Wednesday 10 September 2014

Over the Hump

My 5 year old looks older than his years.  A lot older.

Last September I was bombarded with people asking him was he all set for Big School.  He had just turned four.

In the supermarket his health was regularly asked after.  I made the connection after the fourth “is he sick?”  People assumed he wasn’t well and was off school.  He had just turned four.

Now that he is in Big School, last week a mum thought it was lovely he was in the classroom checking on his little brother.  Anther wide-eyed and taken aback reaction when I said that he was the actual Naíonán Beaga (Junior Infant).

My 5 year old could pass for a 7 year old.

He is in school as I write this.  Sitting at his bord (table) with the other paistí (children) learning how to count as Gaeilge (in Irish).

He cried a little going into his seomra ranga (classroom) this morning.  And Monday.  And Tuesday.  His hugs are getting tighter.  More frequent. 

He tries to hide his upset from his múinteoir (teacher) and classmates but doesn’t quite manage it. 

Today might be Wednesday, mid-week, but my 5 year old is not over the hump yet.

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Unsolicited Advice

Daithí O Sé made headlines earlier on this year when he expressed his annoyance over the deluge of child-birth advice he and his wife, Rita Talty, were receiving pending the arrival of their first child.

The verbose Kerry man is not the first and he certainly will not be the last new parent to be on the receiving end of unwanted pearls of wisdom.

It is practically impossible for an “experienced” parent to keep their lips zipped when they see a gloriously heavily pregnant person about to give birth.  They feel the need to educate others about what is ahead and regale them with all they should or should not be thinking of doing.

I admit to being guilty of this crime at times too.

But I try very, very hard to keep my thoughts to myself when I see the glowing parents of a new-born.  I say glowing because we all know the grey, ashen pallor appears approximately 7 days following the birth shortly after the euphoria has worn off, beaten into whimpering submission by sleep deprivation, constant crying, leaking body parts (sorry!), the lack of showers and food, time for yourself and not to mention worrying about the baby.

Because I’ve been there.  I know.  Let them, the new parents, stay on cloud nine for as long as they can.  Try not to inform them it won’t last; that new-borns don’t sleep forever.  Resist advising them to take a photo of their beautiful showroom house as it stands because before long their peacefully slumbering baby boy will be running around trashing it.

Don’t tell them teething will be hell.  Hold back on what can be the nightmare surrounding introducing solids followed by constipation and more food splattered on the walls than is ingested.  Stay schtum on the pain of immunisations.

Refrain from insisting the enrolment of their baby in the nearest school first thing because current waiting lists are unbelievable.

As a mother of four boys, very different boys I might add, there are only a handful of things I have taken from my 8 years of parenting. 

Some of the gems that made things a tad easier for me are as follows. 

This too shall pass

It might not be a welcome statement, seem very helpful or even make a whole lot of sense when you are experiencing temporary insanity from lack of sleep, but it really is true. Even the worst day is only 24 hours long and taking that day one five minute segment at a time, will see you falling face down back into your bed in no time. Albeit perhaps for just three hours before you are forced out of it again, but before you know it you will be helping your child blow out the candle on their first birthday cake and marvelling at how fast time goes.    

Striking a balance

I’ll be completely honest.  This one flummoxed me and I felt inadequate for not having found mine so I decided it was another one of those media makey-uppey catch phrases. With four small boys running me ragged and no child care, I realised all I wanted was ten minutes to have an uninterrupted cup of coffee not half a day to have my highlights done.  Finding your balance can be reading a book, taking a shower alone, or even just pushing the trolley around the supermarket at your leisure without a little one keeping you company.  As long as it’s your time off and it happens regularly that’s balance enough for the moment.

What works for one child will not necessarily work for the next

A friend recently expressed her shock when neither of her children were born a blank canvass, as she had expected.  Like adults, children are hard wired in their own unique way, all of them possessing little quirks, likes and dislikes.  Two of my boys were dreadful sleepers and one gifted me a full night’s sleep at just 6 weeks old.  Three of them refused to nap in anything except the buggy and the youngest demanded zed’s in his cot.  One ate cardboard as if it was top of the food pyramid whereas his three younger siblings wolfed down vegetables.  Wouldn’t it be a boring world, after all, if everyone was the same?

Pick your battles

With my first son, I was a tad obsessive about his daytime naps.  They absolutely had to be at the same time each day and in his cot.  Upstairs.  When I finally relaxed and admitted a spell in the travel cot downstairs wouldn’t make me a bad mother I realised how miserable we both had been as slaves to a regimented routine that wasn’t working.  Once I allowed my son, not the clock, decide when he was tired he fell into his own routine.  And began to sleep at the same time every day.  When my second son developed a strong attachment to his Spiderman costume I told myself at least he was dressed and the padded muscles would keep him warm.

The days are long but the years are short

It is the end of yet another 15 hour day and all you’ve eaten is a banana, 6 Haribo jellies and tanked up on two gallons of coffee.  You didn’t get near the overflowing laundry basket.  Again.  The slice of toast that landed sticky side down is still under the table and the bathroom beggar’s belief.  Will it ever end?  On days like this I look to my own mother for strength and to increase my morale.  She had twice the number of children I do.  She didn’t drive, was without a telephone and the internet hadn’t been invented yet.  She got through it and I believe, because I have to, that I will too.   

I am still learning to keep my mouth firmly shut even if I am not always successful in this department.  For this lapse I apologise, I really do because there is nothing worse than a “been there, done that” parent telling you stuff.  Because it is always their stuff and their stuff most likely will not make even the tiniest dent in your parenting experience. 

I offer you my final, and perhaps truest, piece of advice. Take what works for you and leave the rest.