Tag Archives: reading

Dragon’s Tears


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.


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.


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?


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.

S is for Story

Just a few from one of the bookcases!

Just a few from one of the bookcases!

Both my children love books, although Mini primarily sees them as a chew toy (still, at least she’s then giving various parts of my anatomy a rest.)

Motormouth loves having stories read to him at night and often during the day as well. One of his favourite treats is going to the library (that might have something to do with the toys they have there as well). He will not settle down without a bedtime story or three and it often becomes a point of negotiation as to when “read me another one” has to stop.

He loves having the same story read to him over and over again as well. This week it has been Take the Ghost Train. Looking at it from an adult point of view it is quite scary but he loves it and doesn’t seem to have had any nightmares over it (not once we had established that ghosts and ghouls were afraid of his stuffed polar bear Bear Bear, backed up by raspberries blown by little boys.)

There is solid scientific evidence showing that it is helpful for children to hear stories over and over – they learn sentence structure, that stories have a beginning middle and end and so on – but it can become a little repetitive as a parent, especially when they have woken up with growing pains and you’re reading Little Red Riding Hood for the fifth time that night.

Sundays are also a good day for reading and it is not uncommon for a piping voice demanding “read me these” to accompany several books landing in your lap when you least expect it. I have noticed that as his arms get longer the number of books increases.

It’s hard to mind any of this when it is one of the few times an active toddler will sit still and cuddle up for more than a few seconds. You learn to take it where you can get it.

One of the things I started when he was a baby was a reading diary for him and I have managed to keep it going for over three years now with the idea of handing it over to him when he is older. (I am one of those people who LOVES to make lists and I have kept my own reading diary since I was about 11.)

I will never forget the first entry. “Happy Dog, Sad Dog – We tried to read this to him at bedtime; he tried to eat the book.” Now he looks at the pictures as well.



Nine Lives


Nine lives and counting

Nine lives and counting

 I finished reading a very good book by Michael Jecks the other day. In it, he had written about a murder. Admittedly this took place in the middle ages and was therefore suitably gruesome, but it shocked me.

Which was a pleasant surprise.

Why? I hear you ask.

Well, whether I realised it or not, I had become quite worried about becoming desensitised to violence. The daily dose of death on the news, whether it be caused by war in the Middle East, terrorism somewhere else, some individual taking the ultimate action against another or a natural disaster where Mother Earth is reminding us who really holds the power, it just sort of floats past me.

It doesn’t make me feel sad. It doesn’t make me feel happy of course but it doesn’t make me feel anything.

This of course leads to the next question; with all the advantages of the information age, have we lost the capacity to be shocked any more?

Are we in fact more occupied by how quickly the news came out and whether it was from individuals or through official sources than we are about the human cost behind it?

Is there something wrong with us when we can feel more emotion about an animal being mistreated than whole villages being gassed? The images of a woman putting a kitten into a garden bin went viral and the vitriol towards her was frightening. The coverage across the media went on until she was identified. The latest atrocity in Syria might or might not make it to the afternoon news bulletin, depending on whether it has been superseded by the next event.

And if we can’t tell any more, how can we set a good example to our children; teach them to feel the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, rather than just understanding it as a theoretical concept?

The difference between permanent effect and we can start all over again.

I’ve been trying to explain death to Motormouth. He is struggling with the concept. He knows he had an aunt who died before he was born, and that his childminder’s cat was run over by a car, but I’m not sure he really understands that death is forever. I know he’s probably a little young still. It won’t be helped when he inevitably starts playing computer games with their multiple lives that can be reset simply by restarting the game or buying a few tokens.

When will he be able to separate the “never mind, just start over” illusion of games from the “getting shot can be a life-changing event” or “you don’t just get up again if you’ve been hit by a car”?

In the meantime, we’ll get him to learn the theory by rote and hope he understands the rest in time.

If he, and other children like him, can’t, then we’re all in for a rough ride.