Life Game: What’s Cool and What’s Lame

What’s up Gamers?

I’ve done it! I’ve got to Level 3 of Life Game and I’m becoming quite a pro. I’ve got to the stage where I can watch n00bs blundering about the training levels at Toddler Groups, trying to do Walk or Crawl (badly), and I can have a laugh at them or go up and give them some pointers.

I have also got to a point in the game where I have a pretty clear idea about what I like and what I don’t like. And I don’t see why anyone should try to make me do the bits of the game that are Lame. So in this episode of my Life Game Hacks, I thought I’d give you a run down of the bits I like and the bits I don’t like, and some tips on how to get any interfering busy-bodies (read: The Mummy) to butt out and let you get on with painting your underarms purple or whatever it was you were doing.

COOL STUFF

Painting – What could be more glorious than covering a piece of paper in bright colours using a brush? And your hands. And your knees. And then covering the table, the chair, the floor, your clothes, your hair, your arms and whatever you can get to before the Mummy is alerted to what you’re doing (she calls it Making a Mess but I say potato potahto). Painting is photo (9).JPGawesome.

Cake – With icing please. And every day please. And once I’ve licked the icing off you can pick the discarded spongy bit up off the floor yourself because I don’t need it anymore, thanks.

Teefee – Best. Thing. Ever. Princesses, Barbie, doggies, kitties, beautiful girls with starry Manga eyes, and they all go around rescuing people and eating cupcakes. It’s like my imagination has come to life! And you don’t have to make the characters talk for once so you can just sit back and recuperate some health points.

Tip! Teefee also gives you useful updates on what you could buy in the Shops (with your Mummy’s credits of course). When you spot an item from the Teefee, just point at it and shout at the top of your voice LOOK LOOK LOOK Mummy! It gets her to interact with the item, though I’m still working out how to actually move it to my inventory. Will keep you updated.

Role play – Why be yourself when you can so easily pretend to be someone else? When you interact with an NPC and they address you by your name, just give them a blast of your Charisma and say: “Do you mean: Dora?” You can use any TV character name of course. My current favourite is Princess Leia. Insist that all henchman and other players change their screen names to match your new identity, for instance, The Brother has to be Luke, the Daddy has to be Darth Vader and the Fairy Godmother is, obviously, Cheesebacca.

LAME STUFF

Stickers and colouring – The Mummy seems to think that these are somehow just as fun as Painting and should be an acceptable alternative. But she clearly does not understand what is so fun about Painting. How can you make a decent mess with stickers or crayons? Why would you want to colour inside the lines?? (Yuck)

Comics – Once you’ve got the toy off they’re pretty much useless. Juvenile stuff. I much prefer a decent novel: a bit of David Mitchell or Kate Atkinson will do.

12049507_10153006430780388_933249078170772850_n.jpg

Preferred outfit in sub-zero temperatures

Warm clothes – ZOMG will they quit already with the coats and jumpers? Don’t they know that they cover up my pretty dresses?? I need to wear a dress, pref a summer dress, not trousers because they are for boys. That is stuff you know when you get to Level 3. Also, socks are nasty and unnecessary, just take them off anytime you can and abandon them wherever.

Playing with stuff I am allowed to play with – Where is the fun in that? Sure, I wanted to play with Skye, but once the Brother gave me his big cuddly Skye, I only got half the experience points for holding her. I had to start sneaking over to his Paw Patrol box to get the little Skye out, because that still gave me the triple experience for doing Thief missions.

Lame Stuff Avoidance Techniques

Here are some ways you can make it clear to the Mummy that her suggestions are lame:

1. When offered unacceptable dinner options, shout: “I SAID I not want dis food!!” Then push the bowl away. You can do this with drink as well, of course: “I SAID I want JUICE!” Then push the offending cup of water across the table so it tips over and soaks the Mummy’s supposedly important papers (my paintings look much more beautiful and she puts those in the recycling so I think this is only fair).

2. Cry. Just roll around on the floor or the sofa and do Crying, making as much noise as possible.

3. Hit. If no NPCs are within range, just whack the sofa or a toy. They have fewer hit points and break more easily so that has the added bonus of making a mess (again)

Well, there you go, it was a long one but I hope this points you in the right direction.

Got any requests for my next update? Let me know in the comments if there is a tricky bit of Life Game you are struggling with and I’ll do you a walk-through in my next post.

xoxox

The Girl

12189861_10153050639095388_7281539498175869859_n.jpg

Advertisements

The Real Reasons I was Cross Today

photo (6)

I got cross a lot today, kids, and this is why.

