Thursday, 10 April 2014

Why we've ditched the dummy


I first gave Cherry a dummy when she was about four weeks old. Reluctant to settle, she was whinging and fidgeting in her crib. Every time I picked her up she'd root for my breast, then doze off once she had it in her mouth. Every time I put her down, the whinging would start up again.

So I put a little tiny dummy into her little tiny mouth and watched as she quietly suckled herself to sleep.

It felt deeply wrong and unnatural, seeing this clear piece of plastic sticking out of my beautiful daughter's beautiful mouth. A mouth that had until that point in time only known warm, soft flesh.

But she was asleep, wasn't she? She was happy. And better that than her not sleeping. Or turning into one of those babies that will only sleep on the breast. Or using me as a dummy and having me up, exhausted, endlessly feeding her DAY AND NIGHT. Just like my friend's friend who'd had a baby that used her as a dummy and was always having to feed him to sleep and was knackered and red-eyed and tearful and full of sorrow that she wasn't enjoying her new baby and blah, blah, blah.

As a new mother I was absolutely determined not to be THE TIRED MUM. I wasn't going to let my child's sleep patterns rule me. I would not be whinging all over social media about how many times my godforsaken baby had been up last night. MY CHILDREN WOULD SLEEP.

This was how I was to define myself for the next two years. I was the mum whose children slept.


Despite her contentment with the dummy this one afternoon, Cherry didn't really take to a dummy properly until she was about five months old. I was still reluctant to offer it - something inside me felt it was wrong and unnatural. But when she hit the four month sleep regression stage, I became more desperate. Nap times became an endless struggle, there was a lot of crying, there was frustration, once or twice there was even shouting.

One day we tried the dummy again and lo and behold, it worked. From that day onwards Cherry slept with a dummy in her mouth.

I was completely converted. Why hadn't I thought of the dummy sooner? Would it have helped with her discontent during the day? Cherry cried an awful lot. Perhaps in withholding a dummy I'd been cruel, not kind.

The dummy was a complete lifesaver. And it made it even easier if I needed to leave Cherry with Noel, to head into town for a work meeting. Not blessed with breasts with which to soothe her to sleep, he could just pop a dummy in her mouth and hey presto.

As Cherry grew the dummy became and more useful. If she was teething, for example, or poorly, I would let her have it all day, reluctant to listen to her cry and grizzle.

If she was unsettled because we'd been away, or something else had happened to disrupt her out of her everyday routine, the dummy was her constant soother. It settled her, made her more malleable, calmer, more contented, easier to manage.

She didn't have it all the time by any means, but for a long time I refused to leave the house without a dummy about my person. Just in case.

Then she started going to nursery two mornings a week and the dummy went with her to soothe her from the anxiety and pain of separation.

Then, as Violet began to grow inside of me, Cherry's dummy came out when I was too exhausted from working and parenting and being pregnant to cope with her powerful emotions.

Then, as I got bigger, and we moved house, Cherry's dummy eased the transition.

Then when her sibling arrived, the dummy was her comfort.

The dummy was always the last resort - ostensibly 'just for naps and bedtime' but it was always there if we needed it. If she got really upset, really difficult, really poorly or really demanding, I could always turn to the dummy if I felt I couldn't offer her any greater comfort myself.


But the dummy never actually made Cherry happy. Allowed free rein with it, as she was when Violet was born, she simply transferred her longing for the dummy into a longing for TWO dummies.

The weekend before Violet joined us, Cherry spent a day with her cousins, one of whom also enjoys a dummy. Toddling around with a dummy already in her mouth she spotted a spare dummy lying on the floor and pounced. 'Dummies! Dummies!' She was ecstatic.

So for a while we had tears and tantrums not because she wanted the dummy but because she wanted more than one. Or she wanted whichever one we had put away, not the one we'd left in her mouth.

And then began the great throwing-the-dummy-away-then-crying-for-it game. One day she actually and knowingly chucked it straight into the river. 'Bye bye dummy,' she said happily.

Two seconds later her little face crumpled. 'Dummy! Dummy! Dummy!' The tears began. She was inconsolable for the rest of the morning, ignoring the sunshine and the swings and the park. She just sat in her buggy, crying for her dummy.

