Dear Dad…

I’m so sad tonight. I wish I could pick up the phone and call you up and tell you how I’m feeling and let all my frustrations out. You would probably listen awkwardly because I’m a woman and I’d be crying, and then you would tell me a story that hardly seems related, but somehow makes me feel better anyway. I would put down the phone feeling all cried out in the way you normally can only be when you’re by yourself, but in a good way, instead of this lonely aching feeling that I’m left with right now.

You never met R, so I don’t know how you would deal with his visual impairment or his and our frustration at his speech delays. For all I know, when it comes to his medical history, you would be just as unhelpful as my remaining parent, not knowing what to say or do to help, or how to be supportive in the way we need. But I do know for certain one thing, when it comes to his everyday life, you would be here.

You would take me to appointments when I needed the company, you would be phoning off the hook every day to see how we both are, you would hug me when the terrible two’s were driving me mad, or there wasn’t anything helpful left to say. I can’t imagine a day going by where you wouldn’t want to see us both, to hold your grandson, to sit with your daughter, and just while away the time with us both.

You would probably tell me that it’s her depression and the years of being alone, but you’ll have to excuse me for insisting that it is still not normal for a parent to not want to see their grandchildren. After almost three weeks of no contact, it is not normal for a parent to have to be bullied into spending some time with their daughter and grandchild. And yet that’s what happened today. And I don’t know why I bothered. After an hour and a half of sitting on my couch watching him while I played with him, a large portion of that spent with her eyes closed, she left. My mother hadn’t hugged him, kissed him, read to him, or even touched him. She hadn’t even moved from her spot on the couch to go down to his level and join a game.

It’s true- I might imagine you being here through the tragically rose coloured glasses of knowing you never will be again. But it’s not the fact that you’re gone that tells me you would hardly let R go if you had the chance, it’s just fact. Because somehow, with one parent who told me she had to ‘learn’ to hug me when I needed it, I still grew up affectionate and loving to my friends and family. Even though I’ve been told that I’m loved the least out of her children, I’ve somehow got a sense of self-worth and belief. And I didn’t give myself those things, you did.

So I know, with the certainty of really knowing a person, the way I’m coming to believe I never will know my own mother, that you would be cuddling and playing and singing with my little boy every chance you could get your hands on. You would call, probably too much, to find out how we are and to tell us you care. It wouldn’t be a chore, or something you needed to be reminded to do or argued into.

I don’t worry about R, the way I sometimes worry about myself. He has two parents that know how to make him feel loved and special. Thank God, he doesn’t need you in his life to make him feel supported and worth something.

Sadly however, I sometimes think that I still do.

Peppa Pig has Bad Parents.

Is it just me, or is Peppa just not a very good role model for our kids?

My son loves a lot of things. He loves his baby bear, he loves most types of food, he loves books of all kinds, and this week he loves Lego. But as I’m sure most parents find with their kids, he doesn’t love anything as much as the limited time he spends watching TV shows. As we don’t have a television, at the moment his entire repertoire of shows consists of Baby Einstein and Peppa Pig which we’ve downloaded to our laptop/smartphones. Most parents will agree that Peppa is a useful show, because it only lasts five minutes. The perfect amount of time to keep your kid entertained while you make the important phone call, quickly put the supper on, scream into a pillow etc, without making you feel like one of those mums who over-uses TV as a way to entertain their offspring. (After all, 5 minutes even three times a day barely counts as television, I wouldn’t even mention it. ;))

I chose Peppa Pig because I saw endless children who were obsessed with the characters, and because we had received a book with Peppa and George in our Bookstart pack from the library, and R brought it to me to read about 7 times a day. And it’s a cute show, with simple and sweet story lines. For those (luckily) not in the know, the family of pigs consists of Mummy and Daddy Pig, Grandma and Grandpa Pig (I assume Daddy Pig’s parents given the matching surname?) Peppa, who seems to be about 3 or 4, and her baby brother George, somewhere between 1 and 2. Oh the hiijinks they can get up to in five minutes!

So what bothers me? A few things, and I preface this by saying I know I’m probably being over the top, and also that I have only seen approx half of the first season and none of the others.

