A Generous Heart

Sometimes life with toddlers can be beyond frustrating. Then, sometimes, they can do something that makes all of the frustration melt away.

Pickles came into the kitchen where I was feeding Pords. He was dragging a sleeping bag overflowing with an assortment of items.

And he was looking exceptionally pleased with himself.

“What have you got in there, Mr Pickles?” I asked, trying not to sound too concerned.

“Things that I don’t play with anymore.” He replied. “To give away to people who don’t have lots of stuff.”

I was astonished. When I had suggested this activity a few weeks ago, he had been rather vehemently opposed. He’d obviously been mulling it over.

“That’s a wonderful idea. I’m very proud of you.” I told him. “Let’s see what you’ve got in there.”

He emptied the contents onto the kitchen floor. I was mildly alarmed to see some of his very favourite toys. I wondered if his newfound generosity was indeed this self-sacrificing, or if he didn’t quite understand the concept. Then he started talking about each item.

“This is for Pords because she likes it. This one is for Nanny. She likes green” And on it went, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, acquaintances. None of the recipients could be considered in the category of “people who don’t have lots of stuff.” Nonetheless, he had clearly put a lot of thought into it and his heart was in the right place.

Then he held out Blueberry Muffin, his favourite teddy bear since birth. “BBM is for you Mummy, because you’ve been sick.”

He could have asked for anything then and it would have been his. If only he could find some way of bottling up that moment, his teenage self could have secured his first car.*

I’m recording it here so that I remember, despite all of the frustrations to come, that this little person has a big, beautiful, generous heart.

*If this post still exists when Pickles is of blog reading age, this in no way entitles him to a car. Gorgeousness of the moment notwithstanding.

Happy Diaries
Little Hearts, Big Love
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Top 7 Books in Rhyme

Hey Diddle Dum

For the third week of Booktober, I have a compiled a list of our Top 7 books in rhyme, or poetry books. This was always going to be the hardest one for me to narrow down. I love poetry and I think rhyming picture books are just the greatest.

I agonised over what would make the final cut. It’s amazing how many great poems there are to read to kids. Early childhood is probably the time in most people’s lives when they are exposed to the most poetry. From songs and nursery rhymes, to the multitude of amazing books in rhyme. There are definitely some masterpieces that have been unfairly missed from this too short list.

But, in the end, I’m pretty happy with this list because it represents the books that are most special to us.

1. The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear and Jan Brett

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Anyone who regularly reads this blog (hi mum!) could probably have guessed this one was going to make the list. The Owl and the Pussycat was my favourite poem as a child and is my favourite to read (or sing) to my children. Pickles already knows it pretty much by heart.

The lyrical quality of Edward Lear’s writing is hypnotic. You can get lost in his words. And what wonderful words they are. Some of them are completely made up but they all fit together perfectly.

The story itself is great too. A sweet tale of love between an owl and a pussycat.

And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

The board book version that we have is illustrated by Jan Brett. The illustrations are really magical. You see the owl and the pussycat adrift on their boat on top of the water. You also see all of the sea life under the water.

Pickles can’t get enough of the pictures. He particularly likes the fact that the owl and the pussycat have a fish in a bowl on their boat who escapes right at the end to join her love in the ocean. He loves to find her on each page.

The pictures tell their own separate but related story, which is always a wonderful thing in picture books as it opens up ongoing exploration and discussion of the book.

2. Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

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To be honest, this whole list could have been all Julia Donaldson books. Her books are all wonderful. But, oh, Room on the Room! Could this be the perfect picture book?

The book tells the story of a witch and her cat. They are quite content, just the two of them, riding around on their broom. One stormy day, the wind blows off the witch’s hat and so begins a series of events that sees the pair meet some new friends and face one terrifying foe.

I love this story because the witch is always happy to make room for new friends. Sometimes if I see Pickles determinedly heading outside on an adventure into the backyard, I will ask him: “Is there room on the broom for a mummy like me.” Invariably he will look delighted and shout “Yes!” And so off we’ll go together.

This was the first story he knew well enough to be able to talk about in detail. It is a great one for testing memory because I can ask him who found the witch’s hat, or wand, or bow. I am always surprised at how well he can remember.

