Half Term Horror

I am about to say some horrible things about children. Some of them may be your own children, some of them may be the kids of friends or neighbours. Just to be clear, despite what I’m about to say, they are all pretty much innocent in this particular rant. This angry diatribe (for that’s what I’m intending to write) is going to be at the very least 95% aimed towards Parents.

Let me also add the disclaimer that I know we are all currently in the difficult world of Half Term. From seeing our kids for a manageable several hours in a day, we are suddenly ‘blessed’ with their presence from 7am-7pm, and that’s if they’re good sleepers. It is really hard to find things to do with them all day every day, and because we all have the same problem at the same time, the mayhem is accentuated by the sheer number of us dealing with the frustration en masse.

(OH, side point. Genius idea just occurred to me. Enforced staggered half terms. Who would this NOT benefit?

1.) Nowhere would be busy for one isolated week a term, which would mean parents could actually look forward to time spent with kids.
2.) All employees wouldn’t be looking for childcare or taking holiday at once, making these situations more manageable in the work-place.
3) there wouldn’t be one random point where flights/ trips etc were more expensive, making it impossible to do family trips of any kind without crippling yourself in the process.

I’m going to move on now, but if anyone in the government is listening, please pass this on to an education minister of your choice. )

Despite the difficulties that the world of Half-Term is inflicting on us, I have to say (with my judge-y hat firmly on my head) some behaviours are totally unacceptable. The following all involve the under 5’s area at soft play where I was unfortunate enough to spend my afternoon. To make things fair, I am only going to list things which I saw today with my own eyes, exhibited more than once, by more than one family.

It is not okay to drop your two year old off, and then disappear off to the other side of the venue to have a coffee with your mates. Why is it suddenly my job to be wandering around the place (ignoring my own toddler I might add) because your kid is crying and you are nowhere to be found?

It is not okay to let your 6 or 7 year old into the under 5’s section, even if it is to ‘look after’ a younger sibling. No. That’s your job. When your six year old starts behaving like… er.. a SIX year old, ignoring your younger child to bound and play all over the area specifically designed for younger kids, scaring them off the climbing frames and knocking them over with enthusiasm, please don’t tell me that he’s just ‘looking after his sister’, because he isn’t! And he shouldn’t have to be. You should be in here, like the rest of us, rather than on the phone in the corner, and he should be in the over 5’s area, y’know, where OVER 5’S can play unrestricted? Your older child is not your baby sitter.

It is not okay to hear your own shoe bag number being called over the loudspeaker that your two hours are up, and proceed to SWAP bags unbeknown to another family so that you don’t have to leave! Believe it or not, I saw this THREE times in the space of my own two hours. One of the mothers in question seemed to be telling on the family she had stitched up! One mother even got her son to do the swapping. What on earth are you teaching your kids? That rules don’t have to be followed? That deception is a clever way to get what you want? That lying pays?

On a similar theme, it is not okay to tell your child to lie if anyone asks how old they are, (clearly not 4) or to let your kid sit at the top of the slide for EIGHT MINUTES while a queue of kids line up behind him and you coo “aww, he’s a bit frightened” from the bottom, or for that matter to shout “Yayyy!” as your twins climb up the slide so that no-one can use it. It is not okay to not be watching as your enormously bratty princess throws balls at my son’s face to “try and knock off his glasses” (ok that only happened once but I feel it’s worth a mention) or as your kids play a game self explanatorily titled “Jump on baby.”

I think we have an obvious theme here. Soft play is NOT free child care. It is a place that you can take your kids, and play with them. At best, parents would be interacting and initiating play with their toddlers, encouraging them to share and participate with other kids, and get the most out of a child-friendly experience.

But come on. Surely the least we can expect as fellow parents is that you simply show up and watch them.

softplay

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Hallo-what?

Just a fair warning to you all, I’m about to be a huge party-pooper.

From my extensive research, (30 second Wiki search) I see that Halloween has mostly unknown roots which are most probably pagan. No reason to keep celebrating it there then. So you cant pin this one on religion.

Apart from all the pointless customs, (carving pumpkins? what now?) it seems to be the only ‘holiday’ which has absolutely no emphasis on family time or any sort of kindness, which means you also cant validate it with tradition, or family values or morality of any kind at all for that matter.

From what I can tell, it is basically an excuse for teenagers to be rowdy and vandalise private property, all in disguise so there is no responsibility or consequences involved.

When it comes to younger children, I’m not denying that dressing up is fun, but why the need for it on a national level? Surely we all have dressing up boxes, and enough of our kids insist on going out dressed as fairies and superheroes as it is? The emphasis on ‘scariness’ is for the younger kids just frightening, and for the older ones- a huge pressure on parents to let kids that are still young ‘one-up’ one another with more gory and violent costumes. Add into the mix more sugar than your child should be having in a month, and all you end up with is hyperactive and often traumatised children.

All this would probably not bother me anywhere near as much if it wasn’t for my final pet peeve of the evening, tangentially related to the sugar overdosing. WHY are we giving out chocolate and sweets to children just because they are knocking on our doors? Surely in this age of super parenting awareness we should at the very least have updated it to “Trick or Treat please?” The whole idea of “You give me something for nothing, or I’m going to do something evil” whether that be egg or tee-pee your house, or just shout an obscenity and run away, is truly abhorrent to me, even if it were apples we were giving away. But to be filling a child’s outstretched arms with unhealthy and over the top junk food which they will either stuff in their faces too fast for their parents to monitor, or barter and fight over with their siblings, is enough to scare me senseless even without the costumes.

