Saturday, 18 August 2012
We made a decision not to have a television or access to TV in our house. It was mainly because we wanted to allow the kids to play instead of watch, to act themselves instead of watching someone else acting. This decision has had some unusual repercussions.
Firstly, we had no idea that when it came down to it, our kids would not be able to handle adverts. Those mildly annoying breaks in programming that everyone learns to sit through with patience so that they can get to the real business of watching the programme they actually want to watch. While we have shown the kids the odd DVD, and movie, they were obviously totally unprepared for something that could interrupt their viewing pleasure at the drop of a hat, and with little or no warning, and be totally unrelated to what was happening before. When we allowed them to see a movie on television the first time, the ad breaks almost led to tears of frustration and irritation, and repeated calls of "Mama, the DVD is broken again!"
Another outcome that was totally unforeseen took us by surprise the other day. The boys came home from kindy looking very subdued and visibly upset. I of course asked what the problem was. "Liz (head teacher) said some very bad things to Tanya (other kindy teacher)" said Sam. He was crying by this time, and I was alarmed. I could only conjecture what the teachers might have been saying to each other in front of the children, because he refused to say any more, and would not let me know what had been said at all. I approached the teachers concerned with trepidation, not wanting to overstep my place, but because the kids were so unhappy. Turns out that there was an innocent explanation. Apparently, some of the children in the kindy had been mean to the others, and had said a few things that the teachers thought needed to be addressed. In order to do this, the teachers put on an Oscar-winning performance at mat time to show the children what it feels like when opne child calls another names or says that they don't want to play with them. All the children took it in their stride, apart from my two. Not having ever been exposed to actual people acting before, like on TV, as opposed to cartoon characters, they were unaware of the fact that people can act, and say and do things that are not real. Even though I explained it very carefully to them, they were not convinced. Sam kept on stubbornly repeating "I don't believe she was acting."
It took an intervention on the part of the teachers to finally get him to believe it, and also they had to stage another skit that showed the children how Liz and Tanya were making up, hugging each other and saying they were sorry.
So, pros and cons - is that not just like life? It can't just be clear-cut, can it?
Saturday, 4 August 2012
To have a twin is to have a best friend for life. If you are lucky, that is - some twins I know fight like cat and dog. I am one of the lucky moms - my twins are inseparable: one of those dyads you read about who feel each other's pains and stand up for each other in fights. This has not been without its own set of complications, however.
For the last few weeks, I have noticed that Sam has not been as happy at kindy as he was previously. He has been clingy when I try to leave, crying at night that he doesn't want me to leave him alone at kindy by himself. This, for Sam, is highly unusual. He is confident and outgoing, loves to approach other kids and is eager to form groups to play. Of course, the first thing that went through my mind is that he was being bullied. I am not sure that I would handle a situation like that well, to be honest. In fact, the exact phrase that went through my mind (although not printable in a family-related blog like this) was something like "if I catch the little sod that is hurting my boy, I will make him wish that ...etc, etc..."). Anyway, after much suspicious and devious questioning on my part, I established that, mystifyingly, there was no bully. Great! But also, what could it be that was upsetting him? For ages, I tried every psychologist's technique in the book to try to get him to tell me what was going on, but with little success. He just didn't want to go, he was unhappy, and so on.
This continued for about a week and a half. I dropped them off at kindy as usual, but stayed just that bit extra, making sure they were settled, playing games and finding things for them to do so that when I eventually left, they would be absorbed in what they were doing. But nine times out of ten, as I headed for the gate, the forlorn little figure of Sam would be standing alone in the midst of a crowd, mournfully watching me go. It was enough to break my heart.
Then, one day when I was there to pick them up a little early, I noticed that, sitting between my two boys on the mat was a little usurper. A girl. After mat time was finished, Paddy came rushing up to me. "This is Eva," he crowed. "She is my best friend here at kindy," he announced proudly. And then it hit me. Sam, whose whole life revolved around Paddy, had suddenly been confronted with the fact that his brother had other friends, and that he was now the odd man out. The piggy in the middle. The third wheel. They had always interacted with their friends as a dyad, and now, here was Paddy going off and making a friend of his own. What a hard knock for such a little boy (and such a sensitive one at that, too) to take.
But worse, how to put it right? Of course they will make friends in their lives, and there is a good chance that those friends will not be friends equally with both twins. I fretted for days, before eventually speaking gently to Paddy about having his brother as his best friend and other friends as just friends, then speaking to Sam about how he should try to make friends with other kids at kindy. In other words, I was generally not doing anything that was of much use at all.
In the end, the situation resolved itself. One day, when picking up the twins from kindy, Sam bounced into the car, bright and happy. I was very relieved and asked him what had happened that day.
"I decided to change my mind," he declared definitively.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"I just thought I was tired of being sad, and I changed my mind to be happy instead," he said. "People like it better if you are a happy person," he added.
Wow, I thought. Imagine if we adults could just change our minds like that? What could we achieve?
Thursday, 2 August 2012
I am not sure whether I understand "manly behaviour". In essence, men and women are so different, and nothing could be more apparent than when they play games. It starts young, apparently.
We recently had a wonderful picnic in Tunnel Gully, an amazing reserve that encompasses a long tunnel, built in Ye Olden Times, out of somewhat fragile-looking bricks and mortar. In fact, so fragile-looking that certain stalagtites have started to depend from the roof in certain places, a fact that a mother's mind instantly computes into her trusty inbuilt mom-o-meter of risk. (Mine went something like this: Stalagtites + Water = Instability of some kind minus the fact that the tunnel has been here for literally yonks and has been observed by several thousand tourists = okay, maybe it is safe for family to traverse. But quietly.)
After the usual wandering through the tunnel, me answering the usual flood of questions in a distracted way due to praying that said tunnel would remain standing for another few minutes at least, we emerged thankfully into the daylight on the other side for a picnic. It was at this juncture that the Rugby Ball made its appearance.
Now I have nothing against rugby, per se; apart from the fact that it seems rather a pointless game, a fact which is somewhat mitigated by the general handsomeness of the New Zealand team (after all if that many good specimens of menfolk want to get all sweaty running around after a ball and flexing their muscles, who am I to complain?), but I am not sure that I want my menfolk to be part of that. I don't think I am in any danger of that happening, to be honest. But, as far as I can make out, where a bunch of women would probably stand close enough to each other to get a good conversation going and in the lulls, kick a ball cooperatively to each other, it seems as the though the major goal of the manly interaction is to show off how well the ball can be kicked. Even when that means that the majority of the game is spent traipsing around after a ball that has been kicked so far that it has actually been sighted in orbit by the astronauts in the space station. There is no such thing as gentle kicking to one another so that the smallest and weakest members of the team (i.e. the four-year-old twins) can easily retrieve it. No, rather, that ball has to have the hell kicked out of it so that, like a pack, they can all run screaming after it to retrieve it. I think I counted two kicks in the entire game, and about forty minutes of hard running to find the ball as it shot into the forests and even, once, near to the entrance of the tunnel (about a kilometer away).
Luckily for Little Miss Snoopy and myself, caught in that horrible space of having to admire extremely boring manly interactions of this sort, an unknown dog appeared as if in an answer to prayer, grabbed up the ball, and with a single clench of its jaws, and an audible bang, that oval sucker burst with a satisfying pop, and the game was over.
Score: Men = 0, dog = 1. Yay - go, dog!