04 November, 2012

Not Autistic, Just Really Likes Horses

My little boy’s speech-development, first mentioned in an earlier post, didn’t catch up quickly as we expected. In the end, with mild concerns of autism, I took him to see a speech therapist - just to check everything was ok and to get some tips on helping his development.
It was reassuring. 
He’s what they call “a child of his own agenda” - while he can play happily with other people and pick up their language, he’d just sometimes rather not*. Mainly because there seems to be something else he prefers… Here are some extracts from the therapist’s report:
“He was reluctant to leave the toy farm and begin an adult-led activity. However, when the toy horses were moved to the table top, he did come and sit as required.”
“He happily attended an activity of his own choice (he particularly enjoyed playing with the toy horses for a long period of time)”
“He produced many single words during the session e.g. ‘horse’ and ‘horses’”
“Less horse toys should be visible at future sessions”
He’s confirmed as showing no signs of autism - the problem is just his small vocabulary, rather than any reluctance/inability to chat (which is consistent with him not coherently being able to tell me he’s hungry, but being fine telling me “Go big on Frankel’s final race Daddy, it may be the softest going he’s encountered and the odds are a miserly 2-11, but he is just unbeatable”**) So it’s a shame that he’s not going to rake in a load of money counting cards***… but he’ll hopefully be a good jockey or tipster instead.
We're trying extra-hard to help him learn more non-equine words and our new childcare arrangement, which gives him more 1:1 attention during the day, is also helping a lot. The switch to a nanny came about when our little girl finished nursery and started going to a new school, no longer the one where our child-minder’s children go, meaning logistics of that arrangement wouldn’t work…

Our daughter initially struggled to settle at new legally-have-to-go-now school. Getting dressed into the uniform and during the school run each morning there were lots of tears. There was also a lapse back into bed-wetting and sucking her fingers. We talked to her about both…
On wetting the bed, she was sad about it but didn’t know what to do because she just kept having dreams about going to the toilet and then waking up wet (I think we’ve all been there…)
The Internet tells me that, in dreams, “toilets can often link to bad experiences we have just had, emotional situations, and intense fears”. So it was hopefully just a matter of riding out the settling-in phase. In the meantime, I picked her up and sat her on the potty as I came upstairs for bed each night, meaning she was generally running-on-empty by the time latrine-dreams came. And having the potty upstairs proved useful all-round as our bathroom was out of action for a refurbishment at the same time.. (The only potty downside was this)

With finger-sucking, the timing was good as we had the encouragement of less/more presents at her upcoming birthday depending on behaviour (with the back-up of Christmas if it’s not totally nailed post-birthday).

In the end, everything settled down again within 3-4 weeks. She was soon running into the playground happily with her new friends, going on play-dates after school and generally being back to her old self.
It was nice that all this coincided with a slow period in my job, enabling me to be around for her more than usual (and to help my little boy learn more non-horse words… like zebra). My new job starts next week. Back to the challenges of two parents both working full-pelt…

* The irony of me having stayed home drafting this post on my own, rather than going on a works night-out isn’t lost on me
** That’s how it happened. I didn’t work alone. Honest. He made me do it.
*** Yes, all my knowledge of autism comes from the film Rainman. What of it?

Learned Wisdoms
#43: When you’re in a museum or aquarium and are asked for the hundredth time “Can I touch this?” by your daughter, your bubbling annoyance can be reduced by thinking about the fact that MC Hammer may have kids. And that this situation must be even worse for him.
[Looked it up, turns out he’s got five…]

#44: Caring about your children’s vocabulary and grammar is important, but planning to concoct your own “No, More Tears” shampoo out of lemon juice & vinegar as a lesson in the importance of punctuation is probably going a bit far.

#45: It does feel early, but it turns out that November is a fine time to start reaping the behaviour-improvement benefits of telling your children that, when the red light comes on the motion sensor in the corner of the room, "It means Santa is watching".

#46: If your daughter’s new class at school has 21x girls and only 5x boys, it’s certainly just a chromosome-related coincidence. You don’t need to start eyeing the admissions people with suspicion just because Jimmy Saville’s in the news.

#47: The school run is pretty monotonous. But mixing things up by dropping your child at a different school each day probably isn’t the answer.

