Last weekend Ellie had some homework to do. The instruction was simply to write some sentences about your family and ‘try to work on your own and remember to include finger spaces and full stops.’ This is what Ellie produced:
Just in case you can’t read it, it says:
My mum works very hard.
My dad lives at London.
My family is silly.
I love my family lots.
I love my mum lots. xx
The smile and pride on her face as she showed me her work was quite simply beautiful to behold. The fact that she’d put that she loved me, without any prompting, was also pretty damn special. What topped it off though is that to me this simple bit of writing spoke volumes about her acceptance of our family situation. There is nothing like the uncertainty you feel when you separate from your child’s other parent – the questions and worries about whether they will be okay aren’t something which, in my experience so far, ever disappear. I don’t think about it often now but it is something I will always be conscious of. As I saw what Ellie had written I couldn’t help but feel overjoyed at how clearly at ease she seemed with the situation. I feel certain that Ellie knows how much both her Dad and I, and our respective families, love her and most importantly – Ellie really is just fine with it.
Before I go, just to say that I am linking my #magicmoments post up with others on the fantastic linky from The Olivers Madhouse – click below to find out more.
Everyone warns you that the first year of school is exhausting for every child and there’s no doubt that I’ve learned why schools have half term and term breaks. Nothing however had prepared for me for the very last part of Ellie’s reception year. This for example is Ellie’s second most common pose at the moment, the other is standing screaming at me:
Shouting, arguing, answering back, screaming, crying and…a lot more stropping are currently behaviours exhibited with far too much frequency. Where has my gorgeous little happy girl gone? Don’t get me wrong Ellie has always been a strong willed girl and she definitely lets you know what she’s thinking, but right now she is always on the edge of a meltdown.
When Ellie was a baby I always referred to the 6.00 to 7.00pm slot as witching hour because this was when she was at her worst. That’s not a shock to any parent but now I have a witching day and it’s Friday. She’s super tired from the week and so am I – clearly a tired mummy and a tired Ellie isn’t a good combination. The other morning I made a special effort to prevent a meltdown. When she asked me to help her dress because she was tired, I did half and she did half – good negotiation skills. When she couldn’t decide what she wanted for breakfast I was patient and smiley until she chose. When she said she didn’t want to clean her teeth I told her that I loved her smile and wanted her to keep it and she eventually undertook a half hearted attempt which i accepted. Then just as we were about to leave this happened… ‘Ellie can you put your cardigan and coat on please, we’ve got to go’ ‘I don’t want it on’ ‘Ellie it’s cold outside and raining – put them on’ Ellie starts to cry Ellie you’re being ridiculous – put them on or I’ll leave you here
Suffices to say that the situation escalated and eventually we ended up with one loudly sobbing child in the car, whilst older step brother just looked like he couldn’t possibly get far enough away. I don’t blame him. When we arrived at school and were getting out of the car the fuss continued. I was literally about to scream in her face to ‘pack it in’ when another mum walked by, smiled and me and said ‘princesses eh’. I couldn’t help but smile and it reminded me that this screechy crying, argumentative little girl was my little girl. My very tired little girl. I completed and utterly caved – letting her choose what she wanted to wear cardigan or coat wise for the total 60 second walk to the school. After all – what harm was it really going to do and quite frankly, I just wanted to get her to school. It seems that Ellie’s older step brother felt similarly as he walked several steps ahead of us the entire way and couldn’t say bye quickly enough at the gate, disappearing at considerable speed – more speed than usual I might add. Ellie and I walked the next few paces to her playground and before we’d even arrived she was back to her chatty little self and ‘didn’t want to talk about it’. Do you know what – this time – neither did I. So with two weeks to go all I can say is – roll on the summer. This week we get school reports – I really hope Ellie isn’t quite so melodramatic at school?!
So this week was half term and as it’s been a while since I wrote a blog post, I decided that I would write about our half term holiday. As I started to write though, I realised that rather than a witty post about our half term antics, I was instead creating a list of things I’d learned this week, and in some cases re-learned, about being a mum. As it turns out half term means school is out for the kids but clearly, not for me.
So here are my learning points from the week:
1.When the sun shines everything is easier. Ellie is less challenging, I’m a lot calmer and generally everyone smiles more. Conversely, as discovered in the latter part of the week, when it’s raining things tend to move in the other direction. Roll on the summer!
2.Being at home with the children is physically more exhausting than being at work. Fact. I did know this but it’s funny how quickly you forget.
3.My daughter has an amazing ability to fall, trip, bang and generally hurt herself at every opportunity. Sometimes it is a complete mystery to her and the rest of us how she manages it. Quite franklyForever Living’s Aloe Vera Gelly* has been my companion of the week – soothing bruises gained via jumping on the sofa, healing cuts gained from gardening and so on.
