Category Archives: Parenting

Learning: Writing letters and numbers

Over Christmas a few developmental things seemed to fall into place for the small boy and he couldn’t get enough of activity books, specifically practicing writing letters and numbers. Not one to discourage this, I spent a small fortune on activity books, we were going through one book every other day over the Christmas holidays and he was thoroughly enjoying it. But there had to be a cheaper way.

I mentioned this to Karen from That Lancashire Lass and she suggested I have a look at Twinkl. Twinkl is a brilliant website full of fun educational resources for parents, teachers, childminders and home educators. It’s full of more resources than you could ever wish for, and whatever their flavour of the month is (it’s usually fire engines and dinosaurs here) there are loads of easily downloadable activities available. 

We thought we’d start off simple and just print off a number formation workbook and letter formation worksheets. Because we’re fancy, I got my OH to print them and bind them into workbooks (it is here when being married to a printer finally comes into its own), but they’d be fine loose or just stapled together.

Writing letters and numbers

The boy loves them. He’s had them about a week now and he comes home from school every day and wants to do a few pages with us, which is so great, we’ve not wanted to push him to do things too much so it’s a delight that he’s genuinely interested and excited to do things. We had an inset day on Monday so we spent some time doing crafts and working through some pages of his new workbooks.

Writing letters and numbers

Although he’s been able to write his name for well over a year now, I’ve found that since he’s been doing some writing practice every day that his letters are much clearer and smaller, he’s even grown in confidence enough to write Benjamin instead of Ben, it’s a big name for a little boy! As you can see from the above picture he’s totally nailed writing the number 12 too.

What we chose to start our Twinkl journey with were fairly straightforward activity sheets. I’m already planning for a few themed rainy afternoons using some of the downloaded Twinkl resources, so I’ll be blogging them at a later date.

If you need a bespoke resource they have a new tool to create your own resources – twinkl create.  I think Twinkl is a cracking website for anyone who likes doing activities at home with their kids, as well as for teachers needing some inspiration; I’m looking forward to doing some lovely learning with my boy.

Mean girls – how playgroup destroyed my confidence

Now my boy is five years old, we’ve more or less settled into a group of friends. He sees them at school, out in the park, at parties or at after school clubs. He, like any five year old has a better social life than me, and that’s saying something. It wasn’t always this way.

When he was a baby I felt some pressure to attend baby groups and classes with him, something I thought would be good for his development. I didn’t really want to do it but I did it for him, the thought of making awkward parenting-competitive small talk with people I had nothing more in common with, other than our bodies had expelled a child at roughly the same time filled me with anxiety. But still I persisted, taking him to a music class where we banged tambourines, rang bells and shook maracas to encourage his development; to the local library for baby story time where we sang and jiggled; and to the “Friday playgroup” which filled me with weekly horror.

If the thought of sitting on the floor of a church hall making music, with a baby who was at best ambivalent to my finest Bez impressions was bad, then “Friday playgroup” still gives me hideous palpitations of anxiety. They were a bunch of stuck up, cliquey yummy mummies, who even after six months of me attending and smiling weakly at them, still failed to find out my name. They would literally turn their backs on me and my attempts at small talk over coffee and biscuits.

Each week I spent an hour each Friday crying in front of my wardrobe, desperately searching for something to wear which would make me one of them. Hysterical, I would push my baby to the church hall and pull myself together just in time. I’d sit, huddled on the play mat with my baby and my one friend who also felt like an outcast.

Little did I know that the “Friday playgroup” had form for being an unwelcoming hotbed of bitchy cliques. Subsequently I’ve met and made friends with many people who attended for a week or two, discovered how dreadful it was and moved on elsewhere. I knew no better, I had no yardstick, I thought this was what groups of mums were like, horrible, bitchy, judgemental and just mean. My heart fills with anxiety at the memory of it all.

I’ve no doubt they didn’t realise what a bunch of complete bitches they were, they probably looked at dumpy old me in my less than designer post-maternity wear and decided I wasn’t from their set. I wasn’t a chartered accountant, I wasn’t the wife of a partner of a firm of solicitors, I was just some dowdy mess who didn’t belong in the same room as them.

I credit this awful group of mean girls (because that’s exactly what they were) with denting my fragile confidence, it’s coloured my every interaction at baby groups, all the way up to school. My natural response to another parent isn’t one of friendly welcome, but a cautious backing off and shying away so they can’t hurt me, and so I don’t care enough for them to hurt me.

I let very few people in (if you’ve made in into the circle of trust, then welcome, here’s your special badge, wear it with pride) and I know that means both me and the boy are missing out on a whole load of good stuff. So this coming year I will try harder, trust more, open myself up for more disappointment and rejection and hope that I’ll never encounter those mean girls again.

