Monday, 2 September 2013

Growth, change and exciting news!

My little boy can barely see his 'Wilbur' from a standing position, let alone grab it and point it in a sensible direction whilst peeing. He's at the age where he refuses to use the toilet sitting down and would much prefer to approach it like a grown-up man. Of course he has the best intentions, but as I discovered at the weekend his aim needs substantial coaching. I mistakenly stood next to him and his pee shot up vertically like a geezer and straight onto my chin. Obviously, I have no experience with this as I don't have the equipment (apart from using a 'She-Wee' once at Glastonbury Festival). What I do know is that currently his 'ending' resembles a wet dog stepping out of a pond when it shakes vigorously and drenches everything in sight. So we're working on the finish and the placement of only one hand: "I don't think you need to support it with both hands just yet darling." I thought having pee in my face would stop now that he's out of nappies but alas, it isn't so.

I'll be visiting primary schools ready for next September over the next couple of months. It seems to have come along all too fast and I miss the little chubby baby-cheeks he used to have. I do think he'll be more than ready for school and is already writing his own name, recognising letters and numbers, starting to tell the time and is 'brilliant at maths' (his nursery's words). I look forward to sending him off to the next chapter and watching him grow and thrive and absorb knowledge.


My baby boy will soon be going to school AND I will be going back too! I feel elated, excited and enthusiastic. I also feel borderline insane.

My life for the next 6 months!
As if I didn't have enough on my plate I've finally taken the plunge and I will be starting a part-time degree in Business Studies on the 5th October (subject to approval of funding)! Whilst my little one is in bed by 7.30pm most nights and is settled into a routine I can use the time I have in the evenings to do something constructive by gaining a few letters after my name. I'm hoping this degree will open doors and increase my earning potential. This in turn will give me a chance to afford to take my son abroad, pay for various lessons, activities and hobbies and even buy our own house one day.

Don't get me wrong, it's not as if I don't have enough excitement in my life already. I've had an amazing summer which involved being taken to the South of France by The Swede, I performed at Glastonbury festival as part of an Earth-protecting choir, I went to a Ferrari owners' picnic and I took my son to Cornwall and Devon to visit family. I want to go further and do more fun things so I'll have to work even harder.

These are exciting times ahead with lots of development for both my son and I. He will learn to pee straight and I'll learn to think straight. Come on World, we're ready for you!

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

He got down on one knee...

Granted, he was on one knee because the clumsy fool (that I am) managed to drop the scone I was holding jam-side-down onto the floor. So, he sprung down off his seat to get it for me. But whilst he knelt there with the ruby jewel of raspberry jam glistening at me I couldn't help but smile at the romantics of it all. That moment quickly faded when I realised I would have to decide what would be the correct scone etiquette: Do I scrape and reapply the jam or just ditch the scone altogether? Hey, I'm a single mum and I never know where my next meal is coming from! I scraped.

Lego man spanner helmetThis is a very significant month. It is the 1st Anniversary of my blog, and it is also the anniversary of when I first found 'The Swede' whilst trawling through randoms on an internet dating website. We've had a fantastic time over the last few months and I think he's starting to realise that he might actually be a little bit into me. For the first time he spent the whole weekend with both my son and I a couple of weeks ago. This was a massive show of trust on my part. I thought he would be overwhelmed by my son's insatiable curiosity and enthusiasm. I expected him to turn on his heels and sprint out of my life forever. However, he did well to humour him, and they found a common interest with Lego.

I like that I only see The Swede a few times a month. He gives me the space I need to stay on top of my life as a single mum. I need time to regroup and to get my house in order. Then the time I have with him is very much a small escape from reality so that I can be a better parent for my little boy.

Last month my boy turned 3 years old. I can no longer call him 'baby' (he doesn't like it), and he's been sleeping through the night for the last month without pull-ups and staying dry. I feel like I've entered into a comfortable place. We have our routine and I'm pleased with his progression. His personality is growing and he makes me laugh daily. Tonight's random line was, "Mummy, houses are built on 'some ment'."

