Parenting in my shoes – My child has a clearly visible birthmark

Christine from Dublin is 37 and married to fellow Dub, Stephen. They have one child, Elizabeth who is 15 months old and Christine is just over 5 months pregnant with their second baby.

Little Elizabeth has a visible strawberry birthmark in the middle of her forehead, which has resulted in  plenty of stares and other unwelcome reactions from others in public.

Here Christine talks to me about coping with these reactions, her future worries for her daughter and how it feels to be the parent of a child with a prominent birthmark in an age that’s obsessed with appearances.

The pregnancy…

I found out I was expecting in December 2016 and had a really normal pregnancy (although I had nothing to compare it with!). I had morning sickness up until about week 14 but nothing severe, mainly nausea. I was able to continue with work, had normal blood pressure and attended the ‘Domino’ Scheme where my maternity appointments alternated between my GP and Midwife. I’m quite tall so Elizabeth had plenty of room to stretch out and it was quite late in the pregnancy before I had to start wearing maternity clothes. So all in all pretty much the dream pregnancy!

My due date was the 27th July so when I started having twinges on the 8th July I presumed they were Braxton Hicks and honestly thought I’d have another 5 weeks of pregnancy ahead. Even so I’d also had a bit of “show” that week so my husband, Stephen said let’s get the hospital bags in the car to be on the safe side (like, how thick was I when I look back on it!!). I went to work that day, came home, got changed, and went out for dinner with my friends, all the while Elizabeth was planning her big entrance. Stephen collected me from town and I went to bed around 10 or 11pm. I was restless and was starting to realise that the twinges (contractions you fool!) were getting more intense and were actually quite regular until pop went my waters at 1am. We started timing the contractions then and realised it was time to hot foot it to the Rotunda. I arrived around 1.30/1.45am and was assessed as being 2 or 3cm so we had “plenty of time”. There was no delivery room available so we waited in the public waiting room and then the assessment room until eventually it was time to head upstairs. I got to the delivery room at 4.03am and promptly asked for an epidural however, the next words from my mouth were “I need to push” and Elizabeth arrived at 4.16am on Sunday 9th July weighing 7lbs 7oz. A squidgy little bundle of amazingness.

Early indications…

There was no indication at all beforehand and in fact, there was no birthmark visible when she was born. The Haemangioma (also known as a Strawberry Birthmark) appeared as a tiny red dot when she was around one week old.

First impressions…

Elizabeth had some broken blood vessels around her eyes from the delivery so I presumed that this new red dot on her forehead, between her eyes, was something similar. She had a really faint, small red dot on her stomach too and the “stork mark” on the back of her neck which I think is fairly common. I don’t remember being concerned initially, it was so small and I had no clue what it was so I guess I just assumed it would disappear. Over the weeks as it grew we were obviously concerned but were reassured that they were common and that they tend to disappear themselves.

Baby Elizabeth 1 day old

Medical opinions…

It was the Public Health Nurse that visited us at home that first took note of it and advised that we keep a check on it. It’s amazing how quickly they grow and week by week it started getting bigger and bigger. We started to research them through “Dr Google” of course but there is a lot of mixed information and when we visited our GP he said they were common and didn’t seem worried by it.

Historically the “watch and wait” approach is taken with Haemangiomas and with us being completely naive and uneducated about them, that’s what we did. We waited and watched as it continued to grow, and grow. It was at Elizabeth’s 3 month check up with the Public Health Nurse that things finally got moving. The Nurse was not at all happy with what she was seeing and recommended I push for a referral to a dermatologist to get it checked. Some Haemangiomas are slightly raised red areas but Elizabeths is “mixed” so has the red part but also has a large bump underneath that makes it more pronounced.

Our GP referred us to Temple Street straight away but we were initially told it could take a year to get an appointment. From what we had read online this was fairly useless as haemangiomas grow quite rapidly up to age one before they start to recede. We decided to request a referral to the Private Clinic instead and were seen by Dr Fiona Browne within 2 weeks. In fairness to Dr Browne she said that even if we had been referred to her on the Public list she would have prioritized Elizabeth because of the location of her H (being close to her eye the skin is thinner and susceptible to ulcerating/scarring plus there was the possibility of her eyesight being affected). So we saw Dr Browne and within a couple of days were back in Temple Street to undergo tests and start treatment. Elizabeth takes an oral medication called Propranolol twice a day. It’s a beta blocker so her blood pressure and blood sugars were monitored in hospital during her first dose and we have monthly appointments now to get these checked and also to get weighed and have her dose altered as she grows bigger.

