Friday, December 16, 2011


Charlie has discovered chess and is patiently allowing himself to be beaten game after game while he learns the moves.  He's already worked out the complicated Knight and is getting to grips with bishops and rooks and the omniscient Queen; he's learnt how to castle his King but he is finding pawns hard to master with their erratic manoeuvres...

I'm delighted and frankly I credit all the problem-solving games he's been playing on my phone for the past year and a half.  Every game he gets a teeny bit better and he is longing for Christmas when we will be staying in a house with a proper chess set.

All this budding chess genius talk is making no impression on the Frog who pronounced after his 5-year-old's third-ever game of chess "He's rubbish, he can't remember which piece is which!"  He also commented, more accurately that "I bet he'll have dropped it in a week" - so no pressure then.

I have an ambivalent relationship with chess.  My Dad started teaching me when I was about 6, no doubt with the same dreams of owning his own personal chess savant that I harbour.  I always wanted to be good at it but sadly the light never shone for me.

I have fond memories of visiting a very good friend who was living in Paris for a while and being taken to his local cafe where chess was played at any hour of the day by wizened Frenchmen smoking tiny, pungent roll ups.  We sat at a table and started a game and within a few moves he had me up against the wall.  As I was concentrating fanatically on at least taking his queen with me before I went down, I noticed the occupants of the cafe edging slowly towards me, muttering to each other.

Before long we were surrounded by chess players and wreathed in cigarette smoke.  The muttering got louder, they were clearly itching to help out... then, unable to stop himself a thin hand snaked down from the closest figure and gestured at a move I should make.

Hugely annoyed at the interference, I made the move and drained my wine glass in irritation.  My friend responded; again I sunk into baffled silence.  The muttering grew quickly into a loud debate about which gambit I should be taking and the whole cafe was now standing around our table.

Another move was suggested and just as my annoyance was peaking, I realised what was happening.  Letting them take over, I watched a beautiful, full-on turn-about take place... I can't remember who won or lost the game but for a few moments, the door into chess had opened and a chink of light had shone through.

Who knows if Charlie will still be playing chess by Christmas?  I don't know and I don't much care but I am certainly going to be encouraging him to do anything which takes his mind away from shooting zombies, throwing angry birds at pigs, sinking pirate ships or any of the destructive video games he's been playing.

No, it's going to be about murdering bishops, capturing queens and pillaging pawns from now on - death to the king!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Not playing

There something about the way the boy looks when he's lying down that makes him seem so much older.  Standing up it's clear he's a half-pint; lying down all stretched out with his long legs and his baby face pulled back by gravity he's shockingly much more grown up than I think I thought he should be.

Anyway, so all this growing up has clearly been happening right under our noses and while we've been blithely purchasing longer trousers and bigger shoes and helping him read and write and swim and... well, all the things a growing 5 year old might do, we've somehow failed to notice.

It's just that so much has remained the same.  He still loves his trainset - in fact we're buying Brio for Christmas for the 3rd year in a row.  He still has warm milk at bedtime, he still loves Peppa Pig and busses and the Transport Museum - and he still hates to dress up.

For some inexplicable reason, we've managed to avoid the Nativity Play for the past two years - his last nursery didn't engage in anything so overtly religious; however he is now in a full on church school and has been coming home singing songs about Baby Jesus for the past two weeks.  This has culminated in a letter requesting the construction of a costume - angel or shepherd.  He's chosen shepherd (thankfully; not sure I would be very good at making wings or that he'd be good at wearing them...).

He might have chosen a shepherd's outfit, but he's not going to wear it - and we all know that.  I know it.  His Dad knows it.  His teacher knows it.  All his friends know it and he knows it - although he's not admitting to it at the moment.  So, even though we all know that this is a total fantasy, I am making the costume.  I am even making the headdress.  I may even make a shepherd's crook, who knows.

What we do know is that the outcome will be a total repeat of the last nursery play, the one from the lovely Montessori he was at for a few months, where we made a costume and packed it up and he wholly and completely failed to wear it.

In fact, I'm going to post the picture up again, because I'm 100% certain that, barring the age of the children around him, this is the picture I will take at the nativity play next week; Charlie in his normal clothes, sat tearfully on someones lap, mouthing the words to the song while all around him, pixelated children sing loudly and do all the right hand-gestures.

And, I will be delighted; proof that he's still actually quite a little boy... at least for a while.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fights and Phantasms

Charlie is asleep at the moment, he's drifted off listening to Danny Kaye singing songs from Hans Christian Anderson; a CD which never fails to rocket me back to when I was his age listening to the record on the turntable, watching the lit rectangle of my bedroom door and listening to my parents potter about, still up.

I still know all the songs and while it took him a few listens, Charlie can now be caught humming some of them under his breath and offering to play them for friends, which I like.

This lovely moment of childhood innocence is totally marred by his performance in the school playground where he has already been banished to the 'little playground' where miscreants go... for fighting.  Oh yes - apparently he and another boy were windmilling each other in fun until one of them landed an accidental haymaker and then it all got a bit pistols-at-dawn, necessitating an embarrassed conversation in the playground with the Mother of the other boy.

Since then there have been a few other incidents; Charlie complains routinely that they are 'not his fault' but then he also claims to know everything about ballet; although sadly refuses to impart any of this wisdom when pressed.  He got a deep scratch across his face last week while defending his beloved from a boy who had kicked her.. I had a hard battle with my Motherly Love on that one I tell you - difficult not to be damn proud all over him because, obviously, fighting is wrong...

There are all these stages one marks off when one has a baby - first breath, first poo, rolling, sitting, crawling, first steps, first teeth, first this, first that... then you have a toddler then a little boy and then it's the first day at school, the first fight... and then what?  Now what?

What is this creature currently snoring gently in the nursery?  It's not a small child anymore yet it's not a big child; it's wily and cunning and reasoning, it counts, it reads, it writes, it dresses itself and comes out with a range of odd yet accurate facts; one can carry on a perfectly adult conversation with it and yet it still believes in Santa Claus and sleeps with one arm wrapped around Tigger.

Watching him now, even though he's only 5, it's possible to imagine one is watching the man begin to form.  Up until now there have been these big stages, each of which marked a massive sea-change in movements or speech or growth; now it's just tiny incremental steps. 

Personality traits are hardening up, ideas are evolving, skills are developing - and he's in there, this man who my son will become.  He's in there and he's just beginning to emerge, the lightest of phantasms; but he's there, stepping gently and carefully out of childhood and across into the unknown land of grown-up...

I just hope he keeps his fists in his pockets from now on.

Friday, October 14, 2011

School daze

So it's happened, Charlie has started school.  This is old news, it's been going on for weeks; it's practically normal.  The other day he turned to me and said 'Mummy - I'm a school boy now!  A school boy!' as if this is a hallowed dream that he has been clutching to his chest along with his nest of buses and model trams.

