Posts tagged #child

Inner Child

"How could you ignore me?"

"How could you ignore me?"

“Why did you leave me?”

During a sound healing meditation this weekend we called upon our inner child to deliver us a message. This was mine.

A wave of emotion built up inside me and spilled out of the corners of my closed eyes. My mind exploded with a montage of memories…faces, moments, feelings…then they faded, and everything went still as the weight on those five words settled in my heart.

“Why did you leave me?”

This phrase carries a multitude of meanings for me - from abandonment to trust, to fear to loneliness, to a sense of growing up too fast. But most importantly, it brings to the forefront the knowing that I have stifled and oppressed my inner child for too long.

This is how I’ve always dealt with the tough things in life. I pile a whole lot of good stuff on top of the bad stuff and it disappears. I push it down until I can’t see it or feel it anymore. I shove it into the back of the cupboard and cover it over with a big old coat that I’ll never wear again. I separate, I disconnect…I leave it behind.

Somehow in this process I left my inner child behind. She sits in the corner of my mind with her knees to her chin and her long hair falling over her face. She’s barefoot and looks a little hungry. She wears a white dress, long sleeves, a little like a nightie. Her eyes are big, blue, shiny. You can’t see her very well with all the stuff around her; the light can’t get in. There are boxes and books and piles of photographs. And lists, lists, lists. There are clothes on racks and a record player – dusty. A home movie playing over and over on a screen in the background. It would be easy to miss her, to forget her…to leave her behind.

Somewhere along the way, I did just that.

Our inner child is both a subconscious reflection of our emotional experiences from childhood, and the aspect of ourselves that is fun, innocent, creative and straight-shooting. You can get a good sense of your inner child (as it relates to the emotional stuff) if you look at what your triggers are and how you react when your buttons are pressed. Often in these circumstances our behaviour and its intensity is disproportionate to the action or event. We yell, we cry, we slam doors, we sulk - we overreact. To the onlooker we look exactly like the child that is driving us from within.

How I perceive today will never ever be the same as how you perceive today (even if you were sitting alongside me the entire 24hrs). How I perceive and recall events, how I interpret them and how I react to them is based on accumulated emotional experiences and associated reactions. These reactions have become preprogramed to form the inner child I now carry with me today. If you don’t take the time to nurture, acknowledge and heal your inner child, and allow them to grow and integrate with your adult self, your ability to love fully, live openly, and interact meaningfully with others is limited.

In the process of pushing aside the hurts and traumas of my inner child I have, for a very long time ignored the creative, fun, innocent and open aspects of her also. This is something I have been working on reconnecting with since the evolution of Mama Pyjama. I’ve been doing a good job of that – encouraging us all to get in touch with the playful child within us, to live in the ‘now’, to embrace all the wonderful opportunities we are presented with as parents to really let go, relax and be a kid again. But what I am realising now is that this cannot be done in isolation.

 It’s all very well to embrace the carefree aspect of our inner child…but we can’t just ignore the hurts and the traumas.

I need to look inwards and draw my inner child out of the dark corner of my mind to nurture her, heal her and to seek forgiveness.  I encourage you all to do the same. It’s a work in progress, but I know that in doing so I will eventually be able to integrate all the aspects of myself which will allow me to fully be me – no inhibitions, more meaningful relationships, and less anxiety!

10 Tips for Tackling Tantrums

10 tips for tackling tantrums Mama Pyjama

We had a tough time managing our eldest child's meltdowns in those first few years of parenting. Anything from not getting him into the car the way he wanted, to putting together his cereal in the “wrong” order, to wanting a bottle at 2am - if he didn’t feel like he had control of the situation, it very quickly escalated to a full-blown meltdown/tantrum.

Thankfully we found some tools to help us manage these better. I'm sharing them with you today, with the hope that it they will help you too!

Ten Tips & Tools for Tackling Tantrums:

1. Breathing Tools and Activities

We found breathing techniques extremely helpful - especially if they involved the distraction of a "fun toy". Getting our son to focus his attention away from the tantrum/meltdown was our biggest challenge - this seemed to really help.

This technique is all about getting the child to learn to steady their breathing in order to self-calm. The tools are great because they don't work unless the child is using a long deep drawn/steady breath. You can buy specific whistles and blowers online, but really it's anything that requires the child to steady their breathing in order to make the tool work. You can find some stuff in $2 shops or party supply stores (like little pipes that you blow steadily to try and keep a little ball floating on top). There's an actual website that sells a heap of really cool little respiratory tools that I’m happy to provide (just contact me and I’ll send the link through to you).

