The Terrible Twos (a poem)

One dark night
Whilst I was in bed
Someone snook in
And quietly said

“Remember that happy little girl
You thought you knew?
I’m swapping her for a new model
Good luck to you!”

At least, I assume,
That’s what occurred
Any other explanation
Seems completely absurd

See, surely it’s impossible
For such a happy child
Normally so gentle,
Content, meek and mild

To turn into a modern day
Jekyll and Hyde?
The tears from her latest meltdown
Still haven’t dried

Google gently tells me that
Her emotions cause her fear
She can’t handle what she’s feeling
So she steps it up a gear

The toddler tantrum escalates
Into blood curdling screams
She passes the event horizon
Where there is no escape, it seems

And Google also tells me
That I should stay nice and calm
That I should let her burn out
Whilst keeping her from harm

Because a full-on meltdown
Means she throws herself around
Screaming and crying
And rolling on the ground

Lucky me; I have twins!
So it’s meltdowns times two
Thank God for wine
(And a bit of choccy too!)

It’s nice to know that
This phase is temporary
If it was like this forever
That would be bloody scary!

But I must keep things in perspective;
My girls are so often a delight
They make me laugh, they kiss me
And they cuddle me nice and tight

This phase is a milestone
From which they’ll learn and grow
I’ll look back and laugh one day
But ’til then, may the wine flow!!

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A parenting rite of passage

Toddler tantrums. I could pretty much end this blog right there, knowing that those of you who’ve been through this sometimes horrendous milestone will sympathise with me (particularly those of you with twins!), that the heros among you with triplets or more will feel rightfully smug, and that those of you who haven’t reached this wonderful stage yet will shiver in dread. Whatever stage you’re at: this is a parenting rite of passage we must all go through that I think may change me as a person.

All kids have the potential to be stroppy, to have a face on them occasionally. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about the toddler’s complete inability to control their newly forming emotions to the extent that you get kicked out of the “meet the mammals” animal encounter at the petting farm because said toddler is throwing an almighty tanty which is escalating and will “scare the animals” (true story). And there’s a direct link between this inability to control feelings with the frustration of being unable to effectively communicate. So what toddler is essentially telling me is: something’s terribly wrong, I can’t tell you what it is and it’s making me feel angry. Can’t blame her really.

Unfortunately, as an adult, I’m not really that far removed from her. Sometimes the tantrums press just the right button in my psyche and I’m liable to have a tanty of my own. Hindsight – sometimes immediate – tells me that screaming, “SHUT UUUUPPP!!!!” at my tantruming toddler is a really bad idea. What a shame my unevolved, caveman brain can’t always see it at the time!

I feel really proud when I stay calm during a whirlwind episode. There are many times when I’m not only calm, but I’m not suppressing the urge to strangle. In those times, I am a Zen warrior, and I can even smile at the toddler as she throws herself around the room, thinking, “Bless her, she can’t help it. I can ride this storm. We’ll cuddle after.” High fives all round.

But sometimes, it’s been a tough day, we’ve been stuck indoors and I go a bit crazy. I’ve discovered it’s definitely healthy to get outdoors as much as possible. It’s also good to meet up with friends/family as much as I can, so I can have that extra pair of hands (even if it’s just to entertain T2 while T1 ruins my day).

I think the times I feel least able to cope with a serious meltdown are the times when the control freak in me has a chance to shine. The times when we’re on our way out the house for a timed event and therefore I have a schedule. Toddlers laugh in the face of my schedule! Or the times we’re out and about and a tanty is embarrassing and doesn’t conform to the plans I had that day.

But as much as I sometimes struggle, and don’t always react in the best way, I feel proud of the times when I stay calm and manage to diffuse the situation. I think back to my 18 year old self, the one whose priorities centred around drinking, dancing, lie-ins and freedom, and I know for a fact that she would never have coped with being a parent. She would have had ZERO patience, and would have responded to tantrums by having an almighty tantrum of her own! She didn’t know the meaning of the word “compromise.”

