Tag Archives: embarrassing

Shh… Don’t Ask

I'm forever blowing bubbles... left-handed.

I’m forever blowing bubbles… left-handed.

Disability.

It’s a bit of a funny topic when you think about it, and one children are quite happy to broach in that innocent yet blunt way they have. You can be walking down the street when they’ll see someone and that piping voice will ring out at full volume with any question that pops into their heads.

Why does that lady use a stick?

Why does that man use a wheelchair?

Why does that grown up need someone else to look after them like you look after me?

In other words, the sort of questions that tend to go through our minds with varying degrees of complexity.

The trick is how to bring our children up with a positive view of disability, to satisfy their curiosity without making someone who has different abilities be anything less than they are – real people with real talents, likes and dislikes who just happen to have an extra dimension to their lives.

It’s something we’ve been able to experience from both sides. The Other Half is an amputee and one of his pet hates is when parents get embarrassed and try to shut their children up when all the kids want to know is what happened to his arm. He’s quite happy to explain it. He’ll crouch down and ask them what they think happened, then he’ll tell them about a bus accident and how the doctors couldn’t save his arm and had to cut it off.

He’s not ashamed of it.

He’s not embarrassed by it.

And there’s no reason that anyone else should be embarrassed by it.

He does have his own unique way of dealing with parents, or children, who have a negative approach. I remember one occasion when, whilst we were on holiday in Hawaii, two children pointed at him and said “Yuk mister, what happened to your arm?” He looked at them, looked at the water, pointed and said “There’s sharks out there!” We’re not sure if they went swimming after that or not. Five minutes later, two more children asked the same question in a totally different, non-judgemental, way and he explained it in his usual fashion. The parents thanked him for being so open and patient with their children afterwards.

Of course, not everyone with a disability will feel the same way when approached by small, curious children. They might not want any intrusive questions, but, by and large, our experience is that, when children ask the question, it’s for the same reason they ask why the sky is blue, why leaves fall off the trees in the autumn, or why hedgehogs hibernate in the winter; they genuinely want to know.

And people are usually OK with explaining it.

The problem is, with so many views about disability and the fact that society itself isn’t quite at the point where disability is accepted as something natural that can happen to people the same way people can have darker skin or blue eyes, it can be difficult for us as parents to show our children a way through the minefield of learning about people’s differences whilst still respecting them as individuals.

We’re trying to help them understand that someone who has a disability may need to do things in a different way, or might need a little help with certain tasks, but that isn’t too much different from them needing help with zipping their coats up or me needing help with sorting out the flipping heating system. It’s not that we’re trivialising the support some people need, just trying to put it into a context a five-year-old can understand.

In the meantime, we’ll answer his questions or let others answer his questions.

And we’ll try to emulate his open-mindedness when it comes to the world, and the people, around him.

I’ll Be Watching You…

People watching

People watching

Mini has taken up a new hobby – people watching. Well, strictly speaking it’s not a new hobby since she’s been doing it pretty much since she was born, but it’s certainly one she’s pursuing with a single-mindedness that is a little unnerving.

I know all children are natural people-watchers, after all, it’s how they learn. But Mini seems to be taking it to new heights. She’s two and a half now and by this age Motormouth was more interested in talking and taking things apart. Mini is the quiet one, just absorbing everything and listening.

And of course, watching.

Motormouth still asks why people do things, usually at the top of his voice when everything, and I mean everything, else is quiet.

Like “why has that man pushed in front of us in the queue?”

Or

“Why is that woman making us walk through smoke by standing in the shop doorway with her cigarette?”

Don’t you just love children not having the same filters as us?

It sums them up really, Motormouth the talker and Mini the watcher.

Speaking of which, she has so much more freedom to watch people more closely now she’s mobile.

And she’s fascinated by emotions.

Which is why, the other day, she went and stood by someone else’s table when we were at a restaurant.

Did she want to go to the play area with Motormouth?

Oh no.

The seven year old having a meltdown was much more interesting.

Despite our best efforts she kept returning to the table to stand and watch with a quizzical look on her face. Every so often she would look back at us, point to the screaming, tearful boy and say “look”, just in case we were missing the event. She was genuinely fascinated by the whole thing.

