‘Mum has a boyfriend…’

This one is a mixed bag! strap in, keep up and enjoy!

The days between me last seeing the cubs and my weekend had dragged. The Thursday pick-up couldn’t come soon enough.

The after-school club collection was the usual long hugs and excited storytelling. The immediacy of filling in the last seven days crammed the next few minutes. Youngest however maintained his usual reserved stance.

How was school?

‘Good’

What was your most favourite part?

‘Some of it’

What was your least favourite part?

‘None of it’

Ok. Good to catch up.

‘So what’s the plan this weekend dad?’ eldest chipped in; recognising that her brother would yield no more for now.

On Saturday, we’re going to a Kung Fu lesson, then on Sunday we’re going to do a ParkRun. Youngest quickly found his tongue.

‘I already know Kung Fu dad!’ he replied cheerfully. I expected an explanation in line with his recent, I can drive now dad as I’ve seen you do it loads of times; you just press that button and turn the wheel a bit and hey-presto, but his conclusion hit even a well seasoned, left-field receiver like me.

‘When someone turns around, you punch them in the back; then when they turn again, you kick them in the stomach!’

Good. Grief.

His sister was reduced to hysterical laughter whilst I shook my head in disbelief. That’s not quite right darling; I think we’d better wait until class to learn the correct way. Until then, no punching or kicking anyone please. He tilted his head, before nodding ok.

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Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

Saturday

As it’s the weekend, and training doesn’t begin until 13:00, morning routine is changed. Lie ins all round, apart from youngest, who found his into my bed bright and early. It was still dark outside so we decided to share an audiobook via headphones.

Everybody gets porridge. It’s going to be a high energy day so we all need slow release. They’re then headed into the shower, while I pull out some suitable fightwear.

Things seem to be taking a long time and despite beginning early, I feel the advantage slipping away. My ire rises and I start snapping. He’s ready; I’m in full uniform but she is in her underwear. I then notice a squeezed tube of toothpaste on her floor. I become extremely irritated. We’d had new carpet fitted a couple of months ago and I’d already chastised her for wandering around and brushing her teeth, dropping toothpaste on the carpet.

She’s scolded, and told to hurry up. Whilst she grabs her bag of bits, I pull the rest of our packed lunch together. Neither for love nor for money, will youngest put his coat on. Then he can’t find his shoes; I suggest that looking may help. Then she has no trainers, as they’ve all been left at mummy’s. I ensure that she has good socks on then give her some casual slip ons to wear. We head to the car.

As I strap her brother in, her tablet needs charging so her second action, after belting herself in is to seek out the USB socket in the centre console. To do this, she has to lift the soft armrest. I get in the car and hit my elbow on the now exposed edge. I snap..

YOU TWO ARE REALLY ANNOYING ME TODAY!


It’s fifteen miles before anyone speaks. They both had their heads buried in electronic devices but the tension was palpable.

‘Dad; I’m sorry that you find us annoying. We don’t mean to be’

Eldest’s words cut like a knife.

No darling; I’m sorry. It’s not that I find you annoying at all, it’s just that sometimes your actions can frustrate me; usually I can deal with it but today I had an outburst and that wasn’t right.

To complete the emotional triangle, youngest chips in;

‘Do you still like us?’

That hurt; a lot. And so it should. I’d fallen so far below my standards of parenting. It was a rapid reminder of the power of words on young minds. I had to repair this; fast.

Listen; I love you two more than anything and that never ever changes; I do get frustrated at times and very, very rarely, I say something like that that I immediately regret. It’s a reaction, rather than a response. A response means that I’ve thought before I’ve spoken; a reaction means I’ve spoken before I’ve thought, but never, ever forget this; there’s not a day that goes by that I’m not thankful for having you too wonderful people in my life and I will never stop loving you.

I learnt a lesson today and I have a theory. My words and actions will probably work to erase my harsh outburst but I fear that it takes a number of congruent actions over a length of time to build back that trust to 100%

Be mindful of how you interact with little minds.

