Blogs and Girls

This is my youngest son, Isaac:

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Yes, that’s right, he’s my son. I am well aware that he is extremely pretty, and has long hair, but he is still very much a little boy (believe me, he mentions his willy even more frequently than I do), and it’s amazing how many people struggle with the concept of a boy having long hair, even in 2018.

Isaac’s hair initially grew beyond what society apparently deems ‘normal’ length about a year ago, because he didn’t want to go to the barbers to have it cut. The more we tried to persuade him that barbers are not scary people you should be fearful of (unlike murderers, tax inspectors, and dentists, for example), the more he refused to listen. It has now got to the point where, if we so much as suggest getting his hair cut (and this is not for the reasons you might imagine), he curls up into a ball like a cornered hedgehog.

The thing is, over the past year, Isaac has moved away from merely being scared of getting his hair cut; and his main reason for not wanting to visit the barber now, is that he simply adores his long hair.

True, he hates getting it tangled or matted (usually with ketchup or ice cream), and in hot weather it can become an unwanted source of additional insulation for him (to the extent he is now often seen in just his pants, with his long hair blowing behind him as he runs); but, generally speaking, he adores his mane, and it is now very much a part of him. In fact, if he did suddenly get his hair chopped, it would be some time before we adapted to his new look.

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Isaac is very much an individual and unique little boy, who doesn’t wish to conform to whatever society dictates to be the norm – and I refer here to not only his hair, but also his behaviour in general, which is best described (as I have many times before), as ‘feral’ – so if he wants to have long hair, he is jolly well going to have long hair, and fuck anyone who questions his decision. Truth be told, I admire anyone who has this attitude to life, and only wish I was so dismissive of what people thought of me.

In recent months, now that the weather is warmer, he has decided that he wants to wear his hair up more, and as soon as the ladies at his nursery started putting it in a pony tail, or bunches (and, on one occasion, a French plait – see below), this only encouraged him further. This does not mean he relates more to being a girl, or prefers girly stereotypes (whatever they may be); he merely loves his hair to bits (ketchup-encrusted bits, admittedly).

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I’m ashamed to admit that, initially, I wanted him to get his hair cut for selfish reasons, because I was so annoyed by the strange looks when another parent or passer-by in the street would overhear us call his name; or, worse, when they would actually engage with us and refer to our ‘little girl’ or ‘daughter’.

At first, I would correct them with a simple and stern ‘actually, Isaac here is a boy’, but I eventually got so sick of the confusion in their reaction – or, on odd occasions, an actual look of disapproval – that it just became easier to ignore their comment and say his name louder next time to really mess with their heads.

But now I’m getting seriously pissed off with it all.

I don’t care if he has long hair. I don’t care if he enjoys playing with his dolls and unicorns (he’s obsessed with unicorns). I don’t care if his favourite colour is pink. I don’t care if, one day, he decides that he’d quite like to wear a dress please, Daddy (although that does mean actually buying him one, and we don’t have enough space for any more clothing as it is, because 82% of our house is taken up by my wife’s shoe collection).

Who decided that dolls and unicorns are just for girls, anyway? When was pink allocated to one gender, and blue the other? Why shouldn’t he spend his birthday voucher on two rainbow-coloured teddies if he wants to?

At Ollie’s football club on a Thursday evening, there are two young girls who turn up every week with their Dads, and whenever I see them playing, I’m disappointed. I don’t imagine for one second, that there are only two girls of Ollie’s age in the whole of Sandbach who enjoy playing football, and it saddens me to think they don’t join clubs like this one, because they are either afraid or embarrassed of being labelled ‘boyish’.

Ollie has done many things that have disappointed me over his eight years on this planet. In recent months he has become extremely sulky, stroppy and stubborn. Prior to that, he started to misbehave and get into trouble at school (only for talking in class, mind), and when he was a baby, he shit on me. A lot.  But I have never been so disappointed in him, as the time he criticised his goalkeeper at football club, purely because she was a girl. Ok, as it happens, she’s not the best player in the world, but then again neither is he, and I gave him a severe bollocking for having such a chauvinistic attitude.