Most recently the dummy has lodged its rod-shaped self into my back with the histrionics over getting dressed. Cherry's not the easiest child to dress at the best of times, but the current storage spot for her dummy is the top of her wardrobe. It's part of her morning ritual. Wake up, smile, say 'bye bye dummy', carried over to the wardrobe to put it away.

But now every time she catches a glimpse of the damned thing as I open her wardrobe to let her choose something to wear, the sobbing begins. 'Dummy! Dummy! Dummy!' She has even asked to be put back to bed, because she knows she can have her dummy in bed.

This afternoon's nap was the final straw. We have been reading stories in my and Noel's bed before nap time, Violet feeding contentedly on one side, Cherry cuddled up on the other. It's a soothing, comforting time for all of us and I can see Cherry becoming more loving and responsive by the day as a result of this seemingly simple little exercise.

Only today, after a 20-minute paddy about her dummy when I was getting her dressed this morning, the second we got upstairs to prepare for naps the dummy lobbying took full effect.

She didn't want Mummy. She didn't want stories. She didn't want cuddles.

She didn't want anything but to be in her cot, by herself, sucking on that wretched piece of pink plastic.

Enough is enough. That bloody thing has dominated our lives for too long. I have raised a dummy-addict. It's not her fault, it's my and Noel's fault for allowing it and allowing it to go on so long. Because we didn't want the scene, the tantrums, the potentially sleepless nights that are bound to ensue from withdrawing a crutch Cherry has been leaning on since she was five months old.


It's not her fault at all but as I progress further down the path of gentle and attachment parenting that I wish I'd pursued from the very beginning, I see her use of it and reliance on it as deeply unhealthy and at odds with the way we are moving forwards.

I see the dummy as a gag, a crutch, something we've used to shut her up rather than allow her the validity of her perfectly normal, if noisily expressed, feelings.

I am increasingly concerned that she rejects physical affection, something she's never been naturally that taken with to begin with, in favour of a bit of plastic. I find this unhealthy. She doesn't have to be a tactile child, I can live without cuddles on the sofa watching the TV, but in times of distress I really feel she should be looking to human interaction for comfort, not cold smelly plastic.


What is arguably a perfectly useful tool for a tiny baby has no place in the life of my nearly 28-month-old. There's a reason dummies are sold in age blocks - 0-6m and 6-18m NOT 6-28m. And I can't sit by and watch Violet, who already settles with a dummy at night, turn into a dummy addict like her sister.

There's a reason I hardly ever allow pictures of my children with dummies in their mouths into the public domain. I have, shamingly, even removed a dummy from my sleeping baby's mouth in order to photograph her, so beautiful and peaceful, my guilty little not-so-secret prop nowhere to be seen.

The dummies gots to go. As I told Cherry today, and as she repeated after me, they're gone. It's done. Bye bye dummy.



Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Do as I do: How I've cut down on chocolate biscuits

A fair few months ago Noel and I were at soft play with the girls and we had one of those incredible defining moments that has continued to shape and influence how I want to raise our girls, even now.


We had paused for a decaf/beer/juice/breastmilk break (you can deduce who had what) and as I sat feeding Violet I happened to glance at the table next to us.

And that's when I saw it.

Two women, I presume mums, sat gossiping and eating large slices of chocolate cake. They were sat with two boys, I presume their sons, who were eating…

…or, in fact, not eating, but moaning and complaining at being offered….

….carrot sticks.

CARROT STICKS!

I could only imagine the scenes were I to tuck into a vast slab of chocolate cake and offer Cherry a carrot stick. The tears. The injustice. The rage. The indignation. And that would just be from me.

I have nothing against carrot sticks per se. But there's a time and a place, just as there's a time and a place for chocolate cake. Cherry has been offered both, on numerous occasions. Admittedly she's far more likely to decline the carrot sticks than she is the cake. But the point is, it's all about balance.

Children shine mirrors onto the parts of ourselves we'd perhaps rather not confront. I have a healthy - or should I say unhealthy - addiction to chocolate biscuits. I love all sweet things, but chocolate biscuits are my Nemesis. The crunchiness, the satisfying sweetness, the substantialness, the moreishness, and the chocolatey-ness. If I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life, it'd be chocolate biscuits.

