I’m a tantrum survivor. Sort of!

As I sat, white faced, close to tears, next to a pale, blotchy, hiccuping daughter, I tried to work out exactly why what just happened had happened. Believe it or not from that description, no major tragedy had befallen us, no near miss in the car, no death of a beloved pet, we still had all our limbs.

No, all that had happened was that we had just survived a tantrum, not just any tantrum though, not a bit of foot stamping or the lying on the floor wailing business that small boy is so fond of. No, this was a full on screaming, punching, kicking, flailing, sobbing, ‘you’ve ruined my life’ kind of a tantrum. (Yes she really said that, she is five, I have no idea where she got it from!!)

I’m aware that I’m sounding dramatic, and maybe we both have a flair for it, she certainly picked her stage well, a packed square in the centre of a popular Italian town on market day. (We had a crowd around us at one point!) However, I did feel completely drained, emotionally battered and physically shaken up in the aftermath, as if we had both weathered the sort of storm that you see on the news.

We have only had a few of these thank goodness, but each time I feel as though my soul has been slightly pummeled. I end up wondering if it was my fault, if I could have done anything differently, whether I am a bad mother.

There are certain things that I think trigger these monumental melt downs, tiredness being the main offender. I also think that sugar is a contributor, and if there has been a change in routine it doesn’t help and over indulgence and spoiling when on holiday or around birthday time is pretty fatal.

But it is impossible to work out which combination of these will result in the tantrum, if at all, because sometimes she is whacked out on sugar after an exhausting party and is the sweetest little girl.

I wish I had the answers as to how to deal with it. I have tried lots of tactics, the most recent being offering a no-strings-attached cuddle, and then sorting things out and getting the requisite apology when it has all calmed down.

Sometimes it is impossible to get through to her though, when she is so far into it, reaching out to her is just not an option, especially if she is angry and lashing out. This is fairly rare thank goodness, and getting much less frequent as she gets older and I learn how to read the warning signs.

During this last one, I kept calm, remarkably calm, I stayed firm and didn’t back down, I’d told her we were leaving the market due to her behaviour, after having given her several chances to turn it round and her continuing down the same line, and I was determined to follow through with it, even when she started screaming as if she were being kidnapped and the crowd gathered!

I am slightly ashamed to admit that I resorted to threatening to cancel her birthday party and even pretended to write a text to the bouncy castle man to tell him it wasn’t needed! (I know I know but it was a desperate measures situation and I was feeling totally out of my depth and at a bit of a loss.)

I got her away eventually, and managed to find a less public place to sit, she raged on for a bit more, until eventually the rage burned out and we were both left sitting there like tornado survivors.

After it had passed, she was the sweetest little girl again. It was hard to imagine her ever being like that. She is not coping fantastically well with the whole idea of school. She misses me when she is there and feels frustrated that she has to go and we do fun things without her. Which I can completely understand.

She is also exhausted, everything new, so much to do, so much to learn, and I am relieved to say that this was at half term and we haven’t had any incidents anywhere near this scale since, but I know that friends are struggling as well, and now I realise how many of us are experiencing this, it does make me feel better to know that I’m not alone, not that I would wish it on anyone else but it’s nice to know there are others out there who know what it’s like to cling to that emotional life raft in a sea of screaming!

Especially as all the mums I know that are also going through it are wonderful, kind, caring people, and it helps me to see that if we are all in the same boat, maybe it is just that some children are more sensitive to big life changes then others, can’t cope with tiredness as easily, find their emotions harder to understand and manage, and it isn’t the reflection on my parenting that I have been beating myself up about in the aftermath of these tantrum tornados. She is a lovely girl usually, she isn’t badly behaved as a rule, we are nowhere near applying for a spot on a ‘send in a nanny and film us all melting down’ type of tv program, generally she is sweet, polite, funny, helpful, just ever so occasionally, something overtakes her that she has no control over.

So if you are a mama and any of this rings a bell with you you, give yourself a hug from me because it’s hideous and horrible but these days will pass and I’m sure that one day we will be sipping wine and laughing uproariously about how embarrassing it all was.

Just not yet!!

Smiley crafty
Thankfully things are more like this between us…otherwise I wouldn’t want to get up in the morning! 😀

 

dragon

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‘You can’t sit with us!’ (A post trying very hard not to compare 5 year olds to Regina George!)

So my little baby has now been in school for 4 weeks & she seems to be settling in fairly well, apart from some night wakings & subsequent appearings in our bed in the early hours. The thing that breaks my heart into itty bitty pieces is that she  has been saying that some girls in the playground have been telling her she can’t play with them. WAH!

The look on her face when she tells me is a mixture of confusion and sadness. I am under no illusions that she herself is a little angel all the time, and I know she can cause arguments with her friends sometimes as children all do, but the thought of her in the big playground being rejected makes me want to swoop down and rescue her. Not that I will because I realise it’s a part of growing up, but isn’t it just the worst part? I’m sure that that moment was just one in her day, maybe the friend changed her mind straight after and they went on to play nicely but it stuck with her enough for her to come home and seek reassurance from me.

