Safari Kids

I’ve been reading about Safari Kid, an international kindergarten and nursery service that started in Silicon Valley for the children of technology whizzes. It spread across America and Asia and is now this summer due to open in London. Clerkenwell of course. North London. Why would it open south of the river? Children south of the Thames (or indeed north of the capital) aren’t Safari Kid material. These children have to be within walking distance of the City, where they will one day grow up to reign.

Safari Kid is the logical extension of the Tiger Mum phenomenon; kids as young as one will be having lessons in public speaking as well as Mandarin Chinese, French and Spanish, all aimed at nurturing the next generation of (over)achiever. Safari Kid doesnt just offer a daycare, it has ‘programmes’ which are customised for the learning curve of each child and develop critical cognitive, social, emotional, physical, creative and reasoning skills in children below the age of seven years. Ignoring the hyperbole and management-speak, isn’t this what every decent childcare service provides? Be it through play, taught lessons or self-learning, care for children under 7 can’t help but involve moulding young minds.

Safari Kid website notes that their kids are generally ‘one or two grade levels ahead of their peers when they enter primary school, and stand out as leaders and problem solvers in any group’, which is great news for the Tiger Mums amongst us. Being developmentally advanced at the earliest possible stage must be the ideal for the pushy parents of these kids. Obviously their website doesn’t note the cost of this specialised service or the Safari Kid pre-school education to years of guaranteed bullying ratio, but I’ve got to assume both are high.

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Baby Vs. Toddler

The ultimate grudge match…

From the moment I brought Arty home from the hospital (in fact, whilst expressing in a private room on the post-labour ward) people have been asking whether and when I will be having more kids. I’ve written before about my discomfort with this question. I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business whether my husband and I want more kids. Maybe we desperately do and haven’t been able to conceive. Maybe my first pregnancy was horrific and dangerous and I don’t want to repeat it. Or maybe, as another mum once said to me, I’m done with the ‘baby stage’ and just want to enjoy my child growing up.

I have friends with no kids, I don’t envy or pity them, and I have friends with many children. Again, no judgement, no yearning to be just like them. What I do feel is a sense of confusion. Is it selfish to just have one child? Is it practical? It certainly makes economic sense! But then maybe I am a slave to my biology and when I think I’m OK with one child in reality I want more. It seems to be expected of me that now I have Arthur I am always going to be in someway incomplete without a sibling for him.

So what I have decided to do is a pros and cons list of baby vs toddler. Just to see in writing what I am missing from the ‘baby stage’ and whether I think I really should go back there.

What is easier/harder? What everyone tells you: You don’t sleep. You need to KEEP THEM ALIVE. You’re told to breast feed and sleep when they sleep and put them to bed on their backs and NEVER co-sleep on a sofa or when you’ve had a drink or taken any medication. And you have to get all the right equipment. Sterilise everything. Feed them constantly. Don’t feel pressured to go anywhere or do anything but don’t hide at home as that could be symptomatic of PND. Make mummy friends. Get chicken pox. Lose the baby weight. Don’t give them dairy. Aaaaargggghh. So many instructions.

What no one tells you: Babies are terrifying. You love them unconditionally but you can really hate them and yourself and your partner. You want to go back to work because it makes monetary sense but maybe you don’t get any help with childcare so you can’t afford to. You truly believe that your partner has it easier, regardless of your roles. Sometimes you smash it as a mum and sometimes you just cry like your heart’s breaking and have to hand the bawling, puking, shitting bundle of joy to someone else before you think you will die. It’s probably one of the hardest things you will do, keeping a baby alive until it’s a toddler. But it is worth it because BABIES!

They sleep all the time. They constantly entertain you and learn and adapt and grow. Babies are fascinating and you love them so much with a love that is overwhelming and indescribable, a feeling that you are told to expect but can never understand until it wallops you fully in the heart and cervix. And because you are awash with this new love, babies give you energy. The energy you need to make it through another day.

However, the truth is that babies are that way for the tiniest amount of time. They grow up, and develop and change every single day. And then suddenly they are toddlers. Terrible Twos, Threenagers, little monsters. And I can only just about handle one of those, let alone any more!

Obviously you still love your child and want only the best for them, you don’t resent that they are growing up but it is a constant upheaval in lifestyle raising a toddler compared to ‘having a baby’. The naps stop, the hitting and pushing starts. Potty training, answering back, tantrums, nursery, birthday parties, paying for things again because they’re grown people instead of baby lumps.

