moreshortstuff

Life, kids etc.

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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