Boy with red balloon
Happiness: A balloon and a fistful of cake.
It's been a year of lows, highs, juggling, upset and uncertainty. One of the recent highs was a trip down to Devon with my son a few weeks ago for my Great Aunt and Uncle's Ruby Wedding Anniversary. It was a great weekend that was a well-needed little holiday. My sister drunkenly stumbled into a neighbouring house and gave the owner a shock. My little cousin (just entering puberty) asked another cousin (in her 30s) if she'd like to sit on his knee during the photos. Finally, Nan talked obliviously during the speeches, and I had the same conversations repeatedly with my dear uncle with dementia who was (bless him) as equally enthusiastic about my answers to his questions each time I gave them. The lovely thing about family is that you will never truly be alone and there will always be someone there to inadvertently make you laugh. My son's input in the laughter department hit it's peak when he had an unfortunate dirty accident just as I'd got in the shower and squirted the soap in my hand.

I think I've done well to survive the first year as a single parent. It's now been more like 18 months, officially. I've managed to provide the basic needs for my child without allowing him to come to harm and without loosing my mind. I've come out of the other end feeling centred, happy, thinner, focussed and confident that I can do this.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Get out of my space!

Last Saturday morning I spent most of my time scratching purple and orange Playdoh out of my son's cream bedroom carpet. I cursed myself for leaving it within his reach, and smugly found a spot for the container on top of his wardrobe.  Later in the afternoon I discovered he'd also found the coloured chalks, and so I witnessed 'Multicoloured Carpet - Part 2'. Will I ever learn? He's suddenly hit the age where he is surprisingly resourceful, and he can open packets and boxes that he couldn't before. I should really quench his insatiable curiosity in the hope that it will help him go further in his adult life, but there is a time and a place. My flat is kiddiproof (or so I thought). It may be time to revisit things within his reach and not underestimate his new found opposable thumb skills. I think a regular review of potential hazards in broken toys, his reach and what fastenings/bottle tops he can open is very important. Failing that, I could just glue everything sharp, dangerous and messy to the ceiling and be done with it.

Lego man with shopping trolly

We got out of the house for a bit on the weekend and did a much-needed shop at the supermarket. Whilst having lunch at the in-store cafe he bolted off twice before I could get his wrist strap/reign on him. One all-knowing stranger felt the need to say, "You need a leash for that one." Thanks for your input. I know I have a mischievousness monkey for a child, but thank you for announcing it.

As we returned to the car I noticed a shiny black BMW pulling into the Parent and Toddler space next to me. I noticed there was no child seat in the back of the car, and I felt the need to point this out to the driver who looked old enough to know better. He said, "Excuse me? This is my child", as his 15 year old 'child' with facial fuzz opened the passenger door. Embarrassed, and thinking he must be disabled I apologised profusely, and then the 'kid' jumped out of the car and off into the supermarket! I stood their speechless (a rare occurrence, I'm told). He is obviously someone who is deluded to think you get the privilege of a larger space just because you have a 'child'. It's frustrating because it's difficult to find a parent and toddler space. I felt bad for the genuine parents with toddlers/babies who were queuing for the space. Surely the point is that in order to get a baby out and back into a car - strapped in safely - you need to open the door fully? A teenager can manage on his own.

A couple of the supermarkets issue a £50 fine for the misuse of toddler spaces (although I'm not sure how strictly they can enforce these penalties anyway). It equally frustrates me when a family park in a toddler space and only one of the adults get out to nip into the shop, leaving the children in the car with the other parent. Or, when there is a child seat in the car....but it's empty. I also could've done with parking in a parent and child space in my third trimester as I tried to squeeze my enormous bump through a tiny crack in the door, because technically, I did have a child. However, I didn't because these spaces rely on good manners and common sense. Unfortunately there are the inconsiderate few who are either a buckle short of a five-point harness or just down right selfish.

Friday, 1 February 2013

What are the toughest challenges faced by a single mum?

This is a lot of pressure on just one person to make the right decisions.  Is he eating right? Is he getting enough 'fresh air'? Do I have enough cash to cover the next pair of shoes? We are so worried by recommendations on various parent websites and retailers that bargain shoes for children are so wrong. I see the state of my feet when I’ve crammed them into a pair of bargain specials for a (rare) night out. I agree, he should have well fitting shoes because his feet are still growing. As parents we have fears about them having the best of everything so they can be the best. My fear is that if I don’t buy good shoes his feet will be mangled, and he’ll have some sort of limp in his teenage years which will cause him to be bullied at school thus damaging his mental state. He’ll never have the confidence to fulfil his dreams, and end up living with his mum as an adult because he can’t bear to leave the house and get a job. Knowing which path to take with even the smallest of choices could potentially be directly or indirectly detrimental to him in the long term.