But the other thing 18 year old me didn’t know was the all-consuming love of being a mama (a twin mama!). Younger me had a damn fun time but she needed to move aside for the version of me who is still learning, not always getting it right but getting it right sometimes and for that, I feel proud. Now, I’m off to see what other mistakes I can make today!

Run Jump Scrap!

No-one tells you it will be so boring (now SUMO)

Of all the things I read pre-kids, and actually the majority of stuff I’ve digested since, I don’t remember much about the sheer tedium of parenting. I don’t mean every moment of every day. There are times it’s amazing, when I could live in that moment forever. They’re usually the small, seemingly insignificant things like the delight on their faces as they find a dandelion ready for blowing away times on the clock. Or the satisfied smile as I draw on their backs with my finger, singing, “I draw a snake upon your back and who do you think has bitten you?” And there are of course hideous times, like yet another Mega Meltdown, or when they refuse to eat a meal I’ve slaved over, or one of them does a huge poop just before we’re about to leave the house.

No, I’m talking about pretty much everything else inbetween. The endless, ENDLESS cleaning. How can they make so much mess? Unfortunately I’m too neurotic to let it slide!

The repetition of things which excite them. Like how they can watch Peppa Pig for hours until I can quote every episode and the music whirrs around in my head all night. Or how if I laugh at something delightful they do, they then do it over and over and over and over and OVER again to elicit the same reaction, which of course I can’t after about the third go. Or they’ll discover a new word they love and then just repeat it for hours, getting louder and louder unless I not only acknowledge them but feign enthusiasm.

Add to this the complete lack of freedom. Not that I expected any kind of freedom when I chose to get pregnant, but knowing it in theory and actually living it, every day, is harder than I thought it would be. I can count on one hand the number of times we can call upon a family babysitter in one year. It’s amazing how infrequently people offer when you have TWO toddlers who need watching. I don’t blame them; I wasn’t exactly Mary Poppins before I became a twin mama!

So we almost never go out without the kids. And going out WITH the kids is too stressful to be enjoyable. I’m not talking about daytimes as such. For me, daytime is about them and I’m happy for it to be that way, despite the tedium. But then I feel like the evenings should be for us to have some time to regroup. We do to an extent. The girls are in bed by 8pm at the latest but I’m so exhausted that I go to bed at 10pm so there’s a two-hour window for relaxation. That’s when we squeeze in a film or tv show on Netflix. Gone are the days of the cinema. #1stworldproblems

It’s good to have a bit of a moan sometimes but a good friend recently told me about the SUMO philosophy: Shut Up and Move On. I’m allowed a little hippo time (where I wallow in self-pity) but then it’s time to drag myself out of it and STFU. So with that in mind, it’s time for me to remember to be bloody thankful for what I’ve got, put my pitiful problems into perspective and get over myself. After all, kids may be boring sometimes but they are also effing AWESOME!

The Story Giant (and being ignored)

In my constant quest to be a Good Parent, I have read to my girls since they were about 3 months old. It began as the start of the slow process of attempting to develop a bedtime routine, but bled out into day-to-day attempts at keeping them entertained and stimulated. They’re two years old now and I can’t decide if it’s working.

If I give my girls a book each (I’ve tried the sharing thing; it does NOT work!) then at least one of them will sit and look through it, sometimes with a great deal of interest. If I attempt to actually sit and read with them, I end up feeling irritated because it never ends how I want it to! Such a control freak!

It begins with me seating them either side of me and enthusiastically telling them we’re going to read a book. Examples have included The Gruffalo, several Roald Dahl classics, Peter Rabbit, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and That’s Not my Bloody Pony. See, I really do try!

I begin the first page in a hopeful manner; I can pretty much hold their attention during that first page and it feels awesome. Always a bit of a show-off as a child, I even do different voices and accents, and I make sure I emphasise all the different inflections in the text. I use those crazy yet endearing CBeebies presenters as my muse. If they can hold my daughters’ attention for 10 whole minutes then so can I!

