The Terrible Two’s: A true Story

I’m not sure how it happened..  I am convinced I was with him at the time and I didn’t notice any lightning bolts, thunder, a voice from heaven or the likes? But something happened as the clock struck midnight the morning Liam turned two years old. He went to bed a sweet cherub, and woke up more like the cherub who was thrown out of heaven – if you get my drift.

I’ve always believed that the “terrible twos” was just a myth, I mean how can a child be bad for a whole year, come on now! I know a child must surely reach an age where they start exercising their independence, where they start pushing boundaries and testing the disciplinary waters, but I didn’t, in my wildest dreams, imagine that the move from infant to toddler would be more like dealing with a pre-adolescent tween, than a diapered babe still wet between the legs! The mood swings, the crying, the moaning and groaning, the meltdowns, the tantrums – it makes menopause look like a walk in the park.

I am all for allowing your child to explore this new found independence – letting him pour his own milk into his cereal, even though half of it ends up on the floor, I’m thinking of getting a cat to mop up after him. Allowing him to choose his own shoes and brush his own hair, even though we leave the house most mornings looking like a normal family with a circus clown in toe. Allowing him to choose his own meals, thank goodness his school provides a well rounded breakfast, lunch and two healthy snack options,  because as a mother, I know that Smarties and yoghurt do not constitute a healthy evening meal. Now this sounds simple enough, but you must understand that with every decision he wants to make, comes lots of crying, jumping up and down, the occasional toy thrown in my face and ME, the mother, the disciplinarian, the ruling authority, left to feel like a complete failure; frazzled at the fight I’ve just had to endure with a child who can’t even spell his own name yet. And even this I guess I could handle every so often, but this has become our lives! Nothing is simple to Liam, not even saying his prayers is simple anymore. Let me illustrate below.



Pre two years old:

Mum: Dear Jesus

Liam: Dear Jesus

Mum: Thank you for this lovely day

Liam: Thank you for this lovely day

Etc, etc.

Post two years old:

Mum: Dear Jesus

Liam: NO

Mum: Come Liam, say your prayers


Mum: Jesus help me to be a good boy

Liam: *silence*


Liam: Liam IS a good boy?

Mum: *siggghhhhhh*

I’ve been told to ignore him when he behaves this way, and this is quite a safe method because no one would want to steal your screaming child in a shopping centre anyway – believe me. Still, you have to go and peel your miserable lump off the shopping centre floor eventually if you have any plans of getting your shopping done. I’ve tried reasoning with him, but this frustrates him to the point of a smack in the face (my face, not his). I’ve tried the art of distraction, which works if I am distracting him with a big fat sugary treat, but at the risk of him losing all his teeth before he is three, I’ve had to cut back on this method. The trusty wooden spoon has also lost its allure. Pre two years old, I had just to mention the wooden spoon and he’d revert to being the sweet cherub we talked about earlier. Now, he laughs scornfully when I mention the wooden spoon, probably because he knows I don’t have the guts to use it! Which brings me to the last method – the swipe across the bottom, or the rap over the knuckles – this method worked for a while, but now my soldier takes it in his stride, as if he sees it as an army stripe in the Battle of the Wills.

I’ve been told to chose my battles with my domineering two year old, and rather focus on winning the war. So as we battle along each day, I try and keep a mental score of who’s winning, hoping that I can let this particular victory slide, so that we can get through one conversation without a dramatic ending. I get shivers down my spine when I realise that as Liam learns to let this obstreperous behaviour go and grows up, I’ll be going down this road again with his little sister soon. I doubt my experience will be advantageous, as I’ve already noticed that Missy has a stroppy streak. I have no doubt that when I see their two little heads huddled together, loud giggles erupting, and little hands clapping together in delight, they are concocting a plan to see who can get mum to go grey faster.