30 October, 2012

Web-Slinging and Grand-Theft Pastry

With work being as it was for both of us this year we hadn’t had a holiday by the end of August. And then our daughter started school in September, constraining us around term-dates for the next decade at least. So. Here we are. Paying a massive premium for a holiday that would have been 10 degrees hotter a month ago. Still, it’s nice to have a rest and let the mind wander a bit. I’d like to say I’m mulling-over possible solutions for the Euro zone crisis or the plight of Palestine… but I’m not. I’m fixated with the problems in my own back-yard. And out the front. Namely spiders… and foxes.

Spiders first. There’s increasingly greater numbers of increasingly big eight-legged guys surrounding our house. And they’re aggressively target-ambitious. To date, locations of huge and surprisingly-thick webs (seemingly spun overnight) have included: the space between two hedges above our front gate; filling the entire external frame of the back door; and between the seat and the handlebars of my moped. We had joked about a load of them catching one of us and dragging the unlucky victim to an underground cavern as offering to a giant spider over-lord, like in that Harry Potter film*. But when they started targeting the entrance gap in the netting around the kids’ trampoline, I really started to get concerned - have they actually learned to go for smaller human targets?
We’re currently on holiday and I’m worried that, without my daily demolition of their night-shift progress, they’ll get a real strong footing and we’ll come home to a suburban approximation of the film Aliens.

As for foxes, while there’s no obvious sign of a child-abduction plot from them, they have actually started on a pretty solid campaign of larceny. I talked in a previous post (Learned Wisdon #16) about them ripping into our bins, but now they’re stealing our food deliveries.
On a Saturday morning we get milk, bacon, eggs, sliced bread and croissants left on the doorstep by the milkman. To the great disappointment of my daughter, for the last three weeks the only thing left when I open the door is milk and sliced bread.
The bacon and eggs I can understand, but the croissants?? Their instincts and digestive-systems surely aren’t designed for continental breakfasts. [looks out window, sees fox in beret and stripy jumper cycling past with onions round neck]

Anyway, it’ll be a short-lived problem. It’s only a matter of time before I wake up to find all the region’s foxes cocooned in webbing on our lawn. Hopefully. (Must remember to research any recorded cases of spiders and foxes forming an alliance to achieve unified strategic goals with unexpectedly powerful efficiency… may possibly have to go less specific on the search terms)

By the way, for those of you who know where I live, obviously all that ‘currently on holiday’ stuff was artistic licence. Don’t get any burglarisation ideas. Really I’m sat at home right now with a f*cking big guard dog spider-fox-army.

* the one with the spiders

Learned Wisdoms
#42: Occasionally taking children out of school for the odd few days for holidays during their early years probably isn’t a problem to their development, but be careful with their understanding of the official line or you will get an angry call from the headmaster…
Teacher (at the end of a Thursday): “Toby, don’t take your gym bag home tonight – you’ll need it for P.E. tomorrow”
My friend’s nephew, Toby (clasping his gym bag firmly as he walked out the door): “Actually Miss, I won’t need it tomorrow… because I’m not going to be very well tomorrow”

25 August, 2012

Summer of Sport, Autumn of Change

European Championships + Wimbledon + Tour De France + Olympics = no posts for the last couple of months...

Brilliant summer. Few changes on the way now in our house...

Change 1 - New school
We got our little girl into the school we wanted (the one associated with the church we go to - see learned wisdom #22 on this post). She starts in September. Great news, you'd think. It has much better Ofsted than the school where she currently goes to nursery and the kids tend to go on to better upper schools, which hopefully has a positive impact on her options. However, all her little friends are staying at the current school and she's really sad about not moving on with them. Also the school she's moving to is very one-dimensional class & culture-wise (all white, all middle-class, all the time). My wife and I were starting to wonder if we'd made the wrong call, but a couple of minor funny incidents eased our minds:
-- I was talking about this conundrum with a friend who has a daughter in the school where my little girl currently goes to nursery. She said the school was generally good, but there were a couple of things that weren't ideal. When I asked for examples she said her daughter had come home recently and proclaimed, "I've got a boyfriend..." Ok, thought my friend, 5's a bit young, but not the end of the world. "... He's also going out with Diamond. But I'm his best girlfriend." 
-- Next up, we were on a long journey up from London to my parents' in Yorkshire. As we got on to the M62 and into yet more jammed-traffic with 5 hrs of travel already behind us, my little girl shouted, "When will we get out of this BLOODY car??" [Admittedly I can't forensically trace that back to nursery school friends... she may have picked it up at home]
-- Another day, she was doing some sort of generic misbehaviour. I responded with some sort of generic instruction to stop. It then got interesting when she said "You're not the boss of me. Jesus is the boss of me." The current school is heavily catholic. I like the idea of her having faith... but not to the point where she won't recognise all the necessary layers of earthly middle-management.

