Tag Archives: family

Tiny Teachers

Siblings Together

Siblings Together

 

Motormouth has a new role in life.

He’s recently taken on the role of teacher when it comes to Mini.

He’s consciously making sure she’s included in his games, even if she is a little too young to really understand what’s going on. The fact that she will slavishly copy everything he does goes some way to helping in this. With a little nudging, he’s also making sure she gets some of the interesting jobs as well. It’s really noticeable when they’re role playing, which Motormouth has a tendency to do a lot of, whether it’s playing doctors, running a café or rescuing dragons from lava, he’s adept at creating entire universes that work on Motormouth-logic. He’s also very good at bring others into his fantasy worlds, giving them characters, complete with back stories, to take on. I’m still getting to grips with the various alter egos he’s assigned to me over the last couple of years, whether it’s Dashi from Octonauts, Penny from Fireman Sam or Astrid from How to Train Your Dragon. It could be worse – poor Mini gets to be Fishlegs. His dad is Stoick the Vast (I think that must be something to do with the beard).

It’s more than just another person to play with though. It’s a way of him reinforcing what he’s been learning at school himself. He works through his homework story books with Mini and he’s even sat her down with a pad and crayon so he could teach her her letters. Admittedly, he makes me learn my letters more often, but she’s not left out of the schooling entirely.

Underneath all this is a strong feeling of protectiveness. He will try and teach her how to cross the road safely (unfortunately she’s not taking to that quite as quickly as Motormouth did). If she falls and hurts herself, he’s the first to go running (provided he’s not been involved in it, of course). To be fair, she will do the same for him. They’ll give each other a hug when the other is upset and quite often I’ll find them snuggled up together on the settee, under the same blanket, thumbs in mouths (their own) whilst they watch How to Train Your Dragon, Masha and the Bear or Fireman Sam.

What is particularly striking is his generosity towards his little sister, the person he could so easily be jealous of. He’ll share his food, often giving her over half of whatever delicacy he has, rather than the token amount, and sometimes we don’t even have to ask him to share with her. He’s certainly better at sharing his food than I am.

And, most importantly, he’ll share his time.

It puts me to shame.

Because he does it naturally, as something that’s the right thing to do. He doesn’t have that feeling of almost smug satisfaction that we can (and I’m speaking from personal experience) feel as adults sometimes as we earn virtual brownie points for being “good people”.

Which made me wonder, when do we get more attached to things than we do to people?

When do we learn to become more grudging about sharing, so much so that often sharing becomes a conscious choice rather than an automatic action? When we first learn to talk, one of the first concepts we learn is mine. It’s my teddy. My blanket. My dinner.

Then we grow out of it.

And I don’t think we realise we’ve grown out of it until somebody reminds us.

Motormouth has taken on the role of teacher and mentor to Mini.

But I’m sitting at the back of the classroom.

X is for Kisses

X is for Kisses

X is for Kisses

Yes, I know. This is cheating a little bit, but the only other X that came to mind was x-ray and we haven’t had to deal with those yet and, if we’re lucky, we won’t have to for a while (touch wood, she says, hand on head).

Kissing.

Hmm.

It seems to be all or nothing with our two.

You either get a big, slobbery, snotty kiss when you least expect it (have you ever had that experience when you’re in a deep sleep and you open your eyes just before they plant one on you?) or you have the struggling, trying-to-hold-on-to-an-angry-eel manoeuvre where you get a hope-you-make-contact-with-a-body-part-that-doesn’t-smell-kiss.

Just us then?

Really?

Are you sure?

Oh, OK then.

Anyway, it’s a balancing act, like so much else in parenthood. You’re trying to show them affection so they know they’re loved and trying to time it so they get it when they need it most, like when they’re feeling poorly or vulnerable or in need of a little injection of self-esteem.

And don’t talk to me about their attention span. No sooner have I started to move in for the kiss than they’ve got distracted and are trying to disappear in the other direction. I’ve had far too many air kisses (as far as I’m concerned air kisses should be between consenting adults only) so I’ve learnt to get them in a bear hug before I try to deliver the all-important kiss on the cheek or the top of the head.

But it’s more than just physical contact isn’t it? It’s comfort for both of us that we belong together, that families are important and showing that you love your family is good. I know they’re going to go through a phase where they won’t want to be in the same room as us, let alone be kissed, they swing in and out of that particular frame of mind at the moment. (Why is it so funny when your 4-year-old retreats to his bedroom and shuts the door, saying he wants some alone time?)

And you start to accept that any demonstrations of affection will be on their terms and we’ll be lucky if they let us know what the rules are.

You just get used to this, then they’ll add the chaos factor and want a full-out cuddle (OK so that usually happens when you’ve been trying to get them to go to bed and stay in bed for the past half hour) but you leap at the chance anyway. At least the first four or five times.

