moreshortstuff

Life, kids etc.

With great power comes great responsibility

Electric batterie brand Duracell.

A dangerous weapon in the hands of an imaginative child.

JUST a couple of years into being a parent, you develop what Peter Parker calls “spidey sense”.

Our four-year-old got my spidey sense tingling this morning when he walked into our bedroom at the crack of dawn and asked politely: “Can batteries break windows?”

Now that’s the kind of open-ended question that has the power to rouse you from your sleep instantly, isn’t it?.

To the uninitiated, ie the non-parent, it’s a plain enough question from an enquiring mind. But parents know it’s one of those iceberg questions – there is much more to it beneath the surface.

Experienced mums and dads know he wasn’t asking out of simple curiosity. Oh no. Our spidey sense and alertness to danger told us he was asking for a very clear reason. In fact, he may as well have declared: “I am planning something that is both off the wall and very possibly dangerous – that OK with you?”

Needless to say, both myself and my wife saw our parental spidey sense kick into overdrive and we sprung to attention.

Our many questions ended with: “And what are you hiding behind your back?”

To which he sheepishly revealed a handful of Duracell AAAs.

I have no idea where he got them.

We calmly explained that yes, batteries can break windows, and gave a gentle warning that whatever he was thinking of doing might not be such a good idea. He seemed happy with that and trotted off to leave us to catch up with our sleep.

I can only imagine he simply wanted to throw the batteries at the windows, for some reason. I’m not bothered what that reason is, though. One thing I have learnt over the past few years is not to spend too long wondering about what is going on in their tiny heads at times like this.

It pays not to worry too much about what type of window-battery madness they have dreamt up. Be zen about the whole thing, accept you will never understand their motivation for any oddball act and appreciate the fact your spidey sense alerted you to the danger which you were then able to avoid. Although that’s easy for me to say – not many parents are lucky enough to have such a sensible child. You know, one who checks with a grown up before hurling batteries at fragile glass. That’s what passes for sensible in a house with children.

UPDATE: When we went to put the TV on later that morning, we found the remote wasn’t working. Further investigation revealed the batteries had been removed.

 

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Angels guard us…from alien attack!

English: Alien invasion in Nercwys Pentre Bach...

May the Lord guard us from Daleks

“Daddy,” says four-year-old Eli one evening.

“Yes son?”

“If we don’t say our prayers the baddy aliens will get us.”

“Excuse me?” I said, somewhat surprised. I wasn’t expecting that to be honest.

What followed was quite a rambling  conversation so I’ll boil it down for you.

Eli has a learnt a prayer at school, to say at bedtime. It goes like this: “Lord keep us safe this night/ Secure from all our fears/May angels guard us while we sleep/ Till morning light appears.”

His understanding of what this prayer means is a bit, well, off the wall.

As he sees it, it’s essentially about asking the Lord to protect us. And what do we need protecting from? Overnight alien invasion of course!

This, in Eli’s mind, is the only thing it could possibly mean. The angels hang around, waiting to kick some alien butt. “If it’s not that,” he reasoned, “why does it say ‘angels guard us’?” Good point, small child.

“Children can need protecting from other things, ” I said. He shot me a look that said: “I absolutely refuse to believe anything you say.”

At this point my wife managed to supress her giggles long enough to join in too. “It’s a very old prayer Eli,” she explained. “And in the olden days there were lots of diseases and some people were  very poor so they needed protecting from bad bugs. I think  that’s what they meant.”

He didn’t believe her either.

When they first start learning about it, religion can be a funny thing for kids.  Ahead of my First Holy Communion as a six-year-old, legend has it I spent weeks blessing anything that moved and anything that didn’t – the dog, my Mum, cups of tea etc all got a holy and serene wave of the hand over them from time to time while I whispered a few incantations.

Catholics, eh!

Eli has his firm belief in a Higher Power, a force for good there to protect us. He is as readily accepting of this as he is, say, of his firm belief that animals can secretly talk.

Yet he refuses to believe our simple everyday explanations for all manner of things – we had to take him to a farm before he finally, reluctantly accepted milk came from cows.