I’m so scared for her as she grows up as I believe it is so tough to be a girl. Things seemed a lot more straightforward being a male teenager when I was younger, (from my limited point of view anyway). You have a problem with someone, you tell them, maybe you have a scuffle in the playground and then it’s over. It’s not like that with girls, well, not in my experience anyway. You could be best of friends one day, and then bam, seemingly out of nowhere it would be over and you could be persona non grata in your social circle.

Things can drag on for months, years even. There might be a gathering of ‘sides’ , it can be vicious, usually sly. Looks and smirks across the classroom. nudges, whispering behind hands, conversation that stops dead when you enter the room, hysterical laughter that is so obviously at your expense.

I just want to protect her from all this. But I know that I can’t.

I can’t imagine it nowadays, when all of this can follow you home. When I was young, you could leave school and, if not forget about it all, at least have some time away from dealing with it. The idea that people can use the many many platforms of social media to torment you at all hours of the day and night makes me shudder. I know I sound dramatic, my little girl is only weeks into reception, and I know that the other little girls at school really aren’t unkind, all of them battling with huge emotions about missing their families and struggling with all the new rules, and I’m sure she has said things that have upset others in her time, but it makes me think about the future for her and it worries me because girls can be mean! Let’s face it, they made a whole film about it!

Which leads me neatly on to the t-shirt in the photo below. We saw it in a shop today and I probably would only have photographed it as it linked in so well with this post, but big girl spotted it and begged me to buy it. I explained why I wasn’t keen and read her the words on it and she said, ‘Oh it’s ok Mummy, they are talking to the witch, the witch wants to sit with them but because she isn’t kind they don’t want her to.’ I almost melted!! Oh, and of course I bought the t-shirt! (I’m pretty sure the fact that her main woman Aurora features on it meant that she would have pulled out all the strops 😉 to get it home! Unless she pulls out some serious puppy eyes, I’ll only be wearing it around the house though, as I really don’t like the sentiment.) IMG_3664 Reading back, it sounds like I had a terrible time as a teenager but actually, I had loads of wonderful girl friends and still do, I just found it a lot easier to understand boys and how they worked. I’m pretty sure there are people who remember me as a mean girl, (and I genuinely am sorry to anyone I upset in my maelstrom of hormones and emotion), because we all have times when we haven’t been as nice as we could have been, but hopefully now I’m making amends!

That is a lot of the reason why I blog. I think there can be an element of mean girl-ness, (new term alert!), that never leaves some women. The whole competitive motherhood thing for a start. As you get older, you realise that usually this sort of barbed comment is a front for insecurity of some sort, the whole ‘really, your child is not walking yet?’ thing, is actually a manifestation of something they feel worried about, but if you are not self confident and can’t see that objectively, that can really affect you.

I want to always try to be authentic. online and in real life, I don’t want to be fake and big myself and my children up to be amazing caricatures of brilliance, (although I will use filters in photos for evermore!!!), of course I want to celebrate their achievements and document the highs but I also include the low points, and of course the tantrums!

There are a few ways I try to be the antithesis to a mean girl, when we go out to playgroups or to school events, if I see someone looking hovering on the edges, looking unsure, I’ll approach them, a friendly face and a smile can make all the difference to your nerves in a new situation.  I try my hardest not to be unkind about other people. And I’ll always offer help to strangers if they look like they may need it.

Earlier I saw someone trying to get out of their car with crutches and asked if they needed help. Afterwards, big girl was asking me why I’d offered help and I tried to explain karma to her. I really do believe that you get back what you put out into the world. I try to do a random act of kindness wherever I can, and to do them when I’m with the children so they can learn by example.

So with regards to the school playground issues, I’ve just told her that if she is told that she can’t play with someone, and it makes her sad, to just say, ‘that’s a shame, I am a lot of fun to play with, maybe another time’, and then to go and look for someone on their own or looking a little unhappy and ask them to play.

I really hope that is the right advice to give her. I just don’t ever want her to doubt herself. She approaches groups of children everywhere we go to ask them if they would like to play with her, and I hope beyond anything that she doesn’t have that crushed out of her.

Anyone reading that has experienced this with their children, how did you tackle it? How do you teach your children to be strong and get through times when their confidence in themselves is shaken?

(I realise I’ve aimed this post more at girls as that is what I know, and what I’m dealing with at the moment but I am sure that boys can have similar issues so please don’t feel you can’t comment if you have experience and advice and you have a son, in fact, the more views across the spectrum the better please. 🙂 )

dragon

My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows

Fab free day out at The Wilson in Cheltenham.

A couple of weeks ago, on a free morning, big girl and I had the pleasure of discovering The Wilson, an art gallery and museum in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

How have we never found this awesomeness before?! We’ve been to the cafe and a few craft sessions there which have been great, but there is so so much more there.

To start with, there is an ‘Art Cart’ with lots of different pictures to colour, clipboards, colouring pencils and various different gallery trails for you to spot things in all the different galleries. We were given a map of the gallery and lots of advise on which way round to go from one of the very friendly staff members. We have met a few now and everyone has been lovely, and genuinely knowledgeable, trying to ensure that we have the best experience which is so nice.

