Anonymous guest blogger: The last push

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After what seems like forever, the Anonymous Guest Blogger feature is back with a great post from The Secret Father who talks about bedtime and what really does feel like “the last push” at the end of the day:

“One more Peppa Pig and then it’s time to go to bed. No, I said ONE more. JUST. ONE. MORE!”

“Brush your teeth, properly. PROPERLY! Don’t stick the toothbrush THERE!”

“Put your pyjamas on. Where are you going? Put your pyjama trousers on! Not on your head! Take them off your head! Take the trousers OFF YOUR HEAD!”

The bed time routine. The last push. The eternal battle between adult and child; one party desperate to push the envelope, milk the minutes and extend the day; and one party desperate to curtail, to finish, to seek closure.

The friction. The tension. The exhaustion.

Sometime around 6:30pm our family moves into the bedtime routine. I feel it as a parent, and the children are feeling it too.

The older child might complain of tiredness. The younger child will never let on, and will continue to run around the house, a morass of flailing limbs and wobbly sprinting.

But he will be betrayed by the occasional flop on a chair, a rubbing of the eyes and the ultimate give away – the yawn.

This is the signal. The yawn.

It’s time to warm the milk and put on the DVD.

It’s a familiar routine, goodness knows how it started but it kind of works. Warm milk in front of 20 minutes of whatever DVD happens to be in vogue at the time.

Each child gets to choose one episode. These are the rules.

It is beautiful watching each one take it in turns to choose their episode. They revel in their empowerment, exercising their right to choose and they deliberate for what seems like an age before finally selecting their choice.

Each selection is accompanied with gleeful bragging rights and a giggly sprint back to the sofa.

The other child will take exception to the choice, but it will be only temporary. It is all part of the pattern, part of the routine.

And the episodes will finish and there will be a momentary tantrum when the television is turned off, but both children know that there are bigger fights ahead, so they reserve their energy.

The parents may have won this battle, but there is still a war to be waged before this day is out.

Climbing the stairs is another battle. The older child is quick, up in a heartbeat, mind set on the mischief that can now be caused in the upstairs domain.

The younger child delays, deliberating over each dangerous step; pausing to inspect every wood knot on the handrail, every speck of dust on the stair runner and every dead house spider that resides on the Staircase of Wonder.

There are some nights when I can deal with this, and sometimes even entertain this journey of exploration. But tonight is not one of them. My objective is to complete the routine as quickly as possible, get the children safe and snug into bed and get back downstairs to whatever treasure awaits.

And the treasure could be a glass of wine, it could be a pint of beer, it could be a favourite television show, a conversation with the wife, a favourite book or just simply a sit-down-and-stare at whatever object happens to be in eye line.

It doesn’t matter what it is. It is a reward.

A reward for knowing I have made mistakes that day, but that I will grow from them

A reward for knowing that I have done the best I can, that I have been the best I can be and that I have loved with as much room as there is in my heart.

And a reward for knowing that I have got my children safely through another day, with some degree of decorum, mental health and personal hygiene still intact.

So the reward is there in my mind’s eye. It looms larger and larger, sometimes taunting, sometimes alluring. But it’s there.

And it’s there, calling like a wanton siren from the shadows, when for the umpteenth time toothpaste ends up smeared on my black work jumper.

It’s there throwing its hair back and fluttering its eyelids as one child escapes half naked back downstairs and the other attempts to flush their face flannel down the toilet.

It’s still there, beguiling and flirtatious, as the young one refuses to get undressed and the older one, cackling manically, swan dives into the laundry basket, sending clothes spilling over the floor.

It’s like herding cats. Crazy, psychotic toddler cats.

But soon we are reading books. Nearly there, last push.

Same rules apply, each child gets to choose one book.

Some nights the book choices are great – short, easy and quick, entertaining even for the adult.

Other nights the choices are long, deadly dull books.

Tonight is one of the latter. I resist the urge to persuade the child to choose another book, and read it for the umpteenth time, almost on auto pilot. I get no enjoyment from it, but the children are spellbound.

