Sometimes it is hard to believe that I am a mother of four. When did that happen?! But it most definitely did happen. Now I wonder what have I learnt about myself and the challenges of being a mum. I think the hardest part has been sharing myself with all four. When my boy was born I could snuggle, hold and be with him all day long if I wanted to. With four little ones the stretch is my biggest challenge. I want them to all feel the same amount of love and have the same sense of security. I am not alone on this. I think every mother or father feels the same. They want to do the best for their children. They want their child to feel loved and hold them tight, make them feel safe and grow into confident adults.
But getting there!!!! Well that’s the challenge.
So 1 year later and here I am. Most certainly not an expert in rearing children but there are some things I have learnt –
- It’s just a phase! Even the toughest times can be got through. I thought I would never sleep again and here we are – I had 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep last night. Now that is something to celebrate. Certainly doesn’t happen all the time – but today I will take it and embrace this energy.
- They grow up too fast! Blink and you will miss it. Stella took her first step on Tuesday (3 Oct 2016). Soon she will be walking and soon she will be running out the door.
- Mess is not the end of the world! Now this is something I am still working on. As someone who is very particular about keeping things neat and tidy, having an explosion of plastic in the house has been a challenge.
- Dinnertime is chaotic! A sub lesson of point 3. This is an age thing but little ones like to explore their food. I have to let go and let them. Although, I still struggle with the idea of raspberries or tomatoes as finger food. And toddlers spill lots of things!
- Stop every once in a while and just play! Play is such an important part of growing up but once we get to a certain age we forget how to. Embracing play has been liberating and I think is why I’m enjoying this time so much. Not always easy when in a house of chaos, nappies to change, dinners to be made, sick or crying children but one I try to remind myself to do.
- The hugs and snuggles are amazing! This part is just fantastic. I absolutely love all the hugs and kisses I get and give. Unconditional love given by your child is something to embrace.
- Plan everything! So this is a good tip for all mums to be. Try and pre-empt as much as you can. Most children can do 15 – 30 minutes at each activity. So if I am going anywhere I think in 15 – 30 minute slots. This allows me to do anything within reason – including dinner out with all the kids. By bringing books, toys and ensuring food arrives quickly, dinner out can be a really enjoyable experience (big bonus for me is no clean up! see point 4).
- The ‘Good Enough Mother’! This is the biggest lesson after 1 year. No matter what I do, perfectionism still niggles away at me. However, slowly I am learning that I am not perfect but I am happy and that is enough.
As the saying goes every day is a school day. So there is a little known fact that many children can regress when a baby comes into the house. This is something I did not know until it happened to me. Three little ladies have meant my son is now behaving more baby like. As a result, the nappy is back on, he was wants me to spoon feed him with a baby spoon and have baby bottles.
After a couple of weekends of constant cleaning poo and wee I had to put the nappy back on. My little boy didn’t even bat an eyelid! Quite happy to go back to nappies (no long term damage there then!) for the moment so we will have start again in another while. It seems he has no interest in being a ‘big’ boy just yet, so until it looks like he’s ready I will continue to keep Pampers in business and hope they don’t decide to stop making size 6+ any time soon.
The girls are now into everything!! Climbing is their new past time. Each of them gets a great kick out of climbing into nooks and crannies but frustrated when they get stuck. When I had the girls many recommended getting a playpen. Although I can see some merit in it, I am trying to see can we mange without. I just don’t like the idea of containing when all they want to do is explore at this age.
Keeping everything afloat at the moment is requiring stealth and determination. My beautiful brood have revved up a notch and testing mummy is a new past time. However, this is where my stubbornness has come into great use.
So they say that it is the ‘terrible twos’ and to expect lots of drama and emotion. Well of course I am not a fool to think my little one will be any different but wow! This is like having a teenager (or what I think having a teenager) in the house is like. Up down, up down, up down. To add fuel to the fire, I agreed to potty train him during this very complicated stage. I say agree as it was the ‘gentle’ persuasion of his play school. Most days have at least one battle included – stop throwing toys, don’t kick your sister, let’s go to the potty, no you can not have a stamp, come over here please, no, I said no, do you want to go to the thinking step, you need to eat your breakfast, please don’t do that, stop that, I could go on ……. All of this is speckled with you are the best boy, well done, here’s a stamp for doing that, yes, you’re brilliant etc etc. The thing is I genuinely believe he is brilliant and the best boy but just wish we could skip the negotiations and arguements. I know that it is important to stand strong so that he learns boundaries, just hate the battle. So hormones are at an all time high and it’s a very confusing time for a little boy. We get absolute hysteria if a song finishes that he likes or his favourite cartoon (dinotime- now watched over 2500 times) ends. I limit TV to Saturday and Sunday only – which, for all is a blessing, especially considering the tears and drama when the ads come on.
