Tag Archives: phrases

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.


T is for Teacher

T is for Teaching

T is for Teaching

Where do I start with this? Or rather, where does it start for us?

From Day 1.

When that precious, noisy little bundle first arrives she’s working on instinct alone – rooting to find a nipple, crying when she wants to communicate something. She doesn’t even know that she’s a person in her own right yet, let alone that you are an individual and might have your own needs (like a trip to the loo).

And it can continue like that for months or years as she slowly develops the understanding and cognitive processes that allow her to see the difference.

And all the time, we’re teaching her.

Often without realising what we’re doing.

When we’re talking to her, knowing she won’t understand a word we’re saying, we’re teaching her about speech patterns, rhythms and waiting her turn to speak. When we’re helping her stack blocks or fill water containers, we’re teaching her to think in three dimensions and that although things might not look the same, they are. Three blocks stacked up are still three blocks when they’re in a row. We teach her her first words when she watches us point to things and name them.

She’ll still choose whichever word she wants for her first. I’m reliably informed that harder consonants are easier to form than soft, which is why babies are more likely to have “daddy” as their first word (that’s what I’m telling myself anyway).

I suppose that would also explain Motormouth’s second word being beer…

Then there are the less tangible concepts we have to teach them. How to be nice to someone, what good manners are or why they should share. It’s easy to do that isn’t it? We just teach them to go through the steps, and help them develop the understanding whilst they keep repeating the actions.

But is it really that easy?

We already know that our children learn by copying. That’s how they’ve learned pretty much everything that way so far.

So what about the times when our own application of the standards slip? When we forget to say thank you, or we push into a queue (yep, showing Englishness here)? How about being patient when we’re trying to get everyone out of the door on time in the morning?

They follow our example.

And it can be really tiring setting an example all the time.

Is there a solution?


We just have to teach them that no-one’s perfect, that we all make mistakes, and even the nicest person can be grumpy and impatient at times.

That people are fallible and we should give them some leeway.

And that has to be the hardest lesson of all since we’re all (or certainly I’m still) learning to understand that as an adult.

Newsflash – Toddler Averts Taste Disaster

Photo from archive

Photo from archive

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

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

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

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

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G is for Grumpy


G is for grumpy

G is for grumpy

Oh, where do I start?

At some point, everyone gets grumpy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what do I do now when I’m grumpy?

I try and hide it.

Probably not very successfully.

And the days I can’t?

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

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

1… 2… 3…

I don't want...

I don’t want…

It’s been a week of numbers, well, the first three anyway.


Motormouth has developed An Attitude.

I know it comes to every child, and therefore every parent, but it’s hit us hard and fast.

I have to admit, we were probably getting a little complacent (or dare I say it even smug) since Motormouth has generally given us an easy ride. Of course we’ve had the odd tantrum here and there (and two notable melt-downs) but nothing that has lasted or caused real problems.

But the last week?

We seem to have had a changeling in our midst.

Suddenly we have this small bundle of angry attitude that has been going off at the slightest provocation. It’s like he’s been practising to be a November 5th firework.

I don’t want to go the silly doctors! (It wasn’t his appointment.)

I don’t want to go to bed! (Pretty much a standard protest I know.)

I don’t want to eat my dinner! (Even though it was exactly what he’d asked for.)

I don’t want to get dressed!

I don’t want to clean my teeth!

I don’t want to go to the child minder!

I don’t want to watch silly Cartoonito/Nick Jr/CBBC…!

We’ve been struggling to find out what he does want. We’re still working on it.

It’s been difficult to identify why he has been so volatile. He’s not been eating anything different. No chocolate and no fizzy drinks. He’s had the same involvement in choosing what he’s eating, what he wears and where we go as he usually does.

The only thing that has changed is that Mini is going to the same child minder he goes to. (He is due to go to a playgroup for a couple of days a week now.) Motormouth has told us he is happy about this. He loves spending time with Mini and, even though she is nearly 16 months old, he still has to introduce her to everyone they meet. He really wants to go to playgroup as well and was jumping up and down with excitement about it tonight, so I don’t think it’s that.

It’s left us scratching our heads.

It’s also left us with rapidly diminishing options with regards to punishment. Most of his toys are in black bin bags where he refused to help tidy up. He hasn’t quite understood he needs to help tidy up to start earning them back. He had no television over the weekend. We didn’t go to the park. He didn’t get jelly for desert.

I knew we would have to develop patience and thick skins, not to mention a variety of ways to address issues when we needed to, but there are some unexpected quirks we need to learn to deal with. The main thing I have learned from the last week … I need to think more quickly on my feet.

Me – Where have your manners gone?

Motormouth – Soccerboy took them. (Soccerboy is an older friend of his).

Me – uh… (trying not to laugh and working out what the heck I was supposed to say – I didn’t want to ruin the responsible parenting aura I am trying to affect).

Me – Tidy your toys up before dinner please.

Motormouth – No.

Me – Right, your toys go into a bin bag then.

Motormouth – No, you can’t do that.

The Other Half walks in from work

Motormouth – Daddy, mummy’s been horrible and taken all my toys.

And the classic?

“Mummy you’ve upset me. You should go to your room and think about what you’ve done.”

This one still makes me laugh.

We are also more used to being “those parents”, you know, the ones you look at with either sympathy or irritation depending on your views on their parenting style, as they haul a toddler out of the shop tucked under their arm, a toddler moreover that is screaming at the top of their voice.

