Time for school!

With September fast approaching I’ve been thinking back on Miss MIP’s first term and what I’d do differently with the benefit of hindsight. I put the same question to other parents and got some amazing responses.

So here they are – suggestions from parents who have survived the first year of school:

  • Do not send girls to school in white tights – they’ll be ready for the bin after just one wear.
  • Don’t make a big fuss about them not being with you for the day. Try to play it cool and be excited for them and tell them you’ll see them later
  • Don’t worry if they don’t tell you about their day – they’ve spent the whole day interacting with other children and teachers and they might just want some time to themselves to resettle their brains
  • Stock up on water bottles, hair bands, hair clips as they have a habit of vanishing into thin air even when you’ve got loads
  • Never send girls to school in tights on PE day. The teachers who have to help 30+ children get dressed and undressed won’t thank you for it
  • Try to make sure your children wear clothes they can get in and out of – zips are easier than buttons and will make getting changed for PE much less difficult
  • Don’t buy super fancy shoes – they are going to get scuffed up and destroyed in an annoyingly short period of time. Never ever buy patent leather shoes for any child in reception – they won’t make it past day one.
  • Don’t buy white polo shirts for the them to wear in any size bigger than they currently are – they won’t last out the term due to mud, pen and paint so they might as well wear a shirt that fits
  • You can’t have too many cardigans or jumpers
  • Use stamps from Stamptastic instead of labels – they wash well, last for ages and can be used on clothes, shoes and water bottles with ease.
  • Put your child’s name on everything you want back. You’ll be amazed at how big the lost property box gets in the first month.

Take a deep breath. It’s not the easiest thing to have a child starting school but it’s also not the hardest.

It’s going to be fine.

12 weeks? No thanks…..

I need to head this up with this point of clarification – I am not pregnant, I have no intentions of being pregnant and this isn’t any form of announcement that I am pregnant. Got it? All clear?

That being said I was chatting to someone recently who is in the early stages of pregnancy and they were saying they knew they weren’t meant to tell anyone they were but they had told a couple of people already. That got me thinking back to those first few stressful months of pregnancy and how it felt to have this massive secret but be unable to tell anyone.

As it was we told immediate family at 9 weeks and a couple of our closest friends at 10 weeks as we needed help covering up my lack of drinking over the Christmas period which would have sent alarm signals out to most people who knew me!

I wasn’t really sure why I didn’t tell anyone else though and I know I felt guilty for telling the people we did because of the 12 week rule. I know the official reason is because of the risks in early pregnancy but looking back on it that seems like more of a reason to feel relaxed about telling immediate family and a handful of closest friends. These were the friends I quietly celebrated with and enjoyed sharing our precious little secret with but if something had gone wrong then these also would have been the people I would have wanted to lean on in such a hard time.

The other consideration is that those first few weeks are so overwhelming sometimes you just want to talk about your fears, your concerns and your hopes but you may feel guilty or worried about doing so before the 12 week mark is reached. You are full of crazy hormones, you might not be feeling well, you’ll certainly be feeling tired and you’ll likely just want a damn good cry so why shouldn’t you tell someone how you are feeling. Ease the pressure. Share the load.

It takes a village to raise children and that support network starts from the moment you see the lines on your test. You build your village from that very moment and that network should be there for you during the rough times and the smooth times.

So if you want to tell people then do – if you feel it’ll help you feel more supported and then just do it and to hell with tradition and reason. Parenting is complicated enough without making anything harder than it needs to be.

Once again – I am not pregnant. I just really like cake. Please don’t give me any knowing looks following this blog….it’ll just be embarrassing for both of us.

Milestones Matter

Someone asked me today if I’d always known there was something different about Miss MIP and the answer is yes.

She sat up in good time, was weaned in good time, crawled in good time and walked in good time but the talking……that was always a bit off really. I know you aren’t supposed to compare your children to others but everyone does it don’t they? We always knew she wasn’t exactly the same but we always heard from everyone around us how children always caught up and before we knew it she’d be chattering away.

Except she didn’t.

Yes there were a few words here and there but she was always on the back foot when it came to her speech.

She’d try so hard though – we had so many tears and tantrums of frustrated rage as she tried to form words and sentences that just wouldn’t come. The words were there in her brain but she just couldn’t get them out of her mouth and that was heartbreaking to watch. No parent wants to watch their child struggle and to watch her just fall further and further behind other children her age was awful.

But still we waited for the leap to come. For it all to make sense to her in a sudden flash and she’d start chattering away like everyone promised.

Well she’s four now and despite speech therapy toddler groups, speech and language sessions with experts and an enormous amount assistance from her excellent school there has been no flash and no light. She makes small steps of improvement each week but we have to realistically acknowledge the steps need to be bigger for her to catch up and that’s just not going to happen.

