Sometimes the “book” just doesn’t have a clue!


As mum’s we rely alot on advice – from our own mothers, from girlfriends, from clinic sisters, and sometimes just from well meaning strangers in a queue. I know that every new mum also has a “book.” This book is either passed down, or bought with the specific intention of trying to gain a better understanding of what to expect with a newborn, what to do in certain situations, when to call the doctor, or any other advice that will make us BETTER at dealing with parenthood. I have much respect for these types of books, my own book was so well read by the time my first baby was a year old – it was dog eared and crumbling at the spine.

This said, last night I had one of those mummy moments – you know the kind mums. Those moments where your heart physically turns into mush and you experience this gush of love for your little one, and you kinda forget the sleepless nights, the whining, the crying, the vomit ruined Trenery shirt, the pen stained couch, the new household items your kids demolished, etc, etc. Well in that moment, which I will expand on in the next paragraph, I realised how the “book” lied, how the “book” wasn’t always correct, and how the “book” should always be read with the proverbial pinch of salt.

Back to my moment.. we had bathed the kids as usual, Liam was reading his Dad a bed time story (yes, he picture-reads, we listen) and I was settling Hannah in her room. As the “book” instructed, and as I had tried to do since she was born, I put her in her cot, tucked her in and made for the door. As I expected, she shouted at me angrily and was on her feet, stamping in protest, arms outstretched. I scooped her up and we started our slow dance. As I rocked her, singing our favourite tunes – on repeat for as long as it took for her to fall asleep – she fiddled with my ear lobe, she stroked my cheek, she nuzzled into my neck, she patted my back in time to the tune. And that is when I had my light bulb moment.

Any informed mother will tell you that rocking your baby to sleep is a bad habit, they’ll tell you that the “book” says your baby must learn to self-soothe, that your baby must not associate sleeping with YOU phyiscally assisting them – by rocking, breastfeeding them to sleep, or any other physical interaction. The “book” says you should put your baby down, encourage them with sweets words, pat them on the back and say “you’re on your own buddy, count some sheep” and leave the room. Ok, not in those words, but you get my drift. But as I held sweet Hannah, and I got all mushy inside, I thought why in the world would I want to give this up? This closeness, the quiet bonding time, this special feeling of holding my babe in my arms, and she clutching onto me like I was the only thing she loved in the world! Hannah is growing so quickly, she’s moving out of infancy and onto toddler-hood, and then she’ll be classified as a “child” not a baby! There’ll be plenty of time for her to self-soothe, to put herself to sleep, for me to yell “get back into your bed, young lady!” But for now, while she still lets me, I WANT to rock her to sleep, it’s 20 minutes in my day that I thoroughly look forward to, that I can’t wait for (no, not because it means she’ll be asleep for the rest of the night!), 20 minutes that the “book” is encouraging me to avoid at all costs – what nonsense! 

With the beauty of hindsight, I see how quickly time has flown with Liam. He doesnt let me rock him to sleep anymore, he won’t even let me stroke his hair, unless he is sick and feeling very poorly. Instead I must lay there quietly and listen to him sing (yes, this kid likes to take the lead). As he drifts off, I sneakily snuggle up close to him; I’ve got to use all my wiles to get a cuddle in these days. So while I can, I will rock my baby to sleep because I know this moment is fleeting and I’d rather she rely on me to ease her into lala-land, I’d rather she feel the warmth and comfort of her mama’s love, than the lifeless clutch at a security blanket or a dummy – I think it makes for sweeter dreams..

So while I think the “book” is great for advice, and for giving you a perspective you may not have considered before, I also believe that mum knows best and even if we defy all the rules – if your baby wakes up with a smile and arms outstretched, you’re doing it right!

