FULL TO THE BRIM

For Henry’s third birthday, we wanted to give him a memorable day full of his favourites; trains and farm animals. I booked an overnight stay in a quaint little cottage on a working farm, about two hours away in the country.

The plan was to explore the farm, have his favourite dinner (spaghetti bolognese with angel hair pasta) and birthday cake (see the photo of Lightning McQueen and Mack Truck – yes, I made them), and then go on a steam engine train ride the next morning.

Naturally, being a chronic over-packer, I tried cramming half the house into our car. We needed raincoats (it’s spring but what if it rains?), two sets of all clothes and underwear (because options are important), a heap of nappies and wipes (you can never have enough!), an assortment of breakfast and hot drink options (I have particular tastes), my kindle (for when I have a millisecond to read)… and the list goes on!

As I stood there, hand on hip, finger on the chin, unwilling to admit Jenga defeat, my husband oh-so-helpfully asked, “Do we really need all the pillows and the kid’s doonas?”

Wha?! Seriously? To me, that was a redundant question. It’s common knowledge that pillows in hotel/motel/inn/B&B/AirBnB are NEVER replaced. Drool is the least of your worries. My toilet seats are probably cleaner than those pillows! And isn’t it nicer to sleep on your own pillow – germ-free?  As for the doonas – well, I’m willing to sacrifice my body to bed mites but not my children’s! Am I a germaphobe? Maybe.

Before we could get on the road, we needed lunch so we stopped at Henry’s favourite eatery, which happened to be in a shopping centre. While there, I reasoned that gumboots were a necessity for all the farm poo that would undoubtedly be present. Knowing my extreme aversion to stepping on any form of faeces (it’s called coprophobia), the family begrudgingly agreed and followed me from store to store looking for them. Given that gumboots are for winter and not spring, there were none to be found. After Henry yelled out, “I told you there weren’t any gumboots in here Mummy, I told you!”, I was adequately chastised for my idiotic request.  

So off we drove, packed like sardines, to our farm stay. I was thankful that the cottage was clean and had minimal carpets. The host was welcoming and gracious, allowing us to see their week old piglets, chickens, sheep and working dogs. 

The only downside – or maybe it was an upside – was the lack of internet reception. I don’t think people truly realise how reliant (addicted) they are to their phones. My husband forgot to bring his charger, so his phone died shortly after reaching our destination. He was desperate enough to ask a waitress about phone charger availability, stating to me that there would be dire consequences if he didn’t find one. I thought he was worrying about work but it turns out he “needed” to log on his Clash of Clan’s account to twiddle with his people. This overnight trip was a good reminder of keeping priorities in check. 

The next morning, we went on the vintage steam engine train ride. We were seated in the Excursion Carriage of a preserved train from the late 1800s (cattle class as Henry didn’t meet the age restrictions for First Class). We got a signed guide book from the train conductor. We watched the townspeople dressed in their olden day clothing do a tap-dancing performance. We had delectable scones in a tea room. It was a fun day exploring small townships and experiencing an authentic steam train ride. 

That night at home, while I was tucking Henry into his bed, he came up with a doozy. 

“Mummy, I had lots of fun on the train today. I think I want to go to space on a rocket for my next birthday.” 

Do you think NASA hosts birthday parties or do you reckon I should get started on that astronaut training?

https://knj.home.blog/privacy-policy/

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

Advertisements

HOW TO SURVIVE TODDLERHOOD

I love my children. LOTS. But sometimes, I wish I could find a really good hidey hole and not come out for a while. Children, especially toddlers are great at testing your limits. They like to push your buttons, incessantly, until your eye starts twitching, your mouth flattens into a hard grimace, and you explode like a nuclear bomb. Every parent or carer will have their own horror stories and tips for how to survive toddlerhood and/or parenthood. I’m no expert, but I have observed some interesting character traits.

