Wednesday, 28 November 2012

I'm a Believer

When I was growing up I believed in a few things.  I believed cigarette smoke made the clouds in the sky.  I believed the local librarian, Mrs. Caffrey, was the famous children’s author, Enid Blyton.  I believed that if you spilt water on the ground it would make the rain.  I believed cars on television with sabotaged brake cables, could be stopped from speeding out of control simply by turning off the ignition.    One particular episode in Hart to Hart still stands out.  I believed I was going to marry MacGyver. 

Now I believe I’m going to marry Brax from Home and Away when I grow up.

I believed mothers couldn’t drive until I started school and saw otherwise.    One of my sisters used to think that Bobby Ewing from Dallas lived next door to us.  My brother believed that pouring salt on his dinner cooled it down. 

Today Screecher Creature No. 1 is of the belief that sausages will give him a tummy ache.  Screecher Creatures No. 2 and 3 believe that a sticking plaster will make anything better including a bump on the head.  Yes, I obliged and stuck plasters on their hair once.  The tricky and painful act of removing them ended that little belief.

Screecher Creature No. 4 at the tender age of 19 months believes I am the best thing that has ever happened to him and that I can make everything right in his little world.  And because he is the baby and I am his mother, I make damned sure everything is right in his little world.

Screecher Creature No. 1 thinks that sleeping on the very edge of his bed prevents nightmares.  But the three older boys strongly believe a Monster Kiss smack bang on the middle of their foreheads will keep bad dreams at bay.  Of course it doesn’t and there is hell to pay when this is discovered.  I can usually talk them down with a hug and a kiss but occasionally there is a little more work involved. 

I believed in Santa Clause until I was about 11 or 12.  As a young teen I was absolutely mortified that I was “a believer” for so long, but looking back on my innocence, I reckon I got the better deal. 

I remember the day I found out.  It wasn’t my parent’s decision.  It wasn’t through a friend telling me.    I was totally excited and looking forward to Christmas.   I asked a girl in my class, another believer, if she had written her letter to Santy.    We had a lovely chat amongst ourselves about what we had asked for.

I have no idea how it came about but our teacher, of all people, someone in a position of authority, took it upon herself to chastise the other girl for being “so silly” as to believe in the fairy story that was Santy. 

I remember sitting there with a smile plastered to my face.  I was in absolute shock and a state of disbelief as I listened to the other believer loudly protest and insist that Santy was real.  My world came crashing down that day as the perfect illusion of Santa Claus was shattered.

Finding out the truth about the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny is one thing.  But Santy?   

That is a different ballgame altogether.  Santy represents magic, mystery and an all-consuming excitement that can induce vomiting.  Every child has a right to a little magical mystery in their childhood.  The longer it lasts, the better.

I don’t remember this but my mother said I told her Christmas was ruined for me after that.  It took the good out of it. 

I hope our boys get as long as I did out of the fantasy that is Santy.  And I certainly hope they don’t get told the truth by a careless teacher.

It was an innocent game of hide and seek on Christmas Eve that unearthed the reality for some of my younger sisters.  Hiding in the pump house, they found themselves in the company of bulging black sacks.  Naturally enough, little fingers poked holes in the plastic and all was revealed. 

Of course, everything Santy represents also means anything is possible and today parents are doing their utmost to ensure Santy delivers. 

Parents everywhere are stressing over the constant demands that their children are making and wondering how they are going to pay for it all.  Our house isn’t any different.  But I believe that kids are entitled to be spared from all the worry and stress. 

Our boys want everything they see on the dreaded television.  I mean everything.  They get so carried away even Barbie’s pink castle, her pink clothes and pink horses are asked for.  I say “yes” to everything.  “Yes, you can have that. If that is what you want, and we have enough money for Santy, then you can have it.” They always respond with, “Oh, thanks!”  Thanks, Mammy!”  All they want is an answer.  And if it’s a positive one, they’re happy.  They just hear the “yes” part and block out the “only if we have enough money” bit

They are still of an age where they will be happy with what they get on Christmas morning.  What they see in front of them will be more than enough and all previous thoughts of Barbie and fluffy barking dogs will be forgotten.

I know that cigarette smoke does not make the clouds in the sky and spilling water does not make it rain.  I have also discovered that Brax is only 31 and has a Real Life Long Term Girlfriend.

But a part of me will always believe in Santy. 

And I will do my damnedest to make sure my kids believe for a long time to come.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Love Hate

When your child says, or rather, screams as loudly as they can, that they hate you, apparently it means that you are doing your job.  And doing it well.  By all accounts you are not supposed to be your child’s friend.  If you were their friend, they supposedly would not be telling you at the top of their lungs that they hate you.

