Sibling rivalry

If shouting ‘someone’s going to get hurt’ whilst not looking up from your phone qualifies as parental responsibility then put me down for Dad of the Year.

 

It’s my default disclaimer for whatever follows. A verbal liability insurance.

 

(I’ve not tested this in a court of law so if you’re thinking of doing the same you might want to seek some legal advice first).

 

The kids fight like cat and dog. Literally. When one gets cornered they will draw their claws and hiss.

 

The problem is I don’t know when they’re play fighting. Many a time I’ve intervened only to find their weapon of choice was a tickle. Interrupted a chase through the house only to be accused of ruining their game. Confiscated swords when it turned out they were on a joint quest to slay the monster under their bed.

 

That’s not to say I’m shirking all responsibility. Look behind their wardrobe and you’ll find a bow and arrow set, Nerf guns and lightsabers, but I did underestimate their ability to improvise.

 

A soft toy? Maybe by night, but when swung by its tail above Luca’s head it becomes a deadly mace!

 

Chopsticks? Not when coupled with the phrase ‘en garde!’

 

Toilet rolls? When launched from the top of the stairs via Janet’s knickers it becomes a bloody ambush! Those Angry Birds have a lot to answer for.

 

And it’s not just fighting, they’ve also discovered the joy to be had from a good scare.

 

On the face of it quite harmless, but the lengths they’ll go to is more troubling.

 

After Sonny jumped out from behind the sofa I found he’d been holed up with a banana and duvet. How long was he prepared to wait?

 

Luca filled his bed with teddies to make it look like he was hiding there. He wasn’t. Classic double bluff, he was under Sonny’s bed!

 

And if my attitude appears apathetic then that’s because it is. You see I grew up with two sisters. I know what’s to come and I’m not getting involved.

 

I still have a nervous glance over my shoulder before climbing the stairs in case I’m about to be chased.

 

I wrap myself up in the duvet at night because my little sister once hid under my bed for what must have been an hour just to garner maximum fear when grabbing my foot as I drifted off to sleep.

 

And I still hate the smell of Marmite. Something my big sister discovered at an early age so would pin me to the floor, smear the stuff all over my top lip and stick her sweaty gym socks in my mouth so I had to breath through my nose.

 

I’ve been the tormentor and tormented, and it’s a vicious circle of which there’s no escape. A lifetime commitment. Even at forty I’m still looking for opportunities for a scare, and I know all too well my sisters are plotting the same.

 

So when it comes to the boys fights I make no apologies for not getting involved. I’ve served my time and have the mental scars to prove it.

 

In the words of Dragons Den,

 

“For that reason, I’m out!”

Growing Up

growing-upThere was a time, not that long ago, when I was at the centre of the kids universe. Their worlds revolved around me. My attendance at their every breath mandatory.

 

Maybe it was because I was the stay-at-home parent. Maybe my mid-life girth held their orbit. Either way I was involved in everything they did.

 

They’d fight over ownership of my knee or duvet. A trip to the toilet was never a solitary pursuit. “DADDY!” echoed long after they’d left the house.

 

And even as their independence grew I was still needed. They’d play together so long as I played too. They still wanted me to sit in their bedroom until they’d fallen asleep. Even when they could wipe their own backsides I was still expected to wait for them on the landing.

 

I was their middle-man and mentor. Witness and point-scorer. Arbiter and get-the-last-bit-out-of-the-yoghurt-er.

 

Sometimes it was frustrating. Sometimes I wished for nothing more than five minutes peace. Sometimes I watched their ‘watch this daddy’ antics purely because I’d be damned if after so many years I missed the one occasion they did something that was actually worth watching! (That wait still goes on).

 

But recently things have changed. They’ve become best friends. They often don’t *gulp* need me!?

 

And I can’t believe I’m saying this but …. I miss it.

 

Their conversations are passing me by and they now make each other laugh more than I do. I’m becoming little more than a drunken clown jumping around in the background desperate for some attention god damn it!

 

Last week Sonny had to draw a picture at school of his family. He told me he’d labelled them as ‘mum, little brother and bearded man’. BEARDED MAN?

 

I still don’t know if he’s winding me up? Judging by the way his teacher sniggered when I picked him up, possibly not. Either way both he and Luca found this hilarious.

 

Luca recently hid a whoopee cushion under my pillow. He didn’t tell me. He didn’t need to see me lie on it. The joke was for his and Sonny’s benefit alone.