Or they’ll declare at the top of the voice that they love you best in the whole wide universe. (That accolade usually goes to the Other Half.)

Then you’re (or at least I’m) left in a gooey mess and we start all over again.

A bit like life really.

Mini Me

Follow My Leader

Follow My Leader

We have a problem.

It’s not a serious problem, but it is proving to be a problem none-the-less.

I suppose we should have seen it coming. Maybe we were lulled into a false sense of security? Started to take it all for granted?

The problem?

Mini has started copying Motormouth.

And when I say copying, I mean the exact actions and within seconds of him doing it.

Motormouth does a mad dance around the room, then Mini does a mad dance around the room.

Motormouth jumps on the bed cackling like a lunatic, then suddenly there are two of them. I’m more than a little surprised that our bed has survived it so far. (And I really, really wish this would all start some time after 6am.)

Motormouth climbs onto the back of the settee and the next thing we know, Mini is trying to drag herself up there to be with him.

So, as you can see, we have a bit of a problem.

We’ve been trying to curb Motormouth’s natural tendencies (that’s a bit like trying to train a cat to roll over and beg for food).

We’ve tried explaining to him that, as the big brother, he has a responsibility to think about the consequences of his actions, he needs to think about Mini’s safety. He’s still struggling with the concept of thinking before he does things.

He’s a creature of instinct and impulse is our Motormouth.

In the meantime we’ll just to have eyes in the back of our heads. And the sides.

And think of a way to see around corners and through walls.

And when we’re asleep.

Camels, Cakes and Manners

It was time for the traditional trip to Mainsgill Farm, obligatory when we visit family in North Yorkshire. Mini and Motormouth love the place for so many reasons.

There are the huge cakes.

The child-sized pedal tractors.

The sand pit.

And the camels.

I like milk too!

I like milk too!

That’s right, camels, in Yorkshire, and this time they even had a baby camel to coo over.

Mini found the llamas funny but decided the goats needed a good telling off for being curious about her. One poor goat kept sticking its head through the fence to get a closer look at small girl in a tasty-looking red coat only to have a finger wagged in its face accompanied by a stern “No!” I’m not sure how the goat took it, but we were pretty impressed by her channelling of.. well… me, I suppose. (Not that I can see the resemblance.)

Moove over, lunch is here

Moove over, lunch is here

It’s always a joy to see Motormouth and Mini getting excited about seeing different animals. Mini in particular loved the cows and kept wanting to go back and see them. I think the cows were more interested in lunch. As adults, we were most interested in the camels. And the cakes.

Have I mentioned the cakes yet? Meringue roulades as big as your head, cream cakes the size of grapefruit and slabs of rocky road that the Romans would have found useful when they were laying their streets (in a good way).

It’s also slightly scary to see how high Mini wants to go on the swings (head height for the Other Half). All we could hear was her screaming “whee” at the peak of the swing. That and my gulping as I try to ignore the height thing.

It was in the restaurant where we had an interesting experience (in a less-than-positive sense of the word). I was standing with the Mini and Motormouth at a table waiting while the Other Half got a high chair for Mini when an older couple decided they wanted the table we were at, so they came and sat down there, telling us to move out of the way, admittedly with a superior sort of smile.

I was so gob smacked I didn’t say anything, plus I’m always conscious of the example I’m setting the kids. So we moved to another table rather than cause a scene.

That’s the question though, isn’t it? Do we show our kids how to stand up for themselves and risk starting a public argument which can so easily descend into something more than a civilised, if heated, exchange of views? Or do we take the moral high ground and move on with grace? Is that the same as giving in and rolling over?

And what do we do when our children ask us why they have to wait their turn and be polite when their elders seem to feel it’s their right to push their way to getting what they want? Today was just one example, but it’s not uncommon for it to happen to us in supermarket queues.

Today I decided not to push the issue, mainly because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to remain polite in the face of the oily rudeness we experienced. And I don’t want my children to see me behave like that. Not after all the hard work we’ve all put into developing their understanding and skills about interacting with others. It’s not fair for them to have a hypocrite for a teacher. It’s hard to explain to Motormouth that some people just don’t understand, or care, what good manners are. Or that they fail to grasp the concept that if you want respect from others you have to show respect to others.

I’m still not sure I made the right decision.

All I can do is put my faith in karma. Someday they’ll push in front of someone who won’t hold back.

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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Q is for Quick

Q is for Quick

Q is for Quick

I had thought to write about Quiet for this post but then I thought I’ve harped on enough recently about quiet, or rather the lack of it, so I’m going to talk about the concept of being quick.

There’s two sides to this, as there often is with small children – there’s and ours.

In ours, well, we ask them to be quick, or at least quicker, when getting ready in the morning. This, by the way, is how you can start out with a good hour in hand only to be scrambling out of the door 10 minutes late, if you’re lucky. I’m positive that when we say quick, quickly, faster, speed up, or any other word related to velocity or time they hear something entirely different.