Donaldson’s rhymes are always terrific. This is so much fun to read aloud. Scheffler’s pictures, too, are delightful. He is really able to bring the characters to life.

Just as with another one of Donaldson and Scheffler’s classics, The Gruffalo, this book also has an animated version which to date is the only “movie” that Pickles has watched all the way through. He may not have seen many but he’s seen this one dozens of times. It’s fabulous.

3. Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

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I have had the rhyme from this book stuck in my head since primary school. I kid you not.

That is a lot of years; one severe case of ear worm.

I’ll be just be cooking a meal when suddenly I’ll have the urge to say: “Cinderella on the stairs I spy the three bears.” Or Pords will be crying and I’ll be thinking: “Baby Bunting fast asleep I spy Bo-Peep.” Or I’ll be asked the key question at a really important job interview and all I’ll be able to think is: “Wicked witch over the wood I spy Robin Hood.”

I really don’t know why this has stuck in my head the way it has for so many years, except for the fact that it’s so simple yet effective, and I read it over and over as a child. Now, as I read it over and over to my own children and I don’t even have to look at the words. I know the whole thing by heart.

The words aren’t even the best part of this book though. There is a built in game of I Spy in the pictures. So kids need to try and find the character to be spied in each picture. For older children this is a snap, but for toddlers, especially those who haven’t read it fifty times already, it can be challenging and fun.

The use of well known nursery rhyme and fairy tale characters makes it even more amusing for children. Pickles is going through a bit of a three bears craze a the moment so he especially likes the pages that feature them. These inclusions prompt further discussions about other books and stories that we’ve shared and make the book even more interactive and engaging.

This book has stood the test of time and it’s easy to see why. A definite must for sharing with toddlers.

4.  The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland

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Without fail, the ending of this book makes me smile every single time.

Four animal friends want to take shelter from a rainy day inside a snug cave. Unfortunately, a very cranky bear has already had the same idea. Three of the friends believe they have the solution by giving the bear the attributes of themselves of which they are most proud. They all think of the fourth friend, the sheep, as rather plain. However, in the end it is the sheep that has the answer when she makes a pillow for the bear from her wool.

“Well, thank you very much,” said Bear and soon he fell asleep. Maybe he was dreaming of a plain, but thoughtful sheep.

See, I’m smiling again. Well, let’s face it, if you can see me that’s a wee bit creepy. Hopefully you can’t in fact see me. Trust me, there’s a smile.

The book is a sheer pleasure. The pictures are vibrant and appealing. The clever use of rhyme makes it easy and enjoyable to read. It’s fun to do voices for all the different animals. There is everything to like about this book. Even better is that the cranky bear also features in other books. He’s itchy, hungry, noisy, and brave. He’s always a favourite in our house.

5. I Wish That I Had Duck Feet by Theo LeSieg

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My mum, who spent a long career working with young children, reported this as a favourite with pre-schoolers. She said that in one particular child care centre that she worked at, as soon as the children saw her they would run over and demand it be read. Part of that, no doubt, was that she has an exceptionally marvellous voice for reading children’s books aloud. The other part is the magic of Seuss (writing here as Theo LeSieg). It seems that even as he becomes dated he is timeless.

One of the magical things about Seuss books is their ability to get stuck in your head, much as a song might. When my toddler is being fussy about eating I often find myself thinking (and sometimes saying!) “Hay, just hay two times a day is all [you’ll] get to eat!” Such is the fabulous cadence of Seuss.

Particularly loveable about this book is that it follows the imaginings of a young child. The ideas might be silly, but the child is nothing but earnest. Earnest nonsense is nothing if not delightful. You can talk to your own children about what it might be like to have duck feet, or a long nose, or tail, or deer horns, or a whale spout on their head. Your children might imagine other additions that would be fun to have.

It is a perfect book for reading aloud and for sharing over and over again.

6. Noni the Pony Goes to the Beach by Alison Lester

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My husband and I once spent a great weekend away with dear friends of ours at Waratah Bay, which happens to be the home of Noni the Pony. So we feel a special connection with her.