Change 2 - Childcare solution
Our childminder went on holiday at short notice for two weeks. We scrambled around for cover and ended up with a temporary nanny...
It. Was. Amazing...
Time in the morning with the kids was suddenly nice because we could just talk to and play with them without the stress of dressing them against their disproportionately-strong wills (pretty sure experience has qualified me to get any similar-sized angry creature into clothing, even the difficult stuff - if you need a badger forcing into a swimming-costume & cap, or an otter squeezed into a leotard, just give me a shout... I won't ask any questions). Plus there was no job of dropping them off at the childminder, so every morning suddenly felt loads more relaxed. As a result we're going to bite the bullet on the extra money and switch to a nanny from mid-September. Though the situation may change in November based on...

Change 3 - My Job
For the last two-&-a-half years I've been working for the organising committee of that big sportsday that happened in London recently. After the Paralympics and some wrap-up work, my contract ends in October. What next?..
With my daughter's schooling and my wife's career, I'm not in a position to move to Rio (next Olympics) or Sochi (next winter Olympics) or even Glasgow (next Commonwealth Games), so the looming option is a move back into a 'normal' corporate-type organisation. But there is the other option...
Given the amount that childcare costs each month, it wouldn't be an insurmountable dent on our income if I went full-time domestique*.  This came to mind when concerns about my little boy's speech didn't go away as easily as I'd hoped (more about this in the future). He's generally moving in the right direction, but me being around to ensure all the therapy techniques are being done 100% every day would provide a boost. (Though I do see a minor risk that after a couple of months he'd still be the same, with my vocab having massively-reduced.)
Another factor contributing to this run-the-house thought may have been when I recently got far too enthusiastic about the purchase, install and subsequent use a pullymaid (a rack you hang washing on then pull up to the ceiling with a rope/pulley-system). I'd like to say my excitement was about the better use of space in our house, removing the basically-permanent airer from our lounge and having washing out of the way above the stairs. Sadly it was probably more because the whole ropes/hoisting thing made me feel a bit piratey.
It's been interesting to reconsider the prospect of becoming a one-career family, but I don't think it'd realistically be a long-term solution. So I'll see how the job-hunt goes and take it from there...

* That's what I'd call my job in that situation at dinner parties. Give it a bit of a sporting, Chris Froom-style slant... hopefully I wouldn't get asked any follow-up questions.

Learned Wisdoms gets this month off, replaced by...
Dadulthood Notes on the Sporting Summer

#I: How cool was Bradley Wiggins? Generally the most laid-back, unaffected super-dad on the planet... Stepping onto the podium to be proclaimed winner of the Tour de France in front of half a million people on the Champs Elysees, having a microphone thrust in his hand and, with a straight face, saying "We're just going to draw the raffle numbers". And saying he wouldn't be going after loads more wins because of all the time required away from the family was quite nice (though he had just been away for around 7 months at that point... would like to hear his thoughts again after a few days of dinner-spillages and Dora the Explorer).

#II: Poland & Ukraine's Euro 2012 'kick racism back into football' campaign seemed a strange move. Good that it didn't really take off in the end.

#III: England were well-organised and probably the best team in Euro 2012 "without the ball". Unfortunately, that was a predictably unuseful skill-set in a penalty shoot-out.

#IV: Nice for Ivan Lendl to have coached Andy Murray to the equalling of his record... he's no longer the only person to have lost his first 4 grand slam finals.
(Great to see Murray win at Wimbledon in the Olympics. Hopefully a good omen for the future)

#V: That German Olympic Official could have avoided his opening ceremony salute being interpreted as a Nazi one by, er, not making it look like a Nazi one.

#VI: Great to see Nicola Adams' historic gold medal win in the boxing. And it has probably moved her up to being about the 8th hardest woman in Leeds.

#VII: Australia's boycott of the 2012 Olympics was unusual. And would probably have been more successful if they'd let people know what their demands were.

