Halloween

I’ve never really done the whole Halloween thing. Sure, as a kid I’d dress up and go to the school Halloween disco and dance the monster mash with 47 other vampires, but I didn’t go trick or treating. My family didn’t deck the house out with spiderwebs and rubber bats, nor did we have a bowl of sweets ready by the door to placate hordes of miniature zombies. I’ve never felt the need to do this as an adult either and my home remains undecorated.

However, I now find myself with a daughter in school and the knowledge that other children are talking about Halloween in reverent tones. I’m also aware that she takes notice of the colourful displays in the supermarkets that foist the principles of dressing up and scoffing candy upon us.

So far I’m getting away easy with just a request for a pumpkin that we can carve together. I enjoy crafting with DD so I’m happy to indulge this request, but I wonder how aware of the other aspects of Halloween she really is. The school don’t seem to be making a big deal of it so I might get away with it this year. She’s also rather distracted by the idea of bonfire night at the moment too, mostly because she knows that she’ll be staying up late with daddy.

So how do I deal with Halloween when she does take note of it? Do I get costumed up and throw myself into it with great gusto? Do I encourage her to ignore this vastly over-commercialised “holiday”? Do I encourage her to go begging for sweets door to door?

Why are the answers to these questions never in parenting manuals?

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In the midnight hour

How do ill children expect their parents to sleep? Oh, sorry, my mistake. They couldn’t care less if we do!

Now don’t get me wrong I have nothing but sympathy and pity for the little darlings when they’re under the weather. I’m sat here listening to the harsh cough and laboured breathing of my daughter as I type and I would give anything to make her feel better. I’d even take all the germs and make them my own, and I really hate being ill. I despise being ill. I’ve had more than my fair share of illness and it’s a trigger for my depression, so when I say I’d be ill in their place I mean in seriously.

However, my unending love for my children can be tested by their behavior when ill.

I’m sat on the sofa typing because I’m sleeping on the sofa tonight. Why? Because the kids are ill, that’s why! If I was to sleep in bed then my daughter’s fevered sleep ranting would disturb my son who’s also ill (and the lightest sleeper in the world) and my wife. So on nights like this we divide and conquer. Or at least divide…

Last night the boy kept my wife awake by coughing himself conscious at various points, whilst the girl attempted the same, with the added bonus of demanding a drink to ease her suffering at 3am and 5am. They then wanted to be up and watching Charlie and Lola at 6.15. I’m fairly certain the adults aren’t winning here…

The worst part of this is that the kids expect our sympathy and for us to meet their every need and whim whilst they’re sick. I can guarantee that when this bug finally catches up with us grown ups, we won’t be waited on hand and foot, and sure as hell no ones gonna cut us any slack!

Anyway, there’s a lull in the throaty snoring from my daughter’s room. I must try and sleep while I can so I can be awake enough to operate the Sky remote in a few short hours and kick off the morning’s CBeebies marathon in style. Sleep well dear reader.

Daddy’s in charge

Today I’m in sole charge of the kids. Nothing unusual there, but my wife worries about being away from the children for so long.

It’s not a reflection on my child rearing abilities, she doesn’t think that I’m going to lose them or that I’ll burn the house down. She knows I’m a good dad and that I can be trusted to cope with the kids on my own for the day. She just worries that one of the kids will get lost or that the house will burn down while she’s not here! There’s a big difference between the two.

Kids wander off. It’s a fact of life. I did it when I was young! It didn’t mean that my mum was a bad parent or that she neglected me, I just wandered off and got lost.

Sometimes fires just happen. It doesn’t have to be anyone’s fault, they can be the result of faulty wiring, power surges, too many plugs in an extension cord.

My wife fears that these things will happen if she’s not here. Not because of me, but because she’s not here. It’s part of her depression. It’s something she struggles with even though she knows that her presence doesn’t guarantee our children’s safety any more than mine does. We could have a crack team of professional babysitters and a fire crew on standby and she’d still only be at ease if she was here.

I think that some dads would find this upsetting, but I understand it’s not borne from a lack of trust, but a need to be in control. Not in charge, but in control. She needs to be on hand because she’d feel awful if something did happen. She’d blame herself just because she wasn’t there.

So, am I wrapping the kids up in cotton wool and monitoring them more closely than ever? Am I moving every potentially dangerous object out of reach and padding all the table corners?

Fuck no!

This morning the kids have been wearing my hats which are huge on them and droop over their eyes. They’ve been chucking the sofa cushions on the floor and jumping off the sofa onto them. They’ve been ducking under the table and chasing each other around the chairs. The floor is covered in plastic play food, one of the slipperiest substances known to man!

This is normal. This is what would happen if my wife was at home, and it’s what my children expect. I wouldn’t change anything, and if they bump their heads or fall over I’ll deal with it. We may have tears, we may have tantrums, but we’ll have fun and my kids won’t grow up in fear of hurting themselves. They’ll take risks, they’ll enjoy themselves, and they won’t need mummy to kiss them better every time they scrape a knee.

My wife will never stop worrying about leaving them, but then again, neither will I.

The greatest toy on earth!

Our children are constantly bombarded with images of shiny new bits of plastic in colourful wrappings. Adverts on tv, in comics, online, in the laminated book of dreams known as the Argos catalog. Even kids’ tv shows seem to be nothing more than vehicles to sell us associated toys. A walk around Tesco can be dangerous and expensive if you happen to wander too close to the screaming neons of the toy aisle.

Our kids are being programmed to desire these cheaply made, expensively priced plastic playthings, and once they want them, they won’t be persuaded otherwise.

