Sibling Rivalry

I’ve had this one stuck in my head a lot this last week. A neighbour, struggling with their two children bickering and arguing said to me “you’re so lucky you don’t have to deal with sibling rivalry” – and my heart sunk.

I’d love to deal with it. I really would. I mean, I had a pretty awful time of it with my sister when we grew up and the teenage years kicked in. We got through it and get on fine now, and probably speak to each other much more than we did when we lived at home together. So I get it, I think I know what’s involved.

But.

That isn’t going to happen.

Because H is just one. My body can’t take one more, and oh, by the way, I’m too old for one more.

I would love to have one more. But I know it isn’t happening. But yes, when someone says “oh you’re so lucky” I know I am – there are people out there who have no children who would love to have one. Yes, I am so lucky.

But I’m not so lucky my daughter doesn’t have a brother or sister to argue with, to drive me mad with. To steal their toys and vice versa. To read books to. To play games with. To set up the train track and play for hours. To be two little characters growing up and making me laugh at the things they’ll say to each other. To delight me with surprises and funny things.

It isn’t going to happen. I’ve made peace with that. I’ve given away and sold things to make space for the future for the three of us. H still plays all those games – Shaun is her playmate instead.

But it still hurts when someone tells me I’m lucky that I don’t have to deal with something where I have no choice.

Outsmarting a Six Year Old

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While generally I can trick H about many things, she’s getting smarter. Of late, she has been writing lots of letters. When I say lots, I mean LOTS.

Christmas

To Santa.

They’re all hidden.

I ask her what they say, and she tells me “they’re private”.

So I say “aaahh but you can tell mummy!” and hope she might weaken as she “loves her mummy so so much” but no. “It’s private.” she reminds me.

So I accept this, and watch her go and hide the letter. Except it’s being hidden in the bookcase. The bookcase which has several of her books in it.

So I wait until she’s gone to get ready for bed, as she doesn’t come back downstairs at this time.

Can I find it? Can I heck. Argh.

Surely it can’t be that difficult to find a private letter to Santa Claus, can it? It would appear so. My child is good at hiding places. Must get that from me… what with all the things us parents have to lie about to keep up the magic.

Someone suggested maybe she’s testing Santa, to see if he really exists. As if Shaun and I can’t read the letters, then he really must. But of course, we’d find the letters and know what she was asking him for. But then by looking for the letters (and potentially finding them) are we disrespecting her request for privacy? So we have to keep ANOTHER secret from her, that we’re having to lie about finding a letter to keep up the lie about Santa?

It’s so confusing.

I know she’ll keep believing in the Tooth Fairy as she gains money from that one. I know she’ll probably question Santa Claus soon as other children in her class have older siblings and you can guarantee they’ll blab. I’ve had to tell her we pay Santa Claus back, so she can’t just choose the most expensive version of Super Mario Maker and think it’s okay. (and also I’m thinking this is quite a good family present rather than just for H, as I’ll play it as much as she is likely to – although the limited box, without the game looks awesome – for me).

But right now I can’t find the letter. Although one Facebook friend said I should suggest that I read the letter so I don’t buy her the same thing as Santa. Although knowing H she’ll just suggest we give the duplicate toy to one of her friends.

One thing I do have under control is wrapping paper. Last year H spotted that Santa had used the same paper as we have “oh ho ho ho ohhhh” I bluffed “what a coincidence” and changed the subject. This year I’ve bought a roll and hidden it under the stairs. This means she’ll probably find the roll on Christmas Eve or something – it’s inevitable.

I’m Going to Blogfest

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I like Blogfest – in fact I’ll go as far to say it’s my favourite blogging conference of the year. This year it’s my only one – and yet again I’m going.

What do I get from it? I come away inspired. While I’d love to say I have a million ideas in my head that are transferred onto the blog, that never happens. It’s a bit like payday at work, when you get a bonus. You have several days on a high where you make those changes (or spend money) before things go back to normal again.

The line up looks great as usual, and while there’s an awards ceremony (which I’ll probably skip, I don’t do awards ceremonies) I’m hoping there’ll be plenty of inspiring groups to go to.

Also, Blogfest has The Best Food. Plus it’s in The Guardian’s building. If you hang out with the smokers (I don’t smoke) then you get to see speakers coming and going at the entrance too.

