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

IMG_7673 2

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).

IMG_7421

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

Little Hearts, Big Love

I’m Not “Fun Mum” – And That’s Ok.

img_9909

When I squeeze my bum on to the swing and kick my legs so I soar up high. When I dance around the living room to a My Little Pony song. When I get on my knees, not caring that the ground is wet, and chuck yellow leaves high in the air. 

I watch her face. 

Her eyes light up with laughter but also something else; surprise. “Who is this woman and what have you done with my mum?” I can see her thinking, because while we have fun, it’s quieter and understated. Less exhuberant, maybe. I don’t think she would describe me as “fun mum”. 

It had been decades since I last slid down a slide (were they always that uncomfortable?) and softplay hadn’t been invented when I was a child (I’m going to add a ‘thank goodness’ here, for my own mum’s sake). And while having Freya has helped me regain some of my joy in life, larking about doesn’t come naturally to me now.

Occasionally I do it because the mood takes me or often just to make her smile but I am more likely to be pushing her on the swing, applauding her after she has finished her dance or teaching her the names of different leaves rather than throwing them about.

Recently I started to feel guilty that this wasn’t enough. That I wasn’t enough.

We went on a day trip to a wildlife park, just the two of us, and I couldn’t help but think that she would have had more fun if her dad was with us. The same when we went trampolining (sorry, pelvic floor) and other mums were doing seat drops and backflips (ok, maybe not backflips) and all I did was really small bounces.

When he scrambles up the ladder at softplay. When he hurls her in the air until she squeals in delight or play wrestles her on the ground so that’s she’s almost crying with laughter. When he spins her around so she’s “dizzywizzle”.

I see her face. 

There is no surprise. Because he is “fun dad”.

fundad
When your dad gets stuck at soft play. #awkward

I read a quote on Instagram the other day where someone said: “The best thing about having kids is being able to act like one yourself again.”

Is it? Am I a terrible person for not feeling like this?

Isn’t it enough that I make sure she is clean, well fed, appropriately dressed for the weather? That I teach her how to bake, use scissors, write her name. That I take her to singing groups, creative play and monkey gym. That we visit historic houses, go on boat trips and seek adventure in wide open spaces. That I tend to her throughout the night and still be ready (ish) to get ‘up and at ’em’ at 5am. That I am the one who explains why she shouldn’t hit or about homelessness when she asks why that person has a sleeping bag in the street. That it’s me she runs to when she’s hurt, upset or just wants a hug.

When I think of my own parents, I remember it was my dad who messed about with us when he came home from work (and is the same now with my nephew and Freya). My mum did everything else, including making sure we always had a hot dinner on the table, that our clothes were washed and our house was clean and tidy (as well as looking after my poorly grandad).

I don’t think any less of her because I can’t remember her doing The Birdie Song in our living room or climbing a tree. In fact, now that I am a mum myself, I appreciate her even more (especially when she comes to my house and still cooks me dinner #spoilt). What I was lucky enough to feel from both of them was love, even if it was shown in different ways.

If Freya thinks the same of me when she is older then I will believe its a job well done rather than she has missed out.

So while I take note of the posts that encourage me to “live in the moment” and “act like a kid” and admire the other mums for their bouncing prowess, I’m going to stop beating myself up for not doing it.

She has plenty of fun in her life – so what if I’m not “fun mum”?

What do you think? Are you a “fun mum”? Do you willingly jump in muddy puddles or zipline across a ravine (ok, even I might be tempted by that)?

New Milestone: Starting Nursery – It’s Tough (On The Parents).

IMG_5379

I’ve bought the uniform, the name labels (although I’ve put them in a safe place and they are currently m.i.a.), new shoes, a backpack. 

If it’s on the list, she has it. 

We are ready.

Or at least, one of us is.

Every time someone mentions nursery, and it’s surprisingly often these days, Mark and I share a look… of utter terror.

I know this is often the way; that bloggers with children starting nursery or (shudder) actual school will be writing similar posts this week or next. 

It’s comforting, sort of.

But it doesn’t stop The Fear.

While some change is inevitable, Mark is worried that we will lose our happy go lucky little girl – we rather like her, it would be good if she stuck around. He also wants to carry on shielding her from emotional or physical harm (forever), which we obviously can’t do if we are not there (and which we realise is part of growing up, to some degree).

For me, it goes further.

I hated school.

Ok, maybe not all of it. Definitely high school, for all sorts of reasons, and my mum says she had to take me out of play school because I upset all the other children by sobbing my heart out each week, even if it was only for an hour.

When I think about Freya starting nursery, the weight of my unhappiness presses down on me like a physical thing. 

What sort of mother am I to start her on that path, to consign her to 13 years, at least, of misery by making her go to nursery – even if it is only two mornings a week, at first – when she doesn’t really need to? 

And then I stop.

I think.

What I have to remember is that Freya isn’t me (or Mark). 

Whatever my feelings about it I have to be entirely positive for her sake. 

FullSizeRender
And the thing is, she is ready. 

It won’t come out of the blue, I have been preparing her. Hoping to ease her into it, giving her the skills she needs to thrive.

We’ve been walking by the nursery since she was a baby and often stop and look through the fence and watch the children play for a few minutes. The teachers even wave at her. We talk about how much fun it would be to be in there. I’ve been excitedly telling her more recently that it won’t be long before she will be allowed to stay and play with them.

When we went to the open morning she didn’t want to leave.

She is desperate to make friends. At the park she will try and play with other children, any other children no matter if they are five years older than her (and often not interested) or too young to play the games she wants. At nursery they will be her age and probably interested in the same strange, often unfathomable  games she wants to play.

We go to different places, we meet new people. I encourage her to ask questions, not to be shy. I’ve gently been teaching her about being mindful of others but to stick up for herself where appropriate.

She might not have been out of my care (or that of close family) before but I’m hopeful that, once she’s used to a new routine, she will be in her element.

I have to be confident she will.

Now, whenever anyone mentions her starting nursery, instead of bursting into tears, as I want to, I repeat a mantra in my head.

She will love it.

It’s only for a couple of hours.

She will be fine.

Plus, if she doesn’t settle after a period of time, we can try again next year.

I’m not a powerless child now, I’m an adult, a mother, and I will make it as enjoyable, positive and meaningful as I can for her.

Any other tips for surviving nursery for an anxious mum (and dad)?

Nursery