Tuesday, 20 April 2010

In my day!

Well, it was a busy Easter holiday but Junior finally went back to school this morning. I thought I would be relieved but in actual fact I've been left with the feeling that I've misplaced something or left my umbrella on the bus. To be honest I really miss him. The house is so quiet and for the first time in three weeks it doesn’t look like there has been a Lego explosion in my living room. Junior was a little reluctant to return to school, although I think the fact he had brand new, big size, shiny black shoes helped a bit. I had to be upbeat about the start of a new term but deep down I was kind of sad that our holiday was over. I think it’s because we had such a lovely time away last week. We spent a glorious couple of days in the Highlands where we soaked up the scenery and stayed in the most beautiful B&B I have ever been in. Junior made friends with Corrie the Wonder dog (so called because the poor thing fell out the top window last year, breaking both his back legs and seriously damaging his spine. He survived, albeit with a slightly wobbly walk) We were warned that Corrie was nervous of children since his accident but he and Junior hit it off instantly and within 10 minutes of arriving they were playing with the squeaky ball in the daffodils.
The break away did us both the world of good. The weather was perfect and everything went our way. I felt so chilled out and refreshed that I have to admit to shedding a wee tear as we drove through the gate to begin our journey home. We arrived back in Edinburgh with sun-kissed necks, rosy cheeks and a head full of wonderful memories which I am sure will last a lifetime. I’ve posted some pictures for you to see - I haven’t yet mastered the art of pasting pictures intermittently throughout my blog posts so they always have to appear at the top, before the text starts. You’d think after a year of keeping a blog I would have worked out how to do this!
Driving through the mountains I kept yelling “Look at the scenery! It’s so incredible! Now, you don’t see THAT every day, do you!” (and other toe-curling expressions that only a parent would say). Junior grunted his approval from the back seat but I could see in the rear view mirror that he was far too engrossed in his Nintendo DS to fully appreciate the spectacular beauty around him. It reminded me of Billy Connolly telling the story about his tour around America in a camper van when his children were small. The van was kitted out with all the mod cons of the time, including a television. On their return from some of the most scenic and beautiful places on earth Billy had asked his kids what their favourite part of the holiday had been. “Sesame Street” they replied in unison.
We stopped off at Auchengarrich Wildlife Centre on the way back down the road where we spent a fantastic 5 hours. The sky was peacock blue and there wasn’t a cloud to be seen. Junior ran wild in the adventure playground and I relished every moment spent in the company of the weird and wonderful furred and feathered creatures on show. We even got to watch emu chicks hatching. I had to giggle when Junior spotted a little bird hopping around inside the deer enclosure.
“Mummy, mummy look a sparrow!” he squealed excitedly as he skipped over to take a closer look, “now you don’t see THAT every day, do you?!”

So, I was telling Junior this morning what life was like when I was his age.
“You didn’t have baths back then..” he announced proudly, “just metal tubs. And no cars, just horses and carts”
I put him right although I did have a panic when I heard myself say “..in my day”
I was telling him about the swing we used to have in the back garden (the same garden he now plays in when he stays with my parents). It was strong and sturdy, not like the cheap plastic rubbish you get now and it had a thick, solid seat made out of very hard wood. This unforgiving chunk of wood was held on by two long metal poles with sharp hooks on the end which were fed through hanging chains at the top. These lethal hooks used to catch on your clothes and my friends and I had many a ripped pocket in the late 1970’s where we had attempted to jump off the swing when it was in full motion, trying to make it safely over the washing line before it garroted you. Oh, the fun we had before health and safety was invented. Looking back, that swing was so ‘child un-friendly’ but we had hours of fun on it and were never once asked to wear a helmet or knee pads before we climbed on. I don’t remember my mum ever warning us not to get too close to the great slab of a seat or it would crush our skulls in one swift motion. Yet now she panics if Junior runs too near the greenhouse or swings on the washing pole. How times change.
Junior’s favourite story from the past was the one about being off school ill.
“We didn’t have cosy covers and 24 hour TV when I was little…” I told him, with my chin jutting out bravely, “..when I was off school Gran would get the itchiest, scratchiest blanket from the airing cupboard and wrap me up in it. It was like a punishment. We would lie on the settee and watch school programmes until TV stopped for the afternoon”
“stopped..?” asked Junior with a puzzled expression.
I nodded sombrely, like I was recalling some memory from a time too traumatic to relive.
“In my day..” I said with a pensive pause, “we only had programmes for a little while every day. TV used to finish at lunchtime and we would get something called the test card - a picture of a creepy girl and a sinister clown playing noughts and crosses”
Junior’s mouth was opening further with every word and his eyes were wide with growing horror.
“And there were only three channels to choose from” I concluded, which finished him off.
“Three channels!” he squealed disbelievingly, “how did you survive?!”

