Monday, July 20, 2009

beans reprise

I give up. No, seriously, I give up on the whole part of parenting where I try to influence or second guess my son or report on what he's doing with any sort of authority.

As if to rub my nose in the whole argument over eating his dinner, as if to underline that he is now and will always be in control, today in the vegetable department of the supermarket he walked over to a tray of green beans and started pulling them out and eating them. I bought a bag and he ate them all through the shop. We stopped, mind you, we stopped in the middle OF THE BISCUIT AISLE so he could have another bean. I cooked beans for tea. He ate the lot.

I think we're done here. I may be a while.

not for the faint of heart

Ah the beach. 'What would it be like to live here and be able to come to the beach every day if I wanted to?' This was my self-imposed question yesterday while lying on the sand hoping to dim the brightness of my skin.

While the spud threw pebbles at me I spent some time covertly eying up the beach populace and trying to work out who were the locals and who the visitors. Some were easy. Anyone pale was probably visiting. Anybody very dark was probably a local. The rest were harder to fathom.

One however stood out above and beyond the others. If she hadn't been sitting within 5 feet of me I may have missed her. Might not have been a bad move.

She looked as though in another life she is possibly someone's Grandmother and she mightn't even have stood out if she hadn't been naked and chain-smoking.

It was the scent of tobacco smoke that drew my eyes and then, to my shame, I could barely tear them away as she turned around to fetch her bikini out of her bag and her right nipple dipped itself... those with weaker stomachs may need to turn away... dipped itself, I tell you, into her belly button. Right in. It snagged for a moment and then she turned back and it bobbed out. It was at this point in what must only have been a two or three-second glance, that I realised her skin was the texture of an old handbag - leathery and cracked and rippled with sun damage.

I feigned interest in my offspring while thinking queasily 'This would be me if I spent every day on the beach for the next fifteen years'. And smoked.

A few moments later she walked past my toes, bikini-clad and without a cigarette, entirely un-remarkable amongst the other women on the beach. She stood for a long time facing the sea, her back and legs baking themselves even browner. She seemed happy.

I was just happy that her bikini had underwiring.

The spud was just happy to be by the sea.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Beans beans glorious beans.

We're having eating!! Apart from various battles fought on the field of the dinner table, since having the chickenpox the spud has insisted on being bottle-fed like some sort of veal calf.

He's been downing upwards of 3 pints a day on good/bad days and eating almost nothing. A few days ago however he woke up, demanded breakfast, ate a bowl of cereal, drank some juice and then proceeded to eat all the way through the day, finishing off this evening with four fish fingers, a big plate of rice and pepper, half an avocado, a small carrot, a kiwi and two glasses of milk. Hooray!

A short amusing note that I forgot to post last week after the big standoff is that the one part of the dinner that the spud refused to eat was the green beans. He loves green beans. He has eaten dinners in which he has picked out the green beans, eaten them all first and then announced he was 'fished'.

So, the other day when we had our standoff, which has, I possibly need to inform the odd passerby, helped quite a lot in terms of overall spud behaviour, he ate his fish fingers and a pea or two but the green beans were met with quite a show of distaste and some pretty jaw-clenching rejection. Since he'd eaten the rest of his dinner with gusto however, I let the poor beans go... or rather, I scarfed them myself.

The spud's nursery has a system to tell a confused parent exactly what one's offspring has eaten during the day. A filled in circle is one helping, a line next to it is seconds.

Imagine, therefore, how far my eyebrows rose on entering his nursery the next day, the next day, mind you, on examining the food chart and seeing not only a full circle but four, mind you, that's one two three FOUR lines next to the words 'green beans'.

Ah yes, I may have won the battle but clearly, I am not taking home any prizes.

Friday, July 17, 2009

the bloody okey okey

We're in France on holiday; Sammy safely ensconced with a house-sitter and the rain, as usual, bucketing down. Yesterday it was actually amazingly hot and sunny and for once we made it to the beach.

I tell you, it was obvious we were British. OK, so I'm Canadian and the Frog is not only French but we're actually in his home-town but you know, it's been a while. So, firstly, we were pasty pasty white in a sea of bronzed limbs but secondly: All the Kit.

