I REFER to him as The Beast here and I’m sure some of you must be imagining a great hulking Conor McGregor type – but the reality is my little man has always been a small wee chap.
Even when he was in the womb he was teeny – at one stage during a scan the sonographer said ‘Stand up, you’ to my husband while making measurements on the screen. Running her practised eye over Yer Man – who in fairness is on the shorter side – she nodded knowingly and laughed when we said we had an idea our baba wouldn’t ever be a supermodel.
When he was born he was an average 7lb and a half an ounce. Not small by any means, but the 0-3 month babygros we’d bought were swimming on him. Nana came to the rescue with some teeny Newborn sized ones which fitted perfectly and fitted for ages. Well meaning visitors brought clothes aged 6-9 months saying that their own kids were wearing six month old clothes by time they were eight weeks. Not so for us, those clothes didn’t go near him for months and months and months.
He stayed in his Moses basket for months, was in the bassinet part of his pram for ages too. And stayed in his high chair for years as well, he just fit fine and was happy to stay there.
When we did eventually move him up a size in clothes or into the buggy setting of the pram and into his cot from his Moses basket I was always struck at how tiny he seemed in the new setting. So used to seeing him nestled in the close confines of the Moses basket, for example, I thought he looked miniscule in the vast cot.
It’s been like that for his whole life.
Until recently. Until he stopped looking tiny in new settings and started looking just normal. Just as you’d expect a boy to look. I had started to accept that he was growing up – he had moved out of his cot to a junior bed and started preschool after all and I knew my baby was growing up. But he was still my tiny wee chap, I hadn’t noticed the physical differences.
And now it’s all I can see.
It started in April, when he got a bike from his grandparents for his birthday. I couldn’t wait to see him on it. I thought he’d look so cute and tiny. Only he didn’t. He looked like a preschooler. If anything a bit too big for the bike.
Long legs tumbling to the ground. Arms easily able to reach the handlebars. A sturdy broad chest.
We had to adjust the saddle and the handlebars, all the way up.
Then we went on holidays and visited some playgrounds and pet farms that we had gone to last year. And The Beast was able to use all the playground equipment with ease. He was tall enough to climb things, reach things, he didn’t need any help at all.
Clothes bought a few months ago are too small now, his feet are growing at an alarming rate (I’m keeping bloody Clarks in business), very shortly we’ll be getting him a new car seat.
And then last weekend we moved him from his junior bed into a regular adult single bed. He was excited, he had new PJs and brand new Transformer sheets, as well as Batman posters on the walls.
I was excited too. I thought surely, surely, I’d see my tiny little scrap again. Surely he’d look teeny in the big adult bed.
Reader, he didn’t.
He fit. He fit in the big bed. Ok, he’s not filling the bed by any means, but it doesn’t look ridiculously enormous. He’s not my baby in a huge bed. He’s just my boy in his comfy bed.
And last night, almost the last vestige of babyhood disappeared when he left his soothers for the Fairies to take away. His comfort and his joy and his lifelong love, easily left by his Fairy Door. It was his decision, he said big boys in big beds don’t need soo-soos anymore and he’d rather have a present that the Fairies would leave instead.
So the exchange was made. My big brave boy went to sleep, and stayed asleep and that was that. The end of an era.
My tiny man is gone. My little scrap is no more. Some bastardin’ fairies are flying around with his soo-soos in their mouths.
And I’m sobbing over newborn pics.
THERE was a knock on the door the other week and it was a little lad from across the road looking for The Beast.
‘Is he comin’ out to play?’ the child asked, looking disappointed when I said that The Beast was with his Nana that day but would come out to play the next afternoon.
I barely managed to close the door before I burst into hysterical sobs – imagine, a friend calling for my boy. He has friends now. Kids that greet him on the street when we go to the shops, that run over to our garden when they see us out playing with trains on the driveway.
It’s too much for me, he’s growing up too fast, he’s not my baby any more, he’s a boy. A BOY!
DON’T LEAVE ME SON!
I had barely recovered when we got some post from his new pre-school, which he’ll be starting in September. Forms about allergies and vaccinations, names and addresses, boxes to tick. I can hardly believe the time has come around already but here we are, he’ll be heading off with his bag on his back and his lunchbox in just a couple of weeks.
