Tag Archives: milestones

And What Would Madam Like to Wear Today?

Butter Wouldn't Melt...

Butter Wouldn’t Melt…

It’s no good – I’m going to have to admit defeat.

I am no longer the most stubborn person in our household.

Who have I lost the crown to?

Mini of course. That sweet little girl, who has just turned two and a half, has a stubborn streak that is wider than she is.

It all sneaked up on me.

It started innocuously enough with a preference for wearing a certain hat or coat. I put it down to her having a thing about hats and thought it was cute.

Then it progressed and things got a little more serious, spreading to her entire outfit. Now, trying to get her to wear something she doesn’t want to is akin to trying to dress an octopus whilst blindfolded, and a belligerent, drunken octopus at that.

Consequently we have been known to venture outside with her wearing her brother’s underpants.

Over her jeans.

Or her Halloween costume for three days in a row. In December.

I have found a tactic that seems to be working. I catch her just as she’s waking up and present her with a choice of two pairs of leggings. She’ll wave a sleepy hand at one of them and I’ll move swiftly on to a top. For some reason she always takes longer choosing her socks. We could have several drawn out moments where she’ll stroke her chin and point at first one pair then the other, umming and aahing as she does so, before she finally chooses. I’m not sure if this is because she’s more awake by this time or she has a thing about socks.

(I think she might have inherited my thing about socks.)

I’m making the most of being able to direct her choice of attire, at least a little, since I don’t expect to be able to do so when she catches on, probably, oh, about the middle of next week.

She also has very clear idea about the way she wants some other things as well. She’s a bit of a neat freak (I think that must be one of those weird characteristics that skip a generation or two because she certainly didn’t get it from me or the Other Half), so she has to be the one who wipes the table down before dinner. She also has a thing about emptying her plate in the bin, normally the one in the living room. This isn’t usually a problem, since she eats an awful lot of toast, although I’m glad I managed to catch her just in time last night after she decided she didn’t want the rest of her mandarins and custard.

I’m also glad we have laminate floors.

Part of her neat-freakishness is having a clear idea of where things should be and woe betide anything, or anyone, in the wrong place. One of her first sentences was “You sit there,” delivered in a stern tone with suitably imperious gestures. She’s just as bad when I’m feeding her. I have to be in the right seat and sitting (or lying depending on her mood) in exactly the right position. She’s just as bad with her dad and brother (about where they’re sitting, not the feeding bit) and they are both remarkably patient about it all considering. Bedtime can be entertaining as she has to arrange all her toys to her satisfaction before I can tuck her in. I’ve tried to discern a pattern in how she does this but it eludes me and she’ll give me a telling off if I try to help her, mostly I think because I always get it wrong.

I know she’s growing and that developing a sense of independence is important, as is her having an opportunity to be involved in some of the decisions that affect her, even if those decisions are about clothes or food.

I am pleased she’s found her independent nature and that she’s not letting herself be overshadowed by Motormouth who is much more exuberant and dramatic, showing instead that she is determined and not to be swayed once she’s decided on her course. I will admit that sometimes I wish she was a little more compliant, especially when I’m trying to get us all out of the house in the morning, but I’ve resigned myself to the fact that sometimes the only way I’m going to win is by getting her to think that my suggestions are really her ideas in the first place. Either that, or I’m going to have to grit my teeth, grin and bear it and put up with a her wearing purple trousers with a green T shirt and her brother’s yellow socks.

That and be grateful that the one thing she isn’t really fussy about is what she has to eat.

Yet.

Dragon’s Tears

stoick*** PLEASE NOTE: THERE ARE SOME MAJOR SPOILERS HERE ABOUT HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 ***

I took Motormouth to the cinema for the second ever time a few weeks ago to see How to Train Your Dragon 2. He’s a big fan of the first film, and the TV series, and it’s a special treat to snuggle together while I read the books to him. We were both looking forward to having some son/mummy time together, although I suspect he was looking forward to his packet of sweets even more.

The film was good with the standard of animation we’ve come to expect from the series but there was one thing that took me totally by surprise – *SPOILER ALERT* – Hiccup’s dad, Stoick the Vast, dies.

Yep. Stoick.

A major character.

Dead.

He does it in a heroic way of course, saving Hiccup, but it’s a death from which there is no coming back. No dragon magic or sleight of hand that will help him get up again. It’s permanent.

Motormouth has lost someone he genuinely liked and cared about. And Hiccup, someone he cares about even more, has lost his Daddy.

He cried (Motormouth that is, Hiccup was a little more stoical about it all.)

