Sunday, 27 September 2015

Head colds and snot in preschoolers - what I have learned


Hallo autumn. I haven't missed colds. At all.

Sorry about the title but there have been times when we seem to be downing in the stuff and I had to learn fast.

With kids comes snot. I could write a novel on the stuff and on head colds. Digger had them coming like the London tube trains in rush hour for the first few months after he moved in.  I guess we gave him lots of new germs as did the kids in local playgroups.

Of course all this illness spelt excellent bonding time. Lovely times of physical closeness with my son in the sling ... never far from a tissue or a muslin.

Here a few thing I've learnt about snot. Do add further comments below.

  • As a parent you will touch snot and there is a 100% probability that it will also end up on your clothes. 
  • It is amazing what these kids can produce. I would swear my son produces more than the estimated 1dl per head cold.
  • It spells bad nights' sleeps. In my experience - three years in, the first two nights are the worst. 
  • You can elevate the bonged up nasal passage a bit by raising the head of the bed. A pillow under the fitted sheet has been suggested by many a friend and website. And so we tried it. Prob Good for kids who lie still all night. Digger doesn't. So instead of sleeping uphill, he ended up down hill and so much more bunged up. 
  • Rubbing his chest in mentholated petroleum jelly on any sort can keep everyone awake and unable to sleep.
  • A Nasal Decongestor is good news. Digger hated it but eventually got used to it. It is an excellent tool to avoid raw red nose and nostrils. 
  • Warm steam baths will help empty them, but also stimulates production. 
  • The colour matters. 'What colour is it?' My mum would ask. Ouh gross mum. Now this is what I ask of my husband. And of Digs himself. So here's the load down:
    • First day or two means dripping watery clear consistency. 
    • Third day this should slow down as the snot become more viscous. Digger would often be able to blow snot bubbles from his nostrils on day 3 and 4. The consistency would now be mucous. But pale. And very stretchy/ smeary. 
    • Once the colour turns a pale yellow you are over the worst. Usually this is on day 4 or 5 onwards. 
    • A good yellow and finally green sees you through to the thick and sticky end. This makes for big bogeys. Cubic centimetres stuff. 
  • A slight elevated temperature is normal at the beginning. 
  • Real fever (above 37.8 degree Celcius) is not.
'Does my kid have to stay home when he has cold' I asked my friend, a mum of four, early on. 'No.' was her short answer. By now she pretty much ignores colds from any of her children. What she does (and what I do now too) to check if they are really ill, is to whispers 'would you like some ice cream' behind their backs. If they turn around and eagerly pronounce that they would, they are not ill. Simple, and very true. Doesn't mean they don't need a bowl of ice cream and some down time with you. They probably do.

I'm not fond of seeing elevens of snot on toddlers. In fact I went to see a kindergarten and when I saw most of the kids with the number 11 written under their noses, I was certain this was not the place for my son. It is not so much about cleanliness, or even that snot is like drool on a sheepdog:  it's bound to end up somewhere soon. No, it was the lack of caring for them.

Things are lot easier now that the colds have slowed down and he is able to blow his own nose, aged 4. Well... Sort of. Almost. Nearly. On one such nearly-done-it-myself occasion I spotted a big bogey had ended up his cheek, and quick as the wind - we were in fine company - I mopped it up with a clean tissue which I tossed in the bin. All this in a nanosecond. This resulted in a spectacular melt down of the surprising sort: 'Puttit back! Mummy, put it back!' Well, I didn't.

Oh and if you feel a sneeze coming on and you want to provoke: look into a bright light.
If you feel it coming and you don't, just press the tip of your tongue into the roof of your mouth.

That's it. That's what I have learned. 

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Sometimes I'm not so sure

 I tell my son many times every day that I love him. Especially when we snuggle.

I add 'I love you when you sing, when you shout, when you eat. I love you all the time!' And for laughs I add 'I love you when you fart, and I love you when you poo. I love you always!' He loves the notion and the affirmation. So I try to come up with new combinations and situations. 

'I love you when I tell you off. When I say (for the hundredth time) 'Digger! Pleeease.... Just put on your shoes now. We are running late.'' Not a very conducive sentence I know. (Running where? Mummy never runs - or only when chased. Late?! For what??) But the reaction is common and human. 

That didn't compute. He looked up at me. Puzzled. 

'Really? When you are crossed?!'

'Yes. I always love you. Even when I am angry. Or annoyed.'

