Archive | July, 2013

Youth of today

18 Jul

I’ve concluded that the youth of today are going to hell in a hand-basket. Rude, stroppy little monsters. Loping around, littering, grunting, ignoring their parents and staying up far too late. And that’s just my one year old.

The more I thought about it, the more I realised my daughter is essentially the same as a shopping centre-loitering hoody (but without the fags and can of Relentless).

She gets tired and irritable because she’s awake half the night a d often sleeps through most of the morning.

She doesn’t listen to me. Ever. Or so it seems.

She wants to eat chips for her tea and has no qualms about chucking some of them on the floor, or at me as a form of greasy protest.

She wants to do what she wants to do at ALL TIMES, regardless of my wishes/plans/safety warnings.

She’d happily slump in front of the TV, remote firmly in hand, if left to her own devices.

She wants her own iPhone (or to annex mine, on a full time basis).

She makes a great deal of mess, and fails to tidy up. Ever.

She communicates with grunts and the odd decipherable word.

She frequently rummages through the kitchen cupboards.

She loves a bit of graffiti. Advice: Don’t leave eyeliner within reach of a toddler.

She’s not morally opposed to theft. I found a string of mystery beads in her buggy, I presume they were purloined from a friends house. Or maybe shoplifted from a charity shop.

She’s not adverse to tantrums. I’m sure she’d yell “I didn’t ask to be born” if she had the language skills.

Oh and her trousers often hang off her bum.

I’m hoping as her language continues to develop she’ll be open to negotiation, or at least bribery. At the moment it’s still all Me Me Me. She staggers around like a tiny drunk zombie grabbing at anything that takes her fancy, genuinely believing all things to belong to her, and loudly displaying her displeasure when told No.

She’s the queen of the 10 Second Tantrum. What the heck are the Terrible Twos going to be like? Seriously, what? I need to prepare myself. Kevlar?

I’m blocking out the prospect of parenting a teenager. I’ll jump off that bridge when I come to it.

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“That’s not ok”

18 Jul

Things my daughter thinks are ok.

Climbing onto the tv unit.

Climbing into the tv unit and standing up.

Using my bookshelves as a ladder.

Turning of my freezer at the mains.

Throwing all the leftover food on the floor the millisecond she’s had enough.

Laying on the cat.

Licking my face.

Posting CDs/DVDs/books/toys through the sliding door to the garden.

Removing CDs from the box.

Licking CDs.

Throwing CDs.

Taking off her shoes, constantly.

Taking off her shoes in the car and chewing them.

Taking off her shoes in the car and throwing them at me.

Taking crackers out of the packet, licking them and then putting them back.

Using jam as a hair styling product.

Drinking bath water.

Chewing the coin release chain thingy on shopping trolleys.

Drinking coffee.

Relocating all fridge magnets to the cats water and food bowls.

Baby Jake.

Stripping herself naked at nap time, pulling the window blind aside and shouting out the window at neighbourhood cats.

Using my iPhone to call Pizza Express.

Using my iPhone to Skype work clients.

Eating paper.

Trying to throw herself into the duckpond in Clapham Common.

Pointing and laughing at strangers.

Touching all bins on public transport at any opportunity.

Shouting “Ready Steady GO!” at 3am.

Chewing flip flops.

Putting anything to hand down the toilet.

Happy slapping.

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Recipe Post: Fish Pie

15 Jul

As inglorious as I am, I do occasionally feed my child home cooked meals. This foolproof recipe creates minimal washing up, can be frozen and tastes really nice (if you’re used to having no salt!) I’ve not included quantities as its up to you (what am I, your mum?). It depends how cheesy/fishy/potatoey/big you want it.

Ingredients:

White fish fillet
Courgette
Carrot
Frozen peas & sweetcorn
Cheddar cheese
Creme fraiche
Milk
Potato

Bake the potatoes whole in the oven (fuck you, potato peeler!) then scoop out the mash into a bowl.

Eat the skins there and then with butter and salt.

Grate the carrot, courgette and cheddar into an oven dish with the fish (cut into small pieces), the peas and sweetcorn.

Add some milk and creme fraiche and mix it all together. It should be quite sloppy and look incredibly unappetising.