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Meh and Bah


Although I have spent much time blogging about Liam’s remarkable vocabulary and his unstoppable, uncontainable, incomprehensible ability to talk almost every waking second of his life and mine; up until very recently, there was nothing much to say about Hannah on this particular subject. That’s because up until very recently, Hannah pretty much just gummy grinned, laughed out loud, and made peculiar  oooohhh, aaahhhh, and hmmmmm sorts of noises. Over the last few months, she’s blossomed into quite the talker. Her babbling shows character, the inflections and variations in her tone help me to ascertain whether she’s upset or angry, whether she’s telling us a joke or if she is just commenting on the current task at hand, like “look I’m playing with this Lego block, do you like it?” It seems the only person who truly understands her, is her brother, or perhaps he is just the nominated spokesperson between the two of them because mum and dad seem to understand him better,  so they usually have an in depth conversation, followed by Liam translating the said request through to us.

Although she can say mama and dada, she has opted to call me Meh and her father Bah. Quite Jewish, don’t you think? And I find it very heart warming that from even this tender age, when she gets hurt, she cries out for “Mehhhhh.” Bless her cotton socks! Before she could talk, I used to wonder what sort of a voice she’d have. Liam is high pitched, loud and speaks very fast, but Hannah seems to have some bass in her voice – like her mama (!), her voice is very sing-songy and has a lovely lilt to it, which I’m sure will disappear when she starts talking more like a human, and less like Morph (remember that putty character with the weird voice we all used to love?). 

I was hoping that God would have pity on me, and bless me with a second child who didn’t talk as much as my first child does, but it is not to be. We do, however, have bouts of silence, due to her sucking her dummy Maggie Simpson style. So we are grateful for some relief. Last night she was up at 3am babbling away in her room, this lasted for a while until I heard the irritation in her voice – the irritation of being ignored. I sat up with her until 5am and even though I played dead she continued to talk, sing, slap me around and smother me with kisses until she passed out at 5am – the time I had to get up and go to work.

So Missy, as your ability to speak improves day by day, I look forward to long girly chats about hairstyles and fashion, conversations about how BAD boys are and how you want to become a nun. But most importantly, I look forward to you and Liam being able to talk to each other and keep each other entertained, so that me and your dad can go back to speaking like two adults without saying words like baba, tata or wohwoh (baby talk for dog) in conversation.

I’m Only Human


I had a moral dilemma the other day, relating to my children and I chose the solution that wasn’t exactly legal or right, but which worked at the time. This got me thinking about all the things I said I would NEVER EVER UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ABSOLUTELY NOT DO with or to my kids – and two years and two babies on, I’ve broken almost each and every rule – and sometimes more than once. So I thought I’d compile a list of some of these things and I’m hoping that I can get an AMEN from some poor mother who is paddling this same parenting boat. So here they are, in no order of importance; rather in order of how one horrifying mistake dredges up another in your memory.. and then another.. and then another.. and before you know it, you’re feeling like a nominee in the World’s Worst Mother category at the Problem Parenting Awards. Anyway, that list:

1.       I’ve administered medicine to my HEALTHY children, just to make them sleep.

2.       I’ve left my sleeping baby in the car to quickly run into the garage shop to draw money or buy bread.

3.       I’ve sat in the front seat of a moving vehicle with my baby on my lap (unbuckled) because he or she could not be consoled any other way.

4.       I’ve fed my children yoghurt for supper.

5.       I’ve left a dirty diaper on longer than necessary because I was too tired to change diaper number 24 in as many hours.

6.       I’ve pulled bedtime closer by artificially darkening the room, just so they could go to sleep.

7.       I’ve jammed my kid’s finger in the car door – twice.

8.       I’ve failed to brush Liam’s teeth – because sometimes it just takes too much effort on his part, and mine.

9.       I’ve given my kids a wet-wipe bath. (They were Pampers wet wipes ok?)

10.   I’ve mislaid a toy that I was asked especially to look after and blamed the hired help.

11.   I’ve reused a dirty bottle because a crying baby can’t always wait for the wash/sterilise/boil/cool process.

12.   I’ve left Hannah’s hair unwashed for over two weeks. Another tedious and stressful job for both her and me.

13.   I’ve lied about where I was going, just so that my kid wouldn’t want to come with me.

14.   I’ve eaten their Easter Eggs, gotten stuck into their party packs and eaten all the purple, red and black sweets in the bag – and blamed Daddy.