This book shows the pure joy of a day spent at the beach with friends. In fact, often after reading it Pickles will say: “Go beach now” and that’s exactly how I feel too. The happiness of the characters leaps off the page through the bouncing rhyme and the gorgeous pictures, and just makes me want to go beach now.

Because we love to spend time at the beach, this book is a really good one for us in terms of incorporating connections to things that we have done. As I often stress, reading the actual text in the book is only part of reading with your children. Talking about the story, the characters, and the pictures is also key in terms of helping with your child’s language and other social development. Choosing books that things that your child loves can be useful in promoting this contextual discussion.

There are many things to love about this book. I love the special friendship between the pony, the cat, and the dog. I also love that the cows are referred to as “the ladies next door.” The whole thing is really adorable. Perfect for sharing.

7. Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot and Axel Scheffler

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This is a collection of poems rather than one story like the others on this list, but it is one of our favourites. Before Cats The Musical there were the T.S. Eliot poems in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. It has such wonderful characters: Skimbleshanks, Macavity, Mr Mistoffelees, and all the others.

This is a great book to have if you want to introduce your children to poetry at a young age. You can pick it up and just read one of the poems at a time, or as many as you like. I used to read them all the time to my babies as newborns.

Each of the poems tells a fantastic story. Some funny, some poignant, all a joy to read. They are especially great if you love cats or have cats as pets.

I think at its heart, this book is also about the magic of things. Children love elves and fairies and so on, but they also love to consider the lives of animals. It is not such a leap for them to imagine that the cat that spends all day asleep on the floor might at night have some wildly adventurous life.

Our copy of the book is illustrated by Axel Scheffler, who has already appeared in this list for his work on Room on the Broom. His quirky and amusing pictures are a perfect pairing for these poems.

So there’s my list. What others would you add?

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A Partly Eaten Pear

A partly eaten pear,
Lies wasting on the floor.
I wonder what distracted you
And stopped you eating more

Did you suddenly remember
Your ball out in the sun?
Eating fruit’s delicious,
But football’s much more fun.

Was your sister crying?
Did you want to check on her?
We could always come and join you
While you eat if you’d prefer.

Perhaps you heard me coming
And thought I’d catch you out.
But eating healthy food
Is what mummy’s all about!

If you’re ever hungry
You know the bowl’s in reach.
You can always eat an apple,
A banana, or a peach.

You can even eat a lemon,
Since I know you like the taste.
The problem’s not the eating,
The problem is the waste.

Many things don’t faze me,
But some I just can’t bear.
Like the sight of yet another
Partly eaten pear.

Prose for Thought
http://www.reflectionsfromme.com



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Playground trolls

I think I got trolled at the playground.

I was sitting in the middle of the playground with baby Pords. Pickles was running around with some friends. Climbing, sliding, swinging, spinning, and running. And running. And running. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t keep up with him while I had Pords with me.

But I didn’t want to keep up with him. He was having fun. My eyes were on him the whole time, the playground was one of those newly designed numbers, with all soft fall surfaces fully enclosed inside a fence, and I knew he was able to use all of the equipment unassisted; he’d been here plenty of times before.

Two women stood near me and started talking very loudly about Pickles. That he was very small. What was his mother thinking letting him play by himself? Anything could happen. Much too small. Needs his mother. Dangerous.

Now, as it happens, I’ve been reading quite a lot of academic articles about toddlers and risk taking lately. When I’ve read a bit more I’ll write a proper post about it. So far I’ve learnt that while risk taking can lead to trips to the emergency room when the carer has not properly assessed and managed the risks beforehand (and many times even when they have), it is also linked to gross motor development, as well as other social and cognitive development, such as the ability to independently assess risk and make decisions.

I know that a big part of the reason that Pickles is a good climber is because we have let him climb. I also know that, in letting him climb things from a young age, we have run the risk that he would fall.

I think so far we’ve tread a pretty good line on this one, but when I heard the women talking I immediately questioned every parenting decision I’d ever made. I quickly picked Pords up and rushed over to Pickles. “Are you ok? Do you need help?” He looked mortified and gave me a little push on the leg. “Shoo mummy!”