Like, perhaps now would be a good time to play hide and seek in our underpants. That is he’s in his underpants hiding from me not hiding things in… oh, never mind.

Or, let’s see how far we can throw this morning’s outfit down the stairs.

Or, I’ve suddenly forgotten how to brush my teeth/put my socks on/take my pyjama top off/stand up. Please delete as appropriate. On second thoughts perhaps it should be “add as appropriate”.

Then there’s the fact they suddenly want to wear the coat that just happens to still be in the wash.

Or get their building blocks out to play.

Or that 100 piece puzzle you’ve been saving for a long rainy afternoon when you need to keep them occupied for a couple of hours.

In the meantime, a small girl is wandering around undressing herself at random intervals and scavenging for any of her brother’s breakfast that he might have left lying about.

After much rushing around you finally get to leave. This is after a debate with yourself about whether or not it’s better to be a few minutes later or come back to a living room that looks like it’s been set up for a drunken war gaming session between the Smurfs and some slightly unbalanced pirates, and a false start as you get out the door and realise you’re still wearing your slippers.

That’s quick in our world.

Then there’s quick in their world.

Quick means instant, or before that if you can manage.

I’m hungry now.

I want this toy fixed please.

When will we be there?

I want to go home.

I want some chocolate.

I want a cuddle.

I want…

When…

Considering they are small children, they have a huge number of time-sensitive requests to make.

And they all seem to come at the worst possible time.

Just before bedtime is a classic.

Or just before you go into the loo (the insistence of the request is proportional to your need to get in there, like, now).

And what do we do?

We try and accommodate them, even f we’re hopping up and down with our legs crossed, we try and answer the question or fix the toy or tell them how to find something.

And why?

Because to them it’s the most important thing in the world. To small children who live so much in the now, they can’t move on to the next moment until whatever is bothering them at that instant in time is dealt with. They have a hazy concept of time and before, after or later, and to them prioritisation is a totally alien concept. We might as well be asking them to understand quantum physics.

So we adapt. We change our schedule and reorder our lives to accommodate them.

Look at the time, I’d best go – I’ve only got 2 hours before I need to be out of the door.

Siblings

Follow My Leader

Follow My Leader

This week has been a bit mixed, with Mini still suffering the effects of the chicken pox her brother so kindly gave her (and me) but it’s good to see she is starting to get back to her normal self.

Even if that does mean mischief.

It’s only as Mini gets older and more inventive that we realise how lucky we’ve had it with Motormouth when it comes to getting into trouble. Not that Motormouth hasn’t got into his fair share of mischief, but Mini is putting him to shame.

How you ask?

Well, we’ve had the usual drawing on walls from Motormouth, faithfully copied by Mini.

Then we’ve had the gravity game. (Why do children never stop being amused by the view of us poor parents scrabbling around on the floor to pick up the bottle or spoon they’ve dropped for the 10th time in quick succession?)

But it’s only Mini who’s managed to flood the bathroom in less than the time it took me to have a wee.

She’s the only one who very nearly got away with flushing her father’s net book down the toilet.

It’s not Motormouth who emptied the contents of several packets of baby wipes and scattered them over the living room.

And Motormouth isn’t the one who squirms under the table just to get to the contents of my bag, especially the purse and pencil cases in there.

And that’s only in the last couple of weeks or so.

One thing she does have in common with her brother is that cheeky I-know-I’m-being-naughty-but-I’m-so-cute-you-have-to-forgive-me grin. You know the sort? The one that reaches right to the eyes?

And yes, we do forgive her. We still tell her off, but we forgive her. Just like we forgive Motormouth, after all, you have to forgive the master if you forgive the student.

It’s quite funny when you see how she copies Motormouth (it was also quite nice when she helped him give me a back rub earlier) but every so often that little spark of initiative lights a tiny little fire of destruction. It’s at times like that when Motormouth turns police officer, so we tend to get a full and detailed report of her activities (he’s obviously practising for his future career), which is probably just as well considering.

Part of me is pleased that she’s using her imagination, solving problems and testing her ideas.

Another part of me is wishing that perhaps, just once, she’ll settle down for a cuddle.

It’s interesting watching her play with Motormouth. He may not enjoy the experience sometimes (he’s starting to understand that his requests to put her in her cot so he can play in peace and quiet are not going to be granted) and he’s a little young to appreciate the fact that she wants to copy him is a compliment, but other times they will play together happily for ages. I’ve noticed that this tends to happen when Motormouth is in charge. I suspect things will be a little different when Mini starts talking more and asserts her authority (not that she’s needed any words so far).

I admit I’m dreading the time when they start working together properly.

Then we’ll be in for real trouble.