The poor mother, I did try and send her fellow-mother vibes that we understood and that we’ve had our own public displays of unhappiness from noisy children to deal with,, but I think she was a bit too distracted to notice.

I can see why Mini was so intrigued by the screaming boy though. In our house tantrums are just as common as any other abode with children under the age of… oh… twenty five or so… but they tend to be short-lived. It’s rare that we get a sustained bout of hysterical screaming.

Mini cries when she shuts her fingers in something or someone tells her no. She really, really hates that word. Motormouth cries, well, at everything else. (I have checked the books on that and apparently it’s normal.)

I hope Mini never loses that interest in what others are thinking or experiencing and that she can use that to become more empathetic and tolerant towards others.

In the meantime I think I’ll have to settle for trying to get her to be more subtle during her observations.

Don’t Drink the Bathwater

 

What's wrong Mummy?

What’s wrong Mummy?

You know when you feel like you’ve almost got the hang of this parenting thing?

Your children do as they’re told and listen to you?

They seem to have developed a respect for you and your wishes?

And you feel like it’s going to be smooth sailing now?

The smart part of you, which has usually gone into hiding for self-preservation reasons, might finally stick its head up over the parapet just a tiny, little bit to point out that it’s the lull before the storm, or, more accurately, that pride comes before a fall.

Mini is just at that age when she has started picking up bad habits and she seems to be getting them from her big brother, who is just starting to stop all the gross little habits he’s accumulated so far.

Like investigating the contents of his nostrils, presenting them to me with the proud flourish of a fait accompli. (It is of course mandatory for this to take place in public.)

Or eating food off the floor. Without application of the 10 second rule (a moot point in Mini’s case since she can’t count to 10 yet).

She takes her nappy off when she wants it changed and presents you with the offending article. We then have to play hunt the contents around the house. This is a Mini special and, fortunately for the carpets and furnishings, not one we had to face with Motormouth.

She also licks the railings. This is one habit she hasn’t gotten from her brother and I have no idea where she got the idea from but her assessment seems to be that the hilarity of the situation is proportional to our reaction to it. It is really hard to pretend not to see it, believe me.

Our general reaction to this sort of behaviour has toned down since Motormouth, but you know what they say “Your first child eats dirt, you rush them to the doctor; your second child eats dirt and you clean their mouth out; and your third child eats dirt and you wonder if they still need dinner.”

So we carry on, trying to break her of the bad habits without making her so stubborn she carries on the behaviour just because she can, and we try not to worry too much.

There are things that we still get aerated about; we have the “dog poo alert” chant to the Octoalert theme from Octonauts (don’t get me started on people allowing their dogs to foul pavement and verges); we still clean bottles when they’ve been dropped; and we’re very strict on hand-washing after going to the toilet.

I think we’ll just have to put up with what can until Mini get out of the habit of having bad habits.

I almost forgot. She drinks the bathwater as well.

Newsflash – Toddler Averts Taste Disaster

Photo from archive

Photo from archive

It was a pleasant family meal that almost descended into disaster, a disaster which was only averted by the quick-thinking intervention of Motormouth, an alert preschooler who happened to be on the scene.

The Other Half was in an expansive mood and decided to start cracking jokes. The only problem was most of his jokes were so ancient they pre-dated the pleasant old pub the meal was taking place in, or they were dangerously bad puns.

The Other Half was about to launch into another joke when Motormouth bravely piped up, saying “No one needs to hear your jokes Daddy!”. The Other Half, slightly taken aback, stopped his tale and those within hearing distance heaved a sigh of relief.

When interviewed later, Motormouth was uncharacteristically modest, simply asking if he could have a second desert.

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G is for Grumpy

 

G is for grumpy

G is for grumpy

Oh, where do I start?

At some point, everyone gets grumpy.

Whether it’s us as parents being grumpy because we are so tired, or small people being grumpy because, well… that’s the question a lot of the time isn’t it?

There are some obvious reasons. They’re hungry or tired or thwarted in their latest death-defying mission (I mean why would we have a problem with them climbing on a stool balanced on the settee?). Others are less obvious.

