Katie Massie-Taylor and Sarah Hesz are the founders of ‘Mush’. A super clever app that’s basically Tinder for Mum’s. It enables you to connect other parents in the area who have kids of the same age as you. Smart huh? No more trying to pick up a Mum pal is the playground! (phew).
Here the pair share advice on ‘The Do’s & Don’ts of Being an Epic Mum Friend.’
Mum friends are arguably the most important thing in your life when you have small children and are spending a lot of time at home. And you will come to recognize loads of mums with whom you comment on the weather/ outfits/ new toys as you pass on the street/at playgroup/ at nursery drop off/ at supermarket, but the mum friends that count are the nitty-gritty, you make my world go round type. So here’s some tips to taking your mum friendships to next level.
Do ask them about them, not the kids. Whilst we all care what time little Tommy got up this morning, try and squeeze in a question that gets you closer to the pre-mummy in them. Where did they travel? What was their degree? Who was their first boyfriend? The salacious stuff we all really care about (or is that just us?)
Don’t judge when they do something that’s text-book questionable. I genuinely can’t think of anything non-violent that would make me think less of a mum. Because we all do what we need to do (and I’m too busy handing the iPhone and sweets to my three year old to notice).
Do put tv on when their kid is acting up on a play date. Even if you don’t normally because your kid gets sucked in like a zombie and only returns from the TV coma after a night’s sleep and three jigsaw puzzles- recognize they need the break.
Do make them local. The bestie that has kids the same age but who you don’t see for months at a time aren’t actually mum friends at all; they are pre-mum friends (or just friends). Mum friends are women you spend all afternoon with regularly when with kids, and they need to be a walk away. They also need to like the same stuff as you and be on the same work/home wavelength. Sounds difficult to find but it’s not – luckily there’s an app for that.
Don’t expect a long reply from the message you sent them (for a few hours). And if you do get one back quickly, expect a shed load of typos.
Do arrive with cupcakes when she’s hungover. Doing small children on a hangover is quite simply torture, and she is going to need sugar and reassurance to overcome the exhaustion/ self hatred that she is feeling. Arrive pumped to save her day and make her feel normal.
Don’t mention the big bump on their kids’ forehead. Or the sick on her top, or the mismatched socks/ earrings, or the fact that she has arrived with dirty knickers stuck to the Velcro of the scooter handle (true story). She doesn’t need reminding that her life is a series of small fails (with the odd big win)
Do hold their needy baby when they are going to the loo. It takes friendship to another level when you take charge of their children, no matter how short a time. There are only a few mates I would ask, so fast forward that friendship and offer to have the baby to give her a break (whether for a loo trip or dinner with her bubby)
Do give them water & cake if they are breastfeeding and can’t move. If they could have that message plastered to their head at this stage without looking like a numpty, they would.
Do reassure them that just because their mum says the dummy will lead to an ASBO, it definitely won’t. Times have changed. Sucking no longer sucks.
Do admit that the cupcakes you made came from a box. Be honest generally. Let’s none of us pretend we have sex every night, are on top of our life admin, know our current affairs. We are all patching together vague relationships/ knowledge in this period of our lives.
Don’t raise your eyebrows at her maternity bra two years after she had the baby. They are seriously comfortable, and you understand that comfort trumps sex appeal, especially on a weekday, especially when you are tackling small children. Perhaps give her a little nudge if she tries to wear it on your mums’ night out.
Do let them rant about their partner.Let them take it out on you so they can try and at least be polite when he gets home, or greet them without sneering.
Do listen to them lengthily debate the difference between having Friday vs Wednesday as their day off. Or other mundane, would bore their non-mum friends to tears conversations, even though you’re pretty sure [whatever it is that is worrying them] makes no difference and it’ll change again soon.
Do take snacks to the playground and bring them out when their kid has a tantrum.My most dependable mum mate goes nowhere without a drawer of confectionary in the top of her buggy. And I have since taken her lead (though I tend to eat them instead which is counter-productive on many levels). Can you imagine the superhero moment as you approach that half-mum-friend with her grazed knee toddler proffering a jelly snake?
