Cats are fickle and stubborn

There is a great video from the UK Cat Protection league on stroking your pet’s belly. Apparently they don’t like it up ’em.

The result is that even if your (apologies for the upcoming sentence, I am British so have a in depth education in entendre) pussy looks like it needs a stoke you should try to resist the urge to give it a little tickle lest something untoward happen.

The reality is that unless the cat is explicitly asking you for something then they don’t want you to do anything. Unless of course it’s the opposite, because cat’s are the most contrary animals in existence.

The danger of this video being released on YouTube is that all the cats on the internet will now want to have their tummies tickled because it’s the opposite of what you will now think. Cat’s are waging a long psychological battle against their human minions which isn’t about supremacy but the complete breakdown of human logic.

They want us to be constantly unsure of ourselves, it’s the ultimate in reverse psychology. You know when a cat looks at you and sees you as an equal…of course not. It never happens, in a cat’s brain we are below hairballs. When a cat coughs up a ball of fur it’s because they are looking to improve their social situation.

This is a cat’s order of preference for company:

  • Other cat’s
  • Food
  • Furballs
  • Litter Tray
  • Something to scratch
  • Throwing up in the middle of the room
  • Human’s
  • Dogs

Mrs G claims I’m a cat whisperer because they seem to like me, and I them (despite their hidden agendas). I’d like to believe this is because I understand where I stand with cat’s. I realise that they see me as inferior and I’m happy to acknowledge that. I don’t stroke a cat, I merely offer my hand in a subservient manner in readiness to stroke and wait for them to come to me.

I never lift them to my lap, I just offer up its warmth. I am no more than a warm cushion for them to lie on, the only reason I’m preferred over the laptop keyboard is because I’m softer.

Don’t think I’m not a cat person, I do love them and encourage Mrs G to bring her two over from New York. She was worried that either of us wouldn’t get on, but I like both Bella (passive-aggressive) and Olivia (Stupid).

She was curious to know why they took to me so well. It was easy, the first thing I did when I met them was to open a tin of cat food for them. They don’t see me as a lowly human, they see me as a tin opener.

Maybe some other time little one

Toddlers understand only one time frame, now! They have little concept of the future until they are much older so if it is not happening right here right now then it may as well not be a thing.

As I try not to have my schedule completely dictated to by children this can course numerous ructions. The promise of doing something later in exchange for doing something else now falls on deaf ears.

Therefore managing a toddler is all about managing their time expectations, and as mentioned they have none.

Instead how we deal with the Feliciraptor is by framing all conversations in the present. Rather than telling her about what we are going to do later we have to use present tense as much as possible.

Getting to bed is a number of steps but we try to talk about it as though it is one continuous process. Instead of saying “we will get dressed then read a book” we talk about them being one and the same “let’s get dressed and read a book”.

If she isn’t getting into her pyjama’s and is demanding a story we ask “how can we read if we are not ready for bed”. It’s a leap in logic but her toddler brain seems to accept this as a fact.

If she is crying because she wants to see Mommy while we are driving home then I don’t tell her “we’ll see her later” I say “we’re going to see Mommy now”. As we are doing the thing she wants it is easier to understand than an abstract point in the future.

Living in the now mentality is hard as we need to consider how we can present our actions to our instant gratification child. Take going to the toilet, if we announce that we are going she needs to go and go first.

I need to go now!

To manage this we are having to teach her “maybe” as in “maybe later”. Being stuck in the now means that any current demands can be forgotten. Maybe having a biscuit later currently means we don’t have to go in the cupboard, or at least for the time being (I’m sure this will change when she is older).

Not having a sense of the future also means we can make some long term deals that are in our benefit. For a yogurt we’ve already given up the rights to a pony, and a college education was given up for a pack of stickers.