There he is in his uniform, blowing a kiss as he heads out for his first day and here he is at the end of it, smug as anything.

He already looks like he belongs on the cover of a Clash album in his uniform, he's all crooked tie and un-tucked shirt.  He's a proper boy now, he's rushing away from us at light speed.

Already there is pressure on us to conform.  The other day he ordered me not to walk to school, but to drive there, then to wait outside in the car, around the corner... until social services showed up, presumably.

Everyone asks how the settling in process has gone but he has slipped simply and easily into school life and is gaily practising handwriting and phonics as though he's been there ages.

It helps enormously that his school is tiny and that he knows children in almost every year.  It helps that I am standing outside his classroom with parents I met when we were all pregnant.  It helps that his beloved Lizzie is in the class above him and despite her raving beauty and superior age is still willing to be his girlfriend at playtime.

It all helps - him, anyway.  None of this is helping me at all.  This has all been much too easy; if he carries on growing up like this it will be no time at all before he is striding off to university and leaving us to the darkness of life without him.

Frankly I could do with a tantrum; perhaps some begging and a little clutching around the knees before school.  I feel like doing a little of it myself, to be honest.

Don't grow up quite yet, my lovely boy.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Cinco de boyo...

I'm doing some hocus pocus and dating this to the start of the month and I'm doing this because that's when my son turned 5 and, should he ever read this damn blog, it would seem harsh to have missed it.

5 is quite a momentous birthday - it means school, more independence- reading and writing... or in our case, it means that clearly, Charlie is old enough to be in charge of everything and do what he wants, because, apparently, he is all grown up.  So 5, it turns out, also means quite a lot of arguing about things in general.

5 year old boys, it seems, like Doctor Who a lot.  Universally the kids have moved from playing Octonauts to playing at Doctor Who.  'The Monster' is now always a Dalek (I relish the story of one of his girl-friends, who, inspired by Charlie's enthusiasm, taught her best friend to play Doctor Who at her house.  They marched up to their parents shouting 'We are the Garlics' to universal hilarity)

5 year old boys not only ride their bikes, they race them all about everywhere and don't much care if they fall off.  Wounds which a few scant months ago would have had our boy lying prone on the sofa, daintily holding his stricken limbs in the air, now only appear at bathtime when his clothes come off -skinned elbows, grazed knees, massive bruises around the shins - who knows where they come from?  'I fell down' he says, or 'someone pushed me but I'm OK'.

5 year old boys - ohhhh, this is so lovely - 5 year old boys make their parents breakfast in bed!!!  Oh yes.  Alright so we're talking cereal with no / too much milk in it and apple juice with a few sloshes around the edges but you know, it's a huge start on what I hope to be a future in-house catering project.

5 year old boys are also not so grown up that they don't want a lot of cuddles, thankfully.  They climb into bed and put their arms around you and kiss you on the nose and tell you that you're their favourite and can they have your iPad?

5 year old boys want dance parties and Spiderman cakes and invite everyone they know and make you play the Kaiser Chiefs and the Ramones over and over and over while they do robot dancing and get all sweaty.

5 year old boys are unbelievable pedants.  'Have a fish finger Charlie' 'No, Mummy, you mean, have ANOTHER fish finger'.  'Let's go'  'Mummy, you mean let's go TO THE PARK'.

5 year old boys are pretty amazing.  I've got one, I ought to know.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Thanks for the mammaries... I mean, mammogram...

I was informed recently that our NHS district has lowered the age range for breast screening by 4 or 5 QUITE a few years.  Lots actually; lots and lots and LOTS and lots...coughcoughcough. Indeed.

Anyway, this is so that those of us who are, let's say, very much younger than 50, for example coughhackretch can be included in the process.

Along with this came an invitation to a screening - not, sadly, the sort of screening which involves, say, watching Benicio Del Toro looking moody in a ripped shirt (ahem), but one which requires medical humiliation. So, off I bravely toddled Friday morning to the local breast screening clinic. I say 'bravely' because about 18 years ago my lymph nodes went funny and I ended up being shipped off for a mammogram, so I've Done This Before.

Back in those days it involved, as I recall, pressing the girls between two plates which were then screwed tightly together as though the doctors were pressing wild flowers (which is of course, how I like to refer to my assets).  The resultant pancakes were then photographed and I went home feeling as though I'd just had sex with one of those blokes who like to use one's girls as a gear-stick.

...NOT, I must say for the benefit of any reading spouse or parental units, that I've ever done THAT.  No no no.  Not much, anyway... you know this really is a bad cough.

Anyway, it hurt a lot - so much in fact that I actually repressed the memory.  I'm not kidding; about 5 years ago someone I knew went for one and the memory came flooding back 'OH my god' I said 'I've HAD one of those... I had completely forgotten'.  'So it's not that bad then' she said.  I stayed quiet.

Needless to say I was full of trepidation.  Reassuringly the clinic was clean and bright and the machine spotless.  The nice young nurse had me stand up and gently laid a boob out on a plate attached to the machine, then, gently again, lowered a clear plastic tray on top of it.

I feel the need to interject here; as immediately I noticed that there were several trays of different sizes and, satisfyingly, she switched the smaller one for a larger one.  The small one had numbers up to 5 on it, my one went up to 6!  Just as I was preening myself I noticed there was another one that went up to 7, so there's me, just average.  Sigh.

Anyway, so she lowered the thing down and then, yes, screwed it tightly - and this time, miracle of miracles, it didn't hurt!  Wow.

As it was all over, I mentioned this to the nurse and expressed my gratefulness that medical science has moved on... it was then that she burst my balloon, so to speak.

'Ah yes, that would be because at that time your breasts would have been more glandular'.

'Really?' said I 'What do you mean by that'.

'Well, you know - that long ago they would have been firmer and more glandular.'

'You mean, because I was younger...' 'Yes' she interjected  '...and hadn't had a baby?' I finished, lamely.

'Yes' she said again and she laughed.

Right.  So there it is, incontrovertable proof that... the nurse is incompetent!    No, no no, proof that once I had young firm boobs, obviously... 

No, really.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

How much TV?

I need to ask all you parenting types out there how much TV your child actually watches; and whether you feel that their behaviour afterwards is normal - or does it change?

We've noticed that after a prolonged episode of TV watching, Charlie is irritable; he complains, he flops, he shouts - he's really not keen to do anything else at all. We limit his TV watching these days to a bit in the morning to get him up and a bit in the evening as a treat - anything more and we have childzilla on our hands.

It's the same with video games - those endless little tricks one can play on one's telephone. Perhaps it's because his brain is active, generating adrenaline and various emotional responses while his body just sits there getting tense - who knows.

