When Did That Happen?

When did my son turn into a miniature human being?

I remember when he was first born. We marvelled, as all new parents do, over his tiny hands and feet, his amazingly loud voice and how clever he was to be able to look at us and recognise us. But he was still almost like a different species. A baby, not quite a human being like the ones walking and talking around us. He couldn’t actually do anything. He couldn’t choose what activity he was going to do, where he was going to move to, what he was going to say.

Now, all of a sudden, he is not a baby any more. He is making those choices. He can choose, if he wants, to run backwards and forwards around our flat all day. He can choose to take out the animals from his Noah’s Ark or his little figures and line them all up, making them ‘say’ clever and insightful things. He can choose to copy what we say –  we’re not big on swearing but we have to watch every word we say. He chooses to walk in a straight line, a wiggly line, dance, run, fall over.

He knows what to do. When did that happen? When did he learn that if I say “Dinnertime” he has to go and knock on Daddy’s office door then climb onto his chair? When did he learn that to turn on the musical Christmas toys he pushes the switch on the back? How did he learn to operate the TV and DVD player more quickly than Daddy did? When did he realise that if we get the camera out it’s much more fun to smile adorably at the camera then turn away at the last minute?

He talks to me. He says things like “I’ve got an idea, people” and “Alright, Mummy? Have a nice sleep?” I can’t believe that two months ago I was worried about his speech – he comes out with the most amazing things now. Yes, it’s not always an unmixed blessing. Like when we were in the shop and he pointed at an elderly gentleman with a white beard and said, very clearly, “Look, Mummy, Santa Claus!” But he can, and does, also say “I missed Mummy” after nursery, or “Love you”.

He has strops. Nothing all that bad (see my post The Challenge of Loving) but he definitely has strops. When he was a baby he had four basic states: cry, sleep, smile, neutral. Cries had variations, smiles had grades depending on the cause (Grade 1 for mildly amused, Grade 5 for Grandma etc), but they were essentially the same state. Now, Daniel has all the moods that I or Daddy have and suddenly we see ourselves reflected in him. We’re allowed to be moany and miserable after a sleepless night with him, but find it hard to deal with him being the same. That’s because we’re just not used to it – all of a sudden he has adult emotions and can express them and we need to catch up with him. But on the other side of that he has also developed a wonderful sense of the ridiculous, and his laughter at something that is just too silly is infectious.

He experiments. He only has our word for it that climbing onto the sofa and rolling off will hurt, so he gives it a go. He sees no reason not to take the roof off his toy garage and use the frame as a hula hoop. He’s pretty sure that a big car will go down his slide with a big crash, but what will a little car do? And he doesn’t know, not for definite, that he’ll get caught every time he tries to take a bauble off the Christmas tree. May as well keep having a go. The baby we had, it seems like only ten minutes ago, couldn’t have even imagined any of these possibilities.

Now, we loved our tiny baby so much. We could not imagine loving him more, he seemed so perfect in every way. I’m sure when his little sister is born in April we will go through the same emotions. But the thought that she could develop into the same sort of miniature human being as Daniel, with all that potential and excitement, but entirely different again, is mind-boggling. And I can’t wait.

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Writing Is Hard

For the first time in a while I am feeling good about myself. I finally feel I have a story worth writing and I am determined to actually do it.

It is going to take a long time and a lot of hard work. At the minute for various reasons I am only spending a small amount of time each day on it. I am still building up background and and noting plot points, still figuring out exactly what story I am trying to tell. But the real achievement for me is that I am spending time on it each day. I am thinking about it all the time, I am beginning to see the world of my story open up, and coming from the state I have been in for the past few months this is very exciting.

The crunch will be when I have outlined as much as I feel I can or should, and actually start writing. I need to accept in advance that the first couple of drafts will be poor and there will be parts that I hate. Hopefully there will be parts that I love! But I must not expect to be happy with the first draft, else there will never be a final draft for me to be happy with.

It is easy to question yourself when you have dry times like I have just had. Should I even thinking about writing, my inability to do anything is just making me frustrated and miserable? If I was meant to be a writer, wouldn’t I feel energised and motivated, compelled to write anything and everything constantly? Shouldn’t it be harder to stop me than to start? But I read a few things lately that have made me think twice, and have given me permission to say: writing is hard. It is like alcoholism – acceptance is the first step to recovery. Allowing myself to say that writing is hard allows me to keep restarting, retrying and not give up.

Right now I am actually pretty proud of myself for not giving up – I have kept a journal going, I have restarted my blogs, I have drafted a couple of competition entries, and now I finally have the basis of a novel I think I can do something with. I am putting in some writing time every day, and it is becoming natural, even necessary. I intend to stop feeling guilty that I am making slow progress, and start feeling proud that I am making any. I will let myself work at a comfortable pace now and work up as the words begin to flow better and faster.

Because I think that now I am becoming a writer, and once I get going I will not give up. Individual projects may falter and fail, but my goal will not.