Dear Pampers How do you sleep at night? I feel robbed and cheated! You said 12 hours, you promised, you even had a smiley baby with a clean dry bottom, waddling around on all your advertisements. You charge your consumers a premium rate for quality, which I was happy to pay until I realised that perhaps your “12 hours” was a misprint.. did you mean 1 or 2 hours, did they leave out the “or” and print the numbers 1 and 2 together, in error? Have I not read your fine print properly, is there a hidden clause relating to the 12 hours? A clause along the lines of “only if your baby pees twice a day, will the diaper last for 12 hours.” First I notice my son’s funny gait, which immediately alerts me to the fact that something’s up with his diaper. Next I follow the golden trail of tiny gel balls littering the floor as he toddles along, by the time I get to him, the diaper has split clear down the side, spilling its gel contents all over my house – or worse, the house of someone we are visiting. Come on, it would be easier if I let him run around naked and moped up his wee, compared to cleaning up this gel like mess everyday! People have suggested that maybe Liam just wees alot, but how much wee can a 2 year old possibly generate in such a short period of time, his bladder is the size of a walnut! It’s pretty much like two ply toilet paper, we buy it because it is more absorbent, hence you use less, so it lasts longer and ultimately you save money in the grand scheme of toilet paper things. SAME CONCEPT – I pay more for diapers, but they are more absorbent, so I don’t have to change him so often, which means they last longer, which means I ultimately save more money in the grand scheme of diaper things, right? NOT the case in my situation! I’m changing diapers faster than Proctor and Gamble are manufacturing them, I’m spending more money on Dettol Clean Tile, mopping up the floor, than I am on diapers! Where is the sense in all of this? Humph!! Look Pampers, all I am saying is this.. if I have to change another diaper before the 12 hours is up, you will be forcing me to use a more “Cuddlesome” or “Huggable” brand of diaper.

Help you know I need somebody (The Beatles, 1967). As if there isn’t enough to deal with when you have a new baby, one of the biggest decisions that will need to be made shortly after baby arrives is who will care for the little mite when mum goes back to work? Options range from mum giving up work altogether, or at least for the first year. I must say that this option sounded most appealing to me, I imagined getting up after sunrise, turning to my beautiful baby who had slept all night, laying in our pyjamas watching tv until midday, going for a lunch time drive to the park and letting baby feed the ducks, an afternoon nap, and then just enough time for mum to prepare dinner before dad came home with flowers and chocolate. NO. By the third month of maternity leave, I was ready to leave my kid with whoever would have him. I was craving adult conversation, I was exhausted from the eat, poop, sleep routine – sorry did I say sleep, oh there was very little sleep, but the eating and pooping were going full steam ahead. Husband would walk in after a day at the office, to find me still in my pyjamas, nerves frazzled from dealing with baby all day and not a hint of dinner in the kitchen. So yes, that option didn’t work for me. That left us with finding a helper or putting baby into a crèche or day cay facility. I liked the idea of baby being in his own environment, one on one interaction with a Mary Poppins kind of nanny, who could clean, cook, give a spoon full of sugar and not break out into a cold sweat every time she had to change an up-the-back poo diaper. Yes, that sounded awesome, and so the interviews began! Candidate one couldn’t speak a word of English, how would we charade our way through normal day to day conversation, let alone an emergency at home when I was at work? Candidate two clearly had a drinking problem, and no amount of her perfume (and she did try) could mask the smell of brandy on a Monday morning. Candidate three looked like an ex-convict and I just couldn’t take the chance and candidate four was more interested in making her tea and sandwich before she even put her handbag down in the mornings. Two weeks before I was due back at work, we were still without help and then miraculously, we found Eva. Eva and Liam fell inlove with each other from day one. She looked after him like one of her own, and he loved her like a granny. She was also a great housekeeper and although we had minor bumps along the way, she was generally an asset to the family. Until she took us to the CCMA that is; literally days before I was due to give birth to Hannah. Moving on swiftly. My current helper didn’t get much of an interview. I needed a live in helper, and she came with her suitcase to the interview and she has never left. I love how she loves Hannah, so much so, that I am happy to overlook the coffee ring on the dining room table, or the dust settling on the tv unit. She cleans, cooks, looks after not only Hannah but the rest of us as well, and as a mother, I know that this is more than just a day job. Sometimes I see that look of despair in her eyes when I walk through the door at the end of the day, the same look I think I have on a Sunday afternoon, after a weekend spent with both kids. Other times I think she must be upset with me, judging by the overdose of salt in the dinner. And on other occasions I know I must have done something right to see my underwear neatly folded and sorted by colour. My helper is invaluable to me, and I’m not sure that our house would remain standing if it wasn’t for her, cleaning up after us. I’m often asked what I would rescue from a fire in my house and my first thought is always Zoleka, after my children, oh and the husband of course.