#VIII: The quality of guests on the sofa each night for the BBC's Olympics highlights show was great (Michael Johnson, John McEnroe, Kelly Holmes, Ian Thorpe, etc.)... quite funny how they were frequently asked to comment on sports they know very little about though. Kelly Holmes' insight on Cav & Team GB not winning the road race was along the lines of: I'm not a cyclist, but it looks like they got the tactics wrong

#IX: Not strictly sporting, but George Michael playing some 'new stuff' at the Olympic closing ceremony? Really? Hopefully he'll get a fuller Olympic experience by failing a drugs test and then being edited out of the DVD

#X: Top Tip for Spandau Ballet... boost royalty payments by also writing songs called "Silver", "Bronze" and "Knocked out in the heats"

31 May, 2012

Taking Back The Living Room

We didn't expect to have a nice, tidy, toyless lounge at this point, but it had got ridiculous. The corner of the room earmarked for toy storage was full-to-overflowing and toys were (even in 'tidy-mode') on all surfaces in all parts of the room, smothering it like those parasitic vines that cover trees and suffocate them of their tasteful decor, calmness and ability to sit-down comfortably.
It came to a head when, in a discussion about taking toys she'd grown out of to the charity shop (because there was no space for them), our daughter looked around the room and said "But there's space there" [gestures with both hands towards the small piece of floor between the sofa and the telly]

Time for a change...

Our little boy recently got big enough to start sleeping in the bottom of the bunk bed. I'd taken his cot-bed out of their room and given it to friends. And into that space we moved the toy cabinet and 95% of the play-shrapnel that had been covering what was once a living room where adults could sit in the evening without being reminded of the film Big.

It was surprisingly liberating. And, added bonus, having more things to do in their bedroom when they wake up buys us a little bit of lie-in time on the weekends before they both slip out of their room, climb silently onto our bed and jump heavily onto our sleeping, unprotected bodies. (My default sleep-position has evolved into a lying-down version of the footballer-in-a-defensive-wall pose.)

Alongside ground-floor-reclamation, there's been a couple of other nice developments recently:
  • Our little girl has started putting clothes on herself, which reduces dressing-related time/stress by 33% in the mornings (I've still got to clothe my trouser-repellent little boy and *heavy sigh* myself... recent optimistic google search: "buy Wallace & Gromit-style auto-dressing machine")
  • The kids are able to clean up after themselves a bit. Even our little boy, when he spills milk on the floor - if passed some kitchen roll - will do a pretty effective job of wiping it up, then go and put it in the bin. Brilliant. (Is 2 too young to start teaching a child to mow a lawn?)
  • My little girl makes me laugh in ways beyond just-being-really-cute. We were walking by the Thames in Putney early one Sunday and Boris Johnson was there preparing to do some filming. We walked right by him and I said to her, "That man there is the mayor of London!". She looked at him, turned back to me, shook her had and softly said, "No. I don't think so."
  • They play together really nicely, which is great because - while I really love playing with them - it's nice to have the occasional minute on the evenings & weekends when I can move away to do something without being whined at for neglecting my duties as a ballet-student/pirate/bear-hunter/Justin Bieber
  • They're starting to show an interest in sports. My little girl even expressing retrospective disappointment that I didn't take her with me to watch Huddersfield in the League One play-off final last weekend... I'm savouring her current enthusiasm, as I'm pretty sure it'll be gone about 17 minutes into the first Town game I take her to watch

While the kids certainly aren't perfect (they frequently whine if I won't carry them; often have toilet-accidents; and are prone to dissolving when immersed in mercury), things have started to feel a bit easier recently. To the point where, after resolving toymageddon, I did even catch myself thinking "Well. Isn't this lovely? It's like the end of an episode of Quantum Leap where everything's fallen nicely into place. And things will probably just keep getting easier from here..."

Then my little girl ran into the room naked, jumped onto the sofa and gyrated around while singing "I'm sexy and I know it" over and over again.

Oh boy...

Learned Wisdoms
#40: You'll be excited when your little girl enjoys doing karaoke with you on the playstation. Even more so when she graduates off the Disney disc onto the chart versions. Then less so when she latches onto Aqua's Barbie Girl and sings it repeatedly, i) because there's some pretty negative messages in there that may detract from her learning that a woman is not dependent upon anyone else to make her feel good about herself, that self-esteem comes not from others but from within, and that the pursuit of social acceptance should never drive us into degrading situations; and ii) because it's shite

#41: If your kids' increasing ability to do things for themselves is conflicting with carry-both-children-up-the-stairs-to-the-child-minder's-flat-every-morning being the cornerstone of your exercise regime, then recognise that the 'as they get gradually bigger, I'll get gradually stronger' logic doesn't actually seem to hold anyway (as your gradually more achy spine and gradually more clicky elbows will testify)