Small consolation.

Tiny one.

In fact, crap one.

Explain to me then why I feel like utter shite when our second son throws a wobbler and shouts he wants to punch me, he is going to break my stuff and that he hates me.  

That’s hates me with fireworks going off in the background.

Explain to me how I am supposed to deal with that when little eyebrows are knitted together with absolute venom and rage and blue eyes are flashing at me. It’s not a nice feeling to be on the receiving end of such vitriol from your five year old.

When he has a meltdown I don’t see the five year old boy, I see the 15 year old teenager and it scares me to death.

The lump in my chest is back.

I can’t do right for doing wrong.  There is no reasoning with him.  I am ordered to stop talking to him, stop annoying him and to leave him alone.  Yet when I do, because I have to for fear of my own reaction, I am ranted and raved at to come back and stay beside him.

This boy, who is our shy and introverted child, certainly does not live up to that label at times.  He is unable to express himself in a difficult situation.  If something happens in school, he doesn’t speak up but lets it all burst forth when he comes home.  Home to his safe environment.

He doesn’t communicate very well and I suspect, at the moment, he is not the best at reading non-verbal signals.  For example, if he gets a bump from another child in the playground, it perceived by him to be a deliberate act.  He won’t accept that it was an accident.  He is particularly aggrieved if the “culprit” doesn’t apologise.

Ironically, if someone else witnesses his upset he gets embarrassed by the attention.
I can tell immediately that there is something wrong when he comes home from school. Rancour shimmers and vibrates from his little body.  

He can turn on a dime.  One minute he is happy, loving some one on one attention, responding well to a bit of banter and enjoying “having the laugh.”  The next, something small, so small I have no idea what I have said or done, sets him off.  Turns him into a simmering rage machine. 

It starts off as a garbled complaint with him being on the verge of tears.  Then the rains come.  Closely followed by winds of change which bring torrential anger and frustration; a storm which can last for many many minutes.  When your child is like this, it doesn’t matter if it is one minute or half an hour; the results are the same.  Emotional debris scattered everywhere, for both child and parent.

When he tells me he hates me I don’t take it to heart. I know he doesn’t mean it.  He really doesn’t.  It’s anger, rage and frustration that compels him to shout at me.  I am not condoning it either.  What does upset me, however, is I don’t know how to help him.  I haven’t got the skills or the training to talk him down from a tantrum.  Sometimes I can prevent one when I see the early smoke signals but there are days when he is just too tired or upset about something and no amount of silly stories or distraction techniques will work. 

There is a poison in his system and it needs to be purged.

Then it is time to take cover in the underground bunker and wait till the storm passes because any attempt, clumsy or otherwise, to disarm him, just ignites the situation.   

He might storm off, shouting and roaring about the unfairness of it all, to trash his room.  Or he might stay put to drum home the message that he hates me.  There are times when his younger brother watches with his mouth open.  Afterwards he is the one to come to me with a hug and to reassure me of his love.  He tells me he loves me forever and he doesn’t hate me.

Then, as quickly as the storms came, they blow over.   Almost but not quite forgotten.  I look at him when he is sitting watching television, in the middle of his brothers, sucking his thumb.  Content and lost in an animated world.

About a year ago, when the melt downs were all too frequent, I found I was tip toeing around him.  I was on tenterhooks, wary of saying or doing something that would set him off.  When it looked like I hadn’t been cautious enough, a little panic alarm would begin to sound and I noticed I morphed into that mother who threw the reigns in her child’s direction; to let him run with them, as I was too afraid to chastise or reason with him. 

I flung off the chains of responsibility to appease him, to let him have his way because I believed in doing that he would calm down quicker.  

He may have done, but it certainly wasn’t going to help him in the long run.

I’ve sought out which books to read and approached individuals for help.  

I was doing all they said.  There was Special Time for the child in question.  I remembered to try and keep my cool. I listened to him and allowed him to speak.  And when none of it worked, I removed myself from the situation.    

The books have a flaw; they just don’t translate well when there is a short age gap between several children.

For the time being, we’ll muddle along.  He has a lovely teacher who, from the first week, noticed how he wasn’t mixing.  She was also fantastic in helping us resolve an issue he was having in the yard during break times.  He has come a long way in a few weeks and has made some friends.  

No doubt I’ll screw up along the way but for now all I can do is my best.  I take comfort in the fact that he will still come to me when he needs something or he has hurt himself. 

