The Dummy Suckers

How we went from no dummies, to dummies by the dozen… 

The pacifier is the one baby item I love to hate. I love how it immediately silences a crying baby, I love how I can shove it into Liam’s mouth when his verbal diarrhea hits record breaking levels, I love how it sends an almost-awake baby back to la-la land early on a Saturday morning. I love the cute designs and shapes they come in, the glow-in-the-dark types (VERY handy at night!), and the fancy ones with lids. I love the adorable  dummy chains in an array of colours and designs and the nifty little dummy boxes or casings, in which you can store dummies on the move. I have every believe in a dummy for the first few weeks with a new born, especially if you have a particularly naggy (for want of a better word) baby who takes long to settle, or who likes to constantly have something in his/her mouth or is really just a little whiner. The dummy brings much relief to a tired, overwhelmed new mother. All that said…

The pacifier drives me insane! It’s become my greatest fear to lose a dummy, or forget to take it (not it, them, 100s of them!) when we leave the house. Don’t EVER, EVER think they’ll get over it and forget about it, because they don’t! Hannah cannot sleep without her beloved dummy, she will wail until we produce it. If she gets hurt, not all the kisses in the world can shut her up. She needs that dummy to pacify her (much to my sadness!).

Dummies are so unhygienic! I find Hannah prodding hers in the sand outside, using it as a lollipop to taste the earth. I’ve found her dangling it in the toilet in order to reach the water level. I’ve seen her pop it into complete stranger babies’ mouths and I’ve seen her ruffle it through Toto’s fur. And no matter how good I am at replacing the dirty dummy with a new one, every time I catch it being abused by Hannah, she thinks I am giving her a new one to test it in the dirt.

Dummies are a life sentence! I’m afraid I will have to wait until Hannah is cognitively able to make the decision for herself, to give the dummy up. I have never been a fan of the “crying it out” method for sleeping, and I certainly will not let my poor baby “cry it out” while I get her used to not having a dummy. For one, her crying will drive me insane, but more importantly, why would I deprive her of this life line on which she so depends?

The comment I hear the most often, is that my kids will need braces. So what? Braces aren’t forever and they most certainly haven’t killed anyone yet? Of course we want to avoid “blinging” our kids mouths, but if I don’t use the dummy NOW, I may not make it to their teenage years with all the crying I would have to endure. And besides I have firm faith in these expensive orthodontic dummies that promise not to hinder the development of your child’s jaw and teeth as they grow (fingers crossed behind my back).

Now let me enlighten you on the situation I am faced with. Liam was a baby who never took to a dummy. He was also a baby who never took to sleeping, unless there was something in his mouth, namely, my boob. I’d FORCE that dummy into his mouth, in an effort to make him think he was still suckling and hopefully sleep. Well that didn’t work and in the end, I was glad that he by-passed that dummy phase altogether. UNTIL..

Hannah was born when Liam was 15 months, she took to her dummy like a duck to water. And I firmly believe that this is why she slept so well from day one, but that’s just my opinion. Liam was fascinated with this big plastic thing that his sister was always sucking on. He didn’t know what it was, but it sure brought her lots of joy. I’d walk in on him trying to steal it from her. Sometimes I’d walk in and she’d be screaming while Liam would be sucking away on her dummy, without a care in the world. It got to the point where he used to cry for her dummy. Now a normal rational person would have explained that dummies are for babies and that he was a big boy and that he didn’t need it. But a crazy, sleep deprived mother would just give in and buy the darn dummy to keep the kid be quiet.

One year on.. I have two dummy sucking babies. Liam uses his mostly at night; since we took him off the bottle, it seems to give him some sense of security at bed time. Hannah basically uses hers like a life support machine. Oh, and they share and swap dummies throughout the day, as they feel fit, I can’t keep up with which dummy belongs to which kid. Presently I have about 12 dummies, which I’d say I replenish every four to five months because dummies go missing like socks in the wash. My husband is highly annoyed that Liam has started sucking a dummy at this age, more so because when that dummy is in his mouth, he thinks he can’t talk and uses sign language which is difficult for someone who only tells loooong stories – and he expects us to understand him. I personally enjoy the silence it brings.

