Sunday 17 February 2013


The way we were

One of the more disconcerting aspects of parenthood is a sudden sense of mortality. Being 48 when my first child was born hasn’t helped this feeling but I think I’d have suffered from it regardless because the main causes seem to be a sudden interest in the future and the general paranoia of being a parent.

I have lived the vast majority of my life from day to day; I have rarely planned for the weekend, barely ever planned for a holiday and always assumed that those people who said the best bit about a holiday was the planning and the getting there were spending a fortnight in Skegness.

All of a sudden this changes. Two years ago we had this largely immobile little bundle of joy and before you know it he’s racing around the house and has become a slightly larger bundle of joy and snot – he has a cold at the moment. Every day he changes and every day his future looms into my head; what will it be like taking him to school? When can we go on our first fossil collecting hunt? What will they be calling ‘O’ levels by the time he gets around to them? When will he enter his first Olympics and what will he win? What position will he play for Liverpool FC?

And at the end of all these future plans is the sudden internal exclamation “I’ll be how old??? Bloody Hell!”

On the bright side, at least I don’t have to fear for my son. I do of course but that’s just normal parental paranoia. No, the reality is that in this day and age - and living here in the West - the chances of my son not making it to his 21st birthday is reassuringly remote.

Of course this is a recent event. You often hear people say “No one should have to suffer the death of a child” completely forgetting that that used to be the norm, and still is in many areas of the world. Victorians didn’t have huge families for the hell of it, they had huge families because only a few of those children would make it into adult hood. In the Middle Ages the average life expectancy was 35, this wasn’t because adults died early. No, the average adult lived till about 70, not much different from today, but the chances of a child making it to 10 was remote and the chances of them then getting through to 20 wasn’t a whole lot better.

Bizarrely enough, the fact that our children are now astonishingly safe from death and disease doesn’t seem to have filtered through to most parents, who still seem to regard their children as fatal accidents just waiting to happen. Sadly, I am a member of this paranoid fraternity. Given a chance I would happily wrap the house in bubble wrap - although, on further reflection, it might be easier to leave the house and apply the bubble wrap to Marty. I still can’t watch him walk down the stairs, although this has much to do with Marty playing to the audience and stopping half way down for an impromptu bounce if he thinks anyone is watching him.

I just hope I don’t turn into one of those parents who can’t let their children out of their sight for a moment. The sort who believes the world is full of child molesting perverts who can only be thwarted by denying their child the right to play.

I guess it’s a tough call though, not made any easier by a self righteous media who take great delight in scaring the pants out of the general population, and parents in particular. 

Sunday 3 February 2013

The Terrible Two's

Light blue touch paper and step well back.

“The terrible two’s” is a bit of a misnomer but, to be fair, the more accurate “The Terrible 18 months until God knows when” is nowhere near as catchy.

Sadly, whilst Marty might have been a little slow learning to crawl and walk, he was right there on the button when it came to the terrible two’s. I don’t know how he learnt it but as he turned 18 months he suddenly realised a wonderful truth: “If I cry, they will come!”, followed by “If I cry really hard I may even get my own way.. well maybe not but it’s worth trying anyway.” By all accounts they can keep this up for quite a number of years in fact, if the House of Commons is anything to go by, some can keep it up well into their dotage.

Apparently this has nothing to do with your child suddenly deciding to become a truculent little bugger because he or she thinks it will wind you up - although it’s hard not to come to that conclusion sometimes - but everything to do with their brain developing to a stage where an idea of ‘self’ emerges. Until that stage a baby couldn’t readily discern between themselves and their surroundings; they ask their arm to move and it moves, they ask their parents to move and they move, they ask the sky to move and the clouds pass by. As a result they assume they are all the same; they are at one with the world and the world is at one with them. Alas, this illusion only persists if you resort to class A drugs, for the rest of us you have to give up on this conclusion and come to an idea of ‘self’.

Of course there is a lot to be said for a sense of self but it does first insist on you giving up control of a lot of things. Marty is slowly learning this with planes; it doesn’t matter how much he screams and cries, planes only show up in the skies above Lincolnshire as and when they want to. Things are proving less straightforward with his parents.

The problem is that he’s being forced to give up on the idea of being able to control everything in life and as a result he’s really fighting to control something. The latest incarnation of this frustration is his refusal to walk anywhere if you are holding on to his reins.

If I’m in the right mood, i.e. it’s not 4am, I find these little temper tantrums quite amusing, although Marty is still only dallying with tantrums in that he is yet to throw himself to the floor of the local supermarket and scream and shout whilst pounding the floor with his arms and legs. I dare say this will happen in the next week or so and I’ll have to smile that dangerous smile at the passing shoppers as they give that look that says “Can’t you control your kid?” To which the answer is of course is “Yes. So one more word and I’ll let him loose on you!”

Of course there are many upsides to this stage in your child’s life in that both of you are going to improve your negotiating skills enormously, which is really what it’s all about; Marty wants total control, I’m happy to give him some - This article at covers it all quite nicely.

On a slightly different point I read a while back that at the age of two a child finally becomes more intelligent than a dog. I have a few issues with this statement but the biggest one is that the author cannot ever have met my dog – we have moss growing in the garden that could run intellectual rings around our dog, and trust me, it’s not even smart moss!