Got a child who’s seven going on 17? I hear ya. My daughter turns seven this week and sometimes I wonder who’s the adult. Me or her? My friends are all saying the same. That our babies are, erm, not babies anymore. But growing increasingly independent in their thoughts and actions. (Let’s not even mention the eye rolling.) And it’s becoming widely acknowledged that turning six/seven marks something called, The First Puberty, as they go through some significant changes. Here’s 11 signs you’re raising a ‘seven-teen.’
They question you. Not in the banal (and very irritating) way that a two year old repeatedly does. That way that makes you want to smash your head against the wall just to drown out the sound of, ‘What ya doing? What ya doing? What ya doing?‘ But as in, they TOTALLY question you. They ask you stuff you often don’t know anything about and if you try to fob them off with an answer that doesn’t satisfy them or quite make sense, they’ll persist until you give them one that does. Wikipedia is your friend, these days. Trust me.
They think they’re WAY older than their younger siblings. Suddenly, the gap between your seven year old and any younger siblings seems really big. You feel it and they definitely do. I often hear Beaver speak to her brother and sister in that overly patient (patronising) way I do. I also once made the mistake of referring to her brother and sister as ‘the kids’ in front of her. And now she often asks me if I need any help with ‘the kids.’ As if she isn’t one herself. ARGGGHHHH!
Eye-rolling. The first time it happens you wonder if they have something in their eye. The second time it happens, you start dialling the opticians. Because, clearly, your seven year old can’t be rolling her eyes at you, can she? Alas. One visit to the opticians later, you’re slightly disappointed that they have 20/20 vision with not so much as a sign of nystagmus. As now you just have to face the fact that your child IS rolling their eyes at you. Sigh.
They make you explain yourself. Seven year olds are smart. I’d go as far as to say, dangerous. They have a real knack of engaging you in debates that you should NOT be having with someone who isn’t even in double digits yet. ‘Why are you allowed to wear mascara, if I can’t then?’ The obvious answer to this is COMPLETE AND UTTER SILENCE WITH A STONY GLARE, yet I have lost track of the amount of minutes I have wasted discussing this. It’s almost made me give up wearing the blooming stuff, just so I don’t have to go through it again.
They start to do things for themselves. This is possibly a girl thing (mums of seven year old boys, tell me what you think), but there isn’t really anything Beaver can’t do for herself now. I’m not sure if the ascent of The Third Child as meant she’s had to learn to be more self-sufficient but there are times where I feel quite obsolete. On the whole, I love her independence but every now and again I find myself doing the, ‘Please, don’t help yourself to that. I’M THE MUM!’ monologue. After which, I turn my back and I’m pretty sure the eye-rolling commences.
‘No’ means, erm, nothing. Boundaries and discipline are a real challenge, at this stage. That brilliant independence is a double edged sword. And you find yourself constantly having to readdress the balance and reassert yourself as the ‘authority’ figure. They’re getting braver. And you’re getting more out of your depth because, ‘If you don’t do X, I’m banning Netflix’ has totally lost its impact and you’ve run out of things to threaten. They also don’t seem that fussed about anything you do threaten. ‘Fine,’ they say.
Their emotions know NO bounds. They can display amazing levels of maturity and then, five seconds later, amazing levels of meltdown. We had one of these moments in the bath recently, where Beaver announced in the dramatic fashion that only girls can, ‘My life has been SO hard since these two came along,’ pointing in disgust at her brother and sister. This is why, at bathtime, I can usually be found on the toilet, drinking a gin in a can.
They get tall. Those small people that you could once almost fit in your pocket? Suddenly they have massive feet and when they hug you their heads are on your chest. It’s weird. It literally happened overnight. And it makes you consider wearing heels again.
They call you out when you’re not, er, cool. Seven year olds do a really good, ‘You’ve let yourself down there, Mum,’ look. REALLY good. The other day, on a usual, stressful morning trying to get out of the house, Beaver calmly said to me that she didn’t really like being shouted at. I was gobsmacked. After I’d told her I didn’t really like having to ask her to put her shoes on 371 times, of course. But these seven year olds? They watch you. They watch your reactions. They watch how you handle yourself. Which means now? You have to be on your BEST behaviour. Damn.
They’re blooming good company. When it’s just the two of you, with no other distractions, there’s no one you’d rather hang out with. They WOW you with their conversation, their emotional intelligence and the fact that they still think you’re cool enough to hang out with.
You realise you know absolutely nothing about parenting. Give me a newborn or toddler any day. They might cry and throw spaghetti at the wall but they’re relatively short phases and at least you know how to clear up spaghetti. Dealing with the complicated mind of a seven year old? Well, I’m just not ready. Also, the best bit? The sevens is just the entry-level to what comes next. Tweens… teenagers… EEK! I need a lie down. With gin.
