Let’s Play

I had tidied up. I had set out the toys. I had made their garden nice, enticing even. 

It looked appealing and, of course, they wanted to play. 

So why was everything that was coming out of my mouth so negative?

I have been through this cycle many times. For the most part, I am fairly chilled. I know that children aren’t deliberately messy just to wind you up, it’s because they’re learning, exploring, it’s what they do. 

However, occasionally they do wind me up. And it’s in those instances that I have to take a step back and remind myself exactly what it is that they are doing. 

Being children!

The other day I got everything ready and then told my girls they could play outside. (Which of course they did, no hesitation) 

  

I sat myself down and suddenly hated the idea that they would mess up what I’d prepared. Sounds ridiculous, I know!

“No, please don’t put sand in the water tray”

“Take those dinosaurs off the grass, they were in the sandpit”

“Why are you taking that out of there?”

“Could you leave those on the table, please?”

Even as I write them down I know how silly I sound. 

Before you judge me, please remember that I am not usually like this. It happens every so often, but not all the time. I sometimes just feel, in my tired, worn-out self on certain days, that everything I have done is being undone. That everything I have so lovingly prepared for them is being ruined.

Again, I ask you not to judge me, it really doesn’t happen that often, but on this occasion I just wanted them to appreciate what was there. 

The whole experience was exhausting!

I felt I couldn’t relax, couldn’t sit still, couldn’t really enjoy anything because I was running around trying to tidy up after them. 

In the garden! 

I must have sounded like a crazy lady to anyone listening. 

  

My girls are three-years-old and twenty-one-months. They weren’t running around the garden spray painting the fences or smashing things up, they were doing what children do best; playing!

  

The whole experience was not fun for me and especially not fun for them.

When it was time to tidy up and go inside I felt like that’s all we’d been doing all day anyway and for what?

The day after I tried a new approach; I left them to it. I was there with them but I didn’t interrupt their play. I didn’t constantly ask them to put things back and I wasn’t the miserable old bore that I had been the day before.

They did nothing dangerous or particularly disruptive, they just played, as children do. They investigated, they explored, they took their shoes off, got messy, stuck empty water buckets on their heads that weren’t actually completely empty. They had fun!

  

  

So what if I had to tip the water tray back into the sandpit or sweep up the paving stones again. It didn’t take that long. In actual fact, when it was time to tidy up, they both loved it. I’d allowed them to just ‘be’ all afternoon and so they were ready to help out. It only took us ten minutes anyway.

Two different days, two different experiences, and I know which one we all preferred.
  

Sometimes it’s ok to let things get a little messy. Sometimes it’s ok to not intervene and just watch from the sidelines. Worrying about mess was fruitless and exhausting, I don’t want to spend my days like that, for their sakes more than mine.

  

Toys are there to be played with. Our garden is ready to be explored. Feeling the difference between wet and dry sand is fun. As long as I remember that, and turn off my ‘panic radar’ when my girls are lost in the land of imagination. 

  

There will always be time at the end of the day for tidying up. But the time for carefree play doesn’t last forever. If I stay in this mindset, our summer will be much more enjoyable.
  

Now, if only I could convince myself of the same kind of thing when it comes to the mess my husband makes.

(And don’t worry, he said it was ok to write that last line)

The Hope of Tomorrow 

We are living today in a world full of fear

Worry of the future, of those we hold dear

Uncertainty rife and changes ahead

Our heads full of worry, our hearts full of dread

What’s going to happen? What can we do?

How do we keep our children safe, too?

