*This is an advertorial post in collaboration with Cow & Gate Growing Up Milk.*
Our bedtime routine is pretty run of the mill; bath, brush teeth and a story. Sounds easy right? You’d think so, but what tends to happen is that he gets more lively in the last 30 minutes before lights out, almost like he’s letting off the last bit of steam before he can truly relax and pack in some zzzzz’s (how he has any left is beyond me) he’s pretty good and once he’s asleep, he’s out for the count until morning.
This week we’ve been trying something a little different. We’ve been creating some extraordinary moments with the Cow & Gate Growing Up Milk website.
This week we’ve been on a mission to the moon!
Thanks to Cow and Gate Growing Up Milk our story times have gone all interactive and technological with a personal story book created on their website. After much consideration choosing which adventure he’d like to go on, my rocket loving boy thought it’d be fun to go visit the moon which we look out the window for most nights. So after gathering up the right equipment; a space helmet, some moon rocks and making a discovery bottle full of glitter and sequins we were ready to go!
Then at bedtime we swapped our usual collection of books (I say collection, but really mean library, he literally wants to me to read everything he has in his bookcase!) for a personalised story on the laptop which I’d made earlier. Popping some details (who the story was about, Mummy and Ronnie in our case) adding a landscape photo with some space around the sides and pressing create.
Toddlers love nothing better than seeing themselves on the screen so as we re-lived our mission to the moon, armed once again with his space helmet and moon rocks in hand, he was ready to hear the story about the time Mummy and Ronnie went to the moon. And for a rare moment, my boy was calm and engaged instead of listening to me read while practicing somersaults and headstands.
Toddlers love nothing better than seeing themselves on the screen so as well relived our mission to the moon, armed once again with his space helmet and moon rocks, he was ready to hear all about the time Mummy and Ronnie went to the moon. And for a rare moment, my boy was calm and engaged instead of listening to me read while practicing somersaults and headstands.
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I’m writing this post as a reminder to myself to keep check on the parental controls on all the devices my kids have. It’s been really easy to let things slip as they get a little older but compared to how I was with my older son, the tween has a lot more freedom. While I’m fully aware that this whole parenting game is pretty much trial and error (should profusely apologise to my teenager at this point, he has been a total learning curve) now I’ve settled into the role and am a lot more confident that I’m doing ok, I’ve been free wheeling with the tween.
But he’s the quiet one, the one which won’t make a fuss and just go about his day playing his xbox, checking his phone and watching TV when we’re home, while my lively toddler takes up a lot of my time. We always used to joke that my sister, the middle child, only ever appeared so well behaved (compared to me) because she was so quiet and in hindsight, she wasn’t the total squeaky clean teen we all thought she was. Silence was her virtue, where as open and nonchalant me got away with nothing!
So I’m using that gift of hindsight to take a reality check on my quiet little 12 year old and setting up parental controls on his iPhone, sorry son! He’s at such a vulnerable and impressionable age and the internet can be a dark, dark place. I had been using a Home Halo device to filter unsuitable websites to their devices. The peace of mind it gave me was invaluable but since that packed in, I’m relying on the BT broadband parental controls as well as setting up the correct ages on all their apple devices and keeping check on browsing histories that they’re not access anything they shouldn’t which has slipped the net.
Social networking is a big scare factor for any parent theses days but I do feel it’s something which we have to allow. I regularly check my tween’s followers and at 12 I think it’s not unreasonable to know his passcodes, making sure we have that conversation about staying safe online and for him to know that I’ll be doing it so he can exercise a little self control.
My real concerns, however, are when he’s searching the web and the possibility of him stumbling on things by mistake. knowing where to start when your kids get new devices is a total mine field though. Even a technology loving mum like myself is finding it harder to stay ahead of the game. Initiatives like those offered by the NSPCC and O2 provide parents with the free advice and technical support they need to keep children safe online.
For example, they run workshops with parents across the country, and offer a free dedicated helpline service – 0808 800 5002 – for any internet safety questions (i.e. setting parental controls). Additionally parents can get hands-on free assistance in-store with O2 Gurus. (you can book an appointment here)
With the statistics showing that;
- Childline has seen a 60% year on year increase in counselling sessions with children left worried after seeing porn online.
- · NSPCC research found that children were as likely to find pornography accidentally, as to deliberately search for it.
- · Web traffic to the NSPCC’s parent advice on protecting young people from the impact of porn has increased by 58% during 2016.
Setting parental controls is something to be taken very seriously.
This is a collaborative post
If I’m honest, this whole single parent title still doesn’t feel real. I know that I am one, but I try hard to not to let it define me or what I do. I just get on with being me, mum to three amazing boys. It is tough at times; you can’t make plans at the drop of a hat knowing you’ve got a partner or husband around to hold the fort. Far from it tbh, any occasion which requires childcare takes careful consideration and planning.
On the plus side, you know you do have certain times where you do have a day or night sans kiddos and this is where you really get a taste of a valuable life skill;
I time manage like a pro
I know that for the next month at least, I have definite days where I’m child free and I use those days wisely. These are the snippets of my week where I schedule the pants out of every hour to get as much as I can done. On the flip side, my weekend day with my boys are precious. Week days are spent running errands, working my butt off to keep the wolf from the door, keeping on top the housework, making sure the kids are doing homework and carring out their chores while I get the sole pleasure of any house maintenance which doesn’t require a professional.
In a nutshell, my week is chuffing, great, supersized busy with sparkles on . My planner in my co pilot and off days just aint happening.
