Tag Archives: parenting

An Apology of Sorts.

This post is an apology of sorts.

When I started this blog I wanted to share my ideas and knowledge of early education but I also used it as a way of expressing the realities of life with 3 young children.

As I browse through my more recent material, you could be excused for believing that I have an idyllic life. The sun is always shining, my kids roam around outdoors all day, I come up with amazing things to do with the kids, I take them out to interesting places, they are creative, funny, clever and well-behaved, we bake, pick fresh produce and make fresh juices………

I find many inspirational articles from other blogs but for all the thought-provoking stuff I read, there are also a proportion that make me feel inadequate. I hope I’m not turning into one of them.

The amazingly organised Reggio inspired playrooms put me to shame. My boxes are neatly labelled, everything has its place but I am by nature a messy person so there always seems to be something that doesn’t quite fit or is not put away properly (if it is put away at all ).

Some positive parenting blogs show everyone acknowledging their child’s feelings, talking in a calm whisper and never using the word ‘don’t’. It’s great in theory but I sometimes need to read stories of people whose kids are too loud or women who are struggling to make it through each day.

The reality is:

  •  When I’m trying to sort out paying a bill, finish a spreadsheet  or manage a booking and the kids keep nagging me for food over and over – I shout.
  •   When I’m almost at the end of my task and one of them knocks something over, needs help on the toilet or they start arguing with each other I get exasperated.
  • At the end of the day when I’ve just about used up all my resources and they are still running around challenging every instruction, I speak to them in a frustrated tone.
  • When I’m trying to keep a train of thought in my head for more than 5 seconds and they have asked me yet another question – I discourage their inquiring minds.
  • When I’ve stayed up late and I just can’t seem to get going in the morning I allow them to sit and watch television for a lot more than the recommended 30 minutes.
  • When I rush them around from place to place and they stop to admire a stick, a bee or a flower, I tell them to hurry up.
  • When I feed them pasta and pesto for the 3rd time that week because I’m not organised enough to prepare food in advance.
  • When my eldest wants to read me a chapter of Harry Potter, I’ve always got something more important to do.

So, if you feel inadequate when you look at the things we do, remember they are just a snap shot and really I am just like you.

If I’ve burst your bubble and you’d really like to think I’m perfect that’s okay too, the things we do are real, but who can be perfect for 24 hours a day?

What Would I Do Without My Kids? The 2 Sides of the Coin.

As I lifted my 2-year-old out of her cot to embark on the school run and she nuzzled sleepily into my neck, I held her firmly and asked myself ‘what would I do without my kids?’

When she greets me with an enthusiastic ‘mummy’ or smiles at me and laughs at the things I do that nobody else deems funny.

When I share stories with my girls and the 2 little ones curl up, one under each arm.

When I watch my eldest growing up into a wonderful young lady with a mind of her own, a caring nature and an amazing bond with her dad.

When I’m having a rest and my 4-year-old says ‘I’ll close the door mummy so no-one disturbs you’.

When I say to my 2-year-old ‘it’s time for nap now’ and she replies ‘ok mummy’

Each time I watch them growing into bright, funny, confident, beautiful girls I am proud and thankful. At those times what would I do without them?

On the other hand

When I’m rushing to get out the door and my 2-year-old decides she must put on her shoes herself.

When orders are being barked from all directions at the breakfast table but I haven’t yet even managed my first cup of coffee.

When I’m struggling around the supermarket with my 4-year-old clinging to the side of the trolley, blocking up the aisles and my 2-year-old crying because she can’t have a chocolate bar.

When my 4-year-old wets herself for the 4th time that day .

When all hell breaks loose in the car because my 8-year-old wants to sing along to ‘Don’t Like Mondays’ but my 4-year-old wants to be the only one who is allowed to sing.

When the chaos of mess and noise is just too much….  I  ask myself again, ‘What would I do without my kids?’

  • I’d travel and write.
  • I’d go running with my husband and meet him for lunch
  • I’d have a social life after 6pm
  • I’d get involved in theatre again and be able to rehearse 3 times a week.
  • I’d never be seen in McDonalds drinking coffee with my jumper inside out and a friend who didn’t even notice.