  

Big girl had fun choosing a colour pencil, picture and trail. We set off, the clipboard gripped firmly in her hand, me laden down with all the other things that she had promised faithfully to carry herself.

In all honesty, she wasn’t too interested in the trail itself, her attention was wavering at best! She is only four though, and was pretty tired after a busy summer holiday and the excitement if school starting. It didn’t matter though we had fun just exploring, along the way are lots of hands on interactive displays for children to get involved. We had a lot of fun doing this beautiful wooden puzzle. Which was actually fiendishly difficult, as you can probably tell from the triumphant finishers’ grin on big girl’s face!

    The best bit for her, the stay and play area, is absolutely brilliant and full of dressing up clothes, masks, story books, a beautiful big doll’s house and lots of other toys.
    There was some hilarious dressing up.
  Big girl was determined to squeeze herself into the jester’s outfit which was about four sizes too small!  Being ever so mature, I couldn’t resist the dress up box either! 😀
  
    I was having far too much fun with this!
  
    Surely this is mother abuse?!
  A donkey riding a horse. Bizarre!  She spent a lot of time setting up a silver service tea party for the teddies there. Very Downton!
  A very odd bunch! I’d put the wrong plates out here apparently. Not classy enough!  Now she was happy.
  This photo I think, is the absolute height of grown up and adult behaviour. It sums me up perfectly.
She had so much fun there that she wanted to go back with small boy this week. We are still in phasing in with school so are getting lots of days of just a few hours and so this is a perfect activity to fill a morning or afternoon. They have a lovely drumming statue that plays when you put coins in and so I also managed to empty my purse of lots of coins while they had a lot of fun dancing along!

Little loony tunes! 😀
  They have a great selection of story books and the whole area is themed to the season and changes regularly. Looking forward to see what they will replace the summer stories and buckets and spades with.   Such a goon!
  My little cowboy.  The court jester had lots of fun pretending to build a sandcastle.
  They have lots of lovely sensory activities there, like the rainbow bags filled with different coloured objects that the children can sort.
  I love their wall art, designed to fire up the children’s imaginations. The whole area is so well thought out, small but beautifully designed to make optimum use of the space, with different areas to make sure there is something for all ages.
  
  I can’t rate it highly enough, as well as the wonderful children’s area, there are creation stations dotted around with pictures to colour in and pots of colouring pencils, lots of interactive displays all around the galleries and so much for me to look at too. Because we are usually passing through at a less then leisurely pace, I see new things every time we go. Look at this absolutely stunning tiara I discovered. One of many in a gorgeous display case. They also have fun cabinets with bonnets that rotate and lots of different drawers that the children can pull out to look at different clothing items. Including some beautiful silk stockings that were promptly labelled ‘stinky socks’ by my two horrors! 😀 

Best of all, it is totally free, (apart from the contents of the change section in your purse! 😉 ), and also very quiet. Both times we have been there it has only been us. For somewhere so child friendly, very close to the centre of town and cost free, that is very welcome! 😀

England is beautiful!

Not a very long post tonight, as I’m tired and short of words, but school settling is going wonderfully, and because of the odd hours, we got some special time with just us and big girl this morning.

We took her and Monty dog to a canal nearby that I’d never been to, and it just took my breath away! We had an amazing nature walk with foraged blackberry snacks along the way.

I managed to get some great shots.

   
    
    

Dew drops on a spider’s web. Amazing!
 
It was very useful that Mr Pear Bear could take an hour or so off to come with us, because everyone knows the best berries are up high!

  
The berries needed very thorough checking for insects though.

   
 
Then home to get little bro and get ready for school. I’m going to miss these little adventures when she starts full time. It’s not often we get to enjoy her company just us 3 now.

Selfie into the sun! Dodgy angling and squinty eyes! 😀

Something today broke my heart.

The photograph of the refugee toddler being carried from the sea broke my heart today. Ripped it out in fact. I cannot imagine how his mummy felt, if she even made it. I’m sure she would have gone under herself first if she had been with him. That last breath, knowing your baby was going to go under too. (Since writing this, I found out that she didn’t, nor his brother but their poor father survived.)

Until now I have avoided it a bit, I mean, I’ve said how awful it is, felt sad for the people but was guilty of not digging too deeply into finding out more, probably knowing how upsetting it is, preoccupied with my own life. Seeing that image today has ripped me from my denial, brought it home to me how real this is. All this and I had only seen the photo of him being carried from the water. I have now seen all the images and am in tears. The thing that has disgusted me the most has been the attitude of some people, the few that have accused these refugees of having an agenda.

These people don’t want our jobs, they are desperate, desperate enough to risk their lives and their beloved babies lives to escape. They deserve our help, as fellow humans. What it must be like there to take this as a better option. I just can’t imagine. Today I had a hideous day with my children, I was near to tears by the time I got home from a horrible stressful trip to London complete with cancelled trains and the tube at rush hour, but the whole day I couldn’t get that image from my mind. I felt terrible, and so guilty because I still have my babies to cuddle, I am stressing about a fun trip to see the dinosaurs, a train journey that I could afford to pay for, a trip across a country that I am free to explore. This summer we went on holiday, we were free to travel all over Europe, having a lovely time, and all the while people were clinging together in the dark waters off the beaches more used to seeing bikini clad holiday makers, in the freezing cold, praying that their boat isn’t the one to sink, holding their children close in an effort to keep them warm. Wondering if you will ever be saved, if you will be able to get them food.

