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Archive for July 2011

To a stranger at the park: “I live at Mt Riverboo. It’s sort of where the jungle is.”

In the supermarket carpark: “Mummy, look it’s a pirate! A pirate!”, referring to a man with a parrot on his shoulder (and thankfully, not somebody with one eye or a peg-leg! Could have been awkward).

To the check-out assistant: “Can I have the recipe?” (Receipt).

“They’re making a carnivore! No Mummy, CARN-I-VORE, not carnival!”, referring to an episode of Olivia.

10 of my favourite things about Molly:

1. You’re sleeping in a bed! We figured it was time to try it again when you started climbing out of your cot a couple of months ago, so we converted it to a junior bed, and you love it. You’ve adapted to your new freedom really well – I think I’ve had to take you back to bed only two or three times since you started sleeping in it, which is completely amazing. It also means you can climb into bed with us during the night if you want, which is nice, but squishy if Tiernan is already in with us!

2. You are adding more and more songs to your repertoire, and I think there’s nothing cuter than listening to you sing them, in your beautiful little chipmunk voice.

3. You listen and understand so much now, which means we can now do so much more together, like play games with ‘rules’ (vague ones!). We played backyard cricket the other day, and you were great at bowling. Your throwing was scarily accurate, and you were getting just enough bounce so that Tiernan could hit the ball. It was a lot of fun, and I had to pinch myself a few times because I didn’t ever imagine that I would be the one out the back with the kids, playing cricket! I also can’t believe how much you have grown up, in such a short time.

4. You love to draw and play with stickers, and you are getting better at peeling the stickers off by yourself (yay!). I’ve noticed that your pencil grip is really improving, and that you are equally good at drawing with either hand. I wonder whether you might even be a lefty (although it’s not likely – there are none in the family so far). You like putting faces on everything, and your favourite things to draw are ghosts:

5. I can’t thank you enough for not dropping your day sleep yet. You threatened to a little while back, but (fingers crossed) you still haven’t. Lovely.

6. You love bath and shower time, so we rarely have to do battle with you over having a wash (unlike your brother). You also get out of the bath quite readily, after a sufficient soaking, so the whole process is pretty easy with you, which I love.

7. Your language and expression is improving every day, and you are coming out with more ‘original material’, rather than just repeating what everyone else says. This morning, your Dad asked you for a kiss, and you replied in a very cheeky voice, “Pick me up, tickle me and put me upside down!”

8. You love finding your “M for Mowy” everywhere, but you do get confused with ‘N’ sometimes and get annoyed when we try to tell you it’s ‘N for Neave!’ You also recognise ‘T for Tiernan’, and some numbers (2, 3 and 7, oddly).

9. I love listening to your imaginative play. Your dolls/teddies/figurines often repeat conversations that we’ve been having, which is your way of processing that information. I think you are quite intuitive, for a two-year-old – you seem to be able to pick up on other people’s emotions fairly well. When you know one of us is upset with you, you ask, “Are you naughty to me?” You want us to tell you it’s okay and that we will be ‘happy’ to you again soon!

10. Yesterday you asked your Dad to put your Dora watch on your Lumpy the Heffalump, whom you call ‘Grumpy’, so that he could have a helmet just like yours. Pure genious!

Now, 8 of my least favourite:

1. Oh my gosh, the tantrums! They were bad before, but now they are definitely worse. And they go forever. A few weeks ago, we attempted to take a stroll around the regatta centre, but you started throwing a fit after about five minutes, and it didn’t end until we gave up and called it a day, an hour later.

2. The squealing and shrieking. Again, worse. It’s your immediate response to almost everything, especially anything that Tiernan does. Recently (on a really bad day, when I was suffering from PMT for the first time in yonks), you shrieked so much at me that I lost the plot and shrieked back at you. It had the desired effect (you shut up immediately), but I felt terrible about it and spent the rest of the day trying to make up for being a ‘bad’ Mum. The shrieking resumed after an hour, so obviously you weren’t too badly affected by my outburst. I haven’t resorted to yelling at you since, but it definitely sets my teeth on edge. Enough already!

3. The way you lick Neave instead of kissing her. All over her head. Ugh!

4. The mean and nasty things you do to Neave when I’m not looking. I also wish you wouldn’t yell at everyone all the time. Even worse – you yell in my exact tone of voice, using my exact words, which is really awful and a bit of an eye-opener. While I don’t yell very often, I have to admit I do yell more than I really should. You have memorised a few choice samples, which you like to repeat to everyone, eg. “Tiernan, go to your room….. NOW!”