Friends for life I recks. Oh go on then, the toddler can have one too.
Lesley and Anna are the founders of Lara & Ollie, makers of the most gorgeous teeth jewellery going (have a look here). Prior to this venture they both under went several rounds of IVF on their journey to becoming parents.
When they offered to share a Guest List on their experience of infertility and IVF I was humbled but also overjoyed. Thats sounds awful doesn’t it? IVF is such a hidden subject, one that leaves couples struggling on their own and friends struggling to know what to say. Pieces like this can really help change that. Thank you ladies for your time and honesty x
You spend your 20s trying not to get pregnant. The thought can be utterly terrifying, whether you’re in a relationship or single. You have a ‘right age’ in your head of when you’ll have your family and assume that’s when it’ll happen. So when it doesn’t go to plan – in fact the complete opposite – you feel like you’ve been hit by a bus and your ‘right’ to have a baby has been whipped from under your feet. The prospect of not having your own biological children, or in fact not having kids at all, is something you never ever considered.
So how do you cope? What the bloody hell do you do? Having both faced infertility (Anna – unexplained / Lesley – 4 failed pregnancies, followed by diagnosis of early menopause) and having both been through IVF (Anna – 3 rounds for Lara, 1 round for imminent bump / Lesley – 2 rounds and egg donation for Ollie) here’s our ‘list’ with a few things we’ve learnt and hopefully some support we want to pass on to anyone facing what we’ve faced:
Some practical thoughts:
Don’t panic. However old you are or whatever your situation
Don’t go at it alone – talk. Your partner will be feeling as disheartened as you but might just show it differently – and don’t be angry at him/her for that. Whilst it’s not their body that’s yearning, they want it just as much. And don’t forget you’re a partnership, you’re in this together and you’re gonna need each other’s strength and support on this journey – particularly when you become parents!
Take the bull by the horns. You feel so helpless and heartbroken every time you get your period or the stick says negative. Go to your doctor. If they don’t listen/aren’t empathetic or don’t do anything, find another
Chase, call, email and hound for appointments, results and answers – makes you feel like you’re doing something
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed by it all. There are lots of tests, lots of acronyms, lots of things that don’t make sense and are well beyond your biology GCSE. But ask questions, write a list before you go and see doctors, nurses, consultants, whomever they may be. And take notes in there – there’s often too much to take in during one appointment
If there is a diagnosed problem, again don’t panic. Push for appointments to talk to a specialist – are there more tests, what are your options…
If your results are clear it’s hard not to be disheartened – whilst you don’t want there to be anything wrong, you feel like you need a reason for not getting pregnant
Find out what’s offered for free on the NHS, what isn’t and how much things might cost. The minute you walk through the door of a fertility clinic you’re paying, so factor that into the decision making
Your gut is normally right so make sure you feel comfortable and happy with the consultants around you. If you’re not happy with the care you’re being given or the route they’re recommending ask to change. This is your health and your dream!
Be careful with Google – use sites that offer factual information. Whilst it’s difficult not to, we’d really advise not reading forums. However great they might be for certain things it can all be a bit too much and every person going through infertility experiences something different and you can find yourself clutching at straws from people’s stories
Instead, if you feel comfortable doing so, talk to a friend, or friend of a friend or a complete stranger who’s been through similar, and ideally has had a positive result and experience. You never know they may offer to help e.g. egg donation, surrogacy etc?!
Don’t dismiss natural routes and remedies. They’re not for everyone but if nothing else things like acupuncture, reflexology and mediation can be great for just relaxing your body and mind. You’ll find this journey so all-consuming that you’ll forget to actually look after yourself
If treatment fails allow yourself to fall apart – you need to grieve. But don’t give up, talk to your consultants about what happened, your options and go from there. Don’t rush into a decision and allow some healing time. You need to be both physically, mentally and emotionally strong to go into something again, both of you
But don’t listen. You’ll hear lots of… ‘I know someone who… tried for 2 years and then went on holiday/ relaxed/got pissed/IVF was easy/got pregnant immediately the second time’. It’s lovely that people are being supportive and trying to be positive but sometimes at a low moment that’s like a punch in the face. It’s not you. And it doesn’t help. But if you’ve not been through it you don’t know, so don’t be angry, just take a deep breath, be strong and try to move on!
