Walking with toddlers

This toddler, in particular:

“…though she be but little she is fierce”*

Walking with B is frustrating (when she goes too slow), worrying (when she runs off), maddening (when she won’t come back); but also interesting, amusing and good exercise (particularly when chasing after her). She is being a stereotypical toddler at the moment -not doing as she’s been asked 99 % of the time. Fortunately, there is still that 1%…for now. It’s all very tiring because everything is a bit of a battle, from getting dressed in the morning to going to bed at night. Our current system (haha) is to take away things from her if she doesn’t do what she’s told, e.g. no stories before bed; no sweets, etc. [Yes, we let her eat sweets, sorry not sorry*][*what does that even mean?] but quite often it doesn’t work because she’ll do the bad thing anyway and just lose her ‘treats’. Not sure what else to do, though. I think she’s too young for the naughty step and I’m not convinced this is the best way forward anyway – it seems a bit mean to me (as it boils down to withholding affection) but I realise lots of parents find it useful, so what do I know? Not a lot, is the answer to that question, and therein lies (part of) the problem! Answers on a postcard, please?

In other news, B’s speech is very good for her age (so I say as her proud mother) and she has discovered (pretend) reading on her own. Her favourite book to ‘read’ by herself is currently Winnie-the-Pooh’s Little Book of Feng Shui**. Make of that what you will…

*A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Act 3, Scene 2)

** I don’t believe in feng shui. I do believe in Winnie-the-Pooh.

Daddy’s girl

B is definitely a daddy’s girl. She almost always chooses to be with him, chooses him to do things for her, even to the point of wanting him to pass her things instead of me doing that for her even if I’m nearest to the thing in question! She wants him to pick her up, change her nappy, put her in the pushchair, put her to bed, get her up and ready for nursery – basically everything that can be done she wants Daddy to do it.


Poor Daddy is very tired, but he is not always very good at accepting help either. I think this is partly because he worries about my health problems, especially my heart condition, and I suspect he is also slightly haunted by our experience of postnatal depression. It doesn’t help that I do get tired and I stay in bed late on the days when I don’t work, because I can. But then of course I feel guilty about this. Not just the extra sleeping, but but the general lack of me doing things with B. Please don’t think I’m not grateful for everything Mr C does, it’s just the guilt, and also my own ego, worrying about what other people are thinking of me (that I’m a bad mummy, obviously).

But then I think, would people be thinking this about Mr C if the situation was reversed? If I was the one doing (almost) everything for B and Mr C was the one doing all the housework, washing, cooking, gardening, tidying, organising the house, liaising with decorators, etc., I don’t think anyone would bat an eye lid, and might even think Mr C is an extra helpful husband (which of course he is) so why do I feel bad and think people are judging me? I must be more sexist than I realised! Alternatively (or also) it just shows how deeply ingrained the idea that the mother should be the primary caregiver is.

It’s good for B to spend lots of time with her daddy and it does give me a break, which I will admit I do need. Having Tuesdays off everything has made a big difference to my tiredness levels – well, its either that or I’ve just got used to my medication. I’ve got my annual heart review next month so it will be interesting to see how it’s behaving now – I’ll let you know!



Appearance matters

This post talks about scars, invasive medical procedures and needles, so please don’t read on if you think this might upset you.

The Scarred FOR Life photos were recently exhibited at the 7th Appearance Matters Conference held in London.  I thought about gate-crashing the conference to go and see them (apparently this would have been OK), but I didn’t have the nerve in the end.