My grandparents grew up at a time when racism was still widely accepted, and even though society has come a long way in the last few decades, we still see racism even now – for example, we will almost certainly encounter it at this summer’s world cup in Russia.

In 2018, we are still faced with gender inequality in terms of wages, and, until this year, women were not even allowed to drive in countries like Saudi Arabia.

People are still persecuted and looked upon differently, because of their gender, age, race, religion and sexual orientation. It’s fucking ridiculous. If we don’t educate our children, now, then this will never change.

If Isaac is made to feel different, or odd, or wrong, purely because he wants to have long hair, wear pink, or play with a doll, then society as we know it is totally screwed.

He may grow out of this phase of his life, he may not. I frankly couldn’t give a shit either way, so long as he’s happy, and so long as – if he does choose to pursue what society deems to be a more boyish lifestyle in the future – he does so for his own reasons, and not because of peer pressure, or, heaven forbid, bullying.

Look, he’s not perfect. In fact, far from it. There are very few days where I don’t end up telling him off, for one reason or another; but I still love him, and that will never change no matter what life he chooses for himself, and no matter how much he morphs into Drew Barrymore from E.T.

So, next time you see a young child in the street (or an adult for that matter), don’t automatically make assumptions about them and their life decisions. They may be very self-conscious of their appearance; but, hopefully, if they are anything like my son, they won’t give a flying fuck what you think.

And I think we can all learn something from an attitude like that.

Thanks for reading x

 

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Fighting Like Cats and Blogs

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Just under a year ago, I went from having one son, to having two.

They say that having a baby changes your life (well, duh), but not many people talk about what having a second does to you. That’s most likely because they are too busy screaming into a poo-stained pillow, whilst having some form of catastrophic breakdown.

If, like my wife and I, you already have more than one child, you may very well connect with what I am about to say (assuming you can spare a few precious minutes to read it, without the little shits trying to kill themselves/each other, and assuming you can still focus on the words through your streaming tears/splitting headache/those undetermined stains on the screen). If, on the other hand, you currently have just the one child, but intend to spawn more of the little parasites in the future; or, even worse, you are one of those blissfully naive people who is currently childless, but plans on having a big family one day, please be warned: it is not always the Enid Blyton-esque picnic in the sunshine that you might think it is.

The reason, dear reader, is this: children can be inherently evil. And I don’t mean ‘just a bit naughty’, either, I mean demonically evil. They may occasionally surprise you by behaving for a few minutes, but generally speaking they are erratic and unpredictable, and the next tantrum is just around the corner. They can sense your weaknesses and vulnerabilities, particularly when you are sleep-deprived, and they will prey on this mercilessly. So, when you have more than one of them, they team up to create a volatile situation that will invariably end, almost daily, in some form of parental misery.

As a result, anyone with more than one child will, every day, without fail, have their favourite. This may be a subconscious decision, and you will never admit to it, but it will happen. Don’t get me wrong, I love both my boys dearly, but that doesn’t mean I have to actually like them all the time, and certainly not at the same time. So, at any singular moment, if you ask me which one I currently prefer, I will be able to answer you in less than a second.

Now, if you’re reading this, and you fall into the unfortunate category of suffering with multiple offspring, you will either be nodding along sagely, as you mentally select which one of your own children you would currently like to trade-in or put up for adoption, or you will be tutting at me disdainfully and claiming that you would never do such a horrible thing. If it’s the latter, I would suggest that you are in denial (or it’s possibly because your partner is also reading over your shoulder, in which case, don’t worry, they’re thinking it too). Either way, wake up and smell the coffee. Actually, that runny brown stuff that you can see/smell/feel running down your leg, is almost certainly not coffee, but you get the idea.