Parents who have survived the sevens and beyond, feel free to leave some tips for those of us who are new to this scary and undiscovered terrain… more posts over on Facebook and Instagram. Not parenting advice, obviously…
Next time my kids ask if we can go to soft play. Or worse. I suffer from amnesia (again) and suggest it. I’m going to say, ‘Hey! Let’s not. Let’s save 20 quid and all have a meltdown at home instead. FOR FREE!’
Wednesdays STILL suck.
If I had to write a fairy tale about Wednesdays, it would go like this.
Once upon a time there was a mummy and three kids. On a Monday and Tuesday they all lived happily at home, school and nursery with a minimum of one mile between each of them. On a Wednesday that distance was decreased to about 15 cm. And everything was shot to s***. The End.
It’s a bestseller, right?
Today we were at soft play by 9.13 AM.
Yes, people. This is the magic of the school run. You can potentially have the equivalent of a full day’s work. AT SOFT PLAY.
Bet all you non-school-run-mums are pretty jealous right now, eh?
The delusion of soft play.
I always imagine that soft play will be good.
It’s enclosed. They have squishy surfaces to bolster insane toddlers. And they have coffee. What can go wrong?
About 7 minutes in, however, it goes wrong.
The Boy with No Name aka Illogical Toddler wants to eat his Hula Hoops. In the middle of the soft play equipment. But there is STRICTLY no eating. That’s what the tables at the side are for. Obviously.
So I tell him to eat nicely, at the table. He ignores me. I tell him again. He ignores me again. And instead of just letting him eat the sodding Hula Hoops wherever the hell he likes, I’ve now made a stupid point in front of the other parents. And I’ve got to follow through. So we spend the next 43 minutes arguing about where he can eat the Hula Hoops. AT THE TABLE. Whilst I eye up the ball pool and wonder how long it would take for me to suffocate myself in there.
(For the record, I’ve decided not long, because there are so many balls, it would probably only take a couple of well-rounded toddlers to sit on me and that would be that.)
‘Will someone just enjoy the soft play, PLEASE?’
Meanwhile, Godivy is having issues that only she understands. And asks if we can go home.
‘No,’ I say. ‘I’ve paid a tenner to get in here and we’ve got another 30 minutes on the meter. So we’re staying and we’re going to get our miserable money’s worth. OK?’
‘Can we go to Pizza Express and have dough balls instead?‘ she asks.
It’s frigging 10.33 AM.
In the end there is no salvaging anything.
I ask Godivy if she can look after her brother on the slide. She tells me she can’t because she needs a bit of me-time. Excuse me? Isn’t that supposed to by MY line?
But anyway, her brother isn’t on the slide, so that’s good. No, he’s walking around in someone else’s welly boots. Chanting, ‘cwisps, cwisps, cwisps.’
So I remove the welly boots, ruin his life and we leave in a blaze of glory-less-ness.
And head to Pizza Express. To spread more joy.
Unfortunately, Pizza Express does not open until 11.30 AM. But at least my kids reacted really reasonably to that news [insert gun emojis here]. More over on Facebook and Instagram.
Nothing’s more magical than your toddler’s first word. Unless that word is s***, of course. But once they start, they don’t stop. Unfortunately, toddler lingo is a foreign language in itself. So here’s a quick guide to understanding it.
Translation: A rather unfortunate pronunciation, if your child starts chanting ‘Bickdick! Bickdick!‘ they aren’t being rude, honest. It’s more likely they just want a biscuit. All the same, expect to get some strange, judgemental glances if this takes place in public. When this happens to me, I look the other way and pretend he isn’t mine.
2. ‘Gok Gok.’
Translation: Contrary to what you may think, especially if you’ve been watching too much daytime TV, ahem, your toddler isn’t requesting a 1:1 with Gok Wan so they can finally ditch those slightly too short trousers and wear actual, proper clothes. No, they want a yoghurt. And not one of those poncey, organic jobs either. Nope. They want one of those sugary concoctions that you bought, ‘Just the once,’ because they were on offer.
3. ‘I dopped it.’
Translation: They’ve dropped something. That they shouldn’t have had in the first place. And now they want you to stop whatever you are doing IMMEDIATELY. And retrieve it. So what if you’re driving? So what if you’re on the toilet? Their needs come first, remember?
Translation: You’ve offended their delicate palate by giving them something DISGUSTING to eat. How dare you. They’ll eat poo from the garden. A crust they’ve found under a park bench. But that slop you made from scratch and served up. You’re having a laugh, aren’t you?