Either way we're not worried about his physical health too terribly much as the boy is addicted to dashing around on his bike at the moment. We're not overly worried about his imagination, as anyone who's listened to him play with his trainset can attest; but I am vaguely worried about something and just wondered if any of you have had the same sort of thoughts about it - and if so, what you're doing?


Tuesday, August 09, 2011

London Riots...a Womble for the day...

Actually I hate the term 'London Riots' - it should be 'London Looting'... and of course it's not just 'London'... In fact it's more like the UK's lowest common denominator all acting out their 'what I did on my summer holidays' essay - clearly putting it down in joined-up writing is out of the question.

I was transfixed by Twitter last night, I watched the #londonriots hash tag in dismay for hours as things spread and spread and spread, listening to the sirens crashing past us.  Brixton was spared a second night of looting - the first was bad enough though - that's the Footlocker on Brixton High Street, burned out.

I then discovered #riotcleanup and like hundreds of others thought that I had to do something - as someone said - last night we needed Superman, now we need the Wombles... so I headed to Clapham where a clean-up was planned.

What I love the most about this is that overnight, someone set up a twitter account, organised places to meet to clean up and actually did the thing.  At the start of the day the account had over 20,000 followers he now has 85,000+.  @riotcleanup is now organising people to meet in Enfield to clean up the Sony Centre and will no doubt be carrying on to organise cleanups in other cities... the man had 3 hours sleep last night if you were reading his tweets and absolutely deserves a medal.

Practically the only shop in Clapham that didn't have its windows smashed in was Waterstones - the book shop - which rather tells you all you need to know about the looters.  This was all about the TVs, trainers and telephones, not about civil rights or liberties or any of the things people riot for in other countries.

My favourite tweet of the day 'It's like Hogwarts, everyone getting off the train at Clapham is carrying a broom'.  I was initially quite embarrassed on the bus like some obsessive mad-woman with her brush but I wasn't alone, there were several people self-consciously hiding their bristles then getting braver and braver about waving them about as we got closer... it was all sort of beautiful and surreal and quite funny, given the shit circumstances.

Clapham didn't really need us to sweep up, the council had it well in hand and in the end it was a completely symbolic gesture; I guess we all just wanted to stand up and say 'fuck you' really. Not often you get to say 'fuck you' by waving 100 brooms in the air.

I managed to be in the group of 200 or so they let in to do the initial clean-up and after a bit of a wait while shopkeepers were allowed in, we headed down.  The theme of the day was to see two or three people crouched over some near-invisible splinters of glass with their dustpans, surrounded by cameras - there were almost as many media as cleaners (there's a massive camera lurking in the shadows to the left of that green van).  I did actually get to clear some glass though; I met a lovely girl on the bus on the way down and we bagged up some huge sheets of window between us... it's amazing how quickly 200 people can clean up a street.

We may not have been needed for the actual clean-up (at Clapham, anyway) but we were needed so we could stand up and be counted - there were hundreds more Wombles cleaning up today than there were rioters the night before, and that's a good thing.

It may have only been a gesture but at least it wasn't a two-finger 'fuck you', or a pathetic finger gun.  We're not just about the riots here, it's only the miserable little cretins who are about that.

All in all, I'm pretty happy to have been able to stand up and be counted. I came, I swept, I went home.

And now, I'm going to bed.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Childhood memories... and all that...

I may be revising my ideas on parenting, at the moment.

I thought about it the other day and frankly, I barely remember a single thing from when I was 4, I could have been locked in a box for all I know.  Alain de Botton wrote an interesting piece for the BBC the other day, effectively saying that I'm actually spending my time building up my boy's general picture of the world; but do I HAVE to go the Transport Museum EVERY MONTH to do that? 

It just doesn't seem fair - we float about doing all the lovely things one is supposed to do - picking berries, visiting museums, riding on trains, baking... he tells me he loves me, at last count, more than his buses - surely he'll remember THAT?

I suppose it makes some sort of sense however... The other day I was walking with one of his best friends while he rode beside us on our way home for a playdate:

'Mummy, Mummy Mummy look! Look Mummy, I'm not going to ride into the road' (crash).  'Ants live in holes you know.  There are lots and lots of ants - see, there was one there, there, look there it went there' 'Mummy my horn isn't working properly, listen' phwarp porp squeeak  'wait there's another one, I think that's a red one' phwish yeek 'Max, if a red ant bites you, you DIE' phwonk phwonk PARP PARP 'Don't be silly Charlie' tweorp 'Charlie PLEASE that horn is giving me a headache 'but I'm fixing it, I'm fixing it' (CRASH)  'WAIT WAIT, stop it's a flying one, a flying one look, Charlie, a flying ant' 'Hold my bike Mummy, hold it, hold my bike Mummy, Mummy Mummy HOLD MY BIKE' (drops bike and runs back to Max, then runs back to his bike)   'Look there's an ant hole, did you see, did you see' peep peorp phupurb 'Max come on, Max, Max, Max, Max I'm winning come on' 'Charlie isn't being very nice racing his bike and look I think this is a different kind of ant hole' CRAAAAAAAASSSHHHH 'WAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh' and there goes all the skin on my son's elbow.

So possibly the loss of memory has it's upside - for him, that is.  He may forget all this stuff but sadly, it's going to be clogging up my neural pathways for some time to come. 

Perhaps a box isn't such a bad idea?

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

You know you watch too much F1 when...

...your 4-year-old brings out the Safety Car on his racing track...

I've spent my life in the 'racing is a polluting waste of money and fossil fuels' camp, however having married an F1 enthusiast the thing has rather grown on me and for the last 5 years I've watched quite a lot.  I wouldn't say I'm a big fan, but I did get a twinge this summer when I found myself at the fun-fair (again) while the Frog was cosily ensconced in front of the Monaco Grande Prix...

The thing is though that we are clearly raising an F1 enthusiast and I'm not sure how I feel about that.  It's not really about the waste and pollution, it's not even really about the fact that if he decides to become the next Lewis Hamilton it's going to cost us a bomb, not to mention shred the last of my nerves.  It's just that F1 fans don't go out to the park for a race-about in the same way that footie fans go for a kick-about.

F1 makes one want to drink champagne and drive fast cars and subtly encourages one to hope for a big disaster... so when I see my four-year-old kicking a football like a girl and then going home and setting up ginormous car crashes in his bedroom, I rather begin to wish the Frog was a football fan.

Still, the boy is becoming equally obsessive about riding his bicycle and the other day raced a friend on it for the first time so I've not been that worried that he's becoming a couch-potato - in fact I'm actively encouraging him to get back out onto the BMX track and he's quite keen. 

This will be all well and good until he starts trying to do the tricks and jumps he's so excited by - and there, my friends, is the rub; ultimately, he's not going to break his neck playing on his bedroom floor... so excuse me while I head into his room to race my car from the other end of his track.  If you do it hard enough, one of the cars flies right up and off the track - safety car it is, for today, at least.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

A New Beginning

A while ago I published my first book   (sounds so hopeful and arrogant, doesn't it 'my first book')... anyway, naturally I was thrilled to bits.