  
Feelings of helplessness growing so fast

Of not knowing how to make innocence last

But there is some hope, there is still a chance

To be full of wonder and enjoy the dance

Because in our care are the world’s next elite

And we’re here to help them to stand on two feet

  
Our children will watch, they’ll see and they’ll hear

They’ll love what we love and they’ll fear what we fear

Let’s open their hearts to a much brighter view

If we’re full of kindness then they will be too

  
We are the example, we are what they see

Their world is as simple as you and me

We can make a difference, let’s start with our home

So the actions they see will be theirs when they’re grown

We can make hearts grow, we can change the world 

If we start by loving these boys and these girls

  
So let’s find our compassion, and put others first

If we want our world to be better, not worse

Respect our neighbours, be there for our friends

Show little eyes how our hope will not end

  
They do see our anger, they do hear our shouts

Imitation is what their life is about

We owe it to them to change how we live

To show growing hearts that it’s better to give

So when they grow up they can live in a place

Full of love, full of hope, with a smile on each face

  
So if we would like a better tomorrow

One where our children aren’t living in sorrow

Surround them with knowledge of how it should be

Tomorrow begins with you and with me

  

Little Miss Fearless

    

A couple of months ago we were having some work done on our house and we had scaffolding all around the first floor. The garden was full of tools and equipment and we didn’t go in it for days.

One particular day, one full of cabin-fever and boredom, my husband decided to take the girls into the garden for some fresh air. He left them playing in a safe corner while he tried to tidy up a little. 

I was in the kitchen when I heard him call me. I was in the middle of something but he said it couldn’t wait.

With a smile on his face and a slight look of apprehension he pointed towards the ladders.

The tall ladders.

The ladders that led to the scaffold.

The ladders gripped by little hands.

The ones that little Miss A was halfway up.

In one second I felt such a mixture of emotions. Fear, shock, worry, surprise, yet pride and excitement too.

My husband climbed up slowly behind her so she had a safety-net, though she was unaware of it. 

But she didn’t need one.

She made it all the way onto the scaffold, turned around and waved.

The smile on her little face was beautiful.

We are realising, now that our little Miss A is 20 months old, just how different she is from her sister.

Miss C uses her imagination lots, she loves getting messy outside and role-playing but she was never really a climber. She can be quite shy by nature and was always very good at listening to us if we thought something was too dangerous.

But were those things ever really ‘too dangerous’?

As new parents we obviously wanted to keep our baby safe, to protect her and not see her get hurt. It’s normal, all parents feel it.

But now we have her opposite in our second child and we are learning that sometimes it’s ok to let them try.

  
 
I don’t think we were holding Miss C back, she is by nature more reserved anyway, but we were a lot more cautious.

Our baby (which I think she will always be called while she is the youngest, no matter how old she is) is a bit of a daredevil!

Miss C tried to climb out of her cot once, slipped and bumped her head and didn’t do it again.

Miss A did the exact same thing, told us she’d bumped her head but went ahead and climbed out again thirty minutes later.

She is a risk-taker, a trier, she is absolutely fearless and consequently much stronger (physically) than her sister was at the same age.

We find her standing on windowsills, climbing onto boxes, balancing on chairs and basically just trying new things. 

  
 
Sometimes it results in a few bumps and bruises but we are learning when it’s ok to intervene (like the time she opened the front door by herself and stepped outside – she can reach the handle now so we have to keep it locked) and when it’s ok to take a step back.

We are there for her, we are the safety-net, whether she knows it or not, and we would never put her in serious danger. But doing certain things by herself is allowing her to learn her own limits, to know her own strength and what she is capable of.

It is actually amazing to witness.

When she was climbing up those ladders her coordination was brilliant! Her strong little legs got her all the way up to the top and I’m happy I got to see it.

I am certain she is going to keep taking risks like that, risks that she just sees as ‘opportunities’. 

I am certain also that she’s going to give us many more heart-stopping moments.

And we don’t want to stand in her way when we don’t have to.

This is a new challenge for us, to watch our second daughter climb and run and dive straight into things without fear. We don’t ever want to squash her enthusiasm and we are learning to find the right balance now between safety and freedom.

But we are so proud of our little daredevil, our happy, brave, excited, fun-loving little mischief.

She certainly keeps things interesting!

I hope her strength and determination never leave her, I hope she will carry on taking risks and bringing smiles to everyone’s faces, just as she does now.

We just have to remember to let her. 