Translation: Manners aren’t any toddler’s strong point. And this tone comes straight from the pages of Oliver Twist. But look on the bright side. You’ve found something that they actually want to eat. It’s probably not good for them. It’s probably not even food. But hey, they’re eating, so who cares?
Translation: The introduction of this word spells DISASTER for the whole family. Basically, they will use this word to mark their territory. And everyone else’s. If you have other children, this is where all hell will break loose. As your toddler announces all the stuff that’s theirs. And everything else that isn’t.
7. ‘I do it.’
Translation: This is your toddler’s first attempt at asserting their independence. They are telling you that they can do whatever it is that you were trying to do for them. Except? They totally can’t. Cleaning their teeth? Putting on their shoes? Feeding themselves? THEY CAN DO IT ALL. Got it? Whilst you look on, despairingly and add another three hours to the two hours it already took you to LEAVE THE HOUSE.
Translation: Good luck. You’re going to need it. Because unless you appease them QUICKLY, you’re about 15 seconds away from a mahoosive tantrum.
The other day, Beaver and I went shopping. Her idea. She’s only almost seven, but already there is NO way I can pick clothes for her. Unless I want them to hang, unworn, in her wardrobe. ‘I would never let my daughter pick her own clothes,‘ a friend said. ‘She can pick them when she can pay for them.‘ Good point. Should kids wear what we tell them or should we allow them to have some input? What say you?
As NOT seen in Vogue.
My girls have dressed themselves for some time now. I think you can probably tell. Here is a selection of outfits that I have NOT had any input in.
Changing outfits AT THE AIRPORT
Going to the park. Obviously.
When Hello Kitty throws up all over you
Should I dress my kids like this ALL the time?
An appropriate outfit for bedtime?
More appropriate bedtime outfits
Expressive or lazy?
My official line is that I think it’s important for them to have some form of self-expression in lives that are otherwise decided for them. My unofficial line is I’m a bit lazy and can’t always face the arguments that ensue if I try to tell them what to wear. (By the way, if it’s a church day or a special occasion, I’m absolutely telling them what they can and, more importantly, can’t wear to avoid them looking like ladies of the night. ‘No. You can’t wear hot pants with wellies and ear muffs. BECAUSE IT’S INAPPROPRIATE!”)
Maybe I’m a walkover. I don’t know. But amidst some of the crazy outfits they wear, sometimes they get it really, really right. And I think, ‘Wow. HOW did they put that together?‘ and I secretly hope they are going to be creative geniuses who will keep me in shoes in my old age rather than crazy, old bag ladies.
And laziness aside, I do believe in them having some choice in who they are and how the world sees them.
But at ages, four and six, am I being premature in this view?
Shop till you drop.
Once we’d got the shopping rules established – ‘We aren’t shopping for you Mum, you’re not allowed to look at anything.’ – it was really interesting watching Beaver shop. Buzzing around. Picking up things. Putting them back. Checking sizes. It’s not like she flicks through fashion magazines or follows fashion bloggers. But she knew what she was looking for all the same.
And mostly, I approved of what she chose. Jeans, shorts and slogan t-shirts. That’s pretty much my outfit every day. Who doesn’t love a slogan t-shirt? There were a few, questionable items I had to diplomatically steer her away from. The sandals that were so glitzy they looked like they should have been hanging from a dance floor ceiling and the Minion hat that went with absolutely nothing. I gave in on the Monday-Friday knickers. Even though I know that’s going to come back and bite me on the a*** when I haven’t done the washing and we have a row about wearing Thursday knickers on a Monday.
And I admired her confidence. Even though I know that peer-pressure is starting to creep in, every now and then.
Long may it last.
Self-expression or self-destruction?
When we got home, we had to have a full on fashion show. For Daddy Pig. Where Beaver tried on every single outfit and every single outfit combination.
There was music. There was dancing. There was twerking, I think. And funny, involuntary movements that made us wonder if she was dancing or having a seizure.
‘Is this weird?’ I whispered to Daddy Pig.
‘It’s, erm, interesting,’ he said.
‘Maybe we’ll just get her dance lessons.’
And, in that moment, I wondered if I’m encouraging her to grow up too fast, too soon. Or is this just how life is now? Is it ok? Or in seven more years am I going to be wishing I hadn’t given her any free rein and dressed her in head to toe paisley, like my mum did me?
Or worse, am I going to have created such a fashionista, that she dresses better than me and I’m reduced to asking to borrow her clothes, because I can’t afford to buy my own?
Right. Where’s that paisley all-in-one gone…?
Would love to hear your thoughts on this one. Especially mums of older girls. Leave a comment here or on the Facebook page. And follow my Instagram if you want fashion advice from an almost seven year old. (I probably wouldn’t if I was you. Just a heads up.)