It wasn’t because you ran ahead out of sight.

Well, it was because you ran ahead out of sight.

But mostly it was because you tried to justify it, because you tried to absolve yourself, by saying it wasn’t you, it was the choo choo train you were riding, which didn’t have a stop before the bend so you couldn’t get off. I was cross because you kept insisting the train was real and it really wasn’t your choice, your responsibility.

And it wasn’t because you spilled the water.

Well, it was also because you spilled the water.

But mostly it was because you spilled the water and walked away and didn’t tell me, and by the time I noticed, the water had soaked through Mog’s Christmas, an exercise book, the Disney Princess colouring book, a cut out Elsa and Anna and a full set of lidless felt tips.

And I got even more cross because you didn’t seem bothered that all that stuff was ruined or that I was cross with you.

And it wasn’t because you wouldn’t tie your shoelaces.

It was because you didn’t even want to have a go. Because you said you would do it yourself tomorrow or the day after but I ‘had’ to do it today. It was because you wanted to take a day off from the responsibilities of being 5.

To be honest,

I also got cross because I too get tired of taking responsibility for stuff. And sometimes I wish you kids would make all that a bit easier by doing your bit.

And sometimes I am jealous,
and I wish there was someone that I could
hold my foot up to and say:
you do it.
I’m not in the mood today.
Can you please tie my shoelaces?

Potty Training Confessions: 9 months down the line

pottyI have not mentioned potty training on here for a long time.

This has a reason.

Like Mummy K, I find that I write the future. Or rather, the inverse of the future. Writing about anything on my blog, especially drawing beautifully tied-up-in-a-bow conclusions about anything, will almost guarantee that it changes the next day. For example, no sooner had I written about my son’s lack of interest in reasons and how he never asked “Why”, or he decided that maybe that was quite interesting after all and now I can’t blink without him wanting to know why I did that.

Potty training has been the same. Back in November of last year, I wrote that he had pretty much cracked it once he discovered you could make numbers and letters with poo. Almost as if he had been reading my blog and was determined not to let me be too smug, he instantly reverted to soiling his underpants and has not really stopped since. Also, having been pretty much dry in the daytime initially, the novelty of going to the toilet soon wore off and he found that these visits to the bathroom were just an annoying distraction from play or TV watching or Doing Numbers, and he started leaving it just a little bit too late. Every. Single. Time.

washing shortsFor months, we have been going through on average 4 pairs of pants a day. On a Shy Poo day (as I call it), when the Boy very slowly releases little bits of poo into his underpants, squeezing them between his bottom for maximum discomfort and mess, this might be more like 6. The washing seems endless. I am forever hanging upside down scooping poo from a little boy’s bottom with toilet paper, then needing to change to wipes to get the really stubborn bits off (sorry, hope you weren’t eating dinner or anything).

“Remember,” I say when he gets impatient, “If you go to the toilet and do your poo there, Mummy only needs to do one wipe. If you poo in your underpants , it will take twenty minutes and half a roll of toilet paper. Your choice.”

Two months ago we hit a crisis point. I was getting increasingly wound up by the situation. I started getting very angry every time he had an accident – or “incident”, as I preferred to think of it, as calling it an “accident” implies that no one is at fault (thanks Hot Fuzz). I started to feel that he was deliberately choosing not to go to the toilet, therefore doing it on purpose, therefore being defiant. And defiance is a bit of a red rag for me.

Toilet trips became more and more stressful for both of us. We would both get very angry. Things were not improving.

Then two things happened:

1) My husband said to me one day after another toilet related confrontation: “He needs to know you are on his side.” Those words stuck in my head: He needs to know I am on his side.

2) I was idly flicking through my old friend Penelope Leach again, and happened on her chapter on potty training. She suggests that for young children their poo is something they can control, and they will often use it to take some control in a situation where they feel powerless.

I put these two things together:

The Boy is most likely choosing not to go to the toilet, as I suspected. He is doing it to exercise control. Why? Because he feels powerless and he doesn’t feel like I am on his side.

This was a sobering thought.

The next day I sat down with the Boy and I told him: “I am really sorry that I keep getting angry with you about going to the toilet. I promise that I will do my very best not to get cross with you. You are a big boy and you can choose when to go to the toilet. I will leave it up to you. It is your choice.”

The Boy gave a very decided nod and said: “Yes,” in a tone that suggested this was what he had been thinking all along and he was pleased I had caught up.