By page 2, they’re no longer attempting to follow what I’m saying and begin grabbing the book from my hands and turning the pages before I’ve had time to read more than about two words. I’m at least given the impression that they’re vaguely interested in the physical book itself.

By page 5 (and remember, we’re talking about books that only have a few giant font words per page most of the time!), they’re clambering all over me, screaming in my ears and repeatedly asking for Peppa Pig to go on the TV. By page 6, the book is on the floor and Peppa Pig is on.

At bedtime, I force them to listen to me by plugging their mouths with bottles of milk. If I’m lucky, I can read for about five minutes before the milk is gone and the girls are jumping up and down in their cots, laughing and screaming so loudly that I actually can’t hear myself reading the words anymore.

My current attempt, The Story Giant by Brian Patten and illustrated by Chris Riddell is fantastic. It centres around a giant who has lived in a magical dreamworld since the dawn of time. He knows all the stories ever said or written, and at night he weaves children from across the world into his magical world, where he shares stories with them. In return, the children share their own stories, and each is enraptured with the tales they hear. The stories deal with mature subjects including death, and I’m really enjoying reading it. Unfortunately, it’s taken months to get through it because I only get a page or two read each night. I would make a really terrible story giant; the kids I weaved into my magical land would just ignore me and run riot round my magical castle!

I have no idea if anything I’ve said is normal. My worry is that their lack of attention span in relation to me reading to them is a direct consequence of the fact they’re twins. I can’t sit with one of them on my lap and lovingly focus on that one child while they snuggle into me, enraptured by my fascinating tale. I have a rocking chair inbetween the two cots and it just about fits me in it, let alone two children as well!

I have always loved reading, and whilst I struggle to fit reading into my hectic lifestyle, it will always be one of my passions. I hope I can instill the same level of passion into my girls before it’s too late. The good thing is that as well as being a control freak, I am also supremely stubborn, so I’ll keep trying until I’ve cracked this nut… Just allow me a few frustrated “AHHHH”‘s in the meantime!

Constant failure

In theory, I subscribe to the “There is no such thing as the Perfect Parent” ideology. The one that makes me feel better when I shout at the kids. The one that comforts me when I lazily put Peppa Pig in front of the kids while they wait for me to cook dinner (see photo evidence of my utter parenting failure). The one that unites fellow mummy bloggers. The one that I usually believe… But…

I didn’t really realise how much of a control freak/perfectionist I was until I had kids and discovered very quickly that when it comes to parenting, it’s impossible to maintain control. Be it control of my willful children, or control of my own emotions. One minute, I’m crying because I feel so overwhelmed with love. The next I’m screaming at the twins because they’ve done something REALLY annoying (or dangerous). Then I’m crying again, but this time because I feel so desperately guilty about shouting at them when all they were doing was discovering the world around them, demonstrating the curiosity of toddlers that is unsurpassed by any other age. The thing that can so often make me laugh! So I go through this emotionally exhausting cycle of tears-anger-guilt-laughter throughout the day and feel utterly drained by the end of it.

As we climb towards bedtime, I find myself itching for it to be 7 o’clock, so I can have some time to myself. And then the kids are in bed and I miss them, feeling guilty for wishing them asleep. I reflect upon the day and sometimes, all I can remember is how they did my head in all day, and how desperate I am to have a break. Sometimes I reflect in shame, remembering that moment I screamed at them, and their innocent little faces looked up at me in wonder, not even upset but just curious; “Why is mommy shouting at me?”

I hate that I do this but I have an image in my head of the Perfect Parent. The Perfect Parent isn’t the yummy mummy who keeps her life in order, but it’s certainly a mother who doesn’t lose her temper with her kids over something trivial.

My children are my life. I couldn’t face life without them. And yet there are times when I could bloody kill them!

