The Usual Suspects… of the Mums Forum

Parenting is probably the most judgmental field around. The idea of being a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ mum, although frowned upon, is in every new parents mind, and whether we have one newborn baby, or seven kids aged 0-20, we all have our opinions. In person, we try and limit what we brag about, moan about, and definitely how much we judge other parents. Online however? No such qualms exist. The Internet is absolutely full of mums who just cant wait to have their say, as if there aren’t literally thousands of women reading what you’re writing and invariably mouthing expletives at their screen in frustration at your idiocy.

I give you, The Usual Suspects.

Mum who doesn’t know how good she has it
This mum is like nails on a chalkboard to most parents, new or otherwise. She has a really good baby, a really easy time of it, and yet insists she is doing terribly. Yes, it’s all relative, and we all have our hard days, but worries like “No matter what I do, my daughter wont sit in her bouncy chair for longer than 45 minutes” or “My baby is 9 days old and never sleeps for longer than four hours at a time” are going to get you slapped.
Ditto with parents who complain about how difficult taking their kids on long haul flights multiple times a year is. Oh, I’m so sorry you’re going on holiday… Again.

My unhelpful answer: I hope God sends you twins next time. 

Panicky Mum
Can I give my 1yo raisins? Can I put any sunscreen on my daughter? What kind of towels are best for my baby’s skin? Should I wake my twins up, they’ve been sleeping for four hours? Can I eat chocolate while I’m breastfeeding? My baby ate 4ox and normally eats 4.5oz, what should I do?

My unhelpful answer: Do whatever you want. it doesn’t matter. And take some Prozac. 

Negligent Mum
My son has had this rash for three days. It started like this… -shows photo- and this morning I woke up and it’s like this. -shows additional photo- Has anyone experienced anything like this before?

My unhelpful answer: YES. Doctors have. I guarantee they’ve seen lots of rashes. You might even say it’s their JOB. The next one of these I see is getting a visit from social services you awful awful parent. 

By the Book Mum
This mother is generally a first time mum, although not always, and has been fooled by books and faux friends into thinking her baby is able to be programmed according to a schedule laid out kindly for her in pre-read literature. She is puzzled as to why at the six week mark, her newborn didn’t immediately start sleeping through the night. Why at six months, her son doesn’t love pureed cauliflower and lentil mush, made exactly how it was outlined on page 28.  Why after exactly two hours of playtime, her baby doesn’t seem sleepy.

“My baby is 6 weeks old, and doesn’t seem to be able to sleep through the night. He generally sleeps 4 hours, and then 3 hours, and then anywhere from 3 hours to 6 hours. I’m so tired, and if I try not feeding him, he just screams! How can I routine him?”

My unhelpful answer: Babies cry. Newborns need feeding often. Routine is not a verb. 

Fake Bragger
Disguised as a question, but really a blatant showing off fest, they normally start like this. 
“Is it normal that my 2 month old is making loads of noises already? This morning I swear she said mama! What’s that about?”
“I’m just wondering if it’s okay that my 7 month old took his first steps today… like is it safe for his ankles as he’s soooo teeny?”
“Has anyone experienced a week old baby sleeping for eight hours? My baby has done it two nights in a row now, and is putting on weight really well, and the midwife said it’s fine, but do you think I should be concerned at all?”

My unhelpful answer:  Shut up. NO ONE CARES. 

Negative poster
This one might in fact be my Mother in law. To every question, and every response, she basically answers “That’s really dangerous.” Sounds easy at first, but it’s actually a challenge finding negative answers to some posts. 

  • Baby in his own room? Nope, death by neglect.
  • Baby in my room? No way, attachment issues.
  • Which formula? You should be breastfeeding.
  • Should I stop BF now? Yes, do you have separation issues?
  • Can my kid have crisps? No, she’ll become obese.
  • Should I give her carrots? No-she’ll choke. 
  • Experience with trampolines? Broken bones. 
  • Experience with bikes? Car accidents. 
  • Experience with cuddly toys? Suffocation.

My unhelpful answer: I’m surprised you were brave enough to turn on the computer. Especially Facebook, don’t you know, someone is hacking into your account and identity thieving you RIGHT NOW.

The Seller
Not interested in giving or receiving advice, this lady truly subscribes to the idiom of one woman’s rubbish is another’s treasure. Except it generally isn’t. “For sale, 24 bottles and teats.” “10 cloth nappies, nearly new.”  What?! How can you think anyone wants those? More annoying still, “for sale, various toddler toys, all need a good clean but in good condition.” So clean them! Surely that would make it a more desirable sale?

