Still Alive

13686492_10154236711202211_93610658222495883_nI’m just beginning week three of the summer holidays and I’m still here. Just.

It’s not that I don’t love spending time at home with the children – I do.

We have a huge garden for them to play in, plenty of gadgets and toys to keep them entertained (not that you’d know it) and enough spare cash to have the odd day out.

It’s just….

I don’t do people. I like silence and stillness.

The children giggling, screaming and singing is as tiring as listening to the children squabble, bicker and fight. In some ways it’s worse. When they’re fighting I can yell, ‘Enough!’ every ten minutes, not that it does much good. When they’re loud because they’re loving life, I have to try and enjoy it and not feel how it’s stripping my skin away like a potato peeler.

But I’m learning.

I’m learning that the shattered exhaustion will go away after I get a few days (hours, minutes?) of silence.

I’m learning that if I take myself off to nap, they will eventually play a game together, and possibly even not fight for a whole ten minutes.

I’m learning that I can work while they’re at home (I’ve had some audio-typing to do) as long as I don’t mind it taking twice as long and sapping the last of my strength.

I’m learning that if I spell it out to them that they can have sweets as long as they’ve had two portions of fruit and veg they will actually listen to that, even if the ‘fruit’ is raisins and the ‘veg’ is baked beans.

I’m learning to lower my expectations of myself and to not try and create a Facebook-friendly life. Although I do post the odd set of photos, it’s usually with titles like ‘just to prove to my children they did have a fun day out’ and ‘trying to be a Pinterest mum’.

13895340_10154251767422211_7588253192972986606_nAnd we have had fun.

We’ve been to the farm and Anglesey Abbey, we’ve made giant bubbles and crystals and collages. We’ve done some study (to earn iPad games) and baked way too many cakes and cookies. We’ve had mini piano lessons and karate.

Oh yes, I decided I was a grown-up after all and it wasn’t for my daughter to tell me I couldn’t take part in something, so I started karate too. My goodness it’s harder than it looks!

Anyway, that’s about all the words I have in my cluttered head. I’m off to do some knitting whilst being an attentive audience to a piano composition and a drum solo (quite possibly at the same time) before dragging the kids to Waitrose for my much-needed daily caffeine intake.

Survival. With plenty of coffee and cake and a little bit of STFU.

 

Being an Introvert Doesn’t Make Me a Bad Parent

I love these gorgeous people

I love these gorgeous people

It’s that time of year again. In two days time the children will break up for the summer. Here in the UK the summer holidays are only six weeks long – you’d think that would be easy, compared to the months they get in other countries, right?

Not for me.

The anxiety started a few days ago. The fear, the broken sleep, the crankiness and racing heart.

Tiredness makes it worse, as does grumpy children, and the end of term creates both.

Summer shows, birthday parties, day trips, farewell gifts, celebration assemblies, things to sign, uniform to buy for next year, moving up days, heat and humidity, have all taken their toll.

The children are fighting non-stop and Hubbie and I are like bears woken early from hibernation.

I know the irony of writing this after my last post. Maybe the contentment makes it harder. Because contentment for me comes from routine and time alone. Knowing where I’m meant to be and what I should be doing, and periods without responsibility or conversation.

Ultimately the thing that makes it hardest is the view that dreading the summer somehow makes me a bad parent. I come across it all the time. Mostly from parents who work, who are glad to have some time with their offspring, or at least away from the office.

Most of my acquaintances have public-facing jobs, which I guess makes them more likely to be extroverts. They like being around people, they take energy from others. Introverts? Not so much. Even people we love spending time with use up our energy and it’s only replaced by periods of solitude. That’s hard to find with two small children and a needy dog in the house 24-7.

I long for the 1980s – children running free in packs away from the house, like I did. Even now, if we lived in a town or a cul-de-sac with other children, then maybe mine would disappear to a friend’s house for an hour or two without me having to arrange it.

Already the children have started the, “Can we…?” and “When will we…?” questions. For half term I scheduled every minute and we were all happier, but I want my children to be free. I want them to be bored. I understand the importance of benign neglect. But there are no trees to climb where I live, no woods to explore, without driving to get there. They’re not old enough to ride around outside on their bikes (even if they could) and I live on a main road.

So it’s trips to the zoo and park and play dates and picnics, refereeing arguments because child A wants to do one thing and child B another. Trying to give them the freedom of my childhood in a world that dictates I must ensure their safety. Trying to stop them being clingy while remembering the psychotherapist that told me ‘dependence before independence’.