So that is what we did. There weren’t any more or any less accidents, but we were happier.

cleaning productsYesterday I realised that things were actually very gradually improving. The Boy is taking the initiative to go to the toilet more often than he was. The other day, he even went up without making any fuss and did a poo without any prompting or help, and kept his underpants clean. As the Fairy Godmother remarked, his hit-to-miss-ratio seems to be improving. Maybe it’s 2-3 pairs of underpants a day now instead of 4.

Of course today, while I have been writing this post, he has been burning through freshly laundered pants and shorts like there is no tomorrow and even managed to smear poo on the IKEA step, the bathroom floor and the lovely cream carpet on the stairs.

But still I want to record that I am proud of him. That he is making progress, even if it is slow. He is making an effort. He is starting to care more about whether he is wet or dry.

“My pants are clean! Mummy is soooo proud of me!” he beams, sitting on the toilet.

And I really am.

feet

Linking up to Loud ‘n Proud.

Loud ‘n Proud: Making Sense of the World

I have been waiting for the “why” phase for a while. One of The Boy’s many best friends was plaguing his mother for reasons even before he was three, but all the Boy wanted to know was: “What’s that, Mummy?” and “What are you doing, Daddy?” He has been more interested in defining, labelling and quantifying. This shouldn’t surprise me really, given his focus on numbers and shapes. He likes to know what things are and where they’re at. But he doesn’t ask me why.

“Does he just not have a natural investigative instinct?” I worry sometimes, child of two university lecturers. “Does he not want to do research?”

We are at said university lecturers’ house in the Netherlands this week. The kids have been over the moon to see their beloved grandparents again and play with the special toys that they only see at their house. The Boy is spending most of his time with the foam numbers, making hopscotch and hiding them for Opa and Oma to find, and the Girl is playing with the doll that was my own constant companion from age 5. I have been enjoying some time off from housework and indulging my tendency towards nostalgia with old photo albums. Generally, time has moved more slowly and nothing has seemed as frantic or urgent as it often does in daily life at home.

Yesterday we walked through the park where I used to play as a child. I was actually in a bit of a hurry to get to the town hall to take care of some ex-pat business, but the Boy wanted to stop at the bridge to see the ducks. I decided it wouldn’t really matter if we were a bit later, and was excited that he was showing an interest in nature, broadening his horizons. The Girl was asleep in the buggy, so it was just him and me and the birds.

sam met eenden

“Hello ducks! Mummy, I want them to come closer!”

He was sad we didn’t have any bread for them. Then he spotted a different kind of bird by the water’s edge, standing stock still, its long beak pointing down at the canal.

“Mummy!” he asked breathlessly. “What’s that bird?”

vliegende reiger (2)

What – not why.

“It’s a heron,” I explained.

The Boy studied the heron for a while. The bird did not move a muscle.

He asked me very seriously: “Is he made of glass?”

“No, it’s a real bird. He is standing very still because he is waiting to catch a little fish and he doesn’t want the fish to see him.”

The Boy was fascinated and refused to carry on until the heron had caught something. I was a little worried we might be a while, but it wasn’t long before the beak moved slowly closer and closer to the water, before snatching an invisible prey. Then the bird took off to find a new perch.

We moved on and soon we got to a large cage full of birds that has been there ever since I can remember, although the inhabitants change fairly frequently. At the moment there is a little family of pheasant-type birds living in the centre enclosure. (I myself know very little of birds, please feel free to correct me…)

The Boy was enchanted by the large, colourful bird. His question: “That’s a lovely bird, Mummy. What’s his name?”

“I don’t know.”

“Can we call it Bernard?”

I supposed that was as good as anything, and for the next ten minutes, the Boy chatted to and about Bernard. “Look, Bernard has a baby, Mummy. I’ll call it “chicken”. Hello Chicken!”

"Bernard"

“Bernard”

We had to leave Bernard and carry on, and the Boy spotted lily pads on the canal. He expressed a desire to go and jump on them. “No!” I cautioned, “I know frogs in cartoons jump on lily pads, but you are much too heavy.”

The Boy’s spirits could not be quenched. “When we be 8, we turn into frogs, and jump on lily pads!”

I didn’t contradict him. He’ll find out in time.

“Can we go back to Nidiland now?”

“We are in the Netherlands,” I sighed. It was the Spain issue all over again. “Do you mean to Opa and Oma’s house?”

Yes, that was what he meant.

