The Art of Peeing in a Pot in my Living Room

So you're going to let me play with your iPad and eat chocolate and all I have to do is sit here?

So you’re going to let me play with your iPad and eat chocolate and all I have to do is sit here with no pants on?!

It has begun. There’s no putting it off any longer, no excuses, no way back. Some mothers hate nappies. They long for the day when their child can piddle on demand in a toilet, the early morning cries for help wiping their fragrant bottom, the end of rank nappy bins, rash-inducing, knuckle-peeling wet wipes, the daily hoist of the legs to encounter the wonders beneath… I’m not one of those mothers. I like nappies. I don’t mind changing them. It’s 2 minutes of my time as opposed to, oh, 20 minutes chasing a wet-legginged two-year-old around the house while she insists that she does not want to get changed and she is perfectly happy being soggy-bottomed because “it smell nice, Mummy,” and as far as she’s concerned there’s absolutely no problem at all with climbing onto and rolling around your freshly-made bed. Not to mention the five hour stretches of bargaining, bribes, tears, tantrums and hard-won, foul-smelling triumphs circling the union of bare buttocks and plastic pot in the middle of the living room.

But this is it now. We are officially potty training. Or, at least, we’ve made a sizably conscious effort to start. Mainly because Lara had begun to scream whenever I told her I was going to the toilet and insist she needed to come with me to use the potty. (She didn’t, but I figured that if she was old enough to use the potty as a manipulation tool, she was old enough to be taught, you know, how to actually use it.)

We’re not yet doing the hardcore staying-in-all-day-every-day-until-she-gets-it approach, mainly because I just can’t watch Finding Nemo that many times. But we are wearing big girl pants as soon as we get up in the morning and after nap time, and we are sitting on the potty in exchange for stickers and ‘chocolate butts’ (buttons, incidentally, but I’m too delighted with the pun to correct her) and we are seeing results in the potty occasionally and on the floor often. It’s going ok. I mean, she only actually goes in the potty when she’s been plonked on it (usually only under the condition she is allowed to play with Mummy’s ‘i-dad’) and happens to need to go. And when I gleefully turned her round this morning and joyously asked her what she had done – so cleverly, so miraculously! – in the potty, she replied, in a very bored voice, “S’ juice, Mummy.” So I’m fairly sure we’ve got a way to go before she really fully understands what we’re getting at with this crazy new game, but when you consider she’s had two and a bit years of letting rip whenever and wherever, it’s not hard to see why it takes time to change such an ingrained behaviour. In fact, if I think about it in those terms the whole task tends to take on disproportionately large and looming qualities and I find myself fighting the urge to bury myself under a duvet of wipes and Pampers, so what keeps us going is the mantra of taking it all one day at a time.

In a way, it’s oddly similar to the gargantuan task of planning a wedding: one day at a time, try not to think about how much money I’m spending and hope that when the big day comes, no one is peeing on the church floor.


The Great Santa Debate: Why I am a Proud Liar

 

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I took my toddler to see Santa this week. She was pretty excited about the prospect of meeting “Fada Wissmus” beforehand, but when we actually stepped into the grotto she went completely silent, stared straight ahead and pretty much refused to acknowledge the poor guy with the red suit and the passably good beard. There were a lot of one-sided questions, furtive attempts at jollity and a decidedly awkward moment when Lara decided she was more interested in trying to steal Santa’s little decorative reindeer than receiving her gift. Sure, the whole concept of Father Christmas is a bit much to expect from a two-year-old, but at least we got some fairly ridiculous photos and a rather nice jigsaw puzzle out of it.

There has been some debate in the press recently about the morality of perpetuating the Santa myth. One line of argument is that we’re promoting what is essentially a big fat lie, making hypocrites of parents who bring their children up to believe lying is wrong. My problem with this is that it asserts, out and out, that lying is always wrong. I’m sorry, but I just don’t agree. I have no problem with lying if it’s with good intentions. When my dad was dying and shaved his head he asked me if it looked good. I lied then. Was that wrong? Is it really, truly wrong to lie to children about a kind, magical man who gives them and every other child on the planet presents on Christmas Eve without expecting a thing in return?