So, now that we’re all agreed that it is ok to have a favourite child at any given moment, let’s take a look at the reasoning behind it. Your preferred son or daughter can change hourly, let alone daily, but without fail one will always be performing better than the other. Why is this?

In giving my explanation, I will adopt (actually, wrong choice of words, the last thing I want to do is frigging adopt) our position of having two children; but if you have more, I am sure you will still be able to relate your own miserable situation accordingly. Incidentally, if you do have more than two, there is always a comforting hug waiting for you here, should you ever need it.

The answer to why we always select a favourite child is simple: siblings have an innate behavioural correlation with each other, that they are often not even aware of.  This relationship works exponentially, so that when the behaviour of one child starts to improve, the other subconsciously senses this, and commences misbehaving at the same rate. It’s like behavioural yin and yang, if you will.

However, having already explained that you will always have your favourite child at any given moment, there is one exception to the rule. If the behaviour of one child is exponentially improving or deteriorating in sync with his or her sibling, there will invariably come a point where the two will pass – where their behaviour is, for one brief, glorious period in time, exactly equal. They are neither perfect, nor horrendous. Both children are just average. You might think that this is not ideal, as neither child will be living up to your pre-pregnancy expectations of what the perfect family unit should be like, but consider this: if both kids are just okay, just manageable, then you can still visit a friend, or go for a meal, or do the shopping, or drive somewhere (without the overwhelming urge to steer the car off the road), and essentially function as a family.

Call this (often fleeting) period what you will (I have personally labelled it the “Behavioural Sweet Spot”), but it’s what keeps those of us with more than one child from making the newspapers each day. For that very reason, its significance cannot be underestimated. It is vital to our sanity. However, as I have already explained, it can last but the blink of an eye so, for the majority of each day, you have to disregard it. Don’t try to focus on it, or anticipate it, for it may then not arrive at all. Just be aware of it, and pray it visits you and stays awhile.

In the long, soul-destroying hours in between, we return to the position where we have our favourite child, and the speed with which a parental brain can make that snap decision is astonishing.

Using my own in-depth research, I have identified the ten behavioural categories that we mentally process when choosing our favourite child, and have separated these out in order to analyse them in more detail. Not all ten will apply at any given time, but we still subconsciously consider each of them, if only to disregard a few when making our decision.

For each category, I will use our two boys – Ollie (nearly 5) and Isaac (nearly 1) – as example guinea-pigs, and rate one against the other, in order to work out which, currently, I prefer. It may seem harsh, but the point needs illustrating, and I am nothing if not thorough.

1: Sleeping

This, currently, is an easy one. Ollie, with a few exceptions, will usually sleep through the night. True, he is of an age where bad dreams sometimes disturb him (and consequently us), and his brain is so active that actually getting him to go to sleep in the first place can often be a struggle, but that is still preferable to Isaac’s ‘routine’.

Isaac, you see, is still in our room with us and, whilst he has a cot next to the bed, he seems to have some kind of allergic reaction or phobia towards it. As a result, whilst he will often start the night in there, he will, without fail, end up between us at some point. This would be tolerable if he then went back to sleep, but he seems to find it far more entertaining to kick me in whichever soft, fleshy part of my anatomy is nearest to his feet at the time. Thankfully, the family jewels are usually too far down the bed for him to reach, but a swift kick to the throat at 3am is still pretty distressing, particularly when you suddenly wake, gagging, to see him grinning at you with black, soulless eyes.

Winner: Ollie

2: Eating

Again, Ollie has this one sewn up. He can be fussy at times, and he is, without doubt, the slowest eater I have ever encountered (to the point that, at school, he is often still munching away when his reception classmates leave the canteen for the playground, and the junior kids come in for lunch), but that still beats Isaac. In Isaac’s defence, he isn’t yet one, and so is still arguably in the phase where food should just be for fun, in order to get him used to the concept of eating, but he’s still showing very little interest in solids, and is certainly behind where Ollie was at this age. In fact, Isaac will only accept food from you, if there is a chance he can then smuggle it from his high chair to the waiting jaws of his partner in crime – Bexley (our dog) – who lies patiently and expectantly below.

