Monday, September 29, 2008

The fear factor

Yes. That's the back of my son. Riding on his scooter. On the BMX bike track. Unsupported by parent. Aged 2. And a few days.

He was, in fact standing still but only for a moment... just after I took this he shot off and I had to do the flappy Mummy dance to catch up. I held on to his handlebars and supported his back and together we raced down the slope and over a few of the bumps. He loved it.

It was a big mistake.

The problem, or perhaps one of the chief joys of being two, is that (for the lucky majority) one hasn't experienced any major setbacks in life and those that one has had, one has generally forgotten about. This means that the average two-year-old has only irrational fears to deal with (such as what-ever it is that lurks at one end of the spud's bed some nights) where-as the very real dangers in life, such as moving vehicles, steep staircases and taking on gravel-laden BMX bike tracks on one's micro-scooter (without a helmet) don't tend to trip the 'fear' switch in most toddlers and unless restrained they will happily race into danger.

Fear, or, perhaps, caution, is something that one clearly has to learn from one's parents. In fact, given that I now have a hyper-real sense of fear about things which here-to-fore I have rather taken as read (such as taking heavy things off shelves, the height of the sofa and watching 12-year-old boys rocket around on their bikes) while the spud is the Eval Kneival of toddlersville, I would like to put forward my new fear-hypothesis. This hypothesis states that at the moment a baby is born, its parents also give birth to its fear. This fear is then transmitted little by little to the child. Unfortunately, parents never seem to lose all of this extra fear and have to carry on for the rest of their lives with a super-inflated dose of caution - something that would probably have done them a lot of good in their twenties during those lost years spent... well enough about me.

It's a difficult balancing act to manage - imbuing one's offspring with enough caution that they don't think that racing their scooter on the BMX track is a good idea, without terrifying them so much that they refuse to go outside ever again, and, twenty years later, have to be cut out of their bedrooms when they get too big to fit through the door.

In the meantime, we now have to avoid the bike track during busy periods or our little spudling can be found hauling his scooter onto the starting grid with a very determined set to his jaw before setting off down the slope in the path of actual bikes hurtling around it at speed.

Or he would do if we would let him.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

And that's a wrap

OK, so it didn't happen. Six days of patrolling my son's skin for every little blemish, six days of preparing for the worst - six days, incidentally, of on-and-off fever, coughing and snot, six days of showing ALL the signs he was about to launch in to chickenpox and nada. And, in Bad Mother news, I feel totally, completely and utterly cheated.

So. I admit. It's not the greatest thing in the world, hoping for one's darling little bundle to get sick but frankly he has to get chickenpox at some point and it was sort of convenient this week a relief to get some warning. Now that I know it's out there lurking in wait for my little pudding I rather want to get it over with.

The main side-effect of all this waiting around is that every time he complains a little... maybe his Thomas is a few inches too far away, perhaps he's woken up with an itchy toe... anything, basically, that he chooses to complain about after midnight, particularly if he complains for more than 30 seconds, lands him up in our bed with two over-attentive parents feeling his head and holding his hands and paying him loads of attention and all the while not getting any sleep of their own at all.

This morning, I woke up having completely forgotten that I'd carted him into bed at 5am; to see his smug little smiling face nose to nose with mine (alright, it was quite cute. OK, very cute. Dammit let me get on with this). He proceeded to wrap his arm around my head and administer several damp kisses to my cheek (Shut. Up. No, I don't have pictures for crying out loud). His next move was to hightail it over to his Dad, wrap his arms around the frog's sleeping shoulders and say 'Mmmmmm, Dadai!'.

Yeah I know. He has us wrapped.

The upshot of this is that bedtime is now a big struggle as he sits in his cot shouting for us to take him to the proper bed: 'Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai', (we only get 'Daddy' and 'Mummy' when he's in a good mood. The rest of the time we get Eurotrash) 'Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai, Mummai...' you have no idea. He can go on for a Very Long Time. Last night he did it for about an hour. Every five or ten minutes, or however long it took one of us to cave under the onslaught, we would go in and he'd gurgle a bit and look sleepy - but as soon as we left he was back at it like some sort of public announcement machine gone wonky.

The thing is, because we're not as cool as we like to make out, we get worried that perhaps THIS time it's for real... maybe he's done a poo or maybe he's been sick or perhaps the evil pox has come in the night to rampage over his dewy epidermis... you know, the one time you give up because you're convinced he's crying wolf is the one time that the wolf is squatting over him with evil intentions. Or something. Either way we have now had no sleep for about a week and so our judgement is sorely lacking.

Anyway, I forgot that this was supposed to be about the kitchen fire he set this morning. I'm so tired I have actually forgotten the entire thing - the failed fire extinguisher, the flames, the panic, the smoke detectors, the shutting down of the mains and eventual dousing of the guilty toaster with a bucket of water; the frog repainting the entire kitchen. This morning. All that. And I forgot.

