Last week was spent visiting The Netherlands and Belgium for the half-term break. And while I will put together a proper post about it another time, I wanted to write about my boy. For years we only had UK holidays. He was such a handful from the ages of 18 months to about 4 1/4. He would throw a tantrum about everything. He didn’t want to leave the house. He didn’t want to come home. He didn’t like the colour of his cup of water.
Oh, this is 10.
But I can remember back when,
You were placed in my arms
And I was introduced to your charms.
Did I ever mention that I was an introvert? It’s probably partly genetic, but I think it’s mostly to do with the way I grew up. I was the youngest but was raised as an only child. I never lived with any of my siblings. And while part of me was lonely, part of me enjoyed the solitude. Or maybe I just grew accustomed to spending a lot of time on my own. Regardless, it has shaped me into an adult who needs a certain amount of alone time.
Over Christmas, I spent a wonderful two weeks in Florida with my family. And though we had a lovely time, I was excited at the end of the trip for some time to myself. While I love spending time with Husband, Moozles and Dubz, my sense of well-being requires alone time. I need to have quiet so I can think and read and write. And even when watching television, I don’t like people talking to me or walking near me.
After I got married, I had this vision of family life – a little girl and then a little boy. But then I had my daughter, and could not envisage having another child. I had endured horrible all-day sickness during my pregnancy, and then had a c-section. I didn’t want to go through that again. And we were happy. Our family of three was perfect. I loved my daughter so much, and I couldn’t imagine loving another child as much. ‘But your vision’, Husband said. ‘What about that boy?’
There were many reasons, but really, I was scared of having a son. Now, I didn’t actually know I would have a boy. But I felt fairly confident. I had been certain I would have a girl first, and I did. And for some reason, I felt quite sure I would have a boy next. And I was terrified. I was afraid of cleaning little boy genitals. I was frightened of having one of those crazy out-of-control boys that one sees terrorising playgrounds. And I was worried that I could not love a naughty son as much as my angelic daughter.
Now you are nine.
You used to be eight,
And the numbers before that,
And before that, you were nothing,
Just a hope and a wonder,
And I made you and brought you to the world.
There is something so satisfying about cursing. A crazy driver cuts you off; you stub your toe; or maybe you’re telling a funny anecdote to your friends. During these, and many other situations, an ‘oh dear’ or ‘meanie’ just won’t suffice. Sometimes only a curse word will do. But when many of us became parents, we tried to reduce our cursing. I know I did. I didn’t want my precious little angels picking up my bad habit. And I was quite successful for the first seven years. But in the last year, my love of swearing has returned. And with a vengeance.
Last weekend, while my daughter was doing her homework at the dining table, I was on the opposite side of the table chatting with Husband. He gave me some surprising news and my initial response was ‘F*ck me’. As soon as I said the words I looked at my eight-year old daughter, who was only a couple of feet away. I had hoped she was too engrossed in her homework. She was not. She smiled while still looking down at her paper. The secret was out. Mummy has a potty mouth.
Daily tantrums. Over. Nothing. The wrong colour cup. They don’t want to wear shoes. That dog looked at them funny. From the time my son was two, until a couple of months after his fourth birthday, our life was filled with constant tantrums. Sometimes they were small, and could be eased with a cuddle. Sometimes they were epic meltdowns that only subsided after mummy was bitten and whacked into submission. And by submission, I mean I would be curled up in a corner sobbing my eyes out.
But then things got easier. And I don’t mean that I became better adept at dealing with the tantrums. Or that I became tougher at dealing with the public shamings and smackings. I probably did get better at handling them, but then the tantrums just eased. Considerably. My son no longer needed to fight about every decision. Dubz no longer needed to shout and scream whenever he disagreed with me. We could leave a park without floods of tears. All of a sudden, he seemed to gain some sense.
When my big girl started school, I felt all the usual emotions – nervousness, excitement, worry and sadness. Four years later, my baby boy had his first day of Reception. And while I was a bit nervous that he would be scared, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief and happiness. I was happy to finally have a little bit of freedom. And of course, being a mother, I felt guilt. Ah, there’s always some guilt.
I made the decision to become a Stay-At-Home-Mum over three years ago. Doesn’t that mean that I should want to be with my children at all times? Maybe there are some mothers out there who want to be with their kids 24/7. But I am not one of those mums. It doesn’t mean that I don’t adore my children. It just means that I want, no, that I need time on my own.
Although I don’t watch This Morning (sorry), parenting forums have been buzzing with today’s interview by Bea Marshall. Bea is a parenting coach – I expect she tells parents what to do rather than offering encouraging words like ‘you got this’ and ‘you are definitely not screwing up your child’. Anyway, Bea doesn’t think children should be punished as ‘any form of punishment puts the parent in a position of power over their child’. Wait, what?! Isn’t that the point of being a parent? Aren’t we supposed to be the ones in charge? Surely I’m not the only one who uses the line ‘If you don’t like my rules, then get a job and a family and make your own rules’.
What is wrong with having power over your children as long as you use the power to guide them and help them turn out into happy, caring, responsible adults? My daughter is eight and my son is four. I cannot imagine letting them decide whether they should do their homework, see the dentist or what time they should go to bed. I am an adult. With that comes years of wisdom and learning. I have learned some things the hard way, which everyone must go through. But some things have been learnt through listening to the recommendation of professionals. For instance, I know how important sleep is to children’s growing bodies and minds. Letting my kids get six or seven hours of sleep a night is not going to do them any favours.
But I am not saying that we should blindly follow childcare experts. I sincerely believe in a parent’s intuition. Many of us are taught to ignore our hearts, but there is something that tells many of us what is best for our own child. Obviously if your instinct says to give your six-month old some Coca-Cola, then maybe ignore those instincts. I also don’t believe we should be hitting our children or punishing them in any way that is humiliating or physical. Kids need to feel safe and loved at home, more than anywhere else. A parent should be the one person who you know will always love you and take care of you and never inflict harm or pain on you.
Eight years ago, on this exact day, I became a mother. But the mother I was on that very first day is much different to who I am today. In the beginning, you go in ‘all guns blazing’, armed with your baby books and a heady sense of excitement mixed with equal measures of fear. But each day you learn, you grow. The fear sometimes lessen, and sometimes increases. You look at the books less, and you trust yourself more. So I thought I would share some of the things I have learned in the past eight years.