Tuesday, 25 February 2014

A special something

Like many children, my boys both have a special toy, something that's really important to them.  I thought that I'd share their stories with you.


Penguin has been Kai's special friend since he was a few weeks old.  Back in 2006 when Kai was born, the film happy feet came out at the cinema. There were quite a few promotional products around to do with the film, and one of them was a little flat mumble penguin.  He came attached to a bottle of comfort fabric conditioner, and as Kai was only little, he was just the right size and shape to hold.  Kai took him to bed that night, and since then he's taken him to bed every night, although these days, he's looking a little battered.

Penguin a very special something.

For a while Kai was penguin crazy, these day's he's a little less penguin obsessed, but he still loves his penguin.


Mahe's special something is a little different.  He's had a few things that he's been keen on, from his train cushion Thomas, to a fire engine (large and plastic) which he sometimes took to bed with him.  A few years ago though, he found doll.  On a visit to the local tip to drop some rubbish off, Mahe and his Dad went into the recycle shop.  I think these are pretty common here in New Zealand, but I'd never come across them in the UK.  Basically it's a shop where people drop things off that they don't want, and then rather than just throwing them away, they're sold.  It's quite handy for old books, odd plates and cups and the like.  I have a bit of a thing for vintage sewing and knitting patterns and I've found quite a few there.

On this occasion, Mahe picked up a battered old doll, and carried it around with him.  When it was time to go home, and he was told to put it back, he was so upset and just cried and cried.  The people running the shop said he could keep the doll, and doll, as he's been known since came home.

Doll a special something

I have to admit, that poor old doll isn't the most attractive of toys, he's seen better days, and to be honest, he could do with a wash right now.  But ever since that day, Mahe's been very attached to him.  He might not sleep with him every night, or play with him every day, but more often than not he plays with doll.  Doll is certainly his special something.

My special something

When I was little, I too had a special something.  Allow me to introduce you to Kelly Mouse.

My special something

Now, I will admit that Kelly Mouse doesn't look much like a mouse, when I showed Mahe and said here's Kelly Mouse, he asked where was a mouse, he couldn't see it, but I love her.  Kelly mouse was my friend for years when I was little.  I played with her, and she went to bed with me every night, which is why she's a little worse for wear now.

She came about after reading a library book where a class of children all make mice from bits of fabric, and call them after themselves (hence the reason that she's 'Kelly' Mouse) in the back of the book was a pattern make your own mouse.  (As a quick aside, if anyone knows what the book is called, so I can find a copy, I would be eternally grateful.) Mum quickly made a mouse from an old t-shirt of Dads, and a few scraps of fabric, expecting me to play with it for a few days and loose interest....... needless to say I didn't.  I don't remember exactly when I stopped taking her to bed every night with me, but even today I love the feeling of well worn t-shirt material, which is what she was made of.

So there you go, our special somethings.  Did you have something like this when you were little? Have your children taken to anything? I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Who do you sleep with?

Last night, for the first time in at least twenty months, and probably a great deal longer, I didn't get woken by a child last night.  I didn't share my bed with one either.  Anja slept all night in her own bed, all night, for the first time ever.  I of course didn't sleep, I kept waking and expecting her to wake up, and of course having to check that she was ok.  It's a bit bitter sweet really, as much as I'm looking forward to getting a bit more sleep, but it's the beginning of the end of an era.

Before Anja was born, I slept with Lena in my bed until she was nearly two.  So I've had nearly four years of sharing my bed with a little one.  I didn't sleep with the boys though, although I'd thought about it for a while with Mahe, I just couldn't get my head around that idea at that stage.  I wasn't sure that it was safe, and of course you're always told that it's not a good idea.  Instead, I spent months and months, getting up with him, at some points as much as hourly, and sitting out in a freezing cold lounge, feeding him and trying to stay awake.  I always say that Mahe was my worst sleeper, and as he didn't sleep through until he was well over two, so I suppose that is fair, although I do wonder if I'd taken the plunge to put him into our bed, then I would have got far more sleep.

