31 March 2008

Tired tired tired tired tired tired tired tired

Still tired, still feeling bleugh, still not feeling very happy about life in general. I'm starting to seriously worry that I might be depressed. Or otherwise hormonally messed up (I can't blame the baby for making me feel THIS bad).

I even dozed off this afternoon and slept through Morgan crying, which I've never done before and it horrified me! I woke up to find her howling and red and blotchy, stuck on top of the computer chair. "I didn't pick her up!" Jenna said, and I had to reassure her that getting the baby unstuck wouldn't have got her in trouble. On a better note I managed to cook, which I haven't all week.

30 March 2008

Lessons in validating

Still had the car, so I went and spent some money at a garden centre after Church. I got lots of native British plants, and spent a happy afternoon planting them and making my garden look really colourful and much more full! Wow, it looks so good out there... I just want some more roses and another apple tree (when I say "just" I'm sure I'll think of some more things!).

One thing that happened on our way to the garden centre was I learnt something important about validation in practice. I don't think I can put what I learn very well, but this is what happened. Jenna started saying she didn't want to go and that she wanted to go home. This wasn't an option, petrol was limited and we don't get many chances to go out like this. Martin started trying to tell her that she would LIKE the garden centre, that she always loves playing there once we get to it, that it was close now... All true, but she was getting angry and kicking the chairs now.

I gave him a look and said to her, "You don't want to come to the garden centre, you don't like being in the car so long and you've had enough, you want us to understand how cross you are and nobody is listening. You are angry that Mummy has taken your choice away and decided where we are going without asking what you wanted to do. You want to decide where we go, and right now you want us to take the car HOME."

She stopped screaming, and looked at me. She was still protesting, whining, not coming round to the idea, but she had been understood a bit better. She kept repeating that she didn't want to go, she wasn't going to the garden centre etc, but she was calmer now (in fact she sounded VERY tired but I knew well enough not to say that!). When we got out of the car she started saying, "NO NO NO nooo" and crying again.

I said calmly that I knew she was unhappy but sometimes there were plans that were going to happen, even if MUMMY didn't want to go either or anything! I wasn't sure that this was at all in the spirit of validating but I thought she needed to know that it was going to happen even though I understood.

Then over her protests I kept telling her that I heard how angry she was, that she wanted to stay in the car. I sat in that car park for twenty minutes, holding her and stroking her hair. Listening to her SCREAM and tell me she hated me. Then she stopped, looked around with an air of surprise at where we were, and ran into the garden centre laughing and exclaiming over what she could see.

We had a really easy trip after that, and she slept for about three hours from the second we got back into the car until I woke her up for tea.

29 March 2008

And yet again so much better!

Yesterday turned from one of my worst days to one of the best this month. When Martin got here he took over, got the children ready and we got out as planned. Morgan had taken herself to the comfort corner after my outburst so she was happily asleep, and I was left to get myself ready and re-pack the swim gear that one or the other child had removed from the bag! Even better, Morgan slept 10 hours again.

Today we had the car so we went to Sudbury House and the newly refurbished Museum of Childhood (which was brilliant). It was a lovely peaceful day out, the children had fun, and I felt really actually happy to be spending time with them. Reconnected, contented. The only down side was that Morgan's little feet got really bashed up in her thin leather booties so we had to go and find some shoes for her somehow.

Startright STILL didn't have any size threes so we ended up going nextdoor to Next and buying a cheap pair of proper walking shoes and fitting them ourselves. I don't feel exactly happy about her wearing them but if we're somewhere her feet are going to get bashed I need to know she has decent protection. As soon as we can get some properly fitted ones we will do.

28 March 2008

Better week, worse day

Well my awful mood didn't last too long last week, I had a nap and Martin cooked tea for us, and generally my week has been better since then. I'm struggling a bit still with feeling like I don't want to be around the children and they are so NOISY (the more impatient I get the more noisy... or maybe I just *imagine* they are being more noisy). We actually had three or four good days until today when I'm back to being utterly disconnected and angry with them. I screamed a couple of times at Jenna and then went and cried upstairs.

When I say I screamed, what happened was that I sent Jenna for clothes. She came back with trousers, pants, socks - no top. I sent her back for a top. She came back with nothing. I sent her for a top (still nursing Morgan). She came back with a jumper. I dressed her in what she had so far, and after VERY CAREFULLY EXPLAINING, sent her for a t-shirt. She came down wearing a nightie and nothing else, having taken off the trousers and underwear and left them somewhere.

I yelled, said we were too late for swimming now. She howled, I screamed ARRRGGHHHH (pretty much). I got up to try to find clothes as we were now really late and probably not going to make it whatever I did. Morgan climbed back up as I tried to get nappies together and pulled down my top, scratching me and making me bleed. That's when I went upstairs to cry.