School 1


On the way home

Kung Fu transpired to be a mixed affair. He had an abundance of energy and a shortage of concentration; exactly what you’d expect in a 5 year old. She was better placed having taken Karate lessons a few years back. We kept it at falling correctly, kicking and punching.

I decided to call time after the umpteenth time of being asked for snacks, a break, water, a pop to Aunty’s and anything else to get away from my instruction. It wasn’t bad for a first attempt.

A quick visit to relatives and we headed home.

All of us are chatty, discussing the lesson, the chocolate we ate at Aunty’s and what we were going to do tomorrow. Without trainers for her, the ParkRun was postponed. Not the whole thing obviously.

‘Mum has a new boyfriend! he’s taller than you and has a nickname!’

Good for mum. With the exception of wanting to know who is around my cubs, I have little interest.

‘The last one she had didn’t stick around too long though! she wants to get married but I’ve told her that I don’t want a stepbrother or sister! one is annoying enough!’

I chuckle. She continues.

‘I’m not sure about her plan is but she can’t just keep rummaging around in men like that; it can’t be doing her any good’

Admittedly, at this point I nearly crash the car for laughing. We’re driving on the motorway, through the narrow lanes of roadworks too.

The whole car is full of laughter, and nothing makes me happier.

Laughter is such a great sign and for us, as a family it seems to be our greatest medicine.

As for their mum, I wish her every success in her quest…

hand heart

BSD

Quick wisdom.

For the cubs..

Most can handle prosperity; the true measure of an individual is who they are in times of adversity.

BSD

Farewell to innocence.

At 8 years old, my daughter has been called the n-word.

I received a phone call at work from the ex this week, she was in tears.

Our daughter was minding her own business playing in the playground when all of a sudden one of the boys she was playing with lashed out.

Her phone call was quickly followed up by a phone call from school; it was my daughter’s form teacher.

Her voice was trembly as she told me what happened. Most of the conversation was taken up by her assuring me of how seriously the school take such things and how they had dealt with this situation robustly.

I thanked her for the phone call and asked her to arrange meeting between both sets of parents. At this response, her voice trembled even more. She promises to call me back. She doesn’t.

I get up from my desk open the office door and go for a walk. I need to clear my head, calm down and think clearly.

From very early on I’ve tried to make my daughter self-aware. Where we live she, in fact we, are a visible minority. For this very reason I have spent years growing her self belief and the knowledge that she is worthy and can achieve anything

It appears to have worked. She reported the incident to the teachers before returning to what she was doing. The boy was removed from play, his parents were called and they removed him from school for the day.

We were eventually offered a meeting the next day with the parents and the headteacher. I declined stating that I need to put a couple of days between the incident to allow me to calm down and also do some damage control.

After school we sat her down for a talk. We asked her what happened and to explain in her words. She did and we listened.

She told us she didn’t really know what the word meant but she’d read it in a book and knew that it wasn’t very nice, and that’s why she told the teachers. I gave her the biggest hug that I could, told her she’d done the right thing and that I was proud of her.

She began to tell me that he’d only called her that name because he was angry. I stopped her. I explained that no one has the right to lash out and call anybody any names or inflict physical damage because they are angry. That is not a justification. People should learn to control themselves. He is young, he is learning, but the rules apply.

This is such an important lesson for children to learn. Words, actions, have consequences.

We received a contrite email from the boy’s mother. She was very apologetic, explained that he didn’t know what the word meant, they don’t use that kind of language at home, and that he picked it up on YouTube.

I couldn’t help but observe some parental choices. She’d read it in a book; he’d heard it on YouTube I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Big cub is fine. After we had the conversation, she spent more time telling me excitedly about the football match that she was playing in tomorrow. She was playing in midfield against some other schools. I assured her that I would be there to watch.

Her mum and I, will take a little longer to recover. For us this is the end of the age of innocence. We knew that they would come up against this kind of discrimination and hatred but we had no idea how soon it would happen. I, have been preparing her for a long time by positively reinforcing images of people and women that look like her, making sure that she knew the struggles they went through, what they enjoyed, and what they achieved despite this. I’m so glad I did.

BSD

And, I’m stuck.

It’s been a busy year so far. I’ve taken a lot on and although it feels good, I’ve become stuck.

