How on Earth Did We Get This Far?

As a blogger I get sent a lot of emails and over the course of the last month I have been offered three different GPS devices. Not a new sports watch or sat-nav for the car but three different devices all aimed at tracking your children.

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Now, don’t get me wrong, I know there will be children with special educational needs or disabilities where GPS tracking could be useful and very much needed but to aim a GPS tracker at every family just makes me think that the world has gone mad.

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The Headache of Adverts on Children’s TV

As a family we spend a lot of time watching Netflix now – our favourite shows – on demand, just one button to press on the TV remote and just so much easier than watching anything else. But, every so often the children want to watch something that isn’t on Netflix or we think putting normal TV on will be a bit of variety for them and so we cave to their demands and stick it on for a while.

Within half an hour of the children watching normal TV they have the same demands. “I want that Mummy…”, “Can we ask Father Christmas for this Daddy…”. It’s constant and relentless and I didn’t understand why the children were so focused on material things until I sat and watched normal TV properly with them. It was as if they had swallowed an Argos catalogue.

But, a few minutes of TV watching later and I could see why the children were so fixated on the latest toys. In between each ten or fifteen minute show there were a few minutes of adverts and the majority of the adverts were about toys – all featuring their favourite characters, their favourite brands and things that were so familiar to them but things that they didn’t own. Things they immediately wanted.

I am well aware that LP and Little Man are incredibly fortunate with the amount of toys they get to review but we also have quite a high turnover of toys – reviewing them and then a few months later giving them to friends or the charity shop – only the most favoured ones are kept indefinitely. I don’t want the children to grow up spoilt and expecting things – they know that the toys we have are part of my job, they know a lot of other children don’t get everything they get and so they understand that we can’t keep everything that we’re sent, that other people might like and appreciate it instead.

The children also get pocket money and save it to then buy things with it and they always have two or three things to ask Father Christmas for – not huge lists but just a couple of things that they’d really love. But, adverts on TV make them want more. It makes that list of things they’d like get longer and longer and it makes them say they want things rather than they would like things. It’s all very me, me, me and want, want, want.

I don’t know whether it’s subliminal messaging or the music on the adverts but whatever it is turns the children into noisy, materialistic little people who have forgotten the value of things, have forgotten how much they already have and don’t appreciate that things need to be worked for or saved up to buy.

For me, adverts on children’s TV are a terrible thing. I work so hard to make the children understand that they can’t have everything that they would like the minute that they decide they want it. We work to make them understand the value of money, the concept of saving up for things and choosing wisely when they part with that money.

But then the adverts come on the TV and shatter everything the children have learnt and make them so blinkered that in that moment all they can see is that toy – and that is all that matters in life. In that moment they would swap their beloved cat for that toy and wouldn’t look back.

Those TV adverts are like drugs to a child and that is just another reason why we’ll be sticking with Netflix and moving away from commercial TV channels. A house without TV adverts is definitely a nicer one where the children are concerned.

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I Want To Give Blood

Before having children I started giving blood – and also signed up to the bone marrow register. I managed to donate blood six times before I had to stop due to pregnancy and breastfeeding. I’ve always wanted to give blood, to give something back and to do my bit to help people and I’m now at the point where I can have time by myself for long enough to go and donate again.

So, I dug out my blood donation card with my donor number on it and I tried to sign into the website but sadly a system update meant I had to reregister – but the National Blood Service staff were really helpful, updated all my details – as I had got married and moved house since I last donated – and gave me the information I needed to register again.

I registered and immediately loved the new website – it’s so much more intuitive than it had been a few years back. But then I searched for an available appointment to give blood.

The website searches for the nearest venues within 3-4 miles of where you live – further I guess if you live in a rural area – and tell you the next available date. When I searched for an appointment the next blood donation session was about 15 days away but, when I looked for an appointment they were fully booked.

I looked at other locations and they were all fully booked. They all had limited walk in availability but, with a job, a blog, two children and a shift working husband I can’t walk in to the venue and sit and wait. I need an appointment to fit my life around it and so I booked the next available appointment.

On 24th January.

When I go and give blood I can only donate every four months and yet, to donate for the first time I have to wait over three months. Is it just me that thinks that’s crazy?

I thought, and still think, that the country needs people to donate blood. There are people having transfusions every day and the blood supply could run out if people don’t keep donating. But, for people like me to donate there needs to be the appointment availability to be able to go and donate.

I have to wait three months to donate and in that time I could already donated, only having to wait an extra month before donating for a second time. Yet, those three months are wasted and if it’s the same for everyone else registering to give blood, to go and try and do a good deed, that’s a lot of blood that the blood bank is missing out on. I just hope that the three month – or longer in some cases – wait doesn’t make people decide against donating, put it off for even longer or wait until nearer the time only to find that there’s a four, five or six month wait when they get around to trying again.

If the National Blood Service want people to donate they need to make it more accessible, they need to have more sessions or more appointments available at the sessions. I know, budgets etc. But, blood is a pretty critical thing, isn’t it? Plus, you can’t grow it, make it or buy it. You need people, people willing to spend just a few minutes giving blood and I am sure if it was easier more people would do it.

