Tag Archives: toddler

Black and white and pink and sparkly

5 Mar

Until a couple of years ago I lived on London’s Brick Lane – an area that the term ‘melting pot’ could have been invented for. After living there for ten years we moved to St Albans to be closer to work and family. I remember walking around in the first week thinking that something was odd. Something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Then it dawned on me – everyone was so WHITE. I found it unnerving. A bit like I’d moved somewhere that had yet to catch up with the rest of the country. What worried me most of all was that I’d be bringing up my children somewhere where they might only learn about different cultures and religions from books.

Three years into Snorbens life and thankfully those early impressions have proved exaggerated. It’s not Brick Lane but it’s hardly Midsomer (no John Nettles certainly) or Norfolk (ahem, no offence intended – I did live in Norwich for three years so feel somewhat qualified …). I was relieved to find that my daughter’s nursery wasn’t solely full of little white, middle-class faces (again, no offence intended for I fit that social bill). Great, I thought, she’ll grow up knowing and, most importantly, accepting that everyone is different.

Now here’s the rub. Yesterday, whilst looking at a picture of the whole cast of Disney princesses, my 3-year-old daughter announced that she likes all the princesses except Tiana (The Princess and the Frog for all you Disney luddites). And why doesn’t she like Tiana? Because “she is dark”. Because “she is different to the other princesses”. Gulp. Trying to explain that everyone is different is tough when a child knows no better than to base their likes and dislikes on such things as colour or quantity of sparkles. In her eyes a pink princess is better than a brown one. Fact. She doesn’t mean anything by it. It doesn’t make her racist. But her comments still made me quake in my parenting boots.

I’ll be doing my best to bring up my children so that they know better than to treat people differently because of creed or colour. As for the immediate future, if my daughter repeats her comment I hope that it will be taken for the little girl’s simplistic analysis of the world that it is and not for anything more sinister.

The day we landed with a bump

10 Oct

On Saturday night my 3-year-old daughter fell down our stairs. Never one to do things by halves, she tripped over a stair gate, fell across a landing and then tumbled down the steep stairs of our Victorian terrace. The sound of her falling is still in my ears. Just thinking of it now makes my heart beat faster and my stomach turn. She didn’t cry out, but the length of time the thuds continued I knew she’d done more than just trip and fall onto her knees as she so often does when hurtling around the house. It was a horrible moment and – like it’s supposed to at moments like this – time slowed down. As I ran to the top of the stairs I was overwhelmed by an immense fear of what I would see at the bottom. Curled on the floor she had a look of such shock in her eyes. The shock turned rapidly into tears as she realised what had happened.

Thankfully she had luck and an amazing ability to bounce on her side that night – and, for one so wee and scared, an incredible bravery I’ll not forget. Despite being taken to A&E in an ambulance all strapped up and in a neck brace, she was soon home again with just a couple of bruises, a sore head and her ever-present appetite for Peppa Pig (which we of course humoured at 1am as we were just so relieved she was in one piece).

And that is my horrible story with a happy ending. I wish it were so straightforward. This blog post is written for purely selfish reasons: because I can’t get the sound of my daughter falling out of my head. When, in tears, I told my husband this he suggested I write the experience down as a way of ‘dealing with’ the traumatic thoughts I’m having. My first cathartic post. In the grand scheme of things I know that far worse things could have happened to her and far far worse things do happen to other children every day. What frightens me most is not so much what did happen but what could have been the outcome and how easily our life could have been turned upside down by a momentary event. That is what is so difficult to get out of my head. I cannot even begin to contemplate how a parent copes with the loss of a child.

So what do I do? Do I wrap my little girl up in cotton wool, never let go of her hand and not let her learn through the mistakes she makes and accidents she has? For a parent it’s easy to slip into paranoia. As my husband so neatly put it, with a child “you bring something wonderful into your life that also has the potential to devastate it”. Yet we go on growing our families for in reality we know – or at least we have an ardent hope – that a trillion wonderful things will far outweigh the risks that giving your wholehearted love to another human being can bring.

