Wednesday 28 May 2008

Class action

The Littleboys and I have resigned from Rabbit Rhymes – although I’d prefer to think of it as Constructive Dismissal.

Let me explain. The toddler music class had always been something of a trying experience for me (see the first ever entry on this blog), but we persisted with it as Littleboy 1 seemed to enjoy it. True, he was never one for sitting still for longer than about six seconds, preferring careering around the room to yet another rendition of The Wheels on the Bus. But he loved banging the instruments – I’ll never forget the joy on his face the day he found the cymbal – plus the marching around the room to the Grand Old Duke of York.

I’d always had a feeling the Rabbit Rhymes Teacher disapproved slightly of his inability to sit quietly, gritting her teeth despite her faux-sympathetic protestations that ‘it’s just fine’. But, just as he was becoming slightly more well-behaved, Littleboy 2 started to move. No longer sitting sweetly on my lap and shaking a rattle, he was off - crawling in one direction (usually towards the tape recorder, on a mission to turn the music off) as his brother headed in the other.

As the weeks rolled by, the Rabbit Rhymes Teacher directed more and more frantic looks at the Littleboys and their hapless mother. Although not always the naughtiest children in the class, the fact that they were a double act seemed to heighten the impact of their antics.

Eventually she took me aside at the end of the class and asked whether there was ‘someone’ that could come along with me to supervise Littleboy 2, as she felt it was disturbing Littleboy 1’s ‘progress’. By this, I assume she meant a Nanny or Au Pair. I replied that no, actually, there wasn’t – and, feeling like a naughty schoolgirl, silently vowed never to darken Rabbit Rhymes’ doors again.

What was I meant to do – hire a Nanny for the day to help me round up my kids at a half hour music class? Well, obviously – round here, if you’ve got a problem, throw money at it. Baby waking at night? Get a maternity nurse in. Kids won’t eat vegetables? – there’s a local class for that. (We went to it once, you pay about £10 a week for the kids to sing songs about beetroots and stick their fingers in tomatoes.) Kids misbehaving at a toddler group? Hire some help…..

So now we have a dilemma: do we ‘do’ another class? There are plenty to choose from, as a quick flick through a local parenting mag reveals. As well as all manner of music, gym and art classes for toddlers, you can take your tot to Mandarin (‘Learning Chinese the FUN way’ promises the ad). Or you could do Latino Bambino (‘dancing with your baby to Latin Rhythms’). For the new mother, there is Buggyfit (running around the Common with your pram led by some military fitness instructor), baby massage and the worrying-sounding ‘cranial osteopathy’ (cures colic, apparently...if only).

Or, we could just ‘do’ our usual combination of playground, scooting round the Bandstand and an apple juice in the Café on the Common. It’s free, the Littleboys enjoy it and we don’t have to deal with patronising class teachers or snooty fellow-parents. It's tempting. Perhaps I'll even package this three hour activity and market it to fellow parents.......

Recently I bumped into another mum from Rabbit Rhymes who tells me that the class this term is much diminished. It turns out that we are not the only family to have resigned. Strangely enough, the ones who have gone are apparently some of the other parents of 'lively' children. And, of the few that are left, at least one family is about to move out of London, her City husband having lost his job. Something tells me that the Credit Crunch isn’t just going to affect house prices in Nappy Valley. Could the axe be about to fall on Rabbit?

Wednesday 21 May 2008

Animal, vegetable...ladybird?

I must admit I didn’t start this blog to bore on about how cute my children are, but sometimes you just have to record the things they say, if only for posterity’s sake. Plus, it’s only recently that Littleboy 1 has been able to string a sentence together, so anything he comes out with still seems fairly astonishing.

So here are two recent examples:

Littleboy 1 has somehow got it into his head that all insects are called ladybirds. (Example: when peeing against a tree in the park – an act he finds hilarious anyway - we notice that there are ants crawling on the tree trunk. “Mummy, I wee on the ladybirds!” he shouts with glee.) So when we actually see some ladybirds, the other day, I am all excited. I point them out - “Looook darling, what’s that?” And after some consideration he replies: “A turtle!”

Then, the other evening we are driving back from Nursery. I am pootling along very conservatively at about 20mph, thanks to the speedhumps that have recently appeared on this particular stretch of road, when Littleboy 1 pipes up: “Be careful, Mummy, with the car. Go slowly now!"

I can only think he is aping me, forever telling him to slow down on his scooter. Either that or backseat driving in men starts at precisely age 3.

Wednesday 14 May 2008

A tale of two cities

Observations after a weekend in Paris (The Doctor and I having Eurostarred it over to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary sans kids.)

  1. Hardly any Bugaboos and no Phil & Teds in Paris. Even the smarter Parisians seem to be wielding different pushchairs, usually fairly basic and functional. Perhaps, as with their cars, they snub brands not made by the French (Bugaboo is Dutch, P&T hails from New Zealand). Alternatively, all the really label-conscious French have actually moved to Chelsea or Battersea (and judging by the number of French accents in the local playgrounds recently, this theory holds some water).
  2. Mini Micro Scooters: nulle points. Didn’t see a single one, whereas the current spell hot weather this side of the Channel seems to have spawned an even bigger proliferation. French teenagers seem to ride on the adult versions, but there were no toddlers speeding along in the Jardins du Luxembourg.
  3. In true Continental style, babies, toddlers and small children stay up late, late late in Paris on a hot summer night. One tiny girl was manically dancing away to an impromptu Bob Marley gig on the banks of the Seine at 11pm, her parents picknicking nearby. In London, they would all be tucked up by 7pm as per Gina Ford’s instructions, the parents vainly trying to block out the daylight with blackout blinds and persuade them it’s bedtime.
  4. But then, there is also an innocence about Parisian nights that London just lacks - exemplified by entire families queuing for ice cream at almost midnight. The only thing you’d queue for at that time of night in London is clubbing, and the idea of taking the Littleboys to the West End on a Saturday night is frankly terrifying.
  5. Hotels, however smart, otelsHoteHoare essentially noisy places – so our much looked-forward-to night of peace was not exactly peaceful. Other guests came back raucously at 2am, bottles were crashed around at the back of the building and baths were run in the early hours. However, as The Doctor remarked the next day, the fact that none of these sounds actually compelled us to get out of bed was in itself enjoyable.

Back in London, the Littleboys were expertly cared for by Aussie Nanny for the weekend. Aussie Nanny looked after Littleboy 1 when I was in hospital for weeks on end prior to the birth of Littleboy 2, and she is our regular babysitter. But I am a little worried that now we may have scared her off. Not due to the Littleboys – although I am sure they gave her a run for their money. No, the problem is that her more recent clientele live in the rather smarter areas of Nappy Valley in more glamorous houses. During her weekend at our house, not only was she was kept awake by some of the less salubrious neighbours arguing in the street (not a regular occurrence, but hot summer nights do seem to bring out the worst in people), she also spotted a “deformed” (I quote) mouse cross our living room floor. Luckily Aussie Nanny's Aussie Boyfriend was there to dispose of it, but I get the feeling her usual laid-back-Aussie composure was somewhat jarred. This is perhaps not something that would have happened in the more leafy environs of this area. Will have to think of a way to bribe her back……