I am not going to get nervous and say “that’s you that is” to David Baddiel. Also, must not mention The Wedding Present to Stella Creasy unless we happen to be talking about music. Which might be on one of the smokers hangouts.

It’s also a great place to meet up with blogger friends. I don’t have a lot of friends, but the ones I do have are excellent. So it will be great to catch up with them again.

This year I have persuaded Naomi to come along, who I work with. She’s over at Moody Kids and More and she isn’t scared to say what she thinks. Sonya will be with us too, our third year now! I’m looking forward to catching up with fellow Miffy-a-holic Jenny too and as ever there’ll probably be a mini Carshalton group travelling up together. It’s all good.

The sponsors all look interesting this year, especially the chocolate one – please can people keep me away from there, if only so I don’t complain about the change of chocolate on Creme Eggs. Please?

I’ve been reading about Big Milk too, good to see a company where the farmers are getting decent money back, as I’m never 100% sure. I think we’ll be switching to them.

Anyway, it’s only a month or so away – and I can’t wait!! Oh and this year I might wear a dress.

Remembering

Nine years. A long time, and yet it never goes away. If anything, more things come back. For some reason I had a flashback on the train home last night, mid-way through chatting to a friend. The time that mum was the one having the op, she was the one with the cancer and we were waiting for news. You were out, and came back to me crying hysterically on the stairs. You immediately thought something was wrong with mum, but it wasn’t that – at all.

Somebody had been really nasty to me on an internet message board. Sure, they weren’t to know about the things going on in my life and how much worse it felt, sitting at home in York waiting for something, but I don’t remember what.

“Silly girl” my dad said, walking into the front room, sitting down and watching tv, probably while eating cheddar biscuits with a bit of cheese.

I just cried a bit more on the stairs as at that point I had nobody. I knew my mum would be okay, she was having the cancer cut out of her. What I didn’t know was that a handful of years later it would go for my dad. But this time it succeeded. We lived through the most stressful time I’ve ever lived through, constant trips back up to York whenever things looked shaky. Amazing friends offering free train trips up there and support. On one hand I’m glad H never witnessed any of it, but on the other she will never meet her grandad.

But I had my annual cry on Sunday. We had a long lie in, doing schoolwork and chatting. I asked her to ask me whatever she wanted about my dad, as I can tell her what I think she wants to know, she’s the only one who can tell me what she’d like to know. Just H and I. She was okay with mummy crying. It wasn’t a big one, but enough I got a hug. She understands.

The questions change as she gets older. This time it was “did you see him die? what was it like?”. I told her the truth. She seemed okay with that.

I know nobody except my mum, my sister and my auntie will remember today. I still smile when I remember that point as we drove to York District Hospital and Radio York said “So! It’s Friday the 13th today! Has anyone had anything really bad happen to them?” and we both burst out laughing. “Yeah, something absolutely horrible and really quite bad, but I don’t think it’s one for Radio phone-in’s” sort of laugh. That point where we became three, standing in the car park of the hospital at 2am hugging each other, as the previous days, week, months were over. No longer a four. One set of pain gone, replaced by three new cases.

Nine years. It gets easier, apart from anniversaries.

dadd

 

The Funny Things #2

I’m proud of myself for training during pregnancy to stop swearing. Shaun is not quite as good as me, in fact, we may as well call him Mr Potty Mouth.

Our neighbours have a carpet shampoo machine which we’re going to borrow (that glitter and paint won’t get off the carpet on its own), and we thought about doing it on Sunday while H and I were at the Harvest Festival Parade, as it was a sunny day and we’d be out of the way.

But then our lovely neighbours went out.

“oh bugger! they’ve gone out for the day I bet!” said Shaun.

Now okay, bugger isn’t the worst word (we usually get those when he’s driving, he’s terrible)

“Oh WHAT daddy?” I said, trying to make him realise what he was saying quite clearly in front of H

“Bugger, Mummy, Bugger” replied H.

Her first swear word at six years and a month. Sigh.

More Sadness

My daughter seems to have quite a lot of sad things happen in her life of late. Last night just before 9pm she collapsed, sobbing into me, tears dripping down her face, her little voice nothing more than an agonised wail of sadness, unable to talk for sobbing or roaring with unhappiness.

