Tag Archives: Phases

It’s alright, don’t worry: I’m just going through a phase

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I’m here!

(This is me breaking the log-jam that is two weeks without writing a word, by writing anything. Here’s the anything.)

Everyone tells you that children go through phases, and from my vast sample size of two, I can tell you that it’s true. I mean, I don’t know how useful it is to know that. Sometimes repeating ‘it’s a phase’ on loop to myself (refereeing toy squabble no. 374, maintaining death grip on Dairy Milk) has been immensely comforting. Other times I want to say ‘yes, it’s probably a phase, but that has no bearing on the intense crapness of this phase, since we’re living our lives in the middle of it’. You know the phases I mean.

Funny how we never think of the delightful parts – so many, so many – as ‘just a phase’, though they’re as brief as the negative parts in the long run. T is fast approaching three, and the thought that he will not be mispronouncing ‘grumpy pants’ as ‘scrumpy pants’ for very much longer is something I am dealing with…not so well.

I have also found that motherhood goes through phases too. That time when you have a newborn, every sense blunted by lack of sleep and every feeling heightened by hormones and love, as sharp and vivid as bright colour on canvas.

The phase where your first child finds out they can want things. Oh, man. And you eagerly open up your metaphorical book of parenting strategies, and they screw up the book, and you don’t realise that they are still too young to keep a thought in their heads for seven consecutive seconds, so OF COURSE STRATEGY IS BEYOND THEM, JUST DISTRACT THEM UNTIL YOU LOSE YOUR VOICE.

The phase where you’re wedded to routine, because it anchors you both in a sea of hours from sunrise to sunset. The phase where you prefer to take things as they come. The phase where you’re killing it with the housework and the extra-curricular activities and the washed and ready school uniform. The phase where you’re barely holding your crap together, your former competence so much sand trickling through fingers.

That one where you realise your second child is different to your first, so you’re going to have to use a different book, or write your own.

The phase where you are able to say ‘it’s alright. This is only a phase. He’s not finished. He’s not broken. He has further to go than this’. And mean it.

Mother phases are different to child phases though, because unlike them I seem to revisit mine over and over. One minute T is at a stage I remember from his brother, so I’m able to ease our way through it without worrying. The next minute they’re doing something new, and I feel like I don’t know anything. This is to say, if you’re feeling out of your depth, don’t worry – there are better days ahead. And if you think you’ve got everything sorted forever and ever, well, LOL, this is a grace period, and grace only lasts precisely as long as you absolutely need it.

H has really struggled in school lately, and I have fretted myself silly at home after dropping him off. I couldn’t say ‘this is only a phase’ and mean it – not here, not about this beloved vulnerable boy. I have worried and worried for weeks, and it colours everything else I do.

Now he’s doing better, and I’ve got past some big deadlines, so I’m feeling quite zen about everything. Like I can work hard and without guilt, and even, like, look with benevolence on that awful Transformers cartoon they’re obsessed with, even though my eyeballs melt in protest every time I watch it. I can see the boys and appreciate them for what they are right now, not just what they will be. I can feel lucky. I do feel lucky.

This is my favourite phase. But I wouldn’t get rid of the worry phases either. They feel like the hard, hands-dirty, bloody-minded work that motherhood is made of.

Anyway, I blame this onrush of good feeling for me rashly deciding to potty-train T this week. I was going to wait till after his birthday, but saw a packet of REALLY snazzy Thomas pants in Tesco yesterday morning and just was overcome with optimism. Am I zen enough to avoid eating all of his bribery sweets when he’s not looking? Jury’s out.

Photos from Grey’s Court this weekend, which felt like just the right spot for some appreciation. 

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Rehearsal

April 15

I’m sat with my feet in a patch of sun, watching our Easter holidays burn themselves out. The house is messy and I haven’t started dinner, but I’m sat stubbornly in my chair. I don’t want our normal routine back just yet.

In a lot of ways, these two weeks have reminded me of last summer: clear skies, welcome sunshine, two boys at home to entertain all day as I like. In fact, with no time pressures and my car ready on the driveway, I’ve woken up with the old sense of thrilling possibility I had, in those last weeks before nursery swallowed H in the mornings. Day trips. Slightly crappy home-made picnics. I can drive and these boys will think anywhere is cool and we can go wherever we like.

