Friday, October 29, 2010

A potty break

Note to self: it might have been a good idea to tone DOWN the emotional pants blackmail five days before going to Madrid rather than ramp it up. Something tells me the reason the books don't include a chapter on potty training a toddler while on a city break is because You. Just. Don't. Do. It. (Or at least I imagine they don't. It's a bit of a blur, but I think I gave up on baby books in about Louis's eleventh month of round-the-clock sleeplessness. Either way, I knew not even to open the Gina Ford potty-trained-in-a-week tome my neighbour thrust in my direction the other day!)

I was nervous enough about the prospect of a city break with a toddler. Especially to a city that doesn't even get going until several hours after toddlers are supposed to be asleep. So imagine my delight when Louis announced earlier this week that he wouldn't be wearing nappies again, only Thomas pants. (Oh foolish mother that I am to have dangled the prospect of Thomas pants in front of his former nappy wearing self!)

We've only ourselves to blame: that morning he'd moaned about me changing his nappy so I told him the only alternative was the potty and the pants. Trust Louis to call my bluff! "Okay. Nappy off. I'll sit on the potty. And wear Thomas pants." Turns out his Daddy J is equally to blame. They'd had one of those am-I-a-big-boy? conversations the night before, that ended with DJ telling him that big boys didn't wear nappies. And so now he doesn't. Well, apart from to sleep. But considering he told his nursery carer he'd rather play than nap for the past two days that's two less nappies worn already. (Cue more worries that he's given up his lunchtime nap as well - just in time for a city where everyone takes a siesta.)

Now all I need to know is how much easyJet will charge us in excess luggage when we bring back a suitcase full of Louis's wet trousers.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Manga Mama

Some kids get magicians at their birthday parties, others get princess makeovers. But REALLY lucky ones get an original Manga portrait as drawn by my very talented friend Sonoko, who recently launched what must be London's only Manga portrait party service. Actually, make that Britain's only Manga portrait party service. For a frankly small amount she'll come and do a ten minute portrait of every child you've invited. You can read more about it (and watch a video demo) on her Manga blog.

And you should, you really should. Just think of the party kudos: how many other party bags contain an original Manga portrait? And she's seriously good. Her other projects include designing jewellery for Anna Lou of London and Giles Peterson's set at this summer's Standon Calling festival. You can read more about her work as a graphic artist here.

And the the record: this is NOT a sponsored post. (I don't think the Manga Louis she did as a present for his second birthday counts.) In fact, I've never done a sponsored post because I'm not on any PR radars. (Not that I'm complaining!)

Monday, October 18, 2010

The nursery net

I know, I know. The "n" word seems to feature in a lot of my posts at the moment. (Well, two out of the past three at least, and considering the (ir)regularity with which I seem to blog that's quite a lot.) But I can't help it. I can't stop thinking about it. The nursery. And specifically, the nursery net. So called because I realised through the tears on Friday (mine and his) that we're caught. In the net. He might not like going - an understatement last week when, for the first time, he cried all the way there, both days - but, like a fish on the deck of a trawler, I don't think we can escape.

You see, I'd always consoled myself with the thought that if it all got really bad, there'd be an exit. A childminder, or a nanny. But despite him hitting a new low of late (he moved into the older kids room a few weeks ago and it hasn't gone well), I think I'm going to have to let him tough it out. As the lady who runs it pointed out, if I take him out now (aged 2 years and 4ish months), I'll only wind up trying to make him go again at some point in the not too distant future.

Even if I don't pack him off to pre-school, or whatever the term is for the full five-day affair that seems to be all the rage, the minute he turns three, I guess there's always the lure of those three free hours a day. (Provided the Tories don't get there first, and let's face it: they should, I can afford to pay his way.) And then there's school proper, which seems to begin earlier and earlier. I'd always thought kids were five when they start, but with a June birthday, Louis will barely be four as things stand. I would happily consider "redshirting" him (an American term for holding them back a year before they start school, which you can read about in this NY Times piece) but that seems to be one American fashion yet to cross the Atlantic.

I realise he might end up settling down; a new routine in new surroundings is a big deal when you're only two, plus he only goes two days a week, which I know is harder. But then again he might not. As the nursery lady reminded me, some kids just always cry when dumped. (*Helpfully* with an actual anecdote about a boy who never got used to being dumped by his mum, right up to still crying when he started school.) So for the meantime, I reckon we're stuck in that net. Now, how do I break it to Louis?

Monday, October 4, 2010

The perils of Thomas

Hard not to inhale deeply at today's Mail story about the "little boy trapped in the world of Thomas the Tank Engine". It can't have been only me thinking, 'There but for the grace of God.....' Yet there is one big difference between Louis' Thomas obsession and the boy in the article: I'm trying not to let Louis find out that the Thomas of his many books also moonlights as a television star. Not because I think TV is inherently evil, as the piece goes on to imply, but just because I. Can't. Take. Any. More. Thomas.

Can someone explain what it is about the cheeky tank engine? Personally, I can't imagine a more boring series of books. Especially if you're *lucky* enough to own some of the original stories. Back then, children's authors didn't mince their words so the trains' adventures are described in full technical glory. There are sidings; couplings; buffers; and many, many more trainspotting terms that I don't understand let alone a toddler. Yet he couldn't be more gripped. Night, after night - with plenty of mornings, mid-mornings, pre-lunchtime naps, and mid-afternoons thrown in for good measure - it's Thomas, Thomas, Thomas. Not forgetting the hours spent pushing mini Thomas and pals round his own train tracks.

Bizarrely, I think the obsession was triggered by a cook book. A free one I got sent at work uselessly telling you how to make all sorts of impossibly different character cakes. I brought it home, Louis discovered it, and would spend hours getting me to explain how you make a Thomas cake. But I also blame the person who gave him two Thomas books for his first birthday! (If only the bump in her tummy was male, I could get my own back, but alas!)

(That said, Thomas did - briefly - become cool last night when Louis discovered an interactive Thomas playmat in his friend Yoppy's room that translated every single Thomas train into Japanese. I liked "Hen-ly" and "Haloldy" best. I want it!)

It was interesting, though, that the Mail piece, which was based on a paper published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioural Pediatrics, used evidence of the boy's fixation to rail against television. Louis is (almost) as into Thomas and yet he takes all his stories from an old-fashioned book. I personally think TV can be an excellent teacher - as does Desmond Morris we learnt last week. Plus, I'll never forget one taxi driver crediting the Disney channel for his 12-month-old daughter already being able to count up to ten. And the lessons Louis learns from Charlie and Lola are invaluable. Not to mention the vocab. Perhaps the trick is just not to let him find out that there's such a thing as a Thomas DVD....