The answer was no, and as he trudged dejectedly along with me towards the rather boring destination, I reflected on his wonderful brain.

He is not asking why. He is coming up with his own ideas on how reality works. A bird doesn’t move for a while? He comes up with his own hypothesis: perhaps it is made of glass. Mummy doesn’t know an animal’s name? Well, maybe that is because it doesn’t have one yet and the whole thing is still wide open for his own suggestions. He can’t jump on lily pads? Well, one day he might turn into a frog and then he’ll be able to.

He is, I thought proudly, becoming a free thinking, independent philosopher. Why would he want to ask other people for the reasons and the explanations? He is plenty clever enough to come up with his own.

Then, while I was contemplating all this, he asked me a why-question after all. One that I suddenly realised he asks a lot.

“Why are you smiling Mummy?”

He uses ‘Why’ sparingly, asking me about the only subject I am truly an expert on: myself. He uses it to find out what the matter is with Mummy. To work out what makes Mummy tick.

Have you discovered your children are future philosophers or Nobel peace prize winners this week? Have they staggered you with their knowledge, their effort or their sporting prowess? Have you yourself done something amazing this week? Come and link up with Loud ‘n Proud! Just click on the link below, it will take you to a separate page. 

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Secrets of the Sandpit
<div align="center"><a href="http://www.secretsofthesandpit.wordpress.com" 

title="Secrets of the Sandpit" target="_blank"><img src="http://i1331.photobucket.com/albums/w599/JudithKingston/Loudnproudsecretsofthesandpit_zps81748ecf.jpg" alt="Secrets of the 

Sandpit" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper were 3 once

The Boy has once again snatched one of his sister’s toys. He was very happy playing with the Duplo, building a house that would not stand up, until he heard the tell-tale sounds of his sister having fun. He came to see what she was playing with and took it off her so he could play with it instead.

When I take the toy piano away from him and return it to The Girl, telling him she had it first and it is not kind to snatch, he grabs it back and says: “But I want it.” His tone implies: now that you know this, surely you will back down from your ridiculous position and let me have the toy.

A few moments later, the Boy is wailing in time out for trying to hit Mummy and not listening, the Girl has abandoned the piano in favour of smashing up the one-walled Duplo house, and I am in the kitchen nursing a headache. Amidst the pain and the screaming, I have an epiphany: this is the time in his life when the Boy learns not to be a sociopath.

All the seeds for a life of narcissism or crime are there in the three year old mind. The snatching incident demonstrates an “I want it, therefore I should have it” attitude, but there is more evidence that a three year old is a budding psychopath, depending on you and only you to stop him before it is too late.

I did a little test once, to see if I was a psychopath. You can do it too, here:

You are at a funeral. At this funeral, the daughter/son (pick preferred gender) of the deceased catches your eye. You have a wonderful day with them. You have great conversations and really click, and you are starting to think you might be falling in love. Afterwards you keep thinking about them. You want to see them again. How do you go about arranging this?

I’ll give you a moment to think.

.

.

.

What was your answer? If it was: I’d phone them the very next day, you’re fine. If you had I’d phone them every day until they agreed to come on a date, that too is fine, you are perfectly normal. Was it: I’d find out everything I could about them on the Internet and get involved in all their weekly activities? Don’t worry, I did the same when I met my husband. Stalking is absolutely fine.

So what’s the wrong answer then? If your first thought was: I would kill his/her sister, then you are a psychopath. Your sick brain seems to think that your best chance of seeing this wonderful person again is by replicating the circumstances of your first, successful encounter, and so you think the best way to orchestrate that is by killing another relative.

Nobody thinks like this, you say?

Just the other day, my son had a friend to lunch. The last time this little boy came to visit was maybe three months ago. I had the kids sitting at the table and was about to bring in the scrambled eggs on toast, when our perfectly behaved guest said very calmly: “I am ready for my pancakes.” I suddenly remembered that pancakes was what I had served up three months ago at his last visit. The poor little boy had been looking forward to more pancakes ever since the play date was set up. I decided to play it cool and breezy.

“I’m sorry, but it’s eggs today,” I said as I brought in the plates.

“I don’t like eggs,” he said quietly, struggling to contain his disappointment.

I felt terrible and gave him an extra yoghurt.

My son does the same thing. When I tell him he is going for a play date at his friend N’s house, he will excitedly start to tell me what they will do: “Yes! I go to N’s house, and we play with Cuddly Milly and Cuddly Bot and we watch Team Umizoomi and then we play with trains!”