Martin has got the afternoon off to come and rescue me, which I'm so incredibly grateful for I can't say. I don't want to feel like this. Being pregnant is making me so exhausted I don't have energy for the little ones, but neither can I be fully happy about the coming baby either. It's the worst of both worlds. I just want to bond with my bump and start being the mother I WAS to my children.

22 March 2008

Resenting Morgan's needs and feeling awful

We've been dying eggs and making candles today, ready for Easter Sunday. I'm not doing quite as well with Jenna (I actually screamed at her earlier for that typically annoying three year old thing of looking for something that was right in front of her - why can she not see it when she's looking right at it, touching it?). I'm also feeling really down with Morgan.

As predicted I was very sick last night and had to spend most of the evening lying down feeling miserable and hating being pregnant. Then another night of not much sleep conspired to make me feel even worse today. Morgan has gone (again) from sleeping through to not sleeping at all, and although she was doing much better in her own bed than in ours I have ended up last night being in with her all night anyhow because she wanted to feed so much. I just got to the point today when I wanted to wean her, when my feeling that nursing her is one of the few things I get right and can do, to feeling overwhelmed by it and like I can't breathe with her in my space every moment of the day and night.

Worst of all is the idea, never fully gone from my mind, that if I wasn't pregnant I wouldn't feel like this! I would be able to carry on meeting her needs and still feel that special closeness to her that I did a couple of months ago. I would be ready to let her wean herself from attachment at her own speed. Now I'm feeling more and more like pushing her away, and the more I feel like pushing her away the more cross I get that she resists it, and the more I want to push - just NOT BE her mother for a while. I feel like me being pregnant has ruined my relationship with her and I just want her to be allowed to be my baby again without my head getting in the way of it and getting resentful of her.

I'm burnt out. And SICK!

21 March 2008

For the sake of the children?

I have had another thought about marriage - from my friend staying in her broken marriage. Her culture expects that of her, gives her no credit for what she is doing for her child and for her own integrity. She is certain that she is doing the right thing, regardless of what I think I might do in her position of what my own society says is right (the individual protected rather than the family unit)... She is not a figure of pity to me. I don't look at her and see someone trapped by her culture and her own desires for her child. I see strength, someone who is so determined to do right that the cost doesn't occur to her.

More than that, I think her culture and mine have a lot in common on this. If she were to leave, she would be outcast and openly criticised. Perhaps we don't go so far in the western world but in our own way we take the same path. Think of it this way, if leaving (for her) is criticised, shouldn't staying be honoured?

Shouldn't people gather around and support her, tell her that she is not un-noticed and that she should be celebrated for her strength and conviction? Do we, as human beings, care so much for goodness as we do for spotting other people's faults? Even thinking of my children, it's easier to think of things that bug me than things I specifically want to celebrate. What a crazy way of looking at people.

We have spent today preparing for our early celebration of Passover. Cleaning, preparing, cooking. Jenna has helped - volunteering for jobs she normally hates. We are really feeling festive! Emma and Chris arrive later, though I'm a little worried I'm not going to be able to join in as much as I want to. I'm feeling so ill, and I remember miserably spending one Passover lying down in the living room while everyone else ate... I'm just not cut out for pregnancy.

20 March 2008

Love is not a feeling, it's an act of your will

Today we are having our first "date" in two years. The last time we went out without children was our second wedding anniversary, two years ago with me pregnant with Morgan. It has been a really romantic day, just being the two of us - though wierd, really wierd. Neither of us miss this much, it isn't as if we don't get time alone when the children are asleep (even if usually Morgan is asleep next to us) and it isn't that we don't get to do grown up things, date, go out. We just do those things with children along too and we really like it that way.

But there was something special about being undistracted today. A feeling that for me isn't possible in the first year anyhow really, and that is a difficult state to encourage at the best of times. Undistracted, focussed on each other. But we both have been remembering something recently - that yes we love each other and are commited to each other, but also we still are really very much in love. The mushy feelings aren't obvious, when tired, when frustrated, when rubbing along in everyday life, when worrying about money. When we pause, then we know.

A friend recently said to me when I commented that marrying Martin when I didn't know him very well was a risk - she said that commiting 100% to someone, no matter how well you know the person and no matter how trouble-free something is, it's always a risk. You can never see inside someone's head and you can never be certain that your own motivations are perfect, nothing is risk free - and that sometimes the longer people know each other the more the try to con themselves that things are good when they aren't. I think that's true.

I talked to another friend about her marriage - which she is staying in at cost to herself. She said that she has no regrets, that she would not have chosen for her life to take another path. Whatever pain there is now, she knows that they truly loved each other and that is never a mistake. It may be past, what is left might be barely two strangers who are simply sheltering a child and no longer each other. But what was, that was worth any ammount of pain in the present. What an amazing woman.

