A little Picasso

Dirty nappies, bottles to wash, uncertain stains to clean. As a parent, I get plenty of these and I look forward to the day they stop. There is also one other item I have conflicting feelings over, another piece of child paraphernalia I have a copious amount of.

Child artwork.

I have scribblings and paintings aplenty, pasta and food pictures galore. You want glued boxes I got twenty, but who cares, I want more.

Well, not that much more because, here is parenting honesty, almost without exception they are terrible. I know there are out there who think their child is tapping into their inner Pollock or Dali, but one piece of child work is cute, two okay but having enough to open an entire gallery takes the value from them.

On a normal day at nursery we get three pieces of paper in various states of paint. This is not creating art, its teaching toddlers to become decorators. Sometimes they try to hide this by getting the children to paint on shapes because this is the only way to differentiate between pieces.

To begin with, it was touching to have an original piece of Feliciraptor work even if her earlier attempts saw more coverage of herself than the canvas.

We had the naïve idea to collect and save every item she created, we could create an archive showing the evolution of her style over the years. After we filled one folder in a month, this was not a workable project.

You then have to weigh the merits of one ‘white paint on blue paper’ against the next and does using macaroni over pasta shapes add more value? Not that it matters, anything that comprises dried food gets eaten by Feliciraptor on the car ride home.

We have saved pieces, including her first ever picture from the nursery. Rather than covering my fridge in magnets and masterpieces we framed them and stuck them to the walls. It adds a level of classiness and means we could sell them for pounds.

Despite the overall standard, and I realise with my ‘C’ in GCSE art I am pot/kettle/black here, I still enjoy seeing what she produces (as I will with A-Rex’s artwork).

The work may be terrible, but it comes from the right place (in contrast with ill intentioned ‘good’ art).

Sometimes it is just another splodge of paint, sometimes it is ‘daddy and mommy’. That card may just have spaghetti on, but this one with lasagne sheets also says ‘Happy Father’s Day’.

As with any art the real value is in the interpretation.

I’m the favourite child

I’m the favourite child. With just four words I have made sure that my sisters, mother and other assorted relatives are already reading this. Who would do something that click-baity though?

Most parents won’t tell you they have a favourite, it would ruin the careful equilibrium of any family. You never see Kris telling Khloe that Kendall is her favourite (I need to stop reading the Daily Mail).

Now that I have two children this is a trap I need to avoid falling into. After this ‘news’ report (albeit from a publication that claims wine both prevents and causes cancer) it did make me think how the ideal of treating all my children equally is likely to fail as it is to be unfair.

To begin with one commentator pointed out how the term ‘favourite’ was not really an accurate way of ranking your children. If someone was to ask me for my favourite meat I would say steak, but my favourite food is a bacon sandwich. To make it more confusing I’m not overly fussed about a steak sub. How can bacon not be my favourite flesh, but tops the overall list.When you look at lists of best albums they very rarely contain best songs. So it is with children.

At the moment Feliciraptor would be my ‘favourite’ in the sense of the one I want to spend most time with. That’s mostly because A-Rex is a pooping pile of fuss, when you have the choice between curdled diapers or reading a Mr Men story I will happily go with Mr Nosey.

This makes me worried that I spend too much time with my daughter to the detriment of my son. To compensate I try to spend as much time as I can with him, but is this then pushing the little lady to one side. Without one of those chess clocks to equally divide my time betwixt the two.

I will fail to treat them equally not only because of the time I spend with them, but they will become two very different individuals. There will be times when I like one more than the other, but one will never be loved more.

If one child grows up to be England Men’s Cricket captain and the other the Women’s team leader I won’t view them any differently, the same if one is a batsman and the other an offspin bowler. Each will have different strengths and different needs, just as me and my sisters demand from our parents varying levels of attention.

This is why treating them equally will not be fair, they won’t require the same attitude of parenting. A-Rex is a much chiller infant than Feliciraptor was, and if this extends through childhood and beyond then we can’t be the same with him as his sister.