Winner: Ollie

3: Mess

Time to cut Isaac some slack. Yes, he makes a lot of mess with his toys on the floor, and with the food he throws in the general direction of the dog, but he is a baby. He has no concept of tidying up after himself, whereas Ollie should know better. Ollie’s room, until my wife spent hours blitzing it recently, usually resembles something of a post-apocalyptic nuclear war zone (if that war had been predominantly fought by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, that is).

Winner: Isaac

4: Bodily Functions

Again, Isaac is more or less excused here. Whilst his farts are usually so paint-strippingly bad that they could easily be used in chemical warfare, and often cause us to don Hazmat suits to change his nappy – only to discover that the outfit-ruining shitastrophe we were expecting is, in fact, a non-existent phantom poo – he cannot realistically be held accountable for this. Ollie, in contrast, often produces bowl-cracking toilet sausages that an elephant would wince at, and frequently suffers from constipation so intense that he emits a high-pitched squeal whilst on the toilet. The neighbours complained about this once. We have instructed him to eat more fruit, but he believes that stuffing grapes into his face whilst actually sitting on the toilet mid-defecation, is a satisfactory solution. It is not.

Winner: Isaac

5: Noise

Tough one to decide, this. Both boys have sufficient lung capacity to drown out overhead planes and large machinery if required, and Isaac certainly makes more noise at night when we’re trying to sleep, but Ollie seemingly has no concept of volume, and insists on everything being shouted at all times. Isaac’s squeals are definitely more piercing and harmful to the ear, resembling, as they do, the death throes of a gutted wild boar, but are thankfully short-lived when compared to the marathon of noise that Ollie conjures each day, so Isaac wins the point.

Winner: Isaac

6: Supervision

No surprises here. Ollie can be full on, and demands a lot of attention at times, but he is also getting quite good at creating his own entertainment, and will happily sit in his room with a book or DVD to give us a break for a bit. Isaac, on the other hand, is determined to seek out the nearest choking hazard and ingest it, as soon as your back is turned for half a second.

Winner: Ollie

7: Anger Management

Both boys get angry and throw tantrums, as children are prone to do, and Isaac is certainly more familiar with acts of physical violence. In fact, there is not a day goes by when he doesn’t attempt to re-arrange my face in some manner, usually by trying to scratch my eyes out or ‘fish hook’ my mouth. However, he does at least have the common courtesy to shriek like a banshee before attacking, so you have some warning of the impending assault in which to try and defend yourself. Ollie, however, can allow his mood to deteriorate so quickly, and for the slightest of reasons, that it often takes you unawares.

Winner: Isaac

8: Emotional stability

No question of the winner here. Isaac cries, sure, but he’s a baby and his very purpose is to wail at everything. He doesn’t yet understand how to control his emotions. Ollie should understand, but if he does he bloody ignores it. He is, in short, an emotional rollercoaster of a child.

Winner: Isaac

9: Entertainment

Ollie claims this one. No offence to Isaac, but there is only so much fulfilment one can gain from a cute smile or a few nervous steps whilst holding on to furniture (just ask my wife every time I come home drunk), whereas at least you can interact properly with Ollie. He’s beginning to enjoy real films like Star Wars, has a decent taste in music, and will often come with me to the football (which was, in all honesty, the main reason I wanted children in the first place). So, while it’s not really Isaac’s fault, Ollie is the runaway winner here.

Winner: Ollie

10: Conversation

It follows, for obvious reasons, that Ollie wins this one too. You can have proper, adult conversations with Ollie, that defy his tender age (so long as you are happy to mostly discuss Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and some of the phrases he comes out with are priceless at times.  I feel for Isaac, I really do, as he has lost some valuable points purely on account of his age, but this one is a no-brainer.

Winner: Ollie

Ok then, time for a count-up….

Oh. It’s a draw. Five points each.

