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.