So apparently, children who aren’t stimulated enough in the early years 0-5 can be ‘set back decades’. Cue lots of parents panicking, putting on Baby Einstein, turning up Mozart and teaching their one year olds Mandarin.
I’m not a big fan of these kinds of studies. I think they heap more pressure on parents who already have enough and don’t always address the average parent. The majority of us are trying to do the best by our kids. Because they’re our kids, right? And isn’t daily life stimulating enough for them? I know mine just enjoy being with me, whatever I’m doing. We read the odd book, play the odd game and watch a lot of Netflix. I feel they’re doing fine.
But anyway, I decided to do an experiment and spend a whole day (ahem) actively stimulating my 20 month old toddler. Here’s how that went.
1. ‘Let’s do a puzzle!’
Me: ‘Shall we do a puzzle? Look it’s a Peppa Pig one. Your favourite! Here’s how the pieces fit together. Do you want to try?’ Him:‘NO.’ Picks up puzzle pieces, throws them in various directions before waddling off to the cutlery drawer, emptying it out and trying to stab himself with a knife. What we learned: Knives are sharp. And I should probably start child-proofing.
2. ‘Let’s do some make-believe!’
Me:‘Do you want to play with the big red fire engine. Brrrmmmmmm!’ Him:‘Nope.’ Wanders off and returns wearing one welly, carrying a spirit level. Which he waves around and almost knocks himself out with, until I confiscate it and ruin his life. What we learned: There are many ways to hurt yourself. But it’s fun trying all of them. Just because you can.
3. ‘Let’s read a book!’
Me:‘Do you want to read a book together?’ Him: Reverses up and plonks himself in my lap. I try to read the book, pointing out lots of stimulating words (so he knows the 200 words he is apparently supposed to know by age three), whilst he flicks voraciously through the book pressing all the noisy sounds. What we learned: Who gives a toss about the plot or increasing your vocabulary when you can make a noise?
4. ‘Let’s eat!’
Me: ‘Dinnertime! I’ve made you some yummy pasta with salmon.’ All those Omega-3s are brilliant for stimulating brain function. He’s going to be a genius. Him: Eats two mouthfuls before tipping it on the floor and asking for ‘Choc choc.’ What we learned: He’s probably NOT going to be a genius. And I’ve got to clean the floor. Again.
My toddler has a MUCH better idea of how to stimulate himself than I do. Admittedly it mainly involves trying to injure himself. But as long as I’m there to stop that from happening, I think I’m going to take his lead. I mean, who wants to do a Peppa Pig puzzle when you can walk around wearing ONE light up welly wielding a spirit level sword?
In summary? Relax. Keep doing whatever you’re doing.
You’re doing just fine.
Do like/share this post if you, whether you have a genius toddler or, erm, not. More of me over on Facebook and Instagram, stimulating my children. Hahahahahahahah.
This is my third round of toddlerhood and yet I’m still learning. Or perhaps my memory has been kind and just wiped out the horror of the past two times. Anyway. Here’s my quick guide to the seven stages of a tantruming toddler. You’ve been warned. Reminded. Or are sitting there nodding your head because it’s happening right now.
1. The Stand-Off
Scenario: You can almost miss this first stage in the tantruming process. Are they smiling or crying? It’s hard to tell. Until they don’t move. At all. And perform the stand-off. ‘Who’s going to give in first. Me or you?’ That’s what your toddler is thinking right now.
Reason: They’re giving you a fair chance to work out what’s wrong. To see how good a parent you actually are. This is an IMPOSSIBLE task that you are destined to fail. I mean. It could be anything from the wrong socks to the wrong coat to the wrong weather conditions. Who the f*** knows?
Solution: Encouraging words (fail). Followed by threats (fail). And finally begging with chocolate.
2. The Warning
Scenario: If the stand-off hasn’t worked and you haven’t resorted to bribery (well done) your toddler will progress to POINTING. To the thing they want. NOW. But even though they know what they want, you haven’t a clue. ‘Dat!’ they cry. ‘Dat!’ As you look on dumbfounded.
Reason: Pure frustration. That you are such an idiot parent and deliberately ignoring what they want. This is paramount to child neglect in their eyes.
Solution: Find out what they want and FAST. Before the tantrum progresses to stage 3.
3. The Pre-Meltdown
Scenario: Things are getting serious. Your toddler is now losing the will to live. They’ve given you TWO chances to do what they want and you’ve messed up. TWICE. They’ll show you this very demonstratively by doing what is known as the Tantruming Downward Dog. Basically? Your toddler will rest their head on the floor and their bum in the air in a bid to show you just how pissed off they are.