Cherry loves chocolate biscuits too, because she's a normal functioning human child. If she could, she'd eat them all day long. This became abundantly clear to me one morning when I presented her with the hot bowl of porridge she'd requested for her breakfast and she looked at it, looked at me, cast it aside with one clout of her hand and demanded 'CHOCOLATE BISCUIT.'

The thought occurred to me - do we eat too many chocolate biscuits?

I looked down at my own comfortably soft and cuddlesome midriff and thought, is this really 'just' baby weight?

The fact is I could easily plough through half a packet of chocolate biscuits in one sitting. I have done. In front of Cherry. She has of course asked me for a biscuit and I have given her one. Then I've eaten seven to twelve myself. In one go.

I have told anybody who will listen how intent I am on bringing my children up with a healthy and open attitude to food - ALL food. There will be no 'good' and 'bad' food, no 'clean' and 'dirty' food, no 'children's food' and 'grown ups food', no 'naughty' food - just food. There's food we will eat a lot, there's food we'll eat some of the time, and there's food we'll have occasionally. Like chocolate biscuits.

That's what I've told everybody, that's what I've told Cherry, that's what I've told myself. But when I actually looked at my behaviour I was telling her:

1. Chocolate biscuits are treats
2. We 'shouldn't' eat too many chocolate biscuits
3. I won't let you eat too many chocolate biscuits
4. None of the above applies to me, of course. I will eat loads of chocolate biscuits, as much as I like. Then I'll probably complain to your Daddy that I'm fat when he gets home. And eat a couple of biscuits to make myself feel better.

I was, in my way, no better than the two women I was sat judging for eating cake in front of their children whilst proffering carrot sticks. Yeah that's right, I judged them. Without knowing the full situation and facts. Their kids could have both had complex allergies that rendered them unable to eat chocolate cake, of course. Their kids could have genuinely been offered chocolate cake and declined in favour of carrot sticks. BUT SOMEHOW I DOUBT IT.

I'm happy to report that we still eat chocolate biscuits in this house. But we do it together, and rarely.

We mostly don't have them in the house. I'm easily tempted. I don't want to creep into the kitchen and hide from my kids as I stuff a couple down - that's proper eating disorder in the making behaviour, that. And I don't want to wait until the kids are in bed then let fly, essentially still lying to them and making the biscuit situation one rule for them, and one for me.

I genuinely eat fewer biscuits than I have done in years. The impetus of being a good role model to my children has truly been enough for me.

My waistline will probably thank me - it's hard to say for sure but I'm not in bad shape for a 33-year-old mum of two who fights daily against an appallingly sedentary lifestyle.

I hope one day my children will thank me. Not in words, but in a healthy and wise approach to eating that comes from a healthy and wise example.








Friday, 14 March 2014

It's not like parking a car

Have you ever had this conversation with a fellow mum? The one in which she sighs and bemoans how little her husband (or partner, or boyfriend, or girlfriend, or wife, just use 'husband' to cover all eventualities for now) understands her daily life.

Perhaps he's asked her to do more housework, or is wondering what she does all day that means the house is a tip when he gets home, she's exhausted and there's laundry everywhere and dinner still needs cooking. If she's working, perhaps he can't understand why she's still sometimes overwhelmed by the nonstop juggle and endless balancing act 'when the kids are at nursery all day!'

Or maybe she just needs some time out, time to herself, and he can't really understand why. 'What about my time to myself!?' he might exclaim. 'I'm out there busting my guts at work all week and now you want me to spend all Saturday with the kids while you swan off shopping? When do I get my down-time? What about me?!'

Maybe she's finding it hard to make him understand her perspective and they've slid seamlessly into one of those awful competitive arguments about who has it harder and whose life is more difficult - tit for tat, her versus him, opposing one another instead of being kind.

And then have you ever opened your mouth and said the following: 'Next time he's at home, arrange to spend a day without the children. Go out for the day, have lunch, see friends, spend some time on you. Leave the children with him ALL DAY. He'll be on his knees by the time you get back - and he'll finally understand.'

But I'm still breastfeeding, she might protest.

'No problem,' you pipe up helpfully. 'Just express!'

But what if, she'll continue. And you'll continue to helpfully come up with solutions for her. What if he can't cope? Oh come on now. He's a grown man. What if the children miss me? Oh come on now. They can cope without you for a day! Nobody's THAT indispensable. You're being too controlling.

