Friday, 29 June 2012

Summer fairs and barbecues

The last weekend of June seemed to be extremely busy for all kind of summer events. There were school fairs everywhere, including our village, and other summer events. I and Number One Son took the full advantage of the convenient coincident when the local Finnish midsummer celebrations and a village carnival in Thurlaston were on the same day. Although the weather forecasts were suggesting an overcast day with rain in early evening, we stayed dry.

The only drawback was that Number One Son was much more interested in other children’s toys in the garden of our headmistress than any event on the village green. Similarly, biscuits were preferred over the country dance presentation by the local elementary school children. I had to drag Number One Son away from the toy cars in order to see the Melton Mowbray brass band performing. Agility show was no big hit either; an old-fashioned roundabout was much more fun. The entertainment was provided by dropping Number One Son’s coat in the green. I had not even realized losing it but I heard a tannoy announcement about a yellow and black coat, probably fitting a three-year-old. A trip to the announcement car was fruitful and we left the green with all our possessions.

The only event Alex got really excited about was the crafts marquee. Unfortunately, I had left my purse in my rucksack in the headmistress’s house; thus, I had to convince Number One Son to pass the tables selling cup cakes, jewellery, postcards, knick-knacks and ceramic arty items very quickly. The floor surface of the marquee was a mud swell and I felt I really should have put my old shoes on. Now my better leather shoes are caked with mud and require thorough cleaning. Nevertheless, I managed to flavour this very sympathetic carnival before heading to our Finnish barbecue.

The midsummer barbecue was a very civilized event; after all, most people had to drive to Thurlaston. At least one mother did drink the obligatory midsummer beer. The barbecue was very successful though since there were a couple of new families who had just recently moved to the area with their boys. This suggests that the future of the Finnish Saturday School will be very noisy indeed. However, Number One Son just kept running around with Number One Girl Friend and her older sibling. Even if he hardly remembered to eat, I was content he got definitely enough exercise this Saturday!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

To speak or not to speak

Finally we had the home visit from the speech therapist. She felt more positive this time around since Number One Son was not grumpy after having woken up from his nap but was happily taking eye contact and bubbling away in his own special toddler language. Nevertheless, I was left unsure about her advice since basically the first thing she said was that Number One Son finds words in different languages difficult and I should do more speaking in English in order to avoid making him confused and undermine the interaction he has in English in the nursery. When asking about his ‘baby talk’, I said that the intonation do not sound that of Finnish and volunteered to show her a bit of a Finnish-voiced DVD in order to give her a sample. She declined and was joking that she has enough to do with just English. Since she is advising a lot of parents with English as a second language and mixed bilingual families, I found this lack of interest in understanding how different the language sounds her customer hears at home alongside English puzzling and slightly alarming. How can I trust the validity of her advice when it is served on the basis of one viewing and she shows no interest in the first language? He statement sounded more like a sweeping general opinion than advice based on evidence.

It is clear that Number One Son has chosen English as his language of communication even if he says ‘No’ in plain Finnish at suitable moments. It is a positive development that he interacts more verbally and sometimes I can catch clear sentences. Like one day this week he said ‘How are you?’ to a friendly cat when we went for a short walk in a nearby residential estate. He understands my Finnish sentences most of the time – or at least part of the time. He is also happy to watch Incredibles or Shrek2 in either language. Naturally, I have to support his wording when he says ‘car’ or ‘more’. This has to happen in English but I do not want to drop Finnish chat altogether or not saying the same things in Finnish in order to underline bilingual situation in our family. After all, I want to support the development of his spoken English and widen his vocabulary but offer Finnish stimulation and an opportunity to maintain some level of Finnish understanding in the future.

Luckily, we had a play date with Number One Finnish Girl Friend recently and the Finnish midsummer celebrations are just around the corner. This means that Number One Son will hear other people speaking Finnish – and other Finnish children chatting in English. Apparently, there will also be two new male toddler arrivals from Finland so there will be truly Finnish-speaking boys available in the future for play dates. In addition, now when the potty training is almost done, we can start playing with memory games and naming different animals, colours and objects in children’s books In English and Finnish on a more regular basis. If only he wanted to take part into these educational activities all the time. He does not necessarily respond in a way he is supposed to.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Success at last?

Number One Son has finally overcome his fear of potty and is now voluntarily pulling his jogging bottom and pants down after fetching the potty himself and before sitting down for a wee. Every time he does this fills us with pride whereas every time he still poos his pants fills us with fear. It is a messy life and one has to have rags and disinfectant ready all the time.

The final change came after his nursery stopped taking him to the potty hourly. He fought this practice to the mutual frustration of both parties. It took about a week for him to settle down after a continuous struggle against the pot but then he started to make real progress. Now he collects an occasional star at the nursery when he manages to go to the potty or alert the personnel using his own initiative. He does not still speak properly but his take on the crossed feet is recognisable to those with the ‘know’.

Number One Son even uses both his potties, which means that we can use the smaller one ‘on the go’. He still loathes normal toilet bowl that is visibly too high for him. He occasionally wees standing there but he has now taken his cues from his peers and is sitting down. He just cannot keep his balance and the sight of a baby toilet ring makes him scream.

The most problematic issue is that he still does not go to the potty when he needs to poo but just ‘lets it go’. I chatted with a fellow mum when on a play date and her daughter is exactly the same. It apparently hurts to poo and the children find it VERY uncomfortable and do not wish to sit. They also know that the parents will clean up...

