The World Won’t Listen

In which our reluctant hero reveals a most genius parenting trick, courtesy of HRH Sir Prince William.

Taking a break from nailing my head to the coffee table after the latest opportunity for the British public to prove exactly how stupid they are was announced, I embarked on some research for this week’s post. Don’t sound so surprised. Cheeky.

After a few minutes of rummaging through the headlines of Google’s recent parenting stories, I stumbled upon this gem from Marie Claire, whoever she is.

“Prince William Just Taught Us An Amazing Parenting Trick.”

Blimey. Did he? Really? I wonder what it could be. A spell that tidies up bedrooms, cleans teeth without an argument and reads bedtime stories perhaps? Or, better still, a most genius trick to instantly master potty training using just a two year old and a potty? Useful as I’m not sure that our rug will survive another soaking.

Marie was also teasing me with the shock news that the Prince’s considerably better half, Princess Kate, has a secret Mumsnet account. Nooooo!! Sadly for Marie, this particular piece of no doubt otherwise fine investigative journalism offered less appeal, having long suspected that the Duchess may actually be a commoner.

Back to the task in hand. What’s the trick, Wills? Let’s find out. Brace yourselves… CLICK!

It turns out that The Man Who Would (probably-depending-on-a-range-of-factors) Be King bends or crouches down when speaking to his children. Amazing indeed. Where does he get his crazy ideas?

Now, spending all day getting down and back up again is all very well for His Royal Sirness, he is a relatively young man after all, but possibly not so practical for us old dads who, once down, may need the rest of the day to get back up again. So why do it? Apparently, it helps us make effective eye contact with our little people. Which, in turn, helps convince them that you are listening to them. Simple.

This well established active listening technique works with adults too and is something that I use at work to make my staff feel more on my level while they finish their morning bows and curtseys. It works best in environments where you can listen without distraction, which further reassures the little (or big) person that you are really listening.

Rewinding slightly… Without distraction? In a house with a two and four year old in residence? Forget it. The only time in the last six months that our littlest little one has been quiet for more than ten consecutive seconds is when the big one suggested playing a game called “pretend your mouth is stuck together with glue” earlier this week. Which reminds me. I’d best hide the glue, just in case.

Communication, or lack of it, between parents and their children is one of the greatest causes of frustration in the first few years. In my experience, communication through their early developmental phases works something like this.

Very Little Children
All we parents have to go on is our child randomly crying, gurgling, trumping and maybe offering an occasional laugh a few months in. While slightly frustrating as you are left guessing what they need, what they need is usually feeding, winding, changing or sleep. That’s a one in four chance of getting it right which seems like reasonable odds. Talking or no talking, it’ll be fine.

Toddler Age
As language skills develop, your little one finally starts to vocalise their wants and needs. Well, tries to. Unfortunately, their attempts are normally misinterpreted by parents who respond with something like “Yes, it is the cat! Clever boy!” when what they should have done is listened more carefully and put Postman Pat on. Coincidentally, this seems to be the point that the tantrums and foot stamping starts, presumably out of sheer frustration at mum and dad randomly saying “cat” all of the time.

Big Boy or Girl Age (or approximately two and three quarter years old, give or take)
Language skills are often finely honed as children approach three. They are long past crawling and it’s your turn to get down on your hands and knees to guarantee listening properly. If it’s good enough for a Prince, then it should be good enough for the rest of us. Except that the “listening” has turned full circle and become a mutually exclusive parental activity, as demonstrated in this “hypothetical” case study.

Tuesday Evening

*Child bouncing on sofa*

“Come and sit by me instead of jumping on the sofa. You’ll hurt yourself if you’re not careful.”

*Child faceplants into floor*

“Did you hurt your head? It’s alright. Come here. Now we’re not going to do any more jumping on the sofa are we? No. Good boy.”

Wednesday Evening

*Child bouncing on sofa*

“Come and sit by me instead of jumping on the sofa. You’ll hurt yourself if you’re not careful.”