My general rule: If a charity shop wont take it, we probably don’t want to spend a tenner and drive to Frogmore for it either. 

Noticed any other Usual Suspects to add to my list?

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“I know my kid’s a brat, who do you think she learnt it from?”

I was asked recently if I would tell off someone else’s child.

Tough one.

This is one of those situations where I think it doesn’t make a difference how close you are to the person in question. If you don’t know them that well (or at all) then you’re the evil stranger who is telling off their child… But if you do know them, then what kind of friend / relative are you to be telling off their child?

Firstly, I would never dream of telling a child off for what might call ‘bad behaviour’ in my own kids. I’ve witnessed scenes like this, and no-one takes it well. I’ve seen adults commenting on other kids table manners, (I think it’s so refreshing that you don’t mind him talking with his mouth full!Play skills, (Don’t you think she’s had a long enough turn?) and language (Oooh, where did she learn to talk like that?) with disastrous consequences for the relationships with the parents in question. There is generally no reason at all to comment on someone else’s kid’s behaviour when keeping quiet would have no effect on your own children.

I would even say this is true when it is affecting you. You’re an adult; just try and get over the fact that little Timmy is kicking you under the table / drew all over your carpet / spat your lasagne onto the floor. But what to do when the behaviour is affecting your kids? 

I have always been of the opinion that most things can be said tactfully to the parents, and in agreement that parenting should be left to parents, not well meaning observers. I would say (well…hope) that in at least fifty percent of cases, especially when you know the person, parents know that kids all misbehave and will at the very least stop their child from hurting yours in that particular instance. If you still find it awkward bringing it up, you can always opt for vague statements/questions that make the other parent stop what they’re doing and notice the event occurring. These need a subtle degree of acting, and include:

  • Oooh.. What’s happening there? I missed it, who was playing with that toy first? (Translation: Notice that your kid just took his favourite bear please.)
  • Oh sweetheart, did you bump your head? That’s so strange, I didn’t see you fall over… (Translation: Because he didn’t. Your kid pushed him.)
  • How lovely that you can give -insert childs name- two biscuits, that would ruin my own kids appetite. (Translation: Pay attention you lax parent, she just stole my son’s cookie.)

But what about the other times, where you come across either complete strangers who don’t care about you and your kid, or parents who are just frankly bad at parenting? All parents come across other mums and dads who basically use soft play / libraries and the like as babysitting services, and are nowhere to be seen while their toddlers wreak havoc. There are even some parents who will watch with rose coloured glasses as their kids kick and punch their way to their favoured toys.

You can’t force them to discipline their child, but you cant really ignore the situation either once your own kid is old enough to point out the injustice. Apart from anything else, surely without getting some acknowledgement from the other side, you are condoning the behaviour in your own child.

First step always has to be try approaching the parent as above. I once was at a soft play with R, not long after he got his glasses. He was about 15 months. Another child, around 2 years old was following his army crawl around the area, pulling them off his face and laughing. I ignored it twice, and then (knowing how difficult it is to get a baby to wear glasses to begin with) looked for the mum. Spotting her, I gave her a friendly smile and said “Sorry! (why did I apologize?!) your little girl keeps taking my baby’s glasses.. do you mind to watch her?” which I thought was possibly the nicest way of asking that question humanly possible.

The mother scowled angrily at me, and replied, “Well, it was your choice to put your baby in glasses” and then turned away. I was actually flabbergasted, and felt absolutely no qualms in giving the little girl an evil glance and a slightly sharp “you mustn’t take his glasses, he needs them to see” the next time she approached him.

From then on, I always approach the parent as nicely as possible first, and then if they are entirely useless, have no concern in saying something to the child themselves.

So there we have it parents of the world. (Bearing in mind the golden rules so we don’t all get thrown in jail: Absolutely no touching, shouting or swearing at kids other than your own!) You now have my permission to tell off other people’s children, only when they are mistreating your own and when their parents are being brattier than they are.

This of course includes mine, I plan on ignoring R locally tomorrow if anyone wants to pop by and give him a good talking to.

The Night-time Tango

My ‘baby’ is almost two. Although he has always been a great sleeper, the last month or so has been really tough. Not tough in comparison to you reading this, whose child hasn’t slept since 2009, and whose kid is regularly up for 30 hours at a time, and dropped their nap at 5 and a half weeks, and spends the hours of 2-6 am playing the steel drum through your bedroom wall…. but tough for us, who are used to a baby who goes down at 7ish and wakes up at 7.30ish.