29 April, 2012

Time is an Increasingly Poor Healer

The other week my daughter, my son and I had near-identical cuts on our knees (running tumble, playground spill and football incident respectively). On the Tuesday morning we initially noticed and compared them. And every night we looked again to see how they were doing. By Thursday both their cuts were entirely healed, whereas mine was still much the same. In the end it took me three times longer to heal. Compared to me they seem like Wolverine - we all know that physical deterioration is a fact of getting older, but I don't need a clear set of data points rubbing my body's decline in my face...
(By the way, I can't stress enough that this was just a complete coincidence. I love a controlled experiment, but not enough to cut up my children)

Don't get the wrong impression, I'm not dilapidated just yet. While I'm no Brad-Pitt-in-Fight-Club, I'm in better shape, for example, than you. (And even your mate who just did the marathon in sub-4hrs... though admittedly probably not your mate who did it sub-3:30). But even if I'm relatively fit for a 34 yr old parent, I'm still noticing significant crumblage from my issue-free earlier-years physicality:

-- I remember playing tennis or football for literally whole days with no ill-effects. Now after I play football or go for a decent run, my legs are super-stiff for the next two days 
-- If I'm stood up all day, my left knee aches all night 
-- I used to be able to bench press over 100kg. Now I can't. (And I'd rather not go into by how much I can't...)
-- I had an MRI on my back (after a football injury) last year that showed noticeable wear on the discs between my vertebrae... nothing too worrying, but enough to suggest that in my later years I'm not going to be one of those ancient Mr Miyagi-types who can still do tai chi on the beach, fight off a gang of baddies and clean a car* before breakfast.

* Never mind "wax on, wax off" - old future-me will probably be exhausted before getting out of bed even if he just wax off 

Everyone knows that people don't live forever and that physical abilities decline with age... but I suppose we all struggle to imagine it happening to us. It will though. And the already-notable differences between me and my kids has drummed that home for me. 
We play a game where: they climb up on a chair and jump into my arms; I throw them onto the bed; they climb down and back up onto the chair; etc, etc; repeat-to-fade... this afternoon we played it non-stop for 30 mins - half-an-hour! I had to fake needing the toilet and go lie on the bathroom floor for a few minutes - they could have Duracell-bunnied that game on into the night.

I've got to accept that some of the self-esteem I get from my ability to perform solid sporting exertions will have to come from other places in the future.  I wouldn't mind, but the children are already catching up in some of these other places. For example, I like a bit of darts and feel pretty safe that I'll be able to keep playing, continue getting better and be on a par with younger people at that into my old age. 
Then recently my little girl had her first go...

Learned Wisdoms
#39: You may be excited to find that having a really cold bath after football or running works like a lesser version of the Welsh rugby union team's cryogenic therapy and means that you don't subsequently get stiffness from lactic acid. That benefit will, however, by outweighed by the psychological damage encountered if you accidentally glance at your genitals while in the freezing bath.

31 March, 2012

A Little More Conversation?

My little boy is two-&-a-bit years old now. He doesn't really talk like our little girl did at the same age and apparently he should have about 50 words by now. 
He's got some, but not nearly that many. They include Daddy, Mummy, Milk, That, Ball and Are... he's definitely got "are", no question about it...

... I'm counting it!
(Now all I need is to source a series of songs that showcase each word in the English language at the end of their choruses, within his range of pitch.)

The doctor and health visitor both said he's probably fine, but suggested he might see a speech therapist as a precaution.

We haven't done that yet as he seems to understand and respond correctly when we talk to him ("Get back into bed"; "Stop doing that"; "Drop it into 3rd, get your foot down and overtake that Volvo"; etc.) and the words he knows, he uses in context.

The health visitor suggested one of the things I might want to try is holding his head still in front of mine (so he has to look straight at my face) and saying words so he can watch how my mouth moves as I pronounce them. 
I tried this while we were sat on the side at the swimming baths as his sister had her lesson. I showed him my pen and exaggeratedly mouthed "PEN" at him (somehow making it about five syllables). Then pointed at the water and told him "POOL"... he didn't say anything, but he snatched my pen, ran and threw it in the water. I couldn't fault his logic.

