“What does THAT say, Mummy?”

Wondering about The Boy’s future… 

My nephew turned 4 today.  He went into school for a taster morning this morning, then back in again for the school disco after tea.  This hardly seems possible: four years have passed by in a flash.  Surely he should still be crawling around, babbling and wearing nappies?!

My sister-in-law posted a picture of him in front of his birthday cards first thing and said how proud she was feeling.  And so she should be: he is a lovely, self-confident, caring little boy with a cheeky personality. I have no doubt that he will be well-loved by all who meet him in his next stage in life.

Happy Birthday O!
Happy Birthday O!

O’s birthday also signifies that in little over a month’s time, our ‘big boy’ will be turning 3.  Whilst it does in many ways feel like I’ve been a mum for three years, every day I still find it hard to believe that this walking, talking human being with his ever-evolving personality is the same little scrunched up newborn bundle that we made not so long back.  It sometimes feels as though before I catch my breath, The Boy will be 18 years old and a fully-fledged adult in his own right!

Age 3 days
Age 3 days
Today
Today

I have a very vivid memory of a bit of a tumble-weed moment with my sister-in-law when O was just a few days old.  We had been out for a walk and were having a leisurely lunch in a country pub.  Little O was sound asleep on my brother’s chest in a stretchy sling and I found myself feeling all soppy and sentimental.  I was incredulous that my own younger brother had created a little human being.  And out loud I asked whether they thought about what he would grow up to be like, and what job he might have as an adult.

“No!” was the immediate, almost outraged, response from my sister-in-law, as though I was crazy even bringing this up just days after she’d given birth.  Maybe it was a strange thought.  Maybe I’m a bit of an oddball for thinking it; maybe it comes from being a primary school teacher and having seen hundreds of pupils grow and develop from innocent little children to such a diverse range of pre-teens with their own unique personalities and interests; but I had the same thoughts almost immediately after giving birth to both my babies.

The nature/nurture debate has always interested me but I am certain that as parents and primary carers, our influence on our own children is extremely strong.  And I do feel the responsibility of this. 

My main aim is for my children to be happy and self-confident and I hope to be able to recognise and nurture any particular interests that they may have in order to achieve this.  I find it intriguing observing the little people in my life and seeing how unique they all are.  Little O is such a dare-devil physically.  He was flinging himself down enormous slides at soft play practically before he could crawl; he and his brother have been regulars at climbing walls since they could each walk; and at a beach, you will find O half way up a scree cliff before you can blink.  He has been riding a balance bike since his second birthday and a pedal bike without stabilizers from 3.5.   The past two weekends he has cycled 10 mile rides amongst the peaks alongside my brother.  And yes, my brother has a determined (read competitive!) personality when it comes to sports, pushing himself to crazy limits climbing all around the world before he had children, and nowadays regularly competing on his road bike.  As parents, my brother and sister-in-law definitely have ‘can do’ expectations when it comes to their children’s physical abilities.  I wonder whether, like my brother and O’s maternal grandfather, this aspect to his personality will simply develop into passionate sporty past-times, or whether they will influence his career choice too?

O and his little bro on a cycling break
O and his little bro on a cycling break
O indulging in a spot of bouldering
O indulging in a spot of bouldering

Whilst O is completely disinterested in learning his letter sounds and numbers (and I would be the first to defend him in this – why at four years old should these things be of interest really?), our boy is insatiable in these areas.  I know that this is not through me being a pushy parent, or because of my job.  It is because he is interested and wants to know. From a tiny baby, he has loved books.  As a two year-old, stories still rock his world.  He listens to at least six a day; on average probably nearer eight.  We wouldn’t ever consider going away on holiday without a big bag of them.  Pipsqueak, in contrast, couldn’t give two hoots about books, still preferring to either bash them or eat them at 9 months, much to The Boy’s distress.  But will The Boy still be a bookworm in his twenties?  Might he one day be inspired to become an author himself?

Baby bookworm!
Baby bookworm!
Insatiable!
Insatiable!
The Boy with one of his favourite characters
The Boy with one of his favourite characters
On the Superworm trail
On the Superworm trail

When we first introduced The Boy to the iPad at about 2.5, ‘Alphablocks’ was the CBeebies game he always chose to play.  He loves playing with magnetic letters and trying to sound out words on the ‘fridge.  He is a whizz at his Leapfrog computer game where you have to match initial sounds to animals.  The ‘Usborne Book of Shapes’ is a go-to book and he even points out shapes in everyday life:

“Grandma, why is Wickham Square called a square when really it is a rectangle?”

Chilling out with a bit of Alphablocks
Chilling out with a bit of Alphablocks
While Mummy cooks...
While Mummy cooks…

Whilst O is scrambling up slopes at the beach or running into the sea naked, The Boy will be walking alongside the beach huts pointing to and naming the numbers, or pointing at logos and signs and asking what they say.  This is despite our pleas to join us in our sandcastle building or paddling!  As previously mentioned here and here, The Boy loves a logo.  So, is he destined to become a graphic designer like his dad?  He is without a doubt a visual learner, so perhaps something design-oriented.  Or will he enjoy a career working using maths skills?  Perhaps an engineer like both his grandfathers?