Be mentally and emotionally prepared for the ‘so when are you going to have a baby?’ question, or ‘ooohh not drinking eh… (when you’re not even frikkin pregnant). Take a deep breath and either be bold and tell the truth or bullshit!!
Don’t feel guilty for being a green eyed monster every time you see a pregnant person, you’re normal. And you’ll feel immense rage when you see a young girl pregnant puffing a fag, drinking a can of cider with 3 coke swilling toddlers in tow!
And you’ll most certainly have the pain of hearing pregnancy/baby news from friends and family. Whilst you’ll feel like you don’t want to see or speak to them try and be happy for them. Then allow yourself to feel devastated. But don’t let the situation drive you apart and have the courage to say you love them dearly but need a bit of space. And when the day comes for you, you’ll want/ need all the help, support and love from these people so don’t drive them away
Don’t always assume that being away or not busy helps, work could act as a brilliant distraction
And when it does happen and you’re pregnant it’s bloody hard not to panic. And it’s bloody hard to ‘just relax’! Take time to celebrate but try as hard as possible to just take every day as it comes, don’t do anything silly, but don’t do anything different either!
Don’t give up on your dream of having a family – and that is ultimately what this is about. It will happen one way or another. It may not be as conventional or natural or romantic as some. But like childbirth, once you’re holding that precious little person in your arms, whether they’re natural, IVF, egg donor, sperm donor, adopted or whatever, your journey will be worth it. You’ll never forget it but the pain and heartache will be softened.
Kids fashion website AlexandAlexa.com asked me to write about Things My Kids have Taught me. What a great topic. It really got me thinking….
I had my first kid at 30. I thought I was a grown-up and that I knew quite a lot about quite a lot of things. I was wrong. Here’s what my two have taught me:
To be less of a control freak. When you want kids to zig they zag and there’s nothing you can do about it. Sometimes you’ve just got to go with it.
Apart from trying to get them to put their coats and shoes on. For some reason that really really tests my patience.
That I can survive on less sleep than I thought. My eldest didn’t sleep through until he was 18 months and I stayed sane (just). My banter was shit. But I didn’t actually keel over.
That there’s very little in life that can’t be fixed with a baby wipe.
Boys love their willies from a very young age.
To be more efficient. Surely working Mums are the most diligent employees of all time? There’s nothing like a childcare pick up to keep your mind focused.
That the washing basket always wins. Try as I might I can never get the bottom of it.
And if I do get to the bottom I am greeted by a myriad of odd socks, lurking there to taunt me.
That you’ll never grow out of fish-fingers. A culinary delight whether you are 4 or 34.
That going on a kids swing or roundabout can make you feel sick. I use to think I was rock n roll. Motion sickness in the playground is so lame.
To see the humour in everything. There are so many disastrous moments in parenting. Often they involve poo or your kids saying something mortifying in public – you’ve got to learn to laugh, otherwise you’d spend your whole time weeping!
That kids are smart. Bertie’s only 3.5 but he has already made me really stop and think. We could learn a lot from a mind that hasn’t been corrupted by expectation or society.
That once dried Weetabix is one of the most powerful glueing agents ever invented.
That my pre-baby body, which I criticised because it wasn’t tight and toned enough, was actually pretty great. Janet Jackson was spot-on when she said ‘you don’t know what you got till its gone.’
And that the female body is amazing. IT CAN GROW A HUMAN. Still blows me away.
To appreciate the small things. Whether that be a rare chance to pee on your own. Or your kid telling you ‘you look beautiful Mummy.’ Both utterly precious.
