A bed time to remember

Jasmine, you just amazed me with your kindness, your maturity and your compassion.

I was lying with you at bed time, stroking your hair to help you relax as you had been rather excited. Daddy was out so it was just me and you, with Summer already asleep in her bed.

Summer suddenly started crying, which isn’t unusual but as you probably knew when you heard it, that meant I needed to go to her. I told you I’d be right back but you burst into tears and insisted on coming with me which of course, I allowed, because those tears were pure sadness.

You sat quietly on my bed whilst I lifted Summer out the cot and cuddled her back to sleep. I wondered what you were thinking then, seeing me cuddle Summer. Were you jealous or just watching? Were you sad or comforted?

I put Summer back down and we snuck out but in your innocence you started talking a little too loudly, waking her once again as we got to the door. Hesitantly, we went to your room and I hoped, maybe, although I knew it wouldn’t happen, that Summer would settle on her own because the thought of leaving you again to go her had my heart all twisted and sad. Instead you turned around and said, “oh Mummy, Summer is crying you need to go give her a cuddle.”

You gave me permission to go to her, not because you were trying to stay up later but purely because you understood it’s what she needed. I was so grateful in that moment for your kindness, being able to soothe Summer once again without worrying (too much) about you.

Again you sat on my bed as I held your sister in my arms. You popped back to your room to grab your Ellie Nellie and then lay still on my bed, watching, just quietly. I put Summer back in her cot but she woke up crying straight away, wanting more time with me and wanting to feed.

We went back to your room and I explained that I needed to be with Summer for longer. I explained that I’d come right back to you just as soon as I could. I explained that Daddy was out when you asked for him.

I fed Summer and she calmed instantly, her head becoming heavy as she found sleep again and I could hear you in your room, waiting, understanding, yawning and sighing. You could’ve been crying, pulling at my clothes wanting me all for yourself as often happens at bedtime but tonight was so different.

I came back to you and you were awake, ready for cuddles of your own. I held you and told you how proud I was that you’d waited for Mummy and how kind you had been to Summer. I told you what an amazing big sister you were.

Then you paused and looked up at me. You said, “I want to share my Mummy with Summer,” and those eight words of kindness overwhelmed me. I love you so much, angel girl.

What holidays teach us about minimalism

I cannot get the idea of “minimalism” out of my mind and it’s certainly become one of my top goals for 2019. I don’t know how far the journey will take me and I also know, just by looking around me, that I’m still just at the very start, but I’m excited to continue to evaluate why I’m keeping hold of my possessions and create a home environment that makes me feel calm, happy and joyful. Back in November, I de-cluttered more than 400 things from our home (blog to follow…at some point) and I’ve since stumbled across blogs and Instagram accounts that as well as looking pretty, clearly demonstrate how owning less can benefit so many aspects of our lives.

Since the beginning of January, we have been in Israel and are living here for a month, a half holiday, half short term re-location of sorts. We deliberately tried to pack lightly (tricky with a toddler and a baby) because I was determined to see how we would a) manage with minimal belongings for a month and b) what impact it would have on us as a family.

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The thing is I think most of us already know, deep down, that it’s not things that make us happy but the things we do. If I think back to the times in my life where I’ve felt the most free, the most alive and the least stressed, it would almost certainly be the times where I’ve had minimal belongings. I’ve been privileged enough to have done a fair bit of backpacking (oh those days before children) and living out of a rucksack and simply not being able to have too much always made for the very best experiences.

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So what have I learnt about minimalism during a months stay in Israel? Let me tell you.

