Thursday, 24 February 2011

Birthdays and giggles

This is how the third birthday of a boy who has separated, working parents goes:
  • Phase 1: The Saturday before. Trip to the safari park with mummy and daddy. This is the once-a-year opportunity for him to have both the people he cares most about there at the same time. I've suggested to daddy we should do it slightly more often. Anyway, little man's favourite animals were the lions. Later, we all had pizza for tea.
  • Phase 2: The day itself. First use of the scooter. More presents to open and play with. A new book to read. Chocolate and milk in a cafe with grandma. An afternoon of more scooting at grandma and grandad's house while mummy goes to work.
  • Phase 3: Birthday tea day. This is where we're up to now. Food shopping to do. Cake to bake. Lunch with friends to fit in in between. Tea with mummy, grandma, grandad, auntie, uncle and cousin later.
  • Phase 4: The Saturday after. Start of a weekend with daddy and birthday tea with the other grandma and grandad. A new bike to be ridden.
And the giggles? Little man telling me to go away and trying to lift me up the stairs by the leg so he can use his scooter in the house without me seeing. And the discovery of a lump in his jeans pocket, which turned out to be an acorn which must have been there for months.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

TV guilt

Now that the boy can clearly express his wishes, they often tend towards the watching of television. At the moment he's having a Waybuloo phase. Chuggington is also a favourite, but silly mummy didn't record any episodes and now it's no longer on the iPlayer. At least he seems to have temporarily forgotten about Cars.

The zombie-like state he enters while staring at the box is useful sometimes. I know he won't be getting up to mischief while I have a shower. He isn't jumping on the laptop keyboard while I type this. And at least Waybuloo is teaching him some yoga.

Of course, yet another study has recently told us that watching TV is bad for children's health. A Canadian study of 1,300 children linked longer TV viewing at the age of two to lower levels of classroom engagement, poor achievement in maths, reduced physical activity and increased body mass index.

I suspect that the sort of parents who read about studies like that are the ones who have the least to worry about. We are actually thinking about what the hell we're doing to our kids by the way we bring them up.

During one episode of Waybuloo, he has actually sat still and eaten some breakfast instead of taking two hours over it. Then he announced that he wants to be on the television. I said I didn't know how you get on it, thinking of the group of children on Waybuloo. He said: 'There's a hole?' So now I know I'm going to have to try to explain how TV works sometime soon. Having had his cereal, he wandered about, making himself a bed on the footstool and practising his 'me' and 'I' as in 'I not want to go to sleep.' We played hide and seek when he closed his eyes and told me to count to ten. Now he's hiding the screen behind a blanket because a dinosaur wants to eat the piplings.

And I've just realised that he has started on 'why?' As in why will the TV give him a shock if he rubs the synthetic fleece blanket over the screen. I really don't know. It just will.

So there we go, I'm not banning television although we do avoid adverts. Eventually he gets the urge to get up and do something else anyway. We talk about what's on. His imagination hasn't stopped working. He still runs around plenty. Personally I don't like the thing blaring away at me, but the only way to stop him wanting to watch it would be to get rid of it altogether. Then how would I watch such educational programmes as The Vampire Diaries and My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding?

Monday, 14 February 2011

Potty training by stealth

I think I can safely say we're more potty/toilet trained than not here. I keep thinking of the boy and me as this entity known as 'we', although I have, in fact, been toilet trained for many years now. Anyway, we've gone from wearing underpants as a bit of a playing around, 'oh look, here's a red pair with Thomas on', experience to wearing them as a matter of course in the daytime. Nappies still rule at night and I'm in no rush to change that and be dragged out of bed in the morning to help with weeing.

We've done this without me reading a single book on the subject. The shock of it. I don't think books on parenting are always very helpful. There are those that you generally agree with and you think 'oh yes' and 'of course' as you read. But then you realise you aren't living up to everything they say and you feel like a failure. Then there are those you disagree with. No names required here, I think, for anyone aware of the range of parenting literature out there. But even though you read them with a 'don't be ridiculous' and an 'I can't believe people really do that' attitude, their advice has been implanted at the back of your mind. Your methods suddenly seem a bit hippy instead of normal, your way of muddling along has been shoved to the 'alternative' end of the spectrum.

But back to the potty. It has pride of place in the living room. I once thought this was a bizarre thing to do. But, guess what? I can't be bothered going up and down the stairs every time he thinks he needs to go. My stairs are steep; it's like climbing the north face of the Eiger. With a full bladder. Once I'd convinced the boy that underpants were not the root of all evil, we started putting them on in the morning for an hour or two before we went out and again for a couple of hours before bedtime. Of course he weed in them. And did the other. But gradually he used the potty more. Then we ventured out in underpants. In the car, with no form of protection on the car seat. We like to live dangerously. It all went fine.

