A couple of months ago when my @bethedaddy Instagram account was fairly new, I did a post about bunk beds and what an absolute pain it is to change the top bunk! This set me thinking about the differences between how I perceived various things in my childhood as against how I view them now as a parent. I had bunk beds growing up and loved them. Now I’m a parent my views have changed a little! This post is all about comparing my views on certain things as a child against my views as a parent …
The bunk bed post I did read like this:
“Let’s talk about BUNK BEDS! 🛌🛏On the face of it they seem like a great idea: they preserve space by tucking away nicely in a corner and have excited generations of children who love them and delight in a ‘promotion’ to the top bunk.
But, what you don’t realise until you have them and are a parent yourself, is that the guy who invented them clearly HATED parents. The reason why? Changing the top bunk is one of THE most excruciatingly painful experiences known to man 😫😭😤!
You need more equipment than a mountain climber attempting Everest 🧗🏻♂️ and every time you endanger your life scaling up to the dizzy heights to lay the fresh bedding ⛑. Putting duvets in their covers is also an arse 🙄😬.
Odds on that #tessabelle will trash it tonight anyway 🙈. Your turn next time @bethemummy 😁”
Having just changed the girls’ beds again this weekend I can still safely say it’s still not a job I enjoy, though I am refining my technique! Getting Tessa up on the top bunk to take off the base sheet is a help and I discovered that putting the duvet cover inside out, reaching inside to the corners and grabbing the duvet itself, allows you to flip it the right way round in one easy swoop. The added plus is the girls think it’s some kind of magic trick – winner all round!
Now there are some other things which I thought were great as a kid, but which now drive me mad as a parent and others for which my fondness has endured. Let’s have a look at those ….
As a kid we used to have a holiday home in Nefyn in North Wales. We’d go every holiday. It was ace. The whole family together, our two Golden Retrievers, beaches, local friends, fields, exploring, playing kickstone and loads of happy memories. One of the things I used to love doing was going to the local Post Office and spending my pocket money on buying random little toys. I used to think they were Totally Amazing Toys, i.e. TAT – and how right I was! They were things like these weird character plastic figures with a ‘parachute’ (read part of a plastic bag) attached to them. The ‘parachutes’ didn’t work, but I still loved playing with them and those sort of cheap plastic toys filled our house and could be found in every nook and cranny!
Now, as a parent, the girls (and I am sure Toby in due course), have a similar penchant for TAT. I’m not talking about their proper toys (which, ahem, I quite enjoying playing with them with), but the plastic rubbish that comes in party bags, or from the pound shop, or comes in Kinder Surprises. They crop up everywhere and we have boxes of it all over the show and it drives me and Karen mad. It gets played with once and is then left around in all manner of places. When we can secure an uninterrupted hour or two alone (which is very rare!) we will do a systematic clear out of said tat and wait for it to build up again. In terms of a parenting Room 101, plastic tat would definitely find its way in there!
Playing outside, mud and messy play
As a kid the above list would have got me super excited. As a keen rugby player from an early age I would spend hours in our garden or a local field kicking and passing a rugby ball around and ending up covered in mud. At my local rugby club, our coaches would regularly make us practice scoring tries by diving in huge muddy puddles. We loved it. I am sure my parents (and the washing machine) didn’t! I also loved things like painting and making things. Great fun. Although I do remember my Mum being careful to lay out newspaper and taking other protective measures before we got going.
Now as a parent, my views have been a bit mixed over the years. I think it’s instinctive for parents to try and guard against mess, probably because so much time is spent cleaning it up. If there’s a chance of avoiding too much of it, parents will often take that course as it makes life a little easier. Certainly in the early stages of my parenthood I was a bit like this. However, now I’m a bit wiser and more experienced in the parenting department, and particularly now I am having this period of shared parental leave, I am becoming a bit more relaxed again and enjoying getting stuck into the mess and the craft and watching the kids do so too. They get so much out of it and being outside, or building things or painting, colouring or doing craft is so good for them, particularly in these modern times of ipads and TV on demand. I take Toby to a lovely messy play called Little Mess Pots most Wednesdays and that really is messy. I need to throw on some old clothes and don him in a dark baby grow and let him get to work – he loves it and so do I. The mess is a by-product I can live with and am now beginning to embrace!