DON’T LEAVE ME SON!
To send me further over the edge – sure why not – then we went to the shop and got all the stuff we needed to turn his cot into a toddler bed, complete with Thomas the Tank Engine duvet, the works. He hops in by himself now, he doesn’t need his little sleeping bag anymore, he has a big boy blanket. He’s delighted with himself while I’m doubled up with grief, sobbing into his pre-school forms trying to remember did I actually get him his 13-month vaccinations or did I forget. It’s all a blur.
And then today, Yer Man brought him off to get his hair cut in preparation for school, a good tight cut, a man’s cut, to last him until the mid-term break.
DON’T LEAVE ME SON!
Maybe it’s because I’m hepped up on pain pills from a tooth extraction yesterday (fairly brutal it has to be said) or maybe it’s because I’m a sap but I really just want to put a brick on his head and stop him from growing up and freeze him at this age forever.
It’s odd because when he was a newborn, I couldn’t wait for that stage to end. To be fair, it’s a really tough stage, particularly on a first baby as you’re totally flying blind and haven’t a notion what you’re at. But still, I kind of wished it away, I couldn’t wait for him to get a bit more independent, couldn’t wait for the night feeds to end, that sort of thing.
And it did end of course and once he started walking and talking I really found my groove with him and he with me and we’ve muddled along really nicely. And now I look at him and see that the baby stage is well and truly over, I’m sending him out into the world and he is truly a ‘big boy’ now.
It’s too much. My heart is broken. BROKEN! Pass me a few more Nurofen Plus there, go on, they can’t hurt, I AM BUT A SHELL OF A WOMAN!
I suppose I have to let him go, though, don’t I? Keeping him as my baby isn’t really an option. much as I’d like to. And I know that he’ll always be my baby even when he’s 40 and I know that even though he’s a big boy now he’s still only three, he’s still so tiny and still needs me so much. And I know that his having friends and going to school and having his own proper bed are all good things. They bring him joy and make him happy which is the most important thing.
Bye bye baby, baby goodbye …
I’M going to have to stop cursing. At least out loud.
I know, it’s a fucking pain in the hoop, but I’m living with a little parrot these days so I can’t afford to be caught out.
The Beast is repeating EVERYTHING he hears, soaking up words and phrases like a sponge and spitting them back out with aplomb.
It’s adorable when he repeats ‘Love you Seán’ to me or ‘Careful pet’ when he hears his Nana cautioning him not to run headlong into the door.
Or when he’s cuddled next to me reading his favourite book and repeating the words from memory. That’s pretty fun too.
However, I doubt him exclaiming ‘Fucking thundercunts’ out loud in Tesco would go down too well with the general public. Or his father.
He’s already learned ‘ah shite’ from me (where are you going with that Mother of the Year Award?) and I’d like that to be the only bad word he ever learns, if I can
It’s not going to be easy. I love cursing. No, really, I do. It comes really naturally to me and I adore finding a new curse word (see ‘thundercunts’ above) and using it to punctuate my sentences.
A couple of years ago, before I was even a mother, I tried to give up cursing for Lent. It seemed to be such a simple thing to do, but I lasted about four days before I was at it again. It proved almost impossible.
It might have something to do with growing up around my Da, who found it almost offensive to go more than about five sentences before throwing in an oul bollix or two.
Or it could be to do with being Irish – as a nation we’re fairly prolific when it comes to swearing, it’s almost a national pastime.
Or maybe I’m just a vulgar bitch. (It’s probably mainly that last one actually.)
Whatever it is, it’ll have to stop. Adults can choose to swear or not swear, but children are generally only repeating what they hear and I don’t think it’s fair to teach them a word and then not allow them to use it or chastise them for using it. So I’m going to have to bite the bullet and watch my tongue.
I guess, as much as I love cursing – and I fucking love cursing – I don’t want my beautiful, innocent, gentle, blue eyed boy to follow in my footsteps in this regard. I love him more.
Fuck it anyway.
It seems I’m going to have to actually actively parent him. So far we’ve gotten away with simply ‘keeping him alive’ but now that he’s getting older it looks like I’m going to have to put in a bit more effort.