My sitting room and my daughter’s room are covered in boxes containing toys. The kids have a crate of cars, three crates of teddies and other soft toys, a large box of Sylvainian families, an equally large box of octonauts, shelves of craft toys, a kitchen and several kilos of play food, Lego by the bucketful, and a massive collection of wooden railway tracks. That’s not everything…

Despite this considerable selection of playtime goodies, there are other items which rank among the favourite toys. In the bath are a jug and an empty bubblebath bottle. In my daughter’s room is a box full of toilet roll middles, egg cartons, cheesy football tubs and miniature cereal boxes. The lounge is home to wrapping paper tubes, empty water bottles and cast offs from my wife’s wool supplies.

These “toys” have to be stored alongside the shop bought variety, and are treated with as much care as the most expensive items that belong to the kids. The reason why? These items don’t have a single purpose.

The multi level garage from the early learning centre is a multi level garage from the early learning centre. The long cardboard tube has already been a telescope, a sword, a broom, a microphone, a megaphone, and a medical instrument this morning.

The child size plastic kitchen is always a child size plastic kitchen. The empty lemonade bottle is now a spaceship, a car, a baby bopper (big sisters are lovely, aren’t they?), wheels for a car, a robot…

So what exactly is the greatest toy on earth? A child’s imagination.

If you tell a child what a toy is, that is what the toy will always be. But if you let a child decide, the possibilities are endless.

Stop the noise

I’m having a low day today. I don’t really want to talk to anyone or do anything. Conversation is a struggle. The kids are annoying and loud. They want me to interact with them, to draw cats, to be Peso the Octonaut, to get up and play. They want me to act like a human being today, but it’s too noisy for me to function like one.

The kids are noisy, the tv is noisy, outside is noisy! Why is everything so bloody noisy today?!? Can’t we all just be quiet for a while?

But that doesn’t stop the noise in my head. My brain is still talking to me, neurons firing electrical impulses around creating thoughts, telling me things I should be doing, making lists, replaying conversations I had a week ago, forcing song lyrics through my skull, pondering the future, exploring my past. My head hurts.

All I want is some quiet. Just for a while. All I need is for the noise to stop. Maybe then I could feel human.

Cunt of the week #5

I walked my daughter to preschool this morning and it was great. We chatted and looked at the newly blooming flowers and the changes in the trees. We took turns pushing my son in his pushchair and sometimes pushed with one hand each so we could hold hands and warm them up. Lovely. One of the fantastic parts of being a parent.

But then we had to start avoiding the copious amounts of dog turds littered about the path we take. The path runs around a park with housing on three sides and a large play area and a civic building which houses the preschool at the other end. In order to traverse this path we had to avoid no less than 20 separate piles of canine shite. We also passed 3 bright red bins for the disposal of said shit.

Now my daughter is a very aware child. It comes from having a daddy who might try and pinch her chips. She notices when there’s a mound of faeces in her way and she’s careful to avoid it. She also lets me know so I don’t plough through it with the buggy. But I find myself asking why she should need to be so aware of the fact that some careless dog owner is too fucking selfish to pick up after their dog? Why aren’t these idiots using the provided bins? They must realise their dog is crapping its pedigree chum all over the pavement, dogs don’t just let it fall out their arse while they stroll along!

I’ve also noticed a bizarre trend of some dog owners bagging up their pooch poo and hanging the bags on tree branches like they’re decorating the scummiest Christmas tree in the world. Why?!? Why not carry it to the fucking dog shit bin that’s 10 metres away?!? I’m utterly perplexed by this behavior! If I, as a parent of a child who uses nappies, started leaving bagged crap filled deposits outside Pets At Home, there would be uproar and probably a police investigation! So what makes it so acceptable for these cunts to leave shit smeared across the path outside my daughter’s preschool?

These selfish shit flingers infuriate me. They risk the health of all the children who use that park, the preschool and the football pitch all because they can’t be arsed to carry a small bag to pick up the product of their dogs’ back passages. They can’t be bothered to walk a few steps out of their way to put the diseased leavings of their hounds in a place provided for them. Utter utter cunts.

Please pick up your dog’s shit, keep Britain tidy, and don’t make me come round your house and shovel it through your letter box.

Hiraeth

Happy Saint David’s day! Dydd gwyl Dewi Sant hapus!

However you say it, it’s St. David’s day today, the national day of Wales, a place I called home for 10 years of my life. The only place I’ve lived in for longer is London, my birthplace, but Wales is the only place I’ve ever felt homesick for.

I moved to Cardiff in 2000 to go to university after falling in love with the place on an open day. Although much smaller than London, it was still a richly diverse city with a great social buzz to it and everything a young man of 18 could desire. Although illness prevented me from finishing my degree, I still managed to walk away from uni with some amazing friends, fantastic experiences and a girlfriend who was to become my wife.

The future Mrs Beardy and I moved in together in a studenty area and got jobs, gradually became more grown up (ish) and moved into a more family-friendly area of South Wales, where we lived happily and turned into a family of 3. Our daughter was born on Welsh soil and that cemented my love for ‘God’s own country’.

However, nothing can stay the same forever and it was time to move back to England and be near to family and to grow our 3 into a 4. Our son was born in an English hospital just like his mum and dad, making our daughter the odd one out. Not that it bothers her. She’s 3 and has greater concerns such as whether she’s having toast or cereal for breakfast, or if it’s an odd sock day. She doesn’t remember Wales.

I do. I remember walking her around Cardiff castle, driving through the snowy valleys, exploring the trails behind Tintern Abbey. And that’s why I feel hiraeth. There isn’t a direct translation into English for this word as it’s Wales-specific. It means homesickness for Wales, Welsh culture and the Wales of days gone by; a nostalgia trip that leaves a hole in your heart, one that can only be filled by going home. To Wales.

So happy St. David’s to you all, but mine will be spent in sadness instead of celebration.

Cymru am byth.