Friday, 27 November 2015

What Not To Say To A Woman With SPD

Ahh, SPD. The pregnancy gift that keeps on giving. Pain, that is.

For the uninitiated, SPD stands for Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction. It's actually supposed to be called PGP (Pelvic Girdle Pain) these days but that doesn't seem to be catching on. I'm no medic, but basically it means that, as a pregnant woman's muscles relax, the bones that make up the pelvis become misaligned causing a lot of pain. I tend to go for the shorter explanation of, "my pelvis is falling apart." Which tends to kill the conversation right there.

But it doesn't always. While most people will be sympathetic, you will get the odd comment which gets you grinding your teeth (although that could be symptomatic of the fact you're in CONSTANT PAIN too). So if you're faced with a friend or relative with SPD, please try not to say any of the following:

#1 "Oh well, it's not for long." - In my first pregnancy, the SPD started when I was 30 weeks pregnant. I went to 40+5 in the end. Nearly 11 weeks of being in pain all the time, becoming pretty much housebound towards the end, doesn't really feel like 'not for long' when you're living with it. Plus there's the fact that, while in many cases the SPD will magically disappear after birth, it doesn't always. It took me a few weeks to feel normal again, only for it to recur when Preschooler was 22 months old. And with this pregnancy I started getting symptoms at 6 weeks. So actually, yes, it might be for long.

#2 "Oh we all got that in our day, there just wasn't a fancy name for it." - Really? You all felt like your bones were grinding together with every step? Oh no, what was that? Your hips felt a bit funny? Yeah, that's not SPD. And even if you did all get it, here's a newsflash - that doesn't mean I should have to put up with it. And you shouldn't have had to either. Pain is not just an inevitable part of pregnancy we should ignore - it's our bodies saying something's wrong and needs fixing.

#3 "It's quite common though, isn't it?" - Well, yes. Roughly 1 in 5 pregnant women will get SPD. But colds are pretty common too, yet we all still need lots of rest and moan a lot when we get them. We'd moan even more if we had a cold for weeks or months on end. It might be common, but that doesn't mean I should just live with it and carry on as normal, and it doesn't mean that I don't occasionally need to whinge about it.

#4 "Well, you'd better not get it with your second child, you won't have time for it then." - I won't have time for it? I'm sorry, is SPD a luxury I'm squeezing into my schedule? No, it's a MEDICAL CONDITION! And actually, seeing as it almost always recurs in later pregnancies and is usually worse, that's just making me worry more about my family's future. (Incidentally, I am now having my second child, and it is worse, but I'm coping. At some point I'll blog about how.)

#5 "Just take some paracetamol." - This was genuinely the advice of my GP. That and Google "symphysis pubis." Helpful. Paracetamol is about as effective a pain reliever as TicTacs for me anyway (the latter would at least leave me minty fresh) but when it comes to constant, at times severe pain, it won't even make a dent. SPD sufferers need proper manual treatment, not to be told to pop a few pills and deal with it.

Have you suffered from SPD? How did people react? Did you get any not-so-helpful comments?

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Got a Girl, Having a Boy: What Clothes to Keep?

When I tell people we're having a boy this time, one of the first things they usually say (after the obligatory, "ooh one of each!") is, "oh well I suppose that means you can get rid of Preschooler's old clothes now!"

Well, yes and no.

It seems odd that people automatically assume that a) all of Preschooler's clothes were so clearly girl's clothes they'd be entirely unsuitable for a boy, and b) ANY clothes should be deemed unsuitable for a boy.

It's drawn my attention to a double-standard I was already aware of in our culture. While pink and frilly is seen as the norm for girls, dress them in 'boyish' clothes and nobody's that bothered - they just label them a tomboy. (Don't get me started on that.) But it's far less acceptable for boys to wear 'girly' clothes, especially as routine. Yes, we might see the odd photo of a boy dressed in a princess costume and all go 'aww' but he was wearing a regular dress, or even just a pink outfit, would there be the same reaction?

As it happens, when I went through Eleanor's old clothes, I was fairly indiscriminate. The piles in the photo above are, from left to right, the get-rid pile, the query pile and the keep pile. The last one was by far the biggest, partly because we were fairly careful to choose 'unisex' clothes from the start, but also because I simply don't see why a boy shouldn't wear pink or flowers. My husband was even less discriminating, promptly transferring most of the query pile to the keep pile.

