Category Archives: kids

As easy 1.2.3 cake

How to survive your baby’s first birthday party

My nerves have never survived a party.

Birthdays, babyshowers, farewells…. whatever the occasion, I find myself wound up tighter than a two dollar watch.

My parents, bless them, are great entertainers and have covered the vast majority of my birthday milestones with aplomb. But when I ventured forth into the big bad world of adulthood I realised something was wrong with the “hostess with the mostess” scenario inflicted upon me. It left little room for failure in my anxious mind.

I used to have one fail-safe way to survive my own parties. I would drink my way through them.

But that tactic doesn’t really work when it comes to your children’s birthday parties, now does it? 

I used to think baby parties would be a piece of cake (pun intended) compared to adult ones. But when I actually started attending these parties I realised I was a whole bucketload of wrong. I was way, way out of my league.

My daughter’s second birthday was a stand out, Oscar-worthy “worst party experience of the year” moment for me.  I ruined two batches of cake before I finally gave in and bought packet mix, furiously trying to finish off the cake ahead of the guests’ arrival. If my neighbour had not literally rescued me at the 11th hour, I’d have been a crying mess on the floor, covered in flour and threatening to slit my wrists with the nozzle of a piping bag. (I don’t know if I ever truly thanked you for saving my life, Gemma?). 

2nd birthday party for my daughter. My neighbour saved the cake!
2nd birthday party for my daughter. My neighbour saved the cake!

I was a wreck when my guests left that day and vowed “never again”… Only to have another party for her 3rd birthday, this time with a six week old baby in tow.

(Yes, at this point you can officially call me an idiot.)

Maybe all you awesome mums out there can do the cooking, baking, cleaning, gift wrapping, music sorting, and game inventing for your children’s birthday parties with no sweat, one hand behind your back, and the other wrapped around a margharita. Or maybe you just have more help on hand than I do. Alls I know is that I throw a lousy party, and I think this – along with driving and making phone calls – must be one of my biggest anxiety inducing events.

So, having just thrown the first successful birthday party of my life for my son, I have learned a few tips that some other anxious mothers out there may find useful.

HOW TO SURVIVE YOUR BABY’S FIRST BIRTHDAY PARTY 
1) Don’t throw  a party. This year, I had the best non-party party ever. I “surprised” my neighbours on the day of his birthday, inviting them to the local park with their kiddies for cake that afternoon. That’s it. There were no invitations, just a chat across the driveways. We supplied cake, one balloon, and free entertainment (my energetic 4 year old). Maybe you think that’s tight of us?  I think it’s perfect. A run outdoors for the kids, a bit of a sugar-fix, then home in time for tea. Winner.

IMG_3304

2) If there must be cake, make peace with packet mix. There are two rules to cake. First, make it the day before. Second, use packet mix. Freeze it. The Australian Womens’ Weekly birthday cakebook, ahem, BIBLE, says it’s OK to use packet mix. It actually says that. So no guilt required!

As easy 1.2.3 cake
As easy 1.2.3 cake

3) Get out of the house – Host your party anywhere except your house. Even your local prison yard’s exercise park is probably going to be less trying on your nerves than hosting it at home… Forget cleaning to the point of madness, and go out and soak up the fresh air. Ain’t no one going to judge you if there’s a spot of dirt on a playground picnic table!

4) Buy your kid a gift. One gift. When my daughter was born, we weren’t in a great financial situation. I looked at beautiful toys (and pined for those soft, flat koalas you see in every inner city Sydney suburban home) and knew I couldn’t buy them for her. I was very grateful for the generosity of the gifts she received from others, but was truly unable to buy a “wow” present from myself. It’s only in hindsight that I realise it doesn’t matter. It does not mean you love your child any less. They’ll never remember anyway. So this year I gave my son a letter. I posted it to him, and it will remain sealed for decades to come until I finally decide for him to have it. The card, and postage, cost me a whopping $6.50 and I am sure he’ll cherish it when he’s old enough to appreciate it.

5) Avoid Instagram like the plague. Pinterest too. These sites will only have you obsessing over the exact shade of bunting to coordinate with your cake-pop icing and sooner or later you’ll collapse with exhaustion. Or…. if you’re like me, these sites will just make you feel like a complete and utter party-cripple.

Follow my steps above and you’ll have a ball!

I didn’t even NEED alcohol to cope!!

IMG_0941

We agreed on kids, but never on how many.

I first met my partner when I was twenty four years old. The “Kids?” question was one of the items on my first-date checklist, but there were many others. Do you give massages? Tick. Do you keep fit? Tick. And, perhaps most importantly, do you like Pearl Jam? Tick. Life wasn’t as serious as it is now; I was just as concerned by whether he was fashionable as I was by whether he was trustworthy. I didn’t quite get the importance of having aligned values as I do nowadays.

Once we established that we both wanted kids, we vacuum packed that topic like a bag of winter clothes at the first hint of spring. We knew we’d be addressing it again some day, but it felt like that day wouldn’t come around forever. 

Fast forward a decade, and here we are with our delightful pigeon pair and we have  fulfilled the promise we made to each other to one day have children. They’re both perfectly healthy and we thank the stars for that every day. They will have each other for company, and we can afford to provide a comfortable lifestyle for them both.

But…. I want more. And my husband does not. And no matter what happens in this scenario, someone is losing out.

How do we know when "enough is enough" with children?
How do we know when “enough is enough” with children?

How did this happen? How did we end up stuck inside our bunkers on opposite sides of the trenches?

When I look back over the years I realise that as our relationship evolved and conversations about weddings, mortgages, and (gulp) pensions started happening, we did start to plan our little family together. My fella said he wanted two kids. I said three. But instead of discussing it further and locking in a plan of attack, we’d just roll our eyesand say we could decide as and when the time came.

