Starting preschool can be a scary time. Getting into a new routine, being separated from those you love, worrying that you'll do something wrong... And no, I'm not talking about the kids.
The twins have been in nursery for over a month now, and have easily got into the swing of things. Although they are still not as over-enthusiastic as some of the other wee ones about going each day (I think maybe the fact that they have a permanent playmate at home makes nursery an added bonus, rather than a looked-forward-to-treat) they are having fun, and both seem to have grown in confidence. T especially has become more independent than ever, insisting on completely dressing herself each day, and sending me out of the room if I dare to try to help her go to the bathroom. G is coming out of her shell too, though she does tend to let T take the lead and introduce her around when she's feeling shy. After all the dramas we had toilet training G, being a nursery seems to be helping with that too. She loves the perfectly G-sized toilets, and the independence she has to go all by herself whenever she pleases. But we have had a couple of slips. And therein lies my new biggest fear. The accident book.
Each afternoon at 3.15, an orderly queue of parents and grandparents file in to collect their little ones and are greeted by one of the nursery assistants at the door. Holding a book. The first time she stopped me to ask for a word, I didn't know what was coming.
'I just need you to sign this,' she smiled. 'G came up to one of the teachers and told them she'd wet herself. She's all changed and she wasn't upset. We just need you to sign in the accident book.'
She was friendly and casual, waving away my apologies and assuring me it happens, but I felt bad all the same. So when I was beckoned over on the way in one day the following week, my heart sank.
'She didn't realise she needed to go to the toilet and soiled herself,' the teacher explained.
'There was quite a lot and she does look a bit peaky now,' she added, explained that G's wasn't the only such incident that afternoon.
It soon emerged that G had caught a wee tummy bug but still, I felt bad. And now, every day as I file my way in, I'm torn between desperation to get my babies back, and fear of the book. As soon as I have a view of the teacher, I try to catch a glimpse of her hand.
Is she holding the book? Is she pulling aside anyone else? Is it for me??
I can feel my heart-rate start to rise as I get closer, desperately hoping that all I'll receive as a welcoming smile.
And nine times out of ten, that's all I do get. Those two are the only incidents we've had. But I still can't shake the feeling of shame.
Not of G. Never in a million years could I be ashamed of my bright, beautiful girl. This is all new to her. The odd accident is more than understandable, so why can't I help judging myself? Worrying that somehow I've let her down?
Potty training has been quite a journey. T was dry within maybe a week, and after an initial reluctance to poop in the potty, clean within a month. But my pride in how easily she coped is marred by the guilt I feel that G has struggled. After months of accidents, simply giving up on pull-ups and putting her in pants no matter what did eventually work and she has now been pretty much dry for a few months. But I just can't convince her to use the toilet to poop in. After introducing a system of 'no accidents all day' rewards, she's got into the habit of going in her night-time pull-ups in the morning, so it's not like I have a lot of mess to deal with, but I feel awful that I can't seem to get her over whatever mental barrier is stopping her using the toilet. And I can't help but worry that people will think I'm not doing a good enough job as her mum.
I never judge any other parent I see signing the book. All kids get distracted and forget to use the loo. But none of those mums had three kids in the space of two years. I feel like I have the justify that by being better. By not making mistakes. Are people looking at me and thinking that if I wasn't capable of raising these girls, I shouldn't have had so many? Do they think I'm not coping?
T was trained easily and little M has already started to run to the potty saying: 'Did a poop! Did a poop!' I can't see how she won't be out of nappies by the age of two. But I don't have two children. I have three. And I feel like I've let one of them down.
I'm actually quite relaxed about it from G's point of view. She'll do it when she's ready and her delayed cleanliness will make not one single ounce of difference to her life. But was there something I should have done to help her along the way that I missed? Was training her and T together a mistake? Should I have guessed she wasn't ready? Was trying too soon the cause of these fears now?
I don't imagine I'll ever know. One day, G will simply get up and go to poop in the loo, and this will all be behind us. But will I learn to go easier on myself? I don't know. I know I'm being ridiculous. With three times as many kids, it's only natural I'd be making three times as many mistakes. And despite all those mistakes, my girls are pretty great. They're bright, intelligent, funny and wonderful. I should accept that that is a reflection of my parenting skills. I had a lot of children in a short space of time. It wasn't exactly planned that way, but I knew what I was getting into. I have made mistakes, and I can assure you I'll make many more. But I love my girls more than anything in the world, and that's all that matters, right? If I have to sign the book again, I'll smile and thank them for taking care of my little girl. I'll keep trying to help G master this latest skill, but until she does, I'll still be just as proud of her as ever. I just have to work on being a little bit proud of me too.