Still I hovered. Nervous. Eyes darting back to my judges.

Now that they had smoked me out, one of them strode straight over. “He’s very brave for someone so little isn’t he?” Her insincerity was sickly sweet. I wondered what pearls of wisdom from her own brilliant parenting career she was about to bestow. “Now, I personally would never have children of my own. There’s too much sadness in the world. But you’ve got to be careful. Anything could happen.”

What. The. Actual. Bazoolies.

Now I don’t object to people without kids having an opinion on parenting in general, or even on my parenting specifically. But just like online comment, there is a time and a place and a tone.

If you spit venom anonymously online just to get a stir, people might label you an internet troll.

And if you hang out inside an enclosed children’s play area without children of your own, just to criticise other people’s parenting, I might just label you a playground troll.

So what do you think? Were they just playground trolls or were their criticisms legitimate? How do you manage risks with your kids?

The Dad Network
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Booktober

I’ve decided that this month we’ll celebrate Booktober. Nothing too out of the ordinary around our house. Just a bit more of the usual hooray for books.

Specifically though, every Sunday I’ll have a list of seven of our favourite books with a particular theme. This will mean that we’ll end up with slightly more than a book a day for a month. If you want to start reading more with your little people, or are looking for new books to explore with your little readers, you’ll hopefully be able to find some inspiration in there somewhere. Or you could just take the whole list to the library and set the challenge of reading at least a book a day every day for a month.

Tomorrow we’ll kick off with our top 7 dinosaur books. It was always going to be dinosaurs. We’re a bit dino-crazy. If anyone has suggestions for other possible lists, please let me know.

Before we get underway with the books, I thought I’d re-share my post about why you should read to little children. It can usually be found over in our Reading Corner, along with an ever growing list of reviews of our favourite books.

READINGISFUNWhy you should read to little children

Lots of parenting advice that I have come across online, and even in published books, seems to be based on personal experience or anecdotal evidence. Never sing your child to sleep because my cousin’s friend’s mum sang him to sleep when he was a baby and now he’s 45 and she still needs to go around to his house every night to sing his bedtime lullaby. You don’t need to breastfeed your baby because my boss was only ever bottlefed and now she speaks six languages, is an Olympic athlete, runs a company with a multi-billion dollar turnover, and is just the nicest darn person you’ll ever meet.

That sort of thing.

Not that there’s anything wrong with this sort of sharing and learning. No doubt it has been pivotal for countless generations. The problem with this in our information age is that the wisdom is not just passed to us from those who know us best. Anyone who has ever had a child, or known a child, or been a child, seems to be able to call themselves a “parenting expert”. There are so many parenting experts and they are all shouting for attention, with confusingly different opinions on what is best.

Well, I’m definitely not a parenting expert. On a scale of expert to whatever the opposite of expert is, I’m definitely closer to the latter end. But I’m big on evidence-based policy. If a government is going to devote a lot of time and money to a particular issue, I want them to be basing those decisions on the results of rigorous research. Similarly, if I’m going to use a significant portion of the time that I get to spend with my babies while they’re small in a particular way, I want to make sure that the evidence supports that decision. I’m not going to spend everyday reading and re-reading picture books if there are better things I could be doing with my time.

So, I’ve read through some of the peer-reviewed research. I don’t claim this to be anywhere near an exhaustive review of the literature on this topic, but I did discover some good pointers so I’ll give you a bit of a summary. (Reading the whole articles was really interesting – I’ve listed the sources at the end in case you want to have a look at them!)DSCF4634

There was broad agreement in the literature that reading to babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers is really important for a massive range of skills and attributes beyond language and literacy, to areas like problem solving, relationships, and social confidence. There is this from Murray and Egan:

Reading to young children has long been recognized as an important precursor to language and literacy development. It encourages vocabulary development, positive attitudes to reading as well as strengthening emotional ties between the child and parent. Reading to pre-school-age children can make starting school easier for them as well as providing a head start in literacy… Reading to young children also helps them to develop social skills such as listening and interacting with an adult. Pp.303-304