Meanderings on love nearly concluded, with one more thought. Even if at some point in the future we mess this up... Even if at some point we ruin what is so whole and good... It was worth it. To be truly loved, and to give everything for him, to be two individuals and one unit, it is worth it. Both the struggle in the past and present, and any future turmoil.

19 March 2008

Easter garden and better discipline

The way I discipline Jenna is improving in leaps and bounds. I feel more in control of my own actions again and less afraid of my own angry reactions. I think just clarifying what I know I should be doing, and reminding myself that I can do it right and that I don't have to be tied into the same old ways of acting - I'm responsible for my own actions, and I can stop from losing my temper. I'm choosing not to give in when I feel like acting like a child myself. Why isn't it this easy all the time?

I've thought of a way to tell whether I'm being respectful in the way that I ask Jenna to do things - and in what I'm asking her to do. I want to act towards her more as I would to an adult, to a close friend or to my husband. I don't expect her to behave the same way, or for the issues not to be different (I'm not likely to have to ask my best friend to remember her limitations in picking up the baby) but I can probably guage whether I'm being polite by thinking of things that way.

Would I say, "OY! Martin, stop that THIS INSTANT. I do NOT want to see you touching that when I asked you to leave it alone!" I would be more likely to say, "Babe I need that to be safe. Can I have it over here? I'm worried it's going to get damaged if it's moved around."

"Put your coat on, it's cold." Might be more likely to be. "It's colder than it looks today, do you want to take a coat just in case?" I don't think I'm putting it how I mean it, but anyhow that's the thought that's helping me to not be pushing her on everything.

I spent most of this morning sitting on an industrial car park with the baby asleep on my back, scraping up moss for our Easter garden. When I went in to ask for permission at the reception desk Martin nearly waited outside with Jenna, he joked about never having married me if he'd realised I was this crazy. I suppose I gave the receptionist a bit of entertainment though. :) It was quite satisfying work really, trying to get the thick green mossy carpet up in one large clean sheet. It looks beautiful laid out in the tray with a little soil underneath and a pond set into it. There are tiny white flowers in one area, and some little baby herb robert plants with the red-gold leaves dug up from the patio in my garden.

18 March 2008

What on earth is "shortening"?

I've been experimenting with cookie recipes and trying to copy and paste over a year worth of diary entries into a blog site (so it can be searchable and I can link the evolution of my more useful ideas). The diary is up to four months dealt with and many to go. It's a pain to do but I love how it looks and I think it will be more useful to me when it's done (plus I kinda like the geek stuff). The cookies are more reservedly successful.

I mean, does anyone know a cookie recipe that actually makes GOEY chewy cookies? I've managed hard, buscuity cookies. Soft but short-bready crumbly cookies. I've accidentally succeeded in making some really EXCELLENT flapjack (thanks for that recipe though Jeni!).

The key seems to be something called "all butter shortening" which Americans can't describe to me because they have never lived in a world that doesn't contain it - the Brits likewise are clueless because they've never heard of such a thing. Perhaps at the end of the day my unlitmate-recipe-search is going to be doomed to failure - I suspect I'm trying to replicate something that can only be acheived with fake additive-laden ingredients with long names.

Anyhow, the oat cookies that aren't really cookies but ARE really great are made like this.
100g butter,
100g sugar,
1tbsp golden syrup,
- melted in a pan together until caramelly and combined.

100g oats,
100g plain flour,
- stirred in until mixed properly and then made into balls and baked briefly on greaseproof paper. Gorgeous! :)

17 March 2008

Baby shoes, public feeds, Seder plans, and feeling good

I had a last few bits of shopping to do today, snacky things for the table for our non-traditional Seder meal. It turned out to be very good timing, as I took home a big piece of free greaseproof paper from Soundbites (previously used to wrap some pastries in for transport). It doesn't have a mark on it and since I tend not to be funny about such things its next incarnation is to be in helping me attempt proper cookies. :)

The only real downside to being in town was having another row with a presumably-nice lady in Clarks who tried to convince me that Morgan needs crawling shoes. I said that I know she would be best with proper shoes - and if she can't have proper shoes then the best thing for her is to be barefoot. She said that Morgan is "too small" for proper shoes. I said that, with respect, there is nothing wrong with my child. She is small, but clearly walking, therefore logically it isn't the child that is too small but the shoes that are not sufficient.

She said that Clarks have "never" sold size three walking shoes. I told her that they sold them to me for Jenna three years ago, and that it is only a desire to make shoes for smaller babies more acceptable for reasons of pure profit that the smaller walking shoes have been discontinued. She told me that they don't sell shoes to non-mobile babies. I told her that it doesn't go far enough and that a respected store like Clarks should have the courage to refuse to sell shoes at all of any kind to babies who were not walking. She told me that babies "need" shoes younger because parents have hard floors. I told her that booties with grippy soles are plenty good enough for that eventuality.