Not all babies with haemangiomas’s are given treatment, it can depend on the size and location of them but usually if they are large or near the eye, mouth or nose, treatment will be given.

The reactions of others to Elizabeth…

It varies but the most common reactions are:

Ignoring it, shock, telling a story about someone they know that has/had one

Elizabeth at 2 months

Its impact on my experience of parenthood…

I can’t express how much I adore Elizabeth. She made me a Mammy. Something I didn’t really know I wanted to be until I had her. She has the most beautiful blue eyes and a little button nose and squishy cheeks. She loves animals, bubbles and going to the park. She’s amazing. Most days I don’t even think about the birthmark. It’s a part of her and a part of what makes her unique and individual.

Except some days there’s that “if only” thought that pops into your head. If only she didn’t have the birthmark. If only it was somewhere else and not in the middle of her forehead. If only we didn’t have to spend every visit outside the house waiting for a look, frown, stare, question, comment. If only we could have baby photos without it. If only I wasn’t such a horrible, superficial person and could just ignore it. There are a million and one things that she could have that are a million times worse…

The treatment plan…

So, the disappointing thing for us has been that the Propranolol which is a miracle medicine for so many people has had little to no effect in shrinking Elizabeth’s H (it’s as stubborn as she is!). In saying that there’s no way for us to know how big it could have grown if she hadn’t started taking it so in fairness, at the very least it may have stopped her H from ulcerating or affecting her vision.

We visit the Dermatology Dept. in Temple Street every 4 weeks. The Nurses and Consultants there are brilliant. They check that Elizabeth’s blood pressure and blood sugars are normal. She is also weighed to make sure she is on the correct dosage of Propranolol for her weight and for now that’s the treatment we’ll continue on until we make a decision about whether to seek to have it surgically removed or leave it to see if it will involute naturally.

The hardest part of having a child with a visible birthmark…

In some ways I think this will change over time but the silent looks are probably the hardest thing to deal with. Should I ignore them? Should I pull people up on them? I always try to catch the eye of the person and give them the big smile if I can. It’s funny how this sometimes takes them off guard and they realise they have been “caught out”.

Worrying about what to teach Elizabeth to say as she gets older and making sure we instil her with enough confidence to ensure she’s not affected by future comments is another thing I think about a lot. It’s not something that we want to make a huge issue of but at the same time, it’s there and we’d be stupid to think that it won’t be something that she’ll become more aware of as she grows up.

Thoughtless comments…

Kids are great and much more open about asking about it (much to the mortification of their parents which makes me laugh). I always try to tell the kids a little bit about it before the parents embarrassedly whoosh them away.

Kids comments

“She has a big red lump on her head”

“What’s that thing on her head?”

“Is it sore?”

“Eurgh” followed by recoiling in horror dramatically

Adults comments

“What happened to her head!?”

“Did she fall?”

“God love her”

“You must have gotten a terrible fright when you saw it”

(The parent of the recoiling child above) “That little girl won’t be bold again will she, her Mammy gave her that because she was bold” – I’m not sure why I didn’t tell that man to STFU actually.

To be honest a lot of the worst ones are the “looks”. I think if someone comments it’s easier to open a conversation and explain what it is but I get really upset sometimes when we’re out and I can see someone up ahead clocking it and then proceeding to stare with a frown on their face as they get closer.

I often say it’s like they don’t even realise that they are staring at a human baby like she’s an alien or a curiosity (OK and now I’m crying, sorry). I have left our local shopping centre in tears because of the stares. There are days it doesn’t bother me at all and then there are days when I feel like shouting at people. Sometimes I think about getting leaflets printed with an explanation about haemangiomas and keeping them in the buggy so I can hand them out to the people who stare…

Elizabeth with Mum Christine

Elizabeth’s prognosis…

Generally haemangiomas grow rapidly until age one and then start to shrink or involute naturally. The involution is very gradual though and could take up to age ten. The Propranolol usually speeds this up but in our case this hasn’t happened.

We have been offered steroid injections as a next step but Elizabeth would have to go under general anaesthetic for these and we have decided that as the haemangioma is not growing or causing any complications with her eyesight, we’ll hold off getting these done. There’s also no guarantee they will actually work.