 

I’m no longer in on the jokes, I’m the butt of them.

 

But selfishness aside it’s wonderful watching them grow up and develop their own personalities. Building a sibling bond and loving each others company.

 

And just because I’m slowly being sidelined it won’t stop me postponing the inevitable.

 

So I’ve moved the fruit and snacks up a shelf. Lets see if they can reach them now without asking for my help.

 

I’ve bought some games for an age group way beyond their pitiful years. Good luck getting to grips with those rules. Good luck finding the rules (I’ve hidden them, I’m not proud).

 

I’ve bought them shoes with laces, and when they’re not looking I’m going to take the stabilisers off their bikes.

 

This battle is far from over.

 

And if all this fails I’ll resort to the lowest common denominator. Flicking bogeys and farting. Well, if you can’t beat them …

Back to School

I suppose I should write the obligatory back to school post. As a parent blogger I think it’s in my contract. I also have a confession to make, but more on that later.

 

As of next week they’ll both be in school full-time. Sonny is already there, Luca however is still within the graduals stage.

 

A week in and we’ve just progressed from ‘finding the school on Google Maps’ to the ‘slow drive past the gates'; or so it feels. OK, so he’s now in until lunch-time but still, just how long can they drag this malarkey out for?

 

And as the fateful Monday approaches where I have a full five hour window between school runs, so Janet’s list writing becomes ever more frantic. She has more than one list. She has a list of lists. By the weekend I’m expecting a spreadsheet to drop into my mail-box. It doesn’t bode well.

 

I caught a glimpse of one of these lists. I saw duvet and laundrette in the same sentence. I saw decorating. On a section titled ‘deep clean’ I saw rooms I didn’t even know we had!

 

loose-womenNow I admit to not helping my cause when she asked me to send her a photo of their first day.

 

Turns out she wanted to see them in their school uniforms, and not as I’d assumed, a photo of me spending some quality time with them there Loose Women and a cup of coffee? Because it’s all about the kids apparently!?

 

But now to the confession, for which I need to take you back a few weeks to the end of last term.

 

On Luca’s last day of nursery there were tears. Lots of tears. Parents and teachers exchanged gifts and hugs, and outside I discovered Urmston’s equivalent to the wailing wall. Now I admit that I don’t get it, although I may just be dead inside?

 

Nothing of their educational journey thus far has made me emotional to that degree. The closest I came to tears was when I had my last cooked breakfast at the local cholesterol café before the summer holidays.

 

That was until Luca’s first full morning. You see I’m used to tears from Sonny, he’s the emotional one. Luca has his mothers heart of stone. A stubbornness and cock-surity(?) that I assume comes from being the second child?

 

And yet, as he lined up on the playground with the older children towering above him, he looked frightened. For that brief moment he looked like the barely four-year old child he is. Wide eyed. Scared.

 

As they were led inside some of the children were in tears, some refused to let go of their parents leg, and I watched on as Luca took two big deep breaths before giving me a timid thumbs up. He was being brave and I’ve never felt more helpless and yet proud at the same time. There was a brief glimpse back with nervous smile, and he was gone.

 

Now I admit it. I welled up. I welled up and but for nearly getting run over by a car outside the school gates probably would have burst into tears. You see it turns out I’m not dead inside after all! I may be on an emotional life-support machine but still, there is definitely a pulse in there!

 

And it made me realise something else too. I treat Sonny and Luca the same. I bundle all of their emotions, experiences and expectations together. Everything Sonny has gone through I subconsciously think Luca has too, and it’s not fair.

 

Somewhere along the line I’ve forgotten Luca is a year younger, and a year less mature. I’ve forgotten that although he’d been at the school nursery, and despite his bravado and confidence, he was still going into big school for the first time. And I’d forgotten just how damn scary that can be.

 

So when I picked him up that afternoon we stopped at the shops. We bought a big bag of sweets, came home, and watched Sooty. Together.

 

And I listened to him tell me all about his day, as if he was the first child to have ever had a first day at school. And I also made a promise to myself. To never forget he’s the younger brother.

Birthdays

birthday-pic

 

I’m thinking of changing the kids birthdays. It’s for the best.

 

I mean it’s not like they remember their date of birth yet. They still work off the ‘how many days until’ calendar.