Those moments where I lose it make me feel like a complete failure. I’m the grown up, and should therefore be showing my girls what is and is not acceptable behaviour. I know what kind of mama I want to be but for me, I think it’s unobtainable. And so I feel like a constant failure

Ok. Maybe not constant. Maybe there are times when I am supremely patient. When I indulge the girls’ natural curiosity. When I play with them. Cuddle them. Meet their needs. Teach them. Love them.

Maybe having a mama that gets it right more than she gets it wrong will have to be enough.

Life changes…

I’ve always loved poetry but never really had an outlet for it. Then I started blogging and quickly discovered the wonderful Rhyming With Wine and something inside me said (very meekly), “I could do that…” Lack of confidence held me back, until I found myself commenting on one of her brilliantly funny poems, and guess what? She replied saying she loved my poem. High five! Cut a long story short and I found myself agreeing to feature in her Cheers! series and here is the poem I submitted:

Life Changes

Oh, how life changes
In just 15 years
In with Prosecco
Out with the beers

In with homecooking
Out with kebabs
Whilst swaying home drunk
(No money for cabs)

In with the Mom Shoes
Out with the heels
Sod what they look like;
I just care how it feels

Out with posh lunches
In with soft play
I got told off for going
Sock-free there today!

Rebellion used to mean
Sex, drugs and booze
Now it means sneaking in
A quick little snooze

I used to dance on tables
And party through the night
Now by 10pm (at most)
You’ll find me tucked up tight!

It used to feel like torture
To get up at half past seven
Lie-ins now mean anything
Past six is simply heaven

The most important thing back then
Quite simply put, was ME
Now what I need, or want or like
Is simply not priority

Motherhood means sacrifice;
My daughters’ needs come first
Sometimes my love for them
Makes me feel my heart could burst

But sometimes all the clambering and
Crying gets too much
I want to run away somewhere
And simply not be touched!

An hour or two is all I ask!
Just once a week or less!
A time where I’m not clearing up
Everyone else’s mess!

Out with my youth
In with cuddles and Bing!
My life may be less free now
But I wouldn’t change a thing

Rhyming with Wine

Thank you SO much Dawn for bringing me out of my poetry shell!

Mealtime madness

Of the numerous things I was totally unprepared for before becoming a twin mama, the madness of mealtimes and everything associated with them has been one of the most difficult to adjust to. Memories of eating what I want, when I want, pressure-free and in a calm environment that included adult conversation (or blissful silence) with The Hubs seem a million years ago. If a child-free friend asked me what mealtimes involve these days, I would advise them of the following:

1. Children have no patience
I can’t overstate this; when my girls are hungry, the world has to know about it. I try to maintain a schedule (something which has kept me just about sane since they were born) but I often misjudge how long a meal will take to cook, or I’m unorganised and don’t get it started in time, or I’m supremely unorganised and haven’t even decided what they’re going to eat. Regardless of the reason, the result is the same: the twins hanging off the safety gate on the door to our kitchen, crying and screaming, pointing at the oven and basically reminding me what a crap parent I am at that moment. You’d think cooking would be something you could switch your brain off to do, but until you’ve tried cooking while two whirling dervishes do their best to destroy your eardrums, your heart and your sense of self-worth all at the same time, you may not realise just how difficult it is!

2. Children are fickle
As soon as I started weaning the twins onto solid food, I decided that where possible, I’d make my own. I wasn’t Mrs Perfect; the food wasn’t organic or particularly fancy (it mainly consisted of mushed up boiled veg) but I wanted to give them a taste for healthy food, and to introduce them to a variety of flavours. In theory, this would lead to good habits as they got older. Well, what a load of crap! I do still try, where possible, to ensure they eat fruit and veg but quite frankly, they sometimes refuse to eat anything at all, and often turn their noses up at anything healthy in favour of potato-based food (chips, waffles, crisps) or chocolate cake (thanks, Peppa Pig!). And the worst thing? The complete inconsistency. The fact that I think I’ve nailed it one day with salmon, potatoes, peas and parsley sauce and then the next time I serve it, they throw it on the floor/up the wall/in their hair/in my hair. I have a list of food they’ll eat which I pretty much cook on rotation but in reality, they basically live off fish fingers and chocolate.

