Archive for the tag “Christmas”

A festive guide to sibling squabbling

‘Muuuum! He hit me!’
‘But muuuuum… he punched me!’
‘Well, he hit me first!’
‘Only ‘cos he used a rude word’
‘Yeah, but only ‘cos he called me a BAD name’
‘Because he nearly sat on my arm…’
‘Only because he sat too close to me on MY sofa!’
‘Yeah, but he was whispering… and breathing… and ‘stuff’.’

This is, very obviously, a fictional scenario. In our house this Christmas, the boys will play beautifully together all the time, respecting each other’s needs and encouraging each other to shine. Err… ahem.
***
There are nearly two years between my brother and I. Two years and at least two universes. Because we are totally and blatantly and irritatingly different.

When I was eight, my parents bought a ramshackle pair of gable-ends in the wilds of Scotland and set about restoring the water mill to its former glory. This would’ve been a fantastic idea, had it not been for the fact that the building work required us to live on site in a caravan (a ‘built for two, occasionally three’-type van, not a swanky modern mobile home) for over 12 months. And even this would not have been so bad had it not meant me sharing a bedroom (I use the term loosely) with my BROTHER.

I had the top bunk in our 4 foot wide cubicle. To reach the chemical loo on the other side of the paper-thin wall, I had to slither past my brother (still sleeping) on the bottom bunk. Only he wasn’t. The minute he’d hear me begin to clamber out of bed, he’d stick out an innocent leg, dramatically impeding my drop to the floor. Then, whilst I was still recovering, he’d leap out of bed himself, race round the corner and commandeer the loo for his morning pee. ‘Muuuuum!’ I’d shriek, racing after him and banging, furious, on the door, ‘Muuuuum… he won’t let me go to the loo!’ My mother, six feet away on a pull down bed, would sigh, and pull the blankets over her head.

And so the day, and indeed the years, continued.
He liked computers, I liked horses.
He liked being inside, I liked being out.
He didn’t like my friends and I didn’t like his.
If he was into this, then I was into that.
We had absolutely nothing in common and we made sure that the world knew about our differences. Horrid Henry and his side’kick’ had nothing on us.
***
When I was 30 I had my first son. My brother had had a daughter the year before. Suddenly my brother and I had something in common. No longer did he live on planet mathematics whilst I languished on a humanities’ star; now, to our amazement, we inhabited the same world of nappies, bottles and too little sleep. For the first time, we could empathise with each other, could see where we were coming from, respect our rights and wrongs. We started, albeit very belatedly, to get along.

So this Christmas day, my mother (whom I realise, equally belatedly, must either have been a saint or astonishingly unaware) will smile when I sit calmly next to my brother, chatting pleasantly to him about this and that, and I, in turn, will smile too. Because I will know that my boys – no doubt kicking each other under the table – will not continue their sibling squabbling forever. If history, and my maths are anything to go by, I’ve only got another 22 years or so to go. I’ll raise a glass of festive cheer to that.

MOB’s Log on MOB’s blog

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Why we SHOULD let our kids buy US presents

Last weekend we went to a carol service in our local church. The boys had been drafted in, in order of age as a King, a Shepherd and a Joseph. ‘This is the last time I dress up,’ growled eldest Sensible Son, as he struggled into his gown and crown. ‘Please can I just do a reading next year?’ I looked at his too-long legs sticking out of his too-short ‘dress’ and had to agree that he had a point.

Anyway. There was I, gazing in amused adoration, as Mary and Joseph marched up the aisle, overtaken by an errant 15 month old angel, when something the Vicar said made me sit up and listen.

Her child-friendly sermon had started out predictably enough. She’d talked about the joy of presents: about the joy being in the giving, not just the receiving. Absolutely, I’d agreed, nodding. Even before, but particularly since the births of my boys, the joy of Christmas for me is finding that perfect something you know will make someone smile. Watching the recipient’s eyes light up as they tear open their gift. Seeing them animatedly examine what you’ve bought them – albeit, in the case of very small children, for a few scant seconds, before moving, excitedly, on to the next.

‘But,’ she’d continued, going off standard Christmas-message-script, ‘it’s not only adults who love the giving. Some time ago, my son – then sixteen – taught me a valuable lesson.’ To paraphrase (as since then my memory has been addled by a mixture of Lemsip and mulled wine) she’d recounted how, that year (as indeed every year) she’d tried to dissuade him from spending too much of his hard-earned wages on buying presents. ‘We don’t need gifts from you,’ she’d told him, ‘your love and happiness is more than enough.’
Her son had turned on her eventually, with something bordering anger. ‘But mum,’ he’d countered, ‘why should you be the only one to have the fun?’