We are lucky we have such a great support system but I can’t explain the levels of heartbreak you feel as a parent when children in school playground with your child. It’s not because she’s mean or she’s unkind but because she simply can’t play the role play and pretend games they do – she can’t be Elsa or Twilight Sparkle at the same speed or understanding they do. Generally the children at her school are so kind and understand that they need a bit of extra care but, through no fault of their own and totally understandably, sometimes they don’t want to slow down for her.

I can reason all this out but when I see her sat on her own on a bench when all the other children are running around and playing my heart shatters for her. Into a million pieces.

Miss MIP has a severe speech and language delay combined with a potential hearing problem and this causes her significant learning difficulties on a day to day basis. She can’t read that well because she can’t sound out letters and she struggles with maths because she can’t conceptualise what the numbers actually mean. Please just for a second try to imagine how hard this is for a four year old who has just started school.

She will be fine – we’ll give her everything we can to help, she has an incredible teacher and is surrounded by lovely children who are very kind but it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of patience to get her through the next few years at school. We’ve explained to her that when she’s at school she needs to work hard and concentrate harder than some of the other children do. She nods very seriously but doesn’t understand – she doesn’t know that we have major concerns about her moving out of reception class, that no matter how many times she asks she is very unlikely to be Mary in next years nativity play and if we throw her a birthday party I really don’t have any idea how many of her classmates would actually come along.

Life with a child who has a learning difficulty is tough. It’s full of joy because we adore her, she’s funny, she’s kind and she’s brave but it’s also frustrating and so so hard.

So I’d beg of you – if you have serious doubts about your child meeting those pesky milestones please get help. The only reason we’ve made it this far is by pushing for help and annoying people into getting her into the places she needs to be. Don’t let people placate you with false promises that everything will get better – follow your instincts and speak to someone about your concerns over and over again until someone listens to you.

Done at one……

I saw a newborn baby this week and while I cooed appropriately I didn’t get that broody feeling that people talk about. I don’t think babies smell amazing, I think they smell like milk and vomit. I don’t get all fluffy at the thought of babies and I can’t even begin to explain how much I hated being pregnant.

Mr MIP and I are pretty happy with our little family. We aren’t outnumbered by a tiny army of our own creation, we all fit in one row on a plane and the house we have is a great size for the three of us.

I have severe doubts that a Tiny MIP will be heading our way anytime soon and I think I’m ok with that.

I’m 37 this year and I don’t know if I can be arsed to start again with a newborn when the child we’ve got is already such an interesting little puzzle. Miss MIP has her challenges like speech delay, language difficulties, potential hearing difficulties and she doesn’t like to sleep very much. What if we make another one that can’t sleep and can’t talk……. the one we’ve already got is hard work so two feels impossible.

There is also the fact that things are just starting to get fun here. Miss MIP is old enough that we can all go out armed only with a water bottle, some snacks and a spare pair socks and shoes. We’ve said goodbye to nappies and don’t need bags of stuff to entertain her or feed her anymore. We can all go out for lunch together, to the cinema or just mooch around at home under a duvet.

We can also be a bit more selfish now she’s a bit older. I can work more hours now she’s at school and the extra money from that means we can have a bit more fun as a family. Mr MIP and I can also get away for a weekend as she’s old enough to understand that if she wakes in the night we won’t be here but she does get to have a fun sleep over with Nanny. Mr MIP feels less guilty about staying over night when he has to work away or if he has to work extra hours.

It’s amazing how all this logic doesn’t sit quite right still though. I somehow feel like I’m being a bit selfish by only having one child – like my job isn’t quite finished and somehow I’m letting some unknown, unidentifiable person down. As if just because my body has the capability to have children I’m somehow obligated to do .

Maybe our thoughts will change in the future but in the meantime I’m going to ignore those voices that whisper about how Miss MIP would love a sibling and just treasure the moments we have as a family of three.

Being kind to yourself……

To all you lovely mums and dads,
Congratulations – you made entire human being! You created a life and you likely spend all your waking hours (and probably some sleeping ones) making sure that that tiny human you grew turns into a kind, tolerant and valued person.
That doesn’t mean that you need to forget about yourself though. You are still your own person and you need to make sure you make the time to remember that. Be kind to yourself and make sure you have a moment that is just for you.
Go to a coffee shop, go for a run, go to the cinema, just sit on the sofa and do nothing, take a walk, visit a library, go for a swim – do anything but please make sure you do something that’s just for you.
It’s so easy to get lost in the world of parenting. To feel that every moment has to be dedicated to your family or your work but you as a person deserve those moments as well. You don’t need to justify it to anyone, you don’t need to be sneaky about it and you don’t need to feel selfish for wanting to do something on your own or without any children present.
You are a parent but you are still a person. No matter if your child is a month old, 5 years old, 15 years old or 30 years old – you will always want to put your children first but you can set a great example for your children is that it’s ok to be as kind to yourself as you are to others.
So today give yourself a little treat – have an extra nice coffee, a sit down even though there is washing up to be done or upgrade your seat on the commuter train back home. Take a walk on your lunch break and call that friend you’ve been meaning to get back in touch with or just enjoy a bar of chocolate all to yourself without any tiny fingers trying to take it away from you!
Be kind to yourself. You made a human but that doesn’t mean your children have to replace you.