As well as this from Nyhout and O’Neill:

Exposure to rich narratives at an early age may be important for a range of different abilities, such as children’s later ability to build rich accounts of past events and their information recall, social functioning, and broader linguistic and cognitive abilities. p.128

However, an important part of what I discovered was that the key was not that children were read to, or rather read at, but that they were allowed and encouraged to be active participants, even when they were not yet able to speak. For example, Makin wrote:

There is a danger that parents and early childhood educators may accept the importance of reading to children but do so in ways that may have less than optimal results… If children are physically restrained or forced to remain on an adult’s lap for the time the adult deems appropriate, the experience is unlikely to be positive despite the physical closeness. p.275

Here’s a quick snapshot:

  • Books with no words are great
  • When a book has words, steering away from the text is great
  • Ask questions, point things out, relate stuff back to your child’s own life
  • If your little person is really not interested in reading right this second, don’t force the issue
  • Try to find books and reading styles that make the experience enjoyable for both of you
  • Start as early as possible in your child’s life and read often

Reading to my babies is one of the best parts of my day every day. I hope that by sharing the books we love, I can share that joy around. Happy reading!

Sources

Farrant B and Zubrick S (2013) Parent-Child Book Reading Across Early Childhood and Child Vocabulary in the Early School Years: Findings From the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children First Language 33(3) 280-293.

Fletcher K and Holmes W (2015) The Role of Book Familiarity and Book Type on Mothers’ Reading Strategies and Toddlers’ Responsiveness. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy 15(1): 73-96.

Makin L (2007) Literacy 8-12 Months: What Are Babies Learning? Early Years: An International Research Journal 26(3) 267-277.

Murray A and Egan S (2014) Does Reading to Infants Benefit Their Cognitive Development at 9-Months-Old? An Investigation Using a Large Birth Cohort Survey Child Language Teaching and Therapy 30(3) 303-315.

Nyhout A and O’Neill D (2013) Mothers’ Complex Talk When Sharing Books With Their Toddlers: Book Genre Matters First Language 33(2) 115-131.

Reese E, Sparks A and Leyva D (2010) A Review of Parent Interventions for Preschool Children’s Language and Emergent Literacy Journal of Early Childhood Literacy 10(1) 97-117.

Advice From The Heart
A Bit Of Everything



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Toddler dinnertime: Resolution in Rhyme

I really don’t love cooking,
But I really do love you.
For you I would do anything,
Even learn to cook a stew.

In my head I keep a list
Of foods that you prefer.
I know you like to help,
So I always let you stir.

I cook for health and taste,
Put a rainbow on your plate.
I time it oh so carefully,
Not too early, not too late.

Finally the moment comes
To call you to your chair.
We start the meal with such high hopes
But soon there comes despair.

It makes your mama sad
To see salmon on the floor;
Mashed potato on the walls,
Peas rolling out the door.

I know that before bedtime
You just want to have more fun.
But you haven’t even had one bite,
When I hear you shout “All done!”

So I’ve decided in the future,
I’m going to save my time.
You can have a sandwich.
Mummy’s having wine.

Prose for Thought
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Fighting fires: Toddler discipline

Firestarter

When I was a kid there was a public service announcement that used to run on tv about what to do if your house was on fire. I don’t remember the exact details, but I do remember Ronald McDonald telling me to: “Get down low and go, go, go!” I’m sure it was good advice for getting out while avoiding as much smoke as possible, but I wonder how many kids had nightmares about crazed clowns starting grease fires in their bedrooms. Just me? Thought so.

Fast forward to today and there’s a new fire starter in my house. He’s not a junk peddling clown but a feisty two year old. I hasten to say that he hasn’t actually started any actual fires yet (although when I am tied up feeding or changing the baby, I do sometimes wonder if the noise is him lighting small ones in the next room).

Hunger and tiredness, however, are two sticks rubbing together. It only takes the tiniest spark for the fire to ignite. Maybe I’ll say that ice cream is not a breakfast food. Maybe he’ll notice that one of his pictures has been moved from the fridge. Maybe I’ll tell him that he has to wear pants to the library.

