Pushed to the Limit By Small Child

There has been many a day when I have returned from work to find my mother slumped on the sofa, a look of exhaustion and despair etched on her face.

“It’s been a difficult day,” she would croak, as Piglet played with his cars around her, in front of Abney and Teal, making cute little noises of contentment as the Poc Pocs hopped across the screen.

“He really is naughty you know,” she would add, for effect, as I cheerfully headed for the kitchen and a cup of tea, before settling in front of the cooker and flinging pots about, cooking our dinner while my mother chased Piglet around and desperately tried to keep him from emptying the entire contents of the cupboards.

And how I would scoff.  Piglet is not naughty, I would say.  He’s a completely normal toddler.  Completely normal.  You have forgotten what small children are like, I’d say.  You imagine that we were the most perfect children who ever lived.  I would remind her about that time my brother, in his own wayward toddler years, put his head through the living room door, pointedly adding that I still remember him with his head stuck in that door.  It’s never been the same since.  We had to get rid of it and get that ridiculous bit of plastic sliding door that’s hanging off the hinges.  There you have it, EVIDENCE.  We were terrible kids.

Well that was different, would come the response.  That was an accident.  Piglet’s misdemeanors, by contrast, are deliberate and calculated, like he is actually sitting there plotting the downfall of his loving grandmother.

I would look upon Piglet’s angelic visage and know, I would just know, with the intuition that only a mother could, that Piglet was doing nothing of the sort.  He was a wondrous child, the sort that would never, could never even contemplate such a thing.  He was a paragon of virtue, a model child and, of course, nothing out of the ordinary.  All his behaviour was perfectly normal and expected.  Developmentally normal.  There was no need for a visit to the psychiatrist.  All would be well.  This too shall pass.

Well reader, now that we live on our own and Granny sits in the restored peace of her own home and watches Great British Railway Journeys each evening in restful solitude, I sometimes wonder.  It appears that I have now taken the role of tormented guardian, to be run ragged until I too am a shell of my former self. Today, for example, he deliberately poured milk all over one of my bar chairs from Dwell (RIP Dwell.  How I miss your glossy red tables and your overpriced statuettes of diamante covered skulls), and then pushed its sister chair over, just for the hell of it.  Those chairs were from Dwell.  Like all the best shops, Dwell has now gone bust.  There will be no replacing those chairs (even though I saw identical ones in B&Q, but DWELL).

My response to this, after keeping my cool throughout the previous onslaught of a) the throwing of dinner on the floor, b) the deliberate spillage of milk on the floor and up the walls and c) the near-destruction of a standing lamp underneath the television which Piglet has gleefully discovered can also be pushed over, was to be really annoyed.  Annoyed enough to put him in his pushchair for a couple of minutes and leave him to cry, feeling like a monster, whilst I attempted to fix the damage and finished my already cold cup of tea.

I now know how my mother felt on those days when she lay, pale and exhausted, on the sofa, an empty husk of the woman she had been just that morning, before she had been pushed to her absolute physical and mental limit by a particularly exhausting toddler.

And I’m hoping it’s still normal, right?

The Maternal Guilt Starts Here

Well actually it started three months ago, when the wee one was born.  And there is never a moment when you are truly safe.  There’s always something waiting round the corner that could be going wrong.  A case in point being the one illustrated below.

On Friday I was happily bleating down the phone to a friend about how being a single mother is “fine, just fine” (except for the fact that I am about to slip into a financial abyss from which I will quite possibly never return).  But finances aside, i.e. if I had all the money in the world, or even just a bit more money, like I’d won the Euromillions or something, then it’s all just fine and dandy.  Then, inevitably, something happens almost immediately that shatters that illusion.

On Friday that something was me suddenly acquiring some sort of food poisoning or norovirus type ailment.  I won’t go into detail about what it entailed but suffice to say I was in no fit state to be looking after a wee one.  Luckily, by the time it struck (at 9pm) Piglet was asleep (something of a miracle.  He normally goes to sleep around midnight).  Consequently, the last few days have been spent doing the following:
1.) Feeling rough
2.) Not eating
3.) Tentatively sipping water
4.) Watching Loose Women whilst lying on the sofa in a sleeping bag
5.) Lying in bed with Piglet, apologising that I have no energy to do anything else.

