According to all almost everyone I interviewed for this BBC feature - children don't need many toys at all. OK, this message won't make me popular with children, grandparents or Toys R Us at Christmas... just call me Scrooge.Read More
I wish I’d come to Singapore in the ‘70s. First, to get some blessed relief from hard-wearing, heat-retaining, head-to-toe corduroy... and, second, to see the legendary mosaic playgrounds in their heyday.Read More
Singapore keeps giving me deja vu. I spend a lot of time standing around thinking, ‘hang on, I’ve been here before’. And then I have to work out whether that was six years ago when I last lived here, or six minutes ago and I’m lost and driving round in circles.Read More
My four-year-old dresses much better than I do. The Curly Girlie’s wardrobe is a dream: a perfect outfit for any occasion and the shoes to match. It’s different for little girls. Fashion is a playground when you’re four.Read More
On holiday in Spain, I was faced with the choice between paying to empty and clean a medium-sized swimming pool or retrieve Alpha Blondie’s poo armed only with a pair of goggles and a sieve.Read More
Contrary to what modern parenting books would have you believe, toddlers are not that bright. Alright, there are moments when their precocious smarts make an impression. Alpha Blondie has mastered the English language in two years, while after six summers in Switzerland I still speak German to about the level of a Dachshund. Four-year-old Curly Girlie has got around the problem of not being able to read by memorizing all her books off by heart, while just now I had to sit and stare at the back end of Wordpress for over six minutes until I remembered the word 'precocious'.
But even cutting them some slack for being on something of a steep learning curve, this photo proves that toddlers may appear sophisticated when really they're about as canny as a large flightless bird.
'Coming, ready or not...'Read More
T’internet has let me down. I was hoping to find a convincingly authoritative site about the psychology behind toddlers’ drawings and/or colour associations. Nothing... Come on hippy, psycho-babbler bloggers, get with it.
It’s all because of two-year-old Alpha Blondie’s drawings this week. I should really say ‘portraits’ rather than drawings - the kid made me pose for them.
‘Mummy, you stand, I draw you. Stand up! Stand! Stand UP!’
‘Alright, alright, I hear you...’ *jeez*
Then he grabbed a pen and scored black lines down the page. After a few seconds I assumed he was just scribbling and I wandered off, but...
‘Mummy! You STAND, I DRAWING you.’
I froze. This is all new for Alphie, one of those sudden developments that signals a new door opening in the brain: yesterday - he scribbled, today - he represents what he sees.
The question is, what does he see? And that’s why I want an art psychologist...
Over and over again, he draws Mummy with dozens of legs and even more eyes. For the most part, I am brown.
Then he gets another piece of paper and draws an orange blob, which is Mummy, then a purple blob for himself and a yellow blob for his big sister. Daddy is blue. He inspects it for a while and then says, ‘No,’ and changes the Mummy blob from orange to brown. So I am definitely brown.Read More
29 May: In response to my Reasons to be Cheerful blog from yesterday, Lycra Mum quite rightly commented that raising children offers ‘perks’ that make amends for not being paid to do the job. I wholeheartedly agree - I don’t want to be ‘compensated’ for bringing up my kids. But then, but then... there’s something about not being paid that rankles. A job without a salary isn’t a job, is it? It’s a hobby. Today I read this on Woogs World, where guest blogger Annabel Candy inadvertently summed it up perfectly: 'even though we do the most important and hardest job in the world we're not paid for it, so some people tend to think of mothers as women who aren't making a useful or valuable contribution to society.' Yeah, what she said! I'm not advocating for Mothers to be paid, but it would be nice to be valued.
According to researchers this week I have two good reasons to be miserable.Read More
This is a trick question. There is no right answer. It ranks alongside, “does my bottom look big in this?” and “Mummy, where do babies come from?” as queries that should be side-stepped at all costs. Last time I got drawn into the ‘where was I before I was born?’ discussion - with Curly Girlie who was two at the time - my answer covered childbirth, God, the theory of evolution and, if memory serves me right, Islam. Now, whenever Curly mentions ‘that man who sees us all the time’, I have to reassure myself that she doesn’t mean some lurking perv, but the rather more benign presence of God.