So we have managed to potty train despite all of this and everything else (more about that later). The approach that seemed to work for us is the slow and steady approach. Bit by bit the nappy time has been reduced. It started with just school, then afternoons and evenings at home. Now we have no nappy on all day – including park, walking or shopping etc. It’s a huge step and has taken a while to get there. He has slowly become nappy free over about 4 weeks. The accidents are few and far now but I still have to remember to bring him to the toilet every hour and we haven’t done a poo in the toilet yet. I am extremely proud of him but also pretty pleased with myself. So one out of four is now nappy free (mostly).
Big changes have happened for the girls too. They are now in their own bedroom and sleeping (almost) all night. To get to this has been a lot of heart ache and tears. Lots of tears!!! In fact crying it out has been the only successful method. There are lots of people who would be horrified at the thought of leaving a baby to cry but when you have three babies and nothing else has worked, needs must. Desperation for sleep is a horrible place to be. One of my girls is still not fully there, last night she woke at 3am and settled at 6am by which time her sisters decided it was morning. There have been some nights where I am functioning on about 3 hours sleep but since getting advice from a sleep specialist this is becoming less and less. Things have changed quite a it for all. Now breakfast happens before the morning bottle and everyone goes down for 2 hours mid afternoon. Due to strict schedule we have become pretty limited in where we go, when we go out and for how long but all worth it for sleep.
My mantra ‘it’s just a phase’ is on constant repeat in the my mind.
What a glorious week to be out and about. My little ladies are basking in the great sunshine.
I was in the park the other evening and we met a very polite and precocious little five year old. He wanted to play football with my little boy. So for half an hour we all ran around kicking the ball up high and running. He was a lovely little boy and very considerate of my little ones clear lack of understanding of sharing. When we had to go we agreed we would meet up again tomorrow. He asked my name and I told him. But then something strange happened. He laughed and said ‘I probably won’t remember your name tomorrow. I don’t have a good brain. I’m not very clever.’
I told him he seemed very clever to me and we had really enjoyed meeting him. But this stuck with me for the night.
Why do we feel it necessary to put someone down or quash a belief in themselves? Someone along the way has told him he isn’t bright – after spending a little time with him – I totally object! A five year old shouldn’t even know these words.
Unfortunately this is part of life. Another situation recently occurred – a mum picked up her 3 year old and a 5 year old girl. She over heard the 5 year old say to the 3 year old ‘you’re fat!’ The mother then wondered, what do you when this happens? To give the 3 year old her dues she told the older girl ‘that’s not very nice’. Of course the mummy stepped in and said she’s not fat she’s tall. But again in this situation what do you do.
These are seemingly innocent situations but I wonder what is the lasting effect?
None of mine are old enough to have this happen to them yet but I do wonder how I would react. Of course you want to protect your children but you also want them to learn to stand up for themselves. So how do you do both?
So back to the lovely boy from yesterday evening. I really hope that others reaffirm how bright he is and that he has a great brain.
So this is more a milestone post than anything.
The big news this week – Francesca and Abigail have broken their first tooth. Hard to believe that 8 and a half months have passed since their arrival!
All of the girls are now shuffling across the floor. This means you need to watch them constantly. Before you know it, one is under the table, another is behind the tv stand and last but not least one has managed to squeeze under the couch.
They’re getting much more independent and very happy to play amongst themselves for a little while. My son is still the most exciting person in the world as far as their concerned.
Red is getting very proficient with a ball and entertains each night with his kicking skill.
Since being away, his language has really come on and he now has a good grasp of sentences.
Stella is showing great coordination and concentration. She likes to observe first whereas the others love to dive in! I suspect she may be first to walk. Slow and steady!
The girls are now on a new schedule that seems to be working really well. Last night Stella slept all the way through till 6am. Woohoo!!!!