Reason:‘WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?’ (what your toddler would say if they could speak.)
Solution: Unless you’re totally willing to give in to whatever demand your toddler is making (if you’ve even worked it out), there’s pretty much no going back once you reach this stage. It’s now about weathering the storm.
4. The Bounce
Scenario: Laying down isn’t getting your toddler anywhere. So now they’ll try motion AND noise. This basically involves jumping up and down in rhythm with their wails. If you’re at home, you’re likely finding this quite amusing by now. If you’re out in public, you’re probably pretending this child isn’t yours.
Reason: Pure rage. At this point your toddler can’t even remember what it is they wanted.
Solution: Step away from the toddler. And don’t look them in the eye. Whatever you do.
5. The Emotional Appeal
Scenario: This is a sure sign your toddler is running out of tactics. So they’ll try pulling at your heartstrings. Maybe you’ll let them wear their muddy wellies indoors if they show you just how much it means to them. Those RSPCA adverts with the sad donkey haven’t got anything on your toddler.
Reason: They can’t believe you’re still in the game. ‘HOW have you not caved already?’ they’re thinking. ‘Look how sad I am!’
Solution: Don’t fall for it. You’ve come too far.
6. The Head Flip
Scenario: They hate you.
Reason: In summary? You’ve ruined their life. Because you’re stubborn and mean and wouldn’t let them have one more bauble off the Christmas tree.
7. The End
Scenario: Your toddler’s exhausted themselves from too much riding on that emotional rollercoaster. There’s nothing left to do now but have a little lie down. And sob. Loudly.
Reason: Stages 1-6.
Solution: Step over them. Or wait. With any luck your toddler will fall asleep where they’re lying.
Share with any parents of toddlers or anyone who might want to reminisce (although why would they?). I’d also just like to add that no toddlers were harmed in the making of this blog post. Despite what the pictures may suggest. Like the FB page for more.
Fortunately, bullying isn’t something that we, at home, are having to think about. Yet. But Beaver is definitely starting to be influenced by peer pressure and I know that with three kids, we will likely have to address this somewhere down the line. But how does a parent deal with it? When, as their parent, you are so emotionally involved. When there are so many ways a child can be bullied because of the advance of technology. There are a few suggestions in this guest post. I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts on the strategies below.
How parents should deal with bullying.
Bullying can take place both verbally and/or physically. In the past, bullying used to be something that could be entirely controlled by schools but today, with the advance of technology and the power of social media, it has the potential to get out of hand, especially if not addressed immediately. If your child is being bullied by someone, there are various ways you can approach it.
Talk to your child’s teacher.
This is the first step that parents should take. Schools can always act as mediators between both parties. Many schools have a rule for intervening, especially when a child’s learning is being hindered by something as serious as bullying. When you talk to your child’s teacher, be very specific about how the bullying happened and who was/were involved. Try to be objective and stick to the facts.
Teach kids to diffuse situations peacefully.
If the bullying takes place at school, your child should always feel able to talk to their teacher. Assure them that it’s ok to speak to a grown up about it, even if the bully threatens otherwise. Bullies rely on fear to keep their power. Fighting back or taking matters into their own hands is never advisable. No matter how hurtful the insult is, help your child to understand that it is always better to walk away. In a world that is increasingly turning to war to solve disputes, it is crucial that we help our kids understand there is a peaceful way to resolve problems. There are many children around the world, especially in war-torn countries, that sadly don’t have that example to live by and who need the help of charities to allow them to live a more normal life, that we and our kids take for granted.
Contact the bully’s parents.
If bullying occurs outside of school and you know the parents of the bully, you might decide to contact them, if you feel that they would be open to the idea of cooperating with you. But remember that this is someone’s child and they will naturally be protective towards them so it needs to be handled sensitively without being confrontational or accusatory. Pick your time carefully. You’re probably not going to get the best reaction if you call at 8.00 PM in the evening, when they’re about to sit down to dinner or to watch TV. Far better to text or email first during the working day and ask when would be a good time to talk. Don’t ever attempt to have the conversation via text or email, as these can so often be misconstrued.
Understand the bully.
Sometimes, understanding the behaviour behind the bullying is the key to stopping it. It can be fuelled by anger, jealousy, problems at home or even viewed as ‘harmless fun.’ Help your child see that a bully isn’t always what he or she seems to be. Explain that there can be many underlying reasons why a child behaves a certain way. Suggest your child tries talking to the bully instead of reacting. Finding common ground is always a good way to initiate peace and you’ll be teaching your child the skill of empathy in the process.
Has your child been bullied? Do you have any other suggestions on tackling it? Leave a comment and join the Facebook page for more posts and anecdotes.
