Play talk read repeat

Bedtime stories

As parents, we all want to raise our kids to be the best they can be, but what’s the best way to go about doing that? Everyone has their own ideas on how to go about it – the plethora of books on the subject is evidence of that – but there are a few fundamentals that we can all agree on, and one of those is taking the time to interact with them, building social skills that will literally last a lifetime.

It’s no secret that I love reading to the girls, something I recently wrote about over at Mutterings of a Fool. But not everyone is as comfortable with their children, which is where the Scottish Government’s new campaign, PlayTalkRead, comes in.

They’re looking to encourage all parents to interact with their kids, with a big part of that being the PlayTalkRead website which is chockablock with ideas of how to get involved with kids, with more being added all the time.

PlayTalkRead are also running an ad campaign, which debuted during one of last week’s World Cup games, and asks us to #saythanks to the people who made us what we are today.

I’d like to #saythanks to my own mum and dad, for the time they spent with me, the solid foundation that gave me, and the lifelong love of learning that came with it. I hope one day my own girls will be able to say the same thing.

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Girls and boys come out to play

Since becoming the father of two girls, it’s fair to say that I’ve become more sensitive to many gender issues than once I was. You might even say it’s brought out the feminist in me. Once upon a time I may have questioned things like “women in technology days”, crying “positive discrimination” and “where are the men in technology days?”, the older, wiser and more feminist me can see why such things are necessary, and should be encouraged.

I want my girls to live in a world that lets them be whatever it is they want to be, and doesn’t try to pigeon-hole them. Nothing should be off-limits just because they happen to be girls. And yet, in 2014, it seems the world still works that way.

Browsing the latest Argos book last night, looking for gift ideas for Megan’s upcoming birthday, I was surprised to discover that there is now a range of NERF toys specifically aimed at girls. In case you’re not aware of NERF, it’s a collection of weapons, with names like “Mega Blasters” and “Supersoakers” which fire foam darts and/or water at their victims.

Launched last year, the NERF Rebelle line is a collection of weapons aimed at girls – think crossbows in pink and purple – the not-so-subtle implication being that the girls should be leaving the bigger guns to the boys. Have a look at this page from Argos’s NERF shop, and you’ll see what I mean. The vast majority of the range is marketed with pictures of boys, and then, tacked on at the end like an afterthought, is the not quite so beefy range for girls.

Of course, whether or not our children should be running about shooting each other at all is an entirely separate debate (it looks like fun to me!) but it’s just another example of how toy companies continue to segregate boys’ and girls’ toys, building up perceptions and prejudices that can be hard to break down later.

By coincidence, I saw this morning a story shared by a friend on this very theme, that how children are encouraged to play can enforce stereotypes and limit future career choices.

Now I’m not saying my girls have to be engineers or scientists. Assuming it’s what they want to do I’d be equally happy with them pursuing a more “traditional” female career, like hairdressing or working with small children. What I don’t want, though, is for them to ever feel like anything is off-limits or just for boys.

Of course, there’s only so much Gem and I can do – our influence will diminish over time, in favour of the girls’ peers, which makes it even more important to get the message right today.

Whose idea was gender equality anyway? It seems it was so much easier in the past…

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Once in a lifetime

Heather, ready for school

A momentous event took place yesterday, one that’s been a long time coming and that’s been greatly anticipated by all interested parties, every one of whom had their own opinion of how things would turn out, with most being optimistic of a good result.

No, I’m not talking about the England v Scotland game at Wembley, but Heather’s first day of school. Actual school. How did we get here so fast?

I actually had the chance to go down to London for the football, but didn’t take it once I realised the horrendous date clash. There will be other games against the Auld Enemy (hopefully sooner than the 14 years we waited since the last one) but Heather will only ever get one first day at school, and there was no way I was missing out on it. How could I?

Naturally we took a bunch of photos of the new schoolgirl in her new uniform, and I’m pleased to report that Heather even posed nicely for some of them. Some of them. One of my favourites is one where she’s holding up a sign saying what she wants to do when she grows up. Gem got that idea from Pinterest, and it’s a cracker – the idea being, of course, to do the same thing every year. Heather’s chosen career path, owning and running a toy shop, shows a certain entrepreneurial flair, and is definitely more sensible than my ambitions at a similar age (circus clown, if you must know).

Heather on her first day of school

After photos, we walked along to the school, where the playground was heaving with all the other new starts and their families. Heather spotted her friends from nursery and was off like a shot, sharing hugs and catching up on the summer. Not wanting to miss anything, Megan climbed out of the pushchair and ran off to join her, although it wasn’t long before she headed off to the other end of the playground, to play with some of the boys. I need to watch that one…

Once we got inside the school it was all a bit chaotic. The corridors are nowhere near wide enough for the volume of people who were there, and it was made clear that the kids were to be left as soon as possible. I never even got inside the classroom, staying in the corridor with Megan to keep out of the way. And… well, that was that!

We headed home one down, killed an hour or so, then went back to collect her. This time we got to spend some time in the class, which was good, not least because it’s very different to the classrooms Gem and I remember. One of the things I remember vividly from my own first day (aside from the boy who cried and wanted to go home) was having my name taped to the top of my desk, and thinking the boy next to me was called LAN. How was I to know that a “l” and an “I” might look the same, but are quite different things, and his name was actually Ian?

Handwriting practice

I’m not even sure there are desks for every child in the class (there are 35 of them! And two teachers!) but with activity stations dotted round the class and even a PC in the corner I’m sure finding somewhere to sit/play/learn will never be a struggle.