I am in no hurry to wean them off their dummies, I know that there’ll come a day when they decide for themselves that dummies are for the birds. I just hope and pray that that day will come before they reach puberty. My husband almost fell off his chair when I made that comment. It was a joke, most children give up their dummies when they realize their friends don’t have dummies so dummies must be un-cool. Liam is already aware that dummies aren’t cool for school. If it doesn’t happen naturally, I guess I’ll have to fish up a story about how the “kitty” stole the dummies or something equally dumb enough for toddlers to believe, so that I can kiss our dummy days good bye.

Potty Training 102

So I’ve blogged about our (failed) attempts to get Liam to “go potty.” I used to use all the excuses in the book.. he isn’t ready, he’s still too young, I work hard all day and don’t have the time or energy to help him through this process, etc. But when your kid starts hiding behind palm trees in shopping centres and behind couches while visiting other people, in order to relieve himself, then you know he is very conscious of the whole process and it’s time to take the proverbial bull by the horns, or in this case, the kid by the scruff of his neck and go potty.

In Liam’s defence, he is quite happy to use the toilet, he thinks it’s the funniest thing ever, he makes quite a ceremony of the whole time consuming process, hence my delay in getting it off the ground. His school teacher tells me he wears underpants all day, and even naps without his diaper on and by the look in her eyes, I can tell she thinks I am a bad mother for not nurturing the process at home. She says I should let him wear his underpants at home, and ask him every 5 – 10 minutes if he wants to make a wee. And even if he says no, I should take him to the throne every half an hour. WHEN? While I am cooking? While I am unpacking school bags and trying to feed them their dinner, and trying to keep Hannah from reaching up to the stove? While I am trying to sound remotely interested in my husband’s dialogue about how he can’t wait for soccer season to start? While I am trying to listen to Zoleka giving me an account of Hannah’s day, while writing down the list of grocery items she needs me to buy for the house? WHEN DO I HAVE TIME TO TAKE HIM TO THE POTTY EVERY HALF AN HOUR!

Anyway, the point is, we mothers have to find the supernatural time to do all these things, so this weekend I decided to let him “hang loose.” He was pretty good, I didn’t even have to ask him, he came to ask me every time he needed to go. I was so nervous that he’d wee and I’d have to clean it up; the last thing you want on your weekend when your helper is off having a well deserved rest, is to be cleaning urine off the floor, and washing pee stained clothes. Anyway, he was so enjoying the freedom of a diaper free bum, and more so, all the praise he was getting for using the toilet, that he decided he was ready for the next level… we were having lunch by family that afternoon and Liam refused to put his diaper on. I told his father that he was on wet-patch-watch and I packed extra clothes into his bag. I was so proud of him, he even stayed dry through his nap in the car. This was actually a piece of cake, I could do this!

We got to our destination and I took him straight to the toilet, it was a bit of a mission because we didn’t have his stool which put him at the right height for the perfect aim, and he refuses to sit for a wee, so there was a bit of spillage, but nothing major. Of course, the whole family were thrilled and he basked in the glow of all the compliments.

However, it was all too good to be true.. Liam hit a wobbly, and his little unnecessary tantrum earned him a time-out in the toilet. When I give Liam a time-out, I usually say that once he has stopped crying and performing like a circus freak, he is more than welcome to come out and join the rest of the family once again. So he usually cries and screams until he is quite sure that no one is listening or interested, then he’ll come out and apologise for his bad behaviour and that’s it. Because we were not in our own environment, I hung around outside the toilet waiting for him to calm down and it was at this point that I heard the CLICK of a key turning.. He had locked the door and there was complete silence on his end. I didn’t want to alarm him, so I tried the door gently and I called out to him, he told me to leave him alone, and I almost did – cheeky bugger. Well after trying the door a few times, and messing with the key, he realised that he couldn’t unlock the door. I could hear the rising hysteria in his voice as he called out to me, asking me to open the door. By this time, a small crowd had gathered. I tried to explain to him that he needed to turn the key back, but his little fingers couldn’t get it right. He was in a flat panic, so I rushed outside to the window so he could see me and I could talk to him. As he turned around at the sound of my voice, I saw the wet patch.. of course one of the first things to “collapse” when you’re in a panic, is your bladder! Eventually, after about 10 minutes, we managed to push the key out, and he passed it to me through the window and we opened the door from the other side. He cried loud tears of relief and he was upset that his pants was wet – what an ordeal!