For us, it’s looking like we would have to leave it and just continue with the Propranolol and see what happens or we could decide to have it removed. Again, this would be under general anaesthetic so not over the moon at the idea but I think if we do decide to go with the surgery it’ll be before she starts school. This plays on my mind a bit though. Who would we be getting it removed for? Elizabeth? Ourselves? Other people? The kids in school?

Elizabeth aged 1 year

My fears for Elizabeth…

Thankfully she’s too young now but as she gets older my biggest fear is for when she starts to notice people looking at her differently or understands the comments. School is obviously a big worry too although younger kids are generally more accepting and once you say “that’s her strawberry birthmark, it doesn’t hurt and will disappear when she’s older” that’s basically that for them!

I think part of my fear is that we equip her with the strength of character to be able to respond confidently to any queries or remarks herself if/when the time comes… All anyone wants is for their child to be happy and healthy.

If you meet us…

Personally I prefer to be asked about it. It means I can explain what it is and educate people a little bit. We meet lots of people that have experience with them and tell us the stories of their sisters, friends or neighbour who had one on their arm, leg, head and it just disappeared. But for every one of these people you meet more, just like us at the beginning, who don’t really know what it is or anything about them.

Advice for other parents in the same situation…

One of the best things that happened to me was when I came across a couple of Birthmark Support Groups on Facebook (Hemangioma Parents Group and Birthmark Support Group). Thousands of parents of babies and children with haemangiomas, some bigger and more complicated than ours and some smaller. Some on topical treatment, some on oral medication, some having surgery and some deciding not to treat at all. No judgement, no staring, just understanding and support.

Knowing that we weren’t the only people out there with these feelings and worries, and coming across so many other parents who felt exactly like we do was amazing and a huge relief to me. It gave me a lot of perspective, took away some of the guilty feelings, and gave me more confidence in handling comments when we’re out in public.

I would recommend any parents of a baby with a birthmark to ask for a referral to a Paediatric Dermatologist who can assess it and then help you decide whether to treat it or not. You don’t have to just watch and wait.

 

 

Ten things you may not have known about me..

  1. I was a volunteer with the Irish Coast Guard for 11 years and having to retire broke my heart – unfortunately seven children and being a volunteer with the emergency services don’t mix. I absolutely loved it and met and made friends with some of the most amazing people on this planet. I’m not sure people realise how truly dedicated Coast Guard volunteers are or the demands that being a volunteer place on their families too. I hope one day – if life ever settles down and manageable chaos returns – that I can rejoin.
Me with my former Coast Guard colleagues Stephen and Asa
  1. I play the accordion and my claim to fame is that I played it at Croke Park as part of the half time entertainment during a match once (actually now that I come to think of it, it was probably pre-match – in fairness, it was a long time ago and the size of the crowds were rather intimidating!)
  2. I was an absolute football fanatic growing up. My room had football wallpaper and curtains and the walls were covered in posters of my favourite players. I wasn’t into the typical teenage girl magazines, preferring to buy “90 minutes”, “Match” or “Shoot”.  I used to play for a ladies football team back when it was less common – ( however, playing and being any good at it were two very different things as I proved.)
  3. I wanted to be a sports journalist when I was at school. I had the option to study journalism but instead went to UCD where I met my husband. The rest is history – and kinda current as it turns out, though I’ve yet to write about sport….
  4. I taught Maths and English many years ago. I have yet to convince my children however, of the beauty of non-subjective maths!
  5. I am a huge Michael Jackson and Queen fan. One of my children’s middle name is Michael because of my fanaticism. My husband is very embarrassed by this fact – but he relented having just witnessed the spectacle of childbirth. He tells everyone however that the name Michael is after an uncle.
  6. I lived and went school in America for a period in the late 80’s/early 90’s when my parents emigrated. I haven’t been back since. But it’s on my bucket list.
  7. I was pregnant at some stage of every year from 2000-2015. Multiple miscarriages however, meant that every pregnancy, sadly, did not end with a baby.
  8. The world of boys was all new to me. Although six sons and one daughter make up my brood – I come from a house of four girls! I am now well-adjusted to the world of farts, underpants- resistance and wee puddles by the toilet
  9. Oooh and another claim to fame I’ve just remembered. When I was about 14 I was in a TV ad for sausages. The ad however, was only broadcast in parts of Asia and Africa. For transparency purposes I feel I should add that I do not like sausages. 😂

 

I’m up for an award and I need your help!

