Sleep, precious sleep…

It’s safe to say that when I was pregnant with our first child I was expecting a bit of sleep disruption.

Yes, there’d be sleepless nights but it would be manageable, I thought. After all, I was the kind of person who was up by 7am at weekends. I’d always been a morning person. It would be fine. And babies slept through at around six months, right?

Then I had a child and realised that the sleep deprivation thing was so much harder than I imagined. There was the day when an all-night feeding frenzy meant I had an hour’s sleep. That day is burned into my brain. It was so hard to function that I wanted to weep.

Our son woke at least five times a night until he was 17 months. I was exhausted and it felt as though I’d never get a good night’s sleep again. He’d also get up at 5.30am every day, something he still does at the age of five.

But then, as though by magic, he grew out of the frequent night waking. By two he was sleeping through pretty consistently and I felt human again. There were a few months of disruption when he moved from a cot to a bed but then he settled down.

When it came to having our daughter eight months later, I felt more equipped with what to expect. And although the early weeks were incredibly hard and exhausting, by 10 weeks she learned to suck her thumb and started to sleep through.

A baby who slept! Suddenly I realised why I’d get odd looks from other parents when I said our son was not sleeping because our daughter did it as if by magic. 

And, until a few months ago, we’d rarely hear anything from her when she’d gone to sleep at night. I’m not going to lie –  it was awesome. Having been through months of sleep deprivation with our son, I was very aware of how lucky we were.

Then, the dreaded thing happened. She learned to escape her cot. We had no choice to put her into a toddler bed instead. I worried it would disturb her sleep.

The early days were tough. We spent hours every evening sitting by her bedroom door and ferrying her back to her bed.

After a few weeks, I cracked and insisted on putting a stairgate on her bedroom door. That way she could play safely in her room without roaming around.

It worked a treat. Until she figured out how to climb over the stairgate and how to remove it from her bedroom door.

So we’re now a fortnight in to very late bedtimes. On a good night she’s sleeping by 9.15pm, on a bad night it’s 10.20pm. I usually crash out not long after. 

And she’s still up bright and early each morning.

We’ve tried putting her back to bed and trying to get her to fall asleep in ours. We have tried reward charts, new night lights and bedtime stories. We have tried taking her for a walk in her pram too.

Our latest approach is to bring her back downstairs after bath time and try to carry on with our evening as normally as we can. It meant she was watching Eurovision with us until 9.45pm last night.

Two weeks in, we’re exhausted. We look after her in shifts to make sure we each have a little bit of time to do what we want such as go to the gym, but we don’t get much down time together while we’re contending with this.

So, fellow parents of non-sleepers, you have my upmost sympathy.

And if you have any bright ideas for techniques and tactics to break this habit, I’d love to hear from you!


Navigating the terrible twos

Yesterday my daughter had a dreaded accident at a soft play centre. As I changed her clothes in the toilet, her screaming was so loud staff knocked the door to ask if everything was okay. “Yes. Just changing my daughter!” I replied as sweetly as I could.

At two and a half, she is fiercely independent, brilliantly confident and fearless. And that’s awesome, but challenging to parent. 

As she’s our second child, I’m finding navigating the toddler tantrums a little easier to navigate than they were with our eldest. 

So here are the three tips I’m clinging on to while navigating the toddler years.

1. Try to see the funny side It’s easy to lose your sense of humour after trying to get your toddler to put their socks on for the umpteenth time. But trying to see the funny side of their requests does help. This morning my daughter was crying because she couldn’t eat her breakfast in a high chair. We don’t own one anymore so there was little I could do to meet her demands. 

2. Pick your battles This is one I try hard to focus on when I’m negotiating. Does it really matter if they wear wellies and a party dress? This morning I spent 10 minutes trying to dress her in a matching outfit, but she was insistent on a pyjama top. So I let her wear it.

3. Put your pride aside. I’m a firm believer that any pride you had before becoming a parent is left firmly behind in the delivery room. I really struggled with this as a first time parent. I was mortified about what people would think of my child’s behaviour. But I try to park my pride during toddler meltdowns and support them through them. 

How do you manage toddler meltdowns? I’d love to hear your tips.

My morning

This morning I almost lost it. It was 7.40am and I was trying to get the children ready for school and day nursery. My son was a darling, ready and waiting in 10 minutes. But my toddler was a different story.

She didn’t want to wee, wear clothes or shoes. She would have preferred to leave the house in her knickers and her Frozen pyjama top. And she made her views known in the best way she can at her age – a monumental tantrum.

I’m talking rolling on the floor, hitting and kicking me in the face and gnashing her teeth on her clothes as I tried to dress this tiny person filled with rage. She also smeared her snotty nose all over my work trousers.

After 27 minutes, she gave in and had a cuddle before agreeing on getting dressed. And 31 minutes later, we left the house late. I was sweaty and still wearing snot-stained clothes as I had no time to change.

I’ve now successfully dropped them both off to school and nursery and a day of work awaits.

And I’m shattered. So today I’ll be mainlining tea and chocolate. Sigh.

Joy and meltdowns

We have had a pretty marvellous Christmas. We’ve seen lots of lovely family and friends and it’s a time of year where we can really make the most of being surrounded by loved ones. 

As the weather’s been kind, we’ve been to some of our favourite places for walks in a mostly futile attempt to work off our overindulgence over Christmas. The kids have torn around parks and a beach and I’ve loved watching their rosy cheeks and hearing their laughter as they’ve done that. It has been a joy to have time together as a foursome.

But today was not quite so joyous. It started when we decided (unwisely) to visit Build a Bear at around lunchtime. We had visions of the children lovingly selecting their favourite bear and accessories with their Christmas money. 

