Quibble and Squeak are holding hands, dancing around in a circle, giggling. Suddenly, they break apart and begin to run from one end of the lounge to the other, one arm outstretched shouting, ‘Superman! Superman!’. Quibble announces that it is time for the Big Ending and they both fall to the ground, legs in the air, waiting for their applause.
I blame myself. My love of Strictly Come Dancing predates both of my children. When the first series aired in 2004 I considered myself somewhat of an expert, having been a member of the Latin American and Ballroom Society at university. I tried to judge the celebrities fairly, as someone who understood a (dangerously) small amount of the technical aspects, but I usually just let myself get carried away by the beauty of the outfits and the magic of the dancing.
This year, for the first time, Quibble is old enough to stay up on a Saturday night to watch the first few dances with me. I tell Stanchion that seeing the scores adding up improves Quibble’s numeracy skills, that the exposure to different styles of music and dancing aids his creativity and self-expression and that it is good for him to see people responding to feedback. And I do believe that, I do. All those things are important… but, well, really, I love seeing him love the same things I do. On Sunday morning, after breakfast, we sit with Squeak at the iPad to show her the best dances. There is commentary from Quibble (who has an excellent memory for the judge’s comments), while Squeak points out all the different bright colours, and, in between the dances, they demonstrate their own unique interpretations of what they have seen. I usually just let myself get carried away by the, ahem, beauty and magic of the moment.
In twelve years of watching Strictly, I’ve never found anyone else who loves watching the dancing in the same way I do – except now I have. I’ve found two little people who like it so much they are currently attempting a mash up of a Waltz, the Superman Paso and what I can only assume is some sort of jazz ending.
“And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon.”
― Edward Lear, The Owl and the Pussycat
It’s nearly time. Christmas is so close I can almost smell the turkey.
I am one of those slightly annoying people who start wishing people ‘Merry Christmas’ on the 1st December and break into seasonal songs at the slightest provocation. I decorate my house near the beginning of the month so I can have weeks of joy from the shiny, sparkly things. I change my route home to make sure I drive past the house with flashing coloured lights around the windows and illuminated reindeer on the roof. I wear novelty earrings and Santa hats and I’m not going to apologise for it.
I’m not naïve, I know it can be a hard time for some people. If you can’t spend the day with the people you love or if you can’t buy them the presents you’d like. There are people in this country sleeping rough over Christmas, there are children going without food and there are wars going on. But because it’s Christmas and I want the world to love it too, I try to help out where I can. I set myself a the target of spending at least as much on charity donations as I do on wrapping paper. I make sure the cards I send out are charity cards and I try to be generous everytime I see a collection box. I know it won’t solve the world’s problems, but it has to be a start.
I love finding a little present to make someone smile or opening a card from someone I haven’t heard from in a while or having an excuse to go out and celebrate with friends, but they aren’t the best bits of Christmas. It’s unpacking the decorations and remembering the best bits of all your Christmases. It’s sharing smiles and trying to spread a little joy at this time of year. It’s taking a moment to enjoy this moment.
Merry Christmas everyone.
I’m sure there used to be more time in each day.
After wrestling the children to sleep, cooking dinner and eating it, there seems to be just enough time to put a load of washing on, load the dishwasher and tidy up the toys before bed. Sometimes I lie in bed, mentally listing all the hobbies I’d like to have time for. I remember how I used to do a yoga class on a Saturday morning, have breakfast in bed with the Sunday papers and spend long, lazy hours reading books. In the summer, I used to paint my toenails to coordinate with my outfit.
A few weeks ago the kids went to stay with their grandparents for two nights so we could prepare for Squeak’s birthday party. Stanchion and I couldn’t believe how much we could get done in just one day. We had time to tidy, clean and decorate the house, make food for guests and cut my To Do list in half. Life would be much less hectic if we didn’t have kids. And quieter. And just generally easier…
But instead of breathing deeply through downward facing dog, I spend my Saturday mornings splashing about in a swimming pool with Squeak and watching Quibble gain the confidence to jump in on his own. The last newspaper in our house was used to protect the table while Quibble stuck glitter onto his dinosaur picture. And I do still spend hours reading, it’s just that the books are bigger, with fewer words and more pictures.
If I’m honest, I love it. I wish I could pause it sometimes and have a little time out, but this won’t last long and I don’t want to waste it. Every year Quibble and Squeak will need me a little bit less as they grow that bit more self-sufficient and I will get time for hobbies again, slowly but surely. When look back on this summer, I know I won’t remember what colour my toenails were (or care that they weren’t even painted). But I hope I’ll remember how Squeak learnt to say ‘Mama’, how Quibble learnt the letters in his name and how much my kids made me smile.
It seems that Quibble is so advanced, he has managed to turn into a teenager nine years early. He is becoming whiny, argumentative and wants to watch television – CBeebies or DVDs – all the time. We had been using TV to give him ‘down time’ once he dropped his nap, but now he announces ‘I need a little sit down in the lounge’ (code for ‘I want to watch telly now’) several times a day. He is totally mesmerised by everything he watches, which makes it a temptingly easy way to keep him out of mischief while I get things done. So this month, we are having a new regime. We are going to find new ways to entertain him and get quality time together during Squeak’s lunchtime nap.
My first step was to stock up on ‘crafty’ things; I have done this the cheating way by buying a handy pre-filled box from Tesco. Last week I spread the contents out along with glue, scissors, pens and card and suggested we make something. I had, of course, forgotten that we are not a naturally arty family and without guidance we ended up with a few squiggles on a piece of card and one corner hidden beneath three or four layers of car stickers. Lesson learned: you get what you plan for.
Undeterred, I moved on to baking. I’ve made cakes a few times in the past it has never seemed very difficult. Of course the discovery that I seemed to have very little flour and no eggs was a bit of a setback, but I already had my apron on, so I wasn’t about to back out now. I found a biscuits recipe for which, if I only made half, I had enough flour. We weighed out the ingredients, discussing the numbers on the scale, and I felt like a Real Mum having a proper conversation with my child. I mixed the ingredients, because Quibble thought it looked a bit messy, then he got distracted by some other toys while I finished cutting out the biscuits and put them in the oven. After snack time, they were cool enough to decorate, although Quibble got a little overexcited by the first one and tried to use all the smarties on it. And despite the difficulties, I felt we had finally achieved something that I could put a picture of in my blog.
Then I found Mama. Papa. Bubba. – a wonderful blog, although it does have two things I don’t; really good ideas for activities and a child who seems enthusiastic about them. This idea seemed pretty simple; go for a walk and collect leaves and grass and so on in a muffin tray, so I thought I’d give it a try. I should own up that I made the labels for the tray while Quibble watched a programme on CBeebies. It was hard work to get him to buy into the idea and even when he did agree to it, we had to take his batman figure too. However, once we made it out of the door he loved it. We found all twelve things, stopped to watch some ducks playing in the brook, and even made friends with some older children who wanted to know why he was wondering around with a muffin tray. (Seems a reasonable question).
We talked, we smiled, we enjoyed each others company. I wouldn’t ask him to chose between this and an episode of Octonauts, but he has asked to do it again another day – I’ll count that as a success.