5. It’s kind of funny when you sulk – you stick your bottom lip out, put your head down, close your eyes, and refuse to talk to anyone. But when it lasts for more than five minutes, I get pretty impatient with it.

6. I knew this one would make it to the ‘annoying’ list eventually – you insist on doing everything yourself, which is great because I want you to be independent… but sometimes it really sucks. Like when I am trying to get us all out the door so I can drop everyone off and go to work.

7.  You seem to hate going for walks. We get about 50m down the road before you’re asking me to carry you. When I tell you I can’t because I’m pushing the stroller, you go into meltdown and refuse to budge. I have to coax every single little step out of you, and then wait (with varying degrees of patience) while you meltdown again. With both double-prams out of action for quite some time now, walking anywhere has become a torturous exercise for all involved: Tiernan, because he wants to go faster and is sick of running backwards and forwards and waiting for us; Neave because she’s in the stoller and wants to keep moving, or get out; Me because I want to throw a big tantrum, or walk away and leave you, or both. At least two of us are in tears by the time we get back. Not fun at all.

8. You like to play favourites a lot, especially if you are tired. So you will refuse to get dressed, brush your teeth, have your nappy changed, put your shoes on, etc. until your ‘favourite’ (your Dad or I), does these things with you. And you always pick the one of us who is right in the middle of doing something else, or whose turn it is to not do these things. Grr. I hope you grow out of it soon.

I don’t mean video games, I mean imaginary games, where Tiernan (not Molly yet but I suppose she might start copying him soon) will bring me pretend guns that he has made, or tell me that his toy Spiderman is shooting the baddies, or poisoning the hunters so they don’t shoot him, etc. etc. etc. I’m not sure where these ideas have come from, really (perhaps the boys at Preschool?), as I try to restrict the shows that they are allowed to watch – he’s never seen Ben 10, Spiderman, or other violent shows… however, guns and shooting are a recurrant theme in his imaginary play, and I really don’t know what to do about it. I have tried talking to him about hunting and shooting, saying that I basically don’t agree with people hunting for sport, but concede that there is a difference between this and hunting for food. I’ve explained that guns can hurt people, although they aren’t always weapons as some people shoot guns at clay targets for sport. So he knows that generally, I don’t approve of the weapons, especially when they are being used against people or animals. Yet this keeps popping up in his games. Do I let it go as a healthy way of exploring this social taboo, as long as he is not hurting anybody? I am finding all this weapon play quite irritating and even a bit disturbing, but am worried about overreacting and don’t want to ‘forbid’ him from it because I think that will probably make guns and violence all the more fascinating to him.

What do you think? Have you come across this problem in your parenting, and what did you do about it? Do pretend weapons even bother you at all?

On a slight tangent, can I just say how very annoying it is that kids clothes have characters like Ben 10, Spiderman, Batman, etc. stamped all over them, almost from babyhood – Tiernan idolises these characters, without even having the slightest idea who they even are, because I won’t let him watch the shows yet! I try to buy him generic clothes whenever I can, but the choice is often very limited, and I can’t really stop friends and family from buying what they want to. It’s very frustrating! And same goes with ‘girls’ clothes, too – it’s all Dora, My Little Pony, Barbie. Ick.

Golly gosh, you’re 4 already! How did that happen? My baby is rapidly disappearing, and becoming a big, beautiful boy.

How do I love thee, let me count the ways:

1. I love how articulate you are. I love hearing your thoughts tumble out. I’m beginning to realise how much you think about things, and it’s like discovering a new side of you that I didn’t know before. I find myself having to resist interrupting your train of thought, because you often answer your own questions, in a nut-shell, completely on your own. It’s so adorable when you use grown-up words out of context, eg. “It’s awfully rainforest, isn’t it?” Or when you mispronounce things, like ‘coot’ for ‘cute’ and ‘good welkins’ for ‘you’re welcome.’ And you still say ‘pink-a-boo!’

2. I will never be able to get enough of your special cuddles. The ones that you spontaneously come to me with. Often with an, “I love you, Mum,” thrown in. You’ve even started wanting kisses on the lips, which I’m getting used to (I’ve always kissed my babies all over, but rarely on the lips, for some reason. Which is odd, as I definitely remember being kissed on the lips by my parents. And grandparents.) Anyway, your kisses are fab. And so is that twinkle you get in your eye, big cheeky grin and all, when you tell me you love me.

