On putting children to bed

You have a confession to make. You are still putting your son to sleep. You lie next to him for ten minutes while he strokes your eyebrows and gently tugs on your nose and then he drops off. If he is really having trouble descending into the land of nod, he licks his finger first. The resulting sensation isn’t one you wouldn’t be in a hurry to recommend that other people to experience, but it seems to do the trick so hey. Sorted.

What, other people’s children do not find eyebrow stroking the perfect soother? How odd. It’s been the Star’s preferred comfort rag since he was quite small. At least he has stopped assuaging his nervousness at meeting new people* by stroking their eyebrows now, which was a phase he went though at around two and a half. There were lots of startled toddlers in Saaaaf Laaandaaan in those days, I can tell you. He’s also got the message that Papa is not keen, and that Mama would prefer not to have her nose pulled when she is trying to do up shoelaces, which is all progress too.

You do not quite know how this started, but you can probably say it had something to do with your failure to give the Star a dummy. Mind you, the Comet also never got a dummy but she does not try to smooth down any parts of your face in order to calm herself down.

No, she twiddles her hair. What there is of it. Had you known how long it would take to grow, you would never have let your husband shave it off just after her first birthday.**

She also fiddles with her own eyelashes.

Now that really is weird.

But then when you were a kid, you slept with your old cot blanket over your covers proper. And you called it your ‘sucking quilt’.

And you didn’t give it up until you were in double figures at least.

Wonder what happened to it.

*No sniggering at the back there. The Star does get nervous. He just shows it in funny ways.

**If anyone is thinking there’s a story here, there is. But not a very interesting one.

On rude words.

You swear. A certain amount.

Mainly in the car. You say ‘oh BUGGER!’ quite a lot when driving around London. Also, ‘BOLLOCKS!’ and sometimes ‘You unprintable numpty! Don’t you honk at me/ cut me up/ steal my parking space/ drive at 2 miles an hour when the traffic is unusually light!’

The Star has picked up on this. You have been called aside by his teacher for a quiet word. The Star, she said, dropped his scarf on the floor. And then he said (whispering) ‘oh BUGGER!’. You looked innocent, shook your head sorrowfully and taught him to say ‘oh PANTS!’ instead. Well hey, it always worked on teenage language students.They found it hilarious enough to actually use.

Sure enough, since four year olds think ‘Poo!’ is the last word in comedy this was very successful, until your cunning came up against the difference between language learning and language acquisition.

Language acquirers extrapolate rules based on examples and apply them to new bits of language. Children go through a phase, for example, where they take the rule for Past Simple regular verbs (add, broadly speaking, ‘ed’) and apply it to all verbs, little realising that the English language is sneaky and will require them to learn off by heart whole swathes of other irregular, largely unpredictable past tense forms too. Children say, in short, ‘He writed…’ rather than ‘He wrote…’

So it should have come as no surprise that given the example of ‘oh PANTS!’, you caught your son saying ‘oh COATS!’ the other day.

And perhaps it wouldn’t have, except in the mouth of the Star, and given that comprehension is in part made up of us hearing what we expect to hear in any given context, the expletive ‘oh COATS!’ sounds a lot like…..

Yes, quite.

You hate to think what his teacher will say.

Christmas squee

Your son’s key worker assistant teacher lady pulled you over on the last but one day of school.

This rarely bodes well. Last time this happened she told you that the Star had said a heartfelt fuck when he dropped his scarf on the grubby floor. You smiled that special smile parents have when their children’s teacher admonishes them. The very bright, overly delighted one. The one that says ‘I do not resent your right to pass judgement on my child at all‘. You also feigned horror, shifted guiltily, muttered ‘appropriate communicative function’ and made a mental note to stop swearing at all the other drivers when you are in the car. Or possibly stop driving in London altogether. Yes, that would do it.

This time, however, she wanted to tell you about the Star and Father Christmas, who had paid the class a visit that day. Gave them all a rather nice book, too, which was generous of him. Being a religious school it was about Noah. But being a Church of England school it has about as much religious content as All I want for Christmas is you.

Anyway. Towards the end of Santa’s visit, your son got up and went to stare intently out of the window up at the sky. The assistant teacher lady drifted over and asked him what was up.

