Dinosaur… GRR!

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In which our reluctant hero reviews a theme park. Probably.

According to that ever reliable font of truth and knowledge that is the internet, an  “involuntary action” is pretty much consistently defined as “an action or reaction occurring without conscious awareness of its trigger.” Hold that thought for now.

The more observant viewer may remember that, a couple of weeks ago, my minimum wage room of chimps wrote a post about going away without the little people and wondering what our next holiday with them would be like.

Back to the present and our official get-it-in-cheap-before-the-kids-are-old-enough-to-get-us-fined summer holiday week kicked off. With a trip to Peppa Pig World no less. Oink!

Having stayed locally overnight, we were one of the first groups to wander in when the park opened. It was an odd, slightly surreal, scene that greeted us. Familiar buildings, but in real life plastic form rather than as painted backdrops to a series of five minute animated shorts. A black threatening sky, where normally clear and blue exists, closed in overhead.

At first I didn’t notice the haunting glockenspiel melody beating out in the distance. My subconscious did, however.

“Recycle, recycle, recycle, recycle…”

Eh? What was that? As my head tried to unravel what had caused this unexpected earworm, Grandpa Pig’s shout of “ALL ABOARD!” went in and out, practically unnoticed.

“Gertrude is NOT a toy train! She is a mini-a-ture locomotive!”

Huh? This time I find that nonsensical words are spilling out of my mouth. That only normally happens in management meetings. Odd.

A fleeting glimpse of a smug looking baby elephant in the distance elicits a different response. My arm unexpectedly launches a right hook in its general direction.

“Edmund Elephant is a clever clogs.”

Fair enough. Nobody likes a clever clogs…

More music. I start to panic and look anxiously around. I hadn’t noticed that so many other people had slipped in. All around, grown men and women are wandering, zombified, mumbling semi-familiar phrases under their breath.

“Dinosaur… GRR!”

“If you are jumping up and down in muddy puddles, you must wear your boots.”

“WE’LL DIG UP THE ROAD!”

“Naughty mummy! You’re playing the Happy Mrs Chicken Game!”

Partly reassured, partly still anxious, I head up the hill into Peppa Pig’s house. By now I’m half expecting heavy red velvet curtains, a checkerboard floor and dwarves talking backwards. I’m relieved to find, when I finally open my eyes, nothing quite so Twin Peaks but a six-foot tall family of plastic pigs in a cartoon kitchen tossing pancakes. Normality resumed. Phew.

As we leave the house, the sun puts his hat on. Right on cue, a familiar theme tune blares out signalling the end of this dystopian nightmare. We finally start to exist in Cartoonland. Snort!

Much as I would rather be writing stuff filled with nineties cult telly references and the like, I’ve been reminded that I should at least pretend to attempt to bring this back on track a little. So, here’s a sort of cobbled together review/not really a review thing, just in case you’re considering going. And to save me getting told off by the blog police.

To its credit, Peppa Pig World was a decent enough day out. The place looked great once the sun came up and the paranoia calmed. The little people loved it, and there’s enough there and in the wider park to keep even the biggest kids (the Dads) happy. For a change.

Pros
The kids like it, with their highlights including;

  • The rides – All of them. Especially the ones that go round and round. And round again.
  • Ducks – apparently there were plastic and real ones.
  • Water – apparently the water was not plastic but real. Apart from the plastic stuff.
  • Jumping up and down in muddy puddles. Pro Tip – take a spare set of clothes and a towel. We didn’t…
  • Peppa Pig, George Pig, Zoe Zebra and Susie Sheep. Real. Not plastic. Apart from the plastic ones.

It’s also good for fitness. We had our eldest practising upright limbo under a 1m pole for a fortnight. On the day, she didn’t disappoint, sneaking through looking like she was walking to get in free. Gold star duly administered.

There’s real life rollercoasters. For grown-ups. Provided, of course, that there’s a short enough queue so that you can sneak on while pretending to go to the toilet. Whee!