He let me put his diaper back on.. that was enough potty training for one day! At school the next day, he ran to tell Teacher the whole story, emphasising the part about how I locked him in the toilet.. what? Under Teacher’s glare, I tried to mumble that that’s not how it happened, but she and Liam are a formidable team and they frightened me with their cross faces, so I just left with my head bowed. That’s the last time I try this potty training thing, it always gets me into trouble.

So no, we are not finished with this education.. Potty Training 103 to follow!

Big Brown Eyes

I read somewhere that babies are born with big bulbous eyes, to endear them more to their mothers (kinda like Mort, that cute cuddly thing that follows King Julien all over, in Madagascar, the movie). One of the first baby milestones that sends a mother’s oxytocin levels into overdrive, is when her baby really focuses on her for the first time. From that moment, you are pretty much hooked.. your baby will use his/her eyes in many ways to bring you much joy as they grow. And as they grow, they will also realise that by simply batting their eyes lashes.. you are putty in their hands.

Hannah has just discovered the power behind her big beautiful brown eyes. She knows how to make sad puppy dog eyes that will have Daddy drop whatever he is doing to come running to kiss better. She knows that if she squeezes her eyes tightly together while pretending to cry, she can generate a fair amount of fake tears. She knows that when she “makes eyes” we all laugh at her and she loves the attention.

But what she doesn’t know is that her eyes make my day. That when I walk into our home after a day at the office and I see her eyes light up excitedly at the sight of plain ‘ol me, I want to crush her in a love-hug. When she plays with her brother and they are sharing and being good and mummy isn’t shouting, her eyes dance with delight. When Daddy pushes her on her princess car, she giggles and I can see the joy radiating from her eyes.

It’s true! The eyes are the window to your soul, and for the most, I think all is well with Hannah’s soul, her eyes tell me so.

BC / AD (Before Children / After Darlings)

Before our kids were born, my husband and I would spend hours talking about what we wanted for our children, how we would raise them, how we would discipline them, what wnderful parents we would be, who would be bad cop, and so on.. Of course once they were born, none of those conversations mattered, our conversations were more along the lines of: who made the last bottle, who changed the last diaper, who had the least amount of sleep last night and who could have the next night off. While laying in bed last night, thankful that the house was dark and quiet, I started thinking about the way life used to be, BC (before children).

The husband and I were movie buffs. We would  go sometimes twice a week; we were the Barry Ronge’s of our day. We could hold intelligent conversations for hours, dissecting the movie we had just watched, while sipping on post movie cappuccinos in a QUIET spot where non parents could gaze into each other’s eyes, without getting a blob of ketchup thrown in your face.  If we stayed up late, burning holes in the carpet, it was because we were having an adult party and dancing the carpet away, not pacing up and down with a baby who couldn’t settle. We used to watch the news after dinner, and Sunday mornings were for church, followed by fresh hot bread rolls and reading the newspapers.. Now the only news I get to follow is via my social networking contacts, and the only papers I read are clinic cards, report cards and bills. If we didn’t feel like cooking, we’d order in; if we felt like going to bed as soon as we walked in from work, we’d do it. If we felt like a night of pigging out while watching hired movies, and leaving the dirty dishes to soak, we’d do it! AD (after darlings), we have to ensure that there is at least one wholesome meal a day, we have to wait for the kids to go to bed before we break out the junk food – and even then, we have to open wrappers verrrry quietly, chew slowly and hide all the evidence. We don’t leave dishes in the sink, because there’s nothing worse than getting up at dawn to wash baby bottles, and the sink is covered with leftover dishes – that’s got to be one of my pet peeves! I remember sleeping in until the heat emanating from our room would eventually wake us up – midday sun is HOT! Now if the sun is up before me, it’s probably because I’ve been up all night and only got to bed at 5am – no not partying, nursing a sick child!