It makes perfect sense to the three year old mind. This is what we did last time and we had fun. Why mess with a good thing? Let’s have the same play date over and over!

Other worrying trends I have noticed are his overenthusiastic affection.

“I just giving N a hug!” he insists when I intervene.

“That is very nice, but you were squishing her, and she didn’t like it any more. You can tell, because she was saying stop and trying to push you away.”

‘No means no’ starts earlier than you think.

And then there is the classic walking in the Grey Area of the Law. I tell my son he can’t swing the red blanket around or he’ll knock something over or hurt someone. So, watching me out of the corner of his eyes, he will swing the blanket – a little bit.

“What are you doing?” I demand.

“I just gently swinging the blanket,” he says.

When I confiscate the blanket there are outraged tears. He wasn’t doing anything wrong! I am starting to feel like he is a genie in a lamp or worse, a lawyer, and I have to word my prohibitions and instructions with extreme care, excluding any other options, limiting and delineating precisely what behaviour is okay and what will incur penalties, or else he will be through those loopholes like a shot.

So, this is where the magic happens. This is where we teach empathy, respect for other people’s feelings, bodies and possessions, delayed gratification, respect for authority and altruism.

This is where we teach them to subjugate their desires to their will and their will to their conscience.

This is where they learn that collecting little keepsakes from your friends is not cute, it’s creepy, and that playing the violin on your own in your room ultimately leads to a sad and lonely life.

violin with sheet music

Loud ‘n Proud Week 3: Leaving Mummy’s Comfort Zone

Welcome to week 3 of Loud ‘n Proud! If you are new to this linky, you can read more details here. I look forward to reading about all the amazing things your wonderful children have done recently – and perhaps some of your own achievements as well. Feel free to be proud of yourself! You can link up your posts below, and don’t forget to grab our badge.

photo 1

Personally, I find it easy to brag about my children’s academic achievements (erm, I do realise they are only 3 and 1 1/2 years old), and to wax lyrical about their linguistic prowess, but something you will rarely hear me mention is their physical abilities. I’ll level with you: I am not into sports and I hate playing outside. Well – I like playing outside, but not if it involves too much supervision, mess, potential for injuries or physical exertion on my part.

So, I guess, I hate playing outside.

As a mum, I am great at encouraging music, art, reading books, imaginative play, but ask me to go and teach my son to ride a bike and I’ll suddenly be very busy with Important Jobs in the house, or you’ll find me asleep on the sofa with Team Umizoomi on repeat.

It took me 6 months of being nagged, prodded and reminded to sign my son up to Tots Tennis at our local tennis club. It was cheap, it was short, it was run by someone we know and trust, yet every week there was something. He didn’t have the right shoes. Or I had work. Or I didn’t know what I’d do with the Girl while we were there. Or I’d just forget.

Then just before half term, we went to the grand opening of a local community centre, and the Tots Tennis stand was there, complete with tiny rackets and soft balls. The entire time we were there, both the Boy and the Girl were running after the balls, waving rackets around and generally having a marvellous time. Before I could stop myself, I found myself saying to the Boy: “Would you like to have tennis lessons?”

“Yes!” he said breathlessly. “I have tennis lessons!” His voice went up to a squeak at the end, that’s how excited he was.

So I signed him up.

We bought him Special Tennis Shoes in Primark. He carried them home as gently as if they were made of porcelain, and kept showing them to everyone, telling anyone who would listen that he was going to have tennis lessons.

He has had three lessons so far and he loves it. In fact, he is quite good at it. He follows instructions quite well and does an impressive job of hitting the ball. I keep bracing myself for failure, or at least mediocrity, as this is all I have ever known in sports myself. But why should The Boy fail or be mediocre? Why should I set the bar so low for him? Why shouldn’t he have a talent for sports? Not just The Boy, but The Girl too. The first lesson I brought books for her to read along the side line, but it soon became clear that that was not going to happen. Within seconds she had appointed herself ball girl, and now every week, she invents her own little tennis lesson while the bigger children have theirs.

I am starting to entertain the idea that my kids actually really love being active and being outdoors. And as I watch the two of them running around on the tennis court, rosy cheeked and laughing, I think that maybe I could get used to it myself…

Tiny ball girl

Tiny ball girl

 

Link up your Loud n Proud posts below and we will read, comment and retweet! Next week’s host will be Tas at Not My Year Off.

