Watching Mr Baffled with our little Button-Pusher makes me think he has so much more patience than I do! How does he do it?! Is it different for dads? I asked Mark Lemon of Lemon Drop Books and author of the wonderful Otis and Thea Lemon series, what pushes his buttons:
Mrs Baffled: Mark where are you from and where do you live?
Mark Lemon: I’m originally from Cambridge. I’ve lived and worked in Bristol for the last 5 years and was in London before this for 10 years.
MB: What was your profession before and after having children?
ML: Before children I worked in retail, managing shops in London for fashion retailer, Superdry. After our first child, Otis, was born, I continued working for Superdry, managing the store in Bristol. After a couple of years, I decided to take a break from retail and look after Otis. This decision was one of the best I have ever made; spending precious time with him at an early age was fantastic and made me realise how important it is to spend time with your children during these important years, if you’re able to do it of course. After a few months of daddy day care, a new job opportunity came up working in Cardiff as a retail analyst at St David’s shopping Centre. Initially the train commute was a challenge, but once I started to write the children’s stories I would find myself writing 2,000 word short stories, filling up the time on the commute.
MB: How many children do you have and how old are they?
ML: Two children – Otis (5) and Thea (19 months).
MB: I write B&TBP as a mum of a toddler, recently turned 3, which brings many challenges! Can you relate to this stage?
ML: I can totally relate to the 3 year old age! We never experienced the terrible twos stage, but we did experience the terrible threes with Otis. It crept up on us like a well-trained ninja in the dark, smiling one second and rolling around on the floor in the fruit and veg aisle in Tesco the next! My fear is that we are going to experience the terrible twos with Thea, hopefully this will be short lived, but we will just have to wear our kevlar body suits and jump in head first. Otis used to lock his legs in the swing at the park when not wanting to come out (I’m sure lots of parents can relate to this one). He would relish that onlookers would be watching the wrath of the three year old wanting to get his own way; at the same time I was sure the onlookers where wondering if I was in fact, stealing him, or if he was actually my child! Generally we had an okay time with Otis, but Simone would always be very quick to remind me how good we had it, when comparing to other two/three year olds. This is why I think we might get it with both barrels with Thea! Will have to watch this space….
I guess as a parent you are always going to experience those tantrum moments, whether it’s in a restaurant, park or shop. I always try to remind myself that these small human beings are still learning the ways of the world and that as a parent you shouldn’t let it get to you; easier said than done when you are trying to pay for your shopping in Aldi, whilst your child is trying to grab that very much wanted snack from the shopping conveyor belt, shouting “OUT OUT”. We have always tried to teach Otis to express himself and speak about what he is upset about, hopefully instead of enduring the melt down or at least try and understand how we can stop it happening! There is no set way to parenting and each style works for different children, so I try not to beat myself up about it too much.
MB: Did they push your buttons more when you were tired? Unhappy? Busy? Hungover?! And how about the lovely buttons they press? Like pride and love?
ML: Children seem to always have that sense of knowing when you’re tired or generally not up for the usual repeated questions, over and over again, or ‘wrestling/jump on daddy’, as it’s called in our house. This usually encourages Otis to push the buttons even harder, leading to raised voice parenting. I definitely raise my hat to all of the single parent families out there, so much respect for the hard work they do. It’s easier said than done, but I always try and remind myself that these years won’t be here for long and not to let the button pushing get to me too much. The button pushing is very short lived and the good times always washes away any upset moments. Having children totally changed my perspective on life and quickly made me realise how important it is to enjoy the special times, during the early years.
The happy buttons would have to be when we are on the school run, a family trip or just enjoying bedtime with the kids as a family. We’re extremely lucky to have two children who are happy and healthy; in my opinion you can’t ask for anything more as a parent.
MB: So I now have a Threenager in the house – and people keep saying it’s worse than the terrible twos! Now that Otis is older, what other stages, if any, do you think he’s gone through?
ML: Otis turned 5 years old in April, so we have gone through the terrible twos/threes already and now we’re approaching the new transition from 5 to 6 years. Once they start school they begin to change as people, developing their own sense of identity and personality, this is both brilliant and scary at the same time! You know they are growing up quickly when your son turns to you and says, “oh please daddy, can I have a toy? I will clean your room”.
My favourite years, would have to be the 4 to 5 years. I found Otis changed a lot over the last year; he’s become more inquisitive, asking questions and definitely understands when a button is being pushed. We quickly realized that the only way to try and work with the energy of a 5 year old boy, is to make sure he is busy all the time, basically tiring him out come bedtime.
Like all families around 5pm each day (the witching hour we call it), we will endure a gremlin ‘hangry’ (when you are so hungry that your lack of food causes you to become angry) induced melt down, if they aren’t fed immediately! Not quite sure when this will stop, I’m slightly concerned, as I still get ‘hangry’.
MB: Yeh I still get hangry too! Do you think how you manage the button-pushing will change as they, and you, age? Do you think it’ll be different for example when they’re in their late teens? Or do you just think different challenges, same buttons of frustration or annoyance being pushed?
ML: I personally think you have to change and adapt to the children as they get older. It’s about teaching them at an early age to talk to you about what is wrong, and hopefully, in the long run, they will be able to approach you with any hopes or fears they have when growing up. I would imagine the same buttons will always be pushed as they get older, it will just be expressed in different ways. I’m really looking forward to watching them both grow into young adults, making their own mistakes (as we all do) along the way. I guess as parents the hardest thing we will ever have to do is watch them fly the nest, but at the same time, always be there to support and advise. I don’t really want to think about them flying the nest yet though!
MB: Do you think that because the ones we love the most have the power to annoy us the most, means that our children will still create these crazy emotions in us when they’re in they’re 20s, 30s 40s?!
ML: I hope that Otis and Thea will be level headed individuals who wont rub their parents up the wrong way, but knowing my family and other families, we will in someway annoy each other! This is part of the fun of families, right?
MB: I’m pretty certain that I still drive my mum mad! Is that just a mother / daughter, parent / child thing, or is it just being a parent and loving our kids as much as we do?
ML: I think it’s just about being a parent and loving our kids as much as we do. My Mum and I have a pretty good relationship. Luckily I feel that I can talk to her about most things, but we had an open relationship from an early age, which I think has created a better bond between us both, it worked for us. My sisters speak to her most days, whereas I will speak to her once or twice a week!
MB: If you had one piece of advice to offer to mums (and dads!) of toddlers having their buttons pushed, what would it be?
ML: My only bit of advice would have to be to just try and be patient, and remember that each child is different to the next, with totally different personalities. Try and trust that what you are doing is the right thing, and don’t compare yourself to other parents / families, everyone has their own little struggles that they are going through. Keep going, you’re doing a better job than you know.
You can find out more about Lemon Drop books here and can buy Mark’s lovely books at Waterstones and on Amazon. You can follow Mark on Instagram and Twitter. And do remember to look out for his new book, Thea Lemon and her Super Sporty Fairy Godmother, available from 1st November 2016.