But the one thing that has really evolved AD, is the relationship I share with my husband. Our conversations are limited to baby talk – quite literally. He’ll say “I’m going pee-pee” when he leaves the room to take a toilet break. Or I’ll quite seriously say “give mama some love” when I need a hug? The only time we have alone time is when both kids are asleep, and by that time, all we want to do is sleep too. We get excited about Pampers being on special or half price kiddies meals at a restaurant, when did this happen?!! We argue over missing baby socks, and Hannah’s bad hair day and Liam’s increasing vocabulary of rude words; COME ON! We used to argue over who’s soccer team was better and how my t-shirt showed too much cleavage!

Sometimes I ask myself if this is the life I signed up for? Is this the man I married? Are these the sweet angels I used to dream about when I was pregnant? The truth is – NO! My rose coloured glasses were knocked clean off my nose, that very first night in the hospital when that darling nurse nudged my shoulder at 3am to feed my screaming baby. Of course this is a blog my kids will read someday, so I do need to end it on a positive note! But the blatant truth is, that even amidst the hardship of raising babies, and mommies and daddies having to sneak into the bathroom to have a cuddle, and crying louder than my two kids because I just don’t know what they want sometimes, and wearing the same pair of butternut stained jeans two days in a row because they are the only pair that fit, and wanting to bust a cap in Liam’s teacher’s XXX because he likes her more than he likes me sometimes, and wanting to SCREAM at my husband when he promises the kids something that I have said no to already… even with ALL these things, the blatant truth is that if a genie had to appear and ask me if I wanted to rewind.. I wouldn’t even consider it. When you know the feeling of tiny soft fingers wrapped tightly around your hand, when you’ve giggled with your toddler until the tears flow, over something utterly silly like watching a dog pee, when you come home to little arms outstretched for a “love”, when you’ve kissed a bleeding booboo, when you’ve fallen asleep with a stiff neck because a little face is nuzzled deep into your neck, when you feel that joy of a baby who has learned to clap handies or blow kiss or say ta-ta, when you see little eyes light up at unwrapping a gift – there’s just no going back and there’s just no giving them back, not for all the chocolate in the world! And even though my husband and I are no longer the people we were when we got married, quintessentially we are better. You see, babies force parents to connect and reach out to each other and rely on each other in a way that you never thought was possible. Babies strip you bare, they force emotions out of you that you didn’t know you could muster up, they make the highs really high, and the lows dreadfully low; and for my husband to still be here, to still love me like he does, to still be the almost-perfect father to our kids, after witnessing firsthand the highs and lows of parenting two bambinos, 15 months apart; I love him now, more than I have ever loved him in my life.

I know this season will pass, and there will come a time when Liam and Hannah leave the nest empty and the husband and I can go back to our movies and junk food and sleeping in. I know too, that as I sometimes miss our BC past, I will one day miss THIS time when my kids were babies who still looked up to me like a demi-goddess. Because the old adage is true: live in the present because it is a gift from God.

The Crying Game

If you had to ask me to name the top five reasons why babies cry, I could probably answer you quite confidently. Babies usually cry for a specific few things and by asking yourself the following questions, you can typically calm a stressed baby. Are they wet? Are they hungry? Are they tired? Are they feeling unwell? Do they just need a cuddle? All this, of course, in a baby who isn’t seriously ill. Right, so I passed that test quite easily. So why then, can I not figure out why my two year old has become such a cry baby? He cries intermittently from dusk until dawn until my husband and I are on the verge of crying ourselves. I fear we will need to be institutionalised because all this crying is driving us stir CRAZY.