It should be clear by now that this woman sadly had not realised she was talking to a nutter who would not be swayed by her salesmanship. Eventually I just said, "I am not going to buy them. I am not trying to convince you not to sell them, although I think the company is behaving immorally that isn't a reflection on you. I simply will not buy them, and I will look elsewhere for shoes for my child until she fits into the box defined by your store policy."

On the way home my big toddling Morgan was tired and grumpy and I resorted to breastfeeding on the bus again. I was doing that hyper-alert thing almost daring anyone to question it (spoiling for a row perhaps after the lady in the shoe shop) but all I got for my vigilance was a smile from an old man a couple of seats in front when he glanced at the bubba. :)

Having Jenna back is great, as much as I have shouted and grumped in the last few weeks our relationship is 100% better since she went away for a couple of days. Her exuberance, usually exhausting and frustrating, is lovely to me again. She is showering us with affection. She and Morgan have obviously missed each other, they keep just giving each other hugs and kisses, and haven't scrapped for a toy yet at all. I'm really looking forward to having this week with Martin home, and to Easter and all the seasonal stuff we have planned.

14 March 2008

Making judgements about messes

A lesson in what we say vs what they hear... This week I have forgotten myself once or twice and put moral judgement on an action performed by the lively and naturally thoughtless three year old. Two incidents I directly remember last week, so that you can see what I mean by moral judgement.

Jenna was building, Morgan was building, when Jenna suddenly had a hissy fit and said Morgan wasn't allowed to play with the bricks any more. They had been playing nicely alongside each other and neither had touched the other's building efforts. It was just a sudden desire to be alone. I said that Morgan was not going to move just now, she was happy playing, and it would make her sad to be sent away. Jenna insisted, getting louder and crosser and threatening to throw bricks. I moved Morgan before she got hurt, and said something like, "It's selfish and mean not to let her play with you. That isn't fair."

(By the way, if a brick actually HAD been thrown the consequence would have been that they get put away for safety, but rather than come to that point by insisting that Morgan play I was playing permissive mummy and moved the baby. Not only a bad move in general, but leading me to try to guilt her into playing fairly. I should probably have given the choice to play with Morgan, put the bricks away, or go somewhere where the bricks can be played with without making Morgan feel left out - and get the bigger bricks out for Morgan if that was what she chose.)

A couple of days later Jenna had poured something out in the bathroom (again). If anyone knows a way to keep her out of there without either locking it or her bedroom (the former unfeasible due to the shape of the frame, the latter cruel) please, suggestions asap! I said that I was really unhappy that my conditioner was gone, and that I was dissapointed she had been so wasteful and thoughless.

(Seems fair? It was really just disrespectful and hurtful. The best reaction in my opinion would simply have been to have her help clear up - and the next step would have been for her to help me pay for a new bottle from her piggy bank as she does this fairly often in spite of the conditioner being on the top shelf and her needing to fetch a stool to reach it! She needs to know that being wasteful costs us money, and if she wants to play at pouring away something expensive fair enough but she will have to buy it herself.)

This week, sitting listening to someone talk about Easter... "God forgives us when we are cruel and hurtful and unkind and selfish..." And Jenna's little voice pipes up sadly, "Mummy says I'm selfish." :(

So there you go, in a nutshell. A good reason to focus on consequences and not blame. Because she can't differentiate between a selfish action and a selfish person - because when I judge something she did I place a value on *her* (at least in her eyes). Sobering, isn't it?

Ways to help a damaged relationship recover from hurtful words, on a postcard to this address...

13 March 2008

Still really sick!

Morgan touched the oven yesterday when I was toasting buns in it. She jumped, looked at me with eyes filled with shock, and said, "ot!" in a really disgruntled tone of voice. I said, "Sorry baby, I didn't remind you I was toasting! Is your hand OK?" She flapped it at me for a bit and then showed me that it was fine lol. Our oven has a very thick door, otherwise I'd have been more careful having her in there with it on, but it shows just how she's making sense of those concepts.

I'm still really sick, so we've had two totally permissive days. Basically I've spent most of the time in the bathroom and the rest in the kitchen trying to make myself something to eat, so the two of them have run riot, got out every single toy, spread food all over everything... I had the added humiliation of a Gas Safety Inspection this morning - the poor guy had to kneel in day-old rissotto to get to the fireplace. AND I had been planning on hoovering this morning before my inlaws came for the girls so the house was still gross when they arrived! *sigh*

Today I will only get Morgan back, Jenna comes home tomorrow. Then Emma is coming up for the day. My mum is collecting Jenna to take her to Newcastle for the weekend. Monday Martin is working and I have two children alone - then Tuesday onwards he's home for a week. Bliss! :) Don't expect too much from me next week. ;) Alternatively, expect me to be camped out on here all week while someone else is in charge...

7 March 2008

Reasons why I hate being pregnant right now...