To trust my convictions. Everyone (parents, the internet, random old people on the bus) have advice on how to parent your kid. But only you truly know what that small person needs.
That no two kids are the same. My boys were utterly different beings from the outset.
But that parents genuinely don’t have favourites.
That I didn’t know how easy my life was pre-kids.
That I didn’t know how much of the good stuff I was missing.
Most of all my kid taught me what unconditional love feels like. Amazing and scary. Life-affirming and the best gift you could ever hope for.
Polly and I met at uni where we mainly shouted excitedly at each other in grotty student clubs. These days our chats are less ‘Chambulls’ fuelled (that’s Champagne + Vodka + Redbull) but just as manic, as we discuss the madness of little people.
When Polly told me that she had set up Let’s Ask Livvy with her behavioural expert sister Livvy it sounded like a dream.
Their vision is to use Livvy’s knowledge from working with challenging children (and having kids of her own) to help all parents navigate everyday parenting issues. Tantrums, fussy eating, sibling rivilary – the sort of stuff we all face but don’t have either the energy or first clue how to solve. Having Livvy onboard is like whole extra parent on your team. But one who know what they are doing, rather than blagging (hooray!).
Here Let’s Ask Livvy’s list of ‘Everyday Problems Everybody Faces But Nobody Talks About’:
Meal-time melt downs. Why is it the more expensive/organic the ingredients the less they are likely to eat it. We strive to give our kids a healthy, balanced diet (when we have the energy), but they reject it, chuck it, or worst refuse to even try it and we end up eating most of it ourselves at around 5:05pm
Empty Threats. “Right that’s it we’re leaving”, “There’ll be no presents from Father Christmas”, “Stop that or there’s no TV for a week”. We pretty much know we’re never going to go through with any of it – and the kids do too….so they keep doing exactly what we were doing anyway. It can be hard to come up with something realistic when you’re scrambling the wrong way up a plastic slide in borrowed socks trying to extract a kid wired on fruit shoots out of soft play.
Being Ignored. Trying to get out of the house, into the bath, into/out of clothes should be simple but can sometimes be the most trying tasks of the day with kids. Basic co-operation and listening doesn’t feel like an unreasonable request right? We ask nicely, ask nicely again, we try not to shout. Inside we’re screaming.
Mediating madness. The other day I found myself calling from the kitchen “No punches to the face please boys”. Maybe one for the mothers with sons out there but we’ve probably all tried to impose some kind of fighting rules/etiquette which they largely ignore and instead continue bundling/wrestling and generally trashing the house. I see flashes of the Brownlee brotherly love in our house but not as much as I’d like! Sibling rivalry and competition is a tricky one for all parents to contend with especially when siblings are close in age.
Separation Anxiety. This can work both ways! Some kids skip off into nursery or school without even a glance backwards and others find this really tricky…including the mums. You get really good at practising your happy face as you wave goodbye but the watery eyes and last night’s mascara creeping down your face is a dead giveaway. Leaving our kids upset can feel like it goes against all of our instincts and the learning curves can be as steep for us as they are for them.
Bedtime Bedlam. It’s the end of the day…we’ve made it. Everyone is knackered and patience is low. We just want to get the kids calmly into bed – and for them to stay there- so we can get downstairs for a tea/gin/wine or just to start the tidy up process ahead of the whole thing starting again tomorrow. The other night my sister Polly called me for advice after 3yr old had got out of bed 36 times in a row at bedtime….thankfully we knocked that one on the head the next night!
Kiddy Rage. Yes, sometimes kids can get angry, they lash out…sometimes we’re in the firing line, sometimes it’s a sibling or peer. They find it impossible to control/hide/handle their emotions and they react to situations and scenarios in ways we feel totally unprepared for. We receive no training as parents yet it’s the most important job we’ll ever do.
And finally, the Tantrum Turmoil. Pre-kids we’ve probably all seen these in action, maybe we judged, maybe we didn’t but nobody warns you about how you’ll feel when it’s your kid throwing the tantrum…it’s so disarming when we don’t know the best way to control the situation.