Lift me up, Daddy!
Lift me up, Daddy!
"Look, Mummy, a six and a ten!"
“Look, Mummy, a six and a ten!”
"And what does THAT say?"
“And what does THAT say?”

Then again, The Boy is also passionate about animals.  Stuffed animal toys really don’t float his boat, but our cat Miro is his best buddy.  He always notices dogs out and about on walks, smiles at them and wants to pet them.  His favourite day out is to the zoo where he adores the giraffes and (strangely) has befriended the mongoose.  His imaginary friends are two birds called Tweety and Spotty.  Will he have a huge collection of pets as an adult?  Might he become a zookeeper or a vet?

The ZOO!
The ZOO!
Potential zoo keeper?
Potential zoo keeper?
Cat boy!
Cat boy!

If I’m honest, I am a little frustrated about The Boy’s lack of interest in physical pursuits, but put it down at the moment to him simply being a late developer.  He didn’t bum-shuffle until 11 months, started crawling at 15 months(!) and first walked unaided at 18 months to the day.  He has only just started climbing on play equipment without constantly asking for assistance and only recently started coming down slides sitting up instead of on his tummy!  He still can’t properly jump, despite having had a mini trampoline since his second birthday.  He won’t go near his balance bike which he’s had since then too.  He’s just not interested, no matter how much we try to encourage him.  What do the other children at pre-school think of him at during their outdoor play sessions?  How will he cope at school during compulsory PE lessons?  I’m probably over-thinking things: once he masters these skills, he may well be very accomplished in them.  After all, we had pretty much ditched the buggy by his second birthday as he wanted to walk everywhere, no matter what the distance.  He may even be sports mad later in life!

I wonder about how other people subconsciously judge The Boy already.  Although a loud and engaging chatterbox at home, he can sometimes come across as a bit quiet and clingy in certain group situations.  So, while I could see him becoming an actor, presenter or commentator, this might surprise some of my friends.  Amongst his friendship group of little people, I can see a budding comedian, a potential doctor/nurse, a formula one driver and a future politician even!  No doubt I will be proven completely wrong on every count but part of me can’t wait to find out!

Who knows what the future will hold?  I’m really not in a rush to find out, believe me.  I am just enjoying being witness to every new development as and when it happens.  Whilst listing some of The Boy’s strengths in this post, I pondered whether it reads too much as though I am showing off, and I suppose I am guilty of that in a way.  Like my sister-in-law, I am proud of my son – it is only natural.  I am also proud of his loving, caring side, the brave way in which he has approached new challenges such as starting pre-school at just 2.5, and his chatty, completely adorable and entertaining personality (okay so I’m biased!).  He is such good company when he’s on good form.  I’m sure that I will always be proud of him, but that doesn’t stop me indulging in wondering what his path in life will be.

I’m not alone in this, am I?

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“I really love YOU, Pipsqueak!”

I’m celebrating: it looks as though The Boy is finally acknowledging his little sister as a possible comrade as opposed to just a nuisance and a competitor. It only took 8 months! And this change in outlook is making my life so much easier.

When I was young (and that there is a loaded phrase as the big 40 looms ever closer!) I had an idyllic picture of my perfect family unit and lifestyle: soul mate husband, two children (older boy, younger girl), all blissfully happy in our seaside home, fulfilled in our stress-free jobs and with no money worries. If this was written as a check list, I’d be doing pretty well ticking them off. The seaside home (with a huge family kitchen where we would spend most of our time) remains a pipe dream. But our jobs are fulfilling (albeit stressful a lot of the time) and with my hubby and children I have hit the jackpot!

The Boy
The Boy, 2012
Pipsqueak
Pipsqueak, 2014

In my daydreams, brother and sister would get along together really well and growing up would become close, with big brother looking out for little sister as per the stereotype.

The Boy has always had a very caring side to his character. For example, he adores his cat and loves to look after him, stroking him, playing with him and putting his dinner out. He was interested in my bump during my pregnancy and enjoyed reading the books preparing him for the big change. He would proudly tell anyone who showed interest that he was going to be a big brother and that in Mummy’s tummy was his baby sister.

My own mum tells me that when my brother was born when I was 2½, I immediately adored him and wanted to ‘help’ or cuddle him all the time. When this wasn’t possible, I would feed my baby doll milk as mum fed him and so on. So I assumed that, particularly if encouraged to do so, The Boy would act in a similar way, thus proving that gender-based stereotypical behaviour is largely a product of society’s expectations. I also anticipated that he would constantly want to hug and kiss her, just as he does with us.

Neither of these things happened.

