How to have fun like a 4 year old

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  1. Puddles are for jumping in, not walking around. Even if you are not wearing rainboots. Or any kind of footwear.
  2. Ask for dessert first. Ask for dessert at any time of the day, including as a reward for eating breakfast.
  3. The moments between undressing for a shower and actually getting into the shower are for practising your best dance moves.
  4. You can play hide and seek with a dog.
  5. When eating oranges, it is compulsory to flash an orange slice smile.
  6. There is always enough time to stop and play in crunchy, crispy Autumn leaves.
  7. Most things can be used as a lightsaber for Jedi battles. If you can’t find anything, use an outstretched arm, preferably (but not necessarily) your own.
  8. When invited to a Superhero party, a Ninja Turtle-Superman hybrid is a perfectly valid costume choice. If a fellow Superhero doesn’t think so, it’s not you that needs to change.
  9. When you go to kiss someone on the cheek, lick them instead. If you do this only once out of every three times, you are more likely to catch them off guard.
  10. Whenever you hear a song you love, reach your hands out to the nearest person and say, Let’s dance!

©2018 Seetha Dodd

Very very very!

My 7 year old brought his Writing book home at the end of last year. I gleefully flicked through his Year 1 literary journey and stopped at this short story about a fidget spinner (that popular and controversial toy of 2017):

very

Ignoring the minor spelling and punctuation challenges, and partially removing the Mum Bias lens, this story has everything you could ask for. Excitement, imagery, intrigue, potential bloodshed. What worries me though, is that his lovely teacher crossed out what she saw as excessive emphasis on the speed of this fidget spinner.

Just one very is enough.

What???

First of all….if one ‘very’ is enough why leave two? But more importantly, I DISAGREE! One ‘very’ is not enough to describe the mental picture in his head. That blue fidget spinner was OUT OF CONTROL! One ‘very’ just would not cut it. One ‘very’ couldn’t possibly demonstrate the danger, the climax of this nightmare. We need more ‘verys’ in our lives, not less. Don’t hold back. Wholehearted emotion.

One day soon, he will know how to use words like extremely, exceptionally, terrifically, remarkably, mightily. (Perhaps from an online thesaurus like I just did.) But until then, he absolutely, definitely, must, must, must! use words in whatever way he chooses, to express himself. Yes, rules are rules, but artistic licence makes your words s~p~i~n off the page and explode in your face.

©2018 Seetha Dodd

Whining, Dining & Finding Waldo

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The days between Christmas and mid-January feel like time has been frozen still. Which used to be fitting in Glasgow where it was actually freezing but a bit odd in 30ºC Sydney heat.

We fall into a comfortable bubble of eating, drinking and being merry. A parallel universe in which the weekly timetable does not include 6 different scheduled sporting activities, there is no set time for the preparation/eating of morning tea and childcare cannot be outsourced. It’s as if someone hit the Pause button, and I love it.

The days become all about family, holidays, family holidays, magical moments, friends, an excessive amount of chocolate, the perfect amount of cheese, a fair bit of whining, a fair bit of wondering when the daycare reopens and therefore inevitably: wine.

Along with all the whining, there are opportunities for discovery. With the gift of a fluid calendar and those beautiful words, Let’s play it by ear, there are limitless chances to create and wallow in magic.

The 3 year old’s new favourite book is Where’s Waldo. In the ‘normal’ world, this would be a nightmare of a bedtime story because there is no scheduled end. You can’t say The End – Night night! until you find all those elusive Waldos (Wally in most countries).

But in this period of limbo, as we sit snuggled up on the sofa searching for bespectacled Waldo, I find that I don’t want to spot him too quickly. I want us to take our time. Giggle over the decoys on the page. Swap places so we can each try the other half of the book. Pretend I haven’t already spotted him so we can prolong this bliss. Enjoy the 3 year old’s delight at my lack of needing to be somewhere else. Let’s do it again, Mummy! 

So as it turns out, I don’t just find Waldo. I find a reason to hit the Pause button. Even post- January.

© 2017 Seetha Dodd

You can’t handle the tooth!

Dear Tooth Fairy,

Thank you for your visit to our home this week. We have a happy (toothless) 7 year old despite your somewhat questionable performance of late.