Secrets of the Sandpit
<div align="center"><a href="http://www.secretsofthesandpit.wordpress.com" 

title="Secrets of the Sandpit" target="_blank"><img src="http://i1331.photobucket.com/albums/w599/JudithKingston/Loudnproudsecretsofthesandpit_zps81748ecf.jpg" alt="Secrets of the 

Sandpit" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

 

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Lost Fish: Films and Fear in pre-school age children

watching a film

Last week while going around LIDL, I spotted some toffee popcorn and had a bright idea. It was time for a film night. We hadn’t really watched a film with The Boy since the endless Muppet-marathon of September last year, and he was probably going to be that much more able to grasp a longer story line now, six months later. I put the popcorn in the trolley.

“When we get home, we’re going to watch a film!” I announced.

“A film!” the Boy cheered.

“Which one would you like to watch: Cinderella, Ratatouille, The Muppets or Lost Fish?”

“Lost Fish!”

Finding Nemo it was.

I should explain that this was a risky venture.

We have made several attempts to have “nice family film nights” (or afternoons) with the Boy, most of which ended in tears. It turns out that Disney is pretty darn scary when you’re only 3. I realised pretty quickly that Ratatouille wasn’t going to happen when in the first five minutes the loveable furry main character is chased into a river by a woman wielding a carving knife and then a shotgun, after which he loses his family, gets lost and ends up homeless and starving in a sewer.

Cinderella took me by surprise, but it turns out a jolly set piece of a cat – with a broad, toothy, menacing grin – chasing a mouse – with an adorable twitchy nose, wearing a jaunty hat – is actually very distressing to a small boy. So Cinderella had to be switched off as well.

I was a little worried about Finding Nemo, to be honest. It starts with a massive great big shark eating the main character’s wife and all but one of his children, after which it goes on a roller coaster ride of separation, misunderstandings and mortal peril until finally, in the very last five minutes, you get your sugar-coated Disney ending and everything is okay. Mostly, my son doesn’t last past those first few heart-stopping minutes.

But he had once seen all of Finding Nemo – admittedly he was ill and drugged up to his eyeballs at the time – and had apparently been left with quite a positive feeling about it. Possibly because he had got to the end and realised all turned out okay. Whatever the reason, he had remembered the film as “Lost Fish” and I thought we’d risk it and I would just make sure I was to hand to comfort him and put things in perspective where necessary.

And the Girl? Over Christmas, when the Boy had been backing away from the television, terrified yet unable to unglue his eyes from the screen while watching the Gruffalo, she was calmly sitting on the sofa watching the story unfold, munching on a bread stick.

“Ah, she’s fearless,” we said to each other, with not a little pride. And that was what we continued to think, watching her try to scale climbing frames and slides meant for much older children, hurling herself through life, running away from us on tiny shoes adorned with strawberries. The Girl is a ninja badass. I didn’t even consider her feelings in my impromptu film night idea.

Finding Nemo was going really well I thought, and I was even able to retreat quietly into the kitchen to cook dinner. Then I heard a familiar whimper of fear. We were now in the midnight zone and Dory and Marlin were being chased by the angler fish.

But it wasn’t the Boy who came running into the kitchen. It was the Girl, padding on her little feet, reaching for me in distress, expressing with her limited vocabulary what the matter was: “Fish!”

And I realised that maybe it wasn’t that she was fearless. Maybe around Christmas time she was still too young, to understand context, to pick up on the implications, the scary music, what those massive teeth might mean, that the little fish she liked were screaming because they were scared of being eaten. And now, three months and a vocabulary explosion later, she had discovered fear.

So I did what any self-respecting parent would do.

I gave her a cuddle, then put her back on the sofa and wrote a poem about it.

 

Enter the World

Your world was safe, cocooned, defined
It was out and underlined
My arms your home
My hair your own
Image sound the world awash with colours friendly noises hugs and hair

You stood up, stepped and turned away
Charged into a world of play
A joke, a game,
You learned your name
Detach break free you ran off tugging me along by painful strands of hair

But with the wonder also crept in fears
New awareness came with tears
New lines to cross
With joy comes loss
Vast scenes and spaces gripping terror of a world without the comfort of my hair

Still I am always there
When dangers send you crying
you come flying to me cooking up some dish
you wail of “sad” and mourn for “fish”
unnamed undefined yet fear of dying
brings you crying hand still reaching
screeching for the soothing comfort
of my hair.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2014

 

I read this poem at the Virtual Open Mic Night on 25 March 2014 – watch it here!