Bells starting ringing loudly, for me and my boys.

How many times, I pondered, had I told the boys that I had everything I wanted, and didn’t need any presents?
How often had I told them not to ‘waste’ their money on their mum, that it was enough for me to see their smiles?
How many times, I wondered, had I (inadvertently) spoilt their fun?

How many?

Sermon, and service, over, the lanky shepherd threw his lamb into Mary’s lap, and we headed to the back to munch mince pies.

***

Today the FOB and I took the boys, and their cousins, last-minute Christmas shopping.

And I watched the FOB bend down as Feisty Fellow whispered earnestly in his ear. Before, hand in hand, they headed off together in the direction of the Cook Shop. I don’t need any more spatulas, but that’s not the point.
And I stood, for at least a quarter of an hour, as Binary Boy fingered each and every product in the Cadbury’s outlet, humming and hawing over what item of chocolate his dad would like best. His dad doesn’t need any more chocolate, but that is also, not the point.
And I nodded my agreement as Sensible Son sped off, £10 note in hand, who knows where or why. Neither the FOB or I need any presents worth a whole £10, but that, as I understand all too clearly now, is not the point.

So when, on Christmas Day I add something far too expensive, and possibly unnecessary, to all that I already have, I will thank them and smile broadly. Because I will know that – they too – will have had their fun.

Now let the clementine overdosing ensue

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Joseph…’bovvr’d’ to turn up at the Nativity after all

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Calling last minute Father (and Mother) Christmas’: The Ultimate Gift Guide for Boys…for free

For anyone who missed out on the ‘12 Tweets of What to Buy a Boy for Christmas’, here is my complete list of suggestions in one printable page (to be sung to the tune of either ‘The 12 days of Christmas’ or ‘Pick of the Pops’):

1. A marble run
Hours of fun and still loved at 10.
2. Hama beads
I know it sounds unlikely but give them (especially animal shapes) a go.
3. ‘Best of Jennings’ by Anthony Buckeridge
A spiffing raucous read for kids and adults alike.
4. A chemistry lab kit
Supervise as he revels in violent volcanoes and sulphurous smells.
5. The Guinness World Records height chart
It seems I’m just less than the largest loo roll.
6. Geomag
It’s marbles Jim, but not as we know it. Magnetic fun for all the family!
7. Click clack track
Strangely mesmerising, we never bought one and wished we had.
8. Any fact-filled book by Mitchell Symons
‘Did you know?’ sessions will never the same.
9. UNO, Boggle Slam or a good ol’ fashioned pack of cards
Endless opportunities for bad behaviour.
10. Hexbugs, of any shape or form
Just make sure you include backup batteries.
11. Elefun
Certain chaos as boys trample everything underfoot to catch bugs in nets.
12. The Dangerous Book for Boys
Full of facts and fun for the males (big and small) in your life.

Failing any of the above, just give them a big cardboard box and some bubble wrap. Job done.

How to avoid the Nativity Nightmare


This year I have had it relatively easy.

Not, you understand, on the work/life balance front which has been frequently bordering on the ridiculous. No, easy in terms of the potential ‘Nativity nightmare’.

Because this year Sensible Son is ‘merely’ a narrator, thus requiring the wearing of only a passably clean school uniform. Binary Boy is ‘merely’ in the Choir, thus seemingly requiring the same as above. And Feisty Fellow, an appropriately typecast Curious Sheep, is merely to be be-costumed in his PE kit – black and white.

’Twas not always so.

A few years ago, the following festive scenario ensued:

Act 1: Enter on stage a son back from school.
‘You’re a what?!’ (mother)
‘A pig.’ (son)
‘A pig?!’ Since when has a pig featured in the Nativity?
‘Oh, and Miss said I need to bring in my costume tomorrow. White top, curly tail, pink tights.’
Pink tights?! Tomorrow?! Mother ponders the injustice of a world where a mother of three boys must procure pink tights. She picks up her mobile and phones a friend.

Act 2: A month later. Lights dimmed, audience hushed, rickety cot set up on stage.
Cue: A procession of small children. As the First Noel fades, Mary clambers up stage steps. Grasping the cushion that is threatening to fall out from under her dress, she looks round for her ‘husband’. Joseph is following at an appropriately manly distance – it’s not good for the street-cred to get too close to a girl – and is dragging a reluctant donkey. Back end stumbles over step and threatens to bring the whole cavalcade down.

‘Why’s dat cow wearin’ shoes?’ demands a front row sibling loudly, as the expectant couple and their donkey wobble their way across stage. His brother – Joseph, apparently – is alerted to the presence of his family. ‘Hi mum,’ he mouths, waving frantically. His mother smiles and quietly waves back.