   
“The more risks you allow your children to make, the better they learn to look after themselves” – Roald Dahl

Maltese Meltdowns

  
This is a post that I wrote a few months ago while we were away on holiday. Looking back I’m amazed how things have changed. Our three-year-old daughter doesn’t have tantrums anymore and is so calm in comparison. We have disagreements now instead, and the odd sulk! But reading this has made me remember how she used to be and how much can change in a few months.
(29/03/16)
At the moment we are on holiday in Malta, just the four of us, as in, myself, my husband and our two girls. 
We are loving it, even though the first couple of days have been extremely tiring for all of us. 
I managed ten minutes to myself yesterday (to get a few thoughts together about what to write) because we found ‘Ice Age’ on the television. It was in German, but animation is animation, it did the trick. 
Anyway, our eldest daughter who is nearly three was really looking forward to going swimming today. 
She was so tired yesterday evening and so grumpy, understandably so because of our busy day, however, it resulted in a bit of a tantrum. 

We went through the usual, standing aside initially, then comforting, bribing, tough love, you name it, we did it. 
I think she was past the actual feeling of upset by this point and just liked the sound of her own screams, which in a hotel room with no carpet and wide open balcony doors were very, very loud. 
The only thing that worked in this instance was for us to say that if she didn’t stop, she wouldn’t be going swimming in the morning. 
It worked. 
She calmed down and everything was ok. She knew we’d be going swimming and she was happy again, especially when it was bedtime. 

(We were all happy by that point.)
This morning, I was the one who was tired, and yes, a little grumpy too. We were making breakfast for the girls as we have booked self-catering and my husband and I started arguing. 
I honestly do not have a single clue what it was about. It was something and nothing and we were snapping at each other and all was certainly not very harmonious in our little kitchen. 
Suddenly I heard our eldest speak but I didn’t hear what she said. My husband started laughing and so she smiled. When he repeated it for me, I couldn’t help smiling either. 
She had actually said, ‘stop it mummy and daddy or you won’t be allowed to go swimming!’ 
We were being told off by an almost three-year-old child. It was funny, and it made me realise just how much of what we say to her (and to each other) actually goes in. 
The other thing it made me realise is that I should be a little more understanding of her tantrums, hard as they are to deal with at the moment. 
I had just had a mini one myself. 
I was tired, hot and irritable. Whatever my husband had done that I’d disagreed with was obviously not the end of the world but I over-reacted.
The difference here being, I am much more in control of my emotions and more able to deal with them. If I was snapping because I was worn out then her tantrum was the childhood equivalent.
She is our eldest and it’s completely new territory for all of us, but considering everything, this holiday she is doing really well.
As long as I can remember that she is a human being, like me, with feelings and emotions, and as long as I can find my patience when she does exercise her right to voice her feelings, then we may make it through the rest of the holiday unscathed.
We did all go swimming in the end, we were all calm and stopped the shouting.
I think our daughter was proud of us! 😉
  

Weekend in June

This weekend has been messy and exciting, this weekend has been fun and tiring, this weekend has been everything a sunny weekend for children should be. It reminded me of my childhood.

There is something about sunny weather that seems to make everything that little bit brighter. The neighbours are out, music can be heard playing from other gardens, and children are throwing water at each other and having a ball!
Little arms and legs are shining with sun-cream. Bare feet parading across the garden are getting wet and dirty. Fingers are sticky with drippy ice-cream. Our garden is full of childhood experiences that I remember with such fondness.
A paddling pool full of water creates so much excitement for our girls and their cousins. Grown-ups can chat while children squeal with delight at water splashing in their little faces.
All food is consumed outside, sandwiches in the sunshine just somehow taste that little bit better.
Friendships are strengthened, outdoor experiences are a delight, picnic blankets are out, and children play!
They just play.
They get messy, they get dirty, they get covered. And they have fun.
This weekend has been exhausting in the best possible way. Taking tired children to bed, washing sun-cream, sand and soil off their worn-out bodies, seeing them cry when their friends have to go home, it all matters. It’s all important.
It’s all creating memories!
I remember the feelings, the sunshine, the playing, the tiredness, I remember all of it from when I was little. And I hope my girls will remember too.
I hope we’re creating a magical summer for them. I hope they feel happy and excited.
I hope these feelings stay with them forever.
This weekend has been messy and exciting, this weekend has been fun and tiring, this weekend has been everything a sunny weekend for children should be. It reminded me of my childhood.
I hope it’s shaping theirs.