I don’t remember asking my parents whether Santa was real, probably because by the time I was old enough to ask, I was old enough to know I didn’t really want to know the answer. It didn’t damage our relationship. On the contrary, I credit them with the reason why Christmas time was so tummy-squeamingly exciting for so long in my life. Come to think of it, I don’t actually know anyone whose relationship with their parents has suffered as a result of them lying to them about Father Christmas for however many years. Nor do I know anyone who has suffered in any way whatsoever as a result of having once believed in Santa. So what’s the big harm?

We’ve already covered the grey area around the ‘evil’ of lying. What about kids getting freaked out about a strange man coming into their bedrooms at night? Call me naive but isn’t part of believing in Father Christmas believing in his goodness, his innocence, the great equality of his generosity towards all children in all the world? Our kids are going to become as cynical and suspicious as we are soon enough, why hurry the process? And, if your kid really is that freaked out, just put the damn stocking downstairs like they do in America.

It all comes down to childhood, I think. If your Facebook newsfeed is anything like mine, there aren’t many days that go by without someone sharing a meme lamenting the loss of those carefree, innocent days. Who doesn’t miss the reaches your belief could stretch to when you were little? The days when the tooth fairy, Easter bunny and, yes, Father Christmas were perfectly reasonable… That’s why we keep trying, for so long. That’s why we lie in bed at 12 years old, eyes determinedly shut as dad muffles a swearword as he stubs his toe on his way out with our empty stocking. Even in those days of heady adolescent awakenings, there still flickers a tiny, iridescently vaporous glimmer of belief that maybe, just maybe, it’s not dad at all… The tiniest shadow that’s only there because it’s trying so hard not to die. Something you may no longer remember or want to acknowledge now you know – so irreversibly – better.

 


Do you even know what a junior doctor is?

If this new junior doctor contract goes ahead, there may not BE a future for the NHS

If this new junior doctor contract goes ahead, there may not BE a future for the NHS

I didn’t, and my own sister is one.

Every doctor in the UK who doesn’t hold the title of consultant or fully qualified GP is a junior doctor. In other words: the person who took over the difficult delivery of your baby, the person who treated your child in A&E, the surgeon who performs an emergency operation on them.

Chances are, last time you or your family were treated by a doctor other than your GP, that person was one of the 55,020 junior doctors currently working for the NHS.

The fact is, the public is largely ignorant about who these people actually are. I’m very close to my sister and yet when I read about the imminent strike action this morning I wasn’t even 100% sure if she would be part of it… Surely, I thought, these ‘juniors’ are the fresh-faced, JD-from-Scrubs types wandering around under the watchful guidance of seen-it-all registrars? No. My sister is 30 and has been a qualified doctor for over six years. At the moment she is an ST3 (specialist trainee, 3rd year) in paediatrics, working full-time at a London teaching hospital in general paeds and gastroenterology, whilst studying past-time for a Masters in global child health. She will continue to be a junior doctor for at least another five years, more if she has children in the meantime. One of her friends has two kids and works part-time as an ST2, also in paediatrics. She will continue to be a junior doctor for at least another 11 years, more if she has any more children.

A junior doctor delivered my daughter and stitched me up afterwards. Junior doctors helped care for my dad when he suffered and died from cancer. I have been lucky enough to avoid an A&E trip with my child so far, but when that day (or night) comes, it will be a junior doctor who treats her. I know how I would feel if that person were exhausted from the extra hours they have been forced to work due to the “removal of safeguards on excessive hours” clause in their new contract.

Surely the very term “safeguard” should ring alarm bells here? These restrictions on hours – currently 48 hours a week under the European working time directive – are there for a reason, that is why they are called SAFEGUARDS. Who are they there to protect? The person pushing numbers in a office? The hand holding a scalpel? Or your child, underneath that scalpel?

