Wednesday, 28 September 2011

we are all potty

maybe we would have waited longer to start the 'training' but at nineteen months and with a new little stranger in the house there was no choice. it was time.

now, you can look up how to go about it - the internet is at your finger tips - and you will be told a million different methods. all these methods state, in way too many steps, how to get your child to sit, poop and then how to wipe the kid ('instilling cleanliness' is the term one site used). after flicking through some websites i decided that it was best to phone my mother. she had nine children, so her advice could only be worth while. after all i am pretty sure that all my adult brothers and sisters are now out of nappies. she must have done something right. 

her method is quite simple: get a potty - not one of those 'toddler loo seats' (another gimmick for parents to buy) as children usually have a hard time getting up on to a toilet by themselves - and a book. put the potty in the bathroom. fair enough. put the book beside the potty. during the day give the child nappy-free time, the little ones are like clockwork so you should know when their bowels kick off. pretty simple but now here is the trick: you have to go to the toilet with the child. lead by example and all the rest. so on our first attempt, i disappeared into the bathroom with my little buddy and we both got comfortable, me in my seat, her in hers. after half and hour of reading, we got up, instilled cleanliness and, proud as the judge who imprisons corrupt politicians, we brought the potty to mummy. "good girl" she exclaimed on seeing the big, steamy result. so, potty training can be quite fun and apparently easy.

my wife, however, never questioned how such a little girl produced such a big result. not to worry, as I have taken it upon myself to look after the 'potty training' and she need never know. wives are happiest when they see results, right?   

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

who's there, spit?

if you are over one-year-old and your parents spend money on you from time to time, you will probably have received a copy of eric hall's "who's there, spot?". for those of you not familiar with the yellow puppy who runs around wondering who is knocking on the door, who is in the tree, who is in the bath, well, the following is some of the text: someone is at the door, spot. i'll go, mom! knock, knock! who can it be? hello, spot! hello, helen! tweet, tweet! who is in the tree? we're hungry! 

however, it is the little flaps that you can look under on each page, to see who is there, that is the main attraction. i not only like the book but i also know it of by heart. after all, i do read it four times a day. but i like it because it reminds me of a time when you would go outside to meet people. you know? when we, and little puppies, would physically move our hairy asses to interact with others. do you remember? but some people might prefer the times we live in. you know, a time when a city the size of london can be held under the thumb of a few teenagers thanks to their organization via social networks and mobile phones. it is for these people that i propose that mr. hall introduce "spit", spot's twin brother. a more in-tune puppy with the times that we are living in. you can tell the difference because spit has three marks on his back, while spot has, well, one.

below is the completed draft for "who's there, spit?" enjoy!

Monday, 8 August 2011

london's burning but the kids are alright

i am sitting here, like most londoners, watching the third day of riots unfold on the television. i live in N4 and in the last three days they have rioted in tottenham, hackney, enfield. basically all my neighbouring zones. all the shops here are boarded up, precautionary action, which meant i had to get turkish take-away. but what i want to share with you is not my opinion on the on-goings here in the english capital. i want to share with you my daughter's nursery weekly planner, it is sent to my wife but i requested that she forward to me this week's. she goes three days a week to a very pleasant - what i like to call - playgroup. i just don't like the word nursery. it is a house with girls and they look after lots of toddlers. a playgroup. in any case here is the weekly planner (sic):

Dear parents,

Please find attached this weeks planner, sorry its late.

You will notice all trips will be to Wray crescent, with all the riots and looting I feel it's best to keep the children very local to ensure there safety, if at any point I feel this is not a safe place to take the children I will cancel all trips until further notice, we will  be cutting out afternoon strolls until order has been sort on this situation following a full risk assessment I feel the risks are far greater when children are on foot and we have all the local teenagers on school holidays.

This evening a few of our staff have reported some difficulty getting home due to trouble in both Holloway and hackney, I am confident at that moment that this will not affect us  but cant rule this out, however I will keep up to speed with the news and any  threats in our local area. and ask that you do too.

Warm Regards     

Sunday, 7 August 2011

new shoes, old me

it was time she got her first shoes. they keep your feet clean. and she has been walking now for a month or so. i never understood three-month-olds with shoes. i always knew she would get her first shoes when she started walking. when, if not? anyway, it was time for these shoes. we live in london. not only can you find every possible shoe for adults but also its miniature. and when all kids under ten months are already wearing converse, as are their forty-year-old parents, buying shoes may become a statement. personally i am glad that i don't have an adult-sized version of my first shoes which i still have. they are hanging over a mirror. they are hanging there because not only are they my first shoes but they look like a pair of first shoes from the 1920s. 

we went to jimmy's shoes. i recommend it. it has a very good selection. they have everything. the front of the shop was lined with all the miniatures of big people shoes. nike, adidas, converse and what not. you know the made-by-children-for-children products? it was while i looked at all these horrible sewn bits of plastic and rubber that i turned to the girl and said "have you got any start-rites?" and as the words slipped out i realised that i had become a father, but not any father. i had become my father. a lover of all things wooden, leather and metal. a hater of anything synthetic. but now i understand. i am not going to have my child's fast-growing foot in a pair of flat, heavy trainers because they look good. because they are fashionable. because they are cool. i am now officially not cool, and therefore i will take my children down with me.    

