Monthly Archives: May 2014

The time dilation

Toddlers are notorious for wanting things to go their own way in lieu of throwing a tantrum. Whether it be claiming ownership of a toy, refusing to eat a specific meal, putting sharing of anything at the bottom of their list of priorities, staying in bed when it’s time to get up or indeed, staying awake when it’s time to go to sleep, which I might add is a very popular choice for toddlers between the ages of two and three.

No matter what the situation, toddlers will find a way to test your patience and sanity at every possible turn. And I’m not suggesting that they’re especially conspiratorial and given to plotting while you’re busy preparing tea bottles or making snacks. No, it all just comes completely naturally to them; like breathing and snot production.

A case in point is the golden hour leading up to bedtime. This hour is probably the longest of any of the twenty four hours in any given day for the parents of a small child. The reason is simple. Toddlers possess the ability to dilate time to the extent that if you could bottle what they do, you could probably sell it to varsity students to be used the night before an exam and they’d immediately have enough time to get in a weeks worth of study.

Our toddler, when so inclined, will put the breaks on the passage of time so much so that when you’re in it, you can’t imagine a time before it started nor can you imagine emerging out the other side. From the moment you announce “it’s bath-time”, the barrage of complaint begins and is sustained throughout the disrobing process. This is an activity that would try the patience of a saint I might add. It continues through the hair wash process and increases in volume during the hair rinse process. As an aside, no amount of care and diligence to avoid shampoo getting into the eyes will ever suffice, there will always be tears.

Then as if by magic he is completely content in the moment. Time begins to tick along normally again. It is at this point that he decides he wants to stay in the bath. Naturally. At the exact same time you decide to take him out. Time dilation begins again and now you have to dry and dress an uncooperative, wriggling, frantic little creature that wants nothing more than to get back into the bath. You could age ten years in this moment. Pajama pants are especially interesting items to put onto a kicking child. One leg on, one leg off, repeat.

This continues up to and including the moment he is plopped into his little wooden cot. Or to be more accurate, his prison. He has not yet figured out that he is quite capable of climbing out of the cot and we are really very thankful about that. You see it affords us a way to contain his exuberance (the kind with tears and snot) and allows him the solitude he requires to unwind his clock and to go to sleep. Without this tool I expect we may have contacted an exorcist, hypnotist or therapist by now and as a result would then have failed as parents if compared to the “Joneses”.

The time dilation doesn’t end there though. Once he’s in the cot he immediately issues an instruction to “lie here” which is ignored at peril to ones sanity. The amount of time required to “lie here” depends entirely on whim but can be anything between two minutes and two hours. You can imagine the kinds of antics that occur at the very right hand side of that scale. It is in these moments that time dilates in absolute silence. The vigil stretches out around you like a body of water. Each disruption causes ripples to radiate outward like a stone being dropped in. Even the faintest noise will cause a new ripple to start and then you have to wait until the water is completely still again. Sometimes he’ll throw his own stones in. Those are especially memorable nights.

Time dilation. It’s endearing and it’s funny, but only after the fact.

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The knight princesses

Without going down the slippery slope of enforcing gender specific toys and roles on children, let it be said that fathers tend to become concerned when they see their little boys dressed in pink, of any kind. It is what I would imagine a father of daughters in their teens feels like when they step out the front door on a night out, less than appropriately dressed or for that matter in a state of comparative undress. That said, I’m fairly certain that my boys were just unwitting accomplices in their own cross-dressing episode.

So it was a few nights ago when our two little guys were surrounded by seven girls between the ages of three and thirteen. There came a point in the evening when the girls started to play dress-up and our boys were included in that activity. The only problem being that there were no astronaut or cowboy or knight outfits on hand to dress them up in. All that was on offer were outfits in varying shades of pink and white with frills and glitter and shiny bits aplenty.

Inevitably, our eldest wondered into the lounge where all the adults were making merry draped in something pink and flashy that you might expect to see a belly-dancer wearing in an eastern bazaar. He was a little nonplussed and pretty soon had removed the offending splinter from his ‘manliness’ and then found something else to amuse himself with. If memory serves it was a stick which he began waving about like a knight brandishing a sword.