So good bye all you geebags and bitches. Farewell bastards and bollixes and arses and cunts. It was nice knowing you, you fucking dickhead assholes.
From now on it’s going to be like a Disney movie in my house, clean and serene, calm and measured. The cursing stops here.
And ain’t that a mother fucker?
THE Beast decided today that he wasn’t going to have a nap.
I can only liken the panic I felt to that felt when I was being rushed to theatre to have an emergency c-section.
I felt short of breath, horrified, I had a sour stomach. I could not believe this was happening.
He lay there, occasionally opening an eye to see if I was still there, still, but resolutely NOT asleep.
After a while I sighed and pulled back the curtains and said ‘You’re not going to sleep today, are you?’
“Seán AWAKE!” he bellowed, delighted with himself, before hopping off to
destroy the place play.
He’s always been a good sleeper; sometimes his naps would be short 45 minute bursts, but every day without fail he would drift off and there would be peace – and an episode of Say Yes to the Dress – for a while.
It seems things, they are a-changing. Of course he’ll probably nap fine tomorrow, but it’s a symptom of the fact that he’s getting older. He’s almost two now, so of course he’s not going to sleep as much as a tiny baby does.
I don’t want him to get older. I don’t want him to grow up. Is that a terrible thing to wish? I want to put a brick on his head, to stop him stretching.
When he was a newborn and I was so desperately ill with post natal depression, I couldn’t wait for him to grow up. Anything other than that endless cycle of feeds and night-time wakings. Anything other than the self-doubt and the questions and the fear and the constant wondering if he was ok.
But then time passed, as it does. And time healed, as it does. And I started to enjoy the baby cuddles and carting him around in his sling and being close to him.
Suddenly I didn’t want time to pass anymore. I wanted him to stay as he was, a little bundle parked on my chest. But of course he grew and started solid food and sat up and crawled and walked and talked.
It was ok for a while because he was still a baby, still my baby. But now as he approaches two, I see him turning into a little boy. A big boy. He can feed himself and hold a conversation, play independently, run and jump and cause mischief. And apparently he can get through the day without needing a nap.
I think this time there is no going back. This time he really is growing up and there will be no stopping him. All those dark, oppressive nights when I wished his life away are finally catching up to me and the regret is overwhelming.
The past isn’t a place to live though – and I would never want to go back there, back to her, to me, then.
So I can only look forward to hopefully wonderful times. Not with a baby, but with a boy. My boy.
My amazing boy.
THE Beast is going through a bit of a phase at the moment where he freaks out meeting new people and has a meltdown if he even thinks that I might be considering leaving the room.
It’s been going on for a while actually. A good long phase.
He’s not so bad with people he knows, he’s fine going to his Nana’s house and playing with Granny in the sitting room – but if the girl in Tesco has the audacity to look in his general direction he loses the plot. Earsplittingly.
So when Yer Man and I realised last week that he was half blind because his fringe was in his eyes, we looked at each other and as one said: “I’m fucked if I’m bringing him to the hairdresser”.
So we did what any responsible parents would do – we Googled ‘how to cut a baby’s hair’ and did it ourselves one night at bathtime.
We even – and I’m actually ashamed to admit this? – uttered the immortal words “Sure how hard could it be?”
We weren’t going for a full on cut or style or anything, we literally just wanted to snip the scraggly ends of his fringe out of his eyes and get rid of the mullet at the back.
Disregarding all advice to the contrary, I grabbed my embroidery scissors (I KNOW) spritzed his hair and got to work.
Sweat beading my upper lip, I instructed Yer Man to be on hand with a variety of toys and songs to distract The Beast and I made the first cut.
I took off more than I had intended.
No matter, no matter, he has loads of hair, I reasoned, so it’ll be a bit shorter. So what.
All the instructions on Google said NOT to cut in a straight line across his forehead or else you’ll get a ‘pudding bowl’ effect. You’re supposed to ‘feather’ it instead.
I went for the pudding bowl effect.
Well, YOU try ‘feathering’ the hair of a 12kg squealing octopus and get back to me.
So anyway, I thought I might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, so I continued snipping and, well, it doesn’t look … I mean … well …
It’s out of his eyes in anyway.
