• Aisha Iqbal

You are my sunshine

How much is too much when it comes to snot on your sweater? I mean, ordinarily the answer is: if you can see the colour of your sweater, you're fine. But if you've got an online meeting with your manager then you have to ponder these dilemmas a bit longer.

I choose wet wipes to semi-clean the snot over adding another item of clothing to the laundry basket.

While sick days are not the most fun part of parenting, Z is at that stage now that when you do something kind for him, especially when you manage to power through the angry wailing and blubbering random demands with patience, once the storm has passed he will look up at and say with the most heartbreaking hope and love: Mama?

Sometimes in a tentative 'are you mad at me' tone and sometimes just in an affectionate grateful affirmation like, hey mama, you there right, good!

The past few months have added so many dimensions and layers to his personality that I am still sorting through my own feelings and figuring out how to put it all into words. The love keeps getting more complex and powerful the more he becomes his own person and expresses himself better and better.

He really is the most remarkable little boy.

(I love that parents find this almost irrational, deeply personal sense of pride and wonder in their own children, how each child with their idiosyncrasies and traits is a unique piece of perfection for their parent.)

From your obsession with numbers, the way you say each number with an exclamation mark at its end: five! Sixteen! Ten! How you can actually count till 20 but even when you don't know what the figure is, you always trial it: 14!!! You shout when you notice our house no (46!).

You randomly sing ABCD and twinkle twinkle little star, adorably little voiced and distracted, when I'm not paying attention to you (in the cot during a failing naptime or in your pushchair on the way to nursery).

You help me make my tea most mornings, by first picking out a teabag then smushing it to your nose (even during the snotty days I let it go...) and saying 'mm smellnice', often tasting the clove and cardamom we add in together. You didn't seem fazed by the strong taste at all! You still love fans and clocks, and continue that comical cartoon villain laugh whenever you get your way (snack given on demand or the same fan seen in the same building on our walk back from the nursery as expected. Haha fan o fan haha haha haha!!! Every. Day.) I love the scrunched nose face and high pitched sound you make when we see something cute: "heheh koot!".

There are a hundred other little things that I adore about you and that make you you. And

I wouldn't change anything.

Okay, maybe if I could make you sleep "through the night", that would be an acceptable change.

I read somewhere that if your toddler is not sleeping through the night (20 months into motherhood that overused phrase means even less now) you can try and replace the less favourable sleep associations. So for example, in our case whenever Z wakes up at night, the only way he goes back to sleep is when we bring him to our bed. It started around 1am and moved earlier and earlier in the night. Sometimes it's a great excuse to fall asleep at 9.30pm but most of the time it's a pain.

So I thought, okay, let's replace Mama and Baba with Mushi the monkey and Dino the - you guessed it, dinosaur. I figured that was a good association to replace him sleeping in our bed.

To cut the longish story short, now when Zain continues crying at night and I go to pick him up from his cot, I have to bring Mushi and Dino, and of course his beloved blanket, to our bed as well. A fantastic example of how sometimes those parenting tips come to dance and laugh in your face like annoying cartoons bees.

A better parenting tip is to cultivate a sense of humour, because although little toddlers can be frustrating, they are infinitely more humourous. You just have to look past the sleep deprivation and see the comedy in a perky tot saying "Hiya Mama, Hiya Baba!" at 3 am. Or throwing a fit when you try to brush his teeth because he prefers to dip it in dirty soapy bath water and brush himself.

A good way to replace the exasperation with a chuckle is to think, what would my response be if a mama friend narrated this episode to me? More often than not, if it hasn't been too many bad nights in a row, you'll see the funny side of your toddler running naked out from the toilet refusing their bath or closing the door on your face and not letting you enter your own house.

Also, I've noticed how quickly time passes by. I can still remember (faintly) when Z would only walk around holding our hands, even when we all knew he could most definitely walk unaided. And now he's just running helter skelter everywhere all the time and actually REFUSING to hold our hand even when he actually needs to (like near a road!). Anything that seems troublesome or difficult to deal with right now will probably pass sooner than we think and we will look back and say, when was it that they didn't sleep well at night then? (haha) Or: did they really throw themselves on the floor and flap about like a rigid fish out of of water because we wouldn't let them run barefoot in the driveway? I can hardly remember!

Don't get me wrong, many times I lose my patience and snap, or breathe noisily through gritted teeth so as not to snap. Motherhood isn't all making mama a cup of tea and singing nursery rhyme duets (haha, again).

The most recent case of Mama-gone-rogue being yesterday during nap time when he wouldn't stop wailing and I was in the midst of cleaning the toilet having had a bit of a difficult morning and a lingering cold, and the third time I went into his room I just yelled "ZAIN!" Oh the startled expression on his tiny face. As you can imagine, the guilt kept me company when he finally did fall asleep (all he needed was a five minute cuddle) that afternoon.

But many other times, when I have managed to keep my cool, those two (or ten) extra minutes of patience goes a long way in keeping the peace and happiness in the house.

So, continue practicing your deep breathing and sing tinkle tinkle leetuulll staaar at the top of your lungs with your perfect little tiny tot. But when you do lose your cool, remind yourself you're a human too and it's okay.

Give your baby and yourself that love and forgiveness that will make you both thrive.

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