I fully understand the magnitude of your job and the vast geographical area you have to cover but a little consistency wouldn’t go amiss. This is, after all, your sole vocation and the very purpose for your existence. And frankly, we need to talk.

Over the years, we have had teeth fall out in dramatic and not-so-dramatic ways. Sometimes the tooth is wobbly for 2 weeks and then just drops out mid-sentence. At other times there is more excitement, a more theatrical story worthy of a school News item or a parental Facebook post. We have had a tooth fall out in the swimming pool (and remarkably retrieved), one fall out whilst eating corn on the cob, and one fall out on the soccer pitch mid-game (and sadly lost forever despite my attempts to comb the area like a sniffer dog).

These prized possessions are carefully placed under pillows in various forms: in sealed sandwich bags, in pretty jewellery boxes, with a special thank you note, and – for the optimistic – just loose, kept in place by the weight of a hopeful little head.

When that tooth fell out on the soccer pitch, the 7 year old was distraught.

‘If I can’t put it under my pillow, how will the Tooth Fairy know that I’ve lost it?’ he wailed.

‘How about we write her a letter?’

So we did. We told you exactly what happened, we gave you an address and a description of the pitch as well as coordinates of the incident so you could retrieve the tooth. We put that letter under his pillow and crossed our fingers.

My kids go to bed all excited at the promise of you, mythical creature, visiting at night to collect the prized tooth (or letter of explanation) and leaving, as a reward for this amazing feat of nature, monetary compensation.

I’m not sure if you are just too busy, too tired or have a glass of wine and just forget, but there have been too many instances of a child running into my bedroom at 6am with the tooth in hand and a trembling lower lip, crying that you didn’t come. Do you know how heart-breaking that is? Do you know how terrible that makes me feel? This is a parenting fail that is much, much worse than ‘incomplete baby book’ or ‘Happy Meal for lunch’.

I then have to make up all kinds of excuses for your incompetence. The one I end up having to use most often is that you were a bit clumsy and the money must have fallen behind the bed. I ask the child to wait in my room while I investigate. And sure enough, there it is, a gold coin (or note depending on the guilt factor) under the blanket, on the floor or sometimes tucked inside the pillowcase.

There is still a minor problem. I present the money (my money) to the child and explain the situation. But a 7 year old understands the concept of a fair deal.

‘Why didn’t she take the tooth?’

This is how one little lie can lead to another. And I blame you for it, Miss Fairy.

‘Maybe she had enough teeth this week. Maybe she wanted you to keep it because it’s so beautiful. Maybe she will come back for it tomorrow.’

We’re keeping up our end of this contract. You, however, are falling short, and I am sick and tired of cleaning up your mess.

I recommend a performance improvement plan. Otherwise you may be relegated to the ranks of ‘Mythical Creatures We No Longer Believe In’ like Santa Claus.

Oh, and you owe me lots of tooth money, with interest. I’ll be in touch.

©2017 Seetha Dodd

What would MacGyver do?

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There is a perpetually hungry 7 year old in my house. His favourite question is What can I eat? If I had a dollar for every time he uttered these words, I would be able to hire a personal chef.

His hobby is raiding the fridge and/or the snack cupboard. With each visit, he lowers his standards and therefore increases his options.  Much like a visit to Tinder in the dating world, I imagine.

What can I eat?  Yes he’s a growing boy. But he’s not, presumably, growing into a giant. Or a beanstalk. If you saw him eat, though, you would have your doubts.

I am also amused (in an eye-rolling kind of way, not ROFL – that’s ‘Rolling On the Floor Laughing’ for the non-texters amongst us) at this recurring situation:

He is happily creating a Lego masterpiece worthy of an architecture accolade/ watching educational and age appropriate television programs playing Score Hero on his iPad (let’s keep it real). The minute he sees me, even if I have just cleaned the house from top to bottom/ completed a 10km run cleared the dishes from lunch (still keeping it real) I hear those words:

What can I eat? It’s as if the sight of me triggers in him some kind of brain-stomach-brain message. I’ll assume it does not mean that I look like I’ve just eaten a heavy meal or that I must have easy and constant access to food, but instead understand that he sees me as his nurturer, provider of nutrition, maker of Milo, creator of school lunches. So I resist the urge to respond with Well, what can you make? and instead, make him his 42nd snack of the day.

