5 Things My Children Do To Keep Me In My Place

Sometimes I like to go a bit wild, and get ideas above my station. You know, like the idea that I am the most important person in my children’s lives. Or that I’m making their world a better place. Or that I can cook.

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It doesn’t last long, though. Oh no, this is a strictly time-limited situation. You see, within about 3.2 seconds, the children can put me straight back into my place. With less than 5 words.

Here’s how.

1. I Want Daddy

I’m sure this one will not be an unfamiliar scenario for most of you. I find this comforting. Because if I didn’t know that most kids do this, I’d be pretty sad right now.

This is Little Girl’s favourite at the moment. She’s going through one of those clumsy phases. She’s had a growth spurt, her legs have got longer, and she has all the grace of a recently birthed foal.

So she stubs her toe, or trips on the rug. Or the worst, she stands on a Smurf. That’s gotta sting.

She collapses on the floor sobbing. And Little Girl doesn’t hold back on tears. I’m talking full blast, sodden face, drippy nose tears. The kind that you recoil from slightly because you can feel your eardrums vibrating.

I do what any parent would do. I make sympathetic noises. I open my arms wide and offer her a soothing cuddle.

She accepts and clambers, snivelling, onto my lap. I fold my arms around her, kiss her forehead and rock her gently. Then, obviously, I kiss it better.

She carries on crying. I’m telling you, Little Girl’s got some stamina.

I rock some more, and stroke her hair. Surely this will fix it. I am her mother. For over 3 years I have held her and soothed away her pain. This will work.

Suddenly, she sits up. She pushes her hair out of her eyes, wipes her nose on her sleeve (ick) and looks up at me. I smile and kiss her. All better!

Then, she utters three words.

“I want Daddy!”

And on she sobs.

Thanks, Little Girl.

2. The Kiss-Slap

Don’t you think it’s cool when babies learn to kiss for the first time? I mean, it’s disgusting as well. There’s nothing quite like the sensation of a warm, open mouth smeared DSC_0700with drool planting itself on your cheek. Still, awwwww.

Squeak has just mastered this. She started out by blowing kisses at bedtime, which was freaking adorable. But now she’s doing her best to kiss everyone. Of course, she often misses and you have to dodge the rock-hard forehead flying towards your teeth. But come on, she’s a baby. Let’s not judge.

It’s beautiful. She is learning how to outwardly express her love. Every time she does it I feel my heart melt a bit, and I can’t help but smile.

Apparently, that is not cool with Squeak.

She has come up with a solution, though. And it’s a great one. It’s efficient, simple and it really gets the message across.

She leans in for the kiss. Then, before I’ve even had time to break the spit-string that joins us together, she lifts her hand and slaps me right across the face.

Hard.

Good feeling is gone, Squeak. Good feeling is gone.

3. Rejection

You know that moment when you have the best idea ever? Your brain is hit by a flash of inspiration and you are excited.

I get this a lot. Especially relating to things to do with the kids. Maybe it’s too much time on Pinterest, or maybe I really am a complete genius. I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

Frequently it’s crafty stuff. Something like this or this. Soooo awesome. Could you resist?

I can’t! So I gather up equipment and children. I tell Big Girl all about the activity we are about to do. I show her pictures on the computer of what will happen. She makes all the right noises, “Oohs” and “Aahs” and suchlike.

This face is optional.

This face is optional.

I am definitely awesome right now.

We sit down at the table, ready to create. And Big Girl turns to me and says:

“Can’t I just play out?”

Yes, of course standing around in the street is as exciting as making your own lava lamp.

Brilliant.

4. Simple Honesty

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I try to cook pretty good meals for the kids, on the whole. And apart from my insistence on throwing mushrooms in almost everything (sorry, Little Girl), it’s stuff I know they like.

So knowing this, when I sit them down at the table I’m usually sure they will eat what they’re given. At a push, maybe they’ll even enjoy it.

