When You Can’t Protect Your Children From Other Influences

I remember vividly the first time the twiglets came home from nursery and started singing a song that I didn’t know. They were about 19/20 months and hadn’t been going there long – their speech was nothing like it is now, but they were clearly attempting to sing a song and I had no idea what it was. It was such a weird feeling hearing words come from their mouths that I knew for a fact had not been learned from us. That was the moment I realised that it was no longer just me and twin.papa.po (and our close family) who were responsible for shaping their little minds. Up to then, pretty much everything they’d experienced in their lives had been with one or both of us. We were trying to teach them right from wrong, trying to explain things in a way they could make sense of, trying to encourage them to be kind and caring towards others, above all trying to ensure they were happy. All obviously guided by our own views, opinions and experiences and how we wanted to parent our children. So that singing moment felt significant to me because it was when I had the realisation that other people, with different views, opinions and experiences to ours, were now really starting to influence our twiglets.

I’m not saying this is a bad thing. I actually think it’s good for children to have lots of different influences in their lives as it will hopefully help them to grow into well-rounded and tolerant individuals, understanding that everyone’s equal yet unique etc. The problem is, some of those influences are inevitably not going to be positive or desirable ones, and as much as we want to protect our kids from them, they need to experience these too. One example of a less than positive influence was something that happened when we were on holiday.
We were in a restaurant waiting for dinner and the twiglets were happily jumping on the bouncy castle there. We were sat very close by. A girl of about 4/5 and her older brother joined them and at first it looked very sweet – C and the girl seemed to be making friends and playing together. We soon realised however, that the girl was starting to be pretty bossy. We then heard her saying ‘I’m prettier than you’ to C 😱 Luckily C couldn’t have given a flying f**k but it made me so sad that she even experienced someone saying that to her – what a horrid thing to randomly say to another child! I did not want her internalising that and starting to believe it or even thinking it was ok and saying it to another child herself. We weren’t sure of the best thing to do – the girl was being a bit rough too, considering C was much smaller than her, although she is quite tough so wasn’t remotely bothered by that either 🤣 The brother did actually pick the girl up on her behaviour at one point and told her she was being too mean. The parents were on the next table and didn’t say anything – maybe they didn’t hear, maybe they didn’t care – I don’t know. Anyway the girl then ordered her brother and C to stand still by the edge while she ‘performed’ (H had come off for some juice because juice is life in his world 😂) C obliged and waited patiently but then when it was her ‘turn’ the girl gave her about 2 seconds to jump then told her to stop again. We were a bit p*ssed off by now so I was secretly quite proud of C, at two years old, for standing her ground against this much bigger girl and saying ‘no it’s my turn now, you need to stand there,’ pointing at the side 🙈🤣 The girl was not happy at being challenged 🤣 We stepped in at that point and told C it was time to come off for some juice and that her dinner would be ready soon. Being the non-confrontational buggers that we are, we didn’t say anything to the girl or her family, but we did explain quietly to C that the girl hadn’t been behaving very nicely or being very kind. And I guess that is what we as parents and carers can do. We may not be able to protect our kiddies from negative influences but what we can do is use those influences – to teach right and wrong and to reinforce our expectations of our children, in effect to show them what not to do I guess. (Back to the little holiday girl quickly… Interestingly, the next child to go on the bouncy castle was a bigger girl and the three of them were bouncing around quite boisterously together. Then the mum of the littler girl suddenly went storming up and shouted at the bigger girl for being too rough with her daughter! Twin.papa.po and I were looking incredulously at each other wanting to scream ‘POT, KETTLE!!’ The poor girl was basically hounded off and ran back over to her family in tears! In a way I wish I’d had the guts to say something but I know there would have been absolutely no point – the woman clearly would not have heard a word against her daughter and would probably have caused a huge scene 🙈 (Just a note here that although I’m being a bit flippant, I do try very hard not to ever judge others’ parenting as I know how damaging, unhelpful and often misguided that can be – in this instance it was hard not to but I’m mindful that I don’t know that family’s story – maybe there were reasons behind it, who knows ✌ )
Anyway that incident made me feel some trepidation at the thought of the twigs going to school next year and the fact that we won’t always be around to protect them from things like other kids being mean or even learning of things going on in the news when they get to that level of understanding. How on earth do you explain to young children some of the things happening in the world? I have no answers for that; I guess as with everything, we’ll wing it when the time comes. It’s just a bit sad that it’s already the end of that time in their early lives where we can keep them almost completely safe and protected in our own little family bubble, and maintain that lovely pure innocence they have. I suppose we just have to hope we can instil enough of a strong moral compass in them that they have the confidence to ignore negative influences and take their own path. And hopefully, we’ll get it kind of half right and that’s what they’ll do 😊

Is it bad to need a break from your children sometimes?