So ahem, cough, cough, (and more awkward coughing…)

Mama-tude is up for Best Parenting Blog at the Boots Maternity and Infant Awards and I would be eternally and incredibly grateful if you could vote for me  please. It only takes a couple of seconds – just click on the orange button below (and then click vote for this product)

Thank you SO, so much in advance

 

Jen x

 

 

Taking the Hotter Shoes test!

You can take the girl out of the high-heels, but you can’t take the high heels out of the girl – or so the saying goes, well at least so I reckon it should go!

I’ve always loved my high-heels – the higher the better generally. They’re a wardrobe staple in my book, so when Hotter Shoes got in touch to see if I’d like to try out a pair of their shoes I wasn’t sure I’d find something that could convince me to abandon my usual style. Looking through their brochure however, the magpie in me was immediately drawn to a rose-gold pair in their Gravity range.

rose-gold gravity shoes

The  Gravity range are described as having “breathable, perforated, sleek leather or velvet nubuck uppers, with padded collar and tongue and cushioned insole for all-round comfort and support”. Reading this and given what I’d heard on the grapevine about the Hotter Shoes range, I had high expectations of comfort. I’ll be honest – they didn’t disappoint. Not only were they as stylish in reality as they appeared in the brochure, they immediately felt incredibly comfortable and supportive without any wearing-in period – a definite first for me.

The change in style was spotted immediately by my nearest and dearest and everyone who saw them complimented my shoes. My father-in-law even went so far as to say I seemed more balanced in them now that I wasn’t “tottering about”. The jury is still out on whether or not I should accept that particular “compliment”!

so comfortable!

Hotter Shoes not only very kindly gifted me a pair of shoes to try myself, they’ve also given me a pair (which can be chosen from either the Brooke or Gravity range) to give away to a lucky Mama-tude follower. So if you fancy a new pair of stylish, incredibly comfortable  and according to my father in law, balance-enhancing shoes* then just come on over the Mama-tude Facebook page to try your luck. And remember, if you’re not in you can’t win!

*  My father in law *may not be an expert in determining what are balance enhancing shoes

*My father in law is definitely not an expert in determining what are balance enhancing shoes

But I thought I’d test his theory anyway…

Testing my father in law’s balance enhancing theory!

 

What is kindness worth?

When my children were born, I thought a lot about the direction their lives might take. Could one grow up be a famous doctor who’d discover a cure for cancer or some other terrible disease? Might one prove to be a talented footballer whose goal in extra time would see Man Utd relegated after a particularly poor season? Was there a chance that I might end up attending the Oscars on the arm of one talented actor son or daughter who felt their mammy was the only person who truly deserved to be their “plus one”? Or did musical accolade await another whose fans would spend hours online trying to get tickets to their concerts that were destined to sell out in minutes?

And then the morphine wore off and I focused on the most important thing– that they would be happy.

But the world and real life seems to measure things differently. As any parent of more than one child knows, the same ingredients don’t necessarily produce the same results. Just like Bassets we have allsorts in this house – and I love that they are so different. Personalities, interests, abilities – all hugely different, and all contributing to the wonderful unique child that each one is.

And each unique child learns to measure themselves by standardised tests, sporting achievement and dramatic excellence. Hard work is valued and championed and success rightly acknowledged – but why are all things not measured equally.

Where is the value on kindness? We know that youth mental health has never been under so much pressure. We know the influence of their peers has the potential to be with them always. We know they have to find their own way in the world without us always by their side. But while it’s not a single layered issue, there is a fundamental change we could make – a change in emphasis.

We see lots of advice given on what to do if things do wrong but it’s reactionary and forgets that most important point – prevention is better than cure.

Kindness and empathy are applauded and celebrated when our children are toddlers and smallies, and though in theory, an ethos may remain once they go to school, as the years progress and the targets become more obvious it becomes apparent that excelling at kindness doesn’t feature to the same degree.

It’s probably not a deliberate omission, but how lovely it would be to see it as a deliberate inclusion, throughout the entire school cycle, recognising the different and yet same shape it can take as our children get older. A focus away from the books and the sports field. A focus on caring and compassion and thinking of others. A focus on words, actions and consequences and how to build each other up, rather than tear each other down. A focus that makes up as consistent a part of their education as their academic studies and sporting outlets.