Whisper the baby is sleeping

In the beginning we were sleeping in separate beds because, as Mrs E says, I’m a Stradivarius of sleep. I must have everything “just so” otherwise I can’t relax. Pillows and sheets have to be in a particular way, light minimised and sound below a whisper. Anything else and I drive myself mad and prevent the ability to drop off. So when Feliciraptor was waking in the middle of the night it meant I had to start all over again.

Having a two month old baby was like having a broken alarm that was ready to go off at any point, with a 90% chance it being around 5am. In those first few weeks it was hard but every day started to get much, much, better than it was. Yet I was still at the limit of rest.

At first we we did try sharing the same room, but it ended with two very tired parents as opposed to one sleepy and one functioning human being that the bi-room agreement gave us. To stop you worrying that I was shirking any of my duties (and I will fight anyone who suggests otherwise) I did do the weekend shifts while Mrs E took over again on the school nights.

Then one night, all of a sudden, The Feliciraptor discovered how to sleep at night.

She always had the ability to sleep anywhere and at any time, but not for a good block in the night.

Then she managed to go from midnight to 7am, aka a proper nights sleep for adults. This miracle gave Me and Mrs E a new lease of life as we would no longer need to say the usual new parent refrain: I’m tired.

Despite all the worry in the first few weeks about receiving a broken baby we are now realising how lucky we are. Our initial concern that we would be having to manage with interrupted sleep were unfounded. She sleeps.

We took her on a flight to Berlin, she slept.

We took her on a flight to New York (three times), she slept.

She even slept through the change in time zones, jet lag has not (yet) affected her.

I know how incredibly lucky we are to have such a good sleeper, and this foray out of the parenting trenches is likely to attract sniper fire, but it has helped us enormously that all in Family E are rested. We did go through a few hard nights trying to get her to sleep, we have been strict with when and how we put her down, but the short term tears have really paid off long term.

It is like you all of a sudden discover a good baby,she will smile at us and we can smile back. Not the sad, tired smile of “why won’t you sleep” but the happy “we are so glad you are in our life” smile.

That helps me to sleep at night, while baby #2 is screaming.

A little Picasso

Dirty nappies, bottles to wash, uncertain stains to clean. As a parent, I get plenty of these and I look forward to the day they stop. There is also one other item I have conflicting feelings over, another piece of child paraphernalia I have a copious amount of.

Child artwork.

I have scribblings and paintings aplenty, pasta and food pictures galore. You want glued boxes I got twenty, but who cares, I want more.

Well, not that much more because, here is parenting honesty, almost without exception they are terrible. I know there are out there who think their child is tapping into their inner Pollock or Dali, but one piece of child work is cute, two okay but having enough to open an entire gallery takes the value from them.

On a normal day at nursery we get three pieces of paper in various states of paint. This is not creating art, its teaching toddlers to become decorators. Sometimes they try to hide this by getting the children to paint on shapes because this is the only way to differentiate between pieces.

To begin with, it was touching to have an original piece of Feliciraptor work even if her earlier attempts saw more coverage of herself than the canvas.

We had the naïve idea to collect and save every item she created, we could create an archive showing the evolution of her style over the years. After we filled one folder in a month, this was not a workable project.

You then have to weigh the merits of one ‘white paint on blue paper’ against the next and does using macaroni over pasta shapes add more value? Not that it matters, anything that comprises dried food gets eaten by Feliciraptor on the car ride home.

We have saved pieces, including her first ever picture from the nursery. Rather than covering my fridge in magnets and masterpieces we framed them and stuck them to the walls. It adds a level of classiness and means we could sell them for pounds.

Despite the overall standard, and I realise with my ‘C’ in GCSE art I am pot/kettle/black here, I still enjoy seeing what she produces (as I will with A-Rex’s artwork).

The work may be terrible, but it comes from the right place (in contrast with ill intentioned ‘good’ art).

Sometimes it is just another splodge of paint, sometimes it is ‘daddy and mommy’. That card may just have spaghetti on, but this one with lasagne sheets also says ‘Happy Father’s Day’.

As with any art the real value is in the interpretation.