2. Music

Using music at bedtime and during tantrums can help calm children down. Songs sung at rhythms of 50 to 70 beats per minute are said to be similar to the rhythm of the human heartbeat and have been found to slow body functions. We got a cd called “Cool Bananas” - it's full of kids songs sung at 50 to 70 beats per minute. We incorporated this music into our son’s bedtime routine and it seemed to help relax him.  If he went to sleep calm, we found the frequency and severity of his nightlightly wakeups/meltdowns would usually decrease.

3. Games of Repetition

We used games that require repetitive actions (like putting money in a money box, or tokens into a slot, or posting letters) as distraction techniques, eg. if he was having a meltdown we'd try breaking the cycle by getting him to redirect his focus to a game of connect four. It didn't always work, but it was certainly helpful at times. It seemed that through regulating his actions, he would begin to regulate his breathing and in turn relax.

4. "First - Then" Concept

This is a concept is used to demonstrate to the child the positives of doing something they don’t necessary want to do. Typically the “first” thing is something they don’t want to do, and the “then” thing is something they enjoy doing or like. eg. “First” we go to the shop, “then” we go to the park. The then needs to be quite beneficial to the child when first starting to use the concept. In the beginning it might need to involve the use of treats/reward as the “then” activity, eg. First you pick up your toys, then you get a jellybean. Or first you put your plate on the bench, then you play outside. Initially the then reward or activity should come pretty quickly after the first action.

5. Visual Representation

This is all about communicating more visually than verbally. Visual cues such as pictures, objects and even sign language can be understood by children far earlier than they grasp verbal communication. Add to this the fact that in the midst of a tantrum, children can often shutdown and don’t even appear to hear what you’re saying anymore, let alone have the capacity to interpret and absorb it. Using visual cues to explain what you want them to do can certainly help, and we found if used regularly it can help prevent tantrums from occurring in the first place.

For example, having a whiteboard in the car and at home to be used to explain the First/Then activities can be helpful – draw a picture of a Car with your child in it to represent “First Car” and then a picture of a Slide with your child on it to represent “Then Park”. Another example is the use of Visual Charts for activities like going to bed. eg. picture for bath, picture for brushing teeth, picture for going to bed. You can take the child through each activity and as they achieve each step you allow them to post the little picture in a mailbox or something (this incorporates the repetitive game approach as well). In the early use of this concept, it pays to provide some sort of reward once the steps are completed – even if it is simply lots of cheers, hugs and high fives.

6. Feeling Heartbeat

This is similar to the breathing stuff. We would try to refocus our son’s attention to his heartbeat during meltdowns. We’d encourage him to put his hand on his heart and ask him to feel how fast it was going. We’d explain that it was too fast, often requiring us to get him to feel our heartbeat to compare. We’d then get him to try to “slow it down” by breathing deeply and laying down. Often we’d bring in a breathing tool at this point too.

7. Avoiding Over-stimulation

We try to avoid over-stimulation in the evenings (this one is easier said than done)! Limit stimulating activities prior to bed - like TV or toys with lots of music and lights.

8. Consistent Routines

We try to be flexible with things like naptimes and staying up a little late sometimes, but we work really hard to ensure we have consistent routines. For example, at bedtime we try no matter where we are to do things in a consistent order. Bath, then bottle, then a book, then bed. Consistency has proved very effective in maintaining a sense of calm (and perceived control on our child’s behalf).

9. Remaining Calm

This one is related to changes I’ve made to how I deal with the tantrums/meltdowns. For me it was all about letting go of the control and of the thought that they were being 'naughty'. It’s really hard not to get worked up/angry/frustrated/upset when you have a child in full meltdown mode. So it became about recognising when I was about to lose it, and removing myself from the situation. It sometimes means locking them in a room for a minute and walking outside, taking some deep breaths and getting myself centred again before going back in for round two. Remaining calm in these situations is certainly easier said than done, but it really is so important. Children, after all, are learning how to manage their emotions by mirroring how we manage our own.

10. Pick Your Battles

And finally, it was also about picking my battles. Learning to recognise and appreciate that you’re not going to win them all was a really important learning for me. Trusting yourself to make the right choices is important. It is super important to keep the hard-line on a lot of things in order to provide boundaries and to raise socially aware (and acceptable!) children. But there are also times when the most important thing needs to be ensuring they are ok, that the tantrum is broken and that they calm down. Attempting to deal with 'bad' behaviour during a tantrum is for the most part fruitless anyway. Calm them down first - deal with the behaviour once the meltdown is over. I find when I approach it this way the benefit is two-fold: I’m able to explain a lot more calmly and coherently what I didn’t like; and my kids are much more receptive to what I am saying.