This concern has made us think about the fact that he gets slightly different attention from us than his sister did at the same age (when there was just her). In the bedtime melee we've tended to read her a book but not him. And she often gets the choice of show when they watch TV... meaning he doesn't see as much of the little kids' gobbledy baby-talk programmes that may (or may not) help with language development. 
So we've addressed that... I really like reading him stories, but I'm not that keen on having Iggle Piggle back in my life (that guy is a liability - I'd hate to work with him... Macca Pakka, on the other hand, I'd employ in a heartbeat - great work ethic. And very clean).

We're not really too worried... as Michael McIntyre says, it's not like some girl will be introducing my son to her parents in 20 years time and all he'll be able to tell them is "MILK. BALL!
In fact, I'm actually getting suspicious that he can speak fine - it just suits him not to... Subconsciously, we maybe treat him as slightly younger and don't discipline him as much for things like hitting as we would if he could communicate. His sister has picked up on this and has taken to reminding me, "Daddy, when he can talk, don't forget to tell him off for all the naughty things he has done to me so far". If he's clocked that, no wonder he's linguistically reticent.

The other thing that's potentially in-play is that he's more exposed to Portuguese than our daughter was. Slight childminding-arrangement-changes mean he spends more time than she did with our childminder's Portuguese mother. Apparently children exposed to multiple languages at an early age pick them both up but are slower to start talking
It doesn't seem to have had a major cultural impact though - I was telling him about Chelsea beating Benfica in the Champions' League the other night and he didn't seem bothered either way.

It's all too easy to worry unnecessarily about development. But, the fact is, there's nothing significantly wrong and he'll no-doubt catch up. 
I'm a little impatient though, as I'm really looking forward to hearing what he has to say about things. But on the other hand, if he talks as much as his sister did between two & three - and with similar value-of-content - I'll probably look back on this as a relative period of golden tranquillity.

Learned Wisdoms
#38: Much as you might want to, you can't claim that your son can say "I don't want to" if he only pronounces it via the action of throwing whatever's in his hand at your head, lying down and crying.

26 February, 2012

28 Days Later

About 4 weeks ago, illness began to rampage through our house. Like some kind of tiny army capable of travelling airborne from target to target and able to survive independently on surfaces for 2 hours or longer between enemy contact. Only not as far-fetched.
It’s inevitable that children will get sick now and again, given they spend their days hanging round with other children, all of whom are filthy. And home they come. Like Trojan horses that you know are full of bad things, but which you still bring inside because you love them (and/or because it’s generally frowned upon and gets a bit awkward to refuse their entry).

There are minimal steps you can take to isolate yourself from getting it. You can only hold your breath for so long. And the idea of setting up your spare room as a kind of solitary confinement with meal slot is apparently “a bit weird”.
So you get sick too. A friend of ours, prior to having children, had contacted maybe three tummy bugs in her life. Now she says it’s an every-other-month visitor. The proportional change in the frequency of getting sick pre/post becoming a parent is the inverse of what happens to the frequency with which you can: have a lie-in; dose yourself up to the point where operating heavy machinery would be discouraged; spend the day relaxing and doing nothing… i.e. all the things you need to do to get over sickness quickly. So it lingers.

This time round our little girl got what we believed was scarlet fever from our child-minder’s son. Not fun but, while it would have meant death in the 1800s, it’s easily curable today – yet another reason why it’s better to live in the 21st century than the 19th (once fashion’s cyclicality brings back the buxomly-corseted look, days of yore will really have zero advantages). Anyway, it turned out to just be a bit of a cough. A bad one, mind. And I was next to go down. (It’s impossible to conclusively isolate the moment I got infected, but having my daughter suddenly cough directly into my mouth while I was talking to her is suspect #1.)

It’s hard enough trying to keep delivering at work when you’re poorly, but now there’s the added complication of looking after ill kids as well...
Our child-minder has three children of her own, including a tiny baby so, understandably, she doesn’t really want our children coming in her house when they’re bugged-up (even wearing the bee-keeper/scuba suit hybrid I suggested to contain their germs). So my wife and I have to compare diaries, work out who can least-disastrously manage to work from home that day, shuffle meetings around and do our best.
Trying to have a conference call with a pretty demanding 4yr-old at your side isn’t the easiest. Particularly if it turns out you’ve gone off-beat* with the mute button, meaning key bits of your input are missed but everyone clearly hears your daughter’s stipulations that The Gruffalo should be put on now and that juice needs to be served as a matter of urgency.