What would I really do without my kids?

Some days I’d struggle to get out of bed or venture out of the house and I’d cry every time I saw a family enjoying themselves.

They’ve pulled me through the toughest times, giving me purpose, hope and unconditional love.

Without them life would be grey.

I’d never be without them.

blowing bubbles

Starting School – A Change in the Relationship


I was asked if I would write a post about starting school. This isn’t a recent event in our household, my eldest started school 3 years ago. Many of my friends are struggling with the thought of their children going to school, fearing how much they will miss them. I don’t remember feeling any great sense of loss but this was probably due to the impending birth of my 2nd child. My eldest starting school meant that I would be able to spend quality time with the baby and get rest when I needed it. One thing that has struck me however when recalling those times is the way in which our relationship changed once she started school.

When you have a baby and toddler you feel that you know everything about them, you are always with them when they do things and understand all their little signals better than anyone else. You as a parent are also the biggest influence on your child’s life. You decide what they are exposed to, what they do, where they go and how they are disciplined and brought up. I felt very close to my daughter in her pre-school years. I wasn’t a stay at home mum but even on my working days I spent time talking to her about what she had done and planning what we would do together.

I think this has been the biggest change since starting school. I am no longer the only influence on her life and many of the things that happen on a daily basis I never know about. When I ask about her day I get ‘fine’ as a blanket response. Yes, she still talks about some things, but I do feel that there is a lot that I miss out on. Helping out at school sometimes helps, you get to know the other children and the routine and teachers. This has been difficult however since having her younger sisters. Being at school takes up a lot of time, couple that with clubs and playing with friends and sometimes you feel like you barely see them. I try really hard to build in quality time, bedtime stories, talking at mealtimes or sharing a game or piece of music, but it still feels inadequate compared to the early days.

I have had a positive experience with school. My daughter has enjoyed school, been sufficiently challenged, enjoyed new experiences and made good friends. She is growing into a wonderful young lady and becoming independent. On occasions we have time together doing things that the younger ones wouldn’t appreciate or be able to do. I look forward to more of these as she grows older.

Once our children start school we are no longer the be all and end all, but we are still a major influence on their lives. They still love and need us, they still look up to us and want us to share in their achievements and interests. We no longer get to spend so much time doing things with them but that enables us to do more for ourselves and appreciate the times when we can do things together. Starting school is a new chapter, bringing new challenges but it is also a time when child and parent alike can gain a bit of independence and build new interests .

Carrot or Stick?

I’ve just finished watching Carrot or Stick ? A Horizon Guide to Raising Kids.  This was an interesting insight into Horizon Documentaries about Child Development spanning from the 1960’s to the present day.

It covers a variety of topics including attachment theory, autism, ADHD, traditional versus progressive classrooms, Piaget and behaviour management. Although there was nothing new in there, for those interested in child development it was an interesting reminder of some of the key theories from the last 40 years and their impact on parenting and education.

The programme raises debates as to whether we can love our children too much, pandering to their every whim and not giving them sufficient discipline.  It also raised questions as to how much and what sort of discipline is best for children.

The general and probably obvious conclusion is that we need a bit of both.  I think however we all need to be realistic as parents – yes I give in a little too often to my children, not because I don’t think they will love me if I don’t,  but because I don’t have the energy to deal with the uproar it will cause if I say no.  Sometimes I think I’m a little too hard on them. There are things I could do better but on the whole I do my best within the constraints of dealing with 3 children and life in general.  Do what comes naturally and your kids will probably turn out ok.

Where Has My Little Girl Gone? Questioning the Way We Bring Up Girls.

My eldest daughter has just turned 7 .  She will soon be going to Junior school and moving away from Early Education, my area of expertise.  I am not overly worried about her growing up too soon but  I am sure that the Junior school years will throw up new challenges.  So when the offer to review a new book ‘Where Has My Little Girl Gone?’ by Tanith Carey came my way, I thought it might be interesting to read about the challenges that might be faced along the way for all 3 of my girls.