But for some reason, I always make the same mistake.

I ask them what it is like.

Now, you may be scoffing right now. I would be, if I was someone other than me. If they like the food and they’re eating it, obviously the answer would be positive. Wouldn’t it?

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If you think this, then you really haven’t been reading my other stuff.

Come on, you know kids are out to screw us over. You do, right? I must have said it at least 87 times.

At least.

This is how the exchange plays out in my kitchen:

We sitting down, eating our meals. The kids are tucking in with at least a little enthusiasm. All is good. I take a pause from my meal, put down my fork and smile.

And I say, “How’s your dinner, guys?”

Big Girl jumps in straight away with a loud, “Amazing!” This makes me happy. I love to see them enjoying their food.

Without fail, Little Girl then interjects with a simple, “Yucky.”

Nice.

5. Silence, Mother

I love to sing. I spend a lot of the time I am in the house playing music and singing along. The time I’m not spending creeping around a sleeping baby, anyway.

I tend to only do it in secret at home. It’s just how I roll. I’m not that bad though, if I do say so myself.

As an aside, I do a pretty good Heather Small impression as well. I know that looks like it would be improbable, to say the least. But it’s true.

Irrelevant, but true.

So it’s accurate to say that the children are subjected to my tuneful tones fairly frequently. And Little Girl has shown great skill in picking up song lyrics. (As evidenced when she got undressed yesterday and sang, “I’m naked and I’m far from home!” That’s contextual singing, that is.)

If I’m lucky, they like it. But more often, this is how it pans out:

Here’s me, doing whatever needs doing with a song. Just call me a regular old, slightly messed-up Mary Poppins. Little Girl is playing a confusing game involving My Little Ponies and a pizza cutter.

Suddenly, I hear, “Sshhhhh!”

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I turn around, and a frowning Little Girl says to me, “You hurtin’ my ears, Mum.”

Well.

That’s me brought down to earth with a bump, then.

Virtuous Parenting

My kids are quite good at playing on their own. Well, mainly the big two. They will happily go off and create an elaborate fantasy world together, and remain there until DSC_4277food is mentioned. And even though Squeak is in the ‘OMG, where are you? Phew, there you are. No wait, where are you again?’ phase, she’s still content to barrel around the living room on the hunt for small objects.

It’s pretty sweet. I can check the computer, do some knitting, maybe tidy up if I’m feeling extra energetic. And if they’re really focussing on their games, I can even sneak in some secret eating.

But you know, you can’t do that all the time.

Sometimes, I want to feel that warm glow inside me that says, ‘You are good at this shit.’ I want the children to look at me with grinning, excited faces and love in their eyes.

This is when I engage in the aforementioned Virtuous Parenting.

For me, it can take numerous forms, some of which I will describe below. But they all have a few things in common. They are simple, they are fun, and they almost always result in a big mess.

1. The Nature Shelf

The nature shelf came about as an unexpected flash of inspiration. We had been out collecting autumn leaves to make pictures with, for the girls to take into school. In my mind, this was a fun park outing, where we would discuss the different textures and colours of the leaves, and hunt for acorns and other small things. Virtuous. And that did happen, up to a point.

Other things which happened included: Me yelling, ‘Don’t pick up that one, there’s poo on there!’, me pulling fake pleasure faces when a dirty hand offered a soggy, torn leaf for my perusal, Big Girl and Little Girl falling down the same hole within 30 seconds of each other, and the finding of 4 bird corpses. Hmmm, maybe not quite so good.

Back at home, they had a great time making their pictures. I mean, yes, Little Girl did spend most of the time gluing herself to herself, but we managed to get a few leaves to paper. There were a lot of bugs in that bag.

It was then that I had my lightbulb moment.

‘Do you know what would be cool?’ I said. The girls looking at me expectantly, if a tad warily. My ideas are not always good ideas.

