I occasionally get emails from people asking me for childcare advice - normally about sleeping and eating (what else is there, after all?) - and sometimes these emails are from people who I assume have all the answers about kids already: doctors and teachers, basically.
One was an obstetrician worried about what her under-1 was eating. And I thought YOU DELIVER BABIES surely they are just not a subject you need help with. But she did. And she said "I just needed to hear someone else say it." I get that a lot. "I just needed to hear someone else say it," they say when I tell them to stop eating if they want to be thin, or stop rocking their kid to sleep or to stop breastfeeding if it's making them suicidal.
Yesterday I needed to hear someone else say "You need to do controlled crying with Sam." And my heart sank - right into my socks. But I knew they were right.
Controlled crying is the worst thing you have to do as a parent, I think. Is there anything else? MMmm, no. It is absolutely horrible. And it only looks and feels right and sensible from a distance. It never feels anything other than the most horrific, inhuman crazy reckless selfish evil thing you've ever done when you're actually doing it. There are fewer darker places to be, as a parent, then listening to your child cry and doing nothing about it.
I mean, come on! To leave your child fussing, or wailing or even fucking screeching the house down? Well that's just a thing for social services surely? You're no better than Baby P's mother! The parent of that poor Polish boy who starved to death! YOU ARE A MONSTER! These thoughts loom large in the small hours.
But there comes a point when it is time to get a grip and have some perspective. And I think that controlled crying is in fact a thing that you are doing to yourself, not something you are doing to your child.
Very few parents go for controlled crying as Option 1. When I had to do it with Kitty it was only after days and days of trying other things. And with Sam I have spent the last three months trying everything else when he wakes at 5am: patting, stroking, popping in a dummy, taking him in bed with me - all that. And he doesn't want it, it makes it worse. If all I had to do with him was hop into bed with him at 5am every morning and give him a cuddle and he would fall back to sleep until 7am I would do it. Happily! But it doesn't work. Neither does the dummy. He just spits it out half an hour later.
And I've been fretting and fretting and fretting about it for weeks. What to do? What to do? Then yesterday someone said "Just let him cry."
And I went :(((((((
But this morning as the clocked ticked over to 0500 and Sam began his dawn chorus of snuffling and whimpering and going "ehhr ehhr ehhr ehhr ehhr" which turned to "waaa waa waa waaa" I got out of bed, taking a watch with me, shut the door on my husband, shut Kitty's door and went up to the nursery. I straightened Sam in his cot, as he was headbutting the sides, gave him back his muzzy thing, gave him a pat then went out to sit on the stairs.
A watch is completely vital when you are doing controlled crying. With nothing to mark time it feels like they have been crying for hours, days, YEARS. In reality I let Sam wail and fret for 1min 30secs, then went back in to give him another pat. Then I went outside and left him again for just under 4 minutes. Then he went quiet again and started up for just under 2 minutes. Then he went completely quiet and I went back downstairs and got into bed and didn't hear from him again until 7.20am. The whole thing had taken 15 minutes.
As I sat and listened to Sam wailing I noticed a thing about his cry that helped me whenever I had to do it with Kitty: he didn't really mean it. Or rather, the cry didn't mean the thing I feared it meant. What I fear it means is: "I want my dummy" - and am then baffled when he spits it out half an hour later.
But I realise now when he is wailing at that time in the morning he is saying "I don't understand why I am awake. I don't want to be awake. I want to be asleep but I can't really get back to sleep so I am going to just go WAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH until I pass ou..." This is why the dummy doesn't help (because he doesn't fall asleep with a dummy) and why patting doesn't help (get the fuck off me) and taking him into bed doesn't help (what are you doing?!?!?! put me back in bed!!!)
Anyway that is my story and I am sticking to it. At least I've got a plan, now - once you've done controlled crying once and it has worked and they wake up the next morning alive and well and give you a huge gummy smile, it's never as bad again. And with any luck quite soon no-one will have to listen to me going on about how fucking tired I am anymore.
Continuing the theme of baking for Kitty's nursery bake sale day, yesterday we made some oat and raisin cookies (a classic).
They worked very well and were very simple and I recommend them to you.
Oat and raisin cookies
50g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon Golden Syrup or runny honey
80g rolled oats (like Scots Porage Oats)
Preheat your oven to 170C
1 Grease a baking sheet
2 Cream together the butter and sugar then beat in the egg, then the golden syrup or honey.
3 In another bowl mix together the
- baking powder
then add to your butter mixture.
4 To make a cookie, blob a teaspoonful on the baking sheet then flatten down a bit as best you can as it will spread out a bit on cooking but not lots. If you just put a blob on the sheet you will get a sort of rock cake.
The mixture is very rubbly and sticky so manipulating it can be problematic. I think there is a thing you can do with flattening it with a wet spatula?
Leave some space between cookies as they will spread out a bit on cooking. You may have to cook them in two batches.
5 Bake for about 8 - 10 minutes then leave to cool on a wire rack. They ought to be be bendy when they come out of the oven.
It goes without saying you can add anything else you like to these to make them super-tasty: chopped orange peel, hazelnuts, chocolate chips: wevs, man.