Additionally, poor Number One Son keeps getting confused every now and then and it is totally our fault. It has been the celebration season with the Jubilee, not to mention the ongoing birthday season in the nursery, with parties in both public places and private houses. There has also been occasional baby gym over the half-term. You cannot expose other people’s carpets or ball pits or bouncy castles full of other children to the unreliable spurts of poo or wee. It is totally unacceptable and unhygienic. Thus, sometimes you have to put a nappy on. Afterwards you risk a few occasions of random peeing and pooing either as a protest of changing standards or as a sign of confusion.

Before I had Number One Son I never thought I would write a series of posts about potty training but it is hard work! It was something we did not know absolutely anything. Now we know that potty training is different for every child and succeeds at different ages. Maybe this blog will be read by somebody that is or will be in the same position as we were – totally clueless mature parents – and will find solace that they are far from being alone in this. Another fellow mum admitted that potty training her daughter took a long time and it was not necessarily straight forward. And girls do it earlier and quicker normally! Naturally, it does make you look infantile, mundane and downright unsavoury to an outsider, i.e. a childless person, when you are chatting away with other parents about nappies and potties but alongside any work trip or ghant chart for your plans it is something to juggle in a parent’s everyday life. Certain responsibilities come with parenthood – your fridge and fruit bowl cannot be left empty as it could be when there was only one or two of you.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Memories forever?

When asked which people’s first memories are, most answer remembering something that happened when they were three or four. In exceptional cases people remember events from the time they were around 18 months of age. The festivities taking place for the Jubilee may thus be recorded in Number One Son’s memory.

Number One Son in the streetparty (photo by Archaeologist Husband)

Has it been memorable this far? We attended a street party but the grey weather seems to have flattened the atmosphere a bit. Nevertheless, the free bouncy castle and the company of Number One Cousin and other children seemed to cheer him up. Bouncy castles are the staple of all children’s parties so I am not sure if they are so memorable that it sticks to his mind for forever. Naturally, we were anywhere near the Jubilee float that was something truly unusual but it probably looked better on TV than would have along the grey banks of the Thames. The Jubilee concert or the parade would have been something different but the crowd on the Mall could have been frightening - and more to the parents to lose the quick Number One Son.

The marvellous sunshine welcomed the Anstey Picnic in the Park but again the bouncy castle was on offer. Number One Son is developing a habit of wrestling with other children plus hanging holding older children’s legs. I am not sure these habits bring any happy memories to the recipients and one has to try to wean Number One Son out of it. These things are not necessarily truly memorable and a toddler may not appreciate a large crowd with their deck chairs and tables on a village green. However, running around with a nursery friend brought him visible happiness.

Picnic in the Park (photo by Archaeologist Husband)

When I think about my first memories, they all involved a trauma. There was the osprey that attacked our large lounge window seeing its own mirror image that had to be put away by police while I and my mother were huddling in the toilet. There was the birth of my baby brother when I was three and a half. There was the time when I learnt the meaning of a cactus while on a play date. Then there was the occasion when my tongue froze to an iron handle I licked when it was below zero during the winter. I assume this Jubilee did not involve any event of that memorability.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Cultural differences and confident little boys

It seems that the life guards at the local swimming pool have a new manager since I and another mother of a small strong and lively boy have been told off because our toddler sons run from the baby pool to the children’s pool. We both have taken our sons to the swimming pool from as early as recommended around three months of age and they both are very confident if not head strong. For months they have been allowed to run back and forth. Even if their behaviour irritates us mothers, we allowed it to happen since we trust our sons and know they need to burn their energy in a safe environment.

However, now we have to start a new routine with walking hand-in-hand from one pool to another and trying to figure out when our son wants to switch the pools. I managed to keep Number One Son under my influence this time around. The other mother did not manage as well and was given a notice when her son was walking alone and joining the baby pool. As this mother pointed out, stopping her actually made her joining her son later than would have happened otherwise. During this 'telling off time' Number One Swimming Buddy had already made it to the water in the baby pool.

I must say I ignored wilfully the signs saying ‘No running’, since I had been extremely happy when Number One Son had finally learnt to walk and run. I also hoped him to burn his daily energy in a sporty environment. Now I feel a bit embarrassed since I did not properly think the safety aspect and did not recognize that the other mothers did not let their children run. It took a swimming instructor to tell me to consider changing his behaviour. In the end it is good I now have to start educating Number One Son properly about how to behave. It just takes some determination not to wither when he gives a tantrum or pretends to cry. After all, he understands eventually that you are not supposed to run across a parking lot or break the rules.

Nevertheless, I think cultural differences may partly be in action. In Finland the children are supposed to become independent and be able to do things on their own. There is no legal requirement for parents to be with their children or organize a chaperon when they are school age and definitely not until they are twelve or so as in Britain. Most Finnish women work and the children manage to be safely at home after they return from school. The school does not start until they are seven so they have plenty of time to learn how to behave at home by then. My perception is that there is less expectation to perform before seven but more so after this watershed. This may be the reason the first-year undergraduates in Britain at the university seem more childish than in Finland.

I myself try to teach Number One Son to walk without holding my hand all the time since I have to be able to reach products in the supermarket or take a letter to the village post office. Nevertheless, on the same day as Number One Swimming Buddy was having his way, Number One Son did a runner in the supermarket and I could not find him for five minutes. After panicking I asked a shop assistant and she could see some action further afield. Two other assistants were coming to our direction and they could tell me that my son had been found. They found him very cute when he had entered their Jubilee tea party set up and was blowing party whistles, helping himself with the tea cups and was visibly excited about the bunting. I am afraid that being restrained unexpectedly in one familiar environment makes him to rebel in another.