My publisher opened up a children's imprint and for a while I've been the only author on it - so I was delighted to hear that Grimoire Books are publishing a second book in January; Rebecca Emin's New Beginnings, indicating that perhaps the first time round wasn't such a bad idea after all... perhaps...

I've never met Rebecca but she's a fellow blogger and a keen writer and we got in touch via Twitter; turns out she's lovely as well.  She has recently interviewed me for both her blogs (I confess to being a terrible interviewee) here; if you want to read it.

I think that our publisher may have a thing for new beginnings because Rebecca's book, like my own, deals with the subject of change; of someone moving somewhere new and making new friends, trying to fit in.  New Beginnings however deals with the weighty and ever-current subject of bullying and does so in a sensitive and readable way.

Sam, the heroine of the story, moves to a new school and finds herself the subject of bullying which not only knocks her confidence, but escalates from verbal threats and abuse to physical violence.  The story of how it affects her and how she overcomes it is handled in a very practical way and written absolutely appropriately for the reading level (I'd say 8-13 on this).  The glitteringly triumphant ending is satisfying not only because right  wins out over wrong, but because wrong, in the form of the bully, is  given an even and fair study

As someone who was bullied through much of my school life, I recall incidents and feelings similar to some of those in the book.  The subject is well handled and the story offers practical solutions as well as hope for anyone in that situation. The book isn't just for those who have been or are being bullied  however; it's a good, pacey read with plenty of storylines to appeal; including a 'Glee' type happy ending.

Children need to know that school is just a small part of life and that there is hope, if it's bad;  Emin gets this message across subtly in a readable and way suitable for the target age-group.  It's a great book and I'm proud to share a shelf.  You can pre-order a copy from Grimoire Books on their website here.

PS, apologies for anyone reading this on RSS and getting it twice; I lost half the original text in some sort of blogger hell moment; hence the re-write.

Monday, June 27, 2011

I love you more than...

The child is a little troubled these days by various things, tiddly pom... not least of which is that, following some renewed reading of Winnie the Pooh he is having nightmares about bees and wasps.  He's also having nightmares about daleks, 'the wrong car' and other great evil beings who lurk in his bedroom, interspersed with good dreams about eating sushi in Victoria train station.

This of course means we spend our nights like the Sorcerors Apprentice racing back and forth from our room to his, carrying buckets of whatever it is that parents use to scare monsters until, inevitably, he ends up in our bed, hogging the blankets.

As he drops gently off into nightmare alley, he tells us how much he loves us which is of course the sort of thing that gets one's Motherly Love brain fluffing up its feathers and cackling inanely, so of course I have been encouraging this; however I believe it may have Gone Too Far.

It started very sweetly:  'I love you all day Mummy'; 'I'll love you always, Charlie'; 'I love you all day and all week and all year;' 'I love you more than that, sweetie'; 'I love you more than that, Mummy!' and so on... Here are a few recent examples, however:

"I love you more than toys"
"I love you more than tigers"
"I love you more than the pavement"
"I love you more than our car"

 Last night it was "I love you more than alligators!"

I feel he is stretching, at this point, to grasp the entire concept. 


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

tick tock tick tock

The child is in bed; clutching a warm pillow to its tum... With the impending onset of school we are having some, presumably subconcious, regressing of various bits and pieces; which in the case of our son means his relationship to his innards, to which it appears he feels wholely prisoner.

Our boy will do anything to try to trap the renegade product of his own body so it can never force him to sit for those few calamatous moments when something gets away from him.  Perhaps it's a control issue - he says over and over again that he just 'can't keep it in'.  No matter how many times I tell him he shouldn't try, that he should let it out, he just won't agree.  He would rather strut around all day with an uncomfortable and possibly slightly sticky undercarriage than lose his grip on his own body for the smallest moment.

We've had this before and he always overcomes it - he's perfectly capable of managing himself, he just, at the moment, doesn't want to do it.  He also doesn't want to stay at nursery all day or dress himself or do any one of a number of things he's been doing perfectly happily for a while.

I understand, to be honest.  I'm not sure I'm ready for him to go to school either.  I'm not ready to lose our Fridays together, or to have to get up early 5 days a week for the next 12 years to ship him off, or to watch him become jaded and prone to playground economics, vocabulary and manners.

In some way I suspect we both want the world to slow down and let him be a little boy for just a bit longer.  Sadly while I am used to time taking over my life and doing whatever it wants, he's only 4 and is just trying, any way he can, to control his world.  It's just a shame that it's making him feel so dreadful.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Brixton morning

GeoTagged, [N51.45112, E0.10881]

Big Farmers Market popping up in Brixton this morning under the big Plane tree - town hall clock chiming 10am, feels quite villagey for somewhere which is largely concrete...

PS, gotta love the geotagging - it's saying that Windrush Square is somewhere in the middle of the park... that or on a side road about a mile away.  Sigh.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Lord of the Flies

We've just had my godson and his older brother (one of Charlie's very bestest friends) over for a sleepover and right here, I have to tip my hat to  ANYONE who has 3 boys.  The sheer volume for one thing; and the vehemence.  Anything and everything that could pose as a weapon was dragged into service against monsters and unsuspecting parental units.  I mean, I love the Nerf guns but the frenzy to which the presence of one can raise a roomful of boys is, frankly, quite disturbing - particularly considering that these are really very little boys.

I've probably said this before but I've often felt remorse at the lack of a sibling in Charlie's life; however I do resolutely feel he has the best of everything - friends, attention, comfort, boundaries, outdoorsy play, indoorsly slugging about, you name it, he's spoiled for it.  A bit too much, in fact.

The upshot of this is that when friends come over he tramps around like a little dictator ordering them about and generally pissing them off.  This time however he was entirely outgunned by the tiniest, most angelic little tot you have ever seen: my godson, two-and-a-half with a whispering lisp and the bluest eyes on the planet, my god-son whom I have only ever seen smiling and giggling, my god-son, half-a-pint of coy, armed with a badminton raquet and leading the attack with the sort of ruthless abandon one might imagine chased Piggy off that cliff... at least until the tickle monster fought back.

Tonight, our little Mussolini is extremely humbled, not to mention wiped flat.  He's eaten his dinner, said 'yes' to everything and done exactly as he was told. 

On the one hand this makes me feel even more that a sibling would be a good influence on him; however the influence on us, if tonight is anything to go buy, would be to render us even more senseless than usual...

Friday, May 27, 2011

What happens when your French husband dresses his son

 ...the title was the Frog's idea, don't get funny with me...   ...the clothes were his idea as well... no, seriously... 