3. You got a bike for your birthday, and you were simply bowled over by your good fortune at receiving one. I’ve often thought we have too many toys in our house (we’ll blame well-intentioned grandparents for that), and I worry that you may become ungrateful (okay, spoilt) if you continue to get your every heart’s desire. However, you LOVE the bike your Dad and I picked out for you. And you tell us how wonderful it is every time you ride it. The first time you tried it out, you were so excited that you jumped off and ran to me for a hug. I tried to give you a quick kiss, too, but, squirming out of my arms, you said, “Mum, I can’t kiss you with my helmet on.” As you ran off, you shouted over your shoulder, “I’d better go and ride my bike again.” But before you hopped back on, you stopped to admire it for a few seconds, listing all of its important features (brakes, a bell, stars), appreciatively. And nearly a week after receiving your bike, you’re still saying, “Mum, it’s amazing that I have a bike!” I’m enjoying watching you learn to ride (training wheels on for now, until you grow into it a bit more). Your joy and enthusiasm are all the thanks I’ll ever need.

4. You’re starting to get how to play games. ‘Turn-taking’ suddenly has meaning. Your Dad introduced you to ‘hide and seek’ a few months ago, and you and Molly have been playing it, sometimes without any input from me. Usually, the Seeker counts to ten (I use the term ‘counts’ loosely), while the Hider hides in one of the three hiding places in your shared repertoire (behind Molly’s door, the toy bin in the play room, or in the cupboard in your bedroom). There are countless other places you could hide, but they haven’t occurred to either of you yet. The Seeker may or may not indicate that they have finished ‘counting’, and the Hider may or may not have actually hidden, before you both rush to meet in the hallway, shouting “Here I am!” Then you say “Your turn!” before swapping roles. The game, in fact, bears almost no resemblance to ‘hide and seek’. But you both love it and it keeps you occupied. If I’m involved in the game, we do it better. Other games you are starting to enjoy include dominos, memory and marbles. Although, our version of marbles is simply rolling them on the floor and hoping they don’t all disappear under the couch, as I have no idea how to play properly.

5. We played ‘Singstar’ at your birthday party, and you absolutely rocked! You didn’t do a lot of actual singing, although you did try. Mostly you hummed into the microphone while busting some very groovy moves. You’ve definitely got rhythm. At one point, you said, “Look, I can wiggle my bottom and tap my foot at the same time!” which you then demonstrated, to resounding applause. I hope your enthusiasm for dancing never wanes. In fact, I would love for you to join a boy’s dance class, before you learn that dancing isn’t a ‘boy’s’ thing, because the whole gender thing is really hitting home with you, at the moment. More on that later.

6. As always, I am so proud of you for being the lovely big brother that you are. Well, most of the time. Admittedly, you can be quite horrible to your sisters at times. But you love them, and you do your best to share with them, in your limited, 4-year-old way. You give Molly a big kiss and cuddle before bed every night. You give her hugs or offer her toys when she’s upset. You fetch things for Neave. You cuddle Neave and try to help her climb on things (which is a no-no, but you mean well). And I think you really miss them when you are at preschool on Wednesdays. I sometimes wonder how different you might be if you didn’t have a sibling only 15 months younger than you (and another one 3 years younger). You don’t remember a time without Molly, as you were still only a baby when she arrived. You would have had more one-on-one time. We probably would have ventured out into the big world more. We would have been less stressed-out, I daresay. How has this stuff impacted you? How will it continue to impact you in the future? I don’t know. I can only try and compensate for it as best I can. I guess this is me reminding myself to take time out with you whenever I can.

7. You’re already 4 – I’m learning more and more that time is short. The night before your birthday, you asked me to lay with you in your bed while you went to sleep, as you sometimes do. I wasn’t keen – I had a cake waiting to be decorated and didn’t want to spend all night on it. But I agreed to lie with you quietly for a little while. While I lay there, stroking your hair and face, I was transported in time to the night before your birth. I pictured my 23-year-old self, lying in a hospital bed, trying to calm my nerves and get some sleep. So much has happened in those four years, but I still remember all of the feelings I had, knowing that I was going to be induced the next morning, but not knowing how things were going to turn out. I am not a particularly spiritual person, but I couldn’t help feeling a deep connection between myself that night, before it all began, and the woman and mother that I have become in the years since. If I could, I would have sent myself a mental picture of you, my four-year-old boy, and the message: This is him. He’s perfect. You’ll both be fine. What am I trying to say here? I guess I’m saying that, Tiernan, you are teaching me so much about myself. You are my firstborn, so every stage we enter together is new and surprising! I am so grateful for the bond we share, and that you are the one I am sharing it with, for the first time. Molly and Neave will each have their own turn, but the first time will always be with you, and that is special. I love you.