Then I tuck the older child up, she goes down easily and snuggles up in her duvet. The younger one is still fighting, refusing to get into his grow bag, starting to meltdown.

I am not in the mood for this, and I can feel a knot of tension rising in my chest. I start to sing and rub his chest and immediately his eyes open and his body relaxes enough for me to get his legs and arms into the grow bag and the zip done up.

I breathe a sigh of relief and pull the side of the cot up, the final signal that it is over, the day is over.

I kiss them both good night and they both make one final complaint, but I am walking out of the door, and it is a half-hearted complaint. The day is over and they know it.

I find something to do in the room next to them for a few minutes and then check back in on them.

Both fast asleep, snoring.

I allow myself a smile. I am standing there, a muddle of warm tingly emotions, fatigue and exhaustion and I watch them sleep and my heart melts.

I count my blessings that I have steered them safely through another day. One of many in what I hope will be a long and happy journey.

I count my blessings that they are safe, that we live in a country of peace, where bombs do not drop, and warmth and shelter and love are a given.

I count my blessings that however exhausted I am come the end of days, the love I feel for my children continues to radiate out from my soul.

This is the bed time routine.

I make for the landing and close their bedroom door behind me, the last stage in the process.

I check my watch and make a quick calculation. If I can rip through the tidy up process I can have a few hours for myself. My shoulders relax and I breathe out a sigh of relief.

The cork comes easily out of the bottle of wine.

The last push is over. For tonight at least.

Anonymous guest blogger: Mother knows best – or does she?

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In the second of the new series of anonymous guest bloggers, we have the lovely Sarah over from Mitenska talking about one of the most annoying things you can hear as a parent:

What a difference seventeen months make.

My Partner and I made the decision to have a baby (despite my insistence throughout my 20s and early 30s that I didn’t want children) back in 2011. I knew he was more enthusiastic than me; I worried that I’d be the least maternal person ever, that Id be indifferent to a demanding, needy baby. But then (after a year of trying and a dose of Clomid) Joe came along. And I fell in love.

Now I know I am indeed maternal. And protective. The problem is, I’ve recently been accused of being over protective. Am I?

Lets go back a while, to when Joe was little. Very little – his buggy still comprised of a car seat clipped onto a base. My mother-in-law suggest a trip out so off we went, to Sefton Park in Liverpool, and she insisted on wrestling the pram from me and pushing. I let her – after all, I got to spend each and every day with my baby and she was the proud first-time grandparent.

Presently I noticed a smell coming from the pram. Dirty nappy smell. Really very, very dirty nappy. I suggested we go and change Joe in the toilets. Her response was to “just ignore it” as we were out in the fresh air and the smell would go away. At this point I firmly told her we’d go and change him. Good job we did – a diaper disaster awaited us which required an entire outfit change. She looked suitably sheepish. I didn’t say “I told you so” (just thought it instead) so off we set, her in charge of the pram again, and headed for the main road. It was busy with traffic and I instinctively put my hand out to tell her to wait (a large white van was speeding in our direction). Unfortunately my mother-in-law kept going, pushing Joe into the path of the approaching vehicle. I shouted at her to stop, that the van was coming. She replied dismissively “It’ll just have to stop for us, wont it?” and kept going.

It didn’t stop. It swerved around her and the pram and she kept walking across the road as though along an empty pavement. I was left horribly shaken.

Ever since then I’ve been wary of her taking care of Joe. Now he’s a toddler (16 months and into everything) you need eyes int he back of your head. There have been several other instances of scary behaviour from my mother-in-law (handing him fruit on the end of a carving knife, anyone?) and I just don’t feel safe leaving him along with her. He goes to his other grandparents house for hours at a time and they’re super-vigilant, but my guy feeling is I just don’t feel safe leaving him with certain people. Others I have absolutely no problem with. Thank goodness, or we’d never get an evening out alone together.

Over-protective or just sensible?

