December: what I’m looking forward to…

  1. Russell Brand on his ‘Messiah Complex’ tour  in London on Thursday with my sister – can’t wait – first night out in I don’t know how long!
  2. Booked a few days off work to get my Christmassy bits done which should get me into the Christmas spirit!
  3. Taking JJ to see a show called ‘Gorilla’ at the Polka Children’s Theatre in Wimbledon with my Mum on the 14th – wonderful place to take little children, highly recommended.
  4. NCT kids & mum’s Christmas get together on the 23rd at my lovely friend Suzy’s house – another fab excuse to get into the Christmassy vibe with mince pies and festive fun!
  5. NCT mark II (the EJ ‘Refresher’ years) Christmas get together at my lovely friend Anna’s house on the 16th – more of the above!!
  6. Christmas!!! Say no more.
  7. Going to the panto in Woking on Jan 4th (not December so cheating a bit here!) – Cinderella starring Justin Fletcher (AKA Mr Tumble) which will probably make JJ’s year!! Going with my lovely friend Clair and her son.
  8. Meeting up with friends we haven’t seen for ages on 7th with their son who is EJ’s contemporary – Christmas time really does encourage us to re-connect!
  9. Christmas pressie swap and meal at Jamie’s Italian with one of my oldest besties on 14th. Bit of a tradition, lovely to indulge ourselves and reminisce about old times.
  10. Big family pre-Christmas ‘in the place of Christmas’ celebration with a meal out at a lovely pub on the 15th. (My sister, BIL and nieces will all be skiing in the Italian Alps (again!!) for the festive season this year so this will be our chance to raise a glass and enjoy each other’s company for the last time in 2013).

And one for luck – albeit another January one! – Jan 18th going to the National Theatre in London to see Tori Amos’s musical “The Light Princess” described as “a dark fairytale about grief, rebellion and the power of love”. Its been a long time since I’ve visited the National although I was brought up on theatre-going, particularly this amazing venue and I absolutely love, love, love the vibe both inside and out on the South Bank.

So yes, once again I find myself counting my blessings and realising that, whilst time enjoying the children is fab (especially at Christmas) not everything in my life has to involve them!

Linking up with http://www.mummyfromtheheart.com’s Reasons to be Cheerful (R2BC) (currently being hosted by Becky at Lakes Single Mum http://www.beckywilloughby.blogspot.co.uk)