On the one hand it’s this sort of thing that makes being a parent so rewarding. Seeing him grow up and learn new things each day and getting an insight into how the world works from the perspective of fresh young eyes has provided the Short family with some of our biggest laughs of recent years. Then there’s the warm, fuzzy feeling of satisfaction as he grasps new concepts  and ideas, as he grows and develops. Although it must be said this can backfire from time to time and destroy and semblance of childlike wonder. Example: when Mrs Short recently pointed to a particularly bright moon and asked him: “Can you see the man in the moon? Can you see his face?”

“Mummy,” he replied with disdain at her stupidity. “The grey bits are where meteorites have hit. It’s not a real face.”

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The curse of the child genius, part 17

English: Internationell road signs in Kungsträ...

Road signs provide lots of fun for the young enthusiastic reader

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE BOLTON NEWS, FRIDAY 24 FEBRUARY 2012
MY little boy loves reading.
Since starting school in September he’s really taken to the way different letters make different sounds and how they can go together to form words.
Anything with letters on, he tries to read.
I suppose we should be encouraging this but the reality is, his attempts at reading anything and everything have become a curse.
We can no longer leave the paper lying around. He picks it up and asks what this or that headline means. And it is never the funny story about a cat playing the piano or something – it will be the cruellest bit of news imaginable. That means me having to fob him off with a made up version of world events.
Syria, for example, is not the home of a brutal regime massacring innocents – this is not a suitable story for four-year-old ears. Syria is instead the name of a girl at big school who has got into trouble for being naughty.
But the fobbing off is nowhere near as easy as it was a few months ago. Before, when he asked what something said, I was quite relaxed about feeding him a load of porkies. “ It says boys under five need to be in bed for 7 o clock tonight or the police will come and take them away,” I could idly threaten.
Now that power has been taken away from me. “No it doesn’t,” he will confidently say.
We went for a bit of a walk the other day but what should have taken half an hour dragged on and on. The reason? His insistence on reading aloud every sign we passed. Every sign. Who knew there were so many signs along Moss Bank Way?
Every 20 yards we stopped for five minutes while he slowly spelt out each direction or advertisement.
A Bovis Homes development was easy. The Bridge in Astley Bridge Cricket Club slightly tripped him up. But he had no problem with the zumba classes that are being held there. Asda and the vets were easy. But the brown sign pointing to Thornleigh Salesian College blew his tiny mind. “It’s pronounced ‘Thornleigh’ and is the name of the college,” I told him. “And a college is a school for older boys and girls.”
“What’s shall-eastern then,?” he asked. “Salesian…errr, it’s a type of Catholic,” I guessed.
“What’s a Kaffer-lick then?” he asked.
Explaining Catholicism to a four-year-old is one of the oddest and most difficult thing I have ever attempted to do – and I say that as the son of an Irish Catholic who went to a Catholic school, where teachers and Catholic priests regularly explained Catholicism to kids.
I did wonder about fobbing him off with lies but thought that might cause problems with his Irish grandmother somewhere down the line. In the end I settled for a hotch potch of basic Catholic doctrine with some Star Wars plot lines thrown in. I think it worked. Although later on I did catch him asking his mum why Jesus didn’t use his lightsaber on Judas.
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Growing up is hard to do.

As I walked through Temple Bar after the meeti...

Do we ever really grow up?

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE BOLTON NEWS, FRIDAY 20 JANUARY 2012