Right, OK so now it has really kicked in (so cue the self-pity). I am really sick. I hate early pregnancy, and as much as I'mm trying not to dwell on it, I can't snap out of feeling low about it. I didn't want to be pregnant yet anyway - not really - and now I have to be ill and tired too. Not fair (stamps feet).

Along with feeling negative about the pregnancy again, I'm struggling to be nice to my children. Jenna has been downright defiant and rude today, every time I have asked her to do anything (or told her to stop doing something this very second) she has screamed at me, thrown things, typical pre-school stroppiness. It has wound me up to the point of yelling a couple of times; and when she wouldn't help me tidy up the toys she had thrown around out of boredom I threatened her with early bedtimes (way to go on the gentle parenting!).

Things are a bit better this evening, she grudgingly helped me tidy after some coercion which although I feel guilty about I obviously thought was necessary for my sanity at the time. I guess it just feels like every time things are OK one of the children does something to set me off feeling rubbish again - so naturally rather than getting my head right before speaking I'm blaming it on them as if they were doing it all to me... I really want things to change. I also really want a break so that I can have some perspective that isn't bitter towards them - or myself. :(

I've thought of something good though. We've been arguing over nap times again and she has been doing awful stuff when she's up there and doesn't want to be. But today she went up like an angel, she complained and then when I insisted that it was going to happen anyway she went up and after one story settled down for her sleep quietly. And I didn't hear a sound from up there, so no messes to deal with badly or otherwise today!

6 March 2008

Gentle Discipline (work in progress)

I think, after a lot of mental meandering, I can summarise myself into two sentences. Don't sweat the small stuff - children are children, and do childish things. AND Use the best possible way of asking for co-operation when you need to. Now I'm going to try to expand that and outline my feelings about discipline and my ideals for dealing with my own children.

Bear with me, I'm not perfect and as imperfect as even my ideals are I don't manage to stick to them all of the time. If something sounds a bit wishy-washy then either a) I may be being permissive/neglectful, let's talk about it! or b) you may not be very trusting of children, hey, let's talk about that too. :) I'm not offended if you think I'm unrealistic/naive/strict/authoritarian - but I'd like to hear your views (be gentle, assuming positive intent is for grown-ups too).

So here we go.

What I think I would tell myself, were I ever to write myself a handbook.

- Don't sweat the small stuff. Children do childish things and almost all of those things are, by nature, small stuff. When the red tide sweeps in, time out *yourself* and get a cup of chamomile tea. Say that you're going to calm yourself down, keep it light, and don't imply that you're withdrawing yourself *because* of the child. Cuddles are not a reward. Even if your child just did something that upset you a lot you will both be healed more by a hug than by withdrawing love.

- Don't insist on uneccessary rules that you don't even know the reason for. Sensible rules are about safety or protecting the feelings of others - but don't look for excuses, be honest. "Stay on the pavement!" is a rule for safety, "Let mummy cut things out for you," (at four or five) is maybe just a reason to get safety scissors or loosen control on the project or both. Let children have a genuine choice, including over things that you'd rather control - but then actually follow through and let them get on with what they want to attempt, don't argue and correct!

- Assume that their actions or emotions have a reason behind them and then ask yourself if making them (more) unhappy is going to help them feel better and act better. Clue: The answer is always no. Witholding a drink from a tantruming child is unlikely to make the big feelings stop (it may force the desperately thirsty child to supress their upset but it WILL come out later). If you'd give a drink when they weren't shouting, give a drink now. Consistency isn't more important than love.

- Once something is done (ie usually a mess) it is done. It won't get undone by yelling, and the emotional mess will come next. Easier to look at the problem - and the problem isn't the child. Oh look, paint on the floor. Let's deal with that together. Assume positive intent, it will help you stay calm. And if it *was* on purpose then it was for a still for a reason, one that was logical to the child - whatever the reason was the solution is not harmed by dealing with it gently.

- "No" is not an instruction. In fact "no" can often be done away with unless it's an answer to a question that you can't say "yes" to (for REAL safety reasons). The best way to tell a child to stop something in an emergency is to say "STOP". No is ambiguous; what exactly is the no to (breathing, walking this way, walking at all, swishing my dress as I do so, looking at that pebble, singing that song)? In the time it takes you to add something specific your child might not actually be stopping. "No" blocks exploration. "No" blocks conversation (which blocks relationship).

- Use positive words to ask for co-operation. Why not *start* with the specific - and phrase it in terms of what you actually need? A mild, "I need you to come *this* way," is less likely to result in a mad dash for freedom. Try it - "Stop shouting!" becomes "Quiet voices please," and "Get off the grass!" becomes "ON the path!"

