Saturday, 21 July 2012

A flood of fun

There is a fine line to walk between disciplining your child and squashing their creativity and innate helpfulness.  We had to discover which side of that fence we wanted to walk on this week.

The Sweetpea does Kung Fu for fitness.  He always says it is really hard exercise, and raises his eyes to heaven as though to implore help for just how difficult it is, but secretly, he loves the chance of going out at night, being with "men", kicking stuff and saying things like "board-breaking" and "shall I do a chi-na (whatever that is) on you?" It's every man's man's idea of a good night out.

But, unfortunately, it is most often during this man-time that things go horribly wrong at home.  I normally do all the usual things, in the right order, but sometimes all the best intentions lead to terrible consequences.  Wednesday was no exception.  After feeding the kids, I took them down onto the trampoline for a while to burn off some energy, where we played our usual fast-paced game of "the spider on the trampoline".  This involves me sitting in the one corner of the trampoline, pretending to be a spider, as the kids run past shrieking and I then try to catch them.  If, by mistake, I actually do catch one, I spend a long time "eating my prey" by biting their little bottoms and tickling them all over until they are rescued by their siblings.  It can get quite long and involved and raucous.  

On the night in question, Paddy excused himself to go upstairs to the loo.  After he had not re-appeared for about fifteen minutes, I got suspicious and headed upstairs to find out what was going on.  I was confronted by a strange noise.  It sounded a bit like a cross between a waterfall and an extremely heavy downpour in the Amazon, the likes of which David Attenborough is always commenting on.  I could not place it.

Then I noticed that it appeared to be raining in the lounge, in fact, so much so that large puddles had formed under each of the light fittings, through which was pouring (literally) liters of water.  The carpet in the lounge was under about two centimeters of water.  But it got worse.  As I walked towards the stairs to my bedroom, I was surprised to see that a waterfall was indeed flowing gracefully down my stairwell.  Rushing up the stairs, I found my bedroom flooded, as well as the bathroom, and the bath overflowing.

In the midst of rushing around frantically, I fear not doing much good at all, I managed to find out that Little Miss Snoopy, aware of the fact that we usually go to have a bath immediately after supper, had kindly decided to run one for me.  She had snuck off quietly, put in the plug and started the taps, all by herself, no doubt believing herself to be a very clever girl.

And Paddy, you might ask?  Where was he all this time?  Turns out that, on his journey through the sodden and dripping lounge, he had got a bit wet.  Not wanting to repeat the experience, he had rather decided to play quietly in the toy room, until I came upstairs and sorted the problem out.  Fifteen minutes of flowing water later, I did, but by then, the damage was done.

Which brings me to my dilemma.  Little Miss Snoopy was trying to help.  The fact that she inadvertently caused the second Flood was a point which totally escaped her. So how hard should I be on her?  And more, how hard should I be on the boy who saw the problem, and neglected to tell anyone about it, because he "didn't want to get wet"?  

I hope I erred on the side of caution, but I must admit, the Sweetpea took it better that I did.

"Well, you have been wanting to wash these carpets for a long time now," he said.

It's true.  They do look very clean.

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Monday, 16 July 2012

A Pair of Number Ones

Life with twins can be fraught with difficulties at times, and not for the reasons that one might expect.

I think I mentioned in one of my other blogs that early on, the Sweetpea and I decided to never let the boys know which one was the oldest and which the youngest.  After all, there was a period of only three minutes between them, which didn't seem like enough time for one to be able to lord it over his sibling as being the "oldest and wisest of the twins".  In fact, this has remained a closely guarded secret, with hardly anyone knowing which twin is older. 

The reasons for this were because we did not want anyone to be able to say something like "ah, so is the eldest the leader?" or have an excuse to treat one as the responsible elder brother, while the younger one was seen as the mad-cap, devil-may-care rake.  We wanted them to grow up without any worldly-imposed stereotypes of what older and younger siblings should be like.

Every day we are thankful for our decision.  For one thing, they have grown up remarkably free of the need to compete with each other.  Interactions can never be characterised by that horrible phrase: "but I am older, you must do what I say".  Teachers can never say to us, "oh well, he is the oldest, so he would be a bit more responsible/trustworthy/more mature."

Unfortunately, we were required by law to put the birth order onto their birth certificates.  So now, shopping around for a school, we were forced to confront the fact that the secret might get out somehow.  Short of saying something like "well, you can view the birth certificates but then I am afraid I am going to have to kill you" (which did not seem like the best way to endear ourselves to a future educaitonal institution), we were a bit stumped as to what to do.  Honesty is definitely the best policy, I thought. 

The first time I tried it, it did not go down well.  I think it was in the way I phrased my request.  "I would like some information on the birth-certificates to remain confidential," I announced to the two secretaries accepting my application.  I could see their minds working feverishly in an attempt to figure out wht exactly I could want kept confidential on the birth-certificate.  Illegitiamate twins?  Twins with two different fathers?  A diabolical secret such has not been dreamed up yet by the creators of "The Days of Our Lives" and "Shortie Street"?

I could see their consternation, and when I revealed the real reason why I would like the certificates to remain confidential, it was obviously so mundane that they were only too happy to agree, and blacked out those two incriminating phrases "elder of twins" and "younger of twins" for me.
 And so now, when will the truth be revealed?  The Sweetpea and I are still in doubt about that, but we are thinking maybe when they are 21, and we hand them the keys to the door.  When they are old enough that their personalities have crystalised into the natural leader or follower, or two leaders, as the case may be, without having the predetermined stereotypes thrust upon them.  

So I am afraid, readers, you will have to remain in the dark until that time too!

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Sunday, 8 July 2012

Wrinkles are just antique smiles...

I thought we had more time before we had to answer the really tough questions in life.  It appears not.  And as an aside, why is it that the Sweetpea is always away for these discussions.  It is really unfair and a bit rude, since he would be the one to answer them so much better than I.

We have been away for a few weeks (as is evidenced by the lack of blogs too), and during that time, Sweetpea was acting as a locum for the local hospital.  Not arduous work, but at times he was out at night, which is when the uncomfortable questions usually occur.

Sam was musing in a concerned way as I tucked him into bed for the night.  "We are getting older, aren't we?" he asked me.  

"Yes," I replied, "at your next birthday, you will be five, and then you will go off to school."

"But if we are getting older, then that means you are getting older too?" he queried, making sure all his facts were straight.
I confirmed that this was indeed the case, that we all get older over time.

I was totally unprepared for all three children's reactions.  Sam and Paddy set each other off first - they started crying as though their hearts would break.  "I don't want you to get older," wailed Paddy.  "Then you will die and leave us alone."

Sam was sobbing uncontrollably at this point, and he set off Little Miss Snoopy, who started a determined wail of her own. Trying to comfort three wailing kids is no mean feat - I only have two arms after all. I called them all into my bed and positioned them, one on each side and one on the top, and tried to make them see reason.

I talked to them about how they will one day go off to school, and then probably University, and how, at this stage of their lives, they will probably want to be out there on their own.  And eventually, they might want to have families and children of their own, and then it won't seem as though they were all alone.  But I should have recognised the futility of my arguments from the start, for while they were asking grown-up questions, their little minds could not comprehend a time when they would not feel like four-year old boys.  A time when the answer to the question "what do you want to be when you grow up?" might not involve the answer "a superhero".

What a difficult and wonderful time of life.  It reminds me of that classic quote from Aladdin, when referring to the all-knowing genie:  "Phenomenal cosmic powers, itty, bitty living space".  All this potential, trapped in four-year old minds.

I can't wait to see what will happen next!

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