Saturday, 14 May 2011

subtle family planning

so my sister, who has two children, has come to the conclusion that the only reason one cannot take children of a certain age in a car without the appropriate seating is because 'big brother' wants to keep our numbers down. any young family - if they have a car - will have a small hatchback, maybe a station-wagon but not a school bus, right? and how many baby-seats can you fit in the back? that's right, two or possibly - and with a bit of a squeeze - three. therefore, if you want to have more than two children under 135cm at any one time, well, you will have to stay at home and forget that road-trip to blackpool for the summer holidays, unless you take the train. but how annoying are children on trains?

Sunday, 20 February 2011

the bird says 'would you all shut up?'

it was time to get a book of nursery rhymes. not for the kid but for me. the kid is too small still to appreciate a nice book. i needed one to brush up on my rhyming skills. the kid enjoys clapping her hands to verses. i needed to get the verses right, right? i found a sweet little book for a fiver: 'the nursery rhyme book'. it was nice to flick through it. i actually had quite a good strike rate, recalling seven out of ten rhymes. then on page 37 i found my favourite rhyme, i liked it when i was a kid and i like it even more now. word to the bird.

a wise old owl

a wise old owl lived in an oak;
the more he saw the less he spoke;
the less he spoke the more he heard.
why can't we all be like that wise old bird?

Thursday, 17 February 2011

leave them outside

i read an article on the 'social battlefield' that is bringing children to a restaurant. it comes at a time when a new guide is leaving the printing press aimed at parents who want to take their toddlers and babies to eat out. a sorry state of affairs if those who should be leading by example need a guide. or is it just 'big brother' having his say, again? i don't want to go into the two very defined, opposing arguments: on one bank you have the parents - 'our kids running and screaming around the restaurant are just being adorable' - and on the other all the childless adults - 'just the amount of drink and drugs we took last night are enough to render us sterile. we are hungover'. so is there such a thing as having more of a right to dine out?  

there are badly behaved children - in most cases i blame the parents - but there are also just as many hungover twats who believe they have priority to all amenities - maybe they were badly behaved children once upon a time. a child can only be taught how to best behave in public eateries if parents have access to these places but, as a parent, i will also try to avoid a sunday roast in soho. however it is wrong that when i walk into a place on a sunday afternoon in stoke newington i have to ask if they are 'child-friendly'. the answer is not to have 'child-friendly' places, every place that can be accessed by the general public should be, by default, child-friendly, or simply 'people-of-all-ages-friendly'. it would then be up to the owner to choose if he wants to be 'lazy-sunday-hangover-friendly'. that way, i don't have to drag a pushchair, child and three bags into every place on church street looking for someone who will feed us. the young 20-somethings with no baggage and a healthy pair of legs should be fit enough, even with a hangover, to find a suitable place where to get over their saturday nights in some peace and quiet. in any case, this seems to be only a british dilemma. the rest of europe quite enjoys welcoming children to their restaurants. maybe because they are less hungover most of the time. 

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

baby on board

i had to take the tube yesterday. it was that crappy time, you know, rush hour. i let two trains by. too full. on the third train there was room. i boarded. the seats in the middle of the carriage were occupied by shoreditch "artists". you know the ones, kept in their london victorian conversions by daddy as their "careers" blossom. they laughed. they were cool. i was glad not to be one of them. beside them, barely able to keep her balance as the train hurtled through the tunnel beneath london town, stood a heavily pregnant woman. she, unnecessarily, was donning the 'baby on board' badge. however, both badge and belly seemed to be invisible to the uber-cool people sitting in their tight jeans and check-shirts even though they all watched as she had laboriously mounted the train. it was only when a very old, shaky figure of man, who was standing beside the gestating woman, asked for one of them to give up a seat did they budge. they did, however, only give up one seat. leaving the old man to do the next four stops clutching the pole to keep himself from falling. my stop finally came. i got up and offered the old man my seat. 

Thursday, 3 February 2011

'good' father

i was leaving work to pick up the kid from playgroup.

"where you going?", asks a colleague
"to pick up the kid", i answer
"ah, there's a good dad", he says.

picking up your kid on time is simply part of being a father. now, if you don't go and pick up your kid that is when adjectives should be used. very negative adjectives.