The reason for my easy life and my ability to come and go as I please is because of the place I was born. These people are the victims of their place of birth. It could just as easily have been you or I in that position. What atrocities would be bad enough to make you get into a leaky boat with your tiny children having no idea if you would ever get out again, or where. If you eventually did make it somewhere, the relief you felt would be short lived. Unable to speak a word of the language, met by hostility, angry faces, razor wire. Forced to sleep on the rocks, to bed your children down in the grass at the side of train tracks, not able to provide them with any food or water, or dry clothes.

No matter who you are or what your status, I’m sure you can relate to that. You may not have any money to donate, and that’s ok, I understand, but maybe you have some old clothes, maybe you were planning to have a clear out of your children’s outgrown clothes and toys, think how much a person who has left their homes and everything they own would appreciate that jumper that Aunty Meryl knitted you ten years ago. I’m pretty sure they won’t care a jot about the too long sleeves or the green and orange polka dot pattern, they will just be thrilled with the warmth and the fact that someone cared enough about them to send it.

If you do have some spare money and you would like to give something, this is a link to donate to the Migrant Offshore Aid Station, who are working with the fantastic Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to find, rescue and treat refugees stranded at sea. I think it’s called operation Phoenix if you wanted to google them. You can donate with paypal, easy as buying a pair of shoes on ebay!

I don’t want to post the photos here. They are so upsetting. But if you wanted to see them for yourself and read through the article; this is the link. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/if-these-extraordinarily-powerful-images-of-a-dead-syrian-child-washed-up-on-a-beach-dont-change-europes-attitude-to-refugees-what-will-10482757.html

In the meantime, I will leave you with the image of these little lads in happier times. May they rest in peace.

Aylan Al-Kurdi and his older brother, Ghalib, died yesterday when their dinghy sank off the coast of Turkey (Qattouby/Twitter)
Aylan Al-Kurdi and his older brother, Ghalib, died yesterday when their dinghy sank off the coast of Turkey (Qattouby/Twitter) Taken from The Independent newspaper.

The 5 simple signs that your child is overtired.

If lots of eye rubbing isn’t present to help you work it out, here are my five handy signs that your child is suffering from overtiredness. Or maybe that should say that you are suffering from your child’s overtiredness!!

1. Severe Unreasonableness.

An overtired child will disagree with you about everything. This can include the colour of the sky above you, whether they ate shreddies or weetabix for breakfast and even what their name is. (This stems from a genuine full day argument I had with my daughter when she changed her name to Hello Kitty and refused to answer to anything else. I am equally stubborn and refused point blank to call her anything but the lovely name I had given her. This was mainly because she had been exhibiting signs 1 – 5 for days and I had really had enough!)

2. An inability to walk.

This will be especially irritating if you are in a hurry. There will be feet dragging, exaggerated sighing and much eye rolling and huffing.

Pointing out that the energy they are wasting on their silly behaviour could be better put to use just walking quietly, will just make you feel extra annoyance because you will realise that at some point you have actually morphed into your stereotypical idea of a nagging mother and fun pinterest mum, the one you aspire to be, is in a corner of your subconscious, making sandwiches look like picnicking teddy bears and making under-the-sea mobiles out of toilet roll cores whilst shaking her head and tutting at you.

It will also have naff all effect on the walking ability of your child, which will only serve to add to your irritation and chiding, they will delight in watching you get more and more wound up.

3. Mutinous glares.

These will be frequent and if you’re anything like me at the end if a long week, come from both child and mother.

4. Tantrums.

As in the terrible two style melt downs but in a child who is much past that somewhat forgivable young age. A child who now has an acute awareness of what really embarrasses you and has hit on the winning formula of screaming at full, shrill volume over and over and shouting, ‘Stop Hurting Me Mummy!’, when you go anywhere near her, following up with sly glances around at disgusted looking passers by and triumphant, ‘whatcha gonna do?!’ stares at you when no-one is looking.

This just results in making you think that a smacked bottom would be very much in order right now, but having to make do with wild threats made through gritted teeth, things like throwing away every toy they have ever owned and banning tv FOREVER. They will remain totally un-phased, knowing that a) there is no way that you could cope without the back up of c-beebies when you are cooking and b) that their birthdays will replenish the toy stocks, either that or a plaintive call to a sympathetic grandparent.

5. Excessive crying.

About everything and anything. Including dragging up past events that were genuinely upsetting, like grazed knees or times when they lost privileges for being naughty and how mean and unreasonable their parents are.

I suppose it’s like the adult equivalent to watching a tear jerking film when you’re going through a bad break up. Only FAR. MORE. ANNOYING!!

It doesn’t need a number but the obvious sign that beats all of these hands down is when you find yourself in the fridge.

Reaching for the wine.

At 3pm.

