It Ain’t Easy

I am suspicious that my toddler is not massively happy at his new nursery. The wailing, sobbing and gnashing of teeth that resulted from dropping him off this morning was a fairly large clue. Yesterday, when Daddy asked him what he did at school, he said ‘I cried’. ‘Why’, asked my husband. My little one’s response? ‘Because Mommy wasn’t there’. That’s enough to derail me completely.

I asked him about the crying incident and he said that he’d cried because he’d lost me. Lost me? Does he think that when I leave him at nursery, that he’s lost me. It’s gut-wrenching to imagine him embarking on a futile search of the nursery trying to find his lost Mommy. Just as gut-wrenching as it was peeling the clingy mess off me this morning and hearing the howling behind me as I marched stoically back to my car. I made the mistake of looking back and seeing the tear-flooded eyes filled with pain and desperation, his hands frantically shoved into his mouth in an attempt to find calm. Naked separation anxiety, for both of us. It’s a killer.

And all of this while I’m grappling with going back to work in less than a month.  Sucks really.


All Change

The month that has passed since my last post has seen us leave my beloved home country, South Africa, after four long lovely months, to return to the UK. International travel with two small people is not for the faint-hearted. Admittedly flying is not my favourite past-time at the best of times so flying with a baby and a toddler is pretty close to my idea of hell. I completely understand why most airlines will not allow a parent to fly alone with two children under the age of two. They are simply trying to safeguard the sanity of the adult (and any other passengers unlucky enough to be seated nearby).

We left Cape Town on the day that the football world cup started which meant that the airport was wall-to-wall vuvuzelas, flags and marauding bouncy South Africans – beautiful to see on any other day, not especially helpful when trying to maintain the kids’ routines including bottles at the right times and naps in buggies. This was not helped by a lengthy stint at passport control where we made the unhappy discovery that the kids’ visas had expired making them, technically, overstayers. (Good going Mum and Dad – make criminals of the little ones before the age of three). Poor husband was left to convince the unimpressed passport controller that this was nothing but an oversight on our part as both boys are in the process of obtaining South African citizenship, while I simultaneously spooned unappetising sweet potato puree into baby and reassured toddler that this was a minor setback which would not prevent us from going ‘up, up, up in the sky’.  Result … we were losing before we even set foot on the plane.

Cue twelve hours of tantrums, wailing and general gnashing of teeth. The kids weren’t particularly well behaved either. I was seriously considering locking myself in the bathroom and denying any knowledge of the rest of the family when I heard those beautiful words, “Ladies and gentleman, we will shortly begin our descent into London Heathrow”. Ah, but the joy that was that 48 hour period was not over yet. For some reason, we thought it would be a clever plan to drive direct from the airport to our new abode. We were wrong. Apparently two over-tired, grumpy little people plus two utterly exhausted, exasperated parents plus one empty house with no food, beds, towels or kettle to improve the situation does not for a happy family make. The good news is we’re in and mostly unpacked now, broadband is installed, the weather is beautiful and Wimbledon is in full swing. We all miss home every day but this is where we are. For now.

Penguin Naughtiness

Right, I think I’ve gone wrong somewhere.  I’m not a fan of smacking so I’ve been trying to institute the naughty corner as a time-out place for my two year old. I probably would have been more inclined to set up a naughty step but as his nursery school uses a corner, I thought consistency was probably the way forward. So naughty corner it was. I picked a corner, waited patiently for the next full-blown floor-pounding tantrum (not a long wait!) and off he went to said corner. He wailed in the corner for a bit and once the storm had passed, we went on with our day. ‘Excellent. Easy as..’, I thought.

When little pumpkin and I encountered our next difference of opinion, I sternly informed him that he was headed for the naughty corner. ‘OK’ he said sulkily so off he went. We had a couple of similar run-ins resulting in more corner time. However, I realised something was amiss when one evening at bedtime he was offered the options of either sitting quietly on the couch drinking his milk or going straight to bed. He responded with ‘naughty corner?’. Um, not actually one of the options on offer my love.

My suspicions were confirmed on shower night. My eldest son definitely mistakes hair washing for some kind of torture. Whilst I was struggling with a sobbing, slippery, naked toddler, I was slightly alarmed to hear him howl between sobs ‘I want to go to the naughty corner, I want to go to the naughty corner!!’ Not exactly a raging success then.

I guess I could use the threat of a shower to deter misbehaviour but then I’d only have myself to blame if I ended up with the grubbiest teenager this world has ever known.

