I am working on a project for AltD2’s birthday which is coming up at the start of September. I suppose this kind of follows on from the creativity post, although you’ll have to wait and see what it actually is. What I want to share today has more to do with the content.
When I was younger, there was a cheesy and (usually depressing) segment on Radio 1 called “Our Tune”. Simon Bates would read out listeners’ letters in a Serious Voice. Soothing music would play in the background. Invariably the couple had split up, the dog had died or some other tragedy had befallen the writer. The feature would culminate with a sentimental, meaningful song. [Hey, wow, I just googled and discovered it is still on!]
You have probably figured out by now that I am hinting that I have a special song, an “Our Tune” I suppose (but without Simon Bates and a long-lost goldfish), for each of the Alt Daughters. Not sure I have one for AltFather, unless you count the first dance at our wedding, which, incidentally, was Dido’s “Thank You“, and not the Eminem Stan version, you may be pleased to hear!
So I thought I would share these songs, and how they came to be.
When AltD1 was born, we spent a few nights in the hospital, getting to know each other, working out what was what, struggling a bit with feeding, and starting our life together. She was being fed expressed milk alternating with formula from a bottle.
‘They’ said to me:
“Someone else should give her the bottle, not you, so she doesn’t get confused.”
My role seemed to be to hitch myself up like Daisy the cow to a turbo powered pump, and when I wasn’t doing that, I was holding a very loud small pink thing while AltFather prepared the next bottle. In between, I would have a go at feeding her myself, although it wasn’t working very well. She got frustrated and I got sore. She yelled every time I picked her up. Once, when she was sleeping, I lay on my bed and looked at her in her plastic tank on wheels next to me, and thought:
“I’m not really allowed to touch you, am I?”
It was then that a few lines from a song popped into my head:
“All I do is miss you, and the way we used to be… all I do is keep the beat and bad company… all I do is kiss you, through the bars of a rhyme…”
I was only “allowed” to touch my baby with something in between us, I felt. The bars of a rhyme? The plastic bottle, the swaddled flailing arms… handing her over when she got too worked up… it made me sob. No prizes for the first to guess that this song (which betrays my soft rock roots!) is “Romeo and Juliet” by Dire Straits.
There are two other lines in that song that I couldn’t get out of my head:
No there is nothing that I wouldn’t do
Go to the ends of the earth for you
To make you feel my love”
I am a little late to the party here, but over at Hobo Mama, they have been hosting a blogging carnival along the theme of Creativity. The premise of a blogging carnival, I just discovered, is that you produce a post on a certain theme, together with a number of other writers, and all publish your pieces on the same day. Loads to read on a specific subject, but all coming from different places.
So July’s theme was creativity, and there were some very interesting submissions. You can find the participants on the link above.
It started me thinking about the creative buzz there is in the Alt House. This goes way deeper than the crayons and bits of tissue paper we find stuck all over the place. The creativity in a three and a half year old is inspiring. AltD1 just isn’t inhibited in any way, (that is certainly true, and probably stories a-plenty for another time!) least of all when her creativity gets going.
One of my elder daughter’s favourite ways to express herself is through her crazy, crazy wardrobe choices. We have had some interesting selections. There was the period during which she would only wear tops and tights (in October naturally), sporting them with wellies or sandals, depending less on the weather than on her frame of mind. We once went to do the weekly shop with AltD1 dressed in a purple tutu. On top of jeans, with a sunhat (mine) and oversized sunglasses (also mine). She may or may not have been wearing wings, I can’t remember. We had a few funny looks in the aisles, but I’m pleased to say there were also a few admiring glances, too.
Someone once expressed to me that she was a little envious of her 2 year old who had gone to the library in a fairy dress. Wouldn’t life be more fun if we all wore dress-up on a daily basis?! Does it make a difference that the 2 year old in question is a boy? I do feel quite proud of my friend for letting her hilarious little guy be so self-confident in his pink tulle! She too witnessed raised eyebrows, but I hope she continues to have the same confidence as her little boy does now.
I admire AltD1 for having her own style. She can dress herself, and she chooses from clothes that I (for the most part) have bought for her, so I can’t complain. She is comfortable, and as long as she is dressed appropriately for the weather and vaguely appropriately for the occasion, I won’t ask her to change her outfit. Nor would I ask her to change herself. She dresses her own way and I hope she’ll continue to do so for all of her life. Just as I hope she won’t feel the need to be the same as everyone else in her views and opinions, nor should she need to dress the same as they do.
It’s more than just the unabashed confidence that I admire in small children, though. They are not afraid to get stuck in.
AltD1 loves painting. For whatever reason, we tend not to do it at home (no child friendly paint… birthday coming up, must remedy that situation!) so given the opportunity at nursery or groups, she is straight in there, and very soon covered from top to toe. Her favourite thing to do is hand prints, so you can guess where that leads! Arm prints, ear prints, so on… But secretly I would love to roll up my sleeves and squish the paint the way she does.