Could I really do all that again? Would all the lovely, quiet baby stuff be lost amidst trying to wrangle the threenager and keep newbie safe? I’m also only just feeling like I’ve got my body back to myself and maybe I can’t put it through the disruption of another pregnancy. I had SPD so badly that I could barely move passed about 35 weeks. And I feel most days like a climbing frame and obstacle course (as well nurse maid, cook and cleaner) for a rampaging toddler, how could I possibly grow a baby and still put my body through the daily onslaught of Arthur!?

So you see wherein my confusion arises. I would never say never, especially as someone who didn’t want any kids and have been rather blessed with a nice one, so who knows what is in the future. But as it stands, the one I have is enough for me.

 

 

 

 

A-Z of raising a toddler*

 *or how to wrangle a small, drunk dictator…

  • A – Awesome. Truly. Babies are super cute and they sleep a lot which is great but toddlers are incredible. They are eating, running, drawing, talking, pissing, climbing, screaming, laughing MACHINES designed to learn and DO. And that is pretty awesome. If you can keep up.
  • B – Bedtime. Could be unproblematic and chilled as your little angel settles to sleep with little more than a cuddle and a night night story. Or your little Chucky could get a second wind anytime around 7.30pm and scream blue murder when you very selfishly suggest that 9pm is indeed bedtime rather than chocolate hippo time.
  • C – Crayons on the wall, tv, floors, cat, toys. Basically anywhere but a colouring book. Also Co-sleeping. A contentious issue that most people partake of and then lie about!
  • D – Danger. Wherever it lurks, there too lurks the toddler. Bloodied, scratched and bruised. Luckily mummy kisses are magic. Everywhere except the arse, which when injured is only healed by daddy. Because rank.
  • E – Energy. I recently read that there should be an energy drink called 5am toddler. That should say it all.
  • F – Fun. You’re meant to provide stimulation (and try and use up some of that excess energy) so you sometimes are too busy making life fun for the toddler that you don’t realise they are fun to be around themselves. They’re very funny and there’s something about everything being so new and interesting to them that is very uplifting to a parent.
  • G – Give it!! To a toddler everything is fair game at play time, from the train set at nursery to the trampoline another child is currently playing on. As such, if they are denied their toy when they want it, for whatever reason, it is the worst thing that’s ever happened. My boy literally cannot handle someone else playing with whatever he has decided he NEEDS to play with right now and frequently snatches, pushes or sulks. It’s embarrassing but it is a part of learning to share and interact.
  • H – Hurry up and wait. Because every time you need to leave the house on time to be anywhere important your toddler will lose their clothes, their shoes or their shit.
  • I – Injuries, from the smallest graze to broken bones, are a part of life with a toddler. They move so fast and have no concept of danger. Unfortunately cuts and scrapes are inevitable. But the first time you see their blood is shattering.
  • J – Jumping; from sofas, climbing frames or just on the spot. It’s a dance move, a means of escape and transport all in one. Also links to the previous definition.
  • K – Kicking – see also Biting, Pushing and Pinching – for undesirable behavioural phases that all toddlers seem to go through. Hellish but fleeting.
  • L – Love. You love them and they’re your world but sometimes you just want to scream and disown them and down a litre of gin. Love conquers all but it doesn’t necessarily make it easy.
  • M – Mine!! See Give it!! Trying to teach the concepts of ownership and sharing is a horrendous task. Also Medicine. There is always Calpol. Remember this.
  • N – Naps – they dwindle down until they only need one precious hour or so a day and then they stop that too. And then the crying starts.
  • O – Outbursts happen. There will be shouting, big, hot tears and slammed doors or stamped feet. It is inevitable. And sometimes the kids have to act up too.
  • P – Preschool or nursery or whatever you call it, often there comes a point where it’s a good thing for your toddler to socialise and prepare for school so daycare becomes necessary. Walking away that first time is HEARTBREAKING but it is healthy and they’re honestly happy and you claw back a few hours of your own life.
  • Q – Quiet can be blissful but (normally when accompanied by the child being out of view) can also mean trouble.
  • R – Repetition repetition repetition. ‘That’s not my…’ books, the alphabet, Insy Winsy Spider, 1, 2, 4, 9… My whole life is spent listening to him repeat phrases and tiny bits of songs or numbers like Rain man. And if I’m not listening to him then I’m repeating myself 4 or 5 times a minute because if something’s worth saying it’s worth saying again and again and again.
  • S – Sharing – essential but very difficult to teach and really hard if you’re not, as I’ve discovered myself, a great sharer yourself.
  • T – Tantrums. Out of nowhere your gorgeous cuddly child becomes overheated, redfaced and mortifying, screaming or clawing at you, crying and kicking off. A proper toddler’s tantrum is a force of nature but they do tend to burn themselves out pretty quickly. And I’ve found its a good thing to try and hug it out afterwards because as scared or disturbed as you have been by the outburst, they cannot begin to deal with the aftermath.
  • U – Ultimatums that usually make no sense because I’m so stressed/embarrassed/ exhausted that I just snap “no more Kindle unless you won’t  promise you won’t be a naughty boy because nice mummies like you nice”. Yeah, threatening.
  • V – violence. From a tiny pinch or a practice bite to all out hair tugging or scratching, I have been bruised and cut, had clumps of hair wrenched out and been kicked in the chest so hard I thought I was going to black out. I have a particularly strong toddler with a blazing temper so I do tend to be on the receiving end when his tantrums or play times turn into assaults. As painful as this is, it’s worse if it happens in public. Profoundly embarrassing.
  • W – Winky. As in, “Please put your winky away… Don’t try and press the buttons on the laptop with your winky…No, I can’t fix it, it’ll go down on its own… ” also, Wine. Sweet sweet wine.
  • X – Xylophone because some bastard bought one as a gift. Bastard.
  • Y – Yucky; Because anything that is rank, toxic or filthy needs to be touched or, Christ have mercy, eaten, each parent has to develop the lingo to show appropriate disgust and horror without swearing. When I notice him picking up someone’s cigarette butt or trying to clean sheep poo from his shoe – with his tongue – obviously I want to scream obscenities and douse him in Dettol. Can’t do that though, not anymore…so you find a way to teach that things are dirty or dangerous but gently, and with kinder more singsong words like ick, or yucky.
  • Z – Obvious but sadly zzzzzzzzz, as in, sleep. You might have a great sleeper who tucks himself up at 7.30pm demanding a story and a kiss good night and that’s it until 7am. I don’t. He rarely caves before 9pm and more often than not I wake up to him snoring gently in my face!