He (Motormouth) sobbed his heart out for the rest of the film. And during the walk across the car park. In fact, he was near inconsolable for the whole drive home.

This was a BIG EMOTION.

They don’t really tell you about all the things you need to do as a parent. You take it for granted there will be messy mealtimes and stinky nappies, some cooing and cuddling, and more messy mealtimes and stinky nappies, but it takes a while for it to sink in that YOU are the one who needs to teach that tiny human how to interpret and express their emotions.

This all the while most of us (and certainly me) are trying to cope with our own emotions that have suddenly got more complicated with the insertion of a person whose welfare and happiness are so firmly placed ahead of our own. We have to teach them that not only will they have a reaction on an emotional level to different situations but those reactions are normal and there are accepted ways to express that emotion.

It’s a double-edged sword. We want our children to empathise with others, to understand the emotional bonds that can exist between people, and to modify their behaviour so they can have positive relationships with those around them.

We want them to have the imagination to understand the problems they encounter and be able to make the intuitive leaps that allow them to be creative and inventive when facing everything that life throws at them but…

This same imagination is what allows them to identify so closely with the characters in films and books that, when one of them goes away forever, it’s like a bereavement. No. It IS a bereavement; they have lost someone they care about. Add to that the ability to take those intuitive steps and we have a boy looking at a friend who has lost his father, so who’s to say Motormouth can’t lose his own father? Maybe not to an evil Viking’s thrown weapon, but loss is loss.

Do I regret taking him to see the film when it made him so upset?

No I don’t.

Why?

Because I’d much rather he had the opportunity to experience these feelings and learn to deal with them when he loses a fictional friend. That might make it just that little bit easier for him to cope with losing someone in the real world.

Would I let him watch it again if he wanted to, even knowing how upset it’s likely to make him?

Absolutely.

And I’ll be there with him for every frame, answering every question and returning every hug and squeezed hand because parenting isn’t just about the happy things and, in a weird way, it can be more rewarding helping him deal with the big bad emotions than the big happy emotions.

Because nobody can do it like a parent.

My First Day at School by Me, age 44 ¾

The Loneliness of the School Playground

The Loneliness of the School Playground

So much is written about a child’s first day at school, and rightly so, but it can be easily forgotten that it may also be mum and dad’s first day at school for a long time. Decades in our case (well, technically only a few months for me, but I’m not counting education as an adult because it’s so different).

And it can be just as nerve-wracking for us.

Children will have their own concerns. Will they see their friends? Will they make new ones? What if they’re the only ones struggling with the buttons on their coats or putting their wellies on the wrong feet? Will their teachers be nice to them or will they keep telling them off?

In Motormouth’s case he was, oddly, really worried about being bitten by one of the other children.

And it’s only right that we are there to reassure them, to give them a comforting cuddle before we say goodbye to them in the classroom doorway, or that wave to remind them they need to put their book bag away in their drawer so it won’t get lost.

But who is there to reassure us? Especially those of us who are, like me, a bit of an introvert?

I mentioned this to the Other Half, who struggled to understand why I was so worried, everyone was in the same boat weren’t they? This from the man who is on first name terms with half the parents already after just a week or so. I know two grandparents by sight, one mum and one dad. No names have been exchanged yet. This is even with the supposed advantage I have of having picked Motormouth up more often from school than the Other Half.

He’s not an introvert. The Other Half that is.

Or Motormouth, come to think of it.

I am.

I’m hoping I’m not the only one who pulls out my phone to answer imaginary texts that are so time-sensitive I have to ignore the world around me. I’m the one who stands in the corner towards the back of the playground so Motormouth knows where to look for me as he files obediently out of the classroom with 30 other children, all looking identical, with grins lighting up their faces as they see parent or grandparent waiting to hear all about their day. (What did you do today son? Nothing.)

I’m the one watching, with my hazel eyes just a bit greener than usual, as little knots of parents form, talking about their kids. I tell myself it’s just because their kids have been to the same playgroup or they live in the same road. I tell myself that it’s not a clique really, and I ought to be brave enough to say hello and join the group.

I’m not very good at listening to myself.

Perhaps it’s made worse by the fact that it’s a village school. Most of the children live in the village. We don’t. We chose it because it’s a good school with good inspection reports and the parents of children who have been there told us the school worked for them. That their children were happy there and learned a lot.

I’m telling myself to start just one conversation with somebody where I exchange names with someone. Hopefully it won’t be someone who is just doing the school drop off as a temporary measure, someone who will be absent from the playground forever in just a few weeks.

Then I look at Motormouth as he runs around the playground, part of an endlessly changing group of children who tag each other, stopping for a quick dinosaur impression here and there.

