Tag Archives: humour

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

I first started writing this blog to alleviate the minding-tedium that is the first few months of maternity leave. The hours and hours with no one to talk to; the endless repetitive conversations about your newborn; and the monotony of baby groups.

Don’t get me wrong. There are some great baby groups out there and they are useful, essential, a lifeline even – but after years of studying, working and carving out your own identity, it can be tiresome spending hours singing outdated nursery rhymes and talking endlessly about breast vs. bottle.

I did, however, find one baby group that became my rock. In many ways it was just like all the others – singing, repetitive introductions, waving toys in the faces of tiny babies who couldn’t care less – but it had two important things the others didn’t:

  1. A dedicated time for grown up chat
  2. Free coffee and biscuits

The group was run by ‘Judgemental Jane’, a lovely but rather traditional woman. One week she asked us all to bring in a book we enjoyed reading to our child.

Torn between the multitude on our bookshelves, I finally settled on two.

The first was a peekaboo book with sounds which was always guaranteed to elicit shrieks and giggles from my son. When I demonstrated its effect on him there were audible awws from the other parents.

I then shared my second choice – the one I enjoyed the most.

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I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen had been sent to us by a friend after I moaned about how boring some children’s books could be.

It follows a sad bear searching for his lost hat. The simple, repetitively structured language is perfect for young children and the illustrations are dramatic and beautiful.

As Jane read the book aloud, I could see everyone was enjoying it and chuckled to myself at what was to come.

After much searching, the bear suddenly realises he has not lost his hat but it has been stolen.

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Then the book takes a dark turn as he exacts his revenge…

(I originally planned to reveal the nature of the revenge here, but I don’t want to ruin the experience of you reading it – and you should!)

The babies and toddlers of course had no idea what had happened, but Judgemental Jane’s face fell as the reality of this book dawned on her. She gazed at me, dumbfounded, muttered something about it being ‘unusual’ and swiftly moved on to another, more innocuous book – probably about a fluffy bunny who like cheese or something equally inane.

I looked around the room at the confused parents and wondered if I was about to be cast out forever.

Then, slowly, a few sly grins crept my way and I knew I’d finally met some like minded parents.

After all, we might be reading for the benefit of our children, but, just like the baby group , sometimes you need to sneak in something for the grown ups too.

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Top 5 Children’s Books about Poo (Yes, really)

There are many difficult things about being a parent: lack of sleep, endless demands, practically no social life, all that sh*t. No, literally…all that sh*t!

You spend your life thinking about it, sniffing it out, cleaning it up, wrapping it in nappy bags and putting it in the bin, washing it down the toilet, scrubbing it out of clothes, freaking out when you can’t decide if that smudge on your hand is chocolate or poo. You pass potty training and think you’re finally safe, but there are still years of dealing with poorly wiped bums, tummy bugs and that most feared of all things, a poo accident.

But don’t think it’s just the physical act of pooing you have to deal with because, to a small child, what’s funnier than a rude word? Nothing!

Poo. Wee. Fart. Bum. Potty. Toilet.

Simple words, but all liable to initiate howls of laughter amongst pre-schoolers by their mere utterance.

No wonder so many publishers have spotted its marketing genius. Stick poo in a kids’ book and its bound to be a hit.

So, since even during storytime you’re unlikely to escape the joys of number twos, here’s my rundown of the best, worst and weirdest books about poo…

  1. Poo Bum by Stephanie Blake
Poo Bum by Stephanie Blake

Who wouldn’t want to see this scary face just before bed…?

This was an impulse buy funded by guilt after I spent an entire child-free day drinking wine in Soho (ah, the memories). I never quite managed to explain it to my bemused husband on my return home.

Its central character is a rabbit called Simon who can only say the phrase ‘Poo Bum’, which bizarrely leads to him being eaten by a wolf and having to be pulled out of its stomach by a rabbit doctor. Confused? Not as much as I was when I discovered this picture depicting the aftermath of said ‘operation’…

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I can’t decide if this book is wonderfully cheeky and subversive, or absolutely terrifying.

Lessons learned? Don’t drink and book-shop.

 

  1. The Dinosaur that Pooped…series by Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter

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“What do kids like?”

“Dinosaurs”

“What else do kids like?”

“Erm…poo?”

“Great. Write about that.”

This is how I imagine the planning meetings for these books went. Weirdly though, it seems to work.

