The Chocolate Pudding Debacle

Yesterday, I made a mistake. It was only a small one in the grand scheme of parenting errors. I didnt leave my 8 year old in a pub like our esteemed Prime Minister. I certainly didn’t do any lasting damage to my poor son’s soul, but I did give myself a needlessly horrible afternoon.

All by trying to be the best mum ever.

After R woke up from his nap, he seemed to be a bit cranky. Having no plans to leave the house in the afternoon, I was really not enjoying the thought of a moody 1yo all day, and so decided to be in the ‘best mood ever’ to snap him out of it. After ten minutes or so of fun hide and seek games, (my baby has recently mastered running around a corner and shouting BO! -pretty close to Boo, you’ll admit) I decided to reward his cheer up with an AMAZING treat. A Chocolate Pudding. This was one of those Soya half healthy half not things, and apart from wanting a happy toddler, my other motivation was that if I shared it with him, I wouldn’t devour the whole thing myself, but would still get to have a sweet treat. At this juncture, I must point out that R had never had chocolate pudding before…

Now over the next ten minutes I made several mistakes. All in quick succession and all leading to the biggest tantrum he has ever had. I’m going to express them in a simple Chocolate Pudding Do’s and Dont’s format, and hopefully you can learn where I did not.

#1. Do not give your child something for the first time when they have just woken up from a nap and are questionably cranky.
#2. Do not give your child something deliciously sweet when you have just indulged in a high activity running around getting excited game.
#3. Do sit somewhere uncarpeted if you are worried about the mess a chocolate pudding might make.
#4. Do not let your child use your spoon, only to take it away because it is too big for them to use tidily. (see #3)
#5. Do not suggest we ‘feed teddy’ to calm child down, when the aforementioned teddy is ATTACHED to a book and therefore cannot be washed!
#6. Do not expect your 1 year old to understand that we are sharing the treat.
#7. Do not expect your 1 year old to understand the reason why you took away ‘his’ spoon or the reasons why you are trying to move the whole process to the laminate kitchen floor.
#7. Do deal with your own mistake of giving it to them in the first place and just let them make the biggest mess ever and eat the entire pot and probably be sick, rather than start taking it away and giving rules in the middle leading to giant heaving shrieking temper tantrums which take 3 hours to get over and put everyone in a bad mood until bed time.
#8. Do not be surprised when after an overload of sugar, your baby is wired up and in a crazy hyper angry mood all afternoon.

it was just TOO exciting. An amazing treat for him would have been one Malteaser. Or to be honest, a breadstick. I went too far with my choice, he was already tired and over excited in equal measure, and all his emotions went into overdrive when he realised just how amazing, chocolatey puddingy goodness really is. I can’t blame him for the grabbing and the screaming and the mess making and the temper tantrum, because he is a baby. I showed him a vat of deliciousness and then tried to ration and limit it.

Somehow in my own deluded head I had this image of him feeding himself nicely, with a neat coating of chocolate round his little mouth, grinning at me through bites as if to say, “wow, you’re the greatest Ima ever!” Then he would finish eating, grab a wipe and clean up, throw the pot in the bin, and go off and play nicely by himself as a thank you for my largess.

#9. Do not kid yourself.

Try not to call Child Welfare Services but…

Seeing as I walked in on my (too quiet) son in the following tableau this afternoon…

Do you think I’ve make medicine the ‘go-to’ answer, just a few too many times in his short life?

Luckily, it even takes me a good ten minutes to wrestle those lids off the darn bottles.

I don’t mind, so long as they’re happy. And an Olympic Athlete of course.

I often hear pregnant women and expectant fathers discussing what their new arrival might be like in personality and appearance. The conversation always seems to end the same way. “Of course, all I care about is that they are happy and healthy.”

I used to say the same thing myself for the most part, and to be honest, I think it’s time for all us parents to admit to the world that we are lying. I don’t deny that without our medical well being, we have nothing, and that the most important thing for us all is that our children are healthy. I can’t imagine for one minute what parents with truly sick children must be going through, and not for one second do I mean to belittle that in any way.

But even when my baby couldn’t see, and we were concerned about the possibility of fairly serious issues behind his lack of vision, I would not say that “all I cared about” was his health.

