Friday, 27 April 2012

The tiredness in parenthood

I read an article in the i, the in the “concise newspaper”, last week discussing the shape of modern relationships. It pointed out how many more mature professionals throw themselves into parenthood in their mid- or later thirties when they have known each other only for a short time. This then results with many of the relationships breaking down when the reality dawns. There will be money and work issues, parenting issues, relationship issues and sleep deprivation. Trying to keep all balls rolling can lead to communication breakdown, bickering and rows.

Trying to concentrate on your own thing and shutting out the extra detail is supposed to be a male thing but I must confess that in order to prioritise my own interests when not spending time with Number One Son means that I can be a bad listener. The previous weekend I did do some gardening in order to put all flower pots in order and to plant some bedding plants. I had bought some marigolds, sweet peas and geraniums. I happily used all empty flowerpots and weeded some green growths from the pots next to our shed. When I invited Archaeologist Husband to see my handiwork (I am not famous for any inclination to do housework), I encountered a horrified comment of ‘where are the flowerpots?’. It turned out that he had planted herb seeds into the pots and I had been weeding basil, thyme, parsley and marjoram over the last couple of weeks. No wonder the herbs he had lovingly been tending had not been sprouting out properly!

I felt horrible and realized that when he had explained the progress of his herb project, I had ignored him and concentrated on reading one of those bumpy weekend editions (newspapers), web editing or working on my laptop. I had totally missed an important pastime in his life. I am gutted! On top of this we are both exhausted all the time since Number One Son – like so many toddlers – is an early bird and normally up at 6am both on weekdays and on weekends. My deep sleep is around midnight whereas Archaeologist Husband likes to have it around 6am. This setup means that he ends up hearing any night time murmurs and be disrupted by me heading to take Number One Son downstairs early in the morning. I am a real dormouse and could sleep up to 12 hours so having a child has left me permanently short of sleep. Thus, we both parents think we get the short straw with sleeping. No wonder I could recognize the patterns in the i article!

The reality is that with parenthood your life changes and you will never be totally sure that your lives are changing at the same pace, in a similar manner or in a way you personally like. You can see that it is a relationship minefield – especially if one’s relationship was still in the more blissful ‘a movie, a gourmet dinner and some drinks in a swanky bar’ phase at the time of conception. Your lothario will not be looking as handsome when he fails to change nappies and disappears for a work trip to Los Angeles for a week or two and your ravishing beauty will seem to turn into a haggard after waking up every two hours 24/7 if and when breastfeeding and will sit opposite you snoring in the breakfast table with baby puke droplets on her shoulder and hair all undone not in a good way.

There are those mythical children who sleep their nights and eat everything. However, the reality is likely to be less rose-toned and more challenging. Most people have real children to bring up and a three-way relationship with real people to nurture. In addition, trying to keep your family in the black in this harsh economic climate just adds that extra dimension to the proceedings.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

My late speaker and his second language

My attempts to bring up Number One Son bilingually are naturally hampered by his natural slower pace of speech development. I have for a long time repeated his strongest English words in order to encourage him repeating them after me although I continue to speak in Finnish most time. This flies against all advice I have been given but I feel that I must help my son to communicate in the language he clearly has chosen for himself. He shows few signs of repeating Finnish words – how different it is with English when he repeats happily different colours, counts to eight or so and name many of the most usual animals. However, after a Finnish school session with an access to other Finnish speakers he tends to say ‘Hei’ instead of ‘Hay’. Sadly, the kids speak English with each other so this improvement is down to the activities of the adult preschool group leader.

Happily, Number One Son has slowly started to tie two words together. His early attempt was ‘This route!’ on the way to the nursery. Sadly, the late intensification of tying two words together has come in the form of ‘Go away!’ said loudly to me so that Number One Son can continue playing with daddy without his mother interrupting the idyllic scenes. I was not a very good player as a child myself so it is not a great suprise that clearly his daddy is much more fun. I am also the ‘bad cop’ parent who is firmer and louder denying Number One Son from having his own way.

Even if Number One Son does not say any other Finnish words than a loud ‘Ei!’ (no to any English speaking readers), he seems to understand his second language well. His English ‘No’ to anything he does not want to do is very firm and clear. He also likes to view Lion king in Finnish and pronounces Rory [the racing car] in a way that is half-way between Rory and his Finnish name-sake Lauri. I am soon heading to Finland and one of the tasks is to buy more classic Disney and Pixar movies in order to give him plenty to watch in his second language. Even if the speech therapists emphasize that children should watch as little television as possible, our early bird needs something to watch at 6am when his mother and father are not properly wake, yet!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Potty anxiety 2

The Easter break gave us an opportunity for another stab in trying to properly potty train Number One Son. He does not voluntarily go onto a potty and is totally hostile towards the toilet bowl – no matter how many toddler rings we have. The things are not helped by my total hate of poo and wee, stemming from the time I worked in the hospitals as a student. Now without the nappy things get easily to the boiling point when I see the signs of the poo alert and try to get some of the stuff to hit something else than the floor or our son’s underwear. I must admit I am totally useless in this. ‘Dirty holidays’ got a totally new meaning.

