The Child has taken to squirming her way between my thighs and trying to push me away from the hob as I attempt to cook. It usually ends with her lying on the kitchen floor writhing as though in great pain because I won’t pick her up while trying to rustle up a meal with the wok or frying pan. Before she walked, she would simply scream — she has an incredibly piercing, high-pitched one — until she got some satisfaction.
As almost all primary carers are likely to tell you, the only time you can do any proper cooking is when the little demons are napping. As naps can range from 5 minutes to over two hours, us stay-at-home mums and dads need to be very efficient, otherwise it’ll be takeaway pizzas and fish suppers every night.
I tend to repeat (ad nauseam) on my personal blog how much I dislike cooking — and I do. It’s amazing, the things you’ll do for a tiny human that grew in your womb. I’m also not very good with taking instruction: ask any of my piano teachers, dance teachers, tutors… and I’m sure I’m not the only one. So I hope to provide not so much recipes, but basic methods that I’ve figured out after only-kind-of-following recipes in order to provide nutritionally-diverse meals. And they are either cooked in a thermal pot / slow cooker or really quickly in a pan / wok.
Oh, and don’t be too hard on yourself. If you can only deal with microwaving ready meals for yourself for a while, it’s no big deal. If your kid is on solids, chunks of fruit and vegetables or easy things like baked potatoes (as in go out and buy a baked potato), sandwiches, small pizzas, and my favourite, leftovers, work a treat.
Maybe it’s just the friends I have on Facebook, but I’ve been seeing a lot of links to text and images that purport to help you raise a happy kid by changing the way you communicate with them. For example, instead of berating them when they spill food, you stay calm and say it needs to be cleaned up. Or avoid belittling their feelings.
There is a common thread in all these tips. I realised that when I was thinking, There’s no way I’d be able to remember even the basic gist of responses to endless testing situations. So here is a basic rule of thumb when dealing with your children, even the very small ones*:
Stay calm, as much as possible, and do not talk down to your kids.
That’s it. Speak to them the way you’d prefer to be spoken to. I’ve never had the patience to do anything like childminding or teaching, but kids tend to like me, and I reckon it’s because I talk to them in a normal voice, using normal words and sentence construction. Also, physically get down to their level and talk to them face to face. It helps immensely.
* The Husband and myself — and millions of other parents, I’m sure — believe that our babies and toddlers understand a lot more than they let on.
Last week: The Child all but demolished half a toasted cheese sandwich.
This week: When presented with half a toasted cheese sandwich from the same café, I got the, “Are you insane, mother, trying to make me eat this pathetic excuse for food?! Give me a biscuit.” version of NO.
The Child breastfeeds to sleep every single night (except twice when we were on holiday and she was babysat and absolutely knackered from playing). This is fine and normal behaviour, but I want her dad to play a more important role at bedtime. She’s already asking for him to read books and play with her when it’s time for bed, so it’s time to try.
I went out. Before she went to bed. I could hear her crying after I shut the door, but she stopped after a few minutes. I was out for three hours.
She was fast asleep when I got home, but had taken an extra 30-60 minutes to get there. She only fell asleep on The Husband when he eventually took her out of the bedroom. So it kind of worked.
Further experimentation required:
For my own sanity, I plan to spend an occasional evening out. My new hypothesis is she’s going to have to get used to my not always being there to boob her to sleep.
It’s taken me a whole day to realise that I can turn a backpack on its side and slide the straps onto the handles of the stroller, adjusting them so it hangs like a Babymule. (Remember that a bag on the handles can tip the stroller backwards if it’s too heavy, so be careful. I always make sure to take whatever bag I’m using off before unshackling The Child.)