I’m the favourite child

I’m the favourite child. With just four words I have made sure that my sisters, mother and other assorted relatives are already reading this. Who would do something that click-baity though?

Most parents won’t tell you they have a favourite, it would ruin the careful equilibrium of any family. You never see Kris telling Khloe that Kendall is her favourite (I need to stop reading the Daily Mail).

Now that I have two children this is a trap I need to avoid falling into. After this ‘news’ report (albeit from a publication that claims wine both prevents and causes cancer) it did make me think how the ideal of treating all my children equally is likely to fail as it is to be unfair.

To begin with one commentator pointed out how the term ‘favourite’ was not really an accurate way of ranking your children. If someone was to ask me for my favourite meat I would say steak, but my favourite food is a bacon sandwich. To make it more confusing I’m not overly fussed about a steak sub. How can bacon not be my favourite flesh, but tops the overall list.When you look at lists of best albums they very rarely contain best songs. So it is with children.

At the moment Feliciraptor would be my ‘favourite’ in the sense of the one I want to spend most time with. That’s mostly because A-Rex is a pooping pile of fuss, when you have the choice between curdled diapers or reading a Mr Men story I will happily go with Mr Nosey.

This makes me worried that I spend too much time with my daughter to the detriment of my son. To compensate I try to spend as much time as I can with him, but is this then pushing the little lady to one side. Without one of those chess clocks to equally divide my time betwixt the two.

I will fail to treat them equally not only because of the time I spend with them, but they will become two very different individuals. There will be times when I like one more than the other, but one will never be loved more.

If one child grows up to be England Men’s Cricket captain and the other the Women’s team leader I won’t view them any differently, the same if one is a batsman and the other an offspin bowler. Each will have different strengths and different needs, just as me and my sisters demand from our parents varying levels of attention.

This is why treating them equally will not be fair, they won’t require the same attitude of parenting. A-Rex is a much chiller infant than Feliciraptor was, and if this extends through childhood and beyond then we can’t be the same with him as his sister.

As they get older we will not tell them we don’t have favourites, instead we’ll tell them that there are times when we want chicken and times when we want lamb.

I’m still the bacon sandwich though.

Being a child while still a child

Trying to identify the moment that I grew up is difficult, mostly because I am still waiting for it. I still have a childlike quality that is equal parts endearing and equal parts annoying. For many this may be a liability but now I have a playmate to mess around with I can see the benefit of keeping my Peter Pan complex.

Too many people of my age have lost the ability to have fun. Too worried about looking silly, or don’t want to take the risk that they might enjoy themselves. Being silly isn’t being grown up and we’re adults, and so should our children be. Everything in life seems to be geared towards making children be adults and it’s not something we are going to pressurise the Feliciraptor or A-Rex with.

I was never forced to grow up and neither shall they be.

It doesn’t matter if they can’t count to 75, or if they are able to play ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ on a piano. The Feliciraptor enjoys shaking her head and kissing bees on the television. She does this with a huge big smile on her face, and makes us all giggle with her.

We will do all we can to protect them from the moments that make you grow up suddenly. While they are children they can act like children because, as I know, you are judged for being childlike when you are an adult.

This is not to say we will wrap them up in cotton wool like some parents do. By some of the content that can be shared on some Facebook walls you would think we were monsters. They are sometimes allowed to cry (SHAME) and we have even told Feliciraptor “no” (MORE SHAME) and, for some parents this is the worst, we have even made her share (J’ACCUSE!).

We do this because we do want them to grow up, but to grow up gradually like Me and Mrs E did. As far as I see it my parenting responsibility is to make sure that whenever they enter the world of adults they need to both be well-functioning members of society.

If they can get there by having a bit more fun but a few less rosettes then so be it. Nothing should make you feel older than you want to be. Now if you excuse me I have a monkey to play with.

What I’d tell him

I know he knows, I can see it when he looks at me. He’ll smile and just carry on regardless pretending that whatever I send was some form of incomprehensible nonsense. I’m not the only one, when anyone else talks to him they just get a look as if to say non comprende monsieur.