Now of course, just as every child is different, every family is different and we all have our own style of parenting. But I do believe there are certain principals, strategies and techniques which will help turn around any behaviour and help us get the best out of everyday with our kids….
1. Praising the positives. This is rule number 1 in behavioural terms. We praise the things we like, and want to see more of.
2. Rewards. All kids will respond to rewards – it’s just about finding the thing that motivates them and making sure it’s appropriate to their age and stage of development
3. Be Consistent. We probably hear this a lot but it really is a golden rule. No use you saying one thing and your partner saying another…guaranteed the little monkeys will find any chinks in armour and catch you out!
4. Teach them alternatives. If we don’t like the way a child is reacting to something try and teach or show them a different way to behave or respond.
5. Set your boundaries. Kids need to know what is and isn’t ok and that will be different for all of us. Whatever your boundaries are, they’ll be right for you so have the courage to stick to them.
As a mum of 3 and with her professioanl background Livvy can help with any parenting issue you may face, helping you to understand the reasons behind a behaviour and possible triggers, and most importantly how to react.
She will work with your parenting style to develop clear, practical and effective strategies to help. Livvy is here to help and never to judge, and will support you along the way.
** Honestly I need all of the above SO badly. Which is why I am hosting a workshop with Let’s Ask Livvy next Friday October 7th focussing on Encouraging Sibling Bonds (finger-crossed no more endless scrapping) at a special discounted rate of £65 for Mother of all Lists Readers. Just leave your email address below and the girls will be in touch.**
I’m very pleased to call Cat my buddy. She says it how it is, but is also kind and thoughtful. It’s a winning combo. We have previously bonded over our shared experience of mental health, I also think we could have bonded over booze – but then Cat went and got up the duff with her second kid.
Cat writes the brilliant Not So Smug Now and is one half of Hustle and Fox. Here’s a few home truth she wishes she tell her first time pregnant self.
** Ridiculously, in the time it’s taken me to get this list up, Cat has not only grown a baby, she’s pushed it out too – at Home!! Welcome gorgeous little Bo! **
I’m thirty something weeks pregnant with my second Small and, let me tell you, it’s made me face a very harsh reality. Quite simply, when I was pregnant with my first, I’ve come to accept that I was nothing short of an insufferable scratbag. Oh god, how I wish I could go back in time and punch my first-time pregnant self in the ace. No one is promoting violence of any kind though so instead, I’ve compiled a list of things I would say to my first-time pregnant self if I got the chance.
Stop it. Just stop it. Whatever you were going to say about wooden toys and organic nappies and muslins hand spun by Buddhist monks living in a magic garden, just stop it.
The same goes for your opinions on dummies (Mine will never have a dummy), TV and screens in general, co-sleeping, organic food, baby-led weaning and all the other rubbish you’re certain you know everything about. I say this asa friend who doesn’t want you to be the most hated pregnant person on the planet: you know nothing.
Yes you’re pregnant. No, you’re not yet a mama. Don’t imply to mamas that you know better.
No. Looking after other people’s children doesn’t make you a mama.
You won’t listen to me but it’s really not worth spending £1000 on a buggy. Yes it’s shiny and new and oh so pretty, but it’s heavy as hell and doesn’t hold two kids so you’ll have to sell it when you’re pregnant with the next one.
The only things you REALLY need at first are something for it to sleep in, push it around in (note above point) and wear.
Don’t buy outfits or shoes for your baby. It’ll be like trying to feed spaghetti covered in vomit and poo through a needle. Stock up on babygrows…hundreds of them.
If you’ve got loads of spare cash you can spend £18 a packet on the Pregnacare Plus. Or, you can spend £4.99 on the regular Pregnacare. It does the same job.
Use oil on your tummy every single day. I’m still not sure whether it does anything but you don’t want to take the risk.
Wear compression stockings. You’re really prone to varicose veins and if you look after your legs a little better in the first pregnancy, chances are they won’t resemble a topographical map of the Himalayas in your second pregnancy.
