Thursday, 28 May 2015

Tween troubles

Mandache clan
An important, and quite scary development has happened in the Mandache household this month. We now have 3 tweens at home (2 ten year olds and an 11 year old). Thankfully, I still have little A. at home to balance out all the moodiness. I've been remembering the Cbeebies show "The Tweenies" for some reason. I wonder why they called it that, when the characters were all pre-schoolers? I can make a few comparisons between the colourful characters in that show and my own clan at home :) L1. would be Bella, the bossy one who can be a bit of a know-it-all, L2. would be Fizz, the girly one always playing with her hair, A1. would be Milo, the winder-upper, and A2. would be Jake, the youngest one who gets frustrated if he can't keep up with the older ones. I know they like to think they are no longer little kids, but they can often argue like toddlers the way their Tweenie twins do! Of course I will never tell them my comparisons which make me smile, they would be mortified...

My tweens have long outgrown Cbeebies, in fact even A. no longer watches it. I have to say "The Tweenies" and some of the other Cbeebies shows they used to know and love, would be far preferable to their new TV preferences. I would go so far as to say I hate Spongebob and his stupid crabby patties. The only saving grace is being able to deliberately mispronounce the name, much to the annoyance of his young fans. Try it, there are numerous wrong combinations (Bobsponge Pants Square, Pants Square Bob Sponge...) and it winds them up no end! Another one to avoid is Uncle Grandpa, which after about 30 seconds has me leaving the room. Thankfully there are some shows we can enjoy as a family, "Britain's Got Talent" must be the Saturday night saviour for many a UK family... a welcome escape from yet another Lego Ninjago episode.

I admit to finding the moodiness (for incredibly stupid reasons) quite soul destroying, and it will only get worse. My best way of handling it is to try to ignore the moods as much as possible, if I think it's for really trivial things, I send them to their rooms until they cheer up. I found their moods ended up sending me into the depths of gloom too, so I no longer allow that to happen. Have you found your tweens to be moody? How do you handle their ups and downs? I watched the video of the mum who lip synced her 4 year old having a temper tantrum to try and make her see the funny side and not take things so seriously. I wonder if this would work for moody tweens too?....

I'm clinging on to being able to choose clothes for them all, but I know my days as their fashion adviser are numbered. I am also having to buy clothes for teenagers as they are all so tall. It's disappointing that age appropriate clothes are not so readily available to my kids. Surely there's a business idea there somewhere...

I'm also amazed by the vanity about their appearance. My son is extremely fussy about his hair, and I'm told quite a few boys nearly miss the bus after school swimming due to their gel habits!The girls are pestering me to let them get their ears pierced, but are making do with stick-on glittery fakes for the time being. A. has not yet reached the fussy, vain stage...he'd quite happily wear his favourite crocodile costume very day if I let him.

Yes, I am finding it difficult adjusting to this new stage of their lives. I'm watching their early childhood fade away, the toys they once played with for hours being replaced with electronics and TV. Lego, Monster High and drawing are still popular, so I haven't completely lost the battle to limit the screen time, and I'm determined not to. We're going on holiday soon, escaping the miserable Scottish weather of recent. I asked them to choose 4 songs each for playing in the car when we get there...we'll now be driving around enjoying "Pink Fluffy Unicorns", "The Duck Song", and the obligatory "Frozen" songs...maybe I've still got a few more years of innocent childhood yet.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Little helpers

I have been overjoyed by a recent development in the Mandache household....I now have an assistant toilet roll changer! Maybe it doesn't sound like such a big deal, but having spent years being singularly responsible for such a simple, yet vital task, it really is fantastic to have a helper in the form of my youngest son. However, upon praising my little assistant last night for changing the loo roll WITHOUT BEING ASKED, I was taken aback by his older brother's reaction. Acting pretty girly, he teased "oh Alex, you can be a maid when you're older." It's not the first time big brother has implied that chores around the house are for females, and I'm more determined than ever to change his attitudes. Maybe at some point you, like I, have received the emergency toilet roll text request from your spouse. My wish is to put an end to that madness for future generations....teach them to get off their butts (literally),and get it themselves!

Of course it is a lot easier said than done to train children to help out around the house. I've blogged before about being guardian to my two nieces, as well as mum to my two boys. I get a wonderful insight into gender politics, and don't always like what I see. My son, the non-toilet roll changer, frequently asks his girl cousins to do chores for him (especially if he thinks I'm not within earshot). The girls, both very fond of A., will almost always cater to his laziness by doing what he'd asked. I'm trying to stop this behaviour, make them realise they all have responsibilities. I found a good article on the Aha parenting website, giving reasons why it is so hard to get children involved with chores, and tips on how to encourage them. I have had limited success with reward charts, a lot of the tips found in the article make sense, the key is perseverance which can be hard when it often feels "easier to do it ourselves":

However, it's better to resolve these tensions over household chores now, than face the frustrations of lazy disrespectful teens later on.I read with amusement and a certain amount of sympathy about the North Carolina mum who went on strike to potest her daughters' lack of respect and appreciation for her. The link can be found here:

One way I am considering making my kids keen to clean is by treating them to some mop slippers. Surely a Friday night kitchen disco which just happens to clean the floor at the same time cannot be a bad thing? Look, they even come in blue!

