Archive | Confessions

i thought he was ready for play school. i was wrong

In the lead up to Jimmy starting play school at the beginning of term 2 I told anyone who’d listen, “he’s so ready, can’t wait for him to start” etc etc.

Now, not for the first time since I started this journey called motherhood, it turns out that I was completely wrong.

I knew he would kick up a bit of a fuss, but I didn’t expect complete inconsolable grief (on his side) and pleading, begging and cajoling (on mine). It lasted for three weeks, until we were told that he really isn’t going to settle and that maybe we should try again next year.

Not even next term. Next year!

We had tried everything. Our wonderful nanny Christina, who he adores, stayed with him all morning, sitting quietly nearby, so he always felt secure. That worked for a session or two. Then it didn’t anymore.

I tried dropping them at the end of the road with the pushchair so as to avoid the whole goodbye and leaving thing, that didn’t help either.

He just cried a lot – loud, continuous crying, and he wouldn’t settle. So at the end of last week we made the call. No more play school.

I have been battling with all this mama-guilt. What will happen if he’s not socialised, what if he is going to be awkward his whole life, what are we doing wrong…? But then I think (in my mother’s tone of voice for extra impact) “for goodness sake woman, he’s only 2!”

It’s hard to step back and allow your children to develop at their own pace sometimes. I’m sure you are all far wiser than I when it comes to this, but I sometimes catch myself thinking “other people’s kids do it, so mine should too”. But that’s rubbish, and realising that is it rubbish is incredibly liberating.

Yours in motherhood,

— Emily

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parenting through the pink phase

Right now my children optimise every gender stereotype known to toddlerdom.

Willow (3.5 years old) lives and breathes sparkly pink, princesses, unicorns and Barbie. Jimmy (2 and 2 months) is obsessed with cars, trucks and motorbikes, as well as head butting, dominating and body slamming any person smaller than him.

It’s not something Ryan or I ever encouraged (the bullying of babies obviously, but also the pink craze).

If I had my way W’s wardrobe would be made up of paired down separates in grey and neutral tones. There would be no sparkly Barbie shoes, or Barbie anything for that matter.

When she was tiny I dressed her in navy and grey, bold in the face of my mother’s disapproval. But since she’s been able to vocalise her preferences it’s been pink all the way. Initially I pushed back until one day my mum said, “Darling, just enjoy it. Soon she’ll be dressed from head-to-toe in black leather with studs in her nose and you’ll wish you had enjoyed these sweet days”.

With that image firmly in mind, I have decided to embrace the pink. Today she went to school in bright pink ‘Hello Kitty’ onesie pyjamas and I’m cool with it…

The fact that my son won’t wear long sleeves, despite rapidly dropping autumnal temperatures and a wardrobe of cute winter stuff, is another matter.

He rejects any attempt to insert his thrashing, writhing body into warm clothing of any kind. No form of bribery or coersion works and I’m wondering if I must resign myself to a snotty, shivering baby throughout winter? I could weep at the thought.

If there is a way of overcoming this aversion to jerseys I’d love to know. Any tips or advice most welcome. The pink however, I am resigned to. For now!

Yours in motherhood,

— Emily

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beautiful chaos

I have a collection of stationery on my desk at home. Clips and pens and a few cool things from Typo that I received as a gift when I left a contract position a few months ago.

Included in this pile of things is a DOPE SHIT stamp – I’d been saving it for a particularly brilliant piece of writing that I can print out and duly brand with this highest form of praise. However, that moment has not arrived and at the point of this story the stamp was fresh and moist and a clear temptation for prying hands.

I was working on a particularly taxing article that was already late when my 3yo daughter appeared in the doorway naked and covered from head-to-toe in bold, black DOPE SHIT stamps.

It was branded all over her body and face and, I realised as I marched her to the sink, it was also all over the walls at toddler eye-level. She’d been particularly stamp-happy in the kitchen and dining area and I also found a few on the back of the new, white couch which was enough to wipe the slightly amused grin off my face.

I was in the midst of uncovering the degree of havoc wreaked in such a few short minutes, when my phone rang. It was our landlord’s elderly father. He hasn’t been around in a year and was in the area and wondered if he could pop by for the mail… how soon, I enquired, no he’s about a minute away, was that a problem?

Panic. I kept him outside chatting as long as possible while Christina, who helps with the kids when I’m working, scrubbed frantically at child and wall. I still can’t get over the non-serendipitous (is that even a thing) alignment of things in that moment. Particularly as I’ve been waiting months for Landlord Snr to pop in so I could show him a few things that need fixing around the house.