'Mummy, sometimes I am not so sure...' 

Outch. I'm glad he said it. It hurts. It's a wake up call. 

We can't stay connected all the time. And I am only human. I tire. I stress. I loose my patience.

That's not his fault. I'm ashamed that he would think it made him less lovable. But it is not rocket science if he did. 

Instead of just acknowledging his feelings with a look, perhaps a touch, a nod, but mainly silence - because he has just said something important and painful - I immediately launched into 
'Oh darling but I do!! Always .... bla bla bla blaaaaa'. As usual I was trying to be reassuring. Yet all I really did was letting him know that there was no space for feeling like that. At best. At worst it suggested he was wrong in feeling like that. And surely he did know best how he felt. 

I do the same to my husband when he complains about something at work. 'Oh he probably didn't mean it like that.' Not a great conversation opener. Neither is 'Gosh... Why would she do such a thing to you? She sounds like she really stressed out. Poor her.' Yep. I say a lot of unhelpful things to both my men.

Friday, 25 September 2015

20 seconds

Mindfulness. It's bloody everywhere isn't it. I tire of the word and the pressure it applies of smooth perfection and graceful presence. In clean minimalist homes. Smug. 

Yet I'm curious. And I freely admit - as I have done here many times - that I could do with a dose of slowing down to check in with all my senses. I'm a better mum and wife when I do. I stress less when I remember to slow down. And so I snap less, yell less, rush less, burn the toast less, cut my fingers less. And so on. 

So when I came across the idea of just looking your loved one in the eye for 20 seconds I was intrigued. I do that all I the time I thought. Truth is I don't. 

20 seconds is no time at all. Or just right. Or very very long. Definitely can be too long. 

Keep the gaze. Leave the world around. Just be. Right here. Right now. Connect. 

Larry Cohen talks of eye love. Of holding that loving gaze. Of the flow and deep sense of belonging that springs from it. 

The gaze. We do it when we are in love. Mothers and fathers do it with their children. Babies do it with their parents. 
And they turn away when they have had enough. Wonderfully clear message of 'Fanks but no fanks.' If not 'Buzz off.' Which of course can leave us feel rejected. Unhappily in love. Unfulfilled. Unconnected. 

So powerful is giving or withholding eye contact. So aggressive. So loving. So calming. So needy. So personal. 

What do you see? 

Look your child in the eyes every day. 
I'm guilty of forgetting that. 

Look your spouse in the eyes. Every day. 
I'm guilty of forgetting that too. 

Stopping to look. Not to look at. Just to look. 

It is so simple. And such a lovely way of slowing down. 

Try it ... 

What did you think? 
How did it feel? 

What did you see? 

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

I'm excited!

It's a good way of expressing it. And I know why he chooses to say so. But I think that is only part of the story.

Too loud. Too quick. Too much.

I see he is wired. I see dysregulation.

In an earlier blog I wrote about Digger in the playground. As a parent I definitely let him try his abilities more than other parents I met outside, well... and inside for that matter. Some may even say I'm an irresponsible parent. But I see his concentration and focus. I see a wicked sense of balance in a small bundle of muscles. He is not reckless, or indeed fearless. He is brave, strong, exploring the world around him and himself in it, as he is supposed to do. Curious to find out how his body works, and how much he is able to do. And I love looking on from the sideline.

As a parent it is my job to pick him up and kisses his bruises when he falls. And encourage him, when he is ready, to get back on the horse. It is my job to follow him. Not to push. To follow.

Or so I thought.

Recently, I have seen something new in my son. He gets too excited. He had a couple of quite major falls recently. And they happened when he was hyper. Too excited.

In the minutes before his falls, I was uncomfortable with the situation. I overrode my feeling, just repeating my playground mantra 'If he dares, so do I.' But in all honesty this felt different. I felt his anxiety. He was scared.

It's one thing to keep my own cool, not letting him feel my nerves. I try very hard to response calmly to him, also or especially in emergencies. I try so hard not to add a sense of emergency by rushing and shouting 'WATCH OUT!' etc.

But I have to admit it is quite another to sense his anxiety, and then to realise it is time to stop.

It's about a limit, I thought was clear cut, but I suddenly realised the goal post had moved.

So now I step in.

'It's time for a break/snack/cuddle, my heart. Let's got to sit down.'

'I can tell, you are getting too excited. So the risk of you falling and hurting yourself is much bigger. I am keeping you safe.'