 

It’s not like I remember their date of birth yet. I still work off the ‘ask Janet’ calendar.

 

A more memorable date would suit me all concerned.

 

For a start there’s the doctors. I have to announce our arrival by keying in their date-of-birth into a machine. It’s rare I’ll get it right on my first attempt. By my second guess there’s a queue forming behind me. There’s no need for that kind of pressure. What happens if I get it wrong three times in a row? I really don’t want to be going home to tell Janet the machine swallowed our child and I need to go back with my passport and two forms of paternal ID to get a new one.

 

Then there’s the summer holidays. Both their birthdays fall at the back-end of August, just before they go back to school. What kind of sick joke is that?

 

That’s six weeks of playing with old toys and their long-lost pieces. Forty Two days battling against the inevitable park fatigue. 1,008 hours trying to rebuild their LEGO police car that was written off in an accident on the stairs six months prior and whose missing pieces I know damn well rest in the reclamation yard that is the hoover.

 

And all this whilst knowing there’s a Narnia of new toys hidden at the back of the wardrobe, carefully wrapped in ribbons of my own sanity just waiting to be played with.

 

So I’m selflessly proposing they can have my birthday. Having turned forty it’s not like I’ll be needing it for another ten years anyway. So I hereby announce that their new birthday will be the *26th July.

(*subject to change once Janet reads this).

 

As it was they had a great birthday this year. Or so I thought.

 

Sat in the barbers Sonny was asked how his birthday was. There was a long pause. A long pause interrupted by Luca, who chipped in with,

 

“Disappointing”.

 

Disappointing? DISAPPOINTING? What four-year old describes their birthday as disappointing?

 

Mine, that’s who!

 

For the record, it was anything but disappointing! No really it wasn’t, a lot of thought and effort had gone into this year.

 

Thanks to my August advert amnesty we knew well in advance what they wanted, and it was duly delivered. However to find the source of their disappointment you need to go back through their presents.

 

LEGO Marvel Superheroes for the Wii U – check.
Some board games – Monopoly Junior and Ker-plunk.
Chatter teeth – as requested.
Superhero Mashables – thanks granny.
Even more LEGO – no problem.
Birthday tea in McDonald’s – if we must.
Chocolate birthday cake – Marks and Spencer’s finest.
A new t-shirt – Ah.
A new hoodie – see, here’s the problem.
A read it yourself book from the 70’s – Oh c’mon Janet, what were you thinking?

 

You see as the stay-at-home parent I like to think I’ve taught them the virtue of gratitude. What I’ve failed to address however is the feigning thereof.

 

If previous birthdays have taught us anything (and clearly they’ve not) it’s that they don’t particularly appreciate clothes, but then as a four and five-year old why would you? Just how much fun is there to be had from a zip?

 

It also wasn’t helped by their expectations. For reasons known only to Sonny as he unwrapped what was clearly a squishy piece of clothing,

 

Sonny: “I hope this is a remote-control helicopter!”

Me: “Eh? You’ve never mentioned a heli….”

Sonny: “A jumper? This was NOT on my list!”

 

There was a list? OK, so I need to work on his appreciation of Monsoon.

 

The t-shirt was met with similar disdain.

 

And then,

 

Sonny: “I know what this is, it’s a DVD!”

Me: “Ah, possibly not. Is it mummy?”

Janet: “Open it and see!”

Sonny: “It is, I can tell by the shape!”

Me: “It might not be”

Sonny: “It’s a ………….”

 

It’s hard to describe the look of utter contempt on his face, other than to say it was similar to how I imagine he’d react if I took a shit on his cornflakes.

 

This was the offending item….

 

peter-and-wolf

 

So I need to work on his appreciation of literary classics too. And on Janet’s last-minute “I was just passing a book shop and thought…”. And my own “what the hell is that?” face.

 

As it was they DID have a great birthday, and they even enjoyed reading Peter and the Wolf, even if the moral that Luca took from it wasn’t that Peter shouldn’t have lied, but rather he should have just bought himself a lion. Hard to argue with his logic.

 

We even extended their birthdays until the weekend so we could have a meal out in Manchester with all the family. More cake and yet more presents, all of which they were genuinely grateful for. And over those last few days before the new school term started, so was I!

 

Just for my own piece of mind I did ask them again how their birthdays were.

 

Luca: “GREAT!”

Sonny: “Brilliant … how many days is it until Christmas?”