Anyway, I’m away to hang the washing out. The sun is still shining but there’s a crisp breeze which should dry the clothes in no time.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

A losing game?

Junior is a fantastic little boy but Jeez, is he a BAD loser!!

We were playing a game of Coppit after dinner tonight. It's my favourite board game, genuinely exciting and one which I have happy memories of playing as a child. I was trying to find the balance between providing opportunities for him to capture my 'men' and showing him that every action he made had a consequence. All was going well until I somehow managed to roll three sixes in a row which resulted in me 'copping' one of his men. Suddenly I was a "cheat" and everything was going wrong for him. The tantrum was spiralling at an alarming rate and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I tried to gently explain that I wasn’t making the die land on six every time it was just a fluke. Big, fat tears had started to plop onto the board, making it all soggy (his not mine!) I tried all the usual words of encouragement,
Come on, this is supposed to be fun!
You can’t always be the winner” (blah blah blah)
but it had gone too far. As far as Junior was concerned the world had turned against him in a big way. To be fair we’d had a busy day and he was exhausted but it got to the point where I couldn’t take any more of the huffing and deliberate sabotaging of the game (suddenly he was moving one extra square when I wasn’t looking or sliding the die instead of rolling it so he got a six!).
Right” I announced firmly, “if you continue to cheat I will put the game away
That was it. All the bones in Junior’s body melted and he had a complete emotional breakdown.
I always lose!” he yelled in between wracking sobs, “it’s not fair!
My patience was dwindling fast.
If this is how you react to losing a game how the heck are you going to cope when life really gets tough?” I sighed wearily, “..like if you don’t get the job you want or you love someone who doesn’t love you back! If I had fallen apart every time I got a knock back I wouldn’t be sitting here right now!”
I knew I had taken things too far but it was too late. Junior’s tear stained face fell even further.
I don’t want to grow up!” he wailed, throwing the pieces down on the floor in a colourful explosion of plastic cones.
Sometimes I forget he is only six. Time for a cuddle and a wee pep talk me thinks....
He did calm down after a while, so much so that by the end of the game he shook my hand gallantly and said “Well done Mummy” which I thought was lovely. In fact I think I used the words “Jolly good sport” for the first time in my life. He congratulated me through gritted teeth but the point was he had the courage to remain dignified in defeat. It reminded me of a great quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson ~ “Win as if you were used to it, lose as if you enjoyed it for a change” This is the secret to life.
It did make me wonder if these little experiences in life prepare us for adulthood. Nobody likes to lose but it’s an important life lesson to accept that sometimes things don’t go our way and the only way to deal with that is to accept defeat and move on. Sometimes life can feel like it's a losing game. Perhaps if we can learn early on that not everything is going to go as planned, that sometimes the game doesn’t go our way and we can’t always throw a six then it will make rejection and loss easier to take when we are older. Having some tough setbacks can be really important. Losing is learning after all. Sometimes losing can change us, make us tougher. Sometimes we can take away a morsel of wisdom from one lost game and apply it to another game.

We’re into day six of the Easter break already and it’s been hectic but enjoyable. So far we’ve covered the cinema, an egg hunt, eating out, a country park, football club and soft play. Next week is even busier, including a much needed break away. On the down side we’ve had a nasty gash in the knee and some head lice to contend with. I love afternoons like we had today. We did some artwork, built the marble run together, chatted over home made soup and laughed so much at bedtime that some mouth wash came down Junior’s nose. I taught him how to sing “Blackbird” by the Beatles and when he sang it back to me I had a lump in my throat that I thought might choke me. We make a good team, me and Junior. Tantrums and traumas there may be but sometimes I look at my boy and wonder how it is possible to love someone so much and still be standing.