New year, same me, but better!

I generally believe that New Year’s resolutions are deeply flawed and set you up for failure, but after The Year of Sh1t Things Happening (how we refer to 2019) I have used the transition into a new year and a new decade to try and get myself back on track.

I’ve been tuning into a few different resources to understand the best ways to make such changes and the best piece of advice I’ve found is to keep the goals small.  The idea behind this is to make very small, do-able, incremental changes in my schedule that ultimately make me feel better.

For most of last year I was doing practically no scheduled exercise.  The main exercise I had – once I recovered from my illness – was to go for walks with N and/or just generally chase his energetic butt around.  On some days this was MORE than enough exercise anyway, but I really missed the luxury of an hour doing something for myself here and there. Meanwhile, my husband has been going to the gym after work 3-4 times a week since forever. While I think that’s great he was staying fit and well, it was really disheartening to know that he wouldn’t set aside one day a week so I could do something for myself.  His excuse was always that I could take N to his parent’s house if I wanted to work out. I guess it’s true that I could do that, but it added a whole layer of complication and sometimes that was too much – and it’s also a layer of complication that he never has to face as I don’t make him take N anywhere so he can enjoy his leisure time.

Some people advised me to stand up to him about this, but it just ended in gigantic rows about how unreasonable I was being, all of which fed deeply into a feeling of resentment and unbearable sadness.  It’s very hard to adequately represent those arguments here, but suffice to say that I became defeated about it and just recognized that my own free time would have to be sacrificed until I came up with a better plan.

Then 2020 rolled around and a better plan was found!  I now have someone helping me at home which means I am less weighed down by home duties and more free to do nice things with N.  It also means that I have the flexibility to leave N at home for a short while to do something, such as pop for a manicure or go to work out. I would really have preferred my husband to step up but sometimes it’s better for long-term harmony to look for a solution, rather than bang on about the same gripes forever.  The flip side for him though is that he now has to pay for someone else to help at home.

With this new structure in place I have kicked off the new year by starting to do some sessions with a counsellor on a weekly basis. It is an EXHAUSTING and overwhelming experience – it is definitely a can of worms situation!  I think I might need to keep going to her every week for a whole year to get through all of my stories.

Some of the early observations are that I’m lonely (no surprise) and that I have a lot of emotional pain that has been unprocessed (also so far, no surprises). During the last session she asked me if I am being my authentic self, which I later looked up online and seems to mean if you are being authentic this is not to allow a situation or person to change you, unless for the better. I guess she feels that I have allowed myself to be changed, and not for the better, which I do agree with to an extent. She also observed that it’s as though I have given up, which unsettled me a lot.

On the flip side, I’m a little amused that over three sessions we are still so far back in my story that the counsellor hasn’t heard anything about my husband yet.  She’s in for a ride when she gets to hear about all the fun and games of moving countries, getting married (with his parents and family members not coming to the wedding in Australia), infertility, IVF, miscarriages and then obviously my Mum’s illness and passing.  I think she’s definitely going to earn her fees!

I’ve also been able to go to yoga once week since the start of the year.  One week I went twice! This has been really good for me and important to my overall wellbeing.  My next step is to start working out properly as I am unhappy with the impact of gravity on my butt, so I will be working to address that. I decided that evening gym classes do not work for me in this phase as that’s N’s dinner time and it gets complicated, which then puts me off attending.  Instead, I’m hoping to arrange to go once a week to start straight from work in the afternoon (I work part time).  I can then go straight home, have a quick shower and be fully hands on for N.  The only drawback to this scenario is that my husband will need to collect N from nursery school and bring him home, which will no doubt result in me needing to present him with a trophy for his tremendous efforts. I will see how it goes and if there is too much drama associated with that scenario, I will come up with an alternative plan.

I do feel better already, but I am still exposed to the variables of everyday life like everyone.  My marriage is better, but certainly not going to win any awards right now. There have been fewer monster fights in recent times, but the house build is still ongoing, and this is a regular source of tension.

The most recent issue is that I am feeling rather down about how small our green areas of the back yard will be and that there will be not so much space for N to play outside (there is loads of space inside), and certainly less than I had expected.  We have a rather large pool which is tremendous, and I am delighted about, but our house is quite big and perhaps we should have factored this in.  I wasn’t part of the discussion process during the period the pool/backyard design was implemented as I wasn’t capable, so I am cross and disappointed.  Where we live is a very hot and dry climate where things don’t grow so well, i.e. lawn grass is not a viable prospect, and it’s often so hot that it’s difficult to play outside anyway unless you’re in a pool or by the sea so maybe it will all be fine. I am from a rural area of Australia so having so little outdoor space is unfamiliar to me.  Also, I find myself better grounded in nature and each of these factors is playing its role in my anxiety about this.

