The Golden Girl

While the twins were at my place on Sunday Ellie decided to do her homework!

Its theme was ‘mythology’. She didn’t know what that meant so she asked me and I explained as best as I could.

King MidasShe then went onto google on my PC (under my supervision of course!) and came up with the story of King Midas. I showed her how to click on the link she wanted and before too long she had written 2 sides of an A4 page with the story of King Midas & his ‘golden touch’. It was in her own words too, and not just copied, showing that she had understood the story. I’m a proud Dad!

She needed some help with some of the pronunciation and spelling – I mean how the heck do you pronounce ‘Phrygia’ or ‘Dionyssus’ anyway? I don’t know! It’s all Greek to me!* –  but her comprehension and written account of the story was excellent

    * sorry, couldn’t resist

Yes, it does seems a little strange her choosing to do her homework during the limited time that she has with me. She does love spending time here with her Daddy – that’s what she tells me anyway – but I think I understand. We were still doing something together, which I was enjoying & I which I think she was too. She & Jake however often don’t enjoy the same things, and even when we do all do something together they more often than not compete with each other rather than play together cooperatively. I often find myself having to break up a fight. I imagine that’s not unusual for young boy-girl twins!

When they’re with me they each mostly just want to do something with me and so are competing for my attention. I only see them part of a day on a weekend and one evening after school so we all try to make the most of our time together. It isn’t easy!

Minecraft warriorAnd to be honest Jake and I were engrossed in a series of intense one-on-one Minecraft battles that day, which he’d been preparing and planning for and looking forward to for some time. I said to both of them before they left that next time I was going to spend much more time with Ellie to compensate.

So Ellie was being ‘a good girl’, and she is that, in doing her homework here – but she had also put some thought into her reasons for doing so, which actually makes me think even more highly of her. She explained it to me:

When she’s at ‘home’ (or as I prefer to call it “her other home”) with Mummy she likes to play on the green outside with nearby friends of around her own age. More often than not, she explained, she gets called in from playing to do her homework, which obviously doesn’t usually go down too well in Ellie land! She thought then she’d take advantage of my little home office set-up to do her homework at my place, and then she’d have more time to play with her friends.

Smart girl!

Oh, and my Minecraft battle with Jake? 2-2. We are planning a rematch!

Now there is of course only one way to end this post:

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Magic

Sharing in the pure excitement, the joie de vivre, that Jake especially shows when he discovers a great new toy.

Magic.

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The look of ecstasy & elation when I compliment Ellie on her art, & tell her “You’re an Artist, Ellie!” as she responds” Really?! I could be an Artist, as a grown-up?!”

Magic.

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A parrot, & a mermaid in the sea: by Ellie (with some finishing touches by Daddy)

Jake repeatedly telling me: “I love you Daddy. You’re the best Daddy in the world. You’ll always be the best Daddy in the world.”

Magic.

Watching both of them grow, develop & mature, in so many ways.

Magic.

Hands-on, devoted parenting is really hard work, especially – if I may say so – with active, outgoing boy-girl twins.

But these Magic Moments are the pay-off: what all the hard work is for, when you realise it’s all been worth it: raising these two adorable, capable, wonderful children who I love so very much & who love me in return.

Magic. Pure Magic.

For more Magic Moments just click the pic:

Magic Moments

When they see me they are often madly excited. They run up to me shouting: “DADDY! DADDY! YOU’RE HERE!”.

It’s often difficult to park the car; I have to wait until I can herd them away. They want to touch my hand, greet me.

Jake especially is fond of telling me: “YOU’RE THE BEST DADDY IN THE WORLD!”

He’s quite fond of telling other people too!

More often than not they’ll insist on saying goodnight or goodbye with a big kiss & a big hug.

These indeed are the Magic Moments that make this parenthood thing worth it 🙂

For more Magic Moments just click the pic:

Blackberries

DSCF3876For the first 2 years of your lives we all lived together in our big house in the Midlands. The “big old house”, with the big old garden.

You don’t remember it. I do.

I remember how I was your full-time, stay-at-home Daddy. For your first year with Mummy, and for your second year by myself when Mummy went back to work, with reduced hours.