I do have adorable footage of The Boy on our doorstep grinning from ear to ear when he was dropped back home by Grandma as soon as we returned from hospital. “My baby sister!” he replied excitedly when I asked who was in the living room. He even bent down to kiss her. I wish now that I’d had my ‘proper’ camera in hand as it was over so fast, and such shows of affection were going to be few and far between in the ensuing months!

The Kiss
The Kiss
Welcome home Pipsqueak!
Welcome home Pipsqueak!

Up until the last few weeks, The Boy’s usual form has been to ignore Pipsqueak most of the time and chatter away non-stop to ensure that our attention remains on him. When attention is on Pipsqueak, he has NOT been happy, making life as a mum of two particularly ‘challenging’. Instead of terms of endearment, phrases most often uttered by The Boy in the first few months included:

“GO AWAY, Pipsqueak!”
This being the stock response whenever I brought her into what he perceived to be his personal space!

“No, no, no! Pipsqueak CAN’T come in my bedloom [bedroom].”
Which was always particularly helpful when trying to read him the obligatory bedtime stories, hubby was caught in traffic and Pipsqueak was screaming for milk (this happened often).

“Pipsqueak can’t sleep on MY bed!”
…As I put her down temporarily in order to give him his ‘stand up hug and light out’ before sleep. (Repeat twice daily as this also occurred at nap time).

“Stop crying Pipsqueak. Stop CRYING Pipsqueak. STOP CRYING PIPSQUEAK AAAARGH!!!”
My sentiments exactly, particularly when her hysterical screaming happened to (often) take place in the confinements of the car; but of course not a particularly helpful demand – certainly not one likely to achieve the desired response from a distraught newborn.

“DON’T do that, Pipsqueak!”
Just as The Boy likes to tell us what we can and can’t do (hence the name of my blog), poor Pipsqueak has been dictated to since she first arrived home. Sometimes all it takes is for her to simply look at him!

“That’s MY toy!”
In more recent months, as Pipsqueak has been reaching for things and actively playing more, this has been an all-too-familiar cry. Bless her, I certainly don’t dare to put any of The Boy’s current toys within her reach; it’s bad enough trying to get him to share during play dates with his best buddies. But we have ‘recycled’ his baby toys which I thought he might have forgotten (since they’ve been up in the loft for at least a year). Of course he hasn’t forgotten them. To be fair though, even Pipsqueak’s new toys are snatched away and claimed as his, especially if it looks like she’s really enjoying playing with them.

Improvements Ahoy
The good news is that now, between continuing declarations such as the above, there are some truly lovely ‘moments’ between them.

“I love YOU, Pipsqueak.”

I am still waiting for the elusive photograph of The Boy actually holding or cuddling Pipsqueak (you know, like the ones most folk seem to post on social media within days of the birth of a new sibling; or like the picture-perfect poses of Prince George and Princess Charlotte released to the press a couple of weeks ago). But he now likes to teach Pipsqueak how to use certain toys; enjoys sharing bath time with her and playing peekaboo over the side after she gets out; likes her eating with us; sings to her when she’s overtired; tries to make her laugh when she gets cross; kisses her goodnight most nights and even (the holy grail) lets her sit on his bed for stories occasionally.

And I now have this lovely collection of sibling photos to look at when times are tough!  They were a long time coming but definitely worth the wait.

“This is how you play dominoes…”
“You just press the button like this, Pipsqueak.”
“Look at the baby owl from inside its Mummy’s tummy!”
“I’ll show you, Pipsqueak.”
Teaching toothbrushing
A bit of bedtime bonding
Siblings!
Siblings!

Long may the good times continue!

“Where are we going TODAY, Mummy?”

This question is one of the first to be spoken by The Boy pretty much every morning upon waking, and after every nap. Today, it got me thinking.

Are we guilty of spoiling him with activities, outings and attention?

We have just spent an entire weekend based in the house and garden. I honestly can’t remember the last time we did that. Oh, wait, yes I can: it was when we were in chicken pox isolation a few weeks back. But believe me, it hardly ever happens.

This time, we didn’t necessarily plan to stay at home; we were just busy trying to Get Things Done. Going away for a couple of weeks can often have that knock-on effect can’t it? The house desperately needed cleaning from top to bottom; our freezer of homemade meals (that’s how we generally roll folks) was severely depleted and Pipsqueak needed some purees making up; our kitchen cupboards were shouting out for a tidy (every time we opened them, tupperware lids and baby bottles would fall to the floor as we are forever shoving things away with too much haste); the garden needed weeding; the last couple of days of rainy weather had meant that the laundry pile had begun to overflow again…you know, The Usual. The Mundane.

So, The Boy has spent two days in the garden (the sun was out – hooray!). We managed to get a fair few jobs ticked off the list. Hubby deserves an award for his sterling effort in the kitchen. We now have batches of chicken, sweet potato and apple casserole (plus purée form for Pipsqueak); pea and courgette soup (plus chunkier purée version); broccoli and courgette gratin purée; tomato, cauliflower and basil purée; bolognese portions and an amazing lasagne with surprise butternut squash layer… Nom nom!