7 Deadly Syns

I recently joined Slimming World, about a month and nearly a stone ago, and its relatively easy to follow with proven results if you stick to plan. What I’ve found damn near impossible to do, however, is keep within my daily Syn limit. I’m allowed quite a few (between 5-15 a day) and I have already cut out some delicious but problematic little Syn-heavy delights – such as cheese and chocolate – as I found out I have an aversion to lactose. But now I am really struggling to, well, eat badly.

I fill up on free food and I’m rarely hungry but I need to graze and I have mostly sweet teeth so I’m starting to dream about all the things I ate pre-diet (Before Slimming World or BSW) but never truly indulged in. What a fool I was to not go really CRAZY and binge on blue cheese and chocolates and BUTTER… mmmm… butter… before I signed up! So because misery loves company,  I thought I’d share what I consider the major threats in a list where I can both mock and pine them…

  • Toffee – This is an obviously naughty one. No one should eat too much toffee but I’m finding myself craving it. It’s a constant itch that 3 pots of Mullerlight toffee yogurt on a caramel Snackajack doesn’t begin to scratch. Not that I should eat that either, lactose and all that, but needs must.
  • Wine – Naturally. A small glass of lower percentage white wine might take the edge off a wine craving but even that would take up the majority of a day’s Syns. And to be honest, sometimes you just want a beautiful bowl of blood red wine as dark as your soul and twice as large.
  • Crackers – a couple of Ryvita is only 3 Syns or there’s always Melba Toast I suppose. Really I just want half a pack of cheap and cheerful cream crackers, with or without Primula, the foodstuff of the Gods.
  • Bread – This is a real toughy. Soda bread, sourdough toast dripping in butter, doorstop sandwiches, baguette, granary, poppyseed… an endless list of desires. Frustrated desires.
  • Lattes – I run on coffee. And lattes made from lactose-free milk were my mid-afternoon treat that each comprise about 3 day’s Syns… Sob.
  • Sweets/candy – Starburst, Maoam, Tootie Frooties, Chewits, all the sweets I would NEVER allow Arthur to eat… oh Christ, they call to me… He has to be healthy and eat well but I DON’T. I WANT CANDY.
  • Granola – This one is particularly cruel because granola is one of those foods that is seemingly good for you. It’s a healthy sounding, normally ‘healthy’ tasting (i.e. flavourless) food that TRICKS DIETERS! A Starbucks granola bar, a go-to if you’re in a hurry and eating healthily, because it’s obviously better than that marmite and cheese toastie, is 24 Syns. Yeah. 2 days worth in one hastily grabbed snack bar. The bastards.