Parents could give even the most accomplished hostage negotiator a run for their money. It comes from having to negotiate your right arm 90% of every day. Because you have a child holding you hostage. Here are 3 scenarios parents find themselves in on a daily basis. (There are more.)
Scenario 1: Getting dressed for school.
Kids don’t like getting dressed. Unless it’s the weekend in which case they’ll be in full fancy dress at 5.07 AM. But getting them dressed for school, swimming or anything that involves them leaving the vicinity of Netflix? Well. Good luck. If you do manage to get them around to the idea of putting on actual clothes, they won’t wear anything unless it’s inappropriate. We’re talking playsuits in winter. Thermal snowsuits in summer. You get the gist. But when it comes to school uniform, there are rules that MUST be obeyed. From your point of view, anyway. And kids can sense your desperation.
After asking several times for your child to get dressed, you will get onto the subject of what they can and can’t wear. This will generally go something like this. (Replace tights with pants/trousers/shirt/coat…)
‘No. You can’t wear that. Because it’s not school uniform. No. You can’t wear that either. Or that. No, I didn’t let you wear that yesterday. Yes, it’s still the same rules as yesterday and last week and the week before that. I know you don’t want to wear tights but it’s 7 degrees outside and raining. What do you mean, they make you fall over when you’re tired? THAT DOESN’T EVEN MAKE SENSE! OK, don’t get upset. I’m NOT shouting. Let’s talk about this. Why don’t you want to wear them? Because you want to wear thin tights. What are thin tights? Oh you mean denier tights. But no one under the age of 80 wears those. OK. OK. I’ll buy you some denier tights today. But for now could you just wear these ones? Please. No, you can’t wear socks. I’ve already told you why. I don’t care if her mum lets her. Look, it’s getting late. How about you wear the tights and take your socks in your bag. And then if your tights make you fall over (FFS), you can wear the socks. How does that sound?’
Tears. A stand off. And then…
‘GET YOUR BLOODY TIGHTS ON AND COME DOWNSTAIRS FOR BREAKFAST. WE’RE LATE. AND I AM DONE TALKING ABOUT THIS!’
Time wasted that you’ll never get back: 43 minutes.
Scenario 2: Eating any sort of meal.
Sometimes kids eat. Sometimes they don’t. But even when they do, it seems impossible for them to consume the smallest of meals in anything under 45 minutes. It’s a fact that by the time children leave home, their parents have lost five years of their lives watching their kids not eat their dinner. (OK, that’s not an actual fact, but I bet it’s something like that.) Consequently, parents will do anything to get their kids to a) eat something and b) eat it quickly.
Once you’ve asked your child several times to eat their dinner to absolutely no avail, you will need to get creative. By which I mean, desperate.
‘Come on, eat up. If you eat it all up, you can have pudding. What’s for pudding? Well, eat up and you’ll find out. OK, I’ll tell you. Yoghurt. What do you mean you don’t like yoghurt? It’s not boring. You had one yesterday. Oh well, I’ll find you something else then. I don’t know. I’ll have to have a look in the cupboard and see what there is. Yes, it will be something lovely. No, probably not an ice cream with a flake and sprinkles. But something just as nice. Because I don’t have a Mr Whippy machine. Look, can we stop talking about this for a moment because unless you eat your dinner, you’re not going to get pudding anyway. Yes, you do have to eat it all. Why? Because if you don’t, you won’t get big and strong. And remember the children in Africa. No, you can’t just have two more mouthfuls. What do you mean, you’ll do me a deal? How about you just eat your dinner up and stop being cheeky. ALRIGHT, you can have six more mouthfuls and then you’re done. That isn’t six mouthfuls. I said six. SIX, I SAID! RIGHT, IF YOU DON’T EAT THE LOT UP THIS VERY MINUTE, I’M BANNING NETFLIX. NOW. EAT. YOUR. DINNER!’
Dinner ends up in the bin. You’ve just shot yourself in the foot by banning Netflix. And as you’re putting the kids to bed, you’ll hear those words every parent dreads…
‘BUT MUMMY, I’M HUNGRRRRRRRY!’
Time wasted that you’ll never get back: 57 minutes.
Scenario 3: Bedtime.
The moment you’ve been waiting for all day. Bedtime. Except, they don’t want to go to bed. Of course they don’t. And they’ve got you at your weakest. Your most tired. They have everything to gain and nothing to lose by trying every trick in the book. You, on the other hand, can smell the gin and just want them to GO. TO. BED. There’s minimal negotiation on your part here. But on theirs, there’s plenty.
