’cause boys don’t cry

As Stanley gets older, I am becoming ever more aware of gender stereotypes, and the world I don’t want him to grow up in. Guess what… Stanley has a pink Frozen microphone. Why? Because he loves Frozen. He loves to sing. He loves his pink microphone. Stanley also has dolls and a pushchair. Why? Because he loves to play with dolls. He loves to take them for a walk in the pushchair. He loves to feed them. He loves to look after them. He doesn’t have these toys just because they were mine as a child, he has them because he enjoys them. He has them because we have bought them especially for Stanley. 

This week, Stanley lied. He lied about the fact that he had dolls… because he was questioned. “These aren’t yours are they Stanley?… boys don’t play with dolls… What are you doing buying dolls then?” My heart broke. My 2 year old boy, lying, because he was questioned over playing with a doll. What is this teaching him? That boys don’t play with dolls. That boys don’t look after babies. That boys can’t be caring, and emotional. That dads don’t have the same roles in bringing up children as mum do. Stanley has also been called a “princess” because of his Frozen microphone. 

Stanley is 2 years old. He is doing what he loves… and even if that means dressing up as Elsa, then so what? It scares me that people are giving him these messages, and that he is taking them in. I want him to be strong. I want him to be confident. I don’t want him to feel that he has to lie. Instead, I want him to question others – “what’s wrong with playing with dolls?” I want him to stand up proudly, doll held aloft, in some sort of “Rafiki and Simba” pose, shouting “yes! These are my dolls, and I enjoy playing with them!

I want our children to do what they love, to feel confident in liking whatever it is they like, regardless of what other people think they “should” or “shouldn’t” based on gender. Stanley loves football, and Spiderman, and playing with toy cars. Stanley also loves dolls, a pink Frozen microphone, and he likes to copy mummy in playing with mummy’s make up. I hope that as Nora grows up, she equally enjoys doing all of these things too, and isn’t made to feel that she can only enjoy pink toys! The whole pink and blue differentiation really bugs me, and we have even tried to stay clear of the typical blue clothes for Stanley and pink clothes for Nora. Instead, we choose colourful clothes… and what’s even better? Unisex clothes… we love love love Little Bird by Jools!

I also notice the gender stereotypes in behaviour. Stanley has started to like fighting (and this is partly influenced by others teaching him that boys like fighting!) As a result, Stanley now wants to play fight. He wants his Spiderman and Iron Man toys to fight. This isn’t ok with me when it becomes aggressive, and when it starts to influence Stanley’s behaviour… when it isn’t “play” anymore. It is not ok for Stanley to be aggressive, or fight, simply because he is “a boy”. It is no more ok for Stanley to fight, than it would be for Nora to fight. In the same way, it is no more wrong for Stanley to play with dolls, than it is for Nora. It is no more acceptable for Stanley to hit another child, than it would be for Nora. Similarly, it would be no more acceptable for Stanley to hit another boy, than it would be for him to hit a girl. But, people don’t see it this way. We have been told that if the boys were to play “rough” around Nora when she’s older, then it wouldn’t be accepted… but if Nora isn’t around, then this is fine. 

In addition, there are times when Stanley has been upset, when he has been crying, and people have told him not to cry. Why? Because “big boys don’t cry“. Again, what is this teaching him? That boys can’t have emotions. That if he gets upset, he shouldn’t show it. On the other hand, if it was Nora in the same situation, it would be perfectly acceptable for her cry. Perhaps, as a female, it is quite the opposite if you don’t show emotion. From personal experience, and being somewhat emotionally inhibited, I have been called “cold”, “shy”, and “ignorant”. I wonder if the same would be said for a man who didn’t show emotion for every situation? I want Stanley to know that big boys do cry. I want him to know that boys can show their emotions too, just as equally as girls can. Showing and sharing your emotions is healthy, regardless of gender, and it is so important for Stanley to learn this.

All of these issues are based on gender. Why are we teaching children that it is ok for boys to show aggression, but not girls? Why can’t we teach them that aggressive behaviour is always wrong? Why are we teaching children that it’s not okay for boys to cry? Why can’t we teach them that showing emotion is a good thing, regardless of gender? I am scared that no matter how much I try to instil my beliefs in Stanley and Nora, that they will be influenced by the world, and the people, around them. I want to live in a world where these gender stereotypes don’t exist. Where Stanley can be free to do whatever he likes, regardless of his gender. But, I fear we are still a long way from this.

