Category Archives: Parenting

That’s My Daughter in the Water

When I got a promotion at work about a year ago it meant that I had to up my working days to 4 (plus a little more).  As a result and in order to make things work for our family, The Native arranged to go down to 4 working days.

Mondays are his Daddy/Daughter Day with The Duchess and to be honest, I never anticipated they would become what they now are.

He makes such an effort to take her out and do things with her.  It has genuinely become a time that he cherishes.  With my marathon of a maternity leave now only days away, we are both grieving losing that Monday because we know what it means to her and we both understand and see that it has really come to be something quite special for him, too.

Today they had a day out in Wells in Somerset.  They visited a tractor shop – as you do in the West Country – and then went on to the stunning Wells Cathedral.  Image

They trundled around the Cathedral, charming (at least in The Native’s account of things) the older visitors.  But the best bit of the day was walking around the moat.  The Native showed me this picture when I got home.  I love her mischievous face.  It tells a story.  And there is definitely a story there.  Image

“I told her that if she caught a pigeon, she could keep it.”

Thankfully she hasn’t yet inherited my insane fear of pigeons and seagulls (and I will argue that there is a VERY good reason to fear them).  She took the challenge seriously.  As a girl should.

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“But then she came across this freakishly over-confident pigeon.  The thing wouldn’t move and came right up to her.  She was reaching out to grab it and I had to scream, ‘DON’T TOUCH IT!'”

Hey.  He set the challenge.

Even when The Native “loses” his Mondays, long may Daddy/Daughter Days reign.

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Further Tales of a Pink Potty

Months ago, we bought a pink potty simply to start the conversation around what would happen in the months to come as we transitioned from nappies to pants.  But recently, we’ve properly decided to explore potty training with The Duchess.  I am three months away from my due date, which means either she potty trains now or we wait until the kid is pushing three.  Because Lord help me if while sleep deprived, I am constantly running a toddler to a potty while an infant is treating me like a milk machine.  I am not made with that kind of patience.

She occasionally goes where she’s meant to at the moment, but mostly she goes in her pants.  Sometimes, she asks me to put pants on her SO she can go in them.  Last week she came home and bragged about pooping on my in-laws floor.

Somehow I’m not sure she’s getting the concept.

So when I unearthed this horse puppet from a corner that The Big Brown One had hidden him in and The Duchess made old Mr Horsey her go-to guy of the day, I am not above saying that I took advantage.   Image

I gave that horse a voice and talked to her as Mr Horsey until my throat became sore.  When the golden opportunity presented itself, I held him over her potty when she wasn’t looking, poured water in and shouted, “OH.MY.GOSH!  Horsey wees on the potty.”

The kid about fell over.

I’m just praying she’s not now expecting him to poo.  Image

Remembering 20

January has been a weird month for me.  Ever since returning from our trip to America, I have been wandering in this unexpected desert of dissatisfaction.  My ambitions have wandered.  I have gone from wanting to stay in my job to wanting to be a stay at home parent to wanting to open a burger bar.  (I blame you for that, Britain.  Sort your burgers out!)  My thoughts have wandered.  I have found myself losing hours of my time flicking through site after site on the tablet, knowing that I’m searching for something, but not really knowing what it is that I want to find.  I have been hoping, whatever it is,  that I would find it on Not on the High Street.

I could feel it all happening.  I knew the cause of my tiresome circuit through this decision-less desert.  I was simply dissatisfied, but I continued to do the same things day on day through the month of January.  I felt it affecting me.  I felt it affecting how I was parenting.  I couldn’t muster up the motivation to do more.  I would just let her get on with playing as my thumb would repeatedly slide across a screen – searching.

And then last week The Duchess turned 20 months.  That doesn’t even sound like a real thing, does it?   20 months.  Lost somewhere between a baby and a girl.

I decided that I should probably start to look into the local pre-schools.  In some areas of the UK, it can take up to 18 months before a place becomes available for your child.  And so this morning, as she was picking at the remnants of her breakfast, I leaned across the table and asked excitedly, “Do you want to go see a school today?”  She didn’t raise her eyes as she flicked the toast on her plate, “Yup.”  I grinned.  “You don’t know what school is.”

I carried her up to the painted yellow door of the tired looking building because carrying is what you do when they are still little enough.   Despite the neglected exterior, the large room was brightly coloured with children scattered on the floor, sitting in a reading nook and on themed tables, engaged in various activities.

