Tag Archives: Fireman Sam

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.

Mummy….?

Questions, questions, questions.

Questions, questions, questions.

This week, in fact this year, has been a time of questions. I never thought one small person who hasn’t even started school yet could have so many questions. And why do they feel like they come all at once?

If you read the Facebook page (note the quick plug there?) then you’ll know that Motormouth starts asking questions, oh, around 6 seconds after he wakes up and finishes somewhere around the time he finally falls asleep.

It’s not too bad when I can see them coming. I can try and prepare for the answer. I’ve become a dab hand at explaining things like the Big Bang, how dinosaurs died out, how tractors work or the life cycle of trees.

It’s the sneaky ones that leave me gaping like a stranded fish.

All I can say is thank the gods for Google (other search engines are available). Motormouth has got used to me saying “I don’t know, I’ll have to look it up”, and we’ve turned it into a shared task; an expedition to the library or search on the internet. It’s even seen me pacing out the length of a blue whale in a certain supermarket’s café, much to the amusement of the other customers.

But the questions I can’t predict?

What’s pineapple in Japanese?

How many meteorites are there in the universe?

How many sea creatures are in the ocean?

How many of them can live in the Arctic?

Why do pigs make bacon?

Why don’t slugs have shells like snails?

Why do sharks have fins?

Why didn’t they put orange paint in his painting set?

What’s that fish on the fish counter in the supermarket?

Why is the sky red in the evening?

Why isn’t my skin black if it’s hot today?

The list goes on.

And on.

And on.

He seems to have developed an insatiable need to learn things, not that I’m knocking that, in fact, I’m trying to nurture it, but I wonder how the playground conversation might go when he starts school.

Did you see Fireman Sam last night?

No. Did you see that National Geographic documentary on giant prehistoric sharks?

I’d love to be a fly on the wall for that one.

In the meantime, I have this secret, if slightly nerdy, dream of us sitting at the dining room table doing our homework together. I won’t mention it to him yet though.

I’ll just carry on trying to field the questions whichever direction they come from.

So, what’s the strangest question you’ve been asked?

R is for Repairer

R is for Repairer

R is for Repairer

This is it.

This is our opportunity to assume goddess-like status as repairer of broken toys (or god-like, I don’t want to forget any blokes who may qualify for this honour).

And it’s so easy I could almost cry (in gratitude that is).

Why?

Most of the toys that are presented with tear-stained and grubby fingers can be fixed by snapping something back into place, whether it’s the fire station door that’s letting in the draft and making poor Fireman Sam feel a little chilly or the spinning barrel thingy on the back of his cement mixer, they can be fixed.

Of course there must be an element of showmanship (or should that be showpersonship?) to make sure there is an air of mystery and almost supernatural skill surrounding us to elicit awed and excited comments like “Thank you mummy, you’re the best”. I’ve even been told I’m the best mummy in the whole universe because I fixed the ladder to the fire engine after it broke yet again.

And that’s the thing isn’t it. We fix the same toys over and over again and we could almost do it in our sleep and we enjoy the adulation that follows it, but isn’t there always a quiet little voice asking us if it isn’t about time we taught them how to do it themselves?

That learning to repair things, and take care of them, is a valuable life lesson.

That we’re, horror of horrors, stunting their development by keeping this task from them?

I’m ignoring that little voice for the moment. I want the positive strokes for just a bit longer.

I need balance you see, because apparently I don’t wipe bottoms as well as daddy does.

Possibly not, but I can make sure Fireman Sam doesn’t catch cold.

And the toys that can’t be fixed? Well the tidy-up fairy takes them away after they’ve sat on the side long enough to be forgotten about, or at least until we have plausible deniability.

I is for Imagination

 

I is for Imagination

I is for Imagination

Before I had kids I thought I had a pretty decent imagination. After all, I wrote stories. I’d even finished 4 novels, all of them still stuck in that infamous bottom drawer that writers have.