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

Attachment parenting…with detachment

attached child
I’ve read a fair bit about this subject recently both positive and negative and I also have friends who either fully or partially embrace Dr Sears’ notion of effective parenting through adhering to the ‘7 Bs’. This type of parenting has been labelled a fad by some, but other, more accepting and thoughtful commentators argue that, despite faddish elements, the core belief in raising your children with sensitivity and empathy (with an emphasis on responsiveness in the first few months of a child’s life) is the key to raising balanced and well-adjusted children (see Dr Laura Markham’s article on the subject, highlighting the need to set limits with empathy). Also see this post by Psychologymum.
This is my take on the 7 Bs:
  • Birth bonding: I didn’t really do this with JJ as I ended up having an epidural and after a long labour gave birth in the exact wrong position – flat on my back! EJ was a completely different kettle of fish as I managed to have a water birth with no drugs for pain relief and consequently I do feel like I did right by both of us as it was a much more natural, intuitive experience, but I’m not sure if it really makes us any more closely bonded as mother and son.
  • Breastfeeding: if you follow my blog you will already know my thoughts on this expressed in this post. I managed it for five months with JJ and five days with EJ. Whilst I am sure that, if you get it right, it is a wonderful close, nurturing thing to do (with added immunological benefits), I don’t actually believe that the key intended outcome of attachment parenting is affected either way – there are a myriad of ways in which you can care for, nurture and bond with your baby leading them to start life feeling loved and secure.
  • Babywearing: By the time I had EJ as a newborn I had the benefit of hindsight and knew (even before he was born actually) that I would be doing us both a favour by investing in a nice stretchy sling. And I was right – sometimes having him in that sling was the only thing that calmed and soothed him. I think newborn babywearing is a great idea for practical purposes. However I’m not so sure that continuing to exclusively carry your child in this way throughout later baby- and childhood can be classed as anything more than a personal choice in the preferred method of transporting your child.
  • Bedding close to baby: JJ started off in a Moses Basket, spent a few occasions in bed with me and then transferred to a cot in the same room, later transitioning to his own room at about 8 months when he was sleeping through the night. EJ spent his first few months next to me on the bed before going into his cot in my room at 4 months (where he still is now at 16 months). I think it was what worked for us. When they’re very little they do need you to be responsive and proximity is key, but I do believe that gradual detachment is no bad thing and leads to better sleep patterns all round.
  • Beware the baby trainers: Personally I didn’t follow any particular ‘trainer’ although I know people who swore by Gina’s strict regime (and have lovely well-adjusted school-age children). Having said that I truly believe in structure and introducing patterns that give a child a sense of security in the world (and I think children really respond well to daily routines and thrive within them). I have a friend who will definitely think this is anathema to her! Certainly each to their own – what works for one does not work for all.
  • Belief in the language value of your baby’s cry: I think this one is trying to get at the idea that you should never leave your baby crying. This is a really emotive one, particularly if you have/had a baby with that most commonly cited condition ‘colic’ which is basically just what doctors say when they don’t know what else to tell you about your child’s constant crying and fussing. The sound of your baby crying is certainly one of the worst sounds in the world and I’m sure most people would agree that you never stop trying to find a way to calm and soothe that crying away. But sometimes you’ve got to eat. I’m just saying.
  • Balance: this, to me, seems the most sensible B of all when it comes to achieving those ‘attachment’-related goals. It is described as ‘being appropriately responsive to your baby: knowing when to say yes and when to say no’. That makes perfect sense to me and I try and live by this one above all. That doesn’t mean to say I always get it right and god knows you have to choose your battles wisely, but on the whole, I believe that this is the key to everything we do as parents and sometimes, some of the other Bs seem to be taken to ‘Earth Mother’ extremes that counter-act the notion of balance altogether.
I just read this article on babble.com by Katie Allison Granju who actually wrote a book called ‘Attachment Parenting’ which had a foreword by Dr Sears himself. It was really refreshing to read that she completely agrees with my point of view and strongly disagrees with parenting that encourages you to micromanage your child’s life. She also touches upon the idea that some people who gleefully fling themselves headfirst into the role of Earth Mother seem to fall victim to living their lives through the prism of their parenting which is not about balance because as soon as you allow yourself to be defined by any one thing you are no longer a fully rounded individual and what kind of role model is that for the little people?
My 7 Bs of parenting
  • Benign neglect: another idea from Katie Allison Granju’s Babble article. This pretty much sums up my style.
  • Bananas! : yep, there’s definitely a cry that means “get me a banana now goddamit, at the double!”

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  • Bouncing: number one rainy day activity (OK your mattress springs might be a bit worse for wear at the end of it but anything that burns some of that frenetic energy can only be a good thing, right?)
  • Brainwashing: come on, we’re all guilty of this – Father Christmas anyone??
  • Baked goods: always make everything better and release oxytocin (well, maybe not oxytocin but feelgood hormones which, in effect, do the same job without the need for any uncomfortable bap exposure….err…)
  • Balamory: OK, not Balamory but another children’s programme (which may or may not begin with the letter B) – what’s not to like about the educational babysitter in the corner of the room? (You know I’m only kidding right? JJ would far rather be bouncing)
  • Bundles: forget skin to skin, bundling is the new contact bonding front runner. For anyone not in the know, To Bundle: to gleefully leap on top of your mum/dad/sibling/friends and generally roll around together giggling.

So, that’s parenting covered…

Linking up to Brilliant Blog Posts at over at Honest Mum:

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

 

Parenthood: degrees of normality…

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Re-visiting this post I wrote last November for this week’s Theme Game from Jocelyn at The Reading Residence and Iona at Red Peffer – this week’s theme being “Parenting”.

Everyone seems to agree that having your first baby is a big shock to the system (whether it be a time of doe-eyed adoration or sleep-deprived witchery). Nothing will ever be the same again and there will never be a ‘normal’ the same as the ‘normal’ you had when you were child-free.

I was making the kids dinner the other day when the thought occurred to me that I was on edge. Then it occurred to me that I’m pretty much always on edge these days. When you’re in a job where you are ‘on call’ even though it may be a quiet day you won’t be able to switch off. That’s a bit like parenting, and I speak from the perspective of a parent who has only so far experienced babies and pre-schoolers but I assume that will probably always be the case from now on. Despite that fact I also assume that ‘normality’ (whatever that is) – will return, perhaps with a gradual lessening of the weight of responsibility to the point where your children are completely grown and old enough to be entirely responsible for themselves and their own actions…

From my perspective I look back at the time JJ was between two and three and I remember starting to feel like I had some semblance of a ‘self’ returning. As he began to gain a few words and phrases and was able to communicate a little bit more coherently and understand and respond to requests (assuming the planets were aligned correctly of course) it felt a bit more manageable. I remember thinking that it was a complete doddle compared to my six months of newborn colic hell.