Two things have struck me recently;

Firstly, it’s nearly Christmas. I’ve got to prepare and this year has flown.

Secondly, in 15 years, I’ll be 60. This thought was bought on by a tweet about Angela Bassett (60) at an award ceremony.

That’s just the way my mind works.

The first 8 years of my eldest cub’s life have shot by which brings my mind to the passage of time, and how I could be wasting it.

Or at least not making ‘enough’ progress.

That voice is back.

‘Surely I should be there now, rather than where I actually am, here’

The internal coach. Eternal critic.

This time, I have an answer. Where I am now, is exactly where I’m supposed to be.

It’s easy to listen to this critic who will make you forget just how far you’ve come, both personally and professionally.

I’m learning two new skills. They’re big skills that can’t be rushed, but at the grand age of 45, I’m restless. Both skills have ground to a halt; one financially, one technically.

Again, the critic inside thinks I should be further forward.

That is, until I look back 12 months and see that then me, and now me, are strangers. If now me had told then me where I’d be now, it would appear a tale of pure fallacy.

So I take a breath and a break, and relax.

I’m writing this on a windy hilltop, enjoying the sunset. And smiling.

Push

Angela Bassett looked amazing, by the way.

BSD

Independents day

Ok I’m back and hopefully so is my writing bug. Let’s see how this goes.

I like to teach the cubs life skills whenever I can and today was a big one; cooking breakfast.

She’s 8 next month and has shown the maturity to use kitchen knives responsibly in the past. It’s time to use the hob to make porridge.

Safety first

Sharps are one thing; flame another. She gets a thorough briefing.

  1. No loose clothing. We go into the reasons why, without unduly scaring her. It’s also an occasion to deliver a lesson on ‘stop: drop and roll’
  2. Rear rings only. I rarely use the front ones when they’re here for safety reasons. I tell her that this stops her clothing getting too close. She double checks her clothing.
  3. No flame until it’s needed. Just before the pot goes on.
  4. Long spoon. An absolute must. A belt and braces way of keeping away from the flame.

Pride

She hits the ignition; her life changes for ever.

She turns to talk to me and reach for a bowl. I stop her; keeping her attention on the job. One thing at a time.

She counts aloud as the porridge thickens. Perfection; hob off.

I help with dishing out, as the pot is heavy. (Does the coagulation of a thixotropic material proportionately increase its mass? I’ll save that one for her graduation)

Finishing touches

She added the finishing touches to my bowl; honey, nuts, banana, blueberries, cinnamon, turmeric and ginger. Her bowl was less extravagant but she nailed it (apart from the turmeric but hey; curried porridge can be a thing…)

The look of satisfaction and pride on her face is immeasurable.

‘Best porridge ever daddy?’

Absolutely.

BSD

Going dry

Not about me not drinking alcohol, although I’m still not, mostly.

I’m talking potty training.

I don’t remember it being this challenging nor do I remember feeling these levels of frustrations. I guess it’s easier when there’s two of you.

Youngest cub is making the transition from pull-ups to big boy pants. It’s quite the journey.

Later this year and all too young, he’s going to school and the last thing I want is for him not to be dry when he gets there.

Expert opinion states that you shouldn’t force a child into being dry, but rather you should look for signs that they are ready to start using the potty or the toilet.

For about the last year he has been asking questions about the toilet or opening the door at inopportune moments to stare at me. I took it as a sign.

Nursery staff commented a while back that he had spent most of the day dry so we all agreed to progress things.

On the last Nursery day of the week, when I collected him I also collected a selection of bagged up pants and trousers.

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

This week’s grocery shop included 10 pairs of big boy pants; I intend to crack this over the Easter holidays.


Before breakfast, I change him from a nighttime nappy into normal pants. Over the past couple of weeks he’s become quite good at taking himself to the loo. His step and seat adapter are all where he can reach them.

Sans porridge, he starts wriggling and squatting. He says he needs a wee. I tell him to go. He asks me to come, as he doesn’t want to go upstairs alone. Ok.

