30 October, 2011

You Do It To Yourself, You Do

If you’ve never seen the video to the Radiohead track Just, then click here. It’s great. And a working knowledge of it is needed for this post to make any sense (... I don’t know how anyone expects to get the most out of the blog if they won’t do the set preparatory work)

A Coincidental & Mildly-Amusing* Thing That Happened
(* Given a somewhat-niche background knowledge of popular culture. And a pretty generous sense of humour)
My little boy does this thing when he gets tired or sad (or both), where he just lies down flat, silent and motionless on the floor. To an extent I admire him - if I wasn’t a slave to social conventions I’d probably do the same thing about three times a day - but it can be a bit embarrassing when we’re out & about. It's hard to project the image of a motivational parent, inspiring their kids' to great enthusiasm for life while you're stood over what's effectively a boy-skin rug.

So, we were at a birthday party the other week. There was a bouncy-castle. And food. And a rule that the castle would be deflated as soon as the children sat down to eat. (Shrewd stuff. I guess you don't spend too much time wiping partially-digested quavers/cheese/icing off your colourful vinyl before you see the value of introducing that one)
Food time came around. The castle went down. My little boy, tired from the frantic bouncing and sad that it was over, predictably slumped to the ground and laid quietly on the flattened jumpy-ch√Ęteau.
A few other kids noticed him and wandered over. They had a little look at him. And then at each other... And then they all laid down!
I couldn't believe it. It made my day. I thought it was brilliant.
(Though I'm well aware that you might not. The octogenarian I was talking with at that point certainly didn't... but, I suppose, if you're a) not familiar with Radiohead, b) not interested in toddlery life-imitating-art coincidence, and c) not that welcoming of  any conversational-deviation from the impact of open-end spinning technology on the Yorkshire textile industry, then no amount of excited pointing and laughing on my part is going to convince you that this was a noteworthy moment)

Future Opportunities
So there you go. The bloke in the video had been on a bouncy castle and was a bit tired and a bit sad. Or not.
Either way, my little boy's tendency to lie down where and whenever he wants resulted a nice little funny moment.
I'm now on the lookout for other scenes from popular culture that the kids could be nudged towards re-staging in miniature...
My daughter loves climbing. And she carries her little toy monkey everywhere with her. If anyone needs us, we'll be at the nearest model village until a small-scale bizarro-King Kong moment ensues.

Learned Wisdoms
#30: When your little boy suddenly vanishes inside your house, you will be relatively comfortable that he can't have got far (once it's clear that the doors are locked and that his passport & tricycle are still there). However, until you actually find him, it will be very stressful. So, if he is known to have a penchant for lying-down flat and motionless for significant periods of time, it will save you a frantic 6-to-7 mins of confusion if you check under the duvet of your bed right away.

16 October, 2011

Colour My Life With The Chaos Of (Double) Trouble

It was my wife’s birthday party the other weekend. I was up with the kids the morning after. Feeding them, dressing them and playing with them… whilst trying really hard not to lie down, moan and pass out. It made me think back to how different things were when we only had one child…
Getting pregnant the second time meant there would be a sibling for our little girl. (Plus it was nice to know everything was still working after another couple of years of keeping a mobile phone next to my genitals.) And I figured that, once you’re used to the lifestyle-restrictions of having one child, throwing another into the mix would probably be easy-peasy lemon-squeezy. I was wrong. It's difficult-difficult lemon-difficult.

Within hours of our little boy being born we got the first sign of trouble. My wife and our new-born had to move wards through the maze of hospital corridors. They were pushed in a wheelchair by a busy porter. I had hands-full carrying  all the gear we’d brought to the hospital. And our little girl was riding a scooter that the new baby had given her (see Learned Wisdoms #28 below). She soon decided that following was a bit rubbish and shot off down a random corridor. The porter was too busy to wait and carried on with wife and baby boy. I couldn’t chase her while carrying all the gear and had to drop it to run after her. Once the fugitive was detained, it was hard enough finding our way back to the bags, never mind to the rest of our family, and we spent 15 mins walking the hospital corridors like a father/daughter version of Hansel & Grettle. (Equally breadcrumbless, but with Grettle - still high from the thrill of the chase - repeatedly trying to bolt in random directions.)

This was symptomatic of the biggest challenge in transitioning to a state of multi-childdom. During their waking hours, unless you’re in a heavily-padded confined space, you both need to be on duty all the times. For example, we recently went to Cyprus... Every morning we’d go out to the pool and set up our loungers. Within ten seconds the kids would both walk off in different directions. I’d head after one, my wife the other. By the third day we didn’t even bother laying our towels out properly - we certainly weren’t spending any time lying down.
When one’s contained, e.g. strapped in a push-chair, one of you can switch off. But the kids need/want to roam around so, unless those remote-control electric-shock dog collars turn out to actually have positive physical & psychological effects when used on humans, pool-side holidays with multiple toddlers will continue to involve tailing your allocated kid(s) while they attempt to stumble into the deep-end of the pool / eat soil / commit minor acts of inflatable-toy larceny.

Also on the trips & holidays-front, as soon as we had our second child we were back to travelling heavy. It was a squash to go anywhere in the car with all the gear. And I'll never forget the first time we tried to get through airport security with a load of bags, two children and no knowledge of the fact that you actually have to take the baby out of the buggy and put it through the x-ray machine*. No-one's got enough hands for that.