The other thing I’ve really realised whilst I have been off is that doing these sorts of activities together gives you real quality time together. Time to talk and build something together. Parents should really cherish these opportunities and enjoy the process with their children. Yes, sometimes it takes some cajoling to get them persevere with an activity, but it’s well worth it. It’s also a good way of keeping them busy for periods of time. Last Summer I let the girls paint a box one weekend whilst Karen was away (generous I know!) and I almost got to watch a full rugby international uninterrupted. Unbelievable! But I did join in and we had great fun. Recently we’ve been working on a school project for Tessa – The Great Fire of London – and built a model Tudor House. We had great fun doing it together and the end product is pretty impressive if I don’t say so myself (thanks Hobbycraft!). Since my shared parental leave started I’ve also helped the girls build two robots and I am sure there’ll be more stuff in the next two months! The kids also love being outside – they have a mud kitchen and whilst it’s a pain to clean all the stuff once it’s covered in mud, I’d much rather them be outside playing than inside in front of a screen.
Football parties, swimming parties with giant inflatables and loads of floats (do they still do those?), outdoor parties, party games – pass the parcel, musical chairs, musical statues, dressing up, birthday presents, cake and party bags filled with TAT … everyone as a kid loves parties. It was a chance to get together with your friends and legitimately run amok for a couple of hours. You could eat party food – pizzas, crisps, sausage rolls, cake, put on your best party clothes and enjoy that freedom safe in the knowledge a party bag (full of TAT) would be awaiting your departure. I’m sure parents back in those days didn’t mind the parties either, as long as they weren’t their own kid’s party!
As a parent, this is another subject on which my views have been a bit mixed over the years. I’ve been lucky that Karen generally takes the lead with the parties and the organisation (and always does a fabulous job), but I’ll help where I can, particularly in the days leading up and on the day itself. It’s obviously great seeing your child and their friends having an amazing time, but your own enjoyment of the day very much depends on the type of party you have. Over the years with Tessa and Tilly we’ve had parties at home, hired halls and run our own parties, done soft play parties, and also got outside people in to lead the parties for us. We’ve even combined elements as well – Tilly this year had some friends round to our house and we had an outside ‘Princess Belle’ come in to read a princess story, do a bit of make up and run a few games. It worked a treat and Tessa even had her own glitter tattoo stall! Young Toby was also able to enjoy his first taste of fancy dress as The Beast!
Poor Tilly though does not enjoy being the centre of attention and when it comes time to sing happy birthday to her she goes really shy and the bottom lip might come out a little. This happened the year before at a soft play party too, bless her. Soft play parties are generally pretty good as the kids can let off steam and they get some food prepared for them too. It does come with a cost though, and I don’t think we’d do that every time.
Hiring a hall and having something like a bouncy castle inside can work well too and is often a cheaper option. However, this comes with added stress and pressures – prepping sandwiches for countless kids and most distressing of all – organising the party games. Have you ever tried to stop the music on pass the parcel so each kids gets a turn? Get it wrong and kids will be in floods of tears – you may as well have just kicked a football in their face! I’ve not known stress like it with the little folk!
I’d probably say our formula is now a bit more settled on getting someone from outside to come and lead the party. Again, there’s a cost to it, but it gives you chance to enjoy the do and watch your child’s enjoyment and removes the party game stresses and tribulations! For Tessa’s 5th birthday we had a very energetic guy called Spikey Mike who ran an ‘activity party’ and was great. He got all the kids involved with a number of quick fire games and dressed up as a character of Tessa’s choice – Darth Vader. And seeing Darth Vader dancing with Grandma Kate will be a memory I treasure until my dying day! Likewise the princess party – a similar outcome. At the end of the day, it’s about the kids and seeing them happy – and also sending large amounts of TAT to other parents’ houses to share the pain.