*Child faceplants into floor…*
Repeat indefinitely…

So, good in theory but it seems that the top tip may not be quite as tip top as it first appeared. In the absence of any other suggestions of how to address the problem of reciprocal listening (and potty training) I’m off to log into my secret Mumsnet account. I may be some time.


Pet Sounds

In which our reluctant hero ponders the merits of housing various super furry animals. And a couple of slimy ones.

My week started with three days away from home attending a conference, which was convenient timing with the start of Easter holibobs kicking in. Faced with the prospect of being home alone, babysitting the kids, mum decided to head for the hills. To Wales. To Nana’s house.

One of my more irksome tasks when away is having to work through my backlog of admin. Not work related admin, but the time spent randomly pressing buttons to feign interest in stuff that friends, family and and an ever increasing bunch of vaguely-associateds, that seem to have collected me have on social media, have posted.

A few scrolls into Monday’s trawl, I spotted an alarming post on my wife’s Facebook feed.

“Kids have a new best friend at Nana’s #bowser”

After tutting that the correct hashtag should probably be #wowsers, being down with the kids innit, I looked closer at the attached photo. Uh-ho.

Surprisingly, it turned out that “Bowser” was, in this instance, correct. Bowser was in the photo, playing to an audience of two little people, rolling around chewing a rubber ring while proudly showing the world his bits and bobs. Yes, Bowser was a dog. No, we’re not having one. Where’s the “dislike” button, Zuckerberg? Where’s the button?

Getting a pet is like getting a cheap first car. Initially you will love and cherish it, take it out lots and give it a weekly wash and polish. However, you know that eventually it’ll start annoying you, breaking down at the most inopportune moments at great cost, and you’ll fondly reminisce that the bus wasn’t so bad after all.

If I drew up a list of things that we didn’t need, a dog would be right up there with a new (or any old) series of Mrs Brown’s Boys, or more Build-a-Bear stuff. There’s precious little time to finish pulling the year old masking tape from the utility room walls, without factoring in the zillion hours a week needed to look after a dog. A dog is for life, not just for Easter.

It turns out that meeting Bowser was a good thing for the kids, especially our four year old who lost her irrational fear of man’s allegedly best friend. Less so for our two year old boy who simply loves animals, and has no fear generally, let alone with pets. So much so that he asked the lady in the animal place that we recently visited if he could stroke the crocodile. She declined. Health and Safety gone mad.

Getting pets is supposed to be good for children as, apparently, they’ll learn to love, nurture and look after things. Knowing how well that they usually look after things, unless the pet in question is a reinforced rhino, then there’s going to be a pretty hefty vets bill.

In an attempt to deflect any further mention of dogs, I attempted to assess other potential options.

We have two already. Adding two children to the two cats simply resulted in a continual, four fold attack on me for attention and feeding. We don’t need another.

Hamster/ Mouse/ Rat/ Anything Small and Furry
The cats would eat them. Next.

I’ve never had much luck with fish. Those ones we used to get in Snappies bags at the school fete invariably ended up down the toilet. Worse still, we once dug a pond to accommodate a rescue goldfish, only for GLC (Goldie Lookin Chain) to disappear in mysterious circumstances shortly after. As did whichever of his replacements out of Freddie or Freda has also gone awol. In unrelated news, the cats like hanging around the pond. Hmmm.

There’s frogspawn a plenty in the pond, so we’re guaranteed frogs hopping out of it at some point. Then into the house to play with the cats, because the cats like playing with them. Sorted, until they croak it. But despite the cute jumping amphibians not being an issue last year, I’m slightly apprehensive after observing our eldest’s reaction to Baron Greenback’s grand entrance in the Danger Mouse show on holiday. Not fazed by the giant mouse with an eyepatch, mind.

Now this should be an easy option as they manage to survive in the lawn all by themselves. And as children, we all learned the bonafide fact that if you accidentally (ahem…) chopped one in half then you simply have two worms. Then four. Then six. Also cat proof, so a possibility.

Easier than the worms, you would think, yes? After all, they eat common stuff from the average kitchen. Like chocolate cake, ice-cream cones, pickles, Swiss cheese, salami, lollipops, cherry pie, sausages, cupcakes, and watermelon. Salami, yes, but not spring greens. Well, not unless they’re organic spring greens as a friend found out while trying to raise one. Cause of death? Pesticides. The murderer.