Monday, May 02, 2011

...the mouths of babes...

We spend our Bank Holiday Monday doing things in London with an old friend, Charlie and I.  We took a train into town, we rode a Routemaster to the Tower and then trailed in his wake up and down every spiral staircase in existence.

At the end we had an icecream, waited for the next Routemaster home and filed dutifully on, only to get stuck at some long lights.  This was the point at which my angelic four-year-old, kneeling backwards on his seat to face the nice American grandparents behind us, said very clearly 'Mummy, look at all the fucking traffic'.

I could tell from their response that they were more amused than shocked so between the three of us we had a conversation with him about why one shouldn't use 'that' word... which prompted him to say 'Fucking' about four more times in his little English voice which rang clear as a bell through the confines of the carriage. 

Having secured his audience along with my position as Mother of the Year, he then went on to tell them all about his girlfriend and, in answer to the question, informing everyone that when he grows up he's going to be 'a Daddy', thus charming himself out of a tight spot.

He's sleeping now, mouth blissfully closed.  Best thing, really

Saturday, April 30, 2011

I take it back

...the bit about my son not being interested in the Royal Wedding (note new capitalisation).  He was indeed interested.  He was, to put it mildly, obsessed. 

It seems that all week the nursery were prepping our children for the wedding.  The whole week was focused on princesses and weddings and reminding them to watch it.  He thought we were actually going to go in to see it - in fact many of the children thought the same.

So, we watched it, him in tears because he wasn't actually there.

I say we watched it.  We watched about 20 minutes of it with various friends whose children also ambushed them with a desire to watch.  Just as the actual princess got out of her actual car to walk down the aisle, they all lost interest, leaving us adults to watch awkwardly and make wry comments.

Today I straightened my hair - I'm finding that much more interesting.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A royal pain

The Royal Wedding, it appears is dividing young children directly along gender lines.

One of my friends is organising a 'Republican's Picnic' in the park to coincide with the nuptuals...(or an indoorsy one if the rain actually dares to fall on the royal parade... off with its head!) and she has invited Charlie and our local crew of mates to attend.  The idea was that the only wedding we'd have to watch would be the marriage of ants and sandwiches.

This seemed like a wonderful idea a few weeks ago, however we were absolutely not counting on the hypnotic pull that a princess and a prince getting actually, really married with a big dress and a proper coach and a parade and everything was going to have on the tiny females amongst us.

Seriously, half the Mums have pulled out of coming in the morning because their daughters are rolling on the floor and begging to be allowed to watch.  Some of them think they will be going to the wedding.  Other are forcing their reluctant Fathers to actually go into the hell of the centre of town to sit on shoulders and watch the procession go past.  One is going to a girls-and-champagne only party with her Mum leaving her Dad to come on his own.

This may not be a surprise to you out there who have daughters, but I have a son, a son who doesn't care a toot about the royal wedding; a son who only appreciates a princess dress if the girl wearing it will play trains with him.  And let him drive.

The Royal Wedding is a complete non-starter for us.  Neither the Frog or I give much of a damn and our son is oblivious.  I have Fridays off anyway so all this really means to me is that if it's sunny, the park will be that much more festive.  Now, it appears, the picnic may be delayed so that everyone can watch TV.

I'm quite tempted to walk into Brixton and see what the locals are doing - it's hard to imagine Brixton becoming MORE of a party than it already is on a bank holiday weekend but we'll see. 

I know it's curmudgeonly of me to avoid what is essentially a massive, nation-wide happy-day.  I know it may even be puzzling as to why I wouldn't want to go into the centre and experience the whole drama (including the 'Where's Charlie' drama as he dashes into the crowds...) but there you go.

Yes, it's lovely that two people are getting married but I don't actually know them even though we do live in the same town... Fancy that... and I just find it weird that people care this much about it.

Yes it's grand that English Royal Pageantry has exploded into action, but frankly the next coronation will be much more interesting - and Charlie will be older and with any luck, the next King will also be a Charlie and crucially, there will be no princess dresses involved.  That, I think, is something my little boy might just be interested in seeing. 

Or not.  Depends, I imagine, on what vehicle Charles uses to get to his new crown.

Friday, April 15, 2011

What is the Big Society?

This is a biscuit-and-a-cuppa post, I’m afraid.

There's a lot of guff in the British press these days about the 'Big Society'.  According to the powers that be, the Big Society will devolve power to local authorities and (I quote) "is the responsibility of every department of Government, and the responsibility of every citizen too. Government on its own cannot fix every problem. We are all in this together."   

Oh yes, all very dig-for-Britain but the truth is that most people feel that it's simply a way for the government to stop funding local services and in fact we're NOT all in this together – we’re dumped on and being asked to like it. 

The thing is though that the Big Society isn’t some government fiction – it exists and is everywhere around us – people have always looked after each other and this is what it boils down to – all of us taking care of each other and of our environment - streets, gardens, local bits and bobs.   People take care of each other all the time – no government initiative is going to change that.  Yes, we should all step up; but not as part of a government cost-cutting exercise designed to bail out rotten financial institutions; we pay taxes so the government can support us – they serve us, not the other way around.  If we serve anyone, it should be each other.

Horace and Edith (not their real names which is ridiculous, but there you go) have lived on our street for going on 50 years and are both about to hit 80.  We’ve lived next door for the last six and a half and have struck up a genuine friendship.  Horace was a handsome bugger in his day and Edith a slip of a girl, they’re easy-going, friendly, funny and great neighbours.  They braved a mixed-marriage in the 50s at which point much of her family cut her off, however they have a wide circle of friends, a son, grandchildren and quite a bit of extended family.

Last year Horace was diagnosed with a massive tumour and had extensive, successful surgery; however had to return recently to have two massive hernias done.  On her way to visit him a few weeks ago, Edith fell in the street and damaged her shoulder so badly she’s had to have it replaced; so they are in adjoining rooms on the same ward of our local hospital at the moment.  The same week, they lost their son to a heart-attack.

We have always sort of looked out for them and they for us. In the snow we sweep their pavement, we occasionally do their heavy shopping, we drive them to hospital and generally, along with quite a few of our neighbours, check in on them.  In return they keep an eye on cars and front doors when people are on holiday, do occasional cat-sitting and can be relied on to know any bit of relevant gossip in the area.

A few Saturdays ago we had a panicky call from Horace’s hospital bed telling us the bad news about Edith and begging us to feed their trio of rescue cats.  We have each other’s keys and this was no problem, however on entering their flat I realised why we’d not been invited over for a while – this is Edith’s second broken arm in 8 months and with Horace suffering from hernias, the last year has seen them barely coping and too proud to say.  So, with their permission we’ve cleaned and renovated their kitchen so they can reach things and have more storage space.  We’ve run errands, we’ve mowed the lawn, we visit them in hospital, they’re recovering fine and should be home soon.