  • Holidays make us happy: if we are happiest on holiday, doing more and having less, surely this is a lesson for our everyday life too? When we go on holiday, whether for a week, two or four, we take our necessary belongings in our suitcase. We pack for certain eventualities, especially with children, but for the most part, we pack our favourite things, the ones we know we love and want to wear and even then, there’s always items that come home unworn because they were “just in case” after all.
  • We don’t miss our things:  We don’t miss the things in our homes whilst we’re away but we may miss our home itself. Maybe I miss my house plant babies but otherwise I don’t miss my things and even if I try to think about what I miss, nothing particularly springs to mind. I haven’t needed anything whilst away that I’ve kept back home. So if we can live on our holidays with a minimal number of belongings and focus on memories, experiences and so on, why not do that at home, all the time?
  • There is always a to-do list: whether at home or away, there is always going to be laundry to do, toys to tidy away, dishes to wash and floors to sweep and children to look after and that doesn’t change. We’ve muttered the words, “we have a lot of clearing up to do,” or, “there’s still washing in the machine,” so many times this trip because let’s face it, kids make mess (whether they mean to or not) and time for tidying is always in short supply, especially when you’d rather be hanging out at the beach! However, what is easier is the feeling that our limited belongings take less time to wash, clean and tidy. There isn’t an excess of stuff to worry about and that is certainly quite freeing.
  • Changing habits takes work: Having less stuff has highlighted something important to me about myself and that is that I am the one who also needs to make a change to my own habits. Even here, whilst living with less and knowing all the benefits, it’s still me whose clothes don’t get put away at the end of the day or who struggles to actively tidy up, notice what needs done and prioritise those tasks over other things. I’m certainly not aiming for perfection but aiming for self-improvement is always a good thing. Changing my habits may need to co-exist with the minimalism goal for me to really notice a difference!
  • Jasmine is calmer (in some ways): I’m not pretending for a second that holidays with minimal things are a miracle cure for toddler tantrums but it has been interesting to see Jasmine in an environment of less. For one thing, she chooses to wear the same dresses everyday, whether she has 3 or 10 to choose from, she’ll wear the same ones, without a care in the world. She chooses the same books most nights too (we packed about 8) and never asks for ones we don’t have with us. Out of sight, out of mind. She is playing more mindfully with the toys we have here, although in all fairness, most of our time in Israel is spent outside which does make it much much easier. I’ve been more able to tune into her needs, her joys and her preferences. We’ve spent hours just dancing to music or watching the world go by from the balcony – no stuff  – but more on this another time!
  • Marie Kondo is an actual genius: Really. If you haven’t read her books or watched the Netflix show, I highly recommend them (the books more than the series). If we keep things in our lives that “spark joy” and make us happy, we can feel satisfied with owning less. I have had a few moments of wishing I had some different clothes with me, having recycled the same outfits day in and day out. Most of these clothes make me happy but are also breastfeeding friendly and therefore, currently, necessary. I have created a small wish-list of joy sparking items I’d like to look for when we get home, but otherwise, it’s all I’ve needed.
  • Home is where the heart is: this trip has been about making memories, seeing family and experiencing a culture we know we love so much about. We’ve lived in a flat where nothing belongs to us, yet it has felt like home. We’ve not bought items we haven’t needed but have instead borrowed toys from family or just made do with less and in all honesty, it’s been magical.

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So, here’s to 2019 (again), to continuing to de-clutter, transforming our home, living with less and doing more and living each day as if we were on holiday.

To the lady who made my daughter cry

Dear unknown lady who made my daughter cry,

I do understand that what you did had good intentions, that you didn’t set out to make my daughter cry and that you were trying to be helpful. I do understand that it wasn’t the most convenient thing for my two year old to want to walk independently down the stairs of Oxford Circus Underground station by herself, at her two year old, slower-than-average pace, at a busy time of day on New Years Eve. She wanted to navigate those stairs by herself and why shouldn’t she, seeing as she does all other stairs by herself all day long. On top of that, her father and I had our hands full carrying her baby sister in the buggy downstairs because there’s no lift access at many of London’s major tube stations.

According to you, however, my two year old walking down the stairs had caused a little queue behind her. A queue of busy adults in a busy adult rush tutting their busy adult tuts at having to wait a few more seconds to reach the station. You appeared next to my daughter and briefly asked me if I’d like any help, which at first I thought was very kind and considerate of you, because actually, it was a little stressful trying not to drop anything or anyone down those stairs. I politely said “no thank you” knowing full well that my daughter was capable of doing the stairs by herself and more-so, that she wanted to. Also, I didn’t really think it was a problem! Perhaps you are a mother yourself, knowledgeable that toddlers can be a little slower to get things done and just genuinely wanted to help. I get it, trust me, but I’d like to explain a little more about what happened next.