While the images of the dinosaur pooing do make me feel nauseous, the storylines are playful and all credit to the excellently crafted writing. Nothing annoys me more than a forced rhyme or a missed beat, but verse like this is pure class…

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  1. The Worst Children’s Jobs in History by Sir Tony Robinson

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Having foolishly ventured into the world of Horrible Histories far too early (even I draw the line at bedtime stories about beheading for 4 year olds) we found this gem.

It’s beautifully set out and full of interesting detail: educational enough for you to feel smug about your parenting, but with enough poo and other yucky stuff to make the littl’uns giggle. I’m certain we’ll be reading this for years to come.

 

  1. Who’s in the Loo? By Jeanne Willis and Adrian Reynolds

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A really simple story exploring what animals might get up to in a toilet cubicle (no, not like that!).

Not quite a classic, but lovely rhymes and illustration; induced many a chuckle from me and my boys.

 

  1. The Story of the Little Boy who knew it was none of his business by Werner Holzwarth and Wolf Erlbruch

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I love, love, LOVE this book! Found in a random hipster market, it has induced mixed reactions among family and friends invited up for storytime.

There is no lazy attempt to throw poo in just to grab an easy giggle here. This is a book entirely about the act of defecation.

Poor old mole gets up one morning to discover something has left its business on his head. So begins an investigation into the toileting habits of all his animal neighbours until he tracks down the culprit and exacts his revenge.

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This is not one for those with weak stomachs, but you will never find another book quite like this!

 

Got a good recommendation for a poo based story? Leave your ideas in the comments.

(There’s a sentence I never imagined writing…)

5 children’s songs that ruined the world

Ugly Duckling

In a world where we continually tell ourselves looks don’t matter and talk to our children about beauty being ‘more than skin deep’, we are undermining our message before the kiddies are even aware of their own reflection.

The ugly duckling is portrayed as a heart-warming story about triumphing over a childhood of bullying. But how does the ‘ugly’ little one triumph? By getting beautiful! All his problems evaporate into thin air the moment he transforms from a runt with ‘feathers all stubby and brown’ to a ‘very fine swan indeed’. Who knew it could be so easy to get on in life? There’s no need for education or hard work, just wake up one morning magically transformed into an indescribable beauty and you too can live a life of happiness and fulfilment alongside the cruel and shallow bullies who once mocked and made your life a misery.

No wonder Lord Sugar’s latest investment was in a chain of walk-in cosmetic surgeries; our offspring are being brainwashed into the world of vanity before they’ve reached nursery. Bring on the plastic surgery and unfulfilling personal relationships!

5 Little Ducks

This cute little ditty masquerades as a sweet story which helps children to understand numbers and even the rather complex concept of object permanence (just because you can’t see the ducks, doesn’t mean they’re not there anymore. Clever, eh?)

What this song actually teaches our children is a worrying lesson in bad parenting. In Oscar Wilde’s classic farce ‘The Importance of Being Ernest’, Lady Bracknall reproaches the protagonist, stating that “To lose one parent, Mr Worthing may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both looks like carelessness.” What would she make of the haphazard and careless shenanigans of ‘mummy duck’, a mother so careless she watches all five of her children disappear into the unknown reaches of ‘far away’ before she bothers lifting a feather to go and find them! Bloody lucky they come back in the end or she would have been facing a serious enquiry, although judging by the lack of intervention from any of the other aquatic inhabitants she may well have gotten away with it.

Just to add to this lesson in how to raise a crap family, I once attended a baby class where for the final line, after mummy duck had successively failed to get her children to do as they were told by ‘quacking’ (come on Mummy Duck, is that really all you’ve got when faced with the loss of your entire family?!), the saccharine hippy in charge crooned “then Daddy duck said quack, quack, quack, quack, and all five ducks came swimming back”. Seriously? No-one listens to mummy duck but daddy duck rocks up, says one line and everyone does exactly as they’re told? Do me a favour!

The Farmer Wants a Wife

The farmer wants a wife – so he gets a wife.
The wife wants a child – along one pops.
The child wants a dog – they happily oblige.

While all seems to be going perfectly in this microcosm of rural life, there’s a lack of sentimentality and a reinforcing of gender roles which leaves me slightly uneasy. The farmer wants a wife. Wants. Not meets. Not falls in love. Just wants, and gets. Then, obviously, the wife wants a child. She doesn’t want a career, or friends, or a happy and fulfilling marriage – as a “womb on two legs”* , all she needs out of life is to reproduce. Finally, having achieved her goal, she (I assume he won’t help, he apparently didn’t want the child, just a wife) raises a child so spoilt and demanding they clearly don’t understand the phrase ‘I want never gets’.

