The parenting paradox

The parenting paradoxPARENTS ARE confused characters. We will our kids to grow and develop. We spend the rest of the time lamenting how quickly they’re growing up.

In the last few weeks, Little Buddha turned three and promptly got to grips with potty training after a few false starts (sorry to the Sainsbury’s person who mopped up that puddle near the pharmacy counter).

Shortly after her third birthday, she said goodbye to her lovely little private nursery and entered the big world of school, just like her brother a few years ago.

The Duchess’ text after dropping her off on the Wednesday lunch time summed it up nicely – the pride and the lament:

She was greeted like a Hollywood star. I—– has taken charge of her care. [Boy Wonder] greeted her arrival like a town crier and announced ‘Everybody, [Little Buddha] has arrived!’. H—– [head of unit] said that’s all everyone had talked about this morning. And she was off without a backwards glance with the promise of hot chocolate from G—–. I was a bit teary.

‘I was a bit teary.’ Our kids are still so young but for us it feels like we’re transferring from one distinct parenting era to quite a different one.

Dependency to independence seemingly in a blink of an eye:

  • Boy Wonder has dressed himself for a good year and Little Buddha is starting to reject our sartorial proposals. Pink or bust.
  • Recently both kids have slammed their bedroom door in our face. Like teenagers in training.
  • Little Buddha’s potty training success is good for our finances (and nasal passages) but we’ve just lost a whole routine of tummy kisses, sing-songs and chit-chat.
  • Last week, Boy Wonder corrected my knowledge about a historic figure. We checked the all-knowing oracle. Wikipedia confirmed he was right.
  • We rarely use the buggy. We’ve owned that vehicle for five years. It’s our Best Ever Purchase. By summer, it’ll be in a charity shop.

Given this minor revolution, it’s probably no surprise that the Duchess is once again Officially Definitely No-Seriously Broody. This is the trick of nature. The tantalising prospect of squidgyness.

I think about things like the steriliser, sleep and, sadly, the cost.

If we won the lottery…


Father and daughter: there’ll be Friday night tears




Up until a few weeks ago, I would only hear those magic three words from my two-year-old daughter as a result of blatant manipulation. Delicious treat or remote control in hand, I’d ask her if she loved me and, of course, she was always keen to confirm that was true.

It’s shameful, I know, but she’d left me no choice.

Her older brother remains hugely affectionate and demonstrative. In the early years, if I ever feigned tears he’d be straight over to cuddle me and salve my fake upset. There, there, Dada.

Little Buddha had never fallen for that ruse. In fact, a few months ago, I hid my face behind my hands and pretended to cry and she just laughed at me. I tried once more a short while later and she passed her rotten tissue to the Duchess and calmly observed that ‘Daddy is sad’.

I think she meant the other meaning of the word.

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Growing pains

Height chart

Tree of life

OUR CHILDREN are both experiencing growing pains.

Last week, Boy Wonder woke up in the early hours howling like a little wolf. My legs, my legs, he screamed at me. After soothing him, I rubbed his limbs up and down, as if I was a physio tending to a football player heading into extra-time. We went through the same agony for another two nights and during the day he complained that his arms hurt.

He’s a tall boy for his age, fuelled by growth spurts that can turn his trousers and t-shirts into hotpants and crop-tops. He turns five in September but I usually buy clothes designed for six and seven year-olds.

Meanwhile, Little Buddha is apparently small for her age but she also seems to have been undergoing a growth spurt. A fortnight ago, she started to lose her balance, crashing into furniture or just falling to the floor in an ungainly heap. Then one evening, she tripped and head-butted the hallway skirting board.

After the hospital paediatricians had quit their CSI-style cross-examination of the Duchess – ‘there’s a child hurt here, there must be something we can pin on you dear parent’ – one of them explained that her centre of gravity was shifting as she gains height. This had caused what was probably a broken nose.

In the space of a few days, both of our children had experienced their own version of growing pains.

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Carr Manor Primary School: playing the long game

Carr Manor Primary School woodland project

Boy Wonder on the Carr Manor Primary School woodland project

I RECENTLY attended the new parents forum at Carr Manor Primary School, where Boy Wonder is in the nursery. I say nursery but by the time I headed home that night I realised why they prefer to call it the foundation unit.

Our four year-old son is only there by accident. We moved house three years ago, a little further away from the estate agents’ paradise of north Leeds because I was facing possible redundancy and we wanted a cheaper mortgage. I’m not sure we even checked the local school. Well, we got lucky.

Carr Manor Primary School sits in Meanwood, a diverse area with typical inner-city variances in income, education and ambition.

Hilary, who runs the unit, spent time in Italy a few years ago. It transformed her views on education and it’s transforming the prospects of the children who attend the unit at what is an ‘outstanding’ school.

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Our daughter is two!

Betty at twoOUR LITTLE girl turned two yesterday. We marked the occasion with a weekend in Chester that involved a luxury hotel suite, pizza and a late night and a trip to what must be the country’s best zoo. Before we set off, Little Buddha received all kinds of Hello Kitty goods. I hope she wasn’t disappointed because in the run-up to the big day she was very clear about what she wanted: CAKE! Hopefully  Colin the Chocolate Caterpillar sufficed, as well as a chocolate sundae for tea, breakfast muffins this morning and a chocolate carrot for the journey home.

Predictably, it feels like our daughter is a bit more advanced than our son at this age. She’s already christened a potty (about a year ahead of her brother), her vocabulary expands by the hour (but maybe that’s as much the result of having a big brother as her gender) and her tantrums are far more dramatic. She’s far more independent than he was then (and sometimes is now): for example, he has always welcomed cuddles and kisses but she dispenses them with the generosity of an insurance company loss adjuster

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A swimming lesson for him… and me

My son wasn’t the only one to receive a swimming lesson this morning.

As I’ve been doing all year, I escorted Boy Wonder to his weekly Splish, Splosh swimming lesson. Only this time, I didn’t get changed into my trunks as well and follow him into the water. He’s tall for his age – nothing to do with my pigmy heritage – and in the time we’ve been going together he’s arguably proved the most powerful of the little ducklings attempting ‘fast-kicking-legs’ and ‘long-scooping-arms’.

Still, I wasn’t expecting him to be granted the freedom of the swimming lane so soon. And at the very least, I thought I’d get to spend a few weeks sitting alongside the pool, providing a comfortable presence and the odd word of encouragement. But Coach even banished me to the far corner of the pool area, where adoring grannies sometimes congregate on plastic seats. Damn it, I even had to put bags over my shoes. I was now the grown-up version of the lad at my primary school who was banned from the learner pool because he kept shitting himself.

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Batboy turns four

AN HOUR into my son’s fourth birthday it felt like we were hosting a Batman Convention.

Wearing a newly-unwrapped Caped Crusader costume – replete with a plastic bondage-style mask – he was surveying a sizeable horde of branded merchandise: figurines of different sizes, a ‘Brave and the Bold’ DVD, an early years book, Lego replicas, a t-shirt, pyjamas and, last and certainly not least, a Bat Cave.

In honour of one of the most celebrated Batman impersonations, our front room resembled its counterpart in a certain high-rise tower in Peckham.

Something, or someone, infected him with his Batman obsession about six months ago. Presumably it was a result of the playground chat at nursery because around then he also professed fandom of Ben 10, even though he’d never seen a single episode at the time.

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