Friday, 21 January 2011


this is a helmet. no ordinary helmet, mind. this is a cot-helmet so your kid doesn't end up with a "flat back of head". that is, it is a means to keep the child's head round or, as i like to call it, just another crap gadget that parents will buy. my father was born in 1945 italy. at the time it was advised that babies should stay on their backs. he did end up with a flat back of the head. the way i see it is this: firstly, my father ended up with the head he has because he was left a lot on his back when his skull was still soft and, secondly, this gadget would have been more useful in 1945 italy. according to 1970s research apparently it was better to have babies on their bellies. therefore my conclusion is that research will keep contradicting itself in waves - at a rate of a new study every 30 years, in the end it does give some people a sense of existence - and if you don't want a flat-headed kid, well, pick it up every now and then. and if you can't be arsed, maybe a flat back of head is better than a flat face so remember to turn him every now and then.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

liar, liar, pants on fire

a survey carried out by the website netmums (a forum for stay-at-home-mums-of-one which was slated this week in 'the observer' for interfering with eastenders' cot-death plot) on 5,000 mothers suggests that these poor souls of women are under so much pressure to appear to fellow-mothers like perfect parents that they lie. the report goes on to say that mothers are often made feel "inadequate" when confronting parenting stories, hence the fibs begin. it is solely due to peer pressure as more than 9 out of 10 said they compare themselves with others at the nursery school gate and not with the "celebrity" mothers in the glossy magazines - the ones who have 4 nannies and see their kids once a month even though they live in the same house.

i might be wrong but isn't that just classic female behaviour? with or without a kid? always going out of their way to outdo each other's achievements even if a little fib here and there is needed?

in any case, the bbc bloggers went to see the parenting expert frank furedi - married to ann furedi, the chief executive of british pregnancy advisory service, the uk's largest independent abortion provider - who states that parents were under "profound pressures" from society. he said that a culture of parenting "incites parents to lie and to turn child-rearing into a performance." is it not just in human nature to exaggerate and "perform" to others? nothing new there but he makes a valid point as there are many a parent who can only talk about the difficulties of having a child and how great they, as mothers, are. i have a nickname for such mothers: "netmums".

Saturday, 15 January 2011


nonetheless, in the first fifteen minutes you can try something. allegedly there is a part of the human brain that is active whilst in the womb. on entering the world nature kick-starts a lot of dormant organs needed for basic survival on the outside, starting with the lungs. nature also shuts down other parts of the body, mainly the belly-button. it is no longer the traffic route of nutritional supply and waste. she also shuts down – not immediately – this small part of the brain that now interests us. maybe it is the umbilical cord coordinator. whatever the case, it has another incredible function: it allows the newborn to imitate any facial expression you throw at it. in haste, you hear, as it doesn’t last long! you have the prime material, you have no excuses. bring the little, swaddled creature to about a foot from your face. shit, she does look a bit like me. weird. anyway, now pull a funny face. stick out your tongue. wink. frown. smile. try them all. this little thing in your hands will imitate exactly what you do, i kid you not. unbelievable. in the sense, i didn’t believe it either until i actually witnessed it for myself. a bit like becoming a father, you can’t ever know until you do. 

photo by stephanie robin/kelley ryden

Friday, 14 January 2011

so what is breast?

in 2003 the W.H.O. (who?) told mothers to breastfeed their offspring up to six months. in 2011 some experts, led by a paediatrician from University College London's Institute of Child Health, say breastfeeding exclusively for six months may damage a baby's health and "reduce the window for introducing new tastes". 

proof that only a mother, if she follows her instinct, really knows what is right. it is also evidence that new parents should avoid internet/books/articles on how to bring up their child.

the leading paediatrician obviously has no experience with a four-month-old. by that age they are sitting up, grabbing and very happy to try new tastes: bread, fruit, shoes, paper, wires etc. i believe both the 2003 and 2011 reports are only read by a certain type of parent i.e. the over-protective, over-anxious ones that will transmit their anxieties onto the child. you know the ones? they usually have very bitter breast milk.

photo - israeli mother breast feeding her baby, 1964 by paul schutzer 

Thursday, 13 January 2011

white noise

yet another sleepless night? 2am feed? then again at 4? the baby doesn't stop crying? either does the baby's mother? according to new mothers it is because the kid is colic, guaranteed. you suggest that the sprog might be hungry. you are promptly told that you don't have a clue. now this is not the right time to explain your theory. the right time will be had whilst the baby is napping the next day and mother has a cup of tea in her hand. 

it is not only my theory, obviously, as someone has already come up with a contraption that deals with it. however, when i saw this little white machine (i didn't know that they existed previously) i was very excited as it was confirmation of something i have always maintained: for a newborn the world they enter is eerily quiet. after months spent in a swirling, bubbling, swooshing womb surrounded by belly gurgles and heartbeats, they come out to silence and cold and a place where womb walls don't exist. scary for anyone. 

this little machine produces a constant stream of white noise. you turn it on when you put the baby down and you should have some very positive results. once upon a time fathers would go for a late-night drive with a sleepless baby, it wasn't the drive but the sound of the engine that did the trick, even if 30 minutes away from a desperate, weeping wife was a plus. some people find that turning on a vacuum cleaner or a hair-dryer soothes a frustrated child. once again, it is all down to the white noise they produce. since we got the machine even i sleep better. weird. 

if you can't find the machine, click this link and stick your laptop beside the cot. it is 7 hours 54 minutes of vacuum noise kindly uploaded by some very tired father.

and i have seen a colic baby, trust me, if your kid isn't crying 24/7 it is not colic. this machine also prepares the kid for later life, lots of white noise.