Despite me declining your offer to help, you suddenly picked up my daughter by the armpits and swiftly jogged her down the stairs before quickly disappearing to catch your train, leaving her standing alone waiting for us. My daughter, clearly shocked, highly uncomfortable and pretty angry let out a huge scream. A scream of discomfort, a scream of “hey, what the hell just happened?” A scream that filled Oxford Circus tube station for several minutes. A scream that needed me to explain to her why a lady had just picked her up for no apparent reason, violated her personal space, her ability to make decisions for herself and her choice to be physically touched by a stranger. If you think I’m overreacting, I urge you to keep reading.

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You didn’t stop to ask her if she wanted to be carried downstairs (I guarantee you she would’ve said no). You didn’t stop afterwards to apologise for making her cry (I guarantee you heard her, she is not one to cry quietly). You didn’t stop to consider whether or not it was appropriate to physically handle my child without her consent or mine.

So I’d like to ask you, lady from the tube station, would you have also done the same to a slower paced adult who was forming a queue behind them? An elderly person with a walking stick? Someone with a disability? A teenager on crutches? Would you have picked them up without their consent too? I didn’t think so. Does my daughter, simply because of her young age and portable size, not deserve the same respect and courtesy that you would show someone else? Is she not as entitled to use the stairs and complete them herself just as everyone else can? Is it appropriate to touch her just to make life more convenient for the adult population?

“I didn’t like that lady pick me up,” my daughter said to me once she had regained composure. “I know sweetheart,” I replied, “I didn’t either.” I fumbled for an explanation but my whole body ached with empathy towards her as she stood with tears rolling down her cheeks and a look of sadness and confusion in her eyes. My child did not want to be touched by a stranger during a special family day out in London anymore than you or I would want to be.

Sadly I see it all too frequently. Adults picking up children without their consent, for reasons that are usually rather selfish, the child then trying to wriggle away in discomfort. Children deserve ownership of their bodies as much as they deserve ownership over their precious possessions. So in future, lady from the train station, please consider the thoughts and emotions of my child, or any other child, before picking them up. Wait for consent and if it is not given, please respect that choice.

Yours sincerely,

Naomi

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Self-doubt as Jasmine’s Mummy

Do you ever question yourself about the way your children are and whether you’re doing the right thing? I do it all the time with Jasmine and always have done, especially on those days that don’t go so well. I know it’s my personality to be sensitive, emotional and over-analytical and it’s also her personality to be highly sensitive, emotional, perceptive and unpredictable.

There’s more though….Jasmine is having some difficulties breathing properly which has been going on for some time now. She breathes through her mouth not her nose, is always congested, always has a runny nose, snores loudly and snorts all day to try and clear her nose.  She often sounds like Darth Vadar and you can quite literally see and hear her struggling to breathe normally. The winter weather seems to be exacerbating things but now our “bad” or difficult days are now far outnumbering the good days leaving me feeling full of self-doubt, sadness and guilt. It’s impossible to know which version of Jasmine will show up each day and it’s also impossible to know why that particular version shows up!

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Jasmine is a child of high highs and low lows, as I guess all children are really. She’s either dancing around the house to Lady Gaga spinning in circles and shrieking with delight, running to see who is at the door and eagerly asking to play with me, or, she’s watching TV for 90% of the day, crying at the mere site of a kind stranger and the most used word in her vocabulary will be “no”.

There are times she’s happy to try all sorts of new foods, eat fruit & veg by the gallon and enjoy avocado and quinoa but there are times the only things she’ll eat all day are a box of raisins, a snack bar, crisps and cake, with even her favourite meals being rejected. That day was today.

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There are times she has an abundant energy, bouncing out the door ready to go swimming or to a friend’s house to play but there are many, many days where leaving the house is as hard a task as climbing Mount Everest. No offer of going here, going there or going anywhere is good enough and she just seems in a constant state of fatigue or disinterest. There are days she wakes up in the morning and doesn’t stop talking and singing, or, there are days where she wakes up crying and keeps crying about everything that happens for at least an hour or more. There are times when we giggle, we run, we play, we jump and we explore but there are days when we walk on egg shells around her because if the slightest thing goes wrong, there’s a waterfall of tears ready to come flooding out. There are times when your energy seems abundant and times when you barely move all day. Is this just toddlers? Is this just Jasmine? Is this just me?

