I’m a parent, not an annoyance

As a parent, my life does, to an extent, revolve around my child. Even the stuff I do separately from her (uni study, dates with Husband, evenings out with friends, going running) need to be scheduled around her. This means that I spend a lot of my existence thinking about her. But I do occasionally think of others too. I’ll give you a few examples.

If Pip throws a tantrum in the middle of a shop, I will not just leave her in the centre of an aisle or doorway. I’ll pick her up and take her outside or at least to a corner when nobody is bothered by her before having a conversation with her about her behaviour being totally unacceptable. I see parents letting their children throw tantrums in places where members of the public have to walk around them, getting a headache from their endless shrieking. Yes, tantrums happen. No, you shouldn’t give in to their demands just to keep them quiet for the benefit of strangers. But if you’re hoping that your child is going to stop crying out of embarrassment, you’re totally wrong. Children are notoriously terrible at telling the difference between positive and negative attention. The more people stop and stare at them, the more they’ll scream. But my main point is this: why should everyone else have to out up with your child’s poor behaviour? They have no responsibility for or obligation to them.

I don’t use a pushchair anymore but when I did, I’d try to keep it out of everyone else’s way. I would not take it somewhere I know there are stairs I can’t manage on my own, relying on a stranger to offer their help and whinging if they dare not to. If we were at a bus stop, I did my best to position the pushchair so that people can still walk by or use the bus stop bench. I’d never put it in the middle of a pavement then stand about chatting with someone so that a stranger is put in the cruelly awkward position of having to interrupt me to ask if I could move. I would never put it in the aisle of a train or bus. I thought this was simply common sense and a minimal amount of consideration for others. But other parents seem to think that everything I’ve just mentioned is perfectly acceptable. It’s not. Stop it now. You’re annoying absolutely everyone.

If I’m out with friends on my own, even if I’m thinking about her, I don’t sit and talk about my child non-stop. This is partly because if I’ve got some grown up socialisation time, I’d rather be talking about grown up subjects. This is also because my friends would probably get a bit bored if I stuck to the same subject all of the time. I’ve known parents that can talk about nothing outside of their home life. It’s boring. I try bringing up interesting articles I’ve read recently or a book or film I’ve enjoyed and they’ll steer the subject straight back to their offspring. I obviously don’t mind if a friend is having a parenting problem or if their child has recently achieved a big development milestone or something like that, I’ll listen gladly. They are a part of our lives so they’re bound to be talked about. But not constantly and especially not on the rare occasion that we’re actually child free for a couple of hours.

My point is that just because you have children, it doesn’t mean that you suddenly don’t need to be considerate of everyone else in the world. In fact, you should be setting said child a good example of how to treat others. Don’t be an annoyance just because you’re a parent.

Ticket To Ride For Kids

Husband and I love the board game Ticket to Ride. We own the original USA version, the 10th Anniversary version, the Europe version, plus two additional maps, the USA 1910 expansion and a rather lovely set of Halloween trains. I’ll point out now that I will not be going into the basic game rules or even how brilliant this game is to play in this post so if you want to know any of that stuff, I recommend checking out my previous review of it here.

Pip gets a little bit upset when told that she’s just a little bit young for one of our games, even if the bad news is followed by the offer to play on of the games more suited to her age group. This has been particularly true for Ticket To Ride, a game that’s designed for 8 years and up, I think because the little train carriages and the brightly coloured cards appeal to her.

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After a bit of a think, it occurred to us that there’s really no reason for her to be entirely left out. The game just needed a little tweaking. The only part of the game that she can’t really manage is the tickets, given that her reading skills are very basic at the moment and the place names are mostly not ones she would recognise, given that we were looking at the USA version as it’s much simpler than Europe to begin with, what with having no stations, tunnels or ferry routes.

So, we removed the whole concept of the tickets. Instead, we simply had train cards that we used to make train routes to get points. We also decided not to use the Longest Route bonus just for this first game to keep things really basic. We let her use our special Halloween trains just because they look a bit more exciting than the regular trains but we’re not quite as precious about them as we are about the really detailed sets in our anniversary edition.

Pip loved it. She actually did very well and quickly picked up on the idea that the longer trains got more points. She also tried to link her trains together into one long route so I think we’ll add the longest route bonus back in when we play again.

