I had a baby. The last time I had a baby was just over two years ago, around the same time that we began watching Game of Thrones. Interestingly, I can remember virtually every storyline of Game of Thrones and yet I had forgotten many of the details of life with a newborn.
Three years ago, when I was pregnant for the first time, all my fears were based on the unknown. How will I look after a baby? How do you change a nappy? Will I be able to breastfeed? How will I cope with hardly any sleep?
Before I became a parent I lived very much for the future. Short term I lived for the weekend and the nights out. Longer term I was all about promotions, property, and marriage proposals. It was all part of the 5 year plan.
Yep, the worst thing that has happened to me while flying was not the airline pretending a cardboard box was an actual bed for an actual baby. The worst thing is what the airlines try to pass off as children's food.
Younger children may experience nightmares or exhibit difficult behaviours. They can refuse to attend school. Struggling to concentrate in lessons / whilst preparing for their exams, loss of interest in their day-to-day activities and hobbies can lead to gradually withdrawal and social isolation.
Why can I tell you about this? We have four kids, aged 17, 15, 12 and 3. I am not a parenting guru. Actually I raise our children from a 'know nothing' perspective. I allow myself to know nothing for sure. This makes me forever curious.
A knackered Daddy, a stressed Mummy and a 2-year-old-tantrum-throwing-daughter all look forward to their short break away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
They've been the udders that have fed our children and are now the plump cushions for their sleeping heads. They've been squeezed, pumped, prodded and poked by babies, midwives and health visitors and because of this, they are now the floor-facing members of society. They have lost their fight against gravity and now hang their sad faces in defeat.
I got asked this question quite soon after the birth of both our babies. Like raising a tiny human is not work? Like somehow, every bit of work I did up until the point of giving birth was valid and worthwhile and now this is... well, what exactly is it?
A straight talking Chinese ex-colleague of mine and self-confessed 'tiger mum' wasn't entirely joking when she called me 'lax' for admitting the only private lessons my seven and eight year olds had were swimming classes. She thinks success of Chinese kids in England is simple, 'My kids just work harder than yours' she says with characteristic honesty.
When you have a baby you think that you and your other half will immediately be in tune with each other. That you will be the dream co-parent duo. Other couples will be amazed at how well you are coping. Cue two weeks in and you are screaming "IT'S YOUR F*CKING TURN TO CHANGE THE NAPPY" and throwing a sterilisation bowl off their head. So here are a few ways I have survived the last five years being in charge of small children... with another adult.
My baby boy's world is now full of stress. The stress takes up so much space he has no room for anything else. He is eleven. I didn't even know what the word "stress" meant when I was that age. Today, the only question that he has asked me is "What's a noun? I'm not good at grammar. I'm worried about it." This is what SATs do to children. They don't gain anything from them, but they lose so very much.
If I can't manage to put my own phone away for an hours family dinner time then why should I expect my son to do the same? Maybe parents need parental controls too? I want to reduce my own screen time, not just because I want to be a better parent but because I'm happier offline.
In a pre-child life, if someone were to ask me what I got up to at the weekend and I replied that I went swimming and to the supermarket all in one day, the person asking might look at me as if to say 'and...?'. With children, doing two different things in 24 hour period is something to be proud of. Medal-winning territory.
If I have learnt anything in raising a child who has severe disabilities and complex medical issues but with no diagnosis for his condition, it is that I cannot do this alone. It is too big a job.
Weaning isn't anything to be frightened of. Neither is it a definitive, military operation, governed by strict rules and riddled with pitfalls and potentially calamitous consequences.
In the week beginning 9 May, 10-11 year olds will be taking their SATs tests in English and maths. These tests have always been controversial, but this year's SATs have provoked unprecedented levels of concern for the following reasons...