Am I still relevent?

My contract is nearly finished so I’m on the job hunt again and it’s got me to thinking about my professional skills.

I’m not really sure what I do anymore – I used to work in Human Resources but that was over four years ago. I currently work as a Volunteer Coordinator but that isn’t really what I ‘do’ either and as the contract is finishing I don’t have the option to continue it even though I’d like to.

I’ve been trying to find out what my professional edge is and asking myself if I still have any value in the commercial world. I’d like to think that the first 15 working years of my life before I grew a human still hold value but looking around at the market I’m just not sure. The part time options are limited to say the least.

Maybe it’s not the skills I’ve lost but my confidence – can I still add value to a workplace and can I still be a respected professional or do I have to start right at the beginning all over again? Do I need to take my career back 15 years and start all over again to build myself back up to being regarded as a professional?

I feel like the next few months are going to be made up of interesting decisions that could have a long term impact on my career and my confidence.

I think the main question is – what if no one wants me and those 15 years were for nothing?

Then what?

30 minutes peace….

Today’s *incredibly* bold look is brought to you by 30 Minutes Peace. Just 30 minutes between work life, home life and mum life gives me enough time to have a quick hot cup of tea, a 7th Heaven face mask and a shower without interruption.

30 minutes is better than no minutes and I intend to make the most of them.

If you have any minutes at all – 5 minutes, 10 minutes or 30 minutes make sure you do one thing for you. Just one thing. One thing for yourself can make you feel so much better and so much more in control when you’ve got a few hundred plates spinning at once.

Learning to be alone again…..

​One of the things that I’ve been most surprised about since the Tiny Human started school is how hard it’s been to get used to spending time on my own again. For over four years I’ve had a loud, funny and constant companion so having her disappear off to school has been a bit of a shock to my senses. 

Sometimes between school drop off and work I have a moment to myself and I almost don’t know what to do – I have a massive list of all the usual household bits but still…….there is time.

Time to have a cup of tea, time to face time with my friends and just time to…..be me. 

As part of my mission to reclaim this time I’ve started running and working out again. My legs were still a bit painful from yesterday’s exercise so today I went for a walk. Nice little 8.5k stroll in a beautiful part of the world and in total silence – I didn’t see another person for nearly 2 hours. 

It was a lovely walk and lovely to be able to enjoy that time but it still feels alien – I’m constantly looking around for my daughter and still feel guilty for taking that time for myself.

I’m sure it gets easier – it must do right? Does the point come when you can just enjoy having time to yourself and not feel guilty or that you should be doing something else?

It’s a half arsed life…..

​Because some days are just crap. Some days are full of the feeling you are half arsing everything – struggling at being a good and patient parent, not giving work all the attention you’d like because you are trying to maneuver work with the school run, trying to be a good wife and friend and somewhere inbetween that trying to still find five minutes a day to be you. 

I’ve not been running for around three weeks, I’ve not had a shower without the tiny human accompanying me for a week and I’ve made a stupid promise to myself not to drink wine during the week.

So today I found a packet of sparklers and, while my ever patient husband out the shopping away, I went and stood in the garden and played with a sparkler for a few minutes. 

It was brilliant. 

It was only five minutes but man did it count. Five minutes alone in the quiet brought me at least another thirty minutes of keeping a cool head. Which is a good job because Miss MIP has been exploding with rage for three hours now and I’m not drinking wine. 

So here’s to all the parents half arsing it. We might not be great but we’re doing the best we can.

Go find your sparkle. 

You are doing just fine

It’s hard not to feel judged from all sides when it come to parenting. It’s hard not to measure yourself against the perfect parenting images we see blasted at us from all sides on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, TV and magazine advertising and that’s not even taking into account the hundreds of thousands of parenting books around.

So let’s’ break it down.

If you are feeding, loving, caring and helping your children to grow up into kind, giving and confident human beings then you are doing just fine.

Put the magazine down. Put the parenting book down.

Ignore the pictures on Facebook and Instagram – I am guilty of taking perfect parent photos and they usually take 7 or 8 photos before you get one that makes it look like you are all having a good time.

Please stop comparing yourself to other parents. We are all different and at some point we were all new to this as well. No one comes into this game as an expert and one of the things children are truly marvellous at is throwing a can of self doubt into your thought process.

Children shout, children throw things, they have tantrums where they lie down in the middle of the shop ands refuse to move and they quite often appear to take pride in driving their parents to the very edge of sanity. This is all really normal behaviour for children and it’s no reflection on you as a parent.

You are doing just fine.