Yer Man looked at me aghast, gulping, trying to find the right words.
There were no right words.
At the time we made the best of it and actually, fresh from the bath with his hair slightly damp and brushed to one side, it didn’t look that bad at first.
But as the days have gone on we’ve had to admit it:
The Beast looks like a cross between a convict and a Franciscan monk. It’s lopsided, scraggly, and utterly utterly hilarious.
Nana and Gaga arrived in on Sunday morning to take him off for the day and suppressed their laughter admirably.
“Lookit,” sez Nana, patting my arm comfortingly “it’ll grow.”
WHEN I was 12 and in First Year of secondary school, an art teacher looked pityingly at a still life I had drawn for homework and patted me on the shoulder with a resigned ‘Well, at least you tried.’
She was right.
I was terrible at art. TERRIBLE. I couldn’t draw a straight line and to be honest, I couldn’t draw a crooked one either. I had no flair for it, no talent and only stuck at it for one year before dropping that module and doing business studies or some other such shite.
Anyway, my lack of artistic ability has never bothered me all that much, I never really needed to draw anything in my adult life, it wasn’t necessary for my career so I filed it under ‘What was I thinking?’ and left it at that.
Until I had a child.
When you have a child, everything changes. Obviously your body changes, your sleep pattern changes, your focus in life changes, at least for a little while.
But more than that, when you have a child, you’re suddenly expected to turn into this Earth Mother who can bake and sew and draw and watch endless repeats of Peppa Pig without wanting to stab yourself in the face with a rusty fork.
I can’t do any of those things. I’ve already discussed my complete inability to follow a recipe. I don’t even own a sewing needle and I have to leave the room when Peppa comes on.
And now my secret shame of being utterly diabolical at art has been highlighted.
The Beast is almost 18 months old now and has taken an interest in crayons and colouring and drawing. He goes almost blue in the face with delight when I sit him up in his high chair with a blank page and his crayons. His beloved Peppa has been displaced in his affections by Mister Maker, something he would literally watch all day if I let him.
He’s mad for a bit of art so he is. Ruh roh!
It’s been a bit dull and rainy this week and we haven’t been able to get outside as much so in desperation yesterday I decided I’d chance my arm at a bit of autumn art. We’d stick leaves on some paper and make a bit of a collage yoke. How hard could it be?
We gathered leaves in the garden before scooting back in to the warmth and breaking out the autumn colours of brown, red, orange and yellow. Seán had a ball colouring in the page before I glued on the leaves and he helped to ‘pat pat pat’ them down so they’d stick tight. And really, once we got rid of the handful of slimy, icky, wet, filthy leaves that Seán insisted on bringing into the house, it wasn’t that hard!
We made two pictures: one for Nana and one for Granny, not wanting to show favouritism. Seán is an equal opportunities grandson.
Later in the afternoon Nana arrived to take Seán off for a visit and he proudly presented her with his picture.
‘Oh look! You did this all by yourself! You’re so clever to do this all by yourself. All by yourself!’ she exclaimed, staring at the picture like it was a priceless treasure.
‘Actually, I help ….’ I tried to interrupt, before being cut off by her effusive praise.
‘All by yourself! And only 18 months old and you did this! You’re a genius,’ she said, showering him with hugs and kisses, delighted with her present and sweeping him off in the car for an afternoon of fun.
I waved them off at the door forlornly. I have the artistic ability of an 18-month-old. Still, at least I tried, right?
YESTERDAY I brought a whole shitstorm down on my own head.
I was accused of being a bad mother, told that I was disgusting, that it was a shame I had a child that I obviously didn’t want, when so many others would love a child.
I was told that I obviously needed psychological help. And so on.
I posted jokingly in a group of mothers about how I had spent all day making turkey and chickpea patties for The Beast’s dinner and he wouldn’t even touch them. In the resolutely tongue in cheek post I referred to the baby as ‘fuck face’.
It was a post borne out of frustration and tiredness, meant to be jokey, meant to appeal to other mothers who might have experienced the same thing.
To be clear, I don’t call my son fuck face to his face. Nor do I refer to him as such in real life. It was this one post, in a private group of other mothers who I thought might understand.
I’m not like the other mothers.