4.Despite the attitude frequently displayed, my daughter is a big softie – she can’t watch the results of Britain’s got Talent because it’s too upsetting when people go out and she still cries when she has to go to the doctors. To clarify, she even cries at the prospect of going to the doctors. She is still my little girl.
5.Even though at age five Ellie is now incredibly stubborn I can still convince and bribe her. For example, for the cost of a 99p watering can Ellie managed to not sob uncontrollably at the doctors. I also impressed myself immensely by convincing both Ellie and her Step brother to help me prepare the new vegetable patch for well over an hour. (I note the latter was only of course achieved on a sunny day.)
6.It’s been a busy week with a trip to a country park, swimming, painting, playdoh, gardening, games on the iPhone, playing miniature football (including one game with cars as players no less), playing mums and dads, seeing family and so on. Unbelievably, despite all of this however, it is apparently possible for children to be bored. Go figure.
So in conclusion, it’s been a busy family half term. We’ve had lots of fun and as always, I’m still learning about being a mum. (*Please note that this post is in no way sponsored, i just really like the product which I discovered through my sister.)
When I got home last night I asked Ellie my usual, very simple, question. ‘What did you do today then?’ Ellie’s response was the one that I now regularly hear in relation to school, ‘boring stuff’. Normally, I simply have a wry smile to myself, shrug off the fact that I genuinely have no idea when and how she learned that word, and I let it go. Yesterday however was different.
Yesterday, I’d received a call from school saying that in the process of making crispie cakes Ellie had had an accident. Yes, you read that right – she’d made crispie cakes – that couldn’t possibly be classed as boring could it?! I found myself unable to resist the urge to tackle this boring shenanigans once and for all, and so I continued our conversation with a gentle nudge:
Me: Like what boring stuff?
Ellie: Learning oa in my phonics group and words that have oa in them. I had to write a sentence with an oa word in it. Words like boat and road. [Ellie quickly grabbed a pen and paper to show me her writing.] I did so well I got to bring the doggy home for the night (see below the dog which suddenly appeared).
I duly acknowledged the dog (as well as Ellie’s big smile) and without prompting, Ellie then continued.
Ellie: Oh and I made a mobile. I get to take it home tomorrow so you can see.
Me: What else?
Ellie: We made crispie cakes, and I did some other stuff – I played mums and dads with some of my friends.
My eagle eye then spotted another key sign of fun at school – a pen stained dress and scruffy hair!
I pressed on further although intuitively avoided the historically sensitive subject of the hair:
Me: and you’ve got pen down your dress – how did that happen?
Ellie: I don’t know, I don’t remember.
Me: Well that doesn’t sound at all boring
Ellie: It’s hard work.
I just managed to hold back my guffaw of laughter, but hey presto maybe we were getting somewhere. Maybe she doesn’t mean boring, maybe she means she has to concentrate (although that being a problem in reception is a bit of a worry). With steely determination I decided to move to a direct challenge.
Me: So Ellie, what does boring mean?
Ellie: You have to do stuff that is a bit boring
Me: It means you have to do something that isn’t interesting
Ellie: (nodding) yep
At that point, I can only assume that Ellie sensed my impending win in the conversation and she clearly decided she’d had enough. She wandered off and changed the subject to what more she might have to eat.
As I write this I do of course realise that Ellie’s sharp exit from our conversation means I failed to provide that final winning line of ‘so there you are Ellie, school isn’t boring’. This means that whilst there is quite frankly overwhelming evidence to contradict Ellie’s assertion that school is boring, I think that Ellie might not yet have totally accepted my view. Is it me, or have I been foiled again by a 5 year old.
I regularly find myself fascinated, amazed and frequently speechless about the differences between Ellie and her step brother. There are lots of differences but for once, I’m not going to tell you what I’m talking about, I’m going to show you…because one simple, seemingly innocuous object perfectly demonstrates my point.
This is the contents of Ellie’s school bag this evening:
This is the contents of her Step brother’s school bag this evening:
Shall we play spot the difference? Well, you get the point.
What’s interesting is what this says about their different approaches to school and to life generally. Neither one of them is a better approach than the other, but they are just fascinating in their difference.
Ellie is very ordered about her school work, school bag and pretty much everything in her life. She likes to know where her things are, what she’s going to be doing and she likes things in their place. This makes her keen to do her school work, keen to help tidy and a touch over the top when things aren’t quite right – enter tantrum stage left.
Ellie’s step brother is much more relaxed about life in general, and whilst that can be frustrating because he won’t volunteer to do school work and usually can’t find his stuff…he worries less and is generally more relaxed about what’s going on around him.
What this reminds me is that no single style of parenting can ever be seen as the ‘right’ style – because different children need different things. There is no doubting the fact that Ellie and her step brother need totally different styles of parenting input. Of course knowing this is the easy part, but doing it…well, I’m learning.