 

Prose for Thought

Hair

I had an Assertiveness Fail the other day (Forgot to take the skill back at Level 15, I think). I took the Boy to have a very necessary hair cut at a Salon-Which-Shall-Be-Nameless near Gran’s house. We were asked on the phone whether we had a favourite hairdresser, but as we’d only taken him there once before and had neglected to commit the name of the lady to memory we just said we’d be happy with anyone.

So that is who we got.

The hairdresser in question was very lovely but did not seem very confident or competent. She would ask me questions about my wishes, and when I explained them (very apologetically of course – like I said, assertiveness is not my top skill), she would tell me why she couldn’t do that.

Cutting his hair short around his ear? “When they’re this little you don’t want to cut too close to their head, or you might hurt them.”

Inner-Judith said: “Oh really? Then why has every other hairdresser who has cut his hair before managed it??

In reality I said: “Hm.”

When I wasn’t sure if I wanted his fringe “straight” (it sounded a bit severe), the only other option she suggested was cutting it at a fashionable slant to one side.

Inner-Judith said: “That sounds ridiculous. I am sure there must be more options than just those two.”

In reality I said: “Erm, cut it straight then.”

I was right. It did look a bit severe.

new haircut

When she thought she was done, the fringe still skimmed his eyebrows. I asked if she could take a bit more off, just to give me more time between hair cuts. “I’ll cut it a little bit shorter, but you don’t want to take too much off, or you might accidentally cut the child” she warned once more.

Inner-Judith said: “What the hell kind of incompetent hairdresser are you??”

In reality I said: “Okay.”

I think she could hear faint echoes of Inner-Judith’s raging, because she asked me about five more times if I was sure I was happy. To be honest, I had no faith that she could do a better job than she had done, so I just paid the money and got the hell out. But not before asking her name and committing it to memory, so that I could specify that I wanted someone else next time.

And The Girl? She won’t be having a haircut for quite some time. I am far too delighted with her new little girl hair, which seems to grow an extra centimetre every night.

Here is a little overview of her lovely hair and the hair styles I have been trying out on her – most of which last about five minutes until she has worked out how to undo/remove them.

Unadorned, it seems to grow naturally in quite a charming bob

Unadorned, it seems to grow naturally in quite a charming bob

Her first ever hair clip was almost too cute to be allowed

Her first ever hair clip was almost too cute to be allowed

She usually keeps them in for about five minutes before pulling them out and starting to chew on them (DANGER!)

She usually keeps them in for about five minutes before pulling them out and starting to chew on them (DANGER!)

First bunches. These lasted about ten minutes.

First bunches. These lasted about ten minutes.

Exclamation mark hair. This one took her about an hour to undo.

Exclamation mark hair. This one took her about an hour to undo.

But her favourite so far has been this hairband, which she stole/borrowed from her best friend

But her favourite so far has been this hairband, which she stole/borrowed from her best friend. This one I had to remove myself because she was going to wear it FOREVER

 

Putting clips and things in the Girl’s hair has made me face up to the fact that she is a proper toddler now and no longer a baby. You look at her with her hair in bunches and there she is: vivacious, mischievous, full of life and joy and determination. There is something about these new hair styles that makes them real little people. I have always loved the new Boy after he has had his hair cut, because cutting away the excess always reveals how much he has grown up. Suddenly, he looks more serious and wise. Possibly a little like a tiny accountant.

He loves it too – although he may be slightly confused about both the purpose and the potential end result of the exercise:

“I have my hair cut!” he kept telling me proudly on the way to the salon. “I have new curly hair.”

To be honest, I wouldn’t have put it past the hairdresser. Maybe next time.

I help you, Mummy

It was my friend’s son who defined for me exactly what it means to be three years old. One day when I was babysitting, he pushed a big dining chair up to the man-high toy cupboard, climbed up onto the chair and started pulling a heavy box out that was above his head. When I stopped him and suggested that perhaps I had better do that, he replied indignantly: “But I’m three!

As my own son’s third birthday is mere weeks away I can see this emerging in him.

He has a little child-sized chair that has become his ticket to independence. He has discovered, for instance, that rather than asking for snacks and risking the request being denied, it is much more effective to get them from the cupboard yourself with the help of the chair and then asking permission afterwards with your mouth full of raisins.

The chair also means he can reach the sink to wash his hands, fill up his watering can and get stuck into the washing up. I have had to add some more Code Red sounds to my parenting by sound handbook, such as the clink of glasses in the sink followed by “I really careful, Mummy!”