I tell you this not because I want to wave a flag about how lovely we are, but sort of as a caution.  The Big Society works – it works because we are social animals and we like to keep in contact with people (or most of us... frogs excepted J) and it works because 80% of the human race are actually decent people and another 19% will step up if pushed. 

The Big Society works and further, it needs to keep working.  Horace and Edith have family and friends – loads of them.  However, due to recent family deaths and either the extreme youth or extreme age of the remaining people, they are effectively alone.  This, my friends, could be any of us.   You might think you have a strong support network around you but ask yourself – will that hold up?  Will it be there in 40 years?  50?  Will your children be on the same continent?  Will your friends be fit enough to help? 

The truth is that you just don’t know these things – you can’t know.  For many of us, we may never need to know – we may keep our network local and strong.  But for more of us than we might like to consider, the Big Society is what is going to keep us going – government directives or not.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Buns of Brixton

At last the sun is out and Brixton is booming - in more ways than one.  The only riots we're having now, thirty years on from the events of April 1981, is a riot of parties and picnics.

Brixton is a great place to live - ask anyone who actually lives here. I can't say anything about the riots, or about whether or not Brixton is a better place to live than it was back then - I'm a newcomer and I'm from entirely the wrong background to comment.  What I can say is that we would never live anywhere else in London.

The moment the sun comes out in Brixton it's as though the light is pouring out of the pavement.  Everywhere you go you hear music, people smile at each other.  Charlie and I went to a playground the other day that we don't normally get to; it's small and there was only a man and his son, a little older than Charlie, throwing snaps at each other and laughing at the bangs.  Charlie was transfixed, he tried to play on his own but it was too much fun and frankly, I felt the same.  We joined in, they gave us a box of our own and we spent a very happy 10 minutes talking about Brixton and throwing miniature explosives at the ground and cheering as they landed with a crack.

In that 10 minutes I learned a little more about Brixton, met someone new who also loves the place (and who has lived here 40 years and ought to know what he's on about) and walked away feeling, once again, that I am absolutely living in the right place, given that this is London and that actually I'd quite like to get out of the city one day.

Today, the park was mad with people, it was great.  There were two, count 'em, two ice-cream vans outside the gates, a circus across the way and the playground was packed.  The park was a counter-pane of picnic blankets and kites, dogs, footballs, boom-boxes and hot cross buns.

Today, the only riots were by 4-year-olds on the slide and the only explosions were 25p packets of fun snaps; perhaps not the most appropriate things for pre-schoolers to play with but frankly, in this day and age, the least of our worries.

Brixton, I bloody well love you.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The yearbook pic...

The yearbook pic... I don't think I had a single good one, although by the last year of school I had mastered at least the art of gentle makeup and hair and may even have found a decent photo angle, so it probably sucks less than the others... however pretty much every earlier one is absolutely rubbish.

My favourite is this one; my first ever, as far as I know.  Note the impossible hair, the gappy teeth and the askew school tie... and the slouch, ever the slouch...

Anyway, this is my entry for Tara Cain's 'Bloggers Yearbook' - although I suspect I may be quite a bit too late to actually get in.  I don't mind really, I'm quite keen to see everyone else's though.

What blows me away slightly about this is that this is me, aged about 2 years older than my own son is at the moment... which means that in a few years I'll be posting this up side-by-side to his one. Actually I'll be posting his next to one of my brother at the same age - scary.

Anyone fancy posting me a link to theirs?

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Hoppity Hop

OK, clearly it's not Easter but I have to say I feel that it is looming, in much the same way Christmas looms once October spills out of bed and cracks open a withery eye on September's breakfast.  Already the dandelions are up in my lawn, winter must have gone.

I'm ambivalent about Easter.  One the one hand, the whole rolicking pagansism of new chicks, painted eggs and hares and the rebirth of light (combined, of course, with all the chocolate) makes me deeply happy.  On the other, this ancient and most awe-deserving of holidays has become just one more retail cash cow.

However, Easter, like All Hallow's Eve is, I think, powerful enough to overcome the crass consumerism that envelops some of our other old holidays like Christmas (Yule) , Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and all the other calendar-based excuses to spend needless money.  Oh yes, we are inundated by invitations to spend money on cheap tat at Halloween and Easter, but critically, the things that sell on these two festivals, really, are absolutely relevant to the ancient intent of the dates.

What this means in fact is that at Easter, the biggest selling things are all to do, pretty much, with joy and happiness - and chocolate. Egg decorating, chocolate bunnies, cheesy bonnets, baskets of sweets, egg hunts - I have no issue with Easter as a commercialised event; because with the exception of a few very serious types, we don't celebrate death at Easter, we celebrate new life; joy; happiness - we turn our noses up at winter and possibly dance around the odd field.  Or is that just the hares?

Anyway, all this preamble started off as an explanation as to why we accepted a PR invitation to go and see a screening 'Hop' the other week - because it looked like it was in the right spirit.  And you know what?  It was. Yes, the whole concept is as light and fluffy as the main character and one could fit  the whole cinema into some of the gaps in the plot; but hey, this is a children's film.  About Easter.  It has rabbits and chocolate in it - and the evil chick is not Angelina Jolie in a leather corset but something yellow and ridiculous with a beak.

The screening was sponsored by Lindt and there is seriously nothing like walking into a room and finding a man in an apron surrounded by chocolate rabbits to make everything OK but I would have loved this film anyway for what it is - a little bit of celebratory confectionary; a bit funny, a bit sweet, perfect.  It's not the world's greatest anything; but if you have kids, I'd be willing to bet that they'll like this film. Charlie and his mate Einstein, who is fairly discerning for 4, loved it.  Go see it.

And that's that.  Easter is coming, dig out the bonnets, dig up the garden, all that dies will be reborn.  Especially, if you look at my garden, the dandelions.

****This is a review, for which I received 4 tickets to the advance screening of Hop, along with not-inconsiderable amounts of chocolate bunnies and some fluffy bunny ears.  For Charlie, people...****

Friday, March 25, 2011

screaming heebie jeebies

Charlie has developed a new weapon in his 4-year-old arsenal.  While it's not as funny, or frankly inventive, as blowing fart noises out of his bottom with the aid of a plastic hose (see last post) it does however have its own humour value.

I picked him up from a late playdate, having given him a 15-minute warning that turned into 30 while I had a good old gas with his friend's Mum.  This however Was Not Good Enough and on the announcement that it was past bedtime and therefore time to depart, he tried pretty much every trick.  He hid.  He clung to the bannisters.  He wailed and screamed and lay on the floor.  He went limp when I tried to get his coat on and when it was clear he had to go, he stumbled out of the front door in a sort of 'C' shape with his head practically tucked under his arm in despair. 


