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.

Sleep is my favourite and is my best…

What is it with kids and sleep? I love sleep. To paraphrase Lola, Sleep is my favourite and is my best! Bed is one of my favourite places. Snuggly duvet, maybe a hot water bottle if it’s cold, a good book, bliss. If I don’t get enough sleep then I get A Bit Grumpy, just like Daddy Pig. Except that I actually get irritable almost to the point of murderous rage, whereas Daddy Pig’s grumpiness is really quite mild in comparison.

Little Miss Bean is of the opinion that the best thing to do with my bed is to jump on it. Monkey Boy has not yet mastered the art of bouncing to the same degree as his big sister but he is working on it. Certainly they are both agreed that sleeping in a bed is a last resort, something they give in to only when they have exhausted all other possibilities. At two and four years old the world is still new and full of excitement, to sleep might be to risk missing some of it.

I realise I am not alone and my kids are hardly unique in this respect. Talking to mummy friends or an afternoon in the health visitor clinic quickly reveals that sleep is a common obsession among parents. Everyone has an opinion on it too, from your own parents and in-laws to the person behind you in the supermarket queue. They might be good opinions, they might be rubbish. However strongly attached that person is to their answer as the only answer there really are few hard and fast rules in parenting.

However, when it comes to sleep the truth is really quite simple: they have to sleep eventually. We all do, or else we die. They may not sleep when I want them to, or where I want them to, but they have to sleep somewhere, sooner or later. (I’ve been reading about Zen, can you tell?) I cannot control my children’s sleep patterns. Acknowledging that is quite liberating. Now I just have to actually give up trying to control them in practice…Wish me luck!