The get-rid pile was made up of things that were a bit worse for wear or that we weren't that keen on anyway, but I have to admit I did put dresses, tights and particularly frilly tops in there too. Although if he grows up wanting to wear a dress I'd be fine with that, something about deliberately putting a baby boy in a dress feels too much like a 'statement' to me, and not one I'm really comfortable making.

We've sorted through the first year's worth of clothes but it does leave us with a quandary about what to do with Preschooler's old clothes from now on. Do we keep everything to give our future son full choice when he's old enough? Or do I 'de-girl' entirely to save storage space? 

I suspect if it was the other way around - if we'd had a boy and were expecting a girl - I'd be keeping everything just in case. So would it be hypocritical of me not to do the same given our actual circumstances?

I'd be interested to hear what other parents of girls-then-boys did about this. Did you keep the two wardrobes firmly segregated, did you keep everything, or did you go somewhere in between?

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Going For The Double

It's been a bit busy in Ish Mother Towers recently, so there's something I haven't had chance to blog about ...

Yep, I've been eating far too much. But I've got an excuse, because I'm pregnant. Baby number two (which we believe to be a boy) is due in early March!

Obviously I'm very excited about the new baby, but I have to admit this pregnancy is proving a lot harder than the first. I got more nausea in the first trimester, and it still keeps coming back even now I'm nearly 24 weeks, but I can't really complain as I know people who've had far worse. I suffered from SPD in my first pregnancy from 30 weeks and it never really went away, but thankfully regular osteopathy is keeping the worst of it at bay, aside from a scary few days at 20 weeks when I could barely walk! The hardest part, though, has been the fatigue - I thought I was tired in my first pregnancy, and I thought I was even more tired as a mum, but motherhood and pregnancy combined has completely worn me out!

I've had to relax some rules for Preschooler as a result of being so tired. We used to have a rule that she could only watch an hour of TV a day - that went out of the window when, 6 weeks pregnant, I literally couldn't stay awake all day so would catch a nap while she watched CBeebies. I still do that some days, that second trimester burst of energy seems to have totally passed me by. TV is also my main recourse on days when I'm too sore with the SPD to really do anything. Preschooler is a very physical child and loves to roughhouse and play outside, and I feel really guilty that I can't do much of this any more. I suppose I'll have to get used to the guilt though, as I can't imagine transitioning from one child to two will be easy on any of us!

Preschooler is so excited about her new baby brother! She was already asking for a sibling before I got pregnant and, weirdly, just after we found out she asked if there was a baby in my tummy so I swear on some level she knew before we told her! She is very loving towards him already - she has a scan picture up on her wall and she'll often stroke and cuddle the bump and talk to him. She claimed she could hear him kicking way before I felt it so I've told her she must have big sister superpowers. She was very happy when we told her it was a boy but then she said she'd have been excited either way. And she's compensated by giving herself three imaginary sisters.

I'm really glad we left a long-ish gap between babies. As Preschooler is at preschool two and a half days a week now, the onus of entertaining her isn't wholly on me which has helped with the fatigue a bit. And she understands it so much and is so ready to be a big sister that so far it's been a joy to see her already bonding with her sibling. I've no doubt we'll get to a point where she realises this means a lot of change, but so far it's been wonderful seeing her excitement.

So there we are, that's my big news! I'm hoping to blog more about the pregnancy as time allows, I've also launched a new business recently so the little spare time I have after that is usually spent sleeping! But I have lots of post ideas for the rare evening when I'm awake and not working, so watch this space.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Review: Northern Ballet's 'Tortoise and the Hare'

Last year I took Preschooler to see Northern Ballet's production of 'The Elves and the Shoemaker'. It was one of her favourite stories at the time and, being a theatre graduate, I wanted Preschooler to grow up enjoying live performance. I didn't have chance to write about it at the time, but I still remember how she stared at the stage for 40 whole minutes, utterly mesmerised. So when I heard about Northern Ballet's latest children's production, 'Tortoise and the Hare', I booked tickets almost straight away.