They are fickle pickles.
Henry: “Mummy, close the window!”
Me: (closes the window)
Henry: “NO! NO! I said open the window!”
Me: (deep sigh, opens the window)
Henry: “I want it closed!!”
Me: “Make up your mind!” (closes the window)
Henry: (cue meltdown)

They have the memory of an elephant so don’t make promises unless you are going to deliver.
Henry: (pointing at a car ride-on) “Mummy, can I go on that?”
Me: “Sure, maybe on our way home.”
An hour passes.
Me: (arms overloaded with groceries, veering away from promised ride-on)
Henry: (pulling towards ride-on) “Mummy! Mummy, there is the car!”
Me: “Ugh, do you really want to go? How about we go home and do something fun?”
Henry: “NO! NO! You said so!”

They are the world’s best procrastinators.
Henry: (sitting on the toilet at five a.m.) “I have to take my time. I feel a poo in my bottom.”
Me: (every few minutes) “Are you done?”
Henry: “Not yet, I’m just waiting.”
Me: (frozen like a corpse on the cold hard floors after waiting for thirty minutes).

They become extremely thirsty at bedtime.
Henry: “Mummy, I need water!”
Me: “Here, now go to bed.”
Repeat cycle at least thirty times. EVERY NIGHT.

They like to push boundaries and limits, of the sanity kind.
Henry: “Beep, beep, beep!”
Mandy: “Henry, stop saying that. It’s annoying!”
Henry: “BEEP, BEEP, BEEP!”
Mandy: “Stop it!”
Henry: “BEEEEEEP!!!! BEEEEPP!!!! BEEEEPP!!”
Me: “Just ignore him, Mandy. He will get bored and stop himself.”
Henry: (continues for another ten solid minutes)
Mandy: (breaks down crying)
Me: (whispering) “Soon. It will stop soon.”

What have I learnt so far? Toddlers are unpredictable and volatile. They are prone to indecisiveness and stubbornness. Passing strangers will comment on how angelic they look until they see the switch flipped, and the tantrum-throwing, fist-bashing, leg-thrashing devil in disguise rears its screaming self.

Based on my n=2 parenting experiment, I can offer the below suggestions:

  1. Tea is an old acquaintance but coffee is your best friend. Just don’t expect to drink it hot or warm.
  2. Perfect your eye roll. You’ll need it at all stages of parenthood, so better practice now.
  3. Pretend not to hear the screeching and crying. It will morph into whingeing, bartering and begging later on. If you work on your craft, instead of pretending, you’ll eventually just not hear it.
  4. Ignore that inner voice telling you that people witnessing your child’s meltdown are judging you. Of course, they are. Jeez, that inner voice could be more helpful by telling you something you didn’t already know!
  5. Bribe with TV or snacks if you must but make sure it’s on your terms and used sparingly. Like nasal decongestants overuse can lead to loss in effect and the dreaded rebound. You do not want to invite that misery.
  6. Become a counting expert. It’s not hard. You only need to count to three.
  7. Expect tantrums. They WILL have one, at home and in public. It is NOT a reflection on you or your parenting.
  8. Don’t compare your child to other children. They are all different and special in their own way. You might even get a runner, like mine.
  9. Do what works for you and your child. Remember to laugh. Remind yourself it’s short-lived. Accept that the struggle is real and that you are not alone.
  10. Whatever you do, never ever give in to a toddler tantrum. Once you do, they WILL own your ass. Trust me, my bottom can attest to this.

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

https://knj.home.blog/privacy-policy/

WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS

Guilt. Simply put, a strong emotion we feel when we have done something wrong; perceived or actual.

It can be an all-consuming and a powerful negative emotion that has the propensity to gnaw and shame.

As a parent, it’s become a plague that can’t be contained and has no cure. It’s dangerous unchecked, and one can only hope to recover when it strikes.

A week ago, our household entered what I called “Horror Week.” It started with Henry, my two-and-a-half-year-old, complaining of a sore mouth at bedtime. I did a quick check and dismissed his claims to tomfoolery. By two a.m., he had woken with a raging fever close to forty degrees and vomited.

Enter mother’s guilt. Should I have checked his temperature before bed? Should I have given him medication? Maybe I shouldn’t have pressed him to eat his dinner. Could I have prevented this?

After some medication, Henry’s temperature had reduced to thirty-seven degrees, and he had returned to his cheerful and chatty self. As I cuddled him in my arms, his eyes began to roll back, he became unresponsive and his tiny body started convulsing. Then his face turned blue.