“Hi, I’m Jane.  We spoke on the phone.”  She was the supervisor of the pre-school.  She was a slim, middle-aged lady who took the time to chat with me beyond just the standard explanation of how the school runs.  I liked her.  She invited us to stay and let The Duchess play.

As she started to make her way around the busy room, I looked back at a group of children on the floor.  About 10.  Adults were around, but not needed in that corner at the moment and 10 children were there by themselves.  Without their mummies.  Without their daddies.    Playing in a room, in a village and getting on with life.  Because that’s how school works.  My child will move from being solely ours each day to being one in a class of many.

She is 20 months and I was reminded of how special this privilege of parenting a toddler is. This time is precious.  It is so, so precious.

And right then, I made a decision to be more present.  Because in 18 months this time will change.  She will start school and that will be the next huge step towards independence – a step that is away from me.

So this is what I’m going to do.  3 things.  Only 3.  But I am going to do the poo out of them.

1. Put the technology down.   I don’t want her to feel that she has to compete with a piece of plastic for my attention.  She is my daughter.  I also don’t want to teach her that this is what relationships are like when she is someday old enough to have technology of her own.  Who knows what kind of crazy hologram, space contraption will be on the market by then.  She is watching me and I am teaching her how to treat other people.

2.  Doing stuff together.  I’ve just started a book (read: a whole 3 pages in) where he opens by observing, in a restaurant of non-engaged people,  a mother and daughter completely lost in each other’s company during a simple game of cards.  Doing stuff together builds relationships.  I will not buy a ticket for the crazy train and assume that I have to create a pinboard of elaborate activities in order for it to be worthwhile.  The kid likes it if we walk into town and scream “bus” whenever one passes.  Doing stuff is easy.  There is no excuse.

3. Look closely.  I am going to look closely at the way she crinkles her nose when she is pleased with herself.  I am going to focus my eyes as she lifts her hand to wrap her chubby fingers into mine.  I am going to study the tendrils of hair that fall and tickle the bottom of her neck.  I am going to relish and remember 20 months.  And 21 months.  And 22….. Image

Planes, Trains and Thoughts on Gender Stereotypes

Loving a child changes you, but not always in the ways you anticipate.

I’m going to be honest with you, readers.  I’m going to put it out there.  You may not like what I’m about to tell you, but bear with me.  I’m a work in progress.

I don’t love flying.  I don’t have a paralyzing fear of it, but often find myself anxious when we have to do it.  And while there has always been something naturally terrifying about the fact that a crap-tonne piece of metal can take to the skies with the lives of the passengers trusting engineering that they don’t understand,  my fears, much to my frustration,  also stem from what happened on a September day in America 11 years ago.

Which leads me to my confession: when we go to board a plane to make that intrepid seat-bound trek across the Atlantic once a year, I want, I NEED to see a grey-haired man with years of flying experience under his belt, looking calm and commanding in the cockpit.   There.  It’s out there.  I prefer middle-aged male pilots.

Or at least I did.

When I was pregnant we were unable to find out the gender of The Duchess.  We had to wait 40+ weeks to know for certain what her name would be.  We would shop for clothes, blankets, and nursery decor and would repeatedly ask, “Is this too girly?  Is this too boyish?”  You’d find no pink in her drawers.  You’d see no dolls in the room that would welcome her.  You couldn’t spot a blue bodysuit, a truck or a tractor.

And even after she arrived and the gender-related gifts came in, I found it very difficult to finally put her in her first gender-specific outfit.  For so long, we’d tried to avoid that because of not knowing who she’d be and now that she had arrived it seemed foreign to box her in in that way.

I am so glad for that.

I don’t know what I would have done had we found out her gender at 20 weeks.  I completely understand why parents do.  I bounced up and down, wriggled my hips and took a trip to the toilet to try and shift her so we could see.  It is practical to know.  But for me, the not knowing did something.  It helped free me up not to jump into filling her wardrobe with pink or her nursery with trucks.  There is something about not knowing that allowed me just to let her be who she would be.

She will scream with glee about the purple dress her Grandpa picked out for her.  She likes cars, buses, trucks, and tractors and talks about them more than anything else .  She makes “dip dip” for me in her kitchen.  Her favourite pajamas are blue flannel with a Thomas the Tank Engine pattern.  She stands at my bedroom mirror, dons my bracelets and  pretends to put on make-up.  She has a very realistic Triceratops called “Graaaw!”

And every now and again she will pull herself into the chair at our desk and request to see videos of real planes taking the skies.  When she does I look at her, feel immensely proud and think, “Maybe she’ll be a pilot someday.”

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