I had to remove her glasses, wiping giant tears from her eyes.

It was no good, it was a decision which was hanging in the balance for a while – it could have gone either way. As it was, my poor little six year old had her worst fears come true.

She’s still sad about it twenty four hours later, though doesn’t cry any more. Slowly she’s getting used to it. She’s starting to pick herself up and move on.

As her mum, I gave her cuddles, wiped her eyes and comforted her as she processed what had just happened. It seemed to help. We talked about it, and I reassured her the best I could. But what reassurance can I give, when it’s something out of my control?

“It’s not fair” she wailed, burying her head in my shoulder. “she was my favourite”

Aw Flora, you left as big an impression in Bake Off as Martha did last year (and H wept then too). She is so sad you left last night. She wanted Alvin to win too (as his name reminds her of Alvin and the Chipmunks), but the blow was softened by Flora still being in the competition.

I think she might still be a bit cross with Paul and Mary, mind!

Periods

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I was an early starter – a nine year old, when my periods started. I didn’t have a clue what was going on. I just remember sitting on the loo, my mum knocking on the door and telling me “your period has started” and handing me a brick-like pad to put into my pants.

I had no idea what it all meant. It wasn’t confusing or scary, it was more a “what are you on about?!?” sort of thing.

My mum never had the chat with me beforehand. I’m not sure why. I know she was an early starter too – maybe having two children and being a stay at home mum meant she forgot. In my quest to keep doing everything differently to the way my mum did it, I’ve started talking to H about periods. Nothing too scary, just explaining that there’s those few times of the month when mummy likes to go to the toilet and not be disturbed, and that’s usually then. She gets that, and she found the idea of having periods a bit weird.

It started well.
“Have any of your friends mentioned periods yet?” I asked. Bear in mind, she’s six, but I know two of them have been told, plus another friend has been told how babies are made. This has not yet filtered to H.
“You mean like Jurassic?” she replied, before then going into what Jurassic periods are. Now, I get some heavy ones at the best of times, but never jurassic.
So I had to explain it wasn’t that kind of period, but a different one. She hung her head, whimpered and said “I’m SO embarrassed” and stomped off upstairs to her bedroom, slamming the door behind her. That went well.

As she’s still so young I tend to give her a few minutes then follow her up, and talk in a calm voice to get her talking about things, as she doesn’t understand this anger that has entered her life recently. At all.

I explained it all. She shrugged, “Well. Yeah. Okay.” and we left it at that. She didn’t have questions, and to be honest I’m not sure what any of my answers would be. I did say to her “but we’ll come to how babies are made at some point in the future” as I know she’s nowhere near ready for it, and thinks they just grow in your tummy. She hasn’t spent a lot of time thinking about how the baby gets into the tummy, that’ll come.

Last year we bought H a Lammily doll. She’s played with, alongside the Lottie dolls, a more grown up one. One of her friends saw it and said “oh, this doll has boobies” – to which I thought “but surely you have a Sindy or Barbie or even Monster High doll?!” in my head. The people behind Lammily have come up with a Period Party, basically, celebrating the start of periods. I get it. I want H to feel it’s normal. I don’t want her sitting on the loo and me running in with a pile of pads, having to explain it all (badly). I want her to know it’s something that will come, nothing to be scared of, and that almost all girls go through it.

This is why I think the Period Party kit is brilliant – a pair of pants for the Lammily doll, as well as some reusable sticky liners. Periods should be normal, and I’m glad this exists. If my girl ends up being as young as me when it happens (and my mum was even younger), then I want it to be normal for her. The only problem is the shipping costs as much as buying it – so I’m holding off for now. But I’m glad someone somewhere is visiting the world of periods.

I just hope she’s a bit older than me when the time comes.

The Phone Call

“Hello, it’s school. There has been an accident”

Heart drops into throat. Gulp.

“WHAT HAS HAPPENED?” trying not to sound hysterical

“Oh, H’s glasses have broken”

Relief.

Sigh.

Confidence

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H is the youngest in her year at school, scraping in by a week pretty much. She copes fine with everything and is in the top band for maths and literacy, and became a free reader in Year 1, such is her bookworm-ness. (is that even a word?)