No wonder the divorce rate is increasing.

The Old Lady Who Swallowed a fly

This song has so much to answer for:

1. Poor knowledge of the natural world. A spider to catch a fly – common sense. A cat to catch a bird – fair enough. A goat to catch a dog?? A cow to catch a goat???! What weird, f***ed up farm did this woman grown up near where passive herbivores ran around trying to gorge on one another’s flesh? In all other stories, cows just stand there and go ‘moo’.

2. Obesity. It teaches a frighteningly unhealthy attitude to eating; teaching our children that there’s never a reason to stop until you’re dead. Could this be the key to the modern obesity crisis? It wasn’t turkey twizzlers after all; it was rhyme time at the local library!

3. Once fully inducted in the ways of gluttony, our children are taught to live life with an unhealthily blasé attitude towards death. During the composition of the song, did the writer not once stop to think that having “perhaps she’ll die” as the main refrain in a children’s rhyme was a little weird and inappropriate? And ending with the line “She’s dead, of course” a little too matter of fact for one of the most traumatic events a person can experience? I’m going to stop singing it now or I fear my own funeral will involve my son shrugging his shoulders before heading off to try and swallow a dolphin in the hope that it will sort out that frog in his throat.

Georgie Porgie Pudding and Pie

A disconcerting tale of bullying, sexual harassment and ostracism. If I’d thought about it a little more during pregnancy, I may have thought twice about naming my son George…

* The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – I’m teaching this at the moment and I’m still stuck in work mode. Sorry if it’s weird!

Multiple meals? No thank you!

Stressed mums cook up to 10 meals a day

So screamed a headline in the Daily Mirror this week. This ‘fact’ was taken from the dubiously entitled ‘Modern Mum Report’ to which, for the record, I can find no other reference from my research (which, ahem, involved typing it into Google).Image

According to the Mirror, most mums admit to feeling stressed at least five times. Mealtimes are a key cause of this stress as “fusspot tots” dictate the need to prepare a different dish for every family member.

‘What a load of old nonsense!’ I thought smugly. ‘I’m never doing that. Kids should eat what they’re given and be grateful. That’s going to be my strategy.’

Indeed, it already has been. I remember clearly getting dubious looks from my other half when our little one decided he was going to start refusing food at around 9 months.

‘Shouldn’t you give him something else? He’s only a baby’ my husband uttered, typical new-parent concern rife in his voice.

‘No!’ I said confidently, using my practiced teacher-knows-best voice to hide my own fears that I might accidentally starve the baby to death in the course of one mealtime. ‘If he’s really hungry, he’ll eat. He barely even understands the concept that he is a person in his own right. I’m not going to accept that a child who can’t put a spoon in his own mouth is going to dictate that he won’t eat broccoli and will instead survive on a diet of only cheese, toast and apple flavour rice cakes.’ (Seriously, they taste like cardboard. Why do babies love them so much?)

And so I laid down the rules. No ‘fusspot tots’ in my house. I will never be cooking 9 different meals a day like those soft, foolish, namby-pamby mums. I’m in charge here.

There’s only one problem, and it’s the one my mum will be shouting at the screen right now as she reads this…

I was one of those ‘fusspots’. Not as a toddler, but as a pre-teen. Won over by a book on saving the planet somebody had absent-mindedly passed my way, I decided to become vegetarian. So did my brother, but for different reasons and with his own particular set of rules about what he would and wouldn’t eat. Meanwhile my other brother hated vegetables and would only eat meals consisting primarily of chicken.

My poor mother, who loved food of all varieties but had inadvertently given birth to an incredibly stubborn and willful brood when it came to culinary choices, was reduced to two options:

  1. We would all survive on a diet of only cheese and toast until we finally flew the nest (I don’t think apple flavoured rice cakes had been invented then)

OR

  1. Accept that we had all thoroughly made our minds up – whether through well-intentioned moral choices or sheer fussiness – and make separate meals.

Fast forward about 20 years and I finally realise what an absolute pain in the backside my decision to become vegetarian must have been.

In my defence, it was not a whim – I am still vegetarian. However, this in many ways is how I now know what a pain it is.

During our ‘courtship’, my other half made it very clear that he loved me unconditionally and wouldn’t change anything about me, except my vegetarianism. For some reason, when he stayed at mine he didn’t think a vegetarian risotto/pasta/chilli/other-form-of-entirely-vegetable-based-meal with a half-burned sausage plonked unceremoniously on the side was the true ideal of the carnivore. I never understood why.