1. Language
Does anyone else notice the amount of times Peppa exclaims “Naughty Daddy!” or “Messy Mummy!” or “Silly Naughty Daddy!” and the entire family erupts into peals of laughter? I see that the parent in question normally joins in the laughter, so I wouldn’t say it’s exactly encouraging bullying and teasing, but surely there is a correct way to talk to your parents, and this just isn’t it! Aren’t we showing our kids at their most receptive time for learning that it’s okay to use words like naughty and silly, and not only use them but direct them to their mums and dads? Worse still, the parents reinforce this by using the same language to each other in front of the children too. Over the top or not, I find it uncomfortable.

2. Food.
I know they are a family of pigs, so maybe I’m fighting a losing battle with this one, but is there ONE episode of this show where they don’t consume junk food? Biscuits, Pancakes, Chocolate Cake, Cookie batter… and all eaten in two swift bites! Would it kill the writers to give Peppa an apple?

3. Gender Stereotyping.
Daddy Pig works in an Office. He has a flashy laptop and a big desk. If Mummy Pig does any work, it is condescendingly referred to as Very Important, and is done on the Amstrad PC she has upstairs in her bedroom. Of course, the second the computer stops working, she is all a flap and calls Daddy Pig to fix the big mean problem. He promptly turns it on and off again to rapturous applause from the females and children. Phew. What would we do without big strong men-folk.. er, pig-folk.

4. Discipline.
If the Pig residence was a real household, Super Nanny would have been called years ago. Because there is no way that Peppa and George would be such well behaved kids with the lack of discipline they are shown.

Example One
“Peppa, be careful with your bike around my prize pumpkin!”
“Yes Daddy…. [to friends “lets race to Daddy’s pumpkin!”] CRASH …sorry Daddy”
“That’s okay Peppa, as long as you’re ok, now lets make pumpkin pie as a reward for you totally ignoring what I just told you!”

Example Two
Peppa and George are jumping in Muddy Puddles. They are head to toe covered in filth. 
“Let’s go show Daddy!” 
-traipse into house spreading mud everywhere-
“Hahaha, lets get you cleaned up before Mummy Pig sees.” 

Not even a “next time don’t bring mud in the house/ take your boots off first.”

Don’t get me wrong, there are far worse characters out there, who promote much more dangerous activities than pumpkin smashing and mud slinging. And far less educational shows for toddlers as well, which seem to consist of nonsense being babbled at my baby for twenty or thirty minutes. (If I wanted that, I would put him in front of a mirror.) In comparison, Peppa Pig is pretty harmless.

Yet it bothers me that in any episode where Peppa does something naughty, she either looks sheepish for about 3 seconds until her family erupts into laughter, or she says “sorry Daddy/Mummy” in the singsongiest of voices until she gets a tooth decaying treat for her trouble.

I’m not saying they should fill the show with Peppa sitting on the naughty step and receiving lessons on her 5 a day. I’m just not sure I want R looking up to her that much either.

Adventure sport for kids

I’m going to admit something here, and I do it in the almost certainty that all other parents are secretly doing the same thing. But there is that 1% in the word almost that has me a little afraid. I tell you what, loyal readers, if anything you read below shocks or appalls you in any way whatsoever, feel free to assume I was joking and put it all down to poetic license. No need to call social services on me just yet.

As a mum who only works part time, I spend a lot of time at home with my son. As a one year old, he puts absolutely no effort into planning our time together. Seriously I dont think he even gives it a second thought. He doesnt lie in his cot planning conversational points to spark chatter, he doesnt plan games or activities for us, or even places to go together to while away the time between food. The pressure is all on me.

As I’ve said before, I have an irrational fear that my baby thinks I’m boring. Yes yes, he loves me in that “youre the only thing I know about / complete reliance on me” kind of way, but does he enjoy my company? I worry not.

But as parents, we all know what that incredible moment feels like when we hit on a winner. We suddenly try a weird face or funny noise, that we may or may not have tried before, and our baby smiles. Sometimes even laughs. We repeat it, and they laugh again. They might even try to copy us. They might touch our face to make us do it another 2 or 3 or 30 times. It’s an amazing feeling. My child is entertained. Not simply putting up with me, not having a pleasant time, actually enjoying himself, as a direct result of something I am doing! Wow.