Little Things Lost

"I'm just playing hide-n-seek Ma"

"I'm just playing hide-n-seek Ma"

I lose things all the time…my shoes, my hairbrush, my phone, my keys…but not my kids.  I’ve never lost my kids…well…not until last week.   I’m always on hyper-alert when I go out with my eldest, he’s super independent.  Always has been.  At his second birthday he had the entire group of extended family and friends in shock as he took off on his new three-wheeler to go investigate the local oval without so much as looking over his shoulder to see where we were.  He’s never been attached to the other end of an apron string.  He’s never fretted.  He just gets about his business and if he wants to go check something out, he does so - with or without his parents tagging along.

Ironically, it happened when I was shopping with only my youngest child.  Was I more relaxed?  Was this my first mistake?

I was in Best & Less, chatting away to him as I tried to quickly riffle through a rack of singlets and shorts to grab some cheap ones for the boys now that summer has hit us in full swing.  I was glancing between him and the clothes telling him to, “Stay there, I’ll just be a second,” and bribing him with a choc chip cookie.  Next thing I know he’s running towards the other side of the shop, giggling like crazy and I’m saying, “Hey, get back here!”  whilst madly trying to grab the last size 3 monster top off the hook as I run after him. 

I can see him running – when the hell did he get so fast?!  He’s headed straight for the floor-to-ceiling rack of clothes against the window.  By the time I reach him (a whole of 10 seconds later) he’s snuck in between the gap between the window and the clothes.  He’s grinning at me and edging slowly away from me like a cheeky little crab, as I’m saying, “Oi, come here.  Get out of there” with a reciprocal smile on my face.  Was this my second mistake?

He’s gotten too far away from me, so I come out from peering down the window and head to where I’m assuming he’ll exit.  He’s not there.  Ok, that’s fine, he’s just playing, he probably just went further along the window… He’s not there either.  We’ve been playing hide-and-seek at home lately…was this my third mistake?

I call his name.  My brisk walk is now semi-jog.  I call his name again.  No answer.  Now I’m on the floor, peering under clothes racks, a man asks, “Have you lost something?” 

“Yes, my child,” I answer. 

“That happened to me once,” he says and then he disappears. 

The shop is FULL of people.  It’s suddenly HUGE.  There are clothes and people EVERYWHERE.  But no child.  I can’t see him, I can’t hear him, he’s not answering my calls.  Now the panic is started to kick in.  It’s not cute anymore.  Now I’m starting to freak out.  Now I’m running, and I’m calling his name over and over again.  Louder and louder.  I can actually hear the change in my voice.  It’s gone from sing-song to deep, and now it’s starting to raise octaves.  People are looking at me, but the moment I make eye contact they look down, or to the clothes on the racks, or to their handbags.  No one says anything. 

 

Suddenly my mind kicks into gear – what if he isn’t in the shop anymore?!  What if he ran out?  I look towards the entrance and I see the man I spoke to minutes before.  There he is, with his wife, guarding the entrance.  He calls to me, “He hasn’t come out, Love” as he looks back and forth over his shoulder.  I can’t tell you the gratitude I felt for that dear man in that instant.

My mind is racing.  So many thoughts – I’m thinking of those boys that took that poor child from the shopping centre to the railway track, I’m thinking about Madeleine McCann, I’m even thinking about bloody dingos!  What if someone took him?  What if he got out before the man went to the entrance?  What if, what if, what if...

Finally one of the store girls asks if I’m ok, to which I reply, “No I’ve lost my child”.  She asks what he’s wearing.  My mind, for a split second goes completely blank as I try to recall.  Then she’s off looking too. 

It was probably only about 5 minutes later that she found him.  But it felt like a lifetime.  He was hiding in some clothes…doing a poo.  Clearly he just wanted a bit of alone time to do his business.  I’ve made a mental note that if this ever happens again, I will drop my nose to the ground like a bloodhound and sniff for the poo trail.  But jokes aside, it was up there with one of the most distressing moments of my life. 

In that short moment I think I experienced the full spectrum of human emotion: Gratitude; Empathy; Disappointment; Fear; Relief; Anxiety; Hysteria; Guilt; Panic; Love… I shook for a good two hours following, and I still feel my stomach flip-flop when I think of it now.  I cannot fathom the magnitude of pain those people whose children never return, must feel.  I experienced the minutest tip of it, and it near on brought me to my knees.  It only takes a single second and your life can change completely. 

My other realisation in that moment was this: 95% of people will turn the other way when confronted with a difficult situation.  They’ll fuss with the contents of their handbag; rush to a change room; or turn their cheek to play up the intensity of their otherwise trivial conversation.  They’ll avoid eye contact; fixate on a price tag; or simply turn to walk in the other direction.  The shop I was in was packed.  Perhaps the busiest I’d ever seen it.  If everyone had stopped still and looked around I believe he’d have been found in less than 30 seconds.  Instead they watched me run panicking around the shop for a good 10 minutes and did nothing.   In the same moment that I thought I’d lost my little boy, I also lost a little faith in the world.  With the exclusion of the paid shop assistant…just one man stopped to help.  He saw a problem and he stepped up.  He thought for me when I couldn’t.  He dropped everything he was doing to stand guard at that door, and I have no doubt that he would have stayed there as long as I had needed him without me having to even ask.  These are the people we need in our world...  Sadly, it seems, they are the minority.

Thank you dear man.  Your simple act of kindness truly touched my heart.  It will forever remind me not to lose sight of the impact a little consideration, a little compassion, and a little time can have on the lives of others.

Perspective

"Change your perspective"

"Change your perspective"

I remember being eleven years old… trying to find my way…trying to make sense of my world in the midst of my parents' divorce.  I felt many things – confusion, anger, shame, hurt, loss...even apathy.  In short, I felt like my world had been turned upside-down and I didn’t know how to put everything ‘right’ again. 

I have a distinct memory of lying on the kitchen bench of my childhood home, just staring at the ceiling.  Commotion all around me.  I remember my mind suddenly quiet.  I remember how the world faded in that moment and I was filled with the sound of silence - as white as the ceiling, as clean as the paint untouched.

I remember the thought as it was born, “What if my world really had turned upside-down?".  What if I could be the one to walk on this pure untouched ground for the first time?  What if doorways were steps and lights extended from the ground up? What if this whole new, quiet, serene world had been laid out just for me ?  

It was like seeing everything for the first time. Everything looked beautiful and new and pure...everything seemed possible.  I learnt in that moment that sometimes we need to turn our world upside-down just to see it for how it really is. 

There is always a choice - you can face your challenges with fear and resentment, or you can view them as opportunities to experience something new, to shape a better life for yourself, to live the full extent of the life you have been given.  I was in for huge changes in the months and years that followed, and it was tough…but I had hope. 

Through tears, and no doubt some tantrums and angst - ultimately in that moment, I chose to view my challenges as opportunities.  And truth be told, the life that unfolded in front of me was full of light and shade, depth, colour, joy, and challenges….'opportunities' that would not have opened up for me should things have remained as they were.

I have carried this memory with me through my teen years and into my adult life.  There are times I have needed more than ever to remember the clarity I felt in that moment.  I will often lay and stare at the ceiling in times of overwhelm.  It grounds me.  It gives me a sense of calm.  It reminds me that there’s always another perspective - another way to view your world, your challenges and the changes that are taking place in your world. 

It’s so important to have ways to process your emotions in challenging times.  Sometimes I forget, and I realise that my hands are shaking, I’m wearing my shoulders as earrings and my temper is short.  These times have been more regular since becoming a parent.  It’s a combination of many things, not the least of them being lack of sleep, shifts in priority, and the stress of being responsible for another person’s life.  If there was ever a time to focus on managing my stress, it is now.   I try to remind myself regularly to keep perspective, to breathe and to forgive myself when I get things wrong.  And as I move through life and the challenges I face change and evolve, I remain open to new opportunities to grow, and suggestions on ways to more effectively process my emotions and manage my stress.

Being the "Bad Guy"

"You spoil all my fun, mummy!"

"You spoil all my fun, mummy!"

I’m a naysayer, a wet blanket…I am officially a killjoy.

I had not anticipated the impact on my state of mind that being the ‘bad guy’ would have.  “No” is not a word I like, and one I rarely needed to use pre-children.  Now it seems it’s in every other sentence that comes rolling off my tongue. 

There are times when I just want to cry because it feels like all I’ve done for 12 hours is take things away, say no and put the brakes on anything that looks remotely like ‘fun’. 

I know it’s all part of the gig.  You have little lives in your hands…you can’t very well let them run around with scissors, eat chocolate for breakfast or test their new wings from the roof of your two storey house.  But it is really hard not to let it get to you! 

I’m an optimistic, easy-going (mostly!) person by nature…but at times it becomes hard to separate your personality from your parental responsibilities.  It’s difficult not to absorb the negative rhetoric.  You start to feel irritated and frustrated when it seems like all you’re doing is putting up barriers.  It’s tough not to begin thinking of yourself as a blocker, a naysayer, a wet blanket, a pessimist, a killjoy …

But I guess I’ve just got to suck it up and take this one on board.  If I wasn’t being the ‘bad guy’ sometimes, I wouldn’t be doing my job, right?  I’m providing safe boundaries, I’m teaching them valuable life skills…and I’m keeping the alive.  I think I just need to remind myself of these things when I sense an impending tail spin at the end of a long, hard day of saying “no”.

Phobias

Phobias Mama Pyjama

Want to know something that freaks me out? Saliva.  Yep, weird huh.  I blame my 10th grade science teacher…she made us pair up and test a friend’s saliva under the guise of it teaching us some fundamental science law.   Personally, I think she was just a bit of a freak.  I had to stand there and watch my friend spit enough to fill a beaker, or maybe I’m exaggerating slightly perhaps it was a test tube.  What can I say other than that it totally grossed me out?  I have no idea what the rest of the experiment involved…I was too busy dry retching to care.

15 years post experiment I welcomed my science friend’s first born into the world with a jumpsuit tagged “Spit Happens”.  Great laughs…yeah, great laughs until you get to thinking about the fact that if you do end up having kids yourself – there’s going to be a LOT of saliva to deal with!  *Panic*!

Needless to say I have overcome my spit phobia – well at least as it relates to the saliva of my offspring. 

Isn’t it amazing how fears and phobias seem to be so easily overcome when our children are involved?  I think I could pretty much, hand on my heart, say there’s NOTHING I wouldn’t do for them.  No amount of spit, poo, spew or snot could get in the way of me loving them (as a side note, I’m sure my friends would get great delight in seeing me test this theory).       

Then there are the REAL phobias and fears…like public speaking in order to coach your child’s sport team, or catching spiders in their bedroom, or rescuing them from great heights.  No problem right? 

It really does spin me out how we could pay experts thousands of dollars to try and help us overcome phobias that would probably only take a matter of seconds to overcome if our child were at risk or needed us.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could manufacture that feeling, that drive, that sense of “do or die” …and use it to overcome all the things that hold us back?  There must be a way to tap into it, to harness it and to use it to face up to our demons and get out there and get living without all the road blocks and sub-conscious barriers.  Clearly we have it in us…we just need to work out how to trigger it without requiring our children to do it for us!  

Isolation

"Eyes of the hurricane"

"Eyes of the hurricane"

I remember how the walls closed in on me, yet staying within them felt so much safer than venturing out with my first born.  He was what you might call a ‘challenging’ infant.  Aside from the colic and reflux causing him to be extremely unsettled, from day one he was fiercely independent, extremely strong and very, very determined.  Strangely it was these very traits that made me feel both insanely proud, yet like an outcast in every social environment that I entered.

My husband has great pride in retelling the story of how our son lifted and turned his head at one day old to follow my voice and movement as a walked across the other side of the room.  He has always had a strength that defies his age – I lost count of the amount of times his daycare providers (at 9 months of age) would exclaim how he’d “give the world’s strongest toddler a run for his money”, or how they’d “never seen a child so fearless”.  Our son was the type of child that literally scaled the bars of his cot at 18 months old to venture down a flight of stairs, over two safety gates and into the kitchen to set about making himself eggs for breakfast.

The flipside to all this ‘impressiveness’ was that at only 10 months old he was running through playgrounds, attempting obstacles way too advanced for his age or size, and engaging with other children assuming that they were as strong, as fearless and as ‘rough and tumble’ as he was.   So often I found myself leaving playgrounds under the judgemental stares of new mothers, trying to explain to them that my child wasn’t trying to rugby tackle their darling, he was simply trying to hug them.  Unfortunately my boy’s ‘hugs’ could knock over a grown man.

I’d take him to friends’ houses and as an infant and up to the age of about 10 months, he’d be like a snow storm of spew and tears.  If he wasn’t throwing up on their brand new rug, he was crying hysterically ("0-100" we used to call him - there was no in between.  He didn’t just whinge, he’d go from quiet to full blown hysterics in a matter of seconds).  Once the spewing subsided, I had a 10 month old ‘runner’.  He’d go into houses like a hurricane in fast forward, climbing shelves, pulling out everything in sight…just grabbing, grabbing, grabbing.

So here’s the thing.  By 10 months old he was completely mobile, yet unaware of his own strength .  He was fiercely independent so wasn’t scared of new environments or even remotely phased whether I was within arm’s reach or not.  He was less than a year old and therefore had no real cognitive understanding of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.  Yet everywhere I went, I felt judgement.  Self-imposed or not, the feeling was still very real to me.  It was like I was somehow failing as a parent because I hadn’t ‘disciplined’ my child appropriately.  I felt like I had lost control of my life.  I got so overwhelmed that it started being easier just to stay at home and battle through it alone.  Even having friends over became too much as I was worried that the kids wouldn’t get along or that one of them would accidentally get  hurt.

