10 Tips, Hints and Shortcuts for Happy Mums and Dads
Life ain’t easy, and then you become a parent. It’s a cliché as old as time, and one that the childless smile in sympathy at but don’t really ‘get’ until they’re covered in puke and treading on Lego bricks themselves… but it’s true.
You know what’s easy after just four hour’s sleep and a day full of nappy changes and supermarket tantrums? Nothing. Not even making a cup of coffee that stays warm enough to drink or getting three meals a day down the gullet of your family is simple when you have those lovable little munchkins wrapped around your legs all day pulling and whining for attention.
But necessity is the mother of invention (another trite cliché for you) so I am here to share with you a few shortcuts to parenting that I discovered (the hard way). Not only have these ten tricks saved my sanity on more than one occasion but they have also made me feel very smug. Believe me, when your only achievement all day is remembering to take the sausages out to defrost for dinner then saving yourself unnecessary stress can feel like winning gold at the Mummy Olympics.
Can you spare a few minutes?
Are the kids safe while you scroll down for a bit?
Good… let’s go…
1: How to cut up food fast and tidily
I’m sorry but I haven’t got time to sharpen my Michelin standard knives and dirty another chopping board cutting up the children’s food the grown up way – I use scissors. Sandwiches, pizza, sausages… you name it… I cut them up with scissors. It’s quicker, no chopping board required and you only have to wash up one thing. It also works well when cutting ends of beans or if you are a bit squeamish with raw meat or fish, just hold it up with a fork and snip away. Try it.
Failing that, and for those who love a gadget, you can even get specialist food cutting scissors now (I know… there is a gadget for everything these days!)
2: How to Stop Spillages
You’re out and about and your child wants a bottle of water, so you buy one and next thing they are soaking wet. So inevitable it hurts, but luckily it’s easily avoided. Simply make a hole in the lid of the bottle of water, poke a straw through it and hey presto… a bottle of water that is easy for a kid to drink from. I always carry a pen knife and straws with me (well, no I don’t really, but I’m normally near a bar and they have all that). And if you want to put the bottle back in your handbag just wrap a bit of cling film over the top and screw on the lid. Simple.
3: How to get your child to swallow a pill
It’s not often your doctor asks you to give your small child a tablet, but if they get worms or need antibiotics I have found that breaking them up in a spoonful of honey, chocolate spread or peanut butter works wonders. Then I don’t tell my children, they think it’s a treat, they get a spoonful of Nutella and are none the wiser. God, I’m good!
4: How to pick up poo
I never thought the day would come where I’d be advising people on the easiest way to scoop up human excrement, but here it is. When a child craps outside of their nappy it is normally in one of two places – on the floor (don’t you love Potty Training?) or in the bath. And there are two fail safe ways of rescuing said turd. If on the floor DO NOT attempt to pick it up with kitchen roll because poo is softer than you think and you may not be near enough to a toilet and then what do you do with a fist full of shit?
Just get a plastic bag, nappy bag or sandwich bag and put it on your hand like a glove, grab some kitchen roll and pick the poo up, quickly turning the bag inside out and containing it. You can then flush the contents down the toilet and chuck away the bag or seal up the bag and put it in the bin with the rest of the stinky nappies.
If the child has pooed in the bath then simply have a plastic jug handy, scoop it out with some water and flush down the loo. Don’t EVER do what I did and let the water out of the bath first with the intention of cleaning it up after as it will get soggy and messy and the memory of skid marks in your bath will haunt you forever. And ever.
5: How to change sheets in the middle of the night
Is your child prone to the odd accident in the night? Or are you in the middle of trying to toilet train through the night? Do you have to clamber on to the top bunk, comfort a wet crying child and wrestle with sheet changes without the other child waking up? Even if you have mattress protectors it’s still a royal pain in the arse so I do the following:
Place a towel or incontinence sheet (the Tenna brand is available for adults in supermarkets if you can’t find the kiddy ones) over the mattress then a sheet. Then place another towel or incontinence sheet then another sheet. So when the child wets themselves simply change them, take the top sheet and towel off for the wash and put the child to bed as there is a clean sheet already waiting beneath. So speedy that your child won’t have time to properly wake up! Just make sure to replace the extra layer the next day…
6: How to travel with car sick kids
I spent five years with two car sick children. I was the mother that had the joy of sitting in the back wedged between two poorly kids on every car journey, bucket in hand, wiping up puke. If that is you too, then here are some tips that will make your life a bit more bearable than mine was.
