All I ever seem to do at the moment is say negative things to the kids. And I don’t mean I’m just hurling abuse at them and saying nasty things – well, perhaps a bit. No, I mean all I’m ever saying is ‘no’ or ‘stop that’ or ‘give up’ or ‘put that down’ or…
The problem, for us anyway, is that they refuse to learn by their mistakes, so instead of understanding that what they have done is wrong, followed by them stopping doing it, they just do it again. It may not be that exact day, but they will inevitably repeat it.
Hitting each other, leaving rubbish everywhere, not doing what they are told, hitting each other, not tidying their rooms, interrupting people when they are talking, fidgeting ALL THE TIME, talking too loudly, being disrespectful, hitting each other…
I’ve been working a lot recently, in a travel and tourism office, and so my partner has had the kids to herself full time at the weekends, as tourism offices have family-unfriendly hours. This has led to her experiencing what I am only too familiar with: being bored by the sound of your own voice.
It’s generally after lunch that it hits you, after you have spent all morning with the kids, telling them to stop doing whatever it is they shouldn’t be doing. You sort of step outside of your body and start hearing what you sound like: a stuck record. A stuck record that just drones on and on and on in a Yorkshire accent.
I know some people may be thinking things like ‘why don’t you try to be nicer’ and ‘it’s your own fault’ and ‘what’s Yorkshire?’. And I wish I could be nicer and I know it’s my own fault to a degree, but I’m just not that sort of a parent. Oh and Yorkshire is a county in England.
Sometimes I see ‘positive reinforcement’ parents babbling away at their kids, in soothing tones, talking about ‘unkind words’ and ‘unkind hands’ and calling their kids things like ‘angel’ and ‘darling’ and ‘sweetheart’, and I want to be them.
But then I see their kids kick them in the knees two minutes later, before running away after refusing to eat their fruit-based-snack and I realise that they are just the same as I am. They are just fighting the natural order of things. But they will learn, they will turn to the dark side once Tarquin or Felicity has drawn ‘Mummy is a Dog’ on the wall in their own faeces.
I wonder if there will ever be a day when I get through a full 24 hours without shouting at my kids, a blissful day of no arguments, and no fighting. But that day will never come to pass, and I know why.
Because they are my kids, and they have my spirit flowing through them – and I was an even bigger dick in my day than they are.
And you know what, after all that moaning that I’ve just made you read? I don’t think I would really want to have it any other way…
…OK, maybe a quiet Saturday morning once a year would be nice. One can but dream…
‘You speak French badly’ she says to me.
‘I speak English better than you though’ I says to her.
‘NO!’ she says to me.
‘What does antidisestablishmentarianism mean?’ I says to her.
That shut her up.
I walked away from that exchange with a smile on my face, the clear victor, having put her in her place.
Knowing my five-year-old daughter though, she’ll probably go and look that word up. Bloody kids.
There are loads of games you can play with your kids aren’t there? Hide n’ Seek, tag, musical statues, sleeping lions etc. I however have become a pioneer in this field and have decided to do what no other parent has ever done: I have invented my own kids’ games.
Wow! I mean, I bet your mind is blown right now, isn’t it?*
So without further ado here is my current selection of games. I say current because the games change as they grow older, and what they love today they may not necessarily love next week. Or tomorrow for that matter.
To The Moon
For: both kids
Necessary props? A swing set
This game involves me having one or more of my kids on the swings. I then ‘check their tickets’, these tickets being purely imaginary. All details on the tickets have to correspond with each child, and they must agree with each and every detail. So for instance if I say that their name is Lord Poopy Pants the Third, and that their favourite hobby is eating rotten squids with snails, then they have to agree.
I also say all this in an South African accent. I do not know why I do this.
Once they have agreed to all details on the tickets then they may ‘go to the moon’. This simply involves me counting down from 1,000,000 or sometimes just 100 in a very haphazard manner e.g: 999, 12, 6, 57, ZERO! And I then launch them as hard as I safely can on the swings.
I am then obliged to relaunch them multiple times, verifying new details on new tickets each time, and must also keep their momentum up by pushing them several times – even though they both now know how to do it themselves.
Plants VS Zombies
For: both kids
Necessary props? just us
This is a variation on the popular mobile video game. Except played in real life of course. Now before you start thinking I am one of those amazing parents who designs plant costumes for his kids, and wears authentic zombie make-up to chase them around the garden let me reassure you: I could honestly not be bothered to do any of that, so it’s just me in my coat (depending on the weather) slowly chasing my kids around the garden and moaning and shambling like a zombie.