The final topic I’m briefly going to touch upon is kids’ TV shows. There were loads of great ones I remember as a kid – from my younger days of Rainbow, You and Me, Button Moon, Bagpuss and Worzel Gummidge, to those iconic cartoons such as He-Man, Dogtanian, Cities of Gold, Count Duckula and Thundercats. They also had participation shows such as Fun House (mullet master Pat Sharp) and Nightmare, which all kids of my generation enjoyed. I could talk about those sorts of TV shows for hours and hours. Dangermouse, Thomas the Tank Engine, Postman Pat! There’s some more that have just popped into my thoughts as I type! A lot of these shows were in fact so good that they’ve been rebooted for the younger generation (Inspector Gadget!) now, which shows we were a little bit spoilt back in the day. I even have some of them on DVD still – The Pink Panther is another (the girls love that, along with Tom & Jerry and the Animated Mr Bean on Prime).
TV for kids these days is all on demand and so it means that they can find a few shows they like and stick with them. We try and make them watch some of the programmes on ‘normal’ TV, like CBeebies and Milkshake so they get a mix and try new things. There is some good stuff out there which the kids do enjoy – Peppa Pig and Ben & Holly (both huge money spinners) for the smaller ones, Hey Duggee is also another one we enjoy, along with Peter Rabbit – both the girls love that and it even holds Toby’s attention for periods of time. I am often asked to put on a Scottish accent and play ‘Mr McGregor’ and chase the girls to their ‘burrow’ as they play the rabbits stealing my veg. There are some half decent participation shows too – Swashbuckle is a good one the girls intermittently enjoy – a pirate themed one a little bit Fun House-esque and some of the old classics endure like Dangermouse and Postman Pat (although how that guy still has a job with the Postal Service is beyond me – it’s calamity after calamity and it’s only his own mess he’s clearing up most of the time!). Tessa has gone through spells of liking Horrid Henry (who is Tessa to Tilly’s Peter Perfect!) and SpongeBob SquarePants (not one I’ve warmed to), although we’ve steered her away from these a little now. Generally there are some good TV shows out there for kids. It’s the stuff on Kids’ You Tube which is absolute drivel. Kids watching other kids (often American) opening toys or colouring in – bonkers, but clearly lucrative and very popular. Maybe I’m missing a trick! For babies like Toby, there are some alright shows too. When he’s slightly older I expect he will enjoy Twirlywoos, which was Tilly’s favourite when she was very little, but at the moment there is In The Night Garden and Iggle Piggle.
This brings me full circle to a more recent Instagram post I did, which read like this:
“Iggle Piggle is becoming a regular feature on our TV screens again at bedtime for #tobytornado 👶🏼 – he and his friends In The Night Garden set the ball rolling for the bedtime routine 😴. Now it strikes me that this chap Piggle needs a very stern talking to 🧐. Every night we watch it the other characters trot off to bed ever so nicely, but there’s always one who’s still awake … you’ve guessed it. This young blue upstart is up past bedtime every night without an ounce of remorse or regret 🙄. You’d have thought the narrator would adopt a stricter line with him by now 😡. @cbeebieshq – can’t you have a word and sort his behaviour out?!”
I can’t fathom the show out, but Toby seems to enjoy it and it calms him before bed, so we’ll persevere with the funny little blue chap for a while longer.
The final view
So, you can see from the above that there are some things that, as a parent, I fully understand why people’s perceptions and views change from those of their own childhood. Mine certainly did, particularly in the early stages of parenthood. However, over time, I guess I’ve mellowed a bit and now I try and sit back and look at the enjoyment the kids get and, where I can, piggy back on that enjoyment so I can get something out of it too. This helps strip out the pain of the grown-up impulses that wash over parents, such as avoiding mess and the like, and if you take that step back and then launch yourself into it, there’s a lot of fun to be had reliving your own great childhood memories from a different perspective and letting your children build their own memories in a similar way. I expect it will be the same again at round three – grandparenthood – in the future!
Thanks for reading – I hope you enjoyed it!
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