Regular readers will know that I’ve been talking to a number of dads recently, asking if their buttons are pushed in the same way as mum’s. And it would appear that most of us have a negative button pushed now and then. But what happens if you have a child who’s so chilled out and relaxed, that you just can’t remember ever having those buttons of frustration, annoyance, or guilt being pushed? I recently met with Kate Thornton (TV Presenter, journalist and founder of TBSeen.com) at her office, to talk about life with her chilled out son.
Mrs Baffled: Kate can you tell me little about your family life?
Kate Thornton: I have one son and he’s awesome, he’s my everything.
MB: How old is he now and can you tell me a little more about him?
KT: He’s eight. He’s called Ben and he’s the ultimate light of my life. And like so many women, when he came along, and I became a mum, everything changed. For the first four years I think I busked it, and I think I was in total denial. You know, it’s fine, have baby, will travel. I took him everywhere: I toured with him while I was pregnant, that was hard. Doing arenas eight days a week on Strictly, that was tough. I used to fall asleep on the stage! I’d sit down and then when the applause came and I’d wake up and be like, oh ok back on! I had such a tough pregnancy. And then he came on the road for the next three years with me. I literally just packed up my car with sterilisers, travel cots, formula, everything – a thousand muslins – and off I went. I look back now and I think, how the hell?! I was feeding through the night. I have no idea how I did it.
MB: You’re braver than me! So, Kate, I write my blog as the mum of a three year old, who has the ability to push my buttons in a way that no one else can! Can you remember back to when Ben was the same age as my little Button-Pusher, did he go through any difficult stages? Terrible twos or being a crazy threenager?
KT: You’re gonna hate me for this: but he didn’t! I’ve just got this really cool chilled kid who doesn’t sweat anything. Even the big stuff let alone the small stuff. The problems I had with Ben were in those early years with sleep deprivation, because he was poorly. He had severe reflux so he was constantly puking, and he never slept through the night, so I was just hanging by my finger tips to stay awake. But he wasn’t a difficult child, I never had that. He’s the child that used to put himself on the naughty step! He’d say, mum I just thought I was gonna do something. I didn’t do it ’cause I knew it was wrong, but I am going to go and have a little think about it. And I’d say, hang on you didn’t do it, so you don’t need to sit on the naughty step. And he’d say, I’m going to go and have a think. Actually I was blessed. In character: he’s the whole opposite of me. I was the nightmare child: my mum says you were talking before you could walk. That comes as no surprise! He’s everything I’m not so I’ve never had that difficult time.
MB: And now at age eight, he’s not pushing any buttons of frustration, annoyance?
KT: I can’t remember the last time I had to tell him off!
MB: You’ve done something amazing with him!
KT: I haven’t done anything, that’s just his nature, that’s just him. He’s got my dad’s disposition (not mine!) and he’s just a really cool kid. And actually, he makes my life very easy. I realise that when I see other children, other behavioural patterns, and I think, that’s hard. I think that girls are more savvy from a very early age, girls really know what they’re doing – that would be my perception – but I don’t know, I don’t have a girl. So no, I didn’t have any of those frustrations with Ben, just the sleep thing.
MB: Do you ever think, if he hasn’t been like that so far, what does it mean for the future and the teenage years?
KT: Of course I do I’m dreading it! Haha! I have loads of friends with teens, and you can get lucky, and I’m just praying that I’ll be one of the lucky ones! Hormones have so much to answer for: we all have them and I think that our kids become far more hormonal a lot earlier than we ever did. I don’t know why that is. But at the age of eight or nine we’re talking about deodorant. I think girls develop much quicker. But you just take it as it comes don’t you? You can’t send them back!
MB: You mentioned he had severe reflux? Did that push any buttons? Anxiety maybe? Fear?
KT: Fear. Before he was diagnosed I was terrified. I couldn’t understand why he was vomiting against walls that were that far away [Kate points to the other side of her office]. It was always a concern: he was poorly. I never felt anxiety around him, I just wanted to make him better. It meant that I had to keep him on a really strict routine ’cause he had to be medicated every day at the same time, three times a day. So I didn’t have a huge amount of flexibility say, pushing his mealtimes around, ’cause he needed medication before he ate and there was a certain amount of time before I could put food in him. It feels like a million years ago now. Everything’s a phase, and that’s what you’ve got to remember, is that it gets easier.
MB: What about the good buttons? Pride, love, happiness, adoration? It sounds like in Ben you have a little boy who must make you feel that way a lot? I saw a beautiful thing that you put on Instagram recently, about a list of things he has to carry around with him at school?