That’s when I think again, I’m not the one who matters. In the big picture, the one that’s a portrait of Motormouth, he’s the one who needs to feel comfortable coming to school. To feel that he has to make the most of those few minutes before the classroom doors open or we start to trail out of the gate towards home. To cram in as much as he can before he enters the more ordered world of the classroom.

In the meantime, I’ll stand there, one of maybe half a dozen parents who aren’t engrossed in conversation with other parents. One of those grown ups who switch their attention from their phone and whatever random question they’ve put into their search engine of choice, as the classroom door opens and children start to emerge, clutching their water bottles and book bags.

I’ll wait for him, for his face to light up when he sees me, just before he pulls a clown face and jumps around. I suspect he’s slightly embarrassed by the attention.

I should go now. I don’t want to lose my spot in the corner.

Boxers Not Briefs Please, Mummy

I Love My Uniform!

I Love My Uniform!

OK.

I know it’s been a few days weeks since the last post and all I can say is sorry – real life sort of took over and hijacked me.

Motormouth started school, which was of course a really big thing, and we were trying to cram as much as we could into the time we had left with him, mainly because the Other Half works a lot of weekend days. I think we did pretty well getting to the Historic Dockyard (twice), Sitingbourne and Kemsley Light Railway (twice), the Royal Engineers museum, picnics, trips to the park… Eventful if knackering.

Then, of course, there were the mutual support communiques with other parents whose children were about to take the plunge into education – the difficulties of getting exactly the right colour of fleece in something approximating the size you think you’re child will grow into around Christmas had the potential to generate quite a thread.

Strangely enough, we all seemed to be doing OK with underpants. At one point, oh, maybe a week before school started, I had managed to get two pairs of PE shorts and a dozen pairs of boxers (Motormouth has decided he’s too grown up to wear underpants, so boxers it has to be. Why are boxer shorts for a 4 year old more expensive than they are for the other half anyway?). I felt really bad until I found out I wasn’t the only one. Thank you Facebook.

Motormouth loves his school uniform, at least so far, which is a bonus. I really didn’t fancy the arguments to get him dressed, the daily Battle of the Toothbrush is quite enough, thank you very much. We have had the odd meltdown, especially when I wouldn’t let him wear his baseball cap to bed, or his trousers in the garden. I can deal with those. At the moment anyway.

As to how it’s standing up, Motormouth is proving to be a true boy. On the first day he came back with a lump of play doh the size of my head ground into the knee of his trousers. (OK I might be exaggerating there, it may only have been the size of his head).

The second day he managed to get tiny little splatters of blue and yellow paint all over the back of his sweatshirt. It’s just a shame his school colours are red, white and grey.

Then we had a day’s grace before I had to pick up MudBoy, which was odd since I was sure I’d dropped Motormouth off there in the morning.

It’s just as well they make trousers with Teflon these days (it must have been a parent who had that idea.) It was quite sweet when he put his trousers in he washing machine on the Friday night and came to ask me how to turn it on. It was a little while before I could persuade him that we really did need to wash more than one item at a time.

Then of course we have the mystery of the disappearing socks. He started school (was it only 10 days ago) with 10 pairs of socks. They all went into his newly-cleared school uniform drawer. Three days in and I was scrabbling in the washing bin to find a pair of socks, hoping he wouldn’t notice since he has a strong belief that everything in the washing pile must be stinky (including the T shirt he wore for a whole 3 minutes).

I think I’m just going to have to get used to having one of those boys. He’ll be climbing trees before I know it.

So, do you think Motormouth will grow into his father’s shorts by Christmas? Maybe? Perhaps I should just order some more socks instead.

Bee Baw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When do the lights go down, Mummy?

When do the lights go down, Mummy?

Well, today we reached another milestone with Motormouth.

He saw his first film in the cinema.

We told him we’d take him a couple of days before if he was good and, bless him, he tried so hard, despite Mini’s attempts to make him stray off the straight and narrow. In fact, it’s been quite weird for it to be her that’s the naughtiest rather than him. He remained resolute in the face of sibling sabotage, not reacting when she was pinching him (her latest habit which we’re trying very hard to break), pulling his hair (he really does need a haircut) or slapping him on the back.

To be fair, they have had their times when they played nicely together. I know they did.

I wrote it down in my diary.

Back to the film. He wanted to see Planes 2 – Fire and Rescue (and, I have to admit, I was quite keen to see it; any film that has ACDC’s Thunderstruck in the soundtrack has got to be good.) We bought the tickets as a special treat before he started school. It was a very special treat as it turned out – £14 for the two of us and that was just for the tickets with him under 5!

