1,2,3 it’s magic….

I know I often write about stuff I’m having a problem with but this week I thought I’d let you know something that’s really working for me at the moment (as always the caveat when it comes to children is AT THE MOMENT!!)

So as a quick update I had my Health Visitor visit, for his 2 Year Check. Hmmm. How can I say this? Well it wasn’t horrendous, but it wasn’t all that helpful either. First off she was late and I mean really late. An hour. By the time she arrived he was both annoyed that I wouldn’t let him in the garden (I didn’t think I’d be able to get him back in if I did) and knackered. Going well so far. She sat and listened to my concerns about his speech, with lots of yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah after everything I said, which I guess she felt indicated she was listening, but to me sounded the complete opposite. She did say she’d refer him for a hearing test to be on the safe side, and gave me some leaflets on speech development (the most useful of which told me to get more eye contact with him, which I have been trying to do). She said she couldn’t refer him to a speech therapist until he was 27 months (he’s currently 25 months) but would if he was still at this level by then. And that was about it. She didn’t weigh or measure him (I have to go to the surgery to get that done) and in fact didn’t interact with him at all. I mentioned the tantrums and she told me (no joke) to ‘just ignore the bad behaviour and praise the good’. Really? No shit Sherlock. Thanks for that nugget. And that was that, as she rushed to get to her next (late) appointment. And I worried about this? Fuck me! Sorry, but really?

Anyway the next day I decided to take a walk up to my local childrens centre. We used to visit regularly and participated in two courses there before Oscar turned one. I also met my wonderful friend Emma there. We haven’t been back since his courses finished. I don’t know, it just felt so much part of his babyhood I didn’t think to revisit it. But the HV left me their brochure and turns out they run a course to help develop speech! So rather than phone, I got Oscar in his buggy and walked the 1.5 miles to the centre (on the way he fell asleep, far too early, but it did mean when I arrived I could talk to the Support Workers in peace!) It was so nice to see them. They remembered both of us and the administrator remembered both of our names AND our surname when she booked him on to their Chatterbox course starting in September – that woman should go on Britain’s got Talent for her memory recall!! Course booking out of the way, they actually took the time to ask me how it was going. I mentioned the tantrums, and they didn’t dismiss me with stupid platitudes. It was nice. I asked about a book the HV mentioned as I wondered if they had it in their library of parenting books. They seemed surprised at the book I asked for as it’s not one they recommend (I wont name it here in case it’s your favourite toddler book – to each their own). They did suggest another one called 123 Magic. Kate told me how she’d used it’s principles to great effect with her son, counting down each time she needed him to do something. Sounded good.

As it happened I was unable to find the book in the library, so picked up Jo Frost’s  Confident Toddler Care instead (flicked through, still sitting on the table unread). The only page I did see, listed what she believes are the touchstones for toddler care and included Communicating Clearly. That along with the stuff Kate mentioned got me thinking. Do I communicate well enough or clearly enough with Oscar. So I decided to give my own version of  the 123 thing a try.

And do you know it only bloody works!

I get down to his level (if practical), tell him what we’re doing, if there are options I offer them to him, then I count him down. THEN I DO WHAT I SAID! I follow through.

“We’re going upstairs to have a bath now Oscar. You can either walk up the stairs or mama can carry you up. But whatever you decide we’re doing it in 1, 2, 3” (and I show him the 123 fingers)

I’m not asking him, I’m telling him and if at three he isn’t walking up the stairs, I tell him I’m carrying him. Within a week I’m finding I am getting to three less and less. And the tantrums? Well he might be a bit shouty, but he doesn’t wriggle and fight me the way he did. It’s amazing. His speech is no better, but his comprehension seems to be coming on and I think that’s down to my clearer communication. Yesterday he even came up to me, for the first time ever and ‘told’ me he needed a clean nappy. I was so proud.

I know some of you might be reading this and saying “well duh Lisa, of course that’s how you do it”. And if so I hate you all for not telling me sooner 😉 !  I thought about being sad that I wasn’t communicating clearly enough before, but what would that achieve? Instead I’m loving that taking an idea from here and a tip from there and squidging them together has produced something that works for us. For now.

Always, for now.

I’ll let you know how it goes!




You are invited…..