FYI, I found a better, more welcoming, more lovely playgroup, made some nice friends there, so there was a happy ending after all.

Playgroup

12 Things I love about my son

I get a bit teary sometimes when people ask me when I’m going to have my next child and I have to tell them I can’t have any more children. The loss of what might’ve been I feel acutely, but I know I am bloody lucky to have what I’ve got.

I creep into his room most nights to look at him, partly because he’s still for once and I can get a good look at him, partly because he looks so damn cute when he sleeps, and partly because I think it does me good to fill my heart full of love before I go to sleep at night. So with that in mind, here are 12 of the things I love about my son…

  1. I love the sound of my son yawning when he’s having his dream wee.
  2. I love the way he sleepily snuggles onto his dad’s shoulder when he’s carried back to bed, like the little boy he is and not the big boy he thinks he is.
  3. I love the way he wakes me up “like a princess”, which is to kiss me like Sleeping Beauty might be kissed by her handsome prince.
  4. I love the way he climbs into bed with me for ten minutes of putting stickers in his farm book before he goes to school.
  5. I love the way he shares things with us, breaking off a small piece of his toast for us and sharing every bag of sweets he gets.
  6. I love the way he stands with his hands on his hips, surveying the street like a tiny foreman, pointing out anything of interest “look mummy, a rubbish lorry”.
  7. I love his sleeping face, peaceful and angelic, still with the soft round cheeks of a small boy, framed by his long eyelashes a thousand girls will later envy.
  8. I love the way he slips his hand into mine when we walk together, his is so warm and soft and he doesn’t mind me squeezing it as I try to burn the memory of his little hand into my mind.
  9. I love the way he loves music, asks for it to be turned up and rocks out whenever he has the chance.
  10. I love reading with him, baking, making crafts and drawing. I love talking about our days and about all of the things in our lives.
  11. I love how polite he is in company, how he will behave impeccably in a restaurant, how people say he’s a credit to us.
  12. I love learning about him. He’s good at counting, less good with phonetics, loves sport and is a bit obsessed with robots.

I love him. With all of my heart.

Of course there are things I don’t love. The rough play, the tantrums, the frankly gross habits I know I’ll be moaning about for the rest of my life. But I’m the mother of a boy, a beautiful, lively, intelligent, caring boy. And I wouldn’t swap him for the world.

things I love about my son

Understanding Personal Space

Understanding Personal Space is something everyone needs in order to feel comfortable, and learning to understand and respect personal space is an important social skill which most people learn as they grow. Many people consider personal space to be something which adults intuitively understand,  but it is also important to make sure you teach your children about personal space; not only to ensure they develop this social skill, but also to help them to flag up and understand what are appropriate or inappropriate behaviours from others.

Understanding personal space not only means teaching children about the social norms involved in creating personal boundaries, but also enables them to benefit from creating their own personal space and trust in their own instincts. It can be important to talk to your child about what is appropriate and inappropriate in terms of closeness, as well as to always listen to their inner voice. If something feels uncomfortable or wrong to talk to a trusted grown up about it.

It is essential that your child knows that they can come to you with any concerns, questions or problems, and one way to ensure this is to communicate effectively with them and to ensure you have clear and open lines of communication with them. It can be important to reassure the child that whatever they tell you, they will not get into trouble and that keeping secrets can be a bad thing.

In order to physically demonstrate some of the common personal space distances, you could use outstretched arms or even a hula hoop so that they have a better idea of what sort of distance is appropriate for them. Discussing the difference between personal space between family members, friends, teachers and strangers is also important, and identifying when people cross those boundaries can be vital. 

Understanding Personal Space

 

By teaching your child about the importance of personal space early on, you can better equip them for their adult lives and help them to identify appropriate and inappropriate behaviours from others. 

It’s important to recognise that violating someones personal space can make them feel uncomfortable, whatever age they are.

Parenting: Why I won’t shame my son online

Yesterday my over-tired 4 year old spent most of the afternoon screaming and crying. He was in a foul mood and was really hard to be around. Together my husband and I spent the long hours until bedtime tagteaming him. Trying to gently entertain him, soothe him and keep him happy. He was hard work, and we felt every second of those six hellish tantrummy hours we endured before he went to bed.

But you know what. I didn’t bitch about him to a soul. I didn’t go on Twitter and call him a dick and do the old #freetoagoodhome hashtag. There was no *sad face* Facebook status update and I didn’t Instagram him mid-meltdown. I didn’t shame him online because I have so much respect for this little human being I carried around, birthed and have lovingly nurtured up to this point.

We all use social media to vent. I know this because I vent all over it. Sometimes it feels like it would help to post a little ranty status update about the little person who loves you unconditionally and relies on you for 100% of their care and attention. I get it. I couldn’t tell you if I’ve ever publicly been a bit nasty about my own child, I might’ve been, but it seems quite unlike me. I’m not in the shame business.

Parenting is bloody hard. Bloody hard. You’re knackered. All. The. Time. You lack the freedom you had pre-children, you can’t do what you want, when you want. Money is tight, there is rainbow covered crap all over your once tastefully decorated house and you have to take a personal interest in the bowel movements of another human. It is hard and it is gross. I get it.

I won’t shame my son online.

We’ve all seen those “reasons my son is crying” memes. The ones where it says “he’s crying because I wouldn’t let him lick fire” and stuff like that. There was a counter meme which struck a chord with me. My son is crying because he’s tried. He’s crying because he’s confused by what’s going on. My son is crying because he has no frame of reference for this new experience he’s having and is clearly terrified of. Yes. Nailed it.

My child is not being difficult just to piss me off, or stop me watching my favourite TV programme. He is crying and being difficult because for him life is all new, confusing, difficult, stressful, whatever. My son doesn’t need me losing my temper with him for this. He doesn’t need me to shame him online. He needs me to understand that having a tantrum, for most of the time at the very least, is evidence of the gap between his existing skills, experience and knowledge and what is happening to him right here, right now.

What he doesn’t need is to look back when he’s old enough, scroll through my tweets or Facebook posts and see for himself how hateful I was towards him. Parenting isn’t easy, I don’t think I ever gloss over it. When I started blogging it was in a way an online diary which we could look back on as a family, or when I’m gone, warty bits and all.

It goes back to the old saying “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”. Be real, be honest, be truthful, but don’t be a dick. After all, this child you’re bitching about now will be picking out your retirement home soon enough. Parenting is hard, but the actual child rearing bit is comparatively short and they’ll be off to uni before you know it. It’s hard, but temporary. So be nice.

Parenting: Why I won't shame my son online

I love that boys face, and I’ve grown to love all the rainbow coloured crap that moved in when he did.

You can read more of my posts about parenting here.

Welcoming Your Child – Humanist Naming Ceremonies

The arrival of a baby is a cause for celebration and an excuse for extended family and friends to get together to welcome the new addition. Traditionally families would gather for Christenings or Baptisms; Bris or Zeved Habat, or an Aqiqah, a rite of passage in which they are embraced by the chosen faith of their parents. But if you have no faith, how can you celebrate the life of the new child in an ‘official’ way? I met Humanist Celebrant Guy Otten to discover more about Humanist Naming Ceremonies.

Guy is a retired solicitor and tribunal judge who is an Accredited Celebrant of the British Humanist Association. He specialises in conducting Humanist naming ceremonies and funerals in the Stockport, Greater Manchester and Cheshire areas, as well as being a noted public speaker and aspiring author. He invited me along to a naming ceremony to see him at work.

naming ceremonies

We met at the Stockport Masonic Hall for the naming of a gorgeous baby girl called Charlotte (aka Lottie). Guy explained that Humanist naming ceremonies can be held in a variety of locations, from the garden at home, a hotel or a hall; he told me he finds local sports clubs are a popular venue these days, and after the ceremony there’s usually a family party for everyone.

Guy spends some time with the family in the run up to the big day, finding out more about them and about their baby. He works hard to make each naming ceremony personal to each family, filling it with anecdotes about them and how much they love and welcome their new child. It’s never a generic ceremony, it’s always absolutely unique to the child, which is lovely.

naming ceremonies

Humanist Naming Ceremonies are joyous occasions where the parents introduce their child to their extended family and friends, often choosing special ‘guide-parents’ to help them through life, giving them advice, comfort, support and encouragement.

Naming ceremonies are wonderful family occasions and Charlotte’s was no different, with one of her guide-parents choosing to say a few words, Grandma doing a reading, Grandad reciting some poetry and Dad Stuart making a speech. It was a real family affair, very personal and extra special. It’s just a shame Charlotte won’t remember the occasion, although Guy does provide the family with a paper copy of the ceremony as a souvenir of the day, so she will be able to read that when she’s older.

Humanist naming ceremonies are rapidly growing in popularity as more people identify themselves as atheists or non-believers. Having now been to two Humanist naming ceremonies, I can hand on heart say that they are the most wonderful, loving, uplifting ceremonies, and a very special way to welcome a child into the family.

If you would like more to find out more about Humanist Naming Ceremonies, or find a Humanist Celebrant near you, please visit the British Humanist Association website.

Teaching children about money

I was in a shop this morning when I spotted a cute purse in the shape of a foxes face, it was only £2 so I bought it for my son. He is four and doesn’t get pocket money, nor do we intend to give it to him until the sheer weight of peer pressure is so great we can no longer fight it. Despite this he is starting to understand that money is important and that we use it to buy things. I thought it was high time he had his own purse to put in the money which other people sometimes give him.

I gave him £1 to start him off and his Dad gave him a few other coins. Over the next few weeks we’ll be talking about what the different coins are and their value and what you can buy for that, but really he’s just interested in going to a shop and swapping some of his money for some sweets, which is something we’ll be doing with him this week.

When I was growing up I used to get 50p pocket money each week from my Grandma, some of which I’d spend at the corner shop (in the days where you could still buy sweets for 1/2p) and some of which I would save. Saving is a really great habit to get into, I was a compulsive saver and the money I saved from when I was as young as 5 helped me during the lean times at university and beyond.

I still save today, as much as I can, it’s very little really but it’s a habit I can’t break but I know I will be grateful for when I come to the end of my working life. I’d love it if I could get him into the saving habit, but first things first, he needs to understand more about what money is and its value. I’ll let you know how that goes!

Teaching Children About Money

 

If you’re looking for lots of useful information on financial education, investments and money management you could visit the WealthWithin website to find out more there.

 

You’re not my best friend!

“You’re not my best friend!” I wonder how many times a day this is bellowed at me.

“Please can you get dressed” I ask, he resists, “You’re not my best friend!” he shouts.

“Please can you brush your teeth” I ask, he protests, “You’re not my best friend!” he yells.

“Please can you stop playing with your train track in the middle of the kitchen while I’m trying to cook a meal” I ask, he responds angrily “You’re not my best friend!” and refuses to budge.

Calmly, when I have time and patience I sit with him and explain that I don’t want to be his best friend, I want to be his Mummy, the best Mummy I can be, doing the best for him, helping him to learn the skills he’ll need to get on at school, to learn how to be the best he can be, to understand what is safe and appropriate (whizzing around a kitchen filled with bubbling pans isn’t safe or appropriate).

I don’t want to be his best friend, of course there’s a part of me who wants to be his very bestest of best friends, but I can’t be, he needs a Mummy, an appropriate adult to be there to tell him off when he needs it, to cuddle him and kiss it better when he falls over, he needs someone to tell him all of the very excellent things he is, to build his confidence and help him to explore the things he likes and dislikes to help him find his path. He needs me to be his Mum.

I want to fill his little life with experiences he will remember always, days out, adventures, great family time together, things that will help him grow into the man he will eventually become. But what he also needs is the guiding hand of a parent, not the mischievous boundary pushing fun he can only get up to with his best friend.

I love the small boy to bits, it hurts a little bit to sit down and explain that I don’t want to be his best friend, I just want to be his best Mummy. Of course there is a lot of space for me being daft with him, rolling around on the floor, chasing him and his friends around the park, singing silly songs on the bus (sorry fellow passengers), but I am his Mummy first and foremost, not his best friend.

Oh, if you’re wondering who his best friend is….it’s his Daddy.

You're not my best friend

How to have a bath

If you have children it can be difficult to get half an hour of alone time. Having a bath is a great way of relaxing, enjoying some quiet time and having a good wash. Here are my top tips for having a bath during half term.

How NOT to have a bath

Picture the scene, it’s half term, you have a lively three year old and two small dogs, you fancy a quick bath, because you’re worth it.

1. Run the bath, add your favourite bath oil or bubble bath, create a relaxing bathing ambience.
2. Put the TV on in the bedroom, supply the small boy with juice and a snack, all seems well so leave them to it.
3. Get into bath and allow the warm water to lap over you, breathe in the aromas from your expensive bath oil, relax.
4. Realise that you’ve forgotten to shut the door.
5. Moments later the small boy and two small dogs wander in. Chaos ensues.
6. Forget how to relax as the small boy bellows “CAN I HELP WASH YOUR BOOBS PLEASE”. Die a little inside as you explain that your boobs don’t need cleaning.
7. Repeat the phrase “no you can’t get in the bath with me” seven times before he just climbs in the bath with you. Die a little more inside.
8. Give up trying to shave your legs and resign yourself to being half smooth goddess and half yeti.
9. Give up on your half an hour of me time. Get out and leave the small boy to enjoy your delicious bath with expensive bath oils.
10. Finish washing your hair in the sink. Voila!

How to have a bath

1. Run the bath, add your favourite bath oil or bubble bath, create a relaxing bathing ambience.
2. Put the TV on in the bedroom, supply the small boy with juice and a snack, all seems well so leave them to it.
3. Firmly shut the bathroom door, locking it if possible.
4. Get into bath and allow the warm water to lap over you, breathe in the aromas from your expensive bath oil, relax.
5. Emerge from the bath scrubbed, shaved, invigorated and beautiful.

Guess which kind of bath I’ve just had.

How to have a bath