The struggles of introducing a new sibling


I love this little man *so* much ❤ I cried twice tonight when he went to bed. First, we spoke about his day (as we always do at night!), and twice he told me “there was no room for me” – both this morning in bed, and this evening on the sofa. I promised him that there would always be room… and his response? “Oh thank you mummy… you’re my best friend” 😢

We have had “it’s not fair” more than I can count today. We have had “I want to go back to that other house… that green house… with no babies“. We have had “I want you in here mummy“… and him shutting the doors out on everyone else. Daddy has been “the big bad wolf” all day. When looking back at pictures of Stanley, he kept saying “I’ve lost my mummy and daddy“, because it was just a photo of him on his own. We’ve had two sets of visitors today, both of which he told “my baby cries a lot“!

On the other hand, he has been the most caring and sweetest of big brothers. Stanley hears Nora cry and he says “oh! My baby is crying! I need to check if she is ok!” – he gives her kisses and cuddles. He strokes her head. He asks for her to be put in his arms. He asks for her to be put over his shoulder so he can “pat her back“. He always makes sure the music is playing on her snuggle nest because “that will help baby to sleep”. He makes sure she has her taggy, and various other things. He found Sophie the Giraffe and gave it to her. He talks to her when she cries and tells her “it will be alright“. He has been super proud to show her off when we had visitors!

But despite the good, which I’m sure far outweighs the bad, I couldn’t help but focus on those little things that he has said or done today, that have made me feel so guilty. Wishing I could do more. Should I have done more? What can I do to make this easier on him? I have tried so so hard to make this transition as easy as possible for him, and for the focus to remain on him. I just wish that I could do more to help him through this. 

Tomorrow, we are going to do all that he wants. We will go and see the ducks. We will have ice cream, and bananas, and red apples! We will take him somewhere fun… and I can’t wait!

Advice for second-time parents; 9 “tips” on preparing a toddler for a sibling

I was recently asked if I could share any tips on preparing our 2-year-old (Stanley) for being a big brother, something I have been working on for the last few months! My initial thought was… I have no clue! What I can tell you, is the numerous things that I have been doing with Stanley over the last 6 months or so, in order to try and prepare him for a new baby coming into the family (induction booked in 2 days!). I really have no idea if any of these will have helped in any way. So “tips”…? I’m not really sure that these can truly be called “tips” (or whether I can even say this is classed as worthy “advice”!), since I am yet to have an outcome. But, I can at least talk you through some ideas that we had, and perhaps I’ll have some wiser words when the little lady is here…! I should probably also point out that Stanley is 2 years and 10 months, and so the things below may or may not apply to older or younger children.

Talking about baby’s sex: “Whatever you do, do not ask Stanley if he would like a brother or sister!” – This was one of the first tips we received when we found out we were expecting our second child, as friends of ours had first-hand experience! Our friends didn’t find out the sex of their baby, and so they spoke to their child about whether they would like a baby brother, or baby sister. Little did they realise that they would soon become adamant on having a baby brother… to the point that they even had a name for their “brother”. I am sure that you can guess what happens next – a baby sister entered the world. Cue almighty tantrums because they wanted their baby brother! Safe to say, as soon as we spotted family members going anywhere near this conversation with Stanley, we told them this story! Though, once we knew the sex of our little lady – we shared this news with Stanley too, so that we could prepare him, and talk to him about what it will be like to have a baby sister. I must say, we have had numerous scans throughout this pregnancy, and despite being told numerous times that it is a girl (and buying plenty of girl’s clothes!) – we have also be warned that girls are a little harder to diagnose. So, I still have this niggling feeling in my mind that we will never be 100% certain of this fact until “she” arrives!