Here’s the routine:
Up at 6ish – bottle
8am – breakfast
9am – sleep (40 min approx)
11.30 – lunch
12.15 – bottle
12.30 – 2.30pm sleep/quiet time
2.30pm snack and bottle
In fact, we more than survived. We had a fantastic holiday but it definitely took a bit of perseverance to get there.
Over the last decade or so, I have been fortunate to do lots of travel so know that things don’t always go to plan. This pales into nothing compared to travel with babies. There is a lot of planning and organising required. So here are my learnings from the trip:
Packing – best not to over pack!
- We’ve all been there. You always think that summer dress circa 2004 is going to have to come with you – even though its practically a rag and you never wear it other than on the beach and really should you be wearing something you wore clubbing in Ibiza ten years ago?! Not just that, if your Irish, you feel the need to pack for all weather (just in case) and pack coats, jumpers, scarfs for your two weeks in the sun. So if like me you already over pack for one – just imagine the over packing for 5!
- You can buy everything there. Unless you are jungle bound, there is everything and more in the supermarkets abroad. Pack enough wipes, nappies, formula and breakfast cereal/food pouches (they can eat this for every meal if needed – wont harm them) to get through the first day or so.
- They only need a few outfits or vests. Most of the time, if going to the sun, it will be too hot for clothes and trust me they won’t want to wear much. My little boy became a nudist for the two weeks.
- Bring colouring pencils, paper, play dough, story books. There are times when you want to stay in doors and they will need entertainment.
Flight – break it down to 15 – 30 minute sections
- So this might sound a bit over kill but it helps to keep everyone occupied.
- For example – my flight was 3 hours long and heres how it broke down.
- 30 minutes – take off and taxi – have a look around get used this exciting new place. Feed a bottle (helps their little ears)
- 30 minutes – sleep. Hopefully at this point they will sleep. Long journey to airport and through the check in etc.
- 30 minutes of story books, play dough, cars etc etc and oh here comes the coffee cart!
- So now we are one and a half hours into the flight and thats when it all starts to unravel unfortunately. Boredom hits, food has gone everywhere, snot and tears are now all over my once immaculate top. The lovely sun hat I purchased is now a squashed mess and the once organised bag is all over the floor in a not so easy to reach order. But deep breaths and a reminder that this is only temporary.
- 30 minutes later and we are already well through the worst of it. Everyone has calmed down a bit and back out with the toys, play dough, ‘lets draw an airplane’.
- So now for the final decent. Have a second bottle ready for this – there ears can get very sore on the way down. (I learnt this the hard way – on the way out i forgot to pack a second bottle. Thankfully the air hostess gave me some milk.)
Routine, Routine, Routine and one more time Routine!!!!!!
- So here is the tough one. I found it hard to adjust to the difference between holidays gone by and holidays of the present and future. Children don’t unwind like us grown ups. They have absolutely no interest in lounging by the pool and snoozing on the beach. My four all need a lot of attention and need your help in ensuring there is lots of fun and activity. You also want to do lots of things to ensure they tire and sleep. The girls found the adjustment especially hard. My son thought the holiday was incredible and had a ball.
- For the first week us girls were a bit miserable. Trying to look after three babies without all your paraphernalia is tough. They need those toys and bouncers! I have grown a new appreciation for the plastic that has taken over my house. It serves a wonderful purpose!
- I also must have been insane when i thought going away without help would be fine. NO!!! Even though I had a lovely local girl helping, it was a disaster. All I did for the first week is run to the pharmacy every five minutes (streaming noses, food poisoning, mosquito bites, teeth!), stress about sunscreen, clean up continuously and do laundry. I can do that at home! So by the end of the week my minder from home flew over and thats when it clicked. Simple is best – routine, routine, routine.
- Heres what our day looked like (i did not deviate)
- Up at 6am and a bottle for all
- Breakfast at 8am
- Down to the beach. Sand castles, run around, girls played on the towels, dip their toes into the water.
- Home by 11.30 and lunch
- 12.30 Nap time for everyone
- Two hours of bliss
- 2.30 Up and play. Swims for everyone
- 5pm Dinner
- 6pm – 7pm Bath and Stories
- 7.30pm Glass of wine and peace
So thats it – keep a routine, don’t stress over the small stuff, no they won’t sleep properly and whatever you do – don’t wear white jeans traveling (a mistake i will never repeat!)