Saturday, 16 February 2019

Before You Turn Six

Tonight you have been practising your six year old cuddles.  You have told me that they start becoming 1% less good from every year now, that you peaked at age 5 but I still think they will be the best cuddles ever because most people that know you agree that cuddling is one of your special skills. Tonight I put you to bed as a five year old for the very last time as tomorrow you will wake up six.

This time six years ago, I had no idea you would be arriving soon.  I was convinced I would go overdue and had no signs that you were ready.  You were born at 7:30 am the next morning and you were so laid back and easy going from the very beginning.  We were home in time for lunch and you settled on my chest and stayed there for many months.  Now you are growing up so quickly, finding your own friends and hobbies and developing strong opinions on the things that matter - like what colour shoes you need.  You are not afraid to make a choice that is a bit different and you are, as I write every year, unapologetically yourself.

Five was the year you declared that gold was your favourite colour (followed of course by pink), it was the year you discovered Minecraft and it took over your every thought.  It was a year of fun and friendships and you have such a wonderful group.  You were five when you started in year one, and even though the changes had been gradual, I couldn't work out how you managed to look so big next to the little children who started in reception.  There seemed like far more than a few months between you and them.  I saw your height, your confidence, your speed and your maturity properly.

Archie, my baby boy who isn't really a baby, I can't wait to see how much fun you can have as a six year old.  I hate the idea of you growing up too fast as you are at such a wonderful age right now, but I feel so privileged to watch you becoming yourself.  

I have been re-reading the 'before you turn' letters that I write to you every year and so much is still the same.  You are still so caring, looking out for other people and making sure everyone is ok. You still are happiest naked, you burst into song at the most random moments and you come out with some fantastic comments.  You love company and would have a friend round every day after school if we let you.  You don't like being in a room by yourself and always seek out someone to be with you.  You are funny, smart and bright eyed and we all love you so much

Before you turn six, as I kiss you for the last time as a five year old, I just want you to know how truly loved you are.
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Sunday, 10 February 2019

Parenting a Girl after Three Boys

 I am not quite sure what I expected parenting a girl to be like, but at the beginning it is the same, you have a baby and babies are all a little bit similar.  It is when they start getting older that things change.  I think in many ways I am still parenting a toddler rather than a girl or boy, but there are little things that are different between Cora and her brothers already.

Whilst they have always been straightforward, she can be much more complex.  If you asked the boys at two or three why their sibling was crying, they would answer 'because I hit them' if that was the answer.  They owned up to everything and said what they felt.  Cora learned to lie so early, to blame things on others when it was quite clearly her fault and she started pushing the boundaries at a much younger age.  She learned how to get what she wants, how to play a game to get it a more subtle way if the original answer is no and how to wrap us round her little finger.  The boys were never as subtle and at seven, five and three they still aren't.

I do wonder whether this is her being the youngest, or growing up faster with having three older siblings, but at the moment it is what seperates her from the boys the most.  In almost every other way I find parenting boy and girl toddlers the same.  Both need to play free, to run and climb and explore. Both need to crawl in the mud and jump in every puddle, both need to test the limits, both love to pick their nose, both need love and cuddles.

Of course I get to buy her dresses and style her hair (well I would if she ever let me). She is the most opinionated about what she wears though and loves choosing her shoes. She has a longer concentration span for things like colouring and craft than any of the boys did at this age and she really likes pink and her babies.

I know the big challenges are still to come with the teenage years but right now I would say she is more complex in some ways than the boys were at the same age, but ultimately she is still a toddler and the same challenges still exist no matter what.  I want to raise her to be fearless, to know she can do and be whatever she wants. I want her to be kind and loving and to help those that need it but these are all the things I want for my boys too. 

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Tuesday, 5 February 2019

One on One

One of the biggest challenges with four children is spending quality time with each of them.  Whilst they are all really close in age and often the same activities and days out are appealing to all of them, I know they all need time alone too and I have been trying hard to give them that over the last few months.  They have always had little snatches of time; swimming lessons, trips to Tescos, days when her brothers are at school but they haven't had time when it is really focused on what they need and want so much.

This week I had a day out in London with just Finn and I think we both needed it more than we knew.  I find Finn challenging at times, probably because I am trying to meet his needs alongside three other children's so only having him meant everything was tailored to that and I could just get on with enjoying him.  Finn loves trains so I based our plans around that and we got the train into London and the underground to Covent Gardens for a visit to the London Transport Museum.

I had heard wonderful things about the Transport museum and it was everything I hoped for and more.  We spent about 4 hours in there in total (with a break for lunch, he requested chicken nuggets, chips and beans because he is so adventurous) and I know that with the other three as well we wouldn't have managed even half of that.  We went up and down and back to the beginning and I could follow Finn and enjoy watching the way his mind works without having to worry about anyone else.

We came home feeling more connected and it has continued ever since.

Dylan had a sleepover at the Natural History Museum, Archie had a day in London with an evening at the Avengers Exhibit and Cora had a slightly more exciting break in Budapest with me and we are back to the beginning now, looking for new opportunities to enjoy each one alone,.

It isn't something I can do with them every week and I haven't chosen the cheapest days out to have with them so far but it has been so special and having these days with them doing things that interest them completely has been priceless. I hope these are the things they remember when they are older - the special days where they got to dictate the pace, pick where we had lunch and always ended up with a treat.  I have started making plans for the next 'set' of one on one dates with them and I will be encouraging Ed to do similar as it is definitely beneficial for us all.

How do you get one on one time with your children? Are there any particular activities you like todo together?

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