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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Freya, Freya, Quite Contrary (Why Didn’t I Name Her Mary?).

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At three years and nearly eight months old Freya definitely seems to have climbed aboard the rollercoaster taking her from being a toddler to a child – and what a wild ride it is.

Sometimes she seems so grown-up, especially when she’s in her school uniform, racing into nursery without a backward glance. I always stand still and wait for a few seconds, amid the hustle and bustle of drop off, trying to catch a glimpse of her through the door, just in case she suddenly remembers she hasn’t said goodbye and comes back.

She never does.

At other times there are little reminders that maybe the train is still trundling its way up that final hill before hurtling down the other side.

She often pretends to be a (crying) baby and asks me to swaddle her in a blanket (not that she liked that when she was an actual baby, always preferring her arms free).

“Sing me a lullaby,” she pleads while I cradle her on my knees, with her legs now dangling almost to the floor.

As a pretend baby she’s quite the tinker. Her first words appear to be “poop” and “bum” at which I act horrified, sending her into fits of giggles.

She’s not the only one laughing. I know every one thinks their child is hilarious but some of the things she comes out with have me either in stitches or make me want to roll my eyes.

At the moment she’s taken to calling me “buddy”.

The conversations we have now amaze me almost as much as they bemuse me.

“Is the sky a book?” She asked, after we spent some time looking for animal shapes in the clouds.

I love her sideways (sometimes upside down) take on various things. I probably get as much out of our chats as she does.

However, if I had to pick one word to describe her right now it would be contrary (I knew I should have named her Mary).

No matter what I say she will disagree – even when it’s for her benefit.

Nothing is too small to be argued about, which makes everything a billion times harder.

The other day she was even arguing with the SatNav and was genuinely furious when we decided not to follow her instructions – that would have sent us completely the wrong way.

She’s three going on 13.

So. Much. Attitude.

I mostly try and sympathise or look at the bigger picture and quite often I just take Elsa’s advice and let it go.

It’s just a stage. A hard stage (for her and me). Hopefully it means she going to grow into a confident and assertive child.

The one good thing about sleep deprivation is that my parenting style is more relaxed than I think it would be if I were running at full speed/not so knackered.

Some days I do worry that saying yes much more than I say no is not doing her any favours (especially now she’s at nursery).

Some days I also know I am not the mum I want to be.

I snap at her when I should explain, demand when I should ask. I long for bedtime (only to miss her five minutes after she’s asleep).

When she tells me “You’re the worst mummy I’ve ever had”, ironically usually when I feel like I’ve not done too badly that day, it hits its mark.

Guilt comes trotting up telling me she’s like this because I’m doing it all wrong.

“She’s a reflection of you.”

And then, every now and then, something happens and I see a glimmer of light. A flicker of what I hope she might be like in the future.

We were in a shopping mall recently looking out of the window while we waited for Mark and she spotted a man going through the litter bins.

“Why is he putting his hands in the bins?” She asked. That is a definite no in our house.

I try and answer all her questions as honestly as possible – while remembering she’s three.

“He’s looking for food. He doesn’t have a home, so he doesn’t have his own kitchen, which means he has no food and he’s hungry.”

“That’s really sad,” she said, frowning.

“It is really sad. It makes us really lucky because we do have a home and we have food in our fridge.”

“I know! He could come and live with us,” She said, ready to dash down the stairs and invite him.

I felt a lump in my throat.

“That would be a nice thing to do but we unfortunately don’t have enough room. Where would he sleep?”

“He can have my bed.”

“Your bed is only small though. How about this? When we go shopping we can buy some extra food for people like him who need it.”

I try and do this anyway but I’ve never thought to explain why I’ve put the pasta and soup I’ve just bought as part of our shopping into the wire basket by the check out for the food bank. It’s not enough, of course, and her kindness made me realise that it’s not a very personal approach and that maybe I need to do more.

She seemed somewhat satisfied with that (she told every one we know that she had something sad to tell them and then explained homelessness for days afterwards, so it was clearly still playing on her mind). In the next moment she had taken her shoes off and was refusing to put them back on.

Even as I thought “here we go again’, I smiled.

I’m not claiming any credit for her compassion, as I feel like maybe that has to be something within you, but it makes me excited to see who eventually steps off that rollercoaster (and start bookmarking blog posts like this to see me through her teenage years or maybe four, five, six etc, which friends tell me also have their challenges).

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How did you handle the contrary stage? Did you just hold on tight and enjoy the ride?

Little Hearts, Big Love

Life, The Universe And My Three-Year-Old.

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“Mummy, do you know what the Big Bang was?” Freya asked.

It was 7am and it had been my turn for a lie-in (I know, who’d have though I’d ever call 7am a lie-in?). I had woken up just a few seconds before. As I staggered into the living room my mind was on what to have for breakfast, not trying to explain the creation of the universe.

I actually swore in my head (I’m really grumpy first-thing).

My poor old brain started to crank up, I could almost hear the rusty cogs begin to ever-so-slowly grind together.

She’s been asking some corkers lately…”What is Roman?”, “Where does water come from?” and “Who is Jesus?”

While I’ve had a good stab at them, they can sometimes lack a few (very occasionally essential) facts. She usually asks things at The Worst Possible Moment, such as when I’m driving, in the middle of the supermarket shop or desperately trying to find a public toilet for her. As a result I usually follow up with a “we can look it up when we get home” using my handy set of encyclopedia, which a neighbour gave to me when I was small (and date from 1933). They have been lugged from house to house for several decades and even though some of the information is perhaps a little out of date (and some things obviously don’t feature at all) I love physically being able to flick through the pages and look something up.

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Her questions have definitely been getting harder lately (and by that I mean she no longer just asks “why?” to everything) but this, well…

“So…” I started, working out how best to explain it to a three-year-old.

“You know she means the big bang from last night, right? The sound that made her jump,” Mark interrupted, looking at me like I was losing the plot.

All of the air whooshed out of my body.

“Thank goodness.” Although in some respects that was harder to answer because I had no knowledge of this bang.

“Probably a car backfiring,” I guessed.

She seemed happy enough.

~

A quick snapshot of some of the things she’s said to make me laugh/cry a little recently.

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“What sort of cake should we make?” I asked her.

“Not a poisoned one,” she answered instantly.

Well. I always set out trying not to poison people with baked goods, honest.

Mark and I were chatting in the car recently about something he needed to do for work and he asked me:

“Have you ever written a skills matrix?”

Before I could answer, Freya piped up from the back: “I have but it was a long time ago”.

!

Then there is the brutal honesty.

I came out of the bathroom wearing a new red top. I hardly ever buy anything new but I saw this top and thought I would cheer myself up with a little treat.

“I think you look better in your old clothes,” Freya said as soon as she saw me.

Charming.

Life is never dull, that’s for sure.

Little Hearts, Big Love
Cuddle Fairy