Realistic Top Tips for your Hospital Bag

My friend recently posted a blog that she had found whilst looking for suggestions for her hospital bag. It was a generic listicle, we’ve all read them. If you’re anything like me then you pored over them, memorising them, packing and repacking your bag accordingly each time you read a different suggestion. This particular list had a top 5 of things to take to hospital that you might not think of, the first being make up and the fourth being nice nightclothes. Now, I know I’m hardly Zoella but I appreciate make up as much as the next girl. I also, however, appreciate a five day stay in hospital, anaemia and major surgery (my personal experience of childbirth). I could have done with several things that I would *never* have thought of but lipgloss? Not so much. As for nice pyjamas/yoga pants etc.. ? I personally found it near impossible to find a nightgown/big tee that allowed for unbuttoning and breastfeeding. I ended up in a snazzy BHS nightie. Not sexy but very comfy and very practical. You hurt, you bleed, you can end up bed bound for days, you don’t need to look your best ‘in case your husband’s boss stops by to meet the new addition’*

My top five essentials you’d potentially overlook would be: Lucozade, peppermint/ginger teabags, a spare pillow, SOCKS – big, slouchy ones – and a phone charger.

I had a planned caesarean so I could sort of plan accordingly but I still had no idea these things would be the difference between a comfortable stay in hospital and a fraught, miserable affair. I know also that childbirth is anything but easy to plan for. So I asked another mummy friend (who went through 36 hours of labour, emergency c-section, transfusion and nearly two weeks in hospital) for her top five: 1. coconut water. 2. Playlists – long ones. 3. Slippers. 4. Lip balm. 5. Lavender oil.

Obviously, if you’re concerned that you won’t look good in photos on the postnatal or labour wards then do pack your make up bag. But maybe make smart choices like waterproof mascara, tinted moisturiser rather than foundation and a hint of a tint lipbalm rather than your standard Chanel red. Or ignore me completely and go full on Betty Draper Mad Men style and wear full warpaint, blousy negligee and fluffy mule slippers too. Huzzah.

*Actual ‘issue’ raised by the aforementioned top 5 list.

Shopping Sucks.

Retail therapy is not only not therapeutic but these days I find it more like public torture to the soundtrack of Beyonce, The Weeknd and Zayn Malik. And yes, I only know who one of those people are.

I was never an expert shopper, being more inclined to stop for coffee every few shops and then wine once it passed about 1pm. I don’t much like crowds or cashiers or spending money and the last time I went somewhere trendy like Topshop was about 2004. Because I am a size 18, not exceptionally huge but definitely not high street fare, I find it quite hard to shop for fashionable clothes anyway without the extra feeling of being idiotic for even entering H&M and expecting their clothes to fit. Today, in fact, I found myself feeling apologetic to the other customers and shop assistants in H&M that they had to get round me gawking at the cost of a tiny size 6 cropped top. I must have looked ridiculous.

What’s most upsetting about shopping as a mum though is the overwhelming sense of uniformity that seems foisted upon you as soon as you enter the hallowed mall. Go directly to the plus size section of any high street shop, or take a chance in the regular stores, and you have your choice of Breton top, ripped knee jeggings and mumsy cardi. Chuck on a pair of hightop Cons et voila – MumBot 2016. Parka jackets in the Spring, Autumn and Winter, denim in the summer. Done. And that is fine if that’s the look you’re going for but having googled style pages and instagram I know that other looks exist. Even for mums. Even for FAT MUMS like me!

I’m sure that services exist that offer help and advice for people in my position, limited time and plus sized, but if you’re looking to dress reasonably well *and* maintain any individuality without spending a fortune, it seems a personal shopper is out of the question.

I’m not sure what the solution is. I appreciate that there are a lot more size 6s out there nowadays but I don’t believe that reduces the number of plus sized women  wanting to dress fashionably, age appropriately or economically. Maybe if it didn’t feel so targeted at smaller, younger shoppers in stores such as Urban Outfitters, Zara or Topshop (whose owner famously said they were fazing out size 16 because ‘they are about fashion’) it wouldn’t feel so isolating and pointless trudging around the highstreet. Like Primark had a meeting and decided that yes they’d better sell size 20 but hey, only one or two per style and really lets just trim that muu-muu and pass it off as a dungaree dress.

Or I could suck it up and just wear my striped, mum-tum friendly uniform and stick to clothes shopping in the supermarket whilst I’m buying the week’s shop? At least that way when I inevitably get depressed about being enormous or boring or broke or old, I can comfort eat ALL THE PRIMULA.

