Sunday, December 28, 2008

...and all through the house...

I can't remember the last time I was as excited about a Christmas as I have been about this one. I used to love Christmas, adore it, nurture the thought of it and plot my present purchases over the six to eight months running up; I used to make my pudding in August and love it with brandy on a weekly basis until it emerged from the pot, steaming and reeking of booze on Christmas afternoon; I used to tingle with the anticipation of the furtive filling of stockings, the midnight mulled wine and mince pies and the early morning cracker-crowns and champagne.

Then, then there came a prolonged spell of hating it, the heaving mass of the public crammed into the shops, the last-minute purchases, the grey, empty feeling of sitting alone in one's rented room opening parcels from abroad and the false cheer of friends together trying to recreate the warmth of childhood. Then I married the Ghost of Christmas Past and gamely prepared our celebrations while he clanked and hooted and derided the capitalist sheen of false cheer, the arduous preparations, the dead tree and the mess. None-the-less, I soldiered on, determined to raise the spirit of Christmas Present from its wrapping paper until along came the spud and suddenly, there was the prospect of a glowing Christmas Future full of proper excitement and toys.

This year, the spud has magically learned the words 'present' and 'Santa' and I was puffed up on all the 'Night Before Christmas' hype. I baked, I planned, I imagined a rose-tinted soft-focus day with the frog fondly putting the star on top of a glowing tree; I grew presents a mile high on top of the wardrobe in anticipation. We had the nursery play, the Christmas card photograph, we mailed the cards and then it got to Christmas eve and... we hadn't bought a tree.

The only tree we could find in the entire south of London with Christmas less than 12 hours away was 7 feet tall and, having stood out in its mesh for several weeks, already beginning to shed its 'no shed' needles. While the frog struggled to put this mammoth into a bucket, I went to the supermarket for parsnips and brandy only to find that 1000 other people had the same idea. My stroke-inducing wait for the till included a lady purchasing 20 bottles of wine on coupons. Out of date coupons. This required an argument, apparently. By the time I finally got out, the frog had put up the tree and started on the decorations without me (O.M.G.) and the spud had wrapped himself in sellotape and broken in to a box of chocolates. We lost five strings of Christmas lights and after I finally manufactured dinner the spud danced around shouting 'Presents!' until 10:30pm, by which time the frog and I were ready to divorce over the question of who had put the cloves in the fridge. After the mulled wine we collapsed into bed only to be woken by the spud at 1 and then 3 and then, at 5:30, by the crash of the Christmas tree toppling over, requiring extensive hoovering of broken glass, mopping of water and swearing.

The spud woke up at 8:30 and we were so bleary we completely forgot to open the fizz or pull a cracker, however once we were finally there, sitting in the living room opening presents, it did all rather redeem itself. The spud was gratifyingly overjoyed with every present he opened (and still is) and he went down for a lovely long nap, allowing the frog and I to get mildly tipsy and to finally rustle up some Christmas spirit of our own.

The upshot of all this is that our son is now obsessed with the idea that anything that comes in any sort of wrapping at all (the water bill, cat litter, cereal) is a 'present' and so we are finding all sorts of interesting things in his room these days.

So, it turns out there is a Santa after all. I just have to convince him to come next year, too.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Straight in at Number One...

Not sure where to start today, you know, not much has been happening, I don't have much to talk ab... oh wait... wait, yes, something is coming through... ah yes... HE'S TOILET TRAINED!!!!

God, it felt good to get that out.

Christmas shopping... cold, damp, dreary, crowds of people, long queues... the sort of experience that normally leaves me wearing down my teeth and swearing never to do it again. This year, however, I found myself floating around a packed, grey superstore, blissfully unaware of my surroundings. The reason? Discounts on cases of vodka? No! No, it was a little thing that set me off. A little thing stuck into the wire seat on the trolley. A little thing in welly boots looking up at me and saying 'toilet?!'. I extricated him and took him to the loo reluctantly, figuring that either it was a simple ploy to get out of the trolley or that he would have let go by the time we got there but no - total success! I tell you, when we came out of that loo, it was like Miracle on Aisle 34. I mean, I could actually SEE Santa crossing me off his list with a big 'Ho Ho Ho' as he scampered across the drop-tile ceiling scattering potty cheer to one and all.

We've now had two days of no nappies and, despite the fact that we purchased a potty for him when he was 18 months old and have been gently persuading him that this was the way forward ever since, it actually feels as though it happened by magic.