The facts are as following. We put him into bed as usual at 7-7.30. He has had his bath, milk, story/ies and we have sung him his night-time songs. We put him in the cot, turn his mobile on, and say goodnight. Before the last month, that would have been it, and the next we would hear is lively chattering at about 7 in the morning, followed by annoyed moaning at about 7.45. But now, the very second the door closes we are met with pitifully angry and upset screaming, which escalates in decibel level and seriousness of tantrum the longer it’s left.

I believe in controlled crying, to a point. Sometimes a toddler just has to be allowed to scream it out, and nothing that you do will make a difference, they just don’t want to go to bed. But I also believe in checking all the other boxes first before you leave them to basically cry themselves to sleep.

So that’s what we’ve been doing. But the resulting checklist is confusing and inconsistent.

I always leave him to ‘cry it out’ for fifteen/twenty minutes first. Then, a number of possibilities cross my mind.

Maybe he’s hungry…
Whether he didn’t eat a proper supper, or didn’t finish his milk, or it’s just been three hours since supper so why shouldn’t he be hungry, I often find myself going in with a snack, like a cracker or raisins. He always takes it hungrily, (but that proves nothing because he always takes ANY food hungrily) and mostly falls asleep after eating it.
Problems: Firstly, that i am “making a rod for my own back” as he will come to expect the snack, and get hungrier b/c he is used to eating then. Secondly that there is a niggle in my mind as to whether he is actually hungry at all, in which case I’m just feeding him to ‘shut him up’ so to speak. I’ve tried giving bigger suppers or a yoghurt/fruit pot after dinner. No change.

Maybe he’s scared…
I have read that this age is a common one for developing fears of being alone/ the dark/ nightmares etc. If this is the problem, I’m not sure what the answer is. If I stay with him, how does that help the underlying problem when I leave again? I could buy him a nightlight, or glow in the dark stars or a projector, but I’m not overly keen on making him reliant on something to sleep with, especially as up to this point he has been fabulous at falling asleep in travel cots and other peoples homes and the like, with nothing more familiar than his baby bear.

Maybe he’s over-tired…
In my experience, an over-tired baby can scream for hours. And hours. And I’m just not that strong to listen to the tears and chokes. 😦 I’ve tried making his nap longer during the day, sometimes it works, other times, not being tired yet- he plays in his cot for so long that he never ends up sleeping at all. In addition, being at a childminder some of the week means I’m not always in charge of how long he sleeps in the day. Just to confuse matters, on Friday night he stays up with us until about 9pm, and always always drops off instantly afterwards.

Maybe something is wrong…
One of the reasons I find extended controlled crying hard is that you dont know whats going on in there. Twice I have gone in to shrieking noises, only to find my son’s leg trapped in the cot bars red and sore looking, and sometimes (less dramatically) it is as simple as giving back his baby bear who has escaped from the bed. If the problem can be solved easily, why not give yourself that chance? Short of buying a baby monitor for my 2 year old… I have to poke my head in ocassionally, dont I?

Maybe he’s lonely…
When I go in after the 15 minutes, he never tries to get up out of the cot, rather lying down and staring at me forlornly. I bend down and shh shh quietly, stroking his hair and making calming sounds. And he lies there, watching me. He is perfectly happy as long as me or C are there with him, but he doesnt close his eyes. If I pick him up, he nestles into my shoulder and lies still on me, giving the best cuddles ever, eyes open, and stays there as long as I’ll let him. Generally as soon as I put him down again and leave the room, the crying starts up again. Eventually after two or three of these cycles, the crying stops and he falls asleep until morning. The whole thing generally lasts no longer than 1.5/2 hours, on a bad night. and I wont pretend I dont love the cuddles.

The longest I have left him to cry is about an hour, and by that point he was so worked up that he could hardly breathe, and it took two hours to get him to settle.  It’s been a month, so i don’t think the answer is as simple as “he’s probably getting ill” or “his teeth are bothering him.”

Is this just a rite of passage in having a 2 year old?

I miss my evenings, so all advice and sympathy gratefully recieved.

Change Please

I have a friend who had her first baby about 6 months ago, who I merrily judged throughout her pregnancy for the ridiculous things she said. “I wont get stretch marks because my sister never got stretch marks” “I wont have any trouble breastfeeding because I’m really committed to it, and I don’t give up” “I plan on working throughout my maternity leave, while the baby plays and stuff.” “I’ve read an article about how to get a baby sleeping through by 6 weeks. I plan to follow that, and then I can see my friends in the evenings.” I could go on, but you get the picture. It can all be summed up in one sentence really. Having a baby won’t change my life, and it wont change me.