Mix a bit of milk with the potato and then spread on top of the fish mix.

Bake for 25 mins.

Eat.

There’s you go. One dish, a grater and a knife to wash up and a perfectly reasonable baby-friendly fish pie. My daughter is a big fan. Usually. Sometimes it’s poison, but that’s toddlers for you.

Check for bones/piping hot, don’t cut yourself, use oven gloves for fucks sake, don’t refreeze fish etc blah blah blah.

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Our Reflux Story (A Road Paved with Vomit)

15 Jul

Reflux. Its a bitch.

My daughter suffered with gastro- oesophageal reflux. This was definitely one of the most unfun aspects of our new baby experience.

Reflux is a problem for babies as the sphincter valve at the end of the oesophagus is not strong enough to prevent milk making a reappearance. For us, this meant that a lot of each feed was regurgitated straight away. It was regurgitated on to her, on me, on bedding, several occasions it went on the cat, the remote control and in my shoes. There is no retching, its just like turning on a tap and milk flowed out onto whatever happened to be beneath. I did a lot of washing. The only good thing about new baby vom is that is looks and smells much the same as when it went it.

Reflux is a major PITA as it meant feeding took forever. I was breastfeeding, expressing and topping up with formula and expressed milk all day long. And doing the aforementioned washing. The acid reflux is another (more evil) monster.

Tiny baby + heartburn = Misery.

The pain on my baby’s face was heartbreaking, the screams were agonising for her and for me. She would writhe in my arms, arch her back and thrash her head from side to side as I tried to feed her. She cried. I cried. It was a shit time. My GP was helpful. She prescribed infant Gaviscon which thickens the milk in the baby’s stomach making it more difficult to regurgitate. It helped. The regurgitation decreased. The acid reflux was another matter. I didn’t know much about the subject and my wonderful friend @SarahMonkeys came to my rescue with what she called her Reflux Survival Kit. Her baby had also suffered and she knew her stuff. She provided me with her Mobi wrap for wearing her upright after feeds, and also a wedge pillow and a pair of connected bolster cushions which would keep the baby in a slightly elevated position in the cot. She also brought advice. Her advice was see a paediatrician and talk about meds.

At this point I was single-parenting quite a lot as my husband was often working away. One day, the baby’s crying, thrashing and refusing to feed had me tearful, scared and feeling very alone. I packed her into my car and drove to the local hospital. We were seen immediately in the paediatric A&E and I explained the worry I felt and my distress at my daughters suffering. The doctor prescribed Omeprazole. We were out of there in 40 minutes.

Omeprazole is a fucking joke. It’s a medication which inhibits the production of stomach acid, which stops the burning pain when stomach contents are regurgitated. It’s a pill. Hmmm. My baby was 8 weeks old. I had to dissolve this pill in cooled, boiled water and then cup feed it to a stroppy, wriggly baby. Mostly it went all over her face or she spat it out. I tried using an oral syringe but there was just too much of it and it was too grainy. I tasted it. It was salty. Nice.

Wonderful @SarahMonkeys came to my rescue again and told me to ask for Ranitidine. I did. It came in liquid form and the dosage was tiny. The baby learnt quickly to take it without fuss. The symptoms decreased quickly. Phew.

I had the baby weighed weekly for months as she didn’t seemed to feed as much as the books said she should and she still vomited milk back up regularly (although much less than before). Her weight was stable but low. Health visitors and the GP suggested early weaning.

I tried weaning at 5 months but she wasn’t ready. A couple of weeks later we had success with fruit purée. It changed everything.

Eating food stopped the symptoms of reflux almost immediately. Her weight slowly crept up the chart, eventually stabilising at the 50th centime at 12 months. Such a relief.

Reflux is awful. It’s hellish and it can last a long time but, like everything, it will end. This Too Shall Pass. Get help, see your GP, see a paediatrician, get meds.

Oh, and when health visitors say the vomit is only a tiny amount, they’re wrong. It can soak through a all your clothes to your underwear, thoroughly coat a fluffy cat and kill an iPhone.

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Mother’s Ruin? Yes please.

11 Jul

I like a drink. And so do my friends. I’m lucky in this respect as it means I have a lot of options when it comes to drinking buddies. Wine, beer, gin. Yes please.