One of the scariest facts of the matter is that many of these junior doctors are now considering giving up working for the NHS in favour of working abroad. When you consider the pay cut (up to 30% for some), longer hours and cap on locum pay (doctors who temporarily fill in for another) this new contract promises, it’s not hard to see why.

These people aren’t striking because they’re greedy. The so-called 11% pay rise becomes irrelevant once the subsidies for out-of-hours work has been removed. Pay progression will be suspended for less than full-time training. If my sister chooses to have children in the next five years, she will face a similar story to her friend.

The British Medical Association (BMA) is calling for the chance just to negotiate the terms of this contract. There are plenty of petitions to sign for members of the public to show their support for junior doctors – but according to my sister, the biggest battle is raising public awareness. Considering her own flesh and blood didn’t know exactly what a junior doctor was until this morning, I’d say she has a point.

Jeremy Hunt wrote a book about dismantling the NHS – its privatisation is a very real possibility. But just remember, it won’t be a private healthcare provider who treats your child for anaphylactic shock at a birthday party next weekend. And it won’t be a private doctor who sees you in A&E at 3am when your baby’s temperature has crept to 40 degrees.

You know who it will be.


My baby’s growing up… and I’m glad

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It seems like it was only yesterday that the only words she could say were “Mama,” “Dada,” and “Peppa.” Now it’s all “I got bits!” and “Stop singing, Mummy!”

My tiny person who thinks and farts is now a significantly less tiny person, who laughs and calls them “poopytoots”. She still sleeps in a cot. She still wears nappies (“NO botty on potty, Mummy!”) and she still likes cuddles. But she can ask for them now. She can tell me that the reason she’s crying is because I’ve given her the wrong toy to sleep with. She can tell me she’s whining because she’s been awake for at least three minutes and no one has come in to say good morning, open her curtains and extricate her from her cot. She can really quite insist that the five minute drive to Co-op would not be acceptable without having her toddle bike clutched firmly across her car seat.

Gone are the guessing games. The wild-eyed gesticulation and urgent grunts. The frustrated screams… well, they’re more verbose, at least. Gone are the daily plunges into the exhausting, exasperated worry of just not knowing what the hell is wrong. Gone are the days when just a smile was just enough.

The odd 3am scream has become all the more nettling with the insertion of our names. The demands for more snacks/dropped toys/Nana/dinosaurs in the car result in all the more frustrated cries due to the inability to comprehend patience.

My child is more demanding than ever because she can demand more than ever. Grunts have become language. Requests now come with, “pliss” and “hagoo” attached. I get told “lusss ooo, Mummy,” but I also get told off – more sternly and more frequently than ever in my life – on a daily basis. God forbid I fetch her “soos” (shoes) instead of her “soosss” (juice). I’m no longer “Mama” but “silly Mummy,” “noisssy Mummy” and, thanks entirely to her father, “stinky Mummy.” She demands pieces of fruit and discards them as soon as they’re peeled. Inanimate objects are blown kisses and bade goodnight at 7.15am each morning (“night night, bath,” “night night, toilet.”) Strangers are greeted enthusiastically (“Hi! BIG man!”) My hand is shunned on walks. She hardly ever asks to be carried.

My small person surprises me everyday, and I’m not just talking about the times I happen upon her grinning up at me with  her face racooned in my eye shadow. Yes, it’s still hard. Yes, she had a cough last week and was up at all hours and yes, the clocks going back once again screwed us up royally. But it’s more worth it than ever before. The sentimental nostalgia for babyhood is there, but next to the pure joy of playing with, talking to, singing (when permitted), reading and laughing with this growing toddler… There’s just no comparison.

Lussss ooo too, Lara.