I haven’t felt particularly self-conscious about the appearance of my scars since I left school (20 years ago, yes I am now ancient in the eyes of anyone under 25), apart from when, as occasionally happens randomly in shops and such like, someone I don’t even know says ‘what happened there?’ (or something), pointing to my heart surgery scar. This scar is actually not the ‘worst’ one I have (in the sense of being the most obvious), but it is the only bit of my scars I normally have on show, as it were. The chest drain one is quite good, as is the one from the bypass machine from my last open heart surgery in 2008 – this one gives me the most trouble as it can ache when it’s cold and/or I’ve been climbing hills/stairs, even though, bizarrely, I can’t actually feel anything on the skin where it is. I think it must be quite deep into the muscle – hence the aching. I have deeper ones (the temporary pacemaker lead – I can still (mentally) feel how painful it was when the nurse tried to pull them out ((unsuccessfully), fortunately the doctor had more luck). Or is that a different scar? I actually don’t know. The deep one might be something else. I have a few scars that I’ve never identified with any particular procedure, they’ve just always been part my physical make-up. There are lots of small ones, from cannulas and other needles. Blood tests, lots of blood tests.

[Aside: I just read this on the Great Ormond Street Hospital page about cannulas and it’s amazing:

If you are scared of needles, let your nurse or doctor know so that they arrange to have a play specialist to support you. It should take only a few minutes to put an IV cannula in.

A play specialist to help with fear of needles. I wish they’d existed when I was a child/teenager…maybe I could ask for one now? Probably not, sadly. I think Great Ormond Street’s information about cannulas should be given to anyone, young or old, who has to have one. If you’re an adult, they don’t explain to you, then just put one in you as a matter of course and you have to get on with it. I always tell them not to put one in my hand (that’s the most painful place for me) but sometimes they have to. I hate having one in because (a) I’m really paranoid about knocking it because it hurts if I do and you can’t wash properly and things and (b) for me, the cannula is major psychological symbol of being [ill and]in hospital. Once it’s in, you can’t go home until someone else takes it out so you’re basically trapped. I guess I could take it out myself if I was desperate, but, ugh, no. The first thing I do when they say I can go home is ask someone to take out the cannula(s) (yes, sometimes you get two as a special treat). /Aside]

In terms of appearance, though, I’ve always been more self-conscious about the effects of my scoliosis – I suppose because I can’t hide it. I used to wear baggy clothes and have my hair long(er), which I hoped might help, but I don’t think it did really. It looks horrible and I’m still really self-conscious about it – ageing and entering adult society doesn’t seem to have helped with this. I look at other people with envy all the time, wishing my back and shoulders were straight and I could wear the clothes I want to wear (it’s hard to find things (particularly dresses) that fit well over weird, very round shoulders (which are also at different heights) and a half-hunchback (caused by the curve in the spine making one shoulder-blade stick out more than the other). I was never offered treatment, apart from exercises (which of course I didn’t do properly – I was a teenager!), because my scoliosis wasn’t considered severe enough to warrant it. And would I have wanted to go through wearing a back brace and/or having surgery? Probably not.

People at school used to say I was ugly (I also have wonky teeth, to add to the effect) and I remember someone throwing stones at me as I walked home from school one day (why? I can only put it down to the way I looked). Humans don’t like ugliness because it reminds them of death and decay – that’s a biological fact (that I just made up) – but in a so-called civilised society we’re supposed to keep our thoughts about it to ourselves…except that we don’t. Whether it comes from bullies at school or the media’s ‘ideals’ of what people (particularly women) are supposed to look like, ‘ugly’ people (people who are far from what society considers normal in appearance) are made to feel bad about themselves on a fairly regular basis, or just don’t appear in mainstream media at all. Unattractive=bad. Villains are scarred (or hunchbacked, see Richard III for a classic case in point), ugly frogs turn into beautiful princes or princesses – remaining plain and being yourself is not allowed (except in Shrek).

Everyone needs to know or at least feel that they are a good, worthwhile, capable person. If someone is not conventionally attractive on the outside they particularly need to know this – they need to be told this by the people who love them, especially when they’re young, because other people and the media will tell them the opposite for the rest of their lives. Appearance matters – often in a bad way.