There were several points where I actually had to take Piglet off the breast to go and vomit/other end, leading to screaming fits which definitely lasted longer than most child psychologists would recommend.

Speaking of which, I am still confused about the best way to get Piglet to go to sleep as half the Internets I have read say that babies should be in a routine by now and that rocking or feeding a baby to sleep is going to mean he will turn into David Walliams in Little Britain demanding “bitty” from his ageing mother at inappropriate times, and the other half say that imposing a routine is going to mean the child turns into a Romanian orphan circa 1990, silently banging his head against the cot he still sleeps in at the age of twelve, unable to speak, so basically whatever I do, Piglet is doomed.

He’s actually lying next to me now, shouting at me that why oh why when the parents were being given out did he have the misfortune to end up with me and not Brad and Angelina.  At least I think that’s what he saying.  It actually sounds more like “O-OOOH EH OOH, GOOO,” but I’m pretty sure that’s baby language for the above.

Motherhood.  The guilt just never ends.

The Public Badge of Good Motherhood

Argh.  I have inadvertently trained Piglet to gaze blankly at the television as if in a hypnotic trance.

Unfortunately, this does not only happen during In the Night Garden.  This was not supposed to happen.  I was supposed to be an earth mother, all joss sticks and babywearing, giving birth blissfully  in a bathtub surrounded by candles and incense, then holding the baby aloft as if he was the future leader of a pack of lions in a Disney musical.  I was supposed to fill Piglet’s days with classical music and brain-enhancing learning activities; he was supposed to be reading fluently by the time he turned one (there’s still time…Not that he paid much attention to tonight’s bedtime story, Flitter Flutter Butterfly).  He was not supposed to be wrenched out of me by a team of medical personnel in an operating theatre, following several hours of Mummy taking all the drugs the NHS could offer.  He was not supposed to be wheeled around in a pram for eternity because it has a shopping basket underneath which is just so damn convenient for carrying around all those spare nappies and the groceries.  And he was not supposed to be sat in front of the television like a zombie, silently taking in all that ITV can offer (reader, it wasn’t even BBC4).  By the time he’s three, he’ll doubtless be asking Mummy why we can’t track down his father using a DNA test and a lie detector on Jeremy Kyle.  

I have to admit, it is useful to be able to plonk Piglet in front of the television when Mummy needs to complete some pressing task, such as eating dinner, but isn’t motherhood supposed to be about self-sacrifice?  If I was any sort of mother I would surely have relinquished all food and be living on a diet of pure maternal love, ready to abandon dinner and jump into action like a coiled spring at the first sign of baby whimpering.  If I was any sort of mother I would have gone to bed long ago, instead of still sitting here at 11.15pm with a glass of wine, desperate for a few extra minutes of self congratulation at getting Piglet to bed, before he wakes up again.

Still, I did manage to tick off one box of the middle class mother questionnaire today.  Piglet and I attended a swimming class.  OH YES.  And Piglet excelled himself by not crying AT ALL.

I should probably not crack open the champagne just yet.  After all, we have another four weeks of swimming classes for him to get hysterical and/or poo in the pool, leading to a mass evacuation (if you’ll pardon the pun).  However, I will add that Piglet’s angelic calm-baby performance occurred in front of one of the other ladies from my NCT class, who was also swimming with her baby, so at least I was able to enjoy the Public Badge of Good Motherhood for an hour or so.  Those fraught hours spent searching Westfield for a reusable baby swim nappy yesterday were put to good use.

At least I appear to be keeping up a charade of reasonable competence at this job in public, even if in private Piglet is spending (considerably) more than the recommended upper limit of half an hour per day on television watching (as decreed by a poster in Wembley Children’s Centre).


Essential Items for the “Nursery”

I just ate my dinner from start to finish with an angry Piglet sitting in his chair kicking his legs around and shouting at the TV, which I had turned him around to face to try and take his mind off the fact that Mummy was eating and not playing with him.

I am a terrible mother.

OK I may now have redeemed myself by cuddling him all through Downton Abbey (it is now several hours after I started writing this-nearly 11pm-and I have just put Piglet in his cot for the fourth time).  He has been fussing all evening.  His bedtime routine started at 6.20pm as usual and I was hoping he would be in bed in time for Strictly Come Dancing.  O what folly!  Instead he decided to whinge all the way through Strictly, X Factor and Downton.  Clearly one night of uninterrupted television (two.  Or maybe three as there’s a new series on Thursday I like the look of) is too much to ask, for the rest of my life, ever.  Oh well, Piglet is worth it I suppose.

