Life, and especially parenting, is a learning curve and so as we say goodbye to 2015 here’s what I’ve picked up this year.
The world doesn’t come to as end if you let your six year old wear nail varnish – I was dead set against Megan wearing nail varnish. To my mind little girls should be little girls for as long as possible and nail varnish belongs to a world of high heels, false eye lashes and earrings that she is just too young for. Then one of my best friends took me to one side and, as all good friends should, talked some sense into me. As she pointed out I have a really good daughter who tries her best at everything, has good manners, lots of friends and is generally a delight (ok she has her horror moments but nothing we can’t handle). Would a coat of pale pink or glittery blue nail varnish automatically turn her into a delinquent? Shouldn’t she feel the benefits of being so good? Otherwise she might decide there’s more fun to be had by playing up. So reluctantly I let her have painted nails for a birthday party, then it was the holidays and now it’s every weekend. My little girl is growing up but at least we are doing it together!
Potty training is the hardest thing I have ever done – I have 5 A levels, 2 degrees and a professional diploma. I have a responsible job and juggle a marriage, social life and family, but faced with a toddler needing to come out of nappies and I am a mess. You will have read a lot about how to get your toddler dry in a day, a week or a month but I am here to tell you that if your child isn’t ready it can take forever. I have had a full year (yes. 365 days) of potty training and only now is my youngest starting to get the idea. We have spent a third of his life obsessing over his toilet habits! Every wee still gets a round of applause and every dry day earns a treat. I have cried, laughed, shouted and sighed and finally the end is in sight (I hope). Now I am just holding out for the day when I don’t have to take a bag of clothes everywhere with us ‘just in case’.
Three year olds can use your phone even if it’s locked – here are a series of selfies I found on my phone courtesy of three year old Henry. Not only did he find my phone, he unlocked the screen, found the camera app and then took some pretty amusing shots. Thank God he can’t spell or I dread to think what texts my contacts would be receiving.
Sleep maketh the woman – Henry didn’t sleep for the first two years of his life. When he hit 24 months something magical happened and he started sleeping through the night. In fact he’s become a bit of a sleep fiend, regularly clocking up 12-14 hours of deep kip. I thought I coped really well with those first years, I got dressed, went to work, looked after the kids but now with a fully recharged battery thanks to a year of sleep I feel like a new woman. Yes I am often tired but it’s the sort of tired you feel after a busy day not mind numbing exhaustion that makes you feel slightly nauseous. If your little one isn’t sleeping I sympathise so much and only hope you can join me on the bright/rested side soon!
Getting full marks for homework isn’t everything – I am not a competitive person and I have always hated those pushy mothers who seem to zap all the energy and fun out of their kids’ lives by making school a competition. It is impossible not to compare your child with others and I always push six year old Megan to achieve her very best. That’s why this year I was so proud when she came out of a very tricky spelling test with 9/10. She had struggled so hard during the week to remember the words and despite us coming up with various aide memoirs, I sent her into school with the words ‘just do your best’ ringing in her ears. I was expecting her to come home with half right at the very best so to see her eyes shining with pride and her massive grin when she got such a great mark was amazing. We were even able to laugh about the one wrong answer – the easiest spelling messed up in her determination to do her best with the hard ones. I couldn’t have been prouder.
It’s time to hang up the oven gloves – when my children were born I pledged to always make their birthday cakes. My mum had made mine and I fondly remember each and every one of them. Despite the fact that my mum didn’t work (so had more time) and has a natural flair for baking I was sure I could emulate her skills. Nine cakes later – including two flat pirate treasure chests, a nightmarish Night Garden, a squashed Mystery Machine and a wonky princess castle – I am throwing in the tea towel. I simply can’t bake and don’t have the creative skills to turn a flat Victorian sponge into the Bat Cave or a My Little Pony stable. So from now on cakes will be bought from supermarkets, they may have enough additives to survive a nuclear war and have icing sweet enough to make your teeth sing, but my kids will be happy and I’ll be a lot less stressed!
Shrinking violets can bloom – six year old Megan has always been shy. She refuses to let anyone watch her in her annual dance show and I am the only one allowed to watch her in her school productions (when we tried to sneak her dad in she burst into tears and sobbed through her lines). She hates anyone looking at her and has spent more than half her life refusing to make eye contact or speak to people. But this year something magical has happened. Little by little her confidence is growing. She spent Christmas day cracking jokes and performing magic tricks and since then anyone who has come into the house has been subjected to a little show. When I have friends over she wants to join in the grown-up chat and loves showing her bedroom off to anyone who will appreciate it. She answers people when they talk to her and will even offer information up. She will never be the whirlwind of confidence and brashness that is her little brother (he informed me he wanted everyone, including his uncle’s dog, to come and watch him in the starring role in the nativity!) but she is coming on leaps and bounds. Shows that a little nurturing, a few shoves in the right direction, and some pushing from a precious sibling can work wonders!
Family foreign holidays can be fun but the kids still prefer Blighty – this year we took the plunge and went abroad as a family of four for the first time. We had ventured abroad once before but had taken my parents along as both babysitters and to hold our hands! This year we decided to be brave and booked a resort by the sea in Menorca. We were able to combine our favourite things about holidays (cold beers and reading books) with quality family time and sunshine. OK it may not have been as relaxing as those pre-kids breaks we took but it was far from stressful and we all came home a bit browner and a lot more smiley! However, you ask the kids if they preferred our week of sun, sea and sand in Spain or a very wet and windy three days in Haven, Filey in February and guess which they pick? Yes, they’d spend time with Rory, Anxious and the rest of the Sea Squad gang every time!
So to 2016, I have two New Year’s resolutions, both of which I have already started. One is to watch what I eat – not a diet as such just less processed rubbish and more fruit and veg, the other is to throw caution to the wind more often. I’ve started by booking a night in the Legoland Windsor resort