Saturday, October 18, 2014

The virtual baby

Dd is studying child development as one of her gcse options. Part of the course involves looking after a virtual baby for a weekend. These dolls were created to show young adults some of the reality of having a baby. Of course you don't get lots of the horror, no poo, no vomit, no worryingly unexpected high temperatures or rashes. But you don't get much of the fun either, no squishy cuddles, no laughs, no smiles, no kicking feet. But you do get to experience the thing all new parents get, a lack of sleep.

DD has always been very keen on children. She adores babies and kids, so I was surprised at her reaction to the baby.

Virtual baby doll in buggy

Day one, the baby is set to react like a newborn. It wakes and sleeps at all times of the day and night, it constantly wants feeding or changing (they have nappies with little sensors in, so the computer in the baby can tell if you actually changed the nappy) but unlike real babies it's never especially cute. It seems that they are mostly annoying or boring. The first night the baby did not want to sleep at 9pm, DD's normal bedtime, by the time she was ready for bed it was 10pm, I wen to bed then too. The baby woke in the night, waking me each time too, at midnight, 2am, 3.45am, 5am and then again at about 6am. I had to go to work and I left an exhausted and pissed off dd at home.

During the day the baby continued to be needy and DD continued being annoyed. By the evening I was actually concerned for the fake babies safety and took it into the hall for a while to rock it as it cried. Poor DD she was determined by this stage that she would never have children!

toy baby virtual baby child buggy

Day two the baby is set to behave a few weeks older. Last night the baby slept more, but still woke several times. The joy of nappy changing on a virtual baby is the lack of poo, the non existent risk of an explosive nappy and the need to change all the baby's clothes plus bath it and change all the cot sheets. But on the downside there are no cheeky grins or raspberries. DD is finding it hard to 'like' the virtual baby. It gives nothing back to the virtual parent.

The day went better though, the baby was more settled and fed and cried less.

Day three. Last day to be a mum. DD was into her stride by now, recognising the various cries and sorting the baby's problems really quickly. Sadly she still doesn't really get anything from it - it's very automated now, just a quick feed, burp, nappy change, no eye contact no snuggles.

When she woke on the morning the baby was due to be returned she said "oh wow I had a great nights sleep!" and I asked if the baby had slept though, "No, she replied but it only woke once at 1am it was bliss" haha I think maybe she will make a mum after all.

baby in a buggy toy doll

Our view of the virtual baby is that as it's designed to show children what a real baby is like and put them off parenthood too early it sort of works. But it's a bit of a cheat, it gives you the noisy bits of the baby but that's really all it does, there is no mess, no making up of feeds, (no breastfeeding and subsequent sore nipples!) no bathing. And there are no real nice bits at all, no cuddles, no smiles, no kicking feet or grabbing your finger. One thing she did say "This would be so much easier with someone to help" It's a reasonable tool but i think maybe I should borrow a real baby for DD ... anyone need a break ... for a few minutes? Before she gets annoyed and gives the baby back?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Nursery rhymes, are they nursery safe?

I love nursery rhymes. And I love fairy tales. I briefly talked about them in the post about DD being Snow White, and that their purpose is often to help children understand big life issues, in small easy to cope with pieces.

Nursery rhymes are often political in nature though, or started as cruel playground chants about real events. Not so much made for children as hijacked by them or create by them. Children too can be vicious and cruel.

This came to mind the other day when someone on twitter commented on a book their child had brought home from school, the story involved throat slitting! And other tweeters joined in the discussion of its suitability. I was immediately cast into my childhood, and a book I was given in 1968 when I was 3. The Giant Golden Mother Goose. I still have it.

I thought I'd share some of the best, the most gruesome of the nursery rhymes, most of them became favourites and I read them with glee to DD.  

Of course you have all heard "Fee Fi fo fum.." 

And then there is rock a by baby where a baby falls from a tree, or the maid that has her nose pecked off in Sing a song of sixpence. In Ding, Dong, Dell a cat is flung into a well and nearly drowned...

But there are more, so many more, so let me share some childhood memories.

baby and i were baked in a pie nursery rhyme
Baking children in pies, OK then...
two cats of kilkenny nursery rhyme
Cats beating and scratching each other so much there is only fur left...
there was a man in our town nursery rhyme
A personal favourite due to the awful imagry and the bizarreness of the poem
davy davy dumpling
And back to eating children again, I adore this rhyme and often sang it to DD with her name in place of Davy, while pretending to eat her!

What are your favourite nursery rhymes?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The story of Catcher: when a bear is lost

a hug me better bear
My daughter has a bear. He is a special bear that she has had since she was small. He was bought for her by my parents. He has a tummy that you can heat in the microwave, so he can warm you with snuggles in winter. He is a Hug-me-Better Bear and for no reason I can ascertain, he is called Catcher.

Catcher lives on the bed with all the other bears and cuddly toys,  dd has never been one to carry a "snuggly" or a toy everywhere, but Catcher has pride of place, he is there at night always, he is special.

One early summer night dd called to me

"Mummy, where's Catcher?" A question to strike fear into many a parent, where is my special toy...

Catcher was lost.

We searched the bedroom, we talked about where she had seen him last, had he been to a sleepover? the grandma's house? Had he been downstairs? Or in the garden?