I’ve discovered that in a crisis, I am NOT the cool, calm and collected person. Having done first aid courses means squat if when faced with an emergency, you freeze. Not only did I freeze, I was hysterical and couldn’t stop crying.

In that fraction of time, I honestly felt overwhelmed with negative feelings, and all I could think was “What if my baby dies?”, “He’s dying!”, “Please don’t die!”

Gary, my husband, had to calm me down repeatedly while calling the ambulance.

It was only when Henry’s seizure stopped and his colour returned, that I was able to clear my thoughts and calm down. I know that his blue face will be burned forever in my memory.

The ambulance never made it to our house that night. They had deemed our emergency low on their priorities and after waiting thirty minutes, we opted to cancel and take Henry to the GP.

Henry caught both adenovirus and influenza A infection and continues to suffer with bronchiolitis. He battled with uncontrollable fevers and chills for six days. Mandy, my six-year-old, caught a respiratory syncytial virus infection, submitting to fevers and vomiting. I ended up with Henry’s adenovirus infection that resulted in a sinus infection. Gary was the last man standing.

I became the thermometer monitor, wielding it like a sword and sticking it into the ears of unwilling victims, should they be nearby.

I’ve witnessed two febrile convulsions with Mandy and now with Henry. It doesn’t matter that febrile convulsions are common or rarely have long-lasting effects. My fragile state cannot bear witness to another episode.

Guilt is a funny thing, especially mother’s guilt. It’s relentless and paralysing. It makes you feel like a failure as a parent. I hope that one day there is a cure for it.

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

https://knj.home.blog/privacy-policy/

FIND YOUR STRENGTH

I walk down this well-trodden path, resigned to my fate. The sky is filled with dark clouds, threatening a downpour that will sweep me off my feet and drown me in its flood. There is no light; no rays of sunshine; no warmth. Despite efforts to protect myself, piling layers upon layers, I feel the cold penetrating into the depths of my soul. Winter is here. Well and truly.

What do you do when your mind begs to succumb to the deep pits of despair? How do you crawl out from the sinister tunnel of self-doubt? You’re in pain; mental fatigue; physical stress. You’re on the brink of shut down mode.

Oh, but The Show must go on! The children need to be fed, clothed and loved. The house should be cleaned. The bills must be paid. You have to turn up to work. People rely on you to function. Society expects your contribution. Life stops for no-one.

“Mummy, why are we going round and round?” asks Henry, my two-and-a-half-year-old son.

We’ve been driving around the neighbourhood for the last half an hour. At any moment I expect a police car to pull me over and write-up a ticket for public nuisance. I’ve taken the same roundabout ten times now and I see people peer out from curtains. I must look like I’m casing joints or seriously lost with directions.

“You need a nap,” I reply. The truth of the matter is that I need a nap but at this stage, I’ll take the consolation prize of a break. I am beyond exhausted, physically and mentally. Parenting is damn hard. It is relentless. You are on call twenty-four-seven, every day for at least eighteen years.

“Mummy, I need a chino!”

“Mummy, I did a fluff fluff!”

“Mummy, where’s Daddy?”

“Mummy, I want Donalds!”

I drive for another half an hour before there is silence. I park the car and rest my forehead on the steering wheel. It took everything I had to concentrate on driving without incident. I feel overwhelmed with the burden of responsibility. It creeps and climbs like vines, slowly choking and leaving me gasping for breath.

As I silently fall apart in the car, I realise that I need to seek help. I need to reach out to my village and remember that there are people willing to support and care for me, if only I ask. I need to pause to allow myself the time to recover so that I can gather the strength to continue.

Right now I’m merely existing, living day-to-day, going through the motions. I’m a grainy black and white. Instead, I want to be vibrant and colourful. I want loud and bright. I want to live life to its fullest.

Why? I owe it to my children and husband to be the best version of me. I owe it to myself.

For the time being, I’m reminded that after every storm, there is a rainbow.

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

https://knj.home.blog/privacy-policy/

NEGOTIATION BREAKDOWN

Tantrums. A word that sends shivers down many a parent’s spine. An action that when unleashed in public, causes embarrassment and dismay.

