Monday, 31 December 2012

Inspired by Ellie - a letter to my daughter

I’ve been trying for quite a while now to write a letter to Ellie … to tell her how I feel about being her mum, how she inspires me and my hopes for the future. She has the usual photo albums to look back on, but I want to give her more than that – I want to give her a real insight into our life together and into what she’s brought into my life.

As we move in 2013 I’ve finally finished my letter and although at just four Ellie’s a little too young to read it yet, by the time she’s old enough I hope to have a collection of things for her – the book I wrote which was inspired by her (the things they never tell you about becoming mum), my blog posts about life as her mum and some letters like this.

And so, I’m pleased to share with you my first letter to Ellie, finished as we wave goodbye to 2012.

To my Ellie,

You are my beautiful daughter and I love you so much. I love the way you smile, the way you giggle and the way you hug me tight. I love how you smell and how you ask so many questions. I love you unconditionally.

You are my greatest challenge and my biggest learning curve. I’m constantly learning how to be your mummy and it's tough sometimes, but you’re doing a great job of teaching me!

I can’t pretend that you don’t add to my stress levels sometimes with your occasional tantrums and horns which appear when you’re tired, but you have a knack of reducing them too. Only the other night I was flopped on your bed when you walked in and upon seeing me, simply froze. I could feel you staring at me intently and, I assume, deciding the best course of action to take. Eventually you spoke and the conversation went as follows:

You ‘what are you doing mummy?’
Me ‘I’m just so tired Ellie’
You held your arms wide open and simply said ‘come here’

We had a long, delightful hug and in an instant you made me feel so happy. I’ll never know how you knew that was just what I needed, but you did. You inspire me.

My single greatest wish for the future is that I can be the sort of mummy to help you grow and fulfil your dreams. That I can give you the support and patience you need and that you will look back at your childhood with happiness.

I hope that you don’t think I’ve made bad choices and I hope that you remember giggling with me, more than grumping at me or me at you!

So as we look towards 2013, the year that you’ll turn 5, I write this letter for you – to make you smile, and to remind you that I will always love you.


Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Balance and boundaries!

In recent weeks I’ve had quite a number of people say to me ‘I don’t know how you do it’. They sadly aren’t referring to my parenting skills, the way I dress, or my cooking …but to the fact that I’m currently balancing being mummy, working full time, settling into a new family setting, launching my new book and moving house all at once.

So as I stood in the kitchen one evening last week having one of those moments – you know the sobbing, exhausted, uttering ‘I’m a bad mum…I mean I know I’m not a bad mum…but I wish I had more patience’ moment…I thought I would share with you the ‘not so shocking news’ that I don’t balance it all, all of the time.

This was in fact one in a series of moments last week which told me that things were getting on top of me. The other less dramatic but equally clear signs were:
  • Waking up in the morning feeling like I hadn’t slept at all despite the fact that I have slept a solid 9 hours (apologies to anyone who is dreaming of a 9 hour straight stint, I do know it’s annoying to read and I won’t mention it again)
  • Hearing my daughter yelling at me to stop shouting at her – and realising only at that moment that I was actually shouting
  • Eating more chocolate, crisps and pretty much anything other than a decent meal for at least four days on the run
  • Frowning more than I’m smiling (I’m one of those annoyingly default smiley people so this is out of character)
There’s no doubt that right now I’m burning the candle at both ends and in the middle and I do feel like my ‘to do’ list (yes I’m one of those people who write endless to do lists!) is just growing. Add to that the fact that Ellie is currently doing what I believe children do best ‘pushing the boundaries’ and it’s clearly a recipe for a tough ride. Suffices to say that I am currently trying to find and re-acquire my balance.

Most of the things I need to sort are simply a case of needing more time and a little focus – the book launch, the house move, some key work projects – I know what I need to do to resolve them. What’s typical of course is that when it comes to Ellie I find myself somewhat lost.

It’s not the first time she’s ever pushed the boundaries and I really believe that it’s quite normal, but it is exhausting. On this occasion however there are also two new elements which are baffling me and making me question whether this is normal and whether I’m doing it all wrong. Read on and then please do let me know what you think.

The first thing is that in the last couple of weeks Ellie has developed several new skills which act to me, very much like a red rag to a bull. She has taken to constantly answering me back and trying to have the last word – whether it’s a normal conversation or when I’m telling her off about something. She’s also developed a new face which I can only describe as smirking and she chooses to use this either when she thinks I’m not looking and she’s getting away with something, or when she knows she’s doing something she shouldn’t, but blatantly does it anyway.