Tiny waists and rubber dresses

27 Sep

I think I may be turning into a boring old fart, tutting at the length of skirts and preparing to lock up my daughter. What made the polyester in my cardigan crackle this week was (yet again) the Disney idea of the female form. Yawn! Yawn! It’s all fantasy, get over it, I hear some cry, but my 3-year-old revels in the princess fantasy and I don’t want her to grow up thinking that this is normal or indeed desirable:

They made me feel quite ill (although not as ill as they look). As the words “what kind of role model are they?” fell out of my mouth my husband looked at me like I’d whipped off my bra,  strung it up and was holding a match to it. According to him the dolls are built like Twiglets for a practical reason – they are dressing up dolls and thus it needs to be easy for grubby fingers to get their rubber dresses on and off. Re-read that last sentence and yes it does sound like Snow White and Cinderella are putting food on the table by working the gentlemen’s clubs.

But now I’m sullying these perfectly innocent toys which were, I admit, brought into the house by mummy and daddy (well, daddy) as a birthday gift from our 6-month-old son to his big sister. My daughter loves playing with them and I’m sure they are having no immediate impact on her psyche. She equally enjoys playing with the Playmobil fire engine we bought her and I’ve not been fretting about the absence of a firewoman in the playset (tut, tut).

What worries me is the cumulative effect of all the tiny-waisted princesses my daughter will grow up with, whether they be Sleeping Beauty or Cheryl Cole. I’ve never wanted her to be enchanted by everything pink and glittery but that’s what has happened as more and more things spread around the house like a sparkly fungus. It’s the fascinating debate about whether it’s nature or nurture – do girls naturally gravitate towards ‘girlie’ things whilst their brothers pick up a spanner and stride towards the Meccano? Is there anything parents can do to prevent the mighty advance of nature?

I’m still ‘in the right mind’ to write to Disney and wage a one-woman campaign to get a couple of stone added to their cast of skinny minnies. (If they were really that skinny would they have boobs THAT BIG?) Oh god, maybe I’m just a jealous hag and if I can’t have a figure like that then I’ll be damned if Tinkerbell can. “Mirror, mirror, on the wall – who is the fairest of them all?” “Well, my lady – with your thirty-something’s wrinkles, cake addiction and baby belly – they are.”

How to survive two hours in a dark room with Bob the Builder

10 Sep

I love doing things that make my little girl visibly happy and excited. Often this means doing things that I wouldn’t normally endure – sorry, choose to do – or enjoy myself. And so this sees me, along with many other eager-to-please parents, at theatrical ‘specials’ (not sure what else to call them) featuring such monumental actors as Bob the Builder, Peppa Pig and that great classical actor Tiger (you know, the one who came to tea). What follows are my observations and recommendations on how to spend a successful 90 minutes shut in a dark room full of overexcited children and their reluctant parents. I wouldn’t go as far as to suggest they constitute ‘etiquette’ but a parent indulging in this form of entertainment for the first time may wish to add them to their survival toolbox.

1. The show will not last long but please be sure to pack plenty of snacks for your child. Sugary ones are preferable as they will drive an already excited child into a frenzy. The result of this will be a fairly hardcore tantrum when the child is asked to return a cheap, flashing light stick (available for purchase in the foyer for an unknown reason) to a similarly bawling sibling. Think the embarrassment of a tantrum in a supermarket but multiplied by the number of rows in the theatre.

2. If either parent feels the urge to sleep please ensure that they don’t do it with the baby child on their lap. Other theatre goers don’t appreciate an unrestrained baby pulling their hair or posseting down the back of their neck. If you believe you can go along to one of these shows for a sleep please see point 5 below.

3. You must join in with the songs but if you do so whilst looking intently at your child it will suggest you are doing it for them (and disguise the fact that you’re secretly enjoying it as it’s the closest you’ve got to a drunken night out in months).

4. If joining in really is too much for you then be sure to take a grandparent with you, preferably one who is ‘young at heart’. They will not be able to resist trying to impress their grandchild and will sing and dance with gusto. This deflects attention from yourself and permits some shut-eye (see point 2 above but again with the proviso of point 5 below).

5. It is important that your child spends as much time as possible kicking the back of the seat in front of them. If said seat is occupied by an adult do not be concerned that they will turn around and complain. They know full well that their child is doing the same to someone else. Parents in glass theatres shouldn’t throw stones – if someone else’s child is committing a socially unacceptable act it is inevitable that your’s will do too by the time the curtain falls.

6. Although you suspect it will lead to disappointment, if there is an opportunity for your child to go on stage you must encourage them to get to the front of the auditorium as quickly as possible. They will be slightly reluctant so will only reach the front once the lucky child (whose parent splashed out on the front row – you didn’t) has already been selected. This culminates in you needing to retrieve your child as, across the audience, they implore you with sad-eyes, confused as to why you made them go up only to be sent away again.