We are a pretty creative bunch, really, in the Alt House. Small Person arts-and-crafts abound, with interesting shaped boxes being saved from the fate of recycling whenever castles, monsters or props for playing shop are required. I am a stitcher and sewer, and AltFather is pretty handy with his work bench and a jig saw. I still don’t reckon we make enough of it though. Isn’t it a shame that as adults most of us have reined in our creativity? A three year old thinks “what shall I do today” and heads for the pavement chalks. They aren’t worried about their skills at drawing, sometimes AltD1 decides what she’s drawn after it has come out on the page. Actually I might apply that to dinner sometimes !
We could all do with a bit of arts and crafts in our lives sometimes, in whatever way suits us… just don’t get me started on the glitter! 🙂
I was stunned recently when Alt.D1 turned on my laptop, clicked on CBeebies and set her favourite programme going! She’s been pressing the pause button for a while, but whoah, that took it to new extremes… parental controls here we come!
They needn’t have worried though. We had tonnes of stuff to do, and the furniture just points at each other. Most people don’t notice the lack of big black box in the corner. Maybe they think we have a TV room somewhere else in the
Whilst our friends and family looked on in mild amusement, either waiting for us to cave in or cheering us on from the sidelines, the TV Licensing Authority were a different kettle of fish. When I said earlier that I cancelled the TV Licence, it wasn’t quite that simple. Oh no. The thing is, they really don’t believe you when you click the box on the website that says something along the lines of “I don’t have a TV”. Are you sure? Are you absolutely sure? Uh, yes, thanks, I am sure! I would love one of their inspectors to come round – what are they going to do, look under the bed in case I’ve stashed a 60 inch flatscreen Panasonic Viera?
For those readers not in the UK, I should probably explain about the TV Licence. Here we have the BBC, which is funded by the unique method of a licence fee collected from every household which has a television and uses it to watch live television. I never really had a problem with the licence, and I really appreciate the fact that I can watch TV without any ad breaks, (yes, NO ad breaks at ALL!). Going TV free saves us £145 a year, but that wasn’t really the reason behind it.
Eighteen months on, I’ve just had a letter from the Powers That Be asking me to check whether I might have forgotten that I do in fact have a TV and failed to mention it to them… well I have checked, and no, I still don’t have one!
The sense of incredulous wonder is sometimes amusing when I mention we’re Television Free. The phone company rang me, trying to sell me their TV package. As the agent started her spiel, she asked:
“What sort of things do you like to watch on TV?”
“Oh, I don’t have one…”
“Um… err… what do you do?” The autocue didn’t cover that one, did it?!
Anyway, so we got rid of the TV. No biggie. Not really “turning into hippie types” (well no more than before, anyway!)
But I have been thinking a bit about whether television for kids is necessary at all. In France, they have banned the broadcast of programmes aimed at children under three years of age. The French authorities cite concerns for the children’s development. It’s hard to tell really, but there are now at least three generations of people most of whom have grown up with a television in their home. I’m not sure about stunting their development, but could it be stunting their creativity? On days when Alt.D1 has been allowed unfettered access to the BBC catchup service, the house stays strangely and sadly tidy. While I’ve been putting a crotchety baby Alt.D2 down for a nap, her big sister stays glued to the sofa. It does make me a bit sad.
And yet, I do feel that it’s important that the cultural references do not pass my girls by. A friend told me once she had met a lady at a dinner party who didn’t know who Winnie-the-Pooh was. We couldn’t quite work out how a person could get to their mid twenties and not know at least one incarnation of AA Milne’s tubby little bear. Even without a television, Alt.D1 knew who Iggle Piggle was as a child at nursery had a cuddly one… there’s no escaping, even if we want to. I remember fondly my own childhood television favourites, some of which can be found in online archives and most of which look really dated and low-tech now! (Fingermouse, anyone?). It is a part of growing up, so Alt.Father and I are not planning to take that away from our children.
We do tend to surround ourselves with technology, though, if not television in the Alt.House. I know that in the early days of Alt.D2, I would settle on the sofa to feed the baby, and reach for the laptop, balancing it on one end of the sofa and catching up with friends on Facebook. My mum looked at me once, and commented that she had never even read books when feeding us as babies; she thought she had to talk to us all the time. Well there’s no argument that it helped me to become a good talker… I wonder if my babies will be good emailers in their turn?
I recently took a break from Facebook, deactivating my account for a week so I could concentrate on preparing for a family event. It was an odd sensation, something definitely missing. Friends rang me, some texted “What’s wrong, hope you’re ok?”. Strangely, I just felt relieved. I have since gone back online, but I find I’m spending less time there, definitely for the good.
Which brings me to share with you the excellent blog of Rachel at Hands Free Mama. I read her blog and felt ashamed of myself for sometimes shushing my children as I checked my online messages. We live in a communication age these days, but maybe we could all just do with communicating a bit more with the people who are close to us. And maybe that should be by talking to them!
It may be incongruous, but Ctrl.Alt.Parent is now on Twitter. Follow me by searching for Alt Mother or #ctrlaltparent
|We actually did it!|
If you found this post interesting, you might also be interested in the Blog Carnival “Embracing my Birth Experience”. Look out for a friend of mine, Caroline, and her blog, which is featured.