Second, she is definitely doing things she knows she shouldn’t more often than I’ve ever known her too before…today’s examples are:

·        refusing to get dressed in the morning and then screaming when I explain she will now not be getting her sticker chart sticker
·        this evening throwing a Christmas card on the floor because it apparently wasn’t christmassy enough (I am cringing as I write this!)

The latter example I really struggled with because it simply smacks of spoilt child, but my biggest issue is the sheer quantity of incidents we’re currently having. It is quite simply exhausting.

So far my usual arsenal of tools (e.g. doing time out in her room, pointing out that she’s not getting a sticker on her reward chart and telling her how disappointed I am) don’t really seem to be having sufficient impact. What I mean is they help the incident at the time, but it doesn’t seem to be addressing the volume of incidents.

On the positive side she’s clearly behaving well at school and loving learning. She still tells me she loves me and I still get great hugs at bedtime so I can at least hold on to that. What I’d really like though is to know that I’m doing the right things, that she’s not turning into a delinquent child and ultimately… for this phase to quite simply be over. 

As always, I’d love to hear from you and I’d be delighted for any advice. Please use the comments below or contact me via twitter @sharonmsmyth

Monday, 3 December 2012

Dear Father Christmas…a letter from mummy

Dear Father Christmas,

I’ve mostly been really good this year. I’ve mostly been patient with Ellie, mostly been flexible when settling into our new home, mostly taken a deep breath instead of shouting, mostly listened to Ellie instead of getting distracted and mostly managed to keep on top of the ironing and essential housework.

Now I know mostly isn’t quite as good as you’d like but I promise that I will get better if only I could have the one thing that I really really want for Christmas, as you’ll see it’s quite clearly linked. Father Christmas, this Christmas can I please have some more time in the day.

I’m not asking for a whole additional day, just an extra few hours during each day – hours where I’m not working, but not exhausted. With more time in a day I will be able to:
  • Never rush Ellie’s bath and bed time story
  • Cook great dinners every day which are healthy and scrumptious (well I’d definitely cook and at least try my very best to make it scrumptious, although I have to be honest and say that I can’t guarantee it)
  • Do all the little jobs that I never get done including making up photo albums and sorting out the ever growing pile of household paperwork
  • Play with Ellie more when we’re together rather than doing the jobs I need to do
  • Write my blog at least once a week without fail
  • Bake cakes with Ellie more often (not using the ready mix)
  • Go to all of Ellie’s school events rather than just some of them

Now I do understand that this is a big ask and I’m sure it’s something you’ve been asked for many times before, but I really would make the most of those extra hours and I promise to let you know how I get on.

Anyway, I have to go now because the time it’s taken me to write this means that I’ve got just an hour left before bed and I need to iron Ellie’s uniform for tomorrow, check my email, wash up, tweet about this blog and hopefully squeeze in a conversation with my boyfriend.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

A fond farewell…to being a single parent

I went out one evening the other week for a drink with colleagues after work, a non-alcoholic one since I was driving, but nonetheless a sociable drink…in the week…on a school night...when I had Ellie.

Now I realise this doesn’t sound like a big deal, but this is the first time I have been out like this with colleagues from my office since I went back to work over two and a half years ago. As I sat in the bar laughing and talking, I couldn’t help but feel a little giddy. I did, without doubt, check my phone on rather a lot of occasions in the time running up to the usual bedtime of 7pm and relay some of the sweet, reassuring messages from my boyfriend to others at the table (no eyes were rolled!), but I wasn’t worrying about getting back and I really did enjoy myself.

This is a big deal because it was symbolic of the fact that following our recent move Ellie and I have joined my boyfriend and his son to live together as a family. I am officially no longer a single parent – eek and wow to that!

There’s no doubt that there have been occasions where being a single parent was tough and there are lots of things I will not miss…paying the a baby sitter so I can go to the dentist is quite frankly depressing and knowing you’re out of petrol but can’t just pop to fill up until the morning…when it will make you late – is irritating.  

Most memorable for me in recent months was when I attended the pre starting school parents evening – it was a rare occasion where I suddenly felt very lonely and really wished I had someone else there to share what I was worrying about. I ended up getting a little emotional and making a total prat of myself by crying as I left the school! I could try to explain but it would sound totally pathetic so I will save myself the blushes.

What’s strange though is that when I think about it I have to be honest and say that there are things about being a single parent that I know I really am going to miss. For one thing there’s something quite empowering about not having to explain or agree in any way your parenting choices to anyone else, and just being able to do it your own way without discussion or negotiation. For another thing Ellie and I have developed our own routine and pattern to our lives – adjusting this is a big change (for me probably more than Ellie!). I can’t deny that I’ve become just a little set in my ways!