Because even if I am only speaking for myself, I want my son to be happy and healthy-sure. But I also wan’t him to be clever. And funny. And popular, and to find love. And to say that the only important thing which contributes to happiness is our health is frankly naive at best.

Perhaps you could say that it’s the happiness part that is the main thing then. All I care about is that my children are happy. After all, plenty of people live with medical issues and health problems and live long happy fulfilled lives as well.

Also nonsense. If someone told me that my son would grow up happily, but unmarried, not interested in Judiasm, and living off unemployment benefits, perfectly content with his lot in life, you would have to peel me off the bathroom floor. I would be entirely miserable, despite his happiness. Because we all want certain things for our offspring. This is the same issue as arguing that you don’t care about your child’s gender. Because you do care. You’re allowed to have an opinion. We all care and we all have expectations about what our children will do or will not do. The best we can do is to manage these expectations and be honest about them.

There is a rumour going around that all parents think their children are beautiful, and clever, and hilarious. I’m yet to find out if this is the case, (as my son really is clever and beautiful and hilarious ;)) but if as I suspect, that when honest we can see our own kids flaws as well as the annoying neighbours ones, I think we could all benefit from being honest about our fears and expressing them as positively as possible.

I am not going to deny that I’ve always worried that I will find it difficult if my children were to end up unintelligent. It’s not something a mother is supposed to admit, that they worry about spawning a dunce, but there we go. I don’t see it as the worst thing in the world. I suppose I feel that the responsibility lies mainly with me. Everything being equal, most children have talents and abilities. Most kids shine at something, as long as they are given the tools. Bringing your kids up with confidence and independence gives them the ability to find their own intelligence. After all, it’s not like I’m dictating that I will be devastated unless they becomes one exact thing, a Brain Surgeon or a Professor of the Fine Arts. After all, I believe it is just as damaging to tell your children “I don’t care about how clever you are” as it is to say “you must get all A’s.” I see so many people, adults and children alike, who are stifled by the wrong expectations, either high or low from their parents, and who I’m sure under a different upbringing could have been just as ‘clever’ or ‘capable’ as someone at the top of their field.

I can’t pretend I don’t want R to be happy in my way as well as his. I can’t tell him I’d be over the moon if he married out of our religion, or decided his vocation was to be a starving artist. Maybe that will change as I watch him grow into his own person not just our baby. But while he is young, all I can do is try to give him the space and encouragement to find out what I’m sure is there. What makes him clever, or funny, or socially capable, and then help him shine. And brag about it of course. After all, I am still his mother.

As an added treat, here’s Rachel and Ross on this issue, 🙂

No, You Can’t Wear My Shoes to Soft Play.

Opinions. We all have them, and find them hard to ignore. We all feel the need to voice them, and have them listened to and taken into consideration. But how do we learn to express them normally?

My 1 and a half year old has recently started expressing his own opinions. He is of course entirely word-less thus far, and therefore needs new and original ways to tell me what he wants. Some of the time, the form of expression he chooses is as immature and baby-like as you would expect from, well.. a baby. He will burst into spontaneous tears if I offer him Cheerios when what he had a hankering for was Rice Crispies Multigrain. He will kick and pound on the floor of his cot with his tiny hands and feet if we have a difference of thought as to whether his bed time has arrived. And he will literally push me off the couch if he would rather have some alone time with his episode of Baby Da Vinci.

None of these are normal adult reactions to wanting something a different way. But when it comes to expressing an opinion of his own volition, and not arguing with mine, he is actually startlingly adult-like. With his new found and almost magical powers of comprehension, my baby boy has been transported into the world of mature decision making. If I announce that it is time to go out, I can follow R to the coat closet, where he will look at the selection of jackets and pick out his favourite, holding it out for me to put on him. (Not that it’s for me to argue sweetheart, but it’s finally above 85 degrees outside and this is a snow suit.) A slight rumbling in the tummy? Watch my son wander over to the snack cupboard and scan his options, before making a selection and digging in happily, much as I’m sure a teenager might peruse the fridge shelves.

R will go to the bookshelves and tilt his head sideways to browse the titles until he finds the one he feels like reading, he will bring me his shoes, (or anyone else’s he fancies) if he wants to go out, and he will walk ahead of me purposefully, ignorantly marching off in the opposite direction to anywhere useful I might be intending to visit. The boy knows what he wants. And woe betide anyone else who gets in the way of that.

