Supporting other parents

**WARNING – I have wrote this post with a ten month old on my lap and my two year old bouncing on my legs playing horsey so please excuse any typos, bad grammar or spelling mistakes!******

I have only just started enjoying our lunch dates with the kids again.

As soon as George turned fifteen months my usual calm, civilized diners started to resemble a scene out of Jurassic Park.
The one where the T-Rex is flipping cars and tearing down fences while the humans watch on, horried, from behind a tree!

I would get flustered and embaressed while George flung himself out of the high chair (those wooden ones are beyond pointless!).
He would chew food up and then let it spill out of his mouth onto the table while telling me
‘Don’t like it’.
Instead of the pasta Arribiata infront of him, he would have his eyes on my moules mariniere (and happily eat every one!).

The floor around his seat would have a mixture of food, snapped crayons and napkins scattered everywhere. It was so messy that I would leave the servers a 40% tip out of embarrassment and guilt.

If I tried to discipline him at the table, he would scream louder and then would come the disapproving glances from around the restaurant.

Considering I took my first four children out all the time, and we would be complimented on how well behaved they were…this was new territory for me.

Add a new baby Arthur, who had a healthy set of lungs on him into the mix and eating out became nothing but an anxiety inducing stress-fest!

Since November, thankfully things have changed. For a start, George has developed a love for YouTube (yep…and I WILL give him his tablet if It means I can drink my coffee while it is hot!)
Also, now he can talk and communicate more his behaviour has taken a huge turn. I would even say eating out with him is enjoyable!
The most important thing I learnt about my number five is that ‘No one puts baby in the corner. ‘
He is happier sitting in an adults seat with the older kids rather than a high chair next to mum!

Last week we took the younger boys out to our local Italian for some lunch.
It is one of our favourites because it is no only child friendly but seriously delicious too.
It was a Friday lunchtime and the restaurant was full of mums with toddlers and older ladies and gents enjoying a retirement lunch.

We were sat between a couple in their 70’s (I am guessing) and a lady with a baby having lunch with her parents.

The baby next to us must have been about seven month and was crying…and crying…and crying.
Her mum was trying desperatly to sooth her but the baby wasnt having it and the mum looked tired and stressed.

Mike was trying to have a conversation with me but I couldn’t concentrate on what he was saying.
I was so distracted.

It wasn’t the baby that was bothering me…it was her mum.
She was flustered and panicking and I could feel every inch of her uncomfort.

I glanced around and realised the older couple had asked to be moved and the mothers with toddlers were rolling their eyes and tutting!

I felt like crying for her!

I walked over and knelt down to the mum with her baby.
‘Most the people in the room are parents and we have all been where you are. Don’t worry about anyone else, you are doing a great job.’
I offered to take the baby while she finished her lunch as ours hadnt arrived yet.

She burst into tears and gave me a big hug.

The mum felt instantly more relaxed and in turn, her little baby calmed down.

George and Arthur were a joy that day and unlike the mum next to me, we were getting nods of approval. Usually I would feel proud that out kids good behaviour is being aknowledged, but when the praise is coming from the same judgemental dicks that are rolling their eyes at a crying baby I just felt annoyed.
Rewind just a few weeks and it was me that was sitting their being talked about and feeling shamed.

George didnt let us down though. As the bill was placed on the table he kicked his shoes off and ran through the restaurant. He ran around tables, giggling and screaming as I chased him like a overweight hurdler after a bottle of prosecco.

As I passed the mums who had been rolling their eyes i laughed
‘It was all going so well! That will teach me for being smug!’ hoping they might find the hint and advice in my comment.
George ran behind the bar, hi-fiving the waiters and I finally rugby tackled him at kitchen door!

A couple of days after this I read in a paper that a lady with a crying baby was asked to leave a cafe because it was upsetting the customers.
I wonder how many of those people offered some help or advice to the mum, who may well have been struggling herself, before they complained to the owner?
Or whether the owner of the cafe thought to ask if there was anything he/she could do to help before they showed her to the pavement.

I do have sympathy for everyone who wants to have a quiet meal without ‘naughty’ children or screaming babies around them. My point is simply, before you roll your eyes, ask to be moved or tut at the parents, take a second to think.
Could this parent be struggling? Could that child throwing a tantrum have a disability that you can not see? Could this parent benifit from a gentle hand of reassurance? Or more to the point…..were your children always perfect?

Anyway, im off out for lunch with all the kids….wish me luck 😜

World Mental Health Day 

Today is World Mental Health Day and, although it feels there is a ‘day’ for just about everything now and Twitter is always trending with one or another, I think this is a really important one to talk about.  

We are all aware we are suppose to be taking care of our bodies.   We take time to go to the dentist, opticians, chiropodist, yet if we are stressed, feeling down or unable to cope we just soldier on.

I am researching children and teen mental health and well being for a post I am writing with The Childrens Society.
I had never realised how many people suffer with mental health problems.
I started to think about friends, family and people I know who have or could be suffering from mental health issues. 