My daughter selected a Frozen bear and accessories whereas my son opted for a black dragon and Batman accessories. They picked out what they wanted quickly and we joined a queue that snaked around the shop. Again, the children were pretty patient and well behaved. But it took around 40 minutes and the store was hot. 

When we reached the front of the queue at last, our daughter decided to go first and her Anna bear was filled. But then, disaster. She spotted Olaf and her mind changed. She wanted Anna no longer. But I was firm that she had to stick with her first choice, which was now assembled and waiting for cuddles.

But hell hath no fury like a toddler who gets told no. She screamed and kicked and wailed and clutched the Olaf she wanted in a vice like grip. So I, laden with bags, had to wrestle him off her and take her outside as my husband and son waited for his choice to be made and paid up.

There was no consoling her. Her tear-streaked face was bright red with fury. I tried calming her with cuddles but she wanted none of it. But I held her close and hugged her tightly.

After a few minutes, she asked to visit a different shop and there she found something that did console her – a ¬£3 pink teddy bear. It’s barely left her clutched hands since.

Perhaps it is the presents, the lack of routine and the Christmas food – or just the fact that she is two – that led to this monumental meltdown. But I hope that she and I will be back to joyful tomorrow.

How are your Christmas holidays going? 

Why I didn’t capture that Kodak moment today¬†

You are likely to be aware that today is Children in Need day, where children and grown ups alike take on fun fundraising challenges for this worthy cause. 

In the Pyke household, it meant dressing our son and daughter in their pyjamas for school and nursery for a sponsored pyjama day. I’d excitedly got the Pudsey ears out last night and imagined the lovely photograph I’d take of our pyjama-clad pair to post on Facebook and Instagram.

But when it came to 7.55am this morning, it became clear that this imagined moment was going to remain a figment of myover optimistic imagination. 

My son most definitely did not want to wear his Pudsey ears. Our daughter cried because she wanted to wear her brother’s Pudsey ears, which he suddenly insisted on keeping when she declared her interest. This then led to a shoe,  sock and coat refusal standoff that lasted for 17 minutes and meant we were running late. 

So, no Kodak moment this Children in Need day unfortunately, but I’m pleased they both took part in this brilliant fundraiser. And, hey, there’s always next year.

How have you supported Children in Need this year?

Learning to love muddy puddles

I’ve always been the type of person who likes things just so. A planner. Organised to a tee with a spick and span house. So the constant chaos, sticky hands and spaghetti-smeared walls that go hand in hand with parenting have come as a bit of a shock. 

Most days are now a blur of wet wipes, soap, and constant use of our cordless Dyson (a parenting game changer). Days spent picking up a never-ending supply of toys as our toddler tips the box of the Megablocks we have just put away all over the floor. 

Most days, I’m used to the whirlwind of toys, crumbs and dropped toys and I can accept them. But, despite my best efforts, I’m less comfortable with messy play and mud. In fact, I feel tense just thinking about these things. I really want to be the mum who relishes messy play, mud kitchens and baking with the children, but I’m not. 

What I am, though, is a mum who is trying to make my peace with mud, mess and puddles. I push myself out of my mum comfort zone with messy play sessions, welly walks and making fairy cakes. But it’s a constant battle.

Last weekend, we went for a morning walk near the seaside, a place jam-packed with muddy puddles. The children were thrilled, stomping, jumping and marching around (inspired by Peppa, I think). They got soaked and muddy but they were delighted.

So I decided my natural Look-at-the-dirt reaction needed to be put aside. Clothes could be washed, wellies dried out, muddy hands cleaned. Because these muddy puddle moments are the things we will remember in the days, weeks and years to come. And we will cherish them.

5 potty training tips

It’s eight days since we started potty training our toddler. It wasn’t the carefully planned out approach we did with our son; it was a spur of the moment decision after weeks of nappy time tantrums. 

At 6am last Saturday, I admitted defeat after 20 minutes of trying to wrestle a nappy onto the toddler. I said “Okay, let’s try pants instead then” and the decision was made. 

So, second time around, and just over one week in, I thought I would share our five top tips for any of you who may be embarking on this adventure soon.

1. Supplies

Think of the number of pants you will need and double it. Do the same for trousers/tights. And socks. Because when an accident happens, socks can get a soaking too. Don’t forget your cleaning supplies too.

2. Patience

This is vital. Luckily, as a parent, you will have already developed saint-like patience skills. Boy, you’re going to need them. 

You’ll also need to draw on your negotiation skills. Toddlers can be hard to negotiate with at the best of times and, in my experience, potty training can bring their stubbornness to the fore.

3. Praise

You will need to praise like never before. Our toddler has to have a round of applause with each successful potty visit. She also likes a high five. Positive praise really helps to reinforce that they have done well. 

Reward stickers have been popular with our children too. My daughter is thrilled to get a Frozen sticker after every successful trip.

4. Resources 

As well as potties and toilet training seats, we have found portable potties to be super helpful for when you embark on the nerve-shredding milestone of leaving the house. The pottete is a popular option, but we like the My Carry Potty. It’s leak proof, which is brilliant for those dreaded caught-short-nowhere-near-a-loo moments.

5. Nerves of steel

Nothing prepares you for how nervousness you will feel when you’re taking a child who is potty-training to soft play. No matter how many times you coax them to have a toilet trip, they will usually decide they need a wee when they are in the furthest and highest recesses of the soft play equipment. That requires Usain Bolt-level speed as you run the gauntlet between the ball pool and the loo. But it gets easier as both they and you get into the swing of this potty training malarkey.

So if you will be potty training your child soon, good luck. Like many aspects of parenting, it’s not easy, but you will feel so proud when they get to grips with it. 

How did you find potty training? What are your top tips?