His answer to 'Do you need a wee wee?' is still always 'no'. And I do get fed up of constantly reminding him to tell me if he does. He still needs quite a bit of persuading to get him on the potty before we go out or to take the opportunity of using a loo when one is available while we're out. I'm still taking a change of pants everywhere; although I make him carry it himself in his little rucksack. But the whole process has been relatively hassle-free. And achieved without gold stars or chocolate. (I read Unconditional Parenting; now I can't do 'rewards' without questioning their effects.) He actually seems delighted to be able to do it. And to show me the results. I did tell him that baby boys wear nappies and big boys use the toilet. I don't see this as bribery or a value judgement; it's just a fact.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Sunny pottering... in numbers

Visits to cafes: Two, one at the park in the morning; one at the arts centre near home with grandma and grandad in the afternoon.
Falls into mud whilst kicking football at park: About 47.
Very small trees scaled: 3, sort of, including the odd slip and cry of 'help me, mummy.'
Strangers befriended: 5, including the two volunteers in the park cafe, a three-year-old girl and the three-year-old's grandma.
Strangers who tutted at us: 1 old woman, as the boy ran round and got a bit noisy in the art gallery. Because obviously children shouldn't be taken anywere remotely cultural.
Inches of boy's scarf knitted: About 36. In 100% polyester snowflake yarn. Classy. But little man found it in the craft shop and started rubbing his cheek on it to sighs of 'ahh'.
Playings of 'This is Our House' DVD in succession: 7. A book by Michael Rosen and Bob Graham that he has suddenly taken a liking to. Involving a little boy playing in a cardboard box house who won't let anyone else in.
Accidents in underpants: 0
Changes of underpants: 1, due to falling over in mud and playing on wet park.
Wees in toy watering can whilst in the bath with mummy who was too lazy to get out to put him on the loo: 1

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Pee tests and being prodded

I've been getting an intermittent pain in my lower abdomen since last September. It felt like cystitis but didn't respond to over-the-counter remedies and kept coming back. I have done no less than five pee tests at the doctor's. No infection. I have been prodded and poked. I got sent for an ultrasound because of my polycystic ovaries to check they were behaving. They were. I have taken a course of antibiotics 'just in case'. They didn't help. The next step was going to be referral to a urologist.

Early on Sunday morning I had to get up to pee when I would normally have ignored it and gone back to sleep to avoid the risk of waking little man. He didn't wake up, but I did discover a big lump in my groin. (I know you really want to know all this.) It was somewhat alarming. It felt, to me, like quite a big swelling to be going on down there. I eventually convinced myself it was probably just a swollen gland and something to do with the cold I had (still have). I handed the boy to daddy over a cuppa and went to work.

On Monday morning I spent twenty minutes pressing redial to get through to the doc's and got an appointment for that morning. I was prodded and poked. By two doctors. They agreed. I have a hernia. I have an appointment with the surgeons next week. The doctor (he was quite young and had obviously had a course on being nice to patients) wondered how I felt about the fact I had gone in thinking I had a swollen gland and was going out needing surgery and with the knowledge that my innards aren't as inwards as they should be. Afterwards, the thing that upset me most was the fact that I had no-one special to tell for a bit of instant sympathy.

I ate a bar of chocolate in work that afternoon and consumed a bottle of Soave spread over Monday and Tuesday nights. I feel just fine now, doctor.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Quick bodges: Making a rainbow

As crafting achievements go, this one's pretty basic. I stole the idea from Jo Jingles. The handle is an embroidery hoop/frame thingie. The man at the market rooted out all the appropriate colours of ribbon for me while the boy ran off towards the fish stall to see the crabs. I snipped them (the ribbons, not the crabs) with pinking shears in the hope that the ends won't fray too much too soon. Then I wrapped them round the hoop, put a few little stitches in to secure and, hey presto, a rainbow shaker. Twenty minutes tops, not counting the trip to the market. It helps if you know someone with a drawer full of reels of cotton in all the required colours, someone, in this case, being my mum.

Now I just need to learn the song that starts: 'Take a little bit of red...' But not right now because I need to get spuds in the oven to roast alongside the chicken, a rare treat when there's only one big person and one small person in the house. Also, I need to help the boy brush up on his carrot chopping skills before he amputates a finger.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Bye bye Matilda

Bye bye Matilda the Hun, the bantam hen who thought she was a cockerel, and her feathered friends Flossie and Gertie. Killed by a mystery savage beastie. They were crap at laying eggs, but they were pretty, friendly little things. Not sure what to tell little man.