3

Keep Calm – He’s Overtired

The night was beginning to look promising, an early night for the children and a tea and cake fest for us. Neither child napped, both looked ready for bed.

At 6pm we started talking about the programmes we were going to watch, while drinking tea and eating cake. It would be special.

At 6.30pm we ran the bath.

Silly billies.

Because eventhough it was bedtime. They were overtired, so bedtime was a long way off yet.

Although, we still pursued it, because we were ever the optimists.

At 7pm when we laid both children in their beds. The baby threw up and the toddler had a meltdown.

According to Mr Firstooth, this all stemmed from me offering the toddler his milk, while he was in the bath, instead of while he was being dried. Because having a reason and someone to blame makes everything seem a little easier to digest.

As I cleaned up the vomit, cursing our unrealistic vision of a relaxing evening, I heard the toddler chuckling while he was being walked downstairs. Funny that. How quickly he can go from meltdown to laughter.

The next two hours were about to test our patience and made me realise, I have patience. Who knew.

The evening went like this,

At first it looked easy. The baby was content all the while she was being held, by me and only me. An attempt at putting her down or daddy having a cuddle, would result in heartbreaking tears.

The toddler was quiet whilst he drank his milk and watched a little Peppa.

But then he finished his milk and Peppa ended.

Thus was the start of the end of the world. Over overtiredness. A new form of overtiredness we haven’t yet had the pleasure of witnessing.

He wanted his sister to sit on the small chair and push her around the house. She didn’t want to do this and it turns out he actually doesn’t want her anywhere near the chair. Because it’s his. The chair is his, the toys are his, I’m his. Narrating all of this to us in a scream, just in case we were unable to hear him.

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He wanted the chair put in the kitchen. ”Do you want your chair in the kitchen?”
”NO” falls to the ground and screams.

”Mummy, chair on the stairs”
”Shall I put your chair on the stairs?”
”NO” falls to the ground and screams.

”Mummy, get juice?”
”Would you like some juice?”
”NO” falls to the ground and screams.

I tried responding to his requests in silence, the reaction was just the same. Screaming, dramatically falling to the floor and body jerking.

Things were thrown. Empty threats were retaliated.

I was stuck between laughing and crying. Laughing, because it was a little funny, the dramatic reaction to everything. Crying, because it’s upsetting to see someone you love so much, so upset and nothing you do makes a difference.

After a few more meltdowns because of this chair, I’d had enough. The bastard thing got thrown out of the back door. The chair, not the toddler.

At 9pm, after enduring almost two hours of the toddlers up-tempo overtiredness, we thought let’s ditch them.

The baby fell asleep instantly *wipes sweat off forehead*

The toddler put up a fight. Strength was needed to hold his uncontrollable legs down while he was zipped into his sleeping bag. Like a straight jacket.

One story and a desperate cuddle later, we left him. He wailed for a moment and as if by magic. Tah dah, both were asleep. It may have only been 9pm, but it felt like midnight.

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We just spread out across the bed wondering what the fuck just happened.

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Because Sometimes Babies Like To See You Sweat

And by sometimes, I mean most of the time. Sometimes, or most of the time, I feel like the baby enjoys watching me on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Only on the verge, she doesn’t enjoy full blown meltdown. Because meltdown mummy can’t focus on whingeing, she normally disappears into a lockable room, for a moment.

The scale of which a baby will make you sweat, is all determined by the way in which they’ve woken up. Tears guarantees a fairly sweaty day ahead. Smiles and singing, also guarantees plenty of sweat, but you may be slightly more receptive to any shit thrown your way when she was happy at one point today.

Every mealtime fills me with dread. The reaction to a bib would make you think a choke collar was being strapped around the babys neck. Stains on every single item of clothing is a must in baby fashion. That meal, that’s just had time and money spent on, is disgusting, throw it away. And straps, who needs straps? The baby obviously doesn’t, because no matter how tight, there’s always enough room for escape. And to even attempt to sit the baby back down is seen as child cruelty, there will be planking, crying and coughs, because it is child cruelty after all. Just give up, put Paw Patrol on and start the lengthy clear up process.