As far as I’m aware, that’s everything covered and there are no more pets to consider. Ever. Again.

The moral of the story? Need a pet that needs minimal looking after, is as indestructible as Arnie in “The Terminator” and won’t cost an arm and a leg? Buy a wormery.

And no. We still don’t need a dog.


The Great Ideas

In which our reluctant hero fondly recalls a long forgotten most genius* idea.

It’s April and it’s springtime. The clocks have been mucked about with again and parents across the land are even more weary and confused than our default parenting setting of pretty weary and confused. Stupid “The Hour.”

April also marks the annual debacle that is April Fools’ Day, where ordinary folk, most of whom aren’t usually known for their hilarity, try their hand at practical jokes or spreading nonsense.

The “jokes” themselves are nearly always rubbish (with the possible exception of any jape that involves setting stuff in jelly, like on The Office that time) and pretty easy to spot, especially if there’s jelly involved.

As for the hoaxes, in an age where button clickers are enthusiastically (and in some cases, naively) spreading their fake news, these are a different kettle of fish. A kettle of fish also being, ironically, a hilarious practical joke. Probably.

For this reason, I am a little more wary about the validity of stories published at around this time of year than usual. For example;

  • “BREXIT BOMBSHELL: EU to demand EVERY British number plate is RECALLED by 2019” – Fake, although surprisingly amusing stuff from Blighty’s second favourite right-wing rag, The Daily Express.
  • Any picture of a positive pregnancy test posted on social media before noon on April 1st – Fake every time. Also, not in the slightest bit funny, especially to those experiencing fertility problems.
  • “Mums are gluing pretty bows to babies’ heads so people know they’re girls” – True. No, really. Try Googling “Girlie Glue” if you don’t believe me.

Ignoring the million or so more sensible ways that mums could make their girlies more girly, like buying a flowery hat for example, it made me wonder if this curious phenomenon is unique to girls.

If my 28 seconds of extensive research is a reliable indicator, then it seems to be. But perhaps the Girlie Glue could be utilised to make baby boys more boyly too? A liberal application of sticky stuff could securely attach a false moustache, pipe, monocle and top hat in seconds. Literally a proper little man, and no more mixups.

Or maybe the glue could be used for more practical uses that parents would appreciate. Like gluing socks or gloves on to prevent their immediate loss, or sticking toddlers to their chairs at mealtimes.

Perhaps these ideas are slightly daft (dafter than the glue?) but I’ll guess that they may possibly have made a few of you go “hmmm…”

Which got me thinking. Are there any daft but practical inventions that I can think of that, if invented, could be useful additions to our parenting Arsenal? Oh, yes…

Reversible Clothing
Going out for ten minutes? Forgot to pack the three necessary sets of spare clothes? No worries. When you arrive at the park, soft play or gala dinner, simply turn everything inside out. Jobs a good ‘un.

Yes, the kids will have mud, jam, or whatever else they managed to collect caked all over the insides, but it’s bound to come off in the bath later. Coats have already been done, so why not make every garment for under fours reversible? A simple solution to an annoying problem sorted. Next.

Temporary Sock Tattoos
Sick of losing socks? Run out of glue? Why not pop to your local tattoo parlour and get a set inked on? A temporary pair, that will fade after a couple of years, will probably suffice. Just don’t go for anything too fancy like pringle patterns.

In a rush? Too tired to cook? Why not try microwavable frozen toast (“Froast”) for breakfast? Simply place a couple of slices into the special Froast cooking bag, microwave for 45 seconds per slice, allow five minutes cooling time, then turn out onto a plate and serve with butter, jam or whatever takes your fancy. Genius I’m sure you’ll agree.

And the beauty is that you can cook it in just a couple of minutes with gadgets (a freezer, microwave and plate) that you already own. No need to mess with expensive toasters and all that rubbish.