And a focus that would surely lead to a lot more happiness.

Maybe when the morphine of achievement and competitiveness wears off….

Flowers for mum

 

Welcome to the new Mama-tude website!

A huge and very warm welcome to Mama-tude’s new site!

I have some pretty big and exciting upcoming projects in the pipeline so it seemed the perfect time to launch my new site which was all designed and basically put together for  me by my brilliant friend Andrew Barnes – whose own blog you can and should check out here 

So have a look around Mama-tude.com , take comfort in the familiar and let me know what you think. There’s past posts,  newspaper articles, podcasts and reviews of my book to be found – and a little info about me too.

And my social media buttons are there too – so if you’re not following me already across the different channels,  please do. I love to have the chats.

So all that’s left for me to do now  is cut the virtual ribbon and declare Mama-tude’s new site open. Go forth, explore and enjoy!!

Jen xxx

21 activities to keep the kids occupied this Easter

 

The Easter hols are here and thanks to recent snow days and a patron saint’s bank holiday, the novelty of having the kids at home may have worn off before it’s even begun!
So to keep your troops occupied and your sanity in check, I’ve compiled a list of cheap or free things to do over the coming two weeks. May the force be with you through it all!
1. Cinema clubs – the old reliable, especially for those rainy or cold days. Many cinemas have morning screenings of kids’ movies at a reduced rate over the school holidays. Some even discount their popcorn and fizz for an extra treat!

 

2. Picnic at the park – make hay while (and if) the sun shines. Lunch outdoors is an adventure of its own. Throw in a football or take in a playground and the kids can burn off some energy while you’re at it.

 

3. Write a family newspaper – as simple as it sounds. Assign all kids in the house a story to cover relating to your family or what’s going on that day. Then add some phone-taken photos or some drawings to accompany their articles and voila – you have your equivalent of “The Hogan Times” and the bonus of something for “show and tell” upon their return!

 

4. Visit the National Museum – There’s loads to see and entry is free! Thanks to school projects there’s sure to be several things that catch your children’s attention and it’s a pretty enjoyable visit for parents too. You can find more info at www.museum.ie

 

5. Playdates –  Have some pals over to keep your troops occupied. There’s always the chance the favour might be returned over the course of the holidays, giving the double bonus of another day’s fun for your child and a bit of breathing space for you.

 

6. Go swimming – An activity everyone can enjoy, that’s not weather dependent or overly expensive. And it might tire them out a bit too!

 

7. Visit some relatives, or invite some over –  With the restrictions of school and after school activities it’s hard to find the time to visit relations who might live that bit further away. If cousins are involved, the visit made or received is sure to cause even more excitement.

 

8. Board games – Always fun and often overlooked in favour of the computer type. And the great thing is that all ages can get involved!

 

9. Treasure hunt (indoor or outdoor). Draw up the clues and hide them inside or outside the house and let the kids do the rest.

 

10. Build a fort – Timeless fun and a great way to keep the kids busy on a rainy day. And if you’ve a few kids, build two. They can visit each other.

 

11.  Games from our youth – Remember how much time we spent outdoors growing up, wary of going indoors to use the bathroom even in case you weren’t let back out again?The games that kept us occupied for hours would no doubt do the same for our own children. So why not teach your kids how to play them? Hopscotch, Red Rover, Crocodile Crocodile, What time is it Mr Wolf, Rounders, Kick the can, Balls and Skipping – to name but a few!

 

12. Home baking – Most kids love baking and even those of us with limited baking skills can help our littles to make fairy buns, rice krispie buns and maybe something more. Happy bonus –  dessert is sorted!

 

13. A walk on the beach – Even if it’s raining. Skimming stones and wave dodging are fun, rain or shine for the bigs and smalls in the family

 

14. Trip to the library  – to browse and borrow books or to enjoy the
different activities that regularly take place there, details of which can
usually be found online.

 

15. Write a letter – To a grandparent, other relative or friend because who doesn’t love receiving mail that isn’t a bill.

 

16. Make sock puppets – Get crafty and creative to the best of yours and their ability. And then afterwards, do a puppet show

 

17. Visit a pet farm – Kids generally love visiting animals and a pet farm gives them the opportunity to get a little bit closer. Have a scour online for some in your locality. There’s lots of cheap and cheerful ones – and even some free ones too.