- A reminder in advance - and the first time something is going wrong - can be helpful. In this family we... I like to see... I expect... The rules can be flexible, but let's be honest, we never want to see the baby being sat on and we always expect that gentle hands will be used. Explaining your expectations for behaviour is the way to go - children are more reasonable than we give them credit for and they *want* to co-operate. Explain (all the time) the reasons for what you're doing or plan to do. Talk in terms of how other people feel, how you feel, how it feels when... You don't need to go into too much depth, depending on the age of child. If one child is hurting another sometimes all that is needed is, "It looks like that is making him feel sad."

- There is no reason for riding roughshod over big feelings. Repeat back to the child what they seem to be feeling - when they are small this can give them the words they need, when older it is saying to them that you hear them and you care. "I understand" sounds inauthentic; "It doesn't matter," and "It's OK," are dismissive! Try, "It looks like you are feeling hurt/angry(frustrated)/lonely/tired" (HALT) or "I hear that you don't like it when..." Questions may be unanswerable but with older children asking how they feel about something or why something is bothering them might give you some insights. If you get it wrong they'll start to correct you when they get used to the idea that you're listening and trying to understand.

- All feelings are allowed, but sometimes some expressions of them aren't. It's OK to ask a child to tell you something in a normal voice when they are whining or if you can't make out the words. If a child is simply crying too much then slow down and give them space, it's not that they'll forget what was wrong if you let them calm down in their own time. Don't correct feelings you don't like - eg denying that they can possibly hate someone or something.

- Give warnings when something (ie a transition) needs to happen. Say, "In five minutes we will need to..." and explain why. When it gets closer ask for the child to get ready, or tidy up, or say goodbye, whatever. Then give them space to do it. Offer genuine help. Make more of the day negotiable.

- Always re-evaluate. Be flexible. At any point you can change your mind - not because you are undependable but because you can be depended on to be fair even when the rules aren't. Every situation is different as is every child (and often they themselves change from day to day). And never be afraid to reconnect and appologise. It's good for our children to see that we're not perfect and that we hold ourselves to a standard of behaviour. It's good for them to be the powerful ones sometimes (role play games and physical play are good for this) - to be the one who wins or the one who needs to have their forgiveness asked!

- Make kindness the priority. The relationship is the thing, not the rules.

Just when you think it can only get better...

The first thing that happened to us today (after we were up and dressed) was not a discipline triumph, I have to say. Jenna had gone into the hallway and was playing with her umberella. I asked what she was doing, she said playing nicely. After a while there was the pad pad of feet upstairs and the bump bump of something dragging down again. I asked again, she said she was playing with the drum stool. I said it must have been heavy to get down the stairs, and when was it going back up? She said in a minute and I left it at that. (My excuse is that I was feeding Morgan her breakfast milk!)

Then our burglar alarm went off.

I forgot all of my gentle words for about thirty seconds as I, to be quite frank, had a flap. I couldn't remember the code to turn it off for the life of me, and visions of the police (stationed literally a block away) turning up and being sarcastic with me flew through my mind.

I think it went something like, "OH NO OH NO OH NO OH NO TURN IT OFF TURN IT OFF OH NO ARRGGHHH HELP WHAT ARE YOU STILL DOING THERE GET THAT STOOL UPSTAIRS OH NO OH oh it's off. Um, are you OK Jenna?" She ran upstairs pretty fast (bump bump bump with the stool) and wouldn't come down until I promised that I was calm now and not going to do any more of my panic. *blushes*

It all got better after that anyhow, lol. Morgan broke my heart waving goodbye with a big smile on her face. She is separating from me more deliberately now. It isn't that I ever forced her to let me leave when she was unhappy, but in some ways I wish I had been more adamant about taking her with me to befriending when she was smaller. It would have been easy - though I can see why they don't advise it for their health and safety thingies.

I knew that I could leave her without her being at all sad. It wasn't really the *best* thing for either of us though, even with her permission if you like. One more thing to go on the list of things I don't want to repeat.

5 March 2008

Morning sickness and other tiring things

I'm noticing a frustrating pattern in our co-sleeping arrangement this week. I'm so tired by the time we get to bed, partly because of illness and partly just not judging it right and going too late, that I can't be bothered to shuffle her over to her own area. She ends up sleeping in the middle of the bed, where we all disturb each other just that bit more. She nurses ALL night like that. I really have to remember to move her over, or I'm going to start resenting nursing her again. At least I'm not uncomfortable from the pregnancy at the moment.

The only other little nursing niggle with Morgan is really more of a toddler funny than a rant. She likes the fast let-down now, and asks for the other side after a few moments. We sit, she nurses, she sits up, points to the other side and tries to undress me, then decides the first side was better after all. It's crazy, and although she doesn't do it often it does make feeding her take much longer. I'm telling myself that I'm not only satisfying a need for food or drink...