We went away and amused ourselves for an hour and a half when we found out that the showing we originally wanted was 3D. (Please cinemas, if you’re going to list all your showings in one place, do let us know which are 3D and which aren’t.) Motormouth is too young to watch 3D and I really didn’t fancy trying it with varifocals (yep, I am that old – calling this blog the Trials and Tribulations of a Mature Mother might have given you a clue in that department). Having seen the film now, I’m really glad we didn’t, since Motormouth found some parts a bit scary and they would have been even worse in 3D. Anyway, we got the tickets, wandered around, came back and went into the cinema.

Motormouth was on form, at least with his questions. We had everything from where the music was coming from, to the best tally system to use when counting the lights, to the names of every single film character in the adverts, all liberally interspersed with “when are the lights going down?”

I think the poor father behind me must have been worried that he was going to keep it up for the entire film.

He did, but to be fair to Motormouth, he did learn to whisper his questions.

He did suddenly develop a fastidious streak half way through the film, which is odd since it’s usually Mini that stands there and demands to be cleaned.

“Mummy, I’ve got sticky hands. Have you got any wipes?”

“No.” I silently berate myself for not chucking a pack into my bag.

“But I’ve got sticky hands. I need a wipe!” I’m very conscious of the the volume rising.

“Just wipe your hands on your T shirt!” Not generally accepted parental advice but he usually does it anyway. To my relief he does it and quietens down. In the meantime, I’m thanking whatever gods exist that I bought him dolly mixtures for the film and not anything chocolate.

A few minutes later… “Mummy, I’ve got sticky hands. Can you lick them clean for me?” I won’t go any further, suffice it to say that there are some sacrifices you are forced to make as a parent.

Finally we could concentrate on the film again.

I have never seen him sit still for so long, even allowing for the fact he climbed onto my lap when the hero got into real danger, or so quietly. He was totally engrossed. He stayed awake the whole time (unlike the little girl behind us who was carried out by her dad at the end, still fast asleep).

It also fittingly carried on the theme of the week that Motormouth has adopted – fire and rescue. Everywhere we’ve been he’s been running around calling out “bee baw bee baw”, which apparently is the correct sound for a fire engine. Motormouth gave me appropriate instruction on that this morning. We’ve had the sirens on in the car park, in the supermarket, around the restaurant where we were supposed to be meeting the Other Half, pretty much anywhere he went, we’ve had sirens.

He’s also been sliding down poles.

Literally.

Sometimes he’s even asked for help. I don’t think the toddler parking sign in the local supermarket will ever be the same again. I think the staff were a bit bemused as well.

And every day he’s had to wear red, or at least his reflective vest and builder’s helmet (he broke his fireman’s helmet). Well, almost everyday. He had to change his T shirt before we went to the cinema today – he’s almost as messy an eater as his father, so he went for the camouflage look.

We’ve got another Motormouth/Mother day tomorrow and we’re going to watch a film. This time it’s going to be with popcorn and snuggled up on the settee. The cinema experience is great but a little too expensive to do too often.

What to watch though? Monster’s Inc. or Despicable Me 2?

Choices, choices.

The question is, what catchphrase do we want to be hearing for the next week?

By the way, Planes 2 has some nice touches for us adults and does a particularly good homage to ChiPs, complete with Eric Estrada’s vocals.

Oh yeah, and there’s ACDC.

Where Do Babies Come From?

How did it get in there?

How did it get in there?

We had the dreaded question from Motormouth the other day. “How did Mini get inside your tummy, Mummy?”

One look at his face told me he was in full Enquiry Mode.

We knew it had to come. His childminder is due to have her baby any day now.

He might only be 4, but he is persistent when he gets in this mood.

The Other Half and I had discussed this in passing, knowing how much Motormouth wants to understand how things work it is inevitable he was going to come up with this particular question.

We decided even before he was born, that we would answer any questions honestly and as simply as we needed to, to make sure he understood the answer. That’s the approach we took when he started asking why Daddy only has one arm. With the wisdom of small children he asks, listens and asks again (but only half a dozen times or so over the next few days if we’re lucky), but he doesn’t judge.

The dilemma for us was what do we tell him exactly? I know the common method is along the lines of daddy giving mummy a “special kiss” but am I the only one to find that a little bit creepy? I half expect it to be followed by phrases like “it’s our little secret” and “you don’t need to tell anyone”. Then I get annoyed with myself for allowing something simple to be tainted by the terrible actions of others. That then leads into the fear that I have about protecting my children from people who would do that to them. One thing I now have as a parent is this whole new universe full of things to worry about and I’m not sure I will ever get to grips with it.

