Monthly Archives: November 2013

How NOT to Potty Train

pottyThis is not my first foray into the world of potty training. Oh no.

I have my “GOLD” potty training badge.  I graduated with honours from toddler toilet training 3 and a half year ago.  I’m a pro. An expert.

Or so I thought.

The Monster is nearly 3.  He’s already 6 months older than Pickle was, but life is a bit more hectic nowadays, he’s still struggling with his language and overall we just never thought he’d be ready at the same time.

So I picked a weekend that we were free and set all the wheels in motion for a Friday start.  Right after school drop off, we were all set to begin operation Potty Training.

  • Chocolate buttons for wee rewards. CHECK
  • Mini Dinosaur figurines for poo rewards. CHECK
  • Potty. CHECK
  • Special toilet seat. CHECK
  • Potty training book. CHECK
  • Oodles of patience. CHECK
  • Paper Towels for accidents. CHECK.

So, off we went.

Wee number 1 in the potty. Woo hoo. Chocolate button dispensed.

Poo number one in the toilet whilst using the ipad.  Woo hoo. Dinosaur dispensed.

Then….well he wasn’t so keen after that. I couldn’t convince him to sit on either the potty or toilet. We had a wee accident. NO big deal, I cleaned it up and put another pair of spider man pants on him.  We had lunch and I popped him in bed with a pull up nappy on. Yes, he still naps, unusual I know.

After his nap we got up, put our special spider man pants on and headed off to pick up Pickle from school along with her play date for the afternoon.  “Please, please, don’t let him have an accidents whilst we are on the school run”.

We get back and he hasn’t done an accident. However, he won’t use any toilet or potty and he wants to go upstairs with the girls. I can’t keep him downstairs, so up he goes.

30 minutes later and the girls start shouting for me.  “Mummy there’s poo on the stairs and I have it on my leg”.  WHAT?

I get upstairs and there is poo on the stairs, AND on the tights of the playdate, and on PIckle’s leg and in the bathroom and the bedroom and the hallway and there is The Monster, happily playing with shit sliding down his leg.

I swear, it is the most horrendous scene I have every come across.

He won’t  move so I have to pick him up at arms length (he is heavy) and carry him to the bathroom where I attempt to clean him up with wipes, it wasn’t working very well and the girls kept shouting out new places that poo had been located.  Unhelpful.

I was in such despair I started sobbing, but The Monster thought I was laughing and joined in. Well you can imagine how well that went down.  I snapped back at him so fast I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him look that surprised.

Cleaning up a bedroom that had been trashed by all 3 of them wasn’t much fun either.  Not so easy to see where the bastard poo had gone.

My text to my husband – “Potty training abandoned Shit all over the house. Your turn next, I’ve had enough”.

Seems I’m back to bloody square one.  I’ve handed back my medal.



The Vegetable Monologues

Meet Lieutenant Dan.  He’s mean, he’s green and (believe it or not) he is a vegetable machine.  NO really.


Lieutenant Dan is my (not so) secret weapon in the fight to get vegetable into my VEGETARIAN son.

My soon to be 3-year-old has never been a fan, but I don’t know a whole heap of toddlers who are.  My daughter took some warming up when she was around 2 and seemed to fall for the “look, broccoli are mini trees and corn is treasure” trick.  She eats enough different types of vegetables for me not to have to worry about it.  The Monster on the other hand is so terrible that we have to ensure we create a hidden veggie sauce at least once a week in the hope that’ll be enough.  Oh, and he pretty much eats veggies at nursery 2 days a week.  Mostly.

So about a year ago the kids got these parachute soldiers in a party bag and once the strings got tangled, we were all set to chuck them and left them on the dinner table.  We were sitting down to dinner and The Monster was yet again eating all the beige, low nutrition items on his plate and ignoring the colourful vegetables, so I grabbed one of the soldiers and started a little show as the soldier started chanting “Must eat the peas. Must eat the peas”. Lo and behold when I pierced a pea with the bayonet/rifle and brought it up to TM’s mouth he hate it with glee. He then started shouting “More. More”.

And so, for a week. I was able to feed him peas and corns, provided I was up for the puppet show, the voice, the enthusiasm and the time to sit next to him to feed them one by one.

Then we lost the soldier.  For a time we made do with a plastic figurine of Sebastian (the lobstery thing from The Little Mermaid), who, with his many legs, was able to have more peas in one piercing but his legs started wobbling and we lost a few and TM lost interest in him.  The pea and corn eating stopped.

You can no imagine my utter delight when sorting out the new sofa we found the soldier again on Sunday.  We were eating a roast dinner with peas and corn that night so out he came.  A new name was attached to him (not very creative I know) and he started barking orders at TM about eating peas and corn.  Which he was very happy to do, but wouldn’t accept the broccoli. Oh well.

Of course it’s not just the voice and the barking of orders that TM like. He likes being called “Soldier” or “Private” and when he’s done well, Lieutenant Dan gives him a high-five which is TM’s opportunity to knock him for six across the table.  Causes much hilarity as he dusts himself off and grumbles about it.