I think I can honestly say that there was not a single time in that first 2-2.5 years where I was able to enjoy a cup of tea with a friend as my child sat quietly on the floor and played with toys, or chatted casually with other mothers in the park as my child explored.  I was in a constant state of high alert, always chasing, always poised ready to catch, chanting ‘be gentle, be gentle’, ‘slow down, slow down’.  Ready to diffuse situations - anticipating the next disaster zone.

I became like a prisoner in my own home feeling that nobody else understood what I was going through.  Being told to “just get out of the house for a while” I wanted to scream at them, “don’t you understand what it’s like??  I CAN’T take him out.  There’s NOWHERE I can take him.”

With the luxury of hindsight, and the benefit of having had a second (very different) child, I now realise that I shouldn’t have questioned my ability as a parent as much as I did.  I shouldn’t have assumed that I was ‘failing’.  I should have asked for more help.  I should have tried to connect with people that were dealing with similar situations.  It wasn’t anything I had done ‘wrong’…every child is born with their own unique personality, health issues and needs.  Sometimes they share these with the majority, other times they don’t.

I often wish that I had been able to meet and interact with people who felt the same isolation as me.  Whether the cause of it was real or imagined isn’t relevant - the feelings I felt were debilitating.  If any of this is ringing true to you, please feel free to                               .

If I can help, I will.  Sometimes just talking to someone who’s been there can help set you free. xo

Competition

"Save the pretending for parties!"

"Save the pretending for parties!"

I am very lucky to be surrounded by supportive women who share the same “no holds barred” approach to discussing our parenting experiences.  But I’ve heard so many stories from women about the pressures they feel in living up to the carefully constructed images that other mothers present. 

You know the ones…claiming to never have sworn, or yelled, or lost their temper.  Sprouting about getting a full night’s sleep every night with their newborn.  Comparing the milestones of your children with theirs.  Constantly posting updates on how wonderful their life is and how motherhood is a dream.  These are usually the same mums that are making the judgement calls on putting your child in daycare or being a stay-at-home mum, preaching whatever opinion suits their situation and putting down anyone that does the opposite. 

Ah good luck to them!  If this perfect little world really does exist for them, consider them the one in a million - the winners of the parenting lottery.  I’m happy for them, honestly I am!  But as for the rest of them, let’s get real.  You seriously have never ever, not once wanted to lock your child in a room and run out of the house screaming?  They’ve never pushed your buttons so much that you’ve lost the plot and yelled ridiculous statements like “what is WRONG with you?” two inches from their face?  You’ve never rewashed the laundry three times, or let dishes pile up for a week?  Never sat in a corner crying wondering how you got to where you are?  The statement “I’m failing” or “I totally suck at being a mum” or “I can’t do this” have never crossed your mind?

So flip it 'round and think of it a different way.  Instead of comparing yourself to these women, or buying into their opinions and mind games…think about how hard it must be to be them.  Imagine waking up each day and lying to yourself and everyone around you about how ‘easy’ everything is.  Imagine never getting any help because no one thought you needed it.  Imagine how hard they must work to ensure that their house is pristine so as to leave no hint of struggle.  Imagine how difficult it must be to maintain the facade.  Urgh!  No thanks!  I’ll take second guessing, guilt ridden, slightly lunatic, warts and all mum over that any day.

If you ARE one of these women – please stop.  Women have come a long way in recent years, and a lot of them have fought really really hard to get us equal opportunities and rights.  Stop sabotaging our gender!  We should be banding together, not putting each other down or creating unnecessary competition and pressure.  We need to support one another, prop each other up, share our struggles and celebrate our successes - together as one.  It’s a modern world, there’s a lot of pressure on mums to be a lot of different things now days.  Please stop adding to that pressure! 

If you’re right smack bang in the middle of being dragged into this comparison game…get off the train!  Now!  You’re tired, you’re vulnerable, you’re susceptible – they’re preying on you!  Don’t let them get their teeth in.  It’s not too late!  Run - run really really fast in the opposite direction.  In fact, run over to Mama Pyjama on facebook  – read the blogs, read the responses from readers – there’s a whole community of real, supportive, honest parents out there.  Get in amongst it and save yourself the pain of trying to live up to unrealistic expectations.

Interference

So let’s talk about one of the times I lost the plot :).  I’m out trying to do the shopping for that evening’s meal, I’m strung out on lack of sleep, I’d rather be anywhere than there.  This is the perfect time for my toddler to wig out, right?  Exactly what I needed!

So there I am, completely exacerbated after trying every trick in the book to get my kid just to sit in the trolley so that I can grab the shopping like an Olympic champion and get the hell out of there.  He’s not playing ball – at all.