I am aware this sounds super-princessy behavior (I have a chat with myself about this on the daily), but when you invest so much time and money into something and you’re not satisfied with the outcome it can be hard to overcome. Someone please tell me it will all be ok and that kids will adapt no matter what? I am quite down about this. But also, yay pool! You’re all invited to enjoy some wine by the pool with me if this house build is ever finished.

Meanwhile, N has been really lovely recently.  His vocabulary is exploding and it’s so much fun. Amongst other things, he can now count to ten in both English and Greek.  When you consider he was saying very little at all before Christmas, this is a big development.  Right now he loves his scooter so much and is a daredevil when he rides it.  I love his courage!  He also has a girlfriend in his class who he talks about non-stop, but literally doesn’t care for any of the boys in his class at all.  You can say their names and he doesn’t even blink.  Say the girls’ names though and he’s got so much to say in response.

Other favoured pastimes include colouring – he loves to draw (washable) marker pens all over his fingers, which I think is him trying to make coloured nails like mummy – playing with balloons, jumping on the trampoline that our neighbours kindly gifted us (in perfect condition, what a result!), going for walks to the park and patting our cats.  He now talks to the cats in a high-pitched “cat voice” and it’s the funniest thing ever.

He is continuing to resist bedtime, which seems to be some kind of wonderful phase of a two-year-old, but patience and not allowing an afternoon nap seems to make this mildly more manageable. He is also increasingly fussy over mealtimes which is a bit of a stress but we do a top-up on any dinner not eaten with banana. Considering he’s almost grown out of his car set which is allegedly suitable for up to 4 years old, I think the amount and what he’s eating doesn’t seem to be too much of a concern.

N

99 things to do but sleep isn’t one – Life with a two-and-a-half-year-old

My cheeky little monkey, small guy N, is going to be 2.5 years old on Friday! Life is busier than ever these days with N no longer having daytime naps which means little downtime between morning wake-up and evening bedtime, and he is a very physically active child! We haven’t fully finessed the routine for bedtime as his sleep schedule has varied as we go through the transition of ending naps.  Some days he still has a short nap, but now it is more likely to be in the form of a power snooze in the car or on the sofa. If he has a power-snooze, they are usually late in the afternoon and that will push his bedtime a bit later as a result.

No napping does have benefits as it gives more flexibility for adventures and visiting friends, but some days mummy used to enjoy naptime as she also got a cheeky bit of shut-eye too.  RIP naps.

This past month or so has been hectic.  N feel sick before Christmas, first with a kind of flu (fever for 5 days) which then improved before it merged with an ear infection (pain, more fever). N is so stoic when he’s suffering that it’s difficult to understand what specifically is the problem, but when his fever returned and showed no signs of diminishing I suspected an ear infection, which was confirmed by his pediatrician.   Poor N got antibiotics for Christmas!  He was a bit improved by Christmas Day but still poorly so wasn’t on good form for all the presents and fun of the day.  It only took a few more days and then he was better, when he then suffered a suspected spider bite. He got a nasty bite on his ear – I suspect when sleeping – which developed into a blister, as well as two big bites on his hand and three smaller ones on his face.  He really did look a bit of a mess for a few days.

This all took place across about three weeks and when he was really sick he was pretty much silent, just wanting to be cuddled.  Once he got better though it was an explosion of words and now he doesn’t stop talking.  Every single day there are new words emerging and he’s getting really good now at repeating new words that I teach him. I think he must have a vocabulary of over 50 words now in English and an unknown number in Greek as he doesn’t speak Greek to me generally. He says the names of most of the people close to him, can tell me all the colours (except yellow, but he can identify it) and has a few full sentences he uses, such as “turn on the light” and “the tree is gone” (this relates to us taking down the Christmas tree, which was clearly a big disappointment as he’s still talking about it 10 days later).

He is also able to very adequately express when he doesn’t want to do something, which is quite a lot of the time these days! I get told “No no mummy!” a lot!  I find it funny that he says no in English but for yes he prefers to use the Greek version.

One unfortunate bi-product of the period of sickness is that N is now obsessed with his dummy/pacifier.  I had been really strict up until now that the dummy is only for sleeping but he had it throughout the day when he was sick and now just wants one all the time.  One way he has tried to use cuteness to get me to give him a daytime dummy is that he will bring me one of his dummies – one of the ones he doesn’t favour, obviously – and inform me that it’s a “mummy dummy”.  He will also bring me one of his monkey cuddlies too – again, not his favourite one – as though if I have a monkey and dummy too then it’s acceptable.  I like his thinking even though it doesn’t get him what he wants.