‘Mummy, we just want to stay up for one more episode. Just another 10 minutes. Please. Just 10 minutes! And then we promise we’ll go to bed. How long is 10 minutes? Is it as long as 5 minutes? Oh and we haven’t had milk yet! YOU FORGOT TO GIVE US MILK! I’ll do it, Mummy. You chillax there. We can even watch Neighbours if you like. Oh, please. PLEASE, PLEASE let us stay up. Look, I’ll do you a deal. Let us stay up for another 10 minutes and then you can watch Neighbours and we’ll go to bed. And we won’t get up again. Sound good? Yes? Oh, thanks Mummy you’re the best. Have you got any popcorn? But we didn’t have pudding tonight! We DID eat our dinner. WE DID… [10 minutes pass]. What? That can’t be 10 minutes up already. It’s not! We didn’t even finish our milk yet! That was only 5 minutes. THAT WAS NOT 10 MINUTES! Please can we have just one more Oggy. You said we could stay up for another 10 minutes. THAT WAS NOT 10 MINUTES! BUT WE DON’T WANT TO GO TO BED! WE’RE NOT TIRED! IT’S NOT FAIR!’
The excruciating pain of bedtime gets dragged out to no one’s benefit. Despite the extra time, the kids still go to bed feeling hard done by. Meanwhile you’ve lost valuable gin time. Any sort of negotiation at bedtime is perilous and should be exercised with extreme caution. Or, better still, just not exercised at all. BE FIRM PARENTS, BE FIRM.
Time wasted that you’ll never get back: anything from 33 minutes to 4 hours depending upon who breaks first.
In hindsight, we should probably just revert to the old school parenting techniques, ‘Do as you’re told!’ and ‘Because I said so!’ and leave the negotiating to the experts. Share your thoughts over at Surviving Life and Motherhood or drop me a comment below.
How many times have you been told that the answer to well-behaved kids is consistent parenting? How many times have you actually managed to parent ‘consistently’? How many times have you felt like you’re failing your kids because you haven’t? Yes, me too. But, actually, parenting consistently might not be the answer after all. Parenting flexibly, on the other hand, could be.
What does ‘consistent mean’ anyway?
I’m beginning to think consistent parenting is a bit of a myth.
It’s one of those phrases that gets batted about so much that people stop questioning what it means. In practice. Consistent means ‘acting or done in the same way over time.’ But how can you always be consistent when situations vary? Kids vary? Isn’t ‘consistent’ actually being a bit rigid? A bit inflexible?
As my kids grow, I find consistent parenting harder and harder to do. Mainly because my kids aren’t consistent. And neither am I. Of course we’re not. We’re human beings. Individuals. We’re in a constant state of change. To be consistent would assume that we exist in permanence.
But, we don’t.
Being consistently inconsistent.
If I was forced to choose a parenting camp, I’m not sure where I’d sit.
I mean, I’m all for boundaries and I love a good splash of routine. (My first two babies were Gina babies. Get out the garlic, quick.) And the only time I tried attachment parenting (and intentional co-sleeping), I couldn’t have woken up feeling less attached to my kids. But baby no. 3 wasn’t as much of a fan of Gina as his sisters and so we did stuff with him that we’d never have done with the girls. Like co-sleeping and rocking him to sleep. Shock, horror.
So, I guess that puts me somewhere in the middle. Able to see the benefits of routine and rules but also the importance of not becoming a slave to them.
I’m also realising that just because I’m not parenting consistently, doesn’t mean I’m parenting inconsistently.
Still with me?
Don’t set yourself up to fail.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve felt rubbish because I haven’t parented consistently.
Because either the situation hasn’t enabled me to, my own energy levels have prevented me or it’s Friday and, by then, I’m so over everything I just need a gin in a can.
‘If only I was more consistent,’ I think, ‘the kids would do what they’re told.’
This is such a negative state of mind and all it does is set me up to fail. Because trying to be consistent all of the time, especially when you have more than one child, is blooming difficult. Impossible. And anyway, I’m not sure it’s in the best interests of the child.
Or the parents.
Be a palm tree.
Don’t confuse consistency with stability. I’m not debating that kids need stability. Of course they do. I’m questioning where this stability lies.
Does it exist in consistency i.e. always sitting them at the table to eat their dinner? Or does it exist in flexibility and reasonable boundaries i.e. us, the parents, using our discretion and working out what is best at that moment in time?
Take this weekend, for example. We had family over for Sunday lunch. As we sat down, Beaver had a meltdown. Daddy Pig started to get cross because, understandably, he wanted her to behave. Which made Beaver meltdown even further.