I had been reading another baby book that I got from the library the other day in an attempt to pick up some tips, in particular on sleep routines.  The thing about baby books is that the advice proffered is guaranteed to make you feel bad as inevitably there will be something the book suggests you do which you haven’t done (or that the book says you should never do, which you do all the time), and as a result you will be made to feel that your child is now destined to grow up and become an axe murderer or general menace to society because you didn’t give him a bottle of expressed breast milk for his night feed (please also note the use of the singular here, “night FEED.”  Clearly the implication is that if your offspring is having more than one feed during the nocturnal hours then you are a failure and a bad parent who will end up being talked about in hushed tones at the school gates as the mother of “Piglet, who has NO boundaries.  Did you know that yesterday he weed-yes, WEED all over the headteacher’s office?”

Another annoying thing about these books is the outrageous assumption they make that you are a) middle class-live in a house rather than a flat, have a car and a selection of Cath Kidston aprons; are not a teenage mother and b) have a husband, which I find somewhat presumptuous.  There are, for example, many mothers who are single, or who are married to other women.  Clearly I myself am in the former category.  In the particular book I borrowed from the library, there was far too long a list of baby-related items that the author deemed “essential” to purchase.  For example, a baby monitor-not necessary when you live in a one bedroom flat.  I know only too well that I can hear Piglet cry wherever I am in my very small flat.  Not everyone lives in some sort of palatial stately home where one may find oneself in a completely different wing of the house to the baby (like in Downton Abbey.  Has Lady Mary actually met her son?  It seems to me that Lady Edith spends more time with her secret daughter who lives in a different house than Lady Mary does with the son and heir whose name I don’t even remember.  She could definitely do with a baby monitor).  Also, the book kept banging on about things you need for the “nursery”-not just a baby monitor, apparently, but a night light and a special chair for breastfeeding.  Firstly, my iphone has a perfectly good light on it thanks, so why would I go wasting money on some sort of specialist baby light that is bound to be bright pink, plastic and shaped like a character from In the Night Garden and ruin the feng shui?  Secondly, a chair specifically for breastfeeding?  What’s wrong with a normal chair?  What is a breastfeeding chair anyway?  One shaped like a breast?  And lastly, who even has a nursery to put these things in?  Who do they think I am, Tamara bloody Ecclestone?  Clearly this book is a ruse to make me feel bad about being single and impoverished.  Not only this, but the author proudly boasted about how she moved her children into their poncey nurseries when they were only Piglet’s age, in clear contradiction of the current guidelines which state that the baby should be in the same room as you for at least the first six months.  The woman is a charlatan.  She is practically Lady Mary, banishing her child like that.

And I did not just say that to make me feel better about the fact that Piglet and I will more than likely still be sharing a room when he is in his teens (I mean due to financial constraints, not because I am weird).  I think I will write a baby book of my own.  After all, I’m sure Britney Spears’ mother wrote a parenting manual at some point.  And look how poor Britters turned out.  Admittedly she’s done all right for herself, all things considered, but I’m pretty sure she’s mentally deranged as a result.  Anyway, I could be a pushy stage mother, easy.  This week I suggested to Piglet that he might want to try ballet when he’s older.  That’s definitely a start.

Piglet is ten weeks old, and I find myself asking the question, how much TV is too much?

Aha!  I don’t want to speak too soon, but I think I may have found the secret of the elusive Bedtime Routine.

It is none other than popular children’s television programme In the Night Garden.  So far it has helped Piglet settle down to sleep no less than two days running.

It is as yet still only 9pm so whether his current slumber will continue throughout the night remains to be seen.  Judging by the squeaks I can hear coming from the direction of his cot I doubt it.  Still, it is a marked improvement on the four hours of rocking and swaying I had to do the other night to get him to sleep.

