Saturday, 25 October 2014

A Picture Paints a Thousand Words. And Vice Versa.

Do you know what one of the best things about having a child is?  Forget unconditional love and having a little mini-me; I'm talking about the really good stuff here.  I am, of course, talking about the fact that once children hit a certain age, they become prolific in the art of Shit Pictures.  Terrible child art is the gift that keeps giving.  They will produce page after page of unintentionally hilarious masterpieces well into their teens, although in my experience, between the ages of 4 and 9 is when you really hit the jackpot.

Having taught small children for some years, I eagerly awaited the time that Small Disgrace would enter the Crap Art phase.  For a long while, it seemed as if it was never going to happen as he shunned pencils and paper well into his fourth year. But suddenly, he started to draw things that resembled things.  They didn't resemble what they were supposed to be in the slightest, but that just made it even better.  I'm going to start this post with three of his classic works for your perusal:

You will have to click to enlarge the photo to get the full effect here.

We have (from left to right):

'Sheep' (2013) An early work that managed to sum up absolutely none of the characteristics of a sheep whatsoever.  Encouraging parents that we are, we pissed ourselves laughing and pointed this out to him.  "ERR, I THINK YOU'LL FIND I'VE REMEMBERED BOTH OF ITS LEGS," our child replied, indignantly.  Yes, that well known breed of two-legged sheep with no bodies.  Top work, son.

'Lightsabers' (2014) Or as I like to call it, 'Colourful selection of dildos with very happy one-legged man'.

'Halloween' (2014) AKA 'Circumcised willy with a face, going "oo"'.

Now, annoyingly, as Small Disgrace is only 5, he has not yet peaked in terms of WTF drawings.  In fact, most of my treasured collection of Crappy Pictures were drawn by kids when they were pupils in my class years ago.  I can't share those with you.  I know, I know, I wish I could, but it would be entirely unethical of me to put them online for your amusement (your own child is fair game, but former pupils - no way).

"If only there was a way to share the joy," I thought.  "If only there was a loophole or a way around the privacy probl...AHA."

Then I remembered:  I am a writer.  It is my job to use words to paint pictures and create imagery.  So, open your minds, flex your imaginations and climb on board for some crazy shit...

Work of Art #1: 'Easter Egg Design by a 7 year old'.
This was from one of those time wasting seasonal lessons that you do when you're two days off the end of term and flagging.  (See also 'design a board game', 'make a poster about healthy eating' etc).  They designed some fantastic Easter eggs, of which this was the true star:
A perfectly shaped Easter egg diagram is centre of the page.  A label tells me that it is made of milk chocolate, but it is difficult to tell as the artist has drawn the foil wrapping on top, which is covered in a tasteful crucifix motif and coloured in red (to represent bloodshed, one can only assume), with a wreath of thorns around the top end.  Next to the egg is a brown splodge with a sad face and some bits pointing outwards.  A labelled arrow points to it, identifying it as one of the sweets from the middle of the egg: "choclit Jezers on the cros filed with caramel (a bit like a Fredo)."
On the plus side - this kid absolutely listened in RS lessons that year.  Top marks.

Work of Art #2: 'My Weekend News by a 5 year old'.
This was from a free writing and drawing exercise book that the children used to scribble stuff in that they felt was newsworthy and wanted to tell me.
A room.  Possibly a bedroom, owing to the vaguely bed-shaped thing in the centre of it.  There is someone in the bed; a boy.  The boy is smiling.  There is a window above the bed with something blue flapping at either side.  The face of what I can only describe as Angry Death stares through the window, much like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.   A thought bubble coming from the head of Angry Death displays a large gun and a sword, potentially covered in blood, although it may just be a red sword that's dripping with...OK, it's definitely covered in blood.  Scrawled across the bottom of the page in the bonkers handwriting of a serial killer, with a lot of smudging and crossing out is "LOOK AT AR CUNTASS."
It transpired that the boy in question and his brother got new curtains for their bedroom that weekend.  And that his lower case Rs had a tendency to look like Ns.  And that he didn't like his brother very much.