All I have to do is remember that I am his mother first and his friend after that.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Joy Pockets for November

I like words.  I like the way they sound.  Blather.  Lather.  Slather. These are funny words and even funnier if they are said together really quickly.  Sometimes I do this with the boys - run words together and make them laugh to stop a melt-down in its tracks.   It always works.  I am rewarded with a half laugh half cry.  They plaster on their I-won’t-fall-for-that-face but they are laughing and desperately trying not to, after all they have a point to prove.

Recently, I happened upon the term “joy pockets” and the words alone captivated me. 

Joy pockets.  Joy in your pocket.  A teeny tiny bit of joy, just enough to make you smile.  Just enough to fit in your pocket.  A little something to lift you up.

Like making the lights before they change.  Getting in the house just seconds before the rain.  Opening the newspaper and discovering your favourite author’s new book has been released.  Finding the odd euro coin rattling round in the washing machine.  Except the time when it jammed in the filter and made all that water on the floor.  Definitely not a joy pocket.  Moving on. 

I’ve found a rogue peanut M&M the odd time and that for me is a tiny joy pocket.  I’m a simple soul.  But you get the picture.

So I’ve decided to take note of my joy pockets.  All the things that I am grateful for.  The winter is in and this is the time of year I need to be on my game and watch out for that sneaky bastard depression/SAD/winter blues/moaney-hole-bitch fest making an appearance. 

I am going to take full and careful note of all the joy pockets that come my way each day and revel in them.   

The following are my joy pockets for the month of November so far. 

Watching our boys go through a large box containing broken toys, bits and pieces from Happy Meals and other old tat.  It gave me a chance to have a sneaky cup of tea and a piece of chocolate.


The swimming coach advising that our second boy, the quieter, shyer one, go down a level and join Tadpoles instead of being in Frogs.  As a result he is progressing much quicker and loving every minute of it.  It’s fantastic watching his confidence grow in the water.

On the same joy pocket being told that the Frog can leave off one armband and become a Penguin.  The three year old has also mastered belly flops.  Nothing like hearing that slap as a little belly hits the water and he resurfaces laughing in delight.    

Incoming!  Massive joy pocket coming up. When the shy boy put in a special request for a new friend in his class to come to our Halloween party.  There is nothing like your kids making friends, creating their own little back up team in school, to reassure their mother that they are, at last, settling in.  Because that is, after all, the only reason they make friends: to keep their mothers happy.

Yet another massive joy pocket on the way.  Our eldest, who, if I am to be completely honest, was not great at reading, deciding of his own accord to pick up a book over the mid-term break and read it cover to cover.  He has continued to do so and makes excellent 
attempts to sound out any unfamiliar words. 

He has also started to write stories!!!!  These are hilarious for the simple reason he writes them phonetically.  And it’s very bad phonetics.  But I love that he is putting his heart and soul into it and partly because he told me it is because, “you love writing stories, Mammy.  Now I do too!”

Running. My time for myself.  Just me and my thoughts and the radio.  Runs at the weekend, 7am runs, runs around the garden with lovely, shiny Juno for company and feeling great afterwards. 

Finding my favourite wine for just 7 euros.  So I bought two.

Messy chocolate kisses from Smallest Boy.  Sticky, mucky, melty chocolaty mess and his delighted laughs when I feign disgust.

Gorgeous, happy, smiley school photographs of our eldest boys.  The morning they were taken, I switched their school shirts.  But you couldn’t tell in the picture. 

Saturday morning family breakfasts.  Sometimes loud and always getting my toast or my blueberry muffin stolen, but lovely to sit together for the only family meal we manage all week.

Playing spit bubbles with the shy boy and letting him blow the biggest one. 

Alert!  Alert! Having a small piece published in The Guardian newspaper.  A small paid piece in the Guardian newspaper. 

Immediately after reading the email from The Guardian, discovering another one looking for copy for Monday morning. 

Completing four submission pieces for another magazine over the weekend.  Without wine and Home and Away for distraction.  I can do this shit when I want to!!

My wonderful bright and colourful, albeit smaller but perfectly fitting new Shock Absorber arriving via courier.  Wonder did he have any idea what was in that large black bin bag.

Taking my wonderful bright and colourful, albeit smaller but perfectly fitting new Shock Absorber for a run the following day. 

Being part of a lovely blogging community on Facebook where I get wonderfully constructive feedback.  And a boost when I need it.

My lovely, lovely breastfeeding support group on Tuesday mornings.  Even though Smallest Boy weaned during the summer, I am still allowed to come out and play.  The best cup of coffee and conversation all day week.  A fantastic, support network of wonderful, funny, warm and welcoming women who make me laugh and remind me every week that we are all in this massive motherhood boat together.  That it is not a competition, that it is hard, damn hard, but most importantly, it is so worth it.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Love Yourself

Do people compliment you?  What do you do when someone says something nice to you or about you?  I mean when they really compliment you about something.  Do you feel uncomfortable, even slightly embarrassed and don’t know how to respond?  Do you rebuff their nice words, feeling you are undeserving of them?  