In the hungover-morning situation, with one little child there’d probably be a nap-break at some point (when I’d take the chance to lie down, moan and pass out). Even if there wasn’t, it’s a lot easier to look after and engage a single kid. With two, you're dealing with demands at pretty-much every given moment. And while I (like a chump) remain able only to be in one single place at a given time, there’s always the potential peril of chaos erupting in two parts of the house simultaneously… while one’s nearly choking, the other’s hiding your keys; while one’s weeing on the floor, the other’s throwing milk-drenched breakfast cereal with unerring accuracy at your laptop.

I guess, if you want multiple offspring without having to deal with a prolonged lack of relaxy-time, you could wait until the first one’s big enough to be a bit autonomous. But there’s a lot to be said for having siblings of a similar age. And, the fact is, we're probably only facing a couple more hard years until they’ve both got a bit of self-sufficiency (though no-doubt there’ll be other challenges as they get bigger). 
We are definitely done now though. Two is enough for us. (I’d never be comfortable relying on zonal marking. I need the comfort of reverting to man-to-man when things are tough.) 
This has, however, led to another thing that I didn't have to worry about when we only had one child... the looming prospect of The Vasectomy. Shudder. More on that another day…

Learned Wisdoms
#28: Having the new baby 'bring their older sibling(s) a present’ is a nice tip to limit the initial animosity and jealousy. It’s pretty unbelievable though. And, if you do leave a big gap between your kids, you’ve got to worry that there’s a point where cognitive development doesn’t allow it. Not sure what age that’s at. All I can confirm is that a 26 month-old doesn’t have any problem with the idea of a woman giving birth to a baby that comes out bearing a nicely wrapped scooter.

#29: If you’re the first-born of three children, you will suffer a bit from being the one that’s most-able to be left alone. This is particularly notable when looking back over those photos you get from rollercoaster rides... your dad & your younger sister waving; your mum & your little brother screaming with delight; you, fighting G-force to lean away from the creepy & unhygienic-looking stranger.

* The buggy, not the baby. Obviously.

04 October, 2011

All These Things That I've Done

I’m pretty clued-up on the parenting techniques. I’ve read some of those books they have nowadays. I know my naughty steps from my reward charts. I‘ve got solid game.
But occasionally - when I need just a second in-amongst the constant questioning and play-demands, or if I’m in a situation where I urgently need to quell crying and get the kids to do/stop doing something – then, just occasionally, I have done the odd thing that Supernanny or the Baby Whisperer would frown upon.

I’ve listed some I can think of off the top of my head. I’m pretty sure we all do this sort of thing occasionally*.  And seeing my list of rogue moments might make you feel less guilty if/when you take the odd naughty (but entirely human) shortcut…

1. Trying to get out of the house in the morning. Made promises of future fun, contingent on doing-as-told now. “We’ll do xyz tonight if you get my phone out of your mouth and find your shoes”

2. Subsequently relied on the forgetfulness of tiny heads to avoid having to do xyz tonight

3. Used the promise/threat of Christmas presents to drive good behaviour. (And, with a little girl’s birthday in November, Q4 is generally a pretty easy stroll)

4. To avoid making a stop, used the old classic, “I’m afraid you can’t have an ice cream. You hear the van’s playing that music? It means they’ve run out”. (Was subsequently asked what a zooming fire engine had run out of)

5. Played hide & seek. But, as allocated seeker, sat down and read a magazine for the 5 mins it took the hiders to get suspicious

6. After dealing with the third set of wet/soiled pants in a 30 min period, left a potty-trainer roaming naked while I watched the early-Sunday edition of Match of the Day. Was only alerted to the pool of wee wee on the wooden floor by the loud crash as little feet ran into it and slipped over

7. Bribed crying child with sweets to subdue a public scene

8. In a rush, agreed to the bargain that toilet would only be sat on if hands did not subsequently have to get washed. (At least negotiating the counter-point that little hands be kept on head away from sticky zone during entire procedure)

These are rare** occasions, but still… Bribing with unhealthy food? Allowing non-hand washage? What’s next??
“If you stop crying/do xyz, then you don’t have to: wear a seatbelt / learn to read / avoid operating heavy machinery after alcohol

The fact is, we all try to deal with our kids the best we can. But it's important for your own sanity to accept that you can’t do everything perfectly all the time, especially with the time-pressures working parents live under. (Just don’t ever make/read a list of your shortcuts. It really hurts your virtuous self-image)

Learned Wisdoms
#26: When your kids are very small, in the rush to get them out of the house in the mornings without tantrums, you may resort to the odd white lie (“We can’t watch TV now, but we’ll watch a whole film tonight.” “We can’t play dancing now, but if you’re good I’ll get you a… a giraffe.”), knowing they’ll have forgotten later. Be aware that your empire of deceit will crumble much sooner than you expect. After ~30 golden months, a little person will tell you, “No Daddy, I’m not going to bed. We’re staying up to watch Monsters Inc… why do you never get my giraffe?"

#27: If, while considering yourself a good and caring father, you write a whimsical post about the occasional shortcut you take with the kids and then read it back to find that listing all those things in one place suggests you’re actually (at best) a pretty lazy dad or (at worst) criminally-negligent, then it’s probably shrewd to imply somewhere that it was all exaggerated for increased amusement. Yes, it was a work of semi-fiction. That’s right.  Of course. [Single bead of sweat rolls down forehead]

* He said. Uncomfortably aware that “we” might not actually do this kind of thing at all. In fact, this might be the kind of thing that drives “we” to pitchfork-wielding angry-mob formation.

** ish