Anything within reach, will be reached. They will see things we don’t, they will also eat things we don’t, see what’s edible through a babies eyes for my thoughts on this. Leaving a pack of wipes casually lying around, is asking for trouble, the entire pack ends up strewn across the room, do I deny all knowledge, and put them back? Or throw away, don’t be silly they always get put back in the pack. Trying to remove anything unsuitable from the baby causes crying, but without the tears. Babies become the masters of fake cries, it may not be genuine crying, but it’s genuinely bloody annoying.

Babies sometimes never know what they want. They want to be carried, but they don’t want to be carried, putting them down makes them realise they actually do want to be carried, oh, no, they want to be put down. They need to be asleep but want to be awake and because they need to be asleep, someone needs to suffer, unfortunately that someone is anyone within earshot.

Crying on a car journey, making it known this is a life or death situation so pull the damn car over. Just kidding, she just fancied a cuddle.

Babies like to test people’s patience. Not just ours, but her brothers too. With a brother who has established two is sometimes really shitting terrible, going near him can sometimes be dangerous. The baby will always return, especially when her brother is in the most foul of moods, he’s more fun like that. Her toy/food/clothes/hair are never as appealing as his, even when it’s the same toy/food/clothes/hair.

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Who can resist that smile

I often say the babys’ name in a tone that says oh for fucksake, not again’, more often than I expect. Babies are unreasonable, they make us sweat, bring chaos to the day and leave us slightly frazzled every evening. But when we tuck in the little buggers at night, it’s all forgotten. They’re pretty special.

2

The Best Worst Tantrum

It all started at the beach. We’re in the midst of potty training, so every few seconds I find myself asking ‘do you need a wee wee’. Usually the toddlers answer is no, while we’re out. But this time he said, yes.

His need for a wee was followed by a frantic run back to the car to throw open the boot and place him on the potty. Only, yes, he needed a wee, but no, he didn’t want to pull his jeans and pants down and pee on the potty in the boot.

It all went downhill from there.

After the beach we wanted to nip to Tesco, we never just ‘nip‘ anywhere anymore.

The whole car journey the toddler cried to go home. Even the Hot Dog Song on the Disney cd couldn’t distract his tantrum, or muffle the sound of it.

Then shit got real once we entered Tesco. He turned feral.

He wanted daddy while daddy pissed off went to the toilet, leaving me with an overly excited baby and a screaming, kicking toddler.

Turns out he didn’t want daddy, because once he reappeared he wanted to go back to the car.

Turns out he didn’t want to go back to the car, he wanted to come back inside and find me.

Us, and every shopper within a mile radius, endured a continuous chorus of screaming and all became witness to defiant body jerks and rolling around on the floor. Something I didn’t wish to share with everyone, but I’m sure a few parents thought ‘thank God that’s not us today‘.

I knew they were back in the shop because the screaming was easily recognisable, and heard. ”Look, look, there’s mummy” Mr Firstooth looked desperate and also defeated, when it turned out he didn’t want mummy. He wanted his own trolley.

Given the option to have his own trolley, he stood in front of the display of potatoes, in silence, lip out, staring at the floor with the occasional side-eye to us. Those feet were cemented in that position.

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An example of what this ‘laying down’ looks like

It took a stranger to set off the toddler alarm again, by asking if he was helping choose some potatoes. I wish he was, I wish he was.

The next stop to his screaming was in the pet aisle. He laid down. This was it, my chance to leave Mr Firstooth watching over him, while I finish shopping in peace.

So for ten minutes he laid there. Right in the way. But he was quiet. So we didn’t dare move him.

Until it was time to pay.

I banished them both to the car.

Leaving the shop I could hear the screaming and him calling ‘mummy’, then seeing his little red face broke my heart into a million pieces.

Once I rushed over to hold him, it turned out he didn’t want me. He wanted me to take him to a trolley.

For the sake of a little peace and the desperation to just get him in the car, I went along with it.

A trolley wasn’t enough. He wanted to go back in the shop.

You’ve got to be shitting me?

I don’t think so buddy, get in the car.

Turns Disney cd louder, to match the yelling.

Peppa Pig went on TV the moment we got home. And that was the end of the best worst tantrum. Tesco won’t be seeing us for a while, that’s for sure.

2

Breast vs Bottle The Shame Of It All

Before giving birth to our first child I made a decision. One I thought was set in stone, a definite, solid decision. This decision was that under no circumstances was I going to breastfeed. I made the mistake of sharing this decision with a friend, I was met with a confused stare and ‘what?! Why?!’.