Fortunately for him, and unfortunately for me, once we were married, eating all our meals together and preparing for the arrival of a baby, it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps this wasn’t actually the most fair and nutritious of meal plans.

It was at this point in my life that I widened my cookery skills to include the following delights:

– Frying lumps of chicken in a pan and dumping them unceremoniously on top of an otherwise entirely vegetable based meal

– Chopping up bits of chorizo and dumping them unceremoniously on top of an otherwise entirely vegetable based meal

– Frying and chopping up bits of bacon and dumping them unceremoniously on top of an otherwise entirely vegetable based meal

– Stuffing a chicken breast with cream cheese, wrapping it in bacon and putting it in the oven. I consider this a particular treat so it really only comes out when we have visitors, and I am always disappointed when they point out I stole the idea from a Philadelphia advert.

In my eyes, I’m bloody Delia Smith! Except less well put together. Maybe Keith Floyd would be a better comparison – slightly messier and with more wine.

Either way, I consider this a huge step forward, but I’m already dreading the future. At some point, I’ll have to stop relying on the childminder as my son’s main source of iron and protein, and once he’s learned to talk he may even request specific meals. God forbid! It’s not that I’m ‘stressed’, I just can’t be bothered. During pregnancy I genuinely considered abandoning 20 years of vegetarianism just so I could avoid the hassle of cooking different meals once the baby popped out.

In the ‘Modern Mum Report’ I guess they’d class me as an anomaly – causing myself far more culinary hassle than anyone else in the family. Still, just to make things clear, I’d like to finish by passing on a few messages:

  1. To all the ‘stressed mums’ cooking 9 meals a day: Stop it. Just stop it! It’s ridiculous. Life’s too short. They’ll get hungry eventually. If not, they’re bound to re-commission Supernanny soon.
  2. To my mum: I’m sorry for being such a pain, but you only have yourself to blame. If you’d just let me grow up to be selfish and with no moral compass, you’d never have had this problem in this first place.
  3. To my son: Don’t you even think about it!

 

People I’ve learned to love…

As my last blog post was all about the things I hate, I thought I should redress the balance and show that I have discovered people I love since becoming a mum. (Sorry if that means it’s a bit soppy and boring. I’ll get back to being angry and cynical next time, I promise!)

1.       Our Cockney Neighbours

I love London: the lifestyle, the parks, the museums, the markets, the culture, the transport (yes, the transport – I can’t drive so a sprawling tube and bus network really appeals to me, no matter how hot and sweaty), but most of all the diversity. I love that despite being too lazy and disorganised to have actually gone travelling, I have still managed to meet and befriend people from all over the world.

Still, it was always a bit disappointing to move to the East End of London and never meet anyone remotely like the people in Eastenders. Why isn’t there a podgy ginger man selling fruit and veg at the end of my road? Where is the local pub run by Shane Richie and a busty woman in a too-small leopard print corset? And despite all the shouting outside my house throughout the day and night (seriously, shut up occasionally!), why have I never heard anyone scream ‘Rickaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay?!

It’s very disappointing.

Thankfully, our short-sightedness meant we decided that one week after having a baby would be a really good time to move to a new place. On the second floor. With no lift.

Continuing our laissez-faire attitude to organisation, it took us a further two months to discover we actually owned an out-house/shed in which we could leave the pram without having to bump it up the stairs everyday like a scene from the tenements in Call the Midwife.

Now my daily trip down to get the buggy also means a daily catch up with our downstairs neighbours who, you guessed it, are bona fide cockneys! They seem to spend their retirement standing in the garden smoking, waiting for me to come and collect the pram so they can shout “Oooh, ‘ello li-ool Jowjeeee. Ain’t you growwwn?! Jooowje! Joowjiiiie! Aaaaaaah”

They constantly tell me how cute he is, they always take the time to stop and chat, often emerging from their houses as soon as they hear the key in the shed lock far quicker than their walking sticks suggest they should be able to. They buy us chocolate and other completely impractical but lovely presents for a baby and, most importantly, while they don’t get through quite as many fags as Dot Cotton, they are at least real East-enders.

2.       The cast of ‘Cold Feet’

Every modern parent knows that a good box set is the key to sanity in the early days: regular Saturday nights down the pub are a thing of the past and prime time reality TV is well past its best.

