Thursday, 26 January 2012

Cherish your Chatterbox

..And don't leave that up to me!

Question: If you are out with your child somewhere should you:
A: Engage with them and join in their activities
B: Chat/ text with another adult and completely ignore the kid
C: Stand about staring into space and hope some random stranger entertains them

I always try to go with A, ok perhaps it helps that I am only home alone with E two days a week, I see that time as really precious for me as well as her. But I'm always surprised at how often other parents seem to take options B or C.

Now I'm in a bit of a ranty mood today, so for brevity's sake I'll just link you to someone else's blog for a shout about those Mums who allow their kids to run riot while they sit back for a gossip. I meanwhile will get annoyed about option C.

A good example of this happened just after Christmas. My parents were staying and the whole bunch of us decided to take E to London Zoo. She was delighted and beside herself with excitement once she saw the monkeys and a pig being taken for a walk. All us grown ups had a lovely time sharing her enjoyment, watching her discover new things and pointing out curious creatures to her. How is that not fun for anyone?

After a while we took shelter from the cold in the aquarium and found a tank containing turtles and some amazing polka-dotted rays which were being fed peas, fish and bits of fruit. I joined in with E playing "spot the spotty fish" and "will he get the pea before the big fish does". She was enthralled, and so too was another little girl next to her. The girls mother however looked bored out of her mind.

Pretty quickly the little girl came over to me and E and started pointing things out to us as well, then asking me questions. I didn't mind initially, a curious child is a wonderful thing but it became clear that the mother had now assumed I would entertain the girl while she stood back,  mute and scowling.

I am not particularly knowledgeable when it come to sea beasties, I wasn't imparting any great or unusual information, I was saying "where's the turtle gone?" "ooh there he is!" but the girl was clearly fascinated by the creatures and craving someone to share this with, so I answered her questions and included her in our games. But as time went on, and as she was older than Evelyn, poor E was getting pushed out of the conversation, I was now having to work hard to keep both children happy, and still the Mum just stood there.

I felt decidedly sorry for the girl, and mean for wishing she would leave us alone, but I had come to the zoo for a day with my family, so we could enjoy what little time we all get together with E, not so that I could sideline her while I entertained the offspring of a complete stranger. In the end I promised E new exciting creatures somewhere else and we said bye bye, leaving the poor girl with her still silent mother.

I get this sort of thing fairly frequently and it saddens and annoys me. If you have a bright, curious little child you are truly blessed. Ok you may be exhausted, you may have other things on your mind, but sharing a child's silly joys can be a great antidote to the grown up world. Soon enough these little ones will be large and sulking in their bedrooms and we'll be the last people on earth they want to talk to so please cherish your little chatter box now and let me cherish mine.


Thursday, 12 January 2012

Christmas is For The Kids

and their parents!
(but not for Sir Michael Caine)

For some reason I still get really excited about Christmas, I know full well there is no bike hidden in the loft with a ribbon on it and that there isn't actually a law that says you can only have turkey and all the trimmings that one day of the year, but even so I still start to look forward to it as soon as there is that first properly cold, crisp morning in Autumn.

This year I think I was even more excited than normal as I knew it would be the first year that Evelyn would really enjoy it. It was her third Christmas but the wonder of previous years has mostly been limited to staring hypnotically at fairy lights and /or trying to suck a bauble. This year we could really get into it!

She helped us put up our decorations, perching on Daddy's shoulders to impale the angel atop the tree and then ran manically around the house with some tinsel. This done I finally got to put on what I think is still my all time favourite film *blushes* The Muppets Christmas Carol! Evelyn it seems shares my love of Kermit, but not so much Michael Caine (who plays Scrooge in what is, I suspect, his only musical role). She is now completely terrified of "the scary man" resulting in a number of nights where she would wake us all up screaming desperately. We now have to check under her bed at night just in case Sir Michael is hiding there!

More successfully I got her a CD of Christmas Carols which we played over and over (and over) again and I was pleased that by the big day she could manage a reasonable rendition of "Once in Royal David's City" along with "Jingle Bells" and what I think was "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman", although as it took the form of a Mash-up with the Telletubbies theme tune I can't be sure!

But I think the main excitement before the big day was Advent Calenders! The lucky child ended up with two and in addition to the glut of chocolate they had an unexpected benefit. Evelyn has been pretty good at counting for quite a while, but asking her to look for the appropriate number on the calender very rapidly motivated her to learn to recognise numbers and it seems to have stuck, we now play reading the numbers on doors when walking along the street.

So chocolate has some educational advantages (ok chocolate has lots of advantages) but it has some pretty major downsides too, especially if you are two and enjoy your nursery Christmas party a wee bit too much. Following Evelyn's, just as Fred and I were going to bed, we were summoned by terrified screams from Evelyn's room and found she had been very, VERY sick:

Me: Evelyn,  did you have too many biscuits at the party?
E: *sad face, pitiful look* yes...and cakes

I knew the days when Fred and I nursed each other after our respective work Christmas do's were probably over, I didn't realise we'd be doing it for Evelyn just yet!

So all pretty exciting (if occasionally messy) and that was before the big day!

We spent Christmas with Fred's lovely and, frankly, bewildering enormous family but Evelyn did a very good job of remembering all her Aunties and Uncles (with only a little prompting).  She had a marvellous time especially once her little cousin (who is only very slightly younger) arrived to join in. The two also provided excellent peer pressure for each other and meals were eaten enthusiastically and baths taken splashily!

We saw the new year in back in London with a visit from my parents (ok we got them to babysit, saw in the year at a house party and left it very shortly after midnight as we were exhausted and I should never have agreed to the vodka luge) including a trip to London Zoo where Evelyn once again went hypersonic at the sight of monkeys and was delighted to see a pig being taken for a walk on a lead.

And so that was Christmas number three and now it is back to the same old routine, although I'm sure that with a toddler on the case the same old routine will be very different if I'm writing here this time next year!
So - belatedly - Happy New Year!


PS - you may have spotted the badge for Coombe Mill Farm that is now on the page, we went on holiday there last year and loved it so much we're booked to return in a couple of months, if you have small children I very much recommend clicking on the badge and having a look at their website.