First’s and Last’s

This week is a perfect example of the dichotomy of a Mum’s life, the confusion between pleasure and pain, all at the same time (you know, like the ‘muller yogurt’ adverts, where there is no pleasure without pain).

So my ‘little boy’ spent his last day at nursery. I sobbed as I arrived to drop him off, let alone when I picked him up; ridiculous! I sobbed because that time is over. He’ll never be a baby again. Which of course is daft because I wouldn’t want my baby to stay a baby.  He senses the change too, and is both exhausted, scared and excited (you can see from the picture, that exhaustion is currently winning!).

Meanwhile my baby girl can now sit up with no help. She is so proud if herself , she makes my heart brim full of pride.

We love to see our children’s progress and achievements, but at the same time we instantly know that every time they pass another stage, there is no going back, and our hearts ache.

Wow, 3 Months Is a Lot Faster Second Time Around

Wow, Wibee (little pink/Willow Phoebe) is now 3 months old.  I can now pop her in a bumbo and eat at least half my meal without her needing a cuddle.  We have reached that magical second milestone, where she’s transitioned through the squeaky, alien phase, into the gradually becoming more aware phase, and is now in the plump cute looking baby phase where things start to get more interesting.

She is teething; bummer.  Plus she has already rolled once, which might have been a fluke, but means I can no longer leave her on the kitchen work surfaces (not recommended anyway really!).  But it is getting much easier to differentiate her cries, and her dimples are darn cute!

I was worried that it might be the same kind of difficult second time around, and the good news is that it isn’t.  Of course the degree of ease and difficulty in my life has been maintained, as it always is.  I’ll talk about that in more detail another day, but basically it’s about the philosophy that there is aways ease and difficulty in our lives, in equal amounts, it’s just that we don’t always see the other side of the story.  However, I am kind of relieved that it isn’t the same kind of difficulty, however tough it has been.

I called the first year with Monster/Angel Boy the ‘black times’,  NOT because it was horrid, but because there was such a huge shift in my identity and what I valued in life, that I kind of disappeared for a while.  That has certainly not happened again, but there has been another change.  I’m a hell of a lot more focussed on practical stuff right now.  All I’m looking for is a practical car, for the house to work for the family, for my clothes to be washable, my hair is tied back and there are no hoops in my ears (otherwise ‘ouch’ from little fingers!).  I’m just looking for a easy life at the moment, and for ways to make life flow more smoothly.  I’m sure that this will be just a phase of it’s own, but I still suspect that some of these changes will stick, especially the one where I’m so much stricter on my priorities.

In comparison, the first 6 weeks with Max was intense, scary, exhausting, and interminable.  I was all alone, I didn’t know any Mums because anti-natal classes didn’t start until later, and I felt like I was floundering along with no clue.  Then David got made redundant, and all the stress of the previous year kind of fell on top of me for a bit.  The good side to that, is that this is where the ‘Mummy Whisperer’ was born, because my training was great, but impractical for a new Mum to do on her own, so over the coming months I worked out what would work within the resource limitations I was now under and created the ‘Fun Creation Equation’.  The key was that I found that I became increasingly confused by the number of different parenting techniques out there, none of which totally worked for me.  Whereas, when I managed to calm the noise in my head (you know, the worries, and guilt about EVERYTHING!) I found out that I was pretty good at working out my own solutions that matched the family perfectly.  So that’s what I now do for other Mums; help them to learn how to listen to themselves, so that each day can flow a little more easily, with a little more fun and sparkle.

Ironically, this time David had problems with his job again, but within 1 day of her being born, rather than 6 weeks; which suggests that we shouldn’t risk having another child!  But this time I didn’t get the intense 2 weeks of bubble time with Wibee, because after an easy home birth I was thrown unceremoniously back into real life and nursery runs, which initially I found really hard.  I had a long tearful chat with a friend of mine from who uses the same techniques as myself, and I settled after we worked out that the bubble was there, but this time was more widely spread as it included Max, plus I wouldn’t have wanted to have such an intense bubble and upset Max by excluding him.  My body didn’t agree though, and 3 weeks ago I fell very ill and was forced to spend 2 weeks with Willow on the sofa, which was a lovely, if painful opportunity to be with her and learn more about myself.  (See all my blogs about asking for help).