What did we settle for in the end? Well, Motormouth has been keen to grow tomatoes and chillies in the garden this year so I told him daddy had given me a seed to grow in my tummy and that seed became Mini. Now I’m just waiting for him to remember this and come back with the watering can.

Here’s a challenge for you (sorry, no prizes except bragging rights for the most creative). How would you explain conception to a 4 year old?

 

L is for Looking

 

L is for Looking

L is for Looking

Constantly.

Everywhere.

It feels like you develop eyes in the back of your head, either that, or your peripheral vision gets really, really good.

And you can’t help it. You, or rather I, have this need to be able to see both children. All the time. The only time I’m not worried is when they are asleep or with a babysitter (because the babysitter is doing the looking instead).

I know this is something the Other Half struggles with, the idea that you have to be constantly on the alert.

I’m not an overprotective mother, at least I don’t think I am – if one of them falls over and they’re OK enough to cry and blood’s not spraying out alarmingly, then I’m not going to go running to them unless there is imminent danger. (OK, I admit part of that could be the exhaustion talking. Check out E for Exhaustion in this series for more.)

Getting back to the Other Half, I know he wants the children to be safe. I think he, like most of us until we go through motherhood, think once they’ve been hurt or had the dangers explained to them, then they’ll be fine.

But that’s not totally true.

I have a 4-year-old and a 21-month-old and they are, for their ages, pretty safety consciousness.

Motormouth has good road skills. The green man is his friend and I think he might be every so slightly scared by the angry red man at road crossings.

Mini knows when she doesn’t feel confident about steps and will always sit at the top of the stairs, waiting for someone to hold her hand while she climbs down.

That is until something else gets their attention.

Then all bets are off.

Normally the “something else” is the little tabby-tortie kitten that comes to see them when we leave in the morning and is usually there to greet us when we come home again.

When she’s around, they only have eyes for her. That’s when they need a gentle reminder not to run out across the road, and by gentle I mean a firm grab of their hood or T shirt, or, to be truthful, whichever article of clothing is nearest.

I’m not trying to be sexist here, when I talk about the Other Half not being as attentive, since I am only talking from my own experience. I know studies have shown that the father’s role is more about encouraging children to push the boundaries to achieve more. To take risks. And they need that, otherwise they’ll never achieve anything near their full potential.

And Motormouth and Mini, are quite good at assessing the risks of things like climbing up or down something.

So now I’m looking to see what mischief they are getting into.

This is definitely where the Other Half and I diverge on our notions of urgency and immediacy. He thinks peace and quiet is bliss.

I just think it’s suspicious.

We have had the odd few incidents that most parents will recognise.

Remember the time when went into the room to find a small boy who has coloured himself in with this mother’s gel pens. At least all the bits he could reach. (On the plus side, we got an indication he’s probably right handed.)

Or the time when he ate the yoghurt in the fridge.

All 12 pots. (That was an interesting at nappy change time.)

Or the small girl who emptied out her father’s bedside drawers. (I didn’t realise he’s got concert tickets in there from 1989).

I remember when I first got pregnant and everyone was giving me the advice to sleep when the baby sleeps, and this is fine in principle when they pretty much stay where you put them (apart from that’s likely to be the only time you get to do the odd tasks you might like to catch up on, like eat. Or wee.)

Once they’re mobile, you feel more like, if you sleep when they sleep, they’ll wake up without you knowing and do things you have told them NOT TO DO (sorry, force of habit. I always end up shouting that at Motormouth or Mini.)

Motormouth in particular seems to have a talent for this. It was only last week I told him specifically NOT to go into the narrow gap between our house and our garden (which is raised) because there was cat poo under the leaves.

Less that 2 minutes later?

Yep.

You guessed it.

The wonderful task of cleaning cat poo off foot apparel. Luck was with me for a change. He was wearing wellies.

And he hadn’t picked up the cat poo asking “what’s this Mummy?”.

We’re not always so lucky. Once we had the case of “some idiot has left their dog’s diarrhoea in an untied nappy bag on the path”. Poor Motormouth had the indignity of being marched back home at arm’s length to be stripped down to his nappy and bare feet before he was allowed in the house. Must have been a bit chilly in February.)

Why do they always, ALWAYS have to pick it up or touch it?

Speaking of mischief, Motormouth is in the garden and I’ve just heard the hose go on.

And I have almost-dry washing on the line.

Correction. I did have almost-dry washing on the line.

I think I’ll go and have a quick look…