So as of tomorrow it will be only three weeks til my beautiful baby boy turns 2 and officially becomes a toddler. I don’t want to think I’m wishing his life away, but I can’t wait! He’s so much more fun the older he gets. I’m not saying his babyhood was boring, and god knows it was great when he couldn’t run away at the drop of the hat, but it just wasn’t this much fun. He never looked sideways at me, shrugged, smiled and started doing the hokey cokey when he was baby now did he?

Anyway this isn’t a post about that. About whether the baby phase is better than the toddler phase or vice versa. As I said my son is about to turn 2. And children’s birthdays bring with them that potentially stress inducing ritual – the children’s party!

I’m sure parents of older children, who have been through this and come out the other side are either laughing wryly or shuddering. And despite being new to this game, I think I can see why. But I”ll come back to that.

So OK, my experience of throwing parties, before I had Oscar, involved providing large amounts of booze, a couple of pizzas, some chips and dips and always a big bowl of M&Ms. OK we sometimes threw in rude word scrabble (any word could be used as long as you could justify why it was rude – ‘THOSE’ anyone?) and the chocolate mini roll challenge (how many can you fit in your mouth at once?), but basically if you provided enough booze and combined it with the right people that was enough.

I know this isn’t going to cut the mustard with children (although I think my son may already be in training for the mini roll challenge). And that’s fine. But what is?

How many??

How many??

So last year when all Oscar and all his little friends turned one, we bucked the trend of a quiet family only affair and had a party for him. But it wasn’t a local party with his little friends. Nope this was totally a party for us as a family. We went to Plymouth (our home town), hired a church hall for £30 and invited everyone we knew. Family, friends, children, the lot. We invited more people to that party than we did to our wedding. And just like our wedding, we had pasties and cake. A gorgeous cake made by my friend Michelle.

Isn't it gorgeous?

Isn’t it gorgeous?

We filled the hall with children’s toys (leant to us by the church hall for free) and basically turned it into a Toddler Group for the afternoon. Rather than party bags we gave each child a helium balloon (that had also had served the purpose of decorating the hall) to take away with them, and a piece of cake.  And everyone seemed to have an awesome time. I got to see and talk to my friends I don’t see very often and Oscar got to run around like a loon. What more could we ask for?

Yup it was grand. But it was big! And organising something like that from 300 miles away wasn’t the easiest deal, so a while ago we decided not to have a party this year. We are instead going to have a family day out on his actual  birthday and then take Oscar and his bessie mate Isabelle and her parents out for tea the weekend after. It still celebrates him turning 2 and the passing of another year, just in a slightly less public way. And I was fine with that. Its just all his little friends (who didn’t have parties last year) are now having parties. And we’re getting invited here there and everywhere. And that’s lovely. But I started to question whether I wasn’t a bit mean not to reciprocate. But then that begs the question, who would I be throwing the party for? Would crowds of 2 year olds start gathering in toddler groups around the area, dissing my name? Would they buggery. They couldn’t care less. As long as someone, somewhere is making with the cheddars and occasional chocolate pirate biscuit, every day’s a party day to them. So I realised I was worrying more about what the adults thought than the children.

And that made me think – is that how it is? Do we invest in hiring ‘exciting’ venues, themeing, various entertainment and spending a fortune on party bags for our children? Or is it, and this may be a controversial question, but is it for other parents? God I hope not. Maybe Pintrest has just too much to answer for, but I hate the idea that a child’s birthday could be used for point scoring among the local parent community. And that’s before you’ve even started to talk about presents! So far this year we have bought Oscar four presents. Three of them are second hand. It wont bother him whether it comes out of a box or not. I’m sure there will come a time when he will dictate that this is no longer acceptable, but until then, I’m buggered if I’m going to be dictated to by some sort of internal mummy bitch!

So after giving myself something of a talking to I decided my initial plan was and still is a blinder and one I’m really happy with. Maybe next year I’ll throw him and his mates a party. And if I do it’ll be one he’ll enjoy (whatever that is when he turns three!) Maybe I’ll do a proper retro one. With pass the parcel. And I wont be putting a prize in every layer that I can tell you. Where did that even come from? Are our children so delicate they can’t learn that not every one wins all the time? Or maybe I’m missing the point and it’s to keep them sitting long enough to finish the game? I don’t know. One thing I plan (and I’ll probably eat my words here) but I plan to forgo party bags completely. The balloon/cake combo went down so well I might give that another go. Maybe his balloon/cake combo will become like my big bowl of M&Ms, not his party without them!



Come back in a year and I’ll let you know how it goes.