Ps while I’ve been typing this, little one’s pet stuffed penguin has been escorted to the naughty corner and told to stay there until he’s ‘finished’. Wonder what Pengu did to deserve that…

Donations please …

Given my eldest child is only two, I’m pretty new to the whole school thing. I’ve managed drop-offs and pick-ups and so far the foul-mouthed toddler has not dropped me in it (as discussed at length in a previous post). I’ve managed to learn other toddlers’ names and have sometimes even asked a fellow parent about the wellbeing of the correct child (not always but sometimes – give me a break, I’m not getting much sleep). So it was all going brilliantly until my little one brought home a book of tickets with an attached note suggesting that parents should sell them. Actually I think the exact words were ‘parents are REQUIRED to sell ten tickets each’. Required? Really?

Of course my husband’s initial reaction was to tell the school to get knotted. My son has only been attending for a nanosecond and is enrolled on a temporary basis. I was tempted to return the book with an attached note simply saying ‘um, no!’ but then fretted about the little pumpkin being ostracised on account of his unco-operative mother. My problem with the concept is that I resent being forced to hit up friends and family for money. I’m not a fan of being pestered for money and can’t bring myself to do it to others. In this instance it’s for a worthy cause so I’m shelving the rebellious streak and buying the book of tickets myself. At least this way I can feel sanctimonious and smug about my charitable donation.

This was all a frightening insight into my future. I’m guessing this is not the last time one of my little lovelies will return home with something I am ‘required’ to sell. If I am to stick to my guns about not annoying my loved ones, in future I may be forced to randomly approach strangers in the street for donations – otherwise this could get expensive.

Sins of the parent…

I am loving watching my toddler learn to speak – it’s nothing short of miraculous. I’m not sure I’ll ever truly get my head around how these tiny cooing and crying beings develop the ability to communicate. I watch in awe as he uses new words every day and despite the fact that most of the human race has acquired this skill, I am immensely proud.

He is a talented mimic. Yay us that he says ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ regularly and often even at appropriate times. Not so yay us that a number of unmentionables have been repeated. I’ve recently enrolled him at the local nursery school (which happens to be run by a church) for a couple of mornings a week. All is going swimmingly – he loves it, they love him – but I live in fear of some of his more colourful vocabulary being used at drop off or pick up. I’m guessing his current favourite expression of frustration would not be appreciated.”Oh God!” my two-year old will announce. Stunned silence and aghast faces from Teacher and other (presumably non-blaspheming) mommies will follow while I cast around desperately trying to work out how to pin this on my hubby.

More terrifying is the fact that he has been known to repeat the F word – I am no potty mouth and I very seldom swear in front of him, but when I forget myself and that word slips out, you can be sure my son will hold onto it for days. My current tactic is to immediately start chanting “truck, truck, Mommy said truck” but a friend correctly pointed out that this will fool no-one when he says “oh for truck’s sake!” This exact phrase was used by a good friend’s toddler on the way into nursery school recently – embarrassing at a secular nursery school but surely grounds for expulsion at mine. Poor pudding will have his stationery ice cream container under one arm, random bits of art under another and a confused expression on his face while Teacher gently suggests that he might be more comfortable elsewhere.

Heavens knows what he says while I’m not there but hey, ignorance is bliss.

Mummy’s Little Helper

Bless my two-year old – his new favourite phrase is “I want to help”. Unfortunately, his help almost always complicates matters. He’s determined to help me feed his little brother. However feeding the wiggly one requires dogged determination, patience and dexterity, all of which are in short supply in his older brother. Steering of the spoon by Mum is not tolerated as my fiercely independent son must do it by himself. As you can imagine, the usual outcome of this ‘giving of help’ is three slightly frazzled participants lightly coated in puree. Not helpful. He has also offered his assistance with nail clipping, scrambled egg making and bottle-feeding of calves. It’s hard to gently decline these offers without worrying that it’ll quash the generous spirit within.

His offers to help with less injurious tasks are, of course, gratefully accepted even though a quick trip to the Spar can become a very protracted affair when a toddler is pushing the trolley (not to mention a tad dangerous for the unsuspecting inattentive shopper!) He’s very good at feeding chickens, putting the hazards on (one times flat battery) and pushing ATM buttons, some times even in the correct order.

Nevertheless I treasure these offers. They’re part of a two-year old him that won’t exist very long. And I’ll miss them.