Leave my clocks alone!

Here in the UK the clocks went forward an hour, late Saturday night/early Sunday morning. Before I had children I barely even noticed the clocks changing, and just got an early night on Saturday or enjoyed a bit of extra sleep on Sunday morning as appropriate. Now, it’s not only the disruption to the children’s sleep patterns that bothers me, but being tied (by them) to more consistent sleep and wake times means that changing the clocks really messes with me, too. For the last 48 hours I’ve felt exactly like west-to-east jetlag: I’ve been nauseous and had a terrible headache, I’ve felt exhausted but have woken up both nights at 4am and struggled to get back to sleep, only managing it just in time to be unwakeably deeply asleep by 6.30am when I need to get up. My oldest daughter has been waking in the night too (so she tells me; I’m sorry for her, but delighted that she’s past the age of coming immediately to tell me if she wakes in the night!). My nine-year-old has been struggling to get to sleep, even after the extra hour has passed, so has gone to sleep at 10 or 11pm two nights running and then found it almost impossible to get up in the morning. My youngest daughter was bursting helplessly into tears while trying to get to bed tonight, she said nothing in particular was wrong but kept going from fine to sobbing (“it’s happening again, Mummy!”). And my son, aged three, seems to have taken the change of clocks as his cue to give up sleeping entirely: despite some really busy and active days, I’ve had to wrestle him into bed, he hasn’t gone to sleep until hours later than usual, he’s also waking up in the night and staying awake, then he’s up at his usual time and not napping to make up for what he’s missed. I’m only hoping we can keep this disastrous show on the road for another day and a half until school breaks up for Easter, then we can switch off all the alarm clocks and let everyone get back on track in their own time. And once we’re back to fighting strength, let’s March on Parliament to demand that they stop messing about with our clocks twice a year: who’s with me?

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The trouble with fruit

I just had another one of those moments – they seem to happen every few weeks. You’d think I wouldn’t get fooled by now, but it seems like every time I forget and it happens all over again.

I was emptying the potty after my toddler had used it, and noticed with horror some kind of little shiny black things in it, like tiny beetles. Fleas? Ticks? Intestinal parasites? I was heading for a consultation with Doctor Google when I remembered that he had just been on one of those crazy toddler binges. Given totally free rein, he would exist on sausages, cream cheese and chocolate, but he occasionally goes nuts for something odd, and this week it’s been kiwis. You know the ones, with the little shiny black seeds that are apparently perfectly indigestible, and come glittering out the other end unchanged from how they went in.

So, no digestive infestation after all. It seems to press some mothering panic button that puts me straight into focused diagnostic mode, in which I fail to remember the exact same thing happening a few weeks ago with a large quantity of blueberries. Or the time with the raisins, or the beetroot, or the red kidney beans…

Lions and tigers and bears: brushing toddler teeth

Twenty years ago, as a teenager needing to earn some money, I started babysitting for local families after school and at weekends. I found I really loved it: I loved being around children, and after I’d put them to bed I would do my homework in front of the TV and get paid for it. Families recommended me to other friends who needed a babysitter, and soon I had quite a business empire, and was having to pass on some families to my friends.

Some of the things I do with my children now were habits or ideas that I picked up back then, either from the different families’ ways of doing things or my own inventions. One of my favourite was a solution to the problem of brushing toddlers’ teeth: they won’t open their mouths wide enough or keep them open for long enough. My answer was to tell them, first of all, to growl like a bear. GRRRR! With their teeth firmly shut but bared, so I could brush the outsides. As long as they kept growling, I could reach their teeth. Then roar like a lion. RAARGH! Mouth wide open, teeth exposed, so I could brush the tops and sides. Excellent! I continued doing this with all of my own children and it worked brilliantly.

Except that each of my children has found ways to do things differently from the one before, to demonstrate to me that I don’t know everything. So my youngest son, like every two-year-old I have known, started pulling funny faces, like this:

How to brush two-year-old's teeth

I don’t know where this face comes from, because it’s not something adults or older children really do, but it has emerged from all my children at two years old as if it were some innate survival instinct. Anyway, next time I asked him to roar so I could brush his teeth, he said “No, brush my funny face”. And you know what? It’s even better than my lions and bears. I think I’ve just been outparented by my toddler.