034I remember it all so well. You don’t.
Continue reading “Blackberries”

Home Alone

It’s been a strange week.

Since Thursday last week the Mummy has been away with Jake & Ellie, first visiting her relatives in Eire & then her parents near London. She was working in north Wales after the trip to Eire, & has actually found that the best way of getting to & from there is by train from her parents’ house north of London, despite our living in south Wales! They’re due back this evening.

Jake & Ellie love their Nanny & Papa & love seeing them, & vice-versa: they always get spoilt with toys & attention.

I’m very mixed about this.

I don’t like being apart from them, especially for so long. I miss them; that goes without saying.

And yet this last week I’ve managed to get more done than any time in recent memory!

I’m completely up-to-date with all my emails. I’ve cleared piles of work that haven’t seen the light of day in literally – and I’m using the word in its correct sense here! – years.

I cleared my desk! I cleared that cupboard! I fixed things!

Looking back it’s staggering how much I’ve got done, especially given my usual track record.

Of not getting things done, that is.

And, if I’m honest, I’ve enjoyed the extra independence. A bit.

As a hands-on parent you’re ‘on call’ 24 hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week.

I’ve had none of that. No-one needing me to do this, go there, get that. It’s been kinda nice.

I could almost get used it!

Almost.

“Almost”: because I don’t actually want to.

It’s been quiet.

Too quiet.

I miss the “I want an apple juice!”.

I miss the “Daddy, come play with me!”.

I miss the silly children’s TV programmes.

I miss my iPod being hi-jacked by ‘My Favourite Mini Disco Songs’. (‘I’m a Barbie Girl’ is Ellie’s favourite; ‘My Friend the Witch-Doctor’ is Jake’s – although I actually like that one. ‘Agadoo’ & ‘The Fast Food Song’? Not so much…)

I even the miss the squabbles & tantrums!

They should be back in an hour or so. then I’ll have the usual running around, the “How have I been here for an hour & not been able to sit down for more than a minute?!”.

The tripping over toys, the play-doh on my shoes, the stickers on my T-shirts, the silly TV, the silly music, the silly squabbles.

I can’t wait!

Bond, the Sequel: The Twin Who Loved Me

Last week I wrote a post for Tara’s Gallery on her terrific ‘Sticky Fingers’ blog about the special twin-bond between Jake & Ellie. It seemed at the time that Ellie, as they get older & more independent, had become a little distant from Jake as she was making new friends.

Well…

They go through phases, don’t they? Or maybe she had the lurgi & we didn’t notice so much. Or quite possibly Ellie just likes to prove me wrong!

Whatever the reason this week she’s been really loving & affectionate, not only with Jake but also with me.

I’ve been picking them up from their little playgroup this week. Usually when I do Jake gets really excited & runs towards me shouting “Daddy! Daddy! You’re back!” before jumping into my arms. Ellie is usually more reserved, but this week she’s been beating Jake to it, welcoming me with a big hug.

As usual this morning she woke up first & went downstairs ‘on her bum-bum’, then Jake followed a little later, in the same way. As soon as she saw him she ran up to him, saying happily: “Hello Jake! Are you alright?” then giving him a massive hug. Twice in the morning she hugged him again, saying “I love you, Jake”.

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It’s moments like that that make all this Daddying stuff worthwhile…

The “best friend” thing is still there, although I found out just after that post that only girls can be Ellie’s friends – I’m not even her friend now! – so I guess Jake & I shouldn’t take it too personally. At the moment Jake’s best friend seems to alternate between a boy at playgroup – who, by sheer coincidence, has an iPad that he lets Jake use* – and Wibley Pig. Who, as far as I know, doesn’t have an iPad.

Actually they’ve both been in unusually good spirits all week. Often there’s grumpiness & tantrums in the mornings & evenings but in the last few days there’s been very little. I’m not really sure what it is: recovering from illness, our having had a nice 3-day family weekend where we spent a lot of time & did a lot of fun things together.

In the light of the terrible tragedy of a fellow parent blogger who I’ve come to know over the years I’ve felt moved to give them extra care & attention, so that could well be a part of it.