So we have. Playdates and woody walks, bike rides, parks, zoos and National Trust properties. We’ve come home in the late afternoon tired and scorched, piled ice cream into cones and got even messier while we ate them. And throwing all of it into sharp relief has been last Thursday, when H got his primary school place.

We are really, really thrilled about the school he’s going to. It’s small, with lots of thoughtful features that seem designed for a four-year-old with wobbly confidence. I feel like he will fit there and thrive there, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted for him at school. Well, that and to fall violently in love with punctuation.

But when I sit down and seriously think about what September means – that school will have the best of him from now on, and we’ll have the weekends and grumpy evenings that are left over – I want to put my head in a cushion and cry. I feel stupid writing this down, because it’s overly dramatic as usual and I think I’ll read it later and laugh, but there it is.

There childhood is, in fact: one blimming hello and goodbye after another. You bash your head against the wall in the middle of every phase and cry for it when you realise it’s gone. He will love school – there is so, so much to come – and I’m excited for him, but there’s always a little twinge of grief for what we’re going to lose. September will open up a few more possibilities for me, too; what I do with them, whether I’m brave enough to seek them and grab on…well, that’s another something to think about.

You will find me here again in late August, as I clear away shrivelled birthday balloons, put new school jumpers on hangers and trap him in as many bear hugs as he’ll allow. At the end of that summer holiday, the end of his toddlerhood, I’ll let him go for real.

Tonight, I rehearse. I’ll crank our evening into motion in a minute: dinner, pyjamas, releasing the too-small jumpers from their hangers for one more term. After I sit here in the last of our Easter, and watch the sun go down.

Open your hands

We were five days into this two-baby experiment, and something felt off. Of course, it was unbearably hot, I hadn’t slept for longer than two hours all week, and I was hurting everywhere, so there was plenty of off to go around. But this was something else. Tim put Henry to bed and Henry got back up, which had been the usual state of affairs since Edward and the heat arrived together, so I fetched him a drink of water and put him back down again. It was dark in his room, and quiet. I sat by his bed while he drank with his legs in the air. I hadn’t seen this much of him in days. Once he saw I wasn’t moving, he smiled so big it looked like the birthday of his life was here at last, instead of just a sleep-deprived crazy woman with a baby permanently attached to her angry chest.

I started to cry. And I realised I missed him, and there was the off. He was confused and displaced, and I missed him. Now everything was different, and he knew it and didn’t know why. I couldn’t even give him a drink of water without crying like a lunatic.

Was I actually sad because I’d just given my boy a sibling? This is what five days of crazy will do to you. I love this tiny arrival like I grew another heart to accommodate him. He is the most laid-back and lovely of things, all furrowed forehead and delicate fingers. He has a pointy chin and an actual jawline, for which marvel we must thank his father’s genes, because what business do I have producing a child with a jawline? You have never seen anything like the look of resigned dismay on his miniature face when Henry tries to sit on him for the fourteenth time. I cannot imagine not having him here.

And yet, and yet. Henry and I have spent two years as two halves. Not all of our days in each other’s company have been good ones, but we are used to weekdays as a pair. Now he would never have all of me, ever again, and things would never be the same for him, or me. Brothers are wonderful, and it will be so unbelievably good in the end. But in that minute I looked straight into what we were losing, and I was afraid.

Well, I took him out for an hour the next morning, just the two of us. We bought a Thomas the Tank Engine magazine and read it over chocolate buttons on the front step. I worked out the art of feeding Edward with one arm and reading to Henry with the other. I remembered that there are bunk-beds and lego sets in their future, and a million jokes at my expense. Now we’re in the middle of a halfway normal week, I can see that it’s going to be fine. And in this strange, delirious, breathtaking month I am loving this day, this minute, as hard as I possibly can. Even the bits where Henry accidentally headbutts me in the face because he doesn’t want to go to bed without his shoes on (?), or that point where I’m ready to drop at night and Teddy wakes up, all ‘I AM REFRESHED AND HUNGRY AND I WANT YOU TO KNOW IT’.

Because everything is a phase. Everything will be over soon. And since I can’t spend my time wishing for the bits we left behind, this is what mothering means: love it all as hard as you possibly can. And then open your hands, and let it go.

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Five

Tomorrow is our fifth wedding anniversary, and I have been thinking about phases.