Any time I go into the kitchen now, I find the Boy at my elbow looking to see what’s going down and saying “I help you, Mummy?” Cooking dinner, washing up, hoovering, baking cakes – you name it, he wants to be involved. In fact, he’d really rather I just let him get on with it without interfering. If I try to do stirring, or stand in front of the sink where he wants to put his chair, he screeches “No! My do it!”

Although it can get a little irritating when you’re in a hurry or doing something involving sharp knives and hot stoves, he is really very endearing and often genuinely helpful. What a wonderful age, when you can make their day by letting them fetch and carry for you and the highlight of their week is handing you pegs when you are hanging out the washing in the garden.

But his favourite thing to help with is the barbecue.

Every morning this summer, the Boy has greeted his Daddy with the words: “Daddy, make a barbecue?” When, not immediately for breakfast perhaps, but later in the day, the answer is yes, Daddy’s little helper is right there, reverently handing Daddy ‘stones’ (charcoal) to build the fire and handing him a Tupperware lid so he can ‘flap-a barbecue’.

“Careful Daddy!” he warns helpfully. “Is really hot! Stand back!”

From the moment it is lit, the Boy wants to know if we can have barbecue-food. We keep him busy by giving him items to put on the garden table, one fork at a time to stretch it out.Then finally the sausages are ready and on his plate. The Boy, however, is dancing around the garden and cannot be persuaded to sit down and eat.

“But it’s barbecue food! Look, sausages!” we exclaim, incredulous.

He gets tearful as we insist he sits down, and finally he explains: “Want-a more things carry.”

Turns out it’s not really the food he loves so much. It’s the helping.

The Boy speaks

A little collection of what the Boy has to say for himself. He is still speaking a lot of Dinglish – I had thought it might be sorting itself out by now, but instead it almost seems to be getting worse. As he picks up more of each language, he mashes them up more. He is also still using his “filler”-syllable, “ne”. Any part of a sentence or word he is not sure of he will fill up with “enenene”.

The Boy plays out a disturbing little scene with his breakfast items.

“Don’t be scared, sap [juice]. Enenene zorgen [I’ll take care of you]. Don’t run away.
Kiwi really scared enenene sap. Sap really sad.
Don’t be scared, apple. Don’t be scared a snijden snijden snijden [cutting cutting cutting].”

I am reading a book. The Boy takes it from me.

Boy: “Is mama’s book.”

Me: “Actually, it’s Daddy’s book. Mummy has borrowed it.”
Boy (nodding sagely): “That’s papa’s book, called ‘Papa’s Magic’. Heel veel letters [lots of letters].”

I take out a notebook to write down what he is saying. He notices: “You drawing. I’m enene reading a book. Aha! That’s the page.”

He hugs his little sister and says: “Love you.”

Compliments: He notices the Girl, puts an arm around her and says: “Beautiful baby. Got a hair and a smiley face. Blije [happy] baby.” Similarly, I was changing his nappy one day and he was gazing up at me. Then he said: “Really mooie [pretty] mama. Got some eyes, and a smiley mouth. And a red t-shirt. And trousers, and a that one [forehead] and hair and a neck.”

He loves helping in the kitchen. We are making cakes and I let him put the butter dish in the microwave to be zapped. He places it in and says “I’m really careful.” Then I give him a spoon to stir the mixture with. “I’m goed in roeren [good at stirring]”, he compliments himself.

His banana falls on the floor. “Want a nieuwe banaan!” he wails in Dinglish.

He picks up lots of phrases from TV shows or from the people around him and applies them to his own life, startling us all.

“That’s a fun filled festival!” he exclaims.

Or he invites me on a “rip roaring pirate ‘venture.”

The Girl wants to join in his game. “Noooooo!” he screeches, “Not by the hair on my chinny chin chin!”

“It’s a tough day,” he says with a happy grin.

“I go get it,” he explains to me. “You stay here.”

Finally, my favourite moment. I put him to bed for a nap, but have to come back up after ten minutes because all I can hear over the baby monitor is crashing, banging, jumping and shouting “Walk the plank! Walk the plank!” I tuck him up again, set the lullabies going. He wriggles and giggles in bed. In my calmest, most soothing tone of voice I say: “Now, you are going to have a lovely sleep.”

He responds in the most patronising tone: “Yeeeeeees Mummy.”

Dinglish is still going strong, but I think nap time might be a thing of the past.