Parenthood: expectations and reality

This year it’s 4 years ago our twins were born which means I am a parent for 4 years already and somehow I feel like making up a balance sheet of my expectations. See, before you become a parent you have all these ideas about what will be hard and what may not be so hard. So let’s make up a balance…

Things that were as hard as expected:

  • breastfeeding. You just delivered a baby and you want your body back. But no, now they need your breasts. Not easy, often painful, it can take forever (especially with premature babies) and you feel like a cow. And yes, you feel some sort of satisfaction that you can do this for your child, but again… it’s not easy.
  • dealing with tantrums. I always pitied people that had to deal with children throwing a tantrum and I still do. It just happens and it’s shit. And sometimes it takes hours to get them to snap out of it.
  • planning everything. Spontaneous outings are not in the cards anymore. At least not together. Babysits needs to be booked in advance. Sometimes you just want to go and I miss that. I have been told it comes back though, so there is hope. ( Just about 10 years to go and counting down)

Things that were harder than expected:

  • giving birth. O yes that was so much worse than I could ever have imagined. I am not bad at dealing with pain, but this much pain is utterly ridiculous. I continue to be amazed that the human race is still around.
  • interrupted sleep. Don’t get me wrong. The first year was fine. I expected it, I understood it and I dealt with it. Twin parents don’t get to sleep right? But in year 2 and 3 I started to feel and see the consequences. Always tired, often grumpy, no energy for anything. My skin turned grey, less elastic (read: more wrinkles and pimples) and I seemed to look older than I am. Four years later my body is still trying to make up for lost sleep.

Things that went better than expected:

  • Potty training. I was really worried about wet floors and beds, piles of laundry, endless trying and everything. But honestly, when you have had years of nappy changing, cleaning bottoms and exploded poopy nappies, this is such a welcome change.
  • Actual parenting. Set aside the tantrums; kids are fun. It’s a joy to show and teach them new stuff, it’s fantastic to see them develop and to be a witness of how fast they grow and learn. Little humans are simply amazing and they make me happy every day.

Things I did not think about beforehand at all but are worth mentioning:

  • School is back. Every day (from 2,5 years old in Belgium) you have to take your children to school. I was done, I did my 20 years of education. I never wanted to see a school in my life again. But it’s just like I’ve started school again. Every day for at least 10 years until they can go by themselves. Be on time, rush rush, don’t be late. And now I need to set the example! And I am not even at the (helping-with-)homework-phase,  but oooo I am dreading it.
  • You can’t stop weird things from happening. For instance: When a child (your child) decides he wants to lick a pole on the tram he does that. You could not even phantom anyone doing that, but they will. And you will be taken by surprise. And will be completely disgusted. They also may pick up random garbage in the street to show you or to take home (and throw a tantrum when you say no).

 

What were your expectations of parenthood? And how do you look at them now? 🙂 🙂

A family outing: The Efteling

Last week we took our boys to the Efteling in the Netherlands. It’s an amazing theme park for all ages and I was really excited to show it to our sons for the first time. They had never been in a theme park before so it was a bit hard explaining before hand and they were quite nervous and excited about doing something ‘they had never done’.

We had a fabulous day, the weather was great and the boys absolutely loved everything. We took them on several family rides like Fata Morgana, Droomvlucht, the Carnaval and the Snail Monorail: they were big hits with them. Some of them we did multiple times. But there was so much more: carousels, steam trains, merry-go-rounds, playgrounds, the Pagoda, boat rides, pedal trains. We did not have enough time to do it all. We never even made it to the fairy tale forest.

We were really lucky with the weather. It has been and still is amazingly sunny for this time of the year. We also went on a school day, so it was not very busy. Waiting times were very limited, we only had to wait for the newest ride: Symbolica and even that was only 15 minutes. The staff was friendly everywhere: they all greeted you, helped where necessary and made you feel very welcome. Prices of the food in the park are very reasonable and there is an abundance of different restaurants and take-away places. You are allowed to bring your own food and drinks too. The park is about 1.5 hours drive from Brussels so it’s very doable for a day trip. 

We had pancakes in the pancake restaurant and the boys enjoyed decorating their own pancake very much. At the end of the day we watched the water show Aquanura. 200 fountains spraying with many sound, light and even fire effects. It was really beautiful.

As you can read, I recommend the Efteling highly. And so do our boys. We will definitely go again, maybe even make it an overnight trip so we have two days to explore the park.

If you plan to go, a few things tips:

  • Children go for free until they are 4. After that you pay full price, so go before they turn 4 to save money. (That’s what we did haha 🙂 )
  • Tickets are 40 euro per person. Buying them in advance online is cheaper. Subscribe to their newsletter, as they often have discount offers.
  • Bring a buggy for the little ones. The park is huge and it will save you lots of time if you can push them from one area to the next. (They have little towing cars for rent, but they only seat 1 child and are not very comfortable.)
  • Download the Efteling app so you can see what the waiting times are and which places are open/closed
  • If possible try to go on a day it’s not busy. On their website there is a great calendar with information about the upcoming months.
  • if you go with little children but also want to go on the roller coasters and the other more scary rides yourself, make sure you go with multiple couples so you can take turns with the kids.