In that moment, we had two choices. To ‘parent consistently,’ (for us, this would mean disciplining her and putting her in her room because that is our ‘consistent’ form of discipline). Or to ‘parent flexibly’ and instead quickly work out why she might be behaving like this – tiredness brought on by a late night and a weekend of gymnastics, swimming, a party, Sunday school and an exciting family gathering – and satisfy Beaver’s obvious need for some quiet time by letting her sit upstairs in the lounge with a film and her dinner, whilst we all carried on downstairs. We went for the second option. And parented flexibly. One hour later we had enjoyed our meal and Beaver was calm, happy and ready to spend the rest of the afternoon as a family.
Parenting flexibly is being that palm tree that survives a tsunami because it bends with the wind.
And isn’t flexibility a life skill we want our kids to learn?
Get in tune with your kids.
I’m also not debating that kids need boundaries. Of course they do.
Kids always need reigning in. This is natural, right? The phrase, ‘give them an inch and they’ll take a mile,’ came from somewhere.
But again, parenting flexibly, enables you to react to this in a responsive rather than directive way. It allows you to see that, today, your kids need an earlier night than last night. Because they are tired. Or that, today, they’re going to eat dinner at the table. Because at breakfast this morning they messed about, just for the hell of it.
Parenting flexibly is about being in tune with your kids. Not ploughing ahead despite them, on some pre-defined logic because that’s what you did last time. And the time before that.
That doesn’t take into account their needs. Or yours.
Tomorrow’s another day.
And sometimes, it’s fine to be inconsistent for no other reason than you’re a human being.
A tired, overstretched human being who, today, needs an easy ride of it. Who can’t do battle with her kids. Whose parenting style today is therefore a sofa picnic of fish fingers in front of Netflix. Whilst you drink gin in a can.
Tomorrow you’ll do what tomorrow demands. Whatever that is. But today, this is good enough.
This morning Daddy Pig dressed The Boy with No Name. Which is why he ended up in a pair of short pyjamas with bananas all over them.
‘Why is he wearing pyjamas?’
This is the question I ask Daddy Pig.
‘I couldn’t find anything else.’
‘Where did you look?’ I say.
‘The floor,’ he says pointing to the pile of clean washing that hasn’t yet escalated to the next stage in the washing process. Stage 3 – Floor to Drawer. ‘There wasn’t anything else.’
It didn’t occur to Daddy Pig to check his wardrobe or chest of drawers. In which perfectly appropriate daytime clothes live.
No, let’s dress him in bananas instead.
Because they are right there. On the floor. In front of him.
‘Don’t you wish your baby was hot like mine?’
It’s not even as if the boy has the legs for shorts.
He certainly can’t rock a pair of hot pants like Kylie Minogue. Which is how these shorts come up on him. Hot pants. No, he looks more like that man in the Go Compare advert. Massive thighs. Tiny shorts. (I wish I could show you. But I can’t do that to him. I just can’t.)
And I imagine he has felt pretty self conscious today. In his banana shorts, when all the other babies he’s come into contact with are wearing self-respecting outfits.
Without so much as a melon or pineapple in sight.
The absent trousers.
Daddy Pig has always shied away from dressing our kids. And looked slightly nervous whenever I’ve suggested it. To be fair, sometimes he’s got it right. But more often than not, he’s got it very, very wrong.
And now the girls are dressing themselves, they also get it very, very wrong. Because they’ve learned from the master.
So, Beaver always wears socks with her sandals. Godivy only wants to wear her crap, worn nursery clothes ALL THE TIME. They both have a talent for completely ignoring the seasons and the weather. Yes, we wear silk playsuits in the winter and thermal leggings in the summer. As for The Boy with No Name? Well, we know what fate lies in store for him.
I guess it all stems from Daddy Pig’s own relationship with clothes, which is questionable to say the least. I mean, this is the man who cycled to work, forgot his trousers and sat in his pants all day.
But they didn’t have bananas on, did they?
Two crazy cat ladies and banana-man.
Now I know I could dress the kids myself. I could have them looking, erm, presentable.
But aside from the fact that I’m so damn tired I can barely dress myself, the girls won’t let me near their wardrobes now. They know exactly what they’re wearing thank you very much and no one is telling them otherwise.
And actually, I think it’s ok. In theory anyway. Because it’s important for kids to have a say in the little things they can actually have a say in. We dictate pretty much every other area of their lives. When they sleep. What they eat. Where they go. Letting them choose their own clothes hurts no one (apart from maybe the fashion police) and helps them develop their own sense of style (ahem) and identity, right?
And who knows? Just maybe we’re nurturing a future Vivienne Westwood.
Either that. Or a middle-aged banana-man and a couple of crazy, old cat ladies.
Does your other half struggle to dress your kids? Or do they dress themselves, erm, questionably? Leave a comment below and join us over at Surviving Life and Motherhood. Not for fashion advice. Obviously.