But it isnt always a face or a noise… sometimes, it’s an action… or a game.. And let’s not beat around the bush here, it’s normally a slightly less than safe one. Why is it, that our kids enjoy high risk activities? Sure, I might get a small smile when I blow a raspberry in R’s direction. But the peals of laughter I get when I hang him upside down by his ankles are just not comparable! I’m pretty certain it isnt just my son who is into extreme sports, which leads me to the obvious conclusion that all children enjoy such well known fun adventure games as:

  • Whoops, nearly dropped you!
  • Ahh! Dropped you but caught you just in time.
  • Can you balance? (props needed may include but are not limited to: window sills, banisters, kitchen counters and the like..)
  • Piggy backs even though the child in question doesnt even begin to comprehend the words “hold on..”
  • Where’s the baby? (While said child is lying flat, tummy down, on your head and you’re spinning round and round)
  • 1,2,3,wheeee.. (the numbers accompanied by swinging baby through the air, cumulating in dropping them on a bed slash sofa type object.)
  • Pretending to slap each other round the face, making the “ow” sound loudly. (Really? No-one?)

That last one might just be us. Either way, I do sometimes wish my boy got his kicks from some situational comedy or observational humour, rather than all the physically exerting amusements that really his father is more suited to performing.

The hypocritical thing is, if anyone else played any of these so called ‘games’ with my son when I wasnt around, they wouldnt be looking after him again. Why don’t you play with a nice jigsaw puzzle, or let him show you his shape sorter? I don’t want anyone else teetering on the edge of acceptable playtime behaviour with him, after all, what if something HAPPENED? I’d rather they had him vaguely attentive and having a pleasant time, even if it does mean they miss out on those adorable baby giggles.

Go figure.

Ps, if you have picked up the phone to report me to child services, try this woman first.

Boring? I’m cool with that.

As much as I enjoy putting a lighter twist on the trials of motherhood, I’m sure it’s obvious that some of my woeful rants have a sliver of painful truth. This week, I continue to be ignored by my uninterested one year old. I could do cartwheels for the kid, and I’d still be treated to his blank (wobbly) stare.

But today, a colleague has given me a new perspective, a metaphorical slap that’s somewhat taken me out of my self-pitying doldrums.

The more boring I am as his primary care giver, the more my son is accepting me as part of his life. I am not interesting, because I am not new. I am not an arrival at the end of the day. I am not a grandparent who pops in weekly for a surprise cuddle. I am constant. When he was a baby, the smile I got first thing in the morning was code for “oh wow! you still exist, and you’ve appeared here in front of me! It’s a miracle!” Now, I get a wail and arms outstretched which roughly translated means “Where on earth have you been you neglectful mother? Pick me up!” He knew I was there, somewhere, because I am always there. He trusts in my existence. He has no need to thank me or reward me for feeding him, changing him, playing with him, entertaining him, because in his head, where else would I be? What else would I be doing?

I have always had mixed feelings about the ‘Cry it out’ sleep training technique, which basically suggests that if you let your baby cry, they will eventually give up and go to sleep. Apparently, this technique is not supposed to be tried on babies under 6 months. When done anyway, their brain patterns mirror the patterns of abandoned babies who are neglected and abused. A baby that young simply cannot understand that you are ever coming back.

My baby however, has reached the grand age of One. A milestone indeed. And his blatant boredom in my presence, regardless of how long he hasnt seen me in, be it hours or the whole day, is a clear sign that he is certain that I am there. Somewhere. Whether he can see me or not, I am a constant part of his world. In many ways, I am his world.
If he was still overjoyed at my spending time with him, that would mean he still worries I might not be there at some point, or has not accepted me as a constant in his life.

I know, this is why motherhood can often be a thankless task, and why even while we’re so glad that our other halves have good relationships with their children, there is a part of us that is ever so slightly green-eyed. But even while it’s frustrating, I wouldnt swap it for the world, because it means that my son feels secure and safe in knowing that I’m not going anywhere. How can this be anything other than a success story?