As they get older we will not tell them we don’t have favourites, instead we’ll tell them that there are times when we want chicken and times when we want lamb.

I’m still the bacon sandwich though.

Being a child while still a child

Trying to identify the moment that I grew up is difficult, mostly because I am still waiting for it. I still have a childlike quality that is equal parts endearing and equal parts annoying. For many this may be a liability but now I have a playmate to mess around with I can see the benefit of keeping my Peter Pan complex.

Too many people of my age have lost the ability to have fun. Too worried about looking silly, or don’t want to take the risk that they might enjoy themselves. Being silly isn’t being grown up and we’re adults, and so should our children be. Everything in life seems to be geared towards making children be adults and it’s not something we are going to pressurise the Feliciraptor or A-Rex with.

I was never forced to grow up and neither shall they be.

It doesn’t matter if they can’t count to 75, or if they are able to play ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ on a piano. The Feliciraptor enjoys shaking her head and kissing bees on the television. She does this with a huge big smile on her face, and makes us all giggle with her.

We will do all we can to protect them from the moments that make you grow up suddenly. While they are children they can act like children because, as I know, you are judged for being childlike when you are an adult.

This is not to say we will wrap them up in cotton wool like some parents do. By some of the content that can be shared on some Facebook walls you would think we were monsters. They are sometimes allowed to cry (SHAME) and we have even told Feliciraptor “no” (MORE SHAME) and, for some parents this is the worst, we have even made her share (J’ACCUSE!).

We do this because we do want them to grow up, but to grow up gradually like Me and Mrs E did. As far as I see it my parenting responsibility is to make sure that whenever they enter the world of adults they need to both be well-functioning members of society.

If they can get there by having a bit more fun but a few less rosettes then so be it. Nothing should make you feel older than you want to be. Now if you excuse me I have a monkey to play with.

What I’d tell him

I know he knows, I can see it when he looks at me. He’ll smile and just carry on regardless pretending that whatever I send was some form of incomprehensible nonsense. I’m not the only one, when anyone else talks to him they just get a look as if to say non comprende monsieur.

Such is life with a one year old, it’s like living in a foreign land in your own home. Simple instructions fall on deaf ears, but at the same time utter one word you shouldn’t have then you are living in fear that will be the one they learn to enunciate.

The A-Rex is so close to being full on conversive (he is moving from the puppy to the parrot stage) and there is still so much we need to tell him.

  • Do eat vegetables, don’t just eat meat
  • Don’t look at what Daddy is eating, just eat your vegetables
  • Don’t chew that, it’s electric
  • Don’t chew that, it’s plastic
  • Don’t chew that, it’s your Grandma
  • Stop
  • We only tell you stop when it’s dangerous
  • You are free to go anywhere where it’s not dangerous
  • You are free to be whoever you want if it’s not dangerous
  • You are free to do whatever you like if it’s not dangerous
  • That’s dangerous
  • Can you put that back please?
  • Thank you for putting that back.
  • Where did you get it from?
  • All you have to do to make us smile is smile
  • Do you know the effect your smile has on us?
  • Why do you insist on putting mushrooms in my imaginary tea?
  • Is that your way of dealing with taxation without representation?
  • Sausage or chips?
  • Daddy or chips?
  • Daddy or sausage?

You know I am proud of you, even when you somehow take of your PJ’s and nappy in bed

Children’s humour

I’ve just laughed at someone because they used the acronym PP. Being stuck around toddlers means my humour is purely bodily function led.

It helps that my sense of humour hasn’t departed to far from the playground. It is pretty unrefined and finds laughter in most bodily functions. Simulating and noises the body makes sends the Feliciraptor into fits of laughter and causes her to run around the room telling the same ‘joke’ (if the joke is simply blowing a raspberry). In fact one of the first jokes she learnt had a tongue rasp as the punchline.

I do have one receptive audience who are pretty easy please, and will listen and laugh with very little heckling. For a three year old most things are funny; and at 18 months anything that involves a silly face or noise is the best thing in the world for A-Rex.