On a Monday. 😀

2d204-bestandworstlinky

For whom the (school) bell tolls.

I am in such a maelstrom of thought and emotion, the weeks seem to be galloping past, the start of school for my big girl is looming so quickly. The summer stretched ahead of us like a long, blissful haze of joy but then it started speeding by and now we are mere days away from the start of the new chapter. Neither of us know what to expect. Emotions are high in us both. I know she is nervous. She is showing so many signs of trying to dictate things and I’m sure it’s because she feels that the whole school thing is out of her control, she told me recently that she wasn’t going to go to school as she ‘just didn’t fancy it’. I tried to explain that she will have a wonderful time and all her friends are going to be there and that she would settle in slowly. Over 6 weeks in fact! She wasn’t to be convinced. She doesn’t like the colour of her uniform, wants to stay at her preschool. wants to stay with her brother, lots of things that were quite the opposite just a few weeks ago. So I am a bit stuck, trying to make this the best summer ever, without spoiling them, because I’m worried they are turning into wanting whingers. Mainly because all I hear is ‘I want’!! In a whinge! Damn Lelli Kellis with their carriage make up set and hair colour wand! If you have escaped this so far, you have definitely not been resorting to milkshake pre 8 am as I have. (Well done by the way, please could you wing some tips my way! 😉 ) Things have improved slightly since I told them that they can buy whatever they like when they have their own money. Now they just list everything they will buy when they are older. Which is a lot!

So we are having this conflict, I’m trying to make it nice, and she is behaving horrendously. It is stressful. For both of us I’m sure. The fighting between the siblings is off the scale. We are having marginal success with the Castle reward chart but more often then not I am being shouty mum. Home shouty. When we are out as well. Which is making me look a little terrible and deranged.

Then I’m sad again. And so it continues. Mood swings and roundabouts. Literally!!

So today we had a mummy daughter day. Small boy was at nursery and I took big girl into town after we dropped him off. I decided that there would be no cakes and buying things though. It was a treat free treat day, if that makes any sense! Behaviour of late didn’t warrant any treats but I wanted to do something special and spend some quality time together, we were meeting her friends for a swim later so had the morning free.

They have been running free craft sessions in our local shopping centre, it is so lovely. Today was bracelet making, and we had so much fun!

Excited face Soexcited Startbracelet

It was absolutely brilliant and we had a such a wonderful time, things were so much better just the two of us and I think we both benefited from some peaceful time without any arguing. Plus she has got a beautiful bracelet now, aaaand we went in to the shop that was running all the crafts and bought Wilma our new camper van a beautiful present.

Finished bracelet     Bunting

Please tell me I’m not alone in this! All I want is for it to be special and I feel like it is anything but!! I’m scared that I’ll look back and regret that this time hasn’t been totally magic and sparkle and joy. I suppose it’s just been real life really!

Today I made my children a dungeon.

Yes really, a dungeon with bars on the window and a giant padlock on the door. Before you phone the NSPCC, let me reassure you that it is in paper form! The summer holidays have really taken their toll and behaviour has slid down into the realms of horrendous, so I came up with the idea of a castle reward chart. There would be paths up and when, (if!!!), they reached the castle, they could have a treat.

Even with a scary dragon!
Even with a scary dragon!

I decided to make it with big girl, so she would really feel invested in the project and hopefully take it more seriously. We drew it together and I printed out photos of both children and we dressed them up in costumes, princess for big girl and small boy is a gallant knight. (May be a stereotype but that is what they wanted, I would have happily let them switch if they wished.) He has less steps on his path as he is almost two years younger and she has more opportunities to step forward up her path, with things like having her hair brushed without protest on the list.

Sophiecastle                                                                       Sophiecastle2

When we had finished, it was pretty late and we just put it straight on the wall, but it was looking a little bit bland.

It was looking a bit bland apart from big girl's beautifully decorated windows!
It was looking a bit bland apart from big girl’s beautifully decorated windows!

Sophieprincess Ozzyknight

Luckily, the princess and the knight were looking pretty fabulous! Especially with the sequins little miss filched out of my sewing box! 🙂 I’m not convinced about the princess’s lipstick if I’m honest, but she did ask for it. Then complained I’d coloured in her mouth!

Colours  HappydragonJester

So we got the colours out and had a little fun creating some extra characters and adding in some bright splashes. Oh, and a dungeon….behaviour today was that bad! It is hopefully going to be a good incentive, especially with the (slightly!), scary dragon standing guard!!

All finished!
All finished!

We sat down at the table and worked out a list of behaviours that would take them down the path, we have 3 main categories in each, and expanded on them a little bit underneath. When I was writing it out, it was a little jumbled as I had an awful lot of suggestions coming at me that were pretty noisy and interesting so my tenses are all over the shop, but luckily they can’t read yet! You get the general idea though!

NegativePositive

They seemed to get the general idea so I’m hoping that they start to improve on things soon! I don’t feel like we’re asking the world from them, just a bit of mutual respect and tidying up after themselves, I don’t think you can ever be too young to learn to behave well.