Cutlery Bungees
Fed up with your little person’s knife and fork ending up on the floor while trying to hack through Froast of a morning? Then Cutlery Bungees are the thing for you. Simply attach one end to a knife or fork and the other to your child’s wrist. Voila. The next time that pesky cutlery ends up over the side of the high chair it will soon be hurtling back from whence it came. What could possibly go wrong?

Babygro Mop
I initially considered that the concept of parents dressing their little ones in a mop, dipping them in Flash and letting them loose on the kitchen floor even more bizarre and inhumane than baby glue. Practical, granted, but probably not a kind thing to do. But, amazingly, these already exist. They’re called “Babymops” if you’re interested. Sometimes the simplest ideas have already been discovered.

So, there you go. A handful of much needed stuff and nonsense that I’m frankly amazed that we’ve got this far without inventing. And Babymops. I would also add Nappy Airbags, Balaclava Bibs and Chameleon Wall Crayons to the list if there was time, but the clock has beaten me once more.

Enjoy your weekend, whatever you’re up to. I’ll be heading off to the local patent office and enjoying a nice slice or two of Froast.


(*) According to comedian Dave Gorman, when I first came up with the idea in 2010. Thanks Timehop!

Minehead Revisited 

In which our reluctant hero is watching you, watching us, watching you…

When planning holidays before the arrival of our little people, part of the process was to look back on past enjoyable trips and maybe book something similar elsewhere, depending on our mood. Similar, but not the same.

Planet earth is enormous. At the last count, there were almost forty two different places to visit. At one a year, it would take around twenty five years to explore them all. There are still loads of these that we haven’t been to (thirty eight, to be precise) so why go back to the same place, to do the same things, again? Why indeed.

This week we headed to Butlins. Again.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve nothing particularly against Butlins, or any of those sorts of places come to think of it. They are what they are and they do their kid friendly thing pretty well, according to the kids. Which is probably just as well, as that’s where the newspapers say that we are allowed to go on holiday for our tenner*.

(*Per person, plus realistically unavoidable random additional charges. Not available in conjunction with any other offer. T&C’s apply. See paper for details.)

Anyway. Minehead, we are in you!! Or, were in you. Or, more precisely, were just outside you, penned in by the large fence that prevents folk escaping Butlins. Actually, the most likely place that we’ll be when this post goes live at six o’clock is stuck in a rainy Friday M5 traffic jam, failing miserably to get home by bedtime. I hope that I remembered to dish out the travel sickness medicine before we left.

Holidays in Butlinsesque resorts (other resorts are available) with young children (why else would you be there?) involve a lot of watching. Watching the children. Watching the children watch the same entertainment several times. Watching the other parents watching their children watching the entertainment. Watching the exits of the Skyline Pavilion in case your escapee child, that bolted while you were watching the other parents, turns up.

I’ve been inadvertently watching a lot of people things over the past few days. At times, it has been a little like wandering around an interactive episode of Shameless, if CBeebies had commissioned a spin-off series of it.

“Have the people in that chalet really brought their own deep fat fryer?”

“No, it’s a bottle steriliser.”


While it’s mildly amusing watching fellow dads wheel the essentials to survive four nights from the car (suitcases, bucket and spade, pack of nappies, four dozen cans of Stella, etc.) on Monday, what initially looks like a ridiculously misjudged nappy to beer ratio seems far more rational by Wednesday.

Whether it’s the long days, the general tiredness of everyone, the beer, or a lack of interest/ability in looking after the little people, you do see some odd things going on. It’s not all bad, don’t get me wrong, but in the absence of anything else to write about this week, I decided to write some of my observations down.

