Friday, 23 December 2011

Happy Christmas!

Seeing as this is my last post before Christmas, I wanted to do something really special. Maybe something a little profound about peace on earth and good will to all men.

Well, a week into the school holidays, kids driving me insane and already pissed off about the giant turkey taking up valuable chocolate space in my fridge, I have little to say about peace, my house is anything but peaceful. And having been to town 3 times this week, and each time been stuck behind a shuffling shopper who has to stop every two seconds to get harassed by a charity collector or a fake perfume seller, even my good will is running at an all time low.

So to cheer us all up I decided I would find out some fun Christmas facts that you might not already know of. Impress your family and friends with these babies at the Christmas dinner table:

  • Christ was born on December 25th right? Well, probably not. Biblical boffins estimate that Christ was actually born sometime between 6BC and 30AD, so there is a very real possibility that Jesus is sitting up there on his cloud shouting “But its not my birthday!” every year.

  • Christmas pudding started as a kind of sweet soup, made of raisins and spices. Doesn’t sound any more appealing than the Christmas pudding we have today.

  • Up until Henry the Eighth, who first brought turkey to our tables, Christmas dinner in the England was a pigs head. This makes me grateful for my poor old giant turkey taking up fridge space.

  • A big part of any British Christmas dinner table is the crackers. For anyone who doesn’t know (apparently many nations do not) these are cylindrical cardboard items that bang when pulled between two people, and one person is “lucky” enough to “win” (note the sarcasm) a paper crown which is either too big for your head or so tight it rips the second you put it on, making you paranoid about your freakishly large head. The cracker also contains a pretty rubbish joke (or sometimes, in posh crackers, a Christmas fact) that is read out for everyone to groan to, and a utterly useless gift, I almost always get a big plastic paper clip (too flimsy to clip any of my regular sized paper let alone big stuff) or a lonely single dice (fun).

  • The Christmas wreath is meant to represent Christ’s thorny crown. But there is a contrasting view that holly and ivy kept gremlins and goblins at bay, who liked to come into warm homes during Winter (probably not the same kind of Gremlins from the film though).

  • Chocolate coins represent the money St Nick gave to poor children at Christmas time.

  • There are twelve days of Christmas because this is reportedly the length of time it took the wise men (or kings, depending on which version of the story you like) to reach baby Jesus when they went visiting. Maybe this is why they chose gold, frankincense and myrrh gifts, as apposed to a box of Celebrations, which lets face it would not have lasted for two days in the hands of peckish men (except maybe the Bounty’s).

  • Most male reindeer shed their antlers around Christmas time, so Rudolf is either a female reindeer or a male wearing clip on antlers just for the tourists.

  • The poinsettia is actually native to Mexico. Its name comes from Cuetlaxochiti which means “flower that wilts”, very apt considering when I bought my poinsettia this year the checkout lady said “Oh these, I call them buy and die plants”. Which is why I always get one, it’s the one plant I can buy without the guilt associated with inevitably killing it.  

  • A brilliant Christmas game played in medieval times, called “Hot Cockles”, involved one blindfolded person being “struck” by another person. The blindfoldee then had to guess who cast the blow. I can’t see this catching on today, as this would be likely be used as an excuse to punch an annoying family member in the face (or maybe that’s just me).

  • There is an old wives tale that says bread baked on Christmas eve will never go mouldy, so fire up your bread makers tomorrow.

  • Eating a mince pie on each of the twelve days of Christmas is believed to give you good luck for the following twelve months. Finally, a Christmas food tradition I can get on board with.

Have a brilliant Christmas, peace and good will to all men (and women)!!! J

Monday, 19 December 2011

Nurturing their independence

I must have read every single parenting manual going, Gina Ford and Elizabeth Pantley have existed happily next to each other on my book shelf for many years now. But I never found one single approach to suit me and my family. I tried the attachment parenting thing. Breast feeding on demand (did that with son one, I was a human dummy for a year, ended up with incredibly sore boobs and a general disregard for my own privacy – I once answered the door to the postman with a boob out, having just been feeding and forgot to put it back safely into my bra), co-sleeping (I couldn’t sleep for fear of rolling onto baby) and baby led weaning (slightly more successful with son number two but then again, he will eat ANYTHING – even the crusty old Cheerios he finds down the cracks of his car seat – maybe this is a minor success for baby led weaning).

Now that son number one is five I am trying to nurture his independence and encourage him to try more things, even though he might be a bit scared, because I don’t want him to grow up to be over coddled and terrified of the world.

We went to visit my dad yesterday, he has 4 dogs, all Springer Spaniels (and I thought my house was hectic). So now that I am trying to do the independence nurturing thing, when we took the dogs out for a walk I encouraged son one to hold the least pully dog on the lead by himself. We didn’t have dogs when I was a child and I was absolutely terrified of them until I was well into my twenties. You don’t actually realise how many people have dogs unless you are afraid of them. To a dog phobic it feels like there’s a ferocious beast lurking around every corner. I don’t think we’ll ever have a dog as a family (son 2 is enough of a substitute) so I want my kids to experience dogs in a safe environment so that we stamp out any potential phobia at a young age.

So anyway, he was doing really well, until dog saw the field from where it would be released from its lead and lurched forward to its freedom. Son number one, being sensible and responsible, did not let go of the lead until he had flown through the air and been dragged along the road for a few feet, grazing hands and knees. He was crying and demanded a plaster but was relatively unscathed and even helped me hold the lead on the way back (I didn’t want to allow fear to fester), although he did say “I don’t think 5 is as big as a dog” which was his was of saying that maybe he was a bit too little to hold the lead all by himself. He had a point, maybe there is a limit to giving independence at 5.

But sometimes kids just take their independence whether you like it or not. The other day I had given the kids a sandwich, leaving the bread board and bread knife (safely I thought), out of reach on the kitchen sideboard while I nipped off to answer a call of nature. When I returned, son 1 proudly announced that he had cut his own slice of bread. And there he was, with the most perfectly sliced piece of bread I had ever seen. “And I was careful and didn’t cut myself” he said, grinning happily. I congratulated him on his triumph, while explaining the dangers and asked him if next time he wanted to do something potentially dangerous he should ask me first, just so I could be around to make sure he was ok.

But after the initial shock, I was actually pleased. Despite never allowing him to use knives before, he wasn’t scared of them, knew to be careful, but was confident enough to give it a go, and more importantly, not lose a finger in the process. Yay, a minor success as a parent (although admittedly a potential fluke).

My problem with parenting “approaches” in general is that most of them seem to adopt a one size fits all attitude. For me, every child is different, and the best thing you can do is find a way that works for you but more importantly, your child. Breast feeding on demand did not work for me, but I wasn’t put off breast feeding altogether. Son 2 had a strict breastfeeding routine and fed until he was a year old (before he realised that he could get a much fuller tummy from a big plate of dinner and went off the idea). Son one has shown he can be sensible and responsible, but I can’t see son two ever, ever, being allowed anywhere near a knife, even aged 18 he will have to live of crusty old Cheerios unless people are around to serve him proper food.