Tag Archives: road safety

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.

Herding Cats

Guess which route is Mini's.

Guess which route is Mini’s.

I’ve jokingly said in the past that getting our children from A to B is like herding cats.

Today, having spent 10 minutes trying to get Mini and Motormouth the few hundred yards from the car to the house, it struck me again how true this was.

If I can take the liberty of describing the scenario?

I get the kids out of the car and persuade them to stay on the path, roughly in the vicinity of the vehicle, as I get their bags out. Toddlers, of course, never carry their own bags.

Apparently it’s in the rules.

Laden down with everybody’s bags, plus any supermarket shopping I might have done, I get the children across the road safely. Motormouth is very good about stop, look, listen and even Mini is fairly reliable about the stop and look. I’m not convinced she would do, or rather not do, anything if she saw something, but at least we’ve made progress.

So, we get across the road and that’s where things start to get a little complicated, or rather random.

First of all, there’s a slope up to our house. A very long slope with its length being exponentially proportional to the weight of your bags and how badly you need to go to the loo.

There are two paths leading from the road with houses on the outside of the path and a stretch of grass between them. Our house is at the top of one of the paths. Normal people walk up the path to our house. (I’ve drawn a map, just in case I’ve confused you already.)

That’s when it gets interesting.

Toddlers aren’t normal people.

First of all they spend time deciding which path to take.

Then they have to do a gate check for every house they pass. If the gate is open, they have to make a door knocker check.

Then they have to check the garden walls of each house, either by running their hands along them, sampling the lichen or any other vegetation clinging to it. Where appropriate, they lean on the wall far enough to a visual check on the plants growing in the gardens.

Slowly, they will work their way up the path (past 4 houses which always feels like more than it is).

This would be simple if it were the only thing, but no, they are far too diligent for that.

Because we can’t forget the examination of flowers, clumps of cut grass, weeds, trees, sticks, stones, dried up earthworms, dead frogs, live snails and and anything else even remotely interesting that must take place at random.

All of this necessitates a path that would challenge the most talented trackers.

And they take separate paths.

Motormouth tends to move faster.

Mini tends to move downhill more.

And all the time the shopping bags get heavier.

I have had to take emergency measures and send Motormouth to fetch Mini whilst I try to extricate myself from shopping bags that have suddenly developed a serious case of separation anxiety.

Sometimes this is more successful than others. I’m not quite sure how to rate Motormouth dragging Mini across the grass by the foot. I mean, it achieved the objective of getting her closer to the house and she was able to stand up when he let go.

And she’d stopped laughing.

All this means that a simple straight-line walk from A to B that should take 2 minutes can take 20 on a bad day. Bad for us grown ups that is. The kids think it’s great, all that exploring.

If I was being really analytical and had my psychology brain plugged it, I would say that it’s a good metaphor for the track our kids will take in life. It won’t be the one we want them to take and they may take diversions we rather they didn’t, as well as a few backwards steps or downhill runs, but if they get to B safely then that’s all that matters.

But since the shopping bags are heavy, and I really, really need to go to the loo, I’ll just think of it as herding cats.

Now, what’s the toddler equivalent of a tin of tuna?

L is for Looking


L is for Looking

L is for Looking



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?


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…

Wait… wait… go!

Cross Red Man

Cross Red Man

Okay, this is where I am going to rant a little.

I try not to do it too often but there are certain things that really annoy me, I mean have a go at complete strangers annoy me. I don’t actually do that, partly because I try and avoid that kind of confrontation and partly because I am trying to stop the Other Half from doing it as well.

What makes me so mad?

Little green men.

Sounds a bit weird doesn’t it. Which little green men am I getting so aerated about? The ones that wave gaily at crossings, as opposed to the stern red men who stand there with hands on hips.

Poor Motormouth is diligently learning how to cross the road safely, stopping, looking and listening (why did they get rid of the Green Cross Man – and I hope I’m not the only one old enough to remember David Prowse played a role other than Darth Vader).

He always gets to push the button at the crossing, even if it’s already been done and it’s his special job to tell us when the green man appears and it’s safe to cross the road.

So is it any wonder that, as a parent trying to keep their child safe, I get annoyed at people who cross regardless? Motormouth can barely judge the distance between the door jambs (he takes after me and is always walking into them), how is he supposed to judge the speed of oncoming traffic and compare that to the time it will take him to cross the road? How can you stop a three year old getting confused about not being allowed to cross at the same time as others, adults who should know better and often have their own children in tow?

We are already having to find different ways to explain to him that if he gets hit by a car he won’t just jump up and carry on like before. This brings it’s own concerns as well. I remember a few years back trying to get my head around the fact that a friend’s eleven year old was convinced that if you got run over you got another life, just like the computer games.

I am resigned to the fact that we will just have to keep explaining why he needs to wait, and how,just because others are being silly doesn’t mean he has to be like that as well.

Are there bugbears you have about the behaviour of adults around your children?

PS Sorry about the rant, and I promise not to do it again, well not anytime soon.

Squashed Frogs and the Grim Reaper

Unsquashed Frog and the Grim Reaper

Unsquashed Frog and the Grim Reaper

Motormouth is going through a stage of being obsessed with squashed frogs. And death.

He doesn’t really see the two go hand in hand though.

Perhaps I should explain a little more.

At the side of our road is a frog. One very flat, very dead frog, clearly the victim of a road traffic accident.

Being responsible parents (and trying to look as if we pointed out this ex-frog to our son for a valid, educational purpose) we have explained to Motormouth that this is what could happen to him if he isn’t careful when crossing the road.

Cue air pumps.”We’ll have to take it to the vet and he can pump it up again.” A confident statement from a three year old.

“No, sweetheart, sometimes creatures are too badly hurt to be fixed again and they die.”

Big mistake.

Not telling him that things die. The mistake was not having really prepared for what comes after – the questions. This from the woman who had to explain what an autopsy was to a six year old as well.

We are not religious, so we have told him that when things die they become stars. He hasn’t really had anyone or anything close to him die before (apart from the child minder’s cat), so I think he is struggling a little with the concept of “gone forever”.

Hence we have the same questions over and over again. (Which is standing operating procedure anyway).

This time it is a little more poignant, especially when he discovered one of the Other Half’s tattoos is in memory of a sister who died before Motormouth was born.

The questions themselves run along similar themes – how did it happen, why did it happen, where did it happen (see the pattern? Rudyard Kipling would be proud) and so on.

We try to answer them as best we can, trying to get the right balance between a warning about road safety and so on, and not scaring him or making him too morbid.

It’s not helped by the fact that Squashed Frog, as he/she is now known in the family, has been there for a few days. It has become a ritual. Every time we go out or come back, we have to visit the frog.

I must admit to looking forward to when the road is cleaned, though the frog is very, very flat and I’m not sure it hasn’t become an integral part of the road surface by now.

I comfort myself with the fact that toddlers are a lot more resilient than we give them credit for sometimes.

He’s now asking whether it was slugs or snails who pecked out the frog’s eyes.

PS – If you’re a Terry Pratchett fan, you should recognise the Death of Rats in the photo. I don’t think he’s mentioned a Death of Frogs, but I’m sure there is one.