You know the 80s American TV show where the guy with the mullet gets out of tricky situations using only what he finds around him plus a Swiss Army Knife and duct tape? Yes, MacGyver! How did you…oh, oops, post title. Anyway, I try to apply that kind of skill to my meal preparation. Without the duct tape, of course.  Unless too many people under 5 feet start asking me when dinner will be ready.

The challenge is greater if a grocery shop is due. But the formula is tried and tested.

  1. Survey the surroundings – fridge, pantry, kitchen counter, random items conveniently lying around
  2. Plan the strategy (recipe)
  3. Execute the MacGyver Meal under pressured conditions.

The Japanese have a word for allowing the chef to decide your menu: omakase, or ‘I’ll leave it up to you.’ Unbeknown to us all, this custom is practised every day in my kitchen. Being neither Japanese nor a real chef, the power of omakase may have unwittingly gone to my head. So If I am asked What are the choices? I very firmly say ‘Your choices are Take it or Leave it.’

But back to my 7 year old Very Hungry Beanstalk. A week before his birthday this year I asked him what he would like as his birthday meal. ‘I’ll make you anything you like,’ I said boldly, confident that he would not ask for stuffed zucchini flowers or anything that required a sous vide machine. I imagined having to Google ‘how to make sous vide chicken without a sous vide machine’ before I snapped myself out of that culinary horror. He looked at me with his big brown eyes and said:

Fish fingers.

‘Are you sure?’ I asked, a little disappointed that none of my Big Gun meals were his favourite, and also because my flamenco apron would not be required for fish finger ‘cooking’.

Yes.

Two days later I asked him again. “You know I said I would make you anything you wanted. How come you said ‘fish fingers’?’

He looked up from his Pokemon cards to say: Because it’s easy to make.

And then I knew. He is growing at an alarming rate. Into a kind and considerate human being. I had no choice but to make the best damn fish fingers the boy had ever tasted.

©2017 Seetha Dodd

All the time…

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Parenting is about balancing the #winning with the #notwinning. My three year old social butterfly had two birthday parties to attend in one weekend. At the first party, he sat down with his little friends to have a piece of birthday cake and as everyone else tucked in with their fingers, my child asked for a fork, much to the amusement of all the other parents who complimented his lovely table manners. This is a boy who, in his regular habitat, picks his nose, wipes it on your clothes and then calls you a ‘Boogerhead’. More social Ninja Turtle than social butterfly, really.

Whatever pedestal I put him and his cake-eating etiquette on came crashing down however, when at the second birthday party – a beautiful ‘English high tea’ in the park on a glorious Spring day – he asked the birthday boy’s mum (before I could stop him because I saw there weren’t any) for his party bag. You win some, you lose some.

But he is very winsome, and I suppose that helps. Instead of ‘I love you, Mummy’, this boy says ‘I love you ALL THE TIME, Mummy’, perhaps to remind me that his love is unconditional and so should mine be regardless of unfortunate barefoot Lego or Sudocrem-on-sofa incidents.

Lessons from a three-year-old can make you stop in your high-speed tracks quicker than any mindfulness guru ever could. As we walk home from daycare, he asks to have a play date with one of his daycare buds. Before I can answer, he looks at me with an expression much too supportive and considerate for a three year old and says ‘Another time, Mummy?’

Another time. Do I say it so often that he knows and expects the phrase as a given? Requests for play dates, to blow bubbles in the ‘park with the horsies’, to watch Boss Baby (again), to have a lightsaber battle just before bedtime, to have French toast for breakfast on a weekday……are these activities all held by him in the realm of future fun?

I realised that all the rushing from one task to another meant I was forgetting that the time is now. Time to stop and embrace the sweet delight of a child who knows how to live in the moment. Time to say ‘yes’. ‘You mean later, Mummy??’ He is earnest and wide-eyed at the glorious prospect of spontaneity. No, right now. Get your bubble mixture, let’s do it. Those horsies are waiting.

#allthetime

©2017 Seetha Dodd