Some cool skate dudes we met recently, told me exactly that. 'If you press yourself too hard, that's when you get really hurt. Never press yourself too hard.' Wise words from a teenager.

So I took the young skater's lesson, and I stopped my son before he got too wound up. He was doing some increasingly risky stuff, and I stepped in. He complained a lot. But it worked. Soon he was calm again, was ready to have another go. And there were no accidents.

He had barely opened his eyes the next morning when he asked if he could go skateboarding again. The second thing he said was 'Mummy, can you please make sure I don't fall?' In other words, he got it too. I was keeping him safe.

This may all be blindly obviously to you, the silent reader, but to me this is a real shift in perception. I never needed to step in like this before. Yes, to keep him safe, but he would generally know his limits. The new thing for me is that when he get overexcited, he doesn't feel those limits anymore.

And it happens more and more often.

I wonder at lot about where this is coming from. Perhaps it is just age appropriate - he can do more, and I trust his ability to do more too - but I sense there is more to it.

Sure, it is about dysregulation and regulation. I'm just surprised at the amount of regulation I am having to do at the moment. I wonder where the unsettling feeling in him is coming from.
I've had some issues in my family. And my husband has a nasty accident. We haven't been as emotionally available lately. We've been worried about other stuff.

But we live with a 105 cm tall emotional sponge. He feels our worries. And it worries him. So we gotta get a grip. On us and on him.

At the moment it seems we cannot give him enough 1:1 time.

If we do not respond to him at first enquiry, he just repeats his request for attention, again and again and again and again and again. As most children would. And then he will move on to shouting. SHOUTING!!! If it is a full on escalation he will only communicate in 100+ decibels.

'Sweetheart, I cannot hear what you are saying when you are shouting.'

The whole regulation thing definitely starts with acknowledging him. And he will go and go and go until he get the attention he needs. Attachment-seeking indeed.

As Bryan Post says: 'It's not a problem. It's an opportunity.' To learn. Hell yeah. Always.

That our new motto. And it makes us laugh nearly every time. Never a dull moment...

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Sleeping arrangements – there’s a toddler in the room!

‘Is he a good sleeper?’ a friend asked me soon after our son moved in with us.

‘Oh, quite good, I think. Last night he only woke five times.’

She laughed. She’s a mother of four. ‘Welcome to motherhood.’

The first year or so Digger woke a lot during the night. Five, six, seven, eight times. Every night.

I tended to the nightly call outs, mostly because I woke and Pierre didn’t. But then come morning, I would be cream crackered. So Pierre would get up with Digger. Before the crack of dawn.

Even after such a broken night’s sleep Digger would wake around 5.30am. That gave daddy the time to play with him for a good hour or two, before he set off for work. Leaving me to catch up with sleep. Digger himself caught up at his two daily naps.
Especially the mid-morning one was lovely for us both. I often joined him for a nap. Either on the sofa or on the parental big bed. Him in the nook of my arm. Super bonding time. I did so after the sound advice given to me by my sister: sleep when baby sleeps. This as opposed to stressing out over how to make the most of the time he was out for the count. Should I read a book? A magazine? The newspaper? Or call a friend? Make a cuppa tea? Iron? Write a letter? Check emails? Shop online for baby stuff? Oh the choices!

‘Before I know it,’ I told myself, ‘he will have outgrown his daytime naps. And I will miss them.’ And indeed I do miss the naps, and holding a sleeping baby.

I was so relieved when I heard that Digger slept in a cot in his foster mum’s room. That was exactly what we did and still do. We live in a ramshackle Victoria terraced house, where it’s just not possible to have his bedroom on the same floor as ours. And trekking up and down the stairs all night long is not something I would enjoy. We have a super-sized cot, hand-me-down from a friend. One that even I fit into. Knees bend but still. One he can probably sleep in till he is 5.

I can’t see how I or Pierre, or Digger for that matter, would have survived the first year, had he not slept in the same room as us.

To this day Digger still calls out an occasional nocturnal ‘Mummy….? Daddy….?’ No longer as urgently as in the beginning. Some calls may even be speaking in his sleep. Like last night when he asked if he could have some ice cream for his bike.

I often hear him rustle the sheets; I peek and see his little silhouette. He is sitting up. He’s checking that we are still there. After a while he lies down again. And falls back to sleep.

I love the sound of his and my husband’s slow, regular breathing. It calms me. And sends me back to sleep.