Listen. Really listen. Actually make sure you hear what people who have done this small-having thing are telling you.
Your life will change. You will change. Whatever you think right now, your reality as you know it is about to be turned on its head and while it’s a bit unsettling at first (sometimes, a LOT unsettling) you’ll emerge from the other side a mama-shaped butterfly.
Love other mamas. Don’t judge them at all on their approaches to parenting. If they are alive and their Smalls are alive they are doing a damn good job.
And they’ll be the one there with a glass of wine and a take away when it’s all too much and your crying real tears with Weetabix in your hair and a breast pad stuck to your bum.
Do your pelvic floor exercises. You’ll regret not doing them when you try to take your Small trampolining. Or when you cough. Or sneeze. Or laugh out loud*sigh*
Be gentle on yourself. I know you want to be very best at this mothering thing but don’t risk your sanity, your health, your soul. Take time out.
When the baby comes, don’t run to Mothercare on Day 3 and break down in tears because the beep of the scanner is too damn loud. Stay in bed. Watch movies. Snuggle. Be naked.
Breastfeeding is amazing but you’ll find it really, really hard. I know this, because I am you and it really hurt and even put you in hospital a couple of times.
Don’t beat yourself up over the breastfeeding thing. Your baby will grow to be an amazing human being, formula or not.
You’re labour is going to be hard and long because the control freak in you is going to go into overdrive. Try, try, try to relax. Breathe. It’s all normal and you’re built to do it. Give into it. Don’t fight it.
You’re going to spend most of your labour vomiting. You’re pretty unlucky with that I’m afraid, but it’ normal.
Don’t buy a house and renovate it in the last four weeks of your pregnancy. It’s not your smartest move and it will stress you out.
Ooops. Too late on that last point.
Try not to resent the shit out of your husband. He’s really doing everything he can to make you happy. Remind him to look after himself too otherwise he’ll run himself into the ground.
Make sure any guests you have bring food. If they don’t, don’t let them in.
Even if they do bring food, ask them politely to leave after 45 minutes.
Don’t feel you have to get out of bed, or shower, or dressed. They can deal with you chilling out after shoving a human through your love tunnel.
Have sex. Wait till you and your vagina are ready, but have sex. It’s a really cool way of reconnecting after all the crazy.
Know this: you are about to be inducted into the coolest club on the planet: the motherhood. It’s stuffed full of supportive, inspiring, creative, strong women and you’ll discover parts of yourself that you never knew existed. Maybe they didn’t exist until you became a mother but you will be blown away by what you are now capable of.
One way and another I’ve used this blog to face all my demons. Writing is good like that. It’s therapeutic. I realised recently that a rarely speak about being Dyslexic. To be clear, I don’t feel like it’s a huge deal. However it definitely has an impact on the way I process things. So I thought it may be exploring in list form, so here goes:
My dyslexia makes me miss out words when I write. I’m sure you’ve noticed.
I feel embarrassed every-time I spot a post or Whatsapp with a mistake in it. I hate t that it makes me look thick or lazy.
The best way I can explain it is that my head is always ahead of my fingers.
I under achieved academical. My GCSE and A Level results don’t reflect my ability. I pass it off as ‘one of those teenage things’. In reality I worked hard and didn’t reap the rewards.
But I did get to do all sorts of highlighting and filing as part of my elaborate revising technic. Stationary makes me irrationally happy.
People say “I am a bit Dyslexic” – can’t understand why you’d want to pretend to have a learning disorder? Mind you ‘a bit OCD’ gets thrown around too much too.
I got a grant for a computer and a mini-disc player at uni. It felt like winning the lottery. It did genuinely help though. Spell check changed my life.
Dyslexia makes stuff scramble in my head. Sometimes I swear I can actually feel thoughts churning.
The scrambling is shit but it’s also where all the good creative stuff happens.
When I start to write I actually don’t know what is going to come out. It’s amazing.
For me the thinking bit isn’t hard. It’s the rearranging it into sentence that make sense that is time-consuming.