These will now have to wait until the next annual post collection – I think even then I will be discovering upside-down DOPE SHIT’s on the garden walls and hidden behind curtains.

Note to self: never (ever) think smugly to yourself ‘my child must be quietly playing’ but rather know they are up to something.

— Emily

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taking it slow with kids (and a few monkeys)

Compliments of the season and a happy 2015!

Back at the grindstone after a summer staycation. There are worse ways to spend two weeks than perambulating leisurely around Cape Town taking in the sights. You can’t do much more than move at a leisurely pace when (it’s 30 degrees) and you have two small children in tow.

We learnt this lesson the hard way after a particularly exhausting excursion to the World of Birds last week. My sweet babes were so taken with a random neighbourhood cat sunning itself in the car park that it took considerable persuasion to get them through the gates and into the bird sanctuary at all. They asked continuously about this cat once inside and no enthusiastic diversion with Emu or albino pigeon could make them forget it. We saw again how utterly single-minded a 3-year-old can be.

W: “But I but I but I luf the kitty….”
Me: “Yes I know, but look at that beautiful, colourful parrot up there”
W: “Can’t like the carrot. I luf the kitty”


In hindsight we should have purchased a map and planned our day strategically. Our little ones were hot and exhausted after the first enclosure (which was probably the least exciting) but we stubbornly pressed on. After a morning taking in what we could with two increasingly fractious toddlers we ended up at the monkey interaction enclosure.

The rules read (put everything away, zip up your bag, don’t shout, cry or yell, don’t touch, tease, squeeze the monkeys etc) we cautiously stepped inside. J immediately demanded his dummy/bunny combo and for the sake of peace I got it out my handbag (breaking rule number 1). No sooner had I handed it over when a tiny yellow monkey leapt off an overhead branch, grabbed it and shoved it into its tiny monkey mouth. Ryan launched himself heroically after the retreating primate as J fell dramatically to the floor and started to scream (breaking another rule) and W (in sympathy) followed suit. There was some fuss, but the bunny/dummy was eventually retrieved from the monkey without harm befalling either, but the most distressing part came when in all the excitement, J shoved his dummy back in his mouth. I hadn’t even wiped it (anyone remember Outbreak?) My mother’s Whatsapp message which just shouted “RABIES!!!” almost sent me scurrying to the ER, and we hurriedly left before we could annoy the monkeys and the tourists any further.

This day, as well as every other, taught me many new things about being a mum to toddlers. You can’t expect to do things at your pace. This is a frustrating lesson, but when we slowed right down and let them lead the way the excitement at new discoveries came naturally. You might not feel that you “got your moneys worth” when you only manage half an outing, but if they had a great time and left with memories and new experiences then you did good.

At bedtime, W tells me her interpretation of an experience we might have had days ago. She takes it all in and processes it at her own speed and the outcome is always delightful and surprising. It’s an amazing privilege to be a mum to these two fascinating little humans. All their quirks and habits that make them uniquely themselves. I have a feeling this year is going to be the funnest, silliest (most challenging?) one so far. Bring it on!




— Emily

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sleeping training fail

My husband and I haven’t slept in the same bed for a month. I no longer get to press my cold feet against his legs or feel his warm, reassuring personage next to me as I sleep. Instead, I am co-sleeping with a fidgeting, sprawling 18-month-old who at any time of the night can be found flung precariously on the edge of the bed, parts of him dangling over the edge just waiting to pull the rest of him off and give me the fright of my life.

Jimmy is proving immune to any of the traditional forms of sleeping training. He can cry longer and louder than any other mini-human being in existence and has caused us to throw all parenting lessons to the wind and let him into our bed.

Problem is, the little Lord of the manor was not entirely happy with this arrangement so dad is now on the couch and has been for a month. Jimmy, now happily ensconced on his father’s side of the bed, watches Ryan get ready for work in the morning with both arms stretched behind his head like some sort of kingpin. I know this arrangement is probably top of the Bad Parenting 101 list, but hell at least we are getting some sleep.

The problem that now presents itself however, is now what? We can’t carry on like this forever. This weekend we agreed that we are going to sell the cot and get him a big boy bed (*sob*!). Something new that has none of the associations of the dear little cot that he has grown to despise. We’ll make a big fuss and encouragement about him sleeping in it and cross fingers and toes that it works. But what if it doesn’t?

We’ll wait and see… until then I will strain my eyes reading old English novels by the dim glow of the passage light, and fall asleep next to his sprawled little body. The problem is I am actually starting to grow accustomed to it. Listening to him mutter new words in his sleep, waking up to his sweet smile, his little face so delighted to see me… sigh, maybe we should rather invest in a kingsized bed and let him stay forever…!