Cons
Height restrictions. Check beforehand, as it’s a long way from Wolverhampton if your little people, or better half, are too little to make the most of it.

The obligatory theme park £15 for two non-descript Coronation chicken sandwiches, crisps and a drink. A conspiracy!

Motion sickness. Yes, the back of the car got covered again. Standard. But all of the rides go round and round. And round again. We drew straws for who got to go and “enjoy” Windy Castle. I lost and spent the whole ride expecting a repeat of the Coronation.

Children under eight need to be accompanied by a responsible adult. Consider this and source one as necessary. We got away with it. Just.

Enjoy.

Choosing Your Battles

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In which our reluctant hero considers the only two practical options available. Fight or flight.

Being a Dad and being a manager at work are at times spookily similar roles. You constantly have to deal with temper tantrums, toys being thrown out of the cot and general silliness for little or no thanks. And the pay is rubbish.

Fortunately, the minute that you realise that whatever you do you are never going to win, everything gets much easier.

Becoming a Dad and a manager happened at about the same time for me. As if one ill-prepared voyage into the unknown, with only a punctured dinghy for protection, was not enough, I chose two. Idiot.

After paddling against the tide for a couple years, I downed anchor after realising that it wasn’t the winning, but the taking part that was important. Or, put another way, that you need to choose your battles carefully.

There you go. A top Dad tip. You’re welcome. 

Yes, throwing food, not tidying stuff up, and a constant cry of “DON’T WANT TO!” every time you ask for something to be done is annoying, but does it really matter? Is it worth getting upset about, or simply a behavioural issue to deal with at appraisal time?

Although fully aware of the need to choose wisely, I still can’t help going all in at the wrong times.

I once found myself in an hour-long standoff with my then two year old over mess. Quite a lot of mess, but just mess nonetheless.

Picture the scene. A small child, and a childish, tired-and-somewhat-fed-up-about-always-having-to-pick-up-the-mess adult facing each other, dead-eyed like a pair of Wild West gunslingers. Gunslingers separated only by a sizeable spread of Postman Pat toys. In the Wild West. Or the “Dining Room” if you prefer. “Why do I alway have to pick everything up? IT’S NOT FAIR!” Pathetic really.

I ended picking them all up of course in an ending as predictable as that of Titanic (spoiler – the boat sank.) With hindsight, it was a pointless battle to get involved in. And a pointless film to have watched too.

A race to see who could put the most toys away quickest would have been better. As would teamwork, singing or emotional bribery. Or pretty much anything else if I’m honest. Nobody gets upset, Ted Glenn ends up back in the recesses of the darkened toy box (to do whatever Ted Glenn gets up to in the darkness….) and the naughty step is spared a pounding from toddler feet. Jobs a good’un.

Children being children, there can never be any consistency. Our two are different. One is a strong advocate of the grand emotional gesture and occasional full on waterworks. The other is… well… stubborn and will never back down when he’s got something set in his mind. Just like his mother. Probably.

You need creativity in your approach to get to a desired outcome. Trick them into thinking that everything was their idea all along. Give them credit and a pat on the head if they do something nicely. Offer rewards. A Jammy Dodger per task completed perhaps? Even consider being nice if all else fails and you really have to. But above all, avoid a battle if you can.

Trust me, this simple yet effective technique usually ends with a painless win. So much so that I often adopt it at home with the kids too.

Work out what matters and what doesn’t. Take a deep breath and a step back. Nobody actually died when the heads got ripped off all of the daffodils, although they very nearly did. Deep breaths.

If all else fails and military intervention is needed, hit them where it hurts the most. Reassert your authority. Stand up tall. Stick your chest out and get your inner monologue working overtime. “I am a man. I am a man. I AM A MAN!!” Take decisive action. Switch CBeebies off and hide the remote control. Then head home.

That’ll teach them.