They are just seeming very spoilt at the moment and I know a lot of that is our fault always doling out the treats! They are going to need to earn them from now on! I think it’s a great act of love to teach them these things as well as to shower them with hugs and kisses and lessen the flow of material goods.

Or that’s the plan anyway!! Anything to stop the cacophony of ‘I wants’ that I seem to be hearing. They get a small treat when they reach the jester and something bigger when they get to the castle drawbridge.

In this case, a trip to a big farm park that I handily already had tickets to. 🙂

Close up dragon Close up jester Scary dragon close

Train journeys with kids v train journeys alone. How one is so much better than the other, can you guess which?!

I have compiled this handy comparison for you in case, like me, it has been a very long time since you have had the pleasure of travelling solo, and have forgotten what it can actually be like and are starting to loose all hope. (Hint; it’s sooooo much better & you will get to do it again one day, even if it really doesn’t feel like it now!!)

Pre- journey preparation.

With kids: Arrive at the station a few minutes before the train is due to leave even though you were up at least four hours before, this is down to things like last minute clothing debates, (whether they need them on), hair brushing, (see previous post!) and a battle to fit all the travel ‘essentials’ into one bag that isn’t a massive suitcase.

These ‘essentials’ include but are not limited to, wet-wipes, four different types of minimal mess snack, more then one drink as you can’t all share one, (and really don’t want to, toddler snack backwash anyone?!), a selection of sticker books, toys that will be abandoned within seconds of being seen, special teddies and blankets and various other tat they absolutely promise to carry themselves despite all the evidence to the contrary, (every other journey ever plus the fact that you are already trying to stuff them into your bag!), oh and a few bits for you like the tickets, the money that will be with you precisely until the trolley pulls up next to you and relieves you of the lot, and a phone to call up everyone you know and live-share the trauma of the journey.

Without kids. Pop your laptop, a magazine and a few other bits into a bag. Kiss your kids goodbye and trot perkily to the car, revelling in not being the harried mother chicken for once, coaxing her reluctant brood out of the house by means of chocolate buttons.
Have a nice leisurely journey full of adult conversation with your lovely Dad, using full sentences and really enjoying an opportunity to listen to his answers for the first time in about 5 years, also not getting the ‘car journey neck crick’ that comes from attempting to sort things out in the back every 3 minutes.
Feel as if you have gone back 10 years. Get out of the car and walk to the platform, be shocked and amazed that you are actually 20 minutes early and have more time to chat, not for you the last minute flurry of desperate wees, lost teddies and hair tearing, edge of panic attempts to stop anyone going on the track/getting in the drivers carriage/escaping.

When the train arrives you push the button yourself and serenely alight the train, wave a relaxed and happy goodbye, find a seat and sit down.

The journey itself.

With kids. Attempt to find 3 seats together. Whilst dragging an overstuffed bag at the point of explosion, a reluctant toddler who just wants to see the outside of the train and a stupid folded up buggy because you missed the rack on the way in.
By now you are slightly sweaty and a bit shouty. But public shouty. Which is more through gritted teeth then home shouty, which is just loud.

Once the seats have been found and the arguments resolved about who sits where, the multiple seat changes carried out, the repeated recriminations about standing on the furniture dished out, you endure several hours of frantically attempting to point out interesting things out of the window while silently loosing the will to live when you faux cheerfully/ near hysterically attempt to draw their attention away from the other passengers and their funny hair/big tummies/weird eyes, (why does sound carry so much in a train carriage, I bet the person who had the life hack idea of using a pringles tube as a speaker

Real thing see!!

was a parent who had just got off the train with their young hyper-observant and very stridently voiced children!!), and alternate between opening and distributing snacks, retrieving toys with wheels from either the front or back of the train, depending on the incline, and trying not to let them drink from your water bottle with a mouthful of crisps healthy organic wheat puffs without offending them or damaging their self esteem by allowing your disgust to show through.

Without kids. Settle into your seat, open your laptop and feel slightly amazed that there is a plug socket right next to you. Consider for a moment how handy that is.
Start writing a brilliantly funny 😉 post about your journey and intersperse it with small breaks to admire the stunning scenery, read your magazine and listen to a quite frankly hilarious conversation between a mother and daughter that renders you unable to keep from actually laughing out loud, (instead of just abbreviating it), and joining in their friendly banter.

Exchange pleasantries with the person opposite you and feel a pang of guilt that you got the last tea from the trolley and your neighbour would have to wait half an hour for the next chance to have one, on a train in Britain to run out of tea seems unthinkable! Put your hot beverage on the table next to you and leave it to cool down a bit, then leisurely drink it at optimum tea temperature.

Plan your 45 minute wait at your change station with glee. Think about what lunch you will have and flick through your magazine to see if there are any clothes you like because if your foggy memory serves you rightly, there are some shops there and with just a tiny handbag and your laptop bag, you can easily pop in and browse.

Breathe a contented sigh!

The change.

With kids. Gather together all of your things, and their things, and the things they have somehow accumulated, which CANNOT be thrown away. Like the stirrer from the tea you bought but ended up having to hold in the air above your head until it cooled down enough to not cause any injury if, (when!), it was inevitably knocked over .