KT: A smile, resilience and confidence [Kate grins from ear to ear as she recounts this gorgeous moment]. My overwhelming emotions are just pride and love. And a massive need, and want, to protect the sweet nature that he’s got. It’s not terribly streetwise and he’s going to have to get a bit more savvy to the world. Everybody experiences some kind of negativity at school from other kids, and he’ll come home and say, so and so said this to me today, how unkind is that mum? That made my heart hurt and I think, oh God this world is a cruel place. Part of me wants him to be able to cope with that and part of me doesn’t want to change that sweet response that he has. Keep him nice.
MB: Nothing wrong with being streetwise sometimes?
KT: I hope he can be both.
MB: Do you think how you manage being a parent changes as both they and you age? Or d’you ever wonder if you’d’ve been a different kind of mum if you’d had Ben at a different age? I know for example I was a very different person at thirty to who I was at forty.
KT: When I was thirty I was haring around the world, having a brilliant time, working, working, working and having a ball. I loved what I did so much. I never used to go on holiday as it would mean missing something at work which was much more fun than lying on a beach reading a book. But then you do change. So I don’t know if I’d’ve been a different mum, probably. By the time I had Ben I was really ready to not be the focus of my life. I was ready to take a back seat and not be the most important person in my world. It was absolutely the right time for me to do it.
MB: I sometimes think that I must still drive my mum mad! Do you think that’s a mother / daughter thing, or just a parent / child thing? The ones we love the most and all that?
KT: I get on really well with my mum sorry! In fact I couldn’t do what I do without my parents. They’re amazing. They live three hours away and they’ll come at the drop of a hat. In fact they come up twice a month and they are the most incredible support. We never have cross words, we share the same views about the way Ben’s raised. I’ll go to my mum for advice. She or my dad will call me every day to ask how he is. We have a relationship that I’m so proud of. As a teenager I was a bitch! So I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to make up for the fact that I really put them through the mill. I was the worse case teenager you could ever hope for. But now no, we have a very harmonious, loving, respectful relationship, that I am really proud of.
MB: It sounds like that’s what you have with Ben?
KT: Yeh we’re calm, there’re no big frictions, we look out for each other. I’ve just done fourteen weeks building works on my house, whilst working, and half way through my mum just stepped in and said, it’s too much, let me take something off your plate. I would never have asked her to do it, but the fact that she offered, that she just saw it and came in and took a load of stuff off my plate. Thank you! She’s really happy to do it, she’s way more efficient than I am! She’s on it. It was the same when I was away at a friend’s wedding and they took Ben back to school on his first day back, and I’d had no chance to sew all the labels in. I’d’ve had to set my alarm for stupid-o-clock to get up and start frantically sewing labels in. I got home: she’d sewn all the labels in. By the same token I hope that I’d do the same for them. I think that we’re really just considerate of each other. Maybe that’s why Ben’s the child that he is.
MB: What one piece of advice do you think you could offer to other mums or dads who may going through difficult or challenging times?
KT: It’s momentary: everything’s a phase. The moment you become a parent, there is a world of advice available to you, be it online, your friends, your parents, but nobody knows your family better than you, and you know instinctively what’s right for you and your child. So listen to yourself. Believe in yourself. And remember it won’t always be like this: tomorrow is another day. Being a parent brings so many challenges, but also massive rewards, so don’t focus on the negative, look for the positives. The moment you’ve got those little arms around your neck and they’re saying ‘cuddle cuddle cuddle’, what the hell beats that? Maybe a glass of wine – ha! No seriously, that’s beautiful. But it’s really easy to get caught up in the negatives when you’re in the trenches, with sleep deprivation and difficulties, but actually, look up, look around you, it’s a beautiful thing. And those years go so quickly. I remember when I did X Factor with Sharon Osborne: she said, if I had one wish, if I could just do one thing, I would go back to when my kids were toddlers, and spend the day with them again, ’cause I miss that and you don’t get that now. Oh my God I would love to chase my son around the house in a nappy – not me wearing a nappy obviously! But that little nappy bum, you miss that so much when it’s gone, and it goes in the blink of an eye. I was pregnant five minutes ago and now he’s eight. So don’t dwell on the negatives, look at the positives. You brought a human life into this world, and you’re in charge of shaping that person: that’s a massive honour that so many people don’t get to do. Just remember all the brilliant bits, ’cause before you know it they’ll be going, can I borrow £10 mum.
MB: Someone said to me recently that the days are so long but the years fly by.
KT: That’s really true. And by the time they get to four and they go to school, you get to slowly get back bits of you, and your life. And then within a year of that happening you’re going, I wish I could do that again. It’s always easy to be wanting what you don’t have in that moment, but actually what you’ve got is brilliant: hold onto it. Hug it, kiss it, cherish it.
Next week Kate will be talking about how she changed the way she worked once she became a mum – why not click follow on the blog, or find me on Social Media (see the home page or over on the right hand side bar for more info) to keep up to date with posts.
Mrs B. x