There’s something about parenting that leaves me gagging for a very cold glass of white wine or a Peroni about a millisecond after baby bedtime. I don’t see anything wrong with drinking now that I’m a parent. I know a guy who gave up boozing for a year after his son was born “in case he needed me”. For what, I do not know.

I try to limit my alcohol intake to a few nights a week. Mainly because a banging hangover + childcare = Hell On Earth. Oh, and for health reasons of course.

My other parent mates are also into drinking, and children’s parties are no exception. It’s normal to be handed a glass of wine or offered a beer before you’ve even handed over the gift or taken your coat off. This is a good thing. Children en masse are tiresome. Booze helps. Summer barbecues have a constant flow of booze. Nights in bars or restaurants involve wine, wine, wine. Moar wine plz.

I wasn’t a heavy drinker before I got pregnant, I didn’t get totally hammered but I did drink regularly. Of course there were the occasional sessions, usually on holiday. 12 hours of drinking in Paris with my husbands work colleagues. Rum all-nighter with some Danes in Bangkok. Cambodian tequila. Malaysian sherry. Fun, all. Mornings after, bleak. And let us just gloss over The Raki Incident.

Adapting to booze free life was easy. I dabbled with alcohol free beer (tastes like pastry) and wine (tastes like evil) at first, but then moved on to huge glasses of tonic water with ice and lemon, trying to kid myself it had gin in it.

From the middle of my pregnancy I had the occasional small beer or thimbleful of wine. I savoured my time with alcohol like an illicit meeting with a secret lover. I drank it at home, mostly, as I didn’t want people to judge me. I would have the occasional sip of my husbands wine in restaurants, a sneaky half a Guinness in a dark pub. A lot of my friends did the same. I didn’t dare when in USA at 6 months pregnant. God knows how they’d respond to a pregnant lady boozing and I wasn’t eager to find out.

I had one glass of wine at my wedding. I remember the day in detail which is great.

I had one solitary glass of wine on Christmas Day. That was a strange experience.

I was sick for the last month of my pregnancy so I had no alcohol then. I can’t remember how quickly I got back onto the booze after the birth. Not that quickly as I was breastfeeding and on a truckload of metronidazole for a nasty infection (more in this another time. Shudder). A friend of mine was presented with a chilled bottle of Moët and plastic champagne flutes by her sister on the post natal ward about 2 hours after giving birth. They had a private room I might add. I had fuzzy water and skittles.

Combined feeding allowed for boozing and boozing I did. Not loads. Not getting wasted. But achieving the calm peacefulness that 2 large glasses of wine brought me while my baby slept was a wonderful relaxant. I didn’t go out I the evening for ages so my sofa, boxsets and wine nights were my down time. Going to a friends house for the afternoon and having a cold bottle of beer or 2 was easy peasy with a tiny baby. I’m not talking about stumbling around Britney Spears stylee, half clutching a baby to my chest. 2 beers won’t do that to me. I’m a professional.

Now, with a toddler, it’s a bit more complicated. Last weekend my husband and I took our offspring to an afternoon to evening barbecue party. The many kids there were 6 and under and ran wild around the house and garden. My toddler needed to be constantly supervised and prevented from falling down steps or taking all the pretzels out of the massive jar and licking them. We took in in turns wrangling her, while chatting to mates, eating ribs and drinking rosé (me) or beer (him). I think all the parents there were drinking. It’s just what you do at a british summer party. It’s fun.

If there’s ever any kind of emergency then we’ll deal with it. If we need to go somewhere we can take a cab with our carseat. If we need to go to A&E that urgently, we will call an ambulance. I’m not sure why (or even if) there’s a real stigma around parental boozing. Maybe it’s just that the constant sense of responsibility you first feel as a new parent is somehow at odds with drinking a whole bottle of Rioja.

Anyway, after the barbecue party we walked home ( I held on to the buggy, genius!) and put the baby to bed. We then sat in deck chairs in the garden and had a beer. I fell asleep for 15 minutes and the fucking mosquitos had an All You Can Eat buffet.