After that we headed off to Pizza Hut for a celebratory lunch (Heather’s call) and that was that. Day one over. Being me, I did some rough calculations, and worked out that there are roughly 2,500 school days before Heather leaves. So that’s one down, 2,499 to go!

It will be interesting to see how Megan adjusts over the next few weeks, without her partner-in-crime by her side. I guess this first couple of weeks will be similar to when Heather was at nursery, but when she full days start in a couple of weeks it’s a whole new ballgame. I think it will be good for her though, and will give her more space to be herself instead of copying everything her sister does.

And of course, it’s a big change for Gem as well – moreso than for me, because I’ve always been used to Heather being away from me all day, every day during the week. She’ll cope though, and getting to spend more time with just Megan will be nice too.

Last night, watching the football (which I don’t regret missing, and that’s nothing to do with the result) I realised something else – if it takes another fourteen years to stage a game between the two oldest footballing nations in the world, Heather will have left school before the next one.

Which was possibly the most frightening thing I heard/saw/thought all day!

The Mad House
This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Movin’ on up

Megan's cot - before pic

Now you see it…

Way back in the mists of time, before I set up the only boy in the house (a year ago last Friday, fact fans!), there was Lunch Hour Waffle, my first toe in the water of the blogging world. To be honest it wasn’t that good – believe it or not, it was more rambly and less focused than this blog is – and I’m glad I decided to change things. Although I did bring those old posts with me when I changed, as a kind of starter for ten.

One of those was about Heather’s transition from cot to bed, and how much help the Gro-Clock had been. Astonishingly, almost two years on, we’ve now reached the same point with Megan, and it’s interesting to now be able to read back on our experiences with Heather. And with that experience, and having fixed the cot that caused so much trauma last time, we’ve been able to plan things much better this time round, and so far that plan seems to be working.

Our cot isn’t one of those that converts into a bed, but it does have a drop-side that’s fairly easy to remove, without affecting the structure and stability of the cot itself. It’s what we did   with Heather until her new room was clear and the bed built, and it’s what we’re doing with Megan too. And I think it’s a great way to get her used to sleeping without bars on all sides, not least because the mattress is at a height that’s not only easy for her to climb onto, but is also low enough that she won’t hurt herself if she falls out. Which she has done – several times in fact, but we’ve put a duvet down to pad the floor a bit, and so far those falls haven’t even woken her, never mind injured her!

Megan's cot - after pic

… now you don’t!

One thing that is different this time is how easy it’s been putting her to bed, in comparison to Heather at the same stage. Either she’s not yet worked out that she can climb out, or she’s quite content going to sleep rather than taking advantage of her new-found freedom. I suspect it’s the latter, because Megan’s always loved her bed, but I guess time will tell. At this point with Heather it could take us up to an hour to get her to stay in bed long enough to fall asleep so we’re definitely winning.

And, when it comes to morning, we’ve bought Megan a Gro-Clock of her very own, and after a couple of days she’s just about got the hang of staying in bed until it turns yellow and the sun appears. Honestly, I don’t think we could ask for anything more from her – the ease with which she’s adapted to the change is astonishing.

That said, there is the possibility it could all change when we move her into a proper bed, but I’m pretty confident that won’t be any problem whatsoever. Once she stops rolling out in her sleep, obviously!

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

You can’t always get what you want

Daddy and Megan

Me and Megan. She looks thrilled to be in my company!

Ever since Heather was a baby, I’ve been her favourite. When she hurt herself, it was me she looked to first for comfort. And when it came to bedtime, she always preferred being tucked in and read a story by Daddy.

That’s still the case today, but I think it’s eased off and she’s more balanced in her affections. Which is a good thing, because I know it was something that always upset Gem a little.

And I know how she feels, because Megan is the complete opposite – she’s very much Mummy’s girl, and it’s my turn to play second fiddle.

This has proven a little problematic in the last couple of weeks, particularly when it comes to bedtime. Megan refuses to go to sleep unless Mummy is the last one to give her a “cuggle”, and often one isn’t enough. A few nights Gem’s had to go back up to her three or four times before she’d settle.

We do tell her this isn’t acceptable, of course, and that it has to stop, but we also know that she’s in pain from her last four teeth coming through, so it’s a bit of a balancing act between compassion and tough love.

Tuesday night was the worst. She wailed for a good hour, and it was only after a dose of Calpol that we couldn’t have given her any sooner that she finally settled. To her credit, Heather somehow managed to drop off in the next room, despite the racket her sister was making.

What’s interesting, though, is that she’s only like this when she knows (or thinks) Gem is in the house. If Megan thinks Mummy’s out, she’s quite content for Daddy (or my folks when the girls go for a sleepover) to put her to bed. And that was the case last night, which I was quite relieved about – after the trauma of Tuesday, I must admit I was approaching bedtime on Gem’s Slimming World night with some trepidation.

But it passed off without a hitch. There was a slight wobble, when Megan asked about Mummy, but I made her a deal – if she tried to go to sleep, Mummy would give her a kiss and a cuddle when she got in. And I’m relieved to say that did the trick – and Mummy upheld her end of the bargain too, although she waited until after we’d eaten before going up.

I remember Heather going through a similar phase at round about the same age. That resulted in her bedtime becoming a long drawn out affair, involving multiple stories and songs, and we’re keen to avoid getting drawn into that with Megan. Hopefully it’s just a phase, and it will pass once those troublesome molars are fully in.


This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!