  
  

The Muddy Footprint

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I walked into my daughter’s bedroom and there it was; a horrible, muddy footprint in the middle of her cream-coloured carpet. I stopped walking to stare at it and I vaguely remember saying something out loud, something which would probably not have been very ‘sweet’.

 

It was filthy, it was wet, and it shouldn’t have been there because my girls always take their shoes off when they go upstairs. What a mess!

 

But then I remembered; and it meant so much more than what I’d just been thinking.

 

I immediately relaxed, smiled, exhaled with relief as much as with pride and just cleaned it up.

 

I knew exactly why it was there and the immediate horror that I’d felt just seconds earlier vanished, only to be replaced with joy.

 

We had been playing outside. We seem to spend lots of our time there at the moment, just in our garden and just the three of us (when daddy is at work).

This year is already less exhausting than last year because last year I had a crawling eight-month-old baby who literally put whatever she could find into her mouth. My eldest daughter (then two-years-old) couldn’t rely on me to play games for prolonged periods of time because my youngest had to be always monitored and if I had to step inside for whatever reason, it usually meant them both coming with me, even just for a few minutes. They were both in nappies, both very small, very dependent and just completely exhausting.

 

This last year I have witnessed major changes in both my girls as they grow and develop, not only in their own way but in their relationship towards each other. They play together now, well, sometimes, when they’re not running off with each other’s toys or winding each other up. They laugh with each other, which is a beautiful sound, and they can be left alone for more than two minutes while I get things done.

 

My youngest no longer eats everything in sight, my eldest’s imagination has blossomed and her solitary play is amazing; both of them now have grown up so much.

So now when we’re playing outside, I can sit back and watch them explore, watch them get messy, watch them investigate their surroundings and burn off some energy. It really is such a joy to see and much less tiring than last year.

 

On this particular day my three-year-old was covered in dirt and her shorts were pretty wet. She told me she was uncomfortable. We had the paddling pool out and I couldn’t leave it or my baby to sort her out so I asked her to do it.

 

When I think about how many instructions I gave her in one go, I am still impressed that she remembered them all. I asked her to go upstairs to her bedroom, get some new knickers from her knicker drawer and some new shorts from her clothes drawer, take her wet ones off, put them in the wash and put her clean ones on. She loved being given the chance to do it independently, her favourite thing at the moment because she is a ‘big girl’ as she keeps reminding me.

 

When she emerged from the house in her new, clean clothes I couldn’t believe it, (and yet I could, because she is very capable). I was very proud of her and the part of me that missed my baby was overshadowed by the part of me that loves watching her grow and take responsibility for herself. She will always be my baby, and I know she will continue to need me for many, many years, but she is definitely changing, definitely growing and definitely becoming more self-sufficient. In a short while, what she did may cease to impress, it will become the norm when she dresses herself in the mornings and I will ask her again and again to help out. But she has just turned three and to me, what she did was impressive.

 

So later, when I saw the mark that she had left behind in her bedroom, once I realised why it was there, I felt new levels of pride in what my daughter had achieved. There was the evidence that she had been there, opened the correct drawers and found what she was looking for. There was the evidence that I can continue trusting her to do things, to encourage her to take care of her own needs.

 

The dirty mark has gone now. The mud from her sandal washed away instantly, it took only seconds. But the memory of how I felt watching my baby look after herself and follow my instructions, the feelings of pride and of love, they will last forever. She left a footprint on my heart that day too, one that can never be washed away!

An honest blog about blogs

Up until recently, my head was mashed! I was constantly thinking, questionning, analysing and worrying, it was actually quite exhausting!
You see, for years I have worked in childcare, primarily with babies up to the age of four but occasionally with older children too. I was always confident, calm, patient, it was my job, it was what I was good at.
I also knew that it was my calling to one day be a mother, and now it’s happened. I have a three-year-old and an eighteen-month old, two girls, both beautiful and both happy.