 

Hocus Pocus: The only good thing to come out of Halloween in my opinion.

Holiday Musings

Hello from our holidays.

We are in sunny Israel, (although it rained today-very pleasant actually) and are enjoying several blog posts worth of home truths about traveling with babies. All I have to say is there should be a new word for it, because it isnt called a holiday if you’re doing exactly what you do at home on a non-work day, just in another location. Because while it’s lovely having a day or two off work, it is not the same as a holiday.

Holidays (at least in my lucky experience) entail long lie-ins, late romantic dinners, spontaneous trips to exotic locations, exploring new areas and little if any responsibilities.

Someone should teach my son a little holiday spirit.

Lets tick them off one by one.

Lie in’s
We had a plan folks. London time. If he was two hours ahead of us for the whole trip, then he would always sleep in until 9, (laughable that this has become a lie in, but we were happy to accept it.) and he wouldnt get grouchy when he had to stay up later for family engagements. Well, he is thoroughly enjoying staying up until ten or eleven at night….and yet has been waking on the dot of 7 each morning! Blackout the room? Tried it. Our son has stolen someone’s early riser genetic make-up. Feel free to claim if you’re missing it.

Late romantic dinners.
Sigh. I even accept that he has to join us for the meals. But why does he just stuff the food into his face so quickly that we haven’t even touched our main course? And romantic? Sure, if having a plate of mac and cheese thrown on your new sandals is romantic.

Spontaneity
There’s only so spontaneous you can be with an 18month olds copious luggage in tow. The most spur of the moment we get is “Oooh, in three hours after his nap and his snack, lets hope he is in a good enough mood to let us drive to a pre decided baby friendly spot for a half hour excursion until he gets bored”

Exploring new places
Babies dont like new places. At least mine doesnt. So while it is lovely to spot the differences between the soft plays and baby gyms on this side of the world and the ones back home, it is hardly a massive change of scene.

Responsibilities
Babies are for keeps, not just for at home folks. They come with you everywhere! They still need getting up and changing and feeding and cuddling and looking after, and they will still get the chicken pox and ruin your plans of fun days out and carefree sunny activities. If anything, they are more confused and tired and out of sorts than ever, so the responsibility part of parenting kind of triples when not at home.

So it’s not that were not having a great time, because we really are. And if you other parents imagine a week of just Sundays you’ll know what I mean. I just think we should appeal to the Oxford English Dictionary for a new word for parents. Because ‘holiday’ seems to be checked in at the entrance to the delivery room.

How many calories are in this asprin?

A little bit of everything in moderation. This time of year, with new years resolutions flying out of everyone’s mouths carelessly, it is easy to get carried away with goals and hopes for the year ahead. My new years resolution started in November, with my healthy eating and getting into better shape kick, and it’s actually going really well.

However, I started it because I felt very strongly that I didnt want my son growing up with the same bad habits as I have. Whatever the reasoning, my own mother didnt have those worries. She talks of how my grandmother had very little idea about calorie content or healthy choices, perhaps because she grew up in wartime, or after losing her family in the Holocaust, simply had more important things to worry about. A story my mum loves to tell is how her mother would cut a large slice of cake, and offer it to one of her family, Upon being told it contained far too many calories and was bound to make the eater put on copious weight if consumed, she would lift the cake in her hand, testing the physical weight, and announce “Light as a feather!”

Amusing. Two generations later, not so much. My own family cannot plead ignorance. We are beaten to death with statistics of obesity in this country and abroad, it is hammered into us how important getting your ‘5-a-day’ is, and we are all aware that if Calories > Exercise = Not fitting into that new dress.

We have the knowledge. My parents generation had it also, but somehow, in my case, it failed. I struggle with the same eating patterns as my mum does. When I grew up at home, it was perfectly acceptable to finish supper and then go decide what snack to munch on throughout the evening. A packet of biscuits was rarely left unfinished once opened, same with a stack of pringles or a box of chocolates. One was never enough.

And so my ‘healthy eating’ or weight loss kick, or whatever you want to dub it, is more complicated than everything in moderation. Because that very idea battles a lifetime of bad habits that are far harder to shift than my weighted hula hoop. Indulge in one doughnut on the first night of Chanukah, and I’ve found myself craving one each day. Open the snack cupboard which I’ve ignored for 6 weeks, and suddenly I find myself being gravitationally pulled in its direction each time I enter the kitchen. For me, going cold turkey is the only way to keep it up. And once I do that, it becomes easy.

I stop thinking about junk food and eating between meals, and focus my attention on what to have for breakfast lunch and dinner instead. If I know that food for the day stops at 9pm, I’m not even envious when I see C reach for the minstrels bag at 9.30. It’s about changing my mindset.

And with it, I think I’m changing the way I feed my son. I’m much more reluctant to reach for the cheerios because he’s being a pain. I don’t hand out treats every time I go in the kitchen with him. I focus on making sure he has what he needs at mealtimes, which include a mid morning and mid afternoon snack, and because he doesnt see me eating at other times, he doesnt want anything either.

Regimented? Yes. And I’m not saying it would work for everyone. Some people need to know they can have that 2 squares of chocolate at the end of the day, or make the exception because it’s a special occasion. But those people tend to have healthy eating habits ingrained already, and have just overdone it over the festive season, or had a change in situation which led to less activity or attention to meals. Not to belittle their efforts, but I think it’s a much easier battle, because it’s only against the food they eat, rather than the lifestyle and habits which theyve adopted.

I hope that because of what I’m trying to do, that when my own grandchildren start their ‘healthy eating kick’, new years resolution circa 2052, they are those type of people.