Then EJ came along.

I’d be interested to know the opinions of others with children of varying ages to find out if you agree with my theories about degrees of normality in parenthood…

 

The Reading Residence

On the miracle of language acquisition

look-whos-talking

About ten years ago I decided I was fed up of my job and quite fancied a career change. I had a bit of a brainstorm and came up with these options: horticulture; curatorship; TEFL. As I quickly realised I couldn’t tell my hydroponics from my hydromatics (is that even a word or did I just get that from Grease?), my knowledge of art history pretty much extended to some fictionalised Vermeer antics (Girl with a Pearl Earring) and a little bit of Bruegel (Headlong – by Michael Frayn – well worth a read by the way!) it didn’t take long to realise that a little evening class in the joys of teaching the English language to foreigners was in order.

To cut a long story short, this didn’t really pan out for me as a career either (this could have had something to do with a room full of Italian teenagers and my ever so slight lack of any sort of authoritative presence…). However, what I did gain from this experience was a newfound respect for anyone who takes on the beast commonly known as the English Language. My course alerted me to the fact that English is by far the most complicated language in terms of both grammatical structure and massive vocabulary. It is also a living language to boot so this year’s ‘new’ word “selfie” is equally, if not more relevant to a 15 year old Japanese school girl than how to figure out why on earth we insist on a big red car and not a red big car. Its little rules like this that we aren’t even aware of because, lucky old us, we soaked up this information completely unconciously between the ages of two and four.

According to experts the brain circuits associated with language are more flexible before the age of four, offering a possible explanation for why young children are good at learning foreign languages. A study by King’s College London and Brown University tracked the distribution of myelin (a type of cell) through the brain. From the age of four, it was found to become more fixed. I find this absolutely fascinating and kind of wish that I’d done as the Japanese do and got JJ studying Spanish and French as a toddler (I believe the Japanese prefer English – it is the international language of business after all and what self-respecting toddler draws a blank on that all important conference call to Nebraska?).

At the moment I’m finding the nuances of language acquisition coming to life every day as JJ comes out with something not quite right gramatically (“we was in the garden” – “were, JJ, were”) or just not quite right – for instance, last weekend in the garden centre: “Mummy, they’ve got pineapples on the Christmas tree”, me (after a good long look) “Hmm, I think you mean pine cones JJ…”

I’ve just had the sneakiest peak at the related articles I’ve chosen to highlight below and I’m absolutely loving this exploration of what makes English unique, bizarre, evolutionary, and hilarious! To be continued…

 

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Financial incentive for breastfeeding: are we missing the point?

Since the announcement that the government intends to offer a £200 ‘incentive’ to new mothers to encourage breastfeeding over bottle feeding, I’ve had time to think about this subject a bit more deeply. The thing that no one seems to have touched on in all the various blog discussions and comments threads that I’ve read lately seems to be the fact that, whilst we are, of course, taking on board this news from the point of view of middle class women aged late-20s and upwards (for the most part – agreed?), this initiative is really nothing to do with us (although that’s not to say that it doesn’t affect us). Its quite obvious that the monetary incentive the government is proposing is not aimed at those of us who want to breastfeed (but can’t). Obviously despite our age, education and backgrounds, many of us are still not able to escape the pinch of recession, inflation, and soaring cost of living and having a financial incentive thrown into the mix at this emotional time would muddy the waters, just as everyone else seems to agree. But what about the real targets of this campaign -young (in some cases very young) women from low income areas with poor educational backgrounds?

According to the researchers of the Sheffield University Study (which will pilot the scheme in low income areas in Yorkshire and Derbyshire), research highlights that young women from low income areas are least likely to breastfeed for a number of reasons including embarrassment, lack of role models which portray breastfeeding in positive circumstances, fear of pain, misconceptions that their babies will not gain sufficient weight from breastfeeding alone, and exposure to a bottle feeding culture.