Out of the Mouths of Babes..

There comes a wonderful time in your child’s life when they utter their first words. For both Liam and Hannah it started with dada, followed closely by baba, then tata AND THEN MOST IMPORTANTLY … MAMA. I waited almost a year for Liam to actually call me MAMA – I bore you in my womb for 9 months, gained 18 kilograms for you, pulled all nighters with you, bathed and fed you. I grant you your hearts desires at a whim and you call me by name LAST? But I digress..

When your little one starts talking, it begins a wonderful journey for both of you, as you learn to understand what he’s saying versus what he means. Later on, his sentences will confuse and amuse you, you’ll learn to watch your every word as his little ears pick up on everything that comes out of your mouth, he learns about tone and how the WAY you say something means more than what you actually say. He will embarrass you in public, asking weird questions relating to bodily functions and telling complete strangers to say pardon when they sneeze or cough. He’ll get frustrated trying to explain what he means, when you can’t understand – as if he’s Punjabi/German sounds completely normal to my English ears.

Liam started talking before he could walk. His babbling sounded like a foreign language and it was constant. He may have his father’s good looks, but he has his mother’s motor-mouth. It usually starts with a bright “good morning mum” as he opens his eyes. Although “good morning” isn’t reserved for mornings only. He says good morning at 4pm or 7pm or whenever he needs to greet anyone. He exchanges this with a simple “hi” depending on his mood. He is very expressive and gesticulates with every action word – with big eyes and flapping arms, he can show me how the “twees are blowing cos its vewy weendy” or how “mummy “mack Hannah’s bum cos Hannah naaawty gurl.”

The downside to all of this..the constant questions, do you recall a Standard Bank advertisement where the little boy keeps asking his dad why?why?why? until his father says “because you have a very enquiring mind.” Yes it was cute on tv, but becomes somewhat annoying in real life. And whereas he can be very polite, saying “bless you” after you sneeze and please and thank you right on cue, he can also be brusque, downright rude and disobedient yelling “NOOOO” or “you naawty” or “don’t do dat” or “leave me.” You didn’t think they were all cute and cuddly, did you?

As his vocabulary continues to grow, and I see him watching my mouth as I pronounce words he hasn’t heard before, I am amazed at his sponge-like ability to grasp new things so quickly. The human mind is remarkable; wonderfully and fearfully made by our Creator. I am slightly concerned at his American twang, but Barney will do that to you, I’ll need to curb the amount of time he spends being hypnotised by our favourite purple dinosaur – this is Africa boy!

In closing, I thought I’d jot down a few Liam-nisms and I’ll continue to grow the list as he spits them out!

  • Make a noise – make the radio or tv louder.
  • Bamana – Banana
  • Mookies – Music
  • Crocodon – Crocodile 
  • Cool – School
  • Gwanny – americanised granny
  • Cuppa tea – cuppa tea, but to hear a two year old ask for a cuppa tea is worth mentioning!
  • And my personal favourite “I need” instead of I want. E.g. I need to have a sweet, I need to draw on the couch, I need to press the hooter now. But funny how he never NEEDS to sleep?

Are we there yet?

 At what age does the car seat become uncool? Hannah has decided that at 9 months, she is now too cool to sit in her car seat. I have much respect for the car seat, I know the dangers of having an unrestrained child in the car, and I have a strict policy on both kids being buckled tightly, before takeoff. However, it’s easier to enforce this policy with Liam, who is open to bribery and corruption, and the promise of a sweetie and Barney on the radio for the WHOLE journey, not only five minutes, usually gets him to sit in his seat for the duration. Hannah, however, is far more difficult to tame. No amount of activity, entertainment, sugary treats or funny faces can appease her. It takes her about ten minutes to enjoy the new scenery, to play with the car toys, turn the window handle a few times, bang on the door panel, throw things at Liam, and play peek-a-boo with the driver via the rear view mirror before boredom sets in. At this point, she realises that she is confined to this seat by means of a three point security buckle and cannot make use of her brand new ability to crawl.. the horror on her face as this realisation sinks in, would almost be amusing it if wasn’t followed by much whining, which then escalates to moaning, which results in screaming.