We went to see the ballet at the company's home, Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre in Leeds. I was so impressed with how they'd transformed the waiting area to make it child-friendly - there was a ring of hay bales around an area of 'grass', a couple of bean bag toss games and a basket of pom poms (Preschooler loved these), colouring in and wind-up tortoises on the tables. In a meeting room to the side they had crafts available, with the choice of making a tortoise or a hare with paper plates. Preschooler is still playing with her tortoise today!

As for the ballet itself, I did wonder how they would spin a short fable out to a 40 minute show but actually it worked really well. The dancers playing the Tortoise and the Hare got into character brilliantly, the Hare oozing arrogance and energy and the Tortoise looking almost permanently sleepy and stoic. (I have to give special mention to the facial expressions of the dancer playing the Tortoise - he totally nailed it!) Extra characters were added to pad out the story - two cheerleader bunnies always competing against each other, another equally arrogant hare who had to pull out of the race due to injury, a honey-toting bumblebee, an acorn-throwing squirrel and a beguiling butterfly all have a part to play in the race, not forgetting Tortoise's loyal mole friend who gets over her admiration of Hare to cheer her friend on. It really did feel like a race too, to the point where the whole audience applauded when Tortoise crossed the finish line!

It always amazes me when I go to a ballet how well they can tell a story with no words - even Preschooler followed what was happening just from the fantastic dance moves and facial expressions. The music was beautifully played and well matched to the action, and the costumes were very clever in transforming the dancers into various animals. We both really loved the show and  hope that, as in previous years, there will be a CBeebies version of it so we can watch it all again.

I asked Preschooler a few questions - as it's a children's ballet, I thought she should have a say in this review - and here are her answers:

Did you enjoy the ballet?

Who was your favourite character?
The bumblebee.

What was your favourite part?
The bit with the squirrel. (Where the squirrel distracts the Hare with a game of acorn catch.)

Were there any bits you didn't like?
*vigorous shaking of head*

How did you feel when the Tortoise won the race?

 Northern Ballet will be touring 'Tortoise and the Hare' next year and I really recommend going to see it if you get a chance, it's a lovely little show and a great opportunity to introduce little ones to ballet.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Why I am So Happy that Nadiya won 'The Great British Bake Off'

Is it because of her incredible baking skills?

Partly, but not completely.

Is it because of her even more impressive array of facial expressions?

Well, a little bit.

The main reason I'm so delighted that Nadiya was crowned the winner of this year's Great British Bake Off is this: I can relate to her.

I remember when she first won Star Baker (not well enough to say which week that was, sorry) her response was something like this: "It's weird, I'm never proud of myself, but now I'm proud of myself."

And as a stay at home mum, I get where she's coming from. I feel proud of my husband for the hard work he puts into his job. I feel proud of my daughter for ... well, loads of things. I feel proud of my friends, my family - but I rarely feel proud of myself.

Now I know I may come in the firing line here so I'm just going to say this right now - I know that no matter what side of the stay-at-home/working mum divide we fall, we get flak for it. But in the current climate, with the constant talk about 'hard working families' as if this must necessarily mean both parents in employment, it's hard to feel pride in being a stay at home parent. So when Nadiya said she was never proud of herself, I knew what she was talking about.

But of course, however you do it, parenting is something to be proud of. It's relentless, it's all-consuming, it's permanent. And it's shaping the lives of fellow human beings, for goodness sake! A parent not only has to keep their children healthy and happy, they have to teach them about morality, justice, social norms, relationships ... the list goes on. It's a huge undertaking. But society as a whole seems to have such a low opinion of it that, if you choose to devote yourself exclusively to the task of parenting, you are made to feel somehow insignificant. You can start to doubt your capabilities outside of story-reading and bottom-wiping.

But look at Nadiya. She is a stay at home mum who has just achieved not only acclaim but national fame for a skill that she has honed over the many years that she has cared for her children. She has shown that she is capable of huge success. Her words after winning the Great British Bake Off were inspiring: "I'm never going to put boundaries on myself ever again. I'm never going to say I can't do it, I'm never going to say maybe, I'm never going to say I don't think I can. I can. And I will."

