Eye’ve seen it all now.

In the sprint up to Christmas, it’s a time of many birthday parties and events; the cubs and I are busy.

My weekend will be punctuated by one, 6th birthday party tomorrow but first, my two are due an eye test.

This was a fall out event from daddy having a new prescription a few weeks back. The optometrist and I got chatting and I realised that the cubs had never had an eye test. I booked one in.

Our last visit was a mirthful event as they were both on top form. At one point, the optometrist had to put the tools of her trade down as she was laughing so much. Apparently, say cheese! was not the correct response when looking for retinal scarring.

As we head toward the opticians, I ask them both to run through the rules of engagement (we’ve adopted these to keep innocent people safe from our shenanigans).

  1. Always say please and thank you;
  2. Look where we are walking;
  3. We’re not as funny as we think we are; keep it down.

More can be added dependant on circumstance and occasion. For this occasion, we also included ‘swivel chair rotations will be limited to 180 degrees; no exceptions’.

‘Ok dad; we’ll keep operations obtuse’ chimes in the eldest, impressing me. Youngest nods agreement, but I’m unconvinced he’s on message.

person wearing eyeglasses
Photo by Pexen Design on Pexels.com

Steady nerve

Having watched me get tested, their reluctance to sit in the chair and cooperate is non-existent. Youngest goes first, on a machine that checks the condition of the retina, an autorefractor. His sister positions herself expectantly near the viewing screen.

The assistant adjusts his chair to bring him in line with the machine. ‘Try not to move and I’ll adjust the machine to you‘. He nods. And moves.

Ok; this time, try not to move…

He nods. then moves.

This happens three more times and I can tell that attrition is having an affect on the assistant. Before I can address the issue, eldest positions herself behind youngest and administers an effective headlock. That does the trick.

Picture taken and a ‘that all appears fine‘ from the assistant is cue for a quick scuffle. It seems that youngest wasn’t going to let the headlock go unanswered.

 

accessory blur book close up
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Her turn next. As she sits herself down, her brother eagerly gets behind her to begin a revenge headlock. I assure him that it’s not necessary, and plop him on my lap.

She’s the model of a model patient and the optician is impressed. A second ‘All good‘ is exactly what daddy wants to hear.

I begin to walk out but the I’m stopped. Apparently that was just the pretest. I thought that was too easy.

We’re moved to the room with the wall charts.

In turn, the cubs have various devices strapped to them and are asked to read, decide and look for numbers in colours. The tonometer makes them both jump and giggle, but the fun quickly wore off when eldest asked the optician why she bought a machine to blow air into people’s eyes.

Result(s)

“That’s all done sir! both your children need glasses!”

They both cheer, and race out into the main shop, bumping into an innocent bystander. I guess they do need glasses. I apologise, and reflect on the damage this will do to my budget.

They split like a display team to the male and female displays of frames. The adult displays. I shepherd them back to the children’s sections. Thankfully, the store has placed the more expensive ranges higher up. Their eyes are naturally drawn upwards.

close up of tire rim
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

He goes straight for a pair of specs with a Batman logo. They’re free, thanks to our amazing National Health Service. Great result (two pairs of glasses have cost me just over £300…). She goes for a lovely, purple rimmed pair; they match her coat and the fetching, cat eared headband that she has on.

The assistant places them on each of them in turn, then begins to take various measurements. She hands me her cat ears in order to get a proper fit. I put them on my head in order to keep my hands free to restrain her brother, who has clearly hit the limits of his concentration.

Business concludes without much drama. Both cubs hearts visibly shrink when the assistant tells us that the glasses will be ready for collection in a week. They wanted their reward now. I explained about the process of creating the lenses to their specific prescriptions, which seemed to bore them into submission. They both looked at me, looked at each other and giggled.

It wasn’t until we had walked the full length of the shopping centre to get back to the carpark that I realised I was still wearing the cat ear hair band.

Photo by Amir Ghoorchiani on Pexels.com

BSD

Tired

I exhausted myself; it’s why I’ve been quiet.