This simpler version was obviously less challenging and, I will be honest, slightly less enjoyable for us grown ups. However, being able to share our favourite game with Pip and make it some quality family time made it worthwhile.

I think we’ll definitely be playing this again and I’m looking forward to gradually adding it the extra features as Pip’s reading skills develop.

 

The Best Policy

Recently, Pip has been, I think the best most accurate word would be experimenting with telling us small lies. We always catch her out, either instantly or after not very long at all. We’ve talked about lying with her and how important it is to always tell us the truth. Even if she’s done something wrong, lying about it will only ever make the situation worse. I think this idea has mostly sunk in, although I wouldn’t be surprised if I hear a few fibs every now and then! But I think she understands that lying is essentially wrong. 

So why exactly do so many grown ups think its a perfectly acceptable thing to do? People lie all of the time. I used to lie all the time. I’ve realised that this was basically because my entire life was based on lies. Lying to myself and everyone around me was how I coped. When it struck me just how destructive this behaviour was, I managed to stop it and now, I do not lie. About anything. Ok, I might sometimes be careful with the truth. If someone has a bad haircut, I might say something like ‘Oh, I thought the style you had before really suited you’ rather than ‘Blimey, did you do something to really offend your hairdresser, because it looks like they’ve assaulted you with a comb’. But I won’t tell an outright lie. 

Which is why I will not tell my daughter the plethora of lies that so many children are told. I know parents say that it’s all about magic and imagination but if your little girl or boy directly asks you if Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy is real and you confirm they are, you have just told your child a lie. I actually find these lies pretty disturbing anyway. Why on earth would telling your child that a strange man is watching you throughout the year and, if you’re good enough, he’s going to break into your home late at night be a nice thing? Or that a magical being is going to creep into their room at night and take their discarded teeth in exchange for money? How are these stories anything other than really creepy? And then when the children do start to question how these things can really be true, some parents go to insanely great lengths to fabricate evidence of these fictional characters. I recall reading of one mother who used icing sugar to make the ‘snowy footprints’ left by Father Christmas in their living room. I can only imagine how much fun cleaning that up on Christmas morning was. 

One criticism I’ve had of this total honesty policy is that it’s somehow affecting her imagination or her enjoyment of childhood. Anyone who knows Pip knows that this is not the case. The imaginary role play games she plays are amazing. She makes up very detailed stories and characters all of the time, which we happily encourage. I’m not against fiction – it would be a bit weird for someone who studies and loves creative writing! But she knows that it is not real. I know that Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter aren’t real. That doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of them. 

I realise that sometimes total honesty is not the easier path to follow. But I believe that, for my family, it is the right path. It’s the path that ensures my daughter knows that everything her parents tell her is the truth, or at least what we believe to be the truth based on the best evidence we have. There are no empty threats or pointless lies to be disappointed by later. The wonders of the real world – those of nature and science – provide all of the childhood joy that she needs. 

Triop project Update – Day 4

Our summer science project of growing Triops is going as well as can be expected. While a couple of days ago, I spotted at least 5 little creatures swimming around in the tank, we now have just two triops and one fairy shrimp, which it does say in the booklet that came with the kit could possibly also hatch from the eggs we were given. Nice bonus! Apparently it’s completely normal to begin with quite a few and end up with two or three. I think this is better anyway, since now the remaining ones will have more space to grow nice and big. Triops tend to grow as large as their environment allows.

Pip has named the triops Oofy and Koofy and the fairy shrimp Twinkle. She quite likes to watch them for a few minutes at a time as they swim around and rummage around at the bottom of the tank for food.

Rather excitingly, for the first time ever, I’ve uploaded a video to show you them swimming around. I’m hoping to start using video more regularly on the blog so hopefully this first attempt goes well!

I’ll make another video in a few days to show you just how fast they’re growing! These things are roughly doubling in size every day! 

Our summer science project: Triops!

For a long while now, Pip has been asking for a pet. First of all, it was a dog. We patiently explained that we don’t have the space for a dog and, once school has started and I hopefully start working again, we won’t have the time that you need to commit to having a dog. She rather cleverly thought of fish next, giving us the very logical argument that they don’t take up much space and don’t need as much looking after as a dog. We took her point and quite like the idea ourselves. However, we’re not entirely convinced that she can handle the responsibility of a pet. While I would obviously have to help out with cleaning the tank, the day to day feeding would be up to her. 