On our way down we passed French women en route to the plage with a little roll of matting tucked under one arm and a tiny clutch under the other. Even French families do it in style - children immaculately turned out porting a little bucket and spade with Maman carrying a chic beach bag with the edges of Hermes towels just poking out over the lid of the Evian. Papa strides ahead, a beach umbrella casually slung over one shoulder, the other dangling a net bag with a beach ball or perhaps a set of beach tennis racquets.

We, however, were a completely different story. The spud had decided he wanted to sit in his French buggy; a tiny affair with no swivelling wheels which forces the parent in charge to hunch as though they are about to ring matin at Notre Dame and to grunt and sweat at every bend. The spare parent has to carry everything else and we have the sort of wheeled bag your Nan used to get her shopping in with. It's stuffed to overflowing - towels, mats, beach brolly, water, buckets, spaces, balls, sun cream, change of clothes, butt wipes, spare pants, arm bands, sweating sandwiches - and it pokes the owner in the backside with every other step.

We wheeled our way onto the beach creaking and puffing and then disrobed in front of about 5,000 blinded locals and spent the next hour either rubbing sun cream onto each other or rubbing the sand off. It was bliss, but we really did stand out dreadfully.

On the way back we passed a nearby playground and the spud demanded to play. The Frog had some errands to run so I stayed behind. The playground was empty but for two neat parents and their two neat offspring. They weren't related by by God they were talking by the time we left.

You must imagine here, if you dare, that I had neglected to remember either my swimsuit or a change of clothes so I had gone into the sea in my knickers and halter top and then taken the top off and put on my cream cotton shirt. I was therefore wearing wet knickers and no bra and my hair was a complete mess. The playground however was under some shady trees and I hoped nobody would notice.

The spud elected to play on a toy near the only occupied bench. I cleared a spot and sat down only for the owner of a nearby bag to scurry over to collect it and move ostentatiously to another bench. After a few moments, the spud decided to move to the slide where this chaps daughter was happily playing and chose that moment to speak one of his few French phrases. 'Pas la! Pas la!' he shouted at the poor girl as she tried to climb the slide. Yes, in his halting baby French, the spud told practically the only other child in the playground not to stand near the only toy she'd been playing with. Since before he got there.

The other parents glared at me. I hurried over to tell him firstly in English and then in French to share the slide and let the little girl play. He glared at me. The parents glared at me. I tried to give them my best friendly smile and realised I was standing in the only shaft of sunlight in the playground, tits clearly visible through my shirt. I must have looked insane. Oh, I tried to remain non-chalant as he road-tested every piece of equipment in the place but then he came running over, pee running down one leg, trying to get his willy out to finish his wee off against the bench. That was pretty much my signal to go.

I loaded the spud back into his stroller and as we pulled away from the place he launched into the chorus of the Okey Cokey. 'OOOOOOOOOhhhhhhHHHH DE OKEY OKEY..... OOOOOOOoooohhhhhhhHHHHH DE OKEY OKEY........ OOOOOOOOOOoooooooooohhhhhhhhhhHHHHHHHHHHH.....

I'm never, ever going back.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pushing the envelope

It started small, a little give here; a nursery sofa there, some allowances, some compromise... and then suddenly I woke up to realise that the spud has been getting away with murder.

He's been sleeping on the nursery futon, eating his tea on the sofa in front of the TV; demanding constant cheese toasties, icecream and bottles of milk and... well the list is pretty long.

We've managed to get him back to his own bed, cut the bottles of milk out during the day and begun to wean him off the TV however he still wouldn't eat anything that wasn't a cheese toastie and refused to sit at the table. Following a friend of mine telling me she had 'broken' her toddler with a two-hour standoff over dinner (which has worked wonders), we had our own standoff.

It was pretty hairy.

First I brought him a healthy dinner and offered it to him on the sofa. He picked it up, carried it into the kitchen, put it on the counter, announced he was 'finished' and demanded a biscuit.