Help! My boy won’t listen

I have no authority over Arthur. I’ve come to realise this recently but I’ve suspected it since he was about nine months old when he would take his nappy and trousers off as soon as I’d wrangled him into them or repeatedly ask for a drink just to then dribble it onto the rug to make a lake. Now I have a two-year-old boy who spends roughly 16 hours a day with me, seven days a week, who won’t listen to reason and often wilfully disobeys me. 

I shouldn’t have expected anything else really. Even my cats dont respect my authority; I suspect I am just not very authoritative. And that is absolutely fine if there is some other way of getting around a toddler with a listening problem. I can coax and cajoul, bribe, look very stern and if all else fails, hand over the task of disciplining to the best friend or husband. Im not ashamed to admit that raising Arthur is at times a collaborative effort.

The problem comes when his disobedience/exuberance/being a toddler runs head long into other people who are *not cool* with said disobedience/exuberance/being a toddler. For example, Arty loves an audience and sometimes if he’s pretending to bump into people gently to then apologise and laugh it’s all very cute and funny and every one has a dear old time. If he runs at a child, dog, pensioner intent on bumping them or pushing them over in a game of tag, this suddenly involves other more delicate creatures in our life of hurricane Arthur. It makes it seem as if he is violent or aggressive or naughty and that I can’t control him. I can’t. But he isn’t. He’s just 2 years old and excitable.

The best outcome when this kind of thing happens is that the aforementioned delicate creature can laugh it off and understand that Arthur is playing. That rarely happens. The normal response involves glares, tuts, grimaces at me and occasionally the other party will wait until Arthur apologises at them,  personally, as if he knows that he’s done something wrong?!

Hopefully this is a stage that he will grow out of and will learn to play gently and moderately but until then I will just have to keep saying sorry for him and looking like a terrible parent who is apparently raising a child for bear-baiting/cock fighting/Spartan combat. That’s fine. I am looking forward to people finally appreciating that bringing up a hyper active child is tough and, actually, he’s a lovely kid who just wants to play.

The Trouble With Topsy and Tim

Oh God. I laughed A LOT reading this aloud to my hubby who indulgently smiled and barely glanced up from his phone. Stupid hubby. Stupid Topsy and Tim.

Sleep Decoration

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The arrival of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is near, signifying End of Days. Nearer than you might think perhaps, being this Autumn. This much feared and terrifying event, accompanied by signs, portents and celestial phenomena is known in layman’s terms as The New Series of Topsy and Tim. But before you pick up the phone to tell people you love them, or run to Tesco to stockpile provisions, let us take a moment to understand what we’re facing.

Now I’m all for any sort of kid’s programme that will keep my darlings entertained for 10 minutes while Mummy does *important housework* (Facebook). Hey Duggee, Andy’s Dinosaurs, Clangers, even the freak show that is Kate and Mim Mim, are all fine with me. I do however, draw the line at the abomination that is Topsy and Tim.

I grew up reading the books, and still love them, so why…

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Honest mums

I’ve read quite a few blogs and articles recently about honest parenting; the apparent backlash to all those perfect parent posts that give an appearance of easy, gourmet, organic parenting. My favourite recently is the wonderful Honest Toddler.

The Honest Toddler is a hilarious Twitter feed turned blog and book franchise created by Bunmi Laditan, a mum of three, who has also blogged for the Huffington Post.

Amongst much hilarity, as written by the eponymous toddler, Laditan also has a Facebook page where she posts photos of the meals she has spent hours creating for her kids and their disgusted or disinterested responses. So far, so postmodern mum. But where Honest Toddler differs is in the descriptions of her posts, specifically when she has NOT crafted a perfect, gluten-free, Gwyneth Paltrow-worthy feast. For example, she recently posted a photo of what looked like a takeaway (possibly KFC),but described it as ‘organic, free-range, rescue chickens who communicated to me in chicken language that they wanted to die to nourish my children.. .I coated them in gluten-free almond meal and probiotics before baking them on a tray lightly sprayed with coconut oil and colostrum… Those aren’t fries, they are rutabaga spears from my garden, lightly fried in peanut oil from my peanut grove… ‘

I love her. So simple yet so daring at the same time. It really is very brave as a mum, to present to the world of social media a face that isn’t perfect and idyllic.

I have read that she is in a legal battle with Jessica Alba’s Honest Company over the right to the name. I really hope it comes to an amicable conclusion because ultimately, unless you have Jessica Alba’s life, wealth and privilege, there really is nothing honest or relatable in her company. Not in any way like Bunmi Laditan.