I am of course drawing a discreet veil over the fact that we can only count on a certain amount of success outside of the house, having not quite mastered our fear of actually sitting on a big-people's loo however when it comes to the number ones, we have even mastered our aim.

I tell you, Christmas is all down hill from here...

Ho ho ho!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Just DO it!

Suppose you were given a word, or better still, a phrase, that when you uttered it, would cause your will to be done. How often do you think you would use it? Once a month? Once a week? Once a day? Twice? Every five minutes?

Think about your answer for a moment and then let me tell you. You would use it every day. All day. Oh, yes you would. And I know this because I am an expert in the human sciences. Or rather, I am, at least, at the moment, an expert in The Origins of Will. Oh yes I am. I am! I am too! Fight you!!

I know I am right because the spud has recently learned a couple of magic phrases of his own and here he is, displaying his basic human need for control and desire fulfilment by using them at all possible turns: 'Don't Want It' and 'Do It'. So we have 'Don't Want It', 'Want It', 'Me Do It' and 'Mummy Do It', although most frequently we just have 'Don't Want It! Don't Want It!' Yes, our little man is making his needs very clear these days. It's better, I have to say, than the tantrums but he is using these magic words fairly repetitively.

I on the other hand feel a driving need to respond intelligently to each blurt of the magic words, to aid his communication and to treat him like a person however all that ends up happening is that I go through a variation of the following conversation; 'If you don't have it you'll be cold/hungry/tired/dirty'; 'I know you don't want it sweetheart but we all have to have things we don't want sometimes'; 'But you like it!'; 'It'll be nice, I promise'; 'Come on sweetie. Have it for Mummy?'; 'You'll want it as soon as we go outside/you go to bed/we get out of the car'; 'Well you have to have it'; 'Just take it'; 'I don't care that you don't want it, you are having it. NOW!'; 'I KNOW you don't want it.'; 'JUST TAKE THE DAMN THING'; 'OK OK OK, you can go outside without your shoes/stay up until dawn/starve yourself/poo in your socks'.

I'm losing this one, aren't I.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Mummy's little... er... star...

Ah, the nursery play.

We've been getting ready for Charlie's first Christmas play for ages now. He's had homework and everything, in which the nursery attempted to get all the toddlers under its authority to learn 7 songs. Considering I only knew three of them and that I know my son particularly well (at the moment), I decided that three would be enough and it was up to them to get him to learn the rest.

So. Every night we sang 'Twinkle Twinkle' because it was thankfully on the list. We sang 'I'd like to teach the world to sing' because there was only one verse and we sang 'Jingle Bells'. Or rather, I sang. The spud sat looking at me like I was some sort of alien life-form, occasionally chipping in to 'Twinkle Twinkle' just to humour me.

Two weeks before-hand we had to supply a white outfit and so, freshly washed and pressed, off it went, trousers, top and a new white t-shirt to the nursery with clean name-tags in the back.

Last week we were given our tickets for Thursday afternoon and had our names crossed off the list of dutiful parents and this Thursday we booked out of work for the requisite hour, togged out in respectable clothes and carrying cameras. Oh yes.

Oh yes. We were all about the Christmas play.

We sat down and watched as first the older children filed in, all dressed in white with silver stars on their front. Then, Charlie's class filed in, all in white with golden crowns featuring little bells... but where was Charlie?

Where's Wally? (OK, the other kids are not aliens, I blanked faces just in case)

Ah.... there he is....

Yes, that's our son, refusing to dress up or sing or participate in anything so clearly beneath him as the nursery play.

As we left, I turned to the frog and admitted that when I was his age I was probably exactly the same. The frog replied that so was he. I can hear my Mother cackling from here.

Our poor son is doomed....

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Me, my, mine and all things Mine.

Recently we're having demands in our house. New demands. Demands involving preferences. Demands involving extensive, repetitive choices. The same DVDs. The same books. The same games. The same pyjamas. The same food. Over and over and over.

I know this is a toddler thing and to some extent have been expecting it. What I wasn't expecting was Dame bloody Fashionista moving into my son's tiny, pudgy little body, should, say, he have some sort of accident in his pyjamas requiring one half to be removed. You know. Lint on a sleeve. Or something. Anyway, should we replace one half of his pyjamas with a half of a different pair, we are likely to have some fairly insistent resistance. This involves said toddler padding off at a swiftish pace to rifle through his drawers until he finds a match. He then disrobes from the repellant mis-match and screams until he is dressed appropriately.