Bidding farewell to being a single mum isn’t going to be easy. In our newly joined family we’re already discovering things that we do differently … the so called ‘chocolate cereals’ that Ellie eats are met with some horror, the fact that Ellie shouts about doing a poo and never closes the bathroom door is clearly a little distressing for the other half of our new family, and our really quiet time before bed is more difficult to achieve name but a few examples.

So there can be no doubt that as I look with excitement and anticipation to our future as a family, it is a fond farewell that I give to my time as a single mum.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

My mummy mysteries - the things I will never know

There is an endless list of things about being a mum which I will never know nor understand ... mostly they amuse me, occasionally they frustrate me. The last couple of weeks have been a particularly busy period in finding things that sit neatly in this category of what I shall here forward refer to as …mummy mysteries.

Mummy mystery 1: When and how did Ellie master her ‘annoyed with mummy’ face so well?
This is the face that Ellie now seems to regularly pull when I ask her to do something. I don’t mean anything too onerous – concentrating on eating her food rather than just gazing at it, or making sure she’s wearing pants for school are both requests that apparently deserve the annoyed with mummy face.

The same facial expression appears with even more enthusiasm when I suggest she stops doing something such as standing within a millimetre of the TV screen or sucking her toothbrush rather than brushing her teeth.

This face has snuck up on me – I did not teach her it or see her practising it, so how did it suddenly become a regular part of our lives? This…is a mystery.

Mummy mystery 2: Where have Ellie’s bright pink Hello Kitty PE bag, PE kit and pumps gone?
This does not represent a good start on the ‘keeping hold of your stuff’ challenge for Ellie. These items were very clearly labelled and actually placed on her peg at the start of term by her teacher. Even more mysterious is that the fact Ellie hadn’t actually used them yet – not once!

I had been warned about the phenomena of disappearing clothes but to lose the entire kit, in one shot, has surpassed my expectations. Is it really possible for things to disappear into thin air? Apparently so.

Following a bit of a twitter/facebook rant I did however get some hints as to the truth and apparently everyone is affected by the classroom gremlins. I am now wondering how I might catch them.

Mummy mystery 3 – The unattainable perfect balance between being mummy and being at work.  
This isn’t a new topic to my blog and in many ways I’m really lucky with the balance I have right now. I get to drop and pick Ellie from school once a week, most weeks and thanks to the flexible working policy of my employer I can join in some of the school activities. I’ve joined the parent council, already been to Ellie’s first class assembly performance and am hoping to join Ellie for her Christmas lunch. I can’t do everything of course…and there are still moments where I feel like I haven’t seen Ellie in a day and have no idea what she’s been doing at school. Indeed, when she did her reading with the child minder and not me the other day I couldn’t help but feel a pang of sadness – despite the fact it was the most practical thing to do.

This is therefore counting as a mystery because I genuinely believe that I will never find the perfect balance or even more importantly, know if I have!

Mystery number 4 – Ellie’s memory
It’s a funny thing, because when I ask Ellie to remember to wash her hands after going to the toilet, to remember to take her shoes off when she comes in the house or to remember to say good morning…her memory often fails her.

Her memory is however a mystery in itself because she always remembers the art work that she’s created at school. Ellie is now bringing back a vast quantity of work from school on a daily basis. As a show of my dedication to this blog I laid it out and took a photo to show you… all 73 pieces of work brought home in the first two (yes two!) weeks of school:

Now obviously these don’t normally belong on the living room floor and are stored in Ellie’s room, but they are taking up a lot of space. I have been desperately trying to pick out the best bits to keep and ... well … bin the other bits! Unfortunately, Ellie’s memory does not fail her here and she remembers literally every piece. I’m banking on her memory failing in a couple of weeks, but there’s no doubt she’s keeping a keen eye on the size of the pile in her room.

That’s it from me for now, but I’m fairly sure that I’m not the only parent who discovers things that I will never know or understand…so I would love to hear yours! Please drop me a message either via the comments below or via twitter @sharonmsmyth

Monday, 29 October 2012

Half term lessons learned.

After a mammoth 8 week first term at school and Ellie’s imminent start at her new school, I’ve been reflecting about how it’s all gone and I realise that I’ve learned some important things about me, about Ellie and about school.

1.     Routine is still important to me (and Ellie)
Right from when Ellie was a baby I’ve sought to have a routine and one of the key things I found myself focussing on during these first few weeks of term has been establishing a new routine that fits with school, work and us…that is our daily pattern of getting ready, getting out, getting home and getting to bed. I know this sounds silly and I also know that the need for a regular pattern to our lives very much stems from my ‘control freak’ nature. But I also know that Ellie likes it. She likes the predictability of the routine so that she can take ownership of parts of it – like getting dressed, working out the times we need to leave and she enjoys telling me off when I do something in the wrong order! There are also no surprises and the predictability of each event means a lot less battles.

