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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On Bribery and Bargaining

We’ve all been there.

A frustrating meal time with a lovingly prepared plate being turned down to the tune of angry cries and unnecessary screams of apparent torture.

A public showdown with an angry toddler in a supermarket who won’t move from the inside of a chest freezer.

Two exhausted parents battling to get a child into bed for longer than forty five seconds at a time.

And we’ve all done it, reached for the biscuit tin, or the chocolate buttons. It’s so easy to manage the situation that way, without raised voices or threats or wasting hours of your time. Aside from that, it’s such a relief to finally have an old enough child that can be reasoned with enough to make a compromise. Eat five more bites of lunch and u can have a chocolate button. If you stay in your bed, I’ll go get you a biscuit. What a pleasure to not have a baby, to not have to reiterate your expectation seventeen different ways, speaking slower and louder as if your child is a Japanese tourist, with large expansive gestures. and at the end of the exchange you’re no better off, with the same comprehension success rate as you would have with the tourist. It’s just so tempting to save yourself the hassle, especially considering the extent of your compromise. It’s one piece of choc. It’s one animal biscuit, it’s a tiny bit of juice. What’s the harm really?

(I would add at this point its not just food, it’s also DVDs, iPad games, etc. basically any ‘treats’ which the kid doesn’t have on tap. In our house unsurprisingly, unhealthy food holds the most allure.)

But at what point does making your life easier simply become spoiling your child?

Lately, I’m beginning to think its much less about how large the treat is, and more about the power play.

To emphasise, let me share a story from this week. R and I were sitting at his table, enjoying a (delicious, not that it matters) lunch of pasta and sauce. I’m aware my son likes his pasta exactly the way I did until I was 16-entirely plain and not touching any other foods. And it makes me want to scream. (Yes, I’m aware of the irony, and yes, I should probably apologise to my own mum.) but I’m trying really hard to break R’s habit at a younger age to my own. After fifteen mins of unsuccessful yum yum noises and many coaxing attempts at telling him what a big boy he is, reading stories and the like, I was ready to scream into a pillow. I turned to him and reached for my hidden Ace. “R? If you eat your pasta, you can have TWO choc buttons. Wowww” I stressed, emphasising the excitement of doubling the usual bribe.
My son sat down in his seat, and picked up his spoon with one hand. Pausing before he began eating, he turned to face me. Using all his new mathematical skills, he spread his other hand in my face, fingers outstretched.

“No.” He smiled through his tearstained face. “Five.”

As momentarily shocked as I was at my two year old playing hardball, I managed to remember my policy of not negotiating with terrorists, and he went to bed without any lunch at all.

But the episode has stayed with me. If I’d given him the five choc buttons, he would have happily munched down the entire plate of food, and it would still have been less choc than I would offer as a special treat in other circumstances. We brush his teeth regularly, he eats healthily and has sugar in moderation, it wouldn’t have done him any damage physically. But what’s stopping him asking for ten next time? Or a snickers bar for that matter? And how can I say no when I’m the one who has given him the expectation that eating his meals = chocolate. Or staying in bed = biscuits? And even more so, that its up to him to set the boundaries?

For me it’s a hard one. I don’t want to give up the ability to fix a problem 123, and sometimes when the food is new or the sleep is urgent I really don’t mind the normal rules dropping by the wayside. But I suppose I’ve noticed how easy it is for them to get lost altogether, and for the ‘one offs’ to become everyday practices. And with what amounts to a tiny little sponge learning from everything we do and say, creating his own world of right and wrong behaviour around our actions, I hope I can try and find some healthier methods of coercion at the next macaroni cheese slinging event or 2am wake up call.

bribing mealtime

Cardinal Parenting Sins (and our dirty little secret).

Before I became a mother, like the rest of the childless world, I found certain behaviours by parents seriously annoying. I rolled my eyes, complained to other non-married’s, laughed at them behind their backs, and generally tried to ignore certain situations as best as I could. Don’t they know how irritating they are? I would wonder often.