I managed to find ways of amusing Motormouth quite successfully when he was smaller, not that it takes much to amuse an 8-month-old – peeking round corners seemed to work pretty well. So did playing guess the animal in sign language.

Then Motormouth got to the point where he was inventing his own stories.

At first our games (yes, our games, parental involvement was, and still is, mandatory) were recreating stories he’d been read or seen on TV.

And oh, how we have to get involved. I’ve done everything from making imaginary fish biscuits to running around the local park shouting “I’m a colossal squid” in a funny voice.

Gradually things got confusing (Yes, I know. I’m easily confused.)

First of all we had to learn our new names. Depending on what we were playing, I was Dashi from Octonauts, Penny from Fireman Sam or Jessica, Lord of Air from Gormiti.

Then it got still more confusing. We didn’t just play Octonauts, or Gormiti, or even Fireman Sam.

All of a sudden, I was Dashica from Octogorm, or Jesseny from Samiti.

At least I could recognise the stories, all lovingly, and imaginatively pieced together by a small boy in charge of his world.

Then he went off piste.

We were making up stories.

I can still tell where they’re coming from, he picks up little elements from books, TV, even his journey to school. He weaves them together and comes up with the most fantastical plots. He naturally has a beginning, a middle and an end. There’s action and, I have to admit, a fair bit of bashing and more than a little arresting of the bad guys.

Then there are the props.

Boxes become forts, boats or racing cars. A soft toy football becomes his giant basher, creating quakes to knock the bad guys off their feet when he’s Nick Lord of Earth. Coathangers become hooks when he is a digger. Bits of broken toy can become pretty much anything.

It amazes me.

And then there’s his story telling.

We’re at that stage in his potty training when he wants someone with him while he does the business, partly to inspect the results of the “thousands of poos” he intends to do.

Then he starts telling me stories, animated expression and arm gestures helping the tale along. He has even been known to open with “it was a dark and stormy night…”

What does all this mean?

That I have really had to up my performance when it comes to imagination.

And it becomes more challenging (I refuse to say difficult) as he gets older.

I’ve learnt the hard way not to help the story along. He puts his hands on his hips, looks at me with his head cocked to one side and says “No, Mummy, be quiet. I’m telling the story.

Then, just when I think I’ve got a handle on it, he comes up with the questions.

And I need imagination to deal with this as well.

It’s not about making the answers up. I’m sure he would pick me up on that. At least he always has so far when I’ve got any of the details wrong.

It’s about finding new ways to describe things so he’ll understand.

Like all 4-year-olds he has a curiousity that only switches off when he’s asleep.

He also has the attention span of a crane fly on a caffeine high.

The journey to playgroup is the most challenging.

He sits in the back, commenting on every thing he sees, and between he shoots questions at me.

Just a few weeks ago we had the following…

Why did all the dinosaurs die? Was it a volcano? (No one really knows, but most people think it was an asteroid that hit the earth and threw up loads of dust that blocked out the sun).

What’s an asteroid? (Cue explanation and we get onto the Tunguska meteor strike.)

What causes holes in the road? (Discussion followed about dene holes, chalk mines, frost expansion and subsidence.)

Could you steal an elephant by hiding it under your coat? (Uh… help?)

Fortunately, the 10 minute journey ended shortly after.

He’s persistent as well. I can understand him wanting to know what every single person he sees is doing or where they are going, but why does he have this desperate need to know where they live?

And if we can visit them for tea?

I have to reword my answers on a regular basis, not just to help him understand better, but to stop me from boring myself, and him, into a stupor (something I failed to do miserably when he asked me what burglary was for the 70th time).

Hence the need for imagination.

It’s still a vital skill for parents, finding ways to keep a small child with an active mind occupied. It’s not just on car journeys, but doctor’s surgeries, supermarkets, anywhere we have to queue, anywhere that doesn’t have toys, anywhere that has toys we want to move away from… well, you know.

You’ve probably been there.