Whatever the reason, long may it continue

* For short periods of time & under supervision

What We Can Learn From Jimmy Savile

The Police & the NSPCC yesterday revealed the results of their investigation into sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile. The extent of it was even worse than feared: 450 complaints, 214 reported crimes – including 34 of rape – throughout his life over a period of 50 years: at the BBC, in schools, in hospitals & even a hospice; against victims as young as 8.

I suppose, for legal reasons, I should add to all this: “Allegedly”. He could only have been convicted while alive.

Awful! Awful that so many people, mostly children, were abused by one man.

Awful that the abuser was trusted, even loved; was seen as a friend of children, as a generous man who gave greatly of his time & money.

Awful that the abuse went on for so long & in so many places.

Awful that he was never formally investigated in his lifetime, let alone charged, let alone convicted. He got away with it.

But how?

Tragically he said it himself, to one of his victims: “I’m Mr Magic: you can’t say anything about this. No-one will believe you”.

He was right. His victims mostly didn’t say anything because they thought they wouldn’t be listened to. Those who did come forward were either ignored or not taken seriously.

I think there’s a lesson here, not just in relation to predatory perverts, but as a general rule for us all – especially those of us who are parents.

We must listen to our children.  We must give them the respect & attention they deserve, and need.

“Children are to be seen & not heard”. That just doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s attitudes like that that can create the conditions for abuse & neglect to take place.

Children are not some sort of sub-species, nor ‘second-class citizens’. They’re people like us, little people, growing people. Human beings, just smaller & less developed.

Children need attention, especially our attention, their Mums & Dads, their carers. They need to know that we’re there for them when they need us to be. They need to know that we have time for them when they need it. They need to be able to tell us what they need.

I’m convinced that a child who is listened to & respected is a happy child.

We’ve tried to do that with our twins, & I like to think that they’re happy & doing OK. So far so good.

So when that little baby cries, go to him, see what’s wrong. See what he needs & provide it. We’re the only ones who can. Crying is the only way he can communicate. Change his nappy, feed him, help him sleep, play with him, cuddle him, give him medicine, take him to the Doctor – whatever he needs.

When that toddler plays up, go to her. Often it’s just a cry for attention. Play with her, talk to her, read with her. Give her boundaries;  let her know right & wrong by word & deed.

When that pre-schooler wants to show you his latest artistic masterpiece from Nursery, give it your attention. Praise him for his efforts. Even when his drawing of Mummy looks more like the creature from the Black Lagoon, extra mutanty, on a bad day. He needs your approval.

When she comes home from school, (and I’m going beyond my level of experience here), & complains about “what she said” listen to her, no matter how silly or trivial it seems. When she needs help with homework try to make time for it.

And so on.

It’s not easy. It can be hard, really hard. Being a devoted parent takes time, it can be tiring, emotionally draining, at times maddening. Also rewarding, joyful, fulfilling!

But it’s what they need, what they deserve, & what we can give them. Happy, balanced children are more likely to become happy, balanced adults –  & that’s good for all of us.

Music Monday: Our Week in Music

I’d mentioned that since moving to Wales we’ve been taking the twins to a pre-Nursery group for 4 days a week. We were anxious about how they would adjust to being away from us for the first time in their lives but we needn’t have been: they love it! One of the things they seem to enjoy the most there is a giant buggy-bus  the host has. It’s more like an old-fashioned stage-coach than a baby buggy. It comfortably seats 4,  & probably 6 at a pinch, they can sit side-by-side or facing each other, it has a fold out table in the middle for snacks & meals, it can be open-top or covered. They love being in it & being driven all around town, & often get very stroppy when it’s time to come out! So here’s to the Magic Bus!

