Parenting: Will I Always Be One Beat Behind?

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It was like being in a cool band where she was the lead guitarist and I was the drummer; Freya brought the melody, excitement and showmanship but I provided the beat for her to follow.

I was looking forward to getting back to that over the Christmas holiday – the first proper break she’s had since starting school full time in September (we went away at half term) – but I think we had what can safely be described as some “creative differences”.

While I was playing pop music, Freya strayed into heavily metal. We tried to jam together but we sounded terrible – and like a lot of bands, felt like going our separate ways.

I’ve read so many Tweets and comments from parents saying how much they hated their children going back to school today. Before the holidays I thought I would be among them but, frankly, not only did I want her to go back to school, she couldn’t wait either.

And that makes me really, really sad.

Motherhood isn’t for everyone – and, in the last couple of weeks, I’ve questioned whether it should have been for me. Maybe those two loses before Freya were actually someone, somewhere, telling me I wasn’t cut out for it? I know that’s a silly thing to say but her first year was hard, hard work. We came out the other side stronger and even as I struggled I knew just how privileged I was to get this chance.  As she grew, our relationship did too. We had fun, we explored, learned together – even surviving the terrible twos relatively intact.

Then it was time for school – something that she was ready for, even if I wasn’t.

She has loved most of it and perhaps I was naive to think that we could just slot back into our old band when we’ve both being doing some solo stuff for a while now.

Over Christmas, we still went out and explored, splashed in muddy puddles, had playdates and enjoyed ourselves but when we were at home it seemed like she missed the schedule of school, of having a million things to do and right at her finger tips. We would paint and cook and craft and play and have iPad time and read but, whereas before that would be spread across the day (or more like different days), this time she was done in 15 minutes (from 5am).

I know that some of it was just the excitement of Christmas but there were several points where I just thought ‘I have no clue what to do now’ and because of that she went into meltdown. The last couple of weeks have not been my finest as a parent. After she had gone to bed, I would look at her, peacefully asleep ,and the guilt was almost overwhelming. It felt like that first year all over again.

Just when I thought I was getting the hang of it and keeping a steady rhythm, the song changes and I’m left a beat behind again.

The thing is, I want to be in our band but I’m not really a fan of heavy metal and it doesn’t seem like she enjoys pop anymore so I’m not sure where that leaves us? Maybe we need to explore some other genres.

Anyone know anything about jazz?

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What I realised about Freya starting school (it’s not you, it’s me).

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I longed for this day.

During that first year when, on top of the huge changes that motherhood brings, the reflux, intolerances and sheer exhaustion of never sleeping in more than 10 minute snatches brought me to my knees, I thought ‘One day I will get me back, when she goes to school.’

What I didn’t realise, what I couldn’t realise back then, was that when that time eventually came, I wouldn’t want to let her go.

People told me ‘it won’t always be like this’ and, a personal favourite, ‘you need to make the most of it’. That’s easier said than done when my baby was crying in pain 80% of the day and night, refusing to feed, losing weight, not wanting my comfort but refusing to be put down – and no one was either willing or able to help. The only thing I could do was hold on and wait for it to be over.

I know it could have been far worse but it was still hard. I’m not going to pretend otherwise, even though I feel guilty about it.

They were right about one thing though, it did get easier. At nine months the reflux settled down, at a year I saw glimpses of what was to come. The fun, the laughter. Yes, there were also tears and tantrums – and a continuing lack of sleep – but by then we were bonded. She was my sidekick, my little shadow or, as our postman described her the other day, my co-pilot.

He was used to bumping into us, off on some sort of mini-adventure.

“Where’s your co-pilot today?” He asked, not realising she was now at school full time.

The truth is, for the last couple of years she’s been much more than co-pilot – quite often she picked the route, made the announcements and was flying the plane. Our days together, when I wasn’t working, were dictated by the journeys she wanted to take. Now she’s handed back the controls but after an initial rush of euphoria where I got a hot chocolate (and sat and drank it in the shop without having to colour anything in or make conversation about My Little Pony), had a henna tattoo and got my hair cut, I’m…directionless.

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I miss our outdoor adventures, exploring new places, visiting somewhere on a whim – even going to the local playground.

I. Miss. Her.

While I don’t miss endless hours of playing games that make no sense, the four-year-old rage or the constant commentary on anything and everything, I do find myself counting down to 3.30pm.

I realised on her first day that my fears about her starting school had nothing to do with her – she loves it, can’t wait to get in each day – and everything to do with me. My role as a mother to a baby, a toddler, a small child is over. There are no more babies for me and Freya will spend the majority of her time with other people now.

Early motherhood is… done.

And, as bad as of some of it was, I’m not quite ready for it to be over. I’m not quite ready to be flying solo again. 

It’s going to take some getting used to, just as motherhood did – although hopefully with more sleep this time.

Bubbablue and me school days linky

 

Thanks for the heart attack, CBeebies.

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My list of parenting fails began within hours of giving birth when the hospital midwife announced, a little louder than strictly necessary, I felt, that I’d put Freya’s nappy on back to front.

Even then I remember thinking: “It’s only going to get worse.” And I was right. This week, though, I might have met the level cap for parental daftness.

Get ready to roll your eyes.

We have a clock in our living room, a digital radio clock (fancy!), which is positioned by the television so that it can be seen from every point in the room.

Unless you happen to be short-sighted.

Like me.

The only way I can see that clock is to a) have my glasses on all the time, which never happens (often because I’ve put them down somewhere and then can’t see to find them), or b) stand with my nose virtually pressed up against the glowing green numbers.

For the last few years it’s been fine. We’ve (luckily, as it turned out) never really had to rush anywhere first thing. No clock watching needed.

And then Freya started nursery.

For some reason (Mark), everything always has to happen in the 45 minutes before we need to go. There’s not a spare second to keep going backwards and forwards to the clock (usually because I’m panicking about where my glasses are).

Not to worry because I came up with a solution. I noticed that Hey Duggee started on CBeebies (for my overseas readers, this is a children’s television channel which runs from 6am-7pm with no annoying adverts for tiny plastic things no one needs) at exactly the time we needed to get ready to leave. Every day.

Bingo.

Since September, for SEVEN MONTHS, we’ve been in a nice routine, springing into action as Alexander Armstrong says, jovially, “Isn’t it time for….”

“Nursery!” I shout.

Can you guess what happened this week?

That’s right.

“MUM!” Freya, still in her PJs, barged into the bathroom as I was mid-shower in a mini panic. “We are LATE. Hey Duggee is on. Quuiiiiick.”

What the?

“No, it can’t be,” I said, frantically washing shampoo out of my hair. I’m sure when I last looked, what seemed like minutes ago, it was 7.35am. Had I fallen asleep in the shower? I’m sure that has happened in the past.

I had the quickest wash ever (and they are never that long) and practically slid into the living room like I was doing a cool dance floor move (when really my feet were still wet) to find that…it was actually 7.43am.

Hey Duggee was indeed on.

Because they changed the schedule.

The rotters.

And the thing is, I get the impression they totally know the chaos this caused.

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