15.   I’ve misinterpreted the cries of my baby, and made Hannah, with a painful ear infection, wait almost a week to go and see a doctor.

16.   I’ve ignored Liam yelling and running buck wild in a restaurant, and made like he wasn’t mine.

17.   I’ve smacked a bottom in sheer frustration. (anyone will tell you that the worst time to administer discipline is when you are still angry)

18.   I’ve “re-gifted” their birthday or Christmas presents because I’d forgotten to get a gift for the birthday party they were invited to.

19.   I’ve left Liam’s hands unwashed after using the toilet. Come on, he takes forever! He insists on putting the plug in the sink, splashing the water about, soaping up to his elbows. A full 15 minute process. Give me a break!   

20.   I’ve had a serious meltdown in front of my children. And only their wide eyed silent stares alerted me to the fact that I had frightened them half to death.

Right, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I hope this blog will in no way affect my retirement – kids I did it all out of love for you!

Mamas out there, can I get an AMEN?

What I’ve discovered about my babies while on holiday


It’s always nice to step out of your own bubble and observe your life from the inside out, so to speak. Holidays allow you to do this; you have more time to take in things that you would otherwise overlook due to the daily pressures of life. You are more mellow and take time to investigate and analyse things that you would have brushed over under normal circumstances. Your relaxed mood also invites others around you to do likewise and you find that even your relationships can benefit from a short vacation. During our time away, it was wonderful to just enjoy my babies, to intently study them at play and at sleep and value their budding personalities. I was amazed at their individual quirks, their obvious likes and dislikes, the things that made them burst into delightful laughter, the words they spoke and the expressions they made. And I am ashamed to say that in the busy-ness of my own life, it had taken me this holiday to discover things about my babies, that I had failed to notice before.  

We all know that babies are suckers for routine, they feel safe and secure in knowing what comes next. I’ve always tried to minimise the upset caused by breaking routine by adhering to sleeping times, bed time routines, keeping their diets as similar as possible and so on – while on holiday. So imagine my surprise when I realised my babies were not so little anymore and weren’t adversely affected by the break in routine whatsoever.  

Liam was in his toddler element, especially because his bed time hour was extended – extended to whenever he fell down drunkenly due to sleep deprivation – he seemed to love it and woke up none the worse for wear the next morning. He also enjoyed missing his day time nap, which at the time is always fun because it means more time to run, jump and eat sweets. However by the time the energy reserves are depleted and the nap refuel hasn’t taken place, your kid morphs into a feral monster. I understand that when I don’t get enough sleep I’m grumpy, but this metamorphosis is on a different scale completely. Anyway I digress. Liam also enjoyed the freedom and the open spaces of the farm, a luxury we don’t get to experience very often in the concrete jungle otherwise known as Johannesburg. Moreover, he lavished the company of his cousins, he took pleasure in spending his time with likeminded children who could speak English compared to his gobbledygook speaking baby sister who just wants to maul him with hugs and kisses every time he walks passed her. I was amazed at how his vocabulary had improved, I listened to him having full on conversations with grown people, reciting short poems on request – for money, and doing big boy things for himself that I didn’t even realise he could do! My two year old son washed granny’s dishes! Granted this involved chipped plates, wet floors and general mayhem in the kitchen, but he was doing chores! Wow! As this is supposed to be a positive piece, I’ll omit the details on his terrible tantrums – woah he upped the anti on those – and I’ll just keep going with the feel-good vibe here. 

Hannah, we discovered, is a little adventurer and I think the simple pleasure of just being outdoors and having more than just her nanny to keep her company all day, sent her senses into overdrive. The absolute ecstasy at being able to just roll on the grass, eat sand and crawl away speedily from her chasing brother, was beautiful to witness. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she had come out of her shell and no longer felt intimidated by strangers, she gave out kisses quite freely, she loved being surrounded by the older kids, and she wasn’t afraid of the roaming dogs. Her new ability to stand provided us with much entertainment, and I realised that I have a drama queen in the making who loves attention. She stood, we cheered, she giggled and fell down. We repeated this process until she got bored with it, and crawled off to find a crumb on the floor. She too can hold a conversation and the pregnant pause and her big eyes with raised eye brows, usually meant she was waiting for a response. WHEN DID SHE GET THIS BIG?