List are my way of cheating.
Short sentences mean less room for mistakes.
I find it hard to process when plans change. My husbands says I totally lose my shit. I come across as in-flexible control freak. Give me 15 minutes to get my head round it. And then usually I am ok. Unless of course the new plans are rubbish, in which case the control freak in me will probably still pipe up.
I didn’t get diagnosed Dyslexic until my last term of A-levels. I feel a bit bitter about it. Then again I was hardly destined to be a lawyer or doctor. So the universe still took me to the right place.
It’s an old joke. But why did they make Dyslexia do stupidly hard to spell?
I never got my b’s and d’s the wrong way round.
I didn’t get to wear the glasses with the funny coloured lenses. Do kids still wear them? In my head they seem more of a weird 90’s trend than a learning tool.
My nemesis is things with double letters or repeated sequences of letters. I have to google how to spell ‘availability’ every time. Or make up daft cues. Necessary = one coffee (C) and two sugars (SS). Yup. The struggle is really people!
I am shit at learning dance routines. Or any sequence of movements. That whole rub your tummy, pat your head stuff? Totally mind-boggling. Give me a couple of glasses vino and I’ll still throw shapes regardless, who cares that I’m pretty badly coordianted?!
And taking down phone numbers. I always managed to get them in the wrong order. Even now, Mum makes me check it twice. Thankfully goodness for technology. Even I can’t fuck up ‘save contact.’
A copywriter who is also dyslexic? Yup I feel like a fraud writing it. My punctuation and sentence structure might be all over the shop, but my muddled mind finds it easy to inhabit many different tones of voice. I can hear the way people speak and translate it into writing. A bit like music I suppose.
I’ve read that Dyslexia gives you a natural ability to think outside the box. To be perceptive. To see links and patterns between things that other people might not. Which sounds about right to me.
Plus I am in good company: Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Albert Einstein. They are all Dyslexics who did alright.
Oh and Dyslexia makes you emotional apparantly. Combine that with being a Pieces, a mother, hormonal, frequently sleep-deprived, plus full-moon and Mecury Retrograde – if i am not crying/questioning everything, I’ll probably be eating chocolate.
So that’s it. Sozza about the lack of funnies in this. It’s more informative than laugh out loud. I mainly try to talk about stuff that other people don’t. That said, my dyslexia is relatively mild, I’d love to hear of anyone else’s experience…
Gayle and Matt got in touch to tell me about their clothing brand Rusks & Rebels. There’s tons of stuff in the range that caught my eye – including some monochrome letter t-shirts – a perfect excuse for a bit of twinning.
What really touched me was the story behind the brand. Rusks & Rebels was inspired by their son Ryan who has William Syndrome. Though I have heard of William Syndrome I hadn’t really got a clue what it involved and how it would effect a families.
So I asked if they would be willing to share their first hand account of raising a child with Williams Syndrome:
Even though my son Dylan is 14 I have never been asked “What is it like raising a child with Williams Syndrome” Williams Syndrome is a rare chromosome disorder. The Syndrome effects all areas of Dylan’s development, he is a 14 year old boy living with the height, weight and educational and emotional development of a 6 year old. With one hand on a rather large piece of wood however, I am happy to say that all the medical conditions related to the Syndrome have so far past Dylan by, with only a few minor issues. So, his future health looks very positive, however his lack of development promises for an uncertain future in terms of employment. This is why Rusks & Rebels was born!
So, here it goes. This is what it is like raising a child with Williams Syndrome
Children with Williams Syndrome are very happy, kind and friendly people! This has given us so many lovely moments and laughs along the way.
Raising Dylan has been the biggest challenge I have ever faced but a challenge I have loved. We have a very handsome and loving young man to show for it.
Choosing the correct school for your child. This consumed me for 3 years as Dylan prepared to leave first school and head to middle school. Should I take him out of main stream and into a specialist school? The answer eventually was yes and after countless visits to different schools he made the move two years ago. His reading, writing and social life has taken a massive leap forward and I would suggest that anybody with a child that has special needs, both educational and physical should look at local special schools as they are an absolute godsend!