Work of Art #3: 'Christmas Scene by a 9 year old'
Two Christmas puddings with boggly eyes are next to each other on a table.  One is on fire, and looking none too happy about it.  The other Christmas pudding is urinating on the burning pudding with its orange and disproportionately large penis.
Yeah.  I have no explanation for this one.

Work of Art #4: 'Christmas Scene by a 6 year old'
It is Christmas Eve.  The sky is dark, and yellow stars twinkle above.  On Earth below, a child peacefully slumbers in a giant ribbed condom, and dreams of a ferret in a wig.  Next to him is a Christmas tree, with an angry fairy on top, who is pulling an expression of utter agony due to the tree being stuck up her bum.  Meanwhile, Father Christmas flies through the air on his sleigh, wearing what appears to be a gimp mask, while Rudolph sprinkles shit out of his arse in all directions with the aid of a conveniently placed propeller. 
This was an entry in a competition to design the official school Christmas card for the year.  It did not win.

Please feel free to share your child's masterpieces - either visually or via the medium of descriptive language.  It's good to share.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Contact Lenses for Children? Really?

A quick disclaimer about this post: I wrote it over the summer, but it has only recently been approved to be published on the blog.  In the meantime, Small Disgrace has started a new school year, and his new teacher really ‘gets’ him – glasses or not.  We are delighted and I'd hate this post to suggest otherwise.

I’m going to hold my hands up here and own up to something that I’d rather not admit to:  I did not take it well when I was told that Small Disgrace needed to wear glasses.  How pathetic is that?  While I’m here, I should probably also point out that I react similarly every time my husband takes him to get his hair cut and he comes back with it all short.  “He looks like a little thuuuuug,” I wail.  “Why don’t you just get one of his ears pierced while you’re at it?”

But glasses don’t make him look like a thug.  And I actually love a man in glasses, so why does it bother me so much?  Well, for a start, I was mortified that I’d never noticed that he had a vision problem.  He could spot an aeroplane when it was the tiniest dot on the horizon and had been able to read from a very young age, so when he spectacularly failed his 3 year eye test, I instantly felt like a terrible parent.  He needs glasses for anything that involves seeing close up, so has to wear them for reading, writing drawing etc.  When he’s at school, he wears them all day. 

I won’t lie:  I hate it.  He just doesn’t look like my little boy with them on.  He has these beautiful, distinctive, enormous blue eyes that are his very best feature.  He also has expressive eyebrows which suggest cheekiness and character.  When he’s wearing his glasses, you can’t see his eyebrows or his eyes properly, and all the character of his face is lost.  It’s not that they don’t suit him, it’s just that he looks nothing like himself when he’s wearing them.

Small Disgrace is one of the smallest children in his class and one of the youngest too.  He’s very well behaved at school and quite quirky, which is brilliant.  But I really didn’t want anything else to set him apart from the others.  Not that children see glasses as geeky these days – we’ve actually found the opposite, with all his friends wanting to try them on and asking if they can have glasses too.  There’s no danger of him getting teased because of them.  But there is a danger of him being treated differently because of them, and I see it happening all the time.  Adults respond differently to him when he’s wearing his glasses.  Last year, I got the impression that his (very nice) teacher didn’t really ‘know’ him.  He seemed pigeon holed as a slightly geeky, quiet, ‘young’ little boy, whereas in reality, he’s outgoing, cheerful, clever, mature beyond his years and mad as a badger.  Without his glasses, he seems to ooze his personality, but when he puts them on, he hides, and I’m getting so worried that he’s going to be perceived as something he’s not for the entire time he’s at school.  I even considered changing his school because it upsets me that my child is treated as someone he’s not.  But I can’t fault any of the staff, and actually, I’ve noticed that his personality appear to change when he puts his glasses on myself, so perhaps they’re just reacting to a character that he ‘becomes’ when he wears them. 