The response was swift and vicious. I was vilified as an absolute monster. One woman even suggested that it was a child safety issue and that my son was in danger by living with me.
I really didn’t expect such a response. I know others don’t use bad language with the same impunity that I do and I appreciate that. I do.
But I really didn’t see the big deal, it was so very obviously a jokey not-to-be-taken-seriously post. A mother gritting her teeth in solidarity with other mothers. Or so I thought.
The Admins of the group deleted the post and the comments and removed some members as things got increasingly vicious; I left the group myself. I feel quite sick about it actually. It was a group I really enjoyed being in and had contributed to regularly, I was even an Admin myself, taking on responsibility for running the group. But I couldn’t stay after that.
I realise I’m probably opening myself up to more abuse by writing this, but so be it. I use bad language, I’m sometimes vulgar, it’s how I am.
I might not be like the other mothers, but that doesn’t mean I’m a bad mother.
WHEN it comes down to it, toddlers are basically stalkers, aren’t they?
Tiny, determined, loud, always in your face stalkers.
I can’t move at the minute without a little shadow following me. Nobody else is good enough, even his Dad, it has to be me.
Mama changes the nappies, delivers the meals, goes for the walks, provides drinks and snacks, peels the grapes, puts the lotion on its skin. Only Mama. Never anyone else. Only Mama.
Experts call it ‘separation anxiety’ or ‘a developmental leap’ or ‘a phase’.
I call it ‘For the love of all that is HOLY, I am TRYING to have a POO! Can you give me one. damn. minute.’
I am never alone. I must always be in his eyeline. If I stray out of his peripheral vision for even a single second it triggers a meltdown that makes Naomi Campbell look like a perfectly rational human being.
Sometimes it’s lovely – when we’re cuddling on the couch reading a book before bed and he’s all content murmuring ‘Mama Mama’ to himself, smiling serenely.
Not so at 3am when he drops his soother, to his absolute outrage, and Mama is the only one who can put it back. Or when I’m paying the girl in Tesco and need to turn my back to enter my PIN number. It’s not so lovely then.
Mammy Dunne had the audacity to look at him yesterday and the response was so ear-splitting that coma patients in the hospital ten miles away woke up muttering ‘keep it bloody down’.
It’s exhausting. I feel like I’m always ‘on’ and there’s an element of walking on eggshells about it too. He gets himself so worked up when he can’t see me, it’s really distressing for both him and me. So for now we soldier on, responding to his needs while repeating ‘it’ll pass it’ll pass’ on a loop.
Still though, on the brightside, at least somebody loves me and thinks I’m lovely.
I met another mother in the playground this week, there with her little boy just a few months older than Seán. I’d seen her there before, but only got the chance to speak to her recently.
‘Your boy is so hendsome, yes?’ she said admiringly.
‘Yes, he is,’ I said puffed up with pride, looking at his peachy skin, shining blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes.
‘He looks like your hesband, yes? He is not like you at all. No. He does not look like you at all. HE is hendsome. Yes,’ she nodded, taking in my scraped back greasy hair, spotty chin and baggy t-shirt.
So, I might look like the Wreck of the Hesperus but at least my son loves me. Yes?
Thursday, August 14, 2014. A suburban house, somewhere in Celbridge. The night time routine has begun.
9pm: Look what Mama has! A bobba all for Seán. *nestle into chair with contented suckling baby, feeling like Earth Mother*
9.15pm: Let’s read your books now before bed. Look! That’s not my bear! His claws are too shiny. *cuddle sweetly scented baby and feel smug about picture perfect family moment*
9.30pm: Say night night to Daddy now, it’s time for bed. Oh that’s a big yawn for a small boy. Come on to bed sleepy head.
9.31pm: Sit in chair next to cot, turn off light.
9.42pm: Look at clock on phone. Wonder if baby is anywhere near asleep yet. Hear baby giggling to self.
9.52pm: *next door’s front door opens and youngster starts calling her sister*
Mam says you’re to come in.
Now, she said.
I DON’T KNOW! OOOOLLLLLGGGAAAAAAA!”
10pm: Unclench jaw, attempt to relax in the dark.
10.12pm: Attempt to leave room as baby’s breathing has slowed.
