Monthly Archives: January 2015

‘Kelp!’ I need good TV!

My children have reached the surprisingly grown up ages of 9 and 7 (apparently achieved by stealth when I had my back turned to get a new pack of baby wipes) and this has led to many changes in our household.

Many of those changes are welcome. The day I was able to leave my house without a fully packed change bag in tow was a day of celebration and – despite having failed to improve the standard of tidiness in our home – clearing our downstairs living areas of all large plastic toys was also a revelation.

However, as well as dispensing with toddler paraphernalia, my growing children have also altered their TV preferences in a direction that is largely unsatisfactory. Stopping briefly in the living room last week, I managed to catch a 10 minute excerpt from the ‘Power Puff Girls’ – a current favourite. Whilst my two girls sat in goggle-eyed silence, apparently mesmerised by the bizarre story-line (as far as I could make out, evil alien broccoli had hypnotised the adult population and the power puff girls were needed to save the day – standard fare really), I found myself pining for the Nick Jr. years – that brief window between CBeebies and tween channels when I could sit with my children and watch cartoons that were made to entertain us all.

You know the ones I mean – that fabulous genre of programmes whose story-line and script are ostensibly aimed at kids, but have unmistakable jokes, asides and even innuendos aimed squarely at the parents. I LOVED those shows: the Backyardigans; Ben and Holly; Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! and even the ubiquitous Peppa Pig, with the ever present wryly humourous narration. I actively enjoyed watching all of these and, indeed, made it my mission to engineer our TV viewing to consist solely of Nick Jr. cartoons, leaving behind the frankly infuriating jolly chatter of Granny Murray and her ilk.

Amongst the many fabulous cartoons I discovered; fell in love with; and now yearn for, there is one that stand above all others and which I urge you to seek out if you have yet to become familiar with its delightful brilliance and that is ‘The Wonder Pets’. The basic premise of a duck, a turtle and a guinea pig living in a school and rushing to the aid of animals in trouble is pretty fabulous to start with, but add in a ridiculously catchy theme song and humour in every episode and you’re on to a winner.

But even in a fabulous series, there must always been one standout perfect episode and for the Wonder Pets their pinnacle of brilliance came in the episode ‘The Wonder Pets Save The Beetles.’ when the super team are called to rescue four Liverpudlian ‘beetles’ trapped in their yellow submarine. Who writes this stuff?! I take my hat off to them! They know the secret of good children’s TV is to entertain the parents who are beginning to feel like they may never escape the ever present grin of Mr Tumble/Justin/only man on TV and are considering resorting to slipping something a little stronger into their afternoon cuppa.

If I can pass on any advice to those of you still in the CBeebies world, it is to seek out these fabulous cartoons and luxuriate in their witty brilliance because it’s a very small window of opportunity. Sooner than you think, you too will be watching ‘Horseland’ and wondering what happened to those halcyon days when a Guinea Pig saving a Beetle whilst singing a song called ‘Kelp!’ brought sunshine to your day.

In which my children start to implode and I don’t know what to do.

This weekend has seen the culmination of a progressively worsening state of meltdown for my 9 year old. For once, even I feel that a detailed summary here is beyond my remit; suffice to say it has involved lots of angry outbursts and out-of-character meanness from said 9 year old, which ultimately left me at a loss for a solution.
On the one hand, I felt like there must be an underlying trigger for all this anger and that my job as a parent was to take a gentle approach in order to discover the root cause.
On the other hand, the mean, aggressive treatment of all around her was just not acceptable behaviour from a 9 year old and I felt like there needed to be some consequences for that.
For the umpteenth time in my parenting life, I really did not know what the right thing to do was. When we think about parenting from the bigger picture perspective, we can all agree that we just have to do our best by our kids; be a ‘good enough’ parent; and hope that will carry them through, but on the ground, in the every day, these decisions and choices are really tough. How DO I know what to do? What do I draw on to help me when I really can’t see what the right approach can be?
Added to my sense of bewilderment, came a sense of guilt. I know the ‘Mother Inferior’ title of my blog is meant mostly as a tongue in cheek comment on our tendency as parents to think that everyone else is doing a great job whilst we are floundering, but moments like this do make me think I must be doing something wrong. A better parent, I think to myself, would have a strategy for things like this or would at least recognise which might be the best strategy from a range of options!
I finally decided on a combined strategy mixing consequences (a week’s TV and ipad ban) and a concerted effort to try and uncover the mysterious underlying cause…although I am starting to feel like it may not be a simple as that. The idea of one, specific worry that will explain our children’s emotional outbursts is appealing in some way as it suggests a clear, identifiable problem that we can work to solve. Our efforts can be directed at ‘fixing’ this one thing and then ‘hey presto’ everything will fall back into place.
But maybe life is not as simple as that. All of us have our own emotional outbursts (goodness knows I definitely do!) but if someone were to ask us what the underlying cause was, then we would probably be as stumped as Ana was to explain the complex mix of emotions swirling under the surface.
So she doesn’t know, I don’t know. Please – if YOU know – help us out! But in the interim, we will have to muddle along and I will have to settle for being the best parent I can manage to be in the circumstances. It may often feel like that is an ‘inferior’ one, but maybe it is just about ‘good enough’.