So quite simply, it doesn’t seem to matter what stage of Ellie’s life we’re at – a routine is something we both appreciate and benefit from.

2.     She is growing up fast….but not too fast
I remember people saying to me that once they start school you lose your little girl. I also, if I’m totally honest, remember kind of snorting at them…after all Ellie had been in full time childcare for some time so I didn’t think the school transition would be a big deal.

There’s no doubt that Ellie has taken to school really well and for that, I count my blessings. She definitely loves learning and is a little girl who likes to be told she’s doing well. (She’s not so keen on getting things wrong of course!)

Her independent streak is developing nicely - she seems to like taunting me with the fact that I don’t know what she does all day, she dresses herself every morning, does her hair herself most mornings and knows what needs to go in her school bags. She particularly enjoys telling me to stop reminding her of things like collecting her water bottle at the end of the week and takes great pleasure in showing me she’s remembered later.

She has also come home using phrases and words which she’d never used before. I should note that several phrases are ones she’s been clearly instructed NOT to ever use again, but others are quite funny or just wider vocabulary than she’d used before.

Having said all that – she still wants to cuddle her mummy, still kisses me when I drop her off (even at school) and still wants me to check she’s wiped her bum properly after a number 2, or better still actually wipe it!

She is also exhausted after her first half term – ending up having a day off poorly during which she slept pretty much the whole day, and of course we’ve had the joy of tantrums – caused by pretty much nothing but because she’s tired. Hmmm, some things don’t change.

3.     It’s a fine line between encouraging and pushing
When Ellie was first born I found myself rolling my eyes and running away whenever other new parents would start comparing what their little one’s were doing– or especially when they talked about their plans to encourage (aka push) their little one to their next stage of development. My philosophy of supporting development, not pushing has been one that’s pretty much stuck with me throughout.

Since starting school, Ellie has been keen to learn her key words and practice her reading so occasionally asking her if she wanted to do so has been about reminding her and finding time to do it with her…supporting her.

You can therefore imagine my shock as one day this term I found myself asking Ellie my usual question of whether she wanted to practice her key words and upon hearing her response of ‘no’ heard myself say ‘well you’ll never learn them if you don’t try’. In that moment I realised I was moving quite clearly from supportive to pushy.

I also found myself casting a critical eye over her new school classroom on our visit and asking questions of the teacher about how they learn the key words, how often they bring books home and so on. Now I’m not a mind reader but I am sure the teacher’s face betrayed her thoughts of ‘oh dear, pushy parent’. My simple question to myself was then and there – is she right?

So my lesson is simple…it’s a fine line between encouraging and pushy…so watch it lady!

4.     School terms actually makes sense!
So my confession is simple – I’m one of those adults who could not for the life of me work out why the schools had so many breaks. Now of course…I know differently. Ellie is quite simply exhausted and what’s interesting is that this exhaustion doesn’t appear to be limited to just children in reception classes. Children do need the break – they just do.

As always I really would love to know what you think, so please send me a message either on here or via twitter:

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Wanting, Wearing, Loving, Eating

Bit of an unusual post for me but after reading @3_under_3's blog post 'Wanting, Wearing, Loving, Eating' (WWLE) I couldn't resist doing to my own version, so here's my WWLE...

This gorgeous dress from Jaeger is just lush for winter. This is definitely yummy mummy wear and with an unusually large number of school gate mummy moments coming up for me this week (six in total), I really wish I'd got this dress.

My Ugg boots are back. Yipeeee!

The fact that my four year old still loves Organix rice cakes as a treat and she shared them so nicely with my boyfriend's son on the day we all moved in together.

Asda ready to roll pizza dough – the kids LOVED doing this and ate the lot! Oh and I loved it too!

I’d love to know what you think of my WWLE's and why not share yours. Thanks again to @3_under_3 for the inspiration.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Bribery and corruption – an ode to reward charts

As we currently undergo our house move and school move, it suddenly dawned on me again that I absolutely love Ellie’s reward chart and luckily for me, so does Ellie! Ellie loves it because she loves stickers and being told well done. I love it simply because it works. I can literally convince, otherwise known as bribe, my daughter to do things I ask her to and er…not do things I don’t want her too!

The reward chart is my loyal friend and life saver so this blog post is quite simply dedicated to our reward chart.