— Emily

POSTED IN: Confessions

night night, sleep tight

My kids are completely crazy about their dad, but at night only mama will do. It’s one of those great joys of being a mother. They want you when they are grumpy, sore, tired or in the middle of the night – any other time, when they are happy and full of beans and just want to play and have fun, then it’s all daddy, daddy, daddy.

So the average night in my household goes thus…

At about 12am Willow comes shuffling into our room, she’s clutching on average 5 to 6 of her favourite stuffed toys (and sometimes a book and/or Barbie) and she wants to get into our bed. She always comes to my side and just stands there until my subconscious wrenches me out of sleep and, against my better judgement, haul her into the bed. I let her lie there for a bit until her wriggling, coughing, elbows and general presence drives me to tears. I shove her further and further over to her father’s side of the bed, but he never seems to notice, so I scoop her up with her menagerie of stuffed creatures and take her back to her bed.

I then lie for a bit willing myself back to sleep, when at any time between 1am and 4am Jimmy starts to cry. His new MO is to dramatically let forth blood curdling screams that are so high pitched they send us leaping out of bed, hearts pounding, rushing around to warm up bottles, check nappy and administer Calpol before rocking, soothing and generally praying for him to calm down and go back to sleep. Sometimes he does. Sometimes he doesn’t. It’s all very touch and go at the moment. Is it teeth, we wonder? Is it bad dreams or a pain somewhere, or is it just the enjoyment of cuddles and warm milk at some ghastly hour of the morning? We will never know and because it could be the former there is no way we feel we can take a hard line with him. He has us between a rock and a hard place and something tells me he knows it.

Once J is soothed and quiet, we’ll creep back into bed and try to defrost and get back into sleep mode, despite the frazzled nerves. Then, timed perfectly to coincide with my pulse returning to normal, my heart pounds me into full wakefulness as I hear the familiar shuffle of Willow and Co coming back across the landing.

It’s a circus. Our nights are as busy as our days and despite the numerous books, blog posts and friendly advice we have absorbed we can never agree on the right course of action. We play good cop, bad cop. Are they scared, or sore or master manipulators? I guess that’s the question every parent asks at 4am, as they stand cold and exhausted, yelling at each other over their shrieking child.

Amazing though, that after such a night, they wake up in the morning, smile and I feel like I love them so much I could die. All the sins of the night before forgotten (theirs, not mine. I beat myself up for being the worst, most impatient mother on earth for at least 15 minutes). This motherhood thing is not for the faint-hearted!

The perfect post for this amazing, inspirational pic of Drew Barrymore. Love her.

The perfect post for this amazing, inspirational pic of Drew Barrymore. Love her.

— Emily

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The last time I spilt my guts on these pages was about a year ago. I think I was bemoaning the difficulty of life as a heavily pregnant mother of a not-quite-two-year-old. Trying to haul a shrieking toddler out of an empty dishwasher, while remembering to do my pelvic floor clenches so I didn’t give birth on the kitchen floor. Those days seem so long ago now. Did I really find it so hard? The new me rolls her eyes at the old me. I had no idea.

This last year has brought with it the most extreme ups and downs I have ever known. There have been times when I have been so euphoric with joy at the sight of my two beautiful babies that I have wanted to explode with self-congratulatory happiness. And there have been times when I have shut myself in the garage (the only place they can’t reach me) and ugly cried until common sense eventually got the better of me and forced me back out to face my bemused offspring. More than once Ryan has come home to my horror-struck face staring at him from the staircase, with a tantruming toddler in the bathroom and a shrieking baby in his cot. From the staircase I can listen to make sure they are both safe and alive, while removing myself to a safe distance so I can regroup (ie. kick the wall, silent scream, meditate etc).

I haven’t written one of these posts since Jimmy was born because it’s been impossible to muster the creative energy, the time or the self-confidence to do so. I have been emotional, terrified and completely out of my depth often enough. I’ve felt so drained and frustrated that I can’t wait to get them to bed and then, the moment their little bodies are all warm and slack with sleep I have missed them desperately and wanted to bury my face in their necks and whisper how sorry I am for being such a hopeless, impatient mother and how I’ll try so much harder tomorrow.

I sound like a complete lunatic, but such all-consuming love that hurts your insides will do that to you. Especially when it’s combined with bone grinding exhaustion, looming deadlines and an eating plan that doesn’t allow chocolate. Jimmy will be one in a couple of weeks and I have to pinch myself. One whole year! What an achievement, what a privilege. But God…

— Emily

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