'Helping' with the food preparation.
‘Helping’ with the food preparation.

The house is clean and tidy, bedding changed and kitchen cupboards given a quick tidy. Three more loads of washing have been line dried, folded and aired. The garden is a bit neater.

But boy was it a juggling act!

It didn’t help that poor little Pipsqueak is suffering from her fifty-millionth cold and cough. She has been snotting, wheezing and grizzling away instead of being her usual smiley self. Naps have involved lots of crying and resorting to rocking for at least 30 mins in the dark a la the Olden Days. But she was happy for a fair while in the Jumperoo and then in the ball pool. In fact, The Boy was infinitely more demanding than her.

To give a flavour:

I present him with a ‘new’ (second hand) Scuttlebug.
He spends 5-10 minutes scooting around and loving it but needs our attention constantly: “This is left, Daddy. And then you go along and you turn RIGHT! Look Mummy, LEFT and RIGHT! Look! Am I right?”

"Left and RIGHT!"
“Left and RIGHT!”
Abandoned bug.
Abandoned bug.

I set up the ball pool for Pipsqueak.
The Boy dives in, sticks his tongue out and demands a photo.

Stock photo pose!
Stock photo pose!

Hubby sets to the weeding.
The Boy wants to help. He disappears into the shed and comes out wielding a garden fork with rather sharp ends. Close supervision is required from then on.

The mini trampoline is brought out.
He jumps and sings for all of 30 seconds then lies down and shouts out for Miro to join him: “Miro needs to sleep underneath with me, Mummy. Mummy, WHERE’S Miro Cat? I WANT Miro! Mummy find him? Peease?” (Despite him admitting tiredness at this point and me offering to fetch his blankie, he refuses to really have a snooze – damn!)

Miro returns to our garden.
The Boy is ecstatic and spends 5 minutes stroking him, tickling him and feeding him breakfast (grass). It’s lovely to see and Miro is very tolerant, but again a close eye is required as he will lash out if his tummy is grabbed or his tail pulled a bit too forcefully.

A toddler version of a nerf gun is brought from the shed.
This backfires (literally!) as he needs help loading it each time and insists on firing the small balls into the flowerbeds: “Where did it GO, Daddy? I can’t see it!”

"Where's my big brother gone now?"
“Where’s my big brother gone now?”

Other toys and activity stations such as the sandpit are left untouched.
This is despite much encouragement to engage with them. “I want to do something DIFFERENT Mummy. What can I do that’s DIFFERENT?”

In short, The Boy just isn’t into independent play. Is this a consequence of his upbringing to date?

We have always given him a lot of attention. Partly because it brings us pleasure; partly because we believe this is a good thing for development and self-confidence. He also gets a lot of one-on-one attention from Grandma when she has him. But has this led to an expectation of attention 24-7?

Do we spoil him with experiences? From a tiny baby, he has taken part in a huge range of classes and activities outside the home, as well as trips and outings at least twice a week. He is only 2¾ and has been to:

  • Maracajacks music sessions
  • Baby Sensory
  • Baby signing
  • Swimming lessons
  • Little Kickers football sessions
  • Toddler group
  • Play dates galore
  • Trips to local parks (inc splash pool in the Summer)
  • Soft play centres
  • Multiple trips to numerous local country parks and forests
  • Regular trips to local child- friendly garden centres
  • Rides on miniature steam trains
  • Regular visits to our local zoo, plus 2 other zoos included on the pass
  • Farm visits
  • Aquarium visits
  • Woodland walks
  • Seaside walks
  • Sandy and stony beach play
  • Marina trips (including the local ‘pink ferry’)
  • A trip to London on the train
  • A wedding in Scotland (involving a plane journey)
  • A Dorset camping trip
  • A holiday on the Isle of Wight (ferry trip and lots of cool day trips)
  • A stay at Centre Parcs (including an owl experience, seeing wildlife up close, swimming etc)
  • Our recent road trip (Scotland, Wales).

Just writing this list has exhausted me, and it’s not even an exhaustive list!

Undeniably, these experiences have helped with his learning and development, especially as they are always talked about and analysed afterwards. I also feel that another positive is that he is not afraid of new experiences. For example, starting preschool one morning a week at the age of 2½ was taken in his stride, and during his recent holiday he wasn’t phased by moving on regularly and sleeping in 5 different beds in the space of 2 weeks.

Life is one big adventure!

And don’t get me wrong, he finds a trip to the doctors and chemists just as ‘thrilling’ as many of the items on the list. As long as he has our attention 100% of the time. (Apologies to the doctor today who was constantly interrupted during our supposed 5 minute appointment: The Boy was on a high from playing with the Brio in the waiting room with full attention from myself and another elderly patient).