So the other day I was reading a post on one of those Facebook parenting forums (jeez people don’t bite their tongues on those things do they?!) This particular one was written by a nursery worker who was bemoaning those ‘awful’ mums who choose to leave their children in a hellhole of snotty toddlers (aka nursery) even if they’re not working. It described how terrible it was that these mums would drop their poor kids off screaming and crying just so they could go off to Zumba or drink coffee or do the housework. I suddenly realised that I am one of those horrendous mothers they were talking about. I send my little twiglets off to nursery for two days a week and no I’m not working, yes I do go to a Zumba class and do the housework while they’re there and yes Cora does often cry when I drop her off in the mornings 💔 There were countless comments on the post from mothers who agreed, stating how much they love their children, or how wanted and longed for they were, maybe after a difficult journey to parenthood, infertility etc – so why on earth would they choose to be apart from them if they didn’t need to be? On the face of it, this made sense and I wondered if I must indeed be an awful mother for not choosing to spend every single possible minute with my, also much loved and long-awaited, babies?
The thing is, for me, when we made the decision back in January to put the twiglets in nursery for a couple of mornings a week, it was a turning point – mainly in terms of my mental state (without wanting to sound too dramatic!) As a side note, I feel I should just point out that I realise nursery isn’t a possibility for a lot of people so we are lucky to have the option to do it – this is actually only because my mum offered to cover the cost – we couldn’t really have afforded double childcare ourselves what with only one salary coming in. Anyway I digress… So we had a few reasons for sending the twigs to nursery. We felt that it would be really good for their development in a number of ways – social, language etc. Also, at that time they were going through a phase of major separation anxiety to the point that Cora would scream until she was sick if we tried to leave her with someone else. We don’t have a huge amount of family around so we felt it would be good for the twigs to become more familiar with being left with other people. Also, I could recognise my own shortcomings in terms of doing messy play/craft activities with them – or not as the case may be 🙈 Personally, I’m not hugely artistic or practical so the idea of painting with two toddlers was a bit of a source of stress for me – especially when one has the attention span of a gnat and would only be interested for 30 seconds then run around spreading paint everywhere, leaving you with 20 minutes worth of clearing up – like there wasn’t enough to do anyway 😭 At least sending them to nursery I know that they’ll do lots of messy sensory activities there which eases my guilt slightly. But probably the primary reason for them starting nursery was to give me a break. I know that sounds bad and don’t get me wrong, I love being at home with my bubbas and I do feel super lucky and privileged to be able to spend their early years with them – I know there are lots of mummies who would kill to give up their job and spend their time with their babies. If we hadn’t have had twins, making it not financially viable for me to go back to work, I’m quite sure I would have done without question. However, being at home with children all day every day is hard bloody work – harder than I could ever have imagined. I don’t think anything can quite prepare you for the sheer relentlessness of it – the fact that you’re always on duty and always in demand is both amazing and yet totally draining. Sometimes you just need some time to yourself – to be you, rather than ‘Mummy’ or ‘Daddy.’ I was certainly really feeling that it was too much and something had to give. It was also really starting to stress me out that I couldn’t keep on top of the housework – that sounds silly and unimportant I know. While I was on official maternity leave, I wasn’t too bothered about the state of the house as it all felt very temporary somehow – but once that time was over and I’d left my teaching job, it started to feel like the house was a complete shit-tip on a more long term basis. To be fair, it probably wasn’t that bad but you know when it’s just not really to your standards and it starts to get you down? It only seems to have got harder to keep up as they’ve got older, as I’ll be tidying something up somewhere but simultaneously the twiglets will be causing absolute carnage somewhere else! Not to mention that I’d feel guilty for just leaving them to play by themselves a lot so that I could get housework done.
So yes, I send my children to nursery when I don’t really ‘have’ to. It doesn’t mean I love or appreciate them any less – it means I find it hard sometimes and recognise that I need some time away – to do the housework, to run the errands that are a nightmare to do with twins in tow, and even to do something for myself, like an exercise class or a bath. I feel it helps me to be the best parent I can be to my twiglets – (slightly) more patient, more sane, happier and definitely more appreciative of the time I spend with them. Some people don’t feel they need that time apart and that’s great. We’re all different and we shouldn’t be judging others on their choices – the world would be very boring if we all raised our children in exactly the same way. I’ve spoken to other mums who feel judged for not sending their children to nursery so it seems you can’t really win whatever you do! Ultimately, the vast majority of us love our children to bits and are just trying to do what’s best for them in whatever way we can, and if anyone feels the need to voice their opinion on a Facebook group or otherwise, then f**k ‘em – ironically, they’re probably the ones with too much time on their hands! 🙊

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