And that’s where the comprehension hits a brick wall. Even though he is so impressively capable of showing me what he wants, he finds it near impossible to show me in a normal way what he doesn’t want.

Sometimes it is blindingly obvious, and I didn’t need the temper tantrum to see what the problem was, as he points angrily at the croissant I’m daring to enjoy all by myself. Other times, I find myself asking him (as I do, multiple times a day) what is it about this situation that’s bothering you? The shoes? The jacket? The colour co-ordination? It’s truly tiring. And it’s not even his lack of language. I know that plenty of mums with talking toddlers have to ask them repeatedly to “use their words” in much the same way that I am constantly asking R with increasing frustration, “show me what’s wrong!”

I suppose it’s just a waiting game, until he learns that telling me or showing me the problem is much more effective than shouting and thrashing for ten minutes and then showing me in the end anyway when I ignore the tantrum.

Having said that, I’m sure we all know our fair share of adults who think that the silent treatment, or throwing things, or meaningless insults are a better form of communication than language. Isn’t that just a somewhat more socially acceptable form of temper tantrum?


The Grudge

Tonight, I went to one of those social events where you’re bound to run into a million faces you haven’t seen in forever. Some are genuinely a nice surprise, while others you cross the room multiple times to avoid. Awkward encounters are inevitable, as facts and faces are forgotten and small talk ensues for far too long when the appropriate ‘get-out’ sentences elude you.

Normally, I enjoy these mingling affairs, and catching up on what people are doing in their lives. Tonight, a weird encounter almost immediately after I entered the venue put me on edge for the night, and has left me bemused to say the least.

The hall was filled with stalls and tables, women everywhere, familiar faces and otherwise, and I decided to make a quick circle around the room before a more detailed second viewing of the ladies and their various wares. I was in a semi-conversation with someone I hadn’t seen in ages, and was genuinely interested in swapping baby-talk with, our kids bridging any gap that existed as a result of time spent apart. A lady approached me, who seemed entirely unfamiliar. She launched into what sounded so much like a prepared speech, that it took me a few seconds to realise I wasn’t being given sales patter for any of the items on sale this evening.

Evidently, we had worked together at some point, not very closely, but in the same place. And her being far more religious than I am now, (and certainly than I was at the time) I had inadvertently said something which had hurt her feelings. Not only that, but so oblivious to what I was doing, I had apparently repeated the thought many times over the time we worked together. Tonight, she repeated the story like it was so big deal, a funny anecdote to share with an old colleague, but as she quoted me verbatim, I could tell that it was so much more than that to her. Frankly, I didn’t even recognise this woman; I wouldn’t blink twice if I saw her in the street, after all it has been over 4 years since I saw her last. And yet she made a beeline for me the moment she saw me, and offloaded her hurt feelings which she has clearly been holding onto for almost a half decade.

Why didn’t she just say something at the time? I would have apologized, we might have laughed, I certainly wouldn’t have said it again at the very least!

I can appreciate that different people, like different cultures, can take serious offence at various things which I myself wouldn’t even consider. Personally, even after hearing from her tonight, I think what she is upset about is ridiculous, and even after being told, I don’t really understand her point of view. But without being told, I have zero chance of ever understanding it.

Sheer fluke brought us into the same room tonight, and we mix in entirely different circles. If she hadn’t run into me this evening, would she have held this grudge forever? Tonight, I laughed as if it was a semi-joke, out of sheer awkwardness, and said sorry almost too effusively-to keep up the appearance of levity that our conversation was balancing its fragile weight on. Her words “Dont worry about it” seemed flat even to me.

I wish she’d made the effort to explain to me her point of view 4 years ago. We were colleagues then, we saw each other every day, the conversation wouldn’t have been that awkward, and we both might have learned a thing or two about the different kinds of people that embrace our religion and how to live in harmony despite our differing practices. Certainly neither of us would remember it today.

Now its far too late to have that conversation. Even if I knew how to get in touch with her, it would be beyond awkward and ridiculous, and she would have to admit that it bothers her, an impossible thing to ask of a virtual stranger. All I know is, unfortunately for me, a woman I barely recognise is somewhere out there holding a grudge against me, and unfortunately for her, she still holds that grudge.