Next thing I know I’m standing in the corner of the shopping centre, screaming child at my feet, face red, eyes on fire.  “Get in the naughty corner!  YES, there’s a naughty corner EVERYWHERE!  DO NOT MOVE”.  I’m doing “Darth Vadar in drag”…I look mad as hell – no wonder everyone is staring!

Yes, this was not one of my finer moments…I remember getting home and texting my friend to warn her she might be seeing me on Today Tonight’s segment “Mums Gone Wild”.

In this particular instance, no one tried to intervene – I think they were a little scared.  But how often do strangers take it upon themselves to ‘help’ you with your child when they are acting out?

It swings between the ones that are genuinely trying to help you, to the ones that just straight up give you the look of death with a very clear message that ‘you are a horrible, horrible person and you are doing a terrible, terrible job’, to the ones that just judge you with a tut of the tongue and a shake of the head that lets you know that you clearly have the most hideously undisciplined child in the universe.  Before having kids I confess to being one of those judgmental shoppers walking around thinking “look at that child having a tantrum, there’s no way I’D put up with that.” Blah blah blah.  Yep, we’re such brilliant parents until we actually have kids.

I’ve had people give my child lollies, balloons, even toy cars when they are having a tantrum about not getting what they want in the shop.  Yep, that’s lovely that you want to help me stop them crying, but all you’re doing is making it ten times harder for me on my next grocery shop visit.  It’s not rocket science – how do they honestly think that reinforcing the tantrum with a treat is going to make things easier for me?!
I’ve had people actually walk around to stand at the end of my shopping isle and simply stare down at me in judgement.  Strangely it wasn’t the spit-flying naughty corner moment.  This time I’d simply said in a loud, stern voice that “for the 16th time you are not getting a lolly pop because you are not sitting in the trolley like I asked you to”.

One time…just one time…a woman came up behind me at the checkout.  I swear she had a glowing ring of light above her head.  She promptly took the Peppa Pig DVD out of my son’s hand and said, “I’m sorry, but this DVD is not for sale” and put it back on the shelf.  My son was stunned into silence and I was able to pay and get him into the car without another peep.  I genuinely wish that I could have bundled this women up into my pocket so that I could bring her out to ‘coach’ all the ‘helpful’ shoppers in my future.

It really has been an eye opener though.  This strange, unwritten rule that it’s suddenly ok for complete strangers to pass comment on your life, or intervene with ‘helpful’ advice, just because you have a child.  It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve actually starting speaking up a little now.  I’m non-confrontational by nature, so actually telling someone to pull their head in is something I’ve had to work very hard on!  Ultimately though, I think you just need to learn to roll with it or ignore it, because it doesn’t look like changing anytime soon.  Try not to take it to heart or to question your own instincts.  Don’t be afraid to respectfully decline a stranger’s offer to treat your child.  Turn around and go down a different isle if you have one of those judgmental ‘know-alls’ giving you the stink eye.  And if you’re having a spit-flying naughty corner moment, just pick up your kid, get the hell out of there and get YOURSELF into ‘time out’ until the world stops spinning! 

And just one more side note – Coles and Woolies do home delivery and are open til 9pm weeknights…I really, really need to start utilising these options as let’s face it, thinking we can shop with babies/toddlers in the first place really is bordering on insanity.

Trading Places

At 19 weeks pregnant, my husband and I were told that our baby’s foot had not formed correctly. That, combined with low fluid levels and not so great 12 week blood results, meant there was a much higher chance of a chromosome disorder…in particular, one that has a very short life expectancy.

We were given the option of doing an amniocentesis or adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach. 

This was one of the hardest decisions we’ve ever had to make.  I was so conflicted.  Was doing the amniocentesis selfish?  I knew I was putting my child at risk, but for what?  To ease my own worry?  And what if the results that came back weren’t the ones I wanted?  What then?  But if I didn’t do it how would I cope with the not knowing, the waiting?  The not being able to prepare myself?  How would this stress affect my baby?

After a great deal of agonising we decided on doing the test.  Waiting for the results was the longest wait I’ve ever experienced.  I must have checked my phone three times a minute, every waking minute, for those few days.  When the doctor finally called it was like the world stopped for a moment as he told me that there was no evidence of any disorder.  My baby just had “Clubfoot”.

I remember reading about Clubfoot (Talipes) for the first time.  The doctor had diluted it for us in his explanation, so when I read what was actually involved I remember everything around me going blurry, there were only words and pictures on the computer screen and a horrible, twisted feeling in my stomach. 

I am painfully aware that in the grand scheme of things we are extremely lucky and blessed, but to stay true to my pledge of honesty I will continue...