All this means I have once again been relegated to the back seat. On my left, I have Missy kicking up a fuss, demanding to be taken out of her seat. On my right, I have Mister, enquiring as to when he can get that sweetie I promised, and all this while trying to be a backseat driver. Eventually I crack and take Hannah out of her seat and place her on my lap, but woah nelly, she takes this as her cue to behave like a circus animal. She throws herself around the back seat, squealing in delight. She goes straight for big brother, ruffles his hair, slaps his cheeks, gives him some love and then fiddles with his car seat, as if trying to free him too, she grabs her dad’s ears from behind the driver’s seat and she creates an overall furore that leaves mum, dad and baby brother all flustered and shouting ARE WE THERE YET?

While most babies are lulled to sleep on a car journey, my tigress knows it means GO TA-TA and can’t wait to get going, some relief from being cooped up all day indoors with her nanny I guess. So I suppose I’ll be stuck playing referee in the back seat for a few more months yet. I should just relax and learn to enjoy being chauffeur driven, after all it’s how the Royals do it. Except their animals have separate cages.

Medicine – a mum’s best friend

So I am having a discussion with my girlfriend who knows more about paediatric medicines than I fear my own paediatrician does. I, myself, have a medicine chest that will rival any pharmacy and it seems that I am not alone in my complete fetish for childhood medicines. It’s become a habit to stroll down the baby aisle and linger just a little longer at the baby medicines; checking what’s new, what’s on special and what I don’t have in my collection. I look like a crazy lady, as a hover near the self medication counter, again checking out what cough mixture I haven’t tried, air punching when I realise I’ve got all my fever-medicine bases covered. Gone are the days of ogling over cute baby clothes and the itsy bitsy shoes, we’re onto drugs and rock-and-roll now, baby!

I’m detracting from the more serious issue at hand here.. having a sick child of course. However, I feel that paediatric medicines DESERVE a blog, they save our little ones from harmful germs and bacteria, they fight off infection and help our tots’ immune systems grow stronger. They are heroes in their own right, saving the world, one baby at a time! So yes, I write in honour of baby saving medicines all over the world!

I find it strange that my doctor takes offense when I want to have an active debate about the medicines she prescribes for my children. She may have studied these medicines for seven to ten years, but I have the actual experience of using them on my LIVE children, I can administer these meds to my kids and provide her with a blow by blow account of its effects on babies – which university can give you that sort of education?! So we basically have to tug-o-war over the prescription, until I am satisfied that she has prescribed the right medication for my child’s condition, and she gets upset! I suggested that she gives me a prescription pad and I will write them out myself from home so that she won’t have to deal with me personally every time my kids get sick, but I think her speechlessness and bulging eyes meant she didn’t like that idea either.

I so enjoy watching Liam’s reactions to medicine. He is much like his great grandfather was, somewhat of a medicinal connoisseur. He firstly gets excited about choosing an instrument to administer the medicine with..some days it’s the clear Perspex syringe which allows you to jump up and down and the medicine doesn’t fall out! Other days it’s the fat teaspoon with the funnel, that allows you to hold the teaspoon upright and the medicine collects in a little tube until the choo choo train goes into the tunnel and the teaspoon falls over into his mouth! What about the two headed teaspoon!! This one has a 5ml scoop on the one end, and a 2.5ml scoop on the other.. oh the choices!! Ah next, it’s the colour and texture.. some are “poiple” (purple) and yucky and other’s are “gween” (green) and yummy for your tummy! Watching Liam get excited for medicine is almost as exciting as wiping down my beloved bottles and placing them in alphabetical order in my beloved medicine chest! We are yet to experience this pleasure with Hannah, who is still at the stage where we have to wrestle, choke hold her, block her nose and blow in her face until she swallows.