Thought I’d introduce to you the one thing that has managed to get a recognisable vegetable pass my nearly 3 year olds lips.  No mean feat.

What tricks and gimmicks do you use to get your toddler’s to eat a vegetable?  I’m up for trying anything.  Next stop, Broccoli and carrots.


“My Family Comes First”

What does that mean?  In the context of your life?

“My Family Come First”.

I only ask, because it’s a phrase I’ve struggled with, not just from my own perspective but when other people have said it. I heard it recently whilst visiting friends and it’s sat there, on my brain, waiting for me to figure it out.

You see, I was visiting a friend who works very very hard in a full-time job.  She gets to do that job 90% of the time from her home, which means she has flexibility to walk to the bus stop to meet her daughter from school a few days a week and drop her son at nursery.  On the whole though, she has to work a 40 hour week.  She has worked very hard to get to her position in a major British company.  She has done years of study since applying as a graduate there and has the job she aimed to get.  She gets the job done but she told me that nowadays “My family comes first”.Family

The trouble is, in the week I spent with her and her family I didn’t see a moment of tenderness, a second of play, an hour of discussion with either of her children.  I was just left wondering what her family were ACTUALLY getting by being first.  She loves them, she looks after them exceeding well and she cooks almost every family meal. She is a good mother. Perhaps this is her happy place.

I think I’m quite a strict parent. I don’t abide noisy children in public places, I detest children who don’t say please and thank you, even in a restaurant, and I know what annoyed me when I was without children, so I try to follow the same rules.  However, my friend made me look positively “new age” in my approach to parenting.  Her children had to sit down and not move when in a restaurant (we were sitting in a less formal sofa area for lunch at a low table).  She looked like she was having a terrible time because she was so stressed about upsetting other people.  I let The Monster walk/jog around his chair making babbling noises because 1) he wasn’t very loud 2) he was being kept busy by it and 3) there wasn’t anyone nearby as we were by the door.  I made a reference to it and could visibly see my friend didn’t approve.  I gave my son my phone so he’d sit still.  It wasn’t ideal.

We took them out for a meal one night and she commenting on my bag of pens and plain paper and said I was clearly a veteran. Her daughter is nearly 7 and has only been in a proper restaurant twice before.  I find this incredible.

I found her whole approach to parenting old-fashioned and I thought it was such a shame that she was putting her family first but her children weren’t seeing the best of her.

She left the children to play alone (both separately) whilst she went straight from her desk in one room to the kitchen to prepare a fantastic family meal.

I have known this person a long time, so she is very comfortable in my presence, I have no doubt it was exactly as she would be whether we were there or not.

I suppose I should have realised when she commented on the fact I had engaged her son in a conversation about nursery and his friends.  He was very shy (as many 4 year olds are) and he clearly wasn’t used to someone asking him a question.  We were on our own in the living room and if he was a grown up I wouldn’t have sat there in silence, so I do what I always do and ask questions.  She found this very odd.  She told me she never talked to other children.  I have no idea why.  I always find they say far more interesting things than grown ups do.

I’m not slagging off my friend’s parenting skills (I know it looks like it, I can see that), I am merely speculating on what “my family comes first” means to people. She didn’t look like she was enjoying her children at all.  She had no more time to spend with them and was just there to ferry them around to various places and clubs.  Whilst all very handy, I’m sure they’d have preferred some one-on- one time with her instead.

My family come first because I spend far too much time organising things for them to have fun (parties, play dates, activities) when I’m actually at work. I am hoping to reduce my working hours so I get to spend more time with them and I’ve now got a cleaner so I can actually play with my son on my day off on a Friday.  My idea of “My family Come First” is this and ensuring I’m a bit more laid back with my kids, I’m not stressed and snappy.  That’s when I stop being a great mother.  That’s my happy place.

What’s yours?




Social Media and Children

I recently set up my school’s PTA Facebook page and Twitter account.  Everyone in the PTA Meeting I was at, looked on blankly as I mentioned how useful this would be to parents.  There was much scoffing, smart comments and a lot of patting on the back that they were all as useless as the next when it came to social media.  They were very happy to have someone do it for them.FacebookLogoApril2013-150x1501

After I set up the page I sent the link off to about 5 people to review it.  1 replied to say “great, thank you. It’s perfect”, 3 didn’t reply and 1 replied with “I’m a bit old-fashioned and don’t have a Facebook account, should I be able to see it?”

This person has a daughter who is 6, in fact her daughter is friends with mine.  Is it just me that finds this attitude slightly worrying?  If she hasn’t got a grasp of our oldest and least tech savvy social media platforms will she ever know what the hell her daughter is up to when she’s doing more sophisticated ones?

I was reminded of this last year when my brother-in-law came to me for advice about his 13-year-old daughter who is on Facebook and was sharing some worrying things.  I gave him a bit of a smirk and reminded him that he had always ribbed me about my use of social media platforms.  Everyone would comment about how much time I spent on them (I posted a status, replied to others, in the evening) and now, all of a sudden, they are turning to me for advice.  I revelled in this.

