parenting

Where was mum?

As children we used to flick through photo albums looking for mum. As an adult, I look through digital versions of those grainy, out of focus snaps and look for me. I am but  a ghost behind the camera, a figment of your imagination as was once my own mum. Now my daughter asks me

Where were you?

I’m thinking of a picture of my sister and I, sitting on a wall. We’re wearing long white socks pulled up to the knees and bright blue anoraks to shield us from the wind. It’s night time and we are alone on the wall. There is a mniature village behind us, beyond that wall, with tiny people and tiny cars and tiny lives being lived. And I remember thinking

Where was mum?

I’m thinking of another picture. This is one of another sister and I. We’re smiling beside a birthday cake with seven candles and the number seven written in shiny chocolate buttons, pressed into the icing on top. There are balloons hanging from the light fittings unintentionally assembled into crude positions. There are children in the background, mouths open as they sing. My mouth is smiling, but ready to form an O to blow out the candles. My birthday, then.

But where was mum?

The absence of mum from family snaps. Is she the one who takes all the pictures, makes all the memories? Or is she just the one who prefers to hide, away from the flash and safe from exposure? I never thought of this until my friends on Facebook started having babies. I was seeing a certain type of photo.

I was seeing smiling mums in hospital beds with tiny babies in their arms.

red faces

tired eyes

smiling mouths

blankets

snap!

I was seeing happiness in a photo. I was seeing celebration. I was seeing.

Where was my photo like this?

I remember hiding. I remember choosing. No pictures of me. No happy snap with scrunched up faces and tired eyes and smiling mouths. I didn’t want to see.

Where was mum?

It got better, as it always does, eventually. Sooner or later. And then I started looking. Where was my photo? I’d missed my moment. And then I got a second chance. This is one of my most precious photos in the world. Isobel’s first photo. Where was mum? She was right there.

Isobel, minutes old
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“You’re not Daddy!”

"You're NOT Daddy!"

Perhaps I am now destined to spend the rest of my days wishing I had stubble, amongst other Ghostwriterdaddy attributes. For, you see, I have discovered lately that I have been committing the ultimate sin. I am not Daddy. *Gasp*I know, I know. You would never have guessed it, eh? But it’s true. My son has recently pointed it out to me and he is only two. He must be a genius.

This morning, like many mornings, we were awoken to cries of

“Daddy! Are you there?!”

and

“Daddy! I want to get up now!”

It was my turn. I left the baby sleeping and I crept into my beloved son’s bedroom with a smile already on my face as I imagined the early morning cuddles on the sofa we would have, followed by some early morning cartoons perhaps. But definitely the cuddles.

“You’re not Daddy.”

This announcement froze the smile on my lips but I would not be deterred.

“Daddy’s in bed,” I told him softly. “Mummy will take you downstairs.”

“Don’t want Mummy. I want my Daddy.”

Repeat three times

Eventually an ultimatum was issued and the toddler reluctantly accepted second best.

But why am I second best? It’s not fair. I try to be fun. We go out all the time while Daddy is at work. We go to groups, to the park, to splash in puddles, to collect worms. We play football in the garden, we dig up mud from plant pots and we walk in the pram to feed the ducks. We go to the woods, to soft play. We paint, we draw, we read stories, we sing songs and we dance. But at the end of all of this, when all my parenting/ teaching/ human empathy skills are spent… I am NOT Daddy.

The Big One was always a Daddy’s girl. I assumed the toddler would be a Mummy’s boy (but in a good way, not a wet lettuce). Perhaps this is my fault? We had a nice routine. My favourite part of the day was at bedtime, where I would sit on the sofa with my precious boy and enjoy cuddles before bed. He would rest his head on my shoulder as we climbed the stairs to bed. I would lie him down and wish him sweet dreams and he would smile sleepily. The last time I did that was the night before the baby was born.

Perhaps this is part of his terrible twos rather than the fact that he is unhappy being with me. It’s just the way it goes, I guess. I spend the first few months of their lives with them clamped to my chest at all hours, quite literally breathing life into them and they repay me by shunning me for the ‘more fun’ parent. Daddy. Ho hum…

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What to actually expect: the toddler years

 

Following on from What to expect when you’re no longer expecting, welcome to What to actually expect: the toddler years.

Age of child: aprox 18 months+

Your child will be able to:

 

  • reduce you to tears on more than one occasion with incessant whining, consistently frequent tantrums and the inability to make up his mind
  • reduce any siblings to tears with constant hair pulling
  • reduce your partner to tears with frequent ‘clinginess’ by way of punishment for leaving the room
  • reduce himself to tears for not being able to get his own way or even to make up his mind exactly what his own way actually is
Your child may be able to:
  • climb on to any piece of furniture in order to reach danger/ mess/ chocolate
  • decide what he wants to eat for breakfast, in order to smear it all over the dining room table and walls
  • climb out of his cot and dive head-first into the wall
  • jump from one sofa to the other
  • fit into the baby’s various chairs and seats, regardless of whether or not his weight will break them
Other things you may notice:
  • your partner will be capable of more and more creative ways to leave the immediate area. Simply ‘nipping to the loo’ no longer provides the peace it once did. You may notice he wants to go out more, works later more often, or even book lads holidays away
  • you suddenly have grey hairs and wrinkles
  • you’ve started quoting from the ‘things my parents said to me and I swore I would never say to my kids’ bible
  • you can only spend two minutes in the bath, tops, before it all kicks off downstairs
  • meals can only be eaten standing up whilst refereeing the latest spat
  • most days will be spent staving off the next tantrum
  • crying becomes the soundtrack to your day
  • there is an increase in phonecalls from important people, such as the dentist, Father Christmas and The Strict One at nursery
What you can do:
  • try lying in a darkened room for a while, until the phase passes
  • take up a hobby, such as travelling overseas
  • light some candles and pray for the return of your sanity
  • keep fit and active: it’s useful for chasing, ducking and storming off

Remember: this is all just a passing phase! Your loving child will return to normal at aprox 21 years of age.

 

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