He was nowhere to be found. We read the lovely book 'Tatty ratty' a perfect and highly recommended read for anyone that has (or may in the future) lose a loved toy.

Tatty ratty has an adventure on his way home, Dd and I talked about what we though Catcher was up to, what was he doing.

I bought a second bear from the same range, I hid him and planned 'finding' him ... but in my heart I knew he was just different enough for her to notice. Eventually I introduced him as Catcher's cousin. He was named Snuggles, and we waited, but Catcher did not return.

Six months passed and Catcher was still missed. We found a third bear of the same type in a charity shop and a still sad DD insisted we 'save' him. He was named Padlock (after the bear in the Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear story by Andy Stanton) and now Snuggles and Padlock sat on the bed, sadly watching the door for the return of Catcher, but he didn't come back.

Then one day I saw a black version of the now much talked about bear! Neither of us had seen a black Hug-Me-Better bear before, he seemed very special, maybe he could heal some of the hurt that missing Catcher caused? And so he was bought and he came home too, Panther sat with the others, on a silent bear vigil.

Winter came. I went up to the loft to get down the winter weight duvet for DD...

And there, snuggled down in the middle of it was Catcher! He had hidden in the loft for a year. Now he is back on the bed. With his new crew. Like the A Team of bears.

Has your child ever lost a toy? What did you do to help them cope and did you ever find the toy again?

Some top tips for bear safety : 
  • Take a photo (a nice clear one from all sides) of your toy before it goes missing! You never know when you will need to tell someone what it looks like - store the pic online for easy access if away from home.
  • Label your bear in some way - if you don't want to use your own details try something like Tag a Teddy
  • If you lose your bear, use online services to help - something like LostTeddyBear

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Growing older and wiser ... and greyer


Calvin sums it up so simply doesn't he? It's a bit like that bumper sticker "Get a teenager while they still know everything". The certainty of youth, the certainty of naivety, the certainty of ignorance. All so very close, so very linked.

When I was in my teens (in the 80s, probably before most of you were out of nappies) I was very right wing. I think teens think in absolutes, a bit like children, very right and wrong, very fair or not fair, very black and white. There are no shades of grey because no one made you think about them yet. I was right wing because it seemed the most 'fair'. You work hard you get stuff, you break laws you go to prison, you have a baby it's up to you to feed and clothe it. But I know as many people that were left wing then, and are more right wing now!

As you grow older hopefully you gain both an education and experience. Now I look at the world through different eyes. My hair is greyer and so is my view of the world. I have been poor and in debt (briefly) while living in a rented bedsit, I have been unemployed, not because I was lazy but because I couldn't get a job, and I have struggled to find money at the end of the week for food. I have discovered that I have a disability too. I have had a child and see that she will grow up in an imperfect world and suddenly just expecting her to 'manage' seems all wrong. I want her to have a fair life of course, but my understanding of 'fair' has shifted. Is it fair to be born disabled? Is it fair to lose your job?

I'm far from being completely on the left but I'm certainly not on the right anymore. Why shouldn't people move countries if they like. Why should corporations get away with cunning tax savings but the low paid still have to pay it. Paying benefits to the low paid has a new slant when I realise that by doing so we are subsidising the company they work for, does that company need the help or is it a huge one that can easily afford to pay a living wage? Should we support small companies this way anyway?

Why are we at war? Why don't other countries join wars like we do and who made up the police of the world? When I was younger I would have had no problem at all picking a side, knowing who was right and who was wrong, now I look at the awful histories on either side and find the choice is grey, like the dust that settles around bombed out schools.

Like Calvin I find the knowledge doesn't help. Knowledge can be paralysing. How can I decide from the shades of grey in the world. How do you know who to support? What to choose? Are you older with shades of grey or is life still black and white for you?

Maybe I need to be like Calvin, throw away my studying, my reading, my thinking and sometimes, just behave like teen me, on impulse, on gut feeling. And just act.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Chore Wars

I wasn't going to talk about it, I turned down a company who asked me to talk about women doing the lions share of the housework. I saw posts on twitter about it, I read blog posts about it, but I stayed strong. I didn't blog about it. And then today, finally, a radio ad for Woman's Hour (a show I've appeared on and yet loathe) broke me. So here I am.

Chore Wars

How ridiculous. Are women really so feeble we can't ask a bloke to help if we need to? Are men really so lazy and feckless they just lay around watching footie and drinking beer from the can, unless poked by a feisty female?

I don't think so. I think we are grown ups. I think that mothers raise sons and we raise them to be equals in a relationship, just as we raise our girls. I hope that mothers of boys (I only have a daughter) teach them to cook, clean, wash up, split the laundry into lights and darks, and how to handle babies just as I teach my daughter.

I hope other mothers of daughters are teaching their girls how to light real fires, check their oil and antifreeze levels (ooh must take car to garage - don't let me forget) I hope they are learning to change a wheel, use power tools and mow lawns with stripes.

I think the constant bashing of men as lazy hurts us all and the frequent martyr language of the long suffering mum at home does the same. Are you a couple? Then you are a partnership. You split the chores and housework as best suits you, as a partnership. Your gender is irrelevant. You are a team. Pull together, face the world, win.

In my house there is a full time worker and a stay at home partner who does the majority of the housework and looks after DD. This has worked for us as a family for 14 years.

The fact that it's me that works and DH that knows how the washing machine works, is neither here nor there.