Children find the stupidest acts hilarious, which I guess counterbalances their freakouts over the slightest of provocations. For a toddler sticking a finger in your dinner has the reaction of “ROFLCOPTERLMAOLOL” and removing your finger is “This is the worst thing to ever happen in the world in history you monster”. It is a fine balance that you will never learn, especially as the next night you need to reverse your actions to have the same effect.

This is why making children laugh can be so easy, and so hard. Yes getting them to pull your finger will make them laugh, but what if the resulting noise was too loud or too wet. You will be seen as a monster rather than Mr Funnyman. I was looking for “silent but violent”

For A-Rex life is simpler, all we have to do is pull a funny expressions three times for him to giggle away. No more. No less. Three shalt be the number thou shalt pull, and the number of the pulling shall be three. Four shalt thou not pull, neither pull thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Anything other than three just results in tears.

The comedy gene has passed on, with Feliciraptor now coming up with her own jokes. Like her father she still has a lot to learn about what is appropriate humour. For example this was the following exchange in the car:

Feliciraptor : Daddy I pooedMe : What! Hang on!Feliciraptor : I pooed in my pantsMe : Oh we don’t do that do we?Feliciraptor : I not pooed, I only joking.

Hilarious. Obviously not as funny as shouting in the local supermarket that Grandma was drunk, but still ranks pretty high on the all time funny list.

Me and My Shadow

One of the joys of life is cooking, and I am lucky that I can do this most nights. We have delivered a box full of ingredients and from this we get to make dishes that vary from carbonara to mu shu pork.

It used to be that I would get home, turn on the gas, and have dinner ready for Mrs E when she got home.Now I pick up Feliciraptor from nursery, and A-Rex is at home with his mother, I have the joy of my own little Sous chef to cook with me. While I am dicing onions (pronounced ooo-knee-ons by my second-in-command) I have to be careful of four sets of fingers.

Feliciraptor has reached the age where she is a ‘big girl’ (at 3 1/2) so feels that she can, and must, do everything me and Mrs E do. It used to be that making her milk in the morning was a 60 second job. Now I have to take her to the fridge, open and pour the milk with her, let her press the buttons on the microwave and walk back upstairs. This process will take fives times as long.

Doing the straps on her car seat, no ‘my’ has to do it now. She has to open the doors to her nursery, and her routine is so well known that the staff will rush to shut any open doors so my little dino can do it.

At home she has a full kitchen so she can make tea, cook dinner, wash up, do the laundry and hoover with her toy dyson.

With her brother we are almost at the point where we could ask her to babysit. Well maybe not all the way there, but she would certainly be happy to try. No task without A-Rex is without a tiny “I help” from behind.

The issue is that our shadow is not the most gentle of hand. When she ‘cuts’ food while helping me cook it becomes more of a smash than a slice. When she helps bathe her brother with a sponge it is more of a boxing glove.

Even though it is a pain for each task to take longer, and can be annoying when we want to hurry, I wouldn’t want to dissuade my children from helping. It is enjoyable to cook with my daughter, and hopefully my son when he is older. Planting in the garden is made more enjoyable with another pair of tiny hands.

Plus it is the only way to deal with Little Miss Lenny, she can only learn to be a more helpful and gentler child with practice.

Reading time

One hobby I don’t do enough of is reading, at least reading anything that isn’t on a screen. Getting through Buzzfeed and Cracked articles is not exactly in the same league as reading Tolstoy or Steinbeck.

Yet I still read a lot of book, that is not a typo or bad grammar I just seem to be reading the same thing over and over again. The reason for this is The Feliciraptor, and as anyone with a child will tell you repetition is an integral part of having a toddler.

Life with a two year old seems to be full of the refrain “again”.

We really want to encourage her to appreciate books so she has plenty of them and a bedtime routine that allows for a story. To make sure she reads plenty we have bought collections of tales for her to choose.

We have the entire box sets of Mr Men and Little Miss, and a compendium of fairy tales. Numerous books with dinosaurs and a whole range of scatalogical themed rhymes, not forgetting the essential Dr Seuss. She has plenty to choose from.