  • Not content with almost scalding my leg and failing to wipe up spillage, despite me offering napkins, “Coffee Spill Lady” proceeded to leave said coffee with her toddler and scarpered. Two points for guessing what happened next in the middle of a floor of dancing kids, before her second great escape. Slippy.
  • “Sit down and stay there while we go for a fag” says another parent, before abandoning child at the afternoon puppet show. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Child criminals, lifting two pence pieces from the coin trays of “Tipping Point” machines under the legs of the unsuspecting grown ups. No sign of Fagin. Yet.
  • Scooting inside the main auditoriums. We can all guess the problems that this will cause. Kudos to the parents who went that one step further, letting a child on a bike loose in there. Like Mr Bull in a China Shop, or something. At least he had a helmet on.
  • Mr Maker Live. Yes, the bird hat, paper plate puppet and elephant ears made in couple of minutes, while singing, was (relatively) impressive. But can you get the buggy blockers to maybe remake at least one fire escape within 100 metres of us, just in case? Ta.
  • A two year old attempting to put a plugged in USB charger cable in his mouth. Shocking.
  • Parents standing idle while the same two year old child runs off, enters a toy shop and shoplifts a stuffed toy of a dog called “Rainbow.”

OK, so we now keep the charger turned off, and returned the stuffed toy once we caught our light-fingered offspring, but the rest? Tut.

The moral of the story? Despite best efforts, stuff happens irrespective of how careful we try to be. It always will. Just try not to repeat mistakes, and as a minimum try to put things right if you can. Oh, and, sadly, some folk are just asking for trouble. Or irritate the rest of us that are trying to do things right. Or both.

And Butlins is OK. No, really. It is. Ask the kids.


Happy Moms Day

In which our reluctant hero tackles a thorny issue. Probably.

Good morning.

I hope that you’ve all by now managed to clear up the kitchen destruction that was “breakfast in bed” and are thankful that the missing hour means that it’s fine to crack open the Prosecco just that little bit earlier.

Whether you’re a mum, a mom, a mam or a ma’am, here’s wishing you a very happy Mother’s Day, or Mothering Sunday, or…


I Read The News Today, Oh Boy

In which our reluctant hero finds himself going off on one, before getting a grip and starting again.

I started my scribbles for this week’s post on Wednesday morning with the words “It has been a slow news week.” Later in the day, reports of a supposed terror attack on London started filtering through, news that would dominate the media for rest of the week.

Sadly, this appears to be another indication that we are taking another backwards step as a society. Intolerance and extremism of all kinds, social inequality, homelessness, food banks, Trump, the Brexit debacle, a slow creep of far right rhetoric into mainstream media, the unnerving feeling of a push to divide and conquer.

Tonight is Comic Relief night, and those watching will be further reminded of the global problems that seem a world away from us here in Britain.

It’s 2017. We shouldn’t have to worry about this. These should be times of peace, fairness, inclusiveness, equality and opportunity for all. But they are not. Something has gone wrong and, at some point, I’m going to have to attempt to explain it to my little people. Thankfully not today.

But enough of the gloom. If you’re a first time reader and have got this far, well done. My little blog isn’t normally like this, I promise. So, time to cheer myself back up. And you, with a bit of luck.

What I should have started writing is “It has been a slow parenting news week.”

OK. Time to start again…

In which our reluctant hero accidentally stumbles upon the answer to the ultimate (parenting) question.

Things have been fairly standard at home. Our little people have been doing what our little people usually do, asides from a significant increase in card production ahead of Mother’s Day. They have also been honing their card hiding techniques which, seeing as I’m in work appraisal mode, should be assessed as “Improvement Needed.” So, no pocket money increase (or indeed pocket money) for them then. In many ways this mirrors my own situation as a public sector worker.

There’s been even less happening in parenting news across the Interweb. The same six blogs that every parenting blogger writes about are still doing the rounds and are still terrible. If struggling for writing inspiration, I often turn to the parenting section of Google Newsstand to help spark an idea, but most of the articles there are as bad.

After skimming through a few of these, I decided that it would be more interesting (and fun) to try to guess the content from the clickbait-ish headlines.

Here’s a random selection from the first few finger swipes made on my portable telephone. I bet that I’m right too.

8 Things You’ll Want To Say To Your Mom Friends About Their Parenting But Don’t, Because Friendship
These sort of articles are always a little passive aggressive without being too offensive. I’ll wager that four of the eight will infer stop bottle feeding, stop breastfeeding, stop giving your child a dummy, and stop letting them watching Frozen all of the time. There won’t be anything true to life, like “stop your child attacking my child thank you very much” or use of the word “of” if the headline is any measure. Tick.