The chart we use does not state the reasons you get stickers – the advantage of which is that, so far, I’ve been able to keep the reasons for achievement of the stickers fairly flexible. Sneaky I know! I don’t have to decide up front what she’s going to get stickers for and we have just one constant: ‘getting ready for bed without any fuss, going to sleep without any fuss and not getting up too early’. (Yes that’s one!) Ellie is generally a good sleeper but as with any child she has phases of well…trying it on. Personally I’m a touch obsessed with the sleeping thing so I keep this one constant sticker to ward off any silly ideas she might get!

Other than that one thing, the flexibility of our chart means we can focus on certain things on certain days or weeks as the need arises such as eating your lunch at school, being a brave little girl at her new school, sharing nicely when friends are coming around etc. I can also get over excited about things sometimes and award her extras, such as learning her second set of key words for school which earned her an instant sticker!

I do think I made life a little harder for myself than was strictly necessary when I started the chart, as I enthusiastically said ‘when you get to the end of the row you’ll get a special prize’. That said, it’s only ever something from the kind of shop where things are 99p such as some new pens or crayons, stickers, hair bobbles etc. Literally anything I see in passing, within the right price range of up to £1 which I think she’ll like, I snaffle away in the cupboard. In hindsight I think I could have got away with just the achievement of stickers but…it’s too late now and an excited Ellie is worth a pound.

Ellie is just about perfect at walking the fine line between pushing her luck too much and getting away with it, at least where the reward chart is concerned. Ellie frequently now suggests things she might get stickers for, sometimes she does this in a very innocent way but occasionally, though not so often as to make it a problem which I have to address, it’s very clearly a ‘I’ll do that if…’ kind of a way. The latest development is that Ellie recently decided I should have a reward chart too and I’m currently waiting to see what she is hoping to bribe me to do…oh I mean, reward me for. I will of course, let you know.

And so to finish this blog post I simply have my mini ode to our reward chart:

Oh sticker chart, oh sticker chart, you’re my favourite mummy tool.
Ellie loves you too and thinks you’re really cool.

Sharing well, sleeping well and remembering to flush the loo
These are the things that earn those stickers, and tidying her room does too!

Oh sticker chart, oh sticker chart, without you I would be lost
All the things you can get Ellie to do, you’re really worth the cost.

As always please do get in touch either via comments below or via twitter. If you want to follow my more regular updates (although limited to 140 characters!) then please  do follow me on twitter.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

A lesson from Ellie

This week’s news is that Ellie is moving school – more specifically, we are moving house and moving area which obviously means a new school and a new child minder. This is clearly big news and a big change.

My boyfriend and I decided it was the right time to move in together and join our two families into one, so we’d been gradually working through the practicalities of how we could make it happen.

I’ve been periodically talking to Ellie about moving house, about the possibility of us not living on our own anymore and about maybe changing schools – all in the hope that she knows what’s coming, feels prepared and has time to adjust to the change. Not huge conversations, but just little comments and discussions to get her used to the idea.

Then in the last 7 days we got the unexpected news that the school I wanted Ellie to go to, has a place for her. It’s unexpected because we’d been told that there was a long waiting list and I hadn’t even had confirmation from the council that we were on the list yet! We’ve also had an offer on our house. Suffices to say that by the end of October (2 weeks!) we’ll have moved house and Ellie will have started at a new school.

I went into a slight panic if I’m honest – how was I going to sort everything, how can I help Ellie to adjust and to settle. I’m not embarrassed to admit that despite the excitement I feel, I have also in fact had several weepy moments.

What’s really interesting is that everyone, literally everyone, from Ellie’s current head teacher, to my friends and even Ellie’s new school has given me the same line: ‘Ellie will be fine, children are resilient’.

I have to admit that I thought this sentence would be yet another piece of advice to go into the pot of totally annoying and unhelpful. But I have realised that they are right and more than that Ellie is considerably more resilient than I. This weekend my daughter taught me a lesson.

On our way back home from Ellie’s weekend with Daddy we had our usual chat about what she’d been doing, then I told her that the people who had seen our house were going to buy it. I went on to remind her that we were visiting her new school this week and that by the next time she saw Daddy she would have started there. She didn’t make any comment and the conversation moved on, so later I repeated the same information. At this point Ellie turned towards me, gave me a big grin and simply said ‘I know mummy, you told me that! I do listen to you!’ Ellie then chatted away about what was happening and demonstrated an amazing ability to a) listen and remember what I tell her (shocking I know!) and b) to focus on what she knows and not worry about the bits she doesn’t yet.

This was a watershed moment - I realised that actually Ellie does understand what this all means, knows that it’s happening and is, in the main, calm about it. Now we’ve a way to go and it remains to be seen if Ellie continues to take it all in her stride but, whilst I’m sure there will be some tense moments to come, I am beginning to think that she just might.