So we are 3 months in.  David has still got a job; result!  The in-laws have visited twice because of me being ill, and really bonded with both kids, which has thrilled Max.  I’ve realised that I’m just not able to do the day to day stuff on my own (hubby works late and I don’t have family of my own), so I’ve employed a lovely irish granny, and a fabulous local mum to help me out a few hours a week.  I woke up 2 days ago and felt loads better after my illness, but also like I was ‘back’, which I think is just getting to the magic 3 month stage.  I’m not getting a load of sleep, but I get some, so that’s not bad.  Max loves his sister and has shown no jealousy, just a little sensitivity at times which we have to be careful of.  The dogs have been very jealous and very badly behaved just to balance him out!  I’ve got a couple of tests in the next week or two to find out how come I got sick so badly, and then I might have a think about starting to do a little work in while.  And now it’s on to the 3-6 month phase: sitting up, grabbing things, teeth, summer holidays, swimming classes, music classes …. lots of fun and trouble all rolled into a monster/angel boy and a Wibee girl, I wonder if that will feel faster too?

Why Is Asking For Help So Difficult?

I’ve just spent two weeks sick, oh my god, since I’ve been a ‘grown up’, I can hardly think of any times that I’ve had to rest and recuperate for so long.  Now once I got my head around it, I’ve really appreciated the experience, but initially it was blinking hard, because I had to ask for help so much.  There were calls to neighbours, in-laws, friends, husbands having to work from home, and people paid to help out.  I had to pathetically ask people to get me a drink, food, pills, or comfort my baby, just so that all of my energy was focussed on recovering, and I found it at times very distressing.

I had plenty of time to think about it too, and one day I spent a long time looking back and back, wondering why I hated it so much.  Yesterday I read an interesting blog by AlphaMummy about the same sort of thing, and their discovery of a fab charity called Homestart who can help out when things get too difficult.  It was suggested that it was a middle class thing to ‘just get on with it‘, and I must admit there was an element of that.  After-all, someone who was upper-class or very rich, could just throw money at it and employ ‘staff’, and someone very poor can ask for benefits from the government (I know there is an element of generalisation here).  Before I fell sick I emailed my local NCT yahoo group for ideas of how to cope or get help with the evening routine, now that I have 2 kids (no family of my own, no local in-laws, and husband working long hours).  I got one lovely reply also mentioning Homestart, which was quickly followed by another reply from a Mum saying that Homestart was only for people with ‘real problems’, i.e. not available for ‘nice middle class’ families!

The question was, why did I find it so difficult to ask for help?  What was at the root of it all, and what was the basic fear that was being triggered?

With some people it is the wish to be independent, or hate to show vulnerabilities or weaknesses, which I suspect many people would think was my reasoning, but it wasn’t.  There might be a social aspect, where we don’t like to be considered a hypochondriac, or to be a burden on other people.

My parents had the same tendency.  I remember nursing them throughout my summer holidays after my O Levels.  Mum had broken her pelvis, and Dad was recovering from a heart attack.  They could easily have paid for some help, or gone into hospital to recuperate.  But instead they stayed at home and kept it quiet how ill they were.  The downside was a very pissed off teenage daughter by the end of the holidays, who started smoking from the stress of it all; potentially not what they planned for!

The saddest story I’ve heard recently was of a young boy of 11yrs old, who waited in a corridor for a teacher, whilst having an asthma attack that he later died of.  If this is the kind of potential ramifications of my not asking for help and passing on the same tendency to my children, then I definitely needed to get my head around the issue.

When I broke down my fear, I realised that the reason that I was so uncomfortable was because I could never be sure of people’s reactions.  They could jump to my assistance with enthusiasm and willingness.  Alternatively, there were bound to be times when they were plainly irritated, tired or could refuse or ignore my requests.  The earliest memory I could find of not asking for help was as a 2yr old, in my attic bedroom, in the midst of a storm and absolutely terrified.  Looking back it seems daft that I didn’t absolutely scream for help, but I didn’t.  To be honest, it also seems weird that my parents hadn’t worked out how scared I would be.  Instead I imagined an angel watching over me, and hid under my blankets until morning.  It suggests that I was used to not getting an ‘ideal’ response when asking for things, or any response at all, and I had just basically given up.

So, I sat in bed an had a little chat to myself.  I looked at the worst possible thing that could happen.  People could think badly of me, they could think that I was weak, they could think that I was making it up, and they could refuse to help.  But, I remembered that only 50% of the world will think like this, so there will also be people who think differently.  They will enjoy being asked to help, or being paid to help, or knowing that I’m not perfect so they don’t have to try and live up to something impossible.  Rather than focus on the reactions that I didn’t enjoy, I thought about the ones that had been supportive, helpful and comforting, because there were going to be as many of them as the negative ones.  Some of the benefits of my being ill this time, were an much closer bond between my in-laws and my kids, which is really lovely to see.  Plus I have a better understanding of my husband’s values and what his priorities are for a ‘happy home’, which is important as both of us have changed with the arrival of the 2nd child, and maybe it’s time for some adjustments in the way we live.