How to do a wedding with a toddler

Last weekend we attended the wedding of my other half’s stepbrother. Having attended a wedding-like event (a party for a certain big birthday of my mum and her best friend) with Lara back in June, we already had a few ideas on what not to do. The main one being the futile attempt to get Lara to sleep by walking her up and down in the buggy while infinitely more exciting things occurred in the party of which we all then, inevitably, missed the majority. I’m pleased to report the family wedding went without MUCH of a hitch, aside from the getting of which for the lovely James and Emma, and the unfortunate decision to let me supervise our five-year-old niece with a video camera (she only dropped it once. And proceeded to shoot the rest of the vow-taking upside down. Which I noticed REALLY QUICKLY. 45 seconds, tops.) So I thought I’d compile a (hopefully) useful list of tips for any other toddler-shackled party goers.

PREPARATION STAGE

  1. Probably best to get all mobile offspring ready before you. Otherwise you run the risk of tripping over the hem of your maxi dress (currently bagging around your waist due to the swift abandonment of the search for your most non-painful-yet-asset-boosting bra) as you chase your giggling, bare-bottomed child around the house. Although remember not to get them ready TOO soon, otherwise you run the risk of the cute outfit you’ve spent weeks imagining them looking SO gorgeous in getting covered in Weetabix. Or worse. Which brings us on to number 2:
  2. Make sure you take a photo of them in said cute outfit WITHIN TEN SECONDS OF PUTTING IT ON THEM. Especially if you have a little girl with an aversion to any kind of hair style and all un-rubberized footwear.

    She has honest-to-god ribbons in her hair. Ribbons.

    She has honest-to-god ribbons in her hair. Ribbons.

RIBBONS, though

RIBBONS, though.

THE CEREMONY

  1. Right, so you’ve made it to the venue, bra is doing what it’s supposed to, obligatory excruciating shoes are firmly on feet, adorable pigtails have long since been disgustedly pulled from child’s hair but their dress is still mercifully ungrubby. Now comes the most testing time of the child attendee’s patience. All I can say is make sure you bring plenty of un-noisy toys that won’t ruin the derriere of your outfit if you accidentally sit on them – books, stickers, magnets, teddies, poky-limbed dolls… Pretty much anything, but NOT play-doh. WOE BETIDE YOUR DAYGLO-COLOURED BOTTOM IF YOU BRING PLAY-DOH. We also loaded a tablet with Peppa Pig and Pixar and let her watch it on silent, which she did, not entirely silently. If all else fails, make sure you sit next to an outer aisle which will make you feel all Mi5 if you have to do the duck, scoop and bail.
  1. If the venue has a bar, make use of this before the ceremony. Children pick up on stress. Children pick up on calm. Particularly the calm of the parent who has just demolished their entire designated driver alcohol limit in one fell glug.

    Peppa PIg. Truly you earned the hours I've spent slaving over your cakey effigy.

    Peppa Pig. Truly you earned the hours I spent slaving over your cakey effigy.

FOOD

  1. Often, if they have invited a few young children, the bride and groom will bear this in mind when planning the meal. Ours provided fantastic little activity packs for each child and, as a result, what could have been a fiesta of whines, food-throwing, dress-staining and general misery of the type to send any designated driver straight into the arms of an open bar, was avoided. Yes, the corner of our table looked like a small bomb had hit a toy shop via the food court by the end of the meal. Yes, there were a few pouts and arguments between cousins about whose toy was whose. Yes, at one point I did have bubble mixture poured over my arm and spent the rest of the evening watching people wrinkle their nose in confusion at my vaguely chemical scent. But, all things considered, everything went extremely smoothly during dinner and the speeches.

    Our bride and groom provided this amazing activity pack for each child. Along with the occasional help of Mr Tablet, Lara was occupied throughout the whole meal!

    Our bride and groom provided an amazing activity pack for each child. Along with the occasional help of Mr Tablet, Lara was occupied throughout the whole meal!