What has also dawned on me is that actually it’s me that’s finding the level and pace of change challenging and I need to accept the lesson that Ellie is teaching me and stop worrying quite so much. So here’s to the future – our new home, our new family and our new life.

 Sometimes our children really do teach us.

I can’t promise that I’m not a little stressed of course – I’ve still to sort out of school care!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Pants, patience and the low down from school!

At just over one month into Ellie’s first year at school I thought it was about time for an update on how we were getting on and what’s happened over the month. So here are our headlines from the first month.

Ellie went to school without pants - Ooops
Ellie is at that age where she wants to do everything for herself. Mornings are busy getting us both ready and out, so her growing independence is a blessing and I lay her clothes out so that she can get dressed ‘like a big girl’ every morning. I’ve become so confident with it that I’d stopped checking and there was my mistake.

On Friday last week Ellie apparently realised as she sat on the carpet for group time that she didn’t have any pants on. Of course being just 4 and a half she just took a practical approach and quickly told Mr M, the teaching assistant who told her to go and get her book bag (which holds her spare clothes). A quick look in the bag revealed spare pants and Ellie was duly sent to the toilet to put them on. Ellie was entirely nonplussed about the whole event, I on the other hand did pale slightly when she finally remembered to tell me.

I was debating if the headline should be mother embarrassed as… but actually I’ve decided to be amused by the whole thing instead. After all, I’m sure that worse things have happened and so far, there’s been no mention of it from the school so I haven’t had to blush in public.

Mum finally gets the low down on school
Those of you who’ve read my previous posts will know that one of the biggest things I’ve struggled with is not having any idea what Ellie is getting up to at school. I am aware that this sounds a little like a control freak and well….I definitely have those tendencies…but I don’t think it’s too much to ask to want to know what Ellie has been up to. The hot news is then that one month on its fair to say there have been a number of successes in this area –whoop whoop to that!

·        Following several people’s friendly advice as a result of my original post (thank you all), I’ve started asking Ellie more specific questions about school to prompt her, rather than general ‘what did you do today’ or ‘how was school’. It’s such a simple thing but has made a mountain of difference.

·        We now have a home/school communication book and I love it! I used it to ask Ellie’s teacher about parents evening, explaining that I need as much notice as possible to sort my work so I can attend. Hey presto – Ellie’s teacher provided the dates and allowed me to book my slot with her. That I think deserves another whoop whoop!

·        Ellie has started to bring work home including a library book, a reading book and some key words to learn. All of these things have provided a great opportunity to talk to Ellie about what she’s done in the day.

·        Finally, I’ve developed an uncanny ability to glean information from all over the place – other parents (including people I’ve never spoken to before), my nephew (who attends the same school but is older), my nephew’s friends (who couldn’t wait to tell me what they’d seen Ellie doing) and so on. So, I hear you ask, what has she been doing? Well I now know that:
  • ·        they’ve learnt several letter sounds and their associated rhymes
  • ·        done PE (physical education) lessons a couple of times at least
  • ·        been to the library and;
  • ·        that she has even sat with boys at lunchtime! (Oh and pack lunches are generally going down well and being eaten.)

Crisis caused by pigtails
Last week was Ellie’s first week of full days at school so inevitably she’s been exhausted. On Monday night she was in bed at 6.40pm and asleep almost instantly. I know when Ellie is tired she is grumpy and little things become a big problem, it’s a trait I sadly share. She manages to hide this from everyone except me of course, but that’s because I’m her mum and because I get, by default of working full time, the best parts of the day; getting up and bedtime.

Unfortunately, more often than not, when she’s tired so am I, so I really do battle with myself and work to remain calm. I manage it a lot of the time, but sometimes...for example this Friday morning… I just don’t.

We were running late (my fault not Ellie’s) so I did not have time to do pigtails and therefore sensibly opted for a single plait. On discovering this (it took her a minute to realise) Ellie went into full meltdown - screaming, shouting and messing up her hair with both hands. I’m sure you can picture it. Well, the phrase ‘red rag to a bull’ springs to mind and I instantly lost any ability to remain calm. I found myself yelling at Ellie to stop and saying that she’d have to go to school like that, because I wasn’t doing it again now. Eventually I told Ellie to go to her room and when she refused, I found myself going to mine!

This isn’t the most grown up thing I’ve ever done and as I write this I am blushing just slightly. But I am only human and after quietly closing my door I took a few deep breaths and quickly established a little composure. Within 30 seconds I was back out and behaving much more mum like!