‘We should totally make a nature shelf! We could put some of the things we found today on it, and then collect more when we’re out and about!’ They were pretty keen.

Handily, a friend had given us a shelving unit just a few days before, and there was a spare shelf just waiting for us to leaf it up.

So I got out my hand-knitted, leaf-green wool blanket (I know, right?) I had made for a newborn Squeak, and spread it out as a base. The girls loved laying out the different leaves, acorns and seeds we had found.

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There it was. That warm glow. I may have given a happy sigh. I felt totally virtuous and awesome.

And now, every time we go out, they hunt for new things to add to the nature shelf.

Therein lies the problem. I got swept away in the idea of the amazing shelf, and I made one crucial mistake.

The kids love bringing stuff home. As much as I try and persuade them to ‘leave it for the birds’ or ‘leave it with its family,’ my house is still completely stuffed with organic matter.

In the warmer months, the mounds of expiring dandelions exude a slight scent of urine. And of course, there are the branches, stones, bugs and other natural items.

What was I thinking? I just went and gave the kids an actual reason to bring home the rotten debris that they find on the floor.

Yeah, really clever, Char. Really virtuous.

2. Messy Experiments

I can place the blame for this one solely at the door of Pinterest. Over a period of a few months, I have viewed far too many amazing photos of cool crafts and science experiments. It is addictive. So when I saw a tutorial for erupting snow, I was hardly going to say no, was I?

I planned it carefully. Every base was covered. Squeak was napping, so there was no small baby interrupting the proceedings. I had bought some cat litter trays to contain the chaos. I set it up in the kitchen which has a wipe clean floor. Nothing could go wrong.

And do you know what, it was pretty awesome. The snow felt really nice and, somehow, cold! Big Girl and Little GIrl spent a good hour making snowballs, burying toys and pushing diggers through it. An hour. That is like, forever. They were so into it that they forgot to argue. And once they finished doing that, I got the vinegar sprays out.

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So cool! The snow fizzed and bubbled. The girls thought it was the most fantastic thing they had ever seen. They made mini volcanoes and bubble baths.  I added baking soda and vinegar until there was none left in the house. I was the best mum in the world.

There was only one downside to this experiment.

The mess.

By the time the girls were done, they had splashed just about every surface in the kitchen. And Squeak woke up, so I decided to leave it while I got her fed and happy to play.

Massive error.

When I got back to the kitchen, the mixture had dried and somewhat adhered to everything. I wiped and scrubbed for what seemed like forever. Are you aware of how abrasive baking soda is? My hands were soft for ooh, about 3 hours.

I had to give up in the end. There’s only so long you can spend rubbing the same powdery dust from one area to another before you have to call it quits.

I think it took about 4 weeks until it was finally all gone.

It was totally worth it though.

3. Made-Up Games

I have to say, the talent for this mostly lies with Big Girl. Her imagination knows no bounds, and some of ideas are actually really fun. She’s a livewire though, and can never sit still. Her games reflect this character trait.

My wires are decidedly not live.

So when I came up with the idea for ‘Bad Fairy,’ I was delighted. A game that involves me sitting on the couch while the girls run around? Genius.

This is how it goes:
I sit on the couch, preferably wearing a too-small witch’s hat and holding half a fairy wand.

Then I growl, ‘I’m the Bad Fairy, and I’m going to turn you into an… ogre’s armpit, unless you can find me something… red.’ And off they go in a giggling panic, to find what I asked for. If they look like they’re slowing down, I just roar a bit to speed them up.

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They find what they need, and run back before the ‘Bad Fairy’ gets too impatient.

Obviously then you can change the variables for next time, and have them racing around for ages!

There are only two downsides to this game. The first is that they insist on putting everything they bring back on the couch where I am sitting. Within five minutes I am completely buried in a pile of plastic crap with pointy bits and sharp edges.

The second downside consists of just a few short words.

‘Let’s swap places!’

Sigh.

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