As we stand in front of the bowl, getting the step and seat in place he stands awkwardly and a growing puddle appears around his feet. He’s a bit upset.

I reassure him that accidents happen and that maybe he should get there a little earlier next time to avoid the agony of ‘almost’.

I clean him up, put on fresh pants and trousers before we return to our favourite breakfast distraction, learning French on he kindle.


The demand for ghost stories have gone up recently. She’s not convinced but he loves them.

I have a great story book that’s almost suitable for them. I read one yesterday and they seemed to like it, so much so they’ve asked for another story this morning.

I head for the lounge with the book and settle in the sofa. I tell them both to come in close so they can see the illustrations.

She’s in; he’s out, preferring to stand by the arm of the chair. I’m suspicious.

Do you need a poo?

“No” he says, before making a straining noise.

A quick check confirms that we need to scoot. Too late.

I’m frustrated and do my best not to get angry; I sort my emotions before I speak. He seems to comprehend that the wee urge needs to be addressed but still seems to poo on demand.

The psychologist in me understands that I can do damage here if I handle this incorrectly. Nobody cracks any new skill straight away.

I think that what got to me is that I asked him if he needed a poo and he’s said no. That’s a cycle I do need to break.

Time for some classical conditioning and a great deal of patience.

And disinfectant.

Pirates, and a case of the coughs.

I’m back.

I’ve had a bit of a break because, well, I was tired. I’ve been doing a lot of self improvement lately and that takes its toll. I’ll probably write about it shortly.

Not today though; today, is all about my budding thespian.

School play

My eldest cub has been bouncing off the walls for a month. She had been cast as a major part in the school play, ‘Pirates of the Curry-Bean’.

Curry-Bean……

Caribbean……get it?

I probably didn’t have to spell that out but it fills the page.

She was RedBeard; a major speaking part. For the last few weeks she’s pushed her learning of her lines. She’s practiced so, so hard to the point that her 3 year old brother was fluent in all the songs.

I gave her the nuggets of my experience, having played one of the Three Wise Men in numerous nativities and Joseph in one. This makes me a pro.

Tips

Proper practice prevents poor performance. She learnt this first. It was our mantra for karate and my mantra for everything.

She sang in the bath; she sang in her room. She sang at bedtime, accompanied by him; she sang in the car. I loved it.

The big day

Actually the night before.

They’ve been at their mum’s this week so technically the next time I’d see her would be when she entered stage right.

I wasn’t having that.

Thank you technology; FaceTime engaged.

We chat, I wish her luck before assuring her that I would be at both the lunchtime and the evening performances.

She responds by informing me that her brother, well on the way to being toilet trained, is having a wee in the bath.

Ok.

Maybe he’s more nervous than she is.

The big day (for real)

And I wake up with a hacking cough.

Where in hell had this come from?? Disaster!

Understand this; I’m a big fella; when I cough it sounds like a nuclear detonation giving birth to an adult volcanic eruption. It’s pretty loud.

Water. As much of it as I could drink without killing myself.

Drugs. Cold and flu remedies to be precise.

Cough sweets. Not good enough. Give me the industrial stuff – weapons grade if you’ve got it.

Timing. Tablets taken too early would lose their effect at a critical time; probably during a soliloquy. Time to work the clock backwards.

Tablets take 30 minutes to work but then last for 4 hours; taken too early I’d be protection-less at the commencement of the performance, ruining the show and scaring smaller children; too late and it wouldn’t kick in until the epilogue.

Take one in 10 minutes then another in a subsequent 5, thus staggering the impact whilst allowing for any delays in curtain up.

I may have overthought it.

The (revised) plan

Arrive 45 mins early; eat lunch. Take tablet(s); drink drink. Have wee. Take cough sweet (industrial). Drink. Nice.

Seat at the front, with other cub and mum; relax.

Curtain up

Apart from Captain RedBeard taking time out to wave periodically to loved ones during an orchestrated battle, it was amazing.

Proud daddy had the loudest clapping (thankfully not coughing) in the audience.

BSD

Come on….

Ever had one of those days, when after checking your work ‘to do’ list, you immediately buy a lottery ticket?

#truestory

BSD