ALMOST hidden among the plethora of pointless press releases to arrive on The Bolton News newsdesk this week was this gem:
“People in the North West don’t feel grown up until they hit 25, new research reveals.”
We opted not to use the, ahem, story, mainly because it’s a load of rubbish.
And anyway, is this really a shock? Surely I can’t be the only one who thinks people don’t actually grow up at all? Especially men. I am nearer 40 than 25 and still feel like a child most of the time. Most of my friends are immature idiots – and I mean that in a nice way!
If Mrs Short tells me off for spilling a drink on the carpet I sulk for an hour, just like I did when I was 10.
I am just as likely to sell the family cow for a handful of magic beans as I ever was.
I want to be all grown up and sensible now that I have children of my own but I can’t help it. When the kids dismantled the sofa and chucked all the big cushions on the floor to form a giant crashmat, then leapt off the windowsill onto it, I am ashamed to say I wasn’t chastising them about how they could hit their heads on the coffee table, or ordering them to put it all back – I was calling them names for not being brave enough to jump from the top of the bookshelf, and joining in myself.
Although the beauty of it is when the coffee table finally got cracked, I blamed it on the eldest boy and he missed his supper for telling lies about daddy. (Sorry son – one day you’ll understand why I had to do this).
I want to read important books in my spare time instead of shooting aliens on the Playstation. Or not think I’m John Travolta circa 1979 when I’ve had a few too many drinks. I want to – but I can’t.
Our bosses at work still have the same nicknames we gave to our teachers at school, don’t they?
In fact, the only people who are grown up were grown up even when they were kids.
When I was a little boy, like every child, I fell for the grown up myth.
I thought dads must get sent to some sort of secret dad school to learn skills like fixing leaks under the sink or assembling bikes.
Now I know we just fudge it and tell lies to our kids.
“Daddy, why are old films in black and white? “Err, because the world didn’t turn colour until 1971, son.”
It’s all lies. And the biggest lie of all is that we ever grow up.
Not just men, either – women too. Oh yes, they act all sensible with their “pregnancies” and “jobs”, but after being taken prisoner by a hen party in Cardiff in 2002, forced to wear pink fairy wings and dance on tables as they bayed for more, more, more, no one will ever convince me otherwise.
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Pina coladas and walks in the rain. Without pina coladas.

A pair of Wellington boots

If you don't have a pair of these, get some. They will come in handy.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE BOLTON NEWS, FRIDAY 6 JANUARY 2012
I’VE had this week off to look after the nipper before he goes back to school.
I seriously can’t wait to get back to work.
Normally, Mrs Short is on hand to keep a lid on things and make sure the day to day running of the family is all clockwork and tickety boo.
But this week, with her at work, it has just been me and the boy. And to tell you the truth, I’ve found it a bit of a struggle.
At work you can always snatch a five minute chat with someone, grab a coffee from the machine or even just nip to the loo.
I’ve not been able to do any of that stuff – he is relentless. He won’t let me out of his sight.
It feels like one of those East European stag dos where the stag gets handcuffed to a midget.
If I try to leave the front room for a minute he demands to come as well, or just shouts after me at the top of his voice until I come back.
Always asking questions, questions, questions, or just jumping on me. He loves jumping on me, especially when I least expect it. How can someone so small make me feel so much physical pain? Although when I said exactly those words to Mrs Short on her return from work, she shot me a look of pure evil and started banging on about childbirth or something. Whatever.
Anyhow, the fact the rain’s been a bit biblical this week has meant we have been largely stuck indoors too.
By Monday, I had run out of creative things to keep him occupied. There are only so many cookies you can bake or pictures you can draw. And for a kid who got 1,001 toys and games for Christmas, I‘m amazed that he hasn’t wanted to play with any of them this week.
By Tuesday we took down the tree and decorations a bit earlier than planned, just to give him something to do. Then we chopped it up for the recycling bin – he was surprisingly adept with an axe and saw for a four-year-old. Still, he was finished in 40 minutes and back shouting and jumping relentlessly.
By Wednesday I was going stir crazy so we chucked on our waterproofs and wellies for a ‘nature walk‘ in the woods near our house. We might as well have just got in a cold, muddy bath and started hitting each other with thorny brambles. It was awful. There was so much aimless trudging and so much water, it felt like I was in the Poseidon Adventure. If Gene Hackman’s part had gone to a chattering child in Ben 10 wellies, that is. We managed to get lost in a wood not much bigger than a football pitch, saw one nervous, wet squirrel, a crow (in the distance) and a bird’s nest with some beer cans in it.
When we got back we were wet, cold, muddy and covered in scratches.
But you know something? It was almost all worthwhile. For as we sat in front of the fire with our hot chocolate, he turned to me, smiled, and said: “I’ve had a brilliant week with you, Daddy.”
It melted my heart. These few days, I thought, encapsulated everything that fatherhood is about. Then he quickly followed it up with: “So now can I have a biscuit?”
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The nightmare before, during and after Christmas