7. Some mothers use such events as an opportunity to have a chat with a friend over the heads of their children. They will generally by the well-coiffeured type who can barely lift their hand for the diamonds. Not the type you’d expect to be seen dead in a local theatre but needs must darling. Prepare to be moderately irritated by them. In such circumstances school your child in point 5 above.

So if you have an audience with Bob or Peppa coming up my advice is to go prepared and you may even enjoy yourself. If you don’t enjoy yourself then the thrill of seeing your little one believe they’ve been waved at by their hero (and not simply a jobbing actor in a big foam suit) will make it all worthwhile.

Brave new 4-day week

3 Jul

For the last 3 months I have, rightly or wrongly, been feeling guilty. (Don’t worry Mr C&P, I’m not about to reveal a terrible truth.) I’ve been feeling guilty because since the birth of my second child 13 weeks ago my daughter has remained at nursery full-time. There, I’ve told you. I’m a lazy, selfish mother. Well that’s how some people’s reactions have made me feel. The majority of friends/family/strangers in the street (don’t tell me no one else occasionally hangs around in the baby section of Boots looking for adult conversation??) don’t bat an eyelid. Yet I still find myself justifying the decision to other people (in fact, see below…).

Despite the guilt, the decision to leave the little lady in nursery has worked out well and I’ve been able to devote special time to the boy child. Looking back at the ‘dark days’ of the first 6 weeks (well, what I can remember of them and that’s very little) there’s no way I’d have made it through all the constant feeding, colic/reflux panics and general mental chaos a newborn brings with a toddler at my heels 24/7. (If anyone says that the newborn period is easier the second time round then they’ve reached the rose-tinted glasses stage. For those of us who’ve declared ‘never again’, it’s the same stage where the thought of having another baby starts to creep in and seem a lovely idea. But I don’t want Mr C&P getting wind of this vulnerable period.)

I’m not cut out to be a full-blown stay-at-home mum juggling the needs of a demanding brood. And I can say that without guilt. Thankfully, these days this admission doesn’t make me a freak or someone who doesn’t deserve to propagate. I take my hat off to those who are full-time mums – I just don’t think I have the necessary (and immense) energy, imagination and, above all, patience. Furthermore, I don’t think I can provide the educational experience that nursery does (or at least not as well). As for the emotional experience, well, my daughter feels none the less loved for not being with me all the time. I know some will beg to differ but each to his own I say.

All that said, tomorrow my daughter drops a nursery day and starts to spend Mondays with me. It’s a brave new world. (Deep breaths … I’ve done it before … [pant pant] … I can do it … feel the fear and do it anyway, etc etc). I confess that I’m daunted by the prospect of planning activities to keep her busy (especially whilst her little brother is still so ‘me, me, me’) that don’t involve CBeebies. (Although it’s a comfort to know that if all else fails we can watch the ‘Big Bear in a Spin’ episode of Everything’s Rosie for the umpteenth time.) I feel slightly sad that William and I are going to lose our Chilled Mondays (god, I’m selfish), and replace them with Manic Mondays. Then again, if I wasn’t able to endure stress and chaos then I wouldn’t be much cop as a mum. Wish me luck.

POSTSCRIPT: Mr C&P wants our daughter to be a nuclear-quantum-particle-physicist-wotsit so I was delighted to hear of the Science Sparks blog. I’ll be using some of the ideas on here for Monday activities and will no doubt have a mini female Professor Brian Cox on my hands in no time (hopefully minus the Legoman hair do).

You’re beautiful, you’re beautiful, tra la la laa

25 Jun

It’s been some time since the last C&P post. I blame the dribbling, vomiting and farting baby #2 who arrived exactly three months ago. (He’s gorgeous by the way – the adjectives there were just for effect.) Postpartum hormones have left me liable to cry at most things from the cutesy to the darned right evil. Being responsible for little people has made me more sensitive to what can be a relentless and frightening world – something shared by parents the world over I’m sure. If I could buy rolls of cotton wool in toddler size then I’d be picking fluff off the playmat right now.

Last week there was one incident that made me more sad than anything else has recently. Here’s how the conversation with my two and a half year old went:

Her: Mummy, can I have some of your make-up on please?

Me: No.

Her: [through sobs] But I won’t be beautiful!