I am always the zombie. They let me be a plant once, oh what a happy day that was.
I also get hit now and again as the kids have to ‘defeat’ me, and they are both at that age where they are somewhat dangerous. My son because he is eight and can throw things with some force, and my daughter because she is five and is at the same level as my testicles.
For: my daughter
Necessary props? lights and a dark night (is nighttime a prop?)
This game is one which we generally play at night before bedtime. This is because it involves us looking out of our upstairs bedroom window and counting how many poo lamps we can see.
Now for the uninitiated – by which I mean everyone – poo lamps are poos that have been laid by cats in our garden that glow in the night.
In reality they are actually my many, many solar lights and any other neighbourhood lights that may be lit at that time. So three solar lights, two lights in the neighbour’s house = five poo lamps that night.
Sometimes my daughter improvises and counts the moon and the stars too. On nights like that the game can go on a while.
As it’s not dark now until after she goes to bed she has taken to counting the next-door neighbour’s chickens – around ten of them in total – and she still classifies them as poo lamps…
Pizza Delivery Foot Phone Call
For: my daughter
Necessary props? one of my daughter’s sweaty little feet
This game involves me using one of my daughter’s feet as a mock telephone. I place one of these damp little things – left or right, we have no set preference – next to my ear and pretend to phone a pizza shop. My daughter is the ‘chef’ and answers the call. I then place an order and verify each item, however I must always, always pretend to get annoyed with her if she does not have what I ask, or if she has something that I think she shouldn’t. Here’s a brief example:
Me: Can I order a pizza please?
Her: Yes of course, what would you like on it?
Me: Can I have mushrooms?
Me: And do you sell Anchovies?
Me: Why would you sell Anchovies? they are disgusting and taste awful, you should be shut down for serving those things they smell like poo and make my eyes water! You know each time you eat an Anchovie a demon is born in hell? What are you thinking?
Her: (laughing) OK! OK! We won’t sell Anchovies any more
And so on…
I Can’t Talk Properly Because My Son Is Crushing My Chest With His Powerful Muscles And Making My Voice Go All Funny
For: my son (surprise, surprise!)
Necessary props? Just me and my son
My son is at that age where he thinks he is very strong and likes to display this power by occasionally pushing over his five-year-old sister and squashing my chest. So this game involves me lying in bed next to him and just having a casual chat with him about day-to-day life. While I am talking however he will start pushing himself – using his bedside cabinet as leverage – into my side and so making my chest constrict and causing my voice to alter.
Of course as my son weighs about the same as a bag of sugar this means I have to pretend that he is very strong and he is doing this, when in fact I am just modulating my voice, much to his amusement. My son is however made out of elbows. Hard, bony elbows, approximately 67 I would guess, and these things can really dig into you. The result is that the next day you generally end up with a new bruise that you didn’t have before.
But at least he doesn’t bite like his sister.
So that’s the current crop of games that I have invented for my kids, your read it here first, you don’t need to be constrained by the world’s selection, you can make your own!
All it takes is a bit of imagination and a desire to make your kids shut their bloody mouths for more than five minutes.
*Tune in next time when I will be showing you how you can teach your kids to go the wrong way UP A SLIDE! OMG! Rule breaker right here!!!
‘I’m a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world’ sings my daughter as we walk down the road. ‘Come on Barbie!’ my son tunelessly adds next to her ‘Let’s go party’. Their warbles bounce off the walls off the (mercifully deserted) street. My partner squeezes my hand a little too tightly and glares at me. Yes, I am responsible for this.
I’m on a serious nineties music kick at the moment. It’s probable all down to that period being tied up with my years of going out ‘dancing’ and drinking. I added quote marks to dancing as if you ever saw me ‘dancing’ you would probably tell me that if at any time in the future I wrote about my ‘dancing’ I would need to use quote marks to differentiate between what most people class as dancing and what I do.
Demon-possessed person being flung around probably covers it best.
It was these tunes that were the background to my youth, or early-to-mid twenties anyway. And so it’s with wistful nostalgia that I’ve been hitting that repository of everything that is YouTube, in order to get my vintage fix. It pains me to type ‘vintage fix’ when referring to the nineties I’m not going to type ‘retro’.
One of the tunes that I wouldn’t normally listen to though is Aqua’s Barbie Girl. That’s because Barbie Girl is, by any definition, a bloody awful song. It’s even worse when you watch the music video of it, then it’s as if someone has vomited skittles into your ears AND your eyes.