Tonight we have agreed no spud in the bed... but then we agreed that last night. And the night before. Oh yeah, we are W. R. A. P. P. E. D.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Run for your lives, it's...

The Lurgi!

We're in the very un-nerving position of knowing that our little potato is about to get sick - but not knowing when, and therefore having to make risky decisions about where to take him and who to let him lick talk to.

Yes folks, our little pumpkin was exposed to... the POX!! Chickenpox, of course, although now that I have read a library of evidence on the subject there is a relationship to the actual Pox - mind you, from the way people react you'd think he was about to contract the plague. So now we are in agonies of waiting and preparing and looking at him all fondly because he's so little and sweet and has no idea what's coming for him.

I have also just discovered that when one writes the word 'pox' more than once it begins to look sort of alien and unlikely and one has to go and look it up in the dictionary just to check it's not actually spelled 'pocks'. Chickenpox. Smallpox. The pox. Pocks. Pockmarks. OK now every word is looking weird, someone get me a martini and a lie-down.

Anyway. So last Friday we were at one of the 100 thousand birthday parties we've been invited to in the last few weeks to experience more levels of party-food and goodie-bag guilt. The little boy in question has a somewhat contrary relationship with the spud, in that they both get right up each other's noses which means that most of their interactions end up in mini-fisticuffs. At that age, this mainly involves some face-to-face crying action followed by kissing and making up, hand-holding, playing and more crying.

What I'm getting at here is that they spent quite a lot of time together. Close up. In coughing distance. And the other little boy did have a cough -the sort of cough in fact that small children get right before they break out in the pox which he gaily did the very next day. Meaning that he was spectacularly infectious at the time and it's fairly likely that the spud is poxy-in-waiting - although, crucially, not guaranteed.

Short of painting a big black X on our door and cowering inside for the next two weeks, I'm not actually certain what to do next. Yes, come Monday he could be covered in spots. Or Tuesday. Or perhaps Wednesday. Or not. Meaning that from Saturday he may be infectious. Or Sunday . Or perhaps Monday. Or not at all. Because, my Very Good Friend who has Gone Before says that her 4 year old was exposed to the pox many times before he actually caught it.

So - do we tell the nursery and risk them making him stay home next week Just In Case? Or, do we put all the children at risk (or not) by sending him in? Or what? What? WHAT???

I am SUCH a nice person that the thought of going up to the nursery in ten minutes time and not mentioning it to them is going to create in me absolute agonies of angst... I mean, I will be dancing on their doorstep and mumbling like a female Hugh Grant; but if I can't stop myself and it leaches out and they tell me to keep him home next week, how much more angsty will I be if I let down a client and lose a week of work when he's NOT infectious?

We've now been banned from all our birthday party commitments this weekend (so there's something to be said for honesty!) and so are going to be able to laze around the house all cakeless and guilt-free.

To the nursery I go...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Acts of retention

There's something about having a son that just doesn't get discussed among women. It's the elephant in the kitchen if you like - or rather, the elephant's nose.

While women are capable of doing pretty much anything, the care and maintenance of a penis is something that, while I'm sure we all have some pretty strong ideas on, we've not generally had to manage on a daily basis... minds out of the gutter please. This all changes with the advent of a baby boy into one's life and suddenly one has to think about things such as foreskins; pointing a willy so pee goes into nappy rather than belly button, dealing with the 'pee arc', cleanliness, avoidance of zippers and, most importantly, aiming wee into a toilet.

This last point is one on which one's husband should usefully be instructing however there are days in which no husband is available and it is only a Mummy and her little potty-trainer. Not to embarrass the spud overly I have to say that he has cottoned on to the big issues very quickly, however when it comes to the old 'point and shoot' he's decided to solve the problem of directional randomness by hanging on with a very tight grip. Now. Anyone who has squeezed the end of a hose or blocked a running tap with a finger will have a clue as to the outcome of this particular strategy... as in rather than resembling a little teapot (beyond the 'short and stout' part) he resembles a bottle of windex which doesn't only 'clean' the loo, but also the walls, the floors, his clothes and his fingers. It's not all good.

Apart from a little collateral damage we are accident free on the potty training front - this is however helped enormously by the fact that currently we are only working with number 1. Our normally regular little potato has decided to hold on to his ass...ets for as long as possible and is now releasing equity only once every two or three days - normally in his sleep which is something he has not done since he was a few months old. This tells me that he is worried in some way about spending anything more than a penny in the facilities provided and is becoming retentive in the most literal manner possible. Talking to another mother who is potty training it turns out that her little boy is doing exactly the same which is somewhat reassuring however I am now looking for as many ways as possible to help my little accountant release his capital without losing interest... ba dum dum.

In the meantime we soldier on however if you fancy dropping round for a visit I may be putting you off for a month or so until business returns to normal.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Party politics

Birthday party season has well and truly landed. Since most of the spuds friends are children whom we met at various baby classes, antenatal classes and various other activities involving children calculated to be within a few months of his age, it is therefore unsurprising that they are all turning two around the same time.