She worked out quite early on this year that it’s good to get the work done, otherwise you get moved onto ‘the thinking side’ – though you get a chance to put things right before you’re losing five minutes from your playtime, so she gets through it and seems to be happy enough with it.

She’s also now one of three School Council reps for her class, something she always wanted to do.

But somewhere in all this, there’s still a little unconfident girl in there. Sure, she’s only just six, so it’s to be expected, but I do wonder how much of how she is comes from watching me.

Chatting with friends about my school life, it has made me realise a lot of things about myself I never really noticed. I went to Grammar School, a system I don’t want H to go through if she’s still unconfident. Our class stayed together, nobody was streamed by ability. So every lesson the clever people got to speak out, and the shyer, less confident ones like me stayed quiet. I hated reading out loud in class, and would rather hide underneath my desk than speak.

I used to have days off sick when they were dissecting locusts or eyeballs. Someone left a dissected eyeball (in a bag) in my desk. Actually, the people who did it felt terrible on our 30 year reunion as they thought they’d put it down my back, so I was quite pleased to reassure them it never happened. Just the desk, thanks.

But I lacked confidence. I liked what I liked, and that was mostly sitting, writing down the Top 40 every week. Music was my thing. I couldn’t play the guitar, but I wished I could, but I didn’t have the confidence to tell my mum, or to learn in a group of children who had already had lessons. By the time I got my guitar and had a lesson he wasn’t teaching me what I thought I’d learn, so I gave it up.

Which is my roundabout way of saying I’m doing everything I can to make sure H doesn’t have the kind of confidence issues I had. But she’s the youngest in the year. But she can keep up for most things.

Then she surprised me. We’ve sorted out her After School activities for this term – and she announced she would like to do Street Dance. She has shown ZERO interest in this up to now, when asked saying she doesn’t fancy it at all. All of a sudden she does. All of a sudden we have activities four days in a row. Whoops. So I booked her a place. It will involve a performance.

Which takes me back to when I did ballet. Every Saturday I’d have lessons, and eventually got a part in Peter Pan as one of the fairies, wearing a delightful orange sequinned leotard. Photos do not exist of me, thank god. Which makes me wonder how H will be performing. She’s not a natural performer, but she gives it a go – heaven knows she really goes for it when she has football on a Saturday. But this is different – something where she’s the centre of attention with her group of dancers. It’ll be interesting to see how she gets on.

Oh, and that Peter Pan performance? I called in sick. I had a cold. I remember stagefright and not being able to deal with it. So it never happened. The orange sequinned leotard lived in the loft for the next however many years.

But already she’s speaking up about things she’d like to do. She wants guitar lessons but I’m going to wait until she’s a little bit older – maybe another six months or so. There’s only so many days in the week, anyway.

But you can take her to a party and she’ll hide behind me, too scared to join in. Until yesterday. I took her to the toilet (oops, forgot to go before we left home), and she sat with a girl she knows from Rainbows. Actually, there were about six girls from Rainbows there – and I got a thumbs up, so we backed out of the room. She didn’t need me there.

So maybe after all that her confidence isn’t the issue. Maybe it’s me? Or maybe she’s growing. I’ll take the latter, thanks.

A Sense of Loss

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H cried. Tears of sadness, loss. Heartbroken.

Real tears of sadness fell down her face. All I could do was cuddle her. Her whole body shook with sobs.

She had never experienced loss like this.

It was too much for her fragile six year old self. Too much.

The only thing I could do as her mummy was to cuddle her as she buried her head in my shoulder, drenching it with tears.

All H could do was cry.

In between sobs she told us she didn’t want to leave it, that it was the only one she’d ever had. Her most favourite one.

I told her it’s okay, we can get another. It’s just a ‘thing’, it’s something which can be replaced, but she wasn’t convinced. She wanted the one she had lost.

I reminded her of the terrible sense of loss she might feel when something dies, say for example my mum’s dog, and how you learn to get over something in time, and that things really do get better.

This didn’t seem to work and Shaun just pulled faces at me for being ridiculous.

So I pointed out she still had another 30 or so balloons, and that one blue balloon bursting really isn’t the end of the world, and how the blue balloon brought so much fun and hilarity in its short time with us. Then I instructed her to throw it in the bin.

Ten minutes later she’d forgotten about it. Six year old’s are weird.