Drunk Father

Another happy family at Christmas

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE BOLTON NEWS, FRIDAY 23 DECEMBER 2011
HAVE we all got some kind of collective amnesia? Here we are, just a couple of days from Christmas, parading around like it’s the happiest time of the year.
Surely we can’t all have forgotten the nightmare that was last Christmas, or the one before that, or the one before that?
So far this year, the only high point has been getting blind drunk on the night of the works’ Christmas do. But even that left me with a hangover so nasty it could have played the part of Frank Booth in the movie Blue Velvet.
The thing about Christmas is that you think it’s the nice guy and look forward to its arrival. But then it ends up running off with your wife, driving your car and living in your house, while you carry on paying the bills.
Advent calendars sum up the whole festive period quite nicely. Each new door has a lovely chocolate behind it and promises so much… except the chocolate isn’t real chocolate, it’s that cheap tasting “chocolate-flavoured candy”. Yuk.
As December 25 draws ever nearer, you get ever skinter, desperately trying to keep up with the demands Christmas places on you.
Even the lovely Christmas carols are there just to set up us to knock us down. The words to Silent Night may as well be “you can’t sing me, you tone deaf chump, so don’t bother trying to join in“. Can anybody who’s not Whitney Houston actually hit those high notes?
As for the scourge of the Christmas card
Now me, I‘m not a Christmas card sender as a rule.
It’s mainly because I hate the awkward lie you have to make up. You know the one I mean don’t you? The one where you’ve already handed out your cards to EVERYONE, then the quiet bloke in the corner at work hands you a card. So you lie: “Did I not give you yours? I must have left it in the car or something. I‘ll bring it in tomorrow.” You both know it’s a lie, you liar.
But all this pales into insignificance compared to Christmas Day itself.
Oh joy of joys – being woken at the ten past four in the morning by kids who are already bouncing off the walls because they’ve sneakily cracked open a selection box; having them crash down from the sugar high at 9am, and spend the next two hours whining about what they didn‘t get, and why they hate going to church; driving miles to see the family, feeling a bit ill from eating too much, and not being able to drink a drop because you’re driving back; having your tipsy family natter all the way through the Dr Who you’ve been looking forward to but forgot to Sky plus. Wonderful.
Me, I would much rather stay at home counting my money, like Scrooge. Except I haven’t got two pennies to rub together… because it’s bloody Christmas!
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Why I have resolved to make it a happy new year

National Guard Minnesota Performing push ups i...

I could soon be like this man

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE BOLTON NEWS, FRIDAY 16 DECEMBER 2011 
IN JUST a couple of weeks’ time it’s a fair bet that a good number of you will be fretting over your New Year resolutions.
Handing over your hard-earned cash to the new gym you are “definitely going to stick with this year”, perhaps passing on that fourth choc chip all butter shortbread biscuit when the plate comes round, that‘s what the first couple of weeks of January have in store for some of you.
Well with all the excesses of Christmas, it’s about time you got fit, you‘ll tell your pals.
Not me though. I’ll be skipping it this year. And the reason? It’s because I am way ahead of you.
I mentioned a couple of months ago how my wife and I had decided to shed a few pounds and even started a bit of healthy competition, if you’ll pardon the pun, with the winner of our Friday weigh in picking that night’s film (the nights just fly by in Chez Short, they really do).
Anyhow, it effectively means my New Year resolution kicked in in late September. ‘Ave it! as a much more famous, much fatter man than me might say.
I’ll be honest though, when I started the new regime, I expected to have a lot more to show for it by Christmas.
A few pounds have gone, sure.
Sadly, like all New Year resolutions, even those started in late September, they tend to frazzle out.
I am already eating like a pig again and then convincing myself that 10 push ups when I get up in the morning will cover it – then stand looking at the weighing scales in amazement when they say I’ve only lost a ounce at best.
My wife, bless her, kindly suggested that “maybe the fat has turned to muscle, which is heavier”.
She can afford to take pity on my rubbish efforts though.
For Mrs Short has turned into Jane Fonda. When she’s not doing a home workout with some psycho personal trainer on DVD she’s out running. Talk about dedication.
And she recently dropped this bombshell: “I’ve signed us up for the Great Manchester Run,” she breezily declared, between star jumps.
That means by May I have to be able to run 10k without dying. It’s no small task.
To help her, Mrs Short has been following an NHS podcast called “Couch to 10k” which starts you off running for just a minute or so in your first few days and builds up, over a few months, to the 10k mark. She’s six weeks in and going well.
Luckily, I‘ve found a similar programme online. It gets you up to 5k in six weeks. So by my reckoning I can just do it twice in a row, which means I don’t need to start it till February. Result!
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The magic of Christmas. Really.