And it can be exhausting. We love our children dearly but sometimes, just sometimes, it’s nice when they’ve gone to bed and we can savour those first few minutes that are question-free.

So, I’ve decided that I’m going to make the most of Motormouth’s story-telling and sit back and ask the questions for a change. Even if the sitting is on the toilet floor.

And as for Mini?

She’s still at the peeking round corners stage.

 

I’ve Come to Learn!

 

I'm here to learn, teach me please!

I’m here to learn, teach me please!

It had to happen.

Motormouth has started playgroup. Admittedly he is starting later than some (he’ll be 4 at Christmas) but he is starting and he loves it, with a capital L.

When we first broke the news to him he was excited to say the least. He’d been to visit the group with us before and settled in immediately, playing with the toys and interacting with the other children from the start. In fact we had some difficulty prising him away. The first question he asked was “Am I going to learn lots of things?” He was very happy to find out that was the aim.

The night before his first day he kept telling me he was going to school. In fact he was telling everyone, although I’m not sure the fishmonger at the local supermarket was really that interested. We sorted out his little thermos bag in the shape of a fire engine (christened Jupiter after the engine on Fireman You-know-who). We discussed what he wanted for his packed lunch. He made me promise to remember to make it before I went to bed. Three times.

He even went to bed early so morning would come round quicker.

In the morning he didn’t even need to be chased around the house to have his teeth brushed. (About the only place I haven’t ventured with the toothbrush and knee-to-pin-down combination is the toilet. I absolutely refuse to clean his teeth in the toilet.)

Socks, shoes, fleece and coat went on without protest and he stood by the door waiting impatiently for us.

It was a nice change, until he started nagging the Other Half and I, telling us we were going to be late. That was a role reversal too far.

When we arrived at playgroup he strode in as if it was his natural habitat (which in a way I suppose it is). Playgroups are usually pretty organised but to the uninitiated outsider it can look like hordes of small hooligans rushing around like pin balls in a pinball machine. (One on tilt as well).

At the end of the day he was keen to tell us what he’d done. In between hearing about his exploits with the dustcart (he has a weird obsession with them, along with bin men and recycling) I tried to get some feedback about how he’d been.

“Oh, he’s settled in well.” I nodded, we expected that.

“He asks lots of questions doesn’t he.” It was presented as a statement, and yes, we know he asks a lot of questions.

They handed me a nice red folder with some notes in it, telling me what he’d been doing. I scanned them.

“Hold on, something is wrong here.” They looked concerned and read the entry I was pointing at. “That can’t be right.”

“No, no, it is correct.” They assure me.

“That was definitely Motormouth?” They nod. I lean down at the small boy who is busy trying to swing from my arm and try to feel his forehead (with the arm he’s not swinging from). No. Normal. I look at them again and they nod silently. I look at the words again; snacks 1100 am cheese, apple and cucumber.

Cucumber!

What’s wrong with cucumber you ask? Well, from Motormouth’s point of view, everything! It’s green. It’s a vegetable (he’s not going to be swayed by the fact that technically it’s a fruit because the seeds are on the inside). It usually comes with salad. It’s not cheese, or yoghurt, or sausage. It’s, well, it’s yuk.

But he ate cucumber! (I decide I can’t wait to tell the Other Half so I send him a text.)

He eats it again the second day but we decide not to mention it in case he realises we might use the leverage to get him to eat cucumber at home.

In his second week we get given a form to complete, so they can assess where he is in terms of development. Some of the questions make me laugh out loud.

Is he able to ask simple questions? Yes, questions like why do we have feet? What are tears made of? Why does chicken fat go hard when it’s cold? Why has the face fallen off his Kwazii toy (I told him not to get it wet).

You know, the usual things that Brian Cox can deal with easily. Except maybe the Kwazii question, I’m not sure how knowledgeable he is about Octonauts.

It reminds of the initial form I had to complete for the staff. This was the boring one about contact details and suchlike. But Motormouth being Motormouth, living with him still gave us the opportunity to show some of his uniqueness.