I have to admit, In the Night Garden seems far less irritating than most of the other claptrap on CBeebies, although as I said before it is early days as I’ve only actually seen two episodes.  The reason for the lack of irritation is that there are no annoying human children’s TV presenters in the Night Garden, only odd creatures with names like Iggle Piggle and Macca Pacca (please excuse any spelling errors).  Macca Pacca is my favourite so far, as he seems oddly obsessed with putting pebbles into neat piles for no apparent reason, and tonight actually went to bed clutching one of these pebbles.  Hopefully Piglet will not start collecting random stones and bringing them home once he is old enough to understand what’s going on.  Although having said that, I’m not sure I really understand what’s going on in the Night Garden so that would make Piglet at least thirty-four by the time it dawns on him.

It’s difficult to know how much Piglet really is taking in from these TV programmes.  He does stare at In the Night Garden quite intently, but then he also stared intently at the world gymnastics championships today, and Loose Women, and the news, and he probably would have been pretty interested in Homes Under the Hammer if his bouncy chair hadn’t been facing the opposite direction.  I’m fairly sure that at this stage the television is merely an interesting provider of bright colours and sounds, but I have found myself avoiding Jeremy Kyle the last few days just in case his understanding runs any deeper.  I wouldn’t want Piglet to think that Jeremy or his contestants are modelling normal behaviour.  That said, I don’t really want him thinking it’s normal for people to be riding around in tanks shooting AK47s into the air either but we have continued watching the news.  From what I can remember, I didn’t start to be really interested in the news until I was about seven or eight years old.  Up until that point although I think I had a vague idea that certain events were going on, I tend to remember individuals rather than events.  I’m pretty sure at one point I believed, somewhat terrifyingly, that Margaret Thatcher and my grandmother were the same person.

Perhaps I shouldn’t expose Piglet to the news after all.  Who knows what horrors he could come up with?


Multiple Attempts to Write This Blog All End in Abject Failure

Almost seven weeks in, and I think I’m doing a pretty good job.

Piglet is wearing a vest personally designed by one of my friends (i.e. drawn on) at my baby shower, and having a “kick about” on the floor, something that my mother, a.k.a. the “Wind Whisperer,” recommends so that he can “get his wind out.”

He is now screaming.

I have launched a rescue mission and am now typing with one finger while he wails on my lap.

OK it’s now two hours later and I have finally returned to this blog post having finally settled Piglet and got him to sleep.  How long for is anyone’s guess.

Aargh he’s stirring.  I also read yet another article today about the dangers of spending too much time on ipads, phones, laptops etc in front of babies and children and how it is basically child neglect.  This can only mean that I am a terrible mother.

OK so it is now the next day….I’m not winning at this game.  The parenting bit might be getting done but there is virtually no opportunity to write this blog.  Piglet is now having a kick about on the mat again and I haven’t even had time to change the TV channel so am stuck watching Rip-Off Britain.  Also I am ridden with guilt about the fact that I have spent the last half an hour eating breakfast, reading the NCT newsletter, sorting out the washing and putting the dishwasher on (I know, I did ALL THAT in half an hour!  I can’t believe it either!) , rather than playing with Piglet, who is looking at me forlornly across the room and trying to talk to me in baby language.  Probably saying “You are a horrible mummy.  You ignore me when I am trying to talk to you and when I get into my teenage years I will pay you back handsomely by becoming a tearaway and never wanting to speak to you ever again.”

Right he’s starting to whimper.  I’d better go.

Subsistence Parenting

Yes I admit it.  Guilty as charged.

Yes I did put the baby in the car seat to sleep while I had my lunch.  And we weren’t in a car.  And (voice drops to a barely audible whisper) I didn’t even fasten the straps.

Surely God will strike me down with a lightning bolt.  Or at the very least a crack team of virtuous mothers will be sent from Mumsnet to chase me with torches and drum me out of town.

In other news, hot on the heels of the two hours sleep I had last night, Mother (my own mother, that is) is constantly hassling me to call the doctor/health visitor/anyone else who might be susceptible to a bout of new-parent hysteria to report all crying episodes.  Anyone would think it wasn’t normal for babies to cry and prevent their parents from getting any sleep.

She is also trying to get me to go to a breastfeeding support group in the local area.  Not a bad idea, you might say, except that I am basically Hyacinth Bucket from Keeping Up Appearances and refuse to associate with anyone from the immediate surrounding area as all are plebeians who fail to understand the difference between “your” and “you’re.”

Anyway, Piglet is waking up now and about to start screaming for food…