The Challenge of Loving

My son has recently turned into a two year old. Not age-wise, his birthday was actually back in July, and we have been congratulating ourselves on escaping the Terrible Twos. But behaviour-wise, tantrums and selective deafness have arrived in our house.

To be fair to him, he could be a lot worse. He is not particularly aggressive towards other children (he saves it for us) and his worst behaviour comes when he is very tired; otherwise he’s actually a lovely little boy. To paraphrase: “When he is good, he’s very, very good. But when he’s bad, he’s horrid.” The trouble is, Daniel (who has never been a good sleeper) is not sleeping well and is consequently tired a LOT.

It has been quite a shock to the system. Our lovely, happy little boy has turned into a child who hits and kicks us, ignores us constantly, causes huge amounts of mess deliberately and screams whenever he doesn’t get his own way. In fact, I have seriously wondered if toddlerhood is training for adolescence, both for us and for him. My throat is sore from shouting and I only seem to have one phrase in my mouth at the moment: “Daniel, don’t do…”.

We have had two choices. We could choose an easy road and basically let him get away with it. It would certainly be kinder on the vocal chords. We could let him keep coming into bed with us at two o clock every morning and letting none of us get any decent sleep for the rest of the night. Again, no crying and tantrums. We decided not to do this, and at times I think we must be mad.

We have decided to have a crack down on behaviour and sleep, handing out ASBOs right, left and centre. The sleep plan at the moment is not working out great for me although Daniel seems to be gradually getting better – he is at least staying in his own bed, although this is under great protest, particularly if it is Daddy going in to settle him at two o clock and not me. For us it involves a good hour lying on the floor, and I don’t know about Daddy but it’s murder on my poor muscles which have apparently been softened by pregnancy and crushed by growing baby. So there is a light at the end of the tunnel but it’s a dim, distant spark at the moment.

Behaviour, hmmm. Being firm but fair is our guideline at the minute, and following every confrontation with a cuddle and an ‘I love you’. But the real challenge, to me at least, is dealing with the huge emotional swings that ‘behaviour modification’ brings. Not his – mine. I go from being at the limit of my patience, seethingly angry to doting mother and back again in a heartbeat, and it is actually exhausting. Not to mention the huge guilt you feel when it turns out you don’t have unlimited patience and tolerance after all. Experiencing negative feelings towards your child is, to say the least, heart-wrenching and has you constantly questioning your fitness as a parent. Not that how much I love my little boy is ever in doubt, not for a second, but the fact that I don’t constantly see him as a source of delight and satisfaction is, to me, disturbing, difficult to deal with, and makes the path of least resistance seem highly tempting.

I am saved from this by the strength of my husband – I guess we give each other strength, thinking about it – and the reward when our plan actually works, when he does listen or say sorry or do as he’s told. It’s still rare, it’s still early days but it’s happening and we are getting our beautiful boy back. Even if it’s only temporary.

 

Another fresh start

Right then, Fresh Start #451 begins now. Mainly in writing, but also other areas of my life – namely being a better mother to my son and keeping on top of the house. Writing, though, is where the serious FS#451 is aimed.

At the moment I am caught in a vicious circle of not writing because I am not enjoying it and not enjoying it because I am not writing. Once down in the ‘Slough of Despondency’ (is that Pilgrim’s Progress?) it is incredibly difficult to struggle out of it. I have reached a nice little comfort zone with a journal entry every couple of days and am not pushing myself to do much more. Enter Fresh Start #451.

So here is a list of new (again) short term and longer term goals. I have included a guilt-free reading list because, as I was reminded in a blog today, reading is an essential part of a writer’s life. And I AM a writer. Maybe not a very good one but I will get there.

By the way, is it slightly ironic that as I am typing this in WordPress, the spellchecker highlights ‘blog’ as a misspelling? No? Ok, it must just be me. On to the lists…

Short term goals

  • Begin reblogging on both this blog and The Daniel Pages. Not necessarily long posts, but published, tagged and categorised PLEASE.
  • Explore tutorials on getting the most out of WordPress and look at getting hosting so my very talented hubby can build me a nice shiny customised blog. (He is really very talented, leave a comment if you’re interested in knowing more)
  • Enter the monthly competition in Writing Magazine – this needs to be an inflexible rule, even if it’s the only one I’ve got and even if I’m not particularly inspired. One short story on a given prompt every month.
  • Poetry. As the muse strikes!