At first when our eldest was born, despite the shock and unexpected waves of crazy hormones, I handled everything in my stride. I am not saying I always made the right decisions and I was most certainly not an expert, but I knew I was trying my best for my baby and completely trusted my instincts.
Once my baby was nine-months old, I was pregnant again and I started doing something that changed my thoughts on everything; reading blogs!
Firstly, I feel I need to clarify; this is not a post that is slating blogs, I still read them, I love reading them, I even now write one myself and I’m certainly not discouraging people from doing this. No. This is a post about how they changed me and how I feel I suffered for it for a while.
Let me explain.
There are many different types of blogs, all different and all good to read in their own way. Some share ideas, some share life-stories, some are light-hearted, some are in diary form, some are funny, tongue-in-cheek ones that make you laugh and that you can totally relate to; and then there are the very passionate, powerful blogs written by authors of strong convictions and firm beliefs.
The writings that pull you in and can let you think, even just for a few minutes, that you’ve been doing it all wrong.
The people that write so well and with such energy that you believe they must be right in what they are talking about. (Plus their children always look happy in their pictures, the ‘proof is in the pudding’ as they say!)
These are the blogs that over the last year or so made me question everything I was doing as a parent. Not because I thought I was a particularly bad parent, but because I was striving to be a better one.
Don’t we all want the best for our children?
I would read parenting techniques, discipline (or lack of) approaches, ways to help your children learn, you name it, I read it. And then, here is where the problem began, I tried to implement it.
I would read a great article about ‘how to deal with tantrums’ for example, (last year we had quite a few of them in our house) and then I would try to put into practice what I’d read.
But then I’d read somebody else’s perspective of dealing with them and I’d try that too.
My biggest problem was that two of my favourite blogs, the ones I read the most and LOVE, are complete polar-opposites of each other.
I do agree with certain aspects of what both of these strong women say but I’m not as extreme as either of them in my approach to parenting.
I would take snippets from here and ideas from there, basically mixing and matching bits of other people’s ideas.
Needless to say, it didn’t work.
For a good few months I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing, I wasn’t consistent in many things and I kept changing my approach to the way I dealt with things.
All the time I kept thinking of the things I’d read, the ideas that had been put into practice by others and had worked. I even pictured myself talking to some of these blog authors and wondering what they’d say with regards to my children’s behaviour.
Even as I write this I know how ridiculous it sounds!
I was trying my best but obviously not in a way that was ever going to be successful.
After many months of various techniques and strategies being tried and tested, after a few successes and many failures (according to the things I’d read and their idea of what was ‘right’) I suddenly realised where I was going wrong.
My two children must have thought I’d gone a bit weird!
As I said earlier, I am certainly no expert, but I DO know the things that work for me and my children. I know I love them with all my heart and I know how to make them feel secure.
They are certainly not perfect angels all day long but they’re happy, which is important and they’re developing well.
Obviously I’m going to make mistakes, but I will learn from them, and I need to not compare myself to other mothers who made different mistakes with completely different children.
I will probably never blog about my parenting techniques, I feel it’s a tricky area to get into if you’re not actually a trained professional in a particular area, and what works for some doesn’t work for everyone.
But I WILL implement them in my own home because I know what works.
It’s true I have my own qualifications and experience working with babies and children, but I also think that we should never, ever underestimate our good old fashioned Mother’s Instinct either. It’s what women have relied on for centuries.
I went back to dealing with my children how I saw fit and not how I thought I should be doing it because of what I’d read and I already feel much more happy, so do they!
It’s also good to listen to advice (and to give it) when it comes to helping each other out as parents, and I will still appreciate things that I read in the future, I know I will. However, I don’t want to fall into the trap of comparisons anymore or think that because I’m not the same as others I’m necessarily wrong.
Oh….. And the other point I made earlier about their children looking ‘happy’, well of course they do. Why would you not choose gorgeous pictures for your own blog?
I am still going to read blogs and articles, I do really enjoy them. And I’m also going to carry on writing my own. However, when it comes to my children, I will listen to me, as they’re not raising them; I am!