I was quite taken aback by her response since after all, this decision was mine to make, I was stating a fact, not asking an opinion. What’s the big deal I thought.

However, once I grunted out child one and my partner showed me the formula, I shook my head and popped him straight on the boob. It felt natural. As a woman, I have the right to change my mind, and that I did.

Unfortunately my breastfeeding only lasted 5 days. My nips were extremely sore. You could say they looked not dissimilar to a dogs chew toy, mangled and a tad bloody. The fear of someone brushing up against my boobs, in their exaggerated sensitivity, grew after every feed. I felt defeated and I wimped out of the whole idea.

I popped my boobs back in a normal bra, let them dry up and sag down to my knees, as I looked in awe at other mums successfully breastfeeding in coffee shops, on the train, in playgroups. Good for them. But what works for one doesn’t always work for another. Which is what I wanted to say everytime I was asked ‘so, are you breastfeeding’ I felt the need to explain myself. That feeding a baby formula should be a dirty secret of mine.

It always surprises me how personal people become, once you have a child. The outlandish questions, that really don’t need to be asked. Do you breastfeed. Was he natural. When’s the next one. Were they planned. All things that are acceptable within family and friend groups, but strangers join in the quiz too. None of your fucking business, just doesn’t seem like a very composed answer.

With baby number two, I breastfed for two weeks, but I also bottle fed in the evenings. So I could sleep and Mr Firstooth could do the night feeds *chuckles*. After two weeks of brilliant feeding, we realised it just wasn’t working for our family. With a newborn and a one year old, I became torn and overwhelmed. So we whipped out the steriliser and bought some lovely pink bottles, ones so fancy, I was proud to show them off.

I still felt a little shameful about my decision, with the amount it’s drummed into us mums that ‘breast is best‘, it’s hard not to feel disappointed that I couldn’t conform to the norm. Breast is a brilliant thing to give your child and I admire all breastfeeding mums, I also hope those nips didn’t stay chewed up and mangled for too long, I remember my toes curling through those early days. But, sometimes it doesn’t work out, sometimes bottle is best and that is the decision of the parent to make.

Having experienced both, for however long or short, I can say that neither is an easy option, there is no hierarchy, both should be equally respected and none is anyone’s business.

While I’m sterilising the bottles, I ponder over the ease of just popping the baby straight on the boob, none of this boil the kettle, leave it to cool, wash the bottles, sterilise the bottles and fill the bottles rubbish. While I’m pondering the easiness of just having a shower as a form of sterilising, I then think about doing it in public, the bra unstrapping, finding a comfortable place to sit, placing the modesty fabric over the baby just so and those gawping faces. Then I think, I just can’t win.

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Both have their pros and cons. Both decisions come with judgemental Judys’, willing to stare or judge from afar, but both decisions are ultimately that of the mum (dad’s too).

4

What’s Edible Through A Babys Eyes

Remote control – not only do half the buttons not work from water damage but half the back has been removed, by teeth.

Post – corners have often disappeared from our letters. This also happens with magazines, boxes, papers, books. ‘We were on page 57 last night in your Disney book, wait, where the fuck have the page numbers gone?

Furniture – teeth marks surround our coffee table, since the baby can regularly be found hanging off it, by her mouth. The new interest seems to be the TV stand. Because it’s impossible to own fancy furniture, without it being redesigned by teeth marks, scratches and stains. Ever.

Baby wipes – the struggle to change a babys nappy is real. Throw her a wipe to chew on and everyone’s a winner. The post dinner cleanup, made easier by tossing another wipe the baby’s way.

Floor debris – if we were to keep a clear, debris free floor, vacuuming would have to take place around 700 times a day. Which no-one has time for. Especially when the toddler decides HE HAS TO DO IT. So, along with the once a day vacuum, the baby also removes small crumbs or fluff from the floor.

Toys – the ones not designed for such a thing. Musical toys, that now sound like they’re drowning in a sea of baby drool. This isn’t always a bad thing. I no longer have to listen to ‘I’m a little yellow car, beep beep‘ for endless amounts of time because it has no off switch, thank God for that.

Phones – hearts have stopped at the sight of their baby chewing their phone.

Body parts – it’s all fun and games, until marks are left and someone is crying

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Babies explore with their mouths, this means, in the eyes of a baby everything is edible. Unless it’s a meal you’ve spent a significant amount of time preparing, that’s not edible.