By the time we parked up outside the child minders the moment had passed and we’d had several conversations about our weekend plans. I took the return to calmness as the opportunity to talk to Ellie about what had happened. I told her that I was sorry I had lost my temper but that sometimes Ellie needed to listen. Rather proud of my grown up moment I looked over at Ellie to see her response. Ellie’s answer was given in a suddenly very shaky and upset voice: ‘all my friends have their hair in pigtails so I wanted the same’. Oh. I of course promised to do pigtails on Monday and spent the journey to work berating myself for not being patient and for shouting at her over pigtails which probably would have been quicker to do than the time it took to argue (and a lot less stressful).

I know I’m not the only mum out there who has these moments so let’s all be reassured together that it’s normal! It is normal isn’t it?! 

And so – the end of another post! As always, I’d love to hear from you and I’d be delighted if anyone wanted to share their experience of the first month at school.
Please use the comments below or contact me via twitter @sharonmsmyth

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

School lunches - another new phase

This week entailed a whole new phase – Ellie started having lunch at school.
I’m aware that it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I realised that it represented yet another step in my journey of food with Ellie. I refer to our journey of food as the one that started with baby Ellie needing milk and to my surprise this week realised it continues even now! If you’re interested in that earlier part of the journey I’ve put a cheeky extract from my forthcoming book on the page titled: the journey of food (use the link at the top of this page).

To clarify by ‘school lunch' I specifically mean eating a packed lunch that I made, with lots of other children all being noisy and in a relatively short timescale. The latter is important because by Ellie’s own admission she does eat quite slowly. (She has on several occasions suggested that maybe her sticker chart should include a reward for eating fast – if and when she can!)

Anyway, even Ellie seemed to sense the important change...appearing a little nervous about the whole thing and asking lots of questions:

·        Will I have to sit next to boys mummy? (No Ellie, I shouldn’t think so)
·        How long will I have to eat mummy? (A little while but you can just leave what you don’t eat)
·        Can I sit next to my friends? (I don’t know Ellie, but I’m sure it’ll be fine)

For a few days after that initial conversation I didn’t really mention it, but did periodically give her something to eat and say ‘if you like that I can put it in your lunch box for school’. This was met with approval and I was given clear instructions about what could and could not go in.

Eventually, last Sunday evening (the night before school lunches started) I was getting her lunch box ready and decided to test the water. ‘Ellie, can you come and check you can open these little bags please’. Ellie duly wandered in and asked what bags I meant – so I showed her the little Baco Rainbow Sandwich Bags I’d bought to put her different lunch bits in. Huge thanks to my friend who told me about them because they’ve gone down a treat:

 Baco Rainbow Bags 20 Snack Bags

Ellie quickly set about opening the little bags, very much as though she thought it was a test. She proudly grinned ‘yes I can do it’ as she opened all three bags I placed before her. Seizing the moment I handed her the water bottle and asked her if she could open that too. This time my eyes were met by a face that was very clearly telling me I was being ridiculous, ‘yes mummy’ were the only words muttered. I figured I’d pushed my luck enough at this stage and popped everything away.

Monday morning arrived and I finished what I’d started by adding the final elements to Ellie’s lunch box. Her lunch consisted of:

Apple (chopped up) with a bit of lemon on it to stop it going brown
2 wholegrain breakfast biscuits
1 slice of bread, made into two strawberry jam sandwiches
A supermarket’s own brand cereal bar
A small packet of cheesy bits

I was very proud of my creation and when an excited Ellie grabbed the lunch box and swung it around I had to bite my tongue not to remind her how much effort it had taken to make it. Instead I opted to say ‘be careful’ and reminded her that she didn’t have to eat it all, but was just to bring back anything she didn’t eat.

The verdict….Ellie’s summary after her first school lunch was something like this: ‘it was good, I didn’t sit next to boys’. After some reassurance from Ellie’s childminder that she ate pretty well and had finished some bits off after school, I managed to refrain from questioning too much until we got home and I could peep in the box. My verdict – not bad. One biscuit and some apple left. The apple apparently ‘tasted funny’ so I guess my lemon trick was a fail.

All in all though I think it went pretty well and Ellie seemed to agree.

As always, please do get in touch either via comments below or via twitter. If you want to follow my more regular updates (although limited to 140 characters!) then please follow me on twitter. It would be great to link up.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Delights and dilemmas

This week has been a great example of how I feel about parenting in general. It’s just my personal opinion but it seems to me that parenting (whatever age your child is) involves a generous helping of delights and well … dilemmas. Ellie is only four, so I’ve a long way to go, but four years in there’s no doubt that I’ve had a good mix of the two.

So here is my summary of the last week or so, in the form of my delights and dilemmas of the week. I’ve stuck to just three of each and as always, it’s written with a great deal of honesty and a pinch of humour so I hope you enjoy.