3. Children don’t care about social etiquette
I very rarely go out to eat with the twins. Yes, it’s partly because money is tight these days but it’s more to do with how stressful I find the whole experience. The lack of patience (see point 1) and strong chance that I’ll pick the wrong meal option for got them (point 2) or that I’ll end up guilt-ridden for choosing a supremely unhealthy option just to keep them quiet (also point 2) means that it’s rarely an enjoyable experience for anyone. I end up embarrassed, the kids end up having a meltdown, and fellow patrons have their meal ruined. Even in a child-friendly place, I end up feeling mortified for the staff, who have to listen to our bullshit and clean up after our gargantuan mess. Eating out with children means that you don’t enjoy your meal and therefore the act of shovelling luke-warm food into your mouth becomes completely perfunctory instead of something to savour. There’s no commenting on the bouquet of the wine or cleansing your pallet between courses when it comes to family dining; it’s a case of get in, order the first thing you see, pre-fill the kids with snacks to keep them quiet while the food cooks (or is boiled-in-the-bag) so that they’re not even hungry by the time the food arrives (a no-win situation), chow down, have an argument with Hubs, shout at the kids, pay (thank you, Contactless Payment!) and leave, in an awful mood, with gripping indigestion and two screaming toddlers. Sound like fun??!!!

4. Children don’t like to stay put
I have no idea at what age kids start to understand that we sit at the table nicely when we eat, but Nearly Two is definitely NOT that age. Our house is small so I got rid of the high chairs ASAP (it’s the legs! They take up so much floor space!) and took great delight in buying the twins a cute little table and chairs set from Ikea. I thought I could teach them how to sit nicely! How bloody hilarious is that??! I’ve gotten over the issue by using those strap-on booster seats on dining chairs at the dining table, but until I thought to do that, mealtimes were supremely stressful because the twins just would not stay put!

5. Children. Eat. Really. Really. Slowly.
Unless the food put before them is chocolate, my twins take an AGE to eat. They investigate every morsel, turning it over, squeezing it, licking it, rolling it along the table (I serve their food on plates but I don’t know why I bother)… Eventually, they indulge me by actually chewing and swallowing one mouthful, and then the food-playing starts again… It takes over half an hour for them to finish playing and decide they’re full. I don’t want to rush them, and I know it’s important to give them that time and that they learn so much through their playing and investigating but honestly, watching them eat makes me die a little inside.

6. Children make SO much mess when they eat
Let me preface this one by saying that both the Hubs and I are rather OCD about mess and cleanliness. Many parents laughed at us when we announced our looming twins simply because of how impossible it would be to maintain our pre-kids standards. Having kids means relinquishing control freak tendencies (or battling with them on a daily basis in my case) and one thing I am simply unable to control is meantime mess. If you’re a relaxed type, who doesn’t mind food on the floor, up your walls, all over the kids, yourself, the ceiling, the sofa, and anything within a 50-mile radius of your slobbering child then parenthood is for you! But if you’re like me, with magnolia walls and an aversion to stains, you’re going to find mealtimes a struggle. I have been asked by a child-free friend in the past how I fill my days. When I’m not at work, they mainly consist of preparing for, sitting through and cleaning up after the twins’ breakfast, lunch and tea. The time inbetween involves washing up (several times in one day), doing laundry (a load a day, minimum), ironing (a weekly treat with music on, I’ll admit), watching Peppa Pig and thinking of educational games to play to alleviate some of the Peppa Pig guilt.

I always like to end my blogs on a positive note and this one is no different: it’s all totally and utterly WORTH IT. Parenthood is bloody hard but the rewards are greater than anything I’ve ever experienced in paid work or anywhere else in life. Just don’t ask me if that’s true when I’m scraping half-chewed Bolognese off the floor, wiping yoghurt out of my hair, or trying to remove chocolate hand prints from the magnolia walls.