Does he have any special people or pets he might refer to?

Well, yes.

I list the favourite cousins and neighbours.

Then I think it might be good to explain the family names. Grandma being Nanny Nutjob for instance.

Or the fact that his father and I are regularly referred to as Kwazii and Dashi (the Other Half is the one with pirate tendencies). His little sister is Junip more often than not.

A week on, I have to update the list.

Motormouth has discovered Paw Patrol and we now have our assigned names.

I’m Glider ( a cute pink chihuahua that flies a plane, well, I suppose I do have a long-expired glider pilot’s licence to my name) and the Other Half is Ruffles, who drives a digger. It’s Rubble in the actual programme but I think Ruffles suits the Other Half better.

Motormouth himself is Chase, the police dog.

Then there is Motormouth’s current fascination with another cartoon, Gormiti. This is something he has only experienced through the medium of half a dozen books we found in a discount shop, that and the French, German or Korean versions of the cartoon on You Tube.

I am now Jessica, Lord (yes Lord) of Air. The Other Half is Toby, Lord of the Sea and Motormouth? Well, he’s Nick, Lord of the Earth who can create earthquakes by punching the ground. He has had a fair few bruised knuckles to prove this.

So, on any given day, he can call me by my real first name, mama, Dashi, Jessica or Glider.

I think I’m having an identity crisis.

I’m going to have to write this down for the playgroup staff. Perhaps they should start a wall chart. They’d better make it a big one.

When I take Motormouth to playgroup now he rushes into the middle of the room, catches the eye of whichever “Aunty” is in there and declares at the top of his voice “Good morning Aunty, I’m here to learn!”

Feedback from the second week?

He’s still full of questions isn’t he? Yep.

He’s quite bright isn’t he? That’s nice to know rather than just suspect.

He’s very polite isn’t he? Pleased about that, the constant reminders are working.

He had cucumber for a snack today.

Nope. Still don’t believe that one.

 

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Rain, rain, go away

Rain, rain, go away

Ah, the weather.

 That great British discussion topic. Even the kids are talking about it. Well, Motormouth is. Specifically questioning why it looked foggy when we got up the other morning. And why he couldn’t play in the sandpit in the rain.

We dealt with the fog issue and the sandpit question (again), then it was out to meet Nanny Nutjob and do some shopping.

 It wasn’t until we were walking up the hill to home, Motormouth ahead of me, his Fireman Sam umbrella bobbing up and down (or rather bobbing around. In random directions.) when he made his final announcement of the day.

 “I don’t like the rain.” I remained silent, not wanting to bring up the subject of puddles since I had spent all morning persuading him not to jump in puddles. The penalty for losing his wellies. Again.

 “It makes me wet.” Yep. Wise observation.

It wasn’t until I was mopping up the puddles in the hallway, having got us all redressed in dry clothes, that it struck me that Nanny Nutjob must have done the same for me when I was Motormouth’s age. Propping up the umbrellas, I recalled what else she had done in an effort to keep me warm and dry.

It involved carrier bags.

I don’t know if this was just my mum or it was accepted practice during the 1970s, but she used to roll up a carrier bag and make me wear it on my head to keep my hair dry. This, I think must have been the most embarrassing. I can ignore the A-line dress in citrus green with the white panel down the front. And the green and red striped jumper. After all, other people were wearing the same eye-wateringly clashing colours and that was just the boys.

I can’t remember much else, so I suppose I must have blocked them out of my memory.

Perhaps I should say the carrier bags were the most embarrassing things I can remember.

At least Motormouth has his umbrella.

And Mini, I hear you ask? She got off lightly. All she had was a newspaper laid on her head, and that was only for the walk from the supermarket door to the car.

Judging by the grumpy expression she wasn’t impressed.

When she’s a little older I’ll have to tell her about this and remind her it could have been a lot, lot worse.

Don’t get me started on the hair styles.

So come on, what was the most embarrassing thing your parents made you wear?