It would never be made these days – with its lyrics objectifying women and giving men all the power.
That plus it’s bloody, bloody awful.
I did feel that my daughter would like it though, as she’s very much a girlie girl, and loves all things pink. And all things Barbie. I also thought it might be nice for her to view it with her brother, as a kind of history lesson, and insight into what we used to send to number one in the music charts back in ‘the day’. Sigh.
So yes, I made the mistake of letting them watch it on my tablet, one wet boring Sunday (It’s April so basically pick any Sunday). Oh dear. Whatever possessed me (Not the dance demon at least, his days are done)?
I made the further mistake of leaving my daughter alone with my tablet while I helped my son with some of his crafts. She watched it on a loop, again, and again, and again…
So now I’m in the envious position of being unable to escape the lyrics of the Danish-Norwegian dance-pop. It follows me around, like the worst backing soundtrack you could ever imagine. To be fair to them both they aren’t causing anywhere near the amount of aural damage that the original song was responsible for.
What’s possibly worse, even worse than the way my partner now looks at me when they start singing it, is the fact that I now hum it to myself. I also correct them if they sing the lyrics incorrectly. So when my daughter sang ‘Come on Barbie let’s go Barbie’ I told her that instead of the second Barbie she should actually sing ‘Let’s go party’.
What’s wrong with me?
I’m going to let them listen to STEPS next.
Tragedy? Yes, yes it is.
On tonight’s menu in Mr Mum’s house we have a veritable feast of delightful foodstuffs, all lovingly prepared to cater to the needs of the individual’s requirements. It may be only sandwiches, but no corners have been cut (literally BOOM BOOM!) in the efforts of the Michelin starred chef that has created this bounty of bread-based, bite-sized taste-bombs, that will surely set the tongues of the tasters alight with joy.
Carefully sectioned into quarters, this sumptuous feast features only the (supermarket) freshest ham available, and with all the fatty bits trimmed off and shoved in the bin, there remains only the choicest pieces of ham to ensure the palate is treated to a veritable pork-based party.
Cucumber has been loving rinsed for three seconds and then sliced to make it look slightly posher than it actually is, and the segments have each been painstakingly, and liberally, salted, to avoid cries of ‘SALT! SALT!’ as has happened from time to time.
Fresh (ish) tomatoes have been added for a little variety, and also because there’s nothing better than cleaning the seed explosion from off of the sofa cover (purchased to protect the sofa underneath from seed explosions* (*and other things)) when madam bites into them like some kind of animal.
The whole dish is served up on a dazzlingly blue plate emblazoned with Ella and Elsa, or Sarah and Sue or whatever they are called, from the tragi-comedy that is ‘Frozen‘.
Grunts and chewing noises can be heard and there seems to be a word emitted from the thing on the sofa. Could be ‘Merci‘ or ‘Thanks daddy, I love you‘ or ‘This is delicious, I’m so lucky to have you making this for me‘ but in all likelihood it’s probably ‘Where’s my water?‘.
Eschewing the needless frivolities of cucumbers or tomatoes, this dish is served up in as bare a bones style as possible. This suits the needs of that most exacting of connoisseurs: my son. Who has rigid rules, very much like Fight Club.
These rules basically boil down to:
- I don’t want any fruit
- I don’t want any veg
- I just want ham
- With bread
- Or sometimes pasta
With this in mind the meal for sir has been carefully prepared on seedless brown bread – oh yeah, rule number six, I forgot:
6. I don’t want any seeds in my bread
Again all traces of fat have been removed from the ham to ensure only the best meat passes sir’s lips. The resulting mix of bread and ham and butter has been loving shaped in to what one hopes resembles a face. Six consecutive attempts were made to try to lovingly shape it into this, after the first five were what could lovingly be described as ‘nightmare-inducing‘.
The whole meal is beautifully presented on a random beige plate due to sir’s ‘Marvel’s The Avengers‘ plate being out of commission due to an earlier incident involving chocolate.
‘What’s that?’ (after being told it’s a face) ‘No, it looks weird, it doesn’t look right…where’s my water?’
What would we have gotten away with? A pleasant Christmas break, a pleasant half-term holiday, an enjoyable trip to the swimming pool, an incident-free trip to the park, a shout-free bath time routine, ten seconds of peace, the ability to blink without something going wrong…
Yes, our children are at that wonderful age where they are a complete nightmare.
When they are together.