christmas tree

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE BOLTON NEWS, FRIDAY 9 DECEMBER 2011

IT’S Christmas tree day tomorrow, when the Short family traditionally makes the annual trip to a car park to take our pick of hundreds of identical firs.
We will spend roughly an hour umming and ahhing over the right tree for us while the kids run around and occasionally come looking for us with tears in their eyes because they have fallen over, or been told off by a man.
We will select the tree, then find out it won’t fit in our car. Mrs Short will kick off when I suggest she stays with the kids for half an hour while I take the tree home – but will refuse to leave me with the children because she cannot manage to get the tree from the car to the house on her own.
We will then pay a man £10 extra to deliver the tree, then be out when it turns up late and make arrangements for it to come the following day instead.
When it finally arrives and we take the net off, the damn thing will take up half of the living room.
“It looks a lot bigger than the one we bought,” one of us will say.
Then it’s decoration time. The dust-covered baubles are removed from the loft, most of them broken because they were packed away in carrier bags and the heavy suitcases were then accidentally put on top of them at some point.
We manage to salvage enough of them to make the tree look presentable, hiding the rubbish ones the older child has made at school round the back of the tree, next to the wall where no one can see them.
Oh, the magic of Christmas!
I’m a bit of a humbug merchant if truth be told. I think we do Christmas too early and I think its place as a religious festival has all but disappeared.
I struggle to explain to my four-year-old boy what part Santa plays in Baby Jesus’ birthday celebrations.
In truth though, his understanding of the Christmas story is already pretty warped – he recently told us Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem “to kill the baddie king, Herod”.
The thing is, he’s appeared in a few nativity plays so should really have started to grasp the true meaning of Christmas by now. Although, now that I think of it, he was the only shepherd wearing a Ben 10 Omnitrix last year, which can’t have helped.
A few years ago, one of my young nieces became obsessed by the Christmas story and got very religious for a six-year-old. She walked around with her hands joined together, in prayer, for weeks, and would not do anything that could “make Baby Jesus cross“. It eventually wore off but when Easter arrived a few months later, she asked her grandad what it was all about. When he told her, it blew her tiny mind. “Baby Jesus is DEAD!!???“ she asked in stunned disbelief.
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A lesson in how not to holiday with children

English: The Passenger Oxygen mask of CA976 fl...

Yay! We get to have a go on the oxygen masks, Daddy!

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE BOLTON NEWS ON FRIDAY 2 DECEMBER 2011

Away on a family holiday this week for a special celebration.

There are 13 of us. Well it seemed like a good idea at the time…

We had to get special permission to take our older boy out of school for this but it has proven very educational. At least, it has proven very educational for the grown ups on the trip.

For me and Mrs Short, it’s the first time we’ve gone abroad with the kids. So the first thing I learnt was this: get a taxi to the airport. “Let’s take the boys on the train, it will be like an adventure starting for them,” we said. How wrong we were. Trying to force your way onto a packed train with a giant suitcase, pram and baby under one arm is the opposite of fun. But at least it prepares you for the hell of the plane.