***

We are eighteen. It’s my first move away from home. I am happy here, in a way I haven’t been for a while. We’re sat in someone’s living room on a Sunday afternoon. He’s playing chess, and tries to teach me the rules. I’m terrible, though he doesn’t say so. He’s too kind, and that – more than the dark-blue eyes and the dimples and that magnificent woolly jumper – is what makes me look at him twice. Then we’re eating a buffet dinner squashed in a corner – classic Mormon singles behaviour – and someone says ‘so Rachel, tell me everything about yourself’. I say ‘everything? Well, I was born in March 1985…’ And his ears prick up, I can feel it without looking at him. Because he assumed I was older, and actually (I find out later) we’re the same age. I think to myself – probably not in so many words – my dear self, GRAB THIS WHILE YOU CAN.

We’re not-dating for an awfully long time, and then we are. It’s confusing and heart-hurting and absolutely perfect. And then he leaves for South Africa. And we look like this.

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I still can’t play chess.

***

We are twenty-one, and he has come back through the arrivals gate at Heathrow, tanned and skinny in a worn black suit, and back into my life as though nothing’s changed. Except everything has: I’ve finished my degree, read piles of books, moved away from home for good and found a career I think I can love. He has left Africa behind: two years of connecting with people in corrugated iron huts and walking miles in a shirt and tie under blazing suns. He has jumped off sand dunes in the Namibian desert and seen more beauty and more degradation than he could’ve imagined. We have two years of letters to show for it: casual letters, heartfelt letters, carefully non-committal letters. He’s kept all of them, and brings them back nine thousand miles in a shoe box.

And now here we are, and this is the real deal. We start talking about marriage. It isn’t the easiest thing to work out, and it’s confusing and heart-hurting and absolutely perfect. And we look like this.

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I still love the days when he wears a suit.

***

We are twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five. We live in a little two-bedroomed flat in the sky, all whitewashed walls and cream carpets. My books are crammed in bookcases and his African print sits above our bed. We spend long Saturday mornings eating pancakes in bed and week-nights watching movies. We celebrate birthdays in London and anniversaries in Edinburgh, in Paris, in the Forest of Dean. He works late on university assignments and has dinner ready when I come home from work. We are busy, and often stressed. But the time we get to ourselves, oh, there’s nothing like it. We fit alongside each other like we’re two halves of a whole.

Marriage is hard work, and some days we get it wrong. It can be confusing and heart-hurting. Other times – more often – just perfect. And we look like this.

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I still beg for pancakes on Saturday mornings.

***

We are twenty-six, and now there’s three of us. We are bowled over by what this tiny baby has brought with him. Most days I can barely see straight. He finishes university and starts work, and I stop (for now). He comes home in the evening to a toddler waiting by the gate, and me, with hair pointing in ten directions and mashed banana all over my clothes. I feel like everything I was has been dismantled and rebuilt from the ground up. I feel, more to the point, quite indecently wrinkly. There are days, weeks on end when I can’t remember being the girl who wrote one hundred and two letters for a boy under African sun. And then there are moments where I look across the room at him and I can see myself the way he still sees me. I can see the boy who tried to teach me chess in a blue jumper. I can see us rattling around in a little yellow car in Cape Town, and scoffing pain au chocolat on a Parisian street. I can see him this evening, reading a story to a little boy who got his eyes. I can see it all, all together, all of it at once.

We look like this, for now. Things are about to change again.

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I can’t wait for what might come next.

This is how you lose your sanity on a Tuesday morning

Some baby phases are just phases. Some baby phases are PHASES.

This is one of the latter.

Last week was a teething week. It was, frankly, horrible (molars). But it’s over. In its place, we have this. Perhaps a photo sequence will help illustrate our situation.

We start here. Tra la la. Isn’t the park lovely? I’m just doing a bit of pushchair maintenance, mama; carry on.

Three minutes later, and for no reason at all, we are here.

I can’t put him down, at any point in the day, without him crying. We are not getting anything done. My hip is permanently out of alignment. Every piece of crockery in the house is dirty. Mealtimes – oh, mealtimes. If I can force anything but custard down his throat without him becoming full-on hysterical, I count it as a good day. He developed an unexpected liking for the butternut squash soup I made and we gave each other high-fives. Then I was so distracted I let the whole pan of soup spoil in the heat so we were back to the custard.

I knew it was all beginning to drag a little when I put him down for a nap this morning and wished violent and bloody retribution upon the poor, innocent chap who started using a scythe outside our window five minutes later. I am getting in the shower to prevent it all turning a bit Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It might. It really might.

I suspect there is nothing to do but wait it out. Pls send cake.

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