You have to pick your battles

If I had a pound for every time I said this… We would probably be a lot closer to paying off our mortgage than we are. I say it to my husband, my friends, my children, even total strangers.

‘You have to pick your battles.’

It says: I’m in control of this situation, I am consciously deciding on the direction this incident is taking, and in my parenting expertise, I’m choosing to ignore it, because I know this small person better than anyone else in this entire universe. Realise, dear observer, this is a very small part of a much bigger picture: the picture of my parenting plan. Just watch, just wait, this is being handled by the master.

It means: I literally cannot be bothered to deal with this right now. I’ve been up since 6am, I’ve heard thousands of questions, I’ve performed the entire soundtrack from Frozen, I haven’t been to the toilet on my own since 2009, I don’t know why they are doing what they are doing, I don’t really care why they are doing it at this moment in time, I just want it to stop. Now please.


They won’t eat it. They want to eat it. It’s the wrong shape. It’s on the wrong plate. You’ve given them the wrong cutlery. It is different to the way you normally present their food. It is the same way you normally present their food… Lets be honest, there are a number of battles to be had with food. You cannot win them all. My Health Visitor once suggested I look at what my older daughter ate across the week, instead each day individually, as I was so worried she wasn’t eating enough of the right thing. ‘Record how she eats in this little plan and we can look at it at your next visit to the clinic.’

Monday: Aggressively

Tuesday: Hysterically

Wednesday: Sulkily

Thursday: Argumentatively

Friday: Resignedly

Saturday: Angrily

Sunday: Sleepily

Apparently that wasn’t what she meant.

Since then, I’ve been picking my battles. If we have a mealtime with 2 or more food groups, no gagging and few insults or tears: it’s a success.


When I only had one toddler, I used to be quite apologetic for his public meltdowns. However, after becoming a fully fledged member of the Two Under Two club, I have little time for the feelings of others in light of my daughters’ delight for the floor-hugging fist-beating rage department of toddlerhood. Before, it was I’m sorry, he’s not normally like this. Nowadays it’s more a case of Please be nice to me, these raging little bundles of strop are coming home with me, and I have to be nice to them.


I used to be a firm believer in the Cry it Out philosophy. I would sob at the top of the stairs with my little boy using the Controlled Crying method. It worked for him, I don’t think it did him any harm and he’s a good sleeper. But with 3 children, two under two at the time: you cannot have one child crying for any length of time. Gone were the times of ‘letting them settle’, the patient shh shh and soothing back pats. With three children asleep and work in the morning, the first two years of our life with three children was spent flying out of bed the moment anyone uttered a murmur, plying whichever child was upset with milk, cuddles, dummy, thumb and failing all that, literally running downstairs as fast as possible with the bemused and half sleeping child in arms, to the spare room before the whole house woke up. Some days I would wake up in a different bed to the one I started the night in, with literally no recollection of how I got there, or which child had woken up. The battle I had picked on this occasion, was that any sleep (regardless of whether I was scrunched up into a foetal position in a toddler bed) was better than no sleep at all.


Parents can be competitive. One of the biggest battles I have decided to pick in the last 6 and a half years is when to worry and act on unsolicited advice, and when to smile politely and file it under Not Interested. One of the best pieces of parenting advice I ever received was from a dear school friend whom I lost touch with years ago and reconnected with when we were both new mums: listen politely, then follow your instinct, even if it goes against what someone else thinks.

My two year old still has a bottle at bedtime. There, I said it. I don’t mind that she uses a bottle of milk to help her settle to sleep; she now sleeps. If you want to argue different, you’re welcome to spend two months getting out of bed every two hours while she screams and cries until she is sick. This settles her where I cannot; that’s good enough for me. Will she still have 6oz of milk to send her off to sleep when she’s 15? I sincerely doubt it.

If she is, we’ll be very grateful it’s only milk she’s drinking.



  1. Love this! I say this all the time and I only have one at the moment! Mine still has a bottle at 2 as well, I couldn’t give a stuff what anyone thinks – he’s not going to need it forever and as you put so perfectly there are worse things to sink down in a bottle than milk! 🙂


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