Me: Oh sweetheart, but you ARE beautiful.

Her: [still sobbing] I’m not beautiful. Without make-up other children will say I look like a boy.

After calming the sobs with cuddles and plenty of reassurance I was left wondering how on earth my little girl could have got this into her head and what kind of society do we live in that could have a girl thinking this from such an early age. I do recall on occasion telling her that I put on make-up to ‘make me look beautiful’ – an off the cuff remark but is this what has stuck in her head? (What I haven’t explained to her is that a 34-year-old who hasn’t taken care of herself and wasn’t blessed with natural beauty needs a little help whereas a two-year-old doesn’t.) She doesn’t watch any grown-up TV. We never have a copy of Glamour in the house. I can’t believe that exposure to a class of two-year-olds at nursery has put this in her head. Do they chat foundation and lipstick over the sand tray? Paint their nails when they should be painting something impressive for ma and pa’s fridge?

The sexualisation of children has been a hot topic recently what with a new crackdown on inappropriate marketing aimed at children and criticisms of a children’s beauty parlour opening in Brentwood, Essex. Even David Cameron has managed to speak a few words of sense about it. These (including David Cameron) are things I can help my daughter to avoid (and let’s not forget my son, the pressure on boys shouldn’t be underestimated). I can’t protect her from everything though and influences can come from seemingly innocuous places. Today we watched Disney’s Pocahontas – like most Disney heroines and princesses she has a tiny waist, an enviable bust and luscious hair. She’s beautiful, yes, but she ain’t a real woman (well, Pocahontas is but you get my drift). My girl would love to be a princess. How long before she starts to cut out the chocolate buttons to try to be one?

Two pieces of advice I got stood out. “Show her pictures of Pauline Prescott, Jodie Marsh etc – that should scare her off make-up” – my friend Jennifer is spot on, that would be enough to scare anyone. Another friend recommended dressing my daughter in pretty dresses to make her feel beautiful. This is less clear-cut. Wouldn’t that just be reinforcing the external messages? To be beautiful you must have a pretty dress, pretty make-up, pretty hair. I feel a vicious circle coming on …

To be honest, I can’t see my daughter ever wanting to burn a bra. Equally, I hope she never aspires to be Jordan. If she doesn’t feel ‘beautiful’ then I will do all I can to help her with that. But lightning strike me down if I ever start with her nails and hair rather than her self-esteem.

Thought for the day

19 Jul

Like many companies run from the mighty US (where you don’t communicate with people but ‘reach out’) my employer’s intranet site includes a ‘Thought for the Day’. I often take a look at moments of the day when I’m feeling uninspired, fed-up or bored. Often I find something completely inappropriate or downright depressing submitted by a colleague who no doubt moments after clicking ‘send’, threw themselves out of the nearest window. However, there was a quote last week that I found genuinely interesting:

“There are only three things you need to let go of: judging, controlling, and being right. Release these three and you will have the whole mind and twinkly heart of a child.” Hugh Prather

To quote a friend: “I think this is bollocks – my daughter is a whizz at all three!” But it set me thinking about the things I do in my own little, some might think immature, way to make myself giggle like a child:

  1. Make rude and crude words on the fridge with magnetic letters and wait to see how long it is before anyone notices. (Thankfully my toddler can’t read yet.)
  2. Knock my husband’s book out of his hands and into his face when he’s reading in bed. Think the speed needed to catch a fly with chopsticks. (Thank you Mr Miyagi for that analogy.)
  3. Pretend to go downstairs but actually wait behind the bedroom door before jumping out on my husband. This is an elaborate performance involving making the top stair creak several times but at decreasing volumes and perhaps even tossing a shoe down the stairs to mimic my arriving at the bottom.
  4. Wait until my husband has fallen asleep on the sofa then whisper “Daddy’s asleep” to my toddler so that she whacks him in the stomach (or sometimes, more satisfyingly, on the head).
  5. Pretend that I’ve not packed my husband’s clean pants in the swimming bag. Tee hee, for a nanosecond I think he believes me.

In most cases my face betrays me and the gag is short-lived. More often than not the sheer anticipation and mere thought of it provoke such silent laughter and convulsions that it’s never even put into action. Given that my regular gags involve the misfortune of another, I’m not sure if they constitute my regaining Prather’s “twinkly heart of a child”. What I am sure of is that a little bit of silliness can go a long way.

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