10.13pm: Re-enter room 30 seconds later as baby has an absolute mickey fit because you attempted to leave the room.
10.15pm: Look at Twitter on screen so dim you almost make yourself blind trying to read.
10.20pm: Put soother back in baby’s mouth. Think silently to self ‘please go to sleep baby’.
10.22pm: Look at Facebook, remembering to turn off volume just in time. Damn autoplay.
10.25pm: Put soother back in baby’s mouth.
10.26pm: *battery is low, connect your charger*
10.28pm: Look at Twitter again. Sign at all the TV programmes you’re missing while sitting in the dark.
10.30pm: Put soother back in baby’s mouth. Think silently to self ‘For the love of GOD go to sleep’
10.32pm: *battery is critically low, connect your charger*
10.33pm: Delivery driver arrives two houses up, leaves car door open with loud music playing. Has jocular exchange with punter at the door.
10.35pm: Spend two minutes fantasising about tracking down delivery driver and punching him in the throat.
10.37pm: Phone turns self off.
10.39pm: Put soother back in baby’s mouth. Think silently to self ‘Just go the fuck to sleep!’
10.45pm: Baby flips over onto side and almost headbutts self against cot bars. Breathing become slow, deep and even. Wonder briefly if baby is concussed. Decide on balance of probabilities he isn’t. Cross fingers.
10.48pm: Slowly stand up from chair. Listen to heart beating like the clappers with The Fear that baby will wake.
10.50pm: Creep from room stealth like, ninja style, without making a sound.
11pm: Collapse on to sofa.
THERE’S a bit of a tradition these days where a woman who gives birth is a given a bit of bling from her partner after the event, a kind of thank you for going through labour. A ‘push present’ is what it’s commonly known as, particularly in the States and it’s generally a ring, sometimes an eternity ring.
Personally, if you can afford it and you want it, I’m all for it. Not the ‘push present’ part, sure I didn’t push at all, but more as an acknowledgement that Mama had a hard job to do, a long nine months and then a birth. When a baby is born, presents for the little mite pour in, but there’s rarely anything for the woman sitting in the corner shellshocked.
The woman who will never laugh or sneeze again without releasing a little bit of wee into her knickers.
Of course, your beautiful baby is a reminder that you’ve given birth and is present enough, but I’m sure the majority of women can just as easily enjoy their gorgeous babies with a rock on their fingers as they can without.
Yer Man had been all eager to get me something and we spent several Saturdays going in and out of jewellers looking for something nice, but to no avail.
I had decided I wanted an amethyst ring – it’s a stone I’ve always loved, but is also the birthstone of February, the month in which my Dad passed away. I know that sounds very morbid, but the death of my Dad and the birth of my son are intrinsically linked for me, coming so closely together.
I was seven months pregnant when Dad died, he had been ill for the majority of my pregnancy and I had hoped he’d live to meet his grandson, but it wasn’t to be.
While that February was full of grief and mourning, there was also a sense of hope and new life as our family waited to welcome Seán into the world. As one leaves, another enters. So I wanted to honour my Dad by remembering his passing, in conjunction with remembering Seán’s entrance.
We saw a number of gorgeous rings, but they weren’t quite right. Too big. Too flashy. Too vulgar.
As we browsed I could hear my Dad in my head, the way he’d say something to be polite, but mean the exact opposite.
“Oh that’s a nice sturdy ring now.” (You’d take someone’s eye out with that)
“It’s very shiny, isn’t it?” (You can see that from space)
“Very nice, very nice.” (You spent HOW MUCH?!)
I had almost settled on one, but then decided against it. It just wasn’t right. I kind of forgot all about it then for a while, there’s no time limit on these things.
Then today while shopping in town, I found it.
Tiny, delicate, three exquisite little amethysts on a plain gold-plated band, so unusual, so different, so simple. I fell instantly in love with it. And I knew that my Dad, who always chose simple over showy, would love it too.
It’s from Accessorise on Grafton Street and it was only €16, something I also know my thrifty Dad would have approved of.
It’s Dad’s birthday on Monday; he would have been 72. I wish you was still here Dad so I could buy you a present, but this will have to do.
The one true ring, for Seán and for you.