This raises several problems in our little toddler world, questions surrounding birthday party presents; birthday party clothes; birthday party manners and dealing with birthday party sugar rushes. All these however pale into the paintwork when stood beside the big one... birthday party competitions.

I'm not talking the sort of competition where small children race giggling around a row of kitchen chairs. No, I'm talking about the unspoken competition between Mums which surrounds all aspects of Putting On A Birthday Party. Who bakes the best cake? Who lays on the best spread? Who has the nicest house? Who gives out the nicest party bags? Who, in other words, is the Best Mum. And, if you think I'm joking here, you are clearly Not A Parent.

We decided very early on in the stakes to opt out of all this madness by holding the spud's birthday in the park every year however at only the second go at this strategy we were rained right into our house... a house, I may add, which is in fact only a small apartment, which was not prepped with balloons or streamers or long tables laden with party food. Not that there's room in our place for a long table laden with party food but... well, you get my drift. We also opted not to go for any party bags - or at least, not until the spud is at an age where his friends will be expecting one. The result was that we had a sort of one-cheeked affair. Yes, there was cake and mmm... there was sort-of some nibbly bits and mmm... well we had the marquee up in the garden and... mostly, there was mud and chaos and over-excited children with nowhere to run. And beer, because the Frog and the Daddy of the spud's co-birthday party boy decided that there was Not Enough Beer and rather than purchase chocolates or fairy cakes or any sort of useful birthday party extras when they realised the whole shebang would be at our place, they just went out and bought so much beer that the jelly had to be exiled out onto the counter to go all limp before everyone arrived.

The problem is that now we have been to several other parties, it is clear that we have badly let down our little spud. Party bags are a must, even though parents stand around openly discussing that they simply eat all the treats from the bags themselves and only let their little darlings play with the kinder toys and the bouncy balls AFTER the danger of chocolate has been removed. Fairy cakes are also a must and even at two, games and entertainment should abound - toys, balls, a play table... Chairs, chairs come into it as well, apparently one should have enough chairs in the house. And table cloths, I've seen some good use of table cloths. And the Mum should look as though she's made at least some sort of effort in the face department.

At least we managed to hype the kids up on sugar to the requisite levels, but I'm guessing that that's the easy part. I don't know. Next time I'll be off to Frog's place to order lovely party bags but if anyone has any ideas on how to wow 'em at a three-year old's party, kindly leave them here for me to rummage through for next year.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Happy 2nd Birthday!

And here it is, the Spud's second birthday. Last year it was a lovely day and our plan for a picnic in the park went off without a hitch.

This year however it poured with rain and our little picnic of yesterday ended up being a massive mudfest. Inside our house. One should never give a mob of 2-year olds unrestrained access to a garden in a rain storm.

And here he is, my spud at 24 months old - or, now that he is officially a little boy - 2 years... which no doubt will soon be 'two and a quarter', 'two and a half' and so on until all those quarters go out the window and one starts lying about the actual year. It does seem to be protocol however that one's age is measured in months until one is two, however I did hear one Mum in the playground the other day announcing that her little pudding was '27 months' and you could see the rest of the Mums mentally wrangling those fractions around until we worked it out.

It's not being the mother of a 2 year old that's so surprising, it's remembering that I did actually have a baby, once. It just seems so unlikely now that he's here, all three feet plus of him, cloaked in his personality like a river of light flashing around the flat; so unlikely that he was ever tiny and helpless.

So, what to write about my new two-year-old that will do him justice? Clearly, I as a mad woman lost in the thrall of Motherhood have absolutely no sense of scale when it comes to my son so anything I write here is completely suspect so... what do I say? The facts? The fiction? How about a simple blurt...

At two, the spud has friends he gets so excited to see that he gasps and can't breathe for a second. He's really trying to be potty trained and now he's also really trying to speak. He can recognise a letter or two of the alphabet and the number one and he loves his trains, although he loves the computer more. He gets very put out if I refuse to read him at least three books at bedtime and last night after only two, my little exhausted bean fell asleep murmering 'booh... booh... booh' under his breath. He has nightmares and sometimes has to come in to sleep with us - we find him sitting in the corner of his cot, pointing at something outside. We don't know what it is yet, but until I can banish it he will sleep with us and be immediately happy. He loves to laugh and a fart joke will get him going every time. He loves to dance and to play 'ringa ringa rosie' and to spin around until he's dizzy and fall down. He loves to cuddle and snuggle and likes to climb under the duvet and put his head on the pillow, close his eyes and snore loudly and fakely until he makes himself laugh. He loves to watch me cook and will eat anything if he's seen it in the pan first. He loves to run and to climb and to swing and he loves to sit in his room surrounded by books, pointing seriously at things and muttering to himself. He looks like the spitting image of his Dad and he ignores me about the same amount as well... seeing the two of them together is heart-attack inducingly sweet and fattening.

Two years on from this and I can't remember a damn thing about life before my little spudlet. Happy birthday, baby boy, and many more to come.