Tag Archives: Octonauts

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.

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.

V is for Vulnerable

 

V is for Vulnerable

V is for Vulnerable

We spend our lives building up our ability to deal with the sometimes horrible things that life can throw at us. In fact, employers often see that resilience as being a good thing, having someone that will soldier on when everyone or everything around them might be falling apart.

And for the most part, it’s a good thing, unless we take it too far and it becomes uncaring or leaves unable to let anyone in and heading into loneliness territory.

Then you have children and you get to start all over again.

Some of those worries you had relegated to the “forget about it pile” come back in full strength.

What if I die? Have I made enough provisions for the kids? If I lose my job (thank you very much recession!) will I be able to keep a roof over our heads? Who’s going to take care of things if I get sick (and let’s face it no one looks after us mums when we get sick – sorry dads, but it’s true)?

And that’s just the vulnerabilities we have ourselves. What about all the ones we adopt on behalf of our children?

What if they fall off the swing and have to suffer the pain of scrapes and bruises? What if another child is mean to them at playgroup? How will they feel if a strange adult pushes in front of them as if they were beneath notice when they’re queuing to buy their very own copy of their favouritist, favouritist magazine?

How can a toddler fall over so often, and so spectacularly, which a certain small girl does at least 10 times before breakfast, without apparently suffering any ill effects apart from dirty hands (which she hates)? I watch her and I’m sure that within the hour we’d be waiting for the paramedics if I fell over even a quarter as much, and that’s if we were lucky.

There is a positive side to this added vulnerability we have. How many of us are more aware of what we are doing to the environment, or adopt a healthier diet because they need proper food whilst they’re growing up?

How about the life-long heavy metal fan who is quite happy sitting there in a glittery tiara whilst drinking pretend tea from a pink cup they could barely fit their little finger into? (Yes, Other Half. It is coming!) Or the body builder walking down the road carrying a Dora the Explorer back pack and the My Little Pony that wouldn’t quite be corralled inside it? Or the mother who will adopt whichever character name that’s been assigned to them for the day (today it’s Dashi – we’re back in Octonauts mode)?

How about showing our children that it’s all right to be caring and sensitive towards the needs of others? Or giving them a sense that they have some control over their lives, since daddy will comply with the tea-party-etiquette, as laid down by them, without any argument?

Yes, having children does make us more vulnerable when it comes to threats to them, but in dealing with those threats we get the opportunity to show our children the best of ourselves and give them something positive to aspire to.

And maybe that’s a vulnerability for us to aspire to.

You’ll have to excuse me now. Someone’s just sounded the Octoalert.

K is for Kicking

 

K is for Kicking

K is for Kicking

Kicking footballs, that is.

And sliding down slides (hopefully without getting wedged halfway down).

And sitting on swings.

And generally reliving all the childhood activities you secretly wanted to do but were too embarrassed to actually do (at least in public).

Having children gives you the excuse you need to run around playgrounds shouting, or gallop across a field pretending to be a cowboy (or girl) or knight on horseback. (Please tell me I’m not the only one to do that!)

It’s a little like having a second childhood without the disapproving looks, you know the ones, where people obviously think you’re having a mid-life crisis.

One without a flash car.

You can even watch the latest animated films without feeling as if you are either being childish or slightly sinister. Yes, I know they put the extra layer of meaning in for adults today, at least in the good ones, but it’s still nice to be able to appreciate the “aah” and “ooh” moments for the innocent elements of the story that they are.

It’s amazing some of the things that haven’t changed since we were children. I can see my little boy resisting the same temptation to jump off the swing at the top of the arc. I say resisting, but I’m pretty sure he just doesn’t have the courage yet. I’m going to keep telling myself that to make myself feel better.

And that’s one of the scary parts of being a parent isn’t it? We know they’re likely to do exactly the same things we did, and in all likelihood not hurt themselves too badly when they do, but now we know how dangerous it is.

And what the possible consequences can be.

And I really hope he doesn’t so some of the things his father did when he was growing up. Like riding his bike off the end of the pier into the river. Repeatedly.

Or jumping off the swing at just the right point to land on the roof of a nearby garage. (OK, so that was me rather than his dad.)

Getting back to the change thing, a lot of the same nursery rhymes are still sung, though I don’t remember any about spaceships when I was little (and I would remember, having been a nerd since I was about 5).

We’re not at the stage where he’s at school, so I don’t know if kids still play chase (or British Bulldog as we used to call it) or run around the school field playing the latest Doctor Who villain. At our school you could always tell what films had been on at the weekend. There’s nothing quite as surreal as a large group of school children staggering around during lunch break with their arms held out in front of them chanting “Odd Bod”. Yep, you could always tell when Carry on Screaming had been on.

I have no doubt there are things that will be different. I haven’t a clue about the impact of You Tube and social media on what children do nowadays but I do know how quickly crazes can spread, or how difficult it is to make sure they only see appropriate stuff. Gone are the days when fads came from films and TV programmes and were spread via comics, cereal packets and word of mouth (and the displays by the supermarket tills that parents dreaded). The characters and toys ended as video games, they weren’t spawned by them.

Ours aren’t at that point yet I’m not going to worry about it.

I’m sure there will be plenty of things to freak about before then.