I carried it back and put it on the table. He did the same. I carried it back and then put him into his chair at the table. He tried to get down. I picked him back up. He pushed himself and his chair away from the table. I pulled him in. He pushed back. I pulled in. I threatened to slap his hand if he did it again. He did it. I, god help me, slapped his hand. He did it again. So did I. He put his poor little hands over his face, rocked back and forth and moaned and moaned. Just at the point that I thought I'd done him some serious mental damage, he took his hands away and started on his next attack which was to pointedly ignore both me and his dinner. He sat with his body facing the table but his head twisted as far into the room as his neck would allow and his eyes screwed shut. I brushed some ketchup onto his lips (I'm not a real ogre, there was some ketchup involved...). He screamed, wiped his lips and then spent several minutes dramatically brushing all signs of ketchup from his tongue. He loves ketchup.

This had taken us the best part of 20 minutes and at this point I thought that skyping my parents would be a good idea; not for sympathy, no no no, this for them was the height of comedy; but for some advice perhaps - they had, after all, parented me.

The spud ignored them too, turning his head the other way just in case we hadn't noticed him ignoring us. He tried closing his eyes; putting his hands over his eyes; putting his hands over his mouth; closing his eyes AND putting his hands over his mouth - I tried reasoning with him, arguing with him and pushing tasty morsels into his mouth whenever it was open. Nada.

Half an hour into our stand off, out of total frustration I made a massive airplane/train tunnel-here-comes-the-food manoevre and, as he complained, I just laughed at him. Two giggles later he ate practically the whole damn thing - by himself, with his fork.

I guess laughter is the best medicine after all. I guess we just have to see if it worked now; I'm planning something without ketchup tomorrow, wish me well...

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Errol Flynn on a micro scooter...

It turns out that as a male, one is never too young to impress the ladies.

Recently, the spud has pretty much chucked his buggy in as a mode of transport unless he feels particularly needy or sulky and much prefers to zoom along on his micro-scooter; those urbiquitous purple things with two wheels in front and one in the back.

He's getting quite the little trickster; he squats down so the handle is over his head, pulls his bum back into a low sit and easy-rides his way down the road. Since spotting an older friend doing it he's been practicing beetling along on one leg while pulling shapes with his spare knee and foot. He's also cottoned on to how to use the little orange brake at the back by elegantly placing his spare foot on it, or doing a nifty little half-turn, jamming it onto the brake and one-handedly coasting to a stop.

The other day on the way home from nursery he insisted on cutting through the park and there, just inside the gates was a girl from nursery who he's quite keen on. I'm going to call her Lola, it's not her name but that's what Charlie calls her.

The moment he spotted her, they were off. The two of them scooted off up the hill, Lola steaming ahead while Charlie puffed behind her shouting 'Wait Lola, wait!' Her father was chuckling that she's recently been trying to copy someone at nursery who can scoot on one leg and just as he said that, the spud sailed past in full arabesque and glided smugly to a halt beside his besotted friend. Her father snorted.

As we walked up, the spud stood skate-board style on his scooter, held on with one hand and glided backwards down the hill, dismounting with a smooth two-footed jump, smiling at Lola all the way. She was visibly impressed. He re-mounted and kicked off for another arabesque past her and then scooted down the other side of the hill to the playground shouting 'come on Lola, come on Lola'.

She trailed obediently behind him as with both feet planted on the platform, he sped off down the hill, zig-zagging gently just to show that he can. They rounded a corner out of sight and we called to them to stop and began lumbering after them. They stopped and the moment we rounded the bend, again rolled off out of sight. The routine repeated a few times until we were finally nearing the playground gates. Lola was haltingly going down the hill with one foot dragging on the ground to slow herself down; the spud was nowhere in sight.

I shouted again and he appeared from behind a tree, drifting backwards down from the gate, smiling brightly.

I think she was impressed up until the very moment he glided into the bush.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Summer t-shirt of love

I was putting things away this evening when I picked up a shirt of my son's and suddenly thought about how much I love it and realised it was probably going to be one of those things that gets kept in a box somewhere and perhaps, if things go well, handed down. This it it:

Doesn't look like much, hey? This started off life as a plain white, unwanted t-shirt. I was in Woolies (ah, Woolies... a moment of silence please...); I can't remember what I was actually in there for but as usual I was just taking a leetle cruise past the children's clothes.

Finding a child's shirt in a plain, un-logoed colour other than white is pretty near impossible and so you can imagine my joy on finding that Woolies (ah, Woolies... a big sigh please...) did a 3-pack of plain shirts - one red, one black and one white.