I could go on and on about the contents of my medicine chest; the creams, the tablets, the suppositories, the anti inflammatory’s .. what about the other medical paraphernalia such as the thermometer, the trusty Disney plasters, oooooh and my personal favourite, the family heirloom hot water bottle, suitable for cold little toes or a sore tummy that needs some comforting!

Makes me want to go home right now and sort my chest out.. I think I’ll sort by colour coding this week.

Sleep like a baby

The advantages and rewards of having your kids almost on top of each other are vast! I could wax lyrical on how wonderful and fulfilling it is, how the sleepless nights and the overflow of dirty bottles and diapers bring such joy to a home that looks like the aftermath of Hurricane Hannah (quite literally).  BUT – that is a blog for another day.

Today, I want to let off some steam, I want to rattle some sleep deprived mothers’ cages, I want to get my and your blood pumping, as I write about a topic that sends the heart odometer into overdrive..

WHAT DOES SLEEP LIKE A BABY MEAN? WHO CAME UP WITH THIS RIDICULOUS PHRASE? AND WHERE ARE THEY SO I CAN PUT THEM OVER MY KNEE AND SPANK THEM FOR TELLING FIBS. I’m guessing it was a man, a single man, a man with no children, a man with no wife to hit him over the head for saying something so ludicrous.

I want to state categorically at this point that I love Liam. He is the light of my life, the sugar to my coffee, the “L”to my “O.V.E”, my first born, my everything. However, there comes a point in the middle of the night, when you are standing in his room for the third time in two hours, asking the dear Lord WHY WHY WHY He didnt give Liam to some other mother in the hospital that day! Liam was born a bad sleeper. My mother used to say things like “don’t worry, when he starts eating solids, he’ll sleep through,” then it was “when he starts crawling and getting active, he’ll be so exhausted, he’ll sleep through,” and now he is two and all I get is “ag shame, some babies are just bad sleepers!”

I had tried every product, read every book, consulted Dr Google on a daily basis, hoping that someone out there had found a miracle cure. Oh yes, there were hundreds, thousands of mothers complaining about the same problem, offerings all sorts of advice, but no one was willing to offer a full money back guarantee on their advice. I was at the end of my tether, and of course, dad was good for everything else, but Liam only wanted mama at night. I knew nothing was wrong with him physically, I had taken him to doctors, we had run tests, we had tried drugs! He didn’t cry, he just couldn’t sleep for longer than 3 hours without waking!

When I fell pregnant with Hannah, my biggest concern was how I was going to cope with two babies who didn’t want to sleep at night. Miraculously, and really it was a miracle, Hannah started sleeping through the night from about four months. I did nothing different, I used the exact same sleep time routine for both, they listened to the same sad lullabies, often sung with a tremor because I seriously felt like I wanted to cry every night I endured this sleepless torture – there was no difference, yet Hannah slept all night. Liam continued to wake at least twice, and sometimes up to four times for ..well.. nothing! He’d call out, I’d go scuttling to his room, quick as a thief in the night, praying that his shouts wouldn’t wake Hannah across the passage. He’d smile and ask for “milky,” I’d reach out for the bottle which was positioned RIGHT next to his head for his easy access, he’d turn over and go back to sleep and I’d stand there wanting to pull my hair out. Other nights, he’d call out, I’d do the thief-in-the-night thing again, I’d try to lay down next to him in sheer exhaustion, and he’d kick me off the bed, so I’d make for the door, and he’d scream, and I’d think to myself “what do you want boy, for me to just stand in the middle of the room watching over you?”

When Liam started school at 18 months, his teacher gave me a piece of invaluable advice. Advice, I initially just brushed over. However, during one of our sleepless night tangos, I really pondered over this remarkable statement. Wait for it.. You are either born a good sleeper or a bad sleeper (anticlimax?). If you fall into the latter category, there’s nothing you can do to change it unfortunately. No amount of “crying it out”, no amount of Aterax (research it!) will work, and in some cases prayer doesn’t help either – although God has now taken pity on me FINALLY. I digress.. when I realised the value of this statement and truly understood it, I was able to let go of the frustration, I was able to deal with my son who really just wanted to know mama was there, my beautiful boy who had to give up his babyhood to make way for his sister. I was able to get up, go to Liam and calmly hand over the bottle which was literally 0.5cm away from his face (!!), and wait to see that he was alright, and calmly walk back to our room, with a quick stop to check on Hannah snoring softly in her room. When I let go of the frustration, the tiredness seems to disappear too; what I once saw as a grudge-task, became part of the routine and I learned to accept that this was my lot and that Liam would probably be a teenager who would wake me up for a glass of milk and a midnight chat.