Here in the UK, we have a turn of phrase for being busy; we call it spinning plates. It harks back to the circus act of erecting a number of head height poles into the ground, then balancing spinning plates on them.

The trick of it was to wobble the stick in a circular motion, causing said balanced plate to spin and remain in situ unaided. The skill arrived in getting all your plates spinning, by running to each stick in succession as they slowed, friction getting the better of them, and impart more energy to keep them going.

To be successful, the artist needed to be a blur of movement between each.

The act never lasted long.

Back to reality

My plates were projects, desires, goals and work. It was fun for a while, imagining the utopia of each whilst imparting that energy, but it was extremely tiring. Something had to give and BSD was the [temporary] casualty.

I even considered ending this alter ego but in the nick of time, I realised that it was a pity party move.

Push

The way I write isn’t particularly stressful. I interact with the cubs, they do what they do and I script my reactions. It basically writes itself.

They are the fuel for my eternal smile and our antics, whilst we navigate single parenthood, seem to make folk smile too.

But, dashing between projects, doing more and more, I eventually found that I was letting more plates slow down as my energy waned. It really was exhausting. My plates were in danger of dropping.

The reality was that I needed to do less of what I didn’t like, and more of what I did like.

It took a while to realise that.

Let’s see what happens next.

BSD

All in good time

It hasn’t been plain sailing in the BSD household recently, and I’m squarely to blame.

Youngest cub has made the quantum leap to being potty trained. A real milestone in the transition from toddler to child. I’m ever so proud of him; he even goes to the bathroom standing up, after observing daddy in some uncomfortably candid moments.

I was conscious of this milestone as he entered the schooling system last September. His birthday is in late August and he had only just turned 4. Personally, I think that this is too young to enter full-time education, but such is life. I wanted him to be dry by the time he entered the system.

There is no shortage of reading out there with useful hints and tips. I knew what I wanted to achieve and set about doing it. I had the appropriate discussions with him and we spoke about what we would do to achieve it. We were both quite excited.

white paper with yeah signage
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

At first, things went quite well. He would excitedly run up to my room in the morning to proclaim his dry night. Great success!

He then had a couple of slip ups, but this was fine; the road to success is rarely a straight one. We could handle it. Bed changed, cub washed, no harm done; on with our day.

We then had a frequency shift; the dry days were beginning to lose out to the wet days. As we awoke in the morning, the disappointment in his voice was heartbreaking. More cuddles and reassurances that this was okay and that he would get it in time were administered.

I changed tactics slightly. Both cubs usually bedded down with a bottle of water to combat nighttime thirst. This stopped. We also watched the volumes of drink that we consumed in the pre-bedtime hour. This was restricted too.

It didn’t help.

We then tried a reward system. The star system that was already established was utilised. A star would be rewarded for more dry nights than wet nights.

This was wrong.

addition black and white black and white chalk
Photo by George Becker on Pexels.com

Things seemed to be getting worse.

Not only were we experiencing more wet nights but his skin also began to suffer. He’d clearly been peeing early in the night and then sleeping in it. The damage was visible.

He was also getting damaged inside with feelings of regret and shame of not doing as was expected of him.

I had a paradigm shift.

It  followed some soul-searching on my part and answering a few questions.

  • Why were we doing this?
  • Who would benefit?
  • How was it making him feel?
  • How was it making me feel?

The answers, were quite damming.

  • We were doing this because I had decided that we should do it.
  • Whilst we would both benefit, primarily I would.
  • It was clearly making him feel bad; he was neither dry nor earning rewards.
  • This made me feel bad.

Time for a change.

worm s eye view photography of stop signage
Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

We stopped. We had another chat and more importantly we re-bonded.

This took the form of a huge cuddle whilst watching his favourite film and eating popcorn. Eldest wasn’t left out; she got under one arm (and near the popcorn). I could, quite literally feel us all renergising in each other’s company.

There were some big learning points here and they were all for me.