Put on my worried shoes

We all worry don’t we? From the little things like whether you remembered to put toothpaste on the shopping list to the vast array of troubling issues in the big wide world around us.

Children are no different. The title of this post comes from a song on the soundtrack of the fabulous film adaptation of ‘Where the wild things are.’ : a perfect study of what it is like to be a child burdened with worries.

For me, the surprise has been the sheer range of things that trouble my children and cause them to lie awake at night.  Here are just some of the examples of the things that currently worry them:

1.  War

This worry has emerged on many occasions, triggered, in the main, by studying History at school. Now I am not a Historian so correct me if I’m wrong, but a great deal of the subject seems to be concerned with violence and bloodshed.  Whilst this is clearly very interesting and important to learn about, it does also appear to have given my children a disproportionate fear that they may imminently find themselves living in a war zone.

Studying WW2 left Ana with weeks of sleepless nights and tears over the fact that we may be on the cusp of WW3.  I often find it challenging to walk the line between being truthful about the state of the world and trying to ease her concerns, hence my responses – in summary – were something like this:

‘Yes Ana, there are lots of countries at war and lots of people fighting.’

‘No I don’t think WW3 is about to breakout.’

‘No, I can’t guarantee that it won’t either.’

‘Yes, the world is a worrying place’

‘Sigh’  ‘Why don’t we watch ‘Come dine with me?’

Worse was to come when Ana began to teach Faith what she had learnt and we then ended up with weeks of Faith watching the skies for bombs and suggesting we go to the cellar as our bomb shelter. I am never letting these two watch Saving Private Ryan, let alone any Oliver Stone Vietnam classics – they would never recover!

2. The news. 

Faith has a significant issue with the news at the moment. She can’t watch it and interrupts anyone discussing it to tell them to stop talking about it.  Even starting a sentence with ‘I heard on the news…’ is enough to get her covering her ears and begging you to change the subject.

Solution: ‘Why don’t we all watch ‘Come dine with me?’

3. Agatha Christie TV adaptations 

 Now this one is probably my fault.  When I was off with a poorly Faith before Christmas, I mistakenly assumed that it was like when they were little and you could basically have any grown up TV on in the background and they would take no notice.  Unfortunately, my happy afternoon of ironing and watching Miss Marple whilst Faith dozed on the sofa resulted in a flurry of questions and, ultimately, panicked tears as Faith tried to estimate her chances of being murdered in any number of inventive ways made to look like an accident.  Ohps! Best cross Miss Marple off my list of appropriate family viewing…..’How about instead (you’ve guessed it!) we watch ‘Come dine with me?’

4. Being a good person 

Ana (my clone child) has an excessive dose of guilt.  She feels bad when she might have upset someone; she feels guilty when she spills or breaks thing (and no amount of immediate reassurance that it doesn’t matter will alter that); and she is particularly concerned with ‘doing the right thing’.  Now this is all very admirable, clearly and – truth be known – being the shoddy parent that I am, I often manipulate it to my advantage to ‘encourage’ good behaviour, but even I recognise that her worries are slightly over-the-top.  When she came downstairs late one evening before Christmas to tell me, through the sobs, that she couldn’t sleep as she kept think about ‘all the bad things I have done’, I realised I had met my match.  This girl can worry for England!   ‘Nevermind.  Why don’t we watch ‘Come dine with me?’

5. Plans for the future.

 Both girls are very keen on discussing their future career choices.  Ana oscillates between a career as a teacher; an animal rescuer and a horse rider (I have been talking her out of this one as there is no way the budget is stretching to riding lessons!).  Faith, on the other hand, is firmly on the path to veterinary school brushing off Ana’s cries that ‘It takes 7 years to learn to be a vet!’ with the admirable comment that ‘It will give me lots of time to practise being a good vet.’ Given that she has a tendency to manhandle our cats and that her recent encounter with our grumpy cat Honey left her scarred and bleeding, I’d suggest it will give her time to realise what my repeated pleas have failed to teach her – animals are not toys!

A further concern surrounds the idea of who they will live with.  Neither are currently keen on the prospect of marriage or children (our ‘where do babies come from?’  talk is still a vivid memory for both of them (http://motherinferiorblog.com/2014/09/13/where-do-babies-come-from/) and they want no part of it!). Instead, they have both, very sensibly, opted to live with friends, although in coming to this conclusion Faith considered living with Grandma (ruled out on the basis that ‘she is old and might die so I would be left on my own.’) and staying with me (although that possibility was soon replaced by a better option when she realised she might be able to get my house instead).  Currently, Ana is planning on a flat share with her closest pals, but Faith has bigger plans and has begun designing her future home – ‘a blueberry you can live in’.

So there you have it – the whole gamut of worries experienced by the under 10s.  No wonder they sometimes want to run away to an island full of ‘wild things’!

Luckily, I have the ultimate solution:  we’ll get a nice glass of milk and cuddle up to watch the telly together.  To mis-quote Pooh Bear ‘No-one can be uncheered with ‘Come dine with me.’