I used to do all of that.

I had coffee very recently with a school gate buddy.  I hadn’t seen her since school went back after summer holidays and I was really looking forward to it.  I made a bit of an effort.

Had a shower, (I’m not a stinky!  I do take showers and regularly but usually not at 6.50am!) I let my hair dry naturally, applied some BB cream, swished some bronzing pearls round my face, crayoned on the eyebrows and even treated my eyelashes to a thin coat of mascara.  I left the tight skinny jeans in the wardrobe because I wanted to be able to guzzle coffee and enjoy a scone whilst breathing and talking.  The jeans I opted for are an identical pair but in a larger size.  A pair of knee high boots, a clean, non-bobbly, blue V-neck jumper and my trusty sleeveless gillet. I was good to go. 

I went up to get the second round in, remember it’s coffee I am talking about, not alcohol, and when I got back to the table, she told me sat back in her chair and indulged in a bit of ogling.  

Me!  She ogled little old, shabby me!    

It was a real, honest to god, no mixing her words compliment.   She made my day.  I took it with delighted grace and hugged it close to my chest.

I thought of how those words made me feel and the fact that I was able to accept them for what they were and not feel embarrassed by them.  I felt their worth and was confident in how they applied to me.

They also brought back a shitty memory of a Christmas Eve some years back.  

Of another reaction.

A different reaction.  

I was with other people and we were all dolled up for the annual visit to our local for Christmas Eve.  We had made an effort and were filled with Christmas spirit and, yes, we were looking well.  We were young women in our prime, young, confident women who were holding down good jobs that paid the bills with a bit left over for treats.  We had everything going for us.   

“Ye love yourselves, don’t ye?”  I’ll never forget it.  I still can’t look at that particular photo without hearing the deliberate put down.  One that was engineered to damage our self-esteem and take us down a peg or two.  And it did.  It did for me at least.  It took the shine from what was always a great night out.  And I wondered at the time, do I love myself?  Do I think I’m great?  Am I a show off?  Have I got a big head?   

That comment made a big impact on me.  It made me feel small, shallow and vain.  And a part of me believed it!  I didn’t think I was shallow and vain but I was insecure enough and my self-worth wasn’t working at its full capacity because I let those words in and I let them fester and rot. I let them hurt!

I gave mean and immature words power.  I gave them the power to hurt me.  I allowed them to chip away at an already fragile ego.  But at the same time, I grew on them.  I grew a thick skin and I learned to take certain things at face value.      

If someone said that to me today, my reaction would be very different.  I would have words in retaliation. Not something smart and cool, witty and funny, remembered from a film.   I would tell the truth and say, “Why, yes. Yes, I do love myself. What’s wrong with that?” 
I can take a compliment today without feeling that I’m being too big for my boots.  It took me a while to get to this place but I’m here.

Why do we feel so uncomfortable when we are paid a compliment?  Why are we not supposed to feel good about ourselves or feel proud of a particular accomplishment?  Why are we made to feel undeserving of our achievements?  We work hard for them, why do we rebuff the comments but at the same time, take them and keep them inside for ourselves. 

If I had daughters I would raise them to be confident about themselves, about their bodies, their abilities and their achievements. I would raise them to be proud of themselves, their bodies, abilities and achievements.  Tell them that the sky is the limit.  Reach for it!
I would hope that I wouldn’t put them down for being “full of themselves” or for being “too cocky.”

But I don’t have daughters.  I have sons but I believe they need to be taught the same qualities.  I am trying to teach them gender equality and to be able to say no and stand up for themselves and in turn, listen when someone says no to them. 

I want all four of them to have a healthy self-esteem and to respect others.  

I tell them that they look great, that they look handsome or smart, that they have done well with their homework or when they are nice to each other. 

I do the “ladies first” thing when there are girls in the mix.  Not because I want to contradict or confuse any learned gender equality but because I think it is important for them to learn to wait their turn.  And if it happens to be the case that they need to wait until a lady makes up her mind, so be it.  All in the name of patience.

Confidence, self-respect and a healthy sense of self-worth begin in the home place. 

They take swimming lessons to learn how to swim.  They go to school to learn all the other things I either don’t have knowledge of or the attention span to teach them. 

At home I will do my best to show them love and teach them to love themselves.  I will continue to pay them compliments and hope that they return the favour with others. 

But most of all I will try to teach them that they are worthy of a compliment. 
t isn’t a crime to love yourself.  It’s a crime not to.