I feel I would know enough to get to grips with some of the stuff my daughter and son may do online. I’ll never pretend I’ll know everything.  When they set up the latest account on the latest new thing, I will do the same.  I will do it for their safety, but I’ll also do it for my own interest in the way our culture is moving.  I think once you start getting left behind, it’s very hard to catch up.  You only have to look at our parent’s generation who struggle with using “windows” to know that is always the case.  I started using computers in my 20’s so I feel I had the head start.

I just can’t really get my head around the fact so many parents have no idea about social media.  Is this worrying?  Do you feel you have a good grasp?


Disciplining Children

I had an interesting conversation on twitter on the weekend.  It was about discipline.

It started with a few tweets about the banning of THE BOOK. I won’t go into it here, but you can find out about it by visiting .  It’s not a very nice book. It’s been about for quite a while, but not promoted, so when someone who actually gave a shit about the way children are treated saw it and read a few pages they quite rightly stepped up to the plate and started a campaign to have it removed from circulation.  Anyway, it’s all about corporal punishment for children.  As young as 4 months old.

It was nice watching us all come together on twitter.  A common ground, a group of parents that are probably old enough to remember when punishment of this kind was common practice.  Some of us were smacked (a lot) by our parents (I was even caned at school), but perhaps some remember stories their parents told of the way they were treated.  Nowadays, we know that systematic physical punishment of this kind isn’t good.  We know that even the occasional physical punishment isn’t great, but it does happen. 

I have never smacked my children, but I have come very very close.  I was raised in a smacking household.  My parents were quite a lot stricter than other parents and my mum lost her temper quite a bit (I’m afraid I do too).  When I was older I always remembered the look my mum gave when she was in a bad mood and how scary it was and I always thought, why didn’t she just do that? Why didn’t she raise her voice, tell me how disappointed she was with me.  It would have done the same thing.  She didn’t need to wallop me over the head.

Pickle was a challenging baby, but a delightful toddler. She was nearly 2 when she did something I had asked her 2 previous times not to do. She was only 2, she had probably forgotten I’d said it, but I was stressed about something else at the time and tired of repeating myself (oh, how I could have seem my life 3 years hence…it’s a daily ritual), and I rushed over to her with one raised hand ready to give a short sharp smack to the bottom.  She was watching television at the time, so to my absolute relief, she has no idea I nearly smacked her.  I literally had to force myself NOT to smack her.  So ingrained was that reaction.  My husband saw it, with horror.  We calmed down and talked about it. There’s been a few occasions since where I was tired, my brain wasn’t working, I couldn’t quickly come up with a solution to resolve the issue and my first thought was a smack.  Just a thought. The reminder of that near miss all that time ago, stops me.  I walk away, grab a few minutes to find a different solution.

I did “tap” my son’s leg once, whilst he was on a changing mat, whilst he was kicking me ferociously and ignoring my request to stop. I couldn’t leave him on it and he was too heavy to lift off and back on again.  The tap says it all really. It was a half-hearted reaction.  I know I’m not that kind of mother, or I don’t want to be.

So, what is that kind of mother.  Well, it’s the kind of mother that makes mistakes. That was raised in a household where smacking was the norm, who may have made her mind up early on in motherhood that she wouldn’t treat her children the way she was treated, but often finds herself in situations where she falls to the default.  This is especially noticeable if a child has been about to do something life threatening, like running on to a road. A friend of mine who is French, has smacked both her sons on separate occasions.  I wouldn’t have done it, but I wouldn’t judge her for it.  She is the product of her own convictions, her own upbringing,  she reacted in the heat of a serious moment.  She is a good mother.

I think we all want to live in a world where children are treated with respect, but who can be shaped to behave appropriately in certain situations.  I don’t want to see anyone smack anybody (least of all me) but I do need to discipline my children.  So I do.

I use the 3 and out rule.  On the last one, I usually count to 3.  That gets a response 9 out of 10 times.  If they are being very stubborn, then they get to have timeout on the step.  Both of them spent a fair bit of time between 2-3 yrs on the step. Pickle rarely goes  on it (maybe once in the last year) and The Monster used to be on it daily or several times a day, but we can go almost a week nowadays without using it.  He’s about to turn 3. That’s a success for me. 

I know that’s probably not far enough for some mothers.  They are confident in their beliefs that children do not need discipline.  That they will find their way in the world through guidance. I applaud you, I am intrigued (and will read up about it) and I hope that your way will produce well-rounded good citizens and if so, that your way will be “the way” in the next generation, but I can’t do that. 

Perhaps you have done a lot of research, met mother’s who have done it. Perhaps you are a 3rd generation of not experiencing physical punishment, the leapt isn’t so far for you.  The leap is too far for me.  When my son is walloping my daughter over the head with a wooden hammer, I have to do something, my daughter would be confused.  When my son is pushing someone elses son off the steps of the slide, I have to make a “thing” of it. It’s not fair on the other children or their parents. I can’t overcome that.  I have to find a way to tell my son that he shouldn’t be doing that.  I have few resources at my finger tips at that moment.

We all do what we can within the parameters of our personalities, genes and upbringings.  That’s all we can do. Strive to be better parents than the ones before and slowly find the right balance to raise good, resilient and respectful adults of the future.