Such is life with a one year old, it’s like living in a foreign land in your own home. Simple instructions fall on deaf ears, but at the same time utter one word you shouldn’t have then you are living in fear that will be the one they learn to enunciate.

The A-Rex is so close to being full on conversive (he is moving from the puppy to the parrot stage) and there is still so much we need to tell him.

  • Do eat vegetables, don’t just eat meat
  • Don’t look at what Daddy is eating, just eat your vegetables
  • Don’t chew that, it’s electric
  • Don’t chew that, it’s plastic
  • Don’t chew that, it’s your Grandma
  • Stop
  • We only tell you stop when it’s dangerous
  • You are free to go anywhere where it’s not dangerous
  • You are free to be whoever you want if it’s not dangerous
  • You are free to do whatever you like if it’s not dangerous
  • That’s dangerous
  • Can you put that back please?
  • Thank you for putting that back.
  • Where did you get it from?
  • All you have to do to make us smile is smile
  • Do you know the effect your smile has on us?
  • Why do you insist on putting mushrooms in my imaginary tea?
  • Is that your way of dealing with taxation without representation?
  • Sausage or chips?
  • Daddy or chips?
  • Daddy or sausage?

You know I am proud of you, even when you somehow take of your PJ’s and nappy in bed

Children’s humour

I’ve just laughed at someone because they used the acronym PP. Being stuck around toddlers means my humour is purely bodily function led.

It helps that my sense of humour hasn’t departed to far from the playground. It is pretty unrefined and finds laughter in most bodily functions. Simulating and noises the body makes sends the Feliciraptor into fits of laughter and causes her to run around the room telling the same ‘joke’ (if the joke is simply blowing a raspberry). In fact one of the first jokes she learnt had a tongue rasp as the punchline.

I do have one receptive audience who are pretty easy please, and will listen and laugh with very little heckling. For a three year old most things are funny; and at 18 months anything that involves a silly face or noise is the best thing in the world for A-Rex.

Children find the stupidest acts hilarious, which I guess counterbalances their freakouts over the slightest of provocations. For a toddler sticking a finger in your dinner has the reaction of “ROFLCOPTERLMAOLOL” and removing your finger is “This is the worst thing to ever happen in the world in history you monster”. It is a fine balance that you will never learn, especially as the next night you need to reverse your actions to have the same effect.

This is why making children laugh can be so easy, and so hard. Yes getting them to pull your finger will make them laugh, but what if the resulting noise was too loud or too wet. You will be seen as a monster rather than Mr Funnyman. I was looking for “silent but violent”

For A-Rex life is simpler, all we have to do is pull a funny expressions three times for him to giggle away. No more. No less. Three shalt be the number thou shalt pull, and the number of the pulling shall be three. Four shalt thou not pull, neither pull thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Anything other than three just results in tears.

The comedy gene has passed on, with Feliciraptor now coming up with her own jokes. Like her father she still has a lot to learn about what is appropriate humour. For example this was the following exchange in the car:

Feliciraptor : Daddy I pooedMe : What! Hang on!Feliciraptor : I pooed in my pantsMe : Oh we don’t do that do we?Feliciraptor : I not pooed, I only joking.

Hilarious. Obviously not as funny as shouting in the local supermarket that Grandma was drunk, but still ranks pretty high on the all time funny list.

Me and My Shadow

One of the joys of life is cooking, and I am lucky that I can do this most nights. We have delivered a box full of ingredients and from this we get to make dishes that vary from carbonara to mu shu pork.

It used to be that I would get home, turn on the gas, and have dinner ready for Mrs E when she got home.Now I pick up Feliciraptor from nursery, and A-Rex is at home with his mother, I have the joy of my own little Sous chef to cook with me. While I am dicing onions (pronounced ooo-knee-ons by my second-in-command) I have to be careful of four sets of fingers.