Some time later, the little guy appeared wearing a bright pink tutu. He was incredibly proud of his look and spent the balance of the evening in the getup, dancing in the moonlight. It must be said that I think he carried the outfit quite well and only tripped over his pink chiffon a few times. He also made attempts to lift his tutu up when climbing the stairs in the living room which lent him quite a comical air. To top it all off, he started jumping around to this song by Taylor Swift with his little hostess who absolutely loves the song and has an entire dance routine worked out for it. Great merriment and laughter erupted and the evening was rounded off with everyone roasting marshmallows on the open fire.

In their girly outfits.

I am quite sorry to report that several photo’s were taken of the little guy, which I am fairly certain will end up on display at his 21st birthday party in about 18 years or so. In point of fact the images will probably be blown up to life size and and be in three dimensions, pirouetting around the function for all and sundry to see. I am also quite sure that they will make cameo appearances at other significant dates in his adolescence. In all probability when he absolutely would least expect or want them to surface.

Actually I can speak from personal experience on this subject. There used to be a Polaroid of me dressed up like a middle-aged woman with red handbag and makeup. All in red and white if I’m not mistaken. I was probably about six years old. My sister and her friends had plenty of idle time on their hands and I was even given a new name to match the look. A name which I’ll never repeat out loud as long as I live. That photograph was shown to my first serious girlfriend and all of my sisters friends whom I would later have to go to the same school with. I wasn’t emotionally scarred by the existence of the photo, but it was a real drag that it existed, excuse the pun.

It now no longer exists, having been summarily reduced to a pile of ashes which were then methodically washed down a drain. As a result I can discuss it quite freely having cleansed myself of that emotional baggage in a manner of speaking. My little guy will have no such luxury though. The images are digital and are, as you read this, seeping through the ether. They will, in all probability, live forever.

All I can say to this my little boy is that I had nothing whatsoever to do with the photography. I was powerless to stop it. It was all your mom.


The multi purpose toy

In this age of reuse, repurpose and recycle we’ve become accustomed to separating our waste into categories.

Our organic waste is divided into cooked and raw which our worm farms can break down and make compost out of. Our non-recyclables are separated from the glass, paper, textiles, metals and plastic which are carted off to recycling stations for filtering, further sorting and ultimately recycling. These days, the recycling bin is always filled to the top and the garbage bin is virtually empty.

It got me thinking, are there any other ways we could be reusing every day items before they enter the recycling process? The answer is of course there are.

Let’s say you have a number of plastic toys which are broken and lying about the house and, let’s face it, every house with children in it has at least a few of these. The toys are ultimately headed for the recycling centre but before they start their journey, they can be used one more time as a discipline tool. All that is required is a little marketing to create a demand for the toy and you’re all set.

Our little guy is two and a half now and is testing boundaries in every sense of the word. His favourite trick is to hit his older brother with whatever toy he happens to be holding in his hands when the dispute arises. This behavior is obviously strongly frowned upon and results in a timeout in the ‘naughty corner’. Often though, he won’t stay in corner and then of course the punishment doesn’t carry any weight. So my wife hit upon the idea of tossing a broken plastic toy car into the recycling and threatening to do the same to a more precious toy if he didn’t stay put.

It worked like a charm. He did his time in the corner and when he was paroled, he was sufficiently contrite and apologized for his transgression. We lightened our load (if only to the value of a small, broken plastic toy car) and the toy which became and unwitting accomplice in our duplicity was set on the path of reincarnation.

A truly win-win situation. The only fault with the plan is that the little guy is probably going to require more penance than we have toys to spare. That means we’ll either have to start getting rid of perfectly good toys (donations to children’s homes is an option here) or start buying broken toys to recycle which seems a little extreme. Time will decide the issue I think.

This can probably be classified as a ‘first world problem’.


The legoland paradox

Legoland in Windsor in the United Kingdom is the very definition of a paradox. On the one hand it is a vast spectacle of entertainment for children with more attractions than one can visit in a single day which means it is the perfect place to take children. However on the other hand it is one of those places you’ll probably wish never existed once you get there.

It’s all about scale, the place is simply too vast.