So I’m not going to run out into the world and ask for help all the time, because that extreme would be just as unhealthy.  I’m going to try and ask for help half the time, and show my kids that it’s OK to sometimes need help and OK to sometimes be independent.  Plus when my daughter screams in the car seat that she hates so much when taking my son too and from school, I will remind myself that it’s better that she lets me know (however horrid and uncomfortable for me that she is crying), than that she ‘just puts up with it’; hmmm, I might need to do a little more work on that one for it to not leave me feeling gutted each time, but it does feel a little better.

Do you find it difficult to ask for help?  What is it you don’t like about it and WHY do you reckon that is?

Bullying Pt 12 – The Bully returns for my son

So, if you’ve read my other posts, you’ll know that I was originally inspired to write all these ‘bullying’ posts by my little 3yr old being ‘bullied’ at his nursery.  It was a situation with a little boy, who I suspect (but I never got a chance to help the parents, which I would have loved to do) was feeling powerless at home due to having one very dominating parent, and another not giving clear rules/controls.  He would also get suddenly bored, which is how come it was difficult for the nursery to predict when the problem would occur, because it was as though he would suddenly switch for no reason.

I applied some changes to the support/challenge in my son’s life at home (i.e where life goes his way and doesn’t) and did puppet role play shows on how to walk away from a situation, and the problem appeared to go away.

However, new nursery, new problem!  This one has less of a problem with boredom as it is more structured, and they are stricter, so there isn’t really obvious physical bullying.  Instead, we have the more subtle feminine side of bullying, with the use of WORDS and power over who does and doesn’t belong!  The kids are brighter, older and much cleverer, so it is a totally different kettle of fish.  Now I don’t know them well enough to know exactly what their backgrounds are which is creating their behaviour, but they are definitely looking to create more ‘support’ for themselves at nursery, by creating a ‘gang’ that they can belong in.  (Remember, bullies are not ‘bad’ – we all bully somewhere – they are just attempting to fill a need).  There are quite a lot of girls, so they are all attempting to work out the hierarchy and displaying signs of ‘power’ and who would be most valuable to ‘belong’ to!

Why has it occurred for Curly Headed Boy again?  Well, we have just come back from holiday, where I worked for 5 days and he got thoroughly spoilt.  Plus he arrived 2 weeks after everyone else, so isn’t automatically fitting in.  He probably walked in a little cocky, expecting it to be like his old nursery where the shouts of his name would be everywhere as he arrived.  He needs to learn to adapt to a bigger environment, where he isn’t such a big fish.  Plus, he needs for life to be going slightly less the way he always wants it at home!  (Remember, I’ve talked about the ‘challenge’ of bullying occurring when there is too much ‘support’ elsewhere in their lives).

 

Now, although I don’t get really ‘upset’ about bullies etc, it doesn’t mean that I’m not going to take some action.  So here is what I’ve done so far:

1) Alert the nursery to the fact that I’m totally aware of the situation, and am not willing for it to continue for too long.  In my view it is their job to ensure that the kids all understand that it is not acceptable behaviour at school to refuse to play with someone because of their gender/size/race/background etc.  If they don’t do that, then they aren’t helping the ‘bullies’ who need to learn some safe boundaries.  If they get caught with that sort of behaviour at the up and coming assessments for primary schools, they will be in big trouble!  However, of course, they can’t force a child to play with another child, and that’s not what I’m attempting to make them do.

Update: the nursery were great, and admitted that there was a slight problem in the room.  They are now being much more consistent and certain about the behaviour expected at nursery.  They have also had a whole week concentrating on ‘friendly behaviour’ at circle time, and have even asked Max to share his strategies (see below).

2) Started to suss out the Mums in the playground and found another Mum in the same situation.  So we can set up a ‘play date’ where are kids gain some ‘power’ by getting to know each other.  I’m going to keep looking and help Curly Headed Boy learn how to look for potential friends and remember names (challenging in a larger class of 16 with 2 teachers!).

Update: This very quickly helped both him and another child facing a similar problem.  They immediately understood that it wasn’t personal, and that there were potential allies in the room, so it had an almost overnight affect.  Got lots more booked up as well; gonna have to buy him a diary to keep track ;o)

3) Talked Curly Headed Boy through the 4 alternatives to what to do (at his age) when a child doesn’t want to play with him (they told him he was a boy, so he couldn’t play with the girls).

Firstly, clearly say that if they don’t want to play with him, it’s not a problem, because he’ll find someone better to play with (maintain his power).