I gave no plans to give up drinking until I get pregnant again, and even then I’ll have a few after the first few months. Of course drinking heavily in pregnancy is a Bad Thing but how many ladies get hammered before they find out their pregnant? Loads. A GP mate told me women always panic about those early pregnancy benders. I did. My child is fine.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have a night out at a local beer festival next week and I need to arrange a babysitter.

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Do The Right Thing, even if it’s incredibly annoying.

10 Jul

I find myself in a constant battle now about what’s the Right Thing.  By this I mean what is the best thing to do for my child, rather than the easy, quick or most accessible thing.

For example, the easy option for me would be to give my 16 month old toddler-friendly ready meals for her lunch and tea, but it’s not the best thing for her, surely? Also at £2.60 a pop, not the Right Thing financially (it’s a whopping £156 a month!)

The quickest and least messy way for me to get dinner done is to spoon feed her, but the Right Thing is for her to spoon feed herself, make a huge mess and develop her skills.

I don’t think you need to do the Right Thing 100% of the time. There will always be occasions when the Quick Thing or Easy Thing are totally appropriate.  Also, I need the freedom to be flexible.  I’m not one of those mothers who has paused their life in order to provide a constant flow of organic, home baked meals and snacks for their child.  I have a job.  I have friends.  I have other stuff to do which means I have not the time, energy or inclination to spend the day doing even more cooking, baking and washing up than necessary.

The next step in our house is to include our daughter in our evening meal.  This is quite possibly the Right Thing.  It is definitely not the Easy Thing.  I want us to eat as a family, but I will admit that I like eating after she’s gone to bed.  It means I can cook without her lurching around the kitchen, emptying the cupboards to create baked bean trip hazards and attempting to excavate the cat litter tray.  It means I can eat my dinner with my husband, have a chat, relax.   I cook and he washes up, so after I’ve eaten I just slump on the sofa for a bit.

These days are numbered.

I know we will all adapt to the new routine, but still it fills me with some trepidation, but it’s the Right Thing to do, so I will try to do it.

I think it’s easy to slip into the Easy Thing trap.  I recently saw Supernanny scold the mother of  twin 4 year old twins who still drink from baby bottles, and rightly so in my opinion. It was easy, quick and mess-free for the mum, and the kids resisted the change and she wanted to avoid the hooha and stress of taking the bottles away.  Kids need to be shown what is appropriate behaviour, and they learn this mainly from siblings, parents and other caregivers.  I use the word shown.  Not told.

Do What I Say Not What I Do. 

DWISNWID  is fucking bullshit.  My Dad used this phrase and even as a kid I thought it was lazy, crappy parenting (and it is).  It’s a sure-fire way to promote undesirable behaviours in your kids.  An authoritative strategy which relies on mindless obedience and it confuses kids as they look to parents to learn what is acceptable and appropriate.  It makes you seem mean, unfair and children resent it (and you) for using it.   I don’t believe that good behaviour is the same as obedience.  I don’t want my child to be mindlessly obedient.  I want her to have a strong sense of morality and the confidence and intelligence to implement it.

The best way to promote any behaviour, good or bad, is to model it consistently.  If you don’t want your child to pick their nose, then don’t do it in from of them.  If you don’t care, then go for it.   Obviously there are certain behaviours that children need to learn are not appropriate for kids; drinking alcohol for example.  This can be done with an explanation rather than just DWISNWID.  I was always allowed a tiny glass of watered down wine with my Sunday lunch (legal from 5 years of age) and my dad would let me sip his beer occasionally.  I don’t know what effect this had on my later behaviour, I still went on teenage benders with friends who had never tasted alcohol until they were 15. I don’t know if it made any difference, but I understood as a child that booze was for adults. I was never tempted to raid the (unlocked) drinks cabinet.

But what if you want to change a behaviour your child has already established for one reason or another?  I spoke to a friend at length about dummies a few weeks ago, and then to DadBlogUK last week about behavioural psychology for kids.  I hate dummies in toddlers gobs.  I really HATE them.  I think if they can talk then they’re too old for a dummy.  It’s just my opinion.  A kid who has had a dummy for years sees it as a normal part of their existence and will become upset if the dummy is removed.  So far, not rocket science, no?  You need to establish a new normal.