I'm glad that Nadiya is proud of herself now. She should be. She has raised three lovely children (and I loved how her husband acknowledged her hard work in raising them for the last ten years) and whilst doing so she has developed a talent for baking that has now earned her the recognition she deserves. She can, and she will. And she's shown us that we all can.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Pet Death and Preschoolers: Helping my 3 year old deal with losing our cat

Animals and children. Despite that old saying, I love both and think they work very well together. I grew up with lots of pets, and think a pet is great for a growing child.

We got our cat, Millie, when she was at least eight years old, nearly four years before Preschooler came along. As she got older she noticed her furry playmate more and they rubbed along very nicely together. Millie taught her to be gentle, and gave her someone to practise affection on when she wasn't ready to try it with other children yet. The older she got, the more she doted on Millie.

But about two years ago Millie got very ill. We were told she had liver disease and the survival-beyond-a-year rate was about 50% in younger cats, so the old girl did pretty well to keep going until this August. But that does mean we'd spent nearly two years with the prospect of  'a difficult talk' looming.

This summer, she got a cold. Such a small thing, but she couldn't shake it off. The vet said she never would - antibiotics would just prolong her life. After a few weeks, she was losing weight and struggling to breathe, and she couldn't smell her food enough to eat it. We took the difficult decision to have her euthanised.

We made the decision on a Saturday, so had to wait until Monday before we could take her to the vets. This was helpful, as it meant we could explain things to Preschooler on the Sunday. We had already read her a lovely story called Badger's Parting Gifts by Susan Varley, in which it explains that Badger was old and his body didn't work very well, and so he died. We only read it once to Preschooler before Millie died but it helped us to find the words.

I don't actually remember those words now. It was something along the lines of, "You know Millie's very old and has been poorly for a long time? Well, the vet says she won't get better, and she's really suffering and miserable now, so tomorrow we're going to take her to the vet and he's going to help her to die, so she's not uncomfortable any more." That makes it look like I said all of it, but actually as the crier of the family I had to stop short and my husband finished it off.

She had a couple of questions at first, including, confusingly, "Will they come and get her?" When we asked what she meant, that's when the tears started. She was understandably beside herself, simultaneously grabbing at me and pushing me away. We accepted this and let her cry - we were crying so why shouldn't she? After a while, she asked, "Will the people look after her in Heaven?" As a Christian family we'd talked a bit before about Heaven, and this helped us to understand her previous question. I'm not sure on the theology of animals going to Heaven, but I like to think they do, so I told her that Millie would be looked after in Heaven. If I'm wrong, at least I brought her comfort in that moment.

She ignored Millie for the rest of the day, I suppose trying to distance herself to make it easier. In the morning she was more affectionate and we both gave her a stroke and a cuddle before my husband took her to the vet. We'd discussed whether we should take Preschooler but decided that her seeing us upset could make things worse.

Millie's body came home half an hour later. We let Preschooler look at her, and stroke her to see she was gone. We'd talked to her about the burial in the garden and at first she wanted to help, but when the time came she didn't really know how to act. She didn't like seeing me cry and hovered between the garden and the house as we buried the body. Later on we took her to the garden centre to choose a plant to put over the grave, which I think helped a bit.

Since then, she's had a lot of questions. Even over a month later she is still asking why Millie died. But she isn't upset about it. In fact, aside from that initial outburst, and a night waking when she'd dreamt Millie had come back, she hasn't really shown any upset at all. Her main question has been when we'll get a new pet but we keep putting her off - we haven't moved on as quickly as her!

If you're reading this with the prospect of a difficult talk looming yourself, don't worry too much. Yes, it was hard to explain and yes, her distress at first was hard to see, but she dealt with it far better than we expected. We're glad we told her about the euthanasia before it happened as I think getting chance to say goodbye probably helped. But this has taught me that children, even at three years old, are robust. They can handle big emotions if given the right support and acceptance to deal with them. So don't let worry about how your little one will cope overshadow your time with your beloved pet - they'll probably cope better than you.

Monday, 6 April 2015

No Shouting for 40 Days - Did I Do It?

A while back I blogged about giving up shouting for Lent. Yesterday was Easter Sunday so Lent is officially over now. (Actually I count Palm Sunday as the end of Lent as that's 40 days and I don't take feast days off. But I was ill last week so didn't get chance to write up.)

So did I manage it?

Well ... no.

