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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Mummy, cats and Robert Peston

Teach em' Young

Another child chooses to make an early start on learning how to write computer code after encouragement from Ofsted

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE BOLTON NEWS, FRIDAY 18 NOVEMBER 2011

MY YOUNGEST boy goes to a childminder on week days.
He is 18 months old now and loves it.
It helps that the childminder is recently qualified and therefore really keen.
Which means she has plenty of ideas for how to keep the kids (which is really just my boy and another toddler a few months older) busy.
They were learning about “the beach” recently so she took them to the seaside for a day. The petrol alone must have cost more than we pay her! As I said, she’s keen, and we’re reaping the dividends.
The little mite has come on leaps and bounds since he started going in September.
He knew two words back then: “mummy” and “cat”.
Now his vocabulary is huge, considering he’s still a baby. “Daddy” is in there at last. As is “more”, “rice crispies”, “please“, “socks”, “bear“, “pirate” and, oddly, “Chihuahua”.
Don’t get me wrong, he’ll still choose to watch “In the Night Garden” on Cbeebies rather than, say, BBC economics editor Robert Peston’s insightful analysis on Newsnight.
But the point is we’re really seeing a difference in the way he acts and interacts each and every day.
Sadly, it may have to stop.
Because Ofsted has suggested to our childminder that she could do more “child centred planning”. What that means is she needs to let the kids have more of a say in what they are learning about.
When she pointed out the kids are under two, they suggested – and this is absolutely true – holding a “brainstorming” session with the toddlers.
I’m not sure how you “brainstorm” with an 18-month-old child whose idea of fun is to pour porridge on his head, then scoop it up and put it in the fish tank. Then scoop it out and eat it.
But, God bless her, she said she’ll give it a go.
So her educational fun activities about the postman or growing vegetables may fall by the wayside.
Our educational leaders believe that perhaps the grown up with life experience may not always be best placed to decide on what a child should learn about.
The idea of giving our Jesse a say in his learning might be admirable on one level. But in reality it means the childminder is in for a long cold winter and her days filled with activities centred on mummy and cats.
Myself and Mrs Short know exactly how difficult this task is going to prove for the childminder. After all, we recently tried to give our older boy more of a say on what we do as a family at weekends. Sadly, while Bolton can boast a great many things, footballing robots made of chocolate that fire rockets at baddies is not something we were able to locate.
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