If you were 16, 17 or 18 and you had other friends with babies, none of whom were comfortable with breastfeeding, as well as a mother who didn’t breastfeed and grew up in the same culture, this peer behaviour would probably be a lot more influential to you than a lot of middle class, middle aged midwives trying to educate you into cultural submission (especially if you feel like you’ve only just escaped a lot of middle class, middle aged teachers trying to educate you into cultural submission at school).  Someone in the government has looked at the statistics, thought about what is important to these young women in particular (material possessions, iPhones, etc.) and surmised that a financial incentive is the only thing that will make them sit up and take notice.

Of course breastfeeding support should be improved in hospitals, tongue-ties should be identified quicker and GPs should be able to offer more help and better referrals, but for me, this is a completely different debate. The government seem to think that they will save money in the long run by encouraging this particular group of mothers to adopt breastfeeding as part of a ‘healthy’ lifestyle (for their children) but for me, breastfeeding alone is not going to solve the problem of a population becoming unhealthier and more of a burden to the creaking NHS of the future – it goes hand in hand with many, many other factors and this financial incentive is not going to change that. Do they really think that a breastfed child from a low socio-economic background is not going to be affected by a crappy diet later in their childhood? Are they going to start paying people £200 to clear out their cupboards and follow a closely monitored diet of fruit and veg for 6 months?

So I ask you this: if it’s the young women described above who are the true target of this incentive, what could the government do instead to change their attitudes and get them on board? If its not to do with physical inability or depression and its just to do with peer group attitudes then how would you tackle the issue?

Where did it all go right?

KidsAndFireworks

I have to admit to getting easily wrapped up in what can feel like the everyday drudgery and exhaustion of being a part time working mother of a young toddler and a pre-schooler. I don’t like to think of myself as ‘glass half empty’ or a pessimist, negative-thinker, etc, etc, but sometimes I guess someone who doesn’t know me better might be mistaken for thinking that I am that way inclined due to the fact that I sometimes air negative feelings in public forums instead of trying to project a relentlessly cheerful and upbeat portrait of my life at all times. In actual fact it gets me down when I’m around an ‘Eeyore’ personality and makes me realise that in practice, I err on the side of positivity and always try to remember that life is not just a flat line but a series of ups and downs, good times and bad times.

This past weekend I have been reminded of some of the nicer parts of this parenting experience. Saturday morning we all got up early, pulled on some clothes and drove over to the hubster’s current favourite Park Run – a 5k run organised on Saturday mornings in parks throughout the UK – open to all, no obligation, no competition, just a chance to improve on your own time each week. On the way we picked up my nine-year-old step daughter who had expressed an interest in doing the run with her dad. It was a beautiful, crisp, sunny and frosty November morning and, although I wasn’t running myself, it was just pleasant to be outside in such glorious autumn weather. After the run, all of us (including the hubster’s parents) headed over to the nearby leisure centre for lattes & babyccinos all round.

Next up on the agenda – home for EJ to have a quick nap before the kids and I headed into town for their friend’s 3rd Birthday Party at Mccy D’s – one of the only ‘soft play’ venues you can book for your children to have exclusivly to themselves on a busy crowded Saturday (Christmas Light Switch On by Katy from Cbeebies “I Can Cook” – more popular than you might imagine) – and no-one’s going to turn their noses up at ‘Al McDonald’s’ Happy food either! Below: the two of them enjoying party bag treats!

JJ & EJ party bag treats

The next part of my day was more unusual for me nowadays, a little bit exciting too – a solo trip to the cinema to see real grown up fare! I managed to get the hubster to agree to take the reigns for a couple of hours so that I could see what all the fuss was about with so-called film of the year “Gravity” (in 3D).

gravity

Edge of the seat stuff with a chain of events in space leading to a ponder of sorts on the nature of humanity, isolation and the psychological necessity of human connection. I guess John Donne didn’t write “No man is an island” for no reason. As someone who, pre-kid, used to pride herself on being a bit of a (minor) film buff, it felt really good to be able to finally get back into that world, if only for a short 90 minutes. I look forward to more of the same in the near future.

When I finally resurfaced at home it was getting dark outside and I had promised to take JJ out to our town’s two-week delayed firework display. After tea and putting EJ to bed we both headed out of the door with our pocket torches and walked up to the park where loud music was blasting out and flashing lights in the form of fairy wands, light sabres, glowing angel haloes and random batons blinded you wherever you looked. This event boasts a special ‘children’s display at 6.45 set to the music from Cbeebies (I know – ear worm, right? But the children loved it). Unfortunately, having paid £10 for the two of us to basically enter a park and watch ten minutes of flashing lights, there wasn’t much else that I was willing to splash out on. I did however succumb to a £2 multicoloured flashing baton which JJ was pretty excited about! Considering public firework displays don’t allow sparklers anymore it was the best we could do (pity though – it now feels like waving a sparkler is an experience filled with nostalgia for a simpler time, singed fingers aside).