It went on nearly all the way home while I walked beside him biting my lip... eventually I interupted him to ask if he'd like to have one or two stories for bedtime and he went from 60 to zero in one second flat, answering me in a perfectly sane voice "I want three stories Mummy.  And do you know?  Max has a new car!" 

He then chatted aimiably at me for the duration of the walk home.

It's like living with a mad person.

I'm not sure I'll ever keep up

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011 you strap what to your feet and go where?

OK, so my attitude to skiing, based on encounters with the smug, orange offspring of the rich during my impoverished and geeky youth, used to be that it is a sport undertaken by awful people.  This attitude changed radically when I realised that actually, some of my favourite people ski; but I never for a second felt the urge to participate.

At the age of 39, however, I married a skier (I'm not actually sure which was more surprising).  Anyway, it became clear that there was a silent clause in our vows in which, apparently, the JP said 'and will you take this man skiing' just before I said the two dangerous words.

I dutifully followed the Frog off to the slopes with somewhat predictable results, ie, I hated it and only went back on extreme suffrance.

I fell down and couldn't get up, like a living, breathing old lady joke.  I shouted.  I threw things.  I fell over again.  I may have cried.  3 ski trips later and I could actually ski successfully, albeit with scant enjoyment.  I became resigned to my fate, I purchased ski boots - then, mercifully, I fell pregnant and have managed to avoid skiing for more years than I could ever have hoped.

However, time has a sort of relentless thing about it and we now have a son big enough to be strapped into skis and thrown down a snowy hill - so, an uncharacteristically cheerful Frog booked a ski weekend recently and that's pretty much what we did to Charlie.  Poor boy.


 He fell over and couldn't get up.  He shouted.  He threw things.  He cried so much his sunscreen washed off.  He did, however, actually ski, loved it and is dying to go back.  The Frog says he is clearly my son.  I say, on evidence, he is clearly his Father's boy.

Importantly however, I've discovered that I have become a better skier simply by not skiing.  It's true!  I've not been near a slope for 6 years now and I can actually ski like a proper skiing person.  This is great. 

Perhaps, if I stay off the slopes for another 6 years I may actually become world class... however given I am outnumbered in this house by remorselessly keen ski people, I don't much fancy my chances.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A civilised day out...

We've been doing a few things... and not just in my head either; that's just how I'm updating this god-forsaken offering to the lord of the internets.

Charlie and I sometimes meet a group of mates for outings where we basically get the kids outside, crank 'em up and let them run themselves down so far that they sleep for a month. We tend to end up at places like Barnes Wetland Centre where we like to imagine the civilising effect we are having on our offspring; although in fact we are actually there for the awesome playground and the cafe.

This time it was Wisley and it was brilliant - you can walk around all day and every 5 minutes something new heaves into view that the kids want to jump on - and, critically, there is a cafe hidden in every corner. It was a wonderful day out - bracing, educational, lovely flowers, butterflies... and here are the pictures of this civilised and inspiring venture:

Monday, February 28, 2011

Is that the time?

I envy those who manage to blog frequently... so often these days I either have

a - nothing to say or

b - no memory of what it was I thought I had to say earlier when I was doing something else.

So here I go, trying to wrest some content out of the shallows of my brain pan.  I've been trying to learn how to relax recently.  You know those bogus questionnaires that ask stupid and meaningless questions with the goal of either promoting some dreadful product or wasting a slack 10 minutes on the bus?  You know the ones 'if you were an animal, which animal would you be?' - at the end they tell the reader that one is a wolf with killer instincts or something equally flattering and one bounces off to work feeling all empowered; only to realise that one is in fact a mouse, or perhaps some sort of invertebrate lagoon dweller and one's day is swiftly shot to hell, along with one's self image.

Anyway, I suppose I've always quite fancied myself as some sort of romantic creature; perhaps a deer, swift and mysterious; or a cat, cunning and fast - or perhaps something terribly laid-back and calm.  The truth, I realise, is that I'm more like a rabbit; I'm constantly flitting about in a state of high nerves and am capable of long periods of deep hibernation.  Actually, I'm pretty much always in a state of high activity.

I've tried a few things to combat this; exercise, booze, meditation;a friend has recommended some NLP techniques which occasionally help.  Sadly my brain is a match for anything I throw at it and the result is that sometimes it sort of goes into overload and bits of it disconnect from other bits; which is where I find myself at the moment, with some sort of internal disconnect.  I just can't make things match up, as thought two parts of my brain are thinking independently and I just can't communicate with myself.

Which means, of course, that communicating with this blog is hopeless... which won't exactly stop me but might just keep slowing me down.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

London Days

Finally, I feel like spring might actually be arriving.  Come Imbolc there was still the threat of snow, and while snodrops were up in the park, the ones in my garden hadn't even popped their cherries.

Today, however, I looked out the window and there they were, or most of them, the Frog has stabbed a garden light into the middle of the patch but most of them seem up and bobbing about.  Not only that, but yesterday we had actual sun; and the magnolias are out on the next street and a few other blossoms are stinking up the air something lovely.

Tomorrow it's Friday - Charlie day.  It's not my day off, it's the one day I spend alone with my son.   I can't say how cool Fridays now that the boy is actively involved in plotting them out - sometimes we spend all week planning.

This year we've already been to the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum - and the Transport Museum twice;  last time we even found something new.  It was sort of a great day; it was pissing down with rain and we rode at the top of the bus to Trafalgar square.

He loves the square even when there's nothing going on; he loves the fountains, mainly.  Once there was an ice bear; once some great big tree trunks; once the fountains were full of flowers.  The changing sculpture on the 4th plinth has been great - he loved the big ship in a bottle.  Last time it was so wet that I splashed out on a taxi from the square to the museum.  As I sat, driving through London in the back of a taxi with my four-year-old raving about everything he could see out of the windows, I felt sort of brilliant, to tell the truth.  Afterwards we had pizza in Covent Garden and watched the street performers.

London has opened up; we're not just after open spaces and playgrounds anymore; we're on the hunt for new things. I've promised him a trip to the Tower of London when the weather clears up, we've got the Zoo in our sights and the Musieum of London might get a look in .  Sometimes we just hang local - last week it was lunch with friends around the corner, sometimes it's just the park or a clear up in the garden.

Suddenly my urge to move out of the city doesn't seem quite so pressing now that all this cool stuff is on the agenda.  I don't know what I'm going to do when he goes to school in September.  Work I expect.  Miss him, probably.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Lies we tell our children

Here are some of the lies I've told Charlie this week:

- Reeses Peanut Butter Cups only have 2 cups in a pack. 
- Yes, you DID win
- You did a very good job of wiping your bottom
- That's not funny
- I'm still cross

The hardest one is 'that's not funny'... Imagine if you will... it's late, he's been playing up all evening, he's refusing to put on his pyjamas and has resorted to parading around waggling his bottom in the air and making fart noises.  Although funny, this could be resisted if it wasn't for the expression on his face, which is priceless and becomes more so once he feels he has the upper hand, ie, catches me smirking.