I'm also keen to teach all of them to cook. Maybe once a week they could take it in turns to decide what the meal should be (encouraging a healthy choice), and then helping them to prepare it. All of them enjoy baking, maybe it's time to move on to the next level. I found a great blog post by a dad with his reasons why boys should learn to cook. My husband does very little around the house (possibly adding to my son's attitude that chores are for women), but he does enjoy cooking. The post has inspired me to try this new weekly cooking night. The link can be found here:

I've explained how having girls in the house has caused my elder son to have quite a bad attitude towards chores, which will not help him in later life. However, all the kids like playing with Zelfs (basically toys that are the reincarnation of trolls which were a trend when I was growing up). All four of them enjoy styling and grooming their Zelf's hair, usually a more feminine hobby, and I'm pleased to see them doing that. Maybe my sons won't grow up to be particularly helpful around the house, but at least if I have any grand- daughters they will not suffer the indignity of being styled with the aid of a hoover, which seems to be the preferred technique of modern dads. I do like this funny video of one dad's efforts ;):

What are your thoughts on kids helping around the house? Any tips to share? Success stories or disasters, I'd love to hear about them.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Out of my depth? relaxing, peaceful, almost therapeutic. That is, unless the person swimming is your child and you are there as loyal spectator. I am very proud that my son has reached level 9 of his swimming lessons, enjoy watching him become stronger and more confident in the water. I don't however, enjoy being on the spectators balcony at 8 o'clock on a Sunday morning!

At first I had thought the class was 8 in the evening, it didn't even cross my mind that my beloved Sunday morning lie-ins would soon be a distant memory. (I use the term "lie in" very loosely, as anyone with young children knows, 8am is probably as good as it gets)However, the letter confirming my son's place clearly said AM not PM. We are not in April yet, so clearly it wasn't some cruel joke that I would now be up and dressed even EARLIER than the daily school run.

This weekend was our first attempt at making it to the pool so early. Luckily my sister slept over the night before, so I didn't have to drag the other 3 with me, but even getting one out the door on a schedule is traumatizing. Breakfast wolfed down, I yelled the all too familiar "hurry up! Have you got your swimming stuff ready?" Of course he hadn't, cartoons being the distraction to blame. I rummaged through every drawer, purse, pocket in the house looking for a precious £1 for the locker. Every other possible coin was at my diposal, even foreign ones or 10p's that had gone out of circulation years ago. Raiding the kids pocket money we were finally ready to go, we drove along the deserted roads, my son asking where everyone was. "Still in their beds", I replied with more than a hint of jealousy in my voice.

"Where will we park?" I joked, in a fake panic over where to park in the ghost town city centre car park. My 9 year old raised his eyebrows at me in a reaction that was far too teenagey for my liking.

"You've got 4 minutes to get ready" I announced, feeling like my son was entering some kind of mission impossible contest instead of swimming lessons.

We hurried to the sport centre doors, the shutters were opened just enough to let us in. I chucked A's clothes in the locker and could finally relax, I had just one thing on my, strong coffee. Dragging myself back upstairs I pushed open the cafe door. To my horror, the shutters were down, no cafe employee in sight. Looking at the opening hours, there would be no caffeinated beveredges available until 9, by which time A. would be finished his lesson

I fumed on the balcony, hoping the aroma from the coffee flasks brought by more savvy parents would help revive me. Even the gym overlooking the swimming pool was shut. My plan to persuade my husband to take over swimming duty involved using him being able to work out at the same time as our son, as an incentive. I fully intend to keep this disappointing discovery to myself, the kids have been sworn to secrecy. Next week I shall watch daddy dress in his sports gear, pack his Lucozade, fasten whatever calorie counting gadget he has to his being, and not say a word about my discovery.

As 9 o'clock approached, the children for the next lessons filtered down to the pool. Their smug parents looked extremely well rested in comparison to us early birders. Carrying one of the many caffeinated hot drinks now readily available to them, they sauntered out to the balcony, ready to make use of the pre-warmed seats that would soon be vacated. Some were in sports gear, caffeining up before they hit the gym, which was now also fully operational.

There is only one saving grace for the misery of early morning swim lessons...that one, quick little wave my son gave me as he swam towards me made it all worthwhile. I find myself even encouraging him to join the swim club. The thought of early morning training brings me out in a cold sweat, but I want him to be fit and healthy and keep going with a sport he clearly has a talent for. Yes, should my son decide swim club is for him, I'll be there, matchsticks in eyes, and one very large extra strong home made coffee in hand.