The unloved white one was stuffed at the back of the drawer until we got a letter from nursery informing us that they wanted to do some tie-dying with the kids and did we have a plain white tee?

I had no idea what would emerge from this mad experiment where a few harrassed keyworkers set a dozen toddlers loose with on dye bucket, but this is what we got and I just think it's the coolest thing. Apparently, the kids all chose where their ties were going to go and the grown-ups did the actual tying.

I know Charlie did his own dying because, well because of the state of his fingernails for the next three days. He loves it and it never sees the inside of a drawer; it's either in the wash, on the line, or on his back, which is why it is a crumpled mess.

Funnily enough, tie-dye shirts were popular when I was the spud's age, but that would be because it was 1967. Ahem.

Anyway, of all the crafts he's brought back from nursery - flaking collages; father's day cards that shed shiny bits everywhere; blank pieces of paper with a few lines of yellow crayon in the middle and handprint paintings that mostly ended up on his shirt - I just think this is totally genius.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Six Degrees of Why

A couple of the spud's friends have been asking 'why' a lot recently and for a while, whenever he saw them he would mimic it a bit. This week however it's started in earnest and he's asking 'why' about nearly everything. I've been looking forward to this stage, I have to confess. I've always fancied the idea of solemnly answering all the 'whys' until my son is a veritable encyclopaedia of knowledge and never ONCE answering with 'Because I Said So' however the truth is that since I discovered that 'I don't know' puts an end to the questions I've suddenly become quite a dense person.

I have also discovered that if you ask 'why' for long enough, eventually you arrive back at either God or particle physics. I'm trying out a new game whereby I am seeing how many 'whys' it takes to get into metaphysics and beyond. Here's a recent example:

'Say goodbye to your friend'
'Because he's going home'
'Because it's bedtime'
'Because it's getting late'
'Because er, because er, because there's this thing called time and... oh, I don't know sweetie, just say goodbye'

You see? Four 'Whys' until we needed Stephen Hawking to step in and take over. It's like playing six degrees of separation. You can probably add in a few more steps such as 'because he's tired' but try that and see how far you get before you're talking about the birds and the bees and is there life after death?

There aren't actually that many ways out of the Why Conundrum because I don't think he really wants to know 'why', I think he's just thrilled at having a word that gets our full attention.

'Don't pull Sammy's tail'
'Because it hurts Sammy'
'Would you like it if I pulled your arm?'

Nope. Often the conversation will go in a complete circle:

'Come and help Mummy tidy up''
'Because you made a big mess'
'Because you were playing'
'Because you were having fun'
'Because you were playing'
'Because you were... oh bollocks'

I think the key here is to try to get as much enjoyment out of this as possible and so I will be that Mum mangling gravity to her bemused toddler while his toy car rolls under the chair. It is in fact my goal, to take him from 'why' to 'cogito ergo sum' in as few steps as possible; I'll let you know how quickly his eyes glaze over.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

you've got WHAT living up there?

Our son, our little white potato of a nearly-three-year old child, is navigating the waters of the 'Terrible Twos' with a reasonable amount of success.

Is he stubborn? Of course. Is he argumentative? Ohhh yes. Does he have tantrums? Sometimes. Is he completely unreasonable? Irrational? Indeed he is; but he's not awful with it for the most part.

The litmus test is how easy he is to live with and on that basis I'd say we're doing alright. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that I think we've gotten away fairly lightly. The days in which he is impossible to deal with are much fewer than the days in which he is a veritable pleasure, not to mention a source of ever-increasing humour, I give you this example:

Following a misjudged comment on my part about the state of his undercarriage he is now of the belief that there are garden worms living in his bum. As this is encouraging frequent trips to the loo to tempt them out, I'm all for this idea. Today I tried to encourage him to take a trip to the loo to do a little push; he screwed up his face in a parody of someone trying to have a gay old dump, made a big 'errrgh' sound and then stuck out his tongue and blew a juicy fat raspberry at me. This rendered me completely helpless; the pair of us just rolled around on the sofa in hysterics while the Frog tried to keep a straight face.

It could be worse round our way.