Feliciraptor has reached the age where she is a ‘big girl’ (at 3 1/2) so feels that she can, and must, do everything me and Mrs E do. It used to be that making her milk in the morning was a 60 second job. Now I have to take her to the fridge, open and pour the milk with her, let her press the buttons on the microwave and walk back upstairs. This process will take fives times as long.

Doing the straps on her car seat, no ‘my’ has to do it now. She has to open the doors to her nursery, and her routine is so well known that the staff will rush to shut any open doors so my little dino can do it.

At home she has a full kitchen so she can make tea, cook dinner, wash up, do the laundry and hoover with her toy dyson.

With her brother we are almost at the point where we could ask her to babysit. Well maybe not all the way there, but she would certainly be happy to try. No task without A-Rex is without a tiny “I help” from behind.

The issue is that our shadow is not the most gentle of hand. When she ‘cuts’ food while helping me cook it becomes more of a smash than a slice. When she helps bathe her brother with a sponge it is more of a boxing glove.

Even though it is a pain for each task to take longer, and can be annoying when we want to hurry, I wouldn’t want to dissuade my children from helping. It is enjoyable to cook with my daughter, and hopefully my son when he is older. Planting in the garden is made more enjoyable with another pair of tiny hands.

Plus it is the only way to deal with Little Miss Lenny, she can only learn to be a more helpful and gentler child with practice.

Reading time

One hobby I don’t do enough of is reading, at least reading anything that isn’t on a screen. Getting through Buzzfeed and Cracked articles is not exactly in the same league as reading Tolstoy or Steinbeck.

Yet I still read a lot of book, that is not a typo or bad grammar I just seem to be reading the same thing over and over again. The reason for this is The Feliciraptor, and as anyone with a child will tell you repetition is an integral part of having a toddler.

Life with a two year old seems to be full of the refrain “again”.

We really want to encourage her to appreciate books so she has plenty of them and a bedtime routine that allows for a story. To make sure she reads plenty we have bought collections of tales for her to choose.

We have the entire box sets of Mr Men and Little Miss, and a compendium of fairy tales. Numerous books with dinosaurs and a whole range of scatalogical themed rhymes, not forgetting the essential Dr Seuss. She has plenty to choose from.

Which is why it is frustrating to be rereading The Gingerbread Man for another night. The only positive point, and spoilers here, are his inevitable doom at the hands of the fox (I wonder if this is the same fox who ‘assisted’ Chicken Licken, Loosey Goosey and co?). It’s a book full of repetition and to read it again and again, you can’t catch me I’m the gingerbread man, is annoying.

It seems to have been the way ever since The Feliciraptor developed an opinion. To begin with I would be able to select whichever book I fancied. In this way I was able to read the 50 or so Mr Men series. I would have to fight a wriggle monster but I would still be able to change up the story every night.

Not now, now the chosen tale is selected by a toddler. I have come to learn that toddlers are amazing, but they are not great with change. Once they have found something they love (In the Night Garden, Leggings, Chocolate) it is going to be their ‘go to’.

So as soon as a book hits the infant emotional centre (like Les Miserables would if you were an adult) it is put on the limited rotation of approved texts. This is where The Gingderbread Man currently sits. It is the latest in a long line of Ten Little Fingers (Review: okay), The Dinosaur that Pooped a Planet (Awesome), and The Sailor Dog (Kill me if I have to read it again).

What all these books, and any I read with my daughter, do is more important than the story. It is the time I get to share with her that I cherish. It is important to Me and Mrs G that our children share our love of reading, and I am happy that I can be part of this.

After she has been read to she is allowed to sit on the floor to ‘read’ the book by herself. She can’t read but she is learning to stories, we can tell by the way she will repeat back the cadence of the rhymes. If she doesn’t know the story she can look at the pictures and make it up.

This is why I read them to her time after time, it’s to help her learn. I love it when she looks at me and says “again”.

Amateur Dramatic group serving Bedworth since 1973


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