Secondly, to check around the playground for someone else who is alone and play with them (Look for opportunities).

Thirdly, look for something fun to do on his own (show initiative & confidence).

And Finally, in the situation that they want to play with him, but not do what he wants to do, then he can either give in and play what they want, or create a new idea, or make a ‘deal’ to play their game and then his (he is good at deals!).

Update: Not only did he apply these strategies, but I also saw him apply them in a park a few days later.  There was a group of boys, with a ‘leader’ who was very clever at manipulating situations.  They systematically spat at, kicked, pushed and called him names.  During which time, I clung to the park bench, knowing that I needed to let him handle the situation himself.  He was amazing, I was so proud of him,  He tried every strategy I had given him (I’m going to blog more about strategies soon), and eventually actually started to create allies int he group.  I’m now very grateful to those little girls at his nursery, for their very gentle introduction into a much more severe world of child-power-play.

 

I have no doubt that the social lessons he is learning here will set him in good stead for when he goes to primary school next year.  Plus although the game has upped in intensity/complication a bit, he is also capable of understanding more complicated social situations now.  Finally, he is beginning to get his head around the fact that I’ve been telling him that there will always be people both loving and disliking him in life, and that is OK.  If he can learn to understand that, it will save him a world of pain in the future, and instead he will automatically just look around for who does like him, rather than worry about who doesn’t.

It’s ironic that I have picked a co-ed school for Curly Headed Boy, rather than single sex, which would have a much simpler version of bullying for him!  But heh, that is real life, so, and I think that he is capable of dealing with it, even at this age (others might not) and therefore it will stand him in good stead for life.  Bear this in mind when considering single/co-ed schools – what would suit your child and their current social maturity levels?

Bullying Pt 3 – Balance at Home?

So do you share the load with your partner of supporting / challenging and being nice / mean to the kids, or does one of you do more of one than the other?

In terms of being a parent, if you are always challenging your kids, and being the tough one, it is a shame for you because they are less likely to be open and affectionate to you. But your partner, or another member of the family will fill the space and ensure that they do get some support. Remember, it goes vice versa, if you are overly supportive of your kids, you will find that someone else appears to be always unreasonably harsh.

The ideal, is to do a bit of both, and be both fun and disciplined, soft and harsh, nice and mean.

When you find that you are tipping the balance into more being more supportive or challenging, then you can find that if you just stop, your partner will automatically pick up the slack.  For example, if you are finding yourself always telling the children off.  You can either stop, and watch them do it automatically, or explain the effects to your partner and ask them to help.  (I’ll talk about communication another time!).

When you feel guilty for the boundaries, rules, or just being bad tempered and grouchy, try to think of what they will gain from it. Responsibility, something to kick against, and an emotional intelligence of when people are not going to be open to their ideas or wants.

When you feel full of yourself for being so generous and kind to your child, think of the downsides, maybe a lack of independence, lack of financial responsibility and understanding, not wanting to experience things without you, or becoming over-reliant on you. It can even bias them against other members of the family and stop them from learning or gaining from interacting with them.

Ironically a child that has parents who over protect them at home will often end up bullied at school.  Rather than kindly helping a child that appears ‘weaker’ than the rest, it is human nature to find them irritating and have a go; hence probably making them feel worse and weaker about themselves.  So although you might have a sensitive child who needs gentle handling, remember to not be too over protective of them, as they will need to develop some strength of character when at school.

Do you think that you balance the support and challenge, or is it mainly one way for you? Need any hints and tips to tip the balance back to a more moderate approach? Disagree with me, or want further explanations? Let me know your thoughts.

Bullying Pt 2 – Where Does Bullying Come From?

(I wrote this post a few years ago.  It’s not looking at the more obvious reasons behind bullying, but more the energetics behind it)

In life there is always a balance of support (stuff we like happening) and challenge (stuff we find difficult or don’t like happening), just like a magnet with North and South.  But we do not always see it that way, as we tend to only see one or the other at a time. We also have a tendency to prefer the support, and dislike the challenge, but is that really fair, because sometimes without a bit of a push, we wouldn’t achieve our greatest days?

Bullying at it’s simplest, comes from there being too much support in one area of the child’s life, so it ends up being balanced by the ‘challenge’ of the bully. The ideal, that as parents we are looking for, is for the bullying to be spread across all areas of life, so that there are no extremes either at home or at school.

In the simplest situations of a little ‘light’ bullying, it can simply be a matter of looking at he child’s life like a set of scales, and adjusting the weights of support in one area versus the challenge where they are being bullied.  But in other circumstances there is a little more to be done to redress the balance.