The book ties in with a recent ‘mumsnet’ campaign ‘Let Girls Be Girls’ which campaigns to stop the sexualisation of young girls.

The book looks at the aspects of modern life that are fast-tracking our daughters through childhood. However, it is much more than a simple account of the sexualisation of young girls. It encourages parents to question the influence we have over girls growing up in this generation.  It discusses influences including body image, mobile phones and the internet.

 There are insights into the most extreme examples such as parents paying for their daughters to have plastic surgery and children pole dancing but is also full of practical tips on how to help young girls become rounded individuals, rather than focusing purely on beauty. The section on body image certainly made me question the messages I give to my daughters.  I am fortunate that I am naturally slim but I have never been completely satisfied with my body.   Though I don’t diet and try not to talk about losing weight I am sure my negative body image must have some effect on my girls.  I have hoped to have breast enlargements once my child-bearing days are over.   I hadn’t considered before now that this might make my girls view appearance as the most important factor in life, or see surgery as a quick fix.  Though I am not having second thoughts, it has made me realise that I need to approach the issue sensitively with my daughters.

 There is a particularly good section about boosting self-esteem.  It gives some lovely examples of things you can do to help girls feel unique, from simply asking their advice to building a scrap book of their artwork and writing, from the very first scribbles and sharing it together over the years.  I like the idea of this one and it’s something I can imagine doing with all of my girls.

 There is also some very practical advice on how to praise daughters and some lovely tips on how to help your daughter to understand about friendships that fall out or people being unkind.

 Another message that hit home for me was about spending quality time with your daughters, taking them for coffee and having  proper conversation. I think this was something I did a lot when my eldest was an only child but we don’t spend much time together alone anymore and I can already see her retreating into a book, game console or tv programme. The book talks about showing that you are interested in what they have to say and giving them your full attention.  I’m sure we have all glazed over when they talk about some television programme that we know nothing about, and how many times do we not really listen or give eye contact because we are too busy doing something else?

Spending time with your daughters, helping them to question things is a key message in the book. It doesn’t suggest banning commercial television, magazines, pop music or internet but to watch things with them and discuss the issues that arise.  In our house we have always been against commercial television and rarely watch adverts.  When we do we have frank discussions with our children about how advertising is often aimed at getting you to buy things you don’t really need, or promising you things that aren’t necessarily true. ‘Blah, blah, blah’ my daughter says every time an advert comes on.

There is also a lovely section for fathers and the importance of their involvement

‘a girl sees it as her mother’s natural role to care for her, she feels that time spent with her dad is his choice’

It talks about rebellious teenage girls testing their fathers to see if they would fight for them and encourages fathers to appreciate their daughters achievements instead of pushing them immediately to try the next thing.

I think that we are fortunate to have not seen too much evidence of our daughter growing up too soon.  She likes pop music and pretty clothes and sometimes wears make up, she is influenced by her older friends and occasionally speaks in an annoying american accent, but on the whole there is nothing that worries me. We may not shield the younger ones quite so well as they try to emulate their older sister. I’m sure that this book will give me many valuable tips for the things that life may throw at us as the girls grow up.  It has certainly made me think about the relationship I have with them and how I would like that to be in the future.

For anyone bringing up girls this is a really valuable read and it certainly made me stop and think about the quality of my relationships with my girls. Since reading the book I have reflected upon some of the messages I give to my girls.  Whilst my girls were watching a Disney Princess DVD, I considered that I may need to encourage my daughters to question the notion that finding your Prince Charming is the most important thing in life.  It has also made me think about the messages I give to them about the role of a mother.  I would like my daughters to grow up feeling that they can achieve anything and they do not have to give up a part of themselves to become a good mother.  Being a stay at home mum for a few years I feel that I may have reinforced the stereotype that it is a mum’s job to look after the children and house and that dad’s are the successful ones.  I hope that I can give my girls something to look up to so that they can see that women can be successful too.

This is a very practical and thought-provoking book – a worthwhile read for any parent of girls.

Brain Food – Junk Food may lower IQ.