I realised that I had let outside influences decide on what was best for my cub, rather than let him tell me.

Please understand, I don’t mean that I expected a 4-year-old to vocalise what he wanted; our children tell us things in so many other ways. We, as adults have to shut out the external noise and truly listen to what they are ‘saying’.

I was guilty of comparing him to his sister, to his classmates, to books e.t.c and in doing so, I ignored the only one I should’ve really listened to; him.

Attaching desired behaviour to a reward system is an age-old methodology but I applied it incorrectly. I’m still not sure I should have applied it at all.

He’s fine now. His skin shows no traces and he’s his usual, cheeky self. He’s back in the training pants for bed as the realisation that he is a deep sleeper will most likely mean that he takes a little longer to get dry.

I have every confidence that he will be; all in good time.

beach woman sunrise silhouette
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

BSD

Editing Scripts

After a rather successful half-term holiday break, I haven’t seen the cubs for a few days. They’re with me for the next four days but I’ve missed them terribly.

I pick them up from after-school club on what was for me a testing day at work. All stresses fell away after I saw them. Youngest came out first, looking thoroughly fed up; 50% of him seemed to consist of tomato soup, the folly of a white, cotton school top.

Driving home, eldest gives me the full rundown of events from the last time we saw each other.

Someone has used the F word. One of her classmates.

My ears prick up.

‘I told her that I was going to tell the teachers; she begged me not to then started to cry!’

My inner psychologist spiked.

‘It was fake tears though, she kept looking to see if I was looking!’

So what did you do?

‘I told the teachers, but then she cried and they let her off. Then she told other people that I had said it and I AM SO ANNOYED!’

Why?

‘Because she never got punished! Then mummy text her mummy and they had a row!’

I smiled ever so slightly, but probably wider than I realised.

I dig deep for a response. I immediately think of the different ways in which my ex and I have approached this situation. For me, this situation does not require a knee-jerk response. There aren’t many situations in life that do.

What I felt was an appropriate response, was to help her deal with such situations when they happen again. I wanted to give her a script that she could call upon in future. I could fix the situation, but how would that benefit her?

I immediately thought of the differences in upbringing between my ex and I, and how this was playing out in our own parenting.

After listening to her, we picked apart the interaction, adding a rationale to each step.

  • She swore – yep, some people do but not at your age. It makes you look bad.
  • She cried to get out of trouble – that happens a lot. It the response of someone who won’t take responsibility for their actions.
  • I got really angry – interesting response; you’re probably holding others to your own standards and values, then getting frustrated when they don’t meet them. That’s a fast track to heartache.
  • I want to see what she does tomorrow – why? she’s already shown you who she is.

She reflected.

I interjected.

You’re going to come up against people like her all your life. If you let them get under your skin, they’ll ruin your day whilst they enjoy theirs. Learn to blank them out and avoid them.

She went deeper.

‘So mummy texting her mum was wrong?’

I wouldn’t say it was wrong, but look at the motivation. We’re both trying to protect you; just in different ways. Both are done out of love.

I could see her brain ticking over. Then she shook her head.

‘I think I’ll avoid her for a little while daddy’

Mission accomplished

BSD

5 Life skills; conclusion

So to conclude and end this series on 5 life skills, I would like to summarise on my thoughts.

Firstly, this was quite a difficult series to write. It taxed my brain to come up with relevant superlatives when describing the skills, as they were quite similar.

It was also quite challenging to narrow it down to just 5 skills; let’s face it; we want to teach our children everything.

The reason I settled on these 5 is quite vicarious. I reflected on my life and the mistakes that I’d made, including the people who I’d allowed into it (for too long..) and focused on the skills that maybe, would have helped me make better decisions.

I recognise that I have the benefit of hindsight and also that memory is a sketchy thing once exposed to our inherent bias’. I also recognise that as a parent, we can do everything that we think is right, but free will will come into play.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try.

Here is a link to all 5; please enjoy responsibly and as ever, thank you for your support.

BSD