It is probably one of those nature-nurture questions which could be debated until the cows come home. Or perhaps we should ‘blame’ astrology – he is a Leo after all, just like his mumma!

“THERE’S a Costa Coffee!”

Our 1400 mile road trip with the littlies

We have just returned from a fortnight away. Call us crazy, but we thought it would be a good idea to travel (with The Boy and his 7 month-old sister) from the South Coast up to Scotland to see hubby’s folks for his birthday.

Plane and train journeys, though infinitely more appealing than a car journey in many ways, were discounted due to the sheer amount of stuff we felt we needed to take with us (baby paraphernalia and an abundance of clothes mainly, what with the unpredictable British climate and our track record for instigating unsettled weather fronts whenever we choose to holiday).

So, a ‘road trip’ it was. It sure wasn’t going to be akin to our Australian adventures 12 years previously, but we were willing to give it a whirl.

Welcome to Scotland!
Welcome to Scotland!

A couple of weeks previously, we had finally upgraded our family car from a small but efficient Ford Fiesta to the obligatory MPV in the form of a Citroen C4 Picasso. The extra boot (and behind the front seat) space was a necessity now that the back seat next to The Boy was occupied by a Pipsqueak-shaped cargo.

Rammed it still was, however: Lord knows how we will ever fit in our super sized tent, two-ring camp kitchen and all the other ‘essentials’ required for the future camping trips that I romanticise about!

I imagine that most parents of toddlers (or toddler/baby combos) would experience a certain amount of dread trepidation at the thought of such a long period of confinement journey.  

I admit that perhaps a couple of episodes of night-time insomnia in the weeks leading up to our trip may have been attributable to nightmarish premonitions about what the trip might behold for us. But on the day we left I felt strangely gung-ho about the whole affair.

We had sensibly decided to minimise ‘risk’ by breaking up the journey into more manageable chunks, stopping for a Monday to Friday Centre Parcs break on the way up and a stay with friends on the way back. It was going to be just fine.

I had recently read a couple of blog posts about travelling with littlies. They recommended packing snacks galore, carefully planning service station stops timed around usual naps and eating routines and investing in seat-back DVD players.

None of these survival strategies were executed here I’m afraid. For a start, we are (frustrated) owners of possibly the only toddler in the world who has not napped in the car during the daytime since he was approximately 6 months old. But he still typically snoozes for a couple of hours in his bed after lunch when we’re at home. He also never says that he is hungry so snacks are not a primary distraction. Furthermore, with Pipsqueak’s sleep all over the place, her daytime feeding aversion and being only recently weaned, predictable routines are non-existent.

On a wing and a prayer, with our boxette of Julia Donaldson story CDs, a CBeebies magazine and a handful of music CDs selected to help us reminisce about our carefree days of freedom, we were off. The breadsticks were mistakenly left in the boot with the bag of essential foodie provisions (ie. proper coffee and tea bags plus a colourful array of Ella’s Kitchen purée pouches).  As advised by the ‘experts’, the recently potty trained boy wore pants not pull-ups.

An hour later, the traffic has been sluggish, we’re half the distance from home that we expected to be, the boy is white as a sheet and sobbing that he doesn’t “feel vewy well, Mummy,”  and Pipsqueak is loudly complaining (screaming) about being restrained in a backward-facing car seat. We pull up at a petrol station praying for car sickness medication to find a boy with a very wet trouser area and sopping car seat cover (despite the well-placed waterproof sheeting).

Happy holidays!

Things could only get better. And luckily they did. Pipsqueak relaxed and realised that naps were indeed possible in broad daylight, the boy felt better after some homoeopathic sickness remedies and a change of clothes and the ‘fun’ started.

The Boy is renowned as being a huge chatterbox. This is the premise on which my blog is based. Granted, journeys always pass more quickly when there is some good banter, and he was pleased to oblige with the conversation starters and entertainment.

However, we did encounter a bit of a technical issue which we didn’t really foresee. Namely, the inability to hear The Boy easily from his seat in the back. This meant that his chatter was punctuated regularly with us asking him to repeat himself more loudly; him repeating himself over and over as we craned and concentrated with all our might to fathom what he might be asking/saying and me (as passenger due to ongoing sleep deprivation) ending up with a cricked neck and strained side as I regularly manoeuvred in the front seat to lip read.

Still, The Boy had a ball.

He counted lorries. He spotted his favourite logos on said lorries (on the return journey, Kimberly Clark of all brand names could be added to his ‘wow’ list: a legacy of all his public toilet trips whilst out and about). He named transport types (including car transporters, coaches and caravans) and pointed out VWs, Fords and Citroens. He even enjoyed the miles of slow-moving roadworks (where he learnt to distinguish JCB and CAT diggers, rollers and bulldozers).  He was in heaven when, on a services advertisement board he spotted M&S, Costa, Starbucks or McDonalds logos; if he spied the buildings themselves it was as though he awarded himself extra bonus points: his grin said it all.

"MY turn to drive!"
“MY turn to drive!”