When our son was born we invested in a huge number of box sets.

We quickly decided that, while brilliant, Breaking Bad is not good, relaxing viewing after a long hard day with a baby. So instead we moved to that 90s classic ‘Cold Feet’. I remembered really enjoying it the first time round: a group of fun, trendy, slightly sarcastic 20-30 somethings muddling through life. It was like a calmer, less canned-laughter based, British version of Friends, right?

Unfortunately, while it’s still great, on second watching you realise it’s actually quite depressing and now a little too close to home. Pete and Jenny going slightly mad from lack of sleep when they have a baby? Yep, that was us. Adam and Rachel arguing about the baby sleeping in their bed?  Been there, done that. When Karen moans about spending her afternoons with a bunch of Stepford Mums discussing boobs and breastpumps? I am with you Karen, all the way, I am with you.

Over the months I have come to love the cast of Cold Feet as if they were my own friends. We’ve been through the same dramas and felt the same pain. The only place we differ is on the infidelity front, thankfully.

Unfortunately, where Breaking Bad led to ridiculous, far-fetched dreams about running away from murderers and accidentally finding myself dealing drugs from my classroom, Cold Feet has led to more than one “you dream-cheated on me!” conversation over breakfast.

3.       Caitlin Moran

I love Caitlin Moran. Seriously, I love her.

‘How to be a Woman’ is one of the best books I have ever read and it 100% saved my sanity this year.

Have you read it? No? Then stop reading this now and go read that instead. Seriously, it’s much better.

4.       The NHS

It’s very fashionable to hate the NHS, and even more fashionable to say how much you love the NHS, and then list everything that is wrong with it.

I however love the NHS. No ifs, no buts. I think it’s brilliant.

When politicians come to power – once they’ve had long meetings with their PR advisors on how to hide their skeletons so far at the back of the closet they’re practically in Narnia – they start to think about how to make their mark. It’s always the same: education and health. These are the two things everyone has a stake in, so these are inevitably the two things they start meddling in.

The problem is, before you can start ‘fixing’ things, you have to figure out what’s broken, and point it out in great depth. So our politicians, supported by the media, have set about persuading us that the NHS is a great big mess!

Waiting times, unreasonable targets, missed targets, infections, infection control, staff shortages, rude and unhelpful staff, not to mention the  hundreds of pointless ‘back office’ staff who are clearly paid to do literally nothing but sit around moving sheets of paper back and forth across a desk.

I realise all these things are probably real issues (except the ‘back office’ thing – I have no problem with that, in fact I’d rather have some admin assistants than have someone who spent 10+ years training as a surgeon spending valuable time screaming at a laptop when he can’t quite sort out the mail merge to tell everyone the office address has changed!) but seriously, stop moaning! We have free health care! FREE!

As parents, we should be especially grateful: free scans during pregnancy (including a free photo with which you can annoy all your friends!), regular midwife checkups, free ante-natal classes so you know what to expect, a choice of where to give birth, a choice of how to give birth, a choice of pain relief. Sometimes the worst happens and all these choices are taken out of your hands – as they were for us, but from the moment it was clear things weren’t working out to the moment when my baby boy was placed safely in my arms was less than 30 minutes. 30 minutes when at least 9 different professionals (that’s what I counted in my drug induced haze) provided the best of modern medicine to get that baby out safe. And they did.

You can’t really say fairer than that.

5.       My son

‘Nuff said.

Post script

I’ve realised I’ve not included my husband in this and, as he generally proof reads my blogs, I should at least give him a mention! There’s a great episode in series 5 of ‘Cold Feet’ (yes, I really am a bit obsessed) where Adam starts to feel he’s been replaced by the baby: it gets all the attention, sleeps in their bed, is always the first one to get a kiss in the morning and gets praise simply for existing. I imagine all partners feel like this at times, and I’ve definitely been guilty of neglect. So just in case he does read this, I should make it clear that I haven’t included my husband because I haven’t learned to love him, I’ve always loved him, and now we’re parents it’s that little bit easier to remember why.

Who’s in charge: the kids, the parents or the advertisers?

Sometimes, I’m a bad mum.

Sometimes, when I’m really tired and just can’t face singing any more songs about farmyard animals or cleaning the kitchen floor for the fifth time today, I sit my son in a washing basket with a few toys, make myself a coffee and watch TV. Aaah TV, the monster in our living rooms: ruining our children’s eyesight with increasingly large screens; destroying our collective imaginations with mind-numbingly stupid programmes; and turning the next generation into a mass of unthinking consumer robots. I love it!

