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It’s been a tough one!

The last year has been a tough one. It seems weird writing this type of post in April, but at the end of my first year at university and through the summer, I had a really bumpy, up and down time.

I set fire to my kitchen and had someone smash into me on a driving test (yes really). Now though, I feel like I have come really far and I’m proud of myself. I’ve booked up my next attempt at a driving test (I left it for a year to get my confidence back) and have almost finished year two at university.

This year, I also feel that I have become a better parent. I feel I have become more patient and lenient with Lily. I am very much in the ‘super strict’ parent camp. I thought it would be the best style for me, and although I still am quite strict, I’ve learnt to pick my battles wisely.

A friend of mine commented the other day that “living with a toddler is like living with a girl constantly on her period – you’re constantly walking on eggshells!” and they’re right. Toddlers are some of the most independent little souls you’ll find. I find myself continuously hearing the phrase “I do it myself mummy thanks” and all you can do is let them get on with it!

It’s hard to do that comfortably. As a parent, your natural instincts are to protect and care for and you’ve spent the past couple of years doing everything for them. I never expected I’d have to let go of that until Lily was much older, but even the smallest things have started to become her things. The biggest shock was potty training. She needed our help before, whereas now, she will happily go by herself, wipe and wash her hands and needs very little help.

 

I’m proud that I’ve been able to let her have that bit of freedom to start thinking about what she is doing and how she can do it by herself. Fingers crossed I will be able to let go when she’s older too.

 

What is hard for you about letting go of the small things? I’m sure it’s the hardest part of parenting because you don’t expect it.

Parenting, university and real life!

Photo credit: Huff Post

During February, I took part in an internship as part of my university course.  Now juggling the needs of a very grown up toddler with coursework commitments and so on is tough.  Adding something on top of that showed me what real-life will be like once I’ve graduated.

At the moment, we’re in a great cycle of Lily’s childcare fitting in neatly around my lectures, so we still get half the day to do something together as a family.  During my internship, I learnt how different life is going to be.  We’ll need to practically double our child care, and the days Matt is away working are going to be even more complicated.

Internships are meant to show you what you can expect from a career once you leave university and the expectations that will fall on you.  For me, it felt like a trial run for juggling two careers (Matt’s included), parents’ evenings, household chores and career commitments.  I feel like I need to be similar to a balance artist form the circus.

In light of this, I have come up with three key points that I think will help.

 

Confirming appointments

Confirm everything at least five days in advance, then again the day before.  This gives you time to not only change childcare arrangements, but also plan ahead with all your commitments.  Knowing where you need to be and when is vital, but if something falls through and you get an extra hour to seize, you can make it really count.  For this, a diary is essential.  We all have them on our phones, but I’ve found a hard copy better.  In my area, signal drops in and out so much that I can’t rely on my phone to keep updated.  An added extra for this can also be writing contact numbers next to appointment entries just in case!

 

Group chats

I love a good, useful group chat on platforms such as Whatsapp.  At university we have them for group work assignments, but for parents, they can be great between the parents and babysitter.  That way there is no confusion over confused conversations or missed information for everyone.  It’s there for each party to see and respond to.  For example, if Lily is being looked after by a family member or family friend, Matt and I can both keep in touch and see if any plans change without having to be called out of meetings.  Texts are more discreet than phone calls – though both are technically unacceptable in work meetings, but you get the idea.

 

Pre-prepared meals

At 6pm after long days at work and so on, no one really feels in the mood to cook. Try and take an hour or two on a weekend to pre prepare meals for busy days for the freezer.  Dishes such as lasagne, Shepherd’s pie and pasta bake can all be reheated well and fit perfectly in small takeaway dishes.  If you own a slow cooker, then this can also be a great way to get dinner started early and ready for when everyone gets home and the end of long and lately, very cold day.

With everything else in parenting (and studying) this has been a learning curve.  If you’re studying at university and juggling parenthood, don’t shy away from the possibility of internships.  At university they are marketed as great work experience, but for parent-students, it’s a great opportunity to test timings and childcare arrangements.  Take this trial-run chance if you get an offer – it’s more than valuable.

Pushing the Boundaries

Hands up whose child is in love with breaking the rules.  My hands are most certainly up, as I’m the mother of a beautiful, funny 2-year old who has become fond of testing the boundaries.

 

As with many stages of early childhood, pushing boundaries is a natural part of development and certainly doesn’t last forever. That said, it is undoubtedly tricky to deal with a child who is determined to repeatedly push the boundaries that you have set – frequently pushing your patience to its limits.

 

I am rapidly developing an impressive catalogue of anecdotes of my daughter testing my patience with her repetitive (yet surprisingly adorable) defiance.  Indeed, parenting my toddler through this stage has led me to watch numerous episodes of Jo Front’s Supernanny, as well as consulting her book, ‘Confident Toddler Care’.

 

Jo has taught me that no matter what my toddler is up to, I must remain calm throughout the boundary-pushing episode – regardless of how much my temper is willing me to lose my rag.

 

You see, your child is unaware that they are ‘misbehaving’.  They perceive their behaviour as exploratory – not naughty – and therefore above board.  So instead of flying off the handle, this is actually the best opportunity to explain why their behaviour is unacceptable and what the consequences are if they continue.  Strike while the iron is hot.

 

When your child pushes the boundaries, their interactions with you should reinforce that you mean what you say, and that their actions have consequences. 

 

I’ve been implementing Jo’s techniques with my daughter, Lily.  The consequences get more serious as she repeats the undesirable behaviour.  In the first instance, we suspend the activity and sit down to think about what has happened together.

On subsequent occasions, I will implement a time-out session at a designated area (we have no stairs, hence no ‘naughty step’!).

 

Of course, it doesn’t always go to plan.  Sometimes your toddler won’t learn after the first couple of times.  It can go on and on for hours, days or weeks.  It is said that consistency on your part is an excellent approach.  However, if you’re having doubts that your approach is working for either of you, take a step back to reassess and try an alternative that you find more effective.

 

My experiences with Lily has led me to conclude that staying calm is the key to surviving this challenging stage of parenting.  And I know all too well that staying calm can be incredibly difficult to do when you have other aspects of your life pulling at you (work, study, chores) – while your gorgeous toddler is simultaneously hell-bent on wreaking havoc.  Sometimes we both need that time out – Lily needs it to think about what she has done, and I need it to take a deep breath and regain my calm!

 

So with all this in mind, here are my top tips to tackle those boundary-pushing days:

 

      • Keep calm.
      • Ensure your child understands your message.
      • Be consistent and always follow through with the consequences you’ve set out.
      • Be stern, but do not shout.
      • Remember that your child’s behaviour is part of their development.  They’re not being ‘naughty’.  They’re looking to you to guide them on what is right and wrong.

 

So hang in there!  This stage won’t last forever and you will get through it (as I will!).

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