Choir stands up; some even open their mouths. ‘Little donkey, little donkey….’ Manage the first verse before running out of steam. ‘Been a looooong time…’ A too tiny tot – should she actually be at school? – yawns loudly, the boy next to her jigs up and down obviously in need of a loo. Entire audience follow his every move; he eventually attracts the attention of the powers that be. Swiftly and surreptitiously, he’s escorted from the hall.

Meanwhile back in Bethlehem, a host of heavenly creatures arrive. Mary picks her nose, nonplussed, as trio of wise men deliver their gifts.
‘We bring yew frakn’sense, gold and fur,’ announces Melchior. Tittering in the back row. Balthasar whispers in his ear. ‘Myrrh…I mean myrrh!’ he shouts. Dissolves into tears and races from the stage.

Shepherds. The middle one – bedecked in regulation dressing gown and tea towel – has nits. Rakes at his head as his companions hand over their offerings…two lambs and what looks suspiciously like a dog. Mary and Joseph mutter their thanks.

All good so far, but where is pig?

Enter, stage left: a herd of pink porkers. Pants glowing like stars through too thin tights, they jiggle tails and wiggle butts to the tune of a farmyard carol based loosely on the Birdie Song. Disappear into the darkness whence they came.

Proud parent clapping, and the Nativity is over for another 12 months.

***

So this year my Nativity season, whilst potentially less entertaining, is decidedly less fraught. With no need for pink tights or other elaborate adornments, the dressing up box can stay shut and the tea towels by the sink. I need merely attend, and applaud expansively. Peace on earth…and hallelujah to that.

‘All I want for Christmas is…’ The ultimate gift guide for mothers of boys

As you know, last week I was walking the streets of London. As, it seems, were an awful lot of others. And whilst I wandered round John Lewis looking aimlessly at everything, they were busily and purposefully filling their bags.

‘But it’s not even December yet,’ I grumbled to myself, ‘surely you can’t start Christmas shopping when it’s still only November!’ A dancing Santa on a nearby shelf begged to differ. ‘Ho Ho Ho!’ he chortled happily, patting his tummy and wiggling his bum.

My wander down Oxford Street got me thinking. What, I wondered, should be the top five gifts on every MOB’s list? What amazing paraphernalia would I not be without? What would I want my FOB to be lovingly wrapping up for me this Christmas eve?

Here, sparing no expense and after considerable thought, is my very own gift guide for the Mother of Boys:
1. Octopus sock and pant sorter. It is plastic and looks about as unsexy as they come, but my Octopus makes hanging out the inevitable assortment of socks and boxer shorts a much more satisfying and swifter operation. I got mine from… Ikea.
2. Cheese sliver-slicer. Invented, I think, by some smart Scandinavian, we first came across these years ago when we lived in Germany. Using the sliver-slicer ensures that the extra large lump of cheddar you bought thinking and hoping it would last all week, might actually last you and your boys more than one meal. I got mine from (you guessed it)… Ikea.
3. Welly-rack. The FOB made this much-admired object out of a piece of wood and old bits of broom. The welly-rack means that wellies (big and small) are stored outside, upside down and in argue-free pairs – no mud, no mess, no muddle. You can buy much posher, ready-made versions on Ebay.
4. Hand-held blender. Or ‘the whizzer’ as it’s technically known in our house. I have discovered that if it doesn’t actually look like what it actually is, the boys will eat pretty much anything in soup. Anything, that is, except brussel sprouts. I got mine from… Sainsbury’s.
5. Panasonic bread maker. I know there’s a bit of a food theme here, but every MOB knows that the way to their hearts is through their stomachs. Next to milk, bread is the other must-have we are always running out of. And now that I’ve discovered that milk can be frozen, my bread maker frees me from emergency supermarket sweeps. I got mine from… John Lewis.

My FOB (with the exception of a beautiful necklace he gave me one year) is not renowned for his prowess in the romantic gift department. Before we were even going out, he bought me a rolling pin for my birthday(?!), followed swiftly by a sag bag one Christmas and the next year a bin. Granted, the bin was a Brabantia and we still have it in the kitchen, but…

So, to all the FOBs out there reading this, and most especially mine: by all means take your pick from any or all of the above. But be warned, your MOB may rapidly find a use for that redundant rolling pin. This Festive season why not break the practical present habit of a lifetime, and try adding a little Chanel No. 5 for good MOB-measure? Because, as you know… we’re (definitely) worth it.

PS: Obviously if you’re after the ultimate present for the Mother of Boys, ‘MOB Rule’ can always be pre-ordered pre-publication on Amazon!

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