That said, there are many places where you take your children to be entertained that are simply not big enough. The play areas at McDonalds or Spur or Panarottis are good examples of these. The children are often bored within the amount of time it takes for your food to arrive. Then you’re stuck with grumpy children straight out of a cartoon that have already eaten the three bytes of their meal quota are are no longer interested in food, the play room or sitting on the seat while you wolf down your plate of food (which let’s face it, isn’t gourmet quality).

Then there are places that are just right in terms of scale; for instance an open air park with trees and swings and slides and see-saws and the like all around where you can see for half a kilometer in any direction. These places are large enough for children to run about in, burning off that seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy they seem to be able to dip into on demand all day long, yet are still small enough to allow parents to sit down and monitor the safety of their offspring from just about any vantage point. These places are good. Even better if a picnic is on the cards and it’s a warm summers day.

Then there are places like Legoland that, quite frankly, fall into the colossal category in terms of size. There are more nooks and crannies in the park than there are moves required to solve a Rubik’s Cube – assuming you don’t know how to solve it that is. For me, the place was a minefield of places to loose a child. I found myself tempted to renege on a promise I made to myself when I had children which was never to put them in one of those child walking reins which turn your toddler or child into a pet being taken for a walk.

Less than an hour into the visit at Legoland and I was ready to gather up my boys and their two cousins and run for the hills. Running after four little guys in that maze of a park was probably all the exercise I’ll need for the balance of the year (ok so not really but it definitely felt that way at the time). My sister and I were literally herding cats all day long. We persevered though and tried to contain the little guys in the playground area where all manner of wooden climbing apparatus was housed. Everything from fire engines and castles to pirate ships and monkey bars were on offer in this semi-enclosed space. One would think this was the perfect place then, but no, all four children immediately split up and disappeared into the woodwork…literally. Then as if by two way radio, they co-ordinated their efforts to stay hidden and keep us guessing at their whereabouts by continuously hopping from one wooden apparatus to another. Effectively playing an incredibly frustrating game of hide and seek that started afresh every ten seconds or so. It was like trying to watch an ant farm and then keep your eye on four specific ants that looked like all the others darting in and out of view.

That aside, the place is probably the single most enjoyable place my children have ever been. They could not believe their good fortune when we stepped onto the Lego train at the park entrance and trundled down into the park. Suffice to say, my sister and I were the best parents in all of creation that day.

Next time though I think I’ll take my kids for a long walk…on a leash.


The big clock

While it is infinitely easier for children to read a digital clock to tell time, it is still a priority of mine to teach them to tell time on an analog clock. Added to that, my boys are going to learn this skill on an analog clock that is almost a meter in diameter and hangs on our kitchen wall. It also employs Roman numerals.

Challenge accepted.

It’s all part of the master plan you see because the Roman numerals are a little bit trickier to learn, given that the boys are four and two years old. So we are still able to say ‘bed time’ at any given point in the evening and then gesture meaningfully towards the clock where the time reads six fifteen pm. It matters not a whit that their bedtime is eight pm. None at all.

You see, parenting is all about giving your children your best every day for as long as you are able. However if for any reason you find that you are not giving your children the best possible version of yourself, then you need to cut their day a little shorter and what better way than to send them to bed a little earlier by convincing them that “the big clock says it’s bedtime”.

Our youngest throws up his arms every night when we say it’s bedtime, irrespective of what time it actually is. Our eldest is beginning to suspect something iniquitous is afoot and is extremely dubious of anything the clock says. However he’s quite respectful and hasn’t shouted out “liar liar pants on fire”…yet. I think he’s waiting until he’s one hundred percent certain of his facts before he calls us out on the time.

Time will decide the issue.

It is worth mentioning that our clock has a typo where the IIII should read IV. Those with an eye for detail might have already spotted it in the attached image. I suspect the clock was made by someone at the level of apprentice as far as Roman numerals were concerned because it is not entirely incorrect, it’s just not entirely correct. I think in roman times using IIII instead of IV for four, would have been considered slang. That said however, I think this ‘typo’ works in our favour because at some point the boys are going to learn to read the clock and then all we have to do is switch it for one that has the correct numerals. This should buy us an additional few months of time dilation or contraction, whichever we need.

It is now incorrect Roman numeral past nine pm and that means it’s time to wrap up and start getting ready for bed. Both boys are asleep and it’s time for me to fall asleep watching the last five minutes of Jake and the Never Land Pirates.