Antenatal appointments: Whilst we have never taken Stanley to any antenatal appointments, this is one way of getting them involved – they may enjoy seeing baby on the screen, or listening to baby’s heartbeat. Though, I have always been a little cautious of this, as for one – hospital appointments are lengthy, busy, and relatively boring for a 2-year-old, which is not a good mixture for Stanley! Secondly, I have never taken hospital appointments lightly, I always go prepared for the unexpected to happen (I am definitely not at my most relaxed!), and so I didn’t think it would be fair to put this onto Stanley either. Instead, when we have had various scans and appointments, I have always brought something back for Stanley when we could. Throughout the pregnancy, he has had his own copies of the scan pictures, pictures of his “baby sister” that he has enjoyed showing everybody! We also got a recording of his “baby sister’s heartbeat” in a teddy, that he loves listening to, and showing to others.

Introducing baby through a story: There are plenty of books out there that could help prepare your little one for having a baby around the house. We happened to spot “Za-Za’s Baby Brother” (by Lucy Cousins) in a charity shop (and actually long before we were pregnant with our second!), and we had to get it – because we knew how much Stanley loves his Maisy books. We thought this might do just the trick if we were ever lucky enough to have our second. Fast forward a couple of years, and this book has come in handy. I can still picture Stanley’s face when I read this to him for the first time… the look of amazement… and him exclaiming “my mummy’s got baby in her belly too!”. When I read the story to him, I treated it like any other new book – I made no comparisons between the story and mummy having a baby in her belly, but the way that he immediately could relate to this was so lovely to see.

Don’t try and force them to be interested! Similar to above, and the way that I didn’t make the story all about us having a new baby, I started by trying to talk about babies more generally. I followed Stanley’s lead. When Stanley made the connection between Za-Za and us, then we would talk about. But, if he’s not interested in talking about baby, we don’t talk about baby. It is pretty easy to see whether or not they are showing any interest, and at first, I wasn’t sure that Stanley was ever going to be interested at all! His interest in talking about baby has certainly grown alongside my belly, and also his understanding of having a “baby sister” has grown, as he himself has grown. I would say that it has only really been these last couple of months that he has shown any real spontaneous interest in baby. I am not sure whether this is the result of Stanley growing as a person and developing more understanding, or whether this is because there are now more visible changes taking place – mummy’s belly is certainly much much bigger for one, and the house is now prepared for a newborn baby once again.

Talk about babies: Since Stanley has shown more interest in baby, we’ve spent more time talking about what having a baby will be like. In particular, we have tried to prepare him for the fact that babies cry a lot, sleep a lot, and need feeding a lot! We have also tried to get him to come up with his own ideas about what he could do when baby is crying (his response: “cuddle her… kiss her… and hold her hand’’!), we’ve talked about playing games with his baby sister, and asked him what he would like to teach her (“I can show her how to put a DVD on!”). He also enjoys playing with dolls, so we have had lots of role-play that includes changing nappies, feeding baby, and helping to get them to sleep (hoping that he may enjoy playing with his baby, whilst mummy is busy with another!)

The growing belly! Stanley has definitely shown more interest since my “belly has got bigger and bigger“(!), and as such, we have spent times sitting with Stanley and trying to feel baby kicking when the movements are strong enough! Sure enough, he gets fed up of waiting for baby to have a wriggle at times, but others, he enjoys pretending and telling other people that “baby kicked”! At the same time, I’ve tried to explain to Stanley that baby can now hear him, and that she loves to hear him talk, sing, or read a story to her! Now, there is nothing cuter than Stanley running up to my belly and saying “hello baby” and giving her the biggest cuddle! We also talk about what we think baby is up to in mummy’s belly, and Stanley will often pretend to feed baby through mummy’s belly… or even play dentists and pretend to take all of her teeth out (I’m not sure where this idea came from, but I’ve warned him now that baby will come out of mummy’s belly with no teeth left!)

Buying baby items, and presents: If you are buying things for the new baby, get your toddler involved as much as you can – whether this is picking an outfit, or a toy. I dug out Stanley’s old toys, and we had a play with them, and talked about how baby might like to play with them when she arrives. We also had the idea of getting baby a present from Stanley, but wanted it to be something that Stanley could really get involved with, and daddy had the most wonderful idea – a “taggy”. Stanley has always had a thing about tags on clothes, and so getting him a taggy was the best thing we did (I don’t think they have parted since!). This is the best present that Stanley could have got her, and he has picked a lovely one for his sister – choosing the design and colours himself! I think he is actually a little bit excited to give this to her! But, the present I think I have had the most fun in preparing, is the present from baby to Stanley! I have this all packed in our hospital bag, ready to give to Stanley as a present from his baby sister, when he visits her for the first time. I hope that this will help a little with the initial bond that he develops with her. We (“baby”) have got Stanley a Spiderman rucksack and filled it with a things: a Paw Patrol magazine, a new taggy, a snack, a “best bro” t-shirt, and a personalised book “Big Brothers are Great”. I hope he likes it!