What a crazy notion.

In no other area of our lives, do we go through a huge experience, and expect to come out the other side the same way we went in. In no other area of our lives do we want to. For me at least, starting a family was the single biggest adjustment I am ever likely to make, it has involved the most changes to my lifestyle, the most alterations to my mindset, and the most practical differences in my day to day activities that I ever could have conceived beforehand. And before you do it, you simply cant understand that. Truthfully, you will never be truly prepared. But to go in with the naive and selfish assumption that you can (or would even want to) keep your life the same afterwards, just makes me think that a person isn’t ready for parenthood in the first place.

But as I said, none of us know what it is going to be like, and therefore we cant really be blamed for our naivety. What we can be blamed for, is taking that out of the pregnancy, and into our lives with our babies.

I haven’t spent much time with the woman I mentioned above since her pregnancy became an actual child, so I couldn’t say whether her ignorant viewpoint has passed over into motherhood. But I do know plenty of people for whom this is the case. The mums who are shocked when the ‘fool-proof’ technique for sleeping through the night doesn’t work from 2 weeks old, and therefore they can’t manage their usual 8 hours per night. The mums who complain that their six week olds aren’t able to be left with a babysitter so that they can regain their lost social life. And the parents who drag along toddlers at all hours of the evening to fit in with their own plans, long after they should be asleep.

I’m not saying there is no life after kids. But it adapts. It has to. If you cant afford a babysitter, the answer isn’t to drag your 2yo along with you and hope they nap in the buggy. You just can’t go out. Or you have to go somewhere free and use the money on the sitter instead. If your baby is still a newborn and genuinely needs feeding at night, then that’s what they need! There aren’t any ‘quick-fixes’ to help you feel better rested, that’s your job right now. It is true that we’re not all equipped to be with our kids 24/7, some of us find it impossible, either emotionally or financially. Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in working mums, at least part time, and taking the help when it is offered. But even that has its limits. If we are truly honest, we all know when we are acting in our families best interests and when our motives are mostly selfish.

Your baby hasn’t read the books, she doesn’t know what she should be doing; only what you teach her. And acting like your kid is an inconvenience to your schedule, teaches nothing but that, even if on the outside it seems to be working fine. Parenthood is meant to change you, not just the way you feel, but the way you behave. That’s why it is such a big deal in the first place.

It’s not always a case of forcing a baby out of a routine in order to keep your schedule of course. There are families which have full time help on hand to deal with all that ‘baby stuff’, night nurses, au-pairs, mother’s helps and the like, which means your life doesn’t have to change, as others would. But I really believe that even in these cases, you are not being honest with yourself about what your family needs. Whether you are both full time working parents, or just ladies of leisure who want the extra pair of hands, if your life is exactly the same as it was beforehand, then this may sound harsh, but why did you have the kids in the first place?

I’ve heard people say “Why should I have to choose between my social life/work/hobbies and my family?” and I laugh. That’s just life. We make choices, we make compromises. Surely the one factor that should never be compromised is your children, however great your own adjustments have to be.

So whether it’s someone else that’s doing the parenting for you, or whether you’re shaping your baby to fit into your schedule; if you’re in a position to say “Having kids hasn’t changed me” then I hate to be the one to tell you- you’re probably doing it wrong.

No Two Ways About It, That’s Strange. (Part 3)

Calling out across the world for help on explaining this one.

I was lucky enough to be thoroughly spoiled with a day-trip to Venice yesterday for my 25th birthday. It is truly tourist-ville, with every street corner overflowing with the unique list of items which Venice is famous for. Each stand or small shop was full to the bursting with decorative masks, Murano glassware, and Gondola themed trinkets. Of course, as it was Italy, you also cannot escape the Carbs infatuation, (I knew I’ve always wanted to go there for a reason) and you cant walk ten yards without spotting Pizza or Pasta in one form or another.

This was one form I wasn’t expecting. In nearly every shop, there was a section like the below. This was the only one I saw however with the helpful/confusing sign up, which made me think I may be missing something about the phenomenon. Any ideas?

If this is typical Italian cuisine-I’m just glad we didn’t have time to go to a restaurant. Is this really such a must-have in the pasta department? I have to say, the UK are missing a trick, as I’ve never seen it in Tesco.

Explanation or not, I’ll stick to fusilli thanks.