If your pukey little one is still a baby then cut some holes in an old towel and use it to cover the car seat with, making sure the holes line up with the seat buckles. Scrubbing milky sick off car seats is hell. If they are too small to hold their own bucket then sit beside them but always make sure you pack a Tupper Wear container (to be sick in) with a bottle of water (for drinking and washing your hands with), kitchen roll (for mopping), wet wipes (for cleaning) and plenty of plastic bags to put the sicky paper in. And lots of changes of clothes.
If your children are old enough to manage alone then ask them to throw up in the Tupper Wear box and put the lid on, then they can hold the warm pungent box the rest of the journey until you can empty it out on the side of the road and rinse it. Because you will need it on the return journey. Isn’t the life of a parent glam?!
If you forget to pack the above items then you will have the pleasure of doing what I did last week when speeding at 70mph down the A1 unable to stop the car, and frantically emptying out the contents of your handbag for your kid to be sick in… then upon realising that cheap handbags leak, tossing it out of the car window. Don’t do that – remember your special sick box.
7: How to get more veg inside them
Most people do this anyway, but I will mention it again. Kids have the uncanny ability to not notice the mountain of toys cluttering their bedroom floor but can spot a millimetre of onion in their pasta sauce from ten paces away. So I am cheeky and I puree my onions and garlic raw before frying and making my sauce, plenty of flavour without the ‘bits’. Ha, take that you suckers! You can also add boiled veg to the mix, so your green-averse child gets the goodness of carrots, courgettes and butternut squash in their tomato sauce while all the time being told it’s ‘just ketchup’. Win!
8: How to survive long journeys
‘Are we there yet?’
‘No, we are still backing out of the drive…’
I have no idea why a child needs to know how long it will take to get anywhere, seeing as they rarely have any concept of time, but they do. So as always, distraction is the best technique. But if your kids are car sick (see Number 6) reading or playing on tablets is not an option – so what do you do? Use your imagination!
Here are my favourite games to play in the car/train or even on long shopping trips:
1. Pick a car colour and the one who spots the most cars of their colour by the time they reach their destination, wins. You can replace cars with people’s t-shirt colour if shopping on the High Street, it’s just a bit awkward when your kids start pointing at people.
2. I spy with a twist. Ie: ‘I spy three round things’ or ‘I spy five brown things’
3. Travel Bingo. Draw a grid and fill with pictures of items your child may expect to see on their journey and see if they can tick them all off before you get there.
4. Word Association Game, one for all the family. Start off with a word Ie: Carrot and take it in turns to say something linked to that word, the first person to repeat a word or stall is out. Carrot – Orange – Lemon – Lemonade – Cola – Bubbles – West Ham.
5. Similar to the above but you pick a subject and take turns to name as many things from that subject until someone repeats a word or stalls. Ie: Under the sea: Mermaid – Octopus – Fish – Rocks – Seaweed… you get the picture.
6. Sweet or Sour (my kids love this, only safe in cars). They pick a car and decide if the people in it will be Sweet or Sour – then they wave. If the driver waves back they are Sweet, if not they are a miserable bastard that isn’t helping you entertain your children. I mean Sour.
9: How to get them to bed early
Can your child tell the time yet? Great, then it looks like they are going to bed early. The easiest way to make your child go to bed before their allotted time is to start their routine an hour earlier, but this has to be completely pre-meditated. A lighter breakfast than normal, an earlier lunch, a shorter trip to the park, an earlier snack, bath time at 4pm, dinner at 5pm, a pre-recorded viewing of their usual pre-bed TV programme and then BED TIME! They don’t know it’s only 6pm… just tell them it’s always light and sunny in the summer time. Do they know the months of the year yet? Great, it’ll work then. They may be a little bit confused at first but like little Battery Hens and Pavlov’s Dog their body will react according to their daily cues and they will sleep. And you can have a lovely quiet dinner and a bottle of wine at 7pm. Aaaaah. And sometimes they don’t even wake up earlier. Sometimes.
10: How to make them sleep
I’m kidding. I have no fucking idea how to make a child sleep… I can’t do magic… I haven’t reached the eight hours of uninterrupted sleep nirvana in seven years. I was lucky if my kids gave me more than three continuous hours of peaceful slumber as babies. If your child is crap at sleeping my only advice is to get used to sleeping less hours and drink wine. Wine doesn’t particularly help you sleep better when you do finally get the chance, but it will increase your chances of not giving a shit. Which is kind of the same thing.
I hope this helps a little. All that’s left to say is ‘good luck my fellow parenting soldier’, these strategies may help you win the battles but the war rages on. And remember that as you reach the end of the deep, long, dark tunnel of mum and dad, the wonderful world of teenagers awaits… so brace yourselves, it’s not over yet!