I thought that all of this made me an over sensitive, ridiculous parent, but when I was at Britmums Live recently, I got chatting to TV psychologist, Emma Kenny, who was manning the ACUVUE stand.  She told me a similar story about her son, who needed glasses from the age of 3.  She looked into other options and discovered that contact lenses are a suitable choice for many children.  I was quite surprised as I had never considered that this may be an option.  Her son has been wearing contacts ever since and has never had a problem with them and finds them easy to use.  It’s certainly made me wonder if they could be a good option for Small Disgrace (although from the fuss he kicks up when he has to have eye drops, I’m not yet convinced that he’ll take to something that he has to put on his eyeball…).  And if we try them, and he prefers glasses, then that would be fine – it would be his choice.  I just want what’s best for him – for his eyesight, for his self esteem and for his experience of school. 

I wrote this review while participating in an influencer campaign on behalf of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care and received a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate

Sunday, 5 October 2014

My son has been sick and I am a crappy mum

So, it's 4am.  About an hour ago, my little boy started throwing up.  By a twist of fate, I was downstairs and well out of the way because I've been ill with the bastard nephew of flu all weekend and woke up feeling rotten so went to get a drink.

Thank God for Mr Disgrace.  Thank God.  He might drive a smarmy git car and be the most nosy neighbour ever and incapable of putting his socks in the washing basket, but the man can deal with puke - I'll give him that.

I cannot deal with puke.  I am emetophobic, which is basically a debilitating phobia of vomit.  I've been emetophobic for 25 years, and while it would be dramatic and untrue to say that it has ruined my life - I do have a lovely husband, much adored son and work doing my favourite thing in the world, after all - I can say with confidence that it has shaped it in a really shitty way.

At my worst, I was underweight and barely ate because I thought I couldn't possibly vomit if I had an empty stomach.  I couldn't leave the house and suffered from many panic attacks per day.  I worked and worked to get through that, and even now, over 10 years on, I feel thankful every time I travel on a bus or go to the supermarket or eat a curry, because I remember how it felt not to be able to do any of that.

When you first tell somebody that you're emetophobic, they don't really understand the implications.  They might just assume that you freak out when you or somebody else vomits, but it's so much worse than that.  They don't understand that it's all day, every day.  You constantly evaluate how you're feeling, how those around you are feeling, what bugs are going around, when you last washed your hands, how clean things are, what risks foods carry.  I know all the norovirus statistics, what to use to clean vomit up (bleach - only bleach. Nothing else works.  Disinfectant might as well be plain water).  I know which schools in the area are currently harbouring which viruses, I know the teeny tiny signs to watch for in my son that suggest that he might be coming down with a tummy bug.  I am always on high alert, never relaxed and constantly running complicated vom-related algorithms through my brain.

I want you to know that I push myself.  I've been through high school, A-levels and university with this.  I have worked as an actress and performed on stage every night with this fear, every single time wanting to stop the performance and run of stage because I was so scared of being sick in front of the audience.  I trained as a primary school teacher because I wanted to do the job so badly, and that meant putting myself in the line of pukey-kid fire every working day.  I got married.  I endured an extremely nauseous pregnancy and had my beloved son even though I knew it meant facing up to this situation on a regular basis.  In recent years, I even started going to the cinema again after 15 years of making excuses to people about why I couldn't go.  I hate the cinema - filthy germ box that it is - but my son loves it, so into the disease ridden pit I go.  I deliberately do these things and more to face my fear and give it the finger as I try to prove that it can shape my life in a shitty fashion, but it cannot take away all of my options.

But then, here I am:  Sitting downstairs and shaking while my stoic husband cuddles my little boy in bed, on puke duty.  I should be able to do this.  I know I should, but I can't.  I'm having CBT for it at the moment and so far it's done bugger all.  Well, maybe slightly more than bugger all actually, as I cleaned up a few vom splashes on the landing and marveled at how well they blended into our disgusting orange landing carpet (really must get a new one at some point) rather than being repelled at the sight.  Oh, and I can now look and piles-o-puke on the street without going into a full on panic meltdown, so maybe all those hours sitting in a doctors room looking at photographs of people throwing up has done something for me after all.  But it's not helped me to do what I want to do - which is to be able to look after my son when he's ill without losing the plot or give him a hug when he's been sick.  If anything, I'm the one that needs the hug.  Don't come too close though - you might have germs.