I was grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with my children. I thank God for these special times that once again bring me to my knees in humble amazement at the beauty of creation and the part God allows us to play in raising babies. Liam and Hannah are growing in front of my eyes, I see it physically in their sleeves which just suddenly become too short, or their pants that start swaying around their ankles, but I often miss the emotional and mental development because it happens so gradually that if I’m not looking, I’ll miss it! I want to create “holidays” everyday – a time where I just take in my children in all the boundless beauty, a time for just listening and watching, a time where my heart takes photos to store in my mental treasure trove.

The Holidays (Part 1)


 

I’m going to dedicate my next few entries to our recent family holiday. I can’t possibly put it all into one blog, purely because it’s hard to document 11 days worth of baby stuff into one little scribble. Over the past 11 days, my two bundles of joy have provided me with blog worthy, Oscar winning material (if I can word it as wonderfully as I witnessed it) which will keep me typing for a few days yet. So if you thought my silence meant writer’s block, not at all, I was too busy holidaying with my family!

Getting Going

 

It happens with each and every trip, I tell myself that THIS time, I’m only going to take the absolute necessary. THIS time, I am only going to pack the bare minimum without making us go naked. THIS time I will prove once and for all, that I do not have a compulsive / obsessive streak when it comes to packing for a holiday.

So…

I started by visibly laying out the basics – vests, socks, an average of 6 diapers per day, per child, two sets of clothing per day for Liam, suitable for both hot and cold weather. Four sets of clothing for Hannah – just because girl’s clothes are cuter.. not really, she just tends to mess a bit more and often suffers wardrobe malfunctions such as drool down the front or poo up the back. Oh and shoes – open shoes, closed shoes, bedroom shoes, church shoes. So that pretty much filled the first suitcase.

Onto bag number two which contained the toiletries and medicines – face clothes, his and her body washes, ear buds, baby powder, lotion, baby oil, sun block, after sun skin cooler, bum creams for severe rashes, and for not so severe rashes, Puma balm in case of tight chests, hair brushes, Hannah’s box full of hair accessories, nail clipper and of course loads of wet wipes. I think that was it? Without boring you with the details, I had medicines for at least the ten most likely childhood illnesses  – except my husband wouldn’t let me pack the humidifier, so make that the nine most likely illnesses.

Onto bag number three: activity wear for the coast – swim suits, swimming nappies, sun hats, swimming towels (different to bath towels which I forgot to mention above), and what about the miscellaneous items such as rain jackets and Wellington’s in case it rained and blankies for warmth and comfort. Ok, we were getting there, now for the kitchen items – bottles, drinking cups, feeding bowls and teaspoons, steam steriliser, bottle brush, Purity for those days when cooking was not feasible, baby cereal, think I got it all there. Ok, then onto the bigger items: camp cot and yes the mattress, two strollers, the walking ring and poor Liam – his bike was vetoed due to space constraints.

That covered the children, so the husband and I basically had a 10cm x 10cm gap for whatever we needed to pack. It’s usually my job to get all this together and my husband’s job to find the space for it in the car – oh and we have two gigantic car seats on the back seat, so we are really just confined to boot space.

It all worked out pretty well, although the hubby had  to drive with no rear view and my knees were almost touching my bosom, but off we went! Then we realised we left Barney and had to turn back.

But there was no stopping us, as with the start of any journey, spirits were high and complaints were few – for the first ten minutes at least. Then we had a bit of crying, a bit of food being flung around the back seat, the constant request for the SAME Barney song on the radio and I could feel myself grow weary. Then the medication kicked in and everyone fell asleep and it was a blissful journey there onwards. The end. No really. The end.