4

The Rundown Of Putting A Toddler To Bed

Share his enjoyment of peeing in the bath, by cheering alongside him. Perhaps throw in a high five, he is very pleased he’s peed in the bath, that he’s sharing with his sister. Poor girl.

Encourage that leaving the bath and getting to bed is a great idea by being overly excited by the whole situation. In a very cheerful, breathy voice say ‘come on, lets get this towel round you, so you can get into bed’ while baring all of your teeth, with a smile so wide your cheeks ache slightly.

Bribe him out of the bath with the promise of taking a toy to bed, any toy.

Not that toy. That’s too noisy. *put musical instruments back in the toybox*

Not that one. That’s too big. *put huge ship back on the floor*

How about this one? *show him his teddy* which he takes to bed every night anyway.

He’s not falling for that shit.

He wants a train. Not this train. Not that train. He wants the green train. But he can’t say green train.

Collect together every single train, in existence, in the house.

Exhibit every train to the toddler.

Green train selected and pyjamas put on.

Start zipping up his sleeping bag, as he asks for a frog.

What frog?

He’s crying for a frog. What shitting frog do you mean, darling.

Think ‘fuck, he’s never going to bed’ and contemplate a trip to Sainsburys to buy a toy frog. Which by then he would want a fish, or a snake, any plastic toy figure we don’t happen to own in toyland downstairs.

Realise when he said ‘frog’ he meant duck. The plastic duck that holds his toy bag up in the bathroom.

Toddler happily clutching the green train, the duck and his teddy.

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He wants milk.

Race downstairs to grab a bottle of milk and tread on a Lego piece. Try your best to resist punching the wall and yelling FUCK at the top of your lungs, because you don’t dare wake the baby up.

Lay him in his cot and melt at his sleepy face. Stare at him with a loving gaze, which quickly turns to panic as he puts his arms up for a cuddle.

Back out of the room slowly and whisper ‘love you’.

Creep downstairs and stand on the same Lego piece.

2

An Apology To Our Cat

Dear Bella (or buzz as you’re now known, thanks to the toddler terror you mildly tolerate)

I’m sorry that we don’t have as much time for you, that you hear ”Oh, Bella!” each time you wrap yourselves around our feet, instead of ”ahh, Bella”.

I’m sorry that one day your life changed just as much as ours did. I remember your upset at seeing our new baby for the first time, as if he were another cat muscling in on your territory. Then only a few months later another baby would soon be on the way, I know, what a pair of plonkers, you must have thought.

I’m sorry that babies learn to crawl, meaning you could no longer rest peacefully on the floor. I’m sorry they also learn to walk, and grab you when you find a higher surface to lay on (remember, under no circumstances, are you allowed on the worktop).

I know you have a full fear of our toddler, so much so that you won’t allow him to prove he’s a gentle soul now. I know you trust the baby, but you shouldn’t. I remember the affection you have always shown her, the tolerance you’ve always had with her. And I’m sorry she’s not only walking, but running to you, not for loves, but for grabs and bites. I see it in you, that you’re excited to see her, until you realise those are taunting chuckles, not lovable laughter. Just remember, you can run, hide and rest elsewhere, I wish I could run with you sometimes.

I miss our daily cuddles too, our lounges and snoozes on the sofa. I’m sorry this is now a rarity. Just think of me while you’re asleep on the bed and I’m wide awake downstairs being peed on by a toddler who just won’t keep his clothes on. You’re definitely the winner there.

It may seem like you’re not as important since we’ve burdened your life with two small, grabby children. But you are. When we were choosing our new home, your needs came into discussion every time. We needed a safe location not just for our children, but for you too. So you could finally go outside, smell the flowers and chase those bastard moths that have been taunting you outside the window for years (because you used to be an indoor cat). You even have your own room, well, large cupboard. It’s your sanctuary, those small people aren’t allowed to venture in there, mostly because they’re attracted to your cat biscuits, I’m sorry about that too.

Somehow lately you’ve managed to escape your nightly confinement to the kitchen and are in our room again. In between night feedings, babies crying and Mr Firstooth snoring, what more could a purring cat be, that executes regular attacks on our feet. It’s nothing.

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Thank you for being such a patient and understanding cat.