This is matched in the morning by an insistence on particular footwear. Even though he has never gone to nursery in his wellies, the other day he was inconsolable on being made to leave the house without them, to the point that the nursery rang me to say he'd been tearful all day and was he ok? Clearly, someone of import in his world had gone to nursery wearing their wellies and he was already feeling the fashion burn.

Bedtime now involves some extensive negotiation over reading material, additional to all the wardrobe decisions to be made. While we are still arguing over the 'one last book' clause in the bedtime contract, there is a lot of flexibility in the actual content of the bedtime read, although currently it's all a bit predictable.

At birth, the spud was given a collection of Charlie and Lola books with which he is at the moment reasonably obsessed. Having just mastered his own name and some of the personal pronouns ('me' and 'my') but being only two and therefore having difficulty differentiating between himself and the rest of the world, anything 'Charlie' is therefore 'me'. Thus, drawings of books which are carried by the character 'Charlie' are 'my books'. If Lola's brother is playing with a car, it's 'my car'. This explains why he's so fond of Lola because there he is, on TV and in the books, playing with her all the time. Clearly, she's his best mate. It also explains why I am now reading Charlie and Lola every night while Busy Airport and Thomas the Tank Engine are gathering dust.

It's also critical that the bedclothes are just so and that he has his nightlight in bed sometimes and on the nightstand others, and that teddy is, or is not, under the blanket, (just in case, you understand) and sometimes it's of concern which way his favourite car is parked. These things matter.

It won't be long before he moves on and adopts other books, other shoes, other pyjamas, much in the way he's moved on from his T'choupi DVD to Babar but I'm interested to know how long this phase of identifying with every Charlie in existance is going to last. It's just that it's going to be very interesting once we get to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Oompa Loompas, anyone?


Friday, December 05, 2008

Neighbourhood watch,...

It was alright in the summer time, but now that it's dark when we get the spud home, some of the things that go on outside our flat are a little more worrisome. People scuttle past, heads firmly down; cars that seemed innocently parked are suddenly turning their lights on and driving off, cats cross the street for no reason and even the foxes are laying low.

It's not, I assure you, because of any dodgy goings on. As far as we know there are no crack, cat or other nefarious houses in our street... no, it's the Secret Agent who parks outside our house around 6pm on nursery days, warning off the low-life and making everyone jumpy.

We didn't set out to make our son feel like a boy. Wait, that may have come out a little, um, anyway, we didn't, as I think I was trying to say, start out by forcing slugs and snails and puppy dog's tails on him but he took to them anyway.

The minute he could crawl he was investigating the CD player, the DVD player (anything with buttons) and the first time he saw a toy car and realised that he, little spud, he himself could actually hold a car in his very own hands, he had gone over to the dark side for good. For 50p in a children's charity shop I bought him a medium-sized die-cast toy ambulance (well I couldn't pry it out of his hands) and if one was to divide the price of that toy by the number of times he has played with it, the resulting unit of currency would need to be raced around the Large Hadron Collider before it could be identified.

'Car' was one of his very first words and the minute he was big enough to sit in the drivers seat, we have had no peace. Here are a couple of shots of him, one at 13 months and one at 20 months (but with much madder hair). A recent will come in a bit, wait for the edit.

OMG someone buy that child trousers that fit... )

At first, he was content just to hold the wheel but as his confidence grew, he started experimenting and quickly found the blinkers. He then moved on to the levers, found the horn, the indicators and, you guessed it, the headlights.

Now, the minute we get in from nursery he begs to be set free and once out of his seat, he scrambles to the front and orders me into the passenger side. He puts the keys in the ignition, clicking the locks on and then off again to disable the immobiliser - fortunately he hasn't worked out that one has to actually TURN the key or we would really be in trouble. Yes yes, I try to hide them but he just says 'Keese! Pleese! Keese! Pleeese! Pleeese! Pleeese! KEEEEEEEEEES! and then it all goes blank. Anyway, there we then sit in the dark, him rampaging through the dashboard and me cowering down in case anyone thinks I'm the one sending those signals to the aliens.

Given that by the end of most of my days I am rushing out of the door with no makeup on and a big question mark over the state of my hair, it's just as well that nobody really wants to look inside our car during these goings-on. Meantime perhaps I should hire him out as a neighbourhood burglar detterent?