Making changes to routines, and preparing for hospital: If you need to make changes, I would suggest making them as early as possible, at least this is the approach I have taken with Stanley (since I know what he is like with his routines). We have always tried to explain to Stanley that there is a baby in mummy’s belly, even when this wasn’t quite so visible, and that this makes things a little more difficult for mummy. So, for example, when he asks for mummy to pick him up, we always try to offer for daddy to pick him instead. Of course, this doesn’t always go smoothly, but the more we have done this, the easier it has got. his understanding has grown, and hopefully, the more prepared he will be for when baby is here. I have tried to make as little changes to Stanley’s routines as possible, just little alterations here and there, such as getting daddy to do more (e.g., get daddy to start doing the bedtime routine if he doesn’t already!). Of course, there is no doubt that some changes to routines cannot be avoided, and one of the biggest changes that will affect his routine will be mummy going to hospital. Stanley has a lot of routines, and this is one that I am most definitely worried the most about. It is one of the reasons that I wished I could have a home birth, but having being diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, I have little choice but to go in hospital (and at this rate, to be induced on Friday!). I have no idea how long I will be in hospital, but I have tried to talk to Stanley about this, and explain that mummy will be hospital for a little while. I have found this so hard, not only because you don’t know exactly what will happen yourself – but it is even harder to know how much of this he really comprehends.

Focus on your toddler! As much as possible, I have tried to keep the focus on “Stanley becoming a big brother”, rather than a new baby coming into the house. I don’t want Stanley to feel pushed out, jealous, or that baby is making all of these changes happen, and so I’ve tried to turn everything I can into a positive – and make it about Stanley! I am sure there are bound to be times when Stanley will want something, or want me, when I am having to focus on the new arrival, there will be times when he will no doubt get jealous, and I am sure this is perfectly natural. But, if we can somehow turn the attention on to him too, and prepare him for this now, I am hoping that this will help. I am hoping that when the little lady arrives that we can continue to keep Stanley interested in his baby sister, and helping mummy out with all of the cuddles that she will need! I have also made an effort to make the most of the last few weeks that we have together as a family of three, and before life starts to get much busier once again. Take time out to relax before your new arrival is here, have fun with your toddler, do something special – something they love, even if this just means lots of extra cuddles on the sofa watching their favourite films! Whatever it may be – treasure these moments, which may be few and far between when your family starts to grow. I am also hoping that we can still have some Stanley-and-mummy time once the little lady arrives, as I am sure I will be having plenty of time with the new addition. Equally, I think it’s just as important for both our children to have their own daddy-time. But of course, most of all, I now simply cannot wait for us to have family time… as a family of four! The wait is almost over…

A few of my favourite (vintage) childhood toys

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As I previously mentioned, my mum kept as much as she could from our childhood (clothes, books, toys, etc.), and I am so thankful for this – I love watching Stanley play with the toys I had as a child, bringing them back to life again. Below are some of my (and Stanley’s!) favourites.

First, the Fisher-Price Music Box Record Player (from 1971), which happens to sit perfectly next our vintage Dansette! Stanley has always loved music, and I think he loves both of these record players equally! Perhaps the Fisher-Price one just a tad more, since he can carry this around and put the records on himself!

Next is the Fuzzy-Felt Cartoons (by Allan Industries in 1972), this wasn’t something that my mum had, rather my godmother, Gwen. One thing I remember about childhood is our weekly visits to Gwen’s house, and one of the only things I remember about these trip is the opportunity to play with the fuzzy-felts! I absolutely loved them! Stanley hasn’t quite found his love for the fuzzy-felt’s just yet, but perhaps when he is a little older…

If I could only have picked one childhood toy, I think it would have been the Fisher-Price Medical Kit (1977)! I loved this so much as a child, and now, I see how much fun Stanley gets from playing with this. I don’t think there is anything more that I love to watch him play with. We have to go through each item, one by one, and in the correct order. Each item has to put back, exactly in its right place. He has the same, almost identical, routine each and every time that he plays with this. And, each and every person must take it in turns to play the role of doctor, and patient! Watching “Dr Stanley” melts my heart!