And that can be what makes us grumpy, or rather grumpier.

It’s like grumpiness is contagious and, on the right, or rather the wrong, day, it can send up a pall something akin to the black death.

You can almost hear the bells ringing. The bells. The bells. Bring out your dead (sense of humour).

The thing makes us, well, me anyway, feel guilty is when our little horrors …. darlings… throw some of our (or my) behaviour back.

The huff of breath which isn’t quite a grunt. (Yes, they got that one from me and they’re both getting quite good at it.)

The statement to the world “my bit grumpy today” which became a catchphrase amongst family and friends for a while (that’s courtesy of the Other Half).

The frowns. Oh the frowns. Distributed by a small girl with great concentration, they can be quite disconcerting even for those that know and love her.

We even have the odd outburst of bad language (I know, surprising isn’t it) that small bat ears pick up to be stored in little minds to be repeated with impeccable timing. You can guess where can’t you? In playgroup. In the middle of the supermarket. In the doctor’s surgery. Anywhere quiet that has strangers about.

At first it’s quite funny to see and hear these examples of our own behaviour reflected in miniature, then common sense kicks in and you realise that this is a habit you need to break. In yourself before you can break it in them.

It’s easy to forget that they don’t have the experience to know when to reign it in. As adults we can judge it to a fine art (usually), knowing when it will be counterproductive or even damaging. They can’t and as we know, friendships at that age are all or nothing. I’ve lost count of the number of best friends in the whole world a certain toddler has had, and I’m pretty sure he has as well. I’d hate him to start losing them because “my bit grumpy” once too often.

Anyway, back to grumpiness as state of motherhood (I can’t justify focussing totally on the kids, I don’t think it was working as a smokescreen anyway).

I would love to know if I was grumpier before I was a mother. I honestly don’t know if I was or not.

Perhaps it was masked because, if I wasn’t feeling up to facing the world with a smile on my face I could just stay in bed. Obviously that’s not an option now.

Or I could curl up with some chocolate (now I just hide in the utility room where the kids can’t see me… it isn’t just me that does that is it?).

Or I could read and get lost in a fictional world. Nowadays the fiction is shorter and involves a lot of talking trains and genies (we have an Aladdin obsession at the moment). It’s a bit difficult to get lost in that. There is the danger that you start looking at locomotives in an entirely different way. In fact, I remember reading a book.. chic lit, which is a departure for me… and the main character was having a conversation with her friend about whether James or Thomas was better looking. (Please note I ‘ve cleverly not admitted that I’ve rated them myself. Even I’m not that sad…)

So, what do I do now when I’m grumpy?

I try and hide it.

Probably not very successfully.

And the days I can’t?

I console myself with something else I was told; that children need to see others being upset and grumpy sometimes. It gives them the opportunity to see that it doesn’t last, it’s ok not to be happy all the time and can even give them some practice in showing empathy and making others feel better.

In the meantime, if I’m grumpy and snap at my children I’ll apologise. And if they’re grumpy, I’ll try not to smile at how cute they look.

Ten Step Guide to … Giving Birth (for Fathers)

 

Just two hours old

Just two hours old

Welcome to the latest ten step guide. It struck me the other day that there is a vast amount of information out there for mothers and mothers-to-be about what to expect on D Day, but there seemed to be very little for fathers.

This ten step guide is an attempt to redress the balance. And possibly help you fathers out there survive the ordeal a little better.

When your significant other goes into labour she will let you know about it in the most appropriate way. Usually at high volume. And every three minutes or so. Be warned, this is just the start.

Step 1   If it’s your responsibility to arrange transport then do so. If you need an ambulance call one but remember your partner’s sense of humour may be slightly askew, especially during the contractions, so if you are going to joke with the ambulance control room staff be careful what you joke about. “Thar she blows!” is not likely to go down too well in the stress of the moment.

Step 2   Your partner is likely to want to hold your hand during her contractions. These hurt, even with gas and air. Do not complain about your fingers being crushed or nail marks carved into your arm. As I might have mentioned, the contractions really, really hurt. Do not under any circumstances ask to share the gas and air. Or you will hurt. Really, really hurt.

