Our kids both sleep well. They usually don’t require anything more than a couple of books, a couple of songs and, in Jennifer’s case, a review of our respective days by telling each other what made us happy, sad, annoyed and laugh. They then go to sleep after we’ve left the room. I’m not saying this to brag but to explain why I felt like a proper Mam last week for the first time in over a year.
Mammy 0 Leo 1
The other night at bedtime, Leo was grumpy and crying with teething pain. Graham was struggling to settle him and was running out of steam in trying. I felt well enough so I said I would go in after his cry for “Dada” didn’t abate. As soon as I went in, he moaned, held up his hand as if to push me away, saying “no, Mama, Dada in there” and pointed to the living room. I told him Daddy wasn’t coming so I was all he had. He continued to complain about that in between ramping up his crying. Anytime I tried to rub or pat his back, he said “no, Mama!” and pushed my hand away, moving away from me in the process.
Mammy 1 Leo 1
Bless his little lion socks. My little cub then got up on all fours and continued his crying. I took the opportunity to rub some Dentinox teething gel on his gums, which quietened him briefly as he readily accepted the relief.
Mammy 1 Leo 2
Almost as soon as I had finished rubbing the teething gel on his gums, he resumed crying. I picked him up as my shushing and soothing was only having a detrimental effect on his mood. He immediately ramped up the noise of his complaints about the member of staff who was attempting to soothe him. He made himself go limp, which made it difficult to hold him, particularly for someone who is as strong as a kitten. He then arched and wriggled in an attempt to do a double- twist double back (with tuck) back into his cot.
Mammy 2 Leo 2
I continued to tell him that he wasn’t going to get Daddy and that I was there. I raised my voice over his crying and managed to comfort him sufficiently so that I could stop him trying to get back into his cot, cradle him and rock him in my arms. Less than a minute or so post-rocking, he had stopped crying and was quiet. Soon after that, his eyes flickered. I held him for another minute and then gently put him back in his cot and went back into the living room.
Mammy 2 Leo 3
About five minutes later, he started crying again and this time shouted “Mama”. I went back in and he was lying down on his front crying.
Mammy 3 Leo 3
I rubbed his back and, this time, he didn’t move. He stopped his sobbing after a minute or two and then his eyelids fluttered so I left him peacefully again.
Mammy 3 Leo 4
About five minutes later, he started shouting for me again, this time without crying. When I went in, he lifted his head, said “Mama, down there” and pointed to the chair. I asked if he wanted to sit with him and he said yes. As instructed, I sat down.
Mammy 4 Leo 4
He soon put his head back down and he was so tired his eyes rarely moved. He wasn’t looking at me but he could see me in his peripheral vision. I was sitting there in silence not looking at him most of the time. Initially when I turned my eyes to him, his eyelids were drooping but re-opening. Another couple of minutes later, when I checked, his eyes were closed and he was in the early stages of snoozing. He turned onto his side not facing me and got himself into a comfortable position. I left a minute or so later.
Mammy 5 Leo 4
He didn’t make another sound all night. After nine rounds, victory was mine!
Perhaps I get a bonus point for the fact he has not repeated his sleep-fighting since?
I have enjoyed the increased time and energy I’ve had with the kids recently. “Enjoyed” doesn’t quite convey the immense joy I feel to be able to do things that I thought I might never be able to do again just a few months ago. For example, I have, in the last few weeks, been able to get myself up and down on the floor a few times to play with them. The other night I read a bedtime story on my recliner with Jennifer on one knee and Leo on the other. It almost felt normal and is precious to me.
When I’ve been able to spend this time with them, reading stories, playing with them and helping them at bath time, I’ve treasured those times without question. But there is always someone else around who is willing and able to do what I do, and better than me at that. The above bedtime saga was the first time in as long as I can remember that I’ve felt useful and invaluable and not just filling in inadequately.
It was a short but sweet taste of how it used to feel to be a real Mam and Wife. I’m certainly not claiming to have been a good one on either front pre-Squatter. I don’t have rose-tinted glasses or a hole big enough in my head to forget the many mistakes and failures I’ve notched up in both of those roles! Still, even when I was making mistakes, I was actively making mistakes rather than passively watching from the sidelines, which is what I’ve been doing for most of the last year.