JJ was pretty good about going straight to bed when we got home and I then watched an episode of ‘Misfits’ on C4OD before crashing out, exhausted myself, but for all the right reasons, and counting my blessings for family, friends, health and happiness.

Funny and clever!

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So I really wanted to write a nice long meaningful post after reading (and sometimes even commenting on!) other people’s thoughts on the Great British Breastfeeding Bribe and The Child Abuse Publishing Scandal in the past week, but it turns out that once again its a case of me against the clock and the clock is winning by a country mile! In place of said post, I will share these two things which my children have done in the last week to make me smile (apologies to those of you who have already been regaled with the glad tidings):

In the car on the way to my Mum and Dad’s on Saturday myself and the boys got stuck in a tailback heading towards Twickenham (turns out there was a Rugger match on but we didn’t know that at the time). JJ (who had already freaked me out by telling me he needed to do a poo and couldn’t wait til Grandma’s, then sucked it back up and retracted his previous) asked me very earnestly why we were stuck in traffic. I replied “I don’t know, honey, maybe someone’s had an accident”. He waited a couple of minutes before asking “Do you think someone’s weed or pooed themselves Mummy?” – it took everything I had not to crack up. “Probably not” I said, and when he countered with “Why not mummy?” I could honestly say “I just don’t think it would cause this much of a tailback”…

Although I don’t really know what I’m doing, here’s a portal to Actually Mummy’s Wot So Funee? links page.

Wot So Funee?

The other thing that wowed my dad and I on Saturday was 15 month old EJ responding to my instruction to go and get his dummy from where it was on the coffee table about 10 feet behind him by doing exactly that! He knew what I’d told him and did what I suggested! It might not sound like much but it shows just how much he has developed recently that he could understand and act on my words. My baby is growing up!!

All cluttered up

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Recently we have been contemplating a potential house move. Not because we don’t like our house or the place we live in general, but mostly because we would like to live somewhere with both decent, off-road parking and the potential for expansion. We don’t want to move too far (and to be honest can’t afford to move to anywhere more affluent with better schools anyway) or spend any more money or raise our mortgage from its current level either.

On Monday this week the hubster arranged for an estate agent to come and value the house and he was already finished by the time I got home from our friends’ house with the boys. It quickly became apparent that, if we want to stand any chance of buying any half decent house that may come on the market, then we need our house to be on the market too (preferably under offer) so that we don’t miss out. I think the sentence “I can have your house on the market by the end of the week” came up which put me into a state of some panic and shock I have to say. Although we had been discussing the matter and brainstorming about our options, the stark reality of picking up all our worldly belongings and being out on our ears – possibly into a smaller home, maybe losing out on some character (our house is a Victorian red brick and full of charm in my opinion) really freaked me out!

But probably the one really frightening thought about getting our house on the market was the fact that this would mean the dreaded ‘de-clutter’ operation that we have been putting off for years.

I am ashamed to admit that I clutter. There should be a support group “Clutterers Anon”. The hubster himself is just as bad – actually worse to be honest. Neither of us does DIY. I try my hardest to keep the place to a certain standard (for example, the kitchen and bathroom are priorities and get cleaned on a rolling basis for hygiene and my sanity!) I also tidy up where possible within my own framework of acceptability and the clutter is generally hoovered and sometimes even dusted when time and opportunity allows.

But I am reminded of those reality programmes about hoarders and “How Clean is Your House” – not because we live like that at all, but because the people who do crossed a line at some point beyond which they were unable to get back to normality without a huge operation, or series of operations. I feel like I need to tackle a series of operations (and this is not just de-cluttering but attending to all those little tasks that we have let slip over the past five years – re-papering the dining room where damp had peeled the paper away; binning the crappy old curtain in the kitchen which my mum always likens to a tarts knickers; removing the unsightly old plastic bathroom cabinet (the doors of which fell off years ago!) – you get the picture).

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One very cluttered kitchen surface

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Another very cluttered kitchen surface…

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My attempt at a de-cluttered kitchen surface.