I made it to Day 20 though. And I could probably count the number of times I shouted on my fingers. But no, I didn't manage it.

I could beat myself up about it - I'd made a promise I didn't keep. Or I could learn from it.

One thing that having made the promise did was make me notice why I shouted. I realised I have two main triggers - lateness and illness.

I've known that running late or feeling rushed makes me shout for a while, so I try to avoid those instances. But I'm raising a small person here. There will ALWAYS be times when we're running late. And I can't use it as an excuse to shout every time. No matter how late we are, I can take five seconds to calm myself down.

Then comes illness. Eleanor starting preschool has welcomed a whole range of lovely diseases into our household, and I always wind up suffering with them more than she does. I've been ill almost constantly for over three weeks now, and Eleanor has had plenty of snotty noses and sore throats too. Looking after an ill, whiny child when you're run down is hard work. I get very grumpy when ill, so it does push me to shouting point at times.

I've been trying to cut myself some slack, allowing Eleanor to entertain herself when possible and resorting to the TV or tablet more so that I can rest up. But that's not sustainable - screen time has a negative effect on her moods and I feel guilty for not spending quality time with her. So I need to take care of myself better - get more sleep, eat better, get more fresh air.

Self care doesn't come naturally to me - I always feel like I should be doing something other than just rest, and I prioritise Eleanor's health over mine. But if neglecting myself means that I can't do fun things with my daughter, or that I shout at her, then it doesn't help either of us.

Although I didn't make it through Lent without shouting, I'm glad I tried. I may not have stopped shouting for 40 days, but I found new ways of hopefully stopping myself in future. And I might finally get rid of this cold ...

Monday, 2 March 2015

A Farewell to Naptime

Dear Naptime

It is now nearly a month since you left us unannounced. I had hoped, nay assumed, you would take your leave slowly – your visits becoming gradually shorter, or not coming one day only to return the next – but no, you made a dramatic exit. From two hours, often more, every day to nothing. You've popped back twice since but too close to bedtime so we've had to shove you out unceremoniously after half an hour.

I knew things would be hard once you'd gone, but your very sudden departure has left me all at sea. When do I do all those little jobs now? The ironing, sweeping up, prepping tea, when are they meant to happen? They sure as heck can't happen with an overtired three year old in tow, who protests if I so much as go to the next room by grabbing my hand and gently tugging me back saying, "but Mummy, I'm lonely on my own!" Yes I've got those two precious mornings when Eleanor is in preschool, but that's five hours a week. I used to have fourteen hours of you!

Your leaving is a game changer. My business has had to go on the back burner indefinitely, and my plans to start up a second business are also shelved until Eleanor gets more hours at preschool. My hopes of actually having a bit of spare money have been dashed, as have my hopes of finding fulfilment rather than fatigue in being a work at home mum.

And it's not just the housework or the work-work that's the trouble. When do I get a breather? When do I get a cup of coffee and a biscuit now? A biscuit that I don't have to share, or eat in the cupboard so my daughter remains under the illusion that biscuits are just for pudding or as a treat at playgroup. I miss those biscuits. I miss a couple of hours of utter peace and quiet, just me pottering around the house getting stuff done. I used to hate getting to the end of naptime and realising I'd hardly had a rest myself – it's amazing how hindsight can make ironing in front of the TV seem like such a blissful experience.

Now you're gone, I have two extra hours a day to fill with entertainment. Two hours with a three year old who, actually, quite clearly still needs a nap because from 1pm onwards she is an emotional wreck who is unable to focus on anything and unable to cope with me saying no to any of her demands. My once-peaceful afternoons are now filled with requests to watch-Charlie-and-Lola-read-a-story-bake-gingerbread-do-a-crafty-thing-watch-Charlie-and-Lola-again-do-painting-play-with-the-playdoh-cake-maker-watch-Charlie-and-Lola-again-BUT-MUMMY-I-WANT-TO-WATCH-CHARLIE-AND-LOLA-AGAIN-NO-DON'T-GO-TO-THE-TOILET-BECAUSE-I'M-LONELY-ON-MY-OWN! All this at a time when I've already exhausted my ideas for what to do in the day and feel shattered. Thanks for that.