In a letter to the Telegraph last week, the organisation ‘Leave Our Kids Alone’ pleaded with the government to introduce greater restrictions on advertising aimed at young aged children, warning that we are in danger of turning out “young consumers rather than young citizens”. They claim that advertisers target children specifically so that they use “pester power” to get their parents to buy them things.

Well, duh!

Of course advertisers target children. They are impressionable, they like what they’re told to like and they’re desperate to fit in. They haven’t yet got the strength to see the difference between what they want and what is good for them. Just like when they turn their noses up at a nutritious dinner of chicken and broccoli pasta and instead decide they want to eat nothing but custard creams. But you don’t smile and hold out the biscuit tin (and if you do, call Supernanny now!) because you know it’s not good for them.

Just as we, the parents, are in charge of making sure they don’t overdose on sugar before they reach their third birthday, it is our responsibility to stand up to the little brats and say no when they throw a tantrum and demand the latest little Bratz doll (a terrifying anti-feminist nightmare of a toy which I can only assume has been inspired by a toy-maker’s personal love of drag queens). Sure they might scream and cry and throw all their other toys out of the pram, but we’re strong enough to cope with that.

Oh wait, no, apparently we’re not. Because, wherever you go, you see screaming children getting exactly what they want, and then demanding more as a result. And it’s our fault. We’re the ones turning them into “little-consumers”, because from the moment they’re born we teach them that people show love by buying you things.

After reading the letter in the Telegraph, I got to thinking about the things children “pester” us to buy. I headed off to the toy store to do some research, intending to write about how ridiculous children’s toys are, how extortionate the price tags and how stupid parents are to give in.

As I wandered around, I marvelled at the idea that any parent would even consider spending £35 on this nightmare-inducing giant bee…

I winced at the thought of a well-meaning relative spending £33 on a ‘Sophie la Giraffe’ gift case, which essentially contained a blanket and a squeaky dog toy presented a fancy cardboard box (and yes, I am a hypocrite because we do have a ‘Sophie’ and it is well used, but I still maintain that it really belongs in a pet shop)…

And I recoiled when I noticed how much my son seemed to like these hideous, googly-eyed monsters, which I wouldn’t dare take home for fear of spilling water on them or accidentally leaving the biscuit packet out after midnight…

I walked around the store characteristically sceptical, sneering at the ridiculous way in which we desperately try to prove our love by turning the simplest of pleasures into a consumerist activity.

Instead of happily talking through the old family album with your kids, record a message on Tomy’s ‘Forget Me Not Photo Album’ and you’ll save yourself the trouble of ever having to talk to your children about their Nan again.

Rather than expend the hugely difficult effort of breathing on a small plastic stick costing 50p to create bubbles, you could invest in the “Bubbleator”, currently on sale at only £25 for 2!

Yes, I sneered at this nonsense, and then berated myself for falling for it all. For as I walked around the store, my son challenged my scepticism by loving all the things I hated. He actually cried when I took away the evil gremlin toy. Cried! But then he stopped crying ten seconds later when I waved something else in his face, then cried when I took that away. This pattern repeated itself as we mooched around the store for over an hour, clearly proving that he didn’t really love these toys, he just got excited by anything new.

Yet it took all my mental and emotional strength to walk out of that store without spending any money.

At the moment, my son loves nothing more than to hit a spoon on the tray of his highchair. Literally hours of entertainment. It’s prompted at least 3 people to say, “Ooh, shall I get him a drum kit for his birthday?” to which I respond, “Why?” He doesn’t need a drum kit. He’s made his own, which will never get boring like the toys in the shop did, because as soon as it does, I can just give him a different spoon or tray. The possibilities are endless! Why waste your money on buying him something which he can imagine and create himself?

Still, I know that on his next birthday we’ll be bombarded by drum kits, electronic gismos and all sorts of other lovely but inevitably short-lived presents. Because that’s what you do. Even when the children are too young to ‘pester’ us for what they want, the consumer culture is so ingrained in adults we can’t help but go out and buy loads of stuff for them anyway.

So maybe ‘Leave Our Kids Alone’ is right. Maybe we should be fighting harder against the insidious influence of the advertising industry. Maybe we should be exercising more control over what our kids are exposed to. And maybe, occasionally, we should just leave our kids alone – preferably with a wooden spoon, a biscuit tin lid and sitting in a washing basket…

Washing basket fun