Finally, there’s another 70’s Fisher-Price toy, but this time it’s the Jack in the Box Puppet, something my eldest sister was terrified of as a child! Stanley on the other hand, he loved to watch him pop up, and found him hilarious! He’s perhaps outgrowing this a little now, and so we will see how the little lady likes him. I just love this guys face…

Safer Internet Day 2017

Today is #saferinternetday, so here is a little snapshot into my #phdlife. What do you do to keep your family safe online? If you are not familiar with these initiatives, please check out the #NSPCC campaigns: #ShareAware and talking PANTS. Start the conversations about internet safety with children whilst they are young, and have them regularly. I would also check out the Parents Protect! Website – lots of freely available resources for parents. Finally, I can't recommend this book enough: "An Exceptional Children's Guide to Touch: Teaching Social and Physical Boundaries to Kids" by Hunter Manasco. This book should be in all nurseries, schools, and childcare settings! @nspcc_official @uk_sic #SID2017 #saferinternetday2017 #shareaware #phd #phdchat #phdstudent #phdmum #phdmom #phdmama #academic #academicmom #academiclife #phdresearch #phdthesis #research #researchproject #mbloggers #parenting #parentingblog #parentingblogger #ukparentbloggers #pbloggers #mummyblog #mummyblogger

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Married for 44 years, and feeling super Mum guilt 

Mum & Dad ❤ married today for 44 years, as well as being my mums birthday. Whilst it has been a lovely day spent with family, it hasn't been such a lovely day for the little man. He has done so much today and it has been a real struggle for him, especially adding tiredness to the equation. He does so well, and then its days like today that leave me feeling guilty. Guilty because I know we should be consistent. Guilty because I know we need to stick to his routines as much as possible. I should be able to make sure he has a nap during the day, surely? I shouldn't expect him to be able to cope with going out. I should be able to provide him with the quiet environment that I know he likes. I shouldn't force him to work around everybody else. I should be stronger and focus on Stanley's needs. I know what he needs, but sometimes it's hard. Especially right now. Being #37weekspregnant, I can't do all of the things I usually do for him. These past two days have been tough – I've been getting pains, and have barely managed to do anything – I think this little lady is ready to make an appearance! To end the day? I'm left with super mummy guilt, because out of the 101 things we took with us to nana's today, the one thing I forget to bring home is the one teddy that Stanley wants… #mumguilt #guiltymom #parenting #toddlerlife #autismawareness #asd #autismjourney #autismmum #autismparent #autistic #autistictoddler #routines #autismjourney #autismlife #ilovesomeonewithautism #phddmum #phdmama #phdmom #phdproblems #anniversary #weddinganniversary #birthday #pregnancy #pregnancylife #pregnancyproblems #pregnancyjourney

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A few of my favourite (vintage) childhood books

I am so thankful that my mum (despite my dad’s best efforts at persuading her to “declutter”) kept so much from my childhood, and not just my childhood, but from my sister’s too, who are 10+ years older. Here, is just a small collection, of my favourite books that she kept – that are now getting some love all over again. It is amazing to watch Stanley with these books, enjoying them, and loving them, just as much as I did as a child. These are probably his (and my!) favourites…

Huff the Hedgehog by Ruth Ainsworth and Ronald Ridout (first published in 1966 and reprinted in the 70’s). As soon as mum dug this one out, it brought back so many memories from childhood!

The Three Little Pigs published by Chatto and Windus in 1977, and this book is fab because it is A Peepshow Book, that magically folds out 360 degrees!

The Caught Bird, written and illustrated by Christopher McKimmie (1977), and I particularly love the illustration of this one.

Finally, our collection of Ladybird Books (mum has kept many of these!), published in the 60’s and 70’s. The three pictured below are Stanley’s favourites; Goldilocks and the Three BearsThe Three Little Pigs, and Chicken Licken. Chicken Licken, by far, has to be my favourite, and a story that I always remember from childhood!