I think we all want our children to be ‘perfect’ and I don’t mean that in an offensive way.  I’m not talking pageant pretty or child prodigy…I mean it in a sense that we want nothing more than for our children’s lives to be as uncomplicated as possible.  We don’t want them to suffer any more than any other child, to feel pain, to struggle. We want them to be healthy, happy and able.  The thought that they might face challenges that the majority do not is a really scary, sometimes even crippling, thought.  When I was reading about the treatment of Clubfoot I thought of many things…but mostly it was the inconceivable thought that he would be in pain and uncomfortable for potentially the first four years of his life.

In a lot of ways I wish they’d never told me about my son’s foot at my 19-week scan.  I feel it robbed me of some of my pregnancy joy.  Instead of spending my precious moments thinking about what colour to paint the nursery or what cot set was the sweetest, I spent the next five months wondering whether he’d fit into a standard car capsule with his foot brace, trying to work out how I’d be able to nurse him properly, how I was logistically going to travel the 2.5hr round trip each week to PMH with a toddler and a newborn in tow, how much pain and discomfort the treatment would cause him.  I wasn’t thinking about the beauty of pregnancy or the miracle of having a little baby growing inside me.  I was distracted by the what ifs, and the unknowns, and the fears associated with something being ‘wrong’ with my baby, something that I had no way of fully comprehending or understanding until after he was born.

Soon after my son’s birth the paediatrician visited to officially diagnose his condition.  I had been holding onto a vain hope that his clubfoot would be “positional” (requiring only physio) rather than “structural” (a genetic condition that requires treatment with the Ponseti method).  I remember how I couldn’t stop my tears as she attempted to manipulate my son’s foot into position.  The world shrank in that instant and all I wanted to do was punch her in the face and wrench my child out of her grasp.  He screamed (a high pitched blood curdling scream) as she promptly diagnosed “Structural Talipes Equinovarus”.  I tried to hold my head up high, I tried to be strong for him, I tried to remind myself that this was nothing, this was ‘fixable’, this was a blessing compared to the struggles of other parents and children…but it was really really hard.  I felt scared.  I felt overwhelmed.  I felt like I must have done something wrong. I blamed myself.  I felt responsible.

I remember giving our son his last bath before he went in to get his first cast at 9 days old.  I watched him looking so beautiful and relaxed, his little legs gently kicking and I felt cheated.  For at least the next two months of his life he would need to be sponge bathed.  It’s such a small thing, but sometimes it’s these types of things that can hit you the hardest.  Bundling them up in big fluffy towels all freshly washed and sweet smelling, this is a precious moment I missed out on.

After the castings he moved to wearing a foot brace 23 hours a day.  For the first couple of days in his boots he cried almost non-stop.  It was awful.  The pain he must have been in.  To watch him and not be able to do anything felt like having someone literally rip your heart out of your chest.  It also felt like I was failing him.  I’m supposed to fix things.  I’m supposed to stop the pain.  I’m supposed to make his world feel safe and comfortable.  I’m his mum, that’s my job…

At times the cast and brace felt like a wedge between us.  I couldn’t hold him snuggly, I couldn’t nurse him comfortably and he couldn’t hook his legs around me like a little koala.  I was plagued with worry that this would somehow impact our bonding.  I have such a love/hate relationship with the boots and bar.  Without them my son wouldn’t walk, but having to put them on him every night and watch as he struggles to find a comfortable position on his back or every so often hearing him say “no” and vehemently shake his head and push them away makes me hate them.

My son is now nearing his second birthday and he’s down to wearing his brace about 11 hours a day.  This will continue until he is at least four years old.  I’m sure that we will face further challenges, but ultimately he is a beautiful, fit, resilient little boy with “a world to be born under his footsteps”.  He has taken it all in his stride with such strength and acceptance.  He rarely fights it, he smiles so full of sunshine and light, and he walks and runs with a swagger that makes us laugh – proud… uninhibited…joyous laughter.

No matter what your situation, it seems there’s an overwhelming (sometimes aching) want to trade places with our children when they are suffering.  Wishing you could take their pain away, ease their distress.  The “I’d die for you” mentality that comes with being a parent.  Then there’s the scary realisation that this mentality has no end.  It’ll come up again the first time they get their heart broken, or injure themselves, or fall short on a dream, or feel teenager peer pressures.  Even when they’re as old as us with kids of their own and sitting down feeling like I am now. We’ll still want so desperately to take their place, to take away their pain, to suffer through it for them.  But that’s all part of the gig right?  Sure is…but it’s certainly not one you can prepare yourself for, even when you’re right smack bang in the middle of it. 

But hey, there’s a flipside. In order to feel such an intense desire to trade places we must first experience love at its purest and most powerful.