With Lena, I'd reached the point that I was falling asleep feeding her in any case, and with two other children to look after during the day, I needed to do something.  It seemed to be sensible to make sure that I was doing it safely and because I wanted to, rather than falling asleep with her without intending, and so I set everything up, and put her in our bed.  She still fed a lot at night, but overall I got far more sleep.  When Anja came along, I didn't even think twice about it, and she joined me in our bed from nearly the very beginning.  She had her own crib, which I used for naps, but more often than not, sleeping, meant sleeping with me.

Who do you sleep with?

Just the other day I happened upon an article on Yahoo, 'One Mum's controversial approach to getting her kid to sleep' I had a quick read of the article, expecting something a little unusual at the very least, only to find that it was nothing more than her six year old sleeping with her.  What stood out more than anything was this confession:

“I do not choose to sleep with my child every night because I am some New-Age, clingy mother who feels it is best for his development,” writes Kemp, author of the novels “Mums Like Us” and “Mums on Strike.” “I do it because it upsets him too much to be away from me and — if I’m really honest — I adore it, too.”

What amused me most about that, was that she thought that there was some difference there.  There are studies that say that it's better for a child's development to sleep with their parents, but really the reason that parents choose to sleep with their children, new-age types or not, it's simply because it's what works for them and their children.

It's quite sad really that something that humans have been doing for centuries, and in many cultures around the world could be considered controversial.  When the practice of training a baby to sleep by abandoning them to cry could not only be not considered controversial advice, but be fairly mainstream.

Of course, this is one of the many things that parents are told that they mustn't do, as they'll be making a 'rod for their own back' implying that they are somehow bad parents for doing these things, damaging their children by these choices.  It's easy to forget how hard the early days of parenthood can be, sleep deprived and emotional, and really, I honestly think that you do what you need to in order to get through.  Later on, once you've found your rhythm it's easier to address these things, if they need addressing.  All children grow out of the need to wake in the night, or have you close by eventually, and in the big scheme of things it's such a short period of time. So, although I'm under no illusions that Anja is about to start sleeping through every night, I know that one day soon she will, so for now I'll make the most of our midnight cuddles.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

The perfect age gap.

Trying to decide on the perfect age gap, when having a family isn't easy.  Is there a perfect age gap in the first place? What if nature has other ideas? Should you be to concerned with the perfect age gap?

There are two years (and one day) between my oldest two, nineteen months between the middle two, and just over two years between the youngest two.  Non of the gaps are particularly big, or that different, or at least that's  how it seems at first.  In reality, there's a huge difference between the two year age gap and the nineteen month gap.

The perfect age gap

I don't know that I can claim that I planned on having this age gap, I know when my oldest was born, I said I'd like about a two year age gap.  So, that was something I had in mind, when it actually came down to it though, his younger brother was born the day before his second birthday, I don't think I could have got closer to a two year age gap if I'd tried.

Two years is good, they're really close.  Perhaps not as close as the middle two though, with their nineteen months.  The things about close age gaps though, and I suspect this is even more apparent if you have an even closer gap, in the early days it's hard.  Any thing less than two years, and to begin with at least,  you have two babies.  And that, is draining.

It gets easier though, children who are close in age go from being very very hard work, to playmates who will entertain each other quite well.  Somewhere in the year or so after the second one arrives, things become easier, and although you don't notice the change, at some point you suddenly realise that it's not as hard as it was.

Sisters close in age and close themselves

In my own family, there's quite a big age gap between me and my brothers. Nearly five years between me and younger brother one, and six between me and youngest brother.  When we were younger this age gap was enormous.  I was off to school by the time they came along, and on the few occasions where we were at the same school it was only brief before I moved on.  These days though, it doesn't really feel like such a gap, it's only when children are little that you notice these things.  So a perfect age gap? I'm not sure that there is one, it doesn't really matter.