 

18. Play doh – messy, get everywhere, maddening stuff – that the kids just love!

 

19. Go out for muffin – a treat in a cakeshop always goes down well. (And the muffin is bribery to behave ;-))

 

20.Get everyone to do a self-portrait, make a collage – One to treasure and frame.

 

21.  Have a karaoke competition – because, ahem cough, cough, you can have the craic joining in too.
Kids Easter Artwork
Kids Easter Artwork

 

Still me

I think every parent gets excited about a night out. What’s rare is wonderful they say and last weekend was very rare indeed – I had a night out with my college buddies. It’s been a very long time since we were all out together. I’d admit exactly how long if I had actually come to terms with my age yet, which I haven’t, so I won’t. But suffice to say I hadn’t seen some people since I’d left college and Whigfield was big at the time.
It was easy to see by the chosen venue that some of us (not me) have retained our coolness more than others. The music was loud, very loud. I’ll be honest I’m not even sure it was music – I think Madame Gazelle might refer to it as noise.
Conversations were roared over the din. I coped with the volume quite well – I think as a mum of seven I may measure loudness and shouting on a different scale to others.
We moved somewhere quieter to catch up properly and laughter replaced the noise. Laughter at recollections of our youth, laughter at our proven inaccurate theories and laughter at stories from our current lives.
I am a much more sophisticated being now and my college drinks of 20/20 and Ritz have been replaced with a penchant for red wine – you know, whatever is on special in the local supermarket. What has remained the same are my lightweight tendencies. As the giggles continued, aided by fabulous company and wine, a friend I hadn’t seen since we left college turned to me and said “Look at you, seven kids later and you’re still Jen”. She made my night.
And as I reluctantly said my goodbyes to my fabulous college pals, a promise of a karaoke night to follow was made. Brief discussions were held before my departure about solos and involvement and “enthusiastic participants”.
A song I loved came on the radio in the taxi on the way home. I figured it was the perfect chance to practice for our upcoming event – so I did, because after all I’m still me 😉

 

Out with the old?

 

We took advantage of the snow days and did a clear out. Not the most exciting way to spend a few days but after fun in the snow, and constantly gnawing away on chocolate, to facilitate the rationing of bread of course, it was a welcome distraction from the cabin fever that was setting in – OK not welcome, but necessary in the interest of our sanity and future good family relations!
The great thing about having a large family is that there’s lots of “stuff” to pass on to other siblings. The bad thing about having a large family is that there’s lots of “stuff” to hoard that you might pass on the other siblings, or that you convince yourself you might because you don’t want to part with it.
It’s not that I’m a particular hoarder, I’ll happily discard any of himself’s newspapers and magazines whether he’s read them or not – and I have no issue “losing” certain horrendous gaudy-coloured football shirts that pass through the wash. Before anyone thinks this might border on spousal cruelty, I do his washing for him – it’s a hazard of the chore!
When it comes to my babies’ belongings however, I’m not so great. “We have 6 of the same sized coat hanging in the wardrobe” came the call from the youngest boys’ room. “I’ll put 5 of them in the charity bag”. In a time Usain Bolt would have been proud of I sprinted to the room. “ I need to check everything first” I said, “I know what ones I want to keep and what ones we should give away” There was also the matter of the pile that was going to the attic for memories’ sake and, just in case…
As each item of clothing was handed to me, I reminisced about which child had worn it first and decided if it should be given away, passed to the child it would now fit or put in the ever-growing attic pile that I was hiding down the side of one bed. Every now and then himself would show a moment of weakness and say “ah I remember this on…..”. I took that comment as confirmation that I should keep that item too.
I realised as I literally waded through small vests of every colour and size that my emotional attachment to my kids clothing and the very limited storage facilities in my house were not compatible. Something was going to have to give. “You’ve an awful lot of football shirts taking up space in those drawers under the bed” I said to himself “and those bloody football programmes too, could we get rid of some of them to make some space?”. He wasn’t keen.
Ruthlessly I discarded 3 or 4 vests to the “not being kept pile”. Everytime a bag for the charity shop was filled, I announced it loudly– “that’s five of them now – I’m making great progress” I said. I figured it would soften the blow when he realised how many bags of “I love these too much to part with them” he would have to find a home for in the attic. It didn’t.
“We don’t have space for all of this” he said. I dismissed the notion, he found space.
Momentarily I wondered if I had actually kept too much – and then I remembered there was a pile of washing waiting to be done….;-)

 

 

Tips for a more harmonious school week.