You can plan and save but if you were already paying out for debt before you were single (most of us do, let’s face it) then you’ll surely be stretched if you’re supporting a child on your own. If you want to be working and advance your career for the long term benefit of your child’s future then childcare is a necessity. The biggest payout is the nursery fees. Luckily, I get a bit of a tax break in childcare vouchers. This means you don’t pay tax on a small portion of your earnings and it's paid directly to the carer rather than into your bank account. Of course there are snippets of help with tax credits etc. which are certainly not to be sniffed at, but even those are cut every year. As the cost of living increases, so the tax relief goes down making the gap feel like the Grand Canyon. I sometimes wonder if the easy way out would be to stop work and start hollering at the local council to give me a house to live in. However, I would like to set a different example for my son, and encourage him to aim high. If he wants to get somewhere he should put on his good shoes and start walking.

Which Nursery/School?
When they hit three years old your children are entitled to a small amount of funding for a nursery place. This gets them prepared for the school environment. What I am quickly finding is that nurseries ramp up their fees so that it’s actually MORE expensive than sending him to a childminder. Although the termly funded fees are about the same you’ll have to pay an inflated rate for them to be cared for in the holidays. There are also a number of nurseries and childcare environments to choose from. How do you know which will be best? The truth is, you can't. You have to go with your gut and hope it works out.

I’m pretty sure I’m not exaggerating. In fact, I'm sure my colleagues have started to wonder if I suffer from narcolepsy. For parents in general, exhaustion is one of the biggest killers of their personality. It sucks the life out of you. It takes your enthusiasm, your drive, your dreams and your libido and rips them away from you like candy from a baby - so to speak. My son’s nearly three and only now is he starting to stay in his own bed at night. He still gets up at about 3am for a cuddle sometimes, and if he doesn’t my body clock wakes me up anyway to lie there expectantly waiting for my bedroom door to slowly open. Letting him in my bed was a tough habit for me to break too because it’s nice having him there to cuddle up to.

Love life – Or lack thereof
I am actually one of the fortunate single mums who has one or two weekends a month off from my parental duties. These are the times I can date. And these times only. It is slightly limited, but I neither have the time, nor the energy for any extracurricular activities during my normal week. Internet dating was made for folk like us.

The Brave Face
Your job is busy and long, your funds are low, you have minimal time for yourself or your hobbies, you’re under pressure to be an exemplary model of a human being. You’re judged by people in the street about how you handle a tantrum, you barely have time for toilet breaks so you learn to hold it, you try to avoid conflict with men folk, bosses and neurotic family members. So when you’re close to falling off the edge a little boy expects you to be happy, on the ball and 'chipper'. In your head you count to five, your smile goes up; you spring into Mum-mode and eagerly help practise counting to 20.

Mum and son

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Parenthood: Encouragement and Bribery

Poos seldom occur at a convenient time: Usually during dinner, when you're about to leave for work, or at 3am when faeces is the last smell you want resonating through your nostrils in your sleepy stupor. However, it's almost like an alarm in the little 'uns tummy, and you daren't ask them to wait. That's a disaster waiting to happen. You stop, drop whatever your doing (regardless of how important it is) and start a jog/brisk walk to the nearest lavatory. You'll also attempt not to giggle at the Charlie Chaplin-style waddle your offspring has suddenly developed bought on by the urge to bear down.

I can't complain about my son's toilet habits though, to be fair. He'll normally tell me when he needs to go and the days of showering poop from bed sheets - to get rid of the worst - before a wash are (thankfully) behind me. My boy, now almost 3 years old is now becoming an independent person. He can now dress himself, put on his own shoes, entertain himself, brush his own teeth, 'read' himself a book in bed before tucking himself in at night. This new found independence is very useful in our weekday morning routine. It's such a relief that both of us know what we should be doing and when so that we can get out of the house in time! Independence is not without it's quarrels, but I'm grateful that he will try his best to be a 'big boy' and is eager to impress me. I ensure I still make a big fuss when he can dress before I can finish in the shower and it encourages him more.