Yes, Liam is Two years old and with that comes the Terrible Two’s and Tantrums and Trauma for the parents. Something ominous about that letter T, hey? But recently, he has intuitively discovered that convulsing on the floor, or jumping up and down yelling, really doesn’t bother us. Boy, your dad and I are from the late 70’s, early 80’s – that was a dance style for us. So by simply ignoring him or even laughing at him, it would break the ice and the episode would be over. So he has left the tantrums behind, although sometimes he reverts to this behaviour if all else fails. As I was saying, he has discovered that crying constantly, in varying tones, with high and low pitches, from a soft moaning wail to a shrieking scream, is really what does the trick. You see, when a child cries for no reason for longer than three minutes,  it’s very difficult for the parent to remain calm. I usually start by saying something like “what is it boy?” to “ok, tell mummy what’s wrong and I can help” to “WHY ARE YOU CRYING” to “IF YOU DON’T STOP CRYING I AM GOING TO BE CROSS WITH YOU” to “GO TO YOUR ROOM AND STAY THERE UNTIL YOU HAVE FINISHED CRYING AND CAN EXPLAIN YOURSELF” to “YOU ARE DRIVING ME INSANE, STOP CRYING BEFORE I GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO CRY ABOUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Now before you label me a bad mother, let me put this into perspective for you, by giving you a few examples of why and how the crying game starts. Then you can go ahead and judge who’s the crazy one here – the kid or me. We’ll be driving to school, Liam will ask for Barney to be belted out from the radio (if the volume is not to his liking, he’ll demand that we “make the radio make a noise!”), the husband will oblige until the top of the hour, when he likes to listen to the news following by the traffic report. Liam immediately goes into hysterics when Barney is put on pause. I explain that this is MY car and MY radio and for just 5 MINUTES I’d like to listen to something other than Barney. He retorts with crying.

Next example. Together, Liam and I will select his clothes each evening, for school the next day. This in itself is a process, because for a two year old to make a decision between either the Spiderman t-shirt or the Ben10 t-shirt is like asking me to choose between chocolate or cake – it’s a difficult decision. This process usually comes with a tear or two, but the real crying comes the next morning when he decides that he made the wrong decision last night and wants to wear something else this morning – the whole point of choosing clothes the night before is to save time in the mornings, hello? We are NOT making wardrobe changes again, sorry. The crying begins.

Liam has taken to crying if his food is too cold, or if it’s too hot, if Hannah takes one of his 50 000 crayons or she sits on his side of the couch. He bawls if you remind him to say please, or if you forget to leave him a few shavings of grated cheese while cooking. He cries if his father hugs me for too long, or if I take too long to warm his milk up in the microwave. Sometimes I think he cries just because he likes the sound of his own voice. And I know it’s all part of his master mind plan to drive me slowly insane, because if I manage to placate him, he bounces back to his bubbly self in less than two seconds. I have never met a kid who can turn on the waterworks like my Liam can. It’s literally like a tap you can turn on and off. I’ve chatted to other parents who all say their kids went through this phase, that crying is a form of manipulation used by toddlers, in a bid to “flex some muscle” – well the only muscle I want to flex when the crying starts, is my bicep, in an up and down motion on his rear end.

When he isn’t crying, we can have long conversations about his crying. I’ll explain that crying is for when you feel sad or unhappy or upset. I try and explain in as simple a language as possible, that if he cries for no reason, it makes me want to bang my head against the wall in frustration – ok not really, but I explain that he needs to find other ways to express himself other than crying. And he agrees – until the next episode. I don’t want him to ever think that big boys don’t cry, or that crying is for sissies, I myself know the value of releasing pent up emotion through a good long cry, but I also want him to understand that crying in an effort to get your own way, is not how we do things. Only mummies are allowed to use crying for that purpose occasionally.

Out With The Old…

Kids, don’t ever underestimate the power of change. As I have explained in a previous post, I’ve started making small changes to our lives, in an effort to parent you better. Just a minute change to an otherwise boring routine, or a small surprise ingredient to a tried and tested recipe, just a dash more of patience at the end of a long day.. all these little things go a long way in improving our temperaments, our lifestyles, in fact, our whole lives!