We were kept entertained with his unique two year-old perception of the world: “Look! Sliding doors!” (he’d noticed how the sun visors on the C4 can be moved far back to reveal a sort of semi-sunroof). He had us in stitches with his application of ‘new’ vocabulary: “Have we arrived yet, Daddy?” and melted our heart when he spent a good twenty minutes at one point trying to make Pipsqueak laugh when she started grumbling, finishing with “I love you.”

Between chatterbox moments, The Boy could be found reading his magazine in such a grown-up way (holding it like a commuter might on a train journey) or listening avidly to our music and asking about the track name and artist. (“Jack Johnson is a little bit similar to Bob Marley, Daddy.”) It is sometimes really hard to believe that he is only two years old!

All in all, would we contemplate such a journey again? Yes definitely. On the way home, totally exhausted from all the excitement and exertion and an almost complete absence of naps throughout our trip, The Boy even slept in the car for over an hour.

I could get used to this!
I could get used to this!

Next time, though, I quite fancy the South of France for its weather!

“No no no, not OUTSIDE.”

My moment of calm.

We made it. We are at Sherwood Forest Centre Parcs, on the first leg of our two week family holiday.

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The supposed 3.5 hour journey up here yesterday was ‘eventful’: Myself and The Boy suffering from motion sickness in our new car in the slow-moving traffic; Pipsqueak struggling to nap as the sun managed to work its way around the edges of the sunshade and directly into her eyes; a wee-wee accident from the boy that soaked through his jeans and the seat mat into his carseat; then a standstill traffic jam just as we were needing to stop for lunch.

But get here we did. And so far, so good.

Pipsqueak went down easily for her morning nap (it’s a miracle!) and I am currently sitting outside on our woodland patio in the actual sunshine. The trees are swaying in the breeze, the leaves rustling and the birds tweeting happily. From time to time, our resident ducks waddle up to say hello, a squirrel hurries busily past or an enormous rabbit pops out from the briars, wriggling its nose and chewing on something tasty.

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For the first time in a long time, I am feeling relaxed and serenely happy.

I know it’ll only last for five minutes, but that’s okay. And yes, the peaceful sounds of the woodlands are punctuated by the cries of a distant baby and the yells of a toddler walking by. But it is not my baby and it is not my toddler.

My toddler didn’t want to go outside.

Yes, you read that right!  We are surrounded by a beautiful forest, it is not raining, there are animals all around, crunchy leaves to kick, pinecones to collect, minibeasts to spot, logs to climb upon and mossy hills to run down. And The Boy wants to sit in his “new bedloom” (bedroom) and watch Milkshake on TV.

Nothing would persuade him to come and explore with Mummy, so when the protest screams threatened to wake Pipsqueak, we gave up. Because we know from experience that he’ll change his mind later (the TV and the double bed in his room are too much of a novelty to abandon quite yet). And because this is a holiday and my mantra for it is ‘no worries’.

And I am enjoying my moment of calm.

Note

As I finished typing this, The Boy emerged through the sliding doors. We went for my desired woodland wander. He collected pinecone “treasure” and we discovered a wildlife lookout on the edge of a lake where we watched squirrels and birdlife and The Boy entertained himself opening and closing the door of his “secret den”.

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Pipsqueak is still sleeping! Life is good.

“I LIKE the number 10!”

…And other things that rock my boy’s world

How I wish I could get inside the mind of my toddler sometimes!  Yes, toddlerdom is clearly tough at times but the simple pleasures he finds in everyday life are both fascinating and spirit-raising.  I feel so lucky that he so vociferously shares these pleasures multiple times an hour (in between more negative trains of thought, naturally!).

Time for a list; this time a chart countdown:

Top 10
Things that Rock my Boy’s World

#10:  His sister (“I love youuuu”).
Just creeping into the charts, Pipsqueak has waited 6 looong months to gain a space in her big brother’s affections. It has taken much charming on her part; smiling, cooing, reaching out to him and staring at him endearingly whenever he is within eye-shot.

Finally, he now tells her he loves her, tells us he likes her, shows and teaches her things and has even been known on occasion to hold her hand, stroke her hair or kiss her goodnight. We have yet to convince him to actually cuddle her or hold her for ‘that’ frame-worthy photograph, however.

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#9:  Shapes
With the purchase of Usborne’s ‘Lift-the-Flap Shapes’ book a couple of weeks ago, a new shapes obsession was born. He points out shapes to his keyworker at preschool, and to us around the home and out and about.

When we visited Milestones Museum in Basingstoke, he noted on arrival that the building was a ‘semi-circle’. That’s my boy! (This is a lesson starter that I have used when teaching 7 year-olds!)

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Much to our amusement, at the start of our recent potty training mission, he would do a little wee, stand up and declare “That one’s an oval, Mummy.”  Whatever floats your boat, E!