On a more positive note, my daughter is very beautiful. She takes after her father 🙂




“That was a bit silly”

So said my mum, in typically understated fashion, when I told her I’d decided to reduce my anti-depressant medication (on the GP’s advice) last week. I suppose she was right – it was likely to be (and indeed was) a stressful week; I never find spending time with my family very easy; plus Mr C had gone away so I would be looking after B mainly on my own, which I find quite difficult and tiring. My only rationale for deciding to reduce my medication last week was that I had run out of the higher dose tablets. Not particularly well thought through. I was obviously feeling quite optimistic at the time – the irony! Added to the usual stresses of staying with my parents and being without Mr C, my mum and I caught some sort of sickness bug. I think B had it as well, but only very mildly, fortunately. So all our plans for visiting various places went out the window, although they might have done even had we not been ill because the weather was so awful. It was like winter!

B in winter gear! June 3rd 2016

Anyway, predictably enough, much of the week was horrible due to my mental state (as well as everything else, see above). I was angry, miserable and hateful, and ended up by shouting at my poor mum at the station on the way home (just when you might have thought it was safe). “It was bad.” [This is a quote from Modern Family, which I would love to find a GIF of, but haven’t been able to so far.]

Having said that, we did manage to have quite a nice time at the farm park – B particularly enjoyed feeding the animals –  and we saw some dinosaurs at the market, which she also loved! I think B probably had the best time of everyone overall, so at least that’s something!

My confession to my mother re: my medication started a potentially interesting discussion about ‘normal’ brains and ‘is there something wrong with a society where 1 in 4 people has a mental health condition?’, but I was on my way out of the door at the time so we didn’t get very far with it. I asked her why my brain is so weird (I thought she should know),  but she said she thought I was at “the normal end of the spectrum”, which I queried, as surely if I’m having to take medication to function properly that’s not normal, to which she gave the 1 in 4 statistic. [NB: It’s not that (as my mum thought) I have a problem with taking medication to treat mental illness]. I’m just not sure that it’s OK to have a society where a quarter of the population has a mental health condition – and if (as my mum argues) it’s not about this society (i.e. the statistic is consistent across time but it was just that fewer people were diagnosed in the past) then what is it about human beings that makes us so susceptible to mental illness – is it a biological thing or the way we’ve ‘made’ ourselves – i.e. nature or nurture? Anyhow, I’m not sure that being 1 in 4 actually counts as ‘normal’ – the norm is not the 1 it’s the other 3.

But we come back to the eternal question: what is normal? I think the neurotypical/neurodiverse labels (I like labels, sorry) are helpful and allow for more shades of grey than labels like ‘normal’ and ‘weird’, although I am quite happy to label myself as weird because that’s how I feel a lot of the time. Weird, different, alien. It’s not just the sadness and badness, it’s the feeling of disconnect from the rest of the world; the inability to enter in to it, not being able to follow the rules, not ‘getting’ it.  That alone makes me a bit cross…and sad and bad…and you can see that vicious circle approaching…

So, last week wasn’t all bad – perhaps Saturday’s start-of-a-conversation will pave the way for future mother and daughter chats. My poor mother. And we did have a nice time with the goats:


Also, thanks to @constntdreamer for listening to me ramble on!




Minor tribulations contributing to general glumness

Nothing too bad, but…

B fell down the stairs on Sunday. Mr C was with her, but she had a head start and slipped, and fell down almost all the stairs, bumping herself several times on the way down, like Winnie-the-Pooh but with no Christopher Robin holding her paw. She had a nosebleed and a big bump on her forehead, so we took her to A&E. Fortunately, she was fine really, and was very good with the nurse and doctor who examined her. Once again, we were really impressed with the care we received at Medway Hospital. If you have to go to A&E, early on a Sunday morning is probably a good time to do so – we just went in and were seen straight away, as we were one of only a few people around. I think it also helps that there is a children’s A&E at Medway – a much nicer atmosphere and lots of toys to play with.

Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh. Photo by Thoth God of Knowledge on Flickr

Then, on Tuesday, I was supposed to do some preparation for an interview, but I had to go and collect B from nursery and take her to the doctors because she had a rash. She quite often has a rash when she’s a bit under the weather, but the nursery said this one was different so we should get it checked. So we went to the doctors and, thankfully, it was fine. Just another benign viral rash. As I arrived to collect her from nursery, the nursery nurse said, “I’ve just filled out an incident form for [B]”. Uh oh. She’d fallen off a log (not sure if it was real or not) and cut her lip. Poor B.

Later, I did some stuff on my presentation but it was no good.

Wednesday was much nicer. I spent most of the day at one of my favourite places, the lovely Drill Hall Library. The librarians have a big bear in their office, and their own tea room and toilets! It’s another world.

Drill Hall Library
Drill Hall Library by Ash87it – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Yesterday, I had the job interview, which went badly. I’d actually been fairly confident about it beforehand, but the reality of it was disappointing. I messed up the test (I had no idea what to do and ran out of time) and the presentation (lack of preparation) and the interview (not sure why – perhaps too much on my mind).


Confessions of a struggling mother

On Monday, I turned into That Woman. You know, the one you see (and hear) yelling at her child in the middle of the high street. B was playing with her “sticks” (some coffee stirrers), drumming on the pavement, and didn’t want to follow me to the bank machine, which I had to go to because I had no money on me for the bus ticket I thought I’d lost (it was in my pocket). Because I ‘made’ her come into the bank she then threw her sticks to the ground in protest, then threw my work lanyard (which she has taken to wearing) to the ground also, and said “mummy pick up [the sticks]”. I didn’t want to pick up the sticks and said so and asked B to pick them up instead, to which she refused. There was a stand off, which would have been a lot better had it been a silent stand off, but sadly it wasn’t – I made most of the noise, getting increasingly louder and ending up (if only this had been the end of it) shouting at B to “pick them up NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (the number of exclamation marks increases with the loudness of the shouting). In the bank. It was not a good moment. Of course B didn’t pick them up (why would she?) so I picked them up and said I would throw them away (I didn’t – no follow through=bad parenting), to which B cried most noisily and sadly and still refused to follow me (again, why would she?- No one in their right mind would have followed this crazy shouting woman) so, having totally lost the plot by this point, I bent down and shouted “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” right in her poor, sad, face. I had become That Woman.

I then picked her up and put her in the pushchair and haired off, B wailing piteously, to the bus station, but we had missed the bus by this point so I went to buy some fruit (attempting to be a better parent by feeding her healthy food?) in Sainsbury’s but we kept getting in everyone’s way with the pushchair and that was the last straw. I broke down and sobbed next to the cucumbers. B (who had previously calmed down) joined me. Eventually I pulled myself together because I had regained enough sanity to see that my crying was making B cry, and managed to buy the fruit and get to the bus stop. The bus came and we went home. B was asleep by the time we got in the door.

I lay awake that night and cried a bit more.

This incident made me think more about That Woman. My only defence for my behaviour was that I was tired to the point of exhaustion, Mr C had been away so I’d been looking after B on my own more than usual, and I hadn’t had any lunch. If there is anything positive to be gleaned from this sorry tale it is that it has made me more empathetic with those women like me who shout at their children in the streets. I have a helpful husband, enough to eat and a steady income and I still get overcome with anger and emotion when things get too much. There isn’t an excuse for shouting, but it is easier than you might think to get into that state.

I researched ‘shouting and toddlers’ (as I do, the librarian in me can’t help herself) and found some useful links:

How to handle your anger at your child

Discipline and cooperation

Toddlers: your game plan for the terrific twos

I have to admit, reading some of this made me feel worse before it made me feel better, but that’s OK. I know I need to find a way to deal with my anger – it has always been a problem. The irony is, my dad was/sometime still is very shouty and I hated it. I can’t cope with people shouting at me – I just cry, even now – and I really, really, didn’t want to be like that with B. Must try harder. I’ll let you know how it goes…

Cakes and palm trees

I found the pictures I took at our afternoon tea the other week: