Life lessons from Dora the Explorer

Now let me make my first point: we do not own a television set. Beloved Husband and I are not great fans of the tube, we have better things to do with our time. A few years ago we received the annual TV licence demand for £140 and realised we had only turned the set in twice in the previous year. That’s £70 a watch – not good value. So we ditched it. TV licensing persist in sending demands and threats – they clearly do not believe me when I say we deliberately chose not to own a TV set.

Poverty indicators, Idle Parent, Aric Sigman

I set this information out first just so you know I’m not continuously relying on the electronic babysitter.

However, we do own a small portable DVD player and a laptop set up with iTunes. We also have quite a collection of children’s DVDs.

Beanie Girl’s first TV character discovery was Dora the Explorer. I like Dora. She’s not too pink and frilly. Everything is an adventure whether it’s taking books back to the library or visiting penguins at the south pole. And she has some very sage advice:

“Let’s stop and think” (one this Mummy would do well to heed more often),

“Who do we ask for help when we don’t know which way to go?” the map, obviously.

“Never, ever give up” (Beanie Girl seems to have taken that last piece of advice to heart).

“Seatbelts, so we can be safe.” Very useful that one. More than once I have invoked Dora’s name to persuade a recalcitrant little girl into her car seat.

I still believe that too much TV makes us fat, miserable and stupid, (not to mention broke), but I am making room for Dora in our lives. She’s entertaining. She has wisdom to impart. And she comes in very useful when I need 20 minutes’ peace to cook supper!


Mirror, mirror…

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the grumpiest of them all?

My children are like a mirror sometimes. They reflect my behaviour and attitudes back at me. Trouble is I don’t always like what I see.

For example, I know I need to get myself and the kids out of the house in the mornings. Otherwise we all get grumpy from cabin fever and lack of exercise. Why then, is it so hard to get my act in gear? To motivate myself?

I guess this is not a new problem. Somewhere, somehow I an sabotaging myself. No one else is forcing me to stay in the house. Once I’m outside I enjoy it. Why do I resist? I am stubborn and contrary in nature that’s why. Easy to see where Beanie girl gets it from!

There is an obvious element of goal conflict at work here. I want to play outside with my children, but I also want a lie in- I am obsessed with sleep. (And I want to clear up the breakfast dishes, and I want to stick in another load of laundry before we leave, etc.,etc.) Getting myself and the two small people up, dressed, fed and ready to face the day is no small task. So I resist it. I put it off. Until it becomes bigger and more difficult.

Oh, to be one of those (nauseating) people who jumps out of bed full of energy and enthusiasm every morning!

Or even better, full of serene, Zen acceptance if the way things are. It will take me an hour and a half (at least) to get us all up and ready to go. I could accept this and work with it. Trouble is, that means not just setting the alarm but actually getting out of bed when it goes off instead of snoozing it or ignoring or swearing it at (under my breath of course) which are my preferred options.

Ideal Homes?

Ideal Homes?

What is an “Ideal Home”? Is it one where everything is clean, nothing is out of place and no one dare sit down for fear of disturbing the sofa cushions? Or is it one where everyone feels warm and welcome, safe and loved? I have been pondering this question a lot recently. I spend a lot of time at home; I am, after all, currently a stay-at-home mother.

Now, I have Serious control issues when it comes to the state of my home. My sister can testify that I would yell at her for sitting on my bed and messing up my covers when I was seven for heaven’s sake. My Beloved Husband still teases me about making the bed – “if the bed’s made kids, it means Mummy is coping”. I do not like mess. On the other hand, I have been in homes where my teacup was whisked away and washed up before I had even swallowed the last gulp of tea. This did not feel welcoming. I do know there will always be more mess, dirty dishes, stickers on the floor, laundry, etc. It comes back to that Zen stuff I’ve been reading. I cannot prevent mess so why exhaust myself trying?

I am very Serious about my children’s happiness though, and children make a MESS. Messy play is in fact developmentally important. They need to play with sand, water, paint and playdough. They need toys and puzzles and crayons. Inevitably, these get spread around. My son is two; as far as he is concerned the kitchen floor is enhanced and beautified by the addition of one of his tractor stickers to a central tile. An aeroplane and a fish add interest to the cupboard doors. Who am I to argue? His opinion about what constitutes beauty is surely as valid as mine.

Can I learn to love mess? Now that really is a tall order! I find myself wishing that tidy, clean, ordered play could be developmentally valuable. I clearly have a long way to go with this Zen thing.

A Need Met Goes Away


I have a very wise friend, herself a mother of two young children, who is fond of this expression. Like most truly wise people she is not proud or boastful; she wears her wisdom lightly (and would probably deny that she is wise anyway). Like many wise or insightful expressions, it is a sentence I can return to and learn from again and again.


Some needs are obvious and obviously dissipate once met: if I am hungry and need food, I eat, my need is met, I am satisfied and I stop eating. If I am tired, I need sleep, I sleep and wake up refreshed (hopefully – sometimes my waking is caused by a small person bashing me with a book and demanding I “read it, Mummy!). Other needs are more difficult to identify. Yet others are easy to identify but feel difficult to meet.


La Leche League, an organisation about which I am very Serious, state as one of their principles:


In the early years the baby has an intense need to be with his mother, which is as basic as his need for food.


This is something which I have found to be absolutely true. The intensity of my young children’s need for their mother can feel overwhelming at times. I mean do they really have to follow me into the loo? No one can tell me, or any other mother, exactly when the need will start to lessen, to feel satisfied. It is nice to be needed though. Even if I would occasionally like to have a wee in peace…