I would love to give you a happy ending.. but NO.. Liam at 2 years old still gets up at night. He does however, surprise us ever so often and sleeps a full nine hours, and on those nights,  I still find myself doing the midnight tango alone, just to make sure he is ok.

Love you baby xxx

GUMmy Bear

When your first child is somewhat of a genius.. no really, he is… and reaches his milestones way before the books say he should, and he is a born bad sleeper (hey, ask Albert Einstein’s mother!), he sort of sets a precedent for his sibling. Liam had teeth by five months, walked before he was a year and could talk the hind leg off a donkey, albeit, it initially sounded like a mix between German / Punjabi and Gobbledygook.

We thought we’d be in for the same sort of exciting stuff with Hannah. When Hannah was four months old, the drooling started… I immediately got my spatula and flour out, anticipating baby’s first pancake for dinner! The incessant drooling continued, but still no pearly whites sprung forth. By month six, the drooling had abated, but each day I pried open her mouth, all I saw were gums, not a raised bump hiding a tooth below, no swelling, not even a mild temperature to indicate that SOMETHING was cooking! Doctor Google assured me that all was normal, that some babies only produce fine white china after 18 months – what! Not my child prodigy!

So here we are at nine months. How Hannah manages to gleefully chomp through fresh crunchy veggies, meat on the bone, plastic toys, bits of scrap metal she finds laying around – is beyond my understanding. I watch her and immediately see the resemblance she has to her grandpa – who also prefers chewing without his false teeth.

To me she is still a genius.. I mean how many babies with no teeth can crawl faster than an old lady can walk, how many nine month old babies can kung fu with their 2 year old brother and give as good as they get and really, how many toothless babies can look so absolutely gorgeous with a gummy grin that tugs on the “ol heart strings every time. A genius I tell you.

I’ve been told that it’s better for milk teeth to come out later, as this means that permanent teeth will follow later, last longer and be stronger. So we’ll enjoy our princess as she is right now, who says GUMmy bears can’t have pancakes anyway.

Here we go…

The first day of the rest of my cyberspace life! I’m Robyn, 29, married with two Barney-Loving-Bouncing-Babies.. Liam, aged 2 and Hannah, aged 9 months. I thought my first post should serve as a mini history lesson.. although I hope it won’t have the same effect as a history lesson – falling asleep on your desk, yawning your way through my ramblings-on.

Met the man of my dreams, we travelled the world, while living on love and fresh air. Came back to SA and realised that fresh air doesnt quite pay the bills and keeping the “LUV” alive, required more than just holding hands and posting his pic on your social networking profile. We took the plunge, got married, and soon after, welcomed our son into the world.

Liam – best described as a laugh-a-minute lad, who keeps us on our toes – I’ll spend most of my time blogging about the antics of a 2 year old who JUST can’t help himself and gets himself into these situations that often end badly for him i.e. a spanking or a photo that will make a surprise appearance at his 21st, much to his embarrassment.

SURPRISE! Approximately 15 months after Liam was born, Hannah decided to come hurtling into the world, at a pace that we could not have anticipated. Just as we were getting used to life with a toddler who was proving good at fetching the remote, picking up crumbs after his parents, and almost sleeping the long hours that a human should, Hannah came and we went back to feeding, crying and pooping on demand – and I’m not only talking about Hannah. While everyone else fed and pooped – I cried!

9 Months on, and here I am. Considering the stress of the last year, you’d think I’d be grey, skinny and a bag of nerves. But no! I’ve a head full of hair, I’ve got rolls in places I should have muscle, and I’ve got a bag full of diapers, wet wipes and a mix of toys that will shut both a 2 year old and a 9 month old UP – simultaneously.

Welcome to my world!

Raising my babies, while they raise me…

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