Besides, they only know how to find Octonauts and Curious George on the smart phones at the moment.

And in the meantime, I’ll try not to get stuck in any swings and face the embarrassment of having to be rescued by firefighters.

On the other hand…

The Great Easter Hat Incident

It's a bunny. Honest.

It’s a bunny. Honest.

Motormouth is entering an Easter hat competition. It’s his first and I’m not sure who is most excited, him or me. I’m mainly excited at the thought of making something with him that didn’t involve cartoon characters.

Or wheels.

Or walls.

He’s excited because it involves scissors and glue. And hats.

So, I dutifully went and bought a straw hat for the base (I might think I’m pretty creative, but I know I’m not that creative, you should see my attempt at an Octonauts cap) and some random bits to stick on it. I say random, they weren’t really. I got some pipe cleaners, some tiny pompoms, feathers and some googly eyes (just because I could).

I drew the line at pastel-coloured eggs and fluffy chicks, partly because they were a little twee for me (I would like to apologise to fans of fluffy eggs and pastel-coloured chicks, each to their own), and partly because they looked a little too tasty for a house with a small girl who routinely cruises for food and has absolutely no compunction about taking it from you grasp, regardless of what you might think about it.

I didn’t really have any idea of how we were going to decorate the hat, and, when I thought about it, that seemed right, after all, he was entering the competition, not me.

It surprised me how excited Motormouth was at the idea of making this together (as in jumping-up-and-down-clapping-his-hands-in-glee excited). He decided he wanted me to help him make it, rather than the Other Half (who I think was secretly relieved about this since he doesn’t feel altogether comfortable around glue for some reason).

So, Sunday afternoon, we sat down with the hat, the bits and some sticky letters left over from Christmas. It was all a bit chaotic as the Other Half got involved after all, mainly because Mini was cruising. See, I told you she did it.

It was a bit like Christmas really.

Christmas with googly eyes flying everywhere as Motormouth got a little overenthusiastic opening the bag.

It was agreed, mainly by Motormouth, that his name would go on the hat. Not a bad idea to make sure it didn’t get confused with all the other entries, even though by this time I had a sneaking suspicion that he was in no danger of merging with the crowd.

Mini found the whole thing very interesting, especially the sticky letters. Unlike me, she had no problems with peeling the back off the letters and had probably been wandering round for a while with a bright green G stuck to her forehead before we noticed it (I wonder what it stood for. G for Girl? G for Grumpy – we’ve had a fair bit of that this week. If it’s the latter, we could all do with them stuck to our heads. Unfortunately there were no Gs left so I’ve opted for P for Pooped, the Other Half already having taken E for exhausted. I thought that was quite clever of me since it works on so many levels. Fortunately, it’s not P for Pooped On so much any more. Damn! Did I really say that. It’s bound to happen soon now. )

Motormouth wasn’t so happy at Mini’s attempted involvement, so we had a few fairly vocal reminders that it was Motormouth’s hat, not hers.

What next?

Why, feathers of course! After a little finagling we managed attach them securely to the hat, although for some reason they all ended up on one side.

Motormouth decided he wanted some eyes on there next, the biggest, googliest eyes there were. Can’t waste them can you? Otherwise they just sit there in their bag, looking at you accusingly.

On the hat they went and, after resolving a few technical difficulties, they even stayed on!. (Note to self, don’t assume super glue will stick anything together when you are making things with your children – except your children.)

All I can say is thank god for double-sided sticky pads.

So, we had a hat with feathers.

And googly eyes.

What the hell were we going to do with it next? After all, it was meant to be an entry for an Easter hat competition.

Two googly eyes and some bottle-green feathers don’t really make anyone think of Easter, not in a good way at least.

Motormouth looked forlornly at the pile of bits and pieces.

Then he noticed the pompoms that had exploded all over the floor (having been set a bad example by the googly eyes).

We’ll have a nose!

On went a fluffy blue thing, roughly below the eyes.

I looked forlornly at the pile of bits and pieces.

Something was still missing.

The pipe cleaners!

And what do we associate with Easter?

No, not chocolate, at least not on this occasion.

Something with ears?

Yep. Pipe cleaner bunny ears.

On they went.

Motormouth and I surveyed the hat. It still needed something more.

By this point I was feeling a little like Curious George, making something completely random out of odd bits and pieces lying around. I was just hoping I might achieve the same level of success he always seem to.

There was further discussion and we agreed that something with ears, eyes and nose needed a mouth.

More pipe cleaners and we had finished. I was quite pleased and with the effect of the sticky backed pads (I love those things), our Easter Bunny had teeth.

It's a hat, an Easter hat, I tell you!

It’s a hat, an Easter hat, I tell you!

A happy accident.

Unfortunately it also looks like the more-than-slightly-demented younger cousin of Donnie Darko. The fact that it’s all in bright spring colours only makes it more sinister.

I don’t think Motormouth looks at him in the same way. At least I hope he doesn’t.

I don’t think you should give a 4-year-old the amount of chocolate he would need to get over that kind of trauma. Plus it’s not good for his mother’s waistline.

Oops. Did I just type that out loud? It’s for his own good, honestly, and chocolate does have a use-by date, and children should have their sweets rationed and he gets so much chocolate anyway……

I’ll just stop there.

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.