About a month later all four of us have been poorly with various periods of overlap. It took me in particular a frustratingly/embarrassingly long time to shake it off. But we were all just about right again by the end of last week. Just in time for the note from pre-school on Friday that numerous cases of head-lice have been reported in my daughter’s class…

Learned Wisdoms
Even if you’re the staunchest of handkerchief-carriers the fact that, during times of sickness when you’ve your own and two little noses to deal with, you end up carrying three different types of mucus around in your pocket will cause you to reconsider the benefits of disposable tissues.

* No surprise, given it was my poor rhythm four years ago that kick-started the chain of events leading to the circumstances of the phone call

27 January, 2012

Musical Differences

I like music. (Yes... these are the kind of intimate truths I reveal in this blog. Hold on tight.) So do both my children. They dance a lot and both have distinctive and hilarious moves, so it's fun to have music on as often as possible. The problem is, what to listen to? Generally a 33 yr old seems to have quite different taste to a 4 yr old and a 2 yr old. And there's a very small sweet spot of tunes that they like to dance to that don't make me want to push my fingers into my ears until they touch.

The be fair, my default musical type is melancholic acoustic folk, which never moved a person to dance (other than metaphorically through a lonely, existential malaise) so I was always going to have to visit the outlying regions of my taste to find tracks that ticked all our boxes.
Similarly, my 4 yr old girl's natural bent wasn't helping our cause. JLS Breathe Again got a lot of airtime in our house before I just had to tell her that we couldn't play it any more. Because the boys who sang it were sad that we always had it and they never got to listen to it. (Don't judge me until you've listened to it ten times in a row.)

We've since hit on a pretty steady stream of tunes that we all like and which stimulate a bit of dancing fun. Unfortunately nearly every tune we agree on seems to contain some level of inappropriate content
Out of habit, respect for the way the artist intended it to be heard, or just because I subconsciously really like naughty words, I never remember to click on 'clean version' when buying. This has effectively sentenced me to ten years of hastily making-up similar-sounding clean lyrics and singing them loudly over the offending words. Every time. (Sooner or later, one of the kids is going to ask me why so many songs have a duck in them, or why tractors never get a mention yet people often sing about diggers.)

Here's just a small sample of our favourites from the last couple of years:

Mumford & Sons - Little Lion Man
-- Sample lyric change
"I really mucked it up this time, didn't I my dear?" 
[Easy rhyme. Plausible lyric. No problem]
-- Typically-induced moves
Little girl: Soldiery-style marching at increasing pace; leads into frantic banjo-driven twirling & flailing
Little boy: Knees bent, leaning forward, feet rooted to the spot, clenched fists, doing a frantic 'the twist' motion with arms and bum

Katy Perry - Last Friday Night
-- Sample lyric change
"We went peeking in the park; 
lots of skipping in the dark; 
then had an apricot bar
[More challenging rhyming. Strange-but-believable-ish-when-you're-4 lyrics]
-- Typically-induced moves
Little girl: Non-stop spinning around. Falling down dizzy
Little boy: Knees bent, leaning forward, feet rooted to the spot, clenched fists, doing a frantic 'the twist' motion with arms and bum [Why change a winning formula?]

Nicki Minaj - Super Bass
-- Sample lyric change
"This one is for the boys in the polos; Riding their diggers in the moguls" 
[Easy-ish rhyme. Makes very little sense, but no questions have been raised as-yet]
-- Typically-induced moves
Little girl: One hand on hip, one hand in hair, gyrating turns
Little boy: Knees bent, leaning forward, feet rooted to the spot, clenched fists, doing a frantic 'the twist' motion with arms and bum [Doesn't work at all... at least he's enjoying himself]

Azealia Banks - 212
-- Sample lyric change
"I guess that bun getting eaten" 
[Doesn't rhyme with the original word, but solid lyric and scans fairly well. Has side-effect that we do now tend to buy more buns]
... by the way, admittedly I sometimes zone-out and 'enjoy the sound' rather than properly listening to the lyrics, but how did I not notice that this was in no-way child appropriate??
-- Typically-induced moves
Little girl: Lots and lots and lots of wiggling
Little boy: Knees bent, leaning forward, feet rooted to the spot, clenched fists, doing a frantic 'the twist' motion with arms and bum [Starting to worry about him a little bit]

Learned Wisdoms
#36: Just because the singer's got a Mickey Mouse t-shirt on doesn't mean absolute filth won't come out of her mouth. You should really notice this before your little girl has hit replay video for the third time.