And through it all there are those other parents. The ones who say, “I don’t understand why people have kids if they don’t want to spend time with them,” or, “I love hearing my children play and talking to them. I miss them so much when they’re at school.” Or the dreaded look. The one that says, “What a horrible person you are for not wanting to spend 42 days straight with your beautiful children.” Even my doctor questioned whether I actually loved my children.

Yes I love my kids. Sometimes I’m so proud of them I could burst, or my love for them is like a suffocating hug.

I am a good parent.

It’s taken me seven years of soul-searching to appreciate those facts. But I hate arguments, and my children are currently at ‘tantrum four’ and ‘stroppy/sulky six’.

I gave up writing for the whole summer last year, so I could be present and attentive and all those things, and then couldn’t write again until January.

For their sake and mine, I need time by myself, to write, to read, to breathe.

But being a present parent, a helicopter parent, an attachment parent, call it what you will, means my children want to be with me ALL THE TIME. My son sobs if I walk the dog. My daughter wants me to watch her cartwheels endlessly. I can’t pee by myself, even now.

So, judge if you must. I don’t care. Well, not much. The anxiety is with me all the time, your disapproval can be ignored. My son will still go to nursery some days this summer even though his friends have all finished. My daughter has drama camp and church camp. The holiday is planned and sorted and there are times I can be alone.

And I’m okay with that.

Art in August #7 – Loomband Unicorns

Rockin' Unicorns

Rockin’ Unicorns

Oh look, more loomband creations! This one was my daughter’s choice, as it was just the two of us today (and after we made a cardboard robot and a clay unicorn).

The brightly coloured one is hers (at least, she selected the bands! At 5 years old, her attention span and dexterity aren’t quite up to this yet.)

Unfortunately the sparkly bands are very soft so I hoped the unicorn pegasus would stand up better if made with solid bands. As you can see it didn’t make much difference: they’re still either newborn or drunk.

Never mind, I think they look quite rock and roll! If only my clay unicorn had looked as cool. It was so awful I squished it and my daughter made a snowman instead.

A day with my gorgious girl

A day with my gorgeous girl

On a non-artistic note, I’ve made it to the end of the second week of the school holidays; only four more to go (thank goodness we only have six).

While I’m certainly not missing the school run, we are all starting to unravel and to get on each other’s nerves. My son’s report from nursery today was that he’d been ‘challenging’, I spent two hours trying to sleep through Doc McStuffin episodes, and then had to carry my 5-year-old round the field on my shoulders, while walking the dog, because she got a blister.

When we got home from nursery pick-up, little man managed three tantrums in about ten minutes and little lady had two. The house looks like the aftermath of a three-day sugar-fuelled festival for preschoolers and the dog’s taken to following me around like a shadow. I haven’t figured out if she wants a walk or some respite from the constant arguing.

Life-sized robot

Life-sized robot

This evening, despite the less than desirable behaviour, I ordered the kids a GlowPet pillow pet each, as bribery/compensation because I’ve cancelled our planned trip to Sea Life tomorrow (I can’t face it!)

But as the pillows won’t arrive for a week I still have to come up with a plan for entertainment or they are going to murder each other.

Please tell me how any of us are going to survive another month? Thank heavens for Art in August, Facebook and Escape to the Country… Oh and chocolate.

Getting Ready for Art in August

Loomband Crazy

Loomband Crazy

This year I have decided to take part in Art in August, as described on the blog Laptop on the Ironing Board. I contemplated it last year, but didn’t think I would be able to fit in in around writing Two-Hundred Steps Home. Having decided to take the summer holidays off from writing this year, I need something to stop myself going bonkers.

It’s been noticeable to me that a day doesn’t go by without me writing song lyrics or making paper fans and loomband bunnies. All this creativity bursting to escape. So I’m going to use the August challenge as an excuse to get back to all the fun stuff I used to do before children and writing took over. Watercolours, photography, pencil sketches. There might be some new things too (loombands are a must, as they’re my new obsession. Hilarious as I refused for ages to even have them in the house!)

So if you need something for you this summer holiday, why not join me? The rules are simple:

  1. Get creative (and don’t apologise about it)
  2. Take a photo of your creation (unless you’ve created a photograph, in which case you can skip this step)
  3. Post the photo on your blog
  4. Link back to the Laptop on the Ironing Board post and mention somewhere that you’re joining in Art in August

Here’s to some creative fun!