AFTER FOOD

  1. For me, this was the most challenging time. Not just because it was now a good hour after Lara’s bedtime and my control pants were navigating ever further north, it was also around this time we suffered an unfortunate nappy incident, the likes of which we haven’t seen for a good ten months or so. Which brings me to emphasize: BRING SPARE CLOTHES. Kids sample all sorts of food they might not be used to at a wedding. Some handle it fine. Some have explosive diarrhoea.
  1. Find a place for your child to run around. After said incident of indigestion, I felt like we might be heading for a swift departure. Lara also happened to be in the snotty, unreasonable stage of getting a cold and I was by no means unconvinced that another incident of bowel excitement was on the cards. Fortunately, once we went outside and she discovered a little boy of her age to chase, all misery was soon forgotten and a good amount of energy was burned.

DISCO

  1. Having thought at around 8pm that we might have to call it a night by 9, I’m pleased to say we actually didn’t leave until well after 10.30pm. This is because, in no small part, to Lara’s discovery of the dance floor and the gaining of her third wind. As previously mentioned, we’d already experienced the option of trying to get her to sleep at this stage of an event and failed, so this time we decided to let her go for it, have a dance and pass out as and when she herself saw fit. And she had a riot. Actually, we all did. After all, it’s not every night you get to do the macarena in all your finery while your two-year-old clings to your hip and occasionally bats at you, uttering: “Mummy!” in a fairly appalled tone of voice.

This Ragu is Not Pregnant

**POSSIBLE TMI ALERT. You’ve been warned, Mum**

 

Filled with passion. Well, it was the first wee of the day...

Filled with passion. Well, it was the first wee of the day…

Shocking as it may seem coming from a couple who have one unconditionally cherished but nonetheless unplanned daughter under their belts, my fiance and I have not always been the best at contraception. Most of the time we are pretty responsible – whether it’s remembering to take a pill, buy condoms, or doing a quick calculation of cycle days. (Don’t knock it – the standard days method is actually 95% effective when used properly. That’s at least as good as the smelly rubber things you always forget to buy, isn’t it?) In any case, our one unplanned pregnancy isn’t even an example of our inability to use contraception, more one of ignorance about the expiry date on condoms. Well, that and entirely too many glasses of Faustino V.

When we got engaged earlier this year we decided to shelf our original plans to crack on with baby number 2 in favour of planning the wedding for next year and – more importantly – a kick-ass, adults-only, one-last-chance-of-freedom honeymoon. You know, before the soggy camping trips, portable wee pots and sand-in-every-crevice joys of family holidays truly kick in. So I went on the mini pill. Shortly afterwards, I went on a different mini pill. My body does not like the mini pill. Let’s just say the pennies we saved in the family planning aisle only went about as far as feminine hygiene. So, rather than risking anaemia, off the mini pill I came.

A few weeks ago we booked our wedding. Unfortunately, during the ensuing celebration period, we both completely forgot about the pill. Or, I should say, the lack thereof. But, according to a hasty standard day calculation, we were technically in the clear, so we didn’t worry too much. Then I started feeling a bit tummy-ish. A bit nauseous around the edges. A bit sensitive in the old mammary region… My bra sprang open spontaneously once or twice. But it was when I went off wine that the alarm bells really started a-clanging. Nervous jokes aside, we put in an order for some bulk-buy pregnancy tests, just to be on the safe side.

This, of course, all occurred within the two weeks between booking the wedding venue and having to put down a couple of thousand pounds as a holding deposit for a date which, if we were having a baby, would likely be spent jiggly-shuffling my birth-ravaged tummy pouch around the living room, barely able to hear the planes on the overhead flightpath bound for what would have been my honeymoon over the screams of my discontent second-born.