I worry when we have days like that. I wonder what is going on inside her body and her mind to make it a difficult day for her. Is she not feeling well but can’t recognise that sensation? Is she just really tired but no longer able to nap? Is she not able to breathe well enough to feel energised and healthy? Does she genuinely just want to stay at home all day to play? Is the unpredictability of random outings too much for her? Is she still adjusting to the arrival of her sister? Then I worry that it’s me. Perhaps I’m too soft with her or perhaps she has too much control. Perhaps she’s just testing me and I should “put my foot down”. Perhaps there’s actually no problem at all and I’m wasting precious energy worrying for nothing.

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I’m still learning to trust that much of all this is all OK and totally normal. The highs and lows and the roller-coaster are what every toddler and every parent experiences, right? I’m still learning to let go of that worry and go with the flow, knowing she is a happy, healthy, loving and thriving child. I’m still learning that she can’t always tell me how she feels using words so uses actions instead. I’m still learning all about her and all about myself at the same time. I’m still learning not to compare her to others. I’m still learning to focus on the positives, what we did do not what we didn’t.

I wish I could have a crystal ball to see into my children’s future. A way to look forward 20 years and see that everything turned out OK and that the “bad days” didn’t really matter at all, that maybe it was just her way of trying to tell me exactly what she needed, her way of showing me her unique way of learning and developing. For now, my job is to support her through the bad days and enjoy with her the good ones.

A bed time poem

Bed time has lost its loveliness

Bed time has lost its loveliness, I’m really sad to say,
I’ve started to dread that time that comes at the end of every day
I used to read books to you, sitting together on your bed
Now that’s been replaced with lots of tears instead.

I understand you find it difficult, I promise that I know,
It’s not easy going to bed and you don’t want Mummy to go
But even when I try my best, I’m patient and I’m calm,
You still won’t let me read to you, that book about the farm.

Bed time has lost its loveliness and I’m trying my very best,
I know you’d rather play than get that all important rest
Mummy needs some time too you know, to relax at the end of the day
But I feel all stressed when you don’t seem to listen to what I say.

It’s not your fault you get upset at every tiny little thing,
I’m sorry I didn’t let you watch yet another episode of Bing
You need to wear a nappy and your teeth need to be brushed
I do all these things playfully, I know you don’t want to be rushed.

There are lovely moments too sometimes, in amongst the tears
I wish you could tell Mummy more about your fears
One minute you’ll be crying and then the next you’ll say,
“Mummy, I like your plait,” and those things really make my day.

You want me to stay for cuddles, to hold you nice and tight
So why does everything up ‘til then, feel like one big fight?
I’m only trying to help you, to make you feel safe and ready
I even make you giggle when I pretend to speak as teddy.

Bed time has lost its loveliness, it’s not how it was before,
I don’t really know what I’m doing anymore
I’ve read the books, I’ve tried to learn how to help you to unwind
And even when I want to scream, I try my best to be kind.

I suppose this is another phase, one that too shall pass
I’m reminded every day that you’re growing up so fast
For now you need your Mummy, and although I’m tired too
Of course I want to be there, to give my best to you.

Light on, light off, light on again, please just go to bed
You’ve had your drink of water, I’ve done everything you said
Mummy needs to go now but you wrap your arm around me
You pull me down to stay with you, I can’t just leave you be.

Bed time has lost its loveliness, we are all beginning to struggle
All we want to do is a have a lovely cosy snuggle
I love you, I love you, I love you, I say it a thousand times
I hope you can tell that from what’s written in my rhymes.

I kiss your cheeks and stroke your hair and comfort you in the dark
I wonder what you dream about, maybe our trip to the park.
Sleep finally finds you and you drift off for the night
And I’m just left to question whether anything I did was right.

I’ll see you in the morning when you wake up with a smile
The night before forgotten, at least for a little while.
Bed time has lost its loveliness, I miss how it used to be
But I trust we’ll get it back again, Jasmine, you and me
I’ll focus on those cuddles, on the way only Mummy will do
It’s worth it a million times over because of my love for you.