It’s easier to see the progress towards all night sleeping looking back. That first year was hard for us all. But we took his lead. I tried a couple of times to walk out of the room just for a sec, - to get him used slowly to me not being there. He broke down almost immediately. It broke my heart to hear his grief and fear. It took forever to calm him down again. Somehow this unlocked memories of my own. Of my own mother, getting annoyed with me for not falling asleep. Not unlike the book with the memorable title ‘Go the f*** to sleep!’ I remember her gritted teeth, and my own fear. Hmmm. Let’s try something else. To be the parent I needed back then. Not permissive, just empathic and trusting him to let me know what he needs.

So we abandoned sleep training before we even got started. We didn’t have the heart or stomach for it. For all we cared it was utterly counter productive too. We stuck with a slow routine of bath (now optional), cream, bottle of warm milk, books, songs and stories. Finally, a short goodnight poem. Full on 1:1 time with a hand over from parent 1 to parent 2 in the middle. Milk and stories would be administered on our bed, still he was properly out. Then, and only then, could he be decanted into his own bed.

We reconciled ourselves that just like walking, when he was ready he would let go of our hands so to speak.

This was most definitely the quicker way to settle him, and after a while it led to uninterrupted nights sleep. Which they have remained ever since, but for the odd hick up in case of illness or such.

Overall bed times have become shorter and easier, especially since he dropped the daytime naps. 30 mins all in. Sometimes quicker.

About a year ago he started to ask to go to ‘little bed', to fall asleep. Usually that’s how we do it now. Except for some nights, after days of big emotions, or just if he is especially tried; then he falls asleep in our arms on our bed.

He can fall asleep in his own bed, on his own, albeit still with us in the room. He nestles into his pillow, with a smile on his face. Eyes closed. Soon after he is gone. To the arms of morpheus.

No longer closing his eyes as he falls asleep, like a baby would.
He can close his eyes to fall asleep.

Now he definitely is a good sleeper.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Dropping the diaper (a short ode to a small man’s underpants)

I love my son’s underpants. Cute, clean and easy. 

I love this new silhouette too. He looks taller without the bum padding. More grown up. It’s a proportion thing. Slim hips and bubble bum.

I thought I would miss diapers, even blogged about it. Truth is: I don’t. We both just moved on. 

Predictably, the washing machine runs more often. And he still needs night-time diapers. But I reckon not for long.

In the end, he dropped the diaper aged 3 1/2. I did manage to wonder whether he would ever loose it. I noticed that often he was the oldest boy, or even the only boy in diapers. And so did others, mothers in particular... Sometimes I felt stressed about him still being in diapers, when no one else seemed to be. I even started to worry that he wouldn't be able to start preschool in September, because they insists that the children should be potty trained to start.

But I just had to be patient. Let him drop the diaper when he was ready. And he wasn’t. Till he was. He had a couple of false starts, which lead to accidents, which he hated, so back in diapers.

Until one day…

‘I like my underpants. They feel good.’

Now if he wets the night-time diaper he cannot get out of it quickly enough. Not long ago he even said ‘Don’t worry mummy, I’ll just wee in my diaper.’ In answer to whether or not he needed to visit the loo before a long car journey. In fact, just the other day when facing a 2-hour car journey he did suggest he could wear a diaper. I said he probably didn’t need it, but I admire his thinking.

Today I finally gave away two un-opened packs of diapers. And two potties, a small travelling potty and two children's seats. He never really got into of these gimmicks, graduating straight to balancing on the big loo. ‘Ticky’ as he calls is, in his trademark no-'r' speak.

I knew I wouldn’t want to hurry him. I learned quickly that pushing the issue was completely counter productive. This is his body. Not mine to train. Despite his incredible physical abilities (more on that another time) and the fact he is very advanced in other areas, he still needs to be a baby many times a day. We bottle feed twice a day. 3 years into adoption, he still needs it. We are still playing catch up on the first 10 months we weren't there. I think the diaper fits into this pattern too. Advances in other areas of his life and skills, always seems to be accompanied by a strong need to be babied. Forcing or even just suggesting to grow up is just not the way forward. 

‘NO!!!’ he’d shout with ear splitting force, if I ask once too much whether he need to go to the loo. I can accurately tell about 5 mins before he can. I can only suggest he goes. And only once. It’s about balancing respect and helping him. 