You see, Joe stays home with me. I took voluntary redundancy from a great job, then temped before he came along so had nothing work-wise to return to. More to the point, I found I didn’t want to go back to work. I still don’t. Not just yet. I’m a stay at home mum for the time being. I don’t cost anyone anything. We’re careful with our finances and its our choice. Joe goes to play group, sees friends and family regularly and is a happy, secure little boy.

Sadly, certain family members – trading on the fact that I don’t let him go to my mother-in-laws alone are saying im over-protective. That Joe should have been put into nursery from a young age, that he’ll end up socially inept or even depressed. Yes, really. I found that last comment particularly hurtful. Because looking after a small child is hard work. Hard, but rewarding. Every decision I make is based on Joe’s best interests. Our choices are our business. I don’t know when, or why it became acceptable to criticise someone elses parenting decisions. Particularly when the main critic in this case has no children of his own – in fact, he’s never even babysat. Doesn’t want kids. Wouldn’t fit in with the lifestyle.

I must remember to buy his parenting manual when it comes out…

The bottom line is this; I’m a mother. That’s my job. I take care of my son, and yes, I protect him because that’s what comes naturally to me. That isn’t for anyone to question. He isn’t wrapped up in cotton wool but he is kept away from situations I think could compromise his safety.

That’s not being over-protective. That’s being a parent.

Thanks again Sarah for sharing with us what its like to be labelled an “over-protective” parent. If you’re reading and can relate to this then I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts on labelling or being labelled as an over-protective parent.

Like what you read? If you too would love to be a guest blogger on My Petit Canard then please get in touch!

Anonymous guest blogger: Let’s talk about sex (baby!)

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Some of my blog resolutions for this year are to both guest blog and to find guest bloggers. So in an attempt to lure over some lovely bloggers I have created a monthly series of “Anonymous (or not so anonymous) Guest Bloggers“. An opportunity for fellow bloggers to come on over and blog about all things parenting.  To kick us off in style with a subject that nobody talks about but everyone thinks about after having a baby,  we have the lovely Sarah from Toby Goes Bananas:

I was trying to think of a better title for this post but I just couldn’t get that Salt ‘n’ Pepa lyric out of my head so in the end I just had to go with it! So first I just want to say a big thank you to My Petit Canard for hosting this guest post – I would have posted it on my own blog but, well, my mum might see it and there are just some things your mum doesn’t need to know.

I wanted to talk about sex after having a baby because, for me, things just haven’t been how I expected. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has felt like this so I thought I’d share my experience and I’d love to hear whether you’ve felt something similar. I know everyone sort of half jokes about how you won’t want to have sex for months and months after having a baby. I remember being at our antenatal classes and talking about when you can have sex after giving birth. The class leader told us that you could have sex once the postpartum bleeding has stopped…and one of the women piped up that she wouldn’t be letting her husband near her for months. Everyone gave an embarrassed chuckle and that was that. End of discussion.

Of course I was prepared for the fact that giving birth was going to hurt ‘down there’ and that if I ended up with stitches things would take a while to heal which might put me off sex for a bit. But I had no idea how birth, and then actually having a baby, would affect my emotional response to all things sexual.

I was very lucky to have a straight-forward birth. It was all over in eight hours – from the first twinge to holding a new baby – and I escaped without any tears or stitches. Sure, it burned like hell to pee for a few days and that first week of trying to poo seemed worse than having the baby at times, but in the grand scheme of things I was relatively unscathed physically. A couple of days of struggling with breastfeeding ensured my nipples were somewhat the worse for wear, however, and in fact I think that has led to one of the major hurdles when it comes to sex. I’ll come to that in a minute though.