Assuming your toddler doesn’t have the wherewithal to order from Amazon or pop to Sainsburys, then he/she only has a dummy because you buy it and give it to them.  You could just throw them all away.   Going cold turkey is HARSH, especially at bed time and even more so if they share a room with another child.  Cold turkey is the plaster-ripping method.  It works, but its painful, but they’ll get over it relatively quickly without long lasting psychological trauma.  If your kid is old enough to understand then I think a more mutually agreed process is better.  A visual countdown to the day the dummy goes to the Dummy Fairy or swapping it for a desired toy or activity is a good strategy.  Also using a reward chart after the dummy has gone to reinforce the new dummy-free regime is good.

But what about behaviours when there’s nothing to physically take away?  Thumb sucking, nail biting, skin scratching and hair pulling are all behaviours I’ve seen in a professional capacity. They are usually linked to either comfort or anxiety.  Anxiety in kids in complex and I’m not going to get into it now.  Another time.  Comfort behaviours though are reasonably simple to manipulate, as they are regular, occur at similar times of day and have clear triggers, usually tiredness, zoning out or grumpiness.

Using thumb sucking as an example now, here’s a basic behavioural strategy to stop a child doing it.  This is suitable from around 3 years of age.

  • Explain to your child that the thumb sucking has to stop.  This should be calm, gentle and clear.  Children need to know exactly what is expected of them without any ambiguity, loopholes or exclusions.
  • Explain to them the reasons you want them to stop.  This can be done with both positive and negative examples.  Successful reduction then cessation of thumb sucking will equate to a reward.  Also explain to them the negatives, the damage to teeth, the need for visits to the dentist or braces when they’re older.
  • Provide a visual representation of time which will highlight their success but also show their failures.  I suggest a calendar star chart with the day split into smaller chunks.  If thumb-sucking mid morning is a sleep cue then that needs to be represented on the chart so each time they look tired and don’t suck the thumb then they get a star.  Also include times when they never suck their thumb.  This will highlight their success and make them aware that they don’t need the  thumb sucking.
  • When a predetermined amount of stars have been earned then a small predetermined reward is given.  The reward must be desirable to the child and can only be given when they reach the target.  I suggest this is a daily target.
  • Longer term targets must be set with a bigger reward at the end.  For example they need to have achieved a certain number of stars or 5 out of 7 daily rewards to achieve the big prize.  This is done as a rolling target rather than Monday to Sunday to boost motivation.
  • Negative consequences of failure.  A small aversive doesn’t do any harm and it makes the child aware of the value of success. Removal of a previously earned star is good, but do give them a warning first. Note that failure is to be expected, which is why they shouldn’t have to achieve 100% of the starts to get a reward.
  • Keep your own notes of the times when your child struggles as this will help you to help them succeed at this time in future. If sleep time is an ongoing problem then Stop n Grow nail-biting treatment can be used.  Award a star for using the Stop n Grow as this reinforces using it and highlights to the child that it is a good thing.

The most important indicators for success are:

  • PRAISE EVERY SUCCESS but don’t dwell on past failures.
  • BE CONSISTENT. All caregivers must do exactly the same.
  • KEEP AT IT.  It might take a week or so, it will be a pain in the arse, but it will work if you persevere.

Loads of kids suck their thumbs while watching TV but how many adults do you know who do it in the cinema or watching the footy? Not many.  If  TV is a trigger then gently remind your child to stop and if they persist then turn the TV off (or pause it) each time, or use Stop n Grow at TV times.

The key to any behavioural change is understanding and consistency.  If they understand then you can give them lots of reasons to stop.  They need to know exactly what is expected of them, and be able to predict what will happen when they succeed or fail as this will help them to be motivated.  Reward when  they succeed.  Implement a gently negative consequence when they fail.  Keep at it.

It’s hard and it comes back to Doing The Right Thing.  If you’re battling a stropping 5 year old it’s easy to give in and let them suck their thumb if they (and you) are exhausted and running on empty.  Bear in mind though this this undermines all the previous work and you will most likely have to start all over again.  It’s very easy to lose your credibility with your kids.  They thrive on consistent parenting and understanding  what’s expected of them.

I shall have to do this thumb sucking strategy with my daughter at some point.  All of a sudden dummies don’t seem so bad.

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