This morning was the first morning of real morning sickness, I felt dreadful this morning but at least it didn't last past breakfast. I know the drill by now, eat regularly, peppermint tea, ginger... I hope it doesn't last as long as with either of the others though. It wore off by 20 weeks with Morgan, though I had stopped actually being sick at 16 weeks. I don't do pregnancy very well. I'm generally happy about it now at least.

I'm still thinking about how to explain my discipline style properly. I left that section on my site for so long - I just don't know how to explain what I see the shape of in my heart.

Random (long) essay on Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, by Naomi Aldort and some other discipline books

I thought the SALVE formula (Aldort) was helpful, but strongly disagree with her assumption that children shouldn't be actually asked to do anything they don't immediately want to. It seems that saying children have equal rights with adults is equivalent to saying adults have no rights at all - and should generally just facilitate the children doing whatever they want whenever they want it, including picking up after them, and that's the end of the story.

If you're confident enough as a parent to see that it doesn't have to be that way in order to be sufficiently gentle and completely unconditional... You can in fact, with total respect for your child wanting to not do so, ask them to pick up after themselves... Then no harm. But I would hate to see people pick up this book and feel that they were harming the developing psyche of their child by insisting that co-operation is a two way street!

That's why I like the Kohn book actually, that he says you and you alone know what matters to you. The lack of guidance for specific scenarios makes sense in those terms, so really the only further guidance in the Aldort book is to ask us to mentally run through the angry words before talking to the child. I do like how she writes though, her way with words. :)

I think that reading Kohn (Unconditional Parenting), then moving on this, then on to How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk is a good reading order. And then Playful Parenting by Laurence Cohen.

I think How To Talk is useful to read after these two because then the grounding is already coming from the prompts-to-parent-for-helpful-communication rather than (as Kohn says) trying to force them do what we already decided they should even if we later think perhaps we were unreasonable.

If you came to How To Talk from a punitive background then it becomes just techniques to add on to or replace punishment. But I don't see that it was written like that - in fact the dangers of using the words as a formula and being inauthentic are described if anything more strongly than in the Naomi Aldort book.I found the little cartoons irritating and unrealistic, but for a parent who thinks that there is legitimately a place for parental authority in keeping children safe and maintaining the balance of the family relationships, finding better words to use and more respectful ways to ask for co-operation becomes quite important!

Books whose "technique" is just to insist that parents shouldn't tell their child anything or ask them to do anything (and yet claim not to be permissive because they don't NEGLECT their children) aren't necessarily bad. I've found good in them. But I wouldn't buy the approach wholesale except as a basis FOR another form of discipline. Love alone *without* an expectation of social behaviour (which need NOT be putting conditions on that love) is gentle, but not balanced gentle discipline in my book.

Loving a child and giving them everything they want may make them happy but not necessarily make the family happy - ie the parent who sees a toy snatched and says, to the unhappy toyless child, "oh you're sad now, you really wanted to play with that" but feels that they can't take the toy back off the agressor without disrespecting their right to self-determine. Eventually the child wants to be helpful and fit in with the way everyone else does things, but in the meantime everyone else has to suffer because parental authority is denied in favour of making unequal abilities take equal decision-making.

Back to regular diary entries, methinks. Still pondering my reading and what my conclusions from it might mean in terms of changes... :)

4 March 2008

A quiet day at home

We had our duvet day after all. I feel really sniffly today too, and although Jenna is better she's still a bit teary and tired. We also had our promised hot chocolate. And we made frozen banana lollies (half a banana on a lolly stick with melted chocolate and sprinkles, then frozen on greaseproof paper). Our chocolate quota is definately up after today!

We have played tent, with some giant clips from the Oxfam sale and lots of playsilks (and a sling to make the roof). Her little wooden chairs are great for clipping things to - who needs a playframe for over £100? ;) Jenna heard the story of Rapunzel for the first time last night so the play was based around that (and many variations in which the princess safely escapes down a ladder knotted from bedsheets, or in which the prince marries the witch instead by mistake lol).

When I said that she could play more on her own so I could go and make tea she asked if I was stopping from playing, "because the witch voice makes you tired?" (Yes, I was the witch most of the time. Morgan was an unwilling princess so that Jenna could wear a red cloak and be the prince. Only Morgan wouldn't stand still long enough to marry her prince Jenna and they nearly came to blows!)

Late, after Martin had gone to take Jenna up, and while I was typing away working on some thoughts about the discipline books I've been reading, Morgan climbed up on the toy store and took a tumble. She must have over-reached, but when she shrieked I turned around to help her and saw her fall. She hit her face on the table as she fell, so although she isn't injured she's really unhappy and I'm off to nurse her a while and tend to the emotional turmoil of a one year old with wounded pride (and face).