First I want to talk about what happened in the first couple of weeks after having my baby. Of course both me and my husband were in a complete haze of sleep deprivation and general ‘what the hell hit us’-ness. The baby was sleeping, when he actually deigned to sleep, in our bedroom and you would think that sex would be the last thing on my mind. But I was actually (and I can’t think of any way to put this delicately) horny! So much so that I remember waking my husband up for some kissing and a bit of a fumble under the bed clothes after a 4am feed one day! I still wasn’t ready for full-on sex but I surprised myself. I don’t know if it was hormones, or just a need to connect somehow with my husband, or maybe some sort of attempt to reclaim my pre-pregnancy, pre-baby self. That phase didn’t last long though. In fact after that initial burst of lust I went off sex altogether. And since our baby was born six months ago I can count the number of times we’ve had sex on one hand, and still have a few digits left over.

There are a couple of many reasons for this. For the first few months it was mostly because we were both knackered. When I went to bed it was for much needed sleep and nothing else was on my mind. And then, as the months went on and the baby was in his own room and we were all getting a bit more sleep, the main reason I was (and still am) avoiding sex was all to do with body confidence. I know, I know. Women’s bodies change after giving birth and we should be proud of those changes and blah, blah, blah… But the truth is I feel fat, I have a massive, wobbly, stretch-marked tummy that I can’t bear my husband to touch. My boobs are still huge and even though I stopped breastfeeding after five weeks my nipples feel different and it just feels a bit odd when my husband touches them –  and when previously we both very much enjoyed my boobs during sex it somehow changes the whole dynamic. Now, my husband is absolutely awesome, and don’t worry, I’m not writing anything here that I haven’t talked to him about. He constantly reassures me about my body, and tells me he still finds me sexy. And I believe him. I really do. But I don’t find me sexy and therein lies the problem. My lack of self confidence in bed has really freaked me out if I’m honest, because even when I’ve been overweight before it has never affected my confidence in my own inherent sexiness. Now though, it actually got to a point when I was so embarrassed of myself that whenever we started kissing and cuddling in bed and things started to get a bit steamy I would just burst out laughing and couldn’t stop. And I feel so bad about it. My husband is incredibly understanding about the whole thing but I’m sure me laughing in his face is not really his ideal scenario!

Anyway, I’m on the road to getting my pre-pregnancy body back (which still wasn’t perfect but a return to that has got to be better than what I’ve got now) and hopefully with it will come the return of my self confidence and the return of something approaching normality in the bedroom. It had better, if our plans for a second baby are ever going to happen!

Through the last six months though, one thing has remained. I kiss and cuddle my husband every day. In fact, as many times a day as we can manage. I might not be ready for sex but the need (and desire) for physical, loving contact has never left me. I guess that everyone has different experiences after giving birth but I don’t really know because, despite our openness in this age of blogs and Twitter and Facebook, it’s not something that we often talk about. Maybe there are lots of you out there feeling the same way as me. Maybe not. But I am sure that whatever you’re feeling, it’s normal.

Thank you again Sarah for sharing such a great post! We’d love to hear from other parents on how they felt after having children. Can you relate to this post?

Like what you read? If you’d too would love to be a guest blogger on My Petit Canard then please get in touch!

Anonymous guest bloggers

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Have you ever wanted to write or say something on your blog, but held back from putting it out there because you weren’t quite sure how it would be received, or because you didn’t want your nearest and dearest reading it, or because it wasn’t quite in keeping with your blog, or simply because you just weren’t sure. I know there have been one or two blog topics that have crossed my mind, or that I have started writing only for them to be swiftly designated to the trash because of one of the above reasons.

But how would you feel if you were offered the opportunity to blog about it under the shield of anonymity? If you could actually sit down and type out that blog that you thought about fleetingly for that moment..

In 2014 My Petit Canard will be offering a monthly guest spot for bloggers to blog anonymously about anything and everything related to parenting and children. The only conditions are that they are in keeping with the topic of parenting and/or children, no profanity is used, it isn’t to the detriment of others (brands/organisations/people) and any images used are royalty free or attributable or your own. Other than that, the spotlight is quite literally yours!

If that has you sitting down drafting that blog that you have so perfectly crafted in your mind quicker than you can say “me time” then get in touch. You can contact me through the blog, via email or on Twitter.