Hard to stay cross but somehow, I managed.

I did, however, not feel guilty about that 3rd peanut butter cup.


Friday, January 21, 2011

The kids are alright - confessions of an honest parent

The frog, in one of his more humorous moments, sent me a link to a story on the BBC website the other day talking about how Mums lie to each other about the amount of TV their kids watch, how many video games they play; how much time they spend with their kids and presumably how well they feed them, dress them, punish them etc etc.

The article said that the main pressure on us parents is - ta dah!  Other parents!  Well duh.  Isn't peer pressure always the main pressure?  I read it through and sadly couldn't sympathise; I have to say we don't have that problem in Brixton; at least not the parents I know.

What we have is more like a circle of condolence.  It goes like this: I rock up at nursery about 30 seconds before they fine me for being late.  As I'm stuffing Charlie's arms into his coat and prying the nursery helicopter out of his paws, I notice his mate being bagged up by the staff, her coat zipped, her rucksack installed on her shoulders - I ring her Mum who is out of breath and five minutes away; she speaks to the staff, I take the two kids back to our flat and start tea. (Sometimes this happens in reverse and I am the one receiving the call as I puff down the street).

A few moments later, the errant Mum rings the bell and we sit down to confess our sins.  Wine is drunk, the kids are left to play with their food to their hearts' content.  What, you might ask, are our sins?  We work too much.  The kids watch too much telly.  We shout at them.  We feed them things out of the freezer, out of tins and packets. We ignore them, spoil them, punish them, bribe them.  We're tired, we look like shit, we're wearing the same things three days in a row, we wish we were better parents.  We admire each other, confess more sins and end up feeling... pretty damn good about ourselves, to be honest.

There's no oneuppance here and it's the same whenever any of us get together.  We're free to bitch, moan, produce cake out of a packet and expose ourselves - and do you know why?  Because we have a troupe of happy, healthy kids.

Yes, they probably eat too many fish fingers, watch too much TV and play too many games on their parents' iPhone but evidence shows they are equally happy to pack about together armed with nothing more than sticks and bits of fabric and make up their own games.  They fight monsters, they built towers, they say please, they hug their friends; they sing and dance and cajole and laugh and cry and object to bedtime and lie about their misdemeanours; they fight and tell tales and pick their noses and go to bed begging for more stories - in other words, they're perfectly healthy kids.

They're loved, fed, clothed and warm - they're fine.  Who cares if we're not up at the crack of arse making fairy cakes and cutting sandwiches into stars?  Who?  Who cares about this crap? Whatever we might be doing to them, we've come to the conclusion that we're all essentially the same and that they're probably going to turn out just great.

When I got pregnant I was often told that I was about to join the least exclusive club in the world.  Billions are in it already - so, come on, let's be honest with each other. Even you, Super-Mum.  You may pitch up at the school gates looking immaculate with a hand-cooked lunch, hold down a full time job and bake award-winning cakes before bedtime but be honest with the rest of us - it's hard work and sometimes even you, my girl, fuck up.

Let's cut each other some slack.  We're all shit parents in one way or another and you know what?  The kids are alright.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Great big little white lies

Charlie has discovered lying.

I've suspected this for a while but have cut him a lot of slack given how easily confused a 4-year-old can get about even the smallest things, like remembering what they had for lunch, for example, or where they left your telephone, or which bed they're supposed to sleep in...

Anyway, so when he says something that sounds a little hinky, I've been giving him the benefit of the doubt, however clearly, this has backfired.

We are big fans of star charts here.  We incentivise pretty heavily - for every 10 stars, he gets to choose a new Chuggington toy.  It's not a give-away though, oh no.  The criteria is tough and every day in which he doesn't earn a star we actually take one away... it took him nearly a month to earn his last one. I know, call me Cruella.

While this has moved certain behaviours of his along in leaps and bounds, it's also a pretty keen incentive for him to tell a few big fat porkies - I don't want to damage his dignity here, but I'm certain he's having things done for him at nursery that he's supposed to be doing himself and he's earned a star or two off the back of it... and inspired him to try out lying as, essentially, his default position.

Luckily, while he's got a face that'll do him proud around a poker table later in life, currently his lies are pretty unsophisticated - here's one from tonight:

Charlie:  'I'd like to play for 10 more minutes Mummy'
Me:  'OK, I'll set the alarm for 10 minutes'
Charlie: (realising he bid too low) 'NO MUMMY, I said TWELVE minutes'
Me: (laughing) 'No you didn't, you clearly told me10 minutes'
Me: (to Frog) 'Did you tell Charlie he could play for 12 minutes?'
Frog: 'No!'
Charlie: (Makes general freaking out sounds, shouts, pouts and then gives up when he realises he's done for) 'OK Mummy, you set the alarm for 10 minutes.'
Me:  'It's 8 minutes now'.

It's a bit worrying; we need to teach him to tell the truth but I'm not quite certain how...  He's never been punished for telling the truth but we've not exactly made a big deal out of it either; we've sort of assumed a natural honesty in him that perhaps should have been rewarded.

So, perhaps I need to reward him for telling the truth more often.  I smell another star chart...

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Happy New Year?

And in it comes, the new year, dragging us reluctantly behind it; full of phlegm and snot and all sorts of other things that have emerged from various cavities during the holiday season.  Deck the halls?  Deck the walls, more like.  We've had flu (me) a runny tum (Charlie) vomiting (the Frog), a chest infection (me) a cold (Charlie and the Frog) and, er, a hangover.  Me.  Sadly.

Resolutions?  Nothing so bourgeois in this house, no no no.  No, I find myself facing each new year as though standing in the path of a herd of panicky buffalo - rooted to the spot and dithering over which way to run first.  In fact, I'd rather time didn't move quite as fast as it does, thank you very much; I'd be quite happy for it to stop all together, at least for a month or two; enough time for me to get a few things done on last year's 'to do' list.

Perhaps I should take my 'to do' list and call everything on it 'resolutions'; might make them sound more exotic and give them a sort of dead-liney feeling rather than the feeling they currently have, which is of a sort of grey pile of heaviness that occasionally shifts and throws me off-balance.  Not a bad idea, in fact, giving my guilt a deadline.  Until I miss it of course.  Actually scrap it; the last thing I need is more guilt at things undone.  So, no resolutions for me; no 'in with the new' - more like 'in with the same'.  Quite comforting really, to be honest.

Hm.  Anyway, so here it is, 2011.  Maybe we should all plan to have a global cup of coffee at 11:11:11am on Nov 11 - that's the sort of deadline I might be able to achieve, frankly.

Happy New Year everyone - happy blogging, happy families and I'll see you at the other end; hopefully.