Which is why it is frustrating to be rereading The Gingerbread Man for another night. The only positive point, and spoilers here, are his inevitable doom at the hands of the fox (I wonder if this is the same fox who ‘assisted’ Chicken Licken, Loosey Goosey and co?). It’s a book full of repetition and to read it again and again, you can’t catch me I’m the gingerbread man, is annoying.

It seems to have been the way ever since The Feliciraptor developed an opinion. To begin with I would be able to select whichever book I fancied. In this way I was able to read the 50 or so Mr Men series. I would have to fight a wriggle monster but I would still be able to change up the story every night.

Not now, now the chosen tale is selected by a toddler. I have come to learn that toddlers are amazing, but they are not great with change. Once they have found something they love (In the Night Garden, Leggings, Chocolate) it is going to be their ‘go to’.

So as soon as a book hits the infant emotional centre (like Les Miserables would if you were an adult) it is put on the limited rotation of approved texts. This is where The Gingderbread Man currently sits. It is the latest in a long line of Ten Little Fingers (Review: okay), The Dinosaur that Pooped a Planet (Awesome), and The Sailor Dog (Kill me if I have to read it again).

What all these books, and any I read with my daughter, do is more important than the story. It is the time I get to share with her that I cherish. It is important to Me and Mrs G that our children share our love of reading, and I am happy that I can be part of this.

After she has been read to she is allowed to sit on the floor to ‘read’ the book by herself. She can’t read but she is learning to stories, we can tell by the way she will repeat back the cadence of the rhymes. If she doesn’t know the story she can look at the pictures and make it up.

This is why I read them to her time after time, it’s to help her learn. I love it when she looks at me and says “again”.

Don’t make empty threats to children

The Feliciraptor is a punk. We tell her she is a punk and she just throws a cute face back at me. She has started to reach the age where any trouble or mischief is consciously driven, if she misbehaves she is doing it on purpose. This now means we are having to become strict with her.

The key learning I took from my childhood is if you are going to make a threat it has to be one you are going to follow through on. The child may be a punk but she also knows Daddy is not a pushover.

None of the trouble she causes is from malice, so I refuse to punish her behaviour. Instead we are trying to teach her how her actions affect other people. When she refuses to tidy up we will tidy up for her, but it does mean that some of what we tidy may end up disappearing.

This was the case last week when she refused to tidy up the mess in the front room. Pieces of wooden food were strewn across the floor and when I sat down to put them away with her she flat out refused to help. She was given opportunities to help, even the dreaded countdown from three. Rather than just put the fake watermelon and bread away she was told that if she didn’t help I would take them away.

The key part of this is that I didn’t threaten something that could be taken back. If I had threatened to throw it in the bin then what could I do? I would have had to have made good on my promise and dumped expensive toys to prove a point. If I had done this then I would have also lost my bargaining chip.

As I tidied up the books she was offered the chance to help and refused, as the cups were put back in her kitchen she stood watching, there was a lack of response when I put ‘baby’ to bed. Even the threat of taking items away was met with a stare, and no reaction when I followed through and took books and dolls and placed them in the hall.

In the end nothing I did was going to get her to tidy up, until I rewarded myself with a sticker.

Of all things toddlers cherish, it is the sticker they value above all else.

Once I placed that sticker on my chest for ‘good tidying’ all hell let loose. Tears and stamping, the Feliciraptor flipped out because “Daddy has my sticker”. She refused to accept that I deserved one for my efforts and went as far to remove my Peppa Pig badge of honour.

To which I rewarded myself with another sticker (to replace the original) and another one for my ‘trauma’.

The key lesson I am trying to instill in our children is that you can do wrong, but you still have a chance to redeem yourself. Whenever they get into trouble they will be offered the opportunity to rectify the situation without further punishment.

With an inconsolable three year old wanting a sticker I gave her one last chance to tidy up. I still had the few toys I had removed that she could put away, and with a few pathetic sobs she agreed to this deal.