My nemesis in this (purely conceptual) drive to achieve the home of our dreams is Time. I work four days a week (varying hours) (plus sometimes a bit of overtime at the weekend) and when I’m not at work, I’m mostly trying to feed, dress, entertain, educate (?) (jury’s out on that one!), police, and just generally mother my four year old and 15 month old. In the little squeeze of “me” time that rears its head once in a blue moon, I dust the clutter. Or I cook a batch of food for freezing. Or I blog.

I have had one day off (both work and kids) in the last two months and that day was after we came back from our week in Cornwall so there was a huge amount of washing and organising to do. I also spent a couple of hours on one of my long-intended ‘operations’ filling 6 full black bin bags with old unwanted clothing (both mine and the boys) and took it to our local Cash4Clothes (brilliant idea, not only do your old clothes go to charity but you get a few quid back too!).

However, this demonstrates just how squeezed my time is. I feel like all the ‘jobs’ can’t be done without the initial de-cluttering operation, and I have very little energy or motivation to try and get my head round where to even begin, so the years continue to go by with little being achieved.

That said, the sudden thought of strangers wandering around my home and, even with the most open of minds and the greatest ability to see past the detritus of our lives, not being able to overlook the fact that the walls could do with a paint, several rooms need proper curtain rails, the tell-tale signs that the (dusty, unused) shower has caused damp problem on the ceiling below which we haven’t had the time or inclination to deal with, etc, etc, just strikes fear into my heart! Maybe it started off as blinkered laziness but at this point in our lives, it is all about time, or the lack thereof. Just the thought of buying and wrapping Christmas presents and doing the cards freaks me out right now – let alone attempting to sell our home and move house with a 15 month old wriggler!

So the question is: do we shelve our idea about moving at this point? Do we put the house on the market in its current state and let the ‘character’ speak for itself? Because one thing is for sure – my greatest desire and the one thing that I won’t be getting for Christmas this year, is Time…

Better get going on the Childhood Bucket List!

childhood bucket list

How important is it to involve your children in everything you consider to be childhood-related from the youngest possible age?? Having just missed both Halloween and Fireworks Night I’m feeling a bit deflated after reading and hearing about so many seasonal activities from so many friends and other bloggers. I have friends who have been taking their four year old to amusement parks and trick or treating (at age 2), and motor shows, museums, golf, cinema trips and even a science centre at age three (which I was told was suitable for kids from about 7). I’m not in any way saying that any of this is a bad thing, I’m just trying to understand why we haven’t done any of this stuff and figure out whether its because I’m just a lazy mum or whether I can actually justify this by saying its too much too soon for us. Kids will have time to experience all these kinds of things after the age of four and on throughout their childhoods won’t they?

I also think that its much more likely that EJ (or any second or subsequent child) will experience things more advanced than their developmental level much earlier than they would have done otherwise simply because of the fact that they will be ‘along for the ride’ with their older sibling.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve done the seaside, children’s farms, Peppa Pig World, Legoland, we even took JJ with us to Menorca for our honeymoon (there was an onsite creche!). So its not like we haven’t done stuff but its just been chosen with the ‘tiny tot’ age in mind.

I’m sure I read something recently about people who are so excited about having a child that they whip out the childhood ticklist immediately, ending up at a zoo with a 6-month-old baby who turns out to be more interested in a one-legged pigeon than the rhino hanging around behind it. (Having said that I did take JJ along on a zoo trip aged 9 months but it was a trip organised by our local baby group so I guess its not unusual!).

Now I’m beginning to wonder if parents of the future won’t write a ‘bucket list’ for their kids as they slip into adulthood and get them started early with a tandem parachute jump (aged 15), a trip to Everest base camp (aged 16) and a five-star weekend at the Ritz (aged 17). They’ll hit their 30s and there’ll be nothing left to do but sit and watch mindless telly for the next 4 decades…

Right now I’m just glad that the seasonal stuff is almost over – oh, then there’s Christmas!!! I can safely say that JJ will be more excited about Santa’s imminent arrival than ever before this year so I’ll make every effort to make it as special as possible for him. I just wish I had a week child and work free so I could get my head round the shopping, organising, stocking filling, decorating and…erm..baking?? (Ha Ha Ha! ((as opposed to Ho Ho Ho in this context!).

Is there anything you wish you’d done with your children younger or feel guilty about them missing out on? Should I be planning that trip to the National Gallery/Natural History Museum within the next six months so that my children get some culture rubbed off on them (possible screaming, tantrums, over-tiredness/hunger/boredom aside)? I’d love to get some comments on this subject…