That said, I thought it was time to revamp our online diary as well, and here it is… to all my trusted readers, please feel welcome in our new home : )

Ready, steady, GO!

Legacy of Love

I have been feeling rather run down lately. The last few weeks have just been hectic on all fronts; work, home, socially – it’s been one of those months where I don’t know where the time has gone, and it feels like I haven’t spent any of that time in my bed asleep. And what with a teething baby, a “terrible-twos” toddler, my work husband (I’m a personal assistant) and my real life husband, it just seems like I am being pulled in every direction. I start tasks and never find the time to finish them, or finish them shoddily and then feel guilty. I feel bad for losing my inch-thin patience with the kids who demand my full and constant attention at all times and for my poor real life husband who has to bear the brunt of my foul moods. I sometimes feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day, or days in the week to just DO what needs to be DONE, let alone going above and beyond.

I often wonder how my mother did it, she had four children, a full time job and the home fires were always kept burning. I do recall certain times when we were particularly troublesome and she’d yell something along the lines of how sick and tired she was of us and how she wanted to run away – not verbatim, but something along those lines. But on the whole, my mother ranked #1 for being perfect in every way, and still is!

So this got me thinking about what sort of legacy I’d like to leave for my kids.. I don’t want them to remember me as the tired old hag that could barely drag herself off the couch to go and kick a ball outside. Or the kill joy who was always saying NO to everything, or the blur who was always rushing around, not a minute to smell the flowers and just enjoy each other’s company. I want to be fun-mum, my kids must WANT to spend time with me, I want them to understand that even when I discipline them, it’s coming from a place of love and concern. I want to be the type of mum with whom they can discuss anything – no holds barred. I want them to think I am cool, even when they raise questions about the human anatomy that I can’t answer without swallowing hard and choosing my answers verrrry carefully, I want them to know that nothing is off limits. But how do I go about this? I barely have time to make Two Minute Noodles, let alone be cool and suave and show them how well I can flip pancakes (which I can’t, but you know what I mean). I want to add value to the time I spend with my children. By doing seemingly inconsequential little things every day, I can enforce my “coolness” and with a one and a two year old, you don’t have to do much to be cool, believe me. And if I cultivate this sort of relationship from this early age, I won’t have to put in that much effort as they grow, because my cool factor would have established itself!

So I’m going to make more of an effort and colour in the 100th page for the 100th time that day, because Liam loves to colour and Hannah loves to eat crayons. I’m going to let them smear cake mix all over the kitchen table top and all over themselves because it’s fun to make 12 minute cupcakes in 2 hours. I’m going to let them jump on the beds  – they don’t weigh enough to break any springs anyway. I’ll let them brush my hair even though it HURTS when two pairs of little hands are stabbing at your scalp with a plastic comb. I’ll read The Silly Little Goose over and over and over again, because it makes them laugh. I’ll make sure there’s always bird seed in the house, because they love covering the lawn, and the garden toys and the veranda in bird seed so that the birdies don’t go hungry and well Hannah loves eating bird seed. I won’t rush through prayers, even though Liam prays for the whole family by name, down to Toto the dog. I will let them put loads of unnecessary groceries into the trolley and secretly dispose of them in the next aisle, even though this doubles the shopping time, because they think shopping is a treat – while I cringe at the idea of having to grocery shop with two toddlers in tow. I’ll laugh instead of shout when I find the Tupperware cupboard’s been unpacked by Hannah AGAIN, and I’ll show her how to pack it all back, instead of flinging plastic  back into place, in frustration. She’s so good at unpacking.. but packing.. not so much.

And just by changing my attitude and making these small little changes to the way we are currently doing things in my crazy time strapped household, I know my cool rating will shoot through the roof. You see, being “cool” to a kid is easy.. it’s being there mentally and emotionally and not just physically; its listening, not just hearing; its teaching by example and its using every day experiences to teach them something new and amazing – like making beautiful blowing bubbles from dish washing liquid – WOW! So I’m going to try and find little things that will make a big difference to the way I raise these babies of mine, so that my legacy will be one that they will speak of proudly, years after my bubble blowing days are over.