Have to just quickly share this with you all before I rush off. This is one of my favorite Hathor comics of all time. http://www.thecowgoddess.com/2007/10/16/classic-hathor-indelibly-etched-2003/

3 March 2008

You love Morgan more than me

So we didn't get as far as the usual story time this morning! We went into town although Jenna was still complaining that her head hurt and her throat hurt and her ears hurt. When I suggested staying home and resting (and snuggling in a big blanket, with snacks and hot chocolate) she cried, so I figured if she feels like going out and doing stuff then she's probably not as poorly as I think!

I got her some Hepar Sulfate, more homeopathic stuff, for her earache and sore throat. I don't know if it worked or not but she immediately stopped complaining of pain and even when I asked her said she was fine. She seems really tearful now though, whether as a consequence of the illness or the treatment is anybody's guess. We're actually having a really good day, a good couple of days.

I'm trying to concentrate on not nagging Jenna so much and asking myself whether I really need to intervene so much. A lot of the things that irritate me aren't a big deal and if I can find a way to stop leaping on them they might not become quite such battle grounds. We're certainly shouting at each other less, though I think she may be doing more of the irritating stuff (like tipping out toys, which I've decided the best response to is just put some of them away and if she complains telling her that she can choose which stay out).

In town I noticed that she was staying closer, being more polite, and not getting so excited (ie singing at the top of her voice) on the bus. I just explained what I expected and told her that it would make the other people on the bus happy if she could be calm and quiet until we got off again. And there was no conflict; when she got loud I didn't comment and she suddenly realised that she was being noisy and stopped without so much as a glance at me to see if I was approving or not.

As I put her to bed half an hour ago we had one of those little talks that I will never really get my head around. She said, with an air of offence, "You didn't get me a sausage roll in town! But then you took me to Early Learning Centre, so that was nice." Then later, as she was drowsy and I said I needed to go downstairs to check on Morgan (asleep on the sofa on her own), she sat up and said something that made my heart stop for a moment.

Jenna - You love Morgan more than me.
Me - [desperate pause to find something validating] Is that how you feel?
Jenna - Yes. You love Morgan most cause she's the smallest and she needs you.
Me - Oh. [hugs her tightly feeling dreadful] Thankyou for telling me that I'm upsetting you, honey.
Jenna - No, it doesn't make me sad. You love Morgan the most cause she's small, but you love me the most cause I'm big. I'm your friend aren't I mummy?
Me - Of course you are. Do you know I really love you the same ammount?
Jenna - Yes. We're both your special daughters.
Me - Does it still make you sad when I have to go to Morgan and leave you here?
Jenna - Yes. A bit. No, it's OK. I don't want her to cry.

2 March 2008

I have a bump!

Mother's Day has been fantastic, perfect in fact. We went to my Mum's Church this morning, and then out for lunch all together. I also managed to try on clothes in the counter-culture clothes shop and got myself a fairtrade skirt (hippy and patchwork) and a green and gold silk dress that isn't a maternity dress but looks like it. Both very flattering to the proto-bump that hasn't GROWN so much as SOLIDIFIED. ;)

I had no intention of buying clothes this month, or anything else for me apart from parenting books. But they were very much reduced and my mum offered to get the skirt for me. So I had a mothers day present - from my own mum! Jenna made me an assortment of sprinkly gluey glittery cards, one with loads of perfect little (huge) kisses in purple felt tip on the inside. It has been a fab family day.

I'm still in the midst of trying to write down for myself what experiences I think I would like to be different from my last pregnancy. Hey, having a silk dress wasn't on the list but maybe it should have been! I'm feeling very, pregnant. It's good, and still a secret from enough people for it to be fun seeing when people will notice - although it's a bit soul destroying when I tell someone and they say, "Oh I THOUGHT you were looking a bit pale and ill!"

1 March 2008

Too much direction, too much control

Response from another parent who was at soft play when Jenna had her mega-meltdown; "Thank goodness other children behave like mine! I thought Jenna never screamed or kicked or said no, and my child was somehow terrible for occasionally carrying on like that!"

Anyhow, my Amazon order arrived in three short days in spite of me selecting the free shipping option. So I have been reading discipline books back to back, and have some thoughts about how I am with Jenna. I am definately nagging her too much, talking too much, telling her too much. Sometimes, for no reason, it's a constant stream of do this don't do that. That clearly has to stop.

The other thing is the bathroom issue, her suddenly wanting to play with water up there and then lie about the mess. We have decided that the lying is definately a fear of our reaction, and that we really have to stop blaming her at all and do what we're always saying we should and focus on the clear-up. We shouldn't make such a big deal, and maybe it will stop - not that she's doing it because we react or anything, she's doing it because she's three. But there's no reason for being three to force her to lie and hide to protect herself from being shouted at.

Since realising that there have been two incidents of bathroom watering, which simply haven't irrtated me like they did before, and have been cleaned up with no damage to her tender heart. We've also been getting on a LOT better for not directing and controlling her too much. Things are feeling less stressful by a great deal; I really hate getting to the point where we're enemies and fighting over everything.