Following the same conversation, she still - two years on - refers to the time ‘when I was a monkey’, and I don’t have the heart to inform her that evolution isn’t quite as simple as that.
In any case, the book Siblings Without Rivalry tells me that the ‘who do you love more?’ question should never be answered directly, as it only encourages competitive thinking between children. So when Curly Girlie dropped the big one today, I thought I was prepared.
‘Do you love me more than Alpha Blondie?’ she asked, while getting out of the car.
‘Curly, I love you more than you can possibly imagine. There’s no-one else in the world quite like my wonderful Curly.’ (See what I did there?)Read More
In The Child Whisperer, Tracy Hogg describes the “textbook baby”, the one who develops new skills right on cue, exactly when the manual said they would. My Curly Girlie just turned four and, like clockwork, she’s turned into a little girl. Make that Little Girl - there’s a definite capital-G in her Girl now that she’s reached the grand age of four.
“I am only friend with girls,” she announced yesterday.
“What about Khan and Timo?” I said, “Your best friends at creche?”
“Um, no, they’re boys.”
“Ah.” *Thinking* “Apart from Khan and Timo, I am only friend with girls.”
That’s clear, then.
Curly’s favourite colour is... sigh... pink. When she was only three, it was “rainbow”, but the clockwork child has dropped red and yellow and green and settled, predictably, on pink.
I’ve never been into the pink. In fact, I’d say I’ve actively encouraged a diversity of colour: her bedroom is painted bright red, her coat is deep purple with a red and white polka dot lining, she’s currently wearing a sky blue top with white stars.
But the pink has arrived, with the inexorability of death and taxes, and we shall endure it until she enters her equally inevitable purple and then black phases.Read More
It’s all about the conflict. No, not raising toddlers. Raising toddlers is mostly about conflict, but writing fiction is all about the conflict. This is what I’m learning on the Masters that I’m currently studying. Every story involves conflict, every character has some kind of thwarted desire, and in every scene something needs to happen. When you spell it out like that, it sounds obvious in a paint-by-numbers kind of way, and yet, and yet... I’m still not retired on the earnings from my bestselling novels about wizards...
Of course, my four-year-old Curly Girlie knows literary theory already. It seems to be hard-wired in kids.
“Do you want a story?” she says, “I’ve got one about a giraffe, one about a digger and one about a monster,” like a shopkeeper taking stock. Or perhaps a travelling bard in Homeric times, calling out her wares: “Roll up, roll up, for yer stories: I got yer Odyssey, yer Aeneid and yer Illiad on special, just twenty drachma a verse”.
Then she trots out the goods. A story she told this week went like this:
One day, a monster chased a little mouse, who ran away into space and hid behind the planets. But the monster found him, so he came back to Earth and hid underground, with all the moles and the pipes. But the monster found him, so the mouse got fed up and said “raaah!” and the monster ran away into the forest. The End.Read More
Parents in Scandinavia can rest easy in their saunas tonight. Save the Children’s snappily-titled State of the World’s Mothers Report (I’m glad they didn’t come round here, cos this mother is a right state) listed Norway as the best place to be Mum. Niger, where most mothers lose a baby at some time in their lives and have a life expectancy of 56, is the worst. I was of course scanning the Save the Children list for Switzerland, the rich and highly-developed country where I reside, which lurked below many of its European neighbours in 18th spot. Why so low? Let me see now...Read More
Apparently, deer go to sleep facing due north.As usual, I’m faffing about looking up arcane wisdom on the internet when I’m supposed to be blogging. This time, it’s bed orientation. Self-appointed experts blathering on about questionable eastern philosophies - I think I might have just overloaded Google, there are so many search results. Yesterday, I shoved our bed round 90 degrees because we’re planning a renovation and I thought it might be wise to check if I can sleep facing in that direction before I let some Germans with big hammers remove my supporting walls (none of that was a euphemism). It does mean that the bed is now freestanding in the middle of the room. I know centre-stage beds are fashionable in some quarters, but it feels a bit like lying on a sacrifical slab.Read More
I have to confess, I’ve been at the parenting books again. This time it’s Siblings Without Rivalry, which is (in my best cheesy DJ voice) an oldie but goldie. As is usual with these books, I reach the end feeling equal parts dismayed (I do everything wrong) and encouraged (everyone else’s kids are a nightmare too, yay!).