I could have made her tidy up and then still punish her but what does that teach her? Even if you make right you will be treated as though you did wrong. I know if this was me I would decide that as the treatment will be the same why make the effort?

There have been times where she has chosen the less wise path and has gone to sleep with all her books and favourite items out of her room. I make no threat that is harmful and, more importantly, impossible.

She is still a punk though.

Trying to save the planet

I plan to leave the planet to my children but as a parent I find it very difficult to be both environmentally friendly and be an effective parent. With the limited time modern life affords I find that the polluting shortcut is easier than the time-consuming green option.

I’m embarrassed that I have not made the effort to be more tree-friendly, at work I am a shining bastion of the paper-free office, but when I am faced with an onslaught of bodily fluids I opt for the quickest way to clean rather than opting to save the polar bears.

The biggest argument for being a green parent always seems to revolve around diapers.

One of the contentious parenting topics is how you deal with your infants homemade cheese (that is the faecal stage we are currently at). The “good” way is the old way, to re-use them. I would really like to jump on board with this but there is one thing stopping me. I really don’t like poo.

Let me correct this, I find poo and poo humour hilarious. You just have to ask Feliciraptor.

The problem I do have is having poo lying around in the house. Or putting poo in the washing machine. If it is spinning around in there, no matter how small, then I am going out in clothes with poo on. If I believed in homoeopathy then I would be telling people I was wearing poo.

From the comments I see on the internet every time I put a disposable nappy on one of my children I kill a dolphin. With there only being around 3.1m common dolphins and the rate A-Rex is pooping away we will be able to eat tuna guilt free in only 2 years.

Not that I feel too bad about disposable nappies, you are not a saint if you use reusable either. Once you add in the electricty, water and detergent required to clean them you are splitting the difference between adding CO2 to the atmosphere or piling on the landfill. Why don’t we use disposable nappies in land reclamation projects, both a great place to put them and it can soak up any coastal flooding.

We are not feeding our children ‘naturally’ either, so we are using factory-produced feed instead. We wash there clothes on high temperatures and dry them in a machine. We go through packs and packs of baby wipes.

This attitude to parent does make me feel ashamed, why can’t I be a little put out and try to make a little difference? Instead I live a life which means my children my only know Antarctica from a history book.

What can I do to change? Plenty. Dig a potty in the garden, grow my own veg (one thing I will be doing this year), whittle chew toys for teething. The reality is that I am a lazy parent, and you cannot be a lazy parent and a green parent.

Mostly though it is the poo. I just want that poo out of my house as quickly as possible.

Coping with a blank canvas

What is most impressive about the Sistine Chapel is how Michelangelo was able to stop eating pizza and focus on a blank ceiling and see a full piece of art.

For me one of the most terrifying prospects is being given an open ended task and canvas and being asked to come up with something. Just last night I was asked by Mrs C for a recommendation for a computer game.


  • How many players
  • Online or offline
  • Real world or fantasy
  • Sports?

Such a broad question needs parameters, and needs to be narrowed down. “Oh something like Ticket to Ride, a board game” I was told. Well this is more like it, something I can work with.

It’s also easier to search for “Games like Ticket to Ride” rather than “A game someone might like”.

I felt a similar panic with both our children. When they were infant-blobs how should we dress them, what toys will they play with and what would they watch on TV? Here are these collection of bones and skin and it’s up to me to impress on them some personality.

Now they are older I have come to realise that it was folly to believe that there could be some long term plan of how they would turn out. For a period of time we thought that Boy would be the quiet one yet he is now running around shouting louder than his sister ever could.

We’ve also gone through periods of liking Paw Patrol, Sarah and Duck, Shaun the Sheep and a multitude of other characters. The more discarded merchandise the more I have come to realise that sometimes it is not about knowing the end result but more about trying and seeing what works.

Now they are older it is easier to work with them, this years Christmas presents were more of a hit than last years. All because we have a clearer idea of how they are turning out.

That is the best way to deal with a blank canvas, not to be paralysed with the idea you may get it wrong but to just get something down and work from there.


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