In the same post I wrote about how proud I was that they both are often so loving,  affectionate & sociable, & wondered if it was at least in part due to our putting into practice Attachment Theory; or as I called it, rightly or wrongly, Attachment Parenting. So here’s the stunningly beautiful song that gave the blog post its title:

On Wednesday night I was  looking back at old videos & I came across a gem I hadn’t seen before from May last year when Jallie were only 15 months old, which I posted the next day. They were playing a hilarious game of tug-of-war with a pair of the Mummy’s tights that had been accidentally left there. I had Classic FM on & the background music seemed to provide a great soundtrack to the action. So here’s the tune in full, the high drama of Holst’s ‘Mars, Bringer of War’ from his Planets suite, with images of Mars via NASA:

Then on Friday I made a tongue-in-cheek, last-minute, impassioned – and I suspect ultimately futile – plea for your vote in the MADS blogging awards, highlighting ‘my campaign team’ s policies in action from the last year or so. So of course here’s Alice Cooper: “I wanna be Elected!”

On the weekend we found 2 great new fun places for the twins, & us, to enjoy. Firstly, a really well-designed soft-play area, probably the best we’ve ever seen. They like to play!

Then on Sunday it was Folly Farm, a farm and children’s adventure playground that had just about everything: farm animals, indoor & outdoor zoos, soft play, adventure play, playgrounds, an indoor fairground, even a real digger that Jake & I had a go on. It was terrific, the only problem being that it’s in Pembrokeshire, over an hour away. And that they didn’t have the tiger that their brochures indicate they do, which left a 2-year-old boy feeling very let down.

So there’s our week in music: hope you enjoyed it at least as much as I did!

Love and Affection

We’re fans of Attachment Parenting here. Throughout their young lives the only times the twins haven’t been with either me or the Mummy they’ve been with the Mummy’s parents, & even then never for very long. We always try to give them us much attention as we can: to talk to them, listen to them, play with them, laugh with them, comfort them. We feel very lucky that we’re able to spend so much time with them as I know many parents simply aren’t able to, however much they might want to.

Since moving to Wales we’ve been taking them to a kind of pre-Nursery group a few days a week, like Nursery but with fewer children & which seems to get out & about a bit more.

The main difference with this new playgroup, apart from it being more than just the usual hour or so they had before,  is that for most of the time  – for the first time in their lives – we’re not with them. They’ll be going to Nursery soon so we want to get them ready for being in a group with us not there. We’d been worried that they might be distressed there without us: it wasn’t too long ago that they would freak out at a playgroup even if I had to go away for a few minutes to use the loo or to change one of them, although they’ve been OK with that in the last 2/3 months.

So how is it going? I’m actually starting to feel a little redundant! One day last week when the Mummy picked them up Ellie ran over to her, said “Hello Mummy” & gave her a hug then ran back to carry on jumping on the trampoline. Monday she really did not want to leave & went into the biggest meltdown I can remember her having, lasting a good 5 minutes. Van Morrison in the car seemed to calm her down eventually! The woman who runs the group  – let’s call her ‘Karen’ – is terrific & Ellie in particular gets very excited whenever we even mention her name. Hmph! It’s nice to be needed…

This morning when I dropped them off there were 2 other little girls there. Jake went up to 1 of them & gave her a great big hug. She just stood there looking a bit confused: I’ve seen that a lot when the same has happened in other playgroups. Apparently her brother is about Jake’s age & is often quite aggressive with her: she’s more used to being whacked when he doesn’t get what he wants than being hugged.

He’s there too some days, & this morning ‘Karen’ told me that after seeing Jake being so affectionate that he himself has been hugging his sister there, instead of just lashing out. I’m not in the habit of welling up in front of strangers, but… That little guy made me such a proud Dad!

I like to think that his, & Ellie’s, affectionate & sociable nature is in part at least due to the love & attention that they’ve had from us, that the hard work  – if you could call it that – is paying off.

I’m probably being overly simplistic but I think that with children you tend to get back what you put in: give them love & they give love back & are loving to others. If they’re neglected they become insular & nervous. If they grow up with anger they are more likely to become angry & aggressive themselves.

I’m not pretending that they’re little angels – far from it! The do all the normal 2-year-old things like fighting over toys, & lashing out at each other & us in frustration when they can’t get what they want. But the love is there & it shines through every day. And that’s what matters, right?

So how about you? How much time are you able to spend with your children? Do you think it’s as important as I do? Or are things like providing for them materially & keeping a clean & tidy house (which we often don’t!) more important for your family?