If you’ve never flown with a baby in tow, my advice is don’t! I’m surprised there isn’t a book on this to prepare you, or at least a chapter on it in all those parenting guides you can get. But then again I suppose no amount of planning can prepare you for an infant filling his nappy in a confined space at 30,000 feet. Just as the ‘fasten seatbelts’ sign has gone on so that neither you or any passengers nearby can escape the sickening whiff for a good 20 minutes.

Mind you, it was our four year old who worried one of the passengers the most. You could hear the sobbing groan of despair from The Most Terrified Of Flying Woman In The World a row in front of us every time he asked a question that started with “Mummy, if we crash…” You would not believe how many questions can start that way. But he was so looking forward to crashing – you get your own oxygen mask and a life jacket with a light and a whistle on it and everything!

Finally we reach our destination and learn another new thing. Minibus drivers in some countries hate it when the passengers sing! He finally snapped at the 28th chorus of “The back of the bus cannae sing, cannae sing, cannae sing.” What a grouch!

The rest of the holiday so far has seen my learning curve continue to go up. I’ve always thought beaches sucked – what’s the point of going to a place just to get sand everywhere? – but they are even suckier with kids in tow. Did you know it can take upwards of an hour to find mummy’s bag when they have “buried it”. How we laughed. Other lessons have included: don’t let a child order octopus in restaurants, no matter how much they plead; the game of charades has limited appeal when ‘Spiderman’, ‘Cars 2‘ and ‘Batman‘ are the only films one of the other contestants can remember; your dad’s “theory” on the disappearance of Madelaine McCann sbould not be aired in a public bar; and kids are rubbish at poker. There are still a few days to go. Who knows what lessons still await?

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Me just man, me not to blame

English: Caveman stick figure.

Bring it on, chicks!

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE BOLTON NEWS, FRIDAY 25 NOVEMBER 2011
THE kids were in bed, I was cooking the tea and Mrs Short came and joined me in the kitchen for a chat.
Leaning against the back door, she suddenly piped up: “How many steps do you reckon it is to the front door.”
I thought for a second. “Eight -no nine.”
So off she set: “One, two…”. It was 16.
“There’s no way it’s 16,” I moaned. “You could have easy done it in nine.”
So she went back to the back door and took massive strides. It was nine steps.
“Yessss!,” I cheered.
“But I didn’t ask how many I could do it in. I asked how many it was,” she countered. “Taking normal steps.”
And there it was. My wife had unwittingly stumbled on one of the things that separates us men from the girls.
When she innocently wondered how many steps it would take to get from our back door to our front door, I heard: “I bet you I can walk from here to there and it will only take me so many steps to do it.”
It’s not my fault. It’s hundreds of thousands of years of evolution and survival hardwired into my brain.
It gives us that competitive spirit. And it doesn’t matter what insignificant task we are doing – we carry it out like we have something to prove.
Ladies, when you send your man to the shops for toilet rolls and tell him exactly what sort he must buy, does he come back with that type? Of course he doesn’t. “I got these ones instead, love, because they are quilted and were 15p cheaper,” he says. We always feel we have something to prove
You want another example? How about charity fundraising. In Bolton each year we have the Midnight Memories Walk for the hospice or the Race for Life – lots of women having fun and raising money, without an ounce of competitive edge. Men aren’t allowed to join in – because they’d ruin it.
Even when we’re raising money for charity, it becomes a battle of manliness. “Yeah, think I’ll get my chest waxed,” we say.
And Movember! Each year at this time thousands of men grow a moustache for cancer charities. We even turn that into a battle, comparing our massive hairyness to the wispy efforts of our weedier pals. “And it makes you look like a pervert,” we add, kindly.
That said, I’m a big fan of Movember and will be sad to see it go next week. I like seeing hairy-lipped strangers nod silently at each other in the street. And weird uncles actually fit in for a few weeks of the year.
The one year I did do it I gave my family and friends the chance to vote for the style of tache I’d sport. My grandmas and several elderly aunts were among those who sponsored me. Yet “Hitler-style” was beaten by just two votes in the end. My family has a weird sense of humour.
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