The toddlers also get canny. Number One Son loves chocolate and we can get him to sit on a potty by waving a small bag of Cadbury’s chocolate buttons. Sadly nothing is actually produced and the potty stays as clean and dry as before. He gets his glorification but I am not sure I am any nearer of seeing the end of pooy pants.

It is clear that otherwise Number One Son is totally ready to drop the nappies and at three it is definitely the time to get him out from them. He knows how to hold his bladder but the long use of nappies means that he does not fathom properly what to do when the pressure gets best of him. Things are not helped by the fact that he will try to avoid potties and toilets. You get the feeling from the general remarks in the media that those parents who have children in their nappies after three years of age are somehow lazy and inadequate. Nevertheless, I was told by one older lady when Number One Son was about one that the boys often stay in the nappies until they are three. Now the nursery has blown the whistle and declared that the nappies will go on next week if no progress is made this week.

I have understood from what other mothers’ are saying that potty training is generally considered one of the least liked experiences in child rearing. I am definitely not alone in this but it does not make it any easier. Boys can be very lazy and find using nappy easy. Late developers like Number One Son naturally are not among the wonder kids who drop nappies at six months and want to go to potty. At that age Number One Son was hardly sitting properly, not alone making any ‘boo boo’ sounds. Our son started to pay attention to his bowel movements after two and half and the attempts in potty training around the Christmas time bit the dust. We were self-evidently trying it too early. He was not ready, yet. Now he might be readier but is fighting against it – both at home and in the nursery. It looks like it will be Parents 0 - Toddler 1.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Two hours of happiness

The weekend saw Number One Son’s birthday party. A childless friend wondered why we put ourselves through the ordeal. As most parents know, it is not truly an ordeal. True, finding a venue, ordering a bouncy castle and dealing with catering take time but it is all worth it when excited happy children sneakily snap a ‘whatsit’ or two or excited guests come down an inflatable slide or beaming toddlers try to catch bubbles.

I must admit we passed a couple of party conventions. I did not even consider doing party bags since it is fiddly, costly and requires you to know exactly who will be coming. We ‘owed’ parties so I wanted to catch a wide selection of nursery mates and friends and to give some open invitations to some groups of friends. I also prefer that the siblings can join, too. It is easier for everybody and if you are paying for the venue and the bouncy castle it is nice to use it to the maximum.

All the children in Number One Son’s nursery group are really good mates – naturally along the boys and girls lines – and enjoy each other’s company. Thus, this birthday party was not about the presents but giving our child some quality time with his friends. A few had been waiting for days for Number One Son’s party. A few good friends could not make it due to a chicken pox epidemic going through the nursery and local elementary school. One of them was really spotty when I took some left over cake over for consolation.

As a chief organizer – yes, this normally falls on to me; guess who organized the honeymoon – I learnt a few new things (to be fair, Archaeologist Husband did keep eye on health and safety and the inflatable bouncy slide in the party while I spread the food onto the tables). For example, Tesco doesn’t do party sandwiches but Sainsbury’s does and the selection is good and they platters are relatively cheap. Tesco’s off-the-shelf cakes are the best and the easiest way to have too much good quality chocolate cake on a budget. Sainsbury's fruit shoots are apparently the only ones with sucralose only without aspartame or Acesulfame K or nasty colorings (why are these bright colourings, banned in the Nordic countries, still used in UK is a mystery to me). Why bother with crudités when grapes and strawberries are popular and give you an impression that your child is eating something healthier than just crisps and cake. Crisps from Aldi are rubbish but their ‘holahoops’, ‘whatsits’ and tortilla chips are good. However, the nasty food surprise of the day gong goes to the Tesco veggie vol au vents that were truly awful, acidy and sharp. No wonder Number One Aunty did not want to take any home...

The bottom line is that with a bouncy castle hardly any other programme is needed. We had a bubble making machine since the mini-mes are still too young to truly pass the parcel without wanting to keep it all but everything would have probably been bumping happily along otherwise, too. Nothing beats a good bouncing with your mates!