And then, aside from all the things I can't do, aside from all the things I now have to do, there is that sense of wistfulness. Eleanor doesn't feed to sleep at bedtime, but she did feed to sleep for you. At times that was stressful, but there was such a beautiful tranquillity in sitting in a chair in a darkened room, nursing my hyper preschooler until her eyelids were heavy and her limbs limp. Lingering for a few minutes after she'd dropped off, my own head nodding slightly, enjoying holding my sleeping baby just like I did three years ago. Now the only times I can cuddle my slumbering child is the night feed and that stolen extra sleep when she comes through to our bed in the morning. Both times when I'm too tired to enjoy it.

I wonder how long she'll keep waking in the night. Well, I've always wondered that but now there's a conflict inside me. I long for the day when I'll go to bed knowing I won't be woken until such a time as can respectably be called morning. But now I feel like I'll miss sitting in that chair and holding my wonderful snoozy bundle. And then how long before she stops falling back to sleep when she comes through to us? The time of sleepy snuggles seems to be creeping away now, and that makes my heart ache.

I won't beg for you to come back, naptime, because I know it's futile. Eleanor has decided that she's done with you, and once her mind is made up there is no unmaking it. But I'll miss you, and not just for the obvious reasons. I'll miss that oasis of calm in a busy day, when I held my darling child and her eyes slowly closed.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Can I Stop Shouting for 40 Days?

Shouting is something I really struggle with. I've been trying to stop it for the past two years (basically ever since Preschooler became a true toddler). And yet, I kept on shouting.

I know it doesn't work. Well, if my aim is to scare my daughter and make her obey out of fear, then I suppose it does work. But I don't want that relationship. I want a relationship built on trust and respect. And I imagine it's pretty hard to trust and respect someone who, despite being twice the size of you, chooses to scream at you.

The trouble is, toddlers and preschoolers are wonderful, hilarious and downright frustrating. I'm still not great at handling frustration or anger, so at times I resort to shouting. And then spend the rest of the day feeling guilty about it.

As Lent approached this year I wasn't sure what I would give up, until the Friday before. We were just about to leave for a music group we go to, which we both really enjoy, when I realised I couldn't find my keys. Preschooler had been playing with them the day before so they could have been anywhere. We searched for 50 minutes, until well after the group had started, and I got more and more irate. I tried to keep a lid on it but I was so cross at Preschooler for hiding my keys and then not remembering where she'd put them, and so worried about what was going to happen if I couldn't find them. Eventually, she found them herself - and promptly burst into tears. I'd shouted and yelled so much she was just overwhelmed. Any hope of even catching the end of the group dissolved as she was too distressed to go out.

That's when I decided to give up shouting for Lent.

40 days. No shouting.

So how am I doing one week in? Actually pretty well. Especially considering that on the first day of Lent we decided to go on our first day out by train, to a museum that, in hindsight, wasn't very Preschooler-friendly as there was lots of looking and not much doing. Having recently dropped her nap she was overtired almost as soon as we reached the museum, and she was very clingy with me, and I wasn't well anyway, and oh how I wanted to shout at times! But I didn't.

And then there was this Monday, when Preschooler demanded we bake biscuits. (Or bate bistuits, as she says.) Despite saying she wouldn't eat the ingredients she did, then she had a wee accident, just at the point where I'd started kneading and my hands were covered in sticky dough. I told her to stay in the living room while I cleaned up the puddle on the kitchen floor, she took that to mean baking was over and had a tantrum. Once I'd cleaned up I managed to calm her down, then she proceeded to throw flour all over herself, her chair and the floor. I ended up doing most of the biscuit cutting as she made a huge mess. I really wanted to shout. But I didn't.

In fact I haven't shouted in the last seven days. I've raised my voice, but only in pain, ("OW" when she kicked me in the head) warning ("WAIT" when she ran down the street without me) or both ("OW, NO" when she jumped on me as I held a cup of coffee). But I haven't shouted in anger.

Here's what I've done instead:

I've told myself out loud not to shout. Saying it in my head is too easy to ignore. If I say it out loud then I feel more accountable somehow.

I've taken deep breaths and floated my arms up and down. Sounds silly, but it's something I encourage Preschooler to do so if it's good enough for her, it should be good enough for me.