I thought back to a school friend who battled with his sexuality and felt so down that he tried to take his own life.
I thought of a friend whos dad was so depressed he felt he had no way out, leaving my friend fatherless.
I thought of a good friend of mine who suffered badly with PTS as a result of his time served in The Falklands.
I thought of my nan and how I watched her deteriorate from Alzheimer’s.
I thought of bloggers I know who suffer with such bad anxiety that they find it a near impossible to leave their house.

It was while thinking about different forms of mental health, from post traumatic stress to post natel depression, dementia to bi-polar to stress, depression and anxiety, that I realised I was overlooking my own experiences with mental health problems, albeit not as serious or obvious as some.

I think it would suprise alot of people to know I suffer with anxiety.

I know what you are thinking…. Thats no suprise with sic children.  But it started way before the kids came along.

It first started at Primary school.

I started  suffering with terrible shortness of breath. 
I always found it really hard to explain to my mum and dad, but it was like I was breathing in, but no air was getting into my lungs. 
Once it started, it felt like it would get worse and worse. It could last anywhere from a few minutes to days.
I would have to sit outside the headmasters office with a brown paper bag and practice slow, deep breathing into it.

Mum took me to the doctor and I was tested for asthma but all the tests came back normal.

I never really talked about it again for years, I would just try to get through it by trying to take my mind off it.  Sometimes that worked and sometimes I would end up in a panic and crying.
Then, towards the end of primary school I developed a twitch.
My nose would screw quickly like Samantha  from bewitched…..only I wasnt casting a spell!

We put it down to my fringe being too long and tickling my nose, so I grew it out.
But the twitch didnt go, so we put it down to habbit as a result of the twitch from my fringe.  It sounds crazy now but It never occured to me that it could be anything more.

So, here I was, going through my teens, suffering with shortness of breath and a nervous twitch (as we called it)…. I was a right sort 😉

The shortness of breath was never constant.  I could go months without suffering from it, then, out of the blue it would hit me.
I would go into a panic and have practice my ‘mind over matter’ technique. 

Things finally got to a point in 2009 when I went back to the doctors, desperate for help.

I was staying in France with the Mikey, Harri and Charlie (who was about 10 months).

Mike had gone to portugal with some friends and was going to fly from Faro to France to meet up with us.

The whole time I was in France on my own my shortness of breath was unbearable.  I couldnt concentrate on anything and I felt like I was in a constant state of panic.

As a young mum (25) all sorts of things went through my head.
Maybe I have lung cancer…..
What if its my heart…..

Once Mike arrived at the cottage to spend the rest of the holiday together the shortness of breath dissapeared and I felt ‘normal’ again.
He would wind me up (and still does) that I just cant bare to be apart from him – trust me, thats not true!

With the fear it might return as badly as it had in France I booked an appointment with my Doctor.

I sat and explained everything to him.  I told him all about the asthma tests when I was a kid to the horrible feelings in France.

He said with no uncertainty
‘You are suffering with stress and anxiety’

I laughed it off and explained to him that I was not stressed! In fact, I was completely laid back and never got stressed, thats what I was known for! Laid back, easy going Kate- always smiling and never stressed.

Apparently I was the perfect candidate for anxiety.  He told me that because I am never outwardly stressed, my body deals with it in different ways. 
In my case, through shortness of breath, my rabbit-like twitch and small panic attacks.

I left his office feeling relieved but also confused.

I was relieved that i wasnt dying! But confused as to how I didn’t know myself that I had been suffering with anxiety all these years.

As time has gone on it has become more obvious to me. 
I can almost predict when the episode will start.
Flights and holidays…..a month or so before I will start feeling jittery.
My breathing gets deeper as my shortness of breath kicks in and Mike and friends will comment on my twitch getting worse.
My close friends will even ask me whats on my mind as they will know from my twitch how high my anxiety is.
Sometimes my twitch gets so bad it gives me a headache as my whole face contorts.

Big events, weddings, parties and nights out will start me off.
My dad was very poorly a couple of years ago and that sent my anxiety to a whole new level.

The last two months have been a challange aswell.  Mike has been working away and we have been trying to choose a high school for the boys.
In fact, writing this has made me very aware at how anxious I am feeling right now.

There is no cure or immidiate fix that I know of and I count my blessings that my anxiety is not as debilitating as some people. 
I have learned how to cope in my own way.  I still practice mind over matter, a little like meditation and sometimes i will try to busy myself with something else.
If it is really bad I will run a bath with a few drops of lavender and ylang-ylang oil and soak for a while…. that usually calms me down a bit.
Sometimes nothing works and I just have to ride it out.

So, mental health can come in all sorts of forms and you never know who might be suffering.  That is why tolerance and understanding is a great quality to practice.
Mental health problems are certainly not something we can control or just ‘get over’.

Everyone who knows me will probably be suprised that I suffer with this,  It is not something I tend to talk openly about, maybe I should.
I certainly do not feel crazy or ill, but I have learned to try and listen to my body and when it tells me to chill out I try to do just that.

And luckily Mike has always found my twitch cute thank god!

Thanks for reading guys…..that was as good as a therapy session!

I would love to hear your experiences with mental health and anything you can suggest to keep anxiety at bay.

Please share awareness for World Mental Health Day

Love ya

Kate

Xxxx