And then… Kaboom! The fire has started.

The fire burns in an unpredictable manner. Often, all that needs to happen to douse it is some food, or a nap, or a hug. Usually we know the warning signs well enough to have avoided public places. Don’t take a hungry or tired toddler to a supermarket. If you play with fire, you’re going to get burned.

But then there are the other times. When the fire spreads out of control. How do you douse the raging flames of cranky, crazy defiance?

There are several schools of thought on toddler discipline. And I have been reading the books, as is my wont. As with all parenting advice, there are some pieces of information that just don’t fit right for me or our family. There are other things that I have taken on board to adapt and implement. I’m sure our methods for discipline and setting boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour will need to change over time.

In amongst it all, there is one piece of advice that has stood out for me and that has had an almost immediate impact; when you want to change the way your toddler is behaving you need to physically get down to their level.

Sometimes my toddler drives me crazy. Sometimes I want to yell. But this doesn’t get us anywhere. I feel myself looming over him. My voice is thunder. The power imbalance is enormous. It is intimidating and unfair. It also tends to only add extra fuel to the fire.

When I get down on his level he sees me. He hears me. He listens.

When I get down on his level I see him. I hear him. I listen.

When we are face to face I can’t be angry. I realise that the world is still big and new and scary. I remember that when I’m hungry I get “hangry”. I remember that when I haven’t had enough sleep little upsets are devastation. I remember that he’s small and I’m big and it’s my job to help him through this tough business of growing up and learning about the world as best I can.

So now when I see the toddler fire starting to burn, I remember Ronald McDonald, that wise old sage. I get down low, and I go, go, go. And we can usually escape unharmed.

Digital Parents

 

Happy Mama Happy Baby



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The Quiet Corner

This is my space, my quiet space,
Where I can come to breathe.
I don’t need noise, and I don’t need toys,
All I need is me.

I rest my feet and I’m grateful,
For the places they’ve helped me to go.
But now is a time for stillness,
Now is a time for slow.

I rest my legs and I’m grateful,
That they’ve helped me to walk so far.
But now is no time for movement,
Now is a time for calm.

I rest my arms and I’m grateful,
For all the balls they’ve thrown.
But now is no time for games with friends,
Now is just time for alone.

I rest my hands and I’m grateful,
For all that they’ve helped me to make.
But now I feel them nice and still,
Now is their time for a break.

I rest my eyes and I’m grateful,
For all that they’ve helped me to see.
But now is no time for the big, wide world,
Now is just time for me.

Prose for Thought
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The Worst Best Advice

Enjoy every minuteIt was mid-afternoon. Both the kids were fed, rested, and happy. This, I thought, was a perfect opportunity to load them into the double pram and walk to the supermarket to pick up a few things that we needed.

Except the toddler insisted on walking. That’s ok, I thought, if he wears himself out this afternoon it will make bedtime easier. It might take a bit longer but we’re all still happy so let’s go with it. He stopped to watch caterpillars, smell flowers, and walk along walls. It was turning out to be a delightful walk.

Except the slow pace made the baby frustrated and want to get out of the pram too. That’s ok, I thought, I can carry her in one arm and push the pram with the other hand while we’re walking at this pace.

Except then the toddler insisted on holding the hand that was being used to push the pram. That’s ok, I thought, I knew my body was holding onto that baby weight around my tummy for a reason. I can hold the baby in one arm, hold my toddler’s hand with the other, and push the pram along with my perfectly padded belly.

It was not as easy as I imagined. The walk was becoming less delightful by the second. I was red faced and flustered, cursing my hubris with every step. My hair was blowing in my face but I didn’t have a spare hand to brush it back. One of my sneakers came untied. By the time we got to the shops all I could think about was finding a bench to stop at. I needed to get myself together.

So when I saw the woman making a beeline towards me I tried to avoid eye contact. But this one was not for turning. “Oh aren’t they precious,” She gushed. “It goes so fast. Make sure you enjoy every minute.” There it was. Enjoy every minute.