If I had a chime for every alarm bell that went off in my head while reading, I’d have a flippin’ Grandfather clock by now: don’t give attention to the aggressor, don’t take sides, don’t just shout at them to stop, don’t intervene all the time, don’t pigeon-hole the kids into roles, and never, never compare your children.
That’s a lot to remember when they’ve got each other in a headlock, but I’d dismiss it if I didn’t feel it to be entirely true. Especially the last point: comparison.Read More
Before you have kids, you fantasize a perfect being based on the choicest morsels of the parents’ body and soul: inshalla, my child will have Daddy’s button nose and Mummy’s indestructible teeth, his Calvinistic work ethic and her knack of being given jobs by friends, his talent at Angry Birds and her ability to sprint after a departing bus in platform heels while exceptionally drunk.What you don’t imagine, is a child made up of all the offcuts: Mummy’s enormous conk grafted onto Daddy’s bowling-ball bonce, his science-baffling foot diseases combined with her shedding toenails, his inability to find his own belongings mixed with her incendiary temper at losing things.Read More
Alain de Botton, you are a bad man. Coming in here with all your philosophy and wisdom, upsetting innocent people like myself who are just standing about with their fingers in their ears going “la-la-la” and pretending it’s not happening: “To a parent of small children,” he tweets, “(it is) astonishing they might as adults move abroad so one would see them only once a year - and survive”.
Indeed, as a mother of a two-year-old and a three-year-old, it does astonish me. In fact, I will go so far as saying it is patently not true: they may well go abroad (after all, I did) but I will not survive. Not if today is anything to go by...
Walking out of the gym’s on-site creche, I turn around to berate the younger one for doing something infantile, and when I turn back Curly Girlie is gone. Vanished. Like she was never there.
Behind me, a long, empty corridor runs back to the gym. She’s been bugging me to see where I go to “do running” - has she snuck back there?
To the left, stairs descend to the toilets and other mysterious basement rooms. She needed a wee - has she come over all independent and trotted off down there?
Outside the glass sliding doors - which parent-hating numbskull designed the building with a set of sliding doors right next to the creche, I ask you? - lurks: (on one side) a swimming pool filled with green winter water, (on the other side) an industrial estate, (straight ahead and up a bit) a railway line, and (straight ahead and down a bit) a dingy underpass leading to the car park.
My heart rate hits a level I could only dream of on the cross-trainer: a railway line; an unattended swimming pool; and, my mind helpfully chips in, gangs of mad child thieves.Read More
Before I discovered that motherhood is like being permanently on Candid Camera, I honestly thought that bedtimes would be lovely. Well, what the Donald Duck did I knowRead More
Rather like a toddler who repeatedly pushes beads up its nose and wonders why they get stuck, we keep going on holiday with two small children and wondering why it’s not the relaxed experience of yesteryear. You may well recall that my lucky-mushroominess doesn’t extend to airports. This time it was a mere six hours at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 (fog). Compared with our eleven hours at Alicante back in January, this was child’s play, although the crummy situation was greatly exacerbated by the fact that there was no… child’s play. Which brings me to my point: where are the playgrounds in airports?Read More
A while ago, I read an article that claimed that when siblings are close together in age, the older one turns out stoopid because Mum was too busy feeding the baby to drill the toddler on its times tables. My kids are 18 months apart. Ouch - poor, doomed Curly Girlie. Naturally, and probably with an enormous amount of good reason, I poo-pooed this article.
Months and months later, though, it still niggles. My fevered little mind keeps poo-pooing my poo-poo.Read More