8. I love the deep and meaningful conversations we’ve been having lately. Most of them are about death, actually – your choice of topic, not mine! You ask why everyone will eventually die, and we talk about how sad it is when someone dies because we will miss them and won’t get to see them again. But then we also talk about how we can remember and love that person, and keep them in our hearts, forever. You don’t understand a lot of what I’m saying, having never experienced losing someone yet (and touch wood, it doesn’t happen soon). But I think you do understand the general idea, and that no matter what happens in life, there will be people here around you to help you get through it. We also have long conversations about other things that worry you or interest you. These chats make me feel closer to you in a new and special way, because I guess it’s starting to feel like I’m your friend as well as your playmate / provider of food and comfort / nurturer. You are really growing up, now. And instead of feeling sad and wistful about you not being a baby anymore, I’m actually getting really excited about all the stuff I’ll get to teach you and show you.

9. I love being able to ask you to help me with stuff, and you actually do it. Little things like fetching me a nappy for Molly or Neave if I forgot to get one, getting your clothes out of the drawer, putting something away for me, or finding your own hat and putting on your shoes by yourself. It’s really great not having to do every tiny little thing for everyone.

10. You are getting better at staying dry at night. As long as one of us puts you on the toilet for a sleepy wee before we go to bed, then you usually will be fine until morning. The only time you’ll wet the bed is when you’re sick. So proud of you, and so happy to be washing your sheets less often again!

 

And onto the harder part:

1. Sometimes your smart-arse, 4-year-old attitude is unbearable. There, I said it. You answer back, you argue, you nit-pick. You sometimes even spit, although not so much, lately. Then, when you don’t get your own way, you very articulately state “I don’t like you, Mummy,” before either storming off, or throwing a tantrum, depending on how ‘grown up’ you’re feeling. I’ve begun the thankless (perhaps even futile) task of pointing out the difference between not liking someone and not liking what they do, which I’ve always tried to differentiate in my own language. For example, I tend to say, “That was naughty,” rather than “Naughty boy.” Now I am trying to teach you the same.

2. Your ‘silly’ moods are almost as bad as your smart-arse moods. You pull faces, make stupid noises, do weird things to get a laugh. It usually comes on when you’re getting over tired, and is funny for about five minutes, but after that it’s just irritating. Possibly it annoys me so much because I remember doing the exact same thing myself!

3. You’ve worked out that doing little things to irritate Molly gets a big, satisfying reaction. You poke her, she screams. You grab her toys, she screams. You stand too close to her, she screams. And after all of this screaming, I’m ready to join in and scream, too. Being an older sibling myself, I’m familiar with this trick. I used it often on my younger sister, and then basked in the warm glow of her fury when my poking, prodding and teasing was complete. Hilarious. Perhaps it’s karma that I now have to listen to you do the same to your sister. I can tell you that I’m not finding it very amusing now.

4. This isn’t your fault, but I’m completely over speech therapy practice! We’ve been taking you to a Speech Pathologist for your stutter. Although quite mild, it’s important that we address it because it’s much easier to eliminate now than it would be if we left it until later. You’ve responded very well to the therapy so far, and you’re definitely improving – so much so that the Speech Pathologist has also begun treatment on your lisp. But I’m really sick of trying to find time for practice every day. I’m sick of trying to find new and interesting ways of engaging your attention, and thinking of fun activities to do afterwards as rewards. Then I get really annoyed at myself because, seriously, how hard can five minutes a day be???? Plenty hard, especially when you constantly tell me that it’s much more fun with Karen (the Speech Pathologist). Grrr.

5. We’re still having problems with preschool. At the end of each weekend, when I tuck you in to bed and tell you what we’ll be doing tomorrow when Daddy goes to work, you sit bolt upright in bed and ask if you have to go to preschool tomorrow. I reply, “No, you’ve got three more sleeps until Wednesday.” Then two, then one. And then the dread really sets in and you beg me not to make you go. I’ve tried and and tried, and really can’t figure out what the problem is. I’ve finally come to the (tentative) conclusion that you must miss Molly and Neave, and feel left out because they both go to Family Day Care together while you are at preschool. And there’s really not much I can do about that. I just hope I’m right about this, and that you get over it soon, because having to leave you, crying, at preschool every week really makes me feel miserable.