As parents we are keen to get our children the latest educational toy, send them to the best nurseries and pre-schools and give them the best preparation for school that they can.    A research study conducted by the University of Bristol released today suggests that diet at the age of 3 may have an effect on how intelligent our children are at the age of 8.

The study bases its findings on participants in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) which tracks 14,000 children born between 1991 and 1992.  It suggests that a diet of predominantly processed,  high fat and sugary foods up to the age of 3 may lower IQ at the age of 8.5. In contrast A diet rich in vitamins and nutrients may do the opposite.  Parents were asked to complete diaries outlining the food and drinks their children consumed at age 3, 4, 7 and 8.5.  IQ was measured at the age of 8.5.  After taking other influential factors into account it was found that children with a predominantly processed diet at the age of 3 were associated with a lower IQ at the age of 8.5, irrespective of whether their diet had improved by that age. Similarly children with a healthy diet at age 3 were associated with higher IQ’s at the age of 8.5.  Diet at the ages of 4 and 7 had no impact on IQ.  Though the findings are modest, the results are in line with previous research which shows that quality of  diet at the age of 3 is related to school performance and behaviour. A possible explanation is that the brain grows at its fastest in the first 3 years of life, therefore good nutrition may lead to optimal brain growth.


So much marketing is aimed at parents and children, making parents feel guilty that they are not buying the child the latest ‘educational’ toy or taking them to classes to improve their language and social skills.  So why not use this as an opportunity to market nutritious food for the youngest children as brain food. Three years isn’t that long a time to limit processed foods and it sets children up with good habits for life.  So maybe next time my 2 year old is nagging for a biscuit or sweet I’ll suggest a healthy alternative –  ‘ Have some special magic food , it will make you clever’.


Parenting – the most difficult job in the world?


I am  a bit of a ‘netmums’ addict.   Today they launched their REAL Parenting campaign, recognising that we should all stop trying to be a ‘perfect’ parent and to relax and do the best we can in our own situation.

As all parents know , raising children is full of ups and downs.  There is nothing more wonderful than watching your child grow and acquire new skills, they make you proud in so many ways.  With all the joy and love that children give they also take from you a great deal.  They take your independence, sleep, money,time, energy, appearance to name but a few.  So why not be realistic and honest for a change – parenthood can be great but its also damned hard work and if we strive to be perfect parents won’t we always leave a little of ourselves behind?

My attitudes to parenting have changed a lot in the past 7 years.  When my eldest daughter was born I had high expectations of the type of parent I would be. We used real nappies, had home made  baby food and no sweets much before the age of 2, she was exclusively breast fed for 8 months and followed a strict routine.  As an early years teacher I was keen to involve her in lots of creative messy activities , it was rare that you would leave our dining table without bits of glitter stuck to your clothes and she only watched television if I sat with her and we talked about it together.

  My 2nd child followed a slightly less strict routine, was weaned on finger food because she wasn’t interested in my healthy mush and developed a penchant for ice-cream.  She has therefore had sweet things from little after 6 months of age.  She watches television with her sister and ‘Charlie and Lola’ is the perfect vehicle for keeping her occupied when you want to get on with things. She is in disposable nappies by the age of 2 and rarely paints, glues or plays with dough and clay.

My 3rd wears a mix of disposable and real nappies, has been introduced to one formula feed a day by 3 months old, and has fallen into a pattern of co-sleeping.

With the first 2 children I didn’t return to work until they were almost 2 year old and was happy to stay at home. This time I’m really looking forward to going back into the adult world again and building a  life for myself.  Does this make me a worse mother?  I doubt it , surely a happy and fulfilled person will be best equipped to raise happy and fulfilled children. 

My attitudes to parenting have changed , I feel a more relaxed parent (as much as one can be when juggling 3 small children) and have come to the conclusion that if you pressurize yourself too much about how you should behave as a parent , then somehow you lose a part of you. When all concept of who you were before has gone everything suffers, relationships break down, self esteem crumbles and you find yourself talking about the price of nappies and which level of spelling your child is on.

Give yourself a break, we are good parents, our kids will be fine if we instil in them basic values , love them and listen to them.  Don’t give up everything for them , look after yourself or what will be left of you when they are gone?