So, I came up with a solution in the form of triops. These are type of small crustaceans that can be purchased as eggs, hatched out and then grown to full size before they reach the end of their short existence within about eight weeks.triops kit

They require very limited looking after, just feeing every couple of days and partial water changes about once or twice per week, depending on how murky the water gets. If after eight weeks you find yourself missing them, you can try to hatch out a second generation from the eggs laid by the first ones. This might just happen on its own, or you can go through a process of drying out the sand and detritus on the bottom of the tank and then adding water again to get any eggs there to hatch. 

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Our triops kit arrived on Monday. You get a tank, a packet of eggs, a packet of sand (to be added when they are two weeks old), a sachet of food, a pipette and a plastic spoon in the kit. The only extra we’ve needed to buy was spring water, since tap water or any chlorinated or purified water will kill them very soon after birth, if hatching occurs at all. 

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The bits of black stuff you can see is the detritus that comes with the eggs, designed to provide nutrition for the first couple of days.

We filled the tank and added the eggs on Monday evening, shining a lamp at the tank to try and get things moving. Now we are waiting, not very patiently, for Pip’s new pets to become visible. I’ll post again when we’ve got more news! 

Plans for Summer Fun

While everyone else has just begun their summer holidays, I’ve had Pip at home full time since she finished nursery in May due to our house move. It hasn’t been easy to keep her occupied, especially as when we’re out and about, all of the children of her age are at nursery or school. I am really hoping that now that summer holidays have begun, our local park will be full of potential playmates for Pip. 

Given that we’re quickly coming to the end of our time at home together, I really want to make the most of these 7 weeks (Pip’s school are staggering their starting dates so she’s not actually going to school until 5th September). So I’ve planned out some activities for us to do. Obviously the days out only really apply to Cardiff but the rest are for anyone looking for some summer fun! 

Days out: 

National Museum in Cardiff – Between 29th July – 1st August, there are family friendly tours of the ‘Nature in a New Light’ exhibition

Cardiff Castle – On 16th & 17th August is the Grand Medieval Melee. We went to this last year and Pip just loved watching the knights jousting and sword fighting plus they had some great craft activities going on. There’s also something called ‘Castle Quest’ going on from 28th July but there’s not much information on the Castle’s website about this. 

Roath Park – I’ve been meaning to have a visit here for ages but it’s just never happened. We’l definitely be going over this summer. With the lake and botanical gardens, I can’t think of a better place for Pip to keep developing her new photography skills! Plus there’s supposed to be a brilliant play park there. 

Cardiff Bay – We’ve been to the Bay hundreds of times. In fact, we used to live near there. But we haven’t walked across the barrage to Penarth since the day we came to visit Cardiff – before we even moved here three years ago! Definitely time to do it again, especially now that Pip’s old enough to appreciate it.

Techniquest – I do have some Tesco Clubcard vouchers to be used up, which can be redeemed at Techniquest so we might have trip there again. 

Barry – Summer holidays just wouldn’t be complete without a day at the seaside! 

Local parks – We’re lucky to be within very easy walking distance of a couple of parks, one with lots of trees and a long and winding path which is perfect for scooting and the other with a nice play park that is often full of other children for Pip to play with. 

Indoor activities: 

Science project – Pip has been asking for a pet of her own for some time now. I came up with a low cost, low responsibility option in the form of triops, tiny creatures that can hatched from eggs and live in a small tank of water. They actually only live for around 8 weeks, making them a perfect summer holiday activity. I’ll be doing a series of posts on our progress with this so keep an eye out! 

Movie Day – I want to limit this to happening maybe two or three times during the entire summer as it is a bit of a lazy one but I think it would be nice to relax with a bowl of popcorn and enjoy a couple of films together. This could really be more of an afternoon or morning activity, rather than a whole day. 

Crafts – I plan on doing a craft activity at least once a week. I’d really like to have a go at using salt dough and maybe making some collages. 

Board Games – We, as a family, love board games. Our vast collection can keep us busy for many hours over the coming weeks. They’ll be especially handy to fill an hour here and there in between other activities. 

Reading, writing and maths activities – I definitely want to keep up with Pip’s basic skills so that she’s ready to start school at the end of the summer. She loves to learn and I love teaching her so this shouldn’t be tricky at all.

What plans have you made for the summer?