Some of the things N loves now:

  • His new kitchen he got for Christmas – he plays with it every day and likes to make me pretend cups of tea. We also make real cups of tea together and he has his own mug of very lukewarm, weak tea.  Most of the time he drinks it nicely without spilling much.
  • The trampoline (he calls it “jump”) – our neighbours gifted their perfect condition trampoline once their daughters got too big for it and he is obsessed by it
  • His scooter, which generally lives in the boot of my car. He instructs me “boot” when he wants to ride it which is every freaking time he sees my car.  May need to have it live somewhere else as “boot” is not always a practical option.
  • ipad – uggh, ipad is both a savior and a nightmare. N is quite competent with saying the word “ipad” now.  Fav things to watch are Masha and the Bear, as well as strange YouTube videos where people record themselves slowly running a car tire over different objects and crushing them. It is bizarrely compelling to watch. Cocomelon is still a fav too.  During the illness phase I nearly went insane watching Cocomelon videos. I think I could write an academic essay on interpretations of the videos now.
  • Dummy and monkey (see above)
  • Mummy – yep, all the cuddling when he was sick means he is now more obsessed with mummy than ever before.

 

And some of the things N does not like now:

  • Going to bed. Yep, we have hit the phase where everything is more fun than going to bed.  However, if/when you do get him into bed and settled he is usually fine. We do quite a dance some nights to convince him it’s a good idea to go to bed and I’m hoping this is a brief phase.  Ditto this is one of the reasons why naps have been generally scrapped.
  • Being told no. Meltdown will ensue.
  • Getting off the “jump” to go to school. Cue crying.
  • Help with doing anything difficult – he is stubbornly independent which is 100% his daddy coming out of him
  • Being rushed. Toddler time is a thing so I have to balance giving him the space that he needs while actually getting the places I need to go in a good time.  This is not simple or predictable. Some bribery ensues at times.

 

Mummy update: I went for my regular doctor check up this week and my recovery has been so good that I am being weaned off the nasty medications that made my hair fall out.  I should be clear of those by March, although I will stay on the low dose steroids for a while yet. The steroids don’t bother me these days so this is not an issue.  This also means that after a period of three months following stopping the meds that I am clear for having another pregnancy.  I am really unclear in myself as to what I want to do with regards to a second child. It is quite a stressful thing to consider.

If I am truly honest, I am not keen to go through another pregnancy and newborn phase.  It was difficult and lonely for me.  I know this is not everyone’s experience and the shock factor of the first child will not apply for a second, however having a second child will definitely involve some new stresses. BUT, I know that it’s nice to have a sibling and someone to go through life with.

Then I think about the age factor.  I am now 41 and realistically the earliest I could potentially give birth would have me at 42.  Is it negligent to have a child at this age? My father died when he was 50 and while hopefully that’s not my fate too it does make me worry so very much that having a child at my age means that they will likely lose one or both parents when they are not so old themselves.  I’ve experienced that and it’s hard and I don’t want to knowingly inflict that same trauma on my own child.  Please share opinions on this as I am torn!

In other good news, I have seen a counsellor! I have only gone once and so all I managed to do in that time was set the scene, but I’m going again this weekend with my intention being to heal myself in 2020.  Hubby and I also took a short trip together after the new year, without N, and it was really nice.  We took it slowly and just enjoyed ourselves.  I bought myself a too-expensive handbag because I thought WHY NOT?!!  I never do such things, but I feel after the past year or so that I need to shake things up. Life is for living and so I’m making a conscious decision to do the things that bring joy, wherever possible.  It’s not all sunshine and rainbows and life is still hard but I am doing my best to not just survive but to thrive.  It’s not going to happen overnight, but I am doing my best to change my attitude.

Sleep is key to my happiness it turns out.  I know some people can survive on less sleep, but I cannot.  I am physically incapable if I have a run of no-sleep nights.  So, as part of my healing process I am trying wherever I can to prioritise sleep and making sure I am well.  This is not always possible, for example I think N is growing his two-year old molar teeth this week and he’s been sleeping terribly and waking up due to the pain, and so I have had to forego the likes of my yoga class yesterday to have a nap instead.  It was a great decision as it has helped me get back on track today.

I feel like something new is on the horizon for me.  There are still a lot of variables in there and I have serious work to do, but I don’t want another year like 2019.  I know this comes from me so I am trying, step-by-step, to make improvements to set myself up for good things.  Let’s see…