Herd the children to the exit, reclaiming the buggy on the way as you finally found a space on the luggage rack to wedge it, first removing the 8 suitcases that are pinning it down and using your foot to hold small boy against the wall so he doesn’t get shut in the automatic doors/off the train when it stops.

Realise that 45 minutes is either very long or a really really short time to be on a station depending on how the mood is. Look at the very cross and tired small boy attempting to release himself by biting your ankle and sigh becuase you know that it is going to feel like a very very long time but will seem impossible to get everything done in the time and you will end up late, running and shouty. Miss the train shouty, which is very loud, very panicked and draws a lot of attention from everyone but your own children who are busy looking in a shop window, getting their trunkis entangled and trying to get on the escalator going to the wrong platform.

Try and find the hidden lift as there is no way you’ll get everyone up the escalator safely, look round for someone to give you your prize when you eventually get to it, after all, every other place we visit seems to issue prices for making it to the end of a very long and frustrating mystery trail involving lots of cryptic clues and arrows that seem to lead you further and further from the place you need to get back to.

Referee the button push wars outside and in the lift, and try to stop buggy tipping over now that your overflowing,  seam straining bag is on it and small boy point blank refuses to get in it.

Try to look at the screens to prepare yourself for which end of the station you need to be on for the next leg of your endurance test journey, this involves not loosing the children on the concourse while you try and locate your destination on the giant screens that take up half the wall, not having a clue where the end of the line actually is, and so needing to read the rapidly scrolling text of every train on every station platform, going to the whole of the UK.
[Top tip. Most of my blog is tongue in cheek but we’ve not made it this far unscathed(ish!) without picking up a few pointers on the way, (the big ones like; never leave the house with a baby and no nappies or spare clothes. No mater how many times you changed their nappy that morning, there can always be more, and it will go ‘up the back’, and probably the front and out the sides to boot!), another more relevant one is; in a busy crowd situation, I get a child to hold on each side of the buggy which helps me know that they are close and safe. It will also keep them fairly occupied checking that the other isn’t letting go so they can tell on each other. It is a really good tip and works fine if they are both in an acquising mood, you don’t need to fit through anywhere narrow and they don’t engage in a battle over who gets to hold the carrying handle which is only on one side, very low down and really not that interesting!]
Then it’s lunch, where you attempt to find somewhere with enough room for all your -rubbish- valuable stuff, has food that everyone will eat, is near your platform and won’t require a bank loan to pay at the end.

Enjoy a usual meal of cutting up other people’s food, picking bits out of things and scrubbing everyone down with a wet-wipe before they touch you.

Find and board the next train, trying to keep everyone and everything upright, un-squashed, together and happy, and repeat journey with kids section above.

Arrive home in need of a good cry and a cup of tea. Secretly high five-ing yourself on your amazing ability to survive just about anything life can throw at you and idly considering putting yourself forward for the next Bear Grylls survival show because compared to that, it looks like a doddle…..plus it means several un-contactable weeks in the peaceful jungle. Ahhhh, bliss!

Without kids. Glide over to the information boards, find your train easily and note your platform, pick anywhere you fancy for lunch, even with limited access, spicy food or….stairs! Gasp! Then have a leisurely stroll round the shops, and mooch to the platform in plenty of time for your train.

Repeat journey section without children as described above, and arrive home chilled, relaxed and with another blog post under your belt, ready to kick back and enjoy the rest of your day, or in my case, have an hour to turn around and get back out for a wedding photography shoot, (behind the lens this time!), and off to a hotel for a frankly hilarious and brilliant murder mystery evening in a castle. Yes a real castle!

Slightly hungover attempting to emulate a creepy-as gargoyle!
Slightly hungover attempting to emulate a creepy-as gargoyle!

More on that to follow soon. Next time I have a long uninterrupted journey somewhere! 😉

A very sad story.

I want to start out by saying that I’m not a judgmental person. I consider myself to be very easy going and accepting of people but I recently discovered something that shocked me so much I feel I have to write about it.

Before about two years ago, I knew very little about the Jehovah’s Witness religion apart from the fact that they wear suits and knock on your door trying to convert you. At a push I’d also be able to tell you that they don’t allow blood transfusions at all even if someone only has that as a chance of survival.

So I was not on board with their methods and ideas but pretty ambivalent to them in a live and let live sort of way. Until I met a lovely girl on the bus. We were both with our kids, (or so I thought at the time), and we grinned at each other and I instantly knew she would be someone special in my life. For a start, she shared my policy of smiling at strangers to see where it would lead. What is that cheesy quote, “a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet”, I think that is pretty apt where this situation is concerned! So we exchanged a few pleasantries across the aisle and I can’t remember if it was that day or whether we bumped into each other again not long after, but we ended up walking to the same destination one day and chatting away, I learned that she was a nanny and she told me all about some wonderful things going on in the area for families. After that, we became friends on facebook, and the rest, as they say is history!

She is a wonderful, gentle, caring person with a heart of gold, who has time for everyone, treats my children as if they are her own and goes the extra mile for someone everyday, and today, she buried her father. However, this beloved father, who she was so close to as a girl, teenager and through her twenties, refused to see her, even when he knew he was dying. Her heartfelt letters and cards were read and considered but the answer was always the same, that he would not see her until she did one thing.