6. You are really identifying strongly with ‘man’ things and ‘boy’ things at the moment. Almost all of your games involve boy characters doing things like chasing, racing, flying, fighting, rescuing, yelling, jumping, etc. etc. etc. You won’t eat from any plate that has pink on it. You won’t use the purple spoon. You even told me you didn’t like a story because there was a girl on the front of it. This is why I dread you discovering that dancing is widely believed to be a ‘girl’ thing. I know, from my child psychology studies ages ago, that this is a normal stage of development, but you are so over the top and unreasonable about your dislikes that I’m sometimes finding it difficult to deal with. According to four-year-olds, there are no grey areas. But I’m going to make it my mission to gently point some of the grey areas out for you. You may not accept or acknowledge them yet, but one day you might.

7. Sometimes, you’re pretty mean. Like when you look at the dinner I’ve just spent an hour cooking and say ‘Yuck’ without even trying it. Or when you told me you didn’t like my hair. Of course I try not to take it to heart, but when you’re being deliberately hurtful, it’s quite hard not to be hurt!

As usual, I’m going to keep my ‘least favourite’ list shorter than my ‘favourite.’

By the way, here are some pics of Tiernan’s birthday cakes – I’m quite proud of them both. The first one was for his actual birthday, which was a preschool day. The second one was for the family party we had for him on the weekend. Yummy, and dinosaur-y. You’ll never guess what his favourite animal is at the moment…

 

When I first started taking my teeny tiny baby out for walks in our brand new, bright red pram, the only thing I was clutching tighter than the handles, was the strap. You know the one – it hangs down from the handle, and has a loop on the end so you can slip it over your wrist, thereby attaching you to the pram so that it cannot escape with its precious cargo. Well, it took at least thirty ventures into the big, wide world for me to accept that wrapping the strap around and around my wrist was probably an unnecessary extra step, and that simply slipping it on would probably suffice. It took another child or two for me to even entertain the idea that the strap is probably not needed on flat surfaces, nor in shopping centres (except on escalators or near fountains). It was then that the strap began to serve other purposes, too. Instead of being left to dangle uselessly on outings I had deemed ‘safe’ enough, the strap was firmly placed in the hand of a toddler, who was determined not to ride in the pram, whilst also refusing to hold my hand. It has also been used as a hand-hold when crossing roads, as a tow-lead for abandoned bikes/scooters on failed rides (when the kids get ten minutes up the road and then refuse to go any further in either direction – totally frustrating!), and to hang grocery bags from.

However, even after four years and three kids, nothing freaks me out more than the thought of a runaway pram. So, when I encounter even the tiniest of hills, on goes the strap. I can’t help it. And today I was reminded of exactly why it’s important.

This morning, Tiernan and I went to the river for a walk. I was pushing Tiernan in the stroller – he was too sick to go to preschool, so I wasn’t going to force him to walk if he wasn’t feeling up to it. We were strolling along a section of the river with very steep banks, which are about two metres above the water level. There are lots of trees lining the river bank, so I was taken completely by surprise when we rounded a little bend and came upon a family group in big trouble. There were two young children standing and looking on as a slightly older boy, and his Mum and a small toddler, were climbing up the steep riverbank with a pram. The pram was wet and so was the toddler. I quickly put two and two together. I parked our stroller next to the path (with brakes on, and Tiernan out of it, for good measure), before climbing down the bank and helping to pull the pram up. The toddler, who apparently had been completely submerged in the water when the pram rolled in, was crying, and shaking with cold. While the poor woman, who had obviously had a nasty shock, undressed her, Tiernan and I ran back to our car for some towels. Unfortunately I had no spare clothes on hand to offer, but the towels were gratefully received. The toddler, who I learned was 19 months old, soon settled with some nice cuddles from her Mum and her sister’s dry jacket to put on. Tiernan and I hung around a little longer, just to make sure they were okay. The woman’s phone was miraculously still working, after being dunked in the water, and she was able to ask her sister-in-law to come and help. Since there wasn’t anything else I could do, I wished them good luck, and we went on our way. With the strap tied firmly around my wrist.

I feel it’s very lucky that I came across this family when I did, even though I didn’t do much to help in the end. It’s really scary to think that there were at least ten people standing within 20 metres of the incident, and all of them were completely oblivious to what was happening, as was I, until I stumbled into the middle of it. I am also really happy that the toddler was okay. I never found out what actually happened, but the woman must have been pretty quick in getting her baby out of the water. Thank goodness. I’m ashamed to admit that I’m not up to date with my First Aid. I do think I would be able to remember enough to fumble through it if I had to, but when it comes to a critical moment like this one could have been, then ‘winging it’, is not ideal. I really should go and get refreshed.

Anyway, I hope the family’s day improved significantly after their scare.