Do you ignore it? Do you try to placate? Do you bribe? Or do you edge away and pretend the toddler lying facedown on the ground isn’t yours?

It’s common knowledge that toddlers lack social and emotional maturity, are at the beginning stages of language development and seek independence over their environment. As a consequence, toddlers are prone to tantrums when they become frustrated or upset. While it is a normal part of child development, it’s still painful to deal with.

“Remember Henry, if you want to walk,” I tell my tantrum-prone toddler, “you must hold Mummy’s hand.”

“Ok Mummy,” Henry replies, looking innocently at me.

I know better. I squat down to his eye level and reiterate my point. “You have to hold my hand. No running.”

“Yes Mummy,” he replies, adamant. “I will!”

“Promise?” I tease. Seriously, as if I can trust the word of a two-and-a-half-year-old.

“Promise.”

We start our hundred-metre walk to pick up his sister from school. We get two metres from the car before Henry tugs at my hand.

“Mummy! A bug!” Henry exclaims, pointing at a dead beetle.

“Oh yes, a bug.” I gently pull him along but he resists.

“Mummy, bug bite me?”

“No, it’s dead darling.” My second attempt at leaving fails.

“His Mummy and Daddy will be sad.”

I sigh. “Yes, so sad but they’ll always remember it.”

“Is it a boy or girl?”

Ah shoot. I don’t have time for this.

“I don’t know darling.” I pull him forwards.

“Hey look over there!” I point to nothing in particular.

“What?” Henry asks, his interest piqued.

“I see something interesting over there,” I lie. “Lets go have a look.”

Henry starts walking in the right direction. There are two randy teenagers exchanging saliva on the sidewalk. Henry decides to stop right in front of them and blurts out, “Bleurgh!”

The teenagers stop their tonsil hockey. I suppress my laughter.

We walk another five metres before Henry refuses to hold my hand.

“Mummy, I’m ok. I was here,” he argues, pointing to the footpath.

“No Henry,” I admonish. “Hold my hand.”

We are so so close to our destination, I could cry.

“No!”

In a flash, his hand slips out and he’s running towards the road. I sprint after him like Wile E. Coyote after the Road Runner.

I drop my phone in the process. I’m appalled to admit that for a split second I had considered the merits of stopping to pick up my phone.

I grab Henry by the jacket before he gets hurt. He throws an epic tantrum as I drag him back to retrieve my phone.

I struggle with small fists and legs thrashing around. I’m sweating from my exertion. My phone screen is cracked.

It’s a fine balance between giving your child the opportunity to feel independent and keeping them safe. Some days I feel like throwing in the parenting towel. It’s a hard role. The toughest gig I’ve ever had.

Next time you see a harried parent with a toddler chucking a tantrum, give them a sympathetic smile and try not to judge.

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

https://knj.home.blog/privacy-policy/

CHANNELLING MEAT LOAF

There comes a time when you just have to put on your big girl pants and do what’s best for the people you love. Even if it means you can foresee your own suffering.

Dummies, also known as pacifiers are Henry’s BFFs. It’s the first thing he thinks about in the morning and the last thing he seeks for at night. His attachment to dummies is equal to that of a security blanket or a snuggle toy for bed. Sometimes, kids outgrow these things and sometimes you just have to force them to.

“Where’s my dummy?” Henry whines.

“We gave it to Alex; the baby, remember?” I remind him gently, “You’re a big boy now. You don’t need a dummy.”

Henry goes into prone position and wails, “I need my dummy! I need to breathe!”

“No. No dummy Henry,” I say, mustering up all my strength for the impending tantrum. I give him a pat on the back. Big mistake. Rookie error.

“I want handies!” he yells, as he reaches out to hold my hand.

I roll my eyes and think to myself, “Get in line kid.”

“No.”

“I want to touch your arm!” Henry demands.

“No.”

“I want to touch your body Mummy!!” cries Henry, his little hand reaching out to seek comfort.

“No,” I giggle. “Are you channelling your dad?”

Henry rolls around in his cot and pounds his tiny fists into the mattress. He gives me crocodile tears for a good five minutes before changing tack.