This week’s top three delights…

Number 1: Sneaky kisses
I just love it when I get kisses from Ellie especially since I know it won’t be long until she won’t want to kiss her mum so freely. Kisses at bedtime are a particular favourite, but my most favourite kiss of all is the sneaky one I steal when I go to check on her before I got to bed and she is fast asleep. It’s not that long ago that I would have been paranoid about disturbing her but now this is literally part of my bedtime routine (um maybe I’m a bit old for a routine but there it is).

Number two: Giggling
My daughter is funny, whether she knows it or not. Sometimes she’s trying to be funny and possibly more often than not, she says something funny in absolute innocence. There are also those times when she’s being stroppy or cheeky and I just can’t stop myself feeling amused. The latter, I’m aware, are often the situations where I’m supposed to stay very serious but just occasionally I do find the sight of Ellie telling me she’s cross with me, or growling loudly, too funny to ignore. (I should add that my reaction isn’t always so easy going!)

One of my top magic moments this week was when Ellie and I had a giggling fit in the car on the way to visit my sister and her family. We were counting Morrison’s Lorries (there were more than you’d think!) when I said to Ellie that I thought they were busy little bees. Ellie’s reply was to say in a very squeaky voice ‘very busy bees making honey’. Now I realise as I write this down it doesn’t seem nearly as funny, but for whatever reason it was a perfect moment in time and both Ellie and I burst out laughing and couldn’t stop. Laughing like that with my daughter is definitely a delight which I will always treasure.

My second must share giggle this week is the following conversation as we watched Ben and Holly before we left the house one morning:

Me: We've seen this one before
Ellie: No we haven't
Me: I have
Ellie: Do u watch this when I’m not here then?
Me: No!
Ellie: You haven't seen it then.

Number three: Taking a day off work to go to a spa with a friend
Yes it’s true, I really did have a day off work (leaving Ellie at school and with the childminder) to go to a spa day with a close friend. Relaxing, gossiping and laughing for a day. It’s what you call ‘me time’ and I refuse to feel guilty. A happy, relaxed mummy makes for a much better mummy, so my spa day was therefore just as much for Ellie’s benefit as mine!

And so we move on to this week’s dilemmas:

Number one: How do I get clothes labels to stay on?
For anyone who read my last blog you’ll recall my moment of triumph as I finished ironing on all of Ellie’s school labels. Well after just one wash later, several of them have already fallen off. Humph.

Number two: How much leeway do I give to an exhausted, grumpy little girl…..aka….how much patience have I got?
I remember everyone telling me that Ellie would be exhausted when she started school and if I’m really honest I thought they were being just a little bit silly. I mean Ellie has been in full time nursery for more than 2 years now!

‘Crunch crunch’ – that I have to confess is the sound of me eating my words. Ellie has been totally exhausted. She’s managed to hold it together for school and for the child minder but with me she is considerably less inclined.

After her first week at school (just four half days) the weekend was nothing less than an ordeal. Ellie constantly told me she was tired but wouldn’t rest and instead everything became an argument and a trauma. Sharing toys with her Cousin was apparently an unreasonable thing to be asked to do, listening to mummy was an impossible this to do and for most of the weekend Ellie was ‘mad with you mummy’.

Feeling annoyed with Ellie isn’t my plan for our weekends together, so the idea of an entire weekend with a grumpy little girl was quite honestly depressing. Thanks to an ever patient sister and a boyfriend who sees the funny side, we did have fun and I even managed to remember to act like a grown up for most of the weekend. There can be no doubt however that inside I was constantly debating how much leeway I should give a tired little girl and how much patience I could muster.

Number three: Does it matter that I have no idea what Ellie has done at school?
Put simply it’s just weird to have no clue what Ellie has done when she’s been to school. Ellie (and from what I’ve gathered many other children) either ‘can’t remember’ or has done ‘nothing’. Now I’m quite sure that she doesn’t do nothing all day but I have no idea what she does do.

When she was at nursery the staff would always give me a low down on what she’d been doing – it wasn’t always in a huge amount of depth but nonetheless it was something. Now she’s at school she’s my source of this information and quite frankly at this point in time she’s a poor source! When I have pushed with a few questions I’ve gathered some interesting facts about the snack they’ve had – she sat on the floor, she ate cheerios (but not the chocolate ones mummy)!

I know that the advice is not to push them and I get it – but resisting the urge to sit her on the stairs when we get home and interrogate her takes a huge amount of self control.

So there it is, I’d love to know what you think of the blog and it would be great to hear about other people’s delights and dilemmas. Please do get in touch either via comments below or via twitter. If you want to follow my more regular updates (although limited to 140 characters!) then please follow me on twitter.