I hear that phrase, or a version of it, so very often now. It started right back during my first pregnancy. I had terrible morning sickness right up until labour when I was so dehydrated from the constant vomiting that they put me straight on a drip. Labour was easily the least difficult part of that first pregnancy. Yet as soon as someone saw the bump, they would ignore the green face and say: “It’s such a special time. Enjoy every minute.”

Then again when I had a newborn. Cards and messages, friends and well-meaning strangers were all telling me to enjoy every minute. When I was so tired that I forgot that I was sterilising my breast pump in boiling water, only realising when I smelled the melting plastic (a smell that lingered on for days), I wanted to scream “What about this minute?!” When I had mastitis and couldn’t get out of bed. “What about this minute?!” When my baby was screaming and I couldn’t figure out why. “What about this minute?!” Sure he’s the greatest thing ever in the history of the entire universe but what about this minute and this minute and this minute?!?

Of course, people don’t actually mean that they think that you will, or even should, enjoy every minute. They just want to emphasise that time goes by so fast and that children grow up before you know it. The thing is, when people keep telling you something over and over you really start to believe it. Then when you are not in fact enjoying every minute you begin to question yourself.

This is the fourteenth nappy I’ve changed today, I’m getting a bit over it. No, no, wait, I should be appreciating this moment, one day I won’t have any nappies to change.

My toddler’s been pinching me incessantly while I’ve been trying to cook dinner. I should relish the pinching now because when he’s all grown up there’ll be no one to pinch me while I chop carrots.

I’ve got a headache this morning, I’d love nothing more than just to go back to bed. Hang on now, I should embrace the tiredness, one day I’ll get all the sleep I want and wish for nothing more than a return of that extreme fatigue.

Not enjoying every minute – one more thing to add to the list of things that makes me a terrible person. Worst advice ever.

On the other hand, when taken as it is intended it really is the best advice. I do try to remember it during the rough times because I know that most of the these parenting-young-children times are good times. More than good. That crazy, indescribable soaring of the heart wonder. I know I’ll miss so very much about this time. One day maybe I’ll even genuinely miss everything about this time. I have no doubt that many of the people who give me this worst best advice are in fact missing everything about this time in their own lives.

So I looked at the kindly, well-meaning woman at the shops who was looking at my children but seeing her own, smiled and said: “Thank you. I will.” Then I thrust my belly back out and pushed the pram away from her as fast as I could.

Advice From The Heart
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I’m Hiding From My Hand

If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see? – Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

Some days, especially those on which I have limited interaction with other adults of the species, take on a peculiarly dreamlike quality. In part, of course, this is due to a lack of sleep. I exist in that state where time takes on a different character and the air can feel somehow heavier, as if the room (or your mind) is filled with fog. But there is also another factor at play. The Toddler.

I have always had a soft spot for surreal humour. My Dad read me some of the work of Edward Lear as a child, and later introduced me to Monty Python. Who would have thought that the cultivation of an appreciation of nonsense would be such excellent training for life with a toddler. Without this, the madness of everyday life might be appreciably more maddening.

Even still, I sometimes wish that a giant foot would just descend from the heavens to mark the end of scene. But not today. Today, there was a little piece of madness that was nothing but joy.

Pickles came running into the room with his hand behind his back. He ran round and around in circles screaming with laughter. The whole time he kept his hand behind his back. When I asked what he was doing he replied that his hand was chasing him.

Of course.

I asked if he thought it would catch him. “No,” he replied matter-of-factly, “Running too fast.” I was impressed. It is surely no mean feat to outrun one’s own hand. He ran out again. I could hear him running up and down the hall. Finally he returned, much quieter now than before. He didn’t say a word, but slid open his cupboard door, climbed inside and then closed it behind him.

“What are you doing in there?” I asked. “Hiding!” Came a loud whisper. “Who are you hiding from?” “Quiet mummy! Hiding from hand!” “Oh.” I imagined his hand as Thing from The Addams Family, scuttling around, wondering where oh where he could possibly have got to. I imagined him imagining it. It made my heart smile.

And that’s it. Just a short one today. It was only a little slice of a day (although he did hide from his hand for a remarkably long time). But, in the words of Willy Wonka, “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.”

Little Hearts, Big Love
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