Longer term goals

  • Filing WIP on paper and on disk
  • Poetry – as above
  • Compiling ideas for stories and journaling whilst out and about as opposed to a page’s rant every couple of mornings.
  • Compiling subjects for research (see below)
  • Finding inspiration for the best-selling novel I WILL write.
  • An Open University course

Reading and Research

  • More contemporary literature to broaden my experience
  • More non-fiction on a range of topics – journalling or blogging interesting points. This is a) to keep my brain working and b) to provide material for blog posts
  • Newspapers / The Week – for the same reasons as above
  • A ‘Flavour of the Month’ – not strictly monthly! An area that takes my interest and could provide inspiration for any type of writing whether it is a blog post, short story, poetry or novel; taking notes and making information files on the computer for future reference. For example in the past year I have had brief but genuine interest in astronomy and aromatherapy and have greatly enjoyed looking into these areas, and currently fancy looking into early feminism and women’s enfranchisement. So if anyone knows any interesting blogs, books or materials, please let me know.

So there you go. Fresh Start #451, raring to go. And now it’s on the internet, so it must be the real thing.

The promise of the first day

Bar near Honfleur

It’s now just under four weeks until our holiday in Brittany, and we are getting very excited. We are going for three weeks and are investing a ridiculous amount of expectation into the holiday, in terms of how relaxed we are going to feel afterwards, how much we are going to reconnect with our lost or forgotten selves, the new and exciting things we are going to see, how much our french will improve. You get the picture.

We have started making mental lists of everything we need to pack, the best route and timetable to Plymouth, how many stops on an eight hour drive with a toddler we need to make, how we can avoid being stung by the extortionate motorway services. Do we take a laptop and spend some time in an internet cafe halfway through to post pictures to facebook, blogs, etc, or do we disconnect completely from our normal lives? How many novels can I write in those three weeks? How many days can we spend on the beach? Because obviously it will be nothing but clear blue skies and warm sunshine the whole time.

The picture above was taken on the first day of last year’s holiday. We had travelled Dover to Calais (instead of Plymouth to Roscoff, which is much closer to where we are staying) and drove down the west of France to Brittany. We forgot about the restricted lunch times, and drove through packed, touristy Honfleur and a couple of other villages before realising that if we didn’t stop soon it would be four o clock before we could eat – not an option with a one year old! We found this bar and sat drinking locally brewed Normandy cider out of bolées with our food. The weather was exactly as we had hoped, the quiet village was idyllic, and we still had the whole of our holiday ahead of us. If we get a day like that this year, I will be a happy girl.

Incidentally, shortly after leaving the bar and resuming our journey, we got completely lost, ended up very stressed and upset, and arrived at our gite about three hours later than we’d hoped.

So it may be foolish to invest so much in the first day, but I’m willing to risk it.

Poetry

Just a quick one today, because I’ve been writing a pantomime script for two days solid, it’s nearly midnight, and I need to go to sleep before my dear darling son wakes up for a couple of hours.

I just wanted to recommend a couple of things. Firstly, the book: Stephen Fry’s “The Ode Less Travelled”. I’ve been reading this book for a couple of days, between script writing, and it is the most wonderful journey into poetry I could imagine. It explains formal terms and how to use them, with a handy reference table at the end of the chapter, and includes exercises to put the theory into practice. It has opened up a world of poetry to me, and I cannot wait to finish the panto so I can get back on with the book.

Secondly, aforesaid poetry. I have been dabbling with poetry a little over the past few months without any insight or guidance to get the most from it. Now, however, I am beginning to notice poetry in everyday life. I know this sounds pretentious, but bear with me. I am picking up rhythms in speech, I am noticing alliteration in hidden places (deliberate as well as accidental). I am learning to break down language and to play with language and it is more exciting than I can ever remember it being.

Here is a link to “The Ode Less Travelled” on Amazon (UK), and I hope you get as much enjoyment from it as I have so far.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ode-Less-Travelled-Unlocking-Within/dp/009179661X

Yearly reflection

It’s coming up to the time of year again where I look back and wonder where on earth the time has gone. My son’s birthday is next week, and I have barely adjusted to the idea that I have a son.

There is hardly a day that goes by without him inspiring the strongest,most overwhelming feelings in me. Yes, some of those feelings are frustration and annoyance – “why won’t he go to sleep? Why won’t he eat his dinner? Why won’t he let me go to the toilet in peace?” – but mostly I am amazed everyday at his miraculous development.

Every day he learns a new word, says an old word a little clearer, copies something new that we do, learns a new skill. He is the world’s best builder, a Brit-winning singer, the next Picasso/Shakespeare/Shaw. He can kick a ball better than David Beckham, he is funnier than Peter Kay. All this, and he’s not even two yet.

I look back at the first picture here, taken when he was minutes old. He is battered and bruised from a brutal forceps delivery, his skin is still blue from the cord being around his neck, he is only just calming down from the trauma of being born. I love that he is, even then, looking at me as if to say “You just wait and see what I’ve got in store, Mummy!” And then I look at the next picture, taken on my mobile on his first birthday. He is full of cheek and joy and life. The last picture was taken a couple of months ago at a friend’s birthday party, and I can see all the mischief he promised as a newborn in that smile. I wonder what the difference will be in a year’s time.

It’s been an exhausting, emotional two years. But I cannot imagine life any other way.

Happy birthday, Daniel x x x