Now that I have my own son, I see where I was confused. The big unspoken about secret is, there are just some ‘parent’ activities which we know no-one else finds interesting or amusing, even when they have kids of their own, and yet we just kind of… do them anyway.

Putting our babies ‘on the phone.’

If they are in fact a baby, they cant speak. We know that. We know that the best case scenario is that the caller might hear a slight gurgle or a coo, which we will then interpret as “well done! you said hello to grandma you clever thing!” Meanwhile, the caller probably had an actual reason for calling rather than to listen to absolute silence. If the child in question is a toddler, it is probably slightly better, but still, as a mother of a 2 year old, I know that even I have trouble understanding him face to face most of the time, let alone on the phone to someone else. And yet somehow, I find myself passing the phone to my son to have a ‘chat’ more often than not. At least I have the decency to use speaker-phone so the caller can at least cut short the fascinating interchange when they stop feeling polite.

Sharing identical photos.

This is Sammy on the swing. And now Sammy next to the swing. And OH, look at this, he’s trying to climb back into the swing, isn’t that adorable?
No, probably not. But we can definitely see a difference between baby aged 2 weeks sleeping with her eyes shut, and baby aged 3 and a half weeks sleeping with her eyes shut.

Loud kid shows.

You’re in Starbucks, not your living room. The rest of the world doesn’t want to hear what Peppa and George are up to, let alone your own child mimicking the lines back verbatim. We appreciate that your kid isn’t running wild underneath our table and knocking hot drinks into our laps, but seriously-if they cant sit quietly without a noisy smart phone, why are they in this restaurant in the first place? I can now answer this one. I also used to be of the opinion that there was a child-friendly age for adult haunts, and a distinctly un-friendly age, which is where all such outings should cease immediately. I probably even wrote a blog to that effect about a year ago. But hey, we must all admit we are wrong sometimes, and I am willingly eating humble pie on this one. While I still think it’s appalling when toddlers run riot around ANY adult serving place, (kid-friendly or otherwise) I also now know the mutant-human I become if I am not allowed the minimum amount of adult conversation on a weekly basis that doesn’t take place around strangers’ evil kids or whispered during a baby music class. If this means that someone has to sit a couple tables further away so they aren’t distracted by Fireman Sam…? So be it. Just be grateful I’ve given him the show to watch in the first place. And that you get to go home and leave it behind.

Stories involving bodily functions.

No. Stop it. All of you. Even your spouse probably doesn’t want to hear about this, but at least they are forced genetically to be involved and somewhat interested in matters pertaining to your offspring. At an absolute stretch, best friends who are also parents can be involved. Woman sitting near you at soft play? Absolutely not. This one I am not guilty of. As a general rule, if you need to start the sentence by saying “Sorry if this is TMI…” it probably is.

You don’t mind if he….?

Presses the lift button/ the pedestrian crossing light/ the self service tills, etc etc.
No, not at all. If he can do it as quickly as I would do it myself. Do I want to wait by the side of the road for the longest 15 seconds of my life while he stands up on tip-toes for almost long enough each time to reach the damn button? I could be across by now. (Not to mention the dirty look I get for not waiting for the green man in front of impressionable children if I dare to dart over the crossing while your child is messing about.)
Even as a parent myself, I doubt I could stand patiently sharing the same lift space as a child who has been ‘allowed’ to press number 4, and has actually pressed all the numbers from zero, making our journey pointlessly and frustratingly longer.
And I hold a special place on my list for something I will never be guilty of. Parents who let children scan items on self-service checkouts. Lets be honest, most adults cant use those efficiently, so why are you delegating the task over to a ball of dribble while I stand here waiting to use the till?
Having said all this…. Even while I remember the angry feelings I had pre=parenthood, I do think it’s adorable to let R press the lift/crossing buttons, and I do kind of ignore pained smiles from other people in the vicinity when I do so.

So don’t worry folks, next time you see one of us committing one of these (or many many other) cardinal parenting sins, just remember: We are not oblivious. We know we are alternately boring you half to death or driving you up the wall. We’re just doing it anyway.

Hope that helps. 😉

happy meal