Sinterklaas and the dentist

It may seem a bit late to write about Sinterklaas, as this happened a month ago, but I still want to share this special story about how Sinterklaas helped the dentist and only have some time now.

(Just some info first for those who do not know about the Sinterklaas tradition: Sinterklaas visits the Netherlands and Belgium (and some parts of France and Germany) on the 5th of December. He is similar to Santa Claus. He arrives with a steamboat from Spain and brings many presents. Children are allowed to put their shoe by the fireplace some evenings and sing songs about him, to get rewarded with some extra presents before the big day arrives.)

This year was a bit different. Not just because our boys were older and it got more intense and exciting for them. No, there was another reason. In September we visited the dentist with the boys and the dentist then said to them they had to get rid of their pacifier for the benefit of their teeth. She was very friendly and said they did not have to do it now, but that it was a good plan if they could give it to Sinterklaas later this year, so he could give it to a baby that needed it. The boys agreed with her and promised they would do it. So every other week for the past months we would remind them that soon they would not have their pacifiers anymore.

When Sinterklaas finally arrived they still agreed, but we of course dreaded it actually happening. They still really needed their dummy’s at night to fall asleep and we were not looking forward to the possibility of many bad nights.  But we brought up the issue daily now and said they could let us know what present they wanted in return. We discussed this often and by the 5th of December we finally worked up the courage to make them do it… The boys were brave, sang their songs and then put their pacifiers in their shoes. Then they went to bed without any issue! And slept!

The next morning they were still okay and happy with their presents. The week went fine without any sleeping issues. Here and there they asked for us, but nothing major. After a week one of them started to ask about his dummy, he wanted it back. But we talked about it, reminded him of the dentist and eventually he fell asleep. This repeated regurlarly but in the end, it went really well. We are now a month later and they never ask about it anymore.

Honestly, we were so surprised about this because they were really attached to their dummy. But I guess all the preparing really helped and they were ready for it. So this is why I had to share this story, because it worked. Finally no more pacifiers in the house.

Zombie-mama

So one of our boys got a little sick. Nothing too serious luckily but it was not nice for him. Or us…
See, this last month we finally got in the phase where they never wake us up at night anymore. Full nights of uninterrupted sleep for weeks in a row. It was heaven but this has made me more tired than ever, as my body is now realizing how much sleep it did NOT get in the last years (they are nearly 4…). Anyway, so Sunday night he woke us up and as we had no clue what to do anymore, he slept in our bed. Snored and sniffed in our bed is more accurate. I could not sleep at all anymore and eventually I put him back in his bed, but I was still wide awake for another hour.

Next night I thought he was better, as during the day he was completely fine. (Unlike me, I was sooo tired.) But he called out for us in the middle of the night. I arrived at his bed, still asleep, no lights on so I could hopefully solve it quickly and stay a Zombie. My son sat up, making noises as if he was about to throw up. I reacted very quickly to make sure he did not soil the sheets and reached for his potty further down the room. I only realised he had used the potty when I put it under his nose, as all the pee flew over my arm and on his bed. Aaaaargh! I am not kidding, this really happened. Zombie-mama was sort of awake now… and all wet and yukkie. 

In the end he did not throw up, but I had to change his sheets anyway. His brother happily slept through everything. Ten hours later I still feel like a zombie. Let’s hope tonight will be better.

Must must must

It’s autumn holiday in Belgium. Finally, I must add.

Even though school only started the 1st of September here, eight weeks is a long time to keep going. And not just for the children, I can also really feel it. Eight weeks of rushing every morning. Eight weeks of trying not to be late. Of  getting up on time. Of getting dressed quickly. Of eating a hastened breakfast. Eight weeks of ‘we must do this and that’ and ‘we can’t be late’. The boys were really tired and weary last week. They were emotional about everything, got upset over nothing and hardly could get out of bed. I even kept them home a day and they slept and slept and slept. 
Honestly, I could feel it too. My patience was completely gone and all I wanted to do was sleep. I’d even set an alarm in the afternoon to be sure I would not fall asleep and be too late to pick the boys up again…

The holiday is well on its way and we have taken it really easy. We sleep in. Pyjamas stay on half of the day. They boys play, have fun, laugh, run, make an incredible mess, and I play with them or let them play while I read. There is nothing that we have to do. I’ts recovery time and it’s lovely. It also made me think. Why do we do this to our children? Why do they have to do so much? Why are there so many rules? Why does school start so early in the morning? Why are schools so ridiculously strict about being late, even when you have a good excuse? I never had a boss that was as strict as the schools here are. Can you imagine your boss getting upset about you being late because of a traffic jam? Or because of a unexpected sick child? As grown-ups we understand things happen.  Life is hard enough and yes, we know we are in trouble if we can’t pay our bills, but for being late at work or an appointment sometime? That is just bad luck. But I see my children grow up with a fear of being late and with a disliking for rules. They are not even four yet and it’s incredible how many things they already must do.