Raising Dylan and watching his progression through the education system as well as being a part of the Williams Syndrome Association and meeting young adults with Williams Syndrome made me realise that a life in full time employment was highly unlikely. This was the reason we turned a fun idea of making t-shirts for our kids into the baby & children’s clothing brand Rusks & Rebels! The though of working with us still has not outweighed the dream of appearing in the WWE as his alter ego “Rock Smasher”🙂
PUBITY!! This is a rollercoaster ride for children without Williams Syndrome but is only heightened with stress and confusion for Dylan. Many questions have been raised during the last 12-18 months and sometimes out of the blue and in the most inappropriate of places haha. As Dylan’s Educational and emotional age is around 6 his understanding in changes to his body have been extremely confusing for him and even harder to understand when being taught about what is happening to his body. We have had to use some ‘interesting’ techniques and explanations to demonstrate. My personal favourite was the “washing a car is just like washing in the shower” which seemed to have worked in keeping his hygiene levels acceptable. Does mean I have to wash the car more often to prove our point!
Turn it down a little. Children with Williams Syndrome have a heightened sense of hearing. Sharp, loud and high pitched sounds effect Dylan a lot more than anybody else we know. This is something that has been a real challenge to combat as Dylan does not like to wear ear protectors. He has become a master at reading situations around sound and always seems prepared to cover his ears to protect himself from a loud noise. Music also plays a huge part in Dylan’s life along with many young adults with Williams Syndrome. Music can effect his emotional state very easily and something as simple as a piece of music in a film can cause floods of tears.
Sharing is Caring! Not in the world of Dylan and any of his belongings! We have a daily battle to referee between Dylan and his sister Cameron with constant bickering and one-upmanship which is 90% of the time centred around the use of, hiding or even looking at each others ‘stuff’. Cameron has had the patience of a saint in the past but Dylan’s constant refusal to share anything has created a none sharing side of his sister we never thought we would see. Even though Williams Syndrome kids have a very caring and friendly persona we have found this trait of Dylan’s very hard to take on. So, as it stands, none of our children share anything😦
Friends. Dylan does find it very difficult to create friendship groups at school and youth club. This is solely down to his Williams Syndrome and is probably the thing I have found the hardest to deal with. I used to watch him go into school disco’s and events and play on his own in the corner. This have never really bothered Dylan to much as he tends to enjoy his own space and playing in his own fantasy world. As parents I am sure you understand when I say it was utterly heart-breaking for me and on many an occasion brought me to tears. As Dylan has grown up into his grumpy teenage phase we have noticed more of a willingness to join in with social groups so fingers crossed there will be no more boogying to Gangnam Style on his own.
Over friendly is a word often used with Williams Syndrome children and young adults. The need to hug, play with hair, stand very close, hold hands and snuggle up to you are all things we have witnessed, not only from our own son but also other children we have met at Williams Syndrome meets. WS children have no fear when it comes to strangers and a huge lesson in their early years is stranger danger! We quickly incorporated what is appropriate and what is not appropriate with strangers and friends and family. This seems to have worked well for us but there is, and probably always will be a part of Dylan that is over friendly.
What is normal? Just recently I had a conversation with Dylan about how he looks. People with Williams Syndrome have very distinctive facial features including an upturned nose, sunken naisle bridge, puffiness around the eyes, long upper lip length and widely spaced teeth. Dylans appearance has never really been very prominent in his thoughts and we were taken back by him starting the conversation. “I think I look normal like everybody else until I look in the mirror. The boy I see doesn’t look like me. He looks weird”
As Dylan gets older he realises more and more the challenges he faces and how different his life is to a lot of the other children he goes to school with. The next chapter of our life living with Williams Syndrome awaits us as he develops into his teenage life and the last few years of school.
We may need a lot of luck going forward but we still beliEve that we are the luckiest people alive to have such a special boy.
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