And the Star said ‘I’m looking for the reindeer’.


On statistics

So the Comet has just woken up with a raging temperature and in the same 30 minutes, the Star’s cough got the better of him and he has thrown up.

All over his Papa, which makes that a 100% record. Papa covered in 100 litres of sick in the last four and a half years, Mama zero. Result.

You have resisted the impulse to take a picture of the carnage for blogging purposes. Just.

On reinventing the wheel

The Star has never been much of a one for the excessive use of the word ‘why’? This is because, you now realise, he has been working things out for himself.

Much as you love a good expound, you are finding the Star’s explanations of the world, accompanied as they usually are with an earnest ‘I am sure this is true, Mama’ most entertaining.

The latest one involves the mysterious disappearance of the spiders you have both been observing on the way to school.

The Star is sure they have gone to Africa. Because it’s warmer. And to see their spider friends there.

You did try to suggest that if it is spiders they want to visit, then Australia, land of the 5 million spiders, 9 million of them poisonous, might be the place, but the Star wasn’t having any of it (he was sure).

This is because the Star’s little animal obsessed brain has decided that Africa is the ultimate fantasy land, full of marvels and wonders. Which is not really that odd a conclusion for someone who watches a lot of wildlife documentaries to leap to. You couldn’t even say that he is wrong, except that he is also sure that no people live there too. You know this because you asked him. It is very hard not to egg the Star on inappropriately when he starts being sure about things.

So in the case of the spiders, you didn’t even try not to and instead enquired how he though the spiders got to their paradise-on-earth.

The Star was sure that birds took them.

At which point you got carried away indeed and suggested that they hitched a lift by lassoing the birds with a specially spun silken rope.

‘Yes,’ said the Star, thoughtfully. ‘And then when they get to Africa, the spiders eat the birds.’

Anyway, what really delights you is that there’s always a certain logic to the Star’s pronouncements. Call yourself a fond Mama, but overall, in the case of the spiders, you feel that your four year old has displayed a wonderful grasp of things like migration patterns and life cycles.

Certainly it’s not much worse than yours because…

… in reality you, the thirty *cough* year old adult, don’t actually know what has happened to the spiders.

On why my children are cuter than yours #3,743

Your daughter spends a lot of her time these days moving chairs about.

You spend a lot of your time trying to wash up, stir hot liquids or chop things without her noticing.

Sadly the Comet’s observation powers are far greater than your ability to conduct covert cleaning or cooking maneuvers,  particularly as you have an open plan kitchen-living room.

You suppose you should be grateful that she is more interested in doing something other than watching TV. That she is clever enough to have figured out that is she is small but standing on something makes her bigger. That the solution to her not being able to reach the excitingly sharp object, the thrillingly hot thing  or the oodles of wet Mama is playing with up there is to toddle to the table, pull out a chair, turn it round, push it, adjust for corners or other inconvenient barriers such as Papa, push a bit more, frown at Babushka standing in the way, arrive at the destination, scramble aboard and arrive, grinning, next to you at the least convenient moment. And that she is now able to do this more and more quickly, given that both you and she have turned her pitching up next to you into a sort of race against time. You both know that you will turn the water off/ hide the washing up liquid/ fling the knife away/ move the saucepan on to the back burner as soon as her little head pops up, and her new purpose in life is to try to get there before you can decently do so.

But you are not. Grateful that is.

Quite apart from anything else it’s still a hell of a shock seeing a chair come screaming across the floor towards you without any immediately visible form of propulsion.

Having another pop at this Yeah Write thing.

On why my kids are cuter than yours #3,742

Your son has gone to sleep with all his new toys under his pillow.

He always puts all his new or most highly favoured toys under his pillow.

You don’t know why. You have never asked him why. You don’t know why you have never asked him why.

It may not have been the best idea tonight though.

He’s up to a total of eight. What with his haul of yesterday and a previously agreed reward for getting five stickers at school.*

You predict a yell at 3am when he rolls over and hits the horns on the freshly bought cow toy.

You are slowly transferring al the money from your bank account to Schleich, one cow/horse/elephant/dog at a time.

*The Star has become quite the sticker-holic. No good can come of this.