Yeah, me too, and I can only hold my hand up and say I was wrong, and I am sorry.

The best analogy I ever read about the endless work/life/childcare dilemma is that leaving your children is not like parking a car.

You don't just forget about them once they're in their allocated parking space.

They might not be with you physically but they're always there. They're inside of you, next to you, behind you, in front of you. You look for them constantly, think about them incessantly even when they are in the loving and capable care of, say, THEIR OWN FATHER.

Or a qualified and registered childcare surrounding.

Or their grandparents.

They're always with you.

It's not a choice. You can't snap yourself out of it, give yourself a stern lecture, remind yourself to enjoy the freedom you've probably missed. You can't apply logic to an emotional situation. And just because a situation is emotionally-led or can be explained by 'hormones', that does not mean it isn't real.

You can't undo the dramatic, physical, biological changes that becoming a mother creates.

To be a mother is to never be alone. Mothers are in a crowd in an empty room.

Leaving your children is not like parking a car.









Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Just say no

 Not long ago I could not get Cherry out of her buggy to walk for love nor money. Being a big believer in children doing things for themselves as far as possible, this didn't sit well with me.

Fast forward a couple of months and you would have found me with Violet in a sling, with a firm hold of a protesting, resisting Cherry's hand, on a pavement on a bridge, next to a main road. 

And you would have heard me shouting 'we're going home NOW!'

Ugh. Not my finest hour. I loathe shouting at her and on the rare occasions that I do it, the self-hatred is abominable. I also loathe hanging on to a reluctantly squirming, screaming Cherry's hand or arm or on one particularly shameful occasion, the hood of her jumper, to control her, as if she were some kind of dog. 

But what other option did I have? Cherry was acting up, she wanted to be playing on the pavement right next to a very busy main road, it wasn't safe, we needed to remove ourselves from the situation.

Isn't this the down-side of gentle parenting? How do you remain respectful when you have no other choice?

Except it isn't, because the fault was mine and mine alone. And if you are following this pattern of thought with me you will have only one question in your mind.

What the hell were you doing with a baby in a sling and a toddler playing on a pavement next to a main road in the first place!?

And here comes the worst part of all.

We were on that pavement in the first place because I hadn't wanted to dull Cherry's enthusiasm for a walk, so I hadn't firmly insisted we go the other way (along a quiet residential cul-de-sac) instead of along the busy main road at 5pm because Cherry's new favourite hobby in the entire world is to 'look for the green man'.

I hadn't wanted to say no to her.

And so I ended up doing something far worse, picking her up and carrying her home kicking and screaming, with Violet screaming in the sling, whilst I pointlessly ranted at Cherry about the foolhardiness of playing on pavements on busy roads.

When I'd let her do it in the first place. Because I hadn't wanted to say no to her, because when I say no to her when she's had her mind really set on something an inevitable tantrum ensues and it's unpleasant and embarrassing and noisy and can go on for a while and while I fully appreciate it's emotionally draining for her, it's not exactly a walk in the park for me either. 

But clearly - clearly! - it would have made far more sense to get the paddy out of the way at the very beginning, by gently but firmly asserting that no, we were not going to go and play on the main road.

We can play by the river (although she will bloody insist on hurtling around RIGHT AT THE EDGE of it, but it's pretty shallow) or we can walk up 'the quiet road'. Which would you prefer?

One of the most difficult things about taking a gentle and respectful approach to raising my children is understanding when I have to draw the line and simply say no.

It's a confusing psychological tangle, actually. I am aware that I can lean towards the authoritarian, and this isn't how I want to raise my children. But in consciously choosing a more respectful approach I worry about permissiveness. I worry that the middle ground - authoritative, I have seen it called - is elusive.

When I think about it though, it's not. It's clear as day. 

It's not allowing your child to play on the pavement next to the main road because she fancied a walk and you didn't want to quash her enthusiasm when you've been DYING for her to take an interest in physical activity.

It's not allowing your child to whinge you into giving her another chocolate biscuit because she's wolfed the first and you could really do with five more minutes of quiet time and actually you'd quite like one yourself too.

It's not allowing your child to go to bed clutching two dummies because you chose to give them a dummy at night-time to help them settle, and they now want ANOTHER dummy because they happened to spot one lying about and pounce upon it crowing 'Dummies! Dummies!' triumphantly and you can't face the paddy when you say no just before bedtime.

It's listening to that voice in your head when you realise what your child is doing is patently ridiculous. And obviously it's not necessarily their fault - not their fault at all, in fact, when you are the one who has allowed it. But you know when enough is enough. I talked about this with a friend once (the situation with the dummies in fact) and she confessed her two-year-old had a similar, can't get enough attitude to TV, clamouring for the next episode the second the first was over. 'It's never ENOUGH for them, is it? ' she exclaimed. 'You think giving them what they want might make them happier but no! They just want MORE OF IT.'

I always talked a lot about children needing boundaries and I do believe this. It's only recently though that I have begun to consider what Cherry's boundaries should look like.

She loves to test her boundaries, so I have to be careful not to slip into an approach where her boundaries are me immediately saying NO to everything she asks for just because she likes to test.

But I am developing a strong sense of when Cherry is pushing and needs me to push back. I have nearly 31 years more life experience than my beautiful daughter. 

What use is it if I am to allow her to have whatever she wants, whenever she wants? What am I teaching her if I agree to her every request for an easy life, a quiet life, or to avoid that bloody tantrum? Or worse if I agree sometimes but put my foot down at other times, leaving her hopelessly confused as to where the line is to be drawn. 

When I know full well that if I say yes she will just ask for more, or immediately start asking for something else. And so I think this is, for me, the litmus test of boundaries. When Cherry asks me for something or says she wants to do something and I am not, in that moment, entirely sure, I have to stop and think. 

Is it because I don't want a scene?

Is it because I think I'm being too reactionary and second-guessing myself?

If I let her have this, will she be asking me for another/more/again in five minutes and then will I have to deal with the delayed tantrum when I say no next time?

In general if I am hesitant it is because I am aware that it's not a good idea for her to have, or do, what she is asking for. And sometimes I don't need to justify it either. I don't need to elaborately explain to her that no, Cherry, we don't play on the main road because it's busy and cars come by very fast and if they were to hit you you could be very seriously hurt and I have baby Violet in the sling and can't always move quickly enough to catch you if you are distracted enough by something you see on the opposite side of the road to forget that we always STOP and WAIT and TAKE MUMMY'S HAND.

What two-year-old could process that amount of complicated and grown-up information? Not mine, certainly. 

I am her mother. Sometimes, I have to just say no. 








Friday, 7 March 2014

Jealousy

Cherry Easter 2013, when Violet was four months in utero

So having written here how lovely things have been with both girls of late, this week would of course have to throw a spanner in the works.

Cherry's behaviour has been more challenging since the weekend and it has become obvious she is feeling jealous of Violet.

In fact she finally managed to communicate this to me yesterday verbally, which I found deeply touching. She doesn't, to my knowledge, know or understand the word 'jealous'. But she told me she didn't want me to feed baby Violet and that she, Cherry, should stay in my lap for cuddles instead.

(We talked about this a little and I said if I didn't feed baby Violet she would be hungry and sad, and she would cry. Cherry agreed that didn't sound very nice and that perhaps I should, in fact, feed baby Violet.)

This newer jealousy is different and more complex than the odd smack, whinge or demand for attention from Cherry as I fed Violet.

It has undoubtedly come from Violet asserting her place in the world a little more. It's quite plain sometimes that Violet has feelings about her place with me, and Cherry's existence can sometimes impose upon exactly what Violet would like.

A six-month-old baby cannot really be labelled 'jealous' but Violet is most definitely becoming more aware of relationships, distance and closeness.

I have said from the very start I would worry deeply if Cherry expressed no jealousy of her sibling. She is too young and not of the personality type not to feel this way. Her feelings are normal and healthy and the fact she can express them gives me huge comfort.

There is no shame in her feelings and I would hate her to feel she had to swallow them down and try and 'conquer' them by herself, to please me. There is no talk of 'but you love your sister, don't be silly!' or any other attempts to humiliate her out of her feelings. As a society we consider jealousy a universally negative trait but I have no doubt it's a normal human emotion and one with which both my girls must learn to live.

Raising both of our children whilst not imposing upon their relationship with one another is a tricky balance. It's not as simple as Noel spending more time with one child while I focus on the other - there is a family dynamic to consider too. And sometimes it is just a fact of life that only Mummy will do.

And so here we are, entering a new phase of our life together. The next six months will see rapid developments from both my girls, and I can't deny I am only becoming more and more consumed by them.

I also don't think this means Cherry feels any differently about Violet herself. The girls adore one another and now Violet is robust enough for more physical play, we have happy times chasing one another around the house, bouncing on beds, reading stories together and playing with toys.

The days focused on Cherry with Violet a passive and easily-pleased bystander are truly over - the challenges of a newborn and a toddler are behind us.

The challenges now revolve around us learning to live together as a family in which everybody's needs are equal, none superior, the most pressing are attended to, and all are respected.






Sunday, 2 March 2014

Six months



I have been the mother of two children for six months now.

This feels like a milestone. I recall reading once that parents' happiness peaks when their baby is six months - the nadir is three years old, apparently.

It turns out this applies with a second baby too. We have certainly all arrived at an extremely happy place, bang on schedule. Not just me and Violet, but Noel and Cherry too. We are a happy family.

(As Cherry is just 26 months old, clearly I can't speak for the nadir but I have no reason to think either of my daughters at three years old will be anything other than a continued source of joy)

There has been a great deal of bliss - the first 12 weeks in particular were nothing short of heavenly. But there has been a degree of turbulence. All of us have felt it. You don't just chuck another child into the equation without having to turn a few things over. Well, we haven't anyway.

I had something of a free pass from Violet's birth until Christmas, with minimal work and Violet still young enough to remain in that blissfully contented, happy, easygoing state whereby all she really needed was a full stomach, a clean nappy and cuddles on tap. Cherry provided all the entertainment Violet needed and her first smile, first laugh and first interaction were all aimed at her sister.

At four months she, just like her sister before her, shook things up. Four months brought the classic sleep regression, her first tooth, and the emergence of a strong and forceful personality that already knows exactly what she wants.

Five months saw her grow before my very eyes, blazing effortlessly through clothing for children aged 3-6m and 6-9m in about two weeks. It also saw her choose to begin baby-led weaning. Like her sister, Violet displays no sense of humour when it comes to food. She treats it as a serious business.

And at six months she is a force of nature, a strong and very physical being already desperate to be mobile and involved in absolutely everything. No longer will she sit contentedly and watch the world go by. She wants a part and a place in the world. She is beginning to understand distance, crying noisily if Cherry or I stray too far from her side. Today she played, fascinated, with a page in a big card book, flipping it back and forth, mesmerised by the motion she had created.

Happy, tactile, loving, into everything, bursting with curiosity, she's faintly reminiscent of her sister in some ways whilst remaining resolutely and entirely herself. I can already tell I will have to baby-proof, a stage I completely skipped with Cherry.

(At the time I credited my parenting of course, when in fact it's due to Cherry having always been motivated by social stimulus. She wasn't interested in her physical environment and therefore I never had to control it. Violet is geared far more towards the physical and I am counting down the days until she is flying up and down our hazardous stairs, poking fingers in plug sockets, eating wildlife from the garden and unearthing knives from the dishwasher.)

All of us have changed dramatically in this six months. The differences in Violet are immense, in Cherry very noticeable, in Noel and I subtler, but they are undeniably there.

I could freeze time now, I truly could. When I'm old and looking back to my glory days, these will be the beginning of them.






Saturday, 22 February 2014

Just my kid?

When Cherry was about four months old I read a blogpost about 'Ten things to do with a baby!' The perkily-written gist was, babies are a bit boring really, so why not bake some cookies or do a workout DVD or go to the cinema or yoga class together? Baby will be happy to sit in his or her little chair and watch you!

I remember thinking, but where do you buy your child's Valium? Because whilst I do not dispute newborn babies don't DO much, there is no way in hell I could have bounded about to a workout DVD or baked cookies with a four-month-old Cherry.

I got plenty done when Cherry was a baby - as long as she was asleep. But I was baffled when I saw fellow mums Tweeting things like 'catching up with some housework while smiley baby sits in chair watching.' You mean - your baby isn't sat in her chair whinging and grizzling and begging to be picked up then the minute you pick her up whinging and grizzling to be on the mat then the minute you put her on the mat whinging and grizzling to be back in her chair?

No? Just my kid?

I remain baffled now when I read blogposts about potty training that start with: 'We popped her on the potty and read her a book…' She didn't just get up and walk off, then? No? Just my kid? I scratch my head when I read about working mums popping the TV on to distract their children 'so I can catch up'.
Cherry is one of those rare things, a child not mesmerised by the TV. She'll sit through In The Night Garden if I watch it with her and we talk about it together. But the idea of having the TV on and her just sitting and watching it, passively, while I go about my business….nope. No way in hell.

It's not that I dispute obedient, obliging children exist or think that their parents are lying. I don't doubt it for a moment, I've met such children and seen them in action and in fact I suspect I have one of them on my hands in the form of Violet. Or certainly, a child more obedient and obliging than my first.

It's also not that I wish my elder child were obedient and obliging. If she were, I'm sure I'd be ecstatic with my lot, but she isn't and I am also ecstatic with my lot. This isn't one of those 'but at least MY CHILD is X' posts about how really my kid is just SO much better than your kid.

They're just all different - SO different.

I find it incredible the things some children do. When Cherry was still in nappies I was dumbstruck to watch children just lie down and allow themselves to be changed, not squirm and fight and scream and wriggle and crawl or run off bare-assed and giggling. 'Oh she did that for a week but then grew out of it,' I was told. Really? She didn't start it at eight months and NEVER STOP until she was potty trained, then? No? Just my kid?

I find it incredible watching parents dress their happy toddlers in clothes they have chosen for them, rather than help them into what is technically a pyjama top and some wildly unsuitable for the season leggings and a jumper that's three sizes too small because that's what they've decided they want to wear today and if you can even get anything else on them, it's just coming straight back off anyway.

I find it unfathomable when I watch children settle down on the sofa and watch TV for an hour straight. I have seen children obligingly open their mouths and allow their parents to spoon food into them. I have seen children sit patiently and wait, I have seen them talked out of a tantrum, I have seen them be distracted from whatever they are asking for by the simple wave of a toy.

Cherry is the sort of child that can make me look like an awful parent. I have learned to live with this. I have left more baby and toddler groups with a screaming tantrumming red-faced Cherry in tow than I care to remember. I have perceived judgement - actual or not - and cringed and died a bit inside as Cherry pulls a new and humiliating trick out of her seemingly endless bag watched by parents I am convinced are thinking 'my child would NEVER do that! I would just explain to her why she can't and tell her to pack it in!'

Good luck with that with Cherry. Seriously. Best of British.

That's not to say she's feral and out of control or that I am a weak and permissive parent. Far from it on both counts.

In fact I took her to Sainsbury's this week and was complimented by the check-out lady on her excellent behaviour, after she'd toddled over with a carton of juice looking hopeful and I'd told her to put it back and off she went and did just that.

I know without a doubt there were some parents in that store looking on thinking 'my child would NEVER do that'.

It's just it can take so long with Cherry. Part of this is toddler nature and toddler speed versus adult speed. I have cut back dramatically on nagging after realising if I ask for something it will get done - but it might take three or four minutes and one gentle reminder. It's really not necessary for me to nag and nag and nag until she does it. In fact the positive parenting/positive discipline/gentle parenting (delete as appropriate) approach we have increasingly gravitated towards has really reaped rewards in a calmer, happier Cherry who is currently a complete delight. When she's not shouting NO.

But part of it is her nature. Until she was about 14 months, possibly older, she would scream from the moment I began making her something to eat until it was put in front of her. It wasn't that she was ravenously hungry - she wouldn't then wolf down her food by any means. She just genuinely didn't compute why whatever it was she wanted didn't appear NOW.

I took her to my sister-in-law's one day and Cherry began banshee-ing as Marta started cooking. Surprised, she started apologising to me. 'I didn't realise she was so hungry! I'm so sorry - would she like a snack?' I said no, don't worry, and don't try and speed up. She can wait.

And wait she did, loudly and reluctantly, but she waited.

I adore my daughter's nature and her determination to get things done will make her a force to be reckoned with, but I also know the world won't speed up for Cherry. It is she who must learn to live in the world, and learn she does, every day.

If the price I pay is looking like a shitty awful parent while she pushes at the very boundaries of being a toddler, then that's a price with which I can live.