Which was what you might wonder. Well, the one little thing she had to do if she had any hope of seeing him before he died, was to sit at the back of a room, every weekend, ignored by everyone there, for years, repenting of her ‘sins’, until it was decided she was forgiven, by which time he would have lost his battle to cancer anyway.

What was her big crime? She chose to leave the religion. The second she made that life altering decision, she was dead to her friends, her family, everything she knew. She had been in a horrible abusive relationship, but was unable to leave while still a witness, so she finally came around to the way of thinking that something that made her live such a life of unhappiness in the name of ‘God’ may not be something that is as amazing as she had been told since birth. She finally drew on every ounce of strength she had and freed herself from both the marriage and the religion. The price she paid was so high. Everyone she ever knew, pretends she doesn’t exist. She wasn’t allowed to mix much with her ‘wordly’ family,the family who weren’t in the religion, so didn’t know them very well and anyone that was in the faith was banned from talking to her.

Today’s funeral was an experience that I found quite shocking. I have had a Christian upbringing, and despite not feeling religious now, I still live by the principles of doing unto others as you would be done by, and trying to be a good Samaritan. I am also always welcome in the church, and not just because my mum is a Vicar, but because there is no judgement about my choice. My friend was told that her dad had specifically requested that she was not present at the wake and that she may attend the funeral itself but she should sit at the back. She received a phone call from an Elder to reiterate this the day before the funeral.

Thankfully, she had some moral support along to help her stay strong. Her husband, myself, and four friends that are also ex-witnesses. She had already decided that she did not want to sit at the back, she wanted to sit at the front, with the rest of the family. So we made our way to a row near the front and sat down, taking up a whole row.

Their presence was obviously causing a stir amongst the witnesses. One lady swung around with an enormous welcoming smile, until she registered who they were, you could see the process of realisation and the smile was gone and shock was quickly replaced by an impassive mask before she turned away. The only people who spoke to my friend were her non-JW family and people who either didn’t realise who she was, or who mistook her for her sister, who isn’t a JW but never has been so it is fine for them to talk to. As soon as they registered who she was it got very awkward and they quickly extracted themselves from the conversation and scuttled off, as if scared.

The man doing the service was obviously nervous, there was a lot of exaggerated lip licking and every time he caught the eye of anyone on our row, he would stumble over his words. He read a lot of versus from his bible and would relate them to the deceased, the main theme of the whole ceremony was not the person that had passed away, but how he was so devout, the many ways he had shown his great servitude and how everything was fantastic because he had so much faith, and even the great pain of his illness was a good thing as he felt it had brought him closer to his Jehovah God. There was a lot of emphasis on not feeling sad as he would meet them all again in the resurrection, (only the witnesses of course, and only a certain number of them), so they should all be happy about that. There was talk about what a good preacher he was, how much faith he had and how his faith had helped him through making some very tough decisions. Like cutting off his own daughter perhaps?

I was left with just an overwhelming sense of sadness, not just for the people cast out from everything they know for making a life choice, but also for the Witnesses themselves. They face a hideous choice, to either never speak to a beloved family member again, to see their child, their sibling, their mother or father suffer, to loose a very best friend you have had from childhood, to have to ignore them if they see them on the street, to face the recrimination of someone deeply hurt attempting to get answers from them, or be faced with the same fate themselves. The pain of that happening over and over again must be unbearable.

As a parent myself now, there is not a thing in the world that my children could do to cause me to cut them off. It would be too hard. But this is what is happening to children and parents all over the world. All because they left the religion, some for reasons like abuse. The more I found out, the more I started to research and what I discovered broke my heart, videos of a son, trying desperately to get his dad to acknowledge and talk to him to no avail. Stories of people that never got to see their beloved family member before they died. The people we were with all had their own stories, that they had lost parents never getting a chance to say ‘I love you’ one last time. One lady I was talking to is too afraid to go into her town because she has only recently left and still feels the gaping hole in her life, she knows that if she does go out, not one of her old friends is allowed to even acknowledge her existence. She is nothing to them, and that is too much for her to deal with at the moment.

I think it says something about my friend that despite these people’s stories, despite their fears about walking into a place filled with people that consider them dead and are most definitely not happy at their presence, ignored by aunties, cousins, former friends, they all travelled over an hour each way to sit by her side. Luckily, her story has a happy ending, despite being left utterly penniless after her JW first husband cleared out their joint bank account and her family disowned her, she is now happily married, with a fabulous family of her choosing, of which I’m blessed to be a part of, and a very successful business. The chains that bound her down are long gone and she is in a very good place. Sadly not everyone who leaves is so lucky.

For help, support and information about anything I’ve written about, these sites have lots of information and contact details.

http://jwfacts.com/    http://jwhelp.org/   http://jwvictims.org/  http://aawa.co/  http://www.towerwatch.org/

 

Edited to add that all the members of my friend’s father’s family are not Witnesses and so our presence did not disrupt the funeral for them, they couldn’t understand why my friend could not be there and have always hated the rifts the religion caused in their family.