I roll with the punches
From the outside, I probably look like I’m occasionally lacking in emotions. (aka Cold-Hearted-Bitch) taking situations at face value, assessing the damage & rocking on. My close friends and family will tell you otherwise. But what I do have to do is be very careful not to let stress define my parenting. I compartmentalise those tricky situations and deal with them in my own time, putting them aside while I do mum stuff. If a drama doesn’t seem worth the effort I don’t give it the time of day. I’ve been through immense emotional stress, hit rock bottom and that’s my gauge. I know I can roll with the little punches as I’ve hardened up to the little stresses and as sole carer I can’t afford to give in and crumble.
I don’t feel guilty taking my mum hat off
Don’t get me wrong, I’m always a mum and even on my child free days I’m thinking about my kids. But I’ve learnt not to feel guilty when I’m not with them. That one took a lot of soul searching and long phone calls from my go-to family and friends, but I got there. Tough love (from them) wise words, hugs, tea and sympathy got me to a position where I know I need a me-time recharge for the week ahead and fun times to ease the responsibility. I make use of every minute I’m away from them and when it’s pick up time, I;m straight back into my mum role. It’s also given me the confidence to let go little, my kids are safe and happy with their dad, and I that’s all that matters.
I’m a budget queen
Being good with your money is a must whatever your relationship status, but when you’re on your own and you have mouths to feed, children to clothe and entertain as well as a house to run, every penny counts.
Not having 2 wages coming in is completely pants but in some ways it’s actually easier managing your finances as a single parent. I have complete control of the finances. I know exactly what’s going in and out. Every silver lining and all that jazz.
I’ve learnt to rein in the impulsive spending sessions, and when I do splurge. I budget the rest of the month. And I’ve had to learn to say no. It kills me when the kids ask for things I know I can’t afford, I’ve had to drag out that tough love again and again and bargain with alternatives.
When I first took on this whole new adventure I sat down and went through all my outgoings with a fine tooth comb. I changed electricity suppliers, got rid of insurances I didn’t need. Switched to a water meter and set up a buffer account to handle emergencies. I also listened to the advice of other single parents.
I am stronger, braver, smarter than I think
Wise words from Mr Pooh. Sometimes that chubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff knows his stuff when he utters those little words of wisdom. Being a single parent has taught me that I’m stronger than I thought I was. The thought of running the helm single handed once terrified me.
How will I cope at the end of the day, when my energy is at its lowest, my patience is waning and I have no one coming through the door to share the load?
I’m not going to lie to you, it’s tough. There are days when the sofa has a magnetic pull so strong I have to fight every urge to curl up and hide from my duties. But that’s simply not an option. When those times hit, I dust myself down, push through the wall of ‘I can’t do this’ and get on with it.
I’m stronger than I think.
On the really tough days I pop a pizza in the oven, justify the lack of fresh, nutrition with a few slices of cucumber & chopped pepper on the side and we eat.
I ask for help, something which I was never very good at before. But I got brave to admitting I need help for the simple reason that I can’t let things slip, especially my health. Sick days are not an option, I’ve just got to get on with it and look after my body and mind in the best possible way; I eat healthy, I keep fit and I practice mindfulness.
I’ve braver than I think!
And I stop beating myself up that I’m failing at this single parenting lark.
My house is clean, the bailiffs aren’t knocking on the door, my boys are happy, healthy and I haven’t hit the social services radar. I’m not doing too bad in the grand scheme of things, time to have few words with my self and see the glass as half full.
Seriously lady, you’re wiser than you think!
Way back when, Tufty the squirrel was my road safety guru. As a committed member of the Tufty Club I learnt to stop look and listen each time I crossed the road, harrowing memories of Willy the Weasel and the ice cream van incident will always stay with me. Anyone who says shock tactics for the young don’t work, I beg to differ. This was then replaced by the Green Cross Code man passive advertising at it’s best I’d say.
My quandary is, what is there nowadays to teach these important life skill to kids? With so many channels on the TV it’s hard to make sure the same collective messages are being drummed in. So it’s down us responsible adults to ensure that the kids are alright. At the tender age of 2 and ever since my boy has been rein free. (Don’t judge me, they were an absolute god send for my flighty toddler who was prone to taking a tumble when out and about only to be saved from serious knee scrapes by a swift fly back on the harness.) I’ve been getting him to stop look and listen out for cars each time we stop to cross. I admit that my quiet little village is a safe haven to practice these skills as you’re more in danger of being taken out by a cat than a speeding car but the message is getting through very slowly.
And I mean slowly, putting it into practice really helps but living in a digital age so does coming down to his interactive level by looking at online games where you can sit to gather and work though scenarios to give kids the tools to think for them selves when it comes to road safety. Or searching out tv programmes on YouTube. While the hard-hitting Think campaign might be a little too full on for kids, with some even being banned until after the 9pm watershed there are gentler options which are age appropriate.
The ultimate thing, though, is to talk about the traffic when you’re out, to constantly practice looking out for cars, listening and making sure they walk and hold you hand. Most importantly, repetition is boss. Each time you come to a road crossing, ask them what you should be doing to make sure they understand and then offer bundles of praise for getting it right. Finally, role play crossing the road with toys at home. Those 10 little minutes of your undivided attention will capture their minds and their emotions. It’s a key message that can never been over used.
So there you go, I hope this helps and do pop any extra advice in the comments.
This is a collaborative post.