I always thought that our conversation was  theoretical. “In theory”,  he wanted only two children, and “in theory” I wanted three. There was a whole lot of life to be led in the meantime and anything could happen to change our minds. Secretly, I believed that I could persuade him over to my side of the fence. I thought once he fell in love with our future kids, the idea of having more wouldn’t be such a difficult one for him to accept. In theory…..

And here we are today, a happy family of four, loving our children more than life itself, and yet my husband will not be persuaded.

image

I have found myself daydreaming about buying bunk beds so our two children can share a bedroom and leave the nursery available for the new baby.

I am looking at cars that are bigger than our Saab and could comfortably seat a family of five.

I’m avoiding giving too many outgrown baby clothes away…just incase….

And while my mind is refusing to accept that this is the end of my babymaking years, my husband stands resolute in his convictions. There are  a number of reasons that he is hesitant about having a third child; our finances, my mental health, (and let’s face it) sheer exhaustion! But even he admitted that he could have come around to see my point of view if it weren’t for the blow of the BRCA2 gene.

Recently, he found out that he carries the BRCA2 gene – and therefore our daughter has a 50% chance of inheriting the same gene (and with it a markedly increased chance of developing certain cancers). Now that he knows he has this gene, he is using it as the ultimate ammunition for his argument against having more kids.

“What if we have another girl?” he asks, as the cancer rates are higher for females than males. “I couldn’t face having to tell our daughter that We brought her into the world knowing it was likely she might get a terrible sickness that could cut short her life”.

I have loads of rebuttals at the ready. I fire them like machine gun bullets.

“But we might have a boy”

“But we are all likely to get SOMETHING we just don’t often find out what that something is”

“Even if it’s a girl, there’s only a 50% chance she will have the gene”

He fights back just as hard. It’s not like we are arguing about takeaway Pizza – there is no “half-and-half” option on offer.  This is an all or nothing decision and the “nothing” makes me feel so empty it hurts.

The gene thing is a card that he has every right to play, and nothing I can lay on the table can trump it. Now that all the cards are  dealt I’m feeling more than just beaten. I’m bereft. I’m mourning someone that does not exist and never will, but whom I had already started loving from somewhere in my soul.

They say you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. I guess in this case, I didn’t know just what I could’ve had until it became an impossibility. And all of this has got me wondering:

Is the number of children your heart desires is just as important as the question about whether you will have kids at all?

image

Introducing affirmations for my anxious preschooler

It’s probably no surprise that I’m anxious about my daughter being anxious.

From the varied media that I’ve consumed on the subject matter, the common consensus seems to be that my children are more likely to suffer anxiety compared to the norm. If it  doesn’t slip through via genetics, then they will probably pick it up through learned behaviour anyway. Great. 

image

I’ll admit, I’ve been watching her like a hawk over the years, keen to pick up on any telltale anxious-child signs. I have heard all my life that the sooner you pick up on it, the easier the management, so I’m watching vigilantly (ok, so maybe somewhat neurotically. Go figure).

I’ve noticed my daughter is quick to say “I can’t” and give up when she can’t do something perfectly. (These two words are probably the most common words that go around inside my anxious brain alongside “not possible”, and “never”). Uh oh – is this a warning of things to come with my daughter?

She also tells me she feels shy. While I’m super impressed by her emotional intelligence, I do worry about her shyness at times because I fear she experiences anxiety alongside this shyness. In new situations involving other children she will often tell me “no one likes me, mummy”. Maybe I’m being paranoid but these words seem more significant than “typical three year old stuff”.  Uh oh. I think she is already worried about what other people think of her.

Noticing these things about her, I’ve decided to add two anxiety-busting tools into our bedtime routine. Tools she has started to absolutely love, without knowing my hidden agenda. Sure, they might be a bit new-age, but they pack a powerful punch when it comes to fighting anxious thoughts and building firm foundations in terms of self-esteem.

(1) I’m happy for…

This “game” is basically a gratitude list. I demonstrated how to do it for a few nights, but after that she took to it with gusto! It’s not so much about what she is saying, but THAT she is saying it. It’s a subtle reminder before she goes to bed of the many positive things in her day. It puts her into a calm and happy frame of mind before sleep. And hey, if she is happy for “our big garage” and that “she touched a lizard!” then that’s just grand! (I love having a window into the inner workings of her mind when we do this game!)

image

(2) The repeat game

I start with some basics, as she repeats her name, her age, where she lives. I then launch into some positive self-worth stuff – easy affirmations for preschoolers. It sounds like this:

You’re great at somersaults.

You are an excellent soup maker.  

You love cuddling your baby brother.

It’s funny, but she always calls me to task on any affirmations that are inauthentic. Her corrections are beautiful and evidence of self-awareness. “No mummy, I don’t love cuddling my brother. I love kissing him. On his tummy. Not on his eyes though”. (Ok, good to know then!)

I always include the famous lines from The Help somewhere within our ritual:

These are some of the most powerful words I’ve ever heard, and I think they’re so important for our daughters.

I must admit that I also tell her she is beautiful as part of these affirmations, but I stress that being a beautiful isn’t as important as being nice. I incorporated this lesson after feeling irrationally upset when my daughter casually mentioned she wanted to be Elsa because she was the prettiest one (of all the princesses). I wanted to get into that brain of hers nice’n’early and tell her about what really matters!

These affirmations and gratitude lists are now every bit as important in our bedtime routine as the book reading and song-singing, and I hope they are doing some good in terms of creating a calm, happy, and healthy three year old mind.

I might not be able to prevent anxiety in her life, but I will do my absolute darnedest to help her manage it!

Do you do any affirmations or meditation with your kids? Tell me about it!