Step 3   Don’t make any complaints about being hungry. Your partner will probably take the view that a few hunger pangs are nothing. If you think this might happen to you make sure you stick some food in your pockets before you leave the house. When hunger strikes, try not to pull any muscles as you retrieve the Yorkie bar from the least accessible pocket (least accessible whilst she is holding your hand, that is). Do not consider letting go of her hand for something as trivial as starvation. It’s not worth it.

Step 4   Don’t complain about how long it’s taking, being up all night or how tired you are. Consider it endurance training for the years ahead. You will need all the practice you can get, especially when it comes to getting back to sleep after the night events such as feeding and nappy changing. Your partner will have hormones to help with that at first. You won’t. Deal with it.

Step 5   Don’t pop out for a quick coffee or trip to the toilet. The unwritten Laws of Childbirth state that if you do, it will all happen while you are out of the room. This would be bad. If your partner has to remain in the room in an undignified position that would be physically impossible under any other circumstances and without drugs, you can tie a knot in it. Or hop about on one leg. That would probably be put down to excitement, which is acceptable.

Step 6   Don’t forget the hospital bag. This will have been carefully packed weeks in advance using a list provided by baby care experts and will contain a large number of items you won’t use. Suffice it to say, the one thing you or your partner forgot to/decided not to pack is the one thing she wants. Or needs. Or both. Really badly.

Step 7   Don’t forget to compliment your partner after it is all over. She may be in a state of drugged euphoria but don’t take the chance she won’t remember anything. It’s amazing what you can recall even from when you were under the influence of gas and air, and just because she didn’t care at the time does not mean she won’t change her mind later.

Step 8   Don’t faint. Midwives frown on you for doing that, or rather down at you. And if you do, don’t ask for the gas and air to deal with the headache you got from hitting your head on the hospital bag on the way down.

Step 9   Mind where you point the camera if you are filming or taking pictures. Child birth is a wonderful, life affirming experience but some of it’s messy. And just plain gross. Don’t get in the way of the midwives or medical staff. You really, really wouldn’t want to see that angle anyway. Or rather the bemused family and friends you insist on showing the pictures to won’t want to. Absolutely do not put the images on the internet or into general circulation without your partner’s undrugged approval. If you do, a social network ban for unsuitable material will be the least of your worries.

Step 10   Take a deep breath before your life changes forever. It will all be worth it. Trust me.

Note:   As terrifying, wondrous and unique as the experience is, don’t forget that this is the beginning of a whole new story and all the pages are blank, just waiting for you to write them. (This will be the instruction manual which the baby won’t read anyway).

X is for Kisses

Kiss, kiss, kiss

Kiss, kiss, kiss

Before you say anything, I know this is a bit of a cheat.

You see it in the films, the cute cuddle and kiss that little ones give their on screen parents. And when you get that from your own child it is the best feeling in the world. Especially when they do it of their own volition.

Real life is slightly different, at least it has been in our family.

My family has never been very “huggy” but the Other Half’s is and over the years I have come to look forward to the hello and goodbye hugs and kisses.

The one thing you can count on though is children will be totally honest and if they don’t want to give someone a hug and kiss they won’t. And there is nothing you can do to make them.

Try and hold them tight and suddenly every joint can bend in a least three different directions. At the same time.

They can also be very selective about who they bestow their generosity upon.

The worst thing about this is that Motormouth, who is now old enough to resist, will happily give everyone else a hug and a kiss, but I get “stop, mummy, your kisses are yucky.” Or at least I did today, and I’m pretty sure the day before that as well.

Mini is too young to resist, in fact she is too young to know what a kiss is so you get more of an open mouth slobbery lunge which I choose to view as a kiss. In her world it is probably just another thing to explore with her mouth, like the string on the pull along caterpillar or her brother’s toy car.

I have no doubt my son loves me, but demonstrating it through the sloppy application of lips to someone else’s skin is just “horrid” (which is another complaint I have had although I think that one came last week). I have become very good at deluding myself about this, but that all falls away when you get the real thing.

That’s the one that makes you feel all swirly inside and like your heart is going to explode. (And don’t tell the Other Half that an unsolicited kiss from either of the kids is better than one from him.)