I know that this is a passing stage and we will soon get the normal, smiling, happy, mischievious but polite child that we know and love instead of the little boy who announces to me that he’s “a grumpy boy today”.

Of course we love this one too but he’s so much more tiring.

Wakey Wakey!

Mm. Beans...

Mm. Beans…

This weekend we went to a wake. This wasn’t your usual wake though, it was the fifth for this particular couple and they were very much alive and present. In fact, they were hosting it (and as always thank you so much).

Perhaps this needs a little explaining. The Other Half comes from a large family which got even larger when Granddad R married Nanny J (quite) a few years ago. The clan is now so large that the only way we can all get together is to meet up outside Granddad R and Nanny J’s very nice but small bungalow; so we take over an entire restaurant. About 60 of us. Last year it was 50 or so since the clan keeps growing (fortunately no one is dropping off the upper end of the range). This year the youngest was just a few weeks old. Last year Mini was almost the youngest (give or take 3 days) at around 12 weeks.

As you might gather it is very much a time for family.

And for once, our family wasn’t the noisiest.

This is despite Motormouth running the full length of the restaurant shouting “Quick! I’ve got to rescue Maya from the lava!” We’re not quite sure who Maya was, since he seems to assign arbitrary names to those he plays with (at least he is consistent in calling us Dashi and Kwazii which makes us slightly less confused).

It is one of the highlights of the day, seeing all the children playing together in the restaurant garden even if they do come back inside covered in mud.

And Motormouth stuck with his own little tradition, managing to find some water from somewhere before spraying it liberally down his front. It was followed later by his bubbles.

And Mini?

She enjoyed getting very messy eating her baked beans one by one. Then she was kidnapped by one of those aunts (and I mean that in a very good way). You know the ones I mean; they have the patience of a saint and seem quite happy to keep small children amused, even during meals. This gave us the rare opportunity of eating our desert without a small girl’s telescopic arms grabbing for the plate.


If you have small children you know exactly what I mean.

I appreciated it anew today when we resumed normal service with Motormouth inching ever closer so he could lean on my arm when I was eating. I move him (and his chair) and a few minutes later, he is leaning against me again.

It wouldn’t be so bad, but I’ve managed to do something nasty to my elbow (I think it was diagnosed as golfer’s elbow, which will make anyone who knows how well acquainted I am with sport laugh) and my pet hate at the moment is anyone pushing or touching that elbow. I am being very calm with him but I suspect I am a little short (well shorter than usual) with the Other Half.

It’s a good job he’s patient with me.

Back to the Wake…

Bethany was properly introduced to bubbles as well. She’s seen them before of course, but that has been outdoors. This time she had the opportunity to try and catch the bubbles. Far from getting frustrated that she couldn’t catch them, she was having a great time.

Seeing that, it reminded me that we need to spend more time doing the simple things with the kids. Like blowing bubbles.

Or doing puzzles. (Motormouth’s latest obsession.)

Or building towers. (His other latest obsession.)

I’ve even got plans to make more things with Motormouth now the weather is starting to get a little wetter. I’ve been carefully collecting cereal boxes and suchlike.

I have absolutely no idea what to make with them (he wants to make planes) but I have the vague notion of doing something Christmassy.

I’m not sure I’m brave enough to break out the paint though (having watched him struggle with the concept of keeping crayon on the paper and not the floor).

I know this post has wandered a little bit but there is a theme here (even if I only have just noticed it) and that is I need to identify the valuable things to do as a parent. The ones that most of the time I dismiss as being too time consuming. Or too messy. Or too difficult. Or too… anything but important.

It’s the 80:20 rule of parenting isn’t it. 20% of your effort will produce 80% of your results.

And the result I’m aiming for?

Happy kids.

Perhaps that should be a New Year’s Resolution.

PS Please tell me I’m not the only mum on this particular guilt trip?


T is for Timing


Toddlers (and babies) have such a perfect sense of timing it has to be experienced to be believed.

If it’s not the noisy filling of a nappy just before you are about to walk out of the door, it’s the extraction of an item from your handbag (in my case a sanitary towel) with a screeched “what’s this for mummy?” by the supermarket fish counter.

Both have happened to me several times before and will no doubt happen again.

When they do, you always have to choose what your reaction is going to be.

It’s a dilemma.

Do you change the nappy before you go or can you wait until you get there? If you wait and you’re dropping them off at the childminder, can you get away with pretending they did it on the way (this is easier before they can talk and drop you in it)? Not that I would ever do it, of course.

Often you only have a few seconds to decide what your response is going to be.

I can’t remember my exact answer in the sanitary towel incident; I was too busy trying to play it down, but it was probably something along the lines of “it’s something that ladies use, ooh, look at that squid.”

The other talent my child has is a sure knowledge of when we have to be at a particular place at a particular time.

That’s when he decides he doesn’t want to get dressed, so you have to have to chase a naked boy around the house until you can pin him into a corner. Then you realise his clothes are just out of reach. We’ve tried not telling him we are going somewhere, that we can’t go if we are late and everything in between. The only thing we haven’t done is construct the sort of funnel farmers use to heard sheep towards the shearer.

Hmm… that could be the next option.

Whatever they say or do, the only way you can deal with it and retain any sanity is to laugh about it.

Once you have got over the stress of trying to be out of the door on time.