Do as I Do: D’oh!
We made a schoolparent error last weekend when we forgot to check Jennifer’s school bag for any messages/letters from school. When Graham checked on Monday morning, Jennifer was still in her pyjamas having breakfast and it was about 40 minutes before Graham needed to leave to take her to school. He found a home journal that needed to be decorated on the front with a page inside requiring a description (in words, drawings and/or photos) of what Jennifer had done over the weekend.
Graham quickly took it to Jennifer and asked her what she wanted to write about. She decided to write about our trip to Gibside on Sunday when three-quarters of the Coles walked, and I motored, down the Avenue and “fetched” (J’s word) sticks to collect them on the back of my scooter. Graham wrote out a sentence that reflected what she said so that she could copy his writing underneath. Jennifer frequently asked what letters Daddy had written – her writing is more legible than either mine or Graham’s! He also asked me to print out two photos of our trip via AirPrint from the comfort of my own bed, one of which showed our collection (we didn’t bring them home, Ms M, we scattered them before we left Gibside!).
I also helped J decorate her journal. She stuck feathers, eyes and random square foam colours on it and drew hearts in different colours. She then got ready and they set off in good time but it really did go down to the wire. Phew!
I was hoping to instil in Jennifer (and Leo) the discipline I’ve never had to do things in advance rather than waiting until the last minute. My motivation and focus increases as a deadline draws nearer and, whether by necessity or natural instinct, tend to thrive under the pressure rather than stress or worry. We are hoping not to leave it to the last minute this weekend.
It reminded me of the time at University that I finished my essay during the supervision by which it was due. (A supervision is a small “class” or discussion between three or four students with the supervisor.) Sometimes the supervisor asked for the essays at the beginning of the supervision, in which case I would have been screwed, but this time (thankfully) the supervisor waited until the end. Even though I was sitting no more than four or five feet away from her, she didn’t notice that I was finishing my essay. The essay received the highest mark of any of the 150 essays or so I wrote during my three years at university!
Worst Foot Forward
My two Doozies a couple of weeks ago reduced my (already depleted) movement and strength in my right foot and leg. As well as reduced mobility, they felt very heavy. It’s only improved over the last four or five days but there has been sufficient progress in that time to be confident that I will move forward to my new baseline. My progress on the movement front and recovery from the extreme exhaustion that I’d felt the week before meant that I could go the cinema the other day.
We went to see Victoria and Abdul, which was slated in a couple of reviews I had read beforehand. My three companions (my Mam and two of her/our longtime friends) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was the youngest person there by about 25 years! I struggled up the few stairs to our seats hanging on to my Mam just as much as some of the oldies there so I felt right at home. Learning about Queen Victoria and the Victorian era when I was about 9 or 10 ignited a passion for history that’s never left me. I would guess that in the last 15 years I’ve read more non-fiction than fiction. Certainly, my much-reduced collection of books that we’ve squeezed into the Hobbit House is mostly non-fiction. Of those, most of them relate to the Nazis!
Yesterday, All My Troubles Seemed So [Close to Me]
I didn’t sleep well on Thursday night and think it must have been due to some frustrating news on Thursday evening. I had a lovely morning but, by mid-afternoon, I was so tired that I needed to rest and it triggered a downward spiral into darker thoughts than I usually have. I don’t suppress such thoughts, they just don’t come along very often. I usually hope that I live long enough to make some happy memories that my children will remember. My absence from their afternoon and evening yesterday brought to mind a very different thought. Namely, I worry that my children’s earliest memories will be scarred by me, my illness and my inability to do things that most other Mams can.
After a rest yesterday afternoon and a better sleep last night, those thoughts have subsided. After all, what is the alternative? It’s not my wish to die sooner rather than later!
Levity Through Brevity
To move on to a lighter note, here’s some bed-hair that I cultivated the other day:
[Almost] The First Time Ever I [Held Your Hand]
To finish on a sweeter than sweet note (just like The Real Thing), I came across this photo a couple of days ago, which was taken the day that Jennifer was born: