Honesty is the best policy

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Imagine for a moment seeing a good friend in the street and literally screaming and jumping up and down with excitement. Or disliking the meal that your host has just served you; so much so, that you just spit it out. Not even into a napkin, just onto your clothes.  Sound odd? Well, not if you are a young child, this is standard behaviour and completely natural. They are honest and express however it is they feel at any given time; something, as adults we have certainly forgotten how to do, or more likely have learnt not to.

When my husband comes home from work my son screams at the top of his voice in excitement to see him, every single day! My daughter is at an age where she can express herself and say exactly what she thinks; she is beautifully honest. I can only imagine that speaking as freely as she does must be so liberating. She has no concept of social etiquette or hurting someone’s feelings and she, like others her age, just say it like it is. To them it is not rude or inappropriate. It is just purely what they think.

Of course this can lead to some embarrassment on my part, like when she says “can we go home now mummy, I don’t like it here” when we have just arrived at a friend’s, who has put a lot of effort in to hosting us. Or when she declares that she doesn’t like this piece of food, or item of clothing that she has just received as a gift.

It makes me wonder when did we stop being so honest? Of course we need some self-censorship and to be emotionally intelligent enough to know that what we say may impact on someone else’s feelings. However, do we self-sensor too much? Is it to our detriment that we don’t let ourselves say or express what we really think for fear of acting outside of the social norm?

I would love to feel so happy I literally jumped up and down in the street. To shout if I was cross; or spontaneously burst in to tears when my favourite food runs out (Ok, I may have actually done that). Wouldn’t it be great to be so free that we can behave and say whatever we want, whenever we feel it? Would we suffer with less stress and tension? Isn’t it heathy to express how you feel when you feel it, so that we can let go of negativity.

As adults we often try and teach our children how to behave, how to fit in and become the adults we want them to be. Yet, children don’t hold on to emotions, they are honest and express themselves really well. They let themselves feel and say what it is they need to and as a result the emotion is over in minutes. They don’t hold on to the feeling; it is felt and gone as quickly as it came. How freeing that must be? So, perhaps there is a more middle ground? Adults could let their ‘hair down’ a little more, and relax their self-censorship slightly. Whilst we teach our children that its ok to feel and think honestly but sometimes they need to do that in a sensitive way. Perhaps we should all join our little ones and jump up and down in excitement when we see someone we love, but maybe we ought to draw the line at spitting out the food we don’t like.

  • I first wrote this piece for my monthly magazine column for etc – Horsham and Mid Sussex. November’s issue.
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Phew, I do still like you!

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This weekend my husband and I got to spend some much-needed quality time just the 2 of us, as a couple. Having children can sometimes be so all consuming that it is easy to lose sight of one another. More importantly it can be hard to remember that you do actually like each other.

Usually when the children are asleep we spend our evenings ignoring one another, glued to our phones, staring at nothing. I couldn’t even tell you half the stuff I read online or on Facebook, because I’m not taking any of it in. I am escaping a day of answering questions, having little fingers pulling my clothes, snot on my trousers, holding the baby, giving cuddles, setting boundaries, cleaning the floor. My husband goes to work, then comes home and joins me in all the chaos with the children. When the evening comes, we are exhausted and often, having had to be so patient all day, are snappy and have completely run out of energy to have a meaningful conversation.

Life takes over and we are all hugged out, we don’t even sit on the same sofa or cuddle up and watch TV because we are craving our bodies to ourselves for a few minutes. Often we bicker about silly things because we have failed to listen to each other properly.

We were at the height of this stage and my husband said, “don’t forget, it started with 2.” And it just struck me, it’s so true!! He is absolutely right (don’t tell him I said that, I wouldn’t want him to think I had changed too much. He wouldn’t know what to do if I said he was right) but that’s exactly it. It started with 2! The 2 of us have created our lovely (and at times trying) family. One day when our babies are grown that’s what it will be again; us two.

Now, I’m not going to lie, but as lovely a statement that that was, it was also a scary one. I can’t imagine a world with just us 2 again. In all honesty, I find him annoying and a fair amount of the time I’m not sure I even like him. So, we decided a night away was what we needed. We set off after the rush of sorting the children, the 8-course meal that is breakfast “I want Cheerio’s, no, not these Cheerio’s, Weetabix, not with milk with no milk”…and on it goes. But we escaped and we went to the coast. We walked hand in hand on the beach and just chatted. Not about anything in particular, we just chatted like I would to a friend. We laughed, we listened to each other and you know what, we had a wonderful time. I remembered why I had married this lovely, funny, kind man. I remembered that I can be fun to be with and not barking orders or dealing with the mundane, or so busy washing porridge out of my son’s hair I can barely say good bye to my husband when he leaves for work.

We know that we might lose sight of each other but it’s good to know that we do actually like each other! Phew! That was a relief. So, we must remember to find that time more often, time when we are not so tired that stringing a sentence together is hard work. Time to enjoy together and remember the people we are, and that it did start with 2.

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Parenting sin list

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Having been to more baby groups then I can remember, I have heard some real clangers that parents say to one another. I expect we are all guilty of being a little insensitive or saying the wrong thing at times, but here is a list of the things that no mum wants to hear.

·         “My baby never cries” – why are you lying?

·         “I always know what my baby wants when she cries. I honestly have never not known why, I’m lucky I guess” – A truly unhelpful and ridiculous statement

·         “My baby slept through from 6 weeks and has done so ever since” – When the mum next to you has match sticks holding up her eye lids please don’t feel now is the time to gloat share your experience. Tell your family, your child free friends or those who have forgotten the horror of night waking.

·         “I have got such a good baby” – we all have ‘good’ babies ok, all babies are good. If they cry, have colic, don’t sleep, feed often, behave like babies, they are ALL GOOD.

·         “I’m lucky my husband does everything in the night” – Hahaha, this is a joke one, I haven’t heard anyone say that. (I know this is not fair to expect if mum is breastfeeding, as not a lot dad can do, but we can dream)

·         “I just found breastfeeding so easy, I’m not sure what the fuss is about” – Not so helpful for those who spent weeks crying because it hurt, struggling with latch, worrying about weight gain or just generally finding it hard to get to grips with.

·         “Teething was never an issue for us, he just woke up one morning with 2 teeth” –  For the other 90% of us, who have endured sleepless nights, the fractious days, the months of fussing before any teeth even appear; we really don’t want to hear this.

·         “I really don’t know why people bother breastfeeding” – unhelpful for all the above.

·         “Is your baby …. (Insert latest developmental milestone – rolling, sitting, crawling, walking)” – I expect we are all guilty of this, but let’s be honest, mostly this question is asked when your baby is doing one of the above and you want to tell your friends without sounding like you are showing off. This can’t be helped as we are just proud when our babies are doing something, but when your baby has reached that milestone 3 months early, it just makes everyone else worry about why their little Einstein isn’t keeping up. Or, if you know full well that the mother you are asking has just been worried because her baby isn’t doing something yet, then you are just making her feel worse.

·         Smugness – I can’t think of one set example of this but just generally smug mums. As my friend beautifully put it “nothing to do with your parenting, my second baby showed me that, its luck of the draw”.

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