 

I can’t quite believe the mid-term is over already. Granted the primary and montessori schoolers only had two days off but the teenagers had the full week, and even that seems to have gone by in the blink of an eye. And after a lovely, albeit rainy, afternoon spent at the beach, I’m finding, as Sunday night comes around again that I’m taking the ostrich approach to the uniform situation – well for an hour anyway – as I remain in denial about the task in hand. There’s a certain dread fills me going into the week ahead, and I swear I feel it more than the kids.

It’s not that everything was perfect last week. In fact in spite of having three teenagers in the house (my daughter’s pal stayed over) a phone call to a radio station nearly went horribly wrong. As I went on air to discuss a suitable tax-funded childcare solution, the two and four year olds antennae went up – mum was missing and needed to be tracked down immediately. And track me down they did to the youngest’s bedroom, which incidentally is there purely for decoration as his favourite place to sleep is firmly beside me – and not as much as a centimetre apart. However in spite of his lack of familiarity with his supposed designated sleeping area, he and his big brother found me and proceeded to pound on the door.

 

“Mum we need to see you. Mum were are you, I did a poo!” came the indignant call from little voices as I kept my foot pressed firmly against the door.  As I answered the radio host’s questions and tried to keep my focus, I felt sure one of the teenagers would come to my rescue – they knew what I was doing after all. But no, t’was not to be and the attempts to break into me continued.

When the call came to an end I went to investigate what possible terrible fate had befallen the teenagers in my house to have allowed such a thing to happen. It turns out “Back to the future” and the online pursuit of Longitude tickets had caused them to lose all awareness of their surroundings and had resulted in a temporary loss of their hearing.

On the plus side however, there was no homework.

But we’re back to normality tomorrow and so without any more ado or further digression, here’s my top tips to making the school week more harmonious and altogether lovely!

1.   Leave out everything the night before – every. single. thing. Shoes, jocks, socks, change needed for the next day, spare football boots, drama folders etc . Don’t believe any child that tells you something in this category is in a particular place without seeing proof! Failure to do this will inevitably result in the discovery that a shoe or something equally important has disappeared from the face of the earth just as you’re about to leave the house. Such a discovery is likely to send you into fishwife mode – which is neither a harmonious or lovely start to the day for anyone, especially you.

2.   Make the lunches the night before – I know they taste nicer if they’re made that morning, but the time saved is invaluable when you’re already under pressure.

3.   When it comes to homework, choose your children’s seating arrangements wisely. Know which pairings work best and don’t be tempted to veer from them  – and get all bathroom stops, snack requests and general avoidance tactics out of the way beforehand to give the children as straight a run as possible at the task in hand.

4.   Set an age appropriate amount of time for your children to complete their homework within, and stop them when that time is up! It’s hard to know sometimes whether daydreaming or quantity is the cause of some children spending so long doing their homework. Consistency with a set time approach should make it obvious pretty quickly. If you feel quantity is the problem then consider prioritising your child’s homework for them. If for example they have 10 questions to complete in one subject, getting them to do questions 2,4,6,8 and 10 should offer a good balance in terms of scope and progressive difficulty, rather than 1,2,3,4 and 5.

5.  Don’t overcommit to afterschool activities. Give yourself and the rest of the family some downtime. It’s lovely to be able to offer our children the chance to try different activities but be careful that it doesn’t come at the cost of putting you and the rest of the family under unreasonable time pressures and constraints.

6.   Get a wall planner/ calendar for your fridge and keep it up to date so that you and the older members of the family can see at a glance what commitments you have for the week.

7.   Remember that the evenings are yours to enjoy as well – not just the weekends. There may be lots to do, but make taking the time to chill a priority also.  Sometimes it’s just necessary to park the non- essentials. We’re all living in a time-poor society but all work and no play not only makes Jack a dull boy but also leaves Jacqueline feeling frustrated and overwhelmed.

8.   Leave your own clothes out the night before too – it’s a surprising timesaver. And get up, get dressed and have breakfast before the kids too. It’s so much more relaxed than the alternative of being called to mop up juice while you’ve just one leg in your trousers.