Mum Shares Hilarious Parenting Hack That Allows Her To Leave The Room Without Baby Noticing
Phones and tablets aren’t hilarious. This will probably involve a Skype call from the kitchen or sticking a scarecrow in a dress in the living room. Or both. Hilarious. Tick.

Your Child Is Not Your Confidant
Let me think. Some long-winded melodramatic guff about the guilt of unloading onto your offspring, concluding that it doesn’t matter anyway as they won’t understand until they reach the age of two. Yes? Tick.

You Don’t Have To ‘Cherish Every Moment’ To Appreciate Your Children
Too right. And you won’t. End. Of. There’s nothing worth adding after writing the title down, so stop there. Just like I should have done. Tick.

Once kids enter the picture, can parents still entertain?
Yes, assuming that your little people are asleep when your guests arrive and that they aren’t members of a travelling heavy metal band or satanic cult. The latter applies to both the kids and guests. Tick.

Dad Spends 3 Days Building Elaborate Contraption To Announce Baby’s Sex
Three days? What was he playing at? I cunningly planned and delivered our littlest person’s name and gender reveal by simply taking a camera to the hospital, stopping at the shop to buy a bottle of cola with his name on, (like they did in 2014) on the way and taking a snap. Genius. If it has taken this guy three days it’ll need to be good. I’m genuinely stumped, but I’m guessing there’s a new Wallace and Gromit film going to be franchised as a result. Tick.

The Funniest Tweets From Parents This Week
My guess? They’ll all be rubbish. Have you met any other parents? Exactly. Tick.

Employ Me, I’m A Parent!
The author may decide to play with the content a little with witty anecdotes about how managing staff is like dealing with kids all day (ho ho) and suchlike. However, this is more likely to be someone-or-other trying to justify that nappy changing skills are comparable to those needed to negotiate international trade agreements (I’ve set it up, so feel free to mentally insert your own punchline… ) and so on. They’re not. Tick.

Put my phone away at the school gates? But then I’d have to engage with my child
Yes, you would and you should. Whatever you’ve written, it isn’t going to make you look good, is it? Hang your head in shame. Tut. Tick.

Having children means less sleep – and the other parenting truths you don’t a study to tell you
You perhaps don’t “need” a study to tell you this, Daily Telegraph? It’s true though. Most things parenting-wise are pretty obvious, and there’s always YouTube to help you find out anything else if stuck. Tick.

Clueless Millennial Dads Are Flocking to YouTube to Binge-Watch Parenting Videos
Oh. Let me rethink the last one. Of course they are, as they were born after the year 2000 and have probably never seen an actual book. And, let’s face it, there’s worse things that they could be watching on YouTube, most of them involving Kinder eggs. They may be useless, but at least they’re trying. Which is also likely to be true of the article.

And then I came to this, published by someone or something called “Mint.”

“The only thing you need to know about parenting.”

Ah. Clickbait at its very finest. What could it be? Can I justify taking a quick look, if for no other reason than to share this key information with the Millennial dads to help wean them off YouTube.

Yes, I should have known better, but I clicked. It’s sometimes impossible to resist.

Fortunately there was a tagline that made the rest of the article superfluous. The Holy Grail condensed into a single sentence. The one piece of advice that will tell us everything. We can empty our bookshelves and delete YouTube off our phones for good. Oh, if only that was possible on Android.

And here it is…

Stop reading parenting how-to manuals and instead take your child out to the park and spend some quality time with her.

Is that it? A simple trip to the park and all parenting problems disappear? Blimey.

We take our two to the park practically every week and, nice as that can be, it isn’t the cure-all that the article, albeit the preview, suggests.

But hang on. It says “her.” We have a girl and a boy so perhaps that’s the problem. It may only work for girls. So, if I take our son down the park too do I need keep the parenting books?

Rather than all this guesswork, maybe I should have just read the whole article, that the poor author probably sweat blood putting together, instead? Nah, nobody reads blogs these days. I’ll look it up on YouTube.