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!