A solution to this is not easily found. Yes, I could keep them home till they are 6 and going to school is compulsory. Then they don’t have to do anything for the next years, except obey some very important safety rules (traffic etc.). They’d also miss out on a lot of great activities and on making friends.They would have no idea about the school rhythm and this whole discussion will start again when they are six.

What I can do is keep them home from school sometimes, just to recover. So far this often results in a ‘bad day’ together as the boys seem so happy to not have to do anything that they forget about all the rules we have at home. 

So honestly, I think things should be a bit more relaxed in our children’s lives. School could be a little less about rules and more about play. When my boys play ‘pretend school’ together at home it’s all about telling the other one what he must do or can’t do. ‘Stand on the dot.’ ‘Stand in a line.’ ‘Don’t run.’ ‘Don’t touch that.’  ‘Eat your fruit now.’ ‘Go to the toilet.’ ‘Sit down.’ ‘You can only play with that, not with this…’ 

Rules are important, especially for important things concerning safety in the house (careful on the stairs, don’t throw or play with cutlery, etc.) or on the street (never run into the street, always cross with a grown up etc.). But I also think too many rules are simply too much too handle and they will start to do the opposite. And that’s where things can easily go wrong.

Music lessons

Last month we started taking our boys to bilingual music lessons. I want them to develop a love for music and I was very happy to have found a music class for children from 3 years old. It is very surprising to see how much children can already pick up. Learning about rhythm and notes, trying out different instruments and learning some dance sequences. It’s absolutely great. There are two side effects to these music lessons though, that are worth mentioning: one very great, the other one…

See, the funny thing is that, since the lessons started, music suddenly is everything for one of our boys. The minute he comes home from school, he grabs his guitar and starts to sing songs and recites all the verses he learned in the last months. He mixes them up sometimes but there are at least 20 different ones in 3 different languages. And sometimes he even improvises and sings about what happened that day. It is really great to see how much he enjoys music. There is a smile on his face constantly when he holds his guitar. (Our other son is a little less interested but will sometimes play along.)

The other thing is that our boys now discovered YouTube… We had to look up some of the songs they danced to in the class and we found them with a video that showed the dance as well. But this also resulted in them realising we have a tablet, which we had managed to hide successfully from their lives for nearly 4 years…

So now we very often have to play the following videos because they want to do those dances. And from one song, they discover the next one and it never stops.. . So yes, I will share the videos here, because when I suffer, you all can suffer a little with me 😉


and the worst song in history:

Going to the toilet…

Once children are fully potty-trained going to the toilet is not an issue anymore, right? At first you regularly remind them and soon they tell you when they need to go themselves and as they grow older they will eventually stop doing this and just go. Yeah, that’s what I thought. The reality with 3-year olds is a bit different. Let me tell you what happens when a 3-year old child needs to go to the toilet.

3-year old is playing and suddenly he screams very loudly: ‘AAAAAAA Pipiiiiiiiii!!!’
He stops what he is doing and runs to mama. (Usually this is the opposite direction of the toilet.)
Mom calls: ‘Go the toilet, go, go, go!’
3-year old: ‘Okay!’ Runs away and gets distracted by a toy.
Mom: ‘That is not the toilet, go do your pipi!’
3-year old lets go of toy, goes in the direction of the toilet. Stops. Comes back to Mommy.’ Mom, I will put my pants down all the way so no accidents.’
Mom: ‘Great, now hurry.’
3-year old runs off again.
BUMP.
‘Outch.’
Silence.
3-year old runs back to Mommy again. ‘Mom, I hurt my …. (fill in). Please give a kiss.
Mommy gives a kiss. ‘Now go, before it’s too late.’
3-year old runs to the toilet again.
And is either on time. Or not.

Back to school

On Monday all the schools in Belgium started again after a holiday of 2 whole months. On the one hand I was looking forward to it, when the boys are in school I have much more time for my work, but on the other hand I was dreading the morning rush. Getting up early is not something any of us is very good at. And I hate being late so there is always this rush of doing too many things in too little time.

Monday went very well though, we had managed to get the boys in bed on time the night before and they were actually very excited. Even breakfast went down without a problem.

Tuesday still went very well, even though one of the boys did not manage to eat his whole breakfast. But the other one made up for this by having three breakfasts 🙂

Wednesday was difficult. They really did not want to get out of bed, so eventually we had to run to school. And this on a day that I don’t have to make lunchboxes for them, as school is finished at 12:15. Wednesday afternoon was mostly spend in bed, by all three of us yes. Zzzzzzz

On Thursday we were late again. I thought we were early but then they took forever to brush their teeth and needed one more pipi. They also cycled to school in such a way that I am sure they are holding the record for ‘slowest bicycle ride ever’.

On Friday I did not want to get up anymore. But I did it anyway, repeating my mantra ‘it’s the last day, tomorrow is the weekend’. The boys echoed my words and together we made it. They were not even the last ones in the class.

Hooray, only one more pick-up and the first week has been conquered. Weekend!