I've told Preschooler how I feel. I want her to know it's OK to express feelings, but you don't have to shout to do that. When we had the baking fiasco, I told her I felt cross and explained why, but without raising my voice. It didn't stop her making a mess, but she did come up to me afterwards and say, "I'm sorry for making you cross," so at least by telling her my feelings she started to understand the effects of her actions.

I've tried to keep things calm generally. Museum trips and disastrous baking aside, I've avoided doing things that I know will push my buttons. I've stopped stressing about leaving the house or having tea made on time. I'm working on reminding myself that grubby clothes, wet knickers and messy floors are just part of life with kids, and easily fixed.

And I've reminded myself that I'm doing it. Every morning I think to myself how many days I've gone without shouting so far. I've done a whole week now. A WHOLE WEEK! May not seem long, but if I can do one week, what's to say I can't do two? What's to say I can't manage the whole 40 days, maybe even longer?

7 days down. 33 to go. And then hopefully I'll have broken the habit for good.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Landing the helicopter

I write this while sitting in an empty house. For the first time, I have left Toddler (who will henceforth be known as Preschooler) at preschool.

I keep thinking about the phrase 'landing the helicopter'. It's a phrase I've had flitting around my mind since Preschooler was around 18 months and I first plucked up the courage to take her to soft play and actually force myself to sit and let her work things out for herself. I meant to blog about it at the time, but kept putting it off - just as I have put off letting her go and explore without me.

I have tried to gradually put myself in the background, but it's hard. I am an anxious person, so I tend to worry about Preschooler getting injured, or having a fall out with another child. As she learns social skills I'm very conscious that she will need a guide in this, and I want her not only to be kind to others but also to be able to stand up for herself. When we first started going to play groups she would occasionally be 'pushed about' by other children, both mentally and physically, and I wanted her to know that she didn't need to accept that treatment and that she could always turn to me. But now, of course,she's so much bigger and more than capable of holding her own, I need to let her fight her own battles.

She started her settling in sessions at preschool at the beginning of December, and has had 5 or 6 sessions already, but I've never felt able to leave her before. I kept making excuses - she was upset about getting too cold when playing outside, it was the last session before Christmas and I wanted to watch them singing their songs, it was the first session back and she seemed a bit unsure. But really, I knew she wasn't that unsure. I knew I was the one having trouble letting go.

On Friday I took her to her usual music group and watched her standing right at the front, copying the actions of the leader, practically oblivious to me. Even then I talked to other mums about how I wasn't sure about leaving her yet, how separation-sensitive she is. But I knew deep down that I was kidding myself.

In my defence, there was a time when she was very separation-sensitive. As a baby, she wanted to be held almost constantly. As a toddler, she would keep checking in on me whilst playing, wanting me to be involved in her games, getting upset when I had to go out to work. And I responded to that as well as I could. I left my old job and, after a few efforts to find a new one, decided she needed me at home more than we needed the extra money. I cuddled her when she cried, only occasionally resorting to leaving her if I absolutely needed to, either practically or mentally. I allowed her to be firmly attached to me.

And now it's payback time. She's a preschooler now, and I can let her go off and find out about the world without me. This weekend I decided to try leaving her in the creche at church to see how she'd cope. I sat listening to a sermon for the first time in about two and a half years, while also listening out for the sound of the door in case the creche supervisor needed me to come back. But of course she didn't. Preschooler was absolutely fine without me.

It's taken me a while to change my thinking about Preschooler, to tell myself that she's not as separation-sensitive as she used to be. The changes the last year has brought have been so subtle that I still think of her as if she were still just turned two. But she's now a headstrong, confident, articulate girl who has learnt that she can trust other adults. She is always so excited to go to preschool and talks about her 'friends' (although I'm not sure she's exchanged more than a few words with any of the children, but hey, I don't remember the rules of preschooler friendships) very affectionately. And I'm so heart-burstingly proud of who she is. I just need to learn to share her.

I'm now completing this post while Preschooler naps upstairs. Having left her for an hour, I went back to find that she'd been absolutely fine, at first she didn't even notice I was back. As I watched her playing outside I felt like I didn't even need to be there - she was having a whale of a time and has clearly formed a bond with her key worker. The other workers all commented on her confidence and it made me so proud once again. She no longer needs me hovering, not even in the background.

It's time to land the helicopter.