The resolutions of a half-hearted yo-yo dieter.

As you may have noticed, it is the New Year – the time to make resolutions we may or may not keep.  As is tradition, among the newcomers in my resolution list, you will find the hardy perennial: the same resolution I have made every year since records began and which I have clearly failed to keep or else I would no longer need to make it!

As you may already have guessed from the title of this post, my resolution is ‘to lose weight’. This year I am aiming for 2 stone to put me well into ideal weight range and stop those blasted weighing machines from telling me (and anyone who happens to be stood nearby) that my BMI makes me categorically ‘overweight’.

My ‘yo-yo weight’ has not really been that yo-yo to be honest. Apart from a notable increase when pregnant with child number 1 (no, I didn’t listen to the ‘you only need the equivalent of an extra piece of toast in order to eat for two’ advice, far preferring the mythical alternative ‘eating for two means you can stuff yourself as much as you like and it will all fall off when the baby arrives’. I did the former and the latter turned out to be the myth you sensible people knew it was!), my yo-yo-ing has been rather sloth-like as I have lazily wandered up and down between being a stone and 2 stone over the weight I would like to be.

Periodically, I try a new diet and/or exercise regime (one notable attempt involved the appropriately named ’30 day shred’ which had me collapsed in exhaustion after a mere 4 minutes), but after an enthusiastic start, I always flag quickly, my resolutions scuppered by the simple fact that I desire stodgy, fatty, tasty foods probably more than I desire being a bit thinner.

But this time (honestly) I will succeed! On New Year’s Eve I joined Weightwatchers online whilst my husband drove us to a friend’s party where I had every intention of consuming copious amounts of cheese; crisps; chocolate and champagne (and I did just that!). This may seem as if I was setting myself up for immediate failure, but I was planning ahead – prepping for the new me whilst simultaneously living out the old one (I might use the analogy of a snake shedding its skin whilst growing a new one underneath, but to be honest that image seems rather unpleasant when applied to a human being and weight loss so I will leave it out).

Anyway, after a day back at work eating the leftover Xmas chocs and then a weekend clearing out the fridge of the festive leftovers (by ‘clearing out’, obviously I mean ‘eating’), I was set to start the WW plan on Monday 5th January. You may consider this a few days late to count strictly as New Year, but the way I see it, in the grand scheme of things (i.e the whole 365 days of 2015), that hardly seems important (although that may well be where I am going wrong!).

So will I manage this year to complete the rebound resolution or will I find it emerging sheepishly into the pack at the start of 2016?

Well I’m no great predictor of the future, but for the time being things are going well. If I can crack on with resolutions 2 (keep up fencing) and 3 (play more squash) then that can only help matters.
Whatever the outcome, I have a sneaking suspicion that it is unlikely to have earth-shattering consequences. I am pragmatic enough to recognise that my life will not be dramatically different if I weigh a bit less. Maybe this is the real reason this resolution is always there but never completed?

But for this year, the resolution has been set and I mean to do my damnedest to keep it this time round. Maybe then I can work on the other perennial resolution ‘be nicer to husband and children’….anyone like to take bets on the chances of success with that one?  Nah, me neither!

Resolutions all round.

Last week, I wrote in Families Magazine my resolution intentions for 2015 (http://www.familiesonline.co.uk/LOCATIONS/Solent-East/Family-Life/Parenting-advice/New-Year-s-resolutions-I-suggest-we-just-keep-swimming).

This week, it appears that my children have decided to jump on the bandwagon and have both made lists of things they intend to do differently in the New Year.  My children are 2 years apart in age but worlds apart in their thinking and nowhere is this more ably demonstrated than in their lists of resolutions:

Ana’s list:

Consists of 22 resolutions.  Now I realise that we may all manage to think of numerous things we should be doing differently, but 22?  The girl clearly has high hopes for change and personal development.

Her resolutions cover every aspect of life from those that might be perceived by anyone else as stating the obvious:  8 ‘Blow my nose’ (??) or 16. ‘Brush hair’; via some fairly standard resolution fare:  1. ‘Be kind to family’, 4. ‘Work hard’ or 22. ‘Keep the table clean and lay the table’; right up to the seriously deep and meaningful resolutions that would surely impress even the Dalai Lama:  21. ‘Stand up for what I believe’ or 19. ‘Be true to myself’.

One of the most interesting aspects of Ana’s list is her distinct lack of categorisation.  She moves seamlessly from the apparently trivial, to the surprisingly profound so we end up with the bizarre combination of points number 16-18:

ana resolutions

Faith’s list:

Well to start with, this list is considerably shorter with a reasonably eclectic mix of resolutions (not hampered in the slightest by Faith’s inability to pronounce the word!).

It starts with some pretty standard entries:  ‘helpful’, ‘hard work’ and the oddly phrased ‘hard writer’, but then Faith veers (as is her tendency) from the path of normality, into the slightly surreal with her final two resolutions:  ‘cuddling every night’ and the Pièce de résistance:  ‘kind…..…like a little fox’.   Umm…OK, Faith.

2015 is clearly going to be an interesting year:  I am looking forward to seeing how my ‘little fox’ and her deep-thinking sister get on!