The tests arrived. Thanks to an irregular cycle and a fairly well-developed sense of paranoia I’m no stranger to Clearblue or First Response or even trusty old Boots two-for-£4.99. But these ones were different. These were the dippy kind. This resulted in an interesting morning hunting out an appropriate receptacle whilst desperately clutching in my most-accurately-testable first wee of the day. The successful candidate – comfortingly wide-rimmed, but not practical enough to tempt us into any sort of culinary reuse – turned out to be an empty Ragu jar. Gary’s idea. I’d suggested one of Lara’s plastic cups but apparently that was a poor parenting choice. In any case, the Ragu vessel quickly declared its secondary contents unburdened by tomatoes and child.

Honeymoon back on. Deposit paid. Doctors appointment for new pill prescription booked. Life lesson learned.

We may never dabble with fire intentionally, but the stress of thinking, “Oh god, I’m probably not but I COULD be… Should I part with £2,000 for an uncertain wedding date? Should I buy those skinny jeans? SHOULD I EVEN BE DRINKING THIS GIN?” for two, three weeks just isn’t worth it. The internet doesn’t help. According to Google everything – apart, perhaps, from testicle cramp – can be considered a potential pregnancy symptom. Parenting forums are even worse – there are plenty of women who claim to have symptoms days or even hours after conception. There are some who go into surprisingly graphic detail when describing how they came to possibly be accidentally pregnant (no pun intended). And their early pregnancy ‘symptoms’. I don’t think I will ever un-see what I read when I looked up ‘ewcm’. Let’s just say I’m glad I didn’t use Google images.

Still, I may keep the washed-out Ragu jar. After all, it’s only a short few years before we’ll be firmly in the throes of those aforementioned family holiday times. And a good, be-lidded, portable wee-pot can be so hard to come by…

 

I hope I’m not the only one with a ridiculous pregnancy scare story… If you have one please do share – there is a teeny, tiny ‘Leave a comment’ button under all the social media buttons below.

 


My little pensioner

Do you ever get the needling suspicion that your toddler is hiding a dark well of wisdom behind those big, shiningly innocent eyes? I do. Frequently. For example, here is my 22-month-old eating hummus. Hummus, which I didn’t get my head around until at least my mid-twenties.

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That’s not all. As well as a surprising taste for chickpeas, my elderly little offspring also has a real thing for benches. If we come across one on a walk, she has to sit on it, and woe betide any accompanying adult who tries to persuade her otherwise. Most parents may allow extra time for things like petting dogs, feeding ducks, jumping in puddles, right? I have to allow extra time for bench sitting. But maybe I’m over-reacting. I mean, when your legs are only so big and you’ve only been using them for so long, maybe sitting on a bench offers a justifiable repose every once in a while. Ok. But, see, the thing is, it isn’t just benches on walks. It’s every bench. Everywhere. Even at the playground when we’ve just spent 45 minutes in the car and her friends are all running around sliding, swinging, exploring… Not my austere little pensioner.

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And, when someone tries to suggest she might like to have a nice little play?

No.

No.

Bugger off.

Bugger off.

It's BENCH TIME.

It’s BENCH TIME.

It’s not just about the benches though. If you’ve ever had or been around a child approaching their 2nd birthday, you’ll know about the whole language boom thing. Lara’s no exception – every day it seems she surprises me with new words and sentences. Like last Tuesday, when, during the aforementioned 45 minute road trip, I told her there were no more snacks to be had just now. “Shit!” she replied. “Erm… what did you say?” “SHIT! SHIT! SHIT!” I can’t imagine where she learnt it. Especially in the car.

It’s not all glares and profanities, though. The other day we went to visit a friend’s new baby and, as we peered over the edge of the crib, Lara smiled, looked at me and said, “Baby!” and then, sternly: “Mummy SHUSH!”

Despite all this, I haven’t resigned myself to shopping for orthopedic shoes and miniature tartan shopping carts just yet (though how much would she love the latter? Hello, 2nd birthday present!) That is because for every mature act which grounds me in my tracks, there are 40 still very much stapled to the age of 22 and-a-bit months. Like her penchant for putting silly things on her head. And her love of uncooked baked goods. Come to think about it, I can’t imagine where she learnt those, either…


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