“Mummy, my noodle hurts!” says Henry, sitting up.

This kid is relentless at bedtime. I would kill to go to bed early and have a big sleep.

“Uh-huh, point to your noodle,” I ask, because really… that could mean anything.

Henry points to his elbow and says, “It’s not fair really.”

“It’s fine. Go to sleep.” I turn to leave.

Henry starts the waterworks and like the sucker that I am, his cries tug at my heartstrings.

“Mummy! I want my dummy!!” Henry sobs. Snot is dribbling down his nose; his face has turned red; tears are streaming down his cheeks.

I feel my resolve disintegrate into smithereens. Reluctantly, I return and give him my hand.

“Go to sleep Henry,” I reassure him. Thank goodness I threw out the dummies into the bin at the shops and not at home. I’d probably be rummaging through it just about now.

Henry calms down and says, “I love you lots Mummy.”

His words are a balm for my weary soul. I can never get enough. “I love you too pork chop. GO. TO. SLEEP.”

“I’d do anything for you Mummy,” Henry continues with his declarations of love.

I chuckle and sing, “But I won’t do that!”

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

https://knj.home.blog/privacy-policy/

THE ART OF PACKING

Before I had children, I use to leisurely stroll each and every aisle of the supermarket, picking things off the shelf when I remembered that I needed them. I didn’t bother with a grocery list. There was only two of us and if I forgot something then I’d return another day. No biggie.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought of this simple act of necessity as being an enviable task. I miss the days of languid and uninterrupted meandering, just like how I wish I had luxuriated in more sleep. Oh, how I miss those days!

I go to the supermarket with either one or two kids in tow and the most pleasurable part is getting the kids back into the car and going home. I don’t know about other parents but to me having two pipsqueaks continually saying, “Mummy, can we buy this?” and “Mummy, can I get that?” drives me insane.

I almost never leave home without a grocery list, and I speed down aisles to collect items like I’m on a My Kitchen Rules cook-off. I obviously pass the chip, chocolate, and soft drink aisles because seriously, who needs the drama of wrestling contraband off a raging toddler?

Normally, I go through self-serve because it’s the quickest way out of the store. With a toddler that can drop a tantrum like a hot potato, it’s best not to procrastinate in a place with too many temptations and “get the hell out of dodge” is my shopping mantra.

Today I had too many things in the shopping trolley to go through self-serve and seeing that Henry seemed eerily calm, I opted to go through checkout. I methodically place items in groups that I hope get bagged together. The young man at the register begins packing the bags, arranging items in particular positions like he’s a Tetris prodigy. Simply perfect for my anally retentive grocery packing personality. I can appreciate good packing skills. No one wants a dirty tango between raw meats and fruit.

As he continues to pack at the rate of one item per minute, Henry starts to grumble about wanting to hop out of the trolley. I try to placate him with a yoghurt and silently pray for the dude to hurry the hell up. Henry’s about to throw down and no one will be ready for the impending Hiroshima-like explosion that will be unleashed.

I twiddle my thumbs, glancing nervously at Henry’s whining and thrashing about. I give checkout dude one more minute for good measure but my eye twitches at the sight of him taking out a punnet of tomatoes and replacing them with the punnet of mushrooms. They are the exact same size!

“Mummy!” Henry wails.

I suddenly jump into action. I grab the tomatoes off the dude and shove them into a bag.

“How about you scan and I’ll help bag,” I tell him with a smile that’s too wide to be considered normal.

He recoils at the sight of my crazed look and starts quickly scanning. I shove items left, right, and centre into bags, practically arm sweeping them in. I work at a rapid pace and only pause for breath once I hand over my card to pay.

I stand back and take stock of my surroundings. The people behind me and the checkout dude are giving me strange looks. I start from the realisation of my erratic behaviour. Embarrassed, I quickly leave with my screaming toddler. It’s a sobering moment of self-awareness at how different my life has become.

Do I regret having kids? Definitely not.

Would I change anything? Probably not.

Oh, wait. Yes. Avoid the Tetris guy.

Copyright © 2019, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

https://knj.home.blog/privacy-policy/