed if the Girl tried to get involved or knocked his hill over. The sea, for him, was a source of water to improve the texture of the sand for mole hill building. The Girl, on the other hand, was enchanted by the water itself. As soon as she saw the sea, her tiny face lit up. She ran towards the waves, pulling me along behind her, her little feet sinking into the soft sand. She walked right in, and laughed and cheered and stomped her little feet in the waves, not caring if they soaked her, shouting “plash! plash!”

Our villa was a calm, sunny space where time moved slowly, and we had the time to watch our children play and realise how much they had grown up. There was the Girl, climbing onto  chairs and sitting up at the table next to her brother. Her vocabulary exploded in those seven days, with all the new things to see and talk about, and she chattered away saying “S sit here” and “Daddy have juice” and “oh no! ball ‘way!”

"Allo birds"

“Allo birds”

The Boy was so independent, inventing his own games, busy with little projects, but also connecting with us on a much more grown up level. He appointed himself Daddy’s swimming coach as he attempted a dip in the ice cold pool. The week was lovely and sunny, but the pool was not heated and I was definitely not going to be doing any swimming. The Husband, however, braved the cold, cheered on by The Boy who counted the steps down into the pool. In the afternoons when the Girl napped, The Boy would come and lie on the sun lounger next to mine and do drawings, stickers or his Peter Rabbit magazine while I read a book. This was a new and pleasant development.

We watched the two of them, playing and laughing and discovering, and felt very lucky. It was lovely to have this pause, this refuge, these frozen moments in time to look and think and sit back and be.

Now, we are back home , trying to cling on to the good things  from our week away. We squeezed in another barbecue last weekend and mowed the lawn to make the garden more inviting for the kids to play in. I found that I was a lot less stressed about taking the kids to play outside, having spent an entire week outdoors, and made sure that we were out for a while every day while the sun was shining.

I am also trying to give the Boy more independence and responsibility, trying to trust him more, not doing everything for him because I think it will be quicker.

And the same goes for the Girl, who I often carry out to the car or up and down the stairs, for speed. I have started putting her little feet down on the ground, taking a deep breath and accepting that things will need to take a bit longer, but that in the long run, it will lead to more independent children. So I let her walk up and down the stairs at her own pace.

“Step, step, step,” she says, placing her feet with precision, holding on to the rail with one hand and my finger with the other, her tiny bunches bobbing with every step.

Like spring flowers, we have spent time in the sun and slowly, we are starting to blossom.

 

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Linking up to Loud ‘n Proud over at Mother of Three World. Next week I’ll be hosting so come back then to share more of your proud moments!

No matter what

Anger never featured much in my life up till now. I would get upset, frustrated, indignant, offended, hurt – but rarely did I encounter rage. Not the kind that makes you want to break things and hurt people. I think I can maybe remember one or two occasions in my first 32 years when I felt like that.

Now, rage is a regular, almost daily feature.

The Boy, currently 2 years and 9 months old, can wind me up to a point where I  want to scream and shout and smash plates in a matter of minutes. How does he do it? Simples!

* He ignores dire warnings to put that down, no it’s dangerous, I mean it, NO! STOP! Listen to Mummy, why don’t you listen to Mummy? Usually this happens while the baby is screaming/I am changing her nappy/I am handling hot pans.

* Nappy changing (oh can he just be potty trained overnight?) is a frequent flash point, with him kicking me away, or trying to roll off and escape while covered in poo.

* Bedtime delay tactics are getting more and more elaborate, and trying to navigate them and cajole him into tooth brushing, getting in and out of the bath, in and out of a nappy and pyjamas while simultaneously trying to stop him screeching and crying and waking his sister is… a little stressful.

* He ignores me.

* He ignores me.

* He ignores me.

* And finally: he ignores me.

(I don’t like being ignored.)

I barely know what to do with my anger. Or really, model student that I am, I know exactly what I should be doing but am struggling to put it into practice.

I know anger is normal and what is important is to model for him how to deal with it in a way that doesn’t hurt people or things – and yet I end up shouting at him and then feeling terrible for having been angry at all. 

I know a lot of the situations that wind me up can be prevented by stepping in early and pretending to be Miss Piggy/Coco the train/The Puzzler – but aside from the fact that this takes a measure of patience I often do not have, I find that I almost want to get angry with him, that I want him to have to apologise for ignoring what I say. I want him to stop ignoring what I say and start listening to me.

I know that he is more likely to respect my authority and eventually learn to listen to what I say if I stay calm and in control – but every time it happens, it seems to get easier to head down the slippery slide into rage.

We find ourselves in a phase where our goals clash and our tempers flare, the Boy and I. 

So I have started reading this book with him at night, to make sure we end the day on the right note. For him and for me.

"No Matter What", by Debi Gliori

“No Matter What”, by Debi Gliori

We have had this book for a while, but it is truly coming into its own now.

Small was feeling grim and dark. "I'm a grim and grumpy little small, and nobody loves me at all."

Small was feeling grim and dark. “I’m a grim and grumpy little small, and nobody loves me at all.”

A small fox (Small) is having a bad day and feels as if nobody loves him. Large reassures him: “Grumpy or not, I’ll always love you, no matter what.” Small goes through all the most likely looking scenarios (“If I was a grizzly bear, would you still love me, would you care?”) and Large reassures him every time that her love is unconditional. It ends on quite a serious note: “What about when we’re dead and gone, would you love me then, does love go on?” This is a topic perhaps a little beyond my not-quite-3-year-old’s understanding, but the answer is not:

“Small, look at the stars –
how they shine and glow,
but some of those stars died a long time ago.”

"Still they shine in the evening skies, Love, like starlight, never dies."

“Still they shine in the evening skies,
love, like starlight, never dies.”

We look at this book and I hug him close. Large and Small have no gender and could be Mummy and son or Daddy and daughter or any combination. But my imaginative little boy knows that right now, it is us. After the first time we read it together, he greeted me the next morning with: “Hello, Mummy Fox!”

I am trying to learn how to deal with my anger, and how to deal with his new defiance. But while we work on that, at least at the end of the day I can reassure him that my love is completely unconditional, and however much he makes me want to kick the sofa and throw nappies around the room in frustration, he is my son and I love him – no matter what.

 

Images from the book and quotes all (c) Debi Gliori. This book was bought with my own money almost a decade ago and I mention it because it is relevant and I love it, not because someone paid me to.