They are like some kind of horrendous combining Transformer (a Decepticon, to be clear). Mildly threatening when on their own, and a menace to society when they join to create the fearsome Maxi-Whine, or Moanzee – or maybe Greyhair-Makor. I don’t know, I’m not fixed on a name for the monstrosity they become when they ‘play’ together yet.
Play. Ha. Ha ha ha. Sigh.
I remember back in the good old days (last year) when we could leave them together and the worst that could happen would perhaps be something got knocked over, or the TV would be turned off, or they would build a fort. Now everything is violence and pain.
I suppose it comes with the increase in body mass = the bigger the kid, the bigger the problem.
And it’s never their fault, always the fault of the other one.
So when you reenter the room you will get some cock-and-bull story from my daughter about how no, it was actually her brother who took off his own glasses and snapped the arm off on one side. Or it was actually my daughter that punched and then kicked herself in the head.
I’m exaggerating a bit, but you get what I mean.
Individually, as a rule, they are quite easy going and manageable. But together, these days, you can mentally set a clock in your head from the time you exit the room to the time it takes them to start fighting/break something/open a door/activate a nuclear weapon silo.
Sometimes I don’t even get out of the room before mayhem is ensuing.
This means that, at the moment, all holidays are a constant battle of maintaining order via separation, and the constant search for newer, better, and pain-free options of how to regain/maintain control. Oh and by pain-free, I mean for us, not them – the only damage they receive is from each other. Can’t say the same for us – especially if we get caught in the midst of the chaos.
I often used to see parents in the park during the day smelling of alcohol – grandparents too – and I mentally despaired that someone could be in that state at such an hour.
I don’t despair so much these days. I empathise. But don’t worry, I won’t be reaching for any alcohol.
Because it’s just a phase, isn’t it? That’s what I keep telling myself. It’s just a phase.
I know what you are thinking: ‘Why’s he talking about babies and then going and sticking a picture of a water heater above this sentence, instead of a picture of a baby?‘. Well unfortunately* it’s because I am not actually a parent again, it just feels like I am. This is due to the water heater deciding to give up the ghost, doing it at everyone’s favourite time of year too – just after Christmas, the period that is synonymous with people having loads of money to throw around, especially on large, expensive items.
It’s not completely dead though – it’s just slowly, slowly dying. And this is where the newborn baby part comes in. Take a look at the following photo, a fascinating glimpse at the underneath of my beautiful water heater:
That big blue box (from here on in I will refer to big blue box as BBX, just to be lazy) is essential – without it I would not be typing this as I would be swimming around in the downstairs of my flooded home. You see the water heater is dripping – this is how we know it’s dying. Well, that and the fact that the boiler man turned up, took one look at it and said ‘It is dead’ and then told us we would have to pay just under a thousand euros to have a new one fitted. No resurrection for the old one, no band aid to apply, she’s dying and that’s that.
Unfortunately her death rattles consist of a constant drip, drip, drip, which means I have to get up and see to her every few hours, to get rid of the water that has collected in BBX. No matter the hour, day or night, up I get, bleary-eyed and sleepy and do my duty. It’s this that makes it feel like having a new born baby.
It’s just a little bit wetter, and a lot less smelly.
As for the equipment I have to use to sort this out have a look:
Remember Die Hard With A Vengeance? The scene with the two jugs of water? Exactly like that, except I’m not in the glorious sunshine in New York, I’m squatting down in my bathroom using the measuring jug to empty the water from BBX, and then pouring it into the medium-sized bucket, and then emptying that into the bath. Also Samuel L Jackson lives next-door to me and he comes round and helps me.
OK, part of that is a complete fabrication, but you see what I mean.
This may be one of the most mundane blogs I’ve ever written, but such is my rock and roll life.
I will say one thing though – I’ll take a leaking water heater over an actual new born baby any day of the week.
*Unfortunately? Why the hell did I type unfortunately? I’ve seen people with three kids, I’ve heard their screams, their moans of despair, I don’t want that life.
Why I love France – reason number 1,028: childcare costs.
The following photographs show the disparity in childcare costs between my new home, France, vs my old home, the UK. The costs in France for a day’s childcare – including meal – are 7 Euros. In the UK you can take that figure and multiply it by a factor of nearly 10. I am not joking about this.
In the UK if you have one child and you pay X amount, and then have another child in the same nursery, you pay X again. Here they adjust the price, so as not to hurt the family wallet too much. So you are already paying a (relative) pittance, and then they add in reduced costs for more children.