We must be in the Behavioural Sweet Spot then – I best go make the most of it…

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Little Bloggers

Those of you who may not have appreciated or enjoyed my recent football-related blog as much as earlier pieces, needn’t fear of a repeat, as I write this just days after County managed to lose 2-0 (and have two men sent off in the process) against a team I had to fucking Google last season to work out where in the country they were. That’s how far we’ve fallen and, having suffered this embarrassing defeat, County and I are not currently on speaking terms.

So, with that in mind, let’s introduce the kids.

I have two sons. Oliver (Ollie), who will be five in May, and Isaac (Zac, Zaccy, Zacbags, The Zacatron….), who will have his first birthday just three days earlier.

They often say that “good things come in threes”. Not kids. Not boys anyway. Two is plenty thanks, and we’re finished. Neither of my siblings have kids, so let them take some of the pressure for a change, we’ve done our bit.

Apart from the fact I wouldn’t want my good lady wife going through pregnancy and childbirth again, the logistics of having more than two children just don’t stack up, do they? Human beings have two hands. Just two. One to grab each of the little fuckers with. Then there’s the fact that there are two of us, so if we’re out somewhere, and they run in different directions, we can go after one each. Imagine having three children that all decided to spontaneously make a break for it. You’d have to choose your least favourite, and try to save the other two.

Admittedly, with Isaac not even crawling yet, catching him is relatively straight-forward – even for someone with my expanding waistline, dodgy knees and shortness of breath – but there will come a time when even these days of screaming and cursing will seem like a fond memory. God help us when both of them can run.

Ollie, you see, is too bright for his own good. Don’t get me wrong, I’m immensely proud of the fact that he is apparently reading at the age of a 7/8 year old, and his confidence at such a tender age is often dumfounding, but sometimes that intelligence can come back to haunt us. I’m sure lots of 4 year olds have their tantrums, for example, but how many would turn around during a telling off to yell “Don’t you bark your orders at me!”? How many would strike up a conversation with the old dear who works in the charity shop around the corner, to inform her that he “won a bet with Daddy the other night, and Daddy had to run around the house as a rudey-nudey because I won”? How many would refuse to leave the comfort of a potty for the big-boy toilet because, and I quote, “I guess I’m just not a toilet kinda guy”?

Often, because of his intelligence, and the fact you can have proper, grown-up conversations (and arguments) with him, we forget that he only started school in September, and he’s emotionally quite under-developed. Some of it may come down to tiredness, or frustration because he wants to do more than he is able, but he has a tendency to burst into tears at the drop of a hat. A recent example: I put milk on his cereal. Honestly, I’m such a cretin sometimes.

But, he’s a bright lad, and of that we can be proud. I’m sure, if he can just stop crying at the slightest things (I’m one to talk, Noel’s Christmas Presents gets me every year), he’ll go far in life:

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Isaac, in contrast, whilst only 8 months old, is almost certainly going to be tougher, and will no doubt be beating the shit out of his elder sibling as soon as he takes his first steps. This may be down to the fact he had a tricky start in life, bless him, so he had to learn to fight from a very young age (and we’re talking days rather than weeks here) or, more likely, he’s possessed by some malevolent demon. Either way, we can tell even now that we’d better not cross him. He will remember, and he will destroy us. Even other parents have likened him to Stewie Griffin (which, I am aware, is my second Family Guy reference in just 4 blogs, sorry).

I don’t know whether it’s the evil glint in his eye, shortly before he tries to violently rip my bottom lip off, or perhaps it’s the wild banshee-like scream he emits during and after his assault, but I do fear that, one day, we might end up having a home-visit from the priest who recently baptised him (Tubular bells playing somewhere in the distance, and green vomit everywhere).

Despite this, he has the best smile in the world and, as we all know, cute beats evil (like some kind of behavioural rock/paper/scissors). Don’t believe me? Look at this:

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How can you stay mad at that face?

(he said, shortly before his body was discovered by a passing dog-walker)

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