It infuriates him if I ask him in front of other people. Especially if I press the issue. ‘Are you sure you don't have to go??!’ is as disrespectful as it comes for a 3, 10, 14 or 30 years old. ‘No!’ is a great reminder that I have overstepped it as an eager mum. Well, fair enough. So we have agreed that I whisper the question. Once. Usually I don’t need to.

There is only one come back to his NO!, and that is ‘Okay.’ Said not in the patronising way of a mother who knows better, but in the accepting, trusting voice. There are times, when I find the line a between the two a blur and he know exactly which side of the fence I come down on. He so has my number.  

‘Just let me know when you are ready.’ 

There are times when I have to remind him. Because he hates wetting himself. It's embarrassing. So he needs a little help. For instance if he is engrossed in something, so engrossed he may forget. Then I ask him in my mothertongue or whisper in his ear: ‘Let’s go to have a wee. If we do it now you can play longer afterwards.’ That is my most effective sentence. Along with ‘I wonder whether there are any plants that would like watering in the garden…’.

Usually though, I just have to trust him. He thrives and grows on the trust.

Slow down, mummy. Slow down.

I came across a couple really helpful articles at the time about potty training by the paediatric urologist, Dr Steve Hodges. This one at and this one in the huff post. He also wrote this nice one on bed wetting. The right kind of articles at the right time.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Settling in to Nursery

This week is the second week that Digger is going to a playgroup, which he will eventually go to without me. He’s doing great. Enjoying himself and everyone there. But even though it is only 4-5 hours twice a week, it is knackering. For him and for me. He has massive meltdowns afterwards, and there are many, many tears.

So far we have kept him close. At home. With us or his child minder, who he loves and who loves him. But he will need to start getting socialised a bit more. Says who exactly? Yeah, right. Well, I’m going by his interest in other kids, and increased ability to be play by himself/venture away from us. He has wanted us, mummy, daddy and child minder close for the past 2+ year. But he is getting ready for a wider world. Slowly.

Today I left him with the group, just for 20 mins. Totally planned.
As I did so I saw that look in his eyes. He didn’t say anything, but I recognise it.

‘Will you come back?’

Of course. It’s clear to all that I will. But not to him. It breaks my heart, that there is still this fundamental doubt that we, as a family, are forever. The fear of abandonment is still so close to the surface. To him settling in may even feel a lot like transition for placement, as the new carers take over more and more of the daily care for him.

When I came back after my short outing all had gone very well. Well of course it had. He was on best behaviour. Polite and protected by manners. But it took one minor incident, I forget what, and he was in tears. Minutes after I returned. Sobbing and smearing snot into my jumper. For a very long time. I let him cry it out in my arms. After which he was right as rain again. And then it happened again. And again after we left the group. Tears and snot, followed by smiles and engagement.

That said, part of me is relieved that he can show his sadness to readily. Better out than in, say I.

Once home we flopped on the sofa for some Cbeebies. This was all there was energy for. Sitting close with cups of tea and water. In near silence. We don’t really watch a lot of TV, but this was clearly what the doctor ordered.

All this I had expected. What I hadn’t was my own reaction. It has completely triggered my own sadness, most surprisingly from the time of transition. The sadness of taking him from this fostermum, the sadness of what had brought him to be adopted, that he was not with his birth family. And the sadness I felt on him over the weeks just after. At the time these feeling existed completely in unison with/parallel to my over-the-moon happiness with our beautiful boy. This time, however, there is more space for the sadness to surface.

Today, I talked to the carers as the kids were playing outside with another carer. Carers, who could not be more understanding and nurturing. I told them that I could see his anxiety, and that the fear of separation, in his case was more like fear of abandonment. Fundamentally separation means something else to him than to you and me. I now see that so clearly.

While explaining this to them, I found myself with a big lump in my throat and a big knot in my tummy. Some of this is Digger’s anxiety, and me feeling for him. But some of it is mine.

Obviously, I’ve got homework to do for this settling in. It is not just him who has to get ready. I need to work this one out. For myself. I have to learn to show him that I have trust in him, that I can take his outbursts, that I will still be there whenever he needs me. All the while looking closely at my own feelings in this. Letting go of him. But still keeping on eye out for him and his needs. It is a difficult balance to strike. Difficult to read correctly. But basically I need to park my own sadness somewhere. Once I’ve owed up to it. I know I’m not the first woman or man to feel like this when starting their child in nursery - add adoption and it all takes on another level of complexity.

I’m just one of the ones who did it today.