This is one of the reasons why this blog even exists, I had to give up my job in the UK because, when child number two arrived, I was essentially working for nothing. Can you imagine that? Doing a job that does not fulfil you in any way, only to see all your earnings be swallowed up, just so you can pay someone else to look after your kids, because you can’t look after them due to being too busy working to pay them to look after your kids…
It sounds like absolute madness, doesn’t it? But this is the reality that faces many parents in the UK. This is a stark contrast to France, over here they embrace the family and encourage people to have children and enjoy their lives with them. In the UK it sometimes felt like you were being punished for that greatest of all sins: wanting to have more than one child.
I’m conflicted about my own personal situation, having to quit the ‘rat race’, because on the one hand NOBODY should have to stop working because they cannot afford childcare, but on the other hand it gifted me some incredible times with my children. Times that I may never have experienced otherwise, and these memories will last forever.
Some people are lucky, and so have parents/family that can ‘pick up the slack’ and help out with the kids, and thus ease the burden of childcare costs. We didn’t have that, we didn’t have that ‘support network’, as they call it in the UK. And this is another one of the reasons why we decided to move to France.
This kind of thing is something that parents who are contemplating moving over here really have to factor in to their decision-making, as it is a huge, huge plus. This isn’t even considering the lower costs for other things such as school trips, extra-curricular activities, university etc.
They even adjust the scale in pre-school nurseries to reflect your income, so someone on a lower wage pays a lower rate than that of someone on a higher one.
Yes there are other costs incurred from moving over here but this took a great weight off our family’s financial shoulders and I’d imagine, for many other parents, it would be the same.
…I decided to do what any normal middle-aged man would do: I painted the inside of one of my dependances and turned it into a ‘chill-out’ area for adults. It’s a literal chill-out zone too – I mean, as in it’s not very warm in there.
For people who don’t know what a dependance is, it’s the French term for outbuildings, so running alongside our house, but not connected to it, we have a garage. Attached to that garage is a separate room that houses the boiler, and this room then connects with the aforementioned dependance that I’ve decorated.
There’s also another dependance at the very end – again, also connected to the others – but that one’s a bit damp and so I didn’t bother with that. Plus the door is set painfully low, and if I bang my head on it one more time I think I might dust off my sledgehammer and set about it in a rather unpleasant manner.
As you can see they had a sale on in one of my local paint stores on white Dulux paint. Having a sale on paint in France occurs with roughly the same frequency as winning the lottery. Or finding a French baker open at 12.45pm.
I spent a fair bit of time on the prep, cleaning it up and getting it ready, but unfortunately neglected to take any ‘before’ pictures, so you will have to use your imagination and picture a grim, grubby, grey box of a room.
My main aim doing this – apart from the previously mentioned relaxation area for adults – was to highlight some of the features that the prior owners had neglected: the wooden beams. I cleaned each beam and then painted between them to really make them ‘pop’ – if beams can do that? I’ve never written anything like this so I don’t know if they can.
Apart from the paint I used only existing materials with the exception of a few bits and bobs I bought from Aldi, in the reduced section. It seems nobody wanted to buy their ‘nautical-themed’ items, so they had reduced them to clear and shoved them in their ‘shit aisle’ (you know what I’m talking about). I also picked up a couple of coloured bottles and a rather garish pinky-orangy candle-holder/big glass jar thingy (hanging from the ceiling at the end next to the bottles). This was also from Aldi, and I bought it to give a bit of colour to the room and – even though you can’t see it – there is a flamingo on the reverse.
Total expenditure on ‘objets d’art’ (ooh I will pay for using that term) : 22 Euros.
I also added a bit of blue paint here and there – the door, window frame etc – as I realised that if I painted everything white it would stop looking like a chill-out area for adults, and start looking like a holding-facility for adults with mental-health issues.
I’ve curtained off the other part of this dependance, where the boiler is, as it’s not quite as neat and tidy as this one is – yet. This will be the next part of the ‘project’. For the time being the family refers to this as ‘Monica’s Closet’, which should be familiar to fans of the TV show ‘Friends’, but if you aren’t familiar with that term, it basically means it’s where I’ve shoved all the crap for the time being.
The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed the presence of toys in the room. These appeared approximately 25 seconds after I revealed my secret project to my family and explained what it was I had wanted to achieve with it. This is an unfortunate side-effect when you try to create a space to get away from children: they follow you. They have now commandeered our all-new dependance with cries of ‘Thank you daddy’ and ‘Thank you for building us a play-house daddy, can you close the door on you way out, please?’.
Still I’m not begrudging them stealing our new area, because if they are in there, we can have the actual house all to ourselves.