My appointment is booked for January, I just wish I could give blood sooner.

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Do You Ignore Other People’s Children?

Not surprisingly, I spend a lot of time with LP and Little Man. When the children are at home with me we might do the typical things like going shopping, to the post office and generally running errands before having a couple of hours at the park or soft play.

On these normal days the children talk constantly. They talk to me and they talk to anyone else too. If LP has got a new top, new shoes or, on one occasion, a new watch she will spend the whole day showing those new things to everyone she meets, asking them to look at it and telling them about it.

Other days, when there isn’t anything new LP and Little Man will both wave at people in the shops, saying “Hello man!” cheerily or just bouncing up and down. They are both incredibly sociable little things and love to greet people, talk to them and make them smile.

I always watch the children when they’re interacting with random people and it’s amazing how differently people react to them. Some will smile, say hello and treat the children as equals, making conversation and wishing them a nice day at the end.

Others will smile politely and hurry on with their business, not really knowing what the correct etiquette is when greeted by a four year old standing in a shopping trolley. But others make me sad.

There are quite a few others who will point blank ignore the children. Who will act as if they are not there and even when the children say hello again those people won’t even look in their direction. There have been times at soft play where Little Man has been playing with another child and will start to talk to the child’s parent. The parent looks at him whilst he is talking and then, when he has finished, will look away as if he isn’t even there. Not even attempting to understand him or give any sort of reply.

When we’re in soft play and another child talks to me, I’ll reply. If a child in the supermarket says hello, I’ll smile and say hello back before smiling at the child’s parent too, letting them know that I don’t mind the little interruption on my shopping trip. If a child talks to me I treat them like an equal, I don’t think of them as just a child but as another person, an individual in their own right and someone who deserves my time, my focus and enough respect to not be ignored.

Would those people ignore a colleague at work? Would they look away if a neighbour said good morning to them? Would they completely blank a friendly shop assistant when buying their weekly shop? I doubt it. So why do people treat children so differently?

Children learn about how to treat people by the way they are treated. They soak up every little interaction and I know that I want Little Man to keep chatting, to have those random conversations and to keep being that confident little boy. I don’t want him to think that he’ll be ignored, that his words don’t matter or that people will have something better to do than listen to him.

Next time a small child asks you something in soft play or shouts hello in the supermarket, take a moment to reply or smile at them before carrying on with your day.

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Older Children and Pushchair Judgement

What age should children stop using a pushchair? What age were your children when they stopped using a pushchair? For us, there is no end in sight to our pushchair days and it’s something I thought I should write about.

LP is going to be five in August. Little Man has just turned three. So we should be nearly pushchair free, shouldn’t we?

Well, no. We shouldn’t.

You see, using a pushchair is pretty much like every other parenting decision – when to stop breastfeeding, when to stop using bottles, when to get the children into a set routine, when to potty train. Using a pushchair is just the same – there is no right or wrong answer.

LP has always been really petite and lacks stamina when walking. Her walk to school is a mile each way and often it is just too much for her so we have been using our Silver Cross Surf and buggy board since she started preschool. This means that every day Little Man is in the pushchair as he can’t really walk long distances either.

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When the next school year starts in September, and Little Man starts preschool, we are going to try and get rid of the buggy board, using a simple stroller to take Little Man to preschool and LP can walk by the side. We’re hoping by that point she’ll be more used to walking that distance and it won’t be as hard for her. Then, when the time comes, Little Man can walk to school too – it’s a shame he can’t use a buggy board himself – the problem with being the last baby!

But the school run is only one of the times we use a pushchair. We also use a double stroller when we go on long days out – on our regular trips to Legoland, to National Trust properties or on a trip to the seaside. Neither LP or Little Man can endure a whole day out without at least a spell or two in the pushchair and it has space for all our bags, coats and other stuff underneath too, making a day out easier for all of us.

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But on those days out, where we have a nearly five year old and three year old in a double stroller, we do attract attention. Mainly because, despite their age difference, LP and Little Man can pass as twins and people often comment on that. When I say no, there’s 20 months between them people do the maths and ask which is older, and I then say that LP is nearly five, Little Man is three and they typically give the stroller a double take – or, sometimes, comment on the fact we’re still using a pushchair.

They don’t comment out of interest or curiosity, they comment because they are taken aback that we would still be using a pushchair with a child aged nearly five. Their comments or questions are heavy with judgement and, the first time, made me feel like I was doing something wrong and made me think that, maybe, at nearly five, LP shouldn’t be using a pushchair.

But then I looked at our life. I looked at LP and Little Man and I realised that actually I know what is best for them and I know a time will come where we won’t be using the pushchair any more, the children will be able to walk longer distances and won’t get so exhausted on a long day out. The children will walk to school and they will hop, skip and jump between the rides at Legoland and our pushchair days will be long behind us.

But for now we will keep doing what suits our family. We’ll use a pushchair and a buggy board for the school run – at some point dropping the board. We’ll use a double buggy on long days out and in time that will stop to.

Before I know it we’ll be carrying backpacks of stuff rather than putting it under the pushchair, we’ll be carrying school bags and we’ll have much more space in the car boot. But until then we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing.

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