#8:  The Zoo
The Boy likes animals. I like that he likes animals. Maybe one day he could become a vet and earn bucket-loads of money whilst saving the lives of our furry friends.

We are lucky enough to live just 20 minutes away from a really decent zoo, so of course we have taken advantage of this and have bought an annual pass for three years running.  Many a memorable morning/afternoon/day has been spent at the zoo and I’ve loved witnessing how The Boy’s engagement with the animals has grown: From signing ‘duck’ and ‘tiger’ whilst flapping his arms or banging on the glass at 10 months to really observant and detailed descriptions now at 32 months.

The Boy’s favourite animal at the zoo is the giraffe (the same as Mummy’s) and he can tell you lots of facts about them, including that they live in Africa and have black tongues.

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But, just to be a bit different, his second favourite is the mongoose.  I wasn’t even sure what a mongoose was until recently!

#7:  Marks and Spencers (“Can we go to M&S? Peease?”)
Please don’t judge! Honestly, in general conversation with The Boy, you would be forgiven for summising that we have spent his entire upbringing to date dragging him around the shops. This is so far from the truth it is laughable.

However, we do happen to have a rather large retail park style M&S practically on our doorstep and we *might* have made it sound like the most exciting place on the planet, just so that (once or twice a month) we can go and have a coffee in the café there.

The tractor-shaped pasta and the escalators have become particular highlights of this ‘trip’ since the buggy has been ditched (before that it was the lift; before that sitting in a highchair and charming all the elderly ladies with his cutsie smile and baby babble).  Mr Don’t Say maintains that The Boy’s love for this retail chain began as young as a week old, when we went emergency shopping for larger feeding bras and he ‘posed for the camera’ in the lingerie section.

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#6:   The number 10. (“There’s TEN! I LIKE the number ten.”)
The Boy has been obsessed with numbers for a long time, too. This may or may not have had something to do with the rather large IKEA print that featured in his nursery (Mr Don’t Say often pointed the numbers out to him upon fetching him from a nap). I guess as a teacher I have encouraged this interest and we do count things often when out and about or when reading. But I do wonder what’s so special about ten.

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#5:  Singing & dancing
The Boy’s penchant for singing has been discussed in a previous post; he still declares daily how much he enjoys it. This has been clear to us from a young age: his first ‘sentences’ were heard down the monitor one evening as he finally added the words to his nightly hummed rendition of ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’.  I am fascinated to know how long this love will last and where this passion might lead him; he is pretty much note perfect nowadays. The school choir? Lead singer in a band? The sky’s the limit.

The Boy’s love of dancing really became clear during a recent trip to a bouncy castle soft play area. This was somewhere we hadn’t been before, but we will definitely be visiting again.  We went with The Boy’s best buddy who, upon entering the room, immediately began scrambling over and jumping off the soft play pieces, running around and generally making the most of the equipment provided. Meanwhile, The Boy stood in the middle of the mats absolutely entranced, swaying his body and staring into the distance.

When quizzed, it became clear that he was trying to work out if he recognised the children’s song currently blasting out of the speakers.  “I LIKE this one!” he declared excitedly as ‘I’m a Little Teapot’ came on, and he immediately broke into all the actions!

Honestly, the amount of time spent on the equipment probably totalled 10 mins (and took some persuasion); the rest of the 90 minute session was spent dancing (often intentionally to the ‘audience’ of other parents: “Look at ME!”) and pointing out the numbers on the gymnastics posters on the gym wall!

#4:  Stories (“Can I have just ONE MORE story? Peease?”)
The Boy is a book junkie.  He is absolutely hooked and extra stories are the ultimate bribe treat here.  This is one boy whose eyes light up at birthdays and Christmases when he gets to open a ‘book shaped’ gift.  Stories have never been reserved just for bedtime in this house, and I hope they never will be.  They are constantly reached for, by The Boy himself, by us, and by his Grandma.  I’m glad: we all get so much pleasure from reading with him.  The staff at preschool did get a bit of a shock though when they asked what his favourite story was: “Anything by Julia Donaldson” was his confident reply!

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#3:   Miro (our cat)
Any toddler who has grown up with a cat, dog or any other pet who is treated as part of the family is going to become very attached.  Miro and The Boy have been hanging out together since he was about 4 months old. Luckily Miro is far more tolerant of The Boy than he is of us and puts up with a lot of rather rough cuddling, stroking and even tail pulling. This is probably mainly due to the fact that The Boy is the only one to really give him any attention during the day, as I can generally be found running around like a mad thing keeping the two little humans of the family alive and out of trouble!

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#2:  Brand and sign spotting (“Look it’s from IKEA shop, Mummy!”)
With a father who is a graphic designer and a mother hung up on displays as a teacher (and, if I’m really honest a bit of a sucker for certain clothing/toiletry brands), perhaps this interest was inevitable. But this interest is actually bordering on obsession! The Boy literally stops in his tracks wherever he is and whatever he is doing or saying if he spots a logo or label that he is familiar with.

When he was just starting to talk, the main interest was in cars. Whenever he saw a VW, he’d point and say “Daddy car!”; for Fords it was “Mummy car!” Navigating car parks became very tricky and time-consuming, especially as he had to go up to a stationary vehicle and actually point to the badge, then circumnavigate it searching for further logos, for example on the wheels or number plates!

Next came a preoccupation with shops. He recognised (‘could read’!) the wording and logos for Marks and Spencers (obviously), Co-op (“Co-op shop, Daddy!”), Sainsburys and TU clothing, IKEA and Next. He still points these out on packaged food items, carrier bags, clothing labels, branded lorries and advertising boards.

Right now, he is also really interested in signs. Yes, any signs. The boy has always been a rather laid back sort (read ‘slow and considered in all he does’) but this makes walks about town infuriatingly slow! In order to ask his favourite question, “What does THAT sign say, Mummy?”, he has to stop, point, make sure that I am giving both the sign and him my full attention, get an answer and often get a detailed explanation! It is exhausting, but he is insatiable.

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Believe me, when we are out and about, we constantly get amused/incredulous/pitying looks from strangers. I do love our quirky little man.

#1:  The garden.
This only just pips brands and signs at the post in the battle for first place in The Boy’s top ten. And only because of the many facets of opportunity for pleasure that it presents. Amongst recent declarations are:

“I LOVE stones!” Well, don’t we all?! Playing with stones was a favourite activity last summer: moving them, throwing them, sliding them down the plastic slide and his favourite – lining them up along windowsills. This year they have become “Treasure!”

“Look at me, I’m running!”
Running, bouncing on the trampoline, throwing the football around; we are all for encouraging these activities since physical accomplishments don’t exactly come naturally to The Boy.

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“I am GOOD at watering!” Which is quite helpful now he’s strong enough to hold his can and use it without soaking himself in the process. #slavelabour.

“Peease can I do some SWEEPING?” Top marks to Daddy who transferred The Boy’s love of the dustpan and brush at toddler group into another pretty helpful job – sweeping leaves from the patio.

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…And then there’s bubbles, the sandpit, the tent, the easel, picking daisies, mud pies, picnics: the list is never-ending and saved our sanity during our recent incubation period necessitated by a double-wammy of chicken pox.

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I am so pleased that my boy is an outdoorsy type, just like his Mummy 🙂

I adore witnessing The Boy constantly evolving in the way he engages with the world. I wonder what Pipsqueak will grow up to love?

I would love to hear what turns your little people on so please do comment 🙂

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The Twinkle Diaries

“Let’s talk about ME.”

My boy LOVES to talk.  He may not be able to jump yet, is overly cautious on climbing equipment and is reluctant to try out his balance bike. But he’d be a champ at a 12 hour toddler chat-a-thon.  I don’t know WHERE he gets it from.

In the afternoons when I go in to get him up from his nap, as long as he is already awake, he often likes to instigate a conversation (otherwise, of course, he is a right grump).

One much-rehearsed conversation point is a(nother) recount of his day so far:  “This morning we…”.  This is a prompt for me to talk about the highlights of the morning; a story peppered with plenty of questions for him to answer – posed by me and by him. He positively digs a question and answer session: he’s going to be a right teacher’s pet when he gets to school.

I like this one as it makes me realise how much learning is going on in his little head-nod.  It also allows me an imaginary pat on the back that he is enjoying lots of memorable experiences at such a young age.  It’s often a great opportunity to praise him again for good behaviour, talk to him about bad behaviour and consequences and also of course to help him to make sense of the world.  Once a teacher, always a teacher!

Yesterday he surprised me with “Let’s talk about Daddy.  I like Daddy,” which I found endearing (but what about Mummy?!).  In response to my question “What does Daddy like?” he replied, “Going to Marks and Spencer shop and going up and down on the moving stairs!” which is, of course, one of the things HE likes doing on a rainy day with Daddy.  (Daddy just so happens to rate the M&S flat white.)

But my all-time favourite has to be the totally innocent and self-indulgent “Let’s talk about ME!” (said with the world’s biggest grin).  He loves to be reminded about how gorgeous and handsome he is; he is his father’s child through and through. We talk about his likes (currently preschool, sharks, dinosaurs, the zoo, singing, numbers, letters, shapes, digging, our cat, hugs, Julia Donaldson books and Tinga Tinga Tales on CBeebies) and dislikes (the duvet cover being on his bed, doing anything under time pressure, his sister crying and getting dressed). We talk about family and who loves him and he recites his home address. We talk about how brave and confident he has been starting preschool and how clever he is